Saturday, 31 December 2016

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 76 ...... the sound of other languages

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

A little bit of France in Chorlton, circa 1976
Now it seems odd today that for almost two thirds of the life of our house the only language that would have reverberated through the rooms would have been English.

Of course I might be wrong but I doubt it.

The first “foreign language” would have been French and it will have been occasioned by the visit of three from France in the mid 1970s.

They were friends of John, Lois and Mike, who bought the house on the death of Mary Ann in 1973.

In all I think the French friends visited three times and that was pretty much that until Tina’s family began visiting.

They are originally from Naples but now live north of Milan and this Christmas we had five of them over which was a bit of a squeeze given that all the lads were back as well.

And now we have another of Tina’s brothers here for New Year.

He flies in tomorrow and will be here for a few days.

We had hoped for Saul’s partner who was due to fly in from Warsaw on Boxing Day but sadly work got in the way.

A big bit of Italy, 2013
But she has been here before and so we can count Polish along with Italian and French which may not count as much of a babble of foreign voices but it is a start.

Now there is really nothing unusual all of this, we have become a more cosmopolitan and multi cultural country and despite the few who feel challenged or upset at this I have to say I welcome it.

More so because my maternal grandmother was German, my dad’s family were from the East Highlands and I count as friends people from across the countries of the EU, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.

Added to which we have family in Poland Canada and Australia.

And more of Italy, 2009
Of course Joe and Mary Ann’s generation would also have had relatives who visited or settled abroad and will have known families who could recount similar experiences stretching back into the 19th century.

And on a more parochial level Joes’ parents were from London and moved north in the late 1870s moving in to Chorlton where they were settled by 1881.

John and Mike were from Leeds, Lois from Cambridge and me from south east London.

Moreover the house has also entertained a shed load of people who while they may all speak English were born all over the UK and passed through with their own stories and experiences.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; a little bit of France in Chorlton, circa 1976, courtesy of Lois Elsden and a big bit of Italy, 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of house,

Collecting for the Ancoats Hospital in the summer of 1924

I belong to that generation which was the first to grow up with the National Health Service.

School Daisy Day, date unknown
It over saw my birth in the General Lying In Hospital in Lambeth went on to look after me through the succeeding decades and is all the more a friend as I pass into my 66th year.

And for most of what I have needed it has continued to be free at the point of need offering the best medical care I could ask for.

But of course had I been born just a decade earlier my parents would have been expected to pay for my care not through their taxes but directly out of their pocket and like many would no doubt have been forced to dig deep from the family income.

All of which is a powerful reminder that there was a time when medical care was neither automatic nor a certainty for a large section of the population and that funding for our hospitals was still reliant on charity and big annual events.

Ancoats fancy dress day, date unknown
These ranged from The Alexandra Flag Days to local events and all were geared to raising cash which brings me back to a series of postcards from the collection of David Harrop and The Daisy Day Parade.

This was a regular event which began in June 1913 to raise money for Ancoats Hospital and consisted of selling artificial daisies and a fancy dress parade.*

All of which brings me back to the post cards.

An invitation, July 1924
Now I have no idea when the photograph was taken which means it could date from the 1920s and perhaps even from the events planned at the General Meeting held on July 17th to which Miss Miriam Buckley of 18 Dawns Street was invited.

It was held in the Out-Patients Department of the hospital and was the General Meeting for the Ancoats Daisy Day’s Hospital.

In time I might be able to track down the minutes and discover if she attended.

There is a reference to a Miriam Buckley aged 10 living with her parents at 59 Herbert Street, Ardwick in 1911 but after that the trail goes cold save for a  reference to her death in 1974.

The Manchester Guardian reports, July 21 1924
Either way I think she would have pleased with the events of the day which the Manchester Guardian reported “took the form of a fancy dress parade on the lines of the student’s procession on Shrove Tuesday.

In this case, however the industrial areas rather than the business centre of the city were tapped by the collecting boxes.  

The better to cover as large an area as possible the parade divided forces, one party going through Ancoats and by way of Ashton Old and New Roads to Belle Vue Gardens, the other combining Chorlton-on Medlock, Hulme, and Ardwick.

Fancy Dree, 1924
Numerous prizes were awarded for figures in the processions and there were prizes for those who collected the largest amounts.”**

I doubt that I will ever be able to confirm a date fo those young people in their Daisy Day fancy dress, but if I were to slip into speculation and fastened on July 1924, then some of those staring back at me may well have become proud parents in an NHS hospital in the years after its creation in 1948.

Now that would round the story off nicely.

Pictures; School Daisy Day, date unknown and invitation to Miss Miram Buckley, July 14 1924 from the collection of David Harrop, and Manchester Guardian, 1924, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

* A Daisy for Daisy Day, A History of Ancoats Dispensary in 100 Objects,

**Fancy Dress Parade for the Hospitals, Manchester Guardian, July 21 1924

Tony Goulding's .......... CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY HISTORY QUIZ - CHRISTMAS 2016 ......

Now here is a festive treat ...... Tony's Chorlton-cum-Hardy Christmas Quiz, answers tomorrow.  

Barlow Moor Road, 1908
1) What was the surname of the 2 brothers charged with the murder of P.C. Cock in 1876?

2) Which football league club was the young footballer, Peter Mee playing for at the time of his tragic drowning in the river Mersey near Jackson’s Boat in, November, 1923?

3) Whilst on the subject of football who was George Best’s landlady, while he was living in the area in the l960’s /early 1970’s?

4) Which curate at St. Clement’s church committed suicide at his lodgings on Stockton Road? Ans. Roland Joseph Blain –he took an overdose of Laudanum

5) What year did McDonalds restaurant on Barlow Moor Road open?

6) Which family was virtually wiped out by the bomb that also destroyed the old Chorlton-cum-Hardy Post Office in the “Christmas Blitz” of, 1940?

7) Which surname links the history of Chorlton Good Neighbours with the old off-license on St Anne’s Road?

8) Who was the parish priest of “Our Lady and Saint John’s” during the Second World War who had been awarded an M. C. in the First?

9) Which saint was the original Roman Catholic Church on the High Lane/Chequers (ex-Church) Road corner dedicated to?

10) Which soldier on the Manchester Road Methodist’s War Memorial has a double entry?

11) Which member of the Royal Family visited Cundiff Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy on the 24th October, 1969?

12) Many sons of Chorlton-cum-Hardy and Whalley range were killed on 20th July, 1916 whilst serving on the Somme as part of a “Public Schools and University’s “battalion attached to which regiment?

© Tony Goulding 2016

Lccation; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; Barlow Moor Road, At corner of Cranbourne Road, 1908, J Jackson, m17443, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Memories of Furness Vale by Mabel Townend. ....... one for the new year

The next meeting of Furness Vale History Society is on Tuesday 3rd January at 7.30pm. 

The meeting is at Furness Vale Community Centre, Yeardsley Lane.

Admission is £2 including refreshments. Mabel Townend, a former village schoolteacher, tells a fascinating story of life in Furness Vale over the past 80 years.

The poster features Rheuben Bennet the village yeast dealer and Mabel Townend's grandfather.

Rheuben sold yeast door to door in neighbouring villages and also ran a nursery business growing tomatoes and flowers.

Location; Furnes Vale

Picture; courtesy of Furnes Vale History Society

*Furness Vale Local History Society,

Always look for the story behind the badge

Now the thing about badges is that they are easy to make offer up an instant message and with the passage of time tell a story.

I have been collecting them for over five decades although these days  I am less willing to actually wear them.

Once and it was a long time ago I would happily and proudly wear the latest campaign badge, until overtaken by a new one.

Today I don’t, which has nothing to do with the validity of the particular campaign or the issue but just because I am a grumpy old man.

That said they still fascinate me, and I still write about them.*

Added to which I now also collect other people’s as well and it was Mikky  posted recently by Stephen Marland that set me off.

I vaguely remember it but I cannot put a date to it and would be hard pressed to say whether it arose from a national campaign or a local one.

But that underlines that simple observation that anyone with a badge making machine can turn out a badge for any occasion and for all seasons.

Elections, birthday’s sales promotions and even books are fair game.

And here I own up to a series of personal badges.

The first was from my friend Susan from Canada who spent six weeks in Britain researching her family roots and made a special trio to Manchester.

We are both related to British Home Children who were those young people migrated to Canada, Australia and other visits of the old Empire from the 1870s onwards.  Theirs is still a story which is unfamiliar to many on both sides of the Atlantic.

And yet something like 100,000 children were sent to Canada and the practice continued into the 1970s in the case of Australia.

So I was pleased when as part of the swapping of gifts Susan gave me the Canadian badge along with some very nice sweet things.

In return she now has a Glad to be in Chorlton T shirt featuring the lych gate and a copy of the book on Hough End Hall written by me and Peter Topping.

And soon I will be sending for my own British Home Child Badge produced in Canada which will take pride of place in the collection.

But for now I shall close with the latest to roll off Peter’s badge machine which will be instantly recogniseable to many as part of the research for our new book on the Pubs of Manchester.**

And as ever there was a story in that badge, because yesterday as the sun shone we visited the first of the six pubs.

Starting at Knott Mill and moving on via the Rochdale Canal up to Liverpool Road and Deansgate, we met the landladies and managers and listened to some of the odd stories of the lives behind the doors.

You can order the book from 

Location; pretty much everywhere

Pictures; Milky, date unknown, from the collection of Stephen Maryland, Canada, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, Home Children Canada, 2015, courtesy of Judy Neville and Manchester Pubs 2016, from Peter Topping


**A new book on Manchester Pubs,

Friday, 30 December 2016

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 75 ...... the houses Joe built

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Now Joe built good houses as many of his tenants testified and that of course extended to this house but it is his others that I want to reflect on.

His own was built in 1915 but already he had been building properties on Provis, Higson, Neale and Beech Roads and would on to build more on Beaumont and Belwood.

His earlier properties were the classic two up two down which can be found all over the country. My grandparents lived in one in Hope Street in Derby, and the first house I bought in Ashton-under-Lyne was a two up two down and at home in Woolwich there are still plenty of them.

You walked in from the street into the front room, the stairs were at the back in the kitchen and the lavatory was in the yard.

There were of course variations.

In the case of Nana’s the yard had once been a common one which contained three lavatories which were shared with an entry into the yard through a passageway from the street and in Ashton the variations stretched to a small vestibule behind the front door offering a little privacy.

But the variations were more to do with the individual builders, so in the case of Joe’s properties the staircase was at the front. That said there are only so many different ways of building a two up two down.

Like most of these properties Joe’s were built for rent and only in the 1960s did he begin to sell off some of the stock.

The great strength of the basic model is the way that it can be adapted.

As Andy Lever’s picture’s show many have over the years have had extensions.

Some were constructed of wood and glass, others of brick and in some cases the extension has included a second floor.

Internally rooms have been knocked together and lavatories and bathrooms added.

Now I am not sure whether Joe’s original design included a bathroom or inside lavatory and for that I shall have to ask Ida whose family have occupied the same house on Neale for over fifty years.

In the meantime I shall just reflect that people always spoke highly of Joe as a landlord, commenting that he always got repairs done quickly and offered a good deal when the houses were sold.

And given that he lived just round the corner he was pretty much instantly available in his office which was directly behind his house.

But like so many landlords he did economise on some things and according to Ian who lived on Higson all the doors were painted green.

There will be many who remember that office and yard which later became a TV repair place, later still a builder’s yard again and eventually became a house.

Not that Joe I think would have approved of the office’s final transformation given that it overlooks his old garden and lacks much of the charm of his properties.

Pictures; looking out on Joe’s old houses, 2016 from the collection of Andy Lever and Beaumont Road showing Joe Scott’s workshop, 1958, R E Stanley, m17662, a courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, 

*The story of house,

A day in December on our High Street ................. nu 5 the Eltham Grill

Now if you still live where you grew up the chances are that you take it all for granted.

For those of us who long ago moved away from Eltham that is something we can’t do.

So here is the last of the short series of Eltham High Street on a December day just before Christmas.

They were taken by Ryan and are not in any order but take me back to the High Street I remember, and just off the main road is the Eltham Grill.

Picture; the Eltham Grill, 2015 from the collection of Ryan Ginn

Of adventures and pub visits .............. the Millstone on Thomas Street

Now adventures should never be confined to anyone under the age of ten. 

Thinking about it they are best kept for those in receipt of a free travel bus, and pension who can remember listening to the Goon’s on the wireless and know that Wagon Wheels were bigger back in their youth.

All of which carries the added bonus that you aren’t going to be asked to show ID to prove that you are entitled to walk into a pub.

And with those qualifications out of the way Peter and I were set to wander the streets of Manchester in search of a shed load of historic pubs.

It was day two of the hands on side of researching the history of 79 ”hero” pubs stretching from the University up through the city centre and on out to the Northern Quarter which for those of us old enough to remember included places like New Cross, a street full of pet shops and the wholesale food markets.

Now as research goes it ticked lots of boxes, of which the most important was that we got to meet the landlord or manager, uncovered some fascinating stories about each place and spoke to the customers.

But at the Millstone on Thomas Street we got just that bit more.  The landlord Ged who over the years has run successful pubs across the city and into Salford was made up that we were interested in his place.  So much so that we ended up having our picture taken together, and we shared some of the history of his pub

By the mid 1790s Thomas Street was busy and open for business, and just sixty year later it offered the discerning resident a choice between the Millstone, then spelt Mill Stone and the White Lion at number 15, the Bay Horse at number 35 and the Wagon Horses across the road at number 16.

And he was keen to join us on the next trip, .......... not bad for one days adventure.

The book can be ordered from

Picture; Ged and me, in the Millstone, 2016 from the collection of Peter Topping

Painting, the Millstone  © 2014, Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,


Thursday, 29 December 2016

Looking for lost forgotten local Chorlton artists ................ Mr Bert Woodcock and J Montgomery

It's what you don't know about people that makes for fascinating history.

Beaumont Road, 1958
I knew Bert and Doris Woodcock but only to nod to and pass the odd comment.

They lived on Beaumont Road directly behind us.

Bert was a tall man who was always very polite and gave you a smile while Doris was equally tall but rarely let on and in later years often looked through you.

I must confess to my shame I made little effort to get to know them and I cannot quite remember when they died.

I think Bert went first but these were the years when the children were growing up and with a busy day job lots rather passed me by.

And so it was a chance conversation with Alan which made me think of them again and the revelation that Bert was an artist who exhibited locally.

I have gone looking for a reference to his work but so far have drawn a blank, but given that he was also a commercial artist I suspect in time I will find at least one picture.

Added to which there may be someone out there who bought or was given one of Bert’s paintings.

If so I would like to see it and perhaps show it on the blog.

All of which reminds me of J M Montgomery who also painted Chorlton and Whalley Range.

His work spans the first half of the 20th century and embraced everything from buildings to farm scenes and the meadows in full flood.

Chorlton Skating Ring, Oswald Road, 1906 from a painting 1964
Despite there being hundreds of his paintings in the local image collection, Central Ref they have no record of Mr Montgomery or how they paintings came into their possession.*

Most seem to have been painted from photographs or picture postcards which make them remarkable given that the originals have now been lost and so offer scenes that have now long since vanished.

He was active from the late 1940s through to the mid 60s and that should mean that someone will remember him, but sadly not so far.

If he was a member of a local church group or propped up the bar of one of our pubs no one has come
forward with memories of the man.

That said there was one tantalizing conversation back in 2011 with someone who thought the paintings were familiar and half remembered being told about an artist who had been recovering from wounds sustained during the last world war.

But she never got back to me and as these things often work I never took it any further.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Beaumont Road with Mrs and Mrs Woodcock’s house behind Joe Scott’s workshop, 1958, R E Stanley, m17662, and Chorlton Skating Ring later the Picturedrome from a postcard dated, 1906, J Montgomery, 1964, m 80132, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, *

A day in December on our High Street ................. nu 4 the parish church

Now if you still live where you grew up the chances are that you take it all for granted.

For those of us who long ago moved away from Eltham that is something we can’t do.

So here for the next few days are a selection of Eltham High street on a December day just before Christmas.

They were taken by Ryan and are not in any order but take me back to the High Street I remember and given that we are close to Christmas it is fitting that there should be one of the church which I am regularly drawn back to.*

And before any one says anything, I too have just spotted the trees are in full leaf, which is either another sign of global warning or this is is a summer picture which I have picked up from Ryan by mistake.

Either way it will feature in June in a walk down the High Street in summer ........... can't be bad.

Picture; St John’s, 2015 from the collection of Ryan Ginn

*Eltham Church,

The Band on the Wall ............ magic memories, a venue with a long history and a trailer for the new book on Manchester Pubs

Now the book on Manchester pubs is available.*

A new book on Manchester Pubs
Unlike other pub books we want to tell the stories of the people, the building and the area they are situated in.

All of which has revealed some fascinating stories like this one from the Manchester composer Paul Mitchell-Davidson about the Band on the Wall on Swan Street.

So here is his tale of the pub which comes as an extract from the book.

This is a pub I have fond memories of but by the time I washed up there in the late 70s it had become the Band on the Wall which had pretty much been its unofficial name for decades having become popular in the 1930s and 40s as a place to hear jazz bands and Italian performers.

In its time the place has seen performers as varied as Art Blakey, Bill Bruford, John Cooper Clarke and the Fall and along the way many local musicians.

I can’t remember who I heard on the many nights I ended up there it was just enough to get that heady mix of live music, beer and an informal atmosphere which was all about just having fun.

Band on the Wall, 2016
I rather think this would have appealed to the Mckenna family who had acquired the old George and Dragon in 1854 and expanded the premise into the adjoining properties on Swan Street and Oak Street.

Having opened in 1975 as Band on the Wall it closed briefly in 2005 but reopened and continues that long tradition of music and good beer.

My only regret was that I missed its birthday party on August 4 2000 when the Manchester composer Paul Mitchell-Davidson performed a special birthday piece in big band style.

Reflecting back he remembers, “I have many happy memories of the Band. I was there from the very start and remember along with other Manchester musos helping Steve Morris move in.

Of course in those days it still had the 24 hour license left over from the market trading days
which I imagine made the process of getting a late drinking license easier, later.

All the local musicians used to meet at the Band before and after gigs.

Paul in 1975 
I played there countless times particularly during the 70's and 80's so I was very honoured to be commissioned to write the 25th anniversary piece 'Shouting On Swan Street'.

The title has obvious musical connotations but also refers to the less than social behaviour of some of us when leaving in the early hours!

Although essentially a jazz piece it is also a sort of tone poem charting the many and various types of music that have been played there from the 19th century onwards. I like to think that the whole fabric of the building is suffused with music.

As well as a 12 piece band of top professional players I also used some students from the Jazz workshop sessions at one point and also a small gospel choir from the vocal workshop sessions.

Paul back at Band on the Wall, 2000
They sang a tribute to my friend Steve Morris ' A small man, with a big heart....'

At the end of the continuous one hour performance there was a sort of stunned silence and then an amazing standing ovation which went on for about 10 minutes.

I have to say that in all my 53 years in the music profession that must count as one of my proudest and happiest moments.”

Now that sounds a good reason to visit Band on Wall.

Painting; The Band on the Wall © 2016 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,

Pictures; Paul in 1975© Pete Johnson and Paul in the Band on the Wall, 2000, © Paul Mitchell-Davidson,

*Manchester Pubs is the story of our best iconic and most loved pubs.  It aims to tell the stories of the people, the building and the area they are situated in.  So less a pub guide and more a celebration of all things that make these pubs fascinating places to visit.  Manchester Pubs, by Peter Topping and Andrew Simpson can be ordered from 

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Vine on Kennedy Street ............ beer sellers, handloom weavers and Mr John Beswick the leach importer

The Vine always stops the causal tourist in their tracks. 

The Vine in 2014
For many it is the long walk along Fountain Street, leading on to Cooper Street and then almost on the corner of Kennedy Street is the Vine.  All green tiles and gold lettering.

It remains one of those pubs you bring friends to who are sniffy about Manchester and it always makes a huge impression.

Now I am sure someone will point to the long windows at the top and make the connection with handloom weaver’s homes which were designed to admit the maximum amount of daylight.

But if the house had been occupied by a handloom weaver he had gone by the 1850s no doubt squeezed out by the growing mechanization of the textile industry.

Instead at number 46 was Martha Dunbar who was selling pints to the residents and passing trade in 1850 but by the following year had been replaced by Mr Edwin Eastwood from Halifax in Yorkshire.

Kennedy Street and the two beer shops, 1849
He and his wife were just 22 and I guess were an enterprising couple.  They shared the house with Mr and Mrs Leach.*

Next door at what is the City Arms was Mr John Turner at 48 who was also in the business of dispensing beer and happiness and both landlord were in direct competition with Alston William at number 36.

And competition might well have been fierce given that there were 24 households along Kennedy Street whose breadwinners were engaged in a variety of trades from bookbinding, box manufacturer and my own personal favourite ......... Mr John Beswick, leech importer who lived at number 9.

But selling beer was for many just a short term measure which helped overcome a short period of unemployment and had been made possible because by then the 1830 Beer Act allowed an individual to brew and sell beer for the price of a license costing two guineas.

Kennedy Street, the two pubs and 4 & Bros, circa 1900
And that is pretty much what seems to have happened on Kennedy Street, for in a space of a year not only had Mrs Duncan moved on but so had John Beswick at 48 whose place had been taken by a Mr William who seems to have fancied selling beer rather than working as a blacksmith.

That said many beer sellers retained their original occupations seeing beer as just a side line.

All of which brings me back to the Vine which extended into the neighbouring building a few years ago and now features a cellar bar
devoted to a range of interesting brands of whiskies.

I doubt very much if this is the building which Martha or the other publicans back in the 1850s would have known.  It post dates them and may date from late the 1870s when it was the offices of a solicitor an accountant and a cloth agent.**

Inside the Vine, 2016
These venerable and sober businessmen might well have shuddered at one story that Mike and Rachelle the current owners told me about a Mary O’ Sullivan who may have run the Vine at sometime in the past and may have been murdered in the little entry which once gave access from Kennedy Street into a courtyard behind the pubs.

A first sweep of the records has not revealed Mary O’Sullivan but Rachelle was told by someone researching his family tree that his ancestor was connected with the Vine so I shall continue to go looking.

You can order the book from 

Location; Manchester

Painting; The Vine Inn Manchester. Painting © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures

Picture; detail of Kennedy Street in 1849 from the 1849 OS of Manchester & Salford, 1842-49 and in 1900 from Goad's Fire Insurance Maps, by kind permission of Digital Archives Association,

*Kennedy Street, Enu 1aa 34, Market Street, Manchester, 1851

**Slater's Directories, 1850, 1863, 1876, 1911

A day in December on our High Street ................. nu 3 the Park Tavern

Now if you still live where you grew up the chances are that you take it all for granted.

For those of us who long ago moved away from Eltham that is something we can’t do.

So here for the next few days are a selection of Eltham High street on a December day just before Christmas.

They were taken by Ryan and are not in any order but take me back to the High Street I remember.

Not that I ever went in the Park Tavern but I have written about it and what I like about Ryan’s picture is the way he has caught the detail of the pubs name picked out half way up.*

Picture; The Park Tavern, 2015 from the collection of Ryan Ginn

*Painting Well Hall and Eltham ....... nu 6 outside the Park Tavern,

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A day in December on our High Street ................. nu 1 the Library

Now if you still live where you grew up the chances are that you take it all for granted.

For those of us who long ago moved away from Eltham that is something we can’t do.

So here for the next few days are a selection of Eltham High street on a December day just before Christmas.

They were taken by Ryan and are not in any order but take me back to the High Street I remember.

And here to start off the series is the Library.

It was built “with funds from the Carnegie Trust to a design by Maurice Adams.  The classical frontispiece is recessed and on either side are oriel windows and tile hung gables flanked by urns.”*

Next door at nos 183-5 “is the old electricity showroom which was built in the early 1930s by the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich; upstairs at that time was the office of the Council’s Registrar [and] behind it was a building used from the early 1900s as the electricity works, Woolwich being the electricity supply authority at the time.”*

Picture, Eltham Library, 2015 from the collection of Ryan Ginn

*Spurgeoon, Darrell, Discover Eltham, 2000

Monday, 26 December 2016

A little bit of gentle humour in 1903

Now I thought about digging out a Victorian Christmas card given the date, but I have done those already in the past and anyway Christmas is pretty much covered where ever you look, so instead here is a gentle bit of fun.

It dates from around 1903 and was sold not only here in Britain but also in the U.S.A, and Canada.

And before I upset Karl who delievers our mail I shall just reiterate that the Post Office has never let us down.

Picture;  URGENT, BY SPECIAL MESSENGER from the series, comic sketches, marketed by Tuck and sons, 1903, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Friday, 23 December 2016

Pictures from an Eltham bus ........ nu 8....... goodbye the Co-op ..... another childhood landmark gone

The top deck of a London bus has to be a pretty neat way of seeing the world below.

And when it is the same bus at about the same time every day then you have got yourself a project.

All you need is a camera and the patience each week to record the same spot.

It helps if there is a major new development underway like the one in the High Street and the rest as they say is Larissa Hamment’s “Pictures from an Eltham bus.”*

There will be many who remember the RACS building in the High Street, which is now just a hole in the ground. Larissa was passing yesterday and took the image.

Location, Eltham High Street, Eltham, London

Picture; December 2016 the old Co-op/Pound Shop site, from the collection of Larissa Hamment

*Pictures from an Eltham bus,

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 74 ...... the last Christmas card ever

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Christmas greetings, 1911
Now I have no idea how many Christmas cards Joe and Mary Ann received or what they did with them.

During the time Mike John and Lois lived here there were shedloads of cards, mostly given by students and these were arranged on a big wide shelf in the front room close to the gas fire which was potentially always a fire hazard and invariably meant more than a few kept falling down.

We on the other hand display them on green ribbon, in batches of four which are suspended from the picture rails in the hall.

The ribbon isn’t cheap but the glue and the blue tack doesn’t cost much so it balances itself out.

All very different from when I was growing up.  Back then the cards were hung on string with a drawing pin at each end although one year mother experiemented with a card holder it was a a disaster and she reverted to the string.

It is perhaps a minor part of festive preparations but how we hang those cards is as much a part of the tradition of how each of us celebrates the event.

And that I am guessing for most will be a collection of doing things which harp back to childhood and perhaps eve beyond.

Both my parents were born in the early decades of the last century which meant that our Christmas was a mix of Victorian and Edwardian traditions f rom their childhood abd their parents overlaid with that growing commercialism which became ever more intrusive in the 1950s and 60s.

So there was still an orange in the pillow case but that vied with a selection box and a comic annual.

Our own kids get a stocking each rather than a pillow case but each was hand made and has served them since they were born.

Such are the traditions of Christmas, but I wonder how long the Christmas Card will survive, after all the picture postcard has long ago been pretty much sidelined, which I suspect was due to the rising cost of postage, the telephone and mobile and now that simple reliance on a text message.

All of which makes me wonder how long it will be before the Christmas card joins that long list of old fashioned things like the fountain pen and the telegram.

Merrie Christmas circa 1900
Its decline and extinction have been predicted for a while although there is no sign just yet of it happening.

But more of my family and friends each year tell me that they have decided to stop and instead send a e card or just text preferring to plough the money they would have spent in to a donation to charity.

Now on one level I can’t argue with that, but it does seem a shame.

This is partly because I still like getting and sending cards.

I always go to the same charity to buy them and have a set way of writing them.

All of which I would miss doing.

But it is more than that, it is the loss to future historians.

Like the picture post card and the letter the Christmas card offers up a snap shot of the past.  It starts with the image on the outside. And goes on to the message inside.

From the Front, 1914
And even while there is a convention in both the Christmas picture and the sentiment inside there is often just that little bit of originality which can tell you so much.

In the collection I have a series of cards each depicting snowman in the military uniforms of Germany before the Great War.  The cards were popular and seem to have been reissued over a number of years until of course 1914.

And in the same way the message inside will offer up insights into how families spent their Christmas from the one expressing excitant at the second Royal Christmas broadcast on the wireless, to those from battlefronts in two world wars.

All of which just leaves me to wish that I could come across a few that Joe and Mary Ann received, after all they had moved in just before December 1915 and Mary Ann was still here for the Christmas of 1973 which is a long time in the history and evolution of the Christmas card.

Pictures; Victorian Christmas card from the collection of Tony Walker, A Bluish Rose, 1911, and "HOORAH FOR THE KING" from the series 4TH CORPS XMAS 1914, Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

*The story of house,

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A pub book for Christmas .....Manchester Pubs - The Stories Behind The Doors .. available now

Well it’s been a long time in coming but here today is the book that tells the story of 78 iconic Manchester pubs and drinking places.

When we set out to write the book I don’t think that either of us had any idea just what we would uncover about the pubs, the people who ran them and drank in them or about the area they are situated in.

But two years on, and a lot of research, visits to the 78 and conversations with shed loads of people we are proud to announce that it is finished.

The first thirty copies arrived yesterday and within three hours only four were left.and today a pallet load will be delivered at Peter’s house.

Now I could say more but if you have been following the stories on the blog* you will know all about the book, and if not follow this link to the site with all the details of how to buy it.**

“I am” to quote someone else “so excited.”

And if you act quickly it could be a stocking filler or the book to read just after the Queen’s speech.
Enough said.

*Manchester Pubs - The Stories Behind The Doors City Centre, Peter Topping and Andrew Simpson,
ISBN 978 0 995705 50 0 Price £18.99,

You can order the book at 

The book can also be obtained from  Chorlton Bookshop,  0161 881 6374

Christmas 1915 ............ thoughts from George to his wife Nellie

Last  Christmas our Saul was not  with us and he was missed.

All of which makes me reflect on how much harder it must have been for thousands of families a century ago as we moved towards the second Christmas of the Great War.

George Davison was serving with the Royal Artillery in Ireland and while he had hoped to be home for the festival it wasn’t to be.

And so on the evening of December 23rd he sat down and wrote a quick note to his wife Nellie managing to catch the last post of the day.

It was of course shot through with thoughts of Christmas and the wish that Nellie would enjoy her present and get a toy for their son Duncan but just for a moment George reflected on the absence of any letters from his friends and family “since I left home.  I certainly thought I had a few friends but the old saying ‘out of sight out of mind’ is still true.”

But it was a momentary blip in what was an optimistic letter made more so by the news that Nellie had moved from Hulme to Birch Vale cottage in Romily, “you will find it rather lovely but of course there is nothing like having a home of your own.  I hope you will be comfy in it.”

This was to be her home for most of the Great War and into the decades afterwards.

I don’t know if George ever visited the cottage and Nellie did sub let the property for a while near the end of the war but it is still there today and I rather think later next year I shall go looking for it.

All of which just leaves me to finish with George’s closing remarks “with best wishes for a jolly Xmas for yourself and Duncan.”

Picture; extract from the letter dated December 23 1915 from the George Davison Collection courtesy of David Harrop

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

One hundred years of one house in Well Hall part 17 ........... of what is to come

This is the continuing story of one house in Well Hall Road and of the people who lived there including our family.*

Now how we celebrate Christmas is a very personal thing and is a mix of the current commercial hype, and family traditions which go back generations.

Growing up in Well Hall our celebrations drew not only on what we had done as kids every year but also leaned heavily on the type of Christmases enjoyed by mum and dad in the middle decades of the last century.

All of which has passed on to how Christmas is spent by own family here in Manchester.

Somewhere along the way we began having two trees one of which always has to touch the ceiling and while the advent calendars are no longer a feature the Christmas Day kick about on the Rec opposite the house still goes on.

In Well Hall the start of Christmas was never the end of term or the first set of Christmas cards but the arrival of Uncle George up from the West Country.

He would arrive a day before Christmas Eve and stay for the January sales and then like snow in the winter sunshine he was gone.

And what we looked forward to with him coming was the annual visit to the Christmas lights.

Today even the smallest village and hamlet will have its festive show but growing up in the 1950s and 60s there were only and ever would be those on Oxford Street and Regent Street.

Combined with the wonder of the bright lights was a bag of hot chestnuts still in those days sold from an old fashioned brazier with burning coals.

Later of course all five of us began Christmas Eve in a pub which for me was usually the King’s Arms and our Stella, Liz Gill and Theresa could be any one of those on the High Street and beyond.

But like all families the following day was spent with the presents and later the Christmas dinner which involved sitting around two tables put together and an assortment of chairs most of which of varying heights and degrees of safety.

When I was younger it finished with one of those long games of Monopoly followed by the telly.

Dad and mum had long ago done away with the “real” Christmas tree and instead settled on an artificial one made with what looked like long green brushes tipped with white and fastened into a wooden pole.

Its appearance was always accompanied by Dad saying that this would be the last year he would bother, but it was always there the following year.

The lights were those big pear shaped ones which sometime in the late 1950s had replaced the candles which were attached to the tree by means of a metal holder and clip.

And with them came the paper chains made form coloured gummed paper.

Looking back those Christmases may have been simpler but no less magic.

Location; Well Hall & Chorlton

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*One hundred years of one house on Well Hall Road, 

Monday, 19 December 2016

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 73 ...... on restoring the garden

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Now I have no idea just how the garden looked when Joe and Mary Ann lived here or for that matter whether they enjoyed gardening.

But I know that over the last century both the front and back have undergone plenty of changes.

Judging by the picture of Lois taken in 1974 just after Mary Ann had died the front was a mix of border plants and roses.

The cherry tree I suspect will have been planted when the house was new and while we had to cut it down in the 1990s there we have replace it with another tree beside the gate.

The rest as they say has been transformed with a fair degree of regularity since then.

We turfed the front twice in the 1980s, replaced it with a series of bushes and plants and along the way took out the tall privet bushes.

In a way I regret losing the privet which not only shielded us from the gaze of passersby but as all good Victorian gardeners knew absorbed all sorts of pollution.

On the other hand it hid Burglar Bill who twice tried to break in, was a chore to cut and did nothing for the soil.

But I long ago lost my joy of gardening and am no longer happy to spend hours fiddling in the front with weeds and persistent bits of stray long grass, and so Darren has created for us the simple easy to maintain garden lawn.

Gone are the wild array of nasturtiums which took over the garden from spring to autumn along with assorted daffodils, blue bells and Welsh poppies all now replaced by that green carpet.

One day I may find some old photographs pre dating the 1950s of the front garden but for now I can only assume that the Scott’s grew roses.

Darren's van 2016
But at least they didn’t go in for stone and concrete designs which took up number 45 and involved a huge effort to demolish.

Gardens like all things turn on the fashion of the day and I had half thought by turfing we might be returning the garden to its earlier state.

Of this I am no longer so sure but at least I won’t be out there as often.

More so so because the new work was undertaken by Darren Rogerson who did a grand job transforming an overgrown and untidy mess into a neat garden in less than two days.

Many have been the comments in favour of the changes and the finished outcome.  But to see it you will have to wander down Beech Road.

And he came round the following day with four free lavender bushes.

Now that is pretty good.

All of which means we will be using him again and again.

Darren Rogerson,  0777022125

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; the house over the decades from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of house,