Saturday, 30 April 2016

Lamenting the loss of the fountain on Chorlton green


Odd how most of us think of Chorlton green as an open space of grass ringed by trees because this was not how it has always been.

Before the turn of the 19th century it may have been much bigger and indeed for most of that century was not even open to the people of the village, having been enclosed by Samuel Wilton and not returning to public use until the 1890s.

And then for a great stretch of time remained without grass but did have a pretty neat water fountain.

The picture dates from 1906 when the Horse and Jockey was still just a set of beer rooms on either side of the main door, Miss Wilton’s outhouse still jutted out from the building and the space between the main entrance and the sweet shop was still a private residence.

I have always liked the lamp which stands on the green, with its hint of Narnia.

And back in the May of 1986 I can remember walking past it in the early evening and coming across a string quartet playing around its base.  Today people would just take it in their stride mutter something about it being typically Chorlton, but back then it struck me as the promise of things to come.

Which later that night with the defeat of the Conservative candidate and the election of the first Labour Councilor it  indeed seem to herald something new.

But being a historian I have to own up to the fact that the following year the Conservatives were back but they were on borrowed time, and 1987 marked the final year that a Conservative would be elected from Chorlton to the Town Hall.

The year before may have been the first string quartet on the green but it has not been the last.

I have to say I prefer the grass but lament the loss of the fountain.  First it lost its cups and then vanished sometime in the 1920s or 30s.  To my mind that was a loss.  Public fountains are wonderful places to meet people, spend time chatting and just having a drink on a hot day.

Once it would have the village pump which offered all three and which on hot summer days had the added bonus of a place the kids could play.

Now there is a lot more history to explore in the photograph but I rather think I will leave that for another time.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Down at Albert's with Mr Babayan from Constantinople

This is the Albert on Barlow Moor Road, but there will be some who remember it as a pub and a few who if pushed will own up a few late nights in the bar as guests of a resident when it was a hotel.

And that takes me back to the early 70s beyond which I cannot go but I bet there will be a few people who can.

In 1911 the property consisted of two big houses, occupied by Mr William B Bateman at nu 116 who described himself as a "silk merchant" and Mr Minas Babayan who lived next door at 118 and was a “grey cloth merchant.”

Both are intriguing individuals.  Mr Bateman was 80 and lived in the house with his wife and two unmarried children while Mr Babayan and three sisters had been born in Constantinople.

So there is plenty there to go at and I may well go looking for more on the two families.

But for now it is the building I am more interested in.

Originally each consisted of nine rooms and sat in modest grounds but I don’t yet know when they became a hotel.

Andy Robertson who took the picture as part of his West Didsbury series may well be able to shed a little light as he has the 1969 directory, failing that it is down to Central Ref to search the archives which will also be able to offer up a date for when they were built.

I know they were there by 1894 and will I suspect is part of that creep of houses which saw this bit of Didsbury developed in just a few short decades.

All of which leaves me to say we were there at Albert’s very recently and had a series of good meals, and I also fell into the place when it was a pub in the 19080s while my friend Lois can recall early morning sessions there after a late turn at the airport having been signed in as a guest by a resident.

Now I wonder what Mr Bateman and Mr Babayan would have made of that.

Picture; Albert’s, 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson

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, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass 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, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Richard%20Buxton

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

Down on Barlow Moor Road with a bit of my past .............. Manchester Teachers Centre

2015
Now I still think the decision of the City Council to establish a Teachers Centre on Barlow Moor Road was a bold and progressive thing to do.

It was a place where teachers could meet, advance their knowledge and skills swap ideas and study in the  library.

Originally it had been a large private residence and in the fullness of time I will go its history.

I started going there in 1973 and used it fairly regularly throughout the rest of the decade and into the next.

1965
I have yet to track down a history of the Centre but rather think it was opened in the mid 1960s and lasted till budgetary cuts led to its closure and ultimately the sale of the buildings.

I lost touch with the place years ago and so Andy Robertson’s two pictures are a welcome reminder of one of those key moments in my life when getting married and starting work in Wythenshawe coincided with my visits to the Teacher’s Centre.

At the time I took the place for granted and gave no thought to how grand the building would have been when it was a family home.

A little of the style and detail was still there to see including the fireplaces and plaster mouldings above the picture rails and the glass windows.

1974
Thinking about it I wonder if the staircase up to what had become the library made the same creaking noise back at the beginning of the last century, which may border on questionable speculation  but makes a link with its past.

And by one of those wonderful twists of chance I rather think that one of the people in the 1965 picture is Joan Leighton who was my first head teacher which makes the link I was looking for.

She is sitting on the right of the picture beside the lady with the hat.

2015
Now I can't be sure what the meeting was about but around 1965 she was part of a team of Humanities teachers working towards a book on the city's recent past which drew on the interplay between geography and history.

It was a book I used less than a decade later.

And then there is one final link and it is the hall which stood beside what had been the rear of the house.

It was a functional bit of a building with no pretence to be anything other than what it was.

Beyond the glass fronted entrance was a large space which pretty much resembled any school hall built in the three decades after the last war and was the first casualty of the new development.


Pictures; Didsbury business centre.com, once Teachers Centre 2105 from the collection of Andy Robertson, and the Humanities room of Teacher’s Centre, 1965, m66479, and the hall, 1974, m21496, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

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

*Coming Soon ......... an exhibition in Southern Cemetery ........... remembering the Battle of the Somme, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/coming-soon-exhibition-in-southern.html

So were you in the Eltham Hill Gaumont on Sunday September 12 1965?

Now you pretty much know it’s time to get a life when you go looking for the date for a film listing for the Eltham Hill Gaumont.

Eltham Hill Gaumont, 1998
The listing was posted recently by Kath May and advertised the four films showing for the week beginning September 12.

For those with time on their hands on that Sunday the cinema was showing for just the one day The Unknown with Dean Jagger and Teenage Frankenstein with Whit Bissell, Phyllis Coates and Gary Conway.

With titles like that they were of course X rated under the old Board of Censorship classification and if there was anyone still unsure the listing carried the warning Adults only.

Now I have never really given it much thought but I suppose Sunday in the cinema in the 1950s and 60s would be a slow day.

The cinema , circa 1938
Most people would have gone on a Friday or Saturday night and the week would be given over to a more discerning audience, leaving Sunday for those just over 18 with money left in their pockets and with a taste for the macabre.

For the rest of the week starting on the Monday and running for a full six days there was Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn in Last Train from Gun Hill which was an A and Yul Brynner in Escape from Zahrain.

I went looking for the plots of the four films and wish I hadn’t bothered.  Suffice to say that today I doubt that even the most desperate of TV executives would look to showing them on even the graveyard slot.

So as a reward and in answer to Kath’s musings of when this week was I went off and roamed the records.  

Film poster, 1957
Now the films themselves were no clue.  The Unknown dated from 1956, Teenage Frankenstein from the following year and Last Train from 1959 which left Escape from Zahrain which was made in 1962.

But given that you can on the internet find a day if you have the month and the year with just a little bit of fiddling it was possible to place Sunday September 12 in 1965.

Which just leaves me to record that the Gaumont had opened on April 14 1938 showing Queen Victoria with Anna Neagle and closed on June 19 1967 with David Niven in Happy Go Lovely and Dana Andrews in Duel in the Jungle.*

It reopened as a Mecca Bingo Club and the rest as they say is a down to two fat ladies and a joyful shout of Bingo.

But I wouldn't have done the job properly if I didn't also try to date the second picture of the cinema.

It was showing Will Hay's film Oh Mr Porter which was released in 1937 and so I am guessing it will be the late 1930s.

And that's all I am going to say except to thank Kath for finding and posting the film listing leaving me to go off and watch the paint dry on the back door.

Picture; the old cinema November 1998 courtesy of David Simpson and sometime before 1952, cousinadnab taken from Gaumont Eltham Hill, Cinema Treasures, http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14991 and film poster for Teenage Frankenstein, 1957 which is in the public domain

* Gaumont Eltham Hill, Cinema Treasures, http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14991




Thursday, 28 April 2016

“Influenza is still spreading in Manchester and the death rate is high”*......... stories behind the book nu 21

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

All deaths in Manchester, November 1918
Now however you play with the figures the flu epidemic of 1918 was an awful event.

It had begun in the summer, returned later in the autumn, and impacted on industry and commerce, briefly disrupting the tram service and leading to a closure of all Manchester schools on November 30.***

And despite the medical authorities concluding that the outbreak was “reaching the culminating point” and anticipating a decline from the start of December, they called for the closure of all Sunday schools and recommended that children under fourteen should be barred from cinemas and theatres.

Manchester flu deaths as a % of all deaths in November 1918
A wise precaution given that the death toll had risen through November from 81 at the end of the first week up to 297 by November 23, which is shocking enough but is more so when expressed as a % of total deaths.  At the beginning of the month deaths from flu had amounted to 32% of all recorded deaths but by the fourth week that figure had climbed to 53%.

According to one newspaper the mortuaries were full, undertakers couldn’t keep pace with the orders and at the cemeteries the labour available for grave digging had proved quite inadequate.

This had led to efforts to release skilled coffin makers from the army and a call for “greater simplicity in funeral arrangements and a more extensive use of the crematorium.”

And as ever there were those who were swift to make money from the crisis and those who sought easy explanations for its appearance.

Fight the Flu, 1918
So the firm Genatosan Ltd offered up their “Germ Killing Throat Tablet” which would ensure “you will be safe from Spanish Influenza and other epidemics.

It was endorsed by Lady Manns, Lady Jane Joicey-Cecil and Mr Matheson Lang who was ordered by his doctors to take the tablet Formamint which “gave me great relief.”****

It was a set of recommendations bettered only by Lady Firbank who added that “Formamint tablets have completely cured my throat which owing to Influenza has been left weak and painful.”

But perhaps we shouldn’t be over harsh on the makers of Formamint for offering their tablet as a remedy given that at least given some thought that there might a link between the outbreak and arrival of American troops who landed shortly before the epidemic began.

Location, Manchester

Picture; Fight the Flu with Formamint, advert, 1918

*Manchester Influenza A High death Rate, Manchester Guardian, November 9, 1918

**A new book on Manchester and the Great War, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Manchester%20and%20the%20Great%20War

***Influenza, Epidemic at its height in Manchester, Manchester Guardian, November 30, 1918

****Fight the Flu, advert, Manchester Guardian, August 15, 1918

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: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Discovering the names of those who served in the Red Cross in Eltham during the Great War

I have moved just a little closer to some of the men and women who served during the Great War.

And it comes from an exciting new project by the Red Cross which is putting on line its records from the Great War.

Even before the war started the Red Cross had made preparations for coping with the large numbers of wounded who would be returning from the battlefields.

So when the conflict did begin voluntary hospitals were estchalished across the country.
Some were in school halls, and others in private houses and relied on the voluntary support of the local community.

Until recently I knew little of the men and women who served in the hospitals.

I had one list for the first year of the war of those who worked at one hospital, a few names from newspaper correspondence and the odd record of some of the administrators.

But the Red Cross records will bring them out of the shadows, for along with their names and addresses there are brief details of what they did.

Some are more detailed than others so those for Eltham in south east London describe particular duties. So I know that Miss Ada Fanny Boultbee, assisted the “sick & wounded, did  convoy duty. Well Hall Station any time day and night at 1. 1/2 hours notice. tea. Coffee, milk, ready.”

And provided a wealth of detail
“August 5th 1914. Struck Divisional Camp at Chichester. 7. 1914. Organizing Hos: cores: Soldiers & Sailors Institute Woolwich. 30th. 1914- Accepted responsibility of sick & wounded Convoy Duty Well Hall. Col: Stephenson with request for same from Col. Simpson. Herbert Hos:- Sept. 7th. 1914 First Convoy. 3/4 hour notice. All ready. 16 -1914 Mobilized by Col. Stephenson at "Cathay" Eltham. S.E. B.R.X.S. Brassard No.7. A.M.S. July - 1917 Demolized. Col: Simpson' of opinion that that Sick & Wounded Convoy Duty at Well Hall Station was no longer rec. under altered conditions of transport. Ada St.John. Boultbee. Hon. Comdt L /26.”

In time it will be possible to find out much more about their backgrounds and what happened to them after the war which in turn will throw light on the degree to which Eltham did its bit


Pictures; doctors and nurses and men from the Red Cross Hospital of Wood Lawn in Didsbury circa 1915, courtesy of Rob Mellor


*British Red Cross,  http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

One big House on the High Street

2015
Now I have written about Cliefden House on several occasions, and will go back again in due course.*

In the meantime here are three photographs over a full century and a bit and each has it’s own story to tell.

The first was taken recentlt by Ryan and despite the changes of businesses it is not so different from Jean Gammon’s taken 38 years earlier.

1977
Step back another 60 years to 1909 and the transformation is pretty stunning.

Back then it was a private residence and in the middle of the 19th century had been a military academy.**

It was built sometime around 1720 with an eastern addition dating from the mid 19th century and together this made for a large 17 roomed house.

In the 20th century the front garden and wall were lost when the High Street was widened and more recently with scant disregard for such an elegant old property businesses have set about about adding the most appalling signage to the exterior.

1909







Pictures; Cliefden House, 2015 courtesy of Ryan Ginn, back in 1977 from the collection of Jean Gammons, and in 1909, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/bookpages/i001.htm 


*One hundred and seventy years in the story of a house in Eltham, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/one-hundred-and-seventy-years-in-story.html

**A military academy in the High Street and that other Eltham Lodge, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/a-military-academy-in-high-street-and.html

Over the bridge on Wilbraham Road reflecting on almost a century of change

Now it was something Andy Robertson said when he sent me these pictures of Wilbraham Road about KINGBEE RECORDS that got me thinking about the two parades of shops just over the bridge.

I remember fondly the hardware store almost opposite the record shop with those wooden floors and distinctive smell of paraffin and waxed string along with the wood shop which is now home to Maple Kitchens.

In true DIY style Tommy and I carried a huge sheet of thick plywood back from there to Beech Road by hand before I did a bodge job on some home improvement plan.

Never underestimate either the confidence or the foolishness of a man who thinks he can do anything.

All of which is a bit of diversion from Andy’s pictures which remind me again of how much Chorlton has changed from the walk with the wood back in 1979 and for that matter how it changes almost at the blink of an eye.

And because at this point I can here are some images of the same spot in the early 20th century.

The picture is undated but will be sometime after the Great War judging by the car in the distance and those shops on either side.

They were not there in 1911 but I shall have to go looking in detail at the street directories to pin point the exact moment they were built.

That said I know what is now Maples was John Williams and Sons the Grocers, there would still have been bulls grazing in the land between that shop and the railway line, and it is possible that the Pavilion Theatre on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads was opening its doors to show films and live entertainment.

Not that John Williams and Sons were  local traders they owned a chain of grocer shops across the city and beyond which in 1931 accounted for 41 shops of which there were three in Chorlton, six in Didsbury and another four in Rusholme.

Now I rather think there is a story here.  Back in 1895 they are listed as John & Sons with five shops in Didsbury and Fallowfield which by 1911 had become 11 with John Williams described as managing director and the head office at 400 Dickinson Road.

Later still although I can’t date it is a wonderful advert for the company which advertises their ‘“Dainty, Delightful Delicious Tea, [from] John Williams & Sons limited, “The Suburban Grocers”, [at] 28 Victoria Street Manchester Stockport & Branches’.


And having stocked up on some sweet things to eat you might have slid across to the Pavilion which had opened as the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens and bu 1909 was showing films as well.

It lingered on in to the 1930s by which time we had two purpose built cinemas and a third planned.

All of which I suppose made our little theatre a tad old fashioned and so like the ice rink on Oswald Road it vanished and has been almost completely forgotten.

But again I have strayed from Andy’s pictures, so I shall close with a promise that there are more to come and if you scroll down the side of the blog page and look for Wilbraham Road you will come across more alternatively  just go to the link.

Or you can call up the exact story at Thirty years in the history of a bit of Chorlton but that will mean you will miss some other pictures from that period and a whole host of stories about Wilbraham Road.**

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; Wilbraham Road 2014 courtesy of Andy Robertson and Wilbraham Road some time in the 1920s from the Lloyd Collection

*Wilbraham Road, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Wilbraham%20Road

* Thirty years in the history of a bit of Chorlton, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/thirty-years-in-history-of-bit-of.html

Down at Parrs Wood Court with some bombs, a few stories and an electric lift

Now as landmarks go Parrs Wood Court is a pretty bold statement of design and until recently dominated the junction of Wilmslow Road and Kingsway.

Back in 1939 when it was built it offered all that you could want, with central heating, electric lifts and apartments spread over five floors.

Here, as the Manchester Guardian's advert said was a block of “modern apartments with one or two entertaining rooms [and] one to four bedrooms if required, [which was] conveniently situated on the Wilmslow Road end of the Kingsway with  bus and tram routes and adjoining East Didsbury Station.”*

The flats went on the market in the May of 1940 and I can see the attraction.

Those buses, trams and trains could whisk the residents of Parrs Wood Court in to the heart of the city while the newly built Kingsway offered the car owner a more direct route than the old congested and busy Wilmlsow Road.

Added to which the block looked out on to the 50 acre Parrs Wood Estate which offered more than a hint of a rural landscape.

And I suspect a location which for some might have seemed a safer place to live as German bombs began to fall from the skies.

But perhaps not that safe, given that during the December of 1940 four fire bombs landed just a little to the north and a high explosive bomb fell almost directly opposite in the grounds of Parrs Wood House.

Still the Court survived and Peter’s painting captures the grandeur of its design which has been lost in many of the photographs of the building.

This one taken from a picture postcard sent in 1951 does little to convey the full presence of the block but its value is the detail it offers up of the surrounding area.

There in the distance is the old bus depot which has long since gone while outside the flats is one of with those iconic concrete bus shelters some of which were still around in the 1970s.

Now it is a full seventy-five years since those flats went on sale and it would be an interesting project to track down some of the first and then subsequent residents who made Parrs Wood Court their home.

Painting; Parrs Wood Court, East Didsbury, © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Picture; Parrs Wood Court circa 1950, from the collection of Paul O’Sullivan, Manchester Guardian advert,courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass 

*Flats at Parrs Wood Court, Parrs Wood.  East Didsbury, Manchester, Manchester Guardian, May 11 1940

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 http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Hough%20End%20Hall

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Passing Burton's on Well Hall Road to the sound of Betty Everitt and Judy Street

Now I have fond memories of the old Burton’s at the top of Well Hall Road.

It was here that I bought my first suit, more than a few shirts and the odd tie, although I do confess it ran a poor second to Harry Fenton's and even Payne's on the High Street.

Of course there will be those with equally happy stories to tell of the dances that were held upstairs.

Not that I ever went.

During the mid 60s I still commuted back to New Cross for school and so had yet to find friends in Eltham and by the time I started at Crown Woods in 1966 there were plenty of other places to go with the shed load of new people I had met.

That said on the long walks back from Grove Park after an evening with Ann I did sometime pass the dance hall after one of the more rowdy evenings.

And that is a shame because it will have been there that I guess I would have herd live versions of Betty Everitt’s  Getting Mighty Crowded* and Judy Street’s What.**

It would be years later in Manchester at the Twisted Wheel and later still at Placemate that I would fully come to appreciate these songs.

And I still have a fond spot for the opening lines of Getting Mighty Crowded, with its message of losing a lover ........................
“I'm packing up my memories
And I'm gonna move
On out of your heart

Turning in my keys
And I'm gonna move
On out of your heart

Cause there ain't
Room enough for two
And sharing your heart
With someone new
Will never do"

At which point I suppose I should launch into the story of Burton’s which replaced the Congregational Church and was itself supplanted by a Big Mac.

But I won’t instead I shall go off and listen to Betty Everitt who sadly is no longer with us and Judy Street who still is.

Picture; looking west down the High Street, 2014, from the collection of Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick & Jean Gammons, 2013

* Getting Mighty Crowded, Betty Everitt, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AmwoK6uw5Q


** What, Judy Street, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2NySUcbv3w

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, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

*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