Saturday, 30 April 2016

Ghost stories on Withington Road ..............

Now ghost signs come in many shapes and sizes some with a history that can be easily revealed and others which sit forgotten and obscure challenging you to find their story.

And for those puzzled by the term or who have yet to become fascinated by them they are all that is left of products and businesses which were advertised on the side of buildings back into the 19th century.

Today they can still be seen gently fading on a gable end or above a modern shop sign.

All of which brings me to this intriguing image sent across by Iain Crowe earlier this morning.

It comes from Withington Road but so far its origin remains hidden.

There is no reference to it on the 1911 street directory which usually features the names of houses bestowed on them by their proud and perhaps pretentious owners.

So that is all for now but stories of ghost signs have a habit of exciting a lot of interest which means I am very confident someone will come forward to help us unlock all there is know about Knightsbridge.

Location; Withington Road

Picture; ghost sign on Withington Road, 2016, from the collection of Iain Crowe

Friday, 29 April 2016

"over the Mersey at Jackson’s Boat and on to Baguley Moor and Hale Moss and after having botanized there ....returned to Manchester at dusk, all pleased with our day’s excursion” Richard Buxton in Chorlton

Call me lazy but I have chosen to return to the amazing story of Richard Buxton who was born into a poor rural family, grew up and lived in the equally poor area of Ancoats in the early 19th century and died in very humble surroundings in the shadow of London Road Railway Station.

Close to where Mr Buxton crossed the brook, the meadows, 1963
He was self taught and wrote what still stands as one of those remarkable books on botany. The original posts appeared over seven stories and are all still there to see.

"one of the hottest and driest summers that I can remember, and there had been no rain in the neighbourhood for two or three months; but on the day appointed for our meeting, very heavy rain came on about five in the morning. 

I should not have thought of stirring out of doors; but, having made the appointment, I thought it just possible that my friends might come, and I would not on any account disappoint them. We all went in the rain, through Manchester to Chorlton-cum-Hardy. 

St Clement's, circa 1860
After staying at the last named place sometime the weather changed and a fine day ensued then over the Mersey at Jackson’s Boat and on to Baguley Moor and Hale Moss and after having botanized there ..... returned to Manchester at dusk, all pleased with our day’s excursion” 

It is almost impossible to know when Richard Buxton walked the meadows of Chorlton and botanized the day away with his friends.

But I guess it must have been sometime in the 1820s. We were still a very rural community and there would have been plenty to see and record.

And record Buxton did, for he was one of those remarkable working men who were self taught, became an expert on botany, wrote books and struggled against poverty before dying obscurely. “I am well aware” he wrote “that a narrative of the life of a poor man like myself .... is anything but interesting.” and yet it has proved to be so.

Which is why over the next brace of weeks I want to tell his story. He was born in rural Prestwich grew up in Ancoats just as Manchester was becoming the “shock city of the Industrial Revolution” and died as he had lived in poverty.

The meadows, 2008
I was introduced to Buxton by my old pal David Bishop who is a passionate botanist and has patiently explained nature to me over the years.

It was David who lent me the book Buxton wrote in 1849.

For a self taught man his Botanical Guide to the Flowering Plants, Ferns Moses and Algae found Indigenous within Sixteen Miles of Manchester is both a wonderful record of what there was to see but also a testament to his interest and tenacity.

In a world where reading and writing are taken for granted, it is easy to gloss over the fact that at the age of sixteen he was illiterate, and had to set himself the task of learning to read.

What is all the more remarkable is that having mastered the spelling book and the narrative of the New Testament he realised he needed to know not only how to pronounce the words but their exact meaning. And so
“by this means I was enabled not only to read, but also to understand the meaning of what I read, and to speak it correctly.” All the more remarkable given that his working day lasted from six in the morning till eight or nine at night.

The result is a book that has stood the test of time and one that botanists still use as a hand book.

Picture; Junction of Gore Brook and River Mersey J Montgomery 1963 based on an earlier picture, m8014, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, St Clements Church circa 1860 from the collection of Tony Walker and the meadows as Buxton would not have known it, December 2008. Courtesy of David Bishop

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

*Richard Buxton,

I never thought of Plumstead ............. taking the horse out for a jolly and a thank you to Tricia

Now there is nothing better when a story gets a second lease of life.*

And so here we are back with those soldiers somewhere not very far away from Well Hall.

I had at first thought we were in Woolwich sometime during the Great War.  It was the challenges laid down by my old friend David Harrop who had bought the picture post card and was waiting for it to drop through the letter box for a second time in a century.

And when it did it offered up not the Great War but sometime a little earlier.
it was sent by Miss Elsie Crane to 59 St Peter’s Villa, Risbygate Bury St Edmunds with the simple sentiment of “with love and kisses to all you at home, best wishes.”

The distributors were A & G Taylor who modestly claimed to be “The biggest photographers in the World” and judging by the number of picture postcards in the archives and for sale there does seem to be some truth in the claim.

They had studios on Regent Street, and Queen Victoria Street in London and within two decades of being founded in the 1860s had branches all over the country.

One source suggests they closed down in 1903 which I suppose gets us a little closer to when then men posed with their horses.

I haven’t found Miss Crane yet and I think nu 59 has gone but I think I now know where our soldiers were and that is down to Tricia who also took up the challenge.

“I have been racking my brains out over the images you posted concerning your above blog. The houses looked familiar but the surroundings didn't. 

I think now I might have found the location, I do believe the houses in the background are Brookhill Road Plumstead, the larger houses being Dundus Terrace but the same road. 

The houses are still there so is the brick wall & I have found some evidence that the ground opposite may have had some military connection. 

I have attached my evidence together with your original postcard but also if you could google maps for Brookhill Road Plumstead you will see both style of houses that are in your photo. Have a look Andrew & see what you think.”

And that as a certain criminologist would say is that ................ thank you Tricia and I look forward to the next mystery/

Location, Plumstead, London

Picture; “Army Service Corps, Horse Artillery, Woolwich” from the collection of David Harrop and other photographs sourced by Tricia Lesley

Just what is in David Harrop's collection?

Now what connects this pub sign, a hospital and a porcelain money box?

It is I know a question which will tumble from the lips of people across Greater Manchester and beyond this Friday evening.

And the answer?  Well the pub belonged to the Post Office club which was located in the Manchester and Salford Hospital for Skin Diseases on the corner of Quay Street and Byrom Street.

All of which just leaves the money box which some might suggest contained pennies saved up by David Harrop who was a postman and knew the club well.

The truth is pretty much that with the added bit of information that David owns both the pub sign and the money box.

I am reliably informed he did toy with the idea of taking over the hospital site when looking for a venue to house his extensive collection of memorabilia from two world wars and the history of the Post Office.

Instead he decided to exhibit some of them at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery and is currently preparing for a new exhibition.

Entitled For the Fallen the exhibition will include letters medals and memorabilia from the period.

David tells me that “he was inspired to name the display for the fallen from the famous poem by Laurence Binyon the son of a Lancaster vicar.

Southern Cemetery contains nearly 1300 war graves from the two world plus civilian casualties from the blitz.

Although there are no July 1st 1916 casualties buried in Southern there are numerous memorials commemorating lost loved ones that were lost on those fateful days a century ago.”

David wishes “to put on record his heartfelt thanks to the Manchester City Council bereavement services staff for allowing him to display his collection in such a wonderful place.”

Picture; from the collection of David Harrop and the Manchester and Salford Hospital for Skin Diseases,1975,  Wildgoose-D, m53039, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Coming Soon ......... an exhibition in Southern Cemetery ........... remembering the Battle of the Somme,

Thursday, 28 April 2016

A building called the Towers, the Ship Canal and a certain animation company

The Towers is a building with a lot of history.

It was built between 1868 and 1872 by John Taylor who founded the Manchester Guardian in 1821.

Here in 1882 the decision was taken by a group of businessmen to build the Manchester Ship Canal and in 1920 it was bought by the British Cotton Industry Research Association and renamed the Shirley Institute after the daughter of one the main contributors to the cost of buying it.

And today it is surrounded by a business park which has recently become home to Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick Entertainment.

Cosgrove Hall was based in Chorlton and it was here that they produced some memorable animation films including Danger Mouse and Chorlton and the Wheelies.

And now they are back in Manchester with a team of 40 animators and graphic designers with a plan to generate another 70 jobs in the next few months.

All perhaps a long way from the young man who began work in a lab at the Shirley Institute in 1921.

We know only his first name and that his laboratory was visible from the drive as you made your way up to the building.

I don’t suppose we would even have known about him if his mother had not sent a picture postcard of the Towers to a friend with the proud message that “this is a view of the new Institute showing the new Lab where our Joe will shortly be working in the house.”

Picture postcards can be a wonderful source of local history not only offering up  fascinating glimpses of buildings and places but also because the messages reveal much of what was going on at the time.

In our case Jean’s account of her son Joe’s first job at the Institute is the only popular reference I have to the people who worked there.

But no doubt that will be other accounts and maybe even some pictures of the laboratories, offices and the canteen.

After all I am intrigued by the widely held belief that the building has 12 towers, 52 rooms and 365 windows which is why it is known locally as Calendar House.

In the past there have been open days and I rather think if there is another I shall attempt to wander through the old servants’ area of the house.

According to one description this will allow me to visit the kitchen and follow the trail to the china closet, the plate safe where the silver was kept and onto the servants’ passage which led to the dining room the butler’s pantry, and servants’ staircase.

Now this is my type of history.

Like a lot of people it is the quiet and hidden lives of the servants which are more interesting.

And so I want to explore the cook's pantry, housekeeper's room along with the servants' hall with its small spiral staircase in the far corner that led to the roof and the kitchen with its large open fire and range sadly now concealed behind a wooden screen.

And while I am on this romantically fuelled flight of fancy I wonder if Cosgrove Hall Fitzpatrick Entertainment might be inspired by the servants’ room’s, the passages and that spiral staircase to come up with a new animated film.

Now that would be something.

Painting; The Towers © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Walking with history down at Hough End Hall and getting a bargain ........... what could be better?

It has almost been a year since the launch of Hough End Hall The Story which is the first book to describe fully the history of this much loved building.*

The offer, 2016

The hall began as the fine new home of the Mosley family, built in 1596 to replace an older house,
later it served as a farmhouse and more recently as a restaurant and offices and there will be many with fond memories of the place.

For some it will be an unforgettable evening dining under the Tudor beams and for others a place to play and look for adventure.

And for everyone else here in the book is the story of a building which has links not only to the history of Chorlton, but also Withington, and Didsbury.

The Hall in 1849
The first owner left money for the “scoole att Chollerton Chapelle” was buried in the parish church in Didsbury and owned much of Withington.

All of which means our hall is mixed up with the stories of a chunk of south Manchester.

And to mark the anniversary the book is on sale at the reduced price of £11.99.

Now as the chap who wrote the words in conjunction with Peter who sourced the images, and added some of his own fine paintings you would expect me to urge you to go off and snap it up.

Another bit of the Hall's story ............ the history walk, 2015
So as they say in all the good adverts....... “hurry down and grab the sale of the century while stocks last.”

It is on sale at Chorlton Book Shop where I have it on good authority that the two authors pooped in and signed the copies.

Pretty neat I think.

Location, Hough End Hall, Chorlton Book Shop

Picture, poster designed by Peter Topping, © 2016 and Hough End Hall in 1849, from The Family Memoirs, Sir Oswald Mosley, 1849, and Sunday May 17th  from the collection  of Peter Topping

*A new book on Hough End Hall

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Angel Meadow ........... reading the book by Dean Kirby

Now Angel Meadow is one of those places which draws you in and offers up a slice of the darker side of life in Manchester.

The book
For many it has become a byword for life lived on the margin standing beside Little Ireland on the other side of the city and equally notorious slums like Seven Dials in London.

Over the last four decades I have dipped into it through the writings of Engels and others explored the site as it went from empty wasteland, through landscaped park followed by more neglect and regeneration and a couple of years ago watched as the archaeologists uncovered something of its past.

To some of my Canadian friends the mismatch between the name and the reality is not easy to understand.

But there you are, it was in the words of Robert Roberts “a place where poverty busied itself” and those entering might well have echoed Dante’s warning “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

Hope there may not have been much of but the area was home to thousands who lived out their lives in the cellars and overcrowded dwellings which were past their best long before the old queen came to the throne.

Uncovering the past, 2009
All of which is an introduction a new book on the area written by Dean Kirby who can trace some of his family to  those mean streets in the 1860s.

The book “takes readers on a hair-raising journey through the alleyways, gin palaces and underground vaults of this nineteenth century Manchester slum, which was considered so diabolical it was re-christened 'hell upon earth' by Friedrich Engels.”

For those wanting an introduction to Angel Meadow there is an excellent article in WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? which gives the context to the book and a little of the reasons why Mr Kirby wrote it.**

Angel Meadow, 1849
And having read that piece I am off to buy my copy.

Location; Angel Meadow Manchester

Picture; cover of Angel Meadow, 2016, cellar dwellings at the Miller Street dig October 2009, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and Angel Meadow in 1849 from the OS Manchester & Salford, 1842-49, courtesy of Digital archives Solution,

*Angel Meadow: Victorian Britain’s Most Savage Slum, Dean Kirby £14.99

**Archaeologists unearthed my ancestor’s slum home, Gail Dixon WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? Issue 112, May 2016

Harry Kemp asks for your vote ................ November 1 1904

Now I have always been fascinated by elections and election material and in particular how political parties have presented themselves to the electorate and in the process the promises they made, and what they said about their opponents.

Election Address, 1904
I don’t share that cynical outlook about politicians.  In my experience the ones I have known were decent honest people who went into the hurly burly of elections and public life with a desire to make things better.

And so I have decided to spend a bit of time looking at some of the election material that has come through the doors over the last century and a bit.

This is the election address of the three Progressive candidates who stood for election here in Chorlton in 1904.

This was the first local election after we had voted to join the city of Manchester and of the six candidates who put themselves forward, three were Progressives, two Conservatives and one an Independent.

The three Progressive candidates stood on the platform of advancing “good government” which involved “exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” and “preserving as far as possible the residential character” of Chorlton coupled with the need for “adequate Schools, Libraries, Open Spaces, Public Baths and everything which counts for the better health and morality of the people”

The result was one of those odd outcomes with one Progressive, one Conservative and the Independent being elected.

And during the next two decades elections continued to be dominated by the Conservatives, the Progressives and Independents.

The content of that leaflet is thoughtful balanced and pretty straightforward.

Not for Mr Kemp and his colleagues the cry of “Stop the Labour Rot” from a Conservative leaflet in 1980.

That said there is a skill in writing election leaflets and balancing the national with the local, the knocking copy with the positive, and pitching the personality against the issues.

Vote for the "The Three Progessives"
It helps of course if like Me Kemp the candidate is well known.

He ran the chemist’s shop on the corner of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads which for decades was a popular meeting place and called simply “Kemp’s Corner.”

It’s less helpful if you are coming from behind and attempting to establish a legitimacy.

And that brings me to that leaflet from a party which asserts that they are the main contender to the Labour Party.

Now certainly since the collapse of the Tory vote there have been elections where the Lib Dems have come close to winning and indeed have done so, but I wondered about the most recent manifestation of this clam which fell through the door yesterday.  The graph is clear enough ”Lab 1st, Lib Dem 2nd Grn 3rd Con 4th” but I was a little uneasy at the way the bar chart was presented with the Greens well below the Lib Dems.

Who won what and where they finished up, 2015
So I went back to the election results for last year and discovered that while the Lib Dems polled 1,618 votes the Greens got 1,610.*

All very curious and that has taken me back to all the other Chorlton election stories that have appeared in the blog and will do so again.

Location, Chorlton

Pictures; election address, 1904 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Local Election Results 2015, Manchester City Council,

Friday, 22 April 2016

Down in Woolwich with the Army Service Corps Horse Artillery

Now here is a story awaiting the post.

I think I know where we are and I have a good idea of the date but all will be confirmed when the original picture postcard arrives.

And here I have to own up to the fact that it won’t be coming to our house.  It was bought by my old friend David Harrop who has an extensive collection of memorabilia from both world wars and the history of the Post Office.

I first got know him when I was beginning to hunt around for material for the book on Manchester and the Great War, and it is fair to say that once I had met David I needed to look nowhere else.

All of which I have written about before so I shall return to the postcard.

Like me David is quite excited about its arrival which if we are lucky will have a message on the back and gone through the post which will yield a date and perhaps a bit of a story.

Of course a post date will not always give us an idea of  when the picture was taken but it is a start, and the manufacturer and distributor may be on the back which will allow us to go looking for a catalogue and that might give us the date the photograph was registered with the firm.

All of which just leaves that message which at best may be an enigmatic and terse comment but on the other hand might well offer up a fascinating little tale.

And if there is a name and address then the search is really on.

Added to which I bet there will be an expert who can talk with authority about the uniforms and in particular the caps.

And then lastly there are those houses which may have escaped the developers.

So I will be returning to picture postcard of Woolwich.

Location; Woolwich, London

Picture; Army Service Corps Horse Artillery, date unknown, courtesy of David Harrop

The Hidden Treasure .............. another story from Chris Pember

Over the years, every once in a while I have experienced some degree of meagre good fortune or luck. 

Easter Sunday March 27, 1910, Toronto, Ontario. Henry Bailey Pember centre
Whether it was a rare open parking spot on a crammed street, small winnings in the hockey pool at work, or the time in grade 4 when I guessed correctly on how many candy canes were in the prize jar, I’ve had a few graces come my way.

Never did I imagine, however, a priceless treasure that would be revealed to me, a treasure hidden for years.

My interest in genealogy, something which formed as a mild but unpursued curiosity as a child, expanded rapidly two years ago as I sat with my ill father in a hospital room in Woodstock, Ontario.

Due to a weak heart and respiratory illness, he was on death’s door, and it was during the course of conversation one day in that palliative room that I simply asked him where his mother was from.

Learning of the birthplace of my grandmother, Laura Isadora Hall of Derby, kindled a renewed and much deeper interest in family origins and history. As I delved into genealogical research, I was able to make contact with cousins of whom I previously knew nothing about, cousins in both the Old and the New World.

Meeting with Ken Cox and family, Ken is second from right, January 2016
Through hours of research and reading over documents, I have gained knowledge of family branches, of incredible personal histories, twists, tragedies and triumphs.

Most important, however, is the establishment of contact, meeting and the bonding with members of my widespread family.

Even then, I feel that I still have just touched the tip of the iceberg.

 It was through the online sharing of old photos by some of these family members, several of whom are well-accomplished genealogists who have taken much time and effort to preserve family memories, that I was able to print off pictures for my terminal father to see before he passed away. He was able to learn more of his family’s history, both sides, and before his eyes came the pictorial memories of previous links in the chain.

I still recall the childlike excitement I felt inside every time I brought a new picture to him, with the story behind it. For me, not only was it a process of discovery of identity, but also a last service to a dying father.

One picture, in particular, has touched me in a way that I can only describe as bittersweet. On Easter Sunday, March 27th, 1910, in a photographer’s studio in Toronto, Ontario, posed the first Canadian Pember family of my immediate line.

His name was Henry Bailey Pember, a 2nd-great-grandfather who with his wife Sarah Hampson Pember, had emigrated to Canada from England in the nineteenth century. Mother Sarah had passed away three years earlier, but there in the old photo, are the children with their father, they themselves the root and branches of a family which has spread too many provinces in this country.

This old, beautiful photo had thankfully been preserved in the collection of the caretaker of many similar photos and documents, my cousin Ken Cox of Orillia, Ontario. Ken’s grandmother, Alice Victoria Pember Cox, was one of the young women in the photograph, she being one of the daughters of Henry and sister to my great-grandfather, William Hampson Pember.

Through the years, Ken has compiled and safeguarded a large depository of family history.

We were able to make contact through, previously knowing nothing of each other, and this last winter were able to meet for the first time.

Now, at that time I had recently seen a smaller copy of the family portrait, but meeting Ken that day at his house, I was amazed when he brought out the large original and asked me to take on the task of caretaker of the photo.

I gladly obliged and seeing this family treasure for the first time, knowing that I would act as its new custodian was a very emotional experience for me. For, I not only felt the joy of the photo’s discovery, but also the sadness knowing that my father, who had passed away only months earlier, would have very much desired to see such a great family treasure.

Several months later, this great photograph now hangs over my fireplace, beautifully framed by the expert hands of Elizabeth McKinnon of McKinnon Custom Framing.

Sitting under museum glass, with the names of each of the family members listed, so that posterity and future generations of the Pember family will know and remember the faces of the earliest links of the chain.

© Chris Pember, 2016

Location; Canada

Pictures; Easter Sunday, March 27th, 1910, Toronto, Ontario. Henry Bailey Pember, centre, William Hampson Pember, fourth from left, Alice Victoria Pember Cox, farthest on right and meeting with Ken Cox (second from right) and family in January 2016. he Hidden Treasure
from the collection of Ken Cox and Chris Pember

When you just don’t know enough ............. pictures I wish I had the answers to

Now I am the first to admit my limitations and today is one of those moments.

Here are two images which have nothing in common other than I am intrigued by them both.

The first comes from my old friend David Harrop and is one of a large collection of picture postcards, letters and memorabilia he has lent me in connection with the new book.*

The picture postcard was produced by the C.W.S. Customer’s Department in Manchester.

The CWS was the wholesale arm of the Co-op and here we have a selection of their autumn fashions.

My problem is the year.  I think we are in the 1920s or 30s and if pressed having poured over fashion catalogues I would go for 1927.  But it is a guess and I will no doubt be shot down in a blaze of ridicule and expert comment.

So be it and as they say “bring it on down.”

At which point I should really delve deeper into the history of the C.W.S., but I am not going to.

Instead I will offer up the second image from the Golden Fleece in Lymn.  We had wandered over there on Monday evening just to get out of the city, took a short stroll along the Duke’s Canal and then retired to the pub.

And it was there that I came on the second photograph which I am no nearer tacking down.  It is one of two that hangs on the wall in the pub and may be connected to the canal next door.

I suspect it dates from the 1940s may well be from the camera of a well known photographer and be from a series related to the last war.

All of which means that someone might instantly recognise it and offer up a name, a date and perhaps even a location.

And perhaps will also offer a link to an original print which will do much more justice to the picture than my hurried snap does.

Well we shall see.

Locations; Manchester & Lymn

Pictures; the C.W.S., store, Manchester, date unknown, and woman working the water, date unknown

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War,

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The Tank Bank and the children’s charity......... stories behind the book nu 17

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War*

The Tank Bank, 1917
Now the war was sustained by a tidal flow of voluntary work and money.

Some of the charities established during the Great War have survived into the 21st century, and they covered everything from the National Fund to relieve hardship, to sending comforts to the troops including cigarettes through the “Fag Days”.

And as the conflict dragged on the Government found a whole range of ways of raising funds including the Tank Bank which was what the title said a tank bank in Albert Square with an office set aside in the Town Hall to take deposits from the general public.

There was an expectation that the total amount collected would out do Liverpool which in its first three days had raised £797,800 and Sheffield’s £113,380 and with a degree of civic pride the Manchester Guardian reported that the city had hit £870444 in just two days.**

But the downside of the outpouring of the public’s money to the war effort was a squeeze on the existing charities.

The Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges set up in 1870 relied heavily on voluntary contributions and during the war there was a profound reduction in what it received.

It made regular appeals highlighting the shortfall.  In the October of 1915 it announced that “there is a deficiency of £10,000 on Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges maintenance account, the institution having been most unfavourably affected by the War. 

At least 4000 boys and girls are helped by it. There are over 350 children continually under its care. About £11,000 a year is needed to meet all the requirements of the work.”***

At the beginning of the war instructions were sent to the masters and matrons of the various homes to exercise the ‘strictest economy in provisions and other purchases,’ and the monthly magazine, the Children’s Haven’ was reduced to four issues a year in a bid to lower costs.

Collection Box for the Charity, date unknown
One unforeseen result of the enlistment of the older apprentices in the charity’s care resulted in the closing of four out of the five workshops with a loss of around £3000 in earnings and proceeds from the work sold.

And yet the number of admissions increased leading the charity to comment in its paper the Children Haven in September 1916 that
 “while they carry on for King and country for justice and liberty we must carry on for the young children who will be the future members and defenders of our great commonwealth.”****

The Refuges did survive, changing its name to the Together Trust and relocating out of the city and continues to work helping young people, vulnerable adults and families.

Others may not and yet there is no definite research on the effects of war on charities in Manchester and it is unknown how many establishments had to close due to the restrictions on resources.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; the Tank Bank 1917, from the collection of David Harrop, and a collection box of the Manchester & Salford, Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges courtesy of the Together Trust

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War,

**The Tanks Second Try, Manchester Climbing to the top, Manchester Guardian, December 19, 1917

*** Manchester Evening News, October 30, 1915

****Tightening the belt, Getting Down and dusty, September 1 2014, the Together Trust,

Walking Angel Meadow ............. the archaeological tour June 4 2016

Now I first came across Angel Meadow when it was an overgrown bit of waste land.

Angel Meadow in the 19th century
I read about the place back then but on a visit down there I couldn't really visualise just what it would have been like to live there when it was one of our worst slums.

Well the Friends of Angel Meadow are about to offer just such an experience.*

For one day and one day only on Saturday June 4 you can walk the walk. It is billed as the ANGEL MEADOW ARCHAEOLOGY WALK and is part of the Angel Meadow Histories Day.

And not wanting to repeat what someone else has already written here is what they say,


Dr Michael Nevell is Head of Archaeology at Salford University and Co-Editor of the Industrial Archaeology Review.

Angel Meadow in 1980
He will lead an archaeology walk around Angel Meadow highlighting the sites of recent digs and the findings from workers' housing excavations.

This event is part of the Manchester Histories Festival 2016.

The walk starts from Popup Bikes on Corporation Street and they have kindly offered free bike parking to those with tickets.

Do you have questions about Angel Meadow Guided Archaeology Walk? mail@friends-of-angel-meadow

Angel Meadow, 2005
This event is expected to be very popular- please contact FOAM ASAP should you not be able to attend to ensure others do not miss out.

Look out for further announcements of events soon.

Location; Angel Meadow

Pictures; courtesy of FOAM

*Friends of Angel Meadow

Monday, 18 April 2016

Looking for the invisibles .................. life in a Manchester Court in 1896

Now it is pretty much one of those dismal observations that “the poor are always with us” by which I simply mean that poverty today is still very much an issue.

Some will of course argue all things are relative, but for many their share of the economic cake remains slim and with that comes a shedload of blighted life chances.

But what is also apparent from this picture of Sale Court in Hulme in 1896 is that the poor were also invisible.

Try as I may I have not found a listing in the street directories on either side of 1896 for either Sale Court or its companion across the way which was called Rose Court.

And so in the fullness of time I guess I will have to comb the Rate Books, and it will have to be the old fashioned way of going down to Central Ref, and going through the microfilms.

The books are online but the search engine of the particular genealogical platform does not allow you to go looking by location only by name.

And of course a name is something I do not have.

If I did I would then be able to locate the place and turn up the rent that was paid, as well as the rates and the names of both the tenant and the landlord.

And with the name of landlord we could begin to assemble his or her whole portfolio of properties.

Nor is that all because once we had located Sale Court it would be possible to find it on a map and back track that map to earlier maps and along with the hard copies of the Rate Books begin to work out when it was built.

Finally a location would help in finding out just what the place was like inside because the 1911 census also offers up the number of rooms.

Like Bill Sumner who found the image and posted it I think we are looking at some one up one down cottages.

Manchester had banned their construction by the mid 19th century but there were still plenty around and some authorities elsewhere in the country had continued permitting their construction for another few decades.

Now I have a link with Sale Court which I grant you is slightly tenuous but my great grandmother grew up in one just like this.  It was slightly bigger, was called Whiteman’s Yard after the entrepreneur who built it and it was in Derby, but it was a court just like this one.

The sunlight rarely penetrated down, there was a total lack of privacy and the properties would have been equally long past their shelf life.

Oh and for those not quite sure the three little structures at the end are the privies, which would have emptied by the night soil man and the contents sold on to farmers.

This I know because in the collection I have a receipt dated 1857 for pile of the stuff sold to Mr Bailey the farmer and spread on the field directly opposite our house.

For those wanting more these houses were built as back to backs, the ground floor rested directly on the soil and the internal walls were just half a brick thick.

Such were the homes of the invisibles although perhaps not quite invisible because there with just a little of her skirt and shoes is one of our residents, but not enough to count.

Location; Hulme

Picture; Sale Court from Rose Court in Hulme, H. Entwistle, 1896, m26773, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Down at Didsbury .............. from books, lectures and hymns to flats and houses

Well it has been a short time in coming, but one that was to be expected and here is the confirmation.

My friend Pierre has sent over a brochure from a local estate agents announcing the next stage in the story of the old Didsbury College site.

Now I say short but when you can count your interest in the spot back two and a bit centuries this is just a blink of the eye.

It was a teacher training college for over sixty years, before that a theological college and go back far enough and it was the home of a grand local family.

In between all of that it did a stint as a private girls school and a Red Cross hospital, and now according to the leaflet that fell though Pierre’s letterbox there will soon be a “unique collection of one, two and three bedroom conversion properties and a fine selection of substantial three, four and five bedroomed new houses.”

Now like Pierre I have more than an interest in the old place.  Pierre worked there and I did my post grad course at the college back in 1972.

More recently I was invited back first by Pierre for the closing party held by the staff of the MMU  and a little later was back at the invitation of the developers to tour the archaeological dig that was taking place.

All of which has appeared here on the blog, and so not one to repeat  myself I shall just leave you to follow the links to the story and announce that the book on the history of Didsbury Training College by Andy Pickard is now on sale.

Location Didsbury

Pictures, of MMU Admin Building 2012-13 from the collection of Pierre Grace

*Didsbury College of Education,

The transformation of the Throstles Nest on Seymour Grove

Now there will be plenty of people with fond memories of the Throstles Nest on Seymour Grove.

I am not one of them but that is purely because it was not on my route of places to go.

Having lived all over south Manchester as well as Beswick, Bradford and Ashton-Under-Lyne by the time I setteled in Chorlton in the 70s I was happy just to stay very local.

That said Andy who took these pictures of the transformation of the old pub along with me would welcome any one who has a story to tell or even a picture of the place in its heyday.

Like so many familiar pubs it went.  I have no idea exactly why but I suspect it will be the usual explanation of being unable to buck the trend of cheap supermarket alcohol, and wine bars.

But unlike the Princess and the Mersey Hotel the building is still there although as the pictures show much changed.

Which just leaves me to thank Andy for this one which is a project he has kept going back to since he first noticed that the last pint had been pulled and the final last orders called.

Location Seymour Grove

Pictures. the Throstles Nest, 2014, and 2016 from  the collection of Andy Robertson

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Coming to Well Hall & Woolwich .................. a Brass Band

Now it is easy to dismiss Brass Bands.

I know I did, partly in my youth because this was music that didn’t appeal and later while still growing up in Well Hall it was because they were so distinctly “Northern.”

Well I now live in the North  and Brass Bands have drawn me in.

I have written about our own band which was formed in 1820 and lasted till 1945, explored others like the Stalybridge band that headed up a contingent which marched to Manchester in 1819 and faced the sabres of the militia an event which quickly became known as Peterloo.*

And in the course of doing some research I knew that there were also bands in the south and so in response to a wonderful set of pictures posted by Tricia recently I went looking for those bands.

They are listed on an excellent site on Brass Bands and include, Eltham Town Band, active in the 1900s and the Eltham United Band active in the 1920s.**

There was also the Woolwich Borough Silver Band founded in 1906.  Its conductor was J. Reay, and it remained  active into the 1910s. The bandmaster was Mr A. Prescott and the Secretary was  Mr W. Knight in the early years.

Much earlier and to my surprise was the Woolwich Dockyard Brass Band which played during the 1840s and 1850s. and what might have been its later reincarnation which also carried the name and was active in the 1920s.

Some brass bands were based around a local church others around a work place and the rest like the Chorlton-cum-Hardy band were formed by local people with a love of music and a desire to play just for the sake of it.

All of which I think points to a fascinating new line of research and set of stories.

And that is all I am going to say except I hope Trcia has some time to go looking for those stories.

Location; where ever there were people with a love of brass band music

Picture; The Chorlton-cum-Hardy Brass Band, 1893

*Chorlton Brass Band,

**History of Brass Bands, IBEW,

Who was Miss G Sedgwick and what happened to her after she had her picture taken in 1917?

Now a century old photograph has the power to draw you in and ask a set of questions to which I doubt there are any answers.

This is Miss G Sedgwick aged 19, taken on November 21 1917.

I have no clue as to where she lived other than that the picture postcard was produced by Van Ralty Ltd who had studios in Manchester, Liverpool Sheffield, Nottingham, Oldham and Bolton.

In 1911 they had two branches here in Manchester, one at 92 London Road and a second at 91 Oldham Street.

And despite a shedload load of their pictures offered on ebay and sitting in the digital collection at Manchester Archives + I can’t find a history of the business or any catalogue, which doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there just I haven’t found it yet.*

I would like to think that she posed for her picture in one of the Manchester studios, but it is equally likely it could be Liverpool, Oldham, Bolton or Sheffield but I rather think it might be Sheffield for no other reason than I have in the collection a picture of  Miss Violet Sedgwick who was 20 in 1917 and was born and grew up  in Sheffield.

That doesn’t mean they are related and so far there is no evidence that they were but the two pictures are part of the same batch which my friend David Harrop showed me so there will be a link, it is all a matter of finding it.

At which some point there will be a few who mutter that this is slim pickings and hardly amounts to  story but I would disagree.

We have a picture and a name and somewhere there will be a story which will offer up some fascinating insights into a young women a hundred years ago.

Well we shall see.

Location; unknown

Picture; Miss G Sedgwick, 1917, from the collection of David Harrop

* Manchester Archives +

**Miss Violet Sedgwick just 21 years old and busy in a munitions factory ......... stories behind the book nu 16,

One stone statue ........ late of Park Brow Farm and the Assize Courts ............ looking for a new home

Now I have a soft spot for this chap.

He once resided in the garden of Park Brow Farm down on St Werburgh’s Road but originally had sat high up on the old Assize Courts in Manchester.

How it got from one to the other involved one of Mr Hitler’s bombs which did for the courts and led eventually from  a stone mason’s yard to the farm.

He wasn’t a small thing and I have every bit of respect for the men who got him from the ground up to the top of the courts and equally to Oliver Bailey who along with his dad and brother wrestled with the object in the garden of the farm.

Oliver remembers that “when we off loaded the beastie using the front loader on an old grey Ferguson tractor, despite having a one ton counterweight on the back we had to sit people on it to keep the back wheels on the ground but fortunately it was only a short distance.”

By the time it had arrived in Chorlton it had lost two small horns “where the lighter patches are on its head but they were broken off, possibly during removal so there were two small square plugs to show where they had been.”

And then with the sale of the farm in the 1980s the statue was on off on another adventure.

All of which may seem trivial stuff but I think not.  Its journey from the grand law courts to a garden is fascinating in itself and points to that simple observation that there are stories everywhere and in this case part of the fun has been tracking down the history.

I grant you it doesn’t involve some great event of a deep State secret but it offers up a close up of mid 19th century public sculpture mixed with the dram of the Blitz and that wonderful almost eccentric wish of the part of someone to preserve it.

All of which just leaves me to reveal where it went next.

But like all good detective stories that will have to wait.

Location the Assize Courts, Park Brow Farm and another place

Picture; stone statue, circa 1980s,  from the collection of Tony Walker