Friday, 27 November 2015

A ghost sign in Didsbury, a cabinet maker and the disappearing coal yard

Ghost signs are by their very name hard these days to find.  

They are the painted signs of businesses which have long since gone leaving only a fading record of what was once traded from the premises.

This one is in Didsbury on the corner of Wilmslow Road and School Lane and advertised the cabinet making business of Thomas Spann who operated from numbers 35 and 37 Wilmslow Road, which are now a coffee shop and bookmakers.


The Spann’s were here from the early part of the 20th century and what we see now was not what Thomas Spann would have been familiar with.

In 1911 in front of the gable end which fronts what is now the side of School Lane was the coal yard and offices of the Bridgewater Collieries and our ghost sign extended down almost down to street level.

I am not sure when the coal yard went but it may have been when what was then Hardman Street was widened.

This may also have been when the road was renamed School Lane and coincided with the decision to eliminate duplicate street names which I suppose caused a degree of confusion.

But like all good stories this has further twists, for back in 1959 the shrunken space on the corner of School Lane had become the offices of the National Coal Board, who in turn had added a tall chimney to the gable end of what had been Spann’s shop and may also have been responsible  for painting out the sign.

And with the passage of time, the NCB offices are now the Costa Coffee outlet which has extended into number 35 Wilmslow Road and offers their customers the opportunity to sit on the roof gazing down on Didsbury with the ghost sign as a backdrop.

Now in time I might well explore the history of Thomas Spann, starting with the census returns and trawling the directories to fix the moment he arrived and when he ceased trading.  But that I think is for another day.

Loation; Didsbury, Manchester

Pictures; of the corner of Wilmslow Road and School Lane today from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and from 1959, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, Wilmslow Road, D Oakes, m42375,

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