Tuesday, 31 May 2016

In Southern Cemetery .......... uncovering a little more of Leading Seaman Ernest Thistlewood who fought at Jutland

Long Service medal
This is the long standing medal awarded to Ernest Robert Thistlewood who served with the Royal Navy from 1896-1919.

Like so much research his story turns on just a day, because only yesterday I had to admit I knew little about him other than that he was on HMS Royal Oak at the Battle of Jutland on May 31 1916.*

And even that assertion was based only on the presence of a sweet heart badge with the name Royal Oak which was amongst his medals.

A day later and another trawl of the records turned up his Royal Navy service record and with that he has stepped out of the shadows.

He was born in Birmingham in 1878 and at the age of 18 he gave up his job as a “shop boy" for a life at sea.

During the course of which he served on 21 ships and naval stations and on May 1 1916 joined the crew of HMS Royal Oak on the day it was commissioned.

On May 30 she sailed out of Scapa Flow joined the British Grand Fleet and participated in the Battle of Jutland.

Sweet Heart Badge
And Ernest was there at the battle, and continued on HMS Royal Oak till he was demobbed in 1919.

The record shows that he had re-enlisted in 1910 for a further five years was promoted to Leading Seamen and throughout his career was described a “very good” sailor.

Now no pictures of him have surfaced but his military records show he was just over 5 feet in height had light brown hair, brown eyes and a “fresh sallow” complexion.

And there the trail gets just a little confused because there appears to be another Ernest Robert born in Birmingham who married Ada Mary Carl at the Holy Trinity Church in Mile End in 1908.

The collection of medals
All the bits fit except that he gave his occupation as a Fireman and was based at the Fire Station in Great Marlborough Street.

Now this could still be him, and I may have miss read the naval record which may suggest a break in service.

If this is him then they had two children born in 1910 and 1911 and he died in 1963 in Ruislip with Ada surviving him by seven years.

Of course any one who has done any family research will not be surprised at this turn of events and there are still clues which may help firm up the story.

Some of the display at Southern Cemetery
But for now I am pleased that a little bit more of the detail behind those medals has come to light, and I will pass on the information to David Harrop who maintains the exhibition at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

David has just finished a new display to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme which began in July 1916.**

Some of the exhibits are not only related to that battle but are from men who are either buried or commemorated in Southern Cemetery.

Location; Southern Cemetery

Pictures; medals of Leading Seamam E R Thistlewood, 1896-119, from the collection of David Harrop

**In Southern Cemetery with a little bit of the Battle of Jutland ........ and a story still to be revealed, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/in-southern-cemetery-with-little-bit-of.html


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

Remembering Joseph Thomas from Chorlton who died in the Great War

I wonder just how many of these small replicas of the Cenotaph still exist.

They would have been made in their thousands and displayed on mantle pieces and in cabinets across the country.

Some will have evoked proud memories of a war fought well but for many more they must have been a painful reminder of a lost loved one who died on some faraway battlefield or out at sea.

The end of the Second World War may have given them a renewed significance but as we passed into the long years of peace and growing prosperity most will have been consigned to a back room, and finally laid to rest in a suitcase in the attic.

And in the way of these things those that weren’t thrown away will have been given to a jumble sale and by degree made their way into a collection.

Of course the personal story which went with each will have been lost.

Joseph Thomas, circa 1914-15
But not this one.

This one I can trace to a family and the young Joseph Thomas who was born in 1894 and died on the Western Front in 1917.*

Joseph grew up in Chorlton-cum-Hardy and  worked for Richard Haworth & Co Ltd who had offices at 19 Cooper Street.

The building has long gone but it faced the Town Hall close to where the Cenotaph now stands.

And like many other young men working in the offices of the city he enlisted in one of the Pal’s Battalions.

The first had been raised in the August in a few days and Joseph enlisted in the second city battalion that September.

This was the 17th Manchester’s which after basic training left for France in the November of the following year.

I doubt I would ever have come across him had it not been for a picture postcard he sent to his brother.

The post card asked for an advance till pay day and alerted the family that he was coming home on leave.

At that stage all I had was his brother’s name and address but that was enough to begin to uncover the story of the family and shed light on the young man who just signed himself Joe.

By the end of the afternoon his early career was clear along with the details of his enlistment and a photograph of ten soldiers one of whom I guessed was Joseph.

The rest as they say just fell into place.

Within an hour of posting the story Nicola and Steven had been in touch and were able to identify young Joseph which in turn led to a meeting at which they showed me a collection of family material including photographs, certificates and the replica Cenotaph.

And that I think is a good point to close.

Of all the memorabilia I have come across from the Great War this replica Cenotaph brings me very close to the loss the Thomas family must have felt.

Picture; replica Cenotaph circa 1920s from the collection of Nicola O’Niel and detail from the picture postcard showing young Joseph, circa 1914-15 from the collection of David Harrop

*Uncovering the story of Joseph Thomas of Chorlton born 1894, died 1917 on the Western Front, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Chorlton%20and%20the%20Great%20War

On walking along Academy Road out of Woolwich in 1906

Just occasionally I slide into nostalgia and this 1906 postcard of the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich does it for me.

Now given that I was born in 1949 and first saw the Academy in the summer of 1965 it is not in a strict sense a trip down memory lane.

But more of that later.

This was one of a series of six cards marketed by Raphael Tuck and Sons in 1906 under the title of Woolwich.

I suppose what strikes you first is the close similarity between this image and what you can see now.  True, I doubt any one today would be able to stroll so easily across Academy Road and the military have long since gone.

But otherwise early on a Sunday morning in late September it might just be possible to get close to what we see here.

And I rather think that is what I remember on warm summers evening on the way back from Woolwich to Well Hall.

Best still was when you walked it at a slow and even pace fully appreciating the buildings to your left and the open spaces stretching east down to Hornfair Park.

Now I don’t think I passed that many people in the entire length of the walk from Woolwich up to Shooters Hill and then down along Well Hall Road.

All of which allowed you to wander in your own thoughts and more than once to ponder on an unmade piece of pathway which naively I thought might be Roman.

Take the same journey on one of those evenings heavy with the promise of a thunderstorm and you might well be rewarded by the magnificent sight of lightening streaking across the sky over Shooters Hill followed by the roll of thunder.

But this is so much indulgent tosh, so I will leave you with a second Tuck postcard dated a year earlier from the set entitled Woolwich Town and City.

The company issued two of the same scene one like this which had been tinted in colour and a monochrome copy.  I rather prefer the grey and black card but this coloured one has the advantage of a message on the back and unusually the sender added her address in Plumstead.

But it is the message itself which draws you in.  HP of 34 Charlotte Street sent the card on July 27 1905 with the news "that Mr Coventry died last Tuesday afternoon, was buried on Saturday.”  And with that classic understatement added “Mrs Clarke and her mother came to tea on Monday all quite well.”

Such are the rewards and insights of reading old postcards

Pictures; The Royal Military Academy, from the series Woolwich, 1906 and the Royal Military Academy from the series Woolwich Town and City 1905 issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of TuckDB http://tuckdb.org/history

Walking with Christ Church Mission in Harpurhey

Now there will be many who have fond memories of walking in a Whit Walk procession.

It was a time when families decked out their children in the finest new clothes.  For some it was about saving all year and for others it was  period of going into debt.

Either way it was a badge of pride that your child would take part in the best that could be bought or made.

It is a topic I have visited in the past and will do again.*

And here today is one from sometime in the early 20th century. The banner announces that this is the Christ Church Mission in Harpurhey, and that is pretty much all I have.

In time I will go looking for the Church and puzzle over the street name on the right hand side of the picture.

I am rather hoping that someone will have something on the church and will share it.

Of course it might not be a Whit Walk procession.

But for now that is it.

Location; Harpurhey



Picture; Harpurhey, date unknown from the collection of David Harrop


From pints and cocktails to divan beds and designer saucepans ............ down at the Throstles Nest

2016
Never let it be said that in the full pursuit of recording our changing landscape Andy Robertson ever gives up on a building.

Regular readers will know that he has been engaged in a long term project of chronicling many of our old pubs, warehouses and factories just as they are about to disappear.

2014
It has taken him out across Greater Manchester in all weathers and sometimes to the same spot several times in a year.

And here are two of his pictures showing the transformation of the Throstles Nest on Seymour Grove.

Location; Seymour Grove

Pictures; the rear of the Throstles Nest in 2014 and 2016, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Monday, 30 May 2016

In Southern Cemetery with a little bit of the Battle of Jutland ........ and a story still to be revealed

These are the medals of Leading Seaman ER Thistlewood and from today they will be on display at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

The medals
They form part of the ongoing exhibition of memorabilia from the two world wars and some at least of the letters pictures and medals are connected with men and women who are buried in the cemetery or are commemorated there.

As yet I know nothing more of Leading Seaman Thistlewood.  I have seen the official page showing the details of his medals but that is it.

If I had a first name it might be possible to take the search further.

But I know that he was awarded the long service medal along with the 1914-15 Star which means that he was on active service from the very beginning of the war.

HMS Royal Oak, 1937
And I know that he was at the Battle of Jutland when the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet met in what proved to be an inconclusive confrontation and one still riven with controversy.

Both sides claimed victory with the Germans arguing that they had sunk more British ships and the Royal Navy pointing out that the High Seas Fleet never sought a return match, stayed in harbour leaving the British to maintain the naval blockade of Germany.

On that day Leading Seaman Thistlewood was on board HMS Royal Oak which had been launched in the November of 1914 and commissioned on May 1 1916.

Sweet Heart badge
All of which meant that as it sailed out of Scapa Flow exactly a century ago it was brand new.

The following day she took part in the battle and engaged two German ships causing some damage.

Now I assume Leading Seaman Thistlewood was on board because along with the medals there is his sweetheart badge from the Royal Oak which he would have given his girlfriend.

Of course it may just be that he served on the ship at a later date but given that 1914-15 Star I think it is most likely he was there.

An earlier exhibition at the Remembrance Lodge
So for now that is it.

As I write David Harrop who maintains the collection at the Lodge will be there preparing for his new exhibition commemorating the Battle of the Somme which began in July of 1916.

Entitled For the Fallen it will include medals, letters as well as pictures from the Somme along with links to men who fought at the battle and are remembered in the Cemetery.

Location Southern Cemetery.

Pictures; medals of Leading Seamam E R Thistlewood, 1914-22, from the collection of David Harrop, and HMS Royal Oak, 1937 from HMS Royal Oak, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Royal_Oak_(08)



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

Unlocking the history of Elesmere Road South


We are off on the northern edges of the township and a little beyond, on that area stretching north from the railway line and east from Wilbraham Road.

It is roughly the area along Egerton Road South towards Withington Road and those roads running off at right angles up to Kings Road and it’s somewhere I have rather neglected but it has much to tell of how this part of south Manchester developed in the early decades of the last century.

During the three decades before the Great War much of Chorlton was developed by small time builders and developers, who cashed in on the good tram and rail links with the city centre and the fact that there was still much open land which made this an attractive place for people who worked in Manchester but wanted to live on the edge of the countryside.

The Egerton and Lloyd estates* released parcels of land on favourable terms which allowed the developer to take possession in return for promising to pay a chief rent in perpetuity rather than a cash purchase.  This freed up capital for the developer to build the properties and the chief rent was then passed onto the new owner of the house.

Both estates were mindful of developing the area as a pleasant suburb of Manchester and did not fall over themselves to over develop the township too quickly and at the same time prohibited industrial development.
So apart from the brick works on Longford Road and the aerodrome the land was used exclusively for housing or left as farm land. “Egerton” according to The Manchester Evening News in 1901 was in “no due haste in painting Chorlton red – with bricks and mortar.  Here and there builders have been encouraged and a vigourouse enterprise has been shown in extending along Wilbraham Road towards Fallowfield, but there are countless eligible plots still tempting the speculators.”

A fact that the Evening News reported upset some developers who “knew that £30 an acre would be refused for a field which maybe earning now as little as 50s from the farmer.”**

But the same paper was confident that the future would involve more development specially given that the Lloyd Estate was pushing ahead with “cheaper semi-detached kind -£25- to £35 a year..... The clerk no less than the merchant must be catered for.”

Which brings me back to the area bounded by Egerton Road South and in particular Ellesmere Road South, which were fully developed in the 1920s.  There were some Edwardian properties here but in the decade after the Great War the existing open spaces were built over with those “cheaper semi-detached kind.”

One of the newly built properties on Ellesemere Road South was bought by Herbert Mitchel Taylor and his wife Elizabeth Taylor from Derbyshire.  They bought the house in the year it was built in 1924.  He was a railway official working in the “Goods Department” a job he still held at his death in 1951.

I rather suspect that the other occupants of these new houses will have been drawn from the same occupations, neatly reflecting the premise of the Evening News.
Now in the absence of the 1921 census we will have to fall back on the street directories and the deeds to the properties some of which I have recently seen.

Deeds are a wonderful source, as they give you the name of the original landowner, when the land was sold, who developed it and the succession of property owners, and if you are lucky other documents as well.

They also allow you to track how the chief rents have passed from one owner to another, often ending in the hands of property companies.  Today the values of these have not kept pace with inflation.  In the case of ours we pay just £2, in two yearly instalments while the chief rent for the Taylor’s house was £28.  The instalments fall on the two traditional points in the year when for centuries farmers and tradesmen settled their rents and other debts.

So deeds help unlock the history of an area and remain a valuable insight into what was going on, which leads me to the plea.  If anyone would like to show me their deeds or the details of them I would love to see them.

Picture; detail from the deeds of the Taylor family, courtesy of M and J Pickering.


*There were also Frederick Reynard, Guy St Maur Palmes and Sir Humphrey Trafford
**Manchester Evening News 1901

Walking through Chorlton on Medlock with a church procession

Now I don’t have a date for this church procession or exactly where in Chorlton on Medlock it took place.*

It was taken by Harry Wright who had a photographic studio at 27 Eston Street which was off High Street which ran from Plymouth Grove to Oxford Street.

It is still there but High Street is now Hathersage Road and the photographic studio long gone.

Sadly no one seems to have judged Eston Street worthy of a picture and the only two in the digital archive show just the corner.

But I am hoping that someone will recognise the street scene and perhaps even offer a date.

And perhaps that shop and the advert beside the Brook Bond sign will help.


We shall see.

Location; Chorltonon Medlock

Picture;Chorlton on Medlock, date unknown from the collection of David Harrop

*Manchester Whit Walks, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Manchester%20Whit%20Walks

** Manchester Local Image Collection, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/web/objects/common/webmedia.php?irn=36700&reftable=ecatalogue&refirn=30483

Peel Park, a mistake by Tuck and Sons and a trip out to an orphanage in Tottington

Now I don’t suppose Delia or her sister Gertie gave a seconds thought to the glaring mistake made by the picture postcard company which marketed this photograph of Peel Park at the turn of the last century.


The company in question were one of giants of picture postcards with offices in New York, Paris and London, a catalogue of images that covered pretty much all of the world and offered up a picture for almost every event, from Christmas to high summer and including the pin ups and music hall stars of the period and much else.

The company was Tuck and Sons and the mistake is a big one which will not surprise some, and just confirm for others the ability of companies south of Altrincham to get the North all mixed up.

Nor was it the first time Tuck and Sons had done so.

As cards go the quality is not wonderful and may have something to do with the image having been retouched and then “colourized.”

But perhaps it was a small compensation for Gertie who according to Delia had “not had much time to take you about when you were here.” 

Even more so because Delia thought that it was “quite a change for you to be with us.” At first I thought this might be explained away by Gertie’s address which was the Convent Holly Mount Tottington near Bury.

But was confused by a reference to “my love to Tilly and Geff,” but a search discovered that Holly Mount was an orphanage opened in 1888.  By 1897 it could "accommodate up to 216 girls aged from 4to 13 with the Boards of Guardians paying 5 shillings a week for each girl they placed there.  

By 1930 the number of girls had risen to 300 aged from 3 to 16 with the weekly charge being 14 shillings.  Although Holly Mount was primarily a girl’s establishment, boys were also accommodated.”*

Now there is more but I will just direct you to follow the link to the Holly Mount site.

But in time I might go looking for Miss Gertie McCabe and who knows what might turn up.

And for any one still mystified at the mistake the clue is in the right hand corner.

Location; Salford and Tottington

Picture; Peel Park, circa 1900, marketed by Tuck & sons,  from the collection of David Harrop

*Holly Mount Orphanage School, Tottington, http://www.childrenshomes.org.uk/TottingtonHollymount/
Location Salford and Tottington


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Making a claim to Eltham's history

Annie Morris nee Foster, daughter of an Eltham blacksmith circa 1877
Now I have never been one of those historians that think it is only the rich and the landed that can lay claim to leaving their mark on the past or that they have a monopoly on any one place.  

It may be more difficult for most of us to trace our families much beyond the beginning of the 19th century or to see their stories unfold seamlessly in one location but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there or that they did not shape how Eltham, Chorlton or Manchester turned out.

And so to a family who washed up in Eltham in 1803 and with slight lapses have lived along the High Street and out west beyond the Palace for over 160 years.

They were the Foster family who married into the Morris family and who made the horse shoes, mended the broken ploughs and fixed anything made of iron and in time shaped fine furniture  constructed wooden houses and like most of our ancestors worked in the fields growing the food that graced the tables of the fine houses in Eltham.

Without knowing it I had already begun to weave their stories and now with the help of Jean who is a fellow historian I have begun to put the bits together.

The Forge close to the site of the library, 1909
Jean’s great grandmother was the daughter of Thomas Foster who set up shop as a blacksmith in 1803 on the High Street near where the library now stands.

His family had been handloom weavers, workers whose lives changed for the worst with the coming of the factory system.

She was born in 1848 in Pound Place, married John Morris a carpenter whose father was variously a miner, groom, gamekeeper and gardener and she lived long enough to record her memories of a lost Eltham in the June of 1931.

Reading those memories is to go back not just to the early 1850s when she was growing up but to the very start of the 19th century.

Like others of her generation she would have heard the stories of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar, seen the veterans of Waterloo returning along the Kent lanes and pondered on the turmoil of class conflict and political unrest which rumbled on long after she was born.

Horne Farm, 1909
Her husband’s parents who had lived in South Wales and Yorkshire would have been seen the Industrial Revolution as it rolled out transforming communities, would certainly have had tales of the new canals and perhaps even of those exciting and scary railways.

And as that century of promise ran its course so she would have seen Eltham change from a rural backwater to a suburb of London.

Some of those grand houses which had seemed so permanent were in the space of her lifetime to be demolished, transformed into multi occupancy or became schools, religious institutions and in the case of the grandest taken over by a golf club.

In the same way the farms of her youth were all but gone by the time she gave her memories to the Eltham District Times in the early 1930s.

Not that this is all about what was lost for there was much that was better including gas and later electricity along with mains water and a revolution in how we got about the place.

A tram at Eltham destined for Woolwich
So she could by her 47th birthday have traveled in speed and comfort on one of Eltham’s two railway lines into the very heart of capital and a little later taken one of those tall and stately trams from the parish church all the way into Woolwich which in turn opened up new opportunities for the people of Eltham.

This included one of her sons who worked at the Arsenal and of course would work in reverse by creating a whole new estate at Well Hall for munitions workers.

So I rather think we shall be revisiting these families and learning more about what Eltham meant to them and what mark they left on the place.

After all Jean's family lasted in Eltham longer than many of those grand people in their large houses and that in itself says something.

Pictures; of Horne Farm, 1909 and the old Forge, 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 Annie Morris nee Foster from the collection of Jean Gammons and picture of the tram courtesy of the Eltham Society

The lost pubs of Levenshulme ............. nu 1 The Midway Hotel

Before 1904
Now here are two interesting pictures of the Midway Hotel  which deserve plenty of research.

Doris sent the picture postcard to Miss Greaves of 9 Bristol Avenue, Levenshulme on January 13 1906.

It would seem that Doris had heard that Miss Greaves wanted a picture of the two buildings which made sense given that the old pub had been demolished to make way for the new one which had been opened just two years earlier.

In time I think I will delve deep into the history of the two pubs but for now will content myself with this extract from that excellent site the Pubs of Manchester.

After 1904
“The Midway was rebuilt in 1904 as this imposing pub at the junction of Matthews Lane and Stockport Road in Levenshulme.  

The original Midway dates back an impressive 300 years earlier, first licensed in 1604 and shown here as Midway House in 1900 and 1902 just before its replacement (1907).  

To the left of the Midway is a supermarket car park which was once a bowling green,.

Sadly, the Midway has closed and has been taken over by an obscure college having been a cash & carry at some point previously.  The pub may have had an Irish name in the 1990s but I'm not sure.”

2015
And if you want to check out what has happened to a whole range of our once busy and popular buildings now down on their luck or just transformed I always go to the images of Andy Robertson who as regular readers will know has been recording the pubs, warehouses, and mills of Greater Manchester along with those posh places.

And sure enough he had been down in Levenshulme and caught this one of the Hotel last year.

Location; Levenshulme

Pictures; the Midway Hotel 1904 from the collection of David Harrop and the Midway in 2014 courtesy of Andy Robertson

*Manchester Pubs, http://pubs-of-manchester.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/midway-stockport-road.html

Saturday, 28 May 2016

A new park for Chorlton?

It’s not much of a story really but it does point to the changes that had been taking place in Chorlton over the last two decades of the 19th century.

Before the rapid development of housing in and around the railway station and along the Wilbraham and Barlow Moor Roads there had been plenty of open spaces with fields to walk around and woods to explore in and ponds and water courses to play beside.

This changed as more and more of Chorlton was given over to rows of houses which prompted one resident to write to the Manchester Guardian, “being so near town, there is a demand for houses and they rise like mushrooms.  

Rows, avenues, and semi detached in abundance, each with a small garden, where flowers can be grown if the smoke from the chimneys will allow; but very few have a grass plot large enough for the children to play on.”*

Apparently there had been hopes that a good site on Wilbraham Road might have been turned into a park but it was sold for building, “then the residue of an estate in Barlow Moor Road was for sale which is nicely wooded; that has now been sold to the Roman Catholics.”  All of which led the writer to fear that “Chorlton will soon be as crowded as Alexandra Park but without the park.”

But there was one field left which “in the general opinion of the residents is the right spot for the much talked of park.  The plot extends from Wilbraham Road to a new road about to be cut – Holland Road, I think it is to be called.  It is flanked on one side by Cavendish Road [Corkland] and on the other by the railway.”

It says much for the period that the writer expected the land and the maintenance of the park would be achieved by public subscription.

In the event it never happened and the plot was built on.  It would be a few more years before the Recreational Ground on Beech Road was laid out and well into the 1920s before Chorlton Park was established.

But next time I take the short cut down Zetland Road  [Holland] to Corkland Road [Cavendish] and onto Morrisons I’ll reflect on what might have been.

Pictures;, detail from the OS map of Lancashire, Manchester and South East, 1888-93, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/, and Holland Road from the Lloyd collection

* Manchester Guardian May 24 1892

Looking for a glimpse of the 1970s from Piccadilly Railway Station ...... a SELNEC bus, some vanished buildings and a slice of Black Forest gateau ......... nostalgia doesn’t get any better

Now if you are of a certain age this will be a pretty familiar scene.

It is one I saw countless times as I walked down from the station towards Piccadilly Gardens.

At first glance it isn’t that different from today but the old bus in its SELNEC livery and the buildings in the far distance behind the Joshua Hoyle warehouse on the left place us sometime in the 1970s.

And if that wasn’t enough the message on the back firms up the date because it is a request to John Dees at Piccadilly Radio to play a song by John Holt who was a reggae singer from Jamaica.

What I especially like about the photograph is that it is a picture of Manchester which I can instantly relate to.

Unlike all those old faded black and white and sepia images from the beginning of the 20th century this is from my time.

If pushed I could tell you where I had been and where I was going while walking down the station approach and who I was with and even where I was living.

Of course for many looking at it today it is as remote as those old photographs from 1900.

And even for me it is a full forty and something years ago which just about sets a shiver going through me and makes me think of just how things have changed in four decades.

Back them the height of sophistication was the cassette tape, which played discreetly while entertaining friends to a meal which started with prawn cocktails, finished with Black Forest gateau and was accompanied by a bottle of Blue Nun.

The debate on the Picc-Vic underground connection rumbled on, and no one had yet got round to putting some rickety chairs on a street corner, serving up some tapas and over expensive wine and calling it cafe society.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Approach from Piccadilly Railway Station, circa 1970s, from the collection of David Harrop 

Friday, 27 May 2016

A pub, a message of love and a club ........... on Cooper Street

Now this is Cooper Street and this impressive stone building has stood on this spot since 1863.

Waldorf House, 2015
Once a long time ago Cooper Street ran all the way from Booth Street across Princess Street down to Peter’s Street but that all changed with the construction of Central Ref which swept away a mix of interesting and not so impressive buildings.

And in the process cut short Cooper Street at its junction with Princess Street.

For me it has always been an alternative route across town which avoids the busier main thoroughfares and if the time is right allows you to turn off on to Kennedy Street to visit the Vine or the City Arms.

A century ago I could have just stayed on Cooper Street and slid in to the City Hotel at number 9.  It was offering up a selection of fine wines, beers and much else from 1879 and may have been there from the start when our building was opened.

The Waldorf, 1950
Back then the remainder of the building was home to the Free Masons and included a Hall and their club.

Look closely and above the main entrance is the symbol of the masons carved on the key stone.

And there generations of Masons did whatever Masons do from 1863 till they moved to that other present home on Bridge Street which is still where they are today.*

Now by one of the odd little twists of history my grandfather, great grandfather and at least some of my uncles were all Masons but dad would have nothing of them and so there the link finished.

All of which has taken me away from the City Hotel which I first came across on postcard sent from an army camp in 1911 to Miss Johnson at the City Hotel on Cooper Street.**

I will never know what she made of it, but the sender wrote, “You will be surprised to receive this.  Hearing you say your Yeomanry friend had disappointed you, I thought I would endeavour to rectify it.”

The Waldorf, 1973
The romantic in me wonders whether this was the start of a bid for Miss Johnston’s interest.

Sadly I couldn’t find her in the 1911 census and so far the landlord of the City Hotel who was a Bertie Holroyd and has also proved elusive.

In time I will find out something about both of them along with when the Hotel closed which is best done by a slow and patient trawl of the street directories which might also reveal exactly when the Waldorf Restaurant opened for business in the Mason’s old club.

It was there well into the 1970s and the name above the main door is a reminder of what is now Waldorf House was the Waldorf Restaurant which at one time was owned by the Wilsons brewery.

And this where the nerdy side kicks in because originally the Waldorf had occupied the plot where Cooper Street and Peter Street met.

The Waldorf, 1940
There is even a fine photograph of the building from the City Engineers Department dated 1940, showing not only the large sign in the window announcing that it offered a Dining and Tea room but shows the pub next door which offered Walker and Homfray’s Special Invalid Port at 4 shillings and 9d a bottle.

Which I am sure was a snip if you were an invalid or in need of a snip of port.  Walker and Homfray were “brewers & wine & spirit merchants” who were in 1911 based at the Woodside Brewery on Wilmslow Street, Eccles New Road.

All of which in time will offer up a whole set of new lines of research as well as some intriguing stories, not least of which may be why the City Engineers Department got the date of 1940 so wrong, because by then the Central Ref had been built and this little bit of our eating history had vanished.

That said I may have missed something and as ever the devil is always in the detail which is why I had at first some trouble locating the City Hotel in that building on Copper Street.

The Waldorf, 1970
What should be number 9 is a bay with a window, which mirrors perfectly another on the other side of themain entrance.

This bay was the way into number 9 but had ceased to be a doorway by 1950 which may mean that the City Hotel had gone by then.

By then the Waldorf may have extended in to our hotel.  In their time Walker and Homfray who may have owned the restaurant had been an enterprising and interesting company.

They had in 1905 bought out a smaller brewery which ran the Band on the Wall and supported Newton Heath FC which even I know became Man United.

They merged with Wilson’s Brewery in 1949 which explains the sign outside the Waldorf in the 1970s and nicely brings me back to Peter’s painting and one of those neat bits of continuity because occupying part of the building is the Tiger Lounge which advertises itself as “a basement venue with regular events including quiz nights, open mic/acoustic sessions and live gigs.”

I wonder what Miss Johnson would have made of that.

Location; Cooper Street, Manchester

Paintings; Waldorf House, Cooper Street, © 2015, Peter Topping,
Facebook; Paintings from Pictures, Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Pictures; Copper Street, 1950, H Milligan, m68238, Cooper Street, 1973, D Wildgoose, m01061, Waldorf Restaurant, Peter Street Cooper Street, 1940, City Engineers Department, m38892, Cooper Street, 1970, A Dawson m50748, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

*KE7LODGE, https://www.ke7lodge.co.uk/freemasons-hall-manchester/

**"Dear Miss J".............. a message from the 8th Manchester’s at Garstang Camp to the City Hotel on Cooper Street ...... June 1911, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/dear-miss-j-message-from-8th.html

Thursday, 26 May 2016

On holiday with Mrs Fisher

We never went to a holiday camp which was nothing to do with the idea it was just we never did.

That said I often felt just a little envious of my friend Jimmy O’Donnell whose parents always went to Butlins through the 1950s into the 60s.

He would come back suntanned and full of stories of the entertainments, the food and the sheer fun of the place.

So with that in mind I fell on this picture from Ken Fisher’s collection of his grandmother who is sitting on the chair and staring back at us.

I would love to know where we are and the clue might be in the lettering on the building in the distance.

It is only a partial name or word but could be Capstan.

And that might help in trawling the holiday camps near Blackpool.

So far I have drawn a blank but there is a modern holiday company operating with that name.

Mrs Fisher regularly went to Blackpool so perhaps this is a holiday camp somewhere on the edge of the town.

There is no mistaking the  accommodation in their neat rows facing each other with the neatly trimmed lawn in front.

The first holiday camps had started up before the Great War but the real growth was during the 1930s and in the years after the Second World War.

The big players were Warner, Butlins and Pontins who played to their strengths offering an all in holiday which was affordable with no hidden charges.

And looking at the lady with the bike, its clear that the modern upmarket version often centred in woodlands has nothing new in providing push bikes to explore the resort.

But with the development of cheap foreign packages in the sun the traditional British holiday became less attractive and many were closed.

Now I don’t know when this picture was taken but I think it will be the 1950s just at the time that Jimmy was off on his Butlins break.

So while I never got to a holiday camp, Ken’s picture is the nearest I will come to a holiday camp.

And just after I posted the story, Ken got back in touch telling me that, "it was taken at Butlins Skegness in 1957, the lady on the bike was my Mam Edna and the lady looking through the bike was my sister Dot, also on the holiday was my Dad , Trevor who was Dot's Husband and their son Paul who was my nephew.

It was the best holiday I had, with great memories, but sadly I'm the only one left."

As for the building at the end I have no idea.  And that just rounds off the story perfectly, and just reminded me I should have asked Ken first!

Location; Butlins Skegness

Picture; Mrs Fisher and friends, date unknown courtesy of Ken Fisher

On Edge Lane, sometime before 1987


Sometimes you just have to accept defeat.  Not that it happens often, but on occasion all attempts to probe the secrets of a picture come to nothing.

And so it is with this house.  The caption just says demolished in 1987, and that is all you get.

Now it is in a section of the collection devoted to Edge Lane so we are sort of a little way forward but that is as far as it goes.

The annoying thing is I should know the place having walked up and down Edge Lane in the decade before it was pulled down, but it stubbornly sits at the back of my mind and I cannot place it.

And as you do I have scanned Edge Lane for any clues to where it may have been.  There are a few spots where there is new build which might date from the late 1980s or 90s but I can’t be sure.  Nor are the OS maps much help. Both the 1907 and 1935 maps deliver up a number of candidates but that is all they are.

I can narrow the hunt a little because it has to be a detached house set only a little way from the road but that still leaves a few to choose from.

If I had to be more precise I think it may be the Chorlton end of Edge Lane perhaps the stretch from the Church to the junction with Wilbraham Road, and possible a little past Kingshill Road.

But it’s all a bit too vague and there remain too many variables, so I shall conclude by repeating one of those frequent observations that often “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Uncovering one of our local photographers, A H Clarke .............where local history met family history

Now I have been fascinated by Harold Clarke who was one of our local commercial photographers.*


Barlow Moor Road, circa 1926
During the 1920s and 30s he recorded many scenes of Chorlton and they are a priceless snap shot of the area.

This one was taken by Harold Clarke of 83 Clarence Road Chorlton, and may have been part of a series issued by Lilywhite Ltd, of Brighouse, in Yorkshire.

There are 21 of his photographs in the Greater Manchester County Records collection dating from 1926 through to 1934 and some from 1926 carry a serial number close to the one in the picture.

All of which is an introduction to a story written by Tony Goulding, who has contributed to the blog before.

“Your posts using postcards produced by A H Clarke re-kindled in me an interest in my family history. A  H Clarke was my maternal grandfather. 


Miss Clarke's ration book, 1939
I had previously searched in vain for 83, Clarence Road where my mother was raised, as her ration book shows. 

I had not noticed the name change to Claridge Roadd. 

On a recent walk past the house I realised how close it was to the old brickworks and remembered how my mother had told me how she used to get into trouble for playing around them and the clay pits.

My grandfather was born in Reddith, Worcestershire in 1889, the son of William who owned tobacconist/photographers on the High St. 

His mother Bessie was a member of the Woodfield family prominent in the town both as needle factory owners and in local politics. 

Arthur Harold became a professional photographer. 

In the 1911 census he is recorded as working as a photographer’s assistant in Hitchin, Herts. He later moved back to Redditch, then after the break-up of his first marriage in the early 1920's lived for a little while in Toxteth, Liverpool, where my mother was born in 1927 before settling in  Chorlton in about 1930.


Book marks Central Ref, 1934
He was obviously quite enterprising at this time as can be seen by these bookmarks he produced of the newly opened Central Library.

Sometime in the early 1940's he both re-located the family home and ceased making his living solely from photography as a 1944 wedding certificate shows him as an Inland Revenue clerk residing at 5, Keppel Rd. 

It must remain a matter of conjecture whether this change was for personal reasons or was due to economic pressure on the photographic trade by the advance in camera ownership and the decline in postcard usage as a result of the increased availability of telephones. 

Of course any such difficulties would be exacerbated by war time shortages, rationing, and restrictions.

Finally it is ironic that I haven't got any photos of my grandfather, who died  in 1952; two years before I was born ------a man who must have taken 10's of 1,000's of them in his lifetime.”

And so there you have it a little bit more of the history of those who recorded our history.

© Tony Goulding May 2015

Pictures; from the collection of Harold Clark, Barlow Moor Road, circa 1926, from the Lloyd Collection, and the ration book and book mark courtesy of Tony Clarke.

*Harold Clarke, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/travelling-around-chorlton-in-1930s-in.html

1816 .... the year without a summer

1816 should have been a good year, it was after all the first year of peace since Waterloo, the battle that had ended the long wars with Revolutionary and Napoleonic France which had run with only a short break since 1792.

But it was according to one writer, “the year without a summer, when weeks passed into months and the sun did not appear to ripen the produce [and] there was just torrential rain and thunderstorms.”*

Leading to harvest failures, distress and unrest across Europe and the US.

The terrible weather was connected to the “biggest volcanic eruption in recorded history, which had taken place on the other side of the world.”

According to the agricultural records ** for 1816 it was a wet summer with a very poor harvest with snow lying on the ground into mid April.

 The temperature for July and August was 4-8⁰ below average and the heavy rains were accompanied by strong winds, which meant that the harvests began late with the result that in the Midlands and the North corn was still in the fields in November. Sheep rot was prevalent, hay scarce and much livestock sold for lack of keep.

All of which is easy to gloss over until you try to fix this to people’s lives. The cost of wheat rose to 78s 6d a quarter which would have a real impact on the cost of bread which remained a staple part of the diet of most families.

Here in the township we were dependant on agriculture. Of the 119 families, 96 were directly engaged in farming and another 16 engaged in trade, manufacture and crafts. So a poor harvest impacted not only on those who harvested the crops, but the blacksmith, wheelwright and countless others.

Only the people of plenty might escape hardship and for them the lack of food in the community raised the spectre of unrest and trouble.

There are accounts of people walking from Wales into England begging for food, along with demobbed soldiers wandering the country looking for work.

The unrest is reflected in the resumption of Luddite activity in the North, food riots and protests in London where some carried the French revolutionary flag.

Little in the way of evidence for the township has survived although the records for Stretford show the demand for poor relief. The death rate that year was not exceptional and generally reflected what we might expect with younger people dying than any other age group and these were concentrated mostly in the summer months.

I doubt that we escaped lightly from that year without a summer but as yet the township has not revealed its secrets.

 We would have seen high levels of ash in the atmosphere which would have led to the spectacular sunsets seen in the paintings of Turner but more will be revealed through more diligent research.

Picture; Chichester Canal, circa 1828, J.M.Turner


*Jad Adams, 1816 The Year Without A Summer, BBC Who Do you Think You Are Magazine, Issue 60 May 2012
**Agricultural Records J.M.Stratton 1969