Thursday, 14 December 2017

A big bit of tram history ........ travelling from Bury to Manchester ......... April 1992

Now I have no idea what I was doing on April 6 1992, but I know that Geoff Ankers had a ticket to travel, and used it on that day to take the tram from Bury to Victoria Station.

Travelling by tram from Bury, 1992
And I have his Metrolink Commemorative Ticket, Issue No. 09765.

I should of course have asked him if he took pictures, which would add to this unique bit of our history.

But I suspect the tram would have been full, and a photograph of the back of Miss Edna Trellis will not stir the pot of transport moments.

That said, I will go back and ask him, and perhaps also for his memories of that tram ride.

These will find their way into that new book which is beginning to take shape, and will be ready sometime in the new year.

It will be the story of the Metrolink written as ever from a slightly different angle. The History of Greater Manchester... By Tram - The Stories At the Stops* is just what the title says, and will be a collection of

The small print on the reverse of the ticket
Peter’s original paintings, old photographs and my stories, and will feature all of the present 93 stops, and the additional 6 which will be part of the proposed extension of the network to the Trafford Centre.

So in all 99 tales about how the network was built, the people who travel the lines, and above all each of the Metrolink stops.

Last week I ran the first story asking for accounts of journeys taken and of pictures snapped, and quick as a flash Geoff came back with the ticket, which he remembered was in a draw.  He was more than happy to donate it, and it will have pride of place in the book.

It turns out Geoff tells me that he had “travelled on the tram to work and whilst it was busy it wasn't full.

Also, in the days of non smart phones, I was really bad at thinking to take pictures”.

But he has promised to come back with more memories.

So that just leaves me to thank him and record that his name is the first to be entered into the credits in the Hall of Fame.

Picture; Metrolink Commemorative Issue ticket, Issue No. 09765, 1992, courtesy of Geoff Ankers

*The History of Greater Manchester ..... By Tram-The Stories At the Stops, Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping will be published during 2018, for details of this book and all the others written by the two authors, go to, http://www.pubbooks.co.uk/  


One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 92 ......... the washing up bottle and the project

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

Now I have to confess to never throwing anything away.

Having parents and grandparents who lived through two world wars and the Depression, and who could always find a use for almost any discarded item, I scrutinise everything with a view as to its possible reuse.

Dad kept tons of old screws, storing them in discarded dried milk tins, while mum had her button box.

And while the kids were growing up I saved cereal boxes, washing up bottles and assorted milk tops.

The cardboard cereal boxes were perfect for making space ships while milk tops smoothed out are just perfect for all manner of decorations.

But it was the washing up bottle which provided just what we needed for our Joshua’s science project.

The mission which we had to undertake was to produce a moving object, which we did with Mr Squeezy, a plastic propeller some toy wheels and an elastic band.

And in an age before Internet help we devised it and made it ourselves and the rest as they say was an evening’s work finished off with some bright red and yellow paint which set off the black top.

For years it was a feature on a book shelf and then finally made its way to the cellar and a decade inside a cardboard box, only to emerge into the daylight yesterday.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Joshua’s moving washing up bottle, circa 1996, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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

Sorting Eltham's letters at Blackheath in 1830

A short series looking at the story behind the picture.

Back in the 1977 my friend Jean gave a  talk on the postal service in Eltham during the 19th century which she later turned into a set of articles published in the Eltham Society magazine.

“This is the building in Dartmouth Row, Blackheath which was the sorting office for Eltham and all the surrounding districts from the mid 1830s.

This was where the people of Blackheath would have bought their Penny Blacks in 1840 or a 'Twopenny Blue'- the world's first postage stamps in 1840”

The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in Britain on 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year.

All London post offices received official issues of the new stamps but other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, continuing to accept postage payments in cash only for a period.

It was still a post office in 1977 but today is a private residence.


Picture; the sorting office on Dartmouth Row in 1977 and text from Jean Gammons, and The Penny Black fro Wikipedia Commons

Letter from Manchester .......... December 2017

Now it is that time of year when most of us will be very focused on family events.

Castlefield, 2007
And amongst the maelstrom of activities from wrapping presents, and unwrapping presents, sitting down to the big meal with an eye on the Queen’s Speech and the repeat of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, those of us with BHC ancestors will find a moment when we stop and reflect on what Christmas was like for a young person born in Britain and living in Canada at the turn of the last century.

Our own great uncle had done 15 Christmases before he sailed west and most if not all of them would have been in an institution of some sort leaving only one spent on a Canadian farm and another two somewhere in France during the Great War.

What happened to him after his demob and how he spent Christmas in the years afterwards are lost to us.

In time I am confident we shall find out more, and our cousin Marisa is on the case.

St Anns Square, 2016
In the meantime I have gone off in a different direction and have been drawn in to the story of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges which migrated young people from the 1870s but unlike the other charities stopped in 1914 and never continued the practise after the Great War.

My interest is partly that I have lived in the city for almost half a century but also because the charity has commissioned me to write their history to coincide with their 150th anniversary in 2020.

It is an exciting project, in the course of which I have been able to roam their archives, explore the wider issues of 19th century “care in the community” and revisit the different interpretations of the history of BHC.

But as Noddy Holder of Slade once shouted “Its Christmas” and with that in mind rather than offer up a festive card, I have included a few pictures of the city drawn from the last decade.

Piccadilly Railway Station, 2015
I know I should have gone back into the historical record and selected scenes that were familiar to a BHC from Manchester and Salford, but that I do all the time.

So here is a collection of ones of my adopted city from the last decade and a bit which have been chosen purely because they span the time I have been interested in BHC.

Leaving me to thank all those who run sites and organisations dedicated to promoting an interest and understanding of the story and of course to all those who beaver away at helping others find details of a relative who was migrated.

Stevenson Square, 2017
Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and may the continuing personal search we are all on prove fruitful for each of us, with the knowledge that the story of British Home Children has matured into a serious area of study, which makes for a nice present.








Pictures; Manchester, 2007-2017

Loons, lava lamps and growing up ............ the 1970's

Larva lamps I have known
Now it is odd the way that some decades get the thumbs up and others are relegated to the dustbin of history.

So the 1960's will always been the “Swinging 60’s, the 1890's will remain the “Gay 90's” and the 1920’s will be forever the “Roaring 20s”

And by contrast the following decade which began with a world depression and ended with a world war will never be remembered for the advances in technology, much that was innovative in design and culture and a growing prosperity in some parts of the country.

All of which brings me to the 1970's much berated by  journalists and second rate historians who are content to fall back on the lazy stereo types of striking workers, questionable fashions and larva lamps.

Of course those shallow titles, often coined on a slow day in a newsroom do contain much that is true of a period.

For my generation the 1960's was an exciting time in all sorts of ways while for my mother the 30's would always be the Means Test, mass unemployment and the slow slide to war.

Still a student, 1970
And any history of the 1970s does have to take in the three day week, the widespread industrial conflict and plenty of very grim wars from Vietnam and Cambodia, to southern Africa and the Middle East.

But nasty wars and equally nasty dictators along with strikes, tasteless design and awful fashions can be found in any decade during the last two centuries.

So it’s not that I make a special defence of the 1970's but just that like any time in history it was a mix of the good and bad and the happy and sad added to which it was the decade I passed from being a student into the world of work and along the way got married and bought a house.

All of which are reckoned to be pretty big stages in anyone’s growing up.

And set against the dismal days of the three day week and later the bin dispute there was the legislation to address equal pay and some aspects of discrimination in the workplace, a determination to challenge racist attitudes and a whole range of exciting new ideas in fashion and popular culture.

Down at the eight day loolkng for loons and strawberry perfume, 1973
At which point someone will cite the underlying issues of our economic decline, the continuation of the huge disparity in wealth, the persistence of racism and sexism and some very dodgy TV programmes.

But all of these could be found in the 60s and in the decade that followed but alas tend to be ignored.

So with this in mind I rather think I will set off on a new series exploring the 1970s and include a few of the things that were special to me including the lava lamp which despite everything my kids will say I still think was pretty neat.

Pictures; lava lamp, 2007, Saltmiser, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States license., Andrew Simpson, 1970, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and ; On the Eighth Day, 111 Oxford Street, in April 1973, m00173, y H. Milligan, H.,  courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

The Happy Door .......... no. 6 ...... from The Goldsmith Collection

I have no idea what was behind the door.


But I like image, which clearly our Jillian did, because she took the photograph.









Location; Brighton
















Picture; the Happy Door, 2017, from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith

Bandstands ............... nu 2 back in Victoria Park in Swinton

Now I grew up with bandstands.

Almost any park worthy of the title public park had one.

But sadly by the time I was allowed to go off and play on my own all of the bandstands I can remember had become sorry looking things.

The ornate iron pillars had long gone, and no one came to listen to the bands who long ago had packed up their instruments and moved on.

So in celebration of all that was and has returned, here is the promised series on bandstands.

It started with a photograph from Antony and continues with a painting by Peter of the one in Victoria Park.*

It was built around 1897 when the park was laid out it embodies all that civic pride which said there was more to life than work, mean streets, and dark horizons.

According to one new book on public parks, the bandstand owed much to the 19th century’s fascination with the Orient.  The basic design may have been copied from “the raised –platform kiosks seen in Turkey and across the Ottoman empire” but was overlaid with influences from Indian palaces and temples.**

The French had shown one of these Turkish stands off at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1855 and what followed was a succession of developments over here with the first unveiled at the Royal Horticultural Show in South Kensington and later moved out to parks in Southwark and Peckham where I came across them as a young boy in the 1950s.

Location; Swinton

Painting; the bandstand in Victoria Park, Swinton, © 2016 Peter Topping
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

*Antony Mills gave me permission to use his photograph earlier in the month

**A Walk in the Park, Travis Elborough 2016, pages 155-56

Victorian Christmas Cards


From the collection of Tony Walker

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The Bella Napoli on Kennedy Street ............ where we learned to love pizza

Now I won’t be alone in having fond memories of the Bella Napoli on Kennedy Street.

Neapolitan pizza, 2017
It opened in 1973 just three years after the Isola Bella and we were there pretty much from the beginning, and carried on going throughout the 1970s.

Since then I have eaten pizza in Naples, tried the Metre Pizza, sampled Bob Amato’s special from his wood burning oven in the garden and regularly bought slices from the Chinese takeaway in Varese.*

But it was at the Bella Napoli that I had my first pizza.

Back then it tended always to be the quattro stagioni, accompanied by a glass of wine and followed by chocolate ice cream.

I can’t remember how we came across it probably on one our wanders around town, and it was our place, which we shared with family and friends but remained “our place.”

It was situated on the corner of Kennedy Street and Clarence Street, you entered by a small door beside which was that illuminated glass window made up of the bottoms of wine bottles.

You went down a flight of stairs where there were a dozen tables with red table tablecloths, and a bar with I think the oven beyond that.

At the back was the entrance to the lavatories which were shared with the Isola Bella and above you there were a set of large pipes which I always assumed were to do with the ventilation.

The other end of Kennedy Street, 2017
The menu came on a large piece of white card with a picture of Vesuvius and list of half a dozen pizzas.

It was simple, cheap and friendly.

Once when I was with a works colleague who was a linguist and attempting to show off his Italian he spent a full five minutes conversing with the waiter in Italian only to discover the waiter was Spanish.

Such are the silly moments that stick in your memory and despite these and many other memories I have no pictures of either the outside or the interior.

But someone will, and in the fullness of time I hope will share them.

And it was while I was browsing the net for pictures that I came across an article from the Manchester Evening News recording the death of the owner of the Bella Napoli.

And from the Pizzeria I Decumani****
This was Evandro Barbieri who arrived in Manchester from Milan in 1958 aged 21.  He began work as a waiter in the Midland Hotel and in 1970 opened the Isola Bella, followed by a series of other Italian restaurants.**

If I look hard enough I will I suppose find out when it closed but that won’t do anything for my memories, so I don’t think I will bother.

Instead I shall think also of the cannelloni which in those red and cream ceramic dishes,and which if you weren't careful was so hot it burned your mouth.

Later long after the Bella Napoli had gone we would take each of the older kids for a special birthday meal at an Italian restaurant, each had their own favourite.

For Ben it was the Isola Bella, for Josh Bella Italia and for Saul that one on the corner of Deansgate and Blackfriars Street.

It's pity they couldn't have shared Bella Napoli.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Naples in 2017 from the collection of Saul Simpson and Emilka Cholewicka, Kennedy Street, 2017 courtesy of Andy Robertson and a pizza from the Pizzeria I Decumani


*Pizza, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Pizza

**Tributes to Italian pioneer 'who brought pizza to Manchester', Todd Fitzgerald, December 14 2012, updated January 24 2013, http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/tributes-to-italian-pioneer-who-brought-698919

****Pizzeria I Decumani, Via dei Tribunali, 58 80138 Napoli Italy‎ +39 081 557 1309

On Edge Lane with the Stretford Pageant sometime in the 1960s

I am back with another of those excellent photographs from the collection of Jack Kennedy.*

And this time we are with the Stretford Pageant sometime in the 1960s on Edge Lane just before the procession made its way into Longford Park.

Now there are many in Stretford and Chorlton who will have very fond memories of this event and I featured the memories of one Rose Queen from 1928 a few years ago.**

Jack’s picture perfectly captures the moment, so much so that there isn’t anything more to add.

Picture; Stretford Pageant, circa 1960s, courtesy of Dave Kennedy

*jack kennedy black & white photography https://www.flickr.com/photos/8188211@N02/sets/72157647573263194

**Memories of a Stretford Rose Queen in 1928 by Karen J Mossman, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/memories-of-stretford-rose-queen-in.html

Chorlton Champs of Lancs .......... from Lawrence Beedle

When Chorlton were the champions of Lancashire. 

Lancashire Amateur Cup, 1893
You have to go back a hundred and ten years to the muddy fields of football when this happened. As the Athletic News & Cyclists' Journal published on their front page “the honour of being the strongest amateur team in the county may this year, for the first time be justly claimed by a Manchester team, Chorlton-cum-Hardy” - Monday 6th May 1907.

That year Chorlton-cum-Hardy won the Lancashire Amateur Cup, a Lancashire Amateur League title and a League Cup. Back then County Cups were taken seriously even by the big clubs and players with amateur status were in the same teams as the maximum wage restricted professionals of City, United, Everton, etc.

Let's see how Chorlton reached the final of the Lancashire Amateur Cup. It took four rounds seeing off Marine 2-0, Heaton Moor (away) 2-1, Fleetwood Amateurs 3-1, and a derby semi-final game against Whalley Range (away) 3-1. This set up the final tie against the favourites Manchester University on Saturday 6th April 1907. It was to be played at a neutral venue and the Giant Axe ground in Lancaster was chosen.

The weather was windy with heavy rain. Those who attended might have witnessed the only goal just before the interval. A player called Wedge “took the ball on the bounce and with a terrific drive shot into the net, well out of reach of Knott”. Chorlton-cum-Hardy won. T. Laithwaite of the Lancashire FA presented the prestigious trophy to R . J. Stephenson, the captain. The latter was considered one of the best amateur centre forwards and had played numerous times for the Northern Nomads including the match against the Corinthians at Goodison Park. The receipts for the final were £19. 18s. 3d. (that's £19.91 in decimal), a sum considered low by the newspapers.

These amateur cup finals usually incurred losses for the Lancashire FA.

Lancashire Amateur Cup Final, 1909 Preston Winckley v Smithhills
Chorlton-cum-Hardy FC then resumed their remaining Lancashire Amateur League games. It was divided into a Manchester Section and a Liverpool section of ten teams each. Chorlton led the former Section with Whalley Range only two points behind with a game in hand. It was two points for a win and it all came down to the final match between the two teams. The fixture was arranged for a Thursday evening on 18th April 1907 with a 6pm kick off. Whoever won would be champions. There is no match report but the result was Chorlton-cum-Hardy 2 Whalley Range 1.

Chorlton-cum-Hardy P18 W13 L3 D2 F42 A22 Pts 28
Whalley Range P18 W12 L5 D1 F41 A22 Pts 25
Heaton Chapel P18 W11 L4 D3 F44 A26 Pts 25

To complete the season a new Lancashire Amateur League Cup had been instituted. The champions of Manchester would play the champions of the Liverpool Section. That was Southport Trinity Old Boys, a team that had only lost two league games in two seasons.

Detail from the 1909 Cup Final
Both teams met at Springfield Park, Wigan on another wet and windy Saturday afternoon on the 27th April 1907. Unfortunately Southport were soon reduced to ten men when T. Mawdsley the centre half retired from the match with an injured knee.

The match ended goalless at full time and Southport obviously declined to play any extra time. So a replay was arranged and by a toss of the coin Southport was the choice of venue.

So on the following Tuesday 30th April the teams met at the Southport Central Ground.

There are brief match reports. “Winning the toss the Mancunians played with the wind at their backs in the first half. From a melee in front of Dent, the Trinity custodian, Stephenson netted the ball. This was all the scoring during the game, which only lasted eighty minutes.” Why the match was ten minutes short with J.T. Howcroft, a well known referee who officiated Football League games, we'll never know but apparently time keeping of matches back then was not a precision.

Detail from the 1909 Cup Final
Anyway, Chorlton-cum-Hardy would have returned on the train that night collecting their third silver cup in a month.

Forward to present times. Amateur status was ended by the F.A in 1974 though the name is still used and the ethos prevails. Chorlton-cum-Hardy FC are no more but turned out teams until 1939 with lesser success. Whalley Range AFC was founded in 1900 and keep the spirit of playing for the love of the game alive at their Kings Road ground.

They are in the Lancashire & Cheshire Amateur Football League and still enter a Lancashire FA competition. Marine, founded 1894, have their home in Crosby and are in level 7 of the football pyramid (that's six tiers below the Premier League). Manchester University still play the Association game. The Giant Axe grounds which once held agricultural shows, athletics, cycling and other sports are next to Lancaster railway station but Springfield Park, Wigan which older readers will remember as the home of both rugby and soccer is now under bricks and mortar. The Lancashire Amateur League, formed 1899 is still going strong with six divisions, 32 clubs fielding 71 teams but none from Manchester.

Detail from the 1909 Cup Final
Lawrence Beedle © 2017










Pictures; Lancashire Amateur Cup inaugurated 1893 from The History of the Lancashire FA book published 1928. and Lancashire Amateur Cup Final 1909 Preston Winckley v Smithhills. Sports photography was very rare with the cumbersome cameras and glass negatives but it gives the flavour of the football conditions of the period.

The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no. 42 ..... across the open water to the cranes beyond

For four decades it was one of the pictures I took of Eltham and Woolwich in the mid ‘70’s which sat undisturbed in our cellar.

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

The quality of the original lighting and the sharpness is sometimes iffy, but they are a record of a lost Eltham and Woolwich.

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Woolwich, circa 1978, from the collection of Andrew Simpson


The story that lurks behind that familiar sentence

Like many people born during the first half of the last century, the bible and by the bible I mean the King James Version was compulsory.

You got selected verses in school assembly, wandered over the biblical stories in RE and picked up the odd sermon at a christening, wedding or funeral.

The vast majority of it slid away only occasionally coming out into the daylight.

But as I turned sixteen those biblical stories bounced back, which was nothing to do with any religious moment but because I had become properly introduced to Mr Shakespeare, quickly followed by John Donne and Andrew Marvel.

The language and style of those three walk hand in hand with that of the King James Version, and I found myself going back to first the Psalms and then the stories and reading them just for the sheer pleasure of the way the words tumble off the page, full of imagery and rhythm.

And for me Psalm 23 has it all with lines like, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” equalled by those opening lines of the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

But bits of the stories remain lost to me like the moment in both Luke and Matthew where much is made of the woman washing the feet of Jesus.

I get the significance of it being a “sinner” who does the business but it wasn’t until I began travelling regularly through Greece in the summer that I got just what it meant to have your sandals removed and your feet washed.

After a long day in the heat and the dust, the simple act of bathing your tired feet is a wonderful pleasure.

And in the same way it wasn’t till we returned to running open fires that I fully appreciated that lament in much old literature of the hearth gone cold.

For centuries the fireplace was the centre of all things, providing heat, light and of course a means to cook.

You sat beside it, derived comfort from its dancing flames and above all kept warm.

So every morning when I come to clear and lay the fire that cold hearth takes me back to the stories of abandoned cottages and great halls which once bustled with life but are dead and empty.

None of which may be a surprise to many but always makes me look for more of those lost connections

Pictures; Greece, 2007 and 2014, and fireplaces, 2017 & 2012 from the collection of Andrew Simpson




Bandstands ........... Nu 1 Victoria Park Swinton, 1897

Now anyone old enough to remember municipal bandstands in their hey day will have watched their slow decline.

It was a combination of things from that war time push to recycle old iron which robbed the stands of their ornate pillars and roof, to successive budget cuts and finally that simple fact that they fell out of fashion.

So when I was growing up our band stand which had long ago had become just a brick and stand was just somewhere that on rainy days you played.

No one sat in deck chairs enjoying a selection of music as the sun was reflected on the shiny brass instruments and park authorities looked upon them as old unfashionable blots on the landscape.

But not so Victoria Park.  Here as Antony’s photograph reveals is a fine example of what many of us will remember.

Built around 1897 when the park was laid out it embodies all that civic pride which said there was more to life than work, mean streets, and dark horizons.

According to one new book on public parks, the bandstand owed much to the 19th century’s fascination with the Orient.  The basic design may have been copied from “the raised –platform kiosks seen in Turkey and across the Ottoman empire” but was overlaid with influences from Indian palaces and temples.*

The French had shown one of these Turkish stands off at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1855 and what followed was a succession of developments over here with the first unveiled at the Royal Horticultural

Show in South Kensington and later moved out to parks in Southwark and Peckham where I came across them as a young boy in the 1950s.

All of which leaves me to thank Anthony for the picture and renew my acquaintance with Victoria Park which was made up of the grounds of Swinton Old Hall and opened for business in 1897.

And of course will be the start of a new series on Bandstands.

Location; Swinton

Picture; the bandstand Victoria Park, 2016, from the collection of Antony Mills.

*A Walk in the Park, Travis Elborough 2016, pages 155-56

Reasons to be cheerful no. 5 ........ beach huts .... from The Goldsmith Collection

 The sun shone, and the huts looked wonderful.



No more to be said.

Location; Brighton




Picture; from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith, 2017

The Four freedoms, Free Speech 6 Listening


A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

It started with two medals and a name ........... Moses Bianco 1892-1969

Now the medals were awarded to Moses Bianco who served from 1914 through to 1920 in the British Army.

The medals 
And right from the beginning I was drawn in by the name.

I thought there might be a Jewish and Italian connection but it turns out that Mr Bianco’s parents came from Syria when it was still part of the old Ottoman Empire.

I can’t be sure where his father was born but I do know that his mother, Simha, was born in Alleppo in 1848.

When the two came to Britain is also unclear but they married in the January of 1867 in Manchester when Simha was just 18 and became British citizens three years later.

Mr Bianco was a merchant but in 1883 he established the Cafe Royal just up from South Street on the northern side of Peter Street.

And it was a good choice of location given that next door was the Gaiety Theatre of Varieties and opposite was the Theatre Royal.

cafe Royal, date unknown
In 1883 he applied for permission to sell beer and wine on the premise and in 1905 Mrs Bianco sought to extend the music license from 10 pm to 11 pm because “her customers came in after the theatres were closed” and some of her trade went across the road to the newly opened Midland Hotel.*

There is no doubting Simha’s enterprise.  She had been running the Cafe Royal since the death of her husband in 1891 and four years later drew up plans to spend £10,000 and “pull down the existing premises, and a warehouse at the back ... and erect a first class hotel”.**

The Cafe Royal, 1895
She argued that this would enhance the success of the business which “had grown with the growth of Manchester, and which dined on average one hundred persons a day”.

Many of these were “commercial travellers who travelled by the Midland railway, to Central Station” which was close by and might be expected to stay at the proposed hotel given that “there was no residential hotel nearer than 600 or 700 yards away in Deansgate".

But the application was turned down with the suggestion that Mrs Bianco’s real motive was the acquisition of a spirits license which would sit beside the existing beer and wine license.

The Bianco family, 1911
And that for now is all there is.

She died in 1923 and it is unclear whether the family retained the business and what part Moses played.

Before the war he and his three brothers had worked as clothes salesmen possibly in the family business which by 1911 was being run by Albert who was the eldest brother.  Moses might alternatively have been working for his other brother Isaac who in the same year had a catering business.

The medals
I just don’t as yet know.

Nor do I have any idea how his war went, or what happened to him after he left the army.

So far there is a record of his marriage in 1920, the birth of his son three years later and the death of his wife in 1944.  I also know that he died in 1969.

Not much I know but a start.  Later I will trawl the directories  and obituaries to find our more.

Pictures; medal of Moses Bianco, courtesy of David Harrop, and the Cafe Royal, Peter Street, date unknown from Goads Fire Insurance Maps, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

*A Question of Competition, Manchester Guardian, December 8, 1905

**The Cafe Royal Peter-Street, the Manchester Guardian, August 23, 1895

“On Edge Lane strolling by Longford Park in the early 1900s”

Now here is a picture of Edge Lane I haven’t seen before.

It dates from around 1900 and was found by my friend Sally “in an old book, that is in such a bad state, and 
pongs so badly of damp that in between scanning the pictures it has to live outside!”

She posted it recently on that excellent facebook site Greater Manchester History, Architecture, Faces and Places which challenges that silly prejudice that social networking is trivial.*

This site and others continue to provide an exchange of pictures stories and historical investigation which would otherwise not be available and often starts an interesting debate.

Above all it reminds me that history, our history is not just the preserve of the academic and the professional historian but belongs to us all and every one of us can make a contribution to what we know about the past.

“On Edge Lane strolling by Longford Park in the early 1900s” will have been one of countless images available back then but which have long been lost.  Many were taken by commercial photographers and made their way onto picture postcards but plenty more will have been taken by amateurs and have not survived.

What I particularly like about this one is that it is a scene that hasn’t changed much in over a century and there will be many who have fond memories of taking a similar stroll on a sunny day in late spring, and early summer.

So there you have it, a little bit of Edge Lane a century and a bit ago which I guess has pretty much not seen the light of day for a long time.

And that just leaves me to hope Sally will persevere with that smelly book and share more hidden gems.

Picture; on Edge Lane strolling by Longford Park in the early 1900s, courtesy of Sally Dervan

* Greater Manchester History, Architecture, Faces and Places 

In Piccadilly Gardens in the summer of 1970

Now this will bring back memories.

And in the way of things there isn’t much more to say.

You either miss it and mourn its passing or have embraced the new Gardens with the concrete slab and expanse of sterile grass which despite all efforts never seems to be that green or that full.

As a public place I have to say the new Piccadilly is not one of our finest open spaces and the Wheel does little to enhance it.


But then I guess there were those back in the 1920s and 30s who muttered at what had been done to the old hospital site.

There is nothing wrong with change but sadly in the case of the Gardens something  more intimate and gentle has been lost in favour of a  brutal and plain expanse.

Location, Manchester

Picture; Piccadilly circa 1970 from the collection of Sally Dervan

Pictures from an Eltham bus ........ no.17 .......

The top deck of a London bus has to be a pretty neat way of seeing the world below.

And when it is the same bus at about the same time every day then you have got yourself a project.

All you need is a camera and the patience each week to record the same spot and the rest as they say is Larissa Hamment’s “Pictures from an Eltham bus.”*

And on this very cold day it's good to see that work continues to turn the old Co-op site into the cinema.

I know there are some who bemoan the loss of our old picture houses, but they closed at a time when people had given up on going out to the "flicks".

But there remains something magical about sitting in the dark and seeing giant images of your screen heroes.

So I await the next progress report from Larissa who I thank for her continuing task of recording Eltham as it changes.

Location, Eltham, London

Pictures;  the site of the new cinema, 2017, from the collection of Larissa Hamment

*Pictures from an Eltham bus, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Pictures%20from%20an%20Eltham%20Bus





The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no. 41 ..... the barn by the water

Now I am the first to say that the Barn, the moat and the gardens have not changed that much since I took this picture in the summer of 1978.

For four decades it was one of the pictures I took of Eltham and Woolwich in the mid ‘70’s which sat undisturbed in our cellar.

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

The quality of the original lighting and the sharpness is sometimes iffy, but they are a record of a lost Eltham and Woolwich.

Location; Eltham

Picture; Eltham, circa 1978, from the collection of Andrew Simpson


The Goldsmith Collection ...... no. 4 ..... on the Kent coast

The continuing series from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith.


Location; Brigton







Picture; from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith, 2017

The Four freedoms, ..... Listening


A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service














Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

On being a dinosaur and remembering the horse drawn wagon


I am fast becoming a living dinosaur, and I suppose I have to ask how could it be any different?

I was after all born in the first half of the last century, reached the age of four before the  last vestiges of wartime rationing came to an end, and grew up with the wireless as the only source of home entertainment.

Along the way I remember the street grinder, who went from house to house sharpening the family knives, the regular call of the rag and bone man and of course the horse drawn milk float.

By the 1950s these milk carts had rubber tyres but were still a link with that time when almost all carts, wagons and public as well as private transport was pulled by a horse.

We tend to forget just how much was shifted by horse and cart.

In Manchester as in every town and city each railway company had their own stables and in all there were 157 carriers listed in the 1911 street directory and all used horses, as did the local trades people and the bus companies.

Look at any old picture of Chorlton from before the last world war and there are bound to be some horse drawn vehicles.

And so it is time for another of those occasional series which will potter on through the summer looking at how horses pulled the way.

This one  according to the caption was the, “Prince of Wales Horse bus at the green, probably about 1898 before the Corporation took over the Carriage and Tramway Company, but may be slightly later.  Photograph origin unknown.”

Location; Chorlton

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Monday, 11 December 2017

When the tram came to a stop near you ....... be part of a new story

Now there will be a story about each of the stops on Manchester’s Metrolink, it’s just that I haven’t discovered them yet.

And as there are currently 93 stops, with another six planned for the extension to Trafford Centre, that means a lot of stories.

Nor will that be it, because there are also proposals to include links to Bolton, Wigan and Stockport.

So for those that take the tram and travel across its existing 57 miles of track with a daily option of ending up at the Airport, Eccles, Ashton, or Rochdale there is a chance of lots of stories.

Mine is less one tale and more a collection which always begin when a new line opens.

I will be there on day one, usually in the late morning ready to travel the track, and it is surprising how many others will be doing the same.


At Victoria with the Second City Crossing, , 2016
Usually they are retired, carry a camera, and some will be using their phone or one of those old cassette recorders to capture the noise and the destination announcements.

Eric always sits at the front directly to the right of the driver and will tell anyone silly enough to sit beside him, the entire history of the Metrolink, with accompanying facts about everything from the old railway stations which the tram passes through, to the earlier blue trams, which started the service off in 1992.

And now you too can be part of Eric’s journey.

Peter and I have decided on a new project from which will come the new book later in the year.

Following on the recent publication of The Quirks of Chorlton-cum-Hardy* we are starting on The History Of Manchester  ...... By Tram -The Stories At the Stops.

The unexpected in Bury Market, 2014
It will consist of 99 stories, with original paintings from Peter, and a mix of old and new photographs, which will explore the history of Greater Manchester and celebrate the places and people along the 57 miles of tramway.

And here there is the opportunity for everyone to share their story of their stop, along with the treasured snap of Aunty Renee waiting on the platform of Chorlton Railway Station, for the 4.10 from Central, or the outing Beryl and her pals took to Bury Market from Altrincham, changing at St Peter’s Square for Victoria and on to the Bury Interchange.

We only ask that any picture you share is yours, and not taken from the internet.

As for the tales of trips, they can be anything from the day you lost granddad's shopping and false teeth at Central Park to the surprise celebratory who asked for your autograph by Media City.

Ninety-three stories with an option on another six
To help those who are unsure of which stop to choose, and to frame the challenge, here is a chart of all the stops from Manchester’s 42, down to Bury’s 6 and the Salford 10.

Of course I could have named them all but where is the challenge in that?

You can send in your stories by adding a comment on the blog or as a message to facebook or pubsbook site.

And for those who collect the publishing mistakes of the world, here is the original cover of the book which failed to mention Ashton, Altrincham, Bury, Oldham, Salford or Rochdale.

But quick as a flash we corrected the error leaving this original book cover making ita bit of a collector's item.

Pictures; cover of The History Of Geater Manchester  ...... By Tram-The Stories At the Stops, artwork Peter topping, 2017, At Victoria with the Second City Crossing, 2016 and Bury Market, 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson




*The Quirks of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, was published on November 16 and is available from Chorlton Book Shop or from http://www.pubbooks.co.uk/ or 07521557888