Wednesday, 31 August 2016

A Victorian pillar box, the Portico Library and a story about the old Queen

I wonder how many letters Mr Ernest Marriot posted in this pillar box?

He was the secretary and librarian of “the Portico Library and Newsroom” which is in the building that includes our post box.

The Portico Library which still occupies the upper floor of the building dates back to 1806 and predates our pillar box by some decades.

The Library is an elegant place with an air of serious learning which makes it easy to slip back two and bit centuries to when it was opened offering its subscribers thousands of books as well as newspapers from across the country

If you do get that invitation or just take advantage of one of the special exhibitions you enter by a side door on Charlotte Street, ascend a few flights of stone stairs and the magic begins.

Alternatively there is always the pub which is now called The Bank, and before anyone expresses sadness at the change of use of part of the Library,  it is worth noting that the downstairs area which was the Reading Room was surrendered to a bank back in the 1920s and remained so until relatively recently.

All of which takes me back to the pillar box.

Peter and I were on the first of our research trips exploring the 79 pubs which will feature in the new book and having met Duncan who manages The Bank I asked Peter to turn the post box into a painting.

We debated whether to lose the stickers and scribble, but in the interests of historical accuracy I think we will keep them in.

At which point I am sure someone will mutter “we are not amused” given that this was one of the old Queen’s post boxes.

But that would be to repeat a much misunderstood quotation from Queen Victoria, who apparently used it in the context of a rather drunken oaf who was making unfunny and obscene jokes at the dinner table.

Now I have to confess I have never used the post box but rather think it is time to do so.  Peter tells me that he is minded to convert his painting into one of his picture postcards which I will then post to me from the box.

Daft maybe but fun.

Location; Manchester

Painting, postbox outside The Bank bar © 2016, Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,


So what was going on at All Saints in Weaste on July13 1912?

Now here is a mystery worthy of investigation.

We are at All Saints Church in Weaste on July 13 1912 and it would be fun to know exactly what was going in.

Of course the most obvious suggestion would a fete or perhaps even a celebration of the establishment of the church which “began as the mission church of St. Paul in the parish of St. Luke's was built in 1903, extended by Rev. Theodore Emmott, and consecrated as All Saints on 31 January 1910. 

An Order in Council, 19 July 1910 (London Gazette, 26 July) assigned part of St. Luke's parish to All Saints.

In 1949 the parishes were re-united as St. Luke with All Saints.”*

It was situated on the Eccles New Road with its vicarage at nu 542 close to Stott Lane.

Now some at least of the records of the church are in the Manchester Archives and Local Studies centre so

I may find a clue there to this event and a trawl of the papers might also turn something up.**

July 13 1912 was a Saturday and if I wanted to be really nerdy I guess I could find out the weather for the day.

But I shall close with that name on the bottom left hand corner which is a G Greenhalgh who may have been the photographer and who may also have been responsible for turning it into a picture postcard.

I found a George Fredrick Greenhalgh at 17 Derby Street but there is no listing of him as having a photographic studio.

Not that any of this detracts from what is a nice photograph of an unknown event in Salford in 1912 and leaves me to ponder on whether any of those staring out at us were related to the men who appear on the All Saints War Memorial now in St Lukes.***

Location; Salford

Picture; All Saints in Weaste on July13 1912, a picture postcard from the collection of David Harrop

*The National Archives,

** Manchester Archives and Local Studies

***Salford War Memorials,

The Four freedoms, Free Speech 2 Speaking

Gary Betney

A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

The Old Road in the 1890s

Now the Old Road has always been special to me. 

It ran from Hardy Lane down past the Brook into the village by the church and then off across Turn Moss to Stretford.

Over the years it has had many names and bits of it have been renamed from time to time.

Strictly speaking it was never known as the old road for there are equally old roads, lanes and track ways which ran out of the township.

But unlike the others it has retained much of its rural character.  True if you start at Hardy Lane you are presented with a modern road followed by the “stumps” which lead into the ville and the stretch past the school, round the church and along Ivygreen Road is pretty urban, but where it becomes Hawthorn Lane it still has the power to transport you back to the early 19th century.

Here it becomes a narrow twisty lane with the remains of hedges along its path, the 18th century weir clearly visible through the trees and finally the raised platform underneath the canal built to protect travellers from the farm wagons passing on their way to Stretford.

All of which makes this picture and those to follow over the next few weeks rather special.  They capture something of the charm and magic of the old road.  This one is from around 1890.  Despite the fashions of the couple staring at the camera which dates it to the late 19th century it could be any time over the last few hundred years.

The horse and cart add to the almost timelessness of the image, but hard by where the road ran into Stretford was a modern railway line, and just over a mile and a bit in the other direction was new Chorlton with its rows of recently built houses catering for the middling people who travelled into town from the newly opened Chorlton train station but still lacked the idea of living on the edge of the countryside.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 29 ............... the one with two names

Now I have never walked the entire length of West Mosley Street which starts at Princess Street, and ends at Marble Street.

If I did I would cross first Nicholas Street, then Charlotte Street and lastly York Street.

It was there by the 1790s but twenty years earlier the area was just open land.

It is one of the twisty little streets which originally began at Dickinson Street which ran along the north side of St Peter’s Church

Today both of church and most of Dickinson Street have now gone, although a short stretch of  the street does still exist from Portland Street into St Peter’s Square.

Sometime in the 20th century West Mosley Street acquired its present name, which before that was simply

Back Mosley Street.

Location; Manchester

Picture; West Mosley Street, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The Four freedoms, Free Speech 1 Speaking

Andrew Simcock & Gerald Kaufman MP

A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service. 

Originaly issued last year.

In 1941 President Roosevelt spoke of looking forward to a world founded on "four essential freedoms." 

"Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear."

Later Norman Rockwell turned them into four paintings of which my favourite is the first where a blue collar worker speaks at his local town council meeting. And it struck me as I looked around the hall that we were doing exactly the same thing.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Posting a letter at the Worsley Post Office ........ now that’s a zippy title

I am the first to admit that Posting a letter at the Worsley Post Office does not rank high as an imaginative title but there you are, sometimes you just have to say it as it is.

And today I am going to do one of those things I dislike when others post a picture with no supporting notes.

I don’t have a date, or the name of a photographer or anything else which would provide a context, other than that it was marketed by “Boots Cash Chemist” and was from their “Pelham Series.”

It’s not a lot but it does offer something to follow up.

I am not surprised that Boots were selling picture postcards, only that they were doing it so early.

The company was established in 1849, was sold to the American United Drug Company in 1920 and sold back into British hands in 1933.

Not that any of this helps with a date for our Post Office.

But someone will know.

Location; Worsley

Picture; Worsley Post Office, date unknown from the collection of David Harrop

Edwin Norman Harland, born in Sidcup and emigrated to Canada and the case of Dr Crippen

The young Edwin
Now, I always find it a privilege when friends take the time to write for the blog and so I was especially pleased when Jean added another chapter in the story of her family.

Unlike my uncle, Harold Morris the milkman, whose whole life was, spent living a stone's throw away from the house in Welling where he was born; his uncle was to live out his life
in Canada, thousands of miles away.*

Edwin Norman Harland (a younger brother of Maud, Harold's mother) was born in Sidcup in 1882.

His great-grandfather, William Harland, had been a brickmaker working in places such as Loampit Hill, Lewisham, and Whitewall Creek, near Rochester, where he was to die in 1832 as one of England's first victims of cholera- leaving a widow and several young children to be cared for by his eldest son, also a brickmaker.

Making bricks circa 1870
One of these children, aged eight at the time of his father's death, was Richard Harland.

He struggled to make good and in time became a Master Brickmaker, founding his Camden Brickworks on Whitehorse Hill, Chislehurst, in the 1860s.

Edwin was named after his uncle, Edwin Harland, whose own brickworks (Harland Brothers) were in Sidcup, where Harland Avenue is today and where young Edwin's father, George, had worked until his early death at the age of 35.

Young Edwin had undoubtedly inherited his dark, good looks from his grandmother: Eleanor Cooper, Mrs Page.

Unusually for a Harland, Edwin was destined not to become a brickmaker.

It is not known when he chose to follow this different path, but by 1901, when aged 17, he had become a Railway Booking Clerk in Mottingham, close to Eltham where his widowed mother, Annie Page, had opened a baker's shop in what today is known as Footscray Road.

At the same time, 1901, a young Devon girl -Maud Mary Westcott- was working as a general servant to the Read family at No. 73 West Chislehurst Park, Eltham.

By now, Edwin was using not his first name but his second: Norman.

“Norman” and Maud were to marry in January 1905.  He was 22 and she was 24.

They were to have two sons: Lloyd George (born in 1906) and Ronald Norman (born in 1907).

Maud and Edwin, 1905
It would seem that by 1910 they may well have been having dreams of a better life for their sons, perhaps in Canada, with a land grant that would enable Norman to become a farmer working his own land.

In July 1910, another couple had plans for a new life in Canada.

They were an American physician Hawley Crippen and his lover, Ethel La Neve, who fled England after the circumstances of Dr Crippen's wife's death in London, gave cause for questioning.

Hawley and Ethel embarked for Canada at Antwerp, sailing on the SS Montrose; but they were recognised on board and, by means of the Montrose's wireless apparatus, the police were alerted and the couple arrested upon arrival.

This was the first time that Marconi’s wireless technology had been utilised at sea in this way, the couple's arrest making history. The value of wireless for life-saving purposes became so great that soon British ships of large size and carrying passengers were being equipped with the apparatus; and it was the summoning of vessels to the sinking Titanic in 1912 that brought home to the world the importance of wireless communication.

By 1914 nearly a thousand British merchant ships were using wireless. It was in that year that the Montrose was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands. With the outbreak of war, she had been sold to the Admiralty for use as a blockship at Dover, but she broke loose from her moorings during a gale, drifted out to sea and was lost.

By 1911, a year after Dr Crippen and his lover had fled from Antwerp in the Montrose,  Norman and Maud, with their two young sons (Lloyd aged 5 and Ronald aged 3) had made up their minds to seek a new life in Canada.  Joining the Montrose at Liverpool, they arrived safely at New Brunswick on 27 March.

The ship's log records show that their destination was Winnipeg, and that Norman's intention was to be a farm labourer.   Ten years later, Norman and his family were living in the municipality of North Star, in the district of North Battleford, Saskatchewan.

In Canada
Now aged 39, Norman's occupation was given as Farmer.  His two sons, Lloyd and Ronald, were now aged 15 and 13.

What happened next is best left to Carol, Norman's great-granddaughter....

Story © Jean Gammons

Pictures; from the collection of Carol Spencer, Edwin's great granddaughter

* The Harland Family,

Monday, 29 August 2016

Always check your photo collections

Always regularly check your old collection of photographs is not a piece of advice I follow which is a shame, because had I dug them out more recently I would have come across this one of Barlow Moor Road.

I can’t remember when I took it but it is before the digital camera which puts it at around 12 years ago. And I have to admit the quality is rather lacking but it tells a story.

 The parade dates from about 1912 and in its time has been host to many businesses. Shortly after it was opened the first shop on the block was a sweet shop which by the late 1950s was selling electrical good and when I took my picture was Martins the Estate agent and since then has gone through many changes becoming more recently a computer repair shop.

 But for the best part of the 20th century the central section was Shaw’s Motor Garage. It was there when A.H. Downes recorded the scene in 1959 and was there soon after the parade was built. And sometime perhaps around 1912 Mr Shaw had opened the first kerb side petrol pump which in the way things were done was captured on camera.

The caption on the picture says 1912 but I am not so sure and I think a trawl of the directories might push the date a little later although having said that the car registration places the car at 1913.

But I am getting carried away. Charles Shaw was living on Wilbraham Road in a house now demolished next to the Royal Bank of Scotland and described himself in 1911 as a motor engineer which was logical step forward for a man who a decade earlier had been a cycle agent.

 There is more to the Shaw’s which I shall leave s for another time. They after all were one of those families to move from bikes to cars which in itself is the story of the 20th century. But it does take me back to my imperfect photo, for there briefly exposed above the tattoo shop was part of the old Shaw sign which takes prominent position in the old photograph. 

Ah I hear you mutter all this for an old sign but to me it is the very heart of history. Here boarded up for perhaps fifty years is a little bit of the past that takes us right back to the early 20th century and offers us some continuity for there is still a garage behind the present line of shops.

 Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the Lloyd collection

A photograph, and an election campaign in the summer of 1945

A photograph is not much without the story that goes behind it.

This one was supplied to me by my old friend Andrew Simcock who of course also supplied the story.

It is 1945 and we are in Stone in Staffordshire and the event is one of those unrehearsed shots during the General Election of that year.

The war in Europe had ended in May and the wartime Government announced a General Election for July 5th.

It was the first in ten years and given the popularity of Winston Churchill many assumed the Conservative Party he led would be victorious.

But while the war time leader was popular there was a mood for change and one that the Conservatives were not seen to be able to deliver. For many they were associated with the grim years of the 1930s dominated by mass unemployment, the Means Test and appeasement.

Some with longer memories reflected on the failure of the 1918 Conservative dominated government of Lloyd George* and succeeding Tory governments to make Britain a land fit for heroes after the Great War.

This was in direct contrast to the policies of the Labour Party who were committed to social reform, ranging from a national health service, a new housing policy and an expansion of state funding for education.

Their slogan And Now Win the Peace offered a bright new future which reflected the aspirations of those who had fought in the Peoples’ War.

And so to the campaign and our picture.

At the centre is Andrew’s grandfather “William Simcock who was a Labour Councillor in Stoke on Trent in the twenties and stood for parliament three times in the rock solid Tory seat of Stone, Staffordshire.

In 1931, in Labour's darkest hour, he came bottom of the poll behind the Conservative Sir J Lamb and the Liberal candidate with just 5,993 votes. The Tory secured 20,327.

In 1935 Sir J Lamb again won with 20,498 votes but my grandfather's vote moved up to 13,099 - a majority of 7,399.

In 1945 Hugh Fraser won the seat with 20,279 votes to my grandfather's 18,173 - a majority of 2,106.

"The photo shows my grandfather on his bike, cigarette in hand, and my father, newly demobbed from the army and a team of canvassers.

My father told me how many of the Labour meetings took place in the open air. 

On one occasion he thought the turn out at the meeting was low until he looked behind a wall and saw a line of farm labourers listening to the speeches but not wanting to be seen - the power of the landed aristocracy in the area might have led to repercussions had they been spotted.”**

Like all good photographs it is the detail that also makes this such a fascinating image.

In an age of sound bites, high profile advertising and the all important need to “keep on message” there is something refreshing about seeing the candidate on a bike, and a campaign still reliant on people knocking on doors and making direct contact with the electorate.

It is something we used to do here as well as in Stone.  As later as the 1960s election meetings were held on Chorlton green as well as in the Public hall on Wilbraham Road and in school halls.

And all of those elections depended on an army of local party workers.  Some dleivered the leaflets while others called on houses to find out how people were going to vote, and then on the day going back the promises  to ask if they had voted yet or might need a lift to the polling stations.

All of which is something that Andrew himself has done.  He has lived in south Manchester for 26 years, participated in his local community and twice been elected as  a local councillor and is now is seeking the Labour Party nomination as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Manchester Withington.

Picture; campaigning during the 1945 General Election, from the collection of Andrew Simcock & Labour Party Campaign poster 1945

*This was a coalition of 332 “Coalition Conservatives” and 127 “Coalition Liberals” with Lloyd George who had been Prime Minister since 1916.  It won the 1918 General Election but against a backdrop of an economic downturn serious industrial unrest and scandals to do with the sale of honours, the Conservatives ditched the coalition which resulted in a general election.

**All of which has echoes of that 1835 General Election when voter intimidation here in Chorlton and across the Parliamentary seat of South Lancashire organised by Tory grandees led to a Tory victory.

A 1930s cinema and a church from Woolwich, more walks in Well Hall

From Kidbrook Lane to the Well Hall roundabout
Continuing a walk through Eltham in the footsteps of Darrell Sprurgeon.  

This is part two of the guided walk in Well Hall taken from Discover Eltham by Mr Spurgeon.

We left the walk at the Tudor Barn and today have wandered up to the Well Hall roundabout.

In the thirteen years the Guide book was republished the changes at this end of Well Hall have continued a pace, and so the description of the cinema is as much a piece of history as the story of Well Hall House.

The Well Hall Odeon

The Former Coronet Cinema, 70

The former Odeon cinema of 1936 designed by Andrew Mather has some interesting art deco features – note- the projecting glass staircase tower and the central canopy over the entrance.  

The interior of the foyer is also circular, with a wooden ticket booth and the word Odeon in green and red mosaic set in the floor.  

Unfortunately, the cinema has closed and it may be difficult to find a future use for the building.

Church of St Barnabus, 71, Rochester Way.  A Victorian Gothic church in red brick, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. It was originally built in 1859 as the chapel of the Royal Naval Dockyard at Woolwich; it was dismantled and re-erected, brick by brick, on this site in 1933.  

The exterior is rather stark, with a bold apse, quirky turret and many lancet windows, along the side are four gables, each covering twin lancets.

The Well Hall Odeon
The interior was transformed by Thomas Ford in 1957 after war damage.  

It is light and spacious with a wagon roof and large flowering mural by Hans  Feibusch on the apse ceiling; but is very strange (‘sickly wedding cake’ Pevsner) with 16 angels perched on the beams above the column in the square arcades.  

Note the anthemium motifs in the arcades.  The Stations of the Cross are of some interest, by Stan Boundy circa 1994.  

The vicarage next door is a striking red brick house with a graceful ground floor bow.  Adjacent ids the church hall, of 1938, renamed the Frankie Howerd Community Centre in 1988.

Next, the Progress Estate.

Pictures; courtesy of Eltham,

* Discover Eltham and its Environ, Darrell Spurgeon, Greenwich Guide Books, 2nd edition 2000

The excursion on Liverpool Road that became an adventure

Now there is a very big difference between an adventure and an excursion.

An adventure is something which is pretty much unplanned, where almost anything can happen and usually does.

Lower Campfield Market, 2016
An excursion as my mum would say has to have a starting time, and end time; there must be a variety of sandwiches which have to include egg, ham and cheese to cater for everyone’s preferences and enough lemonade to plug the energy gaps.

Of course in an emergency Tizer will do but never Lucosade, that is what you have when you are ill and any way costs a shed load more money.

All of which meant that Peter and I were embarked on an excursion last Wednesday when we went in search of some Manchester Pubs.

For reasons unclear to me we didn’t have the sandwiches or the lemonade, but Peter had his camera and a tripod, his book of paintings of every one of the 79 pubs we plan to include in the book and I had my notepad.*

The Campfield, 1849
Not that I intend talking about the pubs, for that dear reader you will have to wait for the book due out around Christmas.

Instead it is the buildings we countered on our journey and the ones we didn’t.

Peter was keen to include this one of the Lower Campfield Market partly because it is now the bit of the Museum where all the aeroplanes are displayed, and because I told him that back in 1851 this had been a spot of open land beyond which was the church of St Matthews which occupied the spot between Liverpool Road and Tonman Street.

The church has gone now but on our walk up Liverpool Road I doubt we would have lingered long admiring the scene given that one report in 1853 drew attention to the unsanitary nature of Tonman Street.

In the absence of proper sanitation some at least of the residents had taken to dumping their excrement by the northern wall of the church on the Tonman side.  So extensive was the problem that the church authorities had been forced to erect planks above the wall fastened to the rails to prevent slippage.

And that I suppose was the moment that the excursion became an adventure and we went off to explore Tonman Street.

But the details of that adventure and more importantly what you might have also encountered back in 1849 I will leave to an earlier story.**

Painting, The Science & Industry Museum Manchester. Painting © 2016, Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,


Picture; detail of Campfield, in 1849, from the Manchester & Salford OS 1842049, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*A new book on Manchester Pubs,

**Walks I wish I could have taken, ...... up Liverpool Road towards Deansgate in the spring of 1849,

From cave to castle and on to a high rise ............ the story of houses and how we used them

I never think you can get enough of the history books written by R.J. Unstead in the 1950s.*

This one comes from Black’s Junior Reference Books** and was published in 1958.

It was not one that I was given as a child but I rather wish I had because in just 80 pages it offers a clear and comprehensive description of houses from earlier times up to the mid 1950s.

It is paced full of interesting information on the style and construction of houses, along with the possessions that could be found in them and much about how people used their homes.

And above all it is the excellent collection of line drawings of everything from castles and cottages to windows, furniture and how the house moved from being a communal place to a more private residence of just one family.

It is also a book I often go back to as a starting point for ideas, and pictures of the everyday domestic objects from a 19th century kitchen range and copper to a Tudor  four poster bed and Roman Hypocaust.

It isn’t that I couldn’t find these elsewhere but there is a pleasure in leafing through the pages and coming across some old favourites.

Not that this is just a sad slide into nostalgia, instead it is a celebration of when history books for young people were informative, fun to read and just jolly good books to have around.

I suspect also they were embraced by teachers and librarians in those post war decades when education and schools were themselves undergoing profound changes.

So once again it’s a thank you to Mr Unstead and I rather think I will go looking for a few more.

Pictures; from A History of Houses, R.J.Unstead, 1958



Sunday, 28 August 2016

Back in St Peter’s Square ................ Library Walk

Now I recently featured Library Walk in that series on lost and forgotten streets of Manchester and as I was passing through St Peter’s Square on Friday, I just had to snap the entrance.

The decision to close the walk at night proved controversial and I have yet to make up my mind.

Location, Manchester

Picture; in St Peter’s Square, Friday August 26, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 28 ............... two for one

Now I am coming to the end of the series, but I couldn’t close without offering up some of Richard’s pictures of more of the back streets of the city.

Like me he has been attracted to these often narrow places which long ago lost their residents and are pretty much now dominated by the backs of buildings and used as a short cut.

So here are the first two of a few.

No need for words I will just let Richard’s pictures, do the business adding his commentary.

The first “is this is beautiful almost untouched business front on Richmond Street behind Canal Street" and the second “Little Ancoats Street which is rather lovely in its own way too. 

Just near the old post office on Newton Street. Tiny little streets, very evocative of old city spacing.”

Which just leaves me to ponder on the bricked up cellar window in the second picture and what stories it might hold.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; from the collection of Richard Hector-Jones, 2016

When Salford went to Shrewbury

Now I am intrigued by this postcard sent by Ellen to Miss Mullins who was living at Hook – a- Gate near Shrewsbury.

Now I can’t be sure where Ellen was in October 1907 but it wasn’t Salford because the post mark is also Shrewsbury.

Which begs the question of why she should send a post card of the Royal Technical Institute from one address in Shrewsbury to another, and the answer is in the message.

She hoped that her friend “would like this for your album", told her that J was coming home and asked when Miss Mullins “was coming to see us again.”

Now there is no reason why a postcard of Salford should be in sale in Shrewsbury but that said I rather like the idea.

Location; Salford

Picture; Royal Technical Institute, circa 1907 from the collection of David Harrop

Sailing with the Phoenicians to the Tin Islands and more ......... A Picture History of Great Discoveries 1954

I am back with another of those history books written for children in the 1950s.

Many of the ones I was given at the time have survived and sit on our book shelves along with others that I have bought over the years.*

What makes A Picture History of Great Discoveries different is that while it was originally published in 1954 it has been reissued along with A Picture History of Britain.**

They were part of a series which also included the history of France and Italy and were striking in their use of colour and dramatic images.

That said I never quite took to these books in the way that I did to those of R.J. Unstead whose pictures were simpler and more realistic.

But the images in both books are of their time and reflect a style of painting which will be all too familiar to anyone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s.

And Great Discoveries is also a book of its time when it was still fashionable to write about voyages of exploration and the discovery of the “New World” with that Eurocentric notion that these were places which having been lost were now rediscovered.

I doubt that the peoples of the Americas, or Africa and the Far East ever quite saw it that way.

Still A Picture History of Great Discoveries remains a fascinating glimpse into how children’s history was written over sixty years ago and by extension how our view of the world and its history was shaped.

Picture; cover of A Picture History of Great Discoveries

*Books Children,

** A Picture History of Britain,

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Waiting for a tram going through St Peter’s Square

Well that interruption to the tram services through St Peter’s Square seems to have lasted for ages.

But soon .......... in just a few days the trams will rumble past Central Ref again which for anyone who has had to terminate their journey at Deansgate Castlefield will be good news.

I was in the city yesterday and just had to take the picture on a spot which was free of metro traffic.

The Cross is back in place and the line will be open for business from Sunday.

Location; Manchester

Picture; looking towards St Peter’s Square, August 26, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Almost a century of cutting hair on Wilbraham Road with the Stevenson family

Now there will be plenty of people with fond memories of Stevenson’s the hairdressers.

It did the business of cutting, shampooing and much more from 432 Wilbraham Road from 1908 until almost the end of that century.

I remember it well as does Bob Jones who shared with me some of his wife’s photographs of when she worked there in the 1960s.*

And just last week leafing through an old souvenir book I came across this 1908 advert for the shop.

Nothing quite prepares you for how different shop fronts were more than a century ago.

It starts with that large ornate lamp at the entrance which carried Mr Stevenson’s name and I guess would have been lit by gas.

And from there your eye is drawn to the shop window which conforms to that simple marketing approach of fill every bit of space with something to sell which included everything from shampoo, to umbrellas and even wigs.

Now I have no idea just how much call there was for wigs back in 1908 but Mr Stevenson described himself as not only a “hairdresser” but also “a wig maker and fancy dealer.”

I have to confess that the term “fancy dealer” had me stumped but it describes someone who sold imitation jewellery and ornaments which in the context of the shop made perfect sense.

After all having had your hair done for that night out it made sense to buy something special to go with it, and no doubt Miss Emma Stevenson who assisted in “the sales department” could be relied on to offer up expert advice.

At 27 she was 15 years younger than her brother and may well joined the business when Mr Stevenson made the move from his shop on Barlow Moor Road which I think he opened in 1899.

Back then he employed two male hairdressers and seems to have made the move to Wilbraham Road sometime between 1903 and 1908.

Now in 1903 the row of shops from Albany down to Keppel Road had yet to be added on to the front of what had been a fine set of terraced of houses.

Such I suspect was the demand for more retail properties with the growing population that the owners of the terrace recognised the commercial advantages of the conversion.

And that has seemed to have been a sound decision.  For decades it was a prime place to do business, just yards from the railway station and almost directly opposite the post office.

So much so that the Stevenson family along with Burt’s the “gentleman’s outfitters” saw no reason to move and continued offering perms and ties to generations of Chorlton people.

At some point Mr and Mrs Stevenson moved out of the flat above the shop and settled on St Werburgh’s Road where Mr Stevenson died in 1936.

But as they say that’s another story.

Location; Chorlton, Manchester

Picture; advert forJ.R.Stevenson’s, 1908 from the Souvenir of the Grand Wesleyan Church Bazaar, 1908, courtesy of Philip Lloyd and three young stylists at Stevenson’s circa 1965, from the collection of Bob Jones.

*Stevenson's the hairdressers, cutting and styling from 1909 on Wilbraham Road,

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 27 ............ Royal Exchange arcade

Now I doubt that anyone using the arcade as a short cut from St Ann’s Square would agree that its either lost of forgotten, nor for that matter the shop keepers.

But for any one of my generation the arcade was always one of those ways you got to the underground shopping precinct which offered up a fascinating range of out lets, from a coffee emporium to the small but magic shop selling old model railway locomotives, and carriages.

And of course before that it was Boots the Chemist which you entered at street level and descended to the floors below.

I can’t remember when Boots gave way to the shopping precinct or for that matter when the precinct closed, although I know it in the case of the precinct it seemed a death by a thousand closures with businesses shutting down and nothing replacing them.

Since then I get a feeling that something is about to happen but never does.

So it's less a forgotten street and more a lost precinct.

Location; St Ann’s Square

Picture; Royal Exchange arcade, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The young bride from 73 West Chislehurst Park, Eltham, living a new life with her family in the Canada of the 1900s

Now I am in reflective mood and have returned to stories of those who left Britain to start new lives in Canada and even further afield in Australia and New Zealand.

Maud and Edwin and the boys 1909
So here is the first of three from Carol Spencer some of whose family left south east England for the wide expanses of Canada just before the Great War.*

"Edwin Norman Harland along with his wife, Maude Mary Harland and two sons Lloyd and Ron set sail for Canada on the Montrose out of Liverpool, England.  They were heading for a better life in which free land was promised.

At that time to encourage settlers 160 acres of land was offered with a few conditions. First you must pay $10. Next a home must be built in the first year and 10 acres ploughed. Lastly you must live on the land for at least 6 months of the year for three years.

It really sounded so simple and easy to become a landowner!

Who could resist when owning land in Britain was almost an impossibility!

The family landed in St. John, New Brunswick in late March of 1912.  It was still winter in Canada.

They went to a restaurant for a meal and were really looking forward to it after the long voyage on the boat.

The restaurant served the best tea Maude had ever tasted and she asked the waitress what it was.

In Canada in 1912
Orange Pekoe became her tea of choice ever after.

The waitress was very friendly and struck up a conversation with them asking about their plans.  They were planning on heading west to Manitoba in hopes of finding work and possibly learning a little about Canadian life.

She gave them some excellent advice. The little boys, ages 3 and 5, were dressed in their best short pants and socks made of cotton.  She advised them to purchase long woollen underwear and heavier outer clothing otherwise they would freeze on their way west.  Clothing was upgraded and they were very grateful for the advice.

The train was boarded along with their settler’s effects which were few.  Maude did bring a few treasures with her.

A large brass bed warmer, which her great grandchildren always thought was a banjo minus the strings, a cut glass dish which was a wedding gift and her grandmothers  silver-plated bean pot.

They travelled by train for 3 days to Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Once in Manitoba work was readily available on farms.  Edwin got work as a farmhand and Maude became the housekeeper and cook for two bachelor farmers.  Edwin got on well as there was someone there to instruct him.

Maude was on her own and had to learn to cook many things in a new way.  Things were not the same as in Britain.  Two items in particular caused many trials.  Yeast for bread was dry not the same as home.  It needed to be soaked to make yeast sponge before mixing into the flour.

This was unknown to Maude and several batches of bread were mixed and buried when they would not rise!! Only to later rise out of the ground when the sun warmed them sufficiently!!

Being a very proud, independent woman, she had difficult time asking for help.  Pies were another experience.  They were made from dried fruit and unless soaked beforehand, would not work.

After dismal failure of turning out hard shells with fruit rattling around inside Maude waited for an opportunity to watch and learn.  She had acquired a hired girl and told the girl she should go ahead and make the pies and Maude would prepare the vegetables.

Maude kept a sharp eye on the girl and discovered her mistake while saving her pride."

© Carol Spencer, 2013

Pictures; courtesy of Carol Spencer

*The Harland Family,

Rediscovering a bit of police history half a century ago

Now here is another of those books whose contents has passed into history.

The Eagle Book of Police and Detection, was published in 1960.

At the time I can remember thinking how modern most of what I was reading was but now with the passage of over half a century much of it looks as dated as those rattles carried by Peelers in the 1830s.

All of which offered up a fascinating hour or so of reading from the CID, and fight against crime on the Thames, to new the new technologies and methods of detection which were at the cutting edge of police work in the late 1950s.

Of course I am well aware that this book which was one of the Eagle collection will not be available to many people.

I long ago lost my copy and had to buy this one from Brian the Book on Beech Road in the 1980s and I doubt that many copies still exist.

So for those who will never come across a copy I shall just leave you with this image.

The caption reads “Old and new together in the City of London; a mounted officer of the exacting City Force with a walkie talkie apparatus.  City Force are distinguished by the brass on their helmets and the red stripes on their arm bands.”

For me the term walkie talkie is as familiar as the trolley bus and the telegram but for many they will be as remote as the horse drawn omnibus and the films of Tom Mix.

But then until last month I still had a clockwork mobile from the last century and a preference for the music of Glen Millar, all of which made my 1960 book on the Police a familiar friend.

Pictures; from Eagle Book of Police & Detection, 1960

*Eagle Book of Police & Detection, Richard Harrison, 1960

Friday, 26 August 2016

The Story of Royal Eltham and a thank you to Roy Ayers

Pound Place in 1909
Now this is a view of the Eltham which has passed out of living memory.

It is of Pound Place looking north and dates from about 1909 and comes from a wonderful treasure of a book written in that year by R.R.C. Gregory.

I suspect few people now read The Story of Royal Eltham which is a great shame.

For here is a detailed history of the area before and after it slowly was transformed from rural community to suburb.  And what of course makes it even more fascinating is that since it was written at the beginning of the last century Eltham has continued to change, making it a fascinating record of the area at a time before now.

So you can read it as a straight history book or use it to recreate the Eltham of 1909.

Now it has long been out of print but is a firm favourite of those who have a copy and through the hard work of Roy Ayers can be read online at

Roy has carefully digitalised the text and the images as well as producing a biography of R.R.C. Gregory who was an outstanding man. 

I came to the biography last which in some ways is a pity because his life story helps explain how the book came about.

Mr Gregory was a teacher and later the headmaster at Eltham National School from 1901-1920 and the book began as a series of lessons for his students.

Having spent my career in inner city schools teaching history I was drawn to his passionate commitment to education and to the children he taught. 

Mr Roper and staff circa 1920
He had found the Admission Register for the school in 1814 which formed the inspiration of his teaching of local history, which drew praise from the Inspectors.

"The Headmaster directs the work with sympathy and he has striven to maintain the more helpful characteristics of a village school, more especially in regard to the old customs and associations. 

The school is in touch with the homes of the children and a helpful interest has been taken in their after careers. 

There is a very good tone in the school. 

A wise and kindly administration has secured the co-operation of the staff and the regard of the children."(1914).*

Now I could go on, but I have always maintained that if someone has done the research, put in the time and written the story then it is their words which should be read.

Original image from the book
So I will direct you to Roy’s site and while I will with his permission feature bits from it in the future I think it is the Story of Royal Eltham that you should go to.  It is essential reading for any one who like me has not got the book or wants to know more about its author.

Pictures; from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,
*quoted by Roy from The story of Royal Eltham,

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 26 ........... Little Nelson Street and a few secrets

Now the interested student of history and the visiting tourist will at some point fall on Little Nelson Street.

Little Nelson Street, 2016
It’s just yards from Angel Meadow and of course is dominated by the Charter Street Ragged School both of which have been explored extensively and by much better people than me.*

And any way as this is the story of those streets which have been forgotten or lost I will stick with Little Nelson Street, starting with Antony’s picture which captures perfectly the length and width of the street.

The open ground opposite the school was once home to six properties stretching from what was then Charter Street to Ashley Lane and also included the even narrower Holden Street and further eighteen houses some of which were back to back and most consisted of just two rooms.

Little Nelson Street, 1851
Added to this Holden Street also gave access to four enclosed courts.  Sadly so far none of the residents of any of these small streets have come to light.  They were unworthy of inclusion in the street directories and the census records for 1851 were so damaged that there is little to see.

Which is all the more galling given that underneath our building which was constructed in the 1860s was Bone Street with its six back to back homes.  It survived into the late 19th century but was lost when the Ragged school was extended in 1900.

Little Nelson Street, 1964
Its entrance will have been roughly where the two blue painted doors are positioned.  Judging by the maps it will have been even narrower than Little Nelson Street and I doubt that much air or light penetrated to lift the gloom.

Its neighbour Holden Street also fared no better.  First it lost its name becoming just an extension of Bone Street sometime after 1893 and disappearing completely along with all the properties running back from the south side of Little Nelson Street down to Mincing Street in the mid 20th century.

I can’t be sure when that happened by 1958 the spot was cleared and already a car park.

Houlden Street/Bone Street, on the right, 1964
We might still be lucky and come across some records of the area.

Only yesterday I was looking at the rate book entries for Charter Street in the 1850s as well as the census returns for the same streets comparing them with the returns for 1911.

All of which means that the secrets of Little Nelson Street, Bone Street and Holden Street will soone be revealed.

Location; Angel Meadow

Pictures; Little Nelson Street, 2016, from the collection of Antony Mills, and in 1964, Kay, 01391, 01389, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and Little Nelson Street in 1885 from Adshead’s map of Manchester, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,