Friday, 25 November 2016

Back with Derrick A. Lea in the Chorlton of 1955

It’s one of those odd things that we have few pictures of Chorlton in the 1950s. 

Now there are a few fine collections in the Local History archive* but nothing compared with the huge range and number from the beginning of both the 20th century and the last decades of the 19th.

So when examples come up it is as well to include them in the story of Chorlton.

And so here we have another from the pen of Derrick A. Lea who drew pictures of the area in the 50s.  As I have said before along with J Montgomery Mr Lea is a bit of a mystery.

I know a little about him including where he lived in Chorlton and that some of his pictures were turned into greetings cards and that is about it.

Now given that pictures as opposed to photographs of where we live do not turn us as regularly his collection are quite unique.

This one is of Wilbraham Road sometime in 1955 and it appears to be a warm day in perhaps March or early April because despite the absence of any leaves on the trees people are walking around without those heavy overcoats everyone seemed to wear during the period.

Of course there may be a bit of poetic license here but there is much that is just as it should.

And it is a scene that has changed.  The Conservative Club and Public Hall was still solid reminder of the fact that Chorlton elected Conservative politicians to the Town Hall  and would do so until 1986.

In much the same way the Lloyd's Hotel has not changed overmuch since it was built in 1870

But with the benefit of hindsight we know that Mr Lea’s picture captured a Chorlton that has now gone forever.  The Conservative Club and Public Hall closed earlier in the year after the Conservative Association had wound itself up and currently the plans are to convert the building into flats.

The Lloyd’s may appear superficially the same, but internally much has been altered.  The small rooms have been knocked through, and the staircase taken down.

I can’t say the changes are for the worse.  I remember it from the late 1970s and early 80s as a place waiting for something to happen.

All of which would have pleased its landlady back in the 1880s.  This was a Mrs Crabtree who by all accounts “improved the place considerably in various particulars” and it may have been her who encouraged the bowling green members to build their own club house which was open on Wednesdays during the season.

She was an enterprising woman with an eye for business and also laid out a lawn tennis court on the open land along side Whitelow Road.

By the time I had washed up in Chorlton the tennis courts had become a drab car park while going inside the pub was like stepping back into the 1950s.

Nor did much seem to improve during the course of the next decade, and sadly the place became somwhere you went to only for a quick dring before eating on Wilbraham Road.

Not until very recently has I been in the Con Club, but both it and the Lloyd's had offered live music on and off so perhaps I was the loser.

In the same way slowly the history of the Public Hall is coming back out into the open including its role as a place of amateur dramatics groups.

Which brings me back to Wilbraham Road in 1955.

Picture;  Wilbraham Road in 1955, Derrick A. Lea


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