Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Deansgate remembered ................ stories from the Fox Inn on Byrom Street nu 1 .... a beginning

For many Deansgate is just a road which takes you from Knott Mill down to St Mary’s Gate.

The Fox Inn, Byrom Street, circa 1914
If you are lucky and the traffic flow is kind you can do the route in minutes.

If like me you prefer to walk it offers up a shed load of interesting buildings from the old public library between Liverpool Road and Tonman Street past the John Rylands and down to the Burlington Arcade.

And if you turn off and stroll down Liverpool Road towards the Duke’s Canal and Castlefield you will be rewarded with a rich lump of history.

Here was our Roman fort and and small town, the Manchester end of the Bridgewater Navigation, as well as the site of the first passenger railway station in the world and heaps more including one of the first recorded Cholera cases back in the 1830s.

Johhny Lee, young Charlie and Joe Gibbons
And it was a place teeming with people making it in the words of the historian Frank Heaton a “Manchester Village.”  It runs down from Deansgate towards the river, bounded on one side by a set of railway viaducts and on the other by Quay Street.

I first became fascinated by it almost four decades ago and keep getting drawn back.

And in those forty years I have researched and written about the area, walked its streets in the company of friends and conducted guided tours of its history.**

So with all of that behind me I was very pleased when Debs got in touch and supplied this picture of the pub her grandmother was born in on August 26 1908.

William Henry Forth, Doris and Florence Forth and Betty Marr
Doris Brack nee Forth grew up in the Fox Inn on Byrom Street and she recorded her memories of the pub and the area in a series of interviews with Mr Heaton who included some of them in his book.

They are a vivid picture of a vibrant working class area in the years after the Great War.

So over the next few weeks with the help of her granddaughter Debs I will be exploring those tapes and piecing together the story of a community.***

It starts with the Fox Inn and this wonderful picture. I know that standing i the doorway beside her father William Henry Forth are Doris and her sister Florence and their friend Betty Marr and Johhny Lee, her cousin Charlie and Joe Gibbons.

Now that’s a good start.

Location Byrom Street, Deansgate, Manchester

Picture; The Fox Inn, circa 1914, courtesy of Debs Brack

*The Manchester Village Deansgate Remembered, Frank Heaton, 1995, Neil Richardson



The Friends of Dagnal Avenue

I am back with another picture from the collection of Frank Tomlin.

Frank lived on Dagnal Avenue which is that long road that runs down from Hardy Lane to Cundiff Road and he recently shared some of his photographs from the 1950’s when he was growing up on the avenue.

For me they take me back to my own childhood during that same decade, and this one brings back some very sharp memories.

I think I had a cardigan like that, certainly shared the same floppy hair style and had friends who remained in shorts long after the rest of us got our first pair of long trousers.

And there will be many from that era who also remember that first pair of long trousers which marked the transition from child into grown up.

It was a time when the sun always shone in the summer holidays and adventures consisted of wandering off after breakfast and pretty much not coming home until teatime.

What we did for lunch I can’t remember although on more than one occasion mother prepared a sandwich and one of those small bottles of orange squash you could get the milkman.  These were carefully packed in an old ammunition canvas bag which were all the rage one year and were bought from the army surplus shop down the road.

But enough ...... this is beginning to slide into nostalgic tosh and that would never do.

Frank tells me that sometime of the time he and his friends camped out in a tent in their back garden which if you are ten strikes me as an adventure.

Location; Chorlton in the 1950’s

Picture; Frank and friends sometime in the 1950s from the collection of Frank Tomlin

Chorlton A hotbed of Amateur Football .... a story by David Brundrit

In the 1800's rugby was the game played and one of the oldest clubs was Manchester FC founded in 1866 and whose ground was on Withington Road (now St. Bedes PF).

Chorlton Albion, 1924-25
The club also had a soccer team and in 1877 played Darwen in the first FA Cup Tie to be played in Manchester losing 3-1 and in 1886 were beaten by Newton Heath LYR (The Heathens) in the final of the Manchester & District Challenge Cup Final.

In the 1880's West Manchester were a top team who also played on the Withington Road ground and were founder members of the Lancashire League. On the 23/4/1887 West Manchester beat Newton Heath LYR who later changed their name to Manchester United 2-1 in the Manchester & District Challenge Cup Final.

Chorlton Albion, 19124-25
In the 1890's Chorlton-cum-Hardy & Whalley Range were playing friendly games on Withington Road and were two founder members of the Lancashire Amateur League Manchester Division in 1903 alongside Old Hulmeians (Wm.Hulme Grammar School old boys) who played on St.Werburghs Road and changed in St.Werburghs school. 1904  C_C_H and WR join together to form "The Chorlton"club for a tour of Germany.

In 1909 the LAL dropped the "Manchester Division" from their title and Manchester South East, again playing on Withington Road,joined the league so that 4 of the 9 clubs came from Chorlton.

1920 saw Old Chorltonians (Chorlton Grammar School old boys) joined the LAL and in 1921 Manchester YMCA were another club accepted into the LAL and they played at the bottom of Brantingham Road bordering onto Princess Road. Old Margaretians were an addition to the LAL in 1927 and played on their own ground on Brantingham Road.

Choelron Albion, 1924-25
The ground actually belong to St.Margaret's Sunday School and today is used by Maine Road FC who play in the North West Counties Premier League. Following St.Bedes College purchasing the ground on Withington Road Whalley Range eventually purchased their ground on Kings Road for £1,000 from Lord Egerton.

Churches, Sunday Schools and Boy's Brigade's formed teams and one such was Christ Church (on Princess Road) who later changed their name to West Didsbury and played across the road from the church on the corner with Barlow Moor Road,this was Christies Playing Field. West Didsbury played in the newly formed Lancashire & Cheshire League alongside two other clubs South Manchester and Rusholme on "Christies".

Further along Princess Road towards Manchester is Hough End Playing Fields the home of two top amateur clubs North Withington and East Chorlton amongst the many teams playing there. Both clubs eventually purchased their own gronds, North Withington on Altrincham Road Wythenshawe and East Chorlton at the bottom Of Brookburn Road Chorlton.

When East Chorlton became defunct West Didsbury obtained the ground and changed their name to West Didsbury & Chorlton. The ground was originally Chorlton-cum-Hardy Tennis and Bowling Club. WD&C also purchased the Hardy Lane UMIST site and the complex is a quality venue providing football for boys, girls and women.

Membership card Chorlton Albion, 1924-25
Chorlton Park has a number of football pitches and after the 2nd WW was the place to watch Sunday football which was not recognised by the Football Association and "pub" teams included professional and semi-professional players who supplemented their wages.

These games attracted big crowds as the teams made Millwall and Leeds Utd like Sunday School teams and the regular punch ups were an added bonus to the football.

The Harry Dalton PF on Wilbraham Road is now used by St.Bedes College but previously Wythenshawe Amateurs were amongst the many teams who used the ground. Harry Dalton was the founder of Wythenshawe Amateurs and the ground was originally known as the "Fed" ground as it is owned by the Manchester Federation of Boys Clubs and the home ground of Manchester United Youth team up to the 1960's. Chorlton Town beaten finalist on 4 occasions in the Manchester FA Challenge Trophy played on the ground when Wythenshawe Amateurs moved to Wythenshawe Cricket Club.

On  Mauldeth Road West where the Police Club is situated there was a fenced off pitch for the Deaf and Dumb club. Another small ground was at the top of Sandy Lane with the entrance  via Caddington Road owned by a motor company and used by various teams.

Footnote: Northern Nomads in the 1980's played on the ground now used by Maine Road FC and were the only club to have won both the FA Amateur Cup and the Welsh FA Amateur Cup and hold the record for attaining the highest score when beating Stockton 7-1 in the FA Amateur Cup Final in 1925.

It should be noted that they only managed to beat Whalley Range 1-0 in the last minute in the 1st Round of the FA Amateur Cup in 1925.

© David Brundrit, 2017

Pictures; courtesy of Anne Love

All you ever wanted to know about Eltham's history but never knew who to ask

Eltham has a rich and varied history ranging from a medieval palace and Tudor Barn, some fine old houses, the historic Progress Estate and the impressive Sevendroog Castle high on Castle Woods.

All of these are within easy walk of the High Street and allow you to explore the past while enjoying some stunning historic parkland.

On the southern edge of Eltham is the Palace which was home to a succession of English Kings from Edward II to Henry V111.

Most of the buildings have disappeared but there is still the Great Hall, the moat and the moat bridge along with the Courtauld House built between1934-36.  This 1930s addition to the Palace has an art deco interior reminiscent of an ocean liner and was designed by some of the leading interior designers of the period and incorporated many of the latest technological innovations.

Close by in the Court Yard are the Lord Chancellor’s Lodgings which date from the Tudor period and were originally part of the Palace but were converted into three houses.  Despite extensive renovations in both the 18th century and the 1950s it has retained much of its early 16th century appearance including the timber framed exterior with its continuous wooden overhang.

But Eltham was never just the preserve of royalty and just a little further south in what is the home of the Royal Blackheath Golf Club can be found Eltham Lodge.

It was built in the 17th century and remained a private residence into the 20th century.

There were many other large and elegant houses along the High Street most of which have now gone but a few survive to remind us that the area was an attractive place to live.

It was after all just over eight miles from London with all the delights of a rural landscape including the ancient parish church of St John.

The current church dates from 1879 but people have been worshiping here since 1160 and a walk through the graveyard will reveal many grave stones spanning the centuries.

Travel a little further north along Well Hall Road and there is the Tudor Barn which was once part of a bigger complex including a manor house, walled garden and moat.  In the 18th century the manor house was demolished and replaced by Well Hall House which at one time or another was home to the rich, the gifted and the famous one of whom was Edith Nesbit author of the Railway Children.

Nor is this the only claim to fame for Well Hall because it also includes the Well Hall or Progress Estate which was built in 1915 for workers from the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich.

The estate was modelled on the garden suburb and the history of its development and construction is pretty impressive. In little over five months from the decision to build 1,200 houses “to the highest town planning standards” the first 400 were ready and by the December the remaining 600 were completed.

It remains both a very pleasant place to live and a reminder that good design and an understanding of how people want to live can be successfully achieved.

Moreover it sits at the edge of acres of woodland which stretch up and include Shooters Hill.

These too have more than a little history, for it was here amongst the trees that the military constructed a defensive position during the early years of the last world war.

And amongst those pill boxes and trenches still stands Sevendroog Castle built by the widow of Sir William James, a commander in the East India Company to celebrate his naval exploits including the capture in 1755 of the island fortress of Severndroog off the Malabar Coast of India.

It is a fine  monument and a reminder of just how much history there is in the space of such a small place.

Pictures; from the collection of Scot MacDonald

The Man Behind the Autograph

Now I like the way that stories grow and take on a new direction, so here is a post from Susan who took a brief piece on an autograph book and revealed the man behind the comment written  in that Red Cross hospital autograph book in 1917. 

Introduction:  For me, the story of Sergeant John Henry DeGraves begins in 1917 in a hospital in Cheltenham, England, during the Great War.  The story includes a nurse, who had the foresight to think beyond those moments, and an autograph book in which were written the names, or thoughts, or little poems by convalescing soldiers. It was a book that was cherished and preserved, until it reached the hands of others in those beyond moments, who would also preserve and cherish it.

Without Nurse Rachel Wattis, of St. John's Hospital, it is likely that J.H. DeGraves and other wounded soldiers might have been forgotten entirely, as time passed.

Could John possibly have imagined that a short poem he placed in this little booklet was going to be seen and enjoyed by others over one hundred years later; or, that it would prompt a curious seeker, such as me, to want to learn something of his life?

 Here is what I found out about this Canadian soldier who was wounded in the field of battle and received care, far from home. Coincidentally, this all took place in the very hospital in which my great great grand uncle, fifty years earlier, had advocated for better medical treatment, especially for soldiers.

Early Life:  John Henry Harrington DeGraves was born January 28, 1886 in Albury, New South Wales, Australia, the son of Joseph Michael and Eliza Jane Brooks [Eisenholdt] DeGraves.

At the age of 17 in 1903, he arrived in British Columbia (B.C.), Canada. According to the 1911 Canadian Census, John, who was working as a Brakeman on the railway, his younger brother, Norman, and their mother, Eliza, were all living together at 1150 12th Avenue, in Vancouver. It is not clear if John's father also came to Canada.

John is recorded as being single at this time; however, a B.C. marriage certificate indicates he married Elizabeth White on November 3, 1908.

The next two records found for John were in Ship's Passenger Lists when he and Elizabeth sailed from Vancouver on the Niagara, arriving on September 27, 1913 in Sydney, Australia.

After a visit of five months, they returned to Vancouver on February 3, 1914 on the ship Wangara.  John's occupation, in both instances, was recorded as Captain of the Vancouver Fire Department. This was not to last long, as his life was interrupted by the onset of the Great War in August of 1914.

Great War Years:  John enlisted in Vernon, B.C. on July 8th, 1915.  At the time, he and Elizabeth had been living at 909 Richard St. in Vancouver. On his Attestation Papers, John stated he had prior military service of one year with Victoria Mounted Rifles in Australia.  After coming to Canada, he had been with 6th Regiment, Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles (4 1/2 years) and, also with the 11th Regiment, Irish Fusiliers of Canada. He is described as standing 6 feet, 1 1/4 inches and having a dark complexion, brown eyes and black hair.

John's unit, the 47th British Columbia Battalion (BCRD), sailed on the Missawabie from Montreal, November 13, 1915, arriving in Plymouth, England, November 23rd.  Shortly after, he was promoted to Sergeant and maintained this rank throughout his time of service.

On August 10, 1916, John went to France and was engaged in the field at the beginning of some of the most horrific battles faced by Canadian troops.

It was in "No Man's land" that John was awarded the Military Medal of Bravery for actions he took capturing a German dugout and obtaining vital information that helped the Canadian cause.  Only a few short weeks later, on December 30th at Vimy Ridge, a "whizz-bang" hit the trench in which John was located.

He received gunshot wounds to his head, left leg and right arm that resulted in his treatment in the field hospital in France for three weeks. John was then transferred to St. John's Hospital in Cheltenham at the end of January.

The wounds to his leg and head caused no serious concerns and healed quickly, leaving permanent scars; however, John's right arm had several wounds from the shoulder to below the elbow that never fully healed.

Eventually, he experienced ongoing weakness and pain, losing over 40% of the use of his arm, yet, it is fortunate for this writer, that it did not prevent him from penning a few lines in Nurse Wattis' autograph book.
On July 11, 1917, Sergeant John Henry DeGraves was discharged as being medically unfit to return to active service.  In April, 1918, John sailed on the Aquitania, leaving from Liverpool and arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia  on April 29th. His destination was  Victoria, B.C. where he was officially discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Forces on June 5, 1918.

After the War: John and  Elizabeth (who was called Lil) are known to have had at least one child, Bessie Brooks DeGraves, born in Vancouver after John enlisted.

Following the war, few records have been located for John; however, he is in the Voter's Lists from 1940 until the year of his death:
1940 Assistant Fire Chief -Living in Vancouver
1945 Now working as an exporter - Living in Vancouver
1949, 1953 and 1957 Retired and living in the Fraser Valley district of B.C.

Occasional Canadian newspaper articles mention John's name when he was assisting in the investigation of serious fires that occurred in his city. Unfortunately, no obituary has been located that might have filled in more of his life.

Death:  John and Elizabeth were living in Mission City, B.C. at the time of his death.  He died July 14, 1957 in Shaughnessy Hospital, Vancouver.  Elizabeth passed away in 1968 and their daughter, Bessie (Hargreaves) died in 1988.  John and Elizabeth are buried side by side in the Haztic Cemetery in the Fraser Valley.

And so, this concludes my brief story of a young soldier who left behind a few unspoken words in a country far removed from both his birth land and adopted homeland; yet, here we are in the year 2015 reading those words and thinking good thoughts of him.  It has been nice getting to know you, John Henry DeGraves.

© Researched and written by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau, BA, MA-IS,
August 2015, Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada

Picture, page from the St John's Red Cross Hospital autograph book, courtesy of David  Harrop and medal supplied by Susan [Hillman] Brazeau

1.  Family research record
                           :  Australian 1891 Census
                           :  Australian Birth Marriage and Death records
                           :  1911 Census of Canada
                           :  Canadian Voter's Lists
                           :  Canadian Ships Passenger Lists 1913, 1914
                           :  Find-A-Grave
2.  British Columbia Vital Statistics (Birth, Death and Marriage records)
3.  Canada Great War Project
3.  Library and Archives Canada (Service Records)
4.  Andrew Simpson's Online Blog: Blighty… [July 9, 2015]

Salford People through the camera of Phil Portus ......Sandra Opoku & Michelle Darby

In the 1970s Phil Portus set out to record  Salford people.

He writes, Sandra,  as a child,  lived in a large terraced house on South Anne Street opposite the Langworthy Estate.  They both attended St Joseph's Infant School in Ordsall and then went on to Sacred heart School (Cathedral High)

Sandra  recalls "Happy times for me, however they did have a lot of racism at that point and coming from a mixed parentage, that had an impact on my life as well as growing up in the Salford environment.
But we are in multicultural society now which is a bit more accepting, but back then it was quite tough. I had lovely friends like Michelle who kept me going and kept me smiling"

Sandra and Michelle lost touch after secondary  school, eventually Sandra  got married and moved away.

She has 2 grown up children and currently works in the accounts department for Unilever and has a telecommunication business in Africa.

As a child, Michelle had lived in one of the  council flats above the arch on the Langworthy Estate.

Michelle recalls that it was safer for children to play out when she was a child. Children  generally belonged to  large extended families living in close proximity and they all looked after each other.

Michelle now works on reception at the Trafford Cricket Ground.  She has 2 grown up sons and lives in Peel Green, Eccles.

© Phil Portus 2016

Pictures; courtesy of Phil Portus, 1977-2016

*Phil Portus,

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A lost Eltham Palace nu 2 .............. The Banqueting Hall in 1782

Now I have decided to run a few pictures of what Eltham Palace looked like in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It had long been abandoned as a home for royalty and its grand days were thing of the past.

The occasional tourist up from London called in along with an interested artist keen to capture its former splendour but that was about it.

All very different from now, and a prelude to more stories of the building and its history.*

But in the meantime here then over the next few days are the Palace as you might have seen it during the early 19th century, all taken from that wonderful book on the history of Eltham published in 1909.**

Picture; the Banqueting Hall West end, from an engraving in Archeologica 1772, , from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

*The Story of Eltham Palace,
** The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

Wilfred Pickles, the Chorlton Repertory Theatre Club and a whole new set of stories

Now you have to be a certain age to remember Wilfred Pickles, Mabel and Have Ago.

For most us this will be at the edge of our growing up and will forever be linked to the Light Programme  the wireless and the catcphrases, "How do, how are yer?" "Are yer courting?" "What's on the table, Mabel?" and "Give him the money, Barney."

In 1954 it transferred to the television under the title “Ask Pickles.”

I can’t remember much about the show but I know it was very popular with a weekly audience of over 20 million, and featured ordinary people who were the sort you stood at the bus stop with, listened to in the shops and could be your friends.

That made it very different from the at TV show “What’s My Line" with its panel of well bred well behaved people with their plumy voices.

So I am not surprised that the Chorlton Repertory Theatre Club would ask Mr Pickles to be their President.

Over the years there were plenty of amateur dramatic groups in Chorlton and as early as 1910 one was listed in Kemp's Almanack and reflected the fact that as the township grew many of these were the “middling people” with jobs that allowed them time at night to explore all sorts of cultural and sporting interests.

Where many of these groups performed is lost, but some will have used the Public Hall which was part of the Conservative Club and others may acted out their dreams in church halls.

So Sally’s find is quite a find and while I don’t yet have a date it opens up a whole exciting new set of stories and will I hope set memories running and perhaps will also stir up comments on Mothers Pride.

Well we shall see.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; advert for the Chorlton Repertory Theatre Club, date unknown, from the collection of Sally Dervan

Stories of the Crescent in Salford yet to be told

Now I bet there will be plenty of stories about the Crescent.

Not that Mr Frederick Engels or Mr Marx will be calling me with their tales of boozy nights over the thorny bits of “Dialetical Materialism”*

Nor I suspect will it be the man who lost his stage coach ticket after a heavy night at the place and could only remember that he thought he might have been drinking in the Red Dragon.

And that rather sets the scene.

The popular story has Mr Marx and Engels in there swapping pints with discussions on how history worked and the future and that the pub was once the Red Dragon.

All of these and more stories can be found in that excellent site, Manchester Pubs and never one to steal another’s research I will just direct you to the link.**

All I will say is that I did a quick trawl of the directories and could find no Red Dragon,.

That said I only went back to 1850 when the Crescent was run by Hannah Bradburn and interestingly it doesn’t show up in later lists

So instead that just leaves me to comment on Peter’s painting which I like, and make that usual appeal for any stories or pictures, particularly ones from inside which rarely ever survive, if they were ever taken.

Painting; the Crescent, Salford © 2015 Peter Topping 


Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

*That political and historical events result from the conflict of social forces and are interpretable as a series of contradictions and their solutions and expressed succinctly as  “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." The Communist Manifesto, Chapter 1 Bourgeois and Proletarians, 1848

**Pubs of Manchester Past & Present,

When the story is the address ........ postcards from Oldham during the Great War

Now for some this postcard offers up little in the way of a story.

Silk cards like this one were common both during and after the Great War, and many have survived the century or so since.

Along with ones destined for home and family which, were for “a loving wife” or “dearest daughter” there were those carrying the regimental badge or name of a unit of the British army.

Most of the ones in the collection are for the Manchester Regiment, but there is one for the Post Office Rifles, a few from Canada and this one for the Cheshire Regiment.

All belong to David Harrop who has kindly shared them with me and some appeared in the book on Manchester and the Great War.*

In the case of this one there is a story and it revolves around the address on the reverse.

It was sent by Private James Moseley of the Cheshire Regiment who addressed it from D Company 12 Tent, Chadderton camp, Royton, near Oldham.

Chaderton Army Camp was on land requisitioned by the military at the outbreak of the war and had been part of the estate belonging to Chadderton Hall.

In time I will go looking for Private Moseley but for now it is that address directing the postman to Tent 12 that intrigues me and offers up the start of a story about military training under canvas during the Great War

Location; Oldham during the Great War

Picture; silk postcard, undated, courtesy of David Harrop

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War,

More from Tony Goulding ......The Art Heritage of Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Normally I don’t return to previous posts; however I am happy to do so in this instance. 

Following a request from a descendant I was further researching the Haigh family and came across a story which enhances both their history and the story of the High Lane.

“The Oakes” The Haigh’s family home on Greenheys Lane, Hulme in the 1880’s

The Haighs were a prominent family in Edwardian Chorlton-cum-Hardy centred on The Oaks Music School situated at the junction of Wilbraham and Manchester Roads.

The picture opposite shows the family’s earlier home and comes from a painting of it by Juliet Knowles who was related by marriage to the Haighs. Juliet’s sister Florence married Robert Wallace Haigh at St. Mary’s, Hulme on 16th October, 1894.

Juliet had two brothers who were also artists, Frederick James (a landscape and figurative painter) and the more celebrated George Sheridan (who is described as a “Genre” artist). Juliet and George Sheridan lived as children on High Lane, Chorlton-cum-Hardy in the house which became when they left it in March, 1873 Robert Davies’s “Commercial School” (1)

High Lane, 2017
Their younger brother, Frederick James, was born the following year with the family living at 117, Moss Lane West, Hulme, Manchester..
All three of these “Knowles” became professional artists whose works are regularly sold at auction houses around the world. George Sheridan appears to have been the most successful; after starting his career in Manchester he settled in the affluent London area of Hampstead.

Frederick James also moved away from the area to Oswestry in Shropshire and later near Macclesfield, Cheshire.

Only Juliet remained working in Manchester.

The 1890,s rate books show her with a studio on the 3rd floor of the Oxford Arcade on Oxford Street.

In the 1933 trade directory she is located at Ocean Chambers, 54, Deansgate. (2)

Former art school, 2017
The value of auctioned lots of paintings by each of the three artists varies but as a rough guide the highest “hammer prices” were obtained by George Sheridan – up to around £10,000. Frederick James’s landscapes fetch up to £1,500 whilst Juliet’s still lifes reach up to around £500.

Thus we have three more local artists to add to Thomas Edwin Mostyn who ran his art school on High Lane at the turn of !9th?20th centuries. The glass roof of its studio is still evident today in the building which now houses the Buddhist’s World Peace Café.

© Tony Goulding

Pictures, The Oakes, 1897, Juliet Knowles,m31791, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,, remaining images from the collection of Tony Goulding


1) The school’s name was changed after two years to “Chorlton High School” The proprietor sold the building to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford in 1897 from when it was used as Chorlton-cum-Hardy’s first Catholic Church and parish school. After the new church was opened in 1927 it retained its educational role until a new school was built in the 1960’s. It now functions as a parish centre (with a successful amateur boxing club using part of the old school buildings)
2) Juliet resided with her father until his death after which she moved in with her younger sister, Florence and brother-in-law Robert Wallace Haigh and their children. This arrangement lasted for over 40 years first in Stockport and later in Levenshulme, Manchester.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Today I walked the old road .......... Part One

Today I walked the old road.

It is little more than a narrow paved track but for centuries it was one of the main routes out of the village to Manchester. Along this road went the farmers with their wagons loaded with agricultural produce destined for the Bridgwater Canal, villagers wanting to join Chester Road which led on into Manchester, and cowmen driving their cows back from the Meadows to the farms around the Green.

It was called Back Lane and it started by Hardy Lane ran down past the parish church, across the Meadows and ended just beyond the Duke’s Canal. Over the years parts of the road have changed their name and there are now houses along some of its course. Our chosen route would take us from the green past open land all the way to Stretford.

In some ways little appears to have changed in the last 150 years. Just as then hawthorn, oak, hazel and ash trees line the road and the banks made from countless years of leaf deposits trapped under the hedgerows are still there. My companion pointed to hazel trees which showed evidence that they had once been coppiced. It is a skilled job and one that I guess had not been undertaken here on our road for perhaps half a century.

In the distance rooks swooped back and forth, around their nest. Nothing quite prepares you for one of these. High up in the bare branches they seem as natural apart of the tree as the branches themselves. And there, just past Sally’s pond stood the old oak tree, perhaps the tallest tree on our road. More than likely those bringing the news of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar would have passed it on their way into the village as would an obscure soldier fired by missionary zeal to preach the Methodist message.

Picture; the old road from the collection of Andrew Simpson

For the Friends of Hardy Lane ......... a gate post

Now for those who have fond memories of Hardy Lane from a time before today, here is the last of the short series on the road that for some will rival Route 66.

Hardy Lane, 1966
It started as a small lane at Barlow Moor Lane and ran off on to the flood plain, passing a group of cottages and Hardy Lane.

And yes once Barlow Moor Road was called a lane and not a road.  The cottages were known as the Block and 1907 the lane had acquired a cricket ground which also boasted a Pavilion.

And that is all I am going to say, other than to thank Neil Simpson who tells me is from  "the Town Hall Photographer's Collection Digitisation Project, which is Volunteer led and Volunteer staffed, is in the process of systematically scanning the 200,000+ negatives in the collection dating from 1956 to 2007.

Hardy Lane, 1907
The plan is to gradually make the scanned images available online - initially on Manchester Archives+ Flickr and later on other Archives+ digital platforms."*

And then just after I posted, Catherine got in touch and left this comment which of course had to be included.

"Andrew, not only have you found the gate to the cricket club, the small gate on the left of the picture at the other end of the hawthorn hedge is our gate, 55, Hardy Lane. 

The gate ....... and beyond
The tennis courts were behind the hawthorn hedge. The courts had their own pavilion/changing rooms.

Tennis was very popular being played all weekend and night matches during the week in the summertime. 

There were grass courts and hard surface ones. I too played on the 'bars' with my friend. If you stepped over the white marker line of the cricket pitch the groundsman would be after you! 

Just to the right of the gate is the corner of what was my aunt and uncles garden. 

Andrew, thank you so much for sharing these Chorlton pictures, it's been a treat seeing them." 

Location; Chorlton

Picture; Hardy Lane, 1966, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and Hardy lane in 1907

*Manchester City Council Archives+ Town Hall Photographer's Collection Flickr Album.

When there were cars in St Ann's Square

I like this picture of St Ann’s Square sometime in the late 1950s or early 60s.

It is how I first remember it, all full of cars with grimy soot encrusted statues of the worthy with the memorial to the Boer War away in the distance.

And in its way it is now as dated as those images from the beginning of the last century.

Picture; St Ann’s Square, from the series Manchester, Lillywhite, issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of TuckDB

Visitation of God or manslaughter, the death of John Bradshaw in Eltham in 1837

Rural communities have never been the peaceful idyllic places some would have us believe.

In just a short two decades, the small township of Chorlton-cum-Hardy experienced two murders, a series of daring burglaries and two cases of infanticide.

There were also groups of violent drunks from Manchester who persistently intimidated the local residents and just a mile or so away passengers on packet boats travelling along the Duke’s Canal from Stretford were pelted with stones.

Some of the crimes were opportunistic, others like the poaching of potatoes from the fields on the northern side of Chorlton were organised by gangs who came in from Hulme equipped with wheel barrows and their own sacks.

From the Times February 1 1837
And then because the southern end of the township opened out onto the flood plain and was relatively remote it was perfect for illegal prize fighting which could attract hundreds who if necessary could escape over the Mersey into Cheshire and thereby evade the Lancashire police.

All of which makes me think that the drunken attack on the landlord of the Castle in Eltham High Street in the January of 1837 will not have been an isolated case.  Indeed just a few months later an armed gang of escaped convicts from Woolwich were apprehended trying to make for the woods to the south of Shooters Hill.*

Now there is a danger in elevating two events into a crime wave, but I rather think it is just that we haven’t looked too closely at the newspaper reports or the Quarterly Sessions.

And so back to Mr John Bradshaw, late of the Castle in the High Street and the story of John Foster who came to the assistance of the landlord.

Like so many nice tales of the past its telling emerged from a chance discovery of a newspaper report of the inquest into Mr Bradshaw’s death and the work of my new chum Jean who is a descendant of John Foster.**

The Foster’s ran the smithy in the High Street and were well respected that stories of old Mr Foster were still circulating into the town almost a hundred years after he first arrived from Carlisle.

The Castle in 1909
The story itself is not an unusual one, a drunk by the name of Lucas fell foul of the landlord who ordered him out and in the subsequent scuffle Mr Bradshaw was hit and fell over.

And this was where the young John Foster came into the story attempting to remove Lucas from the pub not once but twice.

In the meantime Mr Bradshaw had died and the medial opinion was his death had been “caused by a sudden fit or a convulsion of the brain, produced by a fall.  His death must have been instantaneous.”***

The inquest was held in Mr Bradshaw’s pub which was a common enough practice, given that after the church the only other public place large enough would have been the school house or a pub.

Now I have come across quite a few inquests from the period and what I always find fascinating is that they provide a rare opportunity to hear ordinary people, many of whom have not left a scrap of written material about themselves or their times.

And so here we have John Foster, along with John Heritage and Mrs Bradshaw speaking directly to us of the event that happened that night.

Nor is that all for in the course of the inquest other people are mentioned all of whom it should be possible to track down.

But most striking is the clash between the coroner and the Jury.  He was satisfied and said so that the death was “by the visitation of God” rather than at the hand of Lucas which conflicted with their verdict “That the death of the deceased was caused by over excitement, produced by the conduct of James Lucas.”

Remarkably the Coroner refused to accept the verdict, directed them to think again and when by a majority they returned the same decision commented “I cannot agree with you that your verdict is a proper one. [and was] bound to order you all to appear at the Criminal Court and take the onion of the learned judge whether I am bound to receive such a verdict, which is in direct opposition to the evidence.”

This is a judgement by the Coroner made all the more odd given one witness reported that it was Lucas’s blow to Mr Bradshaw which had resulted in the fall and subsequent conclusion commented on by the surgeon.

Now unlike other inquests I have written about we do not know who the jurors were and that is a pity because they appear to have been a resolute bunch prepared to stand up to the Coroner.

So much so that the foreman was moved to comment that “If we are obliged to attend without returning our verdict, I am quite at a loss to know what use it is to call jury.  For my part I have come to the determination to return no other verdict.”

All of which makes me feel for these “little men” who were prepared to stand their ground against the professional with all his authority.

Now that could just be the end of the story but not quite.  John Bradshaw was buried in the parish church and there will opportunities to pursue the lives of the others mentioned in the inquest.

And so to Lucas.

From the court records, 1837
A search of the criminal records revealed that a James Lucas aged 51 went before the Kent Assizes on January 30th 1837 for manslaughter and was acquitted.

There is of course a slight mismatch in dates.  The inquest report is dated February 1st and the hearing was the day before.  But given that the Times reported that the inquiry was adjourned until the following evening when the Coroner had consulted a higher authority “as to whether I can receive your verdict” it may well be that the jury was once again ignored.

As it was James Lucas was in Well Hall in 1841, a widow living with his two daughters, Harriet aged 14 and Emmie aged 12.  His given occupation was a sawyer and so now a new search begins, for information on his wife Sarah and perhaps some of the other people named in the inquest who may well have worked with him.

*Convict Chase and Capture, the Times May 8th 1837
**Tragedy at the Castle Inn, Jean Gammons and based on a report in The Times February 1st 1837
***evidence of Mr David King, surgeon

Picture; The Castle Inn from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, 

All the fun of the seaside from a studio in Salford.

Now I like other people’s family pictures and it is a bit of a privilege to be allowed to use them.

So I am grateful to Alan who over the last few weeks has tirelessly dug out, scanned and sent me photographs of his family from the beginning of the last century.

They are a unique collection for not everyone has bothered to save these pictures.  Often they have no date and no name so that within a few generations their meaning is lost and they run the risk of being thrown out.

In the case of this collection Alan knows the people staring back at us and armed with a name and a few brief biographical details it is possible to bring them out of the shadows.

But today rather than concentrate on the person it is the picture that fascinates me.  From the moment the first commercial photographers set up shop they were keen to make their portrait pictures just that bit different.

And so along with varied and often exotic props came the backcloth and of course where better to be photographed than Blackpool.

By the 1890s it was the seaside resort of choice not only for the North West but for all over the North and it could count on upwards of 3 million staying for the full week.

That said it is equally possible that the picture was actually taken within sight of the Tower, giving that week away just a permanent reminder of the sun sand and I hope no rain.

Picture; courtesy of Alan

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

A little bit of gentle fun at the seaside in the 1930s ............. no 13 ....... "Have one for me"

A short series reflecting on a bit of gentle fun from the seaside.

Location; at the seaside in Wales

Picture; courtesy of Ron Stubley

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Renshaws Buildings in Martledge

Even I have to admit that this bit of road and kerb stone is not the most exciting picture of Chorlton and yet it is all that is left of Martledge that part of the old township which ran from the four banks down to the library.

All this week I have been writing about the place and today I want to focus on the building which ran along the side of this bit of road.  It was a block of six or maybe 12 dwellings and was variously known as New Buildings or Renshaws Buildings.

It was set at right angles to what is now Barlow Moor Road and in its time must have looked the part. It had a large impressive gable end and despite being farm cottages dominated this part of Martledge.

The block was owned and may have been built by John Renshaw sometime before 1832.  He was a market gardener living in a farm house on the Row* who also owned a number of cottages around the township.  Some at least would have been wattle and daub structures but Renshaws Buildings were made of brick.

Now I can be fairly confident that they predate 1832 because they are listed as part of his property qualification which entitled him to a Parliamentary vote in the newly reformed House of Commons.

And it maybe that they represent the first building boom here in Chorlton in the 1840s and 40s by speculative tradesmen who wanted to cash in on the population increase or maybe just the desire of local people to live in a house made of brick rather than wood, mud and straw.

It is unclear how many units there were but the evidence from the census and the old maps suggests that they were one up one down back to back dwellings.  By the beginning of the 20th century part of the block had been converted into commercial use and just before their demolition this bit was a garage.

They came down sometime in the mid 1920s to make way for the present Royal Oak pub.  I wish we had some written memories of what they were like but sadly we don’t.  On the other hand we do have a few photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries along with details of who lived there from the 1840s and the rents they paid, but for all that it is back to the book where you can see Barris’ reconstruction picture of Renshaws Buildings in more detail.  It is based on a number of the photographs and maps and we are looking at it from the west, as if were heading into the township from Manchester.  The kerb stone and narrow road are hidden on its eastern side.

*Today this is Beech Road and his home was on the site of Ivy Court facing the Rec

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and Barri Sparshot

Of letters, and postmasters in the Eltham of the 19th century

Eltham in the 1830s
I am back with the post office in Eltham and in particular two men who straddle the history of letters, parcels and other odd things sent by the postal service.

James Pike and James Lawrence were the postal service in Eltham for a big part of the 19th century and their stories have been unearthed by Jean Gammons and so I shall hand over to her.

“James Pike was Eltham’s postmaster for perhaps forty years.  He was a clockmaker and his house was in the High Street.  

Very little is known of him and the earliest reference is a record of the death of his first wife in the parish records in 1798.  I could find no record of his birth or his marriage to Elizabeth so he may not have been an Eltham man.

He remarried in 1809 when he was 49 to a young woman from Eltham called Ruth Patterson.*

She was some twenty years younger than him and the records show they ran the post office together.

This was on the High Street just up from the old Chequers inn.  They would have conducted the business of the postal service from a room in their house and people waited outside in the street to be served through a window.”
Burial entry of James Pike, June 1837

James died in the June of 1837, and was buried in the parish churchyard.  

His wife Ruth survived him by twenty years, but the business was taken over by James Lawrence whom the Pike’s had taken on as their apprentice in their clock making business.2

He had been born in Eltham in 1819 and we can follow him from the 1841 census when he was listed as watch maker through the next four decades.  By 1871 while he may still have had a connection with the clock business he lists himself simply as postmaster.

This was an important time in the development of the Post Office.

Looking towards the parish church
The year before “the post office had taken over the private telegraph companies and James Lawrence must have been very proud when his eldest son, then a lad of just 13 became one of the Post Office’s first Telegraph messengers.  

In 1876 Eltham’s little post office was upgraded to a Head Post Office and Lawrence was placed in charge of all the smaller post offices in the Eltham district with an overnight salary rise from £31 to £60 a year.

But his office was still at no 54 High Street in the old shop where it had been since the 18th century, roughly where the milkman’s cart is seen in the picture."

The Post Office is roughly where the milkman's cart stands
All of which takes us into a new and bold period in the history of Eltham and its postmasters.

Pictures, of the High Street in the 1830s, and in 1909 courtesy of Jean Gammons and Mr Pike’s burial entry from St John’s parish records, courtesy of, and the City of London Corporation Libraries, Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery Department

*Another Eltham life brought out of the shadows, the story of Ruth Pike, nee Patterson, 1782-1857

Doors I have known .............. now that’s a zippy title

Fairfield Street
Now there is nothing original in showing off a collection of doors.

But I was reminded of just how many pictures of doors I have taken over the years after talking to my cousin Marisa in Canada.

She was recently engaged in a project to photograph and record the stories of doors in her home town in Ontario

And as you do I went looking for some of the ones I have come across over the years.

Most are from cities and towns in Italy, Greece and a shed load here in Manchester

Some of them have appeared before along with the history of the people who lived or worked behind them.

So for now I shall just post the pictures of three I like.

Via Nationale
I don’t pretend they are classic shots but just ones that I have come to know over the years with the promise of more to come.

The first is one of those most of us pass by without a second glance.

It is on that very busy and at times desolate stretch of Fairfield Street by Piccadilly Railway Station.

And for a big chunk of the 1970s I often caught the 218 out to Grey Mare lane and then when we bought our first house all the way up to Ashton.

The second is on the Via Nationale in Rome and caught my fancy as I waited outside a clothes shop for what seemed a century.  We had done the sightseeing and now it was that other type of activity involving a series of shops which made even the most mundane Roman relic a thing of beauty and fascination.

And that just leaves me with the entrance to J & J Shaw on New Wakefield Street.

New Wakefield Street
I long ago delved into the history of the company and acknowledge others have taken better pictures of the door and tiled surround, but then this at least is mine and not snatched from the internet.

So there you have it ...... three doors three places and I bet lots of stories, as yet untold.

Locations, Fairfield Street, Manchester, Via Nationale, Rome, and New Wakefield Street Manchester

Pictures; different doors, different places 2002-2010, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

An early Thursday evening in Varese

Nothing better than an early evening drink on a warm summer's evening
Picture;Varese from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Chorlton Friends in the 1950s ......... from Frank Tomlin

Now long ago the blog ceased to be just a place for my stories, and over the years it has hosted a whole series of pictures, and articles covering pretty much everywhere.

And so today I want to thank Frank for sharing the first of some of his photographs from the family album along with some of his memories.

Frank attended Chorlton Park Secondary school in the 1950s and “during the school holiday we made the most of the good weather, including camping in our front garden at 2 Dagnall Avenue.

We relied on our Mums for food.

I think from time to time our Dads checked on us during the nights but would never admit it.
Great times without TV or phones.

Only one of the lads had a T/V.

We would all scamper round to his house, if we were lucky and more food was supplied.
Great Times.”

And Frank’s comments brought up memories of my own childhood in the 1950s, roaming free across south east London, doing impossible things and experiencing adventures never to be repeated.

Of all those memories the tent sparked a whole series off.  On a hot summer’s day sitting in that tent with the smell of warm canvas, the sunlight playing on the green sides bathing the interior in a different colours accompanied by long glasses of orange squash.

So keep the pictures and memories coming Frank, I love that wooden wheelbarrow in your back garden.

© Frank Tomlin, 2017
Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Under canvas with Frank and friends, in the garden with Frank’s mum and others, circa 1950-53, from the collection of Frank Tomiln

Lost in Manchester, looking for Jackson's Market and a bag of potatoes in the October of 1914

Now here is a mystery which I haven’t been able to solve.

We are on a Manchester street in 1914 and according to the caption the long queue is waiting to buy potatoes.

I wish there was more but there isn’t.

The starting point has to be Jackson’s Market and assuming that is where the supply of potatoes are then we are looking for a greengrocer of which the 1909 directory lists four.

Of these, three were in Manchester, with one at 11 Glebe Street, Levenshulme, a second at 67 Crosscliffe Street Moss Side and the third at 340 Stockport Road.

Each is part of a row of shops and so there is a potential match.

Sadly none of the neighbouring shops in the picture match the businesses on the three streets in the directory.

Of course between 1909 and 1914 our green grocer’s neighbours might have changed which could still keep us in the running.

But in 1911 a Jackson selling fruit and veg is no longer trading from any of those three streets, which just rather makes the mystery just that bit more difficult to solve.

But as I download the 1911 trades directory I may still have an answer.

So as they say watch this space for developments.

And for any one who mutters "well that was a dead loss" that is pretty much how it is sometimes with mysteries.

You can spend all day looking for an answer and wish you had gone to watch the paint dry on next door's garden shed.

But sometimes if you wait long enough it all comes out in the wash, or in this case a directory.

And that I think is enough of that.

Picture; Queue for Potatoes, 1914, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,