Monday, 31 October 2016

A day out in Deansgate ......... nu 1 stepping out of the railway station

Now I am always pleased when Andy Robertson goes out on an adventure.

And this is the start of a new series which looks at how bits at the bottom of Deansgate are fast changing.

I have to say that this one was still in Andy’s camera an hour ago as he travelled home, sadly not on the tram but on the bus, there having been problems at Trafford Bar.

Location; Deansgate

Picture; Knott Mill Station from the collection of Andy Robertson

"Affectionately yours" .............. messages from the Western Front January 1916

Now I wonder if either of these two men is "Botty."

In January 1916 he sent the picture postcard back to Dibdale Road in Dudley with the message, “Hello Mabs Laugh and the world laughs with you Snore! And you sleep alone.  Love to all at home.”

I went looking for the house but Dibdale Road is a long one and even though I know that the house was Dibdale Villas I doubt that I will find it.

But I might strike lucky by using the street directories and the census returns but even then there is no guarantee that either of the two men is “Botty."

So for now it is that ambulance and the casual smiles of the two soldiers which drew me in.

There will be those who can tell me much more about the type of ambulance, when it came into service and its general specifications.

For now I note that it could hold eight patients along with the driver and one attendant.

We will probably never know much more and as such it is just one of those many pictures from the Great War with images of young men who are now lost in time.

But it does allow me to mention David Harrop who lent me the picture postcard and may well be exhibiting it in his collection of memorabilia which tells the story of the Great War and are on permanent display in the Remembrance
Lodge at Southern Cemetery.

Location; the Western Front circa 1916

Picture; ambulance and two soldiers, circa 1916 courtesy of David Harrop

The Rochdale Canal 1974

I have always been drawn to canals and also to railways, but canals have that added attraction of water which most of us fine compelling.

But what really attracts me are not  the water way holidays with those old converted narrow boats or the modern zippy but ugly little cabin cruisers, it is the way a canal takes you right back to that working industrial Britain of the late 18th and 19th century Britain.

Back then they were not genteel extensions of the rolling countryside but busy places where hard people competed, working long hours in all sorts of weathers carrying everything from coal to fine bone china.

Now I not against the modern transformation of our waterways for without the holiday and pleasure cruises I doubt that the canals would still be with us.  All that hard work, dedication and financial sacrifice by the canal enthusiasts who dug out the mud, restored the lock gates and reopened these lost waterways is balanced now by the tourist and boat owner.

So I was so pleased to receive a set of photographs of the Rochdale Canal in 1974 from Eileen Blake. She used them for an A level course and they are the very stuff of what makes a canal fascinating to me.

They are of that section which connects the Duke’s Canal at Castlefield with the Dale Street Basin.

This was the Manchester terminus for the Rochdale and from there it is possible to head out east of the city on the Ashton Canal.

Here then are a selection of Eileen’s pictures with more to follow and later something of my stories of walking this part of the canal.

Pictures; from the collection of Eileen Blake ©

The story of one building in Chorlton over three centuries ............. part 3 the recent past

The continuing story   of one building in Chorlton over three centuries*

Number 70 Beech Road, 2015
Now it is a lesson to us all, well to me any way that it is so easy to take a building for granted.

So for decades I passed number 70 Beech Road with no thought that it might have had a history or that that history stretched back to 1832.

This of course was the year of the Great Reform Act, a year which saw a deadly outbreak of Cholera in Manchester, the publication of Dr Kay’s book on The moral and physical condition of the working-class employed in the cotton manufacture of Manchester and the opening of a beer shop at the bottom of a country lane that led on to the village green.

It proved successful enough to continue to offer pints to the thirsty of the village until the beginning of the 20th century and thereafter was the home of a varied set of business from upholstery to selling fish and baking bread.

Number 70 in 1958
I only got to know it when as the Oven Door I would occasionally call in for a loaf of bread and a bag of cakes.

It closed sometime in the 1980s and once again I pretty much took its passing for granted.

But number 70 was on a prime location and as Beech Road went through its transformation from small traditional shopping centre to the cosmopolitan place it is today offering everything from Spanish tapas, interesting coffees and plenty of bar opportunities our building was bound to be snapped up.

It began with a developer who raised the level of the roof much to the consternation of some local residents and later took on a new facade.

And with that sorted it opened as picture framing business and we still have one fine poster which was framed there.

I can’t remember how long the business lasted but like all things it finally closed to become the home of Franny & Filer which “is a unique contemporary jewellery and craft gallery, set up by jewellery designers Frances Stunt and Abby Filer.

Franny and Filer, 2013 
Fran and Abby set up the gallery with the aim to provide emerging designers specialising in handmade jewellery with a modern space to showcase their talent. Alongside a handpicked selection of established designers.”*

Now what the building sells may have changed but it is still a commercial property and I rather think it is the oldest commercial building in Chorlton still offering things for sale since it opened in 1832.

That of course is not to miss out Number 68 next door which has been everything from a stationer’s and post office, to drapers, grocers and for a while a bakery.

The two properties have been linked not only by a common owner but also by the Nixon family who ran the beer shop ad later took over the stationers but that is for another day.

Pictures, number 70, 2013 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, back in 1958, R.E. Stanley, 1958, m17658, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Next; more on some of the people who lived at number 70

*The story of one building in Chorlton over three centuries,

**Franny & Filer,

A little bit of Ordsall Lane in the April of 1911 and a correction to the original story

Ordsall Lane, 1894
I was on Ordsall Lane recently on that short stretch between Woden Street and Everard Street.  It is a mix of flats, houses and some open land.

And like so many city landscapes what you notice is the solitary pub which in this case is the Bricklayers Arms facing Woden Street.

What is a little odd is that the entrance is not on the main road but up the side of some open land that leads to an alley and on to Freya Grove.

Now that is odd as you would expect the entrance to be on the main road, and it looks very much as if the building has been turned sideways.

But not so because originally that open land was the continuation of Woden Street and our pub was built with its entrance facing that street.

All of which is a clue to the whole sale redevelopment of the area along this bit of Ordsall Lane.  I say development but it is more the demolition of what was there and in particular a row of houses that faced our pub and ran down from Woden Street to Everard Street.

That said I have to admit to getting this bit a tad wrong, for only a few hours after I posted the story I received this comment  from Bernard . 

"Andrew I lived in The Bricklayers Arms from 1948 to 1954. 

At that time the front entrance was on Ordsall Lane and the address was 148 Ordsall Lane. This would fit in with the 1911 street directory as shown in your article. The front door was blocked up when the pub was extended and now there is just a window there."

Outside the Bricklayers Arms, circa 1950
This is a photo of me and some friends at the Woden Street entrance to the Bricklayers taken c1950. 

Before the pub was extended in 60s the front door was on Ordsall Lane and the address was 148 Ordsall Lane."

Now that is what I like about the blog, not only are people reading it but they are kind enough to make a contribution.

And as you do I became interested in them after having come across the Edwards family who lived at number 168 in 1911.  There were nine of them living in just five rooms and that was all I needed to draw me in.

Looking at the remaining 13 houses was to be taken back to that classic period of inner city living where rows of small terraced houses were home to large households.  Most of the row boasted five rooms but a third had just four and crammed into the block were a total of ninety-three people, some of whom did come from large or extended families but in other cases were a mix of family and lodgers.

So at number 160 Mr Tierney along with his own family of eight added five lodgers to what was just a five roomed property, and while this was the most extreme case of overcrowding plenty of the houses had lots of people squeezed in.

The Street Directory, 1911
Here were the usual mix of occupations including labourers, carters, cotton workers, shop assistants and one insurance agent.

Some of the householder varied their occupations depending on whether they were talking to the people who compiled the street directory in the November and December of 1910 or the census enumerator in the April of the following year.

So Mr Cooke had become a hardware dealer in April but earlier had been happy to be listed as “iron monger and grinder,” while Mr Dean chose to specify that he was a herbalist rather than plain shop keeper.

What is surprising is that there was very little in the way of turn over between the six months or so from November to April with only three changes of occupation.

Now I don’t pretend that this is anything more than a snap shot of a few households in some small bit of Salford, and I would like to acquire a picture of the properties, but in the meantime next time I stand with my back to that pub and gaze across Ordsall Lane I will have something more to stir my imagination.

Picture; detail from the OS map of South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, picture of Bernard and friends, courtesy of Bernard and detail from Slaters' Directory of Manchester & Salford 1911

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The story of one building in Chorlton over three centuries ............. part 2 Mr Riddle, a pile of fish and bag of cakes

The Travellers Rest, 1901
The continuing story  of one building in Chorlton over three centuries*

For just seventy years number 70 Beech Road was a beer shop, trading variously as the Robin Hood, the Travellers Call and for most of those seventy years as the Travellers Rest and very briefly as the Trevor.

But sometime between 1901 and 1909 it shut up shop, sold its last pint and became the home of Mr William Riddle who was an upholsterer.

Now it must have served the community well but by the turn of the century it had competition.

Another beer shop had opened next door and another almost directly opposite.

The first of these was the Beech which was a going concern by 1891 but operated from only part of what we now know as the present Beech.

By 1901 it had extended to take over the other property in the block and it may be that sometime around then this building was either remodelled as the present pub or may even have been rebuilt.

Looking down to the Oven Door. 1958
Much the same happened opposite when another small beer shop was opened in 1879 which two decades later was bought by Groves and Whitnall which had taken over the Regent Road Brewery in 1868 and began a rapid expansion which by the time they were registered in 1899 included nearly 600 pubs.

And in keeping with that expansion plan the pub was rebuilt in 1908.

Now at present I am not sure when Mr William Riddle moved on but sometime between 1911 and 1929 Mrs Laura Lothian opened a fish monger’s shop in number 70 which was still trading in 1936.

She was a widow and we can track her across Chorlton until her death in 1953 when she was living on Whitelow Road.

The Oven Door, 1979
By then the building had been taken over by Mr Jones who ran it as a pet shop.

Later it became  a bakery.

There will be many who remember the Oven Door.

We occasionally bought our bread from there but more often than not stopped off at Richardson’s which
was closer and so I did not even notice that it closed sometime in the early 1980s.

Of course its closure was only one of many of the traditional shops which we lost from the late 70s and by the following decade Beech Road was beginning to look a little empty, but renewal was on the way, but that like the rest of the story of number 70 is for another time.

And not long after this was posted, John Pemberton added that, "Around 1963/64 after the Pet shop moved on, it became Frank Beryl's Bookmakers, later in the 60s/early 70s, the bookies built their own premises on a croft on the other side of Beech Road,where the new houses are now, then the Oven Door, which was already established at No68, expanded into number 70 and became a double fronted shop."

Pictures; number 70 as the Oven Door looking down Beech Road in 1958, R E Stanley, m17671, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and in 1979 from the collection of Tony Walker

**The story of one building in Chorlton over three centuries,

Relics of a former glory ..............

There was very little left of the building when took this image back in 2014.

And I have a vague memory of someone telling even thishas gone.

Which will prompt me to go and look

Location; Salford

Picture; a Salford building 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Passing the Peace Garden .............

The Peace Garden had a short life.

It was created in 1985 and closed just 28 years later.

I have to say it was somewhere I usually just passed through, but on a warm summer’s afternoon as the trees matured it was a pleasant place to sit and watch the city pass by.

Some will point to the noise from the traffic and the litter which was deposited  by passers by but it was just coming into its own as the plans were formulated to bring the Second City Crossing through the garden and re-site the Cenotaph in front of the Town Hall.

And now it has gone.

Location; Peace Garden, Mosley Street, Princess Street, Manchester

Picture; looking at the Peace Gardens from a passing bus, 2009, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Manchester of 1894

I have spent part of the afternoon looking through a wonderful collection of pictures of Manchester from the late 19th century.

They come from a three volume collection published in 1894 under the title Manchester Old and New.  It was written by William Arthur Shaw and the 300 illustrations ranging from small pictures set into the text to full page paintings were by Henry Tidmarsh.

These for me are the real attraction of the books.  True, some might be dismissed as chocolate box illustrations with a romantic hue, but many were of the less prestigious streets and highways while others like the Rochdale coke and gas works vividly bring to life an industrial scene long gone.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; from Manchester Old and New published in three volumes in 1894 by Cassell, text by William Arthur Shaw, illustrations by Henry Tidmarsh

The story of one building in Chorlton over three centuries ............. part 1 a beginning

Number 70 in 2014
Now over three centuries a building can pretty much be many things to many people and so it is with number 70 Beech Road. 

It began as a beer shop was briefly home to an upholsterer, and has also been a fish shop, a bakery and art gallery before becoming home to a jewellery and craft business.

All of which means it may well be our oldest commercial property with an unbroken record of selling various things dating back to 1832.

As such it is only beaten by the Horse & Jockey which opened its doors sometime around 1800 in a building dating back to the 16th century.

And yes the Bowling Green does date from the 1780s but is now in a building which was built in the early 20th century, while the pub over the water at Wilton's bridge is now no longer in Chorlton.

Now I can’t be sure of the exact date but 1832 is a good starting point.

Nu 70, the Travellers Rest, circa 1901
It does not show up on Hennet’s map of 1830 but was open for business just two years later when it was run as the Robin Hood.

But perhaps to distinguish it from a pub with the same name in Stretford it became the Travellers Call and by the 1840s was known as the Travellers Rest.

It fronted directly on to the road and so those who chose to visit it would walk straight in off the Row.**

Inside there was just the one room with all the natural light coming from a window beside the door.  

Judging by the size of the room which was just 3.5 metres [11.5 feet] wide by 1.75 metres [6 feet] long, and its customers were packed in sitting on simple wooden chairs and benches with just enough room for one table

It lacked the size of the Bowling Green Hotel or the position of the Horse and Jockey on the green, but it was a natural stopping off point for anyone coming down the Row.**

Grouped around about were a fair few village homes, and there was the added attraction of William Davis’s smithy just across the road.

Looking up Beech Road around 1901
For those dropping off tools to be mended or horses to be shod the “Rest” was a natural port of call, particularly for those thirsty from the heat of standing near the forge.

Like other beer shops the Travellers Rest may not even have had a bar.  It was a simple drinking room where men gathered, drank their beer and enjoyed each others’ company.

Its first “beer keeper” was Thomas White who was succeeded by Samuel and Elizabeth Nixon and they ran the place until the mid 1880s, after which it continued as a beer shop until the early years of the 20th century.

The corner of number 70 in 1979
But that is not quite all for this first chapter in the story.

Samuel’s father ran the pub over the Mersey, his son took over the post office next door at number 68 and his grandson opened the first newsagents on the corner of Beech Road and Chequers Road and had married in to the Brownlow family who had been making wheels at Lane End from early in the 19th century. ***

So less a story of one beer shop more of one family and what they did in Chorlton.

Next; from beer shop to upholster and the story of Mrs Lothian who sold fish from number 70 well into the 1930s.

Pictures; number 70 Beech Road, 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and the Travellers Rest circa 1901 and the Oven Door, 1979 from the collection of Tony Walker.

*The story of one building in Chorlton over three centuries,  

**The Row or Chorlton Row was the name  of Beech Road

***Lane End was where High Lane and what is now Sandy Lane joined Barlow Moor Road

78 Manchester Pubs to see Christmas in

It is day five of that outrageous bout of self promotion for Christmas and what better stocking filler than the book that tells the stories of our most iconic Manchester Pubs.

Less a guide and more a detailed set of tales featuring the people who lived, worked and drank in those 78 historic boozers from the Northern Quarter down to the Universities.

They are grouped together in easy to do walks and so along with those stories there are descriptions of the areas where the pubs are situated, allowing the causal tourist to put the pubs into a context and making it easier to understand why one was named after a potato and another was renamed.

Added to all this there are the paintings by Peter with each pub getting its own painting.

And so with a planned publication date of just before Christmas at least one present will have been sorted.

We are just waiting for the book to be delivered from the printers and are taking pre-orders now at 

Manchester Pubs The Stories behind the doors, Peter Topping and Andrew Simpson

Friday, 28 October 2016

Antonio Peduzzi making what we wanted at 33 Piccadilly in 1824

Antonio Peduzzi was from Lombardy and settled in Manchester around 1810, ran a series of successful businesses, was married twice and ended his days in the Chorlton Workhouse on Stretford New Road where he died in 1846.

It is not much of an obituary for a man who had the courage to leave his native Italy, settle here in Manchester mixing his skill as a craftsman with more than a bit of entrepreneurial verve, loved two women and died insane in the workhouse.

But it is the starting point for a fascinating story which was first revealed by Alex Roe who works in Milan, has a wonderful site offering up all sorts of news about Italy and is related to Antonio Peduzzi.

I began thinking about the Italian contribution to the city a few days ago in the story Of Naples in 1961 and Little Italy in Ancoats in 1901 and as you do I was drawn in to the history of those Italians who came over at the beginning of the 19th century, which is the cue for Alex who wrote that

“my very distant relative Antonio Peduzzi died in 1846 after having been certified insane. Antonio’s madness may have been caused in part by the loss of both of his wives. He did not have any children either, poor man.

Prior to his insanity and death, Antonio Peduzzi ran what was by all accounts a successful business which framed and glazed needlework, drawings and pictures; re-gilded and silvered old frames and mirror plates; and made and repaired barometers, thermometers and hydrometers. He had premises in Oldham Street and in Deansgate in the early part of the 19th century.

Antonio Peduzzi’s brother, and my more direct ancestor, was called James. Not a very Italian name, I know. I don’t know whether it was his real name, or one he had chosen to make his life in England a little easier.
James Peduzzi married Elizabeth Ward. The couple had three children, one of whom was Francis who would have been my great, great, great, great, great grandfather. I may have got the number of ‘greats’ wrong! Sorry, but it’s greatly confusing.

James Peduzzi set up in business as a picture frame maker in Spear Street in Manchester and later expanded into the making of thermometers and barometers. After applying for British citizenship, James was able to buy property, which he duly did.

In 1848, James bought a workshop and engine in Foundry Street, off Oldham Road. The property included other small workshops, houses and some shops. James’ business, it seems, flourished which fits in with the family rumour that the Peduzzi’s were quite well-off.

One of James’ sons, born in 1815 was Francis, who along with his younger brother – another James, joined his father in the Foundry Street premises.

Francis left this world in 1866 and his wife took over the business, but, and for reasons unknown, the Peduzzi business ceased trading after Elizabeth’s death in 1870."

33 Piccadilly marked in yellow in 1842
So with Alex’s permission and the help of the Museum of Science & Industry whose collection includes a barometer made by the Peduzzi company I plan to explore more of the life of Antonio and something of the Manchester he knew.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; the buildings opposite the infirmary including the premise of Peduzzi & Co, 1824, m5291, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  33 Piccadilly and the Infirmary from the 1844 OS of Manchester & Salford, by permission of Digital Archives,   and detail of Carvers, Gilders, &c. From Pigot & Dean’s New Directory of Manchester & Salford 1821-22

Four hundred years down at Hough End Hall .............the stories in the book for Christmas

It is day four of that outrageous bout of self promotion for Christmas and again it is time to include Peter Topping.

This time it is our joint venture to tell the story of Hough End Hall.

The book was produced to raise money and awareness for the campaign to save the hall which back in 2015 had an uncertain future.

In its time it had been the home of a wealthy Elizabethan family, was a farm house for 250 years and more recently was a restaurant.

And as a restaurant it will be remembered by a plenty of Chorlton and Withington residents who sat under its oak beams to celebrate birthdays, special events and even funerals.

But of course for many it will be the “works do” and particularly Christmas parties that the Hall did best.

Sadly those oak beams were false and the original were hidden behind a mix of wooden two by on and painted canvas.

That said there are plenty of real stories which roll through the book along with plenty of period photographs and original paintings by Peter.

The Story of Hough End Hall, 2015, Andrew Simpson, Peter Topping

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A garden in Martledge on an August day in 1882

It looks like a fairly ordinary Chorlton garden and if pushed you might suggest a location bordering the meadows which pretty much means Meadow Bank or Ivygreen Road.  

But the title is the giveaway for we are in the garden of Sedge Lynn* and the open land beyond is not the meadows.  We are facing Oswald Road, and the long roads of Newport, Nicholas and Longford and the year is 1882.

In fact to be exact it is August 11th 1882 which was a Tuesday and judging by the light sometime around midday, but I could be wrong about the time.

It is the third of my pictures by Aaron Booth of Martledge where he with his family lived during the last two decades of the 19th century.

I would like to think we are looking at a garden in transition and given that they may only have been in the house for a few months that seems plausible.  So here is a Victorian garden in the making with its Victorian wooden wheelbarrow, spade and packing case and perhaps at a moment when the labourers had gone off for lunch.  Of the three in the collection this casual and untidy scene for me is the most endearing and sets you down on an ordinary day when ordinary things are being done 130 years ago.

And then there is the view.  Back then it was open land popularly called the Isles because of the large number of ponds and small streams that crisscrossed the area.  The land here is clay and for centuries it had been dug up to make bricks or as marl to spread on the fields.  The pits then filled with water and gave the place its distinctive feature.  I counted 17 such ponds around Oswald Field in 1841, and they were a mix of the small and very large.

The Booth family would have had an interrupted view across the Isles towards Longford Hall only obscured by a row of trees.  It was a view which would have lasted into the late 1890s, but within another decade it would have been lost as the first rows of houses went up on the newly cut roads of Nicholas, Newport and Longford and behind them the sprawling brickworks.

All of which makes our picture a poignant image and one made a little more special because the photograph was donated to the collection by one of five daughters.

* Sedge Lynn stood on Manchester Road on the site of the old cinema which is now the Funeral Directors

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Stories from behind Didsbury doors ...... this Christmas

It is day three of that outrageous bout of self promotion for Christmas and it is time to include Peter Topping.

Peter and I produced Didsbury Through Time two years ago and unlike other books of the same style we decided to concentrate on telling the stories of the people who lived behind the doors of the houses in Didsbury, added to which Peter painted many of the street scenes which made the book quite unique.

My favourite is the story of young Bertha Geary who in 1911 wrote to afriend that she "had heard the Flying Man" and if you want to know more you will have to buy the book.

Didsbury Through Time, 2014, Peter Topping and Andrew Simpson

“The Moat, Well Hall”.......... sometime around 1903

The caption just says the “The Moat, Well Hall” and I just love this picture.

It comes from Some Records of Eltham which was published in 1903 and written by Rev. Elphinstone Rivers who was vicar of the parish church from 1895.*

In time I will go digging for more on the author but at present I am marvelling in this old book which my sister Jill found.

The chapters cover the early history of Eltham, include a heap of old documents and some fine pictures which brings me back to this one of Well Hall.

I guess it will have been taken when Edith Nesbit was in the big house which fronted the main road.

This had been built in 1733 and survived until 1930.

I like what the Rev. Elphinstone Rivers wrote about the spot, "seen from the roadway, the present comparatively modern farm house does not strike the beholder as being of great interest.

The old fashioned cottages a little to the north are of a
much more picturesque character.

If one takes the trouble to enter the farmhouse-yard, however, and walk around the back of the stables, he will encounter a fragment of an antique moat and just beyond he will see a picturesque gable end and chimney stack of ancient brickwork which formed a portion of the venerable mansion of the Ropers.

The spot is beautifully quiet one, and should be visited if one wants to see it at its best, when the setting sun is dipping behind the western horizon lighting up the quant old brickwork with a ruddy glow and filling the glass panes with a golden blaze of brilliance.”

Now for that alone I am pretty pleased our Jill found the book, and I rather think there will be more from Rev. Elphinstone Rivers.

Alas the identity of the man sitting by the moat will I fear never be discovered, but then I haven't read through the book so we shall see.

Picture; of the Moat at Well circ 1903, from Some Records of Eltham

*Some Records of Eltham 1060-1903, Rev. Elphinstone Rivers, 1903

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Christmas in Chorlton in the 1850s ............ day two of that bout of self promotion

Now yesterday I kicked off with the first of a new series Andrew Simpson for Christmas 2016 promoting the book Manchester and the Great War due out in February of next year, and today it’s the first one I wrote.

This was The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy published in 2012

“Here for the first time is a detailed account of an agricultural community that was just 4 miles from Manchester. 

Much of the narrative is rooted in the people who lived here, using their words and records. 

It tells of daily lives, setting them in a national context, and balances the routine with the sensational - including murder, infanticide and a rebellion.

Partly a narrative of rural life, and a description of a community's relationship with a city, the book also includes guided walks around Chorlton to bring this history to life. A database of references and sources is also provided.

This is the story of a group of people that history has forgotten and scholarship has ignored.”

The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 2012, £18.99, available from Chorlton Book shop and from the History Press,

Life beyond the front door ........Hyde Street Hulme in 1913

It is not often you get to see into the home of someone from Hulme at the beginning of the 20th century.

And I rather doubt that in the normal course of things the people behind the door of this house on Hyde Street would have agreed to a picture being taken.

But then I bet they were not even aware it had been taken.  Looking through the collection there are no more interior photographs so I guess this was just one of those opportunistic moments when travelling photographer encounters an open door.

What I like is that it takes me back to my own grandparent’s two up two down in Hope Street and for that matter our own house in Lausanne Road.

The lower part of the wall is covered in that thick embossed paper painted brown and varnished, and above it a slightly lighter pattered design off set by pictures of long dead cherished relatives which stare out at you and almost seem to act as door guardians.

And if this were like Hope Street and Lausanne Road then there would be thick lino on the floor, which was cheap to buy, easy to wash and from memory pretty durable.

All of which just leaves the coal hole and the cellar which mark it out as superior to either Hope Street or my own first house in Ashton-Under-Lyne which had no cellars and in the case of my grandparents home lacked any foundations.

So if you lifted the stones in the kitchen there was just bare earth.

But Hyde Street was a cut above that, witnessed by its residents who could count a postman, a coal dealer, baker and undertaker amongst those who lived there.

And if there were some who might describe themselves as unskilled there were plenty of others who had a trade including a safe maker painter and a printer.

So in time I shall return to Hyde Street having done some research from the census returns.  In the meantime I shall thank Sally who showed me the picture in the course of her own family research.

Picture; Hyde Street,1913, m26173, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Just 38 years ago in the village churchyard

Our parish churchyard in the april of 1978
It is just 37 years since this picture of our old parish church yard was taken.

And yet it is so far from the knowledge or experience of many in Chorlton that it might as well have been taken in 1878 rather than 1978.

And it is one of those odd things that despite having frequently walked past the crowded jumble of grave stones I have no recollection of the place looking like this.

Nor of the attack on the gravestone of Police Constable Cock who was murdered on August 1st 1876.  According to the local newspaper* “ the small headstone on the already battered, iron-railed grave in the old St Clements’s churchyard near Chorlton village green has been torn from its retaining screws by vandals or thieves attracted by the historic tablet.”

P.C.Cock's headstone, Preston, 1980
The original six foot high headstone which included the old Lancashire Constabulary crest was moved to Preston in 1956.

Now the murder is fairly well known and still crops up from time to time in stories of Chorlton.

At the time the understandable wish to get a quick conviction led to the arrest of William Hebron who was found guilty in the December but the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Which was all to the good given that just over two years later Charles Pearce who had a history of petty theft confessed to the murder of the policeman.

Looking back at the picture I continue to be surprised at the state of the place.  Leaving aside the vandalised graves you have to admit that it’s more than a little neglected.

Some of the headstones have been lift to tilt and those on the ground are uneven.

This is all the more shocking when back in 1847 an official inspection reported that the church and the graveyard along with the headstones were well kept and the grass mown regularly.

But this had been when there was still a church here and when people made their way down from the north entrance to worship in a church which dated back 149 years.

It had been built in 1800 on the site of an earlier chapel, survived the opening of a rival church on the corner of St Clements and Edge Lane and only closed in 1941 when frost damage made it almost impossible to hold services there.

Overturned headstone, April 1978
After that it lasted just another eight years succumbing to persistent attacks by vandals and was eventually demolished.

Not long after our picture was taken Angus Bateman and a team of people undertook two archaeological digs of the site and a little later the area was landscaped.

Now I remain ambivalent about that.  Certainly something needed to be done, and it is now a nice place to sit, but many of the gravestones were taken away and lost and the few that remain were not all returned to their original resting place.

And so the memorial stone to P.C.Cock is now situated close to the lytch gate which is some distance from where he was buried.

Does it matter?  Well yes I think it does.  Not only are the surviving headstones in the wrong places but the actual records of so many of the people who were born worked and died in the township are lost forever.

Their names and the often poignant inscriptions are no longer there to read and so it is almost as if they never were.

Looking north in 1978
Now I am not religious but I do think such memorials are important.  As historian I know they are, as indeed they are for anyone who has links with Chorlton.

And to underline that thought recently I met a descendant of the Reverend Booth who presided over services in the parish church for thirty-three years.  She was thrilled that his headstone had survived and paid for its restoration.  To her it was a very tangible link to her past family.

Nor is that quite the end.  For the gentleman in the picture is Mr Fred Casson who was verger of the church from 1930 till it closed in 1941.

He knew the church when it was still a lively and important part of the community and reflected on the struggle to maintain graveyard.  “Manchester City Council now look after the graveyard. They do a lot of repair work but every time workmen finish one job vandals smash something else.  It’s a losing battle.”

Looking north in 2009
Today by and large the place is vandal free and it is pleasant place but I rather think I would like it as it was, even if it meant coming down and helping make good from time to time.

And there I shall leave it.

Picture; from The Journal Thursday April 13, 1978, the Loyd collection and the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Vandals wreck memorial to famous murder, The Journal Thursday April 13, 1978

Walking along Shooters Hill in the 1840s with the help of Darrell Spurgeon

Severndroog Castle, 1784
It’s another story from Shooters Hill.

Over the last few days I have been wandering over the tiny community that lived on this northern edge of Eltham.

And today it’s the landmarks courtesy of Darrell Spurgeon and his Discover Eltham which was published in 1992 and issued as a revised edition in 2000.

The walk along Shooters Hill contains much about the place including Christ Church, the Ypres milestone, the Memorial Hospital, and Castle House Lodge along with Eltham Common the various woods and Holbrook House.

And for those who want to drop down beyond the summit there is even more.

But today I rather fancy staying the land marks which would have been familiar to the people who lived here in the 1840s, and of these I have chosen Castle House Lodge, Severndroog Castle, Holbrook House, and the Bull Inn.

Castle House Lodge, 5. An early 19th century house, originally the lodge for Castle House (built 1823 demolished 1948) whose site is now in the grounds of the Memorial Hospital.

Severndroog Castle, 8.A tall triangular battlemented tower with hexagonal turrets, surrounded by trees in Castle Wood; and extraordinary Gothic folly, it was built to a design of Richard Jupp in 1784. 

The original main entrance is on the south-west face; the other original entrance doors are blocked, with only the fanlights remaining; the small doors under the turrets were added later.  The inscription on the stone plaque over the original main entrance on the south west face is inscribed on a tablet

'Severndroog Castle was built by the widow of Sir William James, a commander in the East India Company, to celebrate his naval exploits, in particular the capture in 1755 of the island fortress of Severndroog off the Malabar Coast of India.  At the time the castle was just north of the grounds of the James mansion of Park Farm Place, Eltham.'

Holbrook House, 162 Shooters Hill.  A stuccoed villa circa 1838, which may incorporate some late 18th century structure; the bay window was added in 1862, and extensions to the rear in the late 19th century.

The Bull, 19. A red brick pub of 1881, ....... the date stone (‘built 1749, rebuilt 1881’)is over the original corner entrance now bricked up.  About 65 metres to the east is a horse mounting block with three steps, dating back at least to 1750.  

It is in front of the site of the orginal pub called the Bull, which was a large and well known tavern, built circa 1749 9possibly much earlier) and demolished in 1881.  The block was re-erected here in 1929, but almost certainly the wrong way up.”

Like many I have fond memories of wandering the woods and especially of Severndroog Castle.

Now I am not given over to idle speculation especially of the historical kind but I do wonder whether the four children of George and Mary Field who ran the Bull in the June of 1841  wandered across the road an into Castle Wood to the folly.

It may be romantic tosh but it is a powerful link back to the community who lived on Shooters Hill a hundred and seventy years ago.

Pictures; Severndroog Castle and map from Discover Eltham

* Discover Eltham, Darrell Spurgeon, Greenwich Guide Books, 2000

Collier Street Baths Salford

Now I went looking for the old baths on Collier Street recently prompted by a series of pictures taken by Andy Robertson.

And I have to say it wasn’t the actual building I was searching for.

Andy has done a fine job of recording them as they stand today, so I went off to search for the history of the baths.

I know that they were built on the site of the Salford Workhouse by the Manchester and Salford Baths & Laundries Company which built similar baths in Manchester.

And that they were designed by Thomas Worthington who was also responsible for the Infirmary at the Chorlton Workhouse.

Some of the building has been demolished and what is left is a Grade 11 listed building.

But as Andy’s pictures’ show it is in a sorry state, and the level of dereliction appears to be advancing.

Looking at photographs from two years ago and comparing those with some from February along with Andy’s it is hard to see what future it can have.

Now I am sure I may have missed a detailed piece of research on the place and likewise overlooked a plan to save it, all of which I hope will be pointed out to me, but in the meantime I would get down there before it has gone.

And once that has been done there is always the Eagle Inn which according to one source is a “hidden gem of a traditional back street boozer and commonly known to the locals as the Lamp Oil. 

There are three small rooms off a central corridor with a central bar serving Holt Bitter. 

It is a Grade II listed building dating from 1902. 

There is a fine terracotta plaque of an eagle with the name above the door and for years this was the only pub sign.”**

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson July 1014

*Greengate Baths, Collier Street,

**What Pub?,

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The book on Manchester and the Great War ......... an outrageous bout of self promotion

Now when you get to my age you don’t dawdle, instead you seize the time.

Young Clara
So with that in mind and having spent the last month stumbling over Christmas puddings, Christmas cards and Christmas hampers in our supermarket  I have no shame in parading a selection of history books  by me which will make wonderful presents.

So over the next few days I shall post stories about all my books at frequent intervals, followed by others that I like and finishing with some from my childhood and then just for good measure all over again those that I have published over the last four years.

And I am starting with Manchester Remembering 1914-18 which actually will come out on February 2 2017, which means you can pre-order following the link, offer up a cardboard cut out for Christmas Day with all the added anticipation for the New Year when all the other presents have been forgotten.

“The First World War claimed over 995,000 British lives, and its legacy continues to be remembered today. Great War Britain: Manchester offers an intimate portrayal of the city and its people living in the shadow of the Great War. 

A beautifully illustrated and highly accessible volume, it explores the city's regiments, the background and fate of the men on the frontline, the changing face of industry, the vital role of women, conscientious objectors, hospitals for the wounded and rehabilitation, peace celebrations, the fallen heroes and war memorials. 

The Great War story of Manchester is told through the voices of those who were there and is vividly illustrated with evocative images.”*

And that is it for day 1.

*Great War Britain Manchester, 2017 £12.99,