Monday, 30 November 2015

When St Andrew’s Day and a little bit of south east London come together with stories of Canada, Germany and maybe even India

Uncle George, circa 1918
Now St Andrew’s Day pretty much went unremarked in our house and that I find odd given that my grandparents crossed the border in to England just a century and a bit ago and three of my uncles were born  in Scotland.

Added to which I share the saint’s name and both Uncle George and Uncle Fergus served in the Black Watch and I grew up with stories of Robert the Bruce, the Young Pretender and our own tartan.

But south east London was a long way from the east Highlands where we originated from and Alloa which was the stepping off point for England for my grandparents is a place far away.

And  father had made the journey south by the 1930s so if he did ever talk about his youth it was of Gateshead and not of a time across the border.

So for me Scotland was pretty much just a place, and one that I didn’t even visit until 2006 but during the past year as I have been rediscovering my childhood in Lausanne Road thoughts of Scotland have also begun to bubble to the surface.

The tent of family stories, circa 1955

They are a mix of daring tales of the Highland clans mixed with the victories of Scots armies over the English and a string of laments from the Flowers of the Forest and farewells to the boy who would have been King to the haunting sound of the pipes.

My earliest memories are of sitting with Uncle George in our tent in the garden of Lausanne Road on hot summer’s days when the sun beat down heating the canvas and releasing that distinctive smell which mixed with his pipe smoke and was only interrupted by the buzz of insects.

A long time later he told me the more personal stories which pitched our family across the Highlands and involved tales of  itinerant traders, ships engineers who plied the oceans and barrel makers, shop keepers and many more.

All of which has made me reflect on our lost identities and how it is often very hard to draw them up from half told tales, family myths and a big dollop of romantic tosh.

But the last few years of trawling our own family history across south east London, the Midlands and into Scotland, and on to Germany and Canada have confirmed that the myths and half remembered stories will have more than an element of fact.

Family tombstone, Markinch, Fife, 1976
So the cocoa factory of Kender Street was real, our links to Canada are more extensive than I could have thought and the history of Well Hall and Eltham is very much mine.

And what has made it possible to confirm so much that was folklore and vague memory is the growing body of historical information now on online which has allowed me to call up army records from the Canada, opened up endless census returns, and read contemporary accounts which sit on dusty shelves in libraries as far away  as California and Australia.

Above all it has also allowed me to correspond with people engaged in similar research across the world and although there can be a time delay those links will pretty much be done in a few hours.

Now that may seem a long way from St Andrew’s Day, the garden of Lausanne Road or even our house in Well Hall but I think not.

St John River, New Brunswick home to great uncle Roger, 1914
The common thread is that search for identity and the desire to give a context to family members who we know little about.

For me hoovering up a family tree which finally gets lost two centuries ago is not enough.

I want to know how their lives were lived out and how their achievements and contributions were part of something bigger.

Grandmother's home Cologne, circa 1930
So I shall be crossing that border, and continuing the search for my great uncle migrated to Canada in 1914 and in the fullness of time explore a link with India.

Mother always maintained that my grandmother’s maiden name of Bux was not common in Germany where she had been born in 1895 but was from the sub continent.

It was for me a link to far and yet there in the historical records the name Bux is prominent amongst seamen who worked the ships that sailed from India to Europe in the 19th century.

All of which leaves me yet again with that simple observation that history is messy and full of surprises.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Following the Chorlton History Trail down to Oswald Road in 1907

Now I am pretty pleased with the Glad to be in Chorlton History Trails and I doubt that there are many other places where you can read about the history of a locality by visiting a succession of local pubs and shops.

Learning a little bit of Oswald Road's history, 2015
The trails began three years ago with a series of story panels in the Horse and Jockey, Fanny and Filer on Beech Road and the Bar and tell the story of how Chorlton developed from a small rural community into a vibrant part of south Manchester.

And now can also be seen at Chorlton Eatery, Fosters Cycles, and Morrisons.

The project culminated with an 80 meter installation on Albany and Brantingham Roads which was designed to take you on a walk from Chorlton Green in the 16th century across Chorlton in both time and apace ending in the 21st century close to the new Metro line.

Inside the Phoenix Deli, 2015
The 16 giant panels remained on site for almost a year before moving to their permanent home at Chorlton High School.

And across the township there are smaller additions to the trail.  Each consists of an original painting by Peter Topping; some period photographs with a little bit of Chorlton’s history and included in the story is something unique to the building where the panel is on display.

So in the case of Franny and Filer the trail offers up a description of Beech Road in the 19th century and in particular the history of the building which for over 70 years was a beer shop.

And I can now announce that the latest addition to the trail is at the Phoenix Deli on Oswald Road.

Outside the Deli looking in, 2015
The shop has seen many businesses since it first opened in 1907 and I like the idea that just 108 years after it started up as a bakery selling fine bread and cakes it is again serving a mix of cakes sandwiches and much more.

Not that I am going to say anymore, for the history of the place and of this bit of Oswald Road you will just have go down there and read it for yourself.





Pictures; the history trail at the Phoenix Deli, text and research by Andrew Simpson, painting and design and layout by Peter Topping

*Glad to be in Chorlton, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Glad%20to%20be%20in%20Chorlton

The Phoenix Deli, 127 Oswald Road, Manchester M21 9GE, 0161 222 4990
e: :info@thephoenixdeli.co.uk
w: www.thephoenixdeli.co.uk
Opening times Monday-Friday 7.30 - 3 pm Saturday 8.30 - 2.30 pm

Painting; the Phoenix Deli © 2015 Peter Topping
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk
Facebook: Paintings from Pictures https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Remembering the 1950s in the company of Neil Kinnock, Bobby Charlton, Joan Finch and Esther Sherman

You know you have reached that age when they start writing books about the time you were growing up.

In my case it is the 1950s which by and large has not had a good press.

It was eclipsed by the shiny, new and exciting 1960s and was that decade after the last world war.

So for some historians it was the in between time and that is pretty much how I have thought of it.

A grey time when we were still on rationing, the scars of the last war were everywhere and the country just looked tired.

In my defence I was one when it began and was still in short trousers when it came to an end which means my perspective will always be a bit different, more so because I became a teenager in the middle of the 60s and was captured by all that excitement of the new.

So looking back at the 1950s with a degree of objectivity it is easy to see that this was not a grey decade but one which in its way was as exciting as the “swinging 60s” that followed.

Here were the new post war fashions, new materials like Formica and of course television.

Above all it was a time of growing prosperity and consumerism and while it is easy to sneer at all of that it is well to remember that those who embraced it were the generations that had experienced the Means Test, two world wars and mass unemployment.

And much of this consumerism was aimed at us kids offering us a lot more than they had had as children.

It is a theme I do keep coming back to and this week it has bubbled up again as I read You’ve Never Had it so Good! which is a collection of interviews covering everything from schooldays, TV and radio, to trips to the seaside, and the music and fashion of the period.

And that is all I want to say for now until of course I have finished the book.

Pictures; television and washing machine, 1952  from the collection of Graham Gill and cover from You’ve Never Had it so Good!

* You’ve Never Had it so Good! Stephen Kelly, 2012, Stephen has also written British Soldiers of the Korean War and The History of the FCA.

Looking for the changes on Manchester Road in just over half a century

Now I suppose I can see why this bit of Manchester Road tended to be ignored by those commercial photographers of the early 20th century.

They concentrated on those other bits of Chorlton usually fastening on the area around the four banks or off along Wilbraham Road.

But this row of shops regularly features in the collection of Andy Robertson* and here is his latest along with one taken by Mr Downes in 1958.









Pictures, Manchester Road, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson, and in 1959 by A.H. Downes, m18033, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

*Looking for our lost launderettes, no 1 ........... Manchester Road, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/looking-for-our-lost-launderettes-no-1.html


Saturday, 28 November 2015

Reflecting on the legacy of BHC a month and a bit after Thanksgiving

No one should ever underestimate the impact of the policy of migrating young people to Canada, Australia and other parts of the old empire.

There were success stories as well as harrowing tales of poor treatment and blighted lives.

Signing off form Middlemore, 1914
And as BHC moves to becoming a major area of serious historical study the legitimacy of the policy will become a matter of increasing interpretation and debate.

In the case of my great uncle who had a troubled time after arriving in Canada I doubt that his migration contributed to his wild challenging behaviour.

Canada, 2015
Sadly that was already settled upon him after years in care along with his siblings and the knowledge that his mother had been deemed “unfit to have control.”*

Added to which the vague stories of his father who separated from our great grandmother just five years after he was born will have added to his sense of displacement.

Now all of this I have visited already but as the Thanksgiving festival has all but been forgotten and the run up to Christmas takes over the legacy of my great uncle is exercising my thoughts again and in particular our own family links to Canada.

Great aunt Dolly and family circa 1950s
It is a complicated story because while we lose him sometime after 1925 his insistence that his sister should follow him over in 1925 led to an extended family which we have discovered.

Great Aunt Dolly went over on an Empire Scheme, found the love of her life, settled down and brought up a large family and even returned to Derby where she was born in 1968.

But until recently she was just a name until I found the letters she sent home to my sisters who in the 1970s were “doing” our family history and there was that reference to great uncle Roger and Canada, and the rest as they say became the story of yet one more BHC descendant engaged on a journey of discovery.

Renewing the links, Saul in Ontario, 2015
In the process I become an exponent of BHC history, made some fine friends across Canada and of course discovered my family.

And by one of those wonderful twists has meant that our Saul who is currently in southern Ontario renewed those family links a full century after great uncle Roger left Derby for Canada.  He spent a wonderful week with them and will look back on his three months in North America as a highlight of his stay.

All of which I wrote about recently so instead I shall reflect on my growing number of Canadian friends.

It  began with a chance exchange of emails with Lorri who like me was making sense of the idea that a loved one would have been sent at an early age to Canada in pursuit of a policy to solve the social problems on this side of the Atlantic.

And then as the circle of contacts widened I benefited from a network of support which offered help and advice, led on to the sharing of knowledge and blossomed into real friendships.

So it’s perhaps an odd way of looking at BHC but then as I often say history is messy and it takes you to places you never expected.

Pictures; from the family collections of Andrew Simpson, Jacquie Pember- Barnum and Andrea Pember

*Admission records Derby Workhouse, 1913

In the summer of 1970 with Chorlton High School

Now there will be many who will have an instant rapport with these images from Chorlton High School.

Cover of Unity
They date from the late 1960s and are part of a wonderful collection released by Tony Petrie and include photographs of the staff, students and buildings as well as pages from Unity which was the school magazine.

Schools like churches are embedded in our communities and are one of those seamless links from one decade to another.

In many cases they will have seen two perhaps even three generations of a family pass through the doors offering up a succession of stories along the way.

On a very personal level although I never went to Chorlton High school I did leave my own secondary school in the summer of 1969 and started at the old College of Commerce on Aytoun Street in the year covered by the Unity.

And just twenty-six years later the first of our lads walked through the gates at Darley Avenue, followed in the fullness of time by three more.

One of the buildings, 1972
So the pictures and the magazine resonate with me because while the uniforms may have changed and the buildings have been  replaced there is much that most of us can recognise.

It starts with the standard class photograph and goes on to the school magazine which will pretty much always be a mix of reports, records of achievement and contributions from staff and students.

Of course as a historian what draws me are the adverts and I will not be alone in playing that game of spotting the shops which are still around a full forty-six years later, working out what has replaced some of them and trying to remember which ones I used.

But what also makes this 1970 edition of Unity significant is that it was the first.

Toys and uniforms,, Chorlton, 1970
As the introduction explained, "Unity is the joining together of two separate ideas, or minds, or, in the case of Chorlton Grammar School and Barlow Hall School, the joining of two schools.  

Phyisically, the buildings are separate but in the minds of the pupils and staff they are one - Chorlton High School.  

Unity also describes the relations which exist between the pupils and staff on the academic side of the school.  

We have chosen the title of "Unity" for a magazine not only as an outward symbol but as an indication of a common determination."

The decision to merge the City's grammar and secondary modern schools had been taken after much debate and in  many cases  meant retaining the exciting buildings and converting them into a Lower and Upper school with students spending the first two or three years in one building and then transferring across.

All you could want to know, Chorlton 1970
The transition was not always smooth and when I began teaching in one of the new high schools just four years later there were still a few problems.

Of these the most tiresome was that of commuting between the buildings to teach different age groups.

And Chorlton High School achieved a first for while staff using their cars were paid an allowance those using their bikes were not leading Mr Lloyd to challenge the arrangement.

Now John Lloyd will be fondly remembered not only as one of Chorlton's historians but as a craft teacher at the school but few know that his stand won the right of staff using their bikes to claim a commuting allowance.

I suspect as I dig deeper with Tony's help more will be revealed of the history of the school and so I want to spend some time with that magazine for 1969-70 exploring just what went on in Chorlton High School and featuring a few class photographs and a selection of the now lost buildings.

Pictures; from the collection of A Petrie

Washing prawns Woolwich 1978



It is another one of those vanished scenes.

Beresford Square, Woolwich 1978.  Back then the market traders seemed to squeeze into every available pocket of land, and still the buses had to make their way through.

Woolwich in the 1960s and 70s was an exciting place to grow up in.  It was busy, vibrant with the Thames just at the bottom of Powis Street and much more.

I went back recently and it all seemed much tamer, much quieter and somehow less interesting.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Walking Cornbrook and on till morning part 9 ....... from the Canal looking to Hulme Hall Road

Now I have decided to follow one of Andy Robertson’s walks from Cornbrook.  

It’s an area which has been much neglected but is on the cusp of change.

I could go in detail about the history of the place but instead will post just the picture and Andy’s accompanying comment.

One a day till I run out of images.

From the Canal looking to Hulme Hall Road.”

Picture; from the Cornbrook collection 2015, by Andy Robertson

The Wareham Women, a church in Oldham and a unique set of picture postcards sent home to Heaton Mersey

Greetings from Llandudno, 1907
Just occasionally you get the opportunity to pursue a story which you have no idea where it will end up but in the process reveals a fascinating insight into the lives of one middle class family at the beginning of the 20th century.

The story started as so many do with the news that my old friend David Harrop had acquired a set of picture postcards sent by the young May Winifred Wareham to her family.

I have yet to see them but I know that the collection includes cards sent from across Britain and as far away as Monte Carlo and includes a few which were originally taken as family snaps.

Now that alone will make them an interesting piece of social history but so is the story behind the young woman who sent them.

She was born in 1888 into a large family and is buried in the parish church yard in Heaton Mersey.

Her father was Frederick Wareham who became vicar of St Paul’s in 1877 and stayed until 1907 when he moved to St John’s in Heaton Mersey serving the community until his death in 1919.

Frederick Wareham circa 1900
So along with the postcards and the messages contained on the back there will be much to find about the lives of May, her parents and siblings and also the two churches which Frederick was associated with.

And it is with St Paul’s that I shall close for now because the church is in the process of restoring its west window which was made to honour his time in Oldham and that window will feature in later stories.

All of which just leaves me to say ............ watch this space.

Pictures; a picture postcard from Llandudno, 1907 from the collection of David Harrop and Frederick Wareham courtesy of St Pauls, Oldham

Additional research courtesy of St Paul’s Oldham, http://stpaulsoldham.org.uk/index.php

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Con Club on Wilbraham Road ............. a painting and a mended clock

The thing about a landmark is that it pretty much gets taken for granted, which I suppose is my excuse for not giving much attention to the Con Club on Wilbraham Road.

The former Conservative Club, 2012

It had already been there for over 80 years when I washed up in Chorlton in 1976 and given that I didn’t share its political views it was somewhere I never visited.

More recently I had occasionally wandered past watching the work being done to transform it into residential properties but hadn’t even noticed that the clock was working again.

It was Peter who alerted me to that small change in the building’s fortunes when we were talking about his painting of the place.

The club had opened in 1892 with a blaze of confidence and a profound belief that Chorlton was a place that the Conservatives would always do well in which is pretty much how the late 19th and early 20th centuries proved to be.

So while they alternated in power locally with the Liberals in the years after the Great War, Chorlton was theirs from the early 1930s till the late 1980s.

But political fortunes can wain and so it was with both the Liberals in the interwar years and the Conservatives after 1985, which in the case of the Con Club led to its sale.

The Conservative Club and Public Hall, 1908
And that in turn made me think of the Public Hall which was part of the Conservative Club.

This too was a bold stroke and offered a venue for everything from amateur dramatics to political speakers and campaigns which in some cases ran contrary to the political views of the Con Club. Victor Grayson Socialist MP for Colne Valley spoke in the hall in 1908 and was heckled by members of the public, some I suspect who had made their way up from the Club below.

A number of drama groups also performed here along with a young John Thaw.*

“The architects were Darbyshire and Smith, who very well known especially for building theatres including the Palace in Manchester) and pubs like the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road.   The front entrance went into the Conservative Club and a side entrance on Manchester Road went upstairs to the Public Hall which had a stage." 

Now I wish I had known all of that when I first walked past it in 1976.

Painting; The Conservative Club  © 2012 Peter Topping

Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Facebook: Paintings from Pictures https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

Picture; the Conservative Club and Public Hall, Chorlton 1908 from the Lloyd Collection

* John Thaw, 1942 –2002 appeared in a range of television, stage and cinema roles, his most popular being television series such as Redcap, The Sweeney, Home to Roost, Inspector Morse and Kavanagh QC.

** from Lawrence Beedle,  http://hardylane.blogspot.co.uk/

Lost on Thomas Street in the summer of 1977

I am on Thomas Street in 1977.

This I know because of the street sign high up on the building above the Jarvey Snack Bar and because my friend Jean remembers taking the picture in that year.

But I am lost.

I should remember the scene, and try as I might I cannot fasten it on Google street map.

So perhaps there is someone out there who can help me with the exact location and the date when the buildings vanished.

Such is the price of finally leaving Eltham for good in 1973 and making just the odd trip home which did sometimes take me back to Woolwich.

And just after I had posted Chris added this,  "Thomas street is still alive and well and should easily be found on Google maps ...

The row of shops pictured were all demolished around 1983-84 and a big open space called General Gordon SquareOccupies the area ( Revamped a few times ) .  The opposite side of the road ,  which cant be seen is still original 18th century buildings.

Jean’s picture would have been taken from outside the Earl of Chatham pub which is still in business."

Chris went on to add a link to his excellent site which has a shed load of pictures of Woolwich.*

Which just leaves me to say I went back and found Thomas Street on google maps helped by Andy Murphy's comment that "your friend was on the corner of Wellington Street facing south east. Peakes Place went off to the left next to Alan's and at the end of the terrace is the Fortune of War pub. Love the Escort Mk 1 with the oversized wheels!"

Picture; Thomas Street in 1977, courtesy of Jean Gammons

*Chris Mansfield, www.chrismansfieldphotos.com

More from Tony Goulding ............ The "Twinning" of Vicars Road

For a little time now I have been aware that my posts have taken a somewhat morbid turn so here is a slightly more uplifting story to redress the balance.

High Lane, Primitive Methodist Church, 2015
During a recent reconnoiter among the records of the High Lane, Primitive Methodist Church I noticed the following curiosity in the baptismal register.

Recorded within the space of six weeks   during the spring of 1907 were the christenings of two separate sets of twins with both families residing on Vicars Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

Even more extraordinary too, is that sandwiched in between these two events was a third instance of twins being baptized making it three consecutive multiple birth christenings from one relatively small congregation.
COPY OF BAPTISMAL REGISTER -- PIC 2

 Firstly on February 18th. Alice and Louie Fallows were christened, next came John and Daisy Wilson on March, 13th. followed on March,31st. by the double ceremony of Albert and Harry Roberts.

Baptismal Record 1907
The Fallows family are recorded as living at 10, Vicars Road whilst the Roberts are located just "next-door-but-one" at No. 14

Unfortunately the Wilsons did not live at 12, Vicars Road but at 35, School Lane Didsbury!
Alice and Louie's parents were James Albert Fallows, a gardener, and his wife Mary Jane (née. Fryer) who already, in 1907, had two other children Doris aged 5 and 3 year old Ethel.

Sadly Louie did not survive to reach his first birthday, but the parents and their three daughters appear on the 1911 census still living in Chorlton- cum-Hardy at 15, Halstead Avenue.

Baptismal Record 1907
The Wilson twins were the offspring of Henry Wilson, a railway signalman, and Mary Jane (nee. Fothergill) and were the couple’s first children, even though the mother was very nearly 40 years old.

Henry and Mary Jane married in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the summer of 1906 in Mary Jane's home town of Gars dale. The census of 1911 show John and Daisy and their parents back in Yorkshire residing in the Armley area of Leeds.

The Roberts; Shropshire born George Evan, who delivered milk around the township from his cart, and his wife Elizabeth (nee. Morely) were married, in 1899, in the Wesleyan Chapel of the Methodist Central Hall Oldham Street.

According to the information given to the 1911 census they had the largest number of children, of the three couples,   a total of five being born alive - two (neither of the twins)  dying young. It is also recorded that the family had moved to Hardy Cottages - in 1901 they had been at 3,Richmond Grove.

© Tony Goulding, 2015

Pictures; from the collection of Tony Goulding

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.

Originally the sign read TEL, 234 DIDSBURY, SPANNS, BLINDS, REMOVING, CARPET LINOLEUM & BEDDING WAREHOUSE.

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, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass



Walking Cornbrook and on till morning part 10 ....... on the canal under Hulme Hall Bridge looking to town

Now I have decided to follow one of Andy Robertson’s walks from Cornbrook.  

It’s an area which has been much neglected but is on the cusp of change.

I could go in detail about the history of the place but instead will post just the picture and Andy’s accompanying comment.

One a day till I run out of images.

On the canal under Hulme Hall Bridge looking to town.

Picture; from the Cornbrook collection 2015, by Andy Robertson

A car, some snow and a childhood memory of Lausanne Road

It is odd the way that just one simple sound heard this morning from our kitchen has pitched me back to the front room of Lausanne Road over sixty years ago.

The sound was that of a car slowly going past the house and perhaps it was the speed or the wheels on the wet road that reminded me of other cars making their way down Lausanne Road during one of those early morning snow falls.

You know the scene.  In the dead of night unbeknown to anyone but the night watchman sitting in front of his brazier it had been snowing.

It fell effortlessly out of the sky and pretty quickly  blanketed everything with a thick white layer which deadened all sounds and offered up that crunching noise as the wheels of cars passed over it.

And once that set of thoughts is out in the open another equally more powerful one has intruded and it is of falling asleep in a made up bed in the front room watching the occasional headlights of a car.

It will have been a Christmas and my bed was taken by our uncle George up for the holiday.

I say up but in fact until the mid 1960s he had lived in “digs” in Birmingham before retiring to a caravan in Cornwall.

And long after I have totally forgotten what presents I got the passage of those headlights across the ceiling moving slowly from right to left has stayed with me. To a five year old they seemed to have a life of their own and while I knew what they were they could be anything my imagination made them.

Not that there were many coming down Lausanne Road, this was after all the early 1950s and I can’t recall anyone of our neighbours owning a car or any of my friends come to that.

Back then pretty much all the roads were empty of parked cars and most people still went to work on the bus, their bike or on foot.

We never had a car which I suspect was because Dad was a coach driver during the summer months and reckoned that was enough for anyone, added to which cars were very expensive and public transport was so good.

I think I can just about remember my first car journey sometime around 1958 which would have put me about nine

It was winter, there was no heater and the car smelt of stale wet leather.

Thinking about it I do seem to have been having more and more thoughts of Lausanne Road in the 1950s which I guess is what happens when you pass into the middle of your sixties..

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Walking Cornbrook and on till morning part 8 ....... view of St George's flats

Now I have decided to follow one of Andy Robertson’s walks from Cornbrook.  

It’s an area which has been much neglected but is on the cusp of change.

I could go in detail about the history of the place but instead will post just the picture and Andy’s accompanying comment.

One a day till I run out of images.

“A view of St Georges flats.”

Picture; from the Cornbrook collection 2015, by Andy Robertson

A little bit of our steam history and a nod to Matthew Boulton

Now the Age of Steam covered a big chunk of our industrial history  ranging from the first steam driven water pumps to Boulton & Watts’ all purpose machine which drove the Industrial Revolution and finished for me with the railway locomotive.

And along the way there were steam rollers, travelling threshing machines and all those vehicles that plied our roads until the petrol powered lorry came along.

Most of those I have totally ignored.
So while I long ago fell in love with the steam locomotive and have marvelled at those stationary machines that worked the coal mines, the textile mills and even Tower Bridge the ones that travelled the countryside and chugged along through our towns and cities were pretty much ignored by me.

All of which was a shame, for no busy Corporation Clerk of Works would have got far without a steam roller nor the Edwardian farmer who saw the potential for reducing labour costs by embracing steam over horsepower and I doubt that fun fairs would have been so attractive without a traction engine to run the glittering lights and roundabouts.

So because I have tended to miss these out here is a picture posted recently by David Harrop which I like because there is the twist in the story.

Look closely and you can see that our old steam relics are lugging a diesel loco.

Now that is a nice touch and I hope David will turn up more from his vast collection.

I have no idea when it was taken or where but I bet he will tell me which just leaves me to ad that when Matthew Boulton was asked by King George III what he die he replied "Sire I sell what all the world desires ............. power."

Picture; courtesy of Roy Pinches and in memory of the late Michael Oliver

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Thoughts of Christmas in Lausanne Road on a wet November day

It’s that time of year when thoughts of Christmas begin to take over.

And more than once I have caught myself muttering that each year the Christmas adverts on the telly along with advent calendars, baby Christmas puddings and the first Christmas trees make their appearance in our local supermarket just a little earlier than the year before.

But that is to look at the whole thing from a grownups perspective.

If I was still living in Lausanne Road in 1956 I know that Christmas would have already begun to sit on my shoulder.

Of course the commercial hype was less obvious, but shops would have been full already of Christmas stuff.

In an age when many of us still made our own Christmas cakes and puddings the local grocers would have had the signs up offering the festive fruits and perhaps even the accompanying reminder of stir up Sunday which is traditionally the last Sunday before advent.

Now this year the first Sunday of Advent falls on November 27 which means I have missed Stir up Sunday which was the time when everyone was supposed to gather in the kitchen to stir the pudding mix making a special wish at the same time.

I can’t be sure but 1956 may well have been the last time mother bothered with making our own cake and pudding and that will also be about the time that we switched to an artificial tree all of which are stories for December.

But even though the decorations along with the Christmas cards were still some way off there was no escaping the onset of Christmas.

It started in the playground with the endless discussions on which comic annual was the best, moved on to gazing into the local toy shop window and pretty much then became a countdown which of course began with the last day of school.

Now apart from the winter of 1962/3 I can’t remember a Christmas holiday with snow and while I could go looking for the records I’ll leave that to someone else to do instead plenty of other memories have bubbled to the surface, ranging from buying in the packets of do it yourself paper chains, to discovering the larder filling up with foods that we only got at Christmas, some of which were never eaten and ended up being thrown away in March.

And along with the start of the Christmas holiday for us in Lausanne Road it was the arrival of Uncle George which signalled the event was imminent.

He arrived a few days before, would take me up to see the Christmas lights on Oxford Street and would stay for the January sales.

And even before then dad would have been working away on the kitchen table through the long winter nights making a mix of home grown toys.

There was the year he made four identical baby cotes for my four sisters, all a different colour along with the castles he made for me with towers, battlements, drawbridge and portcullis.

Now that really was the slow slide towards Christmas.

Each evening each toy would have advanced a little further ready for the day and while I often saw them in construction Dad managed to have spirited away the finished thing ready to be a surprise.

That magic has never left me and while our own children are now all grown up I do have to confess a growing anticipation as November moves in to December.

Pictures; more recent Christmases, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

On Moss Lane West part 2 .............. Sunday November 22 2015

Sunday was a rare day in what had been a pretty awful week of driving rain, heavy winds and more rain with perhaps the only difference that sometimes the rain was heavy and at other times that fine drizzle which sinks deep into your clothes and makes you thoroughly miserable.

But Sunday was warmish with good light and that was enough to set Andy Robertson off to record the changes to one of his new projects chronicling how a little bit of Moss Lane West has disappeared.

This is the second of the series which I guess will go on till the new building is in place.

Pictures; Moss Lane West November 2015, courtesy of Andy Robertson

"the gates of hell" at Didsbury with more than one tall story

Now I like the story of the Devil’s Gate at Didsbury.

According to the local historian Fletcher Moss it referred to “the remnant of the village green in front of the inns where the cock fighting and bull baiting used to be.  In later days this space was clerically termed ‘the gates of hell’ and therefore to be shunned by the orthodox.”*

And it is easy to attribute the name to the gateway that leads into the Parsonage hard by the Didsbury Hotel to the left, and the Cock Inn to the right.

It would give just that tingle of apprehension to anyone wanting to cross into the gardens at night from the old village green having perhaps had too much in one of the two pubs.

But the gate is a relatively new addition to this bit of Didsbury having been brought here by Fletcher Moss himself.

Nor are the origins of that gate any more sensational for they come from the Spread Eagle Hotel on Corporation Street and were purchased for just £10 when the hotel was demolished in 1902.


Those still wanting a sinister turn to the tale might just ponder on the disappearance of a second eagle which stood in the gardens and vanished one night never to be seen again.

I was told and I have to admit it was late in the night after more than enough to drink in the Old Cock that there was a belief that this eagle had been spirited away as an act of revenge on the part of a long dead publican who roamed the village green and gardens in search of the clergy who had railed against the common pleasures of the people of Didsbury.

It is of course more likely that the lost eagle now adorns a garden somewhere in south Manchester its origin as part of a hotel and later a garden ornament long forgotten.

Still the gate remains a pretty impressive structure which Peter has captured in his painting.




Painting; Eagle Gate, © 2013 Peter Topping, 
Facebook; Paintings from Pictures,

*Fletcher Moss, Souvenir of the Coronation Festivities held at Didsbury June 22 1911


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A bit of Little Italy on Warwick Road South ............ another project from Andy Robertson

Never ever be surprised at how little bits of our history can turn up in the most unexpected places.

That said I am rarely surprised at Andy Robertson’s ability to turn up those bits of history which others have so totally missed.

So last weekend while out on Warwick Road South he came up with a fascinating bit of industrial history which has links with Little Italy and Manchester’s ice cream past.

And not to out change Andy I will leave the rest to him and his links to one of my favourite bits of our city’s story.

“I decide to take these of Warwick Road South yesterday as it was nice light and nobody about. 

Then I noticed a sign on the rear of a building on Ayres Road for The International Wafer Company. 

Presumably this sign was pretty much hidden when the other buildings were there. 

It was founded by Domenico Antonelli, an immigrant from Italy, in 1912. 

In 1926 they moved to this purpose built building on Ayres Road.

Check out The Antonelli Story -- Little Italy on the  internet.*

Also there is an excellent aerial photo of the brand new building on Trafford Lifetimes site, aerial view of Old Trafford, 1926.”**

And that is it.

Other than to say the entrance is still an impressive way into an ice cream factory.













Pictures;  The International Wafer Company, November 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson

* The Antonelli Story, http://www.ancoatslittleitaly.com/antonelli.html

** Trafford Lifetimes,  https://apps.trafford.gov.uk/TraffordLifetimes/