Tuesday, 26 April 2016

A chip shop, a posh block of flats and stories of a haunted house .......... all down in Didsbury

I was talking to one of my Canadian cousins last week and the conversation got around to fish and chips as of course it would do.

Chris was the one who sent me a parcel of Canadian maple syrup products ranging from a bag of tea, to biscuits and sweets.*

And in return I offered to treat them when they were over to a fish supper.

What intrigued him most were the mushy peas so with that in mind we will do the business.

Now the chip shop has moved on somewhat from when I first ventured into one in New Cross.  I could only have been about 9 and we had been out somewhere.

I can’t remember ever having been in one before.

Both mother and nana always cooked their own food and a part from the occasional cake and glass of lemonade eating out was something we just didn’t do.

The shop was small and steamy with that smell of fried food which hung in the air, along with the banter and gossip from the customers, the old newspapers and the line of vinegar bottles and salt dispensers.

I don’t think there was even a space to sit and eat the fish and chips, you just queued, waited and quickly walked out into the night, eating them straight from the paper on the way home with that added bonus that on cold evenings the bag kept your hands warm.

I was reminded of those old chip shops when Peter showed me his painting of Fosters in Didsbury with its big picture windows and large presence in Lansdown House.

Lansdowne House with its shops is one of those solid properties that look as if it has been part of the landscape for a long time but it only dates from the middle decades of the last century.

It takes its name from the house which had stood on this site.

This was a fourteen roomed property set in its own grounds and bordered by South Road, Wilmslow Road and Ford Lane.

It was there by the 1820s when according to Fletcher Moss it “was the haunted Swivel House now grown into Lansdowne House.”

In 1935 the estate was pretty much as it had been a hundred years earlier.  The garden extended down to a tree lined boundary with another large house and in the grounds to the west was a large greenhouse.
Dean Road had yet to be cut through part of its garden and Ford Lane ran out to join Wilmslow Road as it had done for centuries.

Not that the modern block has stayed the same.

When the shops were new they had a uniformity of appearance that has in recent years been lost to individual shop fronts.

And that brings me back to the painting and in turn to reflections on the transformation of the chippy.

Back into the early 20th century the proprietors invariably listed themselves as “fried fish dealers” and like so many other businesses had benefited from the coming of the railway which made possible the bulk transportation of sea fish which combined with the potato offered up a cheap and quick meal.

In London there were a bewildering range of fish that you could buy along with saveloy and no chip shop today worth its salt would be without a selection of pies and halloumi steaks and a choice of curry sauce or mushy peas.

All of which I guess will give our Chris a hard set of choices.

Painting; Fosters Chippy, Didsbury, © 2015 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Picture; Lansdown House circa 1950, courtesy of Paul O'Sullivan and featured in Didsbury Through Time, by Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping

*Food parcels from the New World and thoughts on family far away, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/food-parcels-from-new-world-and.html

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