Wednesday, 30 November 2016

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 68, ...... the hot water bottle, the alarm and a bit more on Joe and Mary Ann

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.*

The house in 1974
Now I have no doubt that Joe and Mary Ann would have used a hot water bottle.

They were and are a very cheap and effective way of warming the bed on one of those cold winter nights.

We still use them and have done so since the kids were little.

Even now when they stay over and especially when they have gone out on the town for the night I will fill the bottles and slip them in under the sheets.

It is something dad did in Well Hall Road over sixty years ago and remains a natural thing to do.

And as you would expect there is an art to it.

The water must be just off boiling, having been left for a few minutes, and you must never fill them to the brim.  Instead there should be a space and above all that space should be purged of air.

That way the bottle will allow you to manipulate it around your feet more easily and it has to be placed in the bed at least half an hour before you go up.

The other end of the terrace in 1958
All of which would have been familiar to Joe and Mary Ann, who lived in the house when the only heating were open fires which were rarely lit in the bedrooms.

Less familiar to them would have been the house alarm.

We installed it over thirty years ago and knowing a little about Joe I suspect he would have had one added when the house was built if the technology had been in existence back in 1915.

Ours was put in by Ian Henderson who I have known for something like 35 years and it was while talking to him yesterday as he serviced the system that I learnt a little bit more Joe and Mary Ann.**

I know the bare biographical details and there are plenty of people who still remember them but both died a long time ago and have left little of a trail to follow.

From Ian I have a bit of a physical description and more stories of their love of animals.

That love of animals led them to leave the house to the PDSA on Mary Ann’s death in 1974 and more than a few people have asked about the dead pets they buried in the garden which I can testify to on the rare occasion I have done the gardening.

Looking down Neale Road, 1958
But Ian may have the odd old rent book from when his family lived on Neal Road and other bits and pieces.I had always thought that most of the properties on Neile along with Provis had been built by Mr Scott for rent.

As such they were according to Ian always painted green but when his mum bought the house it was from the estate of a Miss Wilton which is intriguing.

Now the Wlton family go back to the early 19th century in Chorlton but the last I thought had died out in the 1890s.

Nor is that all because Neale was also the name of the butcher on Wilbraham Road who Joe was friendly with.

There may also be more because Ian’s grandfather worked for Joe and who knows somewhere in the family collection may be a picture of Old Mr Henderson standing beside Joe Scott, now that would be a find.

Pictures; that demand, 2016, and the house in 1974 courtesy of Lois Elsden, 3-51 Beech Road, built by Joe Scott’s father, m17663, taken in November 1958 by R.E. Stanley and Neale Road with some of Joe Scott’s houses in the distance, 1958 R.E. Stanley, m18135,, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

*The story of house,
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20story%20of%20a%20house

**HBA Alarms.Co.UK, hbaalarms@aol.com

On trams David has seen .............. Manchester tram number 3118

Now there will be those who collect stamps and others who have spent a lifetime on the edge of railway station platforms jotting down the numbers of passing locomotives.

Recently I even encountered a group of four middle aged men at Oxford Road animatedly discussing just where was the best spot on the Sunderland to Newcastle line to observe passing rail traffic.

To these I can add my old friend David Harrop who is two off collecting the entire set of tram numbers for the Manchester Metro fleet.

He tells me “that so far they run from 3001 to 3120 and I have just seen my last tram 3118 in Oldham.”

And not content with that he also supplied me with a picture of an Oldham tram about to arrive at Market Street.

All of which took me off on one.  I pondered whether to reflect on the hobby of collecting “things” or instead to explore some of the different trams I have come to know.

I am too young to remember the old stately ones which graced our streets during the early 20th century having been born in the year the last Manchester tram completed its last trip, although I was taken to see the last LCC tram complete its final journey into the New Cross depot in 1952.

So I have to be content with that new generation of trams.

And of these pride of place has to go to our own yellow ones.

But I won’t be sniffy, and must mention the Sheffield ones who according to our Josh and my friend Patricia have a “clippy.”

Now I bet David didn’t know that.

Although he cleared up my confusion over the letters  A and some a B which appear after the number and just "indicate the tram end."

So I an now in the market for pictures of Sheffield trams and pretty much anywhere else.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; tram 3105 at Exchange Square, and 3069 in St Peters Square, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and tram 3064 coming into Market Street, 2016 courtesy of David Harrop

Remembering Byrom Street in Manchester in the 1950s

Byrom Street, 1944
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.

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.

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.

Byrom Street, 1965
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.

“My mother was one of 14 children. Mum was born at St Mary’s hospital on 15th November 1948, making her their 9th child.

The family lived in the middle of 3, 3 storey houses on Bryon Street overlooking where the playground once stood on St John’s gardens.

My grandparents lost their first born, a son named Joseph when he fell into the canal close to their home. The child was just 3 years old at the time.

He couldn't be saved as his leg became trapped in some discarded machinery which had earlier been thrown in. My grandma worked as a live out housekeeper for a doctor’s family on St John’s Street & my grandfather worked on the railway.

My mum attended Atherton Street School with some of her siblings whilst the others attended St Marys School.

Life was a struggle so Wood Street mission would invite the family to their Christmas parties where mum & her siblings got a gift from Santa.

My grandfather did like a drink & spent many hours in a pub called the Ox* which I think may still be there.


Byrom Street, 1947
The family had to move around 1957 when the houses were being pulled down.

Mum said they topped & tailed with 4-6 sleeping in each double bed with my grandparent’s coats as covers. 

The fire would only be in use once my grandfather was home and he was always given the best foods. 

However he did protect each of the children & wouldn't let anyone say a wrong word against them.”

*The Ox was the Oxnoble pub named after the Oxnoble potato which was landed at Potato Wharf close by

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, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The lost houses of Princess Street begin to reveal their secrets

Now you won’t find these two properties.

Brook Street as was
Once and for a very long time  they stood with a collection of similar buildings just down from Charles Street on Princess Street.

They vanished sometime between May 2011 and September 2012 and all that remains is the outline of the roof on the neighbouring building and a fine view across the vacant space to the skyline of Oxford Road.

They were so much a part of the landscape that like many I took them for granted and gave little thought about their history.

If pushed I suppose I did wonder about the people who might have lived in them.

The rear of Brook Street
But at a time when access to rate books, census returns and old maps was more difficult the chances of personalising these properties was beyond me but all things change and today it  is much easier  explore a street or a house and so it is with these.

They will postdate 1819 and were well established when the surveyors of the Manchester and Salford OS map completed their task in 1849.

Two years later Slater’s directory recorded the residents of the row and Mr Adshead featured them on his colour map.

All of which means  I can confirm that along the stretch there were a motley collection of businesses and householders, from James Carruthers beer retailer and Lydia Dodson, tobacconist to Edward Hooper of the Medlock Inn.

In total there were twelve buildings running down to the Brook Street Bridge from Charles Street which neatly brings me to the fact that back in 1851 the bridge and our houses stood on Brook Street rather than Princess Street.

Brook Street, 1851
At which point I could have gone off and explored the rate books where the details of Mr Carruthers beer shop are listed but instead I will just reflect on just how much easier it is today to research properties like these.

Starting with the maps and then the directories it is possible to locate an individual householder, and armed with a name find them on the rate books and census returns.

The rate books will tell you not only the rateable value and the annual rent but whether the householder was a tenant or the owner along with what the building was used for.

And the name will also offer up the possibilities of finding them on the census return which will reveal their occupation, date of birth and their family.

That said the census return for Mr Carruthers has been badly damaged, but I travel in hope that some of the others on the stretch will come to light.

The rear after the demolition, 2014
We shall see.

For now I have Ray Ogden to to thank for finding the two images and Mike Peel who gave permission to use what are two of his photographs.

And in\turn a thank you to Nick Rusthon who took this picture of the rear of the two houses after they had been demolished.

I like the detail of the original stone work with the brick of the two houses above.

Detail of the rear wall

I am guessing that the stonework will predate the properties.

The small aperture in the brickwork might suggest that the building had cellars which were common enough but now I am not sure given the height from the stonework to the street level.

But then I am no experts so I shall leave it to others to make a judgement

Location; Manchester

Picture; Princess Street, date unknown, courtesy of Mike Peel,  (http://www.mikepeel.net/)    under CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)  rear of the properties from the collection of Nick Rushton, 2014, and map of the area, from Adheads map of Manchester 1851, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,  http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

Monday, 28 November 2016

On Market Street a century and a bit ago

Now I can't be remember when the first photograph was taken but it wull be sometime at the beginning of the last century.

I did research the picture in detail and looked through the directories to match the shop names with a year, but I am being lazy and haven't gone looking for the notes.

So instead  I will leave you with a bit of Market Street today as it looked on a very wet day just a month before Christmas, 2016.

And the rest as they say is for you to spot and compare

There are no prizes for just how many interesting and different things separate the two.



Picture; Maarket Street circa 1900,from the collection of Rita Bishop, courtesy of David Bishop and In 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simosom

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Today at Southern Cemetery at 1 pm

Emma Fox, of Manchester Guided Tours, and local military historian David Harrop will lead people around the cemetery visiting:


  • Commonwealth War Graves
  • Graves of recipients of the Victoria Cross
  • Civilians who lost their lives in the Blitz
  • First and Second World War memorials
  • Graves of those who fought in other wars including Zulu, Crimean and American Civil War.


The unique display in the Remembrance Lodge of World War memorabilia, curated by David Harrop.


Meet inside the main cemetery gates on Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, M21 7GL.

These are opposite James Hilton Memorials, 245d Barlow Moor Road, M21 7QL.

There will be a charge contact  Emma Fox
on 07500 774 200 or email showmemanchester@yahoo.co.uk 

Location Southern Cemetery









Pictures; Southern Cemetery, 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Friday, 25 November 2016

One to do on Sunday ............... Southern Cemetery Remembrance Tour

Now I have no intention to do anything more than quote from Emma and David who will be your guides on the tour.

The original and only authorised tours of the cemetery!

Let us remember the lives of sailors, soldiers, airmen and civilians who have taken part in conflict.

Emma Fox, of Manchester Guided Tours, and local military historian David Harrop will lead people around the cemetery visiting:

  • Commonwealth War Graves
  • Graves of recipients of the Victoria Cross
  • Civilians who lost their lives in the Blitz
  • First and Second World War memorials
  • Graves of those who fought in other wars including Zulu, Crimean and American Civil War.

The unique display in the Remembrance Lodge of World War memorabilia, curated by David Harrop.

Opened in 1879 Southern Cemetery is the largest municipal cemetery in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe.

Read about Emma's other cemetery tour in the Manchester Evening News

NB £1 from each ticket sold will be donated to the The Royal British Legion
FAQs

Where do we meet?

Meet inside the main cemetery gates on Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, M21 7GL.

These are opposite James Hilton Memorials, 245d Barlow Moor Road, M21 7QL.

NB do not meet at the crematorium. Please arrive a few minutes early.

Is there an age limit to enter the event?

No, the tour is suitable for anyone able to walk and stand for two hours on paths and grass.

What are my transport/parking options getting to the event?

The cemetery gates will be locked, as it is a Sunday, but there is plenty of parking available on Barlow Moor Road, in the side roads opposite the cemetery.

Are there any toilet facilities at the event?

Yes, but bring your own loo roll!

Where can I contact the organiser with any questions?

Contact Emma Fox
on 07500 774 200 or email showmemanchester@yahoo.co.uk 

Do I have to bring my printed ticket to the event?

No

What if it's raining, snowing or 40 degrees C?

Tours take place whatever the weather. Please dress appropriately!

Who are Manchester Guided Tours ?

We are the largest group of qualified, insured, professional Manchester Green Badge and North West Blue Badge tourist guides working in Manchester.


Location Southern Cemetery




Pictures; Southern Cemetery 2012-14 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Down in the parish churchyard by Chorlton green in 1976

Well having almost exhausted the collection of images on Chorlton in the 1980s, I think it’s time to wander back another decade.

We are in the parish graveyard in 1976 and I have to say despite walking through the place many times I have no recollection of it looking like this.

And I pretend to be a historian.

Still looking back through the back catalogue the place was like in the 1970s and as you would expect plenty more from before.

So I shall leave you with Lois’s picture of the graveyard just before it was cleared and landscaped, but if you want more follow the link.*

Picture St Clement’s churchyard in 1976, from the collection of Lois Elsden

*St Clement's Church
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/St%20Clement%27s%20Church

“I think he must have been uneducated, he had a northern accent”

Now I wish I could report that this was the product of some gormless over privileged member of a TV reality show from deepest Surrey which would at least pander to my opinion of such shows.

Union Street near Traffic Street, circa late  1940
But no it was a carefully created piece of dialogue from an episode of Scotland Yard which ran through the 1950s.

The episodes were produced as short cinema features supporting the main film and lasted for 30 minutes.

They were based on “real life cases from the vaults of London’s Metropolitan Police headquarters” and were introduced by “Edgar Lustgarten the famous Criminologist.”

I have to confess I am a sucker for all these old 1950s and 60s dramas which form a large chunk of my Christmas requests and this year the wish list was fulfilled, so along with Scotland Yard and The Blue Lamp were a few Ealing Comedies and The League of Gentlemen.

What they have in common is that they offer up a wonderful slice of how we lived and yes right down to the that assumption about the North.

Long before “Loadsofmoney” poked fun at how we lived north of Watford Gap there were whippets, cloth caps and slag heaps which alternated with cheery Cockneys consuming vast quantities of jellied eels and the odd pie and mash as some of the nation’s stereotypes.

There was a time when I would get quite cross at such lazy portrayals of great sections of Britain, but they do tell us something of what the attitudes of those who made the films at the time far more than they represent an accurate picture.

And there will be someone who can point me to the scholarly paper which explores popular culture and its relation to the class prejudices of those engaged in writing and producing British films, plays and radio broadcasts.

Well I hope so.

And in the meantime  I think everyone should take 30 minutes out and watch an episode of Scotland Yard.

Picture;Union Street near Hope Street, late 1940s, from the collection of Cynthia Wigley

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Deep Pockets and Dirty Faces ......... enaging young people in the story of the past

Now I think a love of history should start young if only because then you have heaps of time to explore the past.

The performances ......... tomorrow and Friday
And that takes me to an exciting project run by the Together Trust who for nearly 150 years have been helping young people.

It started in 1870 as a rescue operation offering destitute boys from Manchester and Salford a bed and a meal for the night.

The charity quickly extended its work to include girls as well as boys,and  provide more permanent homes offering training for future careers along with holiday homes.

It also campaigned against some of the worst cases of child exploitation taking negligent parents to court and arguing against the practise of employing young children to sell matches on the streets of the twin cities.

And now under the direction of their archivist the Trust is involved in bringing the story of the charity to a group of young people who in turn will be performing a slice of that history.

Philip on admission to the charity
“It is now only a few days until our two HLF performances of Deep Pockets and Dirty Faces. The young people involved have been working hard to create a theatrical extravaganza to entertain and educate the local population about the Together Trust’s past.

It’s been an interesting few months for the group as they’ve learnt acting skills and design skills, as well as more about the history of the Together Trust. 

It’s an area that most knew very little about, especially the journey that some children took across the seas to Canada. Part of the project’s aim was to create a sense of empathy from the young people today with the stories of children who had received services from the same charity as themselves. 

Although circumstances surrounding admission to the various Together Trust services has vastly changed, the charity still exists to help young people in the local area.

The project has allowed them to imagine being in the position of the orphans themselves and how they might have felt if they were to leave the country. 


Learning a trade .......... in the Rrinting press department
Through the project we have studied the journeys of a selection of children who travelled to Canada from the Manchester homes. 

From handling unique archives through to experiencing Victorian activities, it has allowed for the past to come to life for the individuals involved.”*

Now that I think is a pretty good way of bringing history alive.

So that just leaves me to suggest you follow the link to the Trusts’ blog where there is lots more about Deep Pockets and Dirty Faces.

Location; Manchester

Picture; courtesy of the Together Trust

* It's performance time... Getting down and dusty,


Piccadilly Gardens ....... the early years nu 2 trenches in Piccadilly

Looking across to the site of the MRI sometime after 1911
Now Piccadilly Gardens continues to excite a wealth of feelings from those who miss the old sunken gardens and have no love for that concrete slab to those who dwell on the seedy last days of the old park and point out that in these cost cutting days the present space is pretty low maintenance.

Of course before 1914 there were no gardens just the site of the Royal Infirmary which when it was demolished left a debate on what to do with the site.

It took a few years before the Corporation decided that this was a perfect place for a park in one of the busiest parts of the city.

This much I knew but what I didn’t know was that in the June of 1917 according to the Manchester Evening News the Red Cross “found a practical use for the old Infirmary site in Piccadilly ....[turning] it into a miniature sector of the Western Front.

Manchester Evening News, June 1917
The front line trenches and their equipment are said to be perfect in every detail.  There are grim touches of realism here and there, - like the torn and tattered heap of clothing nearthe terrible barbed wire entanglements to represent a dead Boche.  Some rare and valuable war relics may also be seen, including some fine specimens of enemy guns.

With infinite labour the trench diggers who were the convalescent soldiers from Heaton Park, have passed right through the heavy masonry and substantial brickwork of the old Infirmary foundations.”

There is no record of what the "convalescent soldiers from Heaton Park" thought of the task and I have yet to dig deeper to discover what the public made of the “miniature sector of the Western Front” in the heart of the city.

But once they had explored the trenches they could go on to visit the adjoining museum which “was wonderfully interesting.”

All of which just begs the question of why the display was produced.

Given that it had been produced by the Special Effects Committee of the East Lancashire branch of the Red Cross I suspect that along with its propaganda value it was linked to the organisation’s campaign for volunteers and funds.

I do know that Heaton Park had had its on set of trenches which were open to the public and no doubt so did other parts of the country.

Pictures; the site of the Infirmary, date unknown from the collection of Rita Bishop and Trenches in Piccadilly ............ a New Use for the Old Infirmary Site June 1917,  the Manchester Evening News from Sally Dervan

Monday, 21 November 2016

The silk postcard from France, and a museum in British Columbia

Now a few days ago I featured one of the silk embroidered postcards from the Great War.


Souvenir de France, 1917
I have been a fan of them ever since I began the book on Manchester and the Great War and my friend David Harrop showed me a new one which carried the name of the RMS Melita.*

And as you do I went looking for the ship which I found along with quite a bit of interesting history, but what really caught my eye was an article by Annette Fulford who had written about the Canadian War Brides some of whom went over in the Melita after the war.**

The nuseum in 2015
It was a fascinating story and pointed up that I knew nothing about these war brides.

Of course most of us will have heard of the GI Brides from the Second World War who left a drab and tired Britain still recovering from the war.

And grim it was.

Rationing didn’t stop until the early 1950s, there continued to be shortages of all kinds and for a kid like me growing at the time, bomb sites were a natural place to play.

But it never occurred to me that there should be Canadian War brides and certainly not from the Great War.

Thus is ignorance challenged and what a story it is.

Inside the museum, 2015
And that led me to a conversation with Ms Fulford who shared an article about another Canadian silk which simply carried the message Souvenir de France, and the dates 1914, 1915, 1916 and 1917.***

On the reverse Private A Wildgoose,  nu 234719 of the 52 Battalions, Canadians had written to his mother in November 1917.

The message is short, reassuring but records that “I have had no mail for over a week.”

Annette went on to research the story behind Private Wildgoose, but for that you will have to follow the link to the article which was published in the Family Newsletter of the Maple Ridge Historical Society which is in British Columbia.

The Phonograph, 1950 on display at the museum
All of which means that by degree not only have I met someone new, learnt a bit about a Canadian soldier but have “bagged” another historical society.

And so while other people collect stamps, bottle tops and those small picture cards with came in packets of cigarettes and tea, I hoover up historical societies.

I don’t join them all but I read their newsletters revel in what they have to say about the history of their locality and pass on the link to friends.

So I shall just close with the description of their museum which tells me that is “located in Maple Ridge between the Lougheed Highway and Haney Bypass at 22520 116th Ave.

Silk with the regimental badge of the Manchester's circa 1916
The museum is housed in the former Manager’s home for Port Haney Brick & Tile. 

We are a community museum featuring First Nations Prehistory, history of settlement and prominent families and feature a world-class model railway diorama of the Port Haney area at the height of the railway logging era..”****

All of which leaves me to reflect just how far you can travel with one silk postcard.

Location; Maple Ridge BC

Pictures; silk postcard, 1917 courtesy of Annette Fulford, the Maple Rdige Museum, 2015 courtesy of  Maple Ridge Museum & Community Archives and remaining silk postcards circ 1916-1918 from the collection of David Harrop

*Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson will be published by the History Press in February 2017

**Canadian War Brides of the First World War

***Capturing a moment in time Souvenir Postcard from WW1

****Maple Ridge Museum and Community Archives, 

The FA Cup Final, a body and two trips to London

Now I have to give it to my friend Ann, when she introduces a new story she does it with style.

So yesterday I received this picture of a ticket for the 1934 FA Cup Final with the simple message, “my Dad only went to London twice in his life, once to this Cup Final, and once to collect a body!”

I can think of lots of other reasons to travel down to London but given that he was a City fan and an undertaker they both seem perfectly sound choices.

I am guessing he would have been on one of the 15 special trains that left Manchester for London and took his place along side the other 53,000 who stood to watch the match and the remaining 40,000 who paid that bit extra to sit.

Ticket prices ranged from 21 shillings down to 2s 6d but ticket touts were charging 25 shillings for a 5 shilling ticket and 45 shillings for one costing 21shillings.

That said Ann’s dad had already secured his 5 shilling ticket and sat in seat nu 25 on row 7.

Now that I have to say is indeed attention to detail, which just leaves me to say he must have been a very happy chap given that City beat Portsmouth 2 goals to 1.

Someday I will ask Ann about that other trip although I doubt that she has any memorabilia from that one.

Location; London

Pictures, FA cup ticket, 1934 and Man City season ticket 1952-53 courtesy of Ann Love

A little bit of Manchester in Peckham

Now I went looking for a certain house on Barforth Road which is on the northern edge of Peckham Rye Park.

A postcard home to Peckham
The house in question is an attractive semi on two floors, and I know that back in 1911 it consisted of seven rooms and was home to the Dansie family.

Mr George Dansie described himself as a corn seed dealer and he had been married to Marion Elizabeth for 24 years.

He died in 1938 leaving £1,300 and for now that is pretty much all I know but in time I will go looking for his shop and something more on his wife and his three children.

And it was one of those children that first drew me in to the story of the family and the house.

This was George who was born in 1890 worked in the family business and in the November of 1917 was in Manchester.

I have no idea what he was doing so far north but given the date he may have been stationed in the city or just passing through.

The picture postcard from Manchester
There are a few possible candidates in the army records of which one was in the Army Service Corps.

And on that November day he wrote back to his mother that he “will be writing a letter to you tomorrow” and that he had been “to two theatres last week” and was planning to visit another.

Now he had chosen a picture post card of the YMCA hostel in the heart of the city which may have been acting as a hospital, all of which raises some intriguing clues to follow up.

And more so for me.  I grew up On Lausanne Road, spent a year in a school in Nunhead and played in the park.  Of course all of that would have been a long time after George and his family lived in Barforth Road.

But I like the way that a little bit of my adopted city made its way down to Peckham.

Location Peckham & Manchester

Picture; the YMCA Hostel in Piccadilly, 1917 from the collection of David Harrop

Sunday, 20 November 2016

One to do today ............ Meet at Chorlton Green at 2 pm


On parade ...... the missing men and a clue in Colwyn Bay

This is one of those photographs which I suspect will remain a bit of a mystery.

The date on the card is 1915 and it was sent to Private Tom Smith of Wellington Road in Rhyl.

But who sent it is unclear, other than that Tom Smith was a friend.

The card begins “Dear Chum” and goes on to thank Tom for a photo, and reports that there is no news of a transfer or when he will get leave.

The rest as they say awaits someone to recognise where the men are on parade.

That said there is just one possible clue and that comes from the photographer who produced the card.

He was Alfred Haley of Penrhyn Road, Colwyn Bay who was active marketing pictures of Colwyn Bay from at least 1910 well into the 1930s.

So perhaps we are in Colwyn Bay, if so I doubt Mr Haley had far to walk on the day he captured the men on parade.

Penrhym Road is just behind the sea front and still presents an elegant mix of shops many of which have impressive canopies of cast iron and glass.

At one end of the road is Metropole Hotel and round the corner the “Picture House” both of which will have been familiar to Mr Haley.

So that is about it. I have only visited Colwyn Bay twice and cannot pretend to be an expert on the geography of the place but someone might know where the men are standing.

And no the postmark does not help. I know the card was stamped at just after mid day on March 15 1915 but the location of where it was sent is missing.

And no sooner had the post gone out and Bill Sumner came up with the answer, "we are on Princes Drive, the houses on the right still exist, in front of the men may have been a sea view but to their right a hundred and fifty yards round the left hand bend was the station which I think was the destination. They are just about to move off."

BIll went on street maps and found that the houses behind them are still there but the houses to the right have gone.

A little further along Princes Drive there are some tall Edwardian buildings with the half timbered top gables.

And that as they say is that.  Thanks to Bill

Location; Colwyn Bay.

Picture; men on parade, from a picture postcard, 1915 from the collection of David Harrop

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The silk postcard that spans the ocean

Now I have been meaning to write about this postcard for a long time.

It belongs to my old friend David Harrop and comes from his huge collection of memorabilia from both world wars.

Embroidered silk postcards predate the Great War and continued into the 1920s but they seem to come into their own during the conflict.

Many were made in France and Belgium and were sent back from troops serving on the Western Front.

Some carry sentimental messages or references to towns behind the lines, but many use regimental badges and come also with a selection of the flags of the allies.

And this one from RMS Melita is a favourite of mine.

The ship did the Canada run from the end of the war through the 1920s before being sold in 1935 to an Italian shipping company and was scuttled off the Libyan coast in 1941.

All of which has prompted the start of a search to see what the connection might be between the Melita and British Home Children.

I know other ships of the shipping line were involved and it may be that there are people who can confirm that one of their BHC travelled the ocean on board the Melita.

And in the course of starting the investigation I came across an excellent blog on Canadian War Brides of the First World War which pointed to the fact that  our ship was involved which offers new  insights into the connection between Britain and Canada.*

All of which brings me back to my own great uncle who arrived in Canada in 1914 only to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force the following year and find himself by degree on the Western Front via his home country.

It was a journey replicated by many other British Home Children some of whom are buried here in Manchester having died of their wounds in the local military hospital.

They lay in graves besides those of British, Australian and New Zealand soldiers and some at least feature in the new book on Manchester and the Great War.**

Location; Britain, Canada

Pictures; embroidered silk postcards, RMS Melita, 1918, To My Daughter, 1918, and Souvenir from France, 1917, from the collection of David Harrop

* Canadian War Brides of the First World War

**Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson will be published by the History Press in February 2017

Manchester and the Great War to be published in February 2017

Now the book has been a long time in the writing, but Manchester Remembering 1914-18 will be in the shops in February of 2017 

It is a book I have long wanted to write and draws on official reports and newspaper accounts as well as letters and photographs and a multitude of other personal items.

Much of this material has never been seen before and some of it is unique in that it allows us to follow families through the whole conflict challenging many of those easy and preconceived views of the war.

So here is the story of George and Nellie Davison of Harpurhey and Hulme, including his years at night school while living in Chorton before they married, her regular trips to stay with him in London and Ireland and his final letters home before his death in the June of 1918.

Across the city and over the river we learn of Miss Rebecca Chapman’s first week as a Salford tram clippie, and Mrs Fannie Jane Barlow’s juggling act of bringing up two young children while working long houses in a Red Cross Voluntary Hospital.

And amongst all these stories there are those of the thousands of children on “part time education” because their schools had been taken over to look after wounded soldiers.

Much is also made of the opposition to the war, the campaigns against profiteering and the unequal status of women in the workplace.

So it rather has the lot.

And to mark the event the book launch will be held in Central Ref on Saturday February 18th.

The event will include military en actors in period uniform, live contemporary music and a selection of memorabilia featured in the book from David Harrop’s collection

Pictures; Clara in the uniform of the East Lancs, date unknown,  courtesy of David Harrop, Central Ref, 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Location; Manchester









*Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson will be published by the History Press in February 2017

Down on Nell Lane with a smelly story ................... the Destructor Plant

Now I remember the Corporation depot on Nell Lane and think we may even have used it once, but its closure and demolition passed me by.

The Destructor Plant in 1925
There will be someone who knows and I hope they get in touch to offer up a date and perhaps a reason.

Like so many bits of our most recent past the closure of the depot pretty much went unreported and the information has yet to arrive in an archive.

In the case of the Nell Lane site that is a shame given that its story goes back to 1892 when the Withington Board of Health decided it needed its own “destructor plant” to deal with the increasing amount of refuse.

As far as the Board was concerned the need was obvious and set out the case at a local government inquiry in 1892.  “The population of the district was 25,000 in 1891, and was now estimated at 27,000. ............. The number of houses was 5,200.  There were the same number of ashpits, and of these 2,284 were dry ashpits.  

The Local Board had to deal with about 15,000 tons of refuse and other matter in the course of the year. 

Part was disposed of to farmers and it had hiterto been the custom to tip the rest.  Objection had been taken to the custom to tipping and the Board had been obliged to give up all the tips but two.”**

Salford Corporation had a decade earlier been forced to do the same. Mr J Swarbrick the consulting engineer of the scavenging department of Salford explained at the inquiry that similiar objections to land tipping had been made and the Council had recourse to building a destructor in 1881, which was all to the good as early evidence had suggested that tipped land when disturbed gave off awful smells and was unsuitable for building on.***

The original plans for the site included placing the destructor’s furnaces ten feet below the surface of the ground and surrounding the area with an eight foot high wall.

The destructor had been opposed by the Chorlton Union who expressed their concerns for the health of the inmates of the nearby Withington Workhouse.

But the plant was built and in 1912 Manchester Corporation who had taken over the destructor reported that it accounted for 12,320 tons of refuse, some which was sold on to farmers, and 365 tons burned in the destructor.

And that is it the first smelly story on the blog.

Location; Nell Lane, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester

Picture; Aerial Views, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester Corporation Destruction Works, Nell Lane, 1925, Imperial Aerial Photo Com72045, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass


*The Withington Board of Health and later the Withington Urban District Council was the local government body responsible for Burnage, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Withington and Disbury.  The latter ceased to exist when the rate payers of the four areas voted to join Manchester in 1904

**Proposed Refuse Destructor at Withington, Manchester Guardian, November 23 1893

*** Proposed Refuse Destructor at Withington, Manchester Guardian, February 16 1892