Sunday, 31 July 2016

Stolen in the night ........... with little concern for the historic and private loss

Now I know I shouldn’t be surprised of the news that a priceless collection of Great War memorabilia has been stolen.

We all at some time have to face just such an event, but the theft in the night of a collection of cap badges from men who served their country with distinction is unforgiveable.

More so because they were part of a collection which had been carefully researched by their owner David Harrop.

There is of course the possibility that they will be recovered, but I doubt it.  They will I expect have made their way to a dealer or collector with few scruples.

More than that the collection runs the risk of being broken up and sold separately.

But either way they will never be displayed with the same sense of history and degree of research that followed their time as part of David’s collection.

Other items were also looted like a pillar box similar to this one carrying the initials VR.

So there you have it, not a very nice story to close a Sunday evening.

Pictures; cap badges similar to those stolen from the collection of David Harrop

Welcome back Bramall Hall ....... two years, £1.6 million and it is open for business

No doubt somewhere over this week end there will be a sign welcoming the curious and the interested back into Bramall Hall.

It has been closed for a major restoration project which according to Stockport Council was funded from  a  “£1.6million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  

The impressive plaster ceiling in the Withdrawing Room has been repaired and re-painted, objects and items of furniture have been conserved and hundreds of panes of historic, stained glass that were dirty and broken now sparkle in the sunshine. 

Better facilities for visitors include modern toilets and a platform lift to improve access between levels on the ground floor. New interpretation will tell people about the hall’s fascinating stories through film, virtual tours, interactives and a giant family tree.

Major building development has converted the rundown and under-used stable block into a modern facility for visitors that now houses a gift-shop, small visitor centre and classroom facilities.

The adjacent café is a bright and airy space with a glass frontage that opens onto the walled garden for outside dining.”*

So to mark the reopening of the Hall Peter has done one of his paintings.

It is not a place I have visited, well not yet but I think it will be on the summer todo list.

After all it is is "a Tudor manor house in Bramhall, [which] is  a timber-framed building, the oldest parts of which date from the 14th century, with later additions from the 16th and 19th centuries. 

The house, which functions as a museum, and its 70 acres (28 ha) of landscaped parkland with lakes, woodland, and gardens are open to the public."**

I could say more and there is lots more but I will leave you to find that out by following the links.

Sadly I won’t be able to get in over the weekend as all tickets for entry into the Hall on Saturday July 30 and Sunday July 31 have completely sold out but normal service will resume on Tuesday.

Painting; Bramall Hall, © 2016 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,


Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

*Bramhall Hall,

** Bramall Hall

Miss Maude Fealey star of stage and screen in 1902

Now there will be those who accuse me of losing the plot as I focus on another of those celebrity picture postcards from the early 20th century.

But I do think they deserve to be brought out of the shadows, partly because so many of them a re stunning images and also because in their time these young actors and actresses were as popular as our modern footballers and singers.

So here we are with Maude Fealey, born in 1883 in Memphis Tennessee.  She performed on both the stage and screen appearing in twenty films between 1911 and 1955.

Now there is much more but I think that I shall leave it there.

Except to reflect that the series from which this image was taken must have been a profitable one for Tuck and Sons who marketed it.

There are a large number in the collection and they spanned not only these "young beauties" but character actors, music hall stars and Shakespearean performers.

Picture; Maude Fealey, from the series CELEBRITIES OF THE STAGE, by Tuck and Sons, 1905, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Saturday, 30 July 2016

On Mauldeth Road West with a ghost sign

Now there are a growing number of us who are fascinated by ghost signs.

These are the painted signs dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries which advertised products and businesses, most of which have long since disappeared.

So these fading and often peeling names are all that are left of a bit of our past.

All of which is a lead in to Neil Simpson’s picture of the gable end on Mauldeth Road West which he proudly told me, “look what I found on the side of a shop on Mauldeth Road West - a Ghost Sign for Wills Gold Flake Cigarettes for Andrew Simpson."

And then went on to supply a link to Wills Gold Flake.

And that pretty much is that leaving me only to thank Neil who has come up with some pretty neat ghost signs over the years.

Location; Manchester

Picture; ghost sign 2016, courtesy of Neil Simpson

*Wills Gold Flake, https

Beware a challenge ...... the story behind the Fatal Wedding

I am on a quest to find the most boring picture post card ever seen, bought, or sent.

I can’t claim this was an original idea.  It came from my friend Jean who laid down the challenge.

“In the 70's when I was working in the National Postal Museum we did an exhibition of postcards.

As part of this, we did a small display which we called "Boring Postcards."

One I recall was the public lavatories at Huddersfield which to add to the gloom was not even in colour.

But it proved to be the most-looked at part of the Exhibition! “

So off I began with the collection of Tuck and Sons and the site, Tuck DB which offers 133,745 postcards, 29,023 sets and 309,326 uploaded pictures.*

Now this is a site I have plundered over the last year because of the sheer number and variety of images covering the late 19th and a big chunk of the 20th century and it has given up plenty of fascinating stories.**

And sure enough with just a little effort I came across this card from the series The Fatal Wedding from the Princess’s Theatre, London.

I thought I had struck gold and while it does not rival the public lavatories at Huddersfield it seemed a close contender.

But then as you do I went in search of Mr Bert Coote’s big production of the Fatal Wedding and discovered a story.

The Fatal Wedding was written by Theodore Kremer who was born around 1871 and died in 1923.  He wrote a number of melodramas including The Slaves of the Orient, The Great Automobile Mystery and Bertha the Sewing Machine Girl which focused on a sweatshop worker who is victimised by her father’s murderer.***

The Fatal Wedding falls into the same category mixing drama, danger and forbidden love.  In this case Cora Williams destroys the happy marriage of Howard and Mabel Wilson and drives them to divorce. Howard gets custody of their children Jessie and Frankie but Mabel winds up abducting them.

Five years later Cora discovers Mabel living in poverty with the children. She tries to poison Mabel and frame Jessie on a charge of theft but is unsuccessful. Howard and Mabel eventually reconcile and live with their children.****

It was first staged in New York in 1902, before going to London and went on to tour Australia where in 1911 it became a film under the same name.  Like its stage predecessor it proved very popular but sadly is one of those lost films.

Nor is that quite all. For the Princess’s Theatre, London also has a history.

It was on Oxford Street and opened in 1828 as the Queen’s Bazaar before adopting the name the Princess’s Theatre in 1836.

Over the next seventy years it specialized in operas, light entertainment and pantomimes and for a while staged Shakespeare productions by Charles Kean before concentrating on melodramas.

And it was our play, the Fatal Wedding which was the last ever to be acted out on its stage.
In 1902 it closed and became a warehouse before being demolished and replaced by a Woolworth store and has since been home to a number of big retail chains.

All of which leaves me to concede defeat with the most boring postcard, so I leave it open to suggestions and retire from the competition leaving Jean at present the winner.

Picture; from the series, “The Fatal Weeding from the Princess’s Theatre, London, Tuck & Sons Ltd, 1902, courtesy of Tuck DB,

*Tuck DB,

**Raphael Tuck and Sons Ltd,

*** Daniel S. Burt, The Chronology of American Literature: America's Literary Achievements from the Colonial Era to Modern Times, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004 p314 quoted in Theodore Kremer, Wikipedia,

**** The Fatal Wedding,

Friday, 29 July 2016

On Bennett Street in Ardwick, at St Benedict's sometime around 1900

Now I am intrigued by this picture post postcard not least because it was one of six showing the church from various angles.

We are on Bennett Street which ran off from Hyde Road and was a mix of houses shops and factories.  It was not unlike plenty of other streets in this part of the city.

At one end the street was crossed by the large railway viaduct of the London and North West Railway whose Manchester terminus was London Road, and a large part of the eastern side of the street was dominated by the engineering works of Galloway Ltd which made boilers and Atkinson and Co, mechanical engineers and the Garland Company which made forgings.

So during the day there would have been the noise of heavy industry coupled with the passing of countless trains and at night the clunk of goods wagons being shunted around the marshalling yards just a few minute’s walk away.

And into this place “in the midst of a dense artisan population” according to the Manchester Guardian, St Benedict’s was opened in 1880.*

It had been entirely funded by Mr. Alderman Bennett of whom more at a later date.

Now again at another date I think I shall explore the church in more detail but for today I shall just reflect on what was going on in our picture.

According to the reverse of the postcard, we are watching “A Parochial Procession.  

The Patronal Festival is observed on July 11, The Feast of the Translation of St Benedict.  

On the Sunday afternoon within the octave of the feast it is customary for the Congregation to make a procession of Witness and thanksgiving round the parish.”

And that is what our photographer captured sometime I guess around the beginning of the last century.

But as dense as the population had been in the 1880s a century later the clearance policy of the council and the demise of heavy industry meant that there were few left to worship in the place it finally closed in 2002, only to reopen three years later as the Manchester Climbing Centre.

*Manchester Guardian, March 22nd 1880.

Picture; A PAROCHIAL PROCESSIION from the series CHURCH OF ST. BENEDICT, ARDWICK, MANCHESTER, back ST. BENEDICT'S, MANCHESTER, marketed by Tuck & Sons, date unknown, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Thursday, 28 July 2016

HOE'S SAUCES .......... THE VERY BEST, reading the adverts in 1900 and discovering a bit more only this morning

Now here is a story that has just got to see the light of day again.

Back in December 2013 I posted this picture with the hope that one day “I can track down Hoe & Co Ltd, Manchester.”

Well it took a tad longer but here from Bill Sumner is the following, posted to the orginal this morning.

As the Corporation Gas Board used to say, “We always get there in the end.”

And so here thanks to Bill is the added bit of the story.

 “Hoes Sauce Factory was behind the Robin Hood Pub on the corner of Ryecroft Road and Urmston Lane.

The bus stop to Urmston was just beside the Office doors and waiting for a bus there you had to endure the overwhelming strong smell of vinegar.

The sauce was a dark fruity sauce not unlike H.P. 

The Company was taken over by Norco Pickles Middleton and the factory was demolished in the 70's/80s and is now the Robin Hood Car Park.”*

Picture; Hoe’s Sauces   from the series Celebrated Postcards, marketed by Tuck & Sons, date unknown, courtesy of Tuck DB,

* Bill Sumner

Jazz in the Square

More pictures of live music in St Anns's Square during the Manchester Jazz Festival.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Full festival line up:
Official festival playlist:

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Revisiting the Great War how we see that war and how it was perceived in the past

I have never doubted the sacrifice made during the Great War.

It reached into almost every home and for many the legacy was the loss of a loved one and in some cases more than one and that sacrifice is there in the memorials for the fallen across the country.

They range from small plaques in quiet village churches to large brass polished lists of the men who fought in office buildings along with the more public monuments like stone crosses and our own Cenotaph.

There is as they say a certainty in that national sacrifice but what I continue to revisit are the causes of that war and the numerous differing interpretations of whether Britain should have joined a continental conflict in the August of 1914.

Now I belong to that generation whose view of the war was coloured by Joan Littlewoods’s Oh What a Lovely War and the fact that I grew up in the 1960s which to a young mind pretty much challenged all the conventional wisdoms.

That said as I have grown older I realize that every decade does exactly the same thing and the critical analysis of why we fought and the value of the war were being hotly debated soon after it was all over.

Now there is nothing wrong with that.  History is not set in stone, fresh discoveries, new scholarship and changing ideas mean that every event is open to reinterpretation which is what makes the study of the past both fun and rewarding.

I was brought up with that premises that here was a war of rival imperialisms where the growing antagonisms of the European Great Powers and Japan led to a costly arms race, the creation of two armed camps and the possibility that one or two of these countries fearful that they would lose superiority would strike first.

It sat alongside that even more simple interpretation that in an age when the vast armies of Continental Europe were moved by trains, the train timetable imposed a logic to events.

So that once the decision to move an army up to the border had been made this would have to be matched by others and in the war rooms and Cabinet offices even the suggestion that this might be about to happen called for the issue of mobilization orders.

It was and for me still is an attractive interpretation and took on more validity during the Cold War when the two super powers contemplated a nuclear exchange of weapons even using them as bargaining gambits while at the same time carrying on their conflict using smaller countries to fight proxy wars.

So here and I don’t claim it will always be over original will be few short posts on the mood of Manchester on that August of 1914 and on how that war was seen at various times during the conflict and since.

Tomorrow, Revisiting the Great War nu 1 ............ who spoke in favour?

Pictures; A fag after a fight, 1916, Daily Mail Official War Pictures, and Mother, Why Doesnt Daddy Come Home? date unknown, Bamforth & Co, Holmfirth, the Patriot Series nu 1888, from the collection of David Harrop

Miss Suzanne Sheldon and picture cards I would have collected in 1903

I have to confess that if I had been 15 in 1903 I would have been saving up to buy one of these picture postcards.

They come from a series variously marketed as Play Pictorial, and Celebrities of the stage, and serve to remind us that a fascination for celebrities is not new.

That said I suspect it would not have been Dane Leno or the other popular male actors and stars of the Music Hall that I would have collected.

No, it would have been the likes of Miss Suzanne Sheldon, Gertrude Elliot and perhaps Constance Collier, all of whom brightened the stage in the closing years of the 19th and opening decade of the 20th centuries.

Now as ever this picture of Miss Sheldon aged 28 is just a starting point which might take in the Great War, a Salt Lake City newspaper and what at present is a puzzle.

But first to Miss Sheldon who was born in 1875 in Vermont to a wealthy family, acted both here and in the States and was for a while married to the actor Henry Ainely.

And that at present is about it.  In 1911 she was living with Henry at 1 Grove End Road in Marylebone in a 9 roomed property and employed a cook and domestic servant and had only just got married.

Sadly little else has turned up except a newspaper article from the Deseret News for August 28th 1915.   

What makes this a bit of a puzzle is that the Deseret News was published in Salt Lake City in Utah, and among along local stories and the war news from Europe it  included  a piece on “NOTED ACTESS WORKING AMONG SLUM CHILDREN” in London, “Suzanne Sheldon American, Trying to Make Better Little Citizens Out of Tots in Squalid District, Reads Plays and Poems, to Boys and Girls Brigade [and] Shows them How to Improve Their Wretched Homes – Nurse to Wounded Soldiers.”

The article runs over several columns includes a reference to her accompanying a friend to the war zone and a report on how she tended to sick German soldiers having already done the same in Britain for British wounded servicemen.

It is an intriguing story but one that seems to have been lost and so far this is all there is.
She was just 40 when she was engaged in what the paper called her “war work” and only 49 when she died in 1924.

She was a well known actress who had acted with Ellen Terry and Henry Irving in many popular plays including If I were a King set in medieval France in which she played Hugnete.

The play was written by the Irish nationalist, Justin Huntly McCarthy who served as an M.P from 1884-92, haing first entered Parliament at a by-election when he was returned unopposed as the Home Rule League member for Athlone in Leinster.

All of which is a long way from a picture postcard from 1902, but interesting enough.

Picture; HUGNETTE, MISS SUSANNE SHELDON, TABARIE, MR. W.R. STAVELEY... TEASING HIM, from the series, PLAY PICTORIAL IF I WERE KING SERIES II, 1903, issued by Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Hough End Hall in the 1950s

Now the thing about very old buildings is that usually we focus on that very old bit.

So it is with Hough End Hall built in 1596 and for a big chunk of its history the family home of the Mosley family.

Most of the accounts of the place concentrate on its Elizabethan design and the Mosley family and ignore the last two hundred years when it was a farm house and later still an office and restaurant.

But I am more interested in its time as the home of tenant farmers during the 19th century and then its uncertain time from the 1920s when it was under threat of demolition by road widening plans.

Today there is nothing much left and so I have decided to call on the memory of Oliver Bailey whose father took possession of the Hall and surrounding land at the beginning of the Second World War and worked it in conjunction with his farm at Park Brow.

Here and over the next few weeks are short accounts of what was once three and which I hope will set off more memories from other people.

"Looking at the front of the hall on the right hand side I remember a man called John Hallsworth had a blacksmith shop in the 1950s. 

He had been an iron worker with British Road Services and rented the smithy at Hough End from my father after he retired from BRS.

There was a wooden staircase up the wall of the hall inside the smithy itself. He he made a couple of gates for Park Brow Farm. 

Sam & Jack Priday, who were farriers with a smithy in Withington,  came round and used the forge to shoe my father’s Suffolk Punch horse. 

I remember walking beside him as he used a horse drawn single furrow plough in the field next to Mauldeth Roadd, probably late 1940s. 

At the rear right hand end there were various add-on outbuildings at the back, probably nineteenth century. 

One was a cottage and another a store of some sort that had fallen into disrepair .

The left wing of the Hall suffered severe structural damage which was perhaps caused by subsidence and had to be rebuilt in the 1950s by the Egerton Estate and I remember they used artificial stone lintels and cills for the mullioned windows. 

On the upper floor there was an old mangle that was basically a large box full of cobbles that rolled back and forth on rollers on the wooden base when it was worked by turning the handle.

 I think that ended up in Ordsall Hall, definitely went to Salford as Manchester had no interest."

© Oliver Bailey, June 2014

Pictures; Hough End Hall, 1952, m47850,the hall from the south east, 1952 m 47856 and the hall and duck pond, 1952, all by T Baddeley, m47859, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Next, a plan a riding school and the man who kept rabbits

Levenshulme Library

Now it easy to forget that that parts of south Manchester elected to join the city having spent a big chunk of time as self governing local authorities.

Levenshulme Library, 2012
So it was that Burnage ,Chorlton, Didsbury and Withington who voted to join Manchester in 1904 and Levenshulme five years later.

It was a decision that for  many rate payers was a decision too good to turn down and included the promise of better provision, and cheaper rates and utility bills.

As far as the 1904 "4" were concerned this included the building of new public libraries.

But in the case of Levenshulme they already had one, which has been opened in 1904.

The Levenshulme Urban District Council had successfully gained a grant from the Carnegie Foundation to build the library which cost £2,500 and according to the Manchester Guardian had “two special features worthy of mention. 

There is a room set apart for juveniles, in which, besides papers and periodicals, such games as chess, draughts and dominoes may be enjoyed.  

Adjoining the main reading-room and reached through a vestibule door is along veranda where people may sit and read in fine weather.”

And that is about all except to say I think Peter's painting captures it perfectly.


Painting;Levenshulme Library, © 2012 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,

Those celebrity pictures from the 1900s

I am back with those celebrity picture cards from the first decade of the last century.

They covered everybody from actors and music hall stars to the up and coming young stage personalities.

Many of them were household names but have now slid into obscurity but with a bit of research something of their lives and careers are there to see again.

A few continued their careers into films but most settled back into the shadows.

Maude Darrell was born in 1883 and died aged 27 in 1910.

I rather think she would have been 25 when she posed for the photograph which manages to capture something special of this young woman.

The same is also true of the picture by Lizzie Caswall Smith of Miss Fyfe Alexander.

Now I have yet to find out anything about the actress but I do know that Lizzie Caswall Smith had her own studios on Oxford Street, twice exhibited at the Royal Photographic Society and produced some outstanding portraits of notable Edwardian's.

Now that makes her an interesting person to find out more about.

Pictures; from the series CELEBRITIES OF THE STAGE, by Tuck and Sons, 1902-5, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Monday, 25 July 2016

More of "Our Belles" from Tuck & Sons in 1908 and a bit of commercial sharp practice

Now as every good advertiser knows when you have a winning formula you don’t throw it away quickly.

So when Tuck and Son hit on the idea of issuing picture postcards with pin ups purporting to come from a chosen town or city they pretty much milked it dry.

And over a century and a bit later their Manchester card has proved successful all over again.

When I posted  OF ALL THE GIRLS 'TIS NICE TO MEET MANCHESTER GIRLS ARE HARD TO BEAT” with its six young “belles” and a picture of the Town Hall it was seen by nearly 300 people in the first few days and was posted on around the world.

London Bridge
Now it never occurred to me at the time to explore just how many other similar cards they issued and when I did even I was surprised.

The series seems to have taken in 271 and covered all our major cities and towns and extended to the U.S.A.

Each “bevy of belles” was accompanied by a small photograph of a prominent building, landmark or beauty spot and each also came with its own little rhyme which pretty much followed the Manchester pattern which I suppose didn’t over challenge the copywriters.

That said I remain impressed with their ability to turn in a line on the likes of Ifracombe, Llandudno and Aberystwyth.

But perhaps I am setting their stall too high, for many of the rhymes were the same and sadly many of “our belles” turn up again and again having posed in London, Newcastle, Denver, and New Orleans.

But then I doubt that the discerning postcard purchaser of Dublin was ever likely to study at Lawrence University in Appleton Wisconsin or for that matter  make regular visits to the Court House in Newberry, South Carolina only to discover his "belles" appeared elsewhere.

But all I suppose is fair in the world of the Edwardian pin up post card and the little picture of the building, landmark or beauty spot has a period interest.

Pictures; all from the series “our Belles marked by Tuck & Sons, circa 1908, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Didsbury Pubs .............. stories, paintings and a bit more ........ nu 3 the Wellington

A short series reflecting on some of the Didsbury pubs Peter has painted and I have spent time in.

I have to confess it will be a long series given that both of us over the years can claim to have been in all of them, although never I hasten to add been thrown out.

This is the Wellington.

Now I say the Wellington but the place has undergone both name changes and a slight change of use.

There will be some who can claim to have drunk in there when it was the Wellington and may even have the beer mat.  Lots more will remember it as the Cavalcade and I have yet to eat in it since it has become a restaurant.

That said there will be no one who will remember the previous building which was a far more modest affair and boasted a bowling green.

So there you have it, a little bit of pub history which just leaves me to do the outrageous plus....... you find Peter’s painting in our book Didsbury Through Time, available at Morton’s Bookshop, and at the this very moment we are working on Manchester Pubs, The stories behind the Doors

Location; Didsbury

Painting; the Wellington © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures, Web:

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Nicolas Road ........... sometime between 1909 and 1914

What became known as “new Chorlton” but historically was Martledge is often overlooked when collections of pictures of where we live are published.

After all by the early 20th century much of the area had become rows of houses, some larger and more distinguished than others, but still just rows of houses.

 The remaining interesting cottages, farmhouses, and old pubs as well as the open fields were to the south around the old village and green. So such a scene as this is unlikely capture the imagination or the curiosity of anyone looking back at the township in the past.

And yet here there is a story. It is Nicolas Road sometime between 1909 and 1914. We can be as exact as that.

 The postcard of the scene was sent in 1914, but most of the right side of the road had still to be built in 1909.

What is more it is sometime in the morning. The sun is lighting up the houses on the western side of the road, and there are delivery vans in the distance. Judging by the leaves on the trees and the children posing for the camera it might even be the summer holidays.

These were the new houses for the middling families who had been steadily moving into Chorlton since the last two decades of the 19th century. So behind the doors on this western side were clerks, commercial travellers, draughtsman, engineers, and managers.

At number 18 in the spring of 1911 lived the Jackson’s. John William was 41 and a book keeper working for the railway. He had married his wife Mary in 1902 and they had one son, Frank aged 7 and also sharing the six roomed house was Mary’s widowed mother.

John was not native to Chorlton, he had been born in Salford and a decade earlier his family had been living on Keppel Road, attracted I guess by the fine new houses close to the railway station and within easy walk of the countryside.

His immediate neighbours included a signalman for the Great Central Railway, a salesman and chemist. Most had young families and none were born here.

Looking again at the picture there is a temptation to try and fit the children to the families on the road but I doubt that this is sound history.

It would be more rewarding to reflect on the Chorlton they knew and how it would change during the childhood.

 Much of the land to the south was still farmland and behind them was the new brickworks. The romantic in me envies them that rural landscape with its opportunities for long summer rambles down towards the Mersey.

Then again there will be plenty who would point to the downside of life just a few years before the Great War. But that is another story.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Hilda Hanbury, the unknown four and postcards from Celebrities of the stage 1902-3

The troupe from the Toreador, 1903
It is odd just where the search for a story will take you.

I have been crawling over the collection of old picture postcards marketed by Tuck and Sons.*

In the past it has been the photographs of our cities, towns and villages that have drawn me in.

Hilda Hanbury aged 26
But today I came across a collection devoted to the music hall artists and actors from the back end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.

Most have long since faded into the shadows and have left little trace.

So despite my efforts I have yet to discover anything about the four from the “Toreador” who were on a picture card sent to Miss M Pinnock in Whitby in 1904.

There will of course be someone out there who is an expert on the troupe and will be in touch but at present they are a mystery.

Not so  Hilda Hanbury.  She has left a trail I can follow.

Her  sister was Lilly Hanbury a popular actress who made her debut in musicals but went on to perform Ibsen and Shakespeare before dying at just 34 in child birth in 1908.

Hilda was also an actress but had married a man of independent means in 1905 and settled down to a comfortable life in Mayfair in a 16 roomed property looked after by nine servants.  Her son became a theatre agent and her grand children and great grandchildren also went on the stage and into films.**

Hilda in 1902
Now I could have continued the story with a quick look at some of those actors, but they are well known enough to be easily found.

Instead I am off searching for Suzanne Sheldon, Constance Collier and Gertrude Elliot, and there is no knowing what I might turn up or how that will lead me off into stories on the theatre and music halls of late 19th and early 20th centuries.

We shall see.

Pictures; “From the Toreador” part of the set Celebrities of the stage, 1903, and Hilda Hanbury, Celebrities of the stage, actress, 1902, issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

*Tuck DB,

**The Fox family

Saturday, 23 July 2016

1932 one morning on Beech Road

It is a bright summer’s day in 1932 and judging by the shadows sometime in the morning.

This is another of those pictures of Beech Road in the years between the wars. In some ways it is familiar enough but of course there is a total absence of cars and the widespread use of bikes.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Manchester Jazz Festival, another one of the things the city does well

It will soon be the Manchester Jazz Festival again* that season of live outside music in some of the finest squares the city has to offer.

I fell across it purely by accident on a lunch time Tuesday many years ago.

So for no other reason than I like jazz, enjoy listening to it in our city, here are some of the pictures of memorable days in St Ann’s Square.

This year the festival starts on July 22 and lasts till the 31st.

82 gigs, 550 artists from the UK and abroad.

There are 9 venues, RNCM - Royal

Northern College of Music, Band on the Wall, Matt and Phreds, Manchester Central Library, HOMEmcr, Albert Square, Manchester, The Midland Hotel, The Portico Library and St. Ann's Church. and a heap of good music.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Full festival line up:

Official festival playlist:  

Friday, 22 July 2016

A Chorlton landmark ................ the new window of the Central Church

Now I like it when you can write about people you know who are contributing to the life of Chorlton.

The church, 2015
So here is Peter’s painting of the Central Church featuring the stained glass window created by Stephen Raw.

I have known Peter and Stephen for over thirty years and so it is nice to be able to feature both in the same story.

And for those who have been around the block a few times this will always be the Macfadyn Church.

Today only the hall remains.

The church was demolished in the 1970s.

It was one of the many churches built in the township as the population grew in the final decades of the 19th century and like those on High Lane and Wilbraham Road did not quite last a century before declining congregations  made amalgamations, rationalizations and eventual demolition the fate of many church groups in Chorlton.

The church, circa 1904
The Chorlton cum Hardy Congregational church started its life in the Masonic Hall in September 1879 under the joint control of the Chorlton Road and Stretford churches. In June 1881 Chorlton Road, under Rev. J. A. Macfadyen, M.A., D.D., assumed full responsibility. 

A school-chapel was opened for worship in September 1883 and forty seven members enrolled at the new church in December. 

Its first pastor, Rev. Robert Mitchell, was appointed in June 1885. With the death of Dr. Macfadyen, in 
1889, the church's connection with Chorlton Rd. came to an end, but in October 1890 a fund was started to build a new church in memory of Dr. Macfadyen, - the Macfadyen Memorial Church, whose opening service was on 25 October 1894.

The church, 2015
In October 1972 with the union of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches it became known as Macfadyen United Reformed Church. In October 1975 Macfadyen United Reformed Church and McLaren Baptist Church decided to worship and work together as Chorlton Central Church.”*

All of which puts our picture postcard at some time after 1894 and more exactly after 1903 by which time Holland Road had been cut and the houses built.

Peter’s painting was done this year and Andy Robertson’s of the work in progress dates from last year.

Painting; the Central Church, © 2015 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,

Pictures; the Macfadyn Church, circa 1904 from the Lloyd Collection, and the church in 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson.

*The National Archives,

Who remembers the Welcome Inn? Memories requested

 I went looking for a photograph of the Welcome Inn and instead only found adverts for the new flats that occupy the site.

The idea was to do a then and now and invite comments about the pub in its heyday.

I can remember watching the crowds walk down past our house on Well Hall Road on a Sunday after I guess a night in the pub.

Later still it was where I watched one of the first colour transmissions on BBC 2, which was a tennis match.

Now tennis bores the pants off me but there was a real novelty value in watching it in colour.

I think we only went the once and then a few more times after that.

And then it was gone.

Picture; courtesy of Jean Lowe

Buying your postage stamps on Todd Lane before catching the 16. 30 from Victoria

Now Corporation Street is one of the more fascinating streets in the city.

It started at Market Street crossed Cannon Street and ran on to the junction with Fennel Street and Withy Grove at what was called Hydes Cross.

Later it was extended to Ducie Bridge where it joined Cheetham Hill Road and continued on as a much narrower street to Ashley Lane.

And along its route it rubbed up against Hanging Ditch, Long Millgate and a shedload of small alleys and courts with names like Cockpit Hill, Hodson’s Square, McDonalsd’s Lane and Piggot’s Court, which in turn gave access to Back Tipping Lane, and Cromford Court.

All of which is an introduction to this Post Office sign which was located in Victoria Railway Station on top of a pillar box and pointed to the sub post-post office on Todd Street.

The building is still there although the Post Office has gone.

So now all we have is the sign which comes from David Harrop’s big collection of all things post office of which more I shall say another time.

Location Manchester

Picture; Post Office sign circa 1980, from the collection of David Harrop

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The first statute to a woman in a century .............. a Manchester “woman of significance”

Now there is something really exciting about the plan to unveil a statute to Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester.

Cll Simcock & Helen Pankhurst, 2016
The original idea came from Councillor Andrew Simcock who last year launched a campaign to identify a Manchester “woman of significance” who would be remembered by a statute.

Andrew asked for suggestions and from the list Mancunians voted for Mrs Pankhurst.

And this week the project took another step forward with the invitation of 19 sculptors to a launch in the Town Hall which was also attended by Helen Pankhurst who is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst.

Between them the 19 have created statues and busts of an array of people including Sir Alf Ramsay, Prince Charles, LS Lowry, Moss Side peace campaigner Erinma Bell, Captain Mainwaring from Dad’s Army, and my own favourite commemorating Sheffield’s Women of Streel.*

Each sculptor will produce a design from which a short list of six will be chosen, and each design will be auctioned at a fundraising dinner next March.

And it is important to stress that the entire cost of the project will be met by voluntary subscriptions and fund raising activities.

As Andrew has said, “fundraising for the statue now begins in earnest as there will be no public money spent on this project. This is particularly important at a time of public austerity and homeless people on the streets.

I would be delighted to hear from any business or individual who would like to sponsor the short listing competition. **

And Andrew has already done his own cycle ride across the country to raise funds.

All of which is consistent with the way that the City has funded public statues over the last two centuries.

The "19" with aAdrew and Helen
What perhaps makes this one a little different is that it is of a woman of whom there are few in the city and more importantly is about the contribution women made to the City.

The original list offered up some fascinating women from Margaret Aston and Mrs Annot Robinson to of course Mrs Pankhurst.

And in the course of the debates about who to choose people explored the lives and contributions of each woman and reflected on their collective role in the history of the City.

Nor will it stop there because during the course of the fund raising there will be fresh opportunities to swop stories and mount all sorts of projects which will culminate with the unveiling of the finished statue in St
Peter’s Square on International Women’s Day 2019.

Picture; the nineteen sculptors, Helen Pankhurst and Cllr Andrew Simcock, in front of the Charlotte Newson portrait of Pankhurst in the Town Hall, 2016 courtesy of Andrew Simcock

* Women of Steel ........... the memorial and a chance encounter with Martin Jenkins,

**Cll Andrew Simcock,