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,


Monday, 29 August 2016

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,

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

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

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

Who remembers the Gorton Brook Hotel which became the Gorton Arms and has now gone?

Now you know you are of a certain age when more and more old and familiar pubs have shut up shop and in some cases are just holes in the ground.

What’s more there seem to be more of them with each year that passes.

That said I never visited the Gorton Arms which stood at the end of Clowes Street and didn’t even clock its demolition.

I am not sure when it changed its name from the Gorton Brook Hotel, but as the Gorton Brook it was there by 1894 and just a few decades later it was the home of the landlord Mr Henry W Woods.

In 1911 Mr and Mrs Woods shared the nine roomed pub with their two sons and two staff.  Both Henry Wood and his wife Emily came from London, and had moved around the country.  Their eldest son had been born in Northamptonshire and their youngest in Longsight.

Alice Hibbert who worked as a barmaid was from Clapham and their general servant Bertha Lowe was from West Gorton.

So, quite a mix of accents and backgrounds and no doubt each had stories to tell over the bar to those who wandered in for a pint and a chat.

As I said I never went in but must have passed the place during the time we lived on Butterworth Street which was off Grey Mare Lane.

I did go back recently which as they say is always a mistake.  Our block of flats had long gone, as had the SGB Scaffolding yard on Pottery Lane where I worked for six months along with the big engineering works opposite.

Moreover Pottery Lane itself seemed wider and busier than it was although it did seem a bit greener than it was in 1973.

So with all those changes I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the passing of the Gorton Arms.

And that just leaves me to point the interested to Pubs of Manchester which offers up a bit of its history along with some photographs to compliment Peter’s painting.*

Well almost the end because a few hours after the post was published Ron commented that, "it became the Gorton arms on the 1st March 1985 I know because I met my now wife there on the opening day I was a manager for the brewery and Julie was part of the bar staff there."

Location, Gorton

Painting; the Gorton Arms, © 2011 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,

Picture; the Gorton Book, 1971, m49676,courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Pubs of Manchester,

Looking back on a century ............ Alive, Alive Oh! and Other Things That Matter...... one to read

Now here is a book I have enjoyed  reading and have startted all over again.  

It is Alive, Alive Oh! and Other Things That Matter by Diana Athill .*

It covers the years after the Second World War when Ms Athill was in her late 20s and challenges that widely held view that the late 1940s and early 50s were drab.

On the contrary they were an exciting period full of new possibilities but above all a time of peace after six years of a hard war.

And so reflecting on the twin celebrations of VE and VJ Day she writes that these were not just celebrations of victory but more of peace and the chance to get on with lives interrupted by the conflict.

My own parents rarely talked of the war but for them and for others of their generation however necessary they thought the war might have been it put their lives on hold.

Sylvia in Ashton under Lyne once confided that that six years had robbed her of her adolescence.

But the essay is about far more than just the war and ranges over the exciting new ideas in fashion, home design and leisure, culminating with one of the early package tours to Corfu with Club Mediterranean, taking in the brilliant sunlight, the scenery and the smells of fresh herbs and lemons.

All this would be a fascinating enough but she also focuses on the changing political climate which ushered in not only the National Health Service but saw Britain divest itself of many of its former colonies and attempt to redress the inequalities of the past.

These then were “lovely years to live through.”*

And that just leaves me with the dilemma........ do I put it on the Christmas wish list or go out and get it from the local bookshop today?

I could of course wait and listen to the remaining four programmes.

We shall see.

Picture; cover of Alive, Alive Oh! and Other Things That Matter, and VE Day celebrators in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 1945 from the Lloyd Collection

* Alive, Alive Oh! and Other Things That Matter, Diana Athill, Granta £12.99

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Schools of High Lane ......... another from Tony Goulding

For over 140 years some of the young people of Chorlton-cum-Hardy (and beyond) have been educated at a wide variety of educational establishments along the length of High Lane. 
The New Art School

When walking, along High Lane, from the Edge Lane end towards Barlow Moor Road; the first such building observable was in what is now the Buddhist centre and “World Peace Café”, which also used to be the headquarters of a Road Transport Union.

It was in this building that the accomplished Manchester artist Thomas E. Mostyn (1) opened an art school in 1896.   (The glass roof of the studio is still clearly visible evidence of the building’s former use) This institution only had a fairly brief life before being taken over in  August, 1904 by Manchester Education Committee; immediately following the incorporation of Chorlton-cum-Hardy into the City of Manchester.

For 5 years it served as the area’s mixed municipal school, with places for 220 pupils. It closed in April, 1909, being replaced by the newly opened, purpose-built, Oswald Road School.

Chorlton Grammar School
Walking further down High Lane the next “educational establishment” reached was housed in Denbigh Villas at nos. 57&59. This was the site of Chorlton Grammar School which was operated by Charles Carey Dadley M.A. (2) from, 1896.

Initially only using no.59 as the school whilst living nearby at 2, Napier Road, he later expanded into no.57 which also became his residence. This school remained in use until 1930 with the retirement of Mr Dadley, and then aged 62. This may have been prompted by competition for pupils following the opening of the Education Committee’s Chorlton High School on Sandy Lane in, 1924. (This latter became a Grammar School in, 1952.)

Manchester Islamic High School for Girls
Neighbouring Mr. Dadley’s school was the convent school at 55, High Lane which was opened around the middle of the first decade of the 20th century and housed a congregation of Roman Catholic nuns belonging to the order of “The Sisters of the Christian Retreat”.

Besides operating a convent high school for girls these nuns also provided a head mistress and a number of teachers for the parish primary school a little way along High Lane.

After almost a century the nuns left in August, 1991; the building then taking on its present use as The Manchester Islamic High School for Girls.
Chorlton High School:

St Augustine's'St John's R.C School
The penultimate location on this walk through the history of education on this road is a building which merits inclusion on two fronts.

The buildings on the corner of Chequers (formerly Church) Road and High Lane functioned as a school of some sort for close on 100 years. Originally, from 1872 it housed Chorlton-cum-Hardy Commercial School renamed Chorlton High School two years later.

It was founded by Mr. Robert Davies (3) who appears to have made a success of being a school proprietor, as when he sold the building to the Roman Catholic diocese of Salford in 1897, he was able to retire comfortably to Southport.

From this date, for over 70 years this was the location of the parish primary school first known as St. Augustine’s.

High Lane Primitive Methodist Church briefly an annexe to St John's School
The final stop of this historical journey may well prove to be a surprise to many.

Further down High Lane still is this building now a centre for Buddhist Meditation which some will recall as the hall of the High Lane Primitive Methodist’s Church (Macpherson’s Memorial).

However for a very short interval, between the closure of the Methodist Church and the opening of St. John’s new school buildings on Chepstow Road, this building functioned as an annexe  of that school - in the words of a Max Boyce  song “I know ‘cos’ I was there”

1)Thomas Edwin Mostyn (1864-1930) was born in Liverpool but raised in Salford, and Harpurhey, Manchester.  He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and later studied Fine Art at a college in Manchester. His parents were Edwin and Elizabeth (née Jones). Thomas’s father was a lithographic artist and for a time Thomas worked in partnership with him at a premises on Granby Row. Mr T. E. Mostyn, a one-time president of the Manchester Academy, had a successful career as a painter with over 80 works still available in print. He left the Manchester area after 1904, and in the 1911 census he is settled in St. Marylebone, London. The record of Thomas’s death, on 22nd August, 1930 and other sources show that the family later moved to the Totnes / Torquay area of South Devon.
Whilst he was living in Chorlton-cum Hardy, Thomas and his wife, Florence (née Shaw) had their youngest child, Edna May, christened at St. Clements’s on 29th May, 1895. Also, in 1911 the census reveals that his father, brother, and half-sisters were residing in Chorlton-cum-Hardy; at 234, Oswald Road. Interestingly it indicates too, that following his first wife’s death in 1885 his father had re- married in 1888 the mother of Thomas Edwin’s new bride.

Playground of St John's
2) Claude Carey Dadley was born in Nottingham in 1868, where his father, Elijah, was a “chemist and druggist”. In 1898 Claude married in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire Elizabeth Greaves, a schoolmistress 12 years his senior. The couple had no offspring and following Elizabeth’s death in January, 1922 Claude re-married Lily Marguerite Sestier in Manchester Cathedral during September quarter of 1924. This lady’s death in May, 1930 perhaps further influenced Mr. Dadley’s decision to close his school.
Charles Dadley together with both his wives is buried in Southern Cemetery (Grave 0 377). Unfortunately although still discernible the memorial stone is in a somewhat dilapidated state.

3) Robert Davies was born in, 1843. His father, John, a tin-plate worker had married his mother, Amelia (née Fitzpatrick) at St. Mary’s Church, Parsonage Green, Manchester on 24th October, 1841. The family home in 1861 was in Copton Street, Hulme. Robert married Emily Sturges (of Harlaston, Staffordshire) at St. John’s, Manchester in the September quarter of 1868.Three successive census records show only one child of Robert and Emily, a son Samuel born in 1870.
Mr. Davies’s prosperity in his    retirement is indicated on the 1901 census return on which his widow (Robert died in June quarter of 1899) and journalist son, Samuel are able to employ three servants at their house; 5, Alexandra Road, Southport.

© Tony Goulding, 2016

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; courtesy of Tony Goulding

So just how does an archive near Manchester help explore the story of a British Home Child in Canada?

Now as many will know I have long been interested in the work of the Together Trust which as the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refugees has worked tirelessly on behalf of young people for nearly 150 years.

Archives at the Together Trust
I first came across the charity when I was starting to research British Home Children.

They began in 1870 here in Manchester providing shelter for destitute children from the twin cities, expanded into the provision of permanent homes which offered accommodation and training in an occupation, and briefly migrated young people to Canada.

Alongside these activities they were active in protecting the welfare of children both through the courts and through legislation.

Much of what I know about what they did has come from their archivist who maintains the Trust’s extensive archive and runs their excellent blog.*

Today’s article explores the relationship between archives and their place in a world dominated by the global nature of research.  Never before has it been so easy for a researcher in Canada to trawl the official records of this country, whether it is a census return, a street directory or a shed load of online maps.

But along side these huge advantages have come issues of confidentiality, and the practical pitfalls of interpreting what is on the page and relating it to the bigger picture.

All of which means there remains a job for an archivist, not only to act as custodian of the records but to assist in their transmission and explanation to the amateur historian .

So next week in London the annual conference Archives and Records Association (ARA) will assemble to explore many of the global issues of maintaining an archive.

And that is directly of importance to all of us struggling to discover the story of our own British Home Child.

Sadly I am not qualified to attend but I bet it will be both fun and instructive, which just leaves me to wait for a report back from our own archivist and suggest you follow the link to the blog.

Picture; resources at the Together Trust, courtesy of the Together Trust,

*Getting down and dusty, the Together Trust,

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 62 ............ a quiet place

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Events in a story ...........1996
I have often wondered how Joe and Mary Ann lived in the house during their half century here.

It is after all a big place and there must have been times when some rooms just never got used, and when their conversation echoed through those empty spaces.

I say that because I am reflecting on the passage of time with our own kids.

Three have left to set up their own homes and while our Ben is just down the road, Josh is in Sheffield and Saul in Warsaw which just leaves Luca who really just has a reservation on his bed which he uses once or twice a week.

Now that is perfectly normal and is after all exactly what I and most of my friends did.

We left home arrived in a new city with a shedful of bravado and optimism, vaguely committed to a degree and study but really just relishing being away from home.

.......... 1974
I never gave much thought to how my parents thought about the move or the empty bedroom I left behind.

And that again is just as it should be.
All of ours are making their own lives but come back for Christmas, which still involves the Christmas Day kick about on the Rec and regularly stop over for the odd weekend.

But they have left and the house is a quieter place.

Long ago I swore I would never wander the rooms looking for a piece of dirty and discarded clothing to wash as a way of justifying my existence and that has pretty much worked.

In the space which was about caring for them I spend researching, and  writing.

............. 1956
And things go on as they have done for the forty years I have lived here.

Each room is full of memories, from the birth of our Saul in the big bedroom to the time the dining room was the play room and back beyond that when I shared the house with Mike John and Lois.

There was the time when there was no heating in the house save a gas fire, and the arguments revolved around whose turn it would be to face the cold and make the coffee.

And somewhere in the dining room there are still the holes John drilled in the floorboards when he was bending timbers of wood for the boat he built in the back garden along with the model paint that the kids spilt while making their War Hammer models.

And of course there are the photographs of parties, Christmas events including the boat turning celebration, and the night Mike lost his socks after a particularly long session in the Trevor.

But none of all these memories intrude, instead they sit beside each other adding to the general history of the house.

Sadly what are missing  are the photographs of Joe and Mary Ann and the house as it looked from the time they moved in 1915 till Mary Ann’s death in 1974.

............... 1977
Bits of their story and the big events that went on around them have come to light and have been reflected in the sixty-two stories which I have written about the house since the first in December 2011.

I remember in that first story pondering on how all of us are custodians of the place we live and it matters little if that place is Blenheim Palace or a post war prefab.

And I concluded, I would “write about our house. [which] was built a hundred years ago, and has had only four custodians, of which we are the only ones to have had children here. 

........... 2008
More than that this is the only home our eldest three have known and it was where one of them was born. 

It is also a place where countless friends have come and stayed before moving on, seen Christmas parties, a boat turning event in the back garden, and a succession of decorating fashions.

So over the next few months I want to tell the story of this one house set against the bigger picture of what was going on here in Chorlton and the national backdrop.”

Well those months stretched across five years and I am not sure whether this is the last.

We shall see.

Pictures; the eldest three, circa 1996 and the dining room in 2008 from the collection of Andrew Simpson,the advert for Birds Eye Foods, from Woman’s Own, January 12 1956, and the house in 1974 and 1977 courtesy of Lois Elsden

*The story of a house,

Getting closer to Middlemore and the journey our BHC made

Now I have been away from BHC studies for a while.

An application for a Boy, 1914
The demands of other research, the book on the Great War, and two other pressing projects got in the way.

That said my great uncle Roger never really goes away.  Every so often I will go back and look again for some of the missing bits of his life. Added to which my kids often ask about him and I regularly have conversations with my Canadian cousins whose grandma was his sister.

Marisa, Chris, Jac and I continue to surprise each other with new questions about him and occasionally one of us manages to find part of an answer.

All of which will be familiar to anyone engaged in family history but more so with BHC given that so much of the documentary evidence is at best vague, at worst non-existent and laden with tragic stories of abandonment and ill treatment.

Like many I fell eagerly on those sites dedicated to researching British Home Children, hoovering them up in the knowledge that here were others bound on the same search as me.

The sites offer advice, and news and above all a place which confirms that these young people have not been forgotten.

And over the last few years BHC has moved from diverse individuals looking for answers to a serious area of historical study.  That in turn has led at times to disagreements as we grapple with differing interpretations of the motivations and experiences of those involved confirming that simple observation that history is messy and doesn’t always give up simple explanations.

All of which may be a preliminary to a book, but one that perhaps looks at the subject from this side of the Atlantic.

In the meantime I am in awe of the work done by Lori, Sandra, Judy Neville  and others in both digging deep and offering help which leads me to the Middlemore Atlantic Society and that very personal aspect of our British Home Child.

He was migrated through Middlemore on behalf of the Derby Board of Guardians in 1914 aged 16.

A place he knew ........ St John River, 2008
Much older than most and with little in the way of supporting documentary evidence what we know of him is limited.  Some research was undertaken for us in Birmingham by a woman who was nearly migrated to Australia in the 1960s and to her I will be eternally grateful.

Ironically we have more records after he went to Canada than before and so I look forward to the new BHC site Middlemore Atlantic Society which I joined recently.  The answers may still be elusive but I feel a little closer to him.

After all this will be the 163rd story on British Home Children on the blog and I note that the first was posted on November 22 2011 just days after I began.*

Less a boats and more a recognition of the importance of our great uncle Roger.

Picture, a Middlemore document 1914, and the St John River, NB, 2008, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*British Home Children;

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

On a sunny afternoon at the Opera House, remembering Waterloo Sunset and of things to come

Now the painting of the Opera House Peter told me was “inspired by the billboard that said Sunny Afternoon and the fact that it was pouring down.........” which of course is always a good start to a story.

The Kinks have always been one of my favourite groups not least because like Terry and Julie I regularly met Kay “under the clock every Friday night” in Waterloo Station. So the idea of going to see the musical Sunny Afternoon appealed, added to which I have always had a fond spot for the Opera House.

It opened as the New Theatre in 1912, was renamed the New Queen’s Theatre in 1915 and finally the Opera House in 1920.

It closed in 1979 and for five years was a bingo hall but five years later was acquired by the Palace Trust and in 1990 by Apollo Leisure and has become a venue for large-scale musicals.

I remember going once and sitting fairly high up and looking down at the stage which seemed miles away.

More often today we end up in one of the restaurants facing Hardman Square that bit of open space which is dominated by the tall buildings of the Spinneyfields developments.

And for those with a keen sense of history Peter’s painting has also captured the new build on the corner of Byrom Street and Quay Street.

Location; Manchester

Painting; the Opera House Manchester, © 2016 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures, Web:

Monday, 22 August 2016

Sun, sand and beech traders ............... Italy in the summer

The beech traders seem less persistent this year.

I haven’t worked out why because there are as many plying their trade as ever.

 But usually they don’t take no for an answer.  Having approached they ignore the first two polite refusals, stand and repeat their sales pitch and only after the third rejection do they move off.

But not so here on the Adriatic coast.

In many cases they do not even make much of a forceful first approach.

Now that is odd as anyone who has sat on an Italian beach will know.

And not for the first time I have wondered about the economics of it all.  The merchandise is much the same and I doubt these traders have a lot of capital to layout on a large collection of the material they sell.

So does this imply a “Mr/Ms Big” who controls the stock and either sells it on or offers some deal based on sale and return? If so then these dealers I guess have a pre agreed meeting point from which the traders collect their produce and then fan out across the beaches, criss-crossing at regular intervals and times.

We have tried quizzing the odd trader who for obvious reasons seems vague about how the whole thing works and his place in the system.

That said just occasionally while on the road we have come across the beaten up truck of someone who could be the supplier.

The trucks are always loaded high with big black plastic bags full of stuff.
And as if to underline the cheapness of  what is traded on occasion we came across a whole pile of discarded bag which had clearly fallen from a vehicle and not left behind.

That raises that bigger question of who these traders are, where they have come from and what their individual stories are.

Of course I doubt that I will ever know.  They are unlikely to tell me and I am certainly not going to ask.

And in the same way many more established traders will congregate in the fixed markets which seem to take over side roads and whatever bit of spare land there is.

They operate from stalls, with large impressive vans behind them and you are drawn in by the large numbers of powerful electric lights hanging from cables all across the market site.

Some of these will have never seen a beech, or done that walk in the sweltering heat, but others like the woman offering to “do your hair” may well double up and take her turn on the sand.

What are missing are the traders plying the streets in the evening from make shift pitches.  Usually on other resorts they will be the same beech traders who in the day wander between the sun beds and deckchairs and then at might come out selling the same produce to the unwary or those with too much money to give away.

All of which leaves me with more questions and thoughts about the economy of beech trading.

Location; Italy

Pictures; selling and buying in Adriatica, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Chorlton Conservative Club and that post card from Spain nu 2 ........... a new mystery

Now it is odd just how stories come about.

Yesterday a new friend in Spain sent me a post card addressed to "Miss M Calderbank, Chorlton Conser, Club, Wilbraham Road, Chorlton. C. Hardy, England."

There was no date and I doubted that I would ever know who Miss M Calderbank was, or how the postcard got back to Spain.

But within an hour of posting the story Annette, Della and Marie all replied with memories of Melody Calderbank.  Annette went to Levenshulme High School with Melody, Della remembered her parents Dick and Mona and Marie told me she would now be in her fifties which might date the postcard to around 1974.

But the best was that Melody's sister was also in touch commenting that "my sister is 66 now...... I'm 56...she married in 1972 when she left the Conservative post card could be older..."

Of course that just led to the mystery of how the picture postcard from Chris to Melody having arrived in Chorlton made its way back to Spain.

The answer is a bit more sinister and suggests that Miss M never got the card.  Emma who sent me the card wrote that, “la postcard was rescued with another hundred , more or less , of a factory that recycled papel. todas rescued postcards have ornaments with pictures of Gypsy dancing sewn , so I think someone post , many years ago stole to coleccion.hay postcards to many parts of the mundo.I try to arrive but that some difficult. Que joy arrives.”

So perhaps Melody never got to know of the holiday Chris had in Spain and in turn Chris may well have just mumbled something about the Spanish postal service.

All of which is a nice lesson i how even the most mundane events have a habit of offering up a story of how we live.

Today the message would have been sent as a text, or from anyone of a number of different social media platforms, included would have been a photograph of the beach and perhaps even a selfie.

It would have been instant unlike our postcard which even in the 1980s would probably have arrived long after the suntan had begun to fade.

And the same social media platform allowed Emma to find me and pass on the postcard which perhaps 47 years later will allow Melody to be reunited with the postcard from Chris and along the way has given me a new friend from Spain who I might add has a better command of English than I of Spanish.

Location; Chorlton & Spain

Painting; The Conservative Club  © 2012 Peter Topping


Picture; the postcard, date unknown, courtesy of Emma Gilarranz Gutierrez

Gorton Monastery ................... 144 years old

Now I just hope that after 144 years I could look as good as Gorton Monastery.*

It is a place I only knew of vaguely when we lived nearby and over the years I have only watched its progress with half an eye which is a shame.

More so because as Peter’s painting shows it is a fine building and so as you do I went looking for its story.

“The Church and Friary of St Francis, known locally as Gorton Monastery, is a 19th-century former Franciscan friary in Gorton. 

The Franciscans arrived in Gorton in December 1861 and built their friary between 1863 and 1867. 

Most of the building work was done by the friars themselves, with a brother acting as clerk of works.[1] The foundation stone for the church was laid in 1866 and completed in 1872; it closed for worship in 1989. It is a prominent example of High Victorian Gothic architecture,[2] and has been listed with Grade II* status since 1963. 

In 1997, Gorton Monastery was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World.

The church and associated friary buildings underwent a £6 million restoration programme supported by funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and European Regional Development Fund.

The project was completed in June 2007 when the restored buildings opened as a venue for conferences, business meetings and community events. The building is also used for a range of concerts.”**

Now there will be  lots of people who will have their own memories, stories and pictures of the place and it would be nice if they could be shared.

And no sooner had the post gone live Marion Jackson, added that she had  "taught in the school in 1970. 

The monastery church beautiful, but the old parts of the school were very decayed, we had to avoid rotten floorboards. Gorton was being demolished around us, lots of families being moved out and cockroaches moving in overnight. 

The ladies loo was full of them each morning. But I loved the staff, pupils and the church , a happy place for me."

Painting; Gorton Monastery, Manchester. Painting © 2013 Peter Topping,, Paintings from Pictures


*The Monastery,

**Gorton Monastery,

Saturday, 20 August 2016

A Chorlton mystery under a Spanish sun

Now I have no idea who Mel is or was or when she received this postcard from Chris, but it’s an intriguing little mystery.

I am sure someone will know of Miss M Calderbank who either worked, or lived at the Chorlton Conservative Club.

And maybe even the surname of Chris who confided that “the sea is far to rough for the boat.”

What makes the postcard just that bit more interesting is that it was sent to me by Emma in Spain, which begs the question, of why was it not posted?

Or if it was how did it end up back in Spain?

All very intriguing and within the hour Annette, Della and Marie all replied with memories of Melody Calderbank.  Anntte went to Levenshulme High School with Melody, Della remembered her parents Dick and Mona and Marie told me she would now be in her fifties which might date the postcard to around 1974.

But the best is that Melody's sister has also been in touch commenting that "my sister is 66 now...I'm 56...she married in 1972 when she left the Conservative post card could be older..."

So not bad as a start and more to come.

Location; Chorlton & Spain

Picture; the postcard, date unknown, courtesy of Emma Gilarranz Gutierrez

Friday, 19 August 2016

Tram watching .............. down at Castlefield Deansgate

Now my old friend David has collected the numbers of all the trams in service.

Me, I just do the pictures.

And so on one of hot sunny days before the rain came back I was down at the Castlefield Deansgate Metro stop watching the trams go by.

I have to say like a lot of people I am very impressed with the new stop and look forward to the reopening of the St Peter’s Square stop at the end of the month.

And later in the year I will be travelling on the new Second City Crossing pretty much as soon as the platforms are finished, the test runs completed and the very posh people have had their turn at trundling through the city centre down to Victoria.

I can’t claim I was there for all the new openings but did the trip in stages on the East Didsbury line, followed it up with the Ashton, Oldham and Rochdale services.

No doubt I will be one of that small bunch armed with camera and recording equipment some of who fifty years ago could have been seen at the end of railway platforms writing down the numbers on the passing locomotives.

For reasons to long to explain I never did get into train spotting partly I guess because there were very few steam locos on the South Eastern Region delivering passengers into London Bridge, Waterloo and Charing Cross.

I am sure that the experts could spot the difference in the green liveried electric trains but I couldn’t and so instead of number snatching I favoured those plastic aircraft kits with the odd Historic figure and ship thrown in.

All of which is a long way from watching the trams but having long ago collected my concessionary bus pass and with acres of time stretching out each day there could be worst places to spend an adventure.

Location; Castlefield Deansgate,

Pictures; tram watching at Castlefield Deansgate, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Views from Castlefield Deansgate Metro stop Nu 3 ............ a view I like

For no other reason than I like it.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; views from Castlefield Deansgate Metro stop, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Out on Sherborne Street in Salford a year ago

Now the story is a year and a bit old and I guess it will have gone, but here is the original srory.

A couple of days ago I returned to Sherborne Street and featured more of Andy Robertson’s pictures of the Overbridge and Springfield Mills.

It combines a ghost sign with a dramatic brick tower and that is all I want to say.

Picture; Overbridge and Springfield Mills, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

* The ghost sign that has survived another year .......... the Overbridge and Springfield Mills in Salford

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Views from Castlefield Deansgate Metro stop Nu 2 ............ that building most of us miss

It is called Albion Wharf which I suppose was based on the fact that the building stands on Albion Street with Trumpet Street on one side and the canal and Whitworth Street on the other.

And I rather think this will in fact be Pitt’s Buildings which in 1911 was home to The Commercial Motor Car Agents & dealers,, White, manufacturers of steam and petrol motor cars and J. W. & Co Livesey Blouse manufacturers and before that the Albion Mill.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; views from Castlefield Deansgate Metro stop, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A day out on the meadows ..... circa 1910

The caption reads, “the footbridge over the stream at Brook Road entrance to the meadows. 

 From this bridge there was a diagonal path across Boat Meadow to Jackson’s footbridge which was part of the normal path from the green to the pub by the Mersey.” 

It is dated 1910.

The picture is a perfect reminder that the area was farmed as meadow land which involved regularly flooding the land from a series of irrigation ditches.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

The Ration Party at Nell Lane in the September of 1917, a set of slides and an internationally known photographer .............. stories behind the book nu 7

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War.*

The Ration Party, 1917
Now this is one of those images that you wish you could know more about.

We are at the Nell Lane Hospital in the September of 1917.

The site began as the Withington Workhouse in the 1850s built by the Chorlton Union to replace the smaller one in Hulme and there will be many who remember the hospital wings of the building.

Unknown stories, 1917
If I think hard enough I might be able to remember passing that entrance on plenty of occasions.

Our eldest two were born there and for a while we never seemed to be out of the casualty department with everything from sporting injuries to the repercussions of falling out of a tree.

I doubt that any of the ration party will have been there for long and in time their memories of the place will have faded.

But for each of those ten men in the group along with the soldier and nurse in the doorway there will be a story but they will be stories we can only guess at.

I am drawn to the young man holding something to his eye and to the chap at the back who has lost a leg.

But without names there is no way of revealing their lives.

Edward Ward, 249 Oxford Road, 1911
And so instead I wondered by the photographer who is listed as Ward at 249 Oxford Road.

This was Edward Vincent Ward who operated a photographic studio from Oxford Road.

He died in 1921 and there are some fine examples of his pictures on a site exploring the work of his father. **

In time I shall go looking for Edward Vincent and with luck somewhere I may turn up a catalogue of his postcards.

In the meantime it is his father who has caught my interest.

He was Edward Ward senior who was born in 1844 and died in 1901.

In 1871 he was a travelling salesman and on the night of the census of that year was staying in a
“boarding in Hull, Yorkshire. His wife and 9 month-old daughter were back home in Coventry at 38 Bradford St. 

249 Oxford Road, 1893
Exactly what Ward did while travelling is not known. His obituary indicates that it was connected with his interests in microscopy and photography, so he may have been selling equipment........ At some point between January, 1873, and October, 1874, the Ward family moved to Higher Broughton, Manchester.

By 1879, Ward had opened a shop that specialized in microscope slides, unmounted specimens, and associated apparatus. He was also a distributor for Carl Zeiss’ microscopes and lenses. 

An 1882 advertisement in the Journal of the Postal Microscopical Club indicated that Ward retailed slides of selected and arranged for a minifera produced by Charles Elcock. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Manchester Microscopical Society.”**

Men of the ration party, 1917
And if you want more on this remarkable man I suggest you follow the link to the site.

For now I will just say that he also was engaged in photographing the construction of the Ship Canal which means I am off on another search.

I did go looking for 249 Oxford Road and as you expect it has gone but I will have missed it by no more than a decade if that for the studios were just down from Wilton Street opposite Manchester Museum and is now a grass verge in front of the University buildings.

So less a story of the Great War and more an intriguing new area of research.

Pictures; the Ration Party, September 1917 from the collection of David Harrop, and 249 Oxford Road, 1893 from the OS of Lancashire, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Manchester and the Great War, Andrew Simpson, published in 2017,

**Edward Ward, 1844 – 1901, Brian Stevenson,