Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Leaving the city ............ adventures and the promise of something new.

Now railway stations pretty much have it over airports.  

True you can’t travel as far and the duty free doesn’t exist but still they have been magical places since the first train from Liverpool pulled into Manchester in 1830.

Now one Sunday we patiently waited for the train for Sheffield, which I grant you isn’t as swanky as London or Edinburgh but it has a nice railway station with an interesting water feature and on the way there is some stunning countryside.

Of course even at Piccadilly there can be hiccups.  So having waited patiently on platform six for 20 minutes we had to move quickly to nu 10 because of “a platform alteration.” 

Nor was that all because despite having bought a ticket there were no seats and I stood all the way.

The guard apologised for the “usual overcrowding” and did so again on the return journey.

So in the case of that rail operator ..... less adventure and little promise of something new.

But that was a year ago, and perhaps all will be different next time.

Location; Piccadilly Railway Station

Picture Piccadilly Railway Station, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, now that's a zippy title

Now I don’t have a date for this post card of T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, nor can I find out anything about the Mollyneux Brothers who marketed it.

Of course in time I will, and the answers often come from people who post into the bog so I travel in hope.

I guess it might be during the Great War, which would be an obvious time for postcard manufacturers to sell pictures of munitions workers.

There are others in the collection which can be dated to the war and while they are by a different company I think I will stick with the Great War.

Now it is just a flight of fancy which is something I don’t ordinarily indulge in but I would like to think that at least one of the girls staring back at us lived in the newly built Well Hall Estate, which a little over 50 years later was where I would call home.

But yes perhaps a bit too much like romantic tosh, especially as there will be some out there who is about to tell me that the particular type of tube being made predated the Great War. Well we shall see.

Picture; T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, from the collection of Mark Flynn, post card dealer,

Back on Hardy Lane a long time before now

We are on Hardy Lane again. 

The caption just says “view from Hardy Lane, near Hardy Lane Farm looking across to Jackson’s Boat in the distance.”

I don’t have a date but I guess it will be before the University took over the land and set to developing it as playing fields.

Picture; courtesy of Mr Crossley from the Lloyd collection

Two old houses, a shop called Audrey’s and new friends ................. how the past makes its own connections

Now the connection between two old houses on Upper Chorlton Road, the much missed “fashion” shop which was Audrey’s and a growing group of new friends might seem an odd one.

198 & 200 Upper Chorlton Road, 1960
But the connections are all there, starting with the obvious one that all are Chorlton or almost  and secondly and I am in all of them which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

I write about Chorlton’s history and on occasion people get in touch to share their memories.

So having written about Audrey’s yesterday which sold fine gowns, blouses and ladies accessories I was contacted by Catherine and Jo.

Catherine I already knew through social networking because we shared an interest in a now vanished local farm, but it turns out that she ran Cafe Tabac which was situated in one of the two shops owned by Audrey on Barlow Moor Road.

And Jo is Audrey’s daughter and more than that when I sold my house on Reeves Road she and her partner bought it.

Catherine has promised to tell me about Cafe Tabac, while next month I shall be meeting up with Jo, her husband and a friend all of whom have many memories of Chorlton.

Audrey's on Barlow Moor Road, 1959
And also next month I have been invited to see the progress on numbers 198 and 200 Upper Chorlton Road.

They were once fine family homes dating to sometime just after 1871, but the passage of time and changing lifestyles meant that they had fallen on hard times.

But the two are currently being renovated and converted in to apartments by Armistead Properties and in the process bringing them back into something of their former glory.  Peter who owns the company asked me to find out what I could about the properties and out of that came some fascinating stories, and I hope more.*

The Chemists which became Audrey;s circa 1900
All of which reinforces that simple observation that history is messy and can take you off in all sorts of directions making links that you never expected.

Nor does it stop there, because one of my present projects is a book on Chorlton Pubs and Bars with local artist Peter Topping, which will include the bar Duffys and what is now Duffys was once Cafe Tabac having also been Uhuru and an Italian restaurant and before that Audrey’s.

And as we enter the local elections, a Mayoral contest and the General Election I shall just say that the two houses on Upper Chorlton Road were once owned by a Chorlton councillor who was leader of the Conservative group on the City Council.

So I am not surprised at the connections that bubble to the surface, and after the next round of meetings with new friends I reckon there will be more.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures;  no 200, m40865, Downes A H, Audrey’s 1959, m17591, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  the Chemists which became Audrey;s circa 1900 from the Lloyd Collection

*Armistead Properties,

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ........ nu 40 Chapel Street

Now I know Chapel Street is nether lost nor forgotten but over the next few days here are a few photographs that were taken on a June day last year.

And like all good pictures and stories I leave the rest to you.

Other than to say the lighting was iffy.

Location; Salford

Picture; Chapel Street, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Little Tony, Rock and Roll and Italy in the 1960s

Little Tony in 1967
I came across one of those old faded newspapers yesterday from the 1950s with a story of a local Watch Committee* deploring the “effect of that American style of music commonly known as Rock and Roll on young people.”

And it made me think of the influence of the music, films and life style that we imported from America during the two decades after the last war.

Now of course it had been going on for a long time before Bill Hayley and Elvis Presley strutted across the stage but the 1950s was when I was growing up and so it’s their music and all that went with it that I remember.

Rosa in Naples in 1961
And for Rosa growing up in Naples in the early 1950s the arrival of American culture was even more profound.  It was parodied in the Neapolitan song Tu vuò fà l'americano which gently pointed fun at a young Italian who wanted to look American by drinking whisky and soda, dancing to Rock ‘n Roll and smoking Camel cigarettes.

But the sting was that  this depended on his Italian parents to give him the money,

You want to dance rock and roll; 
You play baseball
But the money for the camels, 
Who give it to you??
Mamma’s handbag!

All of which I was reminded of with the announcement of the death of Little Tony who some had called Italy’s Elvis Presley.

“Born in 1941, Little Tony had a few hits in the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the lead singer of Little Tony & His Brothers. He then returned to Italy where he pursued a successful career as a singer and actor.”**

Little Tony singing Il ragazzo col ciuffo in 1962

His first solo hit was Il ragazzo col ciuffo – The Guy with a Quiff  in 1962 and he went on to record a number of songs which sold over a million each.

And like many singers he made a successful  move into films starring in 20 films and began his own record company.

Watching clips from films and TV appearances there is no getting away from the American influence as in Il ragazzo col ciuffo

But for me it is the song Peggio Per Me - Worse For Me and the accompanying video which best shows not only the impact of American music but also the way it was taken over for an Italian audience of the 1960s

I saw him on TV and enjoyed his performances. He died of lung cancer on May 27, 2013, at the age of 72.

Now for those who want more I shall pass you over to that excellent site Italian Chronicles**, and in particular Italy’s Elvis Bops off to Heaven***which was where I drew much of the material for this story.

Little Tony's site can be visited at

*Watch Committees were responsible for police forces from 1835 till 1964 and so to "appoint constables to preserve the peace."



Pictures; Rosa in Naples from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Little Tony from Wikipedia Commons and You Tube

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Queen & Pasley

Sometimes it is amazing how quickly our recent past can vanish.

The Pasley Laundry was opened in 1893 on what is now Crossland Road and did not reach its 100th birthday.

Laundries are a measure not only of the size of a community but of their prosperity.

 Given the arduous nature of wash day it is not surprising that those who could afford to pay for the weekly washing to be cleaned did so. The population had doubled in the ten years before 1901 and the next decade saw an equal increase. The occupations of the residents of new Chorlton ranged from manufacturers, bank managers and solicitors to clerical and skilled workers.

The very mix which is reflected in the large detached and semi detached houses stretching along Edge Lane and High Lane and the tall terraced properties radiating out from the station.

Here were the customers of our five laundries which in themselves were a mix. Yapp’s Laundry was big enough to have branches on Ashton Old Road, Chorlton on Medlock and in Whitefield and Stretford. 

Others like Wing Sam operated from one shop while Martha Keal’s premises on Beech Road was also the home of a her builder husband John. The biggest was the Pasley, later renamed the Queen and Pasley on Crescent Road. It opened in 1893, and at one point employed 50 staff.

All the washing machines were belt driven by a huge steam engine and were the first to install the “float-iron system” which consisted of the multiple roller pressing machines. This was 15 feet wide and 15 feet long and
“was a mass production ironing machine, with delicately poised rollers. You could put a shirt with pearl buttons on it and it wouldn’t leave a mark.”

Vans from the laundry would collect the washing and deliver it to the sorting office where each item would be marked, and classified into bins, before the loads were emptied into the ten washing machines. After being washed the clothes went through stages of being dried before being set out still slightly damp for the ironing and pressing and finally being re-sorted in the packing room and returned in the vans to the customers.

But the Queen & Pasley like all the rest were slowly being squeezed as the growing prosperity of the 1950’s led to people buying their own washing machines and by the self service launderette which are themselves now in decline.

And just after this was posted, Bob and Jean commented that "both my Gran and Granddad worked there in 1911 he was a van driver and I used to pass it a lot as a kid," and  "my mum worked their in about 1946 and then moved to the Grange .I used to go in the summer holidays with other children and one of the staff would take us to the park and look after us."

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; the inside of the Queen & Pasley circa 1960 from the collection of Tony Walker

Down at Duffy's thinking about Audrey's and the man who sold a nit comb

Now Duffy’s has been serving up pints with football for almost as long as I can remember.

Duffy's in 2008
That said I did once have a meal in the place when it was an Italian restaurant and just about remember what was there before that.

But for those with longer memories and a greater claim to be from Chorlton  it will always be Audrey’s that rather elegant ladies clothes shop.

In the 1950s it was a double fronted premise taking in the next door shop and was pretty much all glass with impressive signage.

Audrey's in 1959
In time I will go looking for the story of Audrey’s and for the history of the chemists who occupied that corner shop at the very beginning of the 20th century.

Back then the parade of shops still known as Pemberton Arcade was relatively new and it may well be that Mr Walter Smith was the first tradesmen to occupy that shop on the corner with Needham Avenue.

In 1903 he was there dispensing his mix of prescription medicines, over the counter cough mixture and much else along with those huge glass jars of coloured liquid which were the hall mark of all chemist shops.

Window shopping for something nice at Audrey's
A full eight years later you could still call in and collect everything from a nit comb, surgical bandage to all a doctor might prescribe, although by then Mr Smith had moved on and sometime after that here will have been a stretch of business up to when Audrey’s opened.

All of which is for another time leaving me only to comment that Peter’s painting of Duffy’s is now itself a bit of history which I guess means he will back down there to paint it again now that it has adopted its bright new green sign and veranda.

Painting; Duffy’s Bar  © 2008 Peter Topping 


Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Picture; Audrey’s 1959, m17591, A H Downes,courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

A silk from France .......... postcards from the Western Front

Now I have no idea if the soldier who purchased this embroidered silk postcard was from Eltham.

A message from the 8th London Regiment, date unknown
But given that it carried the badge of the 8th London Regiment the chances are he was from somewhere in the city.

These types of postcards are a favourite of mine.

They were made in France and Belgium and came with all sorts of designs from ones which carried a sentimental message to those with the badge of a regiment.

Many will have been sent in a letter which helped preserve the delicate nature of the embroidery.

To my dear daughter, date unknown
And here I have to thank my old friend David Harrop who has a large collection of silk postcards including this one from the 8th London.

It has has a special connection  with David, because the 8th London were also known as the Post Office Rifles and he worked for the Post Office.

The Post Office Rifles had been formed in 1868 following a bomb attack on a London prison.

After the attack the Government had created a body of special constables to protect public buildings and from a group consisting of postal workers came the request to establish a Rifle Volunteer Unit.

Detail of the London silk, date unknown
The unit saw action in Egypt in 1882 and participated in the second South African War from 1899 through to 1902.

At the outbreak of the Great War the existing Post Office Rifles were redesignated as the 1/8th Battalion, London Regiment.  A second battalion was formed in September 1914 and a third in 1915.*

And it appears that the third battalion was billeted at Blackheath from October 1915 till they went to Fovant in January 1916. **

All of which makes for a possible connection between Eltham and David’s silk.

Location; London

Picture; embroidered silk postcard, date unknown, from the collection of David Harrop

*Post Office Rifles,

**The London Regiment, The Long Trail,

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ....... nu 37 Francis Street and that children's charity

Now Francis Street which is off Great Ducie Street is hardly likely to lift the heart of the casual tourist or I suspect anyone.

In the back yard off Francis Street, 1873
True there is a hotel on the corner but the rest stretching out to Charter Street and down to New Bridge Street to the south  is a car park.

And the rest is rather unpromising.

Walk along Francis Street as I did a couple of years ago and you come to a dead end having passed what was more open land and a warehouse which was up for sale.

Of course things may have changed and it is on my to do list to visit with a camera which neatly takes me to this photograph.

Part of the Refuges, circa 1882
It was taken in 1873 from the back yard of a children’s charity.

The charity was the  Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges which had been established in 1870 to provide a bed and a meal for destitute boys.

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 like other children’s charities it became involved in the migration of young people to Canada.

The organisation is now called the Together Trust, and it is still engaged in the primary role of helping young people.

So given how vital their work was then as now I thought I would offer up the detailed plans of their buildings on Francis Street.

The complex was part home and part industrial school but also included a gymnasium and classrooms given over to training for those who were migrated to Canada.

From 1870 till 1939 many organizations engaged in caring for young people migrated some to Canada and later Australia as well as other parts of the old British Empire.

More of the Refuges, circa 1882
The practice has come in for some criticism and also had its critics at the time and the Manchester & Salford charity stopped earlier than most.

That said there were success stories and these are contained in letters and reports held in the Trust’s archives some of which are regularly featured in their blog.*

Added to which the organization is engaged in some exciting work with local schools aimed at extending our understanding of their work both in the past and today.

This also includes help offered to those who may have had relatives in the care of the Trust and want to trace their story.

All of which brings me back to Francis Street where their main building was situated.

Location; Salford

Picture; the yard of the Manchester & Salford Refuges, 1873, courtesy of the Together Trust, and details of the buildings from Goads Fire Insurance maps, 1882-1901, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Getting down and dusty, the Together Trust,

April 25th 1945, a day of liberation and now a national holiday

I am looking at a picture posted by an Italian friend on facebook of a man in a train compartment in the rush hour.

Nothing you might think odd about that except that he has a machine gun slung over his shoulder.  I missed it when I first came across the image and was drawn back by her comment and the date.

She wrote that she found “it fitting, [and] particularly laden with meaning,” because April 25th is a national holiday in Italy and marks both the end of what was left of Mussolini’s fascist state but also the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy on that day in 1945.

Senor Prigile, August 14th 1944
And so I guess the picture was a posed comment on the events of that day sixty-eight years ago.

I would like to have used it but in the absence of copyright details for the present it will just have to sit on facebook and what ever Italian news agency issued it.

In its place there is this picture of Senor Prigile, an Italian partisan in Florence taken on August 14th 1944.

British troops had been ordered to avoid fighting the Germans in the precincts of the city of Florence but Italian Partisans, occupying the Fortress Di Basso exchanged fire with the German snipers that remained after the German forces evacuated Florence.

Now like many of my generation I was brought up on a diet of national stereo types and given the close proximity of the war the crude picture of Italians was that all they ate was  pasta and were all to ready to surrender.

It was an image much hyped by the propaganda of the war years and ignored the many brave Italians who opposed the Fascists both before and after they came to power in 1922.

It also ignored those that against their will were conscripted into the armed forces, to fight first in Abyssinia and Greece and later in North Africa and on the Eastern Front.  Nor is much said about  those who were held in Soviet prisons long after the war and those who never returned.

This I hasten to add is in no way a defence of the fascist regime which so brutally eliminated parliamentary democracy in Italy and did nothing to prevent the exploitation of working people.

Rather it is recognition that there were many Italians who opposed Mussolini and resisted as best they could.  And some who risked their lives to protect allied prisoners of war who had escaped and were  on the run from the German Army.

Corso Giacomo Matteotti on an April afternoon
And I often think of that opposition when we are in the Corso Giacomo Matteotti which is one of my favourite parts of Varese.

Here you can find posh clothes outlets, elegant cafes and wonderful food shops ranging from the expensive bakery to ordinary fruit and veg shops a fishmonger and a butcher.

It is named after the socialist MP who denounced the fascists in the Italian Parliament for election bribery in 1924 and was murdered by them just 11 days later

So I shall be talking to our Italian family later this evening and asking them how the holiday has gone.

Location; Italy

Pictures; Corso Giacomo Matteotti from the collection of Andrew SimpsonSenor Prigile, August 14th, 1944. “This image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Photographs taken, or artworks created, by a member of the forces during their active service duties are covered by Crown Copyright provisions. Faithful reproductions may be reused under that licence, which is considered expired 50 years after their creation and is in the public domain, Wikipedia Commons."

Monday, 24 April 2017

That house beside Malton Avenue that everyone remembers

Now this is one of those buildings with a history and almost everyone you talk to will remember it as everything from a doctor’s to a cafe and to an office.

It is on the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Malton Avenue and was built sometime after 1910 when the area was redeveloped.

It had once been part of the estate of the Holt family whose extensive garden ran from the corner of Beech Road along Barlow Moor Road down High Lane almost to Cross Road and then across back to Beech Road.

When the last of the family died in 1908 their large house was demolished, the trees along the eastern side of the garden were cut down and the Corporation used a stretch to build the tram terminus while the rest became houses, shops and the Palais de Luxe cinema.*

Sadly until now I had not come across much more about the place, and then out of the blue Douglas wrote to me asking about the cinema.  He “lived in the detached house right next to the cinema, on the corner of Malton Avenue and Barlow Moor Road, no 477, so the cinema wall formed one side of our garden. I went to the Burnage High School for Boys and also the Wilbraham School of Music in High Lane.”**

And all of a sudden the building was given a new lease of life as a place which was a home.

Now in the fullness of time I hope that Douglas will share more memories of number 477, the cinema and life on Barlow Moor Road in the 1940s

*A forgotten photograph, ............ the Palais de Luxe in 1928 
from the series Chorlton cinemas,

**Douglas Cook,
Picture; 477/483 Barlow Moor Road, 1959, A.H.Downes, m17516, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

On rediscovering where you were born ............. The General Lying in Hospital at Lambeth

My hospital, 2007
We all have little bits of our past which we stumble across.

Most are too personal to warrant even a sentence in a history book but sometimes you know that there is a story and it is story which will pretty much touch lots of people.

I had never bothered looking up where I was born after all given that it happened on an October day in 1949 I just assumed like so many places in my life the hospital would long ago have vanished replaced by a dreary 1950’s office block or worse a car park.

But the General Lying in Hospital at Lambeth on York Road is still there although it closed for business in 1971.

Now if I am to be strictly accurate the building that saw me enter the world was the second Lying in Hospital.

The first opened on Westminster Bridge Road was replaced by my hospital in 1828 and in its time according to one source 150,000 babies were born there.*

All of which puts me in good company and no doubt once the story hits the web there will be some who come forward with their own stories.

Not that there is much to mine and until I began digging I had even got the name wrong believing that it was the Royal Lying in Hospital.

Nor do I have any memory of this grand building or whether I visited it when my four sisters were born.

I know that after its closure it fell into disrepair, went on to the Buildings at Risk Register and finally a shed load of money was spent on its restoration only for it to be sold to a hotel chain.

Perhaps it’s time for me to book a room there although I hardly think I will end up anywhere near where I resided 65 years ago.***

Picture; the General Lying in Hospital, August 27 2007, © Elliot Simpson

* the General Lying in Hospital,

**York Road, BHO British History on line 


Lost and forgotten streets of Salford nu 38 Garfield Street and a post card home

Now I am having difficulty locating Garfield Street which was off Trafford Road.

I know it was there because sometime after September 26 1917 Mr and Mrs Lewis received a picture postcard from the Western Front.

It is a beautifully written message which draws attention to the Cathedral on the other side of the card “Hopes this finds you in the best of health, thanking you for the good wishes you so kindly sent in the letter.”

It was signed Jim and I rather think the surname was Elliot but so far I haven’t been able to locate either Jim or Mr and Mrs Lewis and Garfield Street.

Location; Salford

Picture; picture postcard, 1917 from the collection of David Harrop

At Manchester Airport with Les Entremets et Canapes

Now I first flew in 1982 and I have to admit I was 33 which these days is I guess quite old.

But my dad was in his mid 60s and my mum and three of my sisters never took to the air.

So by the time I walked through the doors of Manchester airport it had become a big place and today is even bigger.

I was reminded of all of this when I came across a menu for the restaurant at the airport which I think dates from either the late 1950s or early 1960s.

And right away we are in a different era, for the whole thing is in French with of course an English translation. So the Les Entremets et Canapes [sweets and savouries] consisted of 21 dishes including Parfait Ringway [Vanilla and Strawberry Ice, Cherries, Chopped Nuts, Fruit salad], Campe aux Sardines [Sardines on toast] both at 3s 6d.

There was a Guide to Culinary terms and that invitation to elegant dining with the food “cooked beside your table” which included Tournedos Ringway at 10s 6d, Poulec a la Broche at 21s and Steak Tartar for 12s 0d

There was “VIN EN CARAFE, Rouge [red] at 10s 6d, or 5s 6d and Blanc, [white] for 10s 6d or 5s 6d”

Now I am fascinated by the firm who did the catering.  This was The House of Smallmans who were based in Rushholme and in 1962 at Heald Green, and will be worth a little research.

But in the mean time I shall close with some other images of the airport in the 1950s  ranging from the restaurant to the departure lounge.

Pictures; menu cover, courtesy of Jan Crowe, and airport pictures, Manchester Restaurant, m6219, and Manchester Lunge at Passenger Check in, m62618, 1953, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015 ....... leaving

Now I like railway stations which are only bettered by airports.

But unlike airports there is no air side which is really the mark of when the holiday begins.

Until then you have the hassle of the taxi, worrying that you have the right terminal and that your bags are the right size, the right weight and above all don’t show you up later on the carrousel at your destination.

So having smiled at the UK security officers who don’t smile back, once you are on air side that is petty much it and you can fell the holiday starting.

But trains are different, walking from the concourse on to the platform can’t be judged “as going airside.”

That said there is still that bit of excitement as you mount the train, find your seat and wait for it to pull out of the station slowly gathering speed.

And then in what seems just minutes bits of inner city Manchester whizz past and the adventure has started.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Growing up in Chorlton part one, the Rec, Acres Crack and the Bone Man

Bob on Beech Road in the 1950s
I made a new friend yesterday and from that friendship will come a whole raft of new stories about Chorlton in the 1940s and 50.

Bob Jones was born in 1944 and grew up on Kingshill Road, attended Oswald Road School and has vivid memories of playing in the Rec, and the local farms and shops.

We joked that a test of someone born here or with long memories of the place is that at some point the Rec and Acres Crack feature in the conversation along with the Queen and Paisley Laundry, the Palais de Luxe and the distinction between old and new Chorlton.

Now I am not going to steal Bob’s thunder, but I shall just leave you with these tantalising glimpses of growing up in Chorlton in the 1950s.

Back then at the age of six Bob did a part time job which involvedthe collection the milk from Higginbotham’s farm on the green and later for Mr Neil the butcher at the bottom of Beech Road close to the Trevor.

His father ran a pet shop in that first little shop next to the Beech and each week one of his jobs was to hand over any animals that had been put down to the Bone Man.

All of which is enough for now.

Picture; Bob outside Mr Neil’s shop sometime in the 1950s, from the collection of Bob Jone.

Of Eltham, Manchester and an artist from Wales

Now I like the way things have a habit of falling together in a most unexpected way.

Manchester  School of Art 1900
So recently when my friend Tricia found a painting looking down Well Hall Road with the parish church in the far distance my interest was tripped which was added to when Lesley stumbled across the fact that the artist had briefly lived in Manchester.

So given that I left Well Hall for Manchester in 1969 it was as they say “game set and match.”

Francis Dodd by the artist
The artist was Francis Dodd who had been born in Hollyhead, educated in Scotland and during the Great War was appointed as an  official war artist.

In 1895 he moved to Manchester.

I found him on the 1901 census living as a “boarder" in a house in Chorlton-on Medlock and three years later he was still there but is listed as the householder.

As yet I have no idea of what he did in Manchester other than that he “worked and taught” here.

He may have attended the prestigious School of Art as a student or even as a teacher.  Walter Crane was the Director of Design from 1893 to 1898, Adolphe Valette taught there from 1906 to 1920 and its graduates include

L.S. Lowry, Eugene Halliday, Liam Spencer and Ossie Clark.

I lost him after he left Manchester and only found him in Blackheath at the end of his life.

Entrance to  the School of Art  1972
All of which set Tricia off on a search and I have to say she found a lot.

“I have been out with my spade again doing some digging concerning the life of Mr Dodd  He was born 29.11.1874., 

He was the oldest child of parent Benjamin Dodd & Jane Francis Shaw. His siblings were Gertrude Helena Dodd bn 1876, Walter Stanley Dodd bn 1877 & Elsie Lilian Dodd bn 1881. 

He married  1911 to Mary Arabella Bouncker Ingle born 1871 Woolwich died 14.2.1947 Blackheath. Francis Dodd then went on to marry Ellen Margaret (Nell) Tanner born 1908 Chelsea. They married in January 1949 in Chelsea he was aged 74, she was 41. To my knowledge I can see no evidence of any children from either marriage.

Frances Dodd took his own life at his home in Blackheath in March 1949 two months after he married his second wife. The Daily Mail states of his death the following.

A short time after finishing an important picture Francis Edgar Dodd age 74, Royal Academican, took his own life at his home 51 Blackheath Park. It was stated at the Lewisham inquest that Mr Dodd was found by his gardener in a gas filled basement kitchen. 
Ellen Margaret Dodd

His wife out lived him by 34 years she died in 1983.

Being an old romantic I have a theory that maybe he pined for his first wife and thought by remarrying it would ease his broken heart but instead it made him miss his first wife even more. Just a notion I have with no evidence whatsoever to back it up.

The visitor at his home on the 1911 census Susan Mabel Dacre a fellow painter was also his benefactor for 14 years whilst he was living in Lancashire.

Miss Isabel Dacre born 1844 Leamington. She befriended Dodd & was his patroness for 14 year & affectionately know as Aunt Susan.”

And that of course brought me back to Manchester not only because of that house in Chorlton on Medlock but the School of Art is a place I know well.  Some of my friends  studied there, others taught there and for a while in 1972 I regularly stood in that entrance.

Odd world.  All we need now is a picture of the 9 roomed house in Blackheath.

Now that we didn't get but instead this from Michael Gorman,
"Isabel Dacre was an important artist in her own right - forming the Society of Women Artists whilst study at the Municipal School of Art and winning the Queen's prize. One of her contemporaries was Annie Swynnerton - who also attended the School - and was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy."

Research by Tricia Lesley

Pictures; Mr Dodd and Mrs Dodd, sourced by Tricia Lesley, Municipal School of Art, 1900, m66425, and entrance to the Art School, 1972, H Milligan, m66434,and in 1972, m66433, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

On coming across a Roman ruin

We came across the Largo di Torre Argentina by accident on the way to the Colosseum. 

The weather had been hot all week and so we had set out early to catch the cooler air, and as we came across the square I took some photographs and we moved on.

Only later when I did the research did I discover that here were four Republican temples and a bit of the theatre of Pompey which was also where Julius Caesar had been assassinated. Not bad going for our first morning in Rome.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

At the Tasty Corner in Sorrento and a lesson in why you should always wander

Now it is one of those little streets which you only find by accident.

We were following the line of shops along Via San Cesareo and cut through an arch in a building which opened up on the even narrower via degli Archi.

There will be the sniffy travellers who see only an alley but in the short distance it took us to walk its length there was a tiny sweet shop specialising in a range of bagged sweets including the sugar coated nuts which always go down well with the family and this tiny restaurant with a handful of tables inside and offering these two out on the street.

It was called L’Angolo Del Gusto or the Tasty Corner and its one review described it as  a family run “café and bakery [with] good food that is very reasonably priced. 

They are very accommodating and it has just a few tables so you can eat there or take out. We enjoyed the service and the good food.”

Now given that we had paid €75 for a meal the Tasty Corner had an appeal but I couldn't fault where we had eaten and our position commanded a fine spot to watch as people went by so I was content.

I suppose I should have slid across and asked the couple if they were local but it isn’t the done thing.

So I shall just leave you at the tasty corner on hot day in Sorrento in late July with that observation that when is a new place never be afraid to wander off the beaten track.

Pictures; the via degli Archi July 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

No more school at Langworthy Road ......... and in its place a military hospital

Now if you are seven years old and going to school on Langworthy Road in Salford the only bright bit of news as the Great War rolls into its second year might be that your school was to become a military hospital.

In the March of that year the authorities identified five schools which they thought might be suitable “for new hospital accommodation required by the military authorities.”*

The five were Secondary School for Boys, Leaf Square, Grecian Street Girls and Infants Schools, Halton Bank School, Langworthy Road School and Tootal Road School, with the option to substitute “Leicester Road School for one of the others.”

The attraction of the five/six were that they were all modern school.
In the case of Langworthy it had only been opened five years earlier in 1915 and had a total intake of 376 boys, 376 girls and 442 infants.

By all accounts it would have passed an Ofsted visit with flying colours.  The average attendance was nearly 100% and it was judged good by a report in 1905.

All of which just left the difficult question of what to do with 1,194 students.

The authorities had not fully worked out the answer to that question in the March of 1915 but considered that “There a number of Sunday Schools and halls in Pendleton and Broughton districts which may be utilised and suggestion has also been made that schools in the neighbourhood of the five selected schools should have two courses a day – one from 8 am. To 1pm. and the other from 5 pm., - one for each school."

This half day schooling was also adopted by Manchester where by 1915 the number of schools taken over amounted to eight. The first was the Central High School for Boys and Girls on Whitworth Street which had a thousand students and became the headquarters of the 2nd Western General Hospital.

The following year another seven schools were taken over.

These were Alfred Street in Harpurhey, Alma Park in Levenshulme, Grange Street in Bradford, Lilly Lane in Moston, Ducie Avenue, Moseley Road and Heald Place which amounted to the loss of 3897 places.**

It had resulted in a degree of ad hoc provision for some at least. In the February of 1916 the Manchester Museum reported that it was providing effective instruction for 900 to a 1,000 children per week drawn from the higher standards of the elementary schools.***

A similar scheme was underway at the City Art Gallery, the Whitworth Institute, and “kindred institutes in the city” and had proved so popular that children not only travelled some distance to attend but even brought their parents.

And that pretty much is that.

Location Salford

Picture; Langworthy Road Military Hospital, circa 1915-17 from the collection of David Harrop

*The New Hospitals, Five Salford Schools to be used, Manchester Guardian, March 17 1915

** 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester, 1914-1919, Margaret Elwin Sparshot

*** War Service in the Museums, Teaching the Half Timers, Manchester Guardian, February 21, 1916

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Watching the hail storm and much more in the Bay of Naples

Never underestimate the surprises offered up in the Bay of Naples

We arrived in Sorrento in the blistering heat of late afternoon and that was how it was for two glorious days before the rain.

Now I am used to those Italian thunderstorms which come out of nowhere, rage with the full force that nature can devise and are over as suddenly as they came.

But in that brief few minutes the sky darkens and the low rumble of thunder becomes defeating as streaks of lightening flash and the rain just comes down like stir rods.

All that we had and hailstones too which even the locals claim were bigger than anything they had seen before.

Then in a matter of minutes the storm had passed leaving a carpet of fast melting hailstorms and a few broken leaves.

But as ever the storm had cooled the air and cleaned the streets, so that the evening stroll on Sorrento was a pleasant affair despite the crowds of tourists who were all intent on capturing that little bit of Italian life.

And Sorrento did not disappoint, all of which is why we returned the following day.

We took in the odd museum and a fair number of narrow streets each with a bewildering number of shops offering all manner of stuff to entice the tourist and which were pretty much replicated in the next half dozen streets.

All of which led us by degree to VIA R. REGINALDO GIULIANI and a meal at one of the many restaurants that spread out across the road from its beginning to the point when the it becomes too narrow.

The meal was good and of course the position offered up plenty of opportunities to sit and watch.

It cost just €70 which for four seemed acceptable until that is we sampled the delights of Naples a place I have fallen in love with.

Rome will always be my favourite city which has the power to draws us back but Naples is something else.

But that is for another time.

Pictures; Sorrento, July 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

"She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now" ......... a song from 1916 and a choir for today ..... the Woolwich Singers

I have no idea if “She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now” was sung by my grandfather or any of our family who served with the Colours during the Great War.

The song sheet, 1916
But I bet it would have been popular on the Progress Estate which had been built to house workers at the Arsenal.

And the romantic in me wonders if the first resident of the house in Well Hall where we lived sung the song on his way to work.

This was Basil Nunn and if he didn’t sing it then at least he would have known of it.

“She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now” was written and composed by Robert Donnelly in 1916 and told of a wounded soldier who received a letter from his girlfriend announcing that she was working at the Royal Arsenal.

And it pretty much had the lot, he was wounded and in France, she was doing her bit amongst the shells and guns in Woolwich and both were working for a common cause.

So the chorus must have seemed all the more significant to both munitions girl and soldier with its repeated refrain

"I work at Woolwich Arsenal now,
"Give my message to your chums,
"Girls are working ‘midst the shells and guns
"Altho’ ‘tis tiring, as you’re requiring ammunition for the fighting line,
"We’ll do our share for you out there."

Working in the Arsenal, circa 1916
Now I would like to know more about Robert Donnelley but so far I have only been able to find a few references on the electoral rolls for the years just before the Great War and of course this might not be him.

But if it was, then in 1911 he was at 46 Waverley Road in Plumstead where he rented three unfurnished rooms, one basement and two first floor rooms for six shillings a week from a W.J. Weeks.

He also appears on various electoral rolls back to 1902 and possibly onto 1954, but is absent from the census returns saving 1891 when a young Robert Donnelley is living at home with his parents in Plumstead.*

And by one of those nice bits of coincidence his father was an “overseer at the Royal Arsenal.”

Laughter on the Steps, the Woolwich Singers, 2014
So we have almost come full circle but not quite, because the inspiration for the story came from James who lives on the Progress Estate and came across a reference to the song.

And by by another nice twist "She Works at Woolwich Arsenal Now" was first unearthed by a member of the Woolwich Singers who are a “are a community choir, which rehearses weekly on Wednesdays from 6.30 – 8pm at the Clockhouse Community Centre, Defiance Walk, Woolwich Dockyard, Woolwich SE18 5QL."**

The aim of our choir is to sing together, meet new people and have fun!
No one has to sing by themselves and there is no audition to join.

We sing a mixture of traditional and pop songs – something for everyone, and everyone is welcome.”
And that I think would have been something Mr Donnelley would have approved of.

Either way you can judge for yourself  with this version by the singers of that song.***

And the original inspiration from James can be seen at The Progress Estate, Eltham, SE9

Pictures; cover of “She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now” courtesy of  Greenwich Heritage Centre, T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, from the collection of Mark Flynn, post card dealer,

*Enu 9 46, Plumstead East, Plumstead, 1891

** Woolwich Singers,

***“She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now”