Thursday, 11 February 2016

In the Rec on Beech Road in the spring of 1910

I am back in the Rec and the year is 1910, and judging by the trees I guess it is late spring.

The recreation ground is a little over ten years old and there will be people in the picture who will remember when as Row Acre it was still farmed in long strips by tenant farmers.

The Bailey/Renshaw family whose farm was just behind the photographer on the other side of Beech Road had been farming their strip on Row Acres since the 1760s, while the Higginbotham’s who had the strip beside Cross Road had been in Chorlton from the 1840s.

The accompanying caption refers to the absence of the big see saws which were to the right of the picture just behind the man with the sack but I rather think they were still there but just out of sight.

Then as now it was a busy place with plenty of people taking advantage of a sunny day. In the distance a woman sits on a bench and chats with the mother pushing the pram.  Away in the distance and partly obscured by the trees are other prams.

But we are drawn to the two children who I guess are on their way to school.

The young girl carried a book and seems a little over dressed for the sunny weather, but then spring can be deceptive and what starts as a cold day can turn on a sixpence.

Now there will be those who are better than me at determining the time of day from the shadows cast by our two school children and will be able to suggest whether they are on their way to school or returning at midday.

Either way it is business as usual for the chap with the sack standing behind the bush and like the two young people his attention has been caught by the photographer.

In 1910 the presence of a camera could still draw the curious, and the vain.  Give another decade and the photographer will pretty much be ignored.

But on this spring day in 1910 some of those passing through the Rec can still be fascinated by the photographer and his camera.

And it is worth remembering that back then there were few open spaces for people to sit, for while to the south of our scene there were plenty of fields these were working fields.

The green had only recently reverted to a public place having been the private garden of the Wilton family for most of the last century, and Chorlton Park would not be laid for another decade and a half.

From time to time there were proposals for small parks using bits of open land like the one in the 1890s to utilize a strip of land by Corkland Road, and another for playing fields near Oswald Road School but they never materialized.

So for most of our children it would have been the fields and perhaps the Cliffs which ran alongside the brook just beyond Barlow Moor Road.

It had been a strip of woodland which combined the magic of running water, trees and was sufficiently hidden from view to make it a wonderful place to play.

But by the beginning of the 20th century there were few trees and by 1910 some of it atleast had vanished under Chorltonville.

Which takes me back to the Rec and all those people enjoying the sun on a spring day.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

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