Saturday, 14 May 2016

Back in Chorlton in the October of 1961

Pemberton Arcade, Barlow Moor Road

“Just a sixpenny bus ride from Piccadilly, Manchester is Chorlton-cum-Hardy – the little green meadow hamlet that grew and grew into a busy suburb.”*

I came across this opening sentence in a pile of old newspapers passed to me by Oliver Bailey.

The collection is a treasure trove of our recent history including reports, photographs and stories.

Most come from papers which have now vanished like the Manchester Comet, the Manchester City News and the Chorlton edition of the Stretford and Urmston Journal but a few despite looking very dated are still with us.

The Manchester Evening News featured Chorlton in its series on People and Places in the October of 1961.  I guess the approach fitted a template which consisted of some contemporary photographs, conversations with locals and reflections on how the area had changed over time.

The photographs included Oswald Road School, the Library and that row of shops on Barlow Moor Road “known years ago as Pemberton Arcade and still remembered as that by older Chorlton folk, [which] provides cover and room for stalls which give it that market atmosphere.”

Mrs Mehre Usha and Mrs Raj Kumai, "window shopping"
And there were pictures of local residents like Mrs Kathleen Foy at a “her pressing board in her shop on Beech Road,” Keith Hannam, “who went to school in Chorlton and now owns a small butcher’s shop in Chorlton Green” and “Mrs Mehre Usha and her sister in law Raj Kumai” who were out for the day “window shopping.”

All of which is good stuff for any local historian but the paper also reveals more detail on events which have all but been forgotten.

Back in 1961 we still had a railway station, which for three years had been selected as “the tidiest in south Manchester, but new travelling habits have placed the fate of the spotless old station in the balance.”  So “officialdom has now given the station a final reprieve to see if the public really wants its station.  If not it will die.”

Now of course we know it didn’t survive but all too often its closure is recorded in just a sentence with little detail around the debate on its future.

In that respect the article is a wonderful piece of history more so because it includes people who were in the 70s and 80s and who talk of that older Chorlton.

“Old timers will recall Chorlton and Withington joining Manchester at the start of the century, and the first trams to Chorlton in May 1907.  Grey haired Mrs Mary Ford aged 84 has lived in the district all her life [and] for the past 52 years in her present gas lit home.  She remembers a smaller more peaceful Chorlton. ‘It was just a village with lots of green fields and very beautiful.’”

Furniture to buy at Waring & Gillow
This I think marks the article out for here we have in one place the memories of people who can take us back to the late 1870s and 1880s.

So I shall be returning to this snapshot of Chorlton in 1961 and let the residents throw more light on what our township was like over a hundred years ago.

But in the meantime I can  not resist one of those old adverts which more than anything show how far we have travelled in the 55 years since the story was published.

Pictures, by John Featherstone, from my copy of the Manchester Evening News October 20, 1961

*The country cousin who grew and grew .... from GOING YOUR WAY CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY focus on People and Places, Manchester Evening News October 20, 1961

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