Wednesday, 30 November 2016

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


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