Thursday, 29 September 2016

Down on Kidbrook Lane in the April of 1871 ............ a story of dark deeds

Now here is a story that passed me by. 

It’s a story of a police investigation into the brutal murder of a young woman in 1871 in Kidbrook Lane and by degree takes you through the twists and turns of the Victorian legal system and offers up an alternative view of the working conditions of domestic servants in the 19th century.

The young woman was Jane Maria Coulson who worked in the home of the Pook family of Greenwich.

She was just sixteen and pregnant.  Her alleged killer was Edmund Pook the son of the family and the rest as they say is one to read.

But without spoiling it I will reveal that the crime is still unsolved and that the author has gone over the evidence with fresh eyes and draws a conclusion.

Location; London

Picture; cover from the book

*Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrook Lane, Paul Thomas Murphy, 2016 

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester ............. nu 52 underneath the Arndale

For anyone born after 1970 streets like Blue Boar Court, Bulls Head Yard, Watling Street and Spring Alley will be as remote as any of those little alleys that led away from the Coliseum in the Rome of the Emperors.

Watling Street from Shudehill, 1971
Of course there will be plenty who do remember Bulls Head Yard and in particular Watling Street which was once home to the old Hen and Poultry Market where the birds were displayed in cages and until recently the Mosley Arms which was serving pints by the middle of the 19th century.

Along with Watling Street, Spring Alley, Friday Street and Peel Street it vanished with the building of the Arndale.

But for the curious with a bit of imagination and an old map it is possible to recreate something of that warren of streets.

Watling Street ran off Shudehill almost opposite Thornely Brow and is today under the tall and twisty exit from the multi storey car park, which for even the most vivid of imaginations is a bit of a challenge.

So because Watling Street joined Friday Street which in turn joined High Street we will do the journey in reverse and begin with that entrance into the Arndale from High Street.

The Hen and Poultry Market, 1889
And by taking the main walk way east towards Exchange Court we will be walking roughly parallel with Friday Street which joined Watling Street passing a series of small entries including the one that gave access to Spring Alley.

All of which I suspect is very confusing so having included one picture of Watling Street from 1971 I will finish with an earlier one of the Hen and Poultry Market in 1889.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Watling Street from Shudehill, 1971, A P Morris, m05604 and the Hen and Poultry Market, 1889, S L Coulthurst, m80957, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Crossing the river at Woolwich

We were on our way back north from a holiday in Kent and missed the M25.

Now I could have owned up straight away and blamed my map reading but instead as you do I turned it into an adventure.

Our new route I discovered would take us past the old family house in Eltham and always one to seize an opportunity suggested to Tina that we make the river crossing at Woolwich on the ferry.

So we took the scenic route stopping in the High Street for some pasties and a look at the parish church, which in turn allowed me to talk about Saturday nights in the dance hall above Burtons, and on to Well Hall.

I rather fancied another stop at the Pleasaunce  to show off the Tudor Barn but could see consumer resistance setting in, it was after all a long drive to Manchester and I was in the passenger seat, so we just slowed down on Well Hall Road as we went past 294 and then up to Shooters Hill and the drop back down in to Woolwich. All of which impressed Tina as did the ferry.

Now those of us who have used it all our lives can be a tad dismissive of the journey.

You often have to wait a long time to get on, the trip across is short and often accompanied by gust of cold river wind, but it can still be pretty good.

Add to that a hot sunny day and we were set up for the long drive north.

And I had forgotten just how much the Thames still means to me.

Even now I only really feel at home as the train from Charing Cross passed over the river and we arrive at Waterloo which I grant you may sound so much romantic and nostalgic tosh but there you are that is how it is.

I suppose it’s partly because we never lived that far away from it and so for me it marks many of my childhood memories.  Like the time Jimmy O’Donnell, John Cox and I went exploring along the beach below Greenwich Pier.

We could have chosen the stretch in front of the Naval College which was clean and from memory even had a little sand.

Instead we took the steps down to the river beside the brick dome which contains the stairs to the start of the foot tunnel and turned upriver and past a couple of beached Thames barges and promptly sank in the oily mud up to our ankles and had to be rescued by a bargee.

Now I suppose we should have been thankful, but we still had to face a two mile walk back to New Cross and the inevitable inquest into how shoes and socks were covered in Thames mud.

To this day I have to admit that under the stern questioning of my mother and to my continued shame I blamed the other two for my misfortune.

Then of course it was still a working river all noise, dirt, powerful smells and full of cranes, barges and ships.

All of which was difficult for Tina to take in.  I told her about the old power station, the food factory I worked at and summers evening on the water front at the Cutty Sark pub listening the dull bang of the barges knocked together by the swell from a passing boat, none which quite fitted with the empty expanse looking east and west.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

British Home Children ............... the continuing story

Imagine being 7 again, and imagine that grownups have decided that your future lies on the other side of the world far from Ancoats, Greengate or Woolwich.

You may or not being going with your siblings but you will certainly be leaving your parents to start a new life in a farming community or in the home of some well off couple.

And that in a nut shell is the story of British Home Children, migrated in their thousands from 1870 to Canada, Australia and other bits of the old Empire.

It is still a story which for many is an unknown piece of history and so anything that brings it out of the shadows is to be welcomed.

I first came across British Home Children a decade ago when in the course of some family research I found our own who left Britain in 1914 for Canada.

He was my great uncle and he had been in care along with his brothers and sister for most of his young life.

That was a revelation more so because none of us knew anything about him but during the last ten years I discovered more and in the process met other people who were set on the same path of discovery as me.

Many of us subscribe to BHC sites dedicated to helping others find out more and in this age of social networking there are a shedload of facebook groups and pages.

And that brings me to  the newsletters and in particular this one.

It isn’t the only one and I shall be featuring others during the month, but the October edition of British Home Children is out today.*

And yes I write for it but given that the other newsletters and groups will feature later I have no problem in featuring this one.

BHC is a subject very close to our family, which links us back to Derby where great grandmother came from,crosses  the Atlantic to where great uncle Roger was settled and more of our family.

But it also brings me back to where I grew up in London and to Manchester where the Manchester & Salford Boys' and Girls' Refuges migrated young people from the twin cities to Canada between 1870 and 1914.

Pretty much got the lot then.

Location; Britain and Canada

Picture; cover of British Home Children October 2016

* British Home Children October 2016,

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

A map, dance lessons in the Con Club and a mystery

Now here is one of those fascinating little bits of history which like so many is the result of nothing more dramatic than turning out a cupboard drawer.

It is a map of Chorlton drawn on linen and takes us back to dance lessons in the late 50s and a friendship.

And because my friend Ann found the map I will let her tell the story

“I was putting something away in a drawer, and came across this map.

When I was 13, I used to go for dance lessons at 'Rogers and Lamont', who used to be in the room above the Conservative Club, on Wilbraham Road. 

I met a boy there, who used to walk me home. He was 16, and worked at a printers in Manchester, and to show me where he worked, he drew me this map on linen.

That was 60 years ago. I wonder if he is still alive?  I'd love to be able to tell him I've still got his map.”

I hope he is too and during the evening I shall go looking for him.

It may lead nowhere but I will enjoy the search.

And of course for anyone with a keen interest in the bus routes of 1956 David was helpful enough to add these to the map.

The 94 and 82 were still running when I washed up here in 1976 and I often took the 82 in the 80s all the way up to Oldham to visit my friend Lois, while the 94 whisked you down Manchester Road along Seymour Grove and off into town via I think Deansgate.

I do have a 1961 bus timetable and map so I shall go and look at that, but I am pretty sure that before the night draws in someone will have been in touch with the routes and times.

And I rather hope this will stir the post and we get some memories of Rogers and Lamont, dance lessons and maybe even David.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; hand drawn map of Chorlton, circa 1956 by David Jones from the collection of Ann Love

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester ....... nu 51 Lizard Street the one they won’t let you down

Now most of us won’t even give Lizard Street a second glance and more so because Gary the Guardian has the keys and regularly locks the gate.

And that leads me to Antony’s picture which he sent over yesterday accompanied by the comment

“Has this city-centre street featured in your blogs?

You can work out most street name origins with a bit of educated guesswork but why would you name a street after a lizard?”

So I shall go and look at my book that offers up explanations for our street names but in the meantime I bet some will know.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Lizard Street, 2016 from the collection of Antony Mills

Maps pictures drawings .....all you ever wanted to see

Now here is a new way of learning about our past which is free and offers up thousands of historic images of London.*

The resource has just been launched online and has a wealth of photographs, prints, drawings and posters from London's past.

Each image is available to view via an interactive map showing their locations.

This new exciting project has been created by London Metropolitan Archives in partnership with the Guildhall Art Library and contains 250,000 images.

So if you subscribe to Samuel Johnson’s famous observation that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford" I am guessing there will be much here to fascinate you and of course it is free.

Pretty much seems a good deal to me.

Picture; Billingsgate Fish Market, 1927, courtesy of MARK FLYNN POSTCARDS,

*Collage The London Picture Archive,

Monday, 26 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester ......... nu 50 on Wood Street looking for the Pack Horse Yard

Now I like the way that alleys, streets and even entries are preserved while all around them major redevelopments tear down old buildings and replace them with new.

And the covered entry that leads from Wood Street to the yard of the Pack Horse pub is just such an example.

Now if you go looking for the entry the chances are that you will miss it because for certain parts of the day and night the entry is closed off by a door which you might just assume is one of the doors that leads into the Wood Street Mission.

And if you went looking for the Pack House Yard you won’t find that either.

The Pack Horse or the Free Mason’s Tavern as it was sometimes called was on Bridge Street.

The building is still there but now goes under the name of the Bridge which given its location on Bridge Street makes perfect sense.

It’s a long thin place and at the back there is a door into the yard, go through the yard and you will enter a tiled passage way which leads out onto Wood Street.

And there you have it, retrace your steps and you walk into the yard of the old Pack Horse and by degree into the pub and out on to Bridge Street.

For those who like just a bit of atmosphere the yard also has an old fashioned lamps post.

All of that said I know the passageway is not a street but if you collect the slightly unusual this one is it.

The passageway was there in the 1790s and it seems that successive building development included it in the layout of new properties, and the Wood Street Mission which still occupies the site was no different.

And that as they say is that.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; the passageway 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

“Having a nice time, sea rough”.............. picture postcards from the 1930

“Having a nice time, sea rough seen some people I know” and with that Betty plunged into a description of the places she had seen and some of the things she had done.

I wonder what Ethel and Bert thought of the card or for that matter the others which they received over the years.

They lived on Church Lane in Harpurhey and the house is still there and although I doubt that they or any of the family are still in the area.

This card along with a large batch of others had been thrown away and were found by someone who passed them on to Ron who in turn has lent them to me.

They are a rich collection spanning the early decades of the 20th century and include family snaps, posed studio portraits and lots of seaside cards.

Ron hoped that we might be able reveal something of the family and also a bit about Betty, which I hope we will.

Which just leaves me to reflect on the gentle humour of the card.

Location; on holiday

Picture; picture postcard circa 1930s from the collection of Ron Stubley

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Who remembers N & J Walley, Provisions and Tobacco, 358 Barlow Moor Road?

One of the nice things about the blog is the way that people kindly share their photographs.

This is one that Linda sent me.  It is one of the shops on Barlow Moor Road facing the bus station.

In the last few years these two parades of shops running from St Ann’s Road up towards Sandy Lane have undergone that sort of change which reflects what has happened to Chorlton.

They were built sometime after 1911 and were the traditional type of shops you can find anywhere.  Well into the 1990s there was a bakery, newsagents, the launderette, and Kingspot known affectionately as “Kingy” where you could get everything from a washing line, a variety of plastic toys to that picture of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset.

And despite the renovation of the cast iron veranda there was a tiredness about the place which was not helped as more and more of them became vacant.

Now of course the transformation is almost complete and stretching across the two blocks are smart new bars and eating places.  Each time I go past I make a mental note of the ratio between those offering food and drink and the rest.

So to Linda’s picture.  The renovation was finished and this bit of history has been lost again. So  here out in the light for the first time in decades is the old sign for N & J Walley who ran a “Provisions” and “Tobacco” shop on the site.

I don’t remember them but I know there will be someone who does and who may have bought their butter, tea and biscuits from them.  By the early 70s they may have gone, because Linda thinks “it was the Spar shop when I first came to Chorlton 41 years ago.  I remember Seals the green grocers, Doyle's the key cutters, a chemist, a TV rental shop, the bakers the newsagents, and my children's favourite - King spot, as well as my favourite Smiths bread shop and there was also just one Chinese chip shop, and the launderette.”

Now that is pretty much as I remember it too and in the way of things I also used most of those shops from time to time.  But in the space of the time between Linda taking the picture and sending it, “they have covered up a section of the old sign and put decking down” which means that there will be an almost complete strip of bars restaurants and takeaway outlets.  So I shall close with these pictures from 1958 of the same spot.

And no sooner has this been posted than Ann wrote to me that "in the fifties, the shop at the side of the alley was a sweet shop, and as sweets had just come off rationing, was a shop I frequently visited. I remember my first Bounty Bar, which was my favourite for years.

On the other side of the alley, in the 70's was the Mandarin Chinese Take away, run by Lily and her family. At the time Howard was going to a class in Mandarin, and Lily used to give him chinese newspapers.

There was also a shoe repairers at the beginning of the arcade, run by two brothers. I think that was the second shop. The first was I think a grocers.."

And by  now the sign for N & J Walley has vanished again.
Pictures; from the collection of Linda Rigby, and numbers 360-350 Barlow Moor Road, m17609, and 366-360, m 17607, taken by A H Downs in May 1958, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 48 ........... Byrom Street just half a century ago

It is easy to over romanticise life in the narrow streets of places like Castlefield, Hulme and Ancoats in the middle decades of the last century.

Byrom Street, 1944
There was certainly a sense of community and a willingness to stand by each other, but that can’t really compensate for homes which long ago had passed the test of decent places to live, areas dominated by noisy factories and the smell of all sorts of industrial workshops and where there was very little in the way of open spaces, grass and flowers.

Many of us are aware of the awful conditions of parts of Manchester in the 19th century but pass over those middle decades of the following century.

Byrom Street, 1965
Not only were many of the worst properties still standing but the war had put on hold the slum clearance plans as well as actually creating a housing shortage.

So today I want to concentrate on the memories of Lisa’s mum who was born in 1946 and grew up in Byrom Street just behind Deansgate.

Today it is a mix of new inner city living, and swish office blocks.

Some of the first new residential properties were built at the southern end of Byrom Street in the 1970s soon after the courts and alleys filled with houses from the late 18th and early 19th centuries had been cleared away.

The more elegant town houses of John Street and part of Byrom Street have now all become offices and exist beside new commercial properties which have gone up at the beginning of this century.

But back in the 1940s and into the 60s this was still a residential area and even after the families moved out little really changed till the developments of a decade ago.

Location; Manchester

Byrom Street, 1944

Pictures; Byrom Street in 1944, City Engineers Department, m78877, Byrom Street, left hand side, 1965 J Ryder, m00691, and Byrom Street, early Victorian shops, 1947 T Baddeley, m00659, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, 

The doctor’s bill and the story of a family in Fallowfield in 1867

Now I am always fascinated by how a chance discovery leads to a story.

This is the envelope sent to Mr Matthew Dean in 1867.
Contained inside is a doctor’s bill for the sum of £6 10 shillings and falling back on that old chestnut, I can’t read the doctors handwriting.

But I am sure Ron who lent me the bill can put me straight on what the charge was for.

That said I may well just stay with the envelope, after all even given that almost a century and half separate me from Mr Dean I rather think he is due his privacy.

And that of course raises that big question of just how much should you reveal about a long dead person’s life, and at what point a bit of legitimate research becomes voyeurism?

This I know from my own family history when one Saturday morning a death certificate I had ordered up for one of the brother of my great grandmother fell through the letter box revealing a very dark secret which stopped me in my tracks.

Now happily I don’t think there is such a tragedy here, but £6 10 shillings does seem a lot of money, particularly for Mr Dean who variously described himself as a warehouse manager, and cotton salesman.  But given the bill was for 'professional services' we may be dealing with more than one visit.

He lived on Wilmlsow Road, was married to Julia and they had seven children all who were born In Fallowfield.

I can’t find a date for their marriage but their eldest was born in 1853 and so I am guessing it will be sometime around that date.

Of course the term manager is a loose one and Mr Dean may well have been at the top end of that occupation.  Certainly by 1881 the family were well enough off to have added a cook as well as a housemaid to their staff.

I may even be lucky and find their home which in 1881 was listed as Portland Villas somewhere along Wilmslow Road which may help determine their wealth.

Sadly it is more likely that it has gone which at present leaves us with just this envelope and bill and the odd fact that on different census returns he is listed with different birth years.

Not unusual I know but a fact.

Location Fallowfield

Picture; envelope, 1867 from the collection of Ron Stubley

Of coffee, reputations and the joy of espresso

Now if you grew up in the 1950s coffee was still something that “other people” drank and when it was served usually came as a light brown milky substance which was as weak as it was insipid.

Espreeso at the station
Of course there was Camp coffee which was a totally different experience but did nothing for an appreciation of the real thing.

And nor did  those coffee bars of the 1960s with their cups of the frothy stuff or the profusion of instant and powered brands.

All of which I suspect feeds that prejudice amongst many North Americans that coffee is best drunk west of the  New England and Newfoundland coasts.

But all things change.  The revolution in what we eat and drank in Britain which began with the end of post war rationing, growing prosperity and the influence of people like Elizabeth David have transformed the scene.

For me the first hint of that magic came with the Polish couple who lived in our house in 1956 and ground their own coffee which they often served with those dark chocolate covered cinnamon biscuits

That said it would be decades before I really came to understand that love affair of the coffee bean and it came when I first began regularly visiting Italy and experienced the joy of standing in a bar taking a small cup of espresso.

For our Italian family it doesn’t come simpler and better than that.

Sometimes they will have a large milky version but it will only be drunk for breakfast and never again for the rest of the day.

And I now begin the day with an espresso, without milk or sugar, the perfect start to the day followed by another half an hour later and then no more.

Coffee, for me is best drunk first thing in the morning, in small shots and because I am now very picky I don’t often bother with coffee shops during the day.

But there are some fine ones, many of which are independents with a love of offering up some fantastic coffee.

And the point of the story?  

Well apart from the sheer joy of the stuff it is I suppose that historical journey we have undertaken from a post war Britain where food was nutritious but boring and still limited to what we have today but which sits against food banks, the worry about the amount of sugar in our diet and the quality of food produced by factory methods.

Which in turn I suppose can be contrasted with the wholesale adulteration of many foodstuffs in the Victorian period.

Nuff said

Location; our kitchen

Pictures; the bar on Viareggio, 2010 and the most regular Italian brands to cross the front door.

“Dear Eddie & Bert do you know the Clough?” ............ picture postcards from the 1930s

Now as we move effortlessly towards October the season of sending holiday postcards will slowly come to an end.

So with that in mind here is number two of a short series which will come to an end when either I run out of them or we get the first snow of winter.

The humour was sometimes gentle occasionally risqué and at times very funny and very rude.

I suspect Eddie and Bert were of the gentle kind.

Location; on holiday

Picture; comic card, circa 1930s from the collection of Ron Stubley

Friday, 23 September 2016

“Having a good time, travelled 140 miles today” .......... on holiday in the August of 1931

Now as we move effortlessly towards October the season of sending holiday postcards will slowly come to an end.

Not of course that we send as many as we did at the beginning of the last century.

Back then with frequent collections and deliveries, sending a message by picture postcards was as common as texting today.

So with that in mind here is the first of a short series of comic cards.

This one was sent in the August of 1931 from Colwyn Bay to Harpurhey.

Bertha was on a motoring holiday which will in itself make the holiday as something new.

She told Edna and Bert that she had travelled 140 miles that day, seen some “lovely sights” and had been charged “one shilling” to sit in Lloyd George’s chair.”

And for anyone with an interest in the picture, here is one of those hardware shops familiar to anyone born before 1970.

They were an Aladdin’s Cave of hardware opportunities offering everything from paraffin, to waxed string, an assortment of different sized screws, pots pans and paint.

Location; Wales

Picture; comic card, circa 1931 from the collection of Ron Stubley

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester ........... nu 47 Spam Court, one narrow street and the posh one

I have been drawn back to Spam Court. 

Spam Court, 1965
It was a collection of six back to back houses in a partially enclosed court off Artillery Street which runs from Byrom Street to Longworth Street behind Deansgate.

They were one up one down with a cellar and did not rate an entry in the street directories which is not unsurprising given that those who lived here were on very modest means and some on the very margins of poverty.

In 1851 in those six houses lived a total of thirty-three people who made their living from the bottom end of the economic pile including six power loom weavers, a cooper, dress maker as well as an errand boy, a hawker and a pauper.

It is very easy to become blasé at the conditions in Spam Court, after all historical empathy only goes so far, but this was living at the precarious end.

I rather think that Ann Cass aged 73 who described herself as a pauper had never had an easy life, and now she and her two daughters in their 30s were reliant on their combined wages as power loom weavers and what they got from Annie Harrison, their 38 year old lodger who was a band box maker.

Artillery Street and Spam Court, 1849
Nor were they alone in taking in lodgers other families in the court were also doing the same and in most cases having to find space in what was at best two rooms and may even have been less, because the majority of  our houses were sublet.

Of the six, five had two families living in them as clearly defined and separate households.  Now these properties did have cellars and there were plenty of people living in the cellars of houses across the city according to the 1851 census.

But usually the enumerator recorded those who lived in the cellars.   But in this case no such records were made, which rather suggests that families and their lodgers were living in just one of the two rooms in each of the houses.

And in the case of John and Catherine Pussy it meant finding space for their five children ranging in ages from 20 down to three as well as their 19 year old lodger in what I guess was one room given that the house was shared with another family of four.

Spam Court has gone but Artillery Street is still there and you have to walk it to get some idea of how narrow the street was and then try to picture the 83 people who lived mainly in the three courts off it or the 96 who lived on Longworth Street which ran from Artillery Street to St John Street.

Artillery Street, 2012
The whole census patch amounts to ten streets and their small courts, most not much wider than Artillery Street and bounded by Deansgate and Byrom Street in which crowded a total of 497 people.

But it would be wrong to run away with the idea that this was just a collection of humble streets housing the least well off.

True, the majority as the graph below shows  made their living from unskilled or factory work but there were also artisans, shop keepers small businessmen.

And almost acting as an island of wealth was St John Street, then as now a place of fine late 18th and early 19th century houses whose residents included accountants, a silk manufacturer and a retired calico engraver and printer.

And it is this last “calico engraver” who I want to finish with as a contrast to Spam Court.

James Holt had set up the family business sometime at the beginning of the 19th century had bought and maybe built his double fronted property on St John Street and in the fullness of time retired to Chorlton, leaving his son to run the business and retain in the family home in the heart of Manchester off Deansgate.

This was John Holt who would later in the 1850s move himself to our township.

But the family never gave up their interest in the area surrounding their town home and so by 1912 they owned seven of the fine houses on St John Street as well as shops cottages and a beer shop on the surrounding streets as well as land and the fine estate of Beech House in Chorlton.

St John's Street, 2012
We have rather come to be conditioned by the rich living in gated communities set apart from the less well off and our wealthy families were no different.

Samuel Brooks had established his own estate which would be developed for the well off on the edge of Chorlton, and in the late 1830s Victoria Park Company was set up to “erect a number of dwelling houses of respectable appearance and condition, with gardens and pleasure grounds attached, with proper rules and regulations against damage an nuisances.”*

But the residents of the houses on the north side of St John’s Street backed on to Spam Court while the Holt’s own fine house was not only beside a timber yard but its rear windows overlooked a coal yard and the densely packed court of Holt’s Place which consisted of ten small back to back properties.

So Spam Court and the poor were never that far from the rich of St John’s Street which I suppose is an interesting take on that much quoted phrase, “the poor are always with us.”

Pictures;Spam Court, J.Ryder, 1965, m00212, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, detail from 1842-49 OS map of Manchester & Salford, Digital Archives,, other pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson, 2012

* A Short Account of the Victoria Park Manchester, Manchester Corporation, 1937

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 46 ...... the one with the canal

I am on Camp Street just off Deansgate

Camps Street, 1938
And if I wanted to be more accurate we are standing in the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal Tunnel in 1938.

It is one of series of pictures which were taken by the City Engineers just under a hundred years after the canal opened to traffic in the October of 1839.

Forty years earlier the first proposals for a canal link from the river Irwell to the Rochdale Canal were floated in an effort to overcome the difficulties of off loading goods at the river and transporting them along the congested city streets.

The route of the canal across the city involved constructing a tunnel from Charles Street to Watson Street from which the waterway then ran in the open east as far as Lower Mosley Street before twisting south and running parallel with Chepstow Street before joining the Rochdale Canal just beyond Great Bridgewater Street.

Camp Street, 1947 showing what might be a shaft down to the canal
Much of the street pattern and many of the industrial buildings from that period have long since gone and I guess most people are not even aware that there was this cross city canal.

I first came across it when researching Camp Street a few years back and then discovered more of its story in Underground Manchester.*

This is a fascinating book and feeds that interest many of us have in mysterious and long forgotten tunnels.  Manchester has plenty of them and the book allows you to explore them through a collection of photographs, memories and documents.

It is a book I have long pondered on buying, but which in the end was passed onto me by David who often contributes to the blog.  He was born here in Chorlton and has vivid memories of the place in the 1950s and 60s.

Now this fascination with our lost tunnels is an interesting one and stems I suppose from a mix of genuine historical curiosity and that preoccupation with the slightly mysterious.

After all most of them were built so long ago that in some cases there are no official plans of where they are and certainly no real idea of their original purpose.

Added to this they pop up as tantalizing half clues which might be a bricked up entrance in a city cellar, or a faded newspaper clipping of a chance discovery by workman at the beginning of the last century.

Camps Street 2012
In the case of our waterway it was a letter in the Manchester City News of 1882 which described seeing both the “the canal tunnel with a towing path [which] came out near the Black Horse Hotel, Alport, where now stands Central Station.”**

Now sometimes they border on the conspiratorial and many of us will be have been told the story from the friend of a friend who came across an underground communication centre built in the 1950s during the Cold War.

Most of which make perfect sense given the heightened conflict of the period.

But sometimes I have to say they just feed the imagination like the myth that a passageway runs under the green from the old parish church to the Horse & Jockey.

It is one of those fanciful ideas born of half remembered school history involving religious persecution, priest holes and a walloping big dose of wishful thinking.

We certainly did have our own martyr to the old religion but I doubt that the Barlow family would have constructed a tunnel across the green.  And even had they done so I rather think it would have come to light during the last 400 years, either from one of the frequent burials that took place in the graveyard or the archaeological dig of the late 1970s and early 80s.

Camps Street, 1849 and the route of the canal in 1849
That said there is no doubt that many things lurk below our city streets which takes me back to Mr Warrender’s book and more particularly the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal Tunnel.

It was probably built as a cutting and then roofed over.  Just at the entrance to the tunnel hard by Charles Street was a gasometer which supplied “power of the lamps every thirty yards.”

Charles Street disappeared as the Liverpool Road warehouse complex expanded, along with Ashton Street, New Street and Dumbar Street and Garden Court.

But Camp Street is still there although the houses in this 1944 picture have long gone.

They were there during the construction of the canal which must have been irksome to the residents.

Not that I suspect either the owners of the land, or the houses or even the canal company were over bothered for the wishes of the occupants of the houses facing the work.

Camps Street, 1944
These were mostly families who earned a living from the work of skilled craftsmen, labourers and those engaged in work in the cotton mills.

Not I suspect that these people gave much thought to the men who were labouring in the tunnel just a few feet from their front doors which brings me back to that picture of the underground canal in 1938.

I have to say that there is something a little uncomfortable at about the picture which I suppose stems from my own dislike of enclosed places which are both dark and full of water.

But then by the time this picture was taken the canal had been closed to commercial traffic for two years and was on the way to becoming a forgotten place.  Already the section from Watson Street to the Rochdale Canal had been closed for sixty three years and been backfilled in preparation for the construction of Central Station.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Camp Street canal, City Engineers, 1938, m77571, Camp Street, T. Braddeley, m00701, Camp Street, City Engineers, 1944, m78767, Camp Street, C.Holt, 1938, m00700, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, map of Camp Street showing underground route of the canal from the Manchester and Salford OS 1842-49, courtesy of Digital Archives, and Camp Street, 2012 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Underground Manchester, Keith Warrender, Willow Press 2007, and also Below Manchester by the same author and publisher.

**ibid, Underground Manchester, page 23

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 45 ............ the one many wish had never existed

Now there will be a fair few who wish that this tiny access to Piccadilly Gardens didn’t exist, and that ignites the whole can of worms which is the story of the redevelopment of the Gardens.

And that as they is one of those things which it is best to “light and stand well clear.”

So I shall just leave it at that reflecting that for many the story is really about the last but not  forgotten Piccadilly Gardens which once stretched as far as this building.

And yest I am well aware that this is not really a street.

Location; Manchester

Pictures, looking into Piccadilly Gardens, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 46 ........ Cavell Street, Late Nightingale Street

Now on the day I wandered down Cavell Street the sun was shining and even this bleak and empty side street seemed inviting.

It connects Newton Street with Little Lever Street

Back in 1851 it was Nightingale Street and had you plunged down it  from Newton Street on a sunny day back then you would have passed a collection of properties, an entry into a courtyard and at the other end the Haunch of Venison public house which stood in direct competition with its near neighbour the Wellington which is now Mother Mac’s.

That said even in 1851 it was not deemed important enough an entry in the street directory

Location; Manchester

Pictures, looking into Piccadilly Gardens, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

In Philips Park Cemetery with the grave of Sergeant G. Mitchell of the Canadian Army

Now I have close personal connections with Canada and have long been researching those men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who fought in the Great War and are buried in the North West.

My great uncle was a British Home Child sent to Canada in 1914, having spent years in care in Derby.

And after those years in institutions he failed to settle on the farms he was placed and eventually ran away to join the C.E.F. in 1915.

He survived the war, returned to Canada and in 1925 was joined by his sister.  

But she didn’t fancy a life in the remoteness of British Columbia and stayed in the east where she married raised a large family.

All of which has led me over the last year to document those men who were buried in Southern Cemetery.  It is an ongoing project made easy by the detailed records held by the Library and Archives of Canada.

The Library is currently transposing the service records of the men of the C.E.F., and releasing them on line. 
And has already has a first step published the Attestation Papers.

All of which is an introduction to this photograph of G Mitchell’s grave.  He died in November 1918 and I thought it would be a simple task of calling up his records and honouring his death by providing some details of his life.

But not so.  I drew a blank in Canada, the Commonwealth War graves have no record and a search of Philips Park Cemetery database has also proved negative.

Now anyone who has done any family history research will know that there can be plenty of dead ends as well as false trails, so I won’t give up, it may just take a little longer.

Location; Salford

Picture; the grave of Sergeant G Mitchell, Weaste Cemetery, 2016 from the collection of Antony Mills

Monday, 19 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 45 ......... Southern Street ....... all gone

Looking down Southern Street, 2003
This is Southern Street as it looked at the beginning of this century.

Back then some of the old late 18th century buildings were still standing and while one had become a garage
and another a printing works they were all still recognisable as houses with stories.

I remember talking to some of the men who worked in Andrew’s Garage in the centre of Southern Street along with the owners of the printing business at one end of the street and the motor bike shop at the other.

Nu 12 & 14 Southern Street, 2003
Collectively their memories spanned back into the 1950s and they formed an important part of a study I did at the time on how the area was changing.
And now that Southern Street has been transformed here is part of that piece.

“Southern Street in 1851 shows the same pattern of housing occupation as other working class parts of the city.

In many of the houses there is evidence of overcrowding and cellar occupation.

So at 3 Southern Street, 15 people are recorded there in 1851, with 5 living in the cellar, 2 in one room, 4 in another and 4 in the garret.  

Number 5 has 11 people.  Across the street number 12 &14 are now a garage.

In 1851, 7 people are listed as living in number 14.

Nu 3 & 5 Southern Street, 2003
It is easy to appreciate the degree of squeeze when you measure the size of these properties.

Put more simply when you look down Southern Street, remember that the 1851 census recorded 81 people living in this small street, which was a drop from the 200 living there a decade before.

Numbers 3 & 5 Southern Street is worth looking at in detail, as they may not be there for much longer.

The block has been bought recently and while there is some doubt about the future plans I can’t see them staying in their present state.

They were surveyed in 1993.  The houses consisted of three floors and a cellar.  

The second floor dimensions of number 3 are 22 feet 6 inches back from the front and 16 feet 4 inches from side to side. 

Number 5 varies slightly at 22 feet 2 inches by 17 feet.

Evidence for the cellar windows can still be seen but much else has undergone changes.

Looking up towards Liverpool Road, 2003
Ground and first floor windows are not original and the door to number 5 has been enlarged.

All the evidence suggests that they were built sometime around 1794.

Houses on Southern Street, Barton Street and Worsley Street are shown on a map of that year, when Liverpool Road was still called Priestner Street and terminated at Collier Street.

Street Directories record people living in them from 1795.  This fits in with what we know of the surrounding streets.

Tthe title deeds of the White Lion Inn and the Oxnoble Inn show that that six plots of land were sold in 1782 and  in 1804 the Oxnoble plot was sold again on condition that it was built upon within two years.”*

Location; Manchester

Pictures, Southern Street and Liverpool Road from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Castlefield, Andrew Simpson, 2003

Pictures from an Eltham bus ........ nu 5

The top deck of a London bus has to be a pretty neat way of seeing the world below.

And when it is the same bus at about the same time every day then you have got yourself a project.

All you need is a camera and the patience each week to record the same spot.

It helps if there is a major new development underway like the one at Grove Market and the rest as they say is Larissa Hamment’s Pictures from an Eltham bus.”*

Although we have cheated slightly because as Larissa says "different angle for you...taken in Macdonslds... a rare treat for us.!

Location, Eltham High Street, Eltham, London

Picture; September 2016 from the work at Grove Market, from the collection of Larissa Hamment

*Pictures from an Eltham bus,

Number 9 Swan Street .............. the one I know nothing about

Now I know there is a story here but I just don’t know what it is.

We were out on Swan Street following the line of pubs from the Crown and Kettle down to the Smithfield and there on the corner with Tib Street was this building.

Peter thought there was something about its history but couldn’t remember and I have to confess I had never  clocked the place.

So while Peter went off to paint it I went looking for any reference to it, and I have drawn a blank.

It doesn’t feature in Clare Hartwell’s guide to all things Manchester and a search on the net proved fruitless as did a trawl of the images in the Manchester Local Images Collection.

I know that in 1911 the site was occupied by A & G Tuthill, who dealt in photographic material while next door was Dunkerley & Franks “umbrella and etc manufacturers” but have yet to work out whetherthis was their building.

But I don’t think so if only because Goad’s Fire Insurance maps dating from the same period shows a building which doesn’t quite fit Peter’s painting.

Of course I might be wrong.  The good news is that I bet someone will be able to tell me.

Well I hope so.

Location; Manchester

Painting; 7-9 Swan Street, © 2016 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures

*Manchester, Clare Hartwell, 2001

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 44 ........ Bradley Street .... those back to backs and a car park

Now I have been visiting Bradley Street for a very long time.

Bradley Street in 1983
It runs from Faraday Street up to Ancoats Street and draws me back because of the three one up one down properties which back on to the far grander row of terraced houses on Lever Street.

They could have been lost to us but were saved and converted into offices.

Over the years I have looked into their history, trawling the census returns for the people who lived in them.

The same stretch, 2016
When I first came across them in the early 1990s they were empty and pretty derelict.  In one of the three the decades of wall paper were slowing peeling away from the wall revealing forty years of changing design.

As for the rest of Bradley Street most of it is just a car park.

But a bit of it has undergone one of those dramatic changes and is now enclosed by a building which occupies the southern end of the street.

I remember this section as an open space where buses parked up and with views from Spear Street across to Lever Street.

And then some time in 2008 the area was fenced off and by 2011 a big new development had filled the void.

Looking down the south side of Bradley Street, 2016
I have to admit that when I passed it recently I gave it no more than a glance but that would be to ignore a bit of history.

So as you do I wandered in and came out on Faraday Street which was originally Friday Street.

And that is about it except to say you should never neglect wandering the city accompained by a camera, a notebook and forewarned by the most up today announcements from the planning department of new applications to build and develop bits of our streets.

Location; Manchester

Picture; one up one down cottages in Bradley Street, 1983 from the Early Manchester Dwellings Group and Bradley Street 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson