Sunday, 31 December 2017

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 93 ......... waiting for New Year

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.*

The house, 1974
Now I know it’s daft to think of a house celebrating the coming of the New Year.

But when you have been in a place for 41 years you do rather come to feel a part of it especially as that ranks you as the longest resident after Joe and Mary Ann who were the first to occupy the place in 1915 and lived out their lives here till 1973.

The remaining two owners together clocked just seven years and one of those barely did a few months before they went off to South Africa leaving the house vacant.

And as I know nothing of how Joe and Mary Ann celebrated the event, it is down to our 41 years.

The Trevor, 1975
At the beginning it was the pub where there was an extension to see in the New Year, followed by a very drunken hour back in the house before we all conceded defeat, went to bed waking up with a hangover fit to rival all hangovers.

Back then the pub was the Trevor and despite the possibility of glittering parties most of the regulars stayed put and saw the New Year in with Stan, Mona, Chris and Lynn who ran the pub.

We always seemed to collect a group of friends who because they were also single ended up with us and that reminds me just how many people have passed through the house in those four decades, from Whispering Dave, to Jen and Shelia, along with the French bunch and of course Jack Harker.

In the Trevor, 1979
Some like Jack were a permanent feature who helped John build the boat in the back garden and often picked up basic groceries for us, while we were at work.

I have no idea how many passed through but all were made welcome, invariably stayed for a meal and often ended up on the setee for the night.

Some of them were part of those early New Year’s Eve Event

Later when the lads came along the flow of friends didn’t abate although we tended to spend the night of December 31st at someone else’s house with the slow walk back pushing the pram through quiet streets.

That said there were more than a few “in between” gatherings when the house was filled with family, friends and work colleagues in those few days between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.

Celebrating, 1977
All of which just left the actual night to be celebrated quietly with uncle Michael who brought a selection of Blockbuster videos and a bottle of Moet Chandon.  The films were a mix of ones for the kids followed after they had gone to bed with more grown up ones.

Later still, we slipped in that more gentle set of celebrations as the lads, all now grown up went off to see in the new year in places as far afield as the city centre, Leicester, Warsaw and Berlin.

And along the way how the rest of Chorlton celebrated it all has changed.

Once on those still cold nights the sirens of the ships from the docks could be heard marking the transition from one year to the next.

Today even if those ships from across the world were still plying their trade in the docks I doubt that we would hear the sirens over the noise of the fireworks.

It used to be that fireworks were just for Bonfire night.

The New Year Eve meal, 2016
Now they dominate the time either side of midnight, with their noise crashing and rebounding across the roof tops, lighting the sky in streaks and cascades of colours.

There will always be the one who let them off early, either through sheer incompetence or in a desperate bid to outfirework the neighbours and those that decide to repeat the exercise at 3 am.

But this year as for the last few, we will be lucky to see them, having fallen asleep sometime around 11.30, with me telling Tina stories of Andy Stewart and the Hogmanay shows, all along way from the way we marked the passing of the old year back in 1976.

But just possibly, how Joe and Mary Ann would have seen in the New Year during part of their time in the house.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; from the collections of Andrew Simpson, Lois Elsden and Lyn

*The story of a house,

Saturday, 30 December 2017

It really did happen ...... Boy Jones and Millie the Mole ........ The story of one house in Lausanne Road no. 52

Now the story of Millie the Mole and Boy Boy Jones has lived with me ever since I was told about the pair.

The back of Lausanne Road, circa 1955
They  lived in our house in the 1950s and according to cousin Mary he drove the getaway car for a smash and grab gang.

I first featured them in The story of one house in Lausanne Road over a century and half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

I was too young to remember them but they were just some of the people who rented rooms in my parent’s house on Lausanne Road.

Now this was the period just after the last world war and housing was still in short supply, and most people lived in rented accommodation.

It was the age of the private landlord and “living in rooms” was commonplace.

Ours was a tall terraced house built sometime in the last quarter of the 19th century. It had nine rooms spread out over three floors, with cellars and a long garden.

I don’t know how many lodgers we had at any one time, but until the arrival of my twin sisters in 1955, there was just mum dad and me. So after accounting for the three downstairs rooms and the bath room, this still left enough for a collection of paying customers.

The back in 2010
But back dear reader to Millie the Mole and Boy Boy Jones. Now smash and grab raids were at the cutting edge of big time crime.

The gang would choose a suitable jewellers and using a brick and pick axe handle smash the window, grab the loot and escape in the waiting car. Boy Boy Jones was the driver.

A career which came to an abrupt end when he drove off during a raid, leaving the gang to struggle along a crowded Peckham High Street, with assorted diamond rings, a necklace and several watches.

Needless to say their progress was somewhat hampered by the loot and the Saturday shoppers and they were caught.

Boy Boy Jones remained free which was not necessarily a good thing for Millie, who according to cousin Mary their relationship  was tempestuous at the best of times and led on "one occasion to Boy Boy arousing the street as he dangled her out of one of the upstairs windows by her wrists".

From the front, 2007
As stories go it caught my imagination and has fascinated me ever since.

But with all good stories there is always that nagging doubt about the veracity of the tale which with the
passage of over sixty years is now lost in time.

Or so I thought until Gerry responding to the story yesterday commented, "I knew BoyBoy Jones he was my mates older brother their family home was Tustin Street. 

He always drove a big American car. He was the only person I'd ever seen with an old white fiver. 

Wasn't around much as he spent some time at Her Majesty's Pleasure. If it's the same one, and it seems to be, his name was Arthur, I know he was infamous as a getaway driver and he was a nice bloke to us kids ”**

And that is that.

Picture; Lausanne Road circa 1955 and in 2010 and in 2007, from the collections of Andrew Simpson and  Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick

*The story of one house in Lausanne Road,

**Gerry Gough, 2017

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Discovering a little bit of Whalley Range’s history

Now here is a bit of history that I bet lots of people know but has passed me by and it concerns St Margaret’s playing fields in Whalley Range.

The land is on Brantingham Road and was gifted by the wife of one of the vicars of St Margaret’s and in in 1937 it was the destination of that years Chorlton carnival.

Back in the 1930s there were a number of carnivals across the city but Chorlton’s seemed to be the biggest according to the Manchester Guardian which reported that “the gala held in St Margaret’s playing fields, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, on Saturday [June 19th] may be said to mark the opening of the charity carnival season.“*

Now I recently wrote about the carnival but pretty much ignored the playing fields but after a few people asked where they were I went looking.**

The obvious place was beside St Margaret’s Church in Whalley Range and while I was close I wasn’t in quite the right place.

The church had been built in 1849 on land given by Samuel Brooks but the playing fields date from sometime later.

I have yet to establish when but I do know that in 1894 the land was still part of Whalley Farm and as late as 1911 Brantingham Road had yet to be developed fully.

That said I hope to talk to Mr Boulter the vicar at  St Margaret’s and perhaps even before then someone will come forward a bit more of the story.

And within minutes of posting this story,  Pawel Lech Michalczyk who pointed out that  "St Werburgh's Church owned playing fields.

These were opposite Parkgaye Farm, accessible via the short cul-de-sac off St Werburgh's Road.

It was the whole triangle between the railway line and Chorlton Brook, almost up to Mauldeth Road West.

Its now part of the Chorlton High School campus."

Location; Whalley Range

Picture; horses being paraded along Oswald Road sometime in the 1930s, courtesy of Mrs Kay, from the Lloyd collection

*Manchester Guardian June 21 1937

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

What we have lost ....... inside the Corn Exchange

I really liked this metal and glass structure.

It was in the Corn Exchange beside Exchange Square, and I always thought it was an innovative way to fill a space.

Added to that I rather enjoyed sitting in there sipping an espresso and waiting for the shopping expedition to finish.

But it has e gone since the was transformed from a retail centre to a series of themed restaurants from Italian, to Thai, and many more.
The Corn Exchange is a listed grade II building and was originally the Corn and Produce Exchange built in 1897 and opened in 1903.

Its role as an important centre for business suffered during the 1920 and 30s and and by the time I arrived in Manchester in 1969 its role as a trading floor were over.

But I remember it as a place full of independent traders ranging from second records and comics to clothes and jewellery.

You could spend hours wandering the stalls on the trading floor and in the surrounding rooms, but that IRA bomb did for all this.

The building was severely damaged and many of the traders relocated to what has become the Northern Quarter, and the building was redeveloped as the Triangle specialising in swish retailing, but it never seemed as busy in later years, and despite a re branding in 2012 seemed to miss a trick.

And then it closed reopening as an interesting place to eat.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; interior of the Triangle, July 2013

*Corn Exchange, Manchester,,_Manchester

Lost in memories of listening to Apache in Woolworths on a warm summers afternoon in 1960

Now I wonder just what eight records we would all take away to that desert island.

It’s not a causal question and if you think about it, it turns out to be pretty hard especially if like me you were born in the first half of the last century.

My sixty six years have been packed with friends and events many of which were happy and a few less so.

So do you go for the music you associate with lost romances or stick with the big events from leaving home, seeing the birth of your children to the very great moments of the last two centuries?

And if you do go for the top eight events, does the death of J. F. Kennedy win over Dr King’s “I have a dream” speech or the release of Nelson Mandela or should the end of a world war stand above the magic of a night spent sitting beside the Thames listening to the barges banging together on a summer’s evening with the girl of your dreams?

I guess it is an impossible task more so because it changes with your age and your outlook and especially the love of your life.

Instead perhaps it should just turn on the eight memorable moments.

My first was walking in to a Woolworth’s store and hearing Apache by the Shadows sometime in the summer of 1960.

This still has the power to take me back to a moment in my life before everything became complicated and grown up.

More than that it puts me right back into that Woolworth’s store with its wooden floor, heavy and solid island counters and the smell of ice cream which came in those circular shapes with matching small round cornets.

Now you can’t get more basic than that, but would I take it on that island?  No I  think not which still leaves me a shedful of moments and songs to work through.

Picture; Cliff Richard & the Shadows arrive at Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands, April 6 1962, Nationaal Archief, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands license.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Thank you ......

This is that part of the year which for most of starts with the exchange of presents and ends with a reflection on the past year and what is to come.

So with that in mind and in keeping with all those childhood comics and grown up magazines which “wished their readers well” I shall do the same.

The blog is now read on every continent bar the one where the penguins live, and even there on a remote research station someone may be reading a the story or admiring a photograph posted by the growing number of contributors.

So it is not an idle boast to assert that here is “everything you ever wanted to know about the history of everywhere”.

Picture; Castlefield, 2006 & Varese, 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Looking for the story behind the farm buildings on St Werburgh’s Road .......

Now even the most humble of buildings will have a story if you know where to look.

Those farm buildings circa 1970s
Of course in the great sweep of history most of us will plump for a Tatton Hall or ruined medieval castle.

But even the most mundane workaday building will offer up something.

So here I am on St Werburg’s Road with one of the farm buildings of Park Brow Farm.

Somewhere in the collection I have a set of pictures from my old friend Oliver Bailey whose family farmed there from the beginning of the last century and before that were on Chorlton Row from the 1760s.*

The farm and buildings in 1844
The building has been converted into residential use and like most people I have given little thought to the place.

But it is there on the OS map for 1844 and I rather think it also shows up on Greenwood’s map of 1818.

So there is history here and given time and a bit of research I want to explore the archaeology of the building.  In particular the brick stairway up to the first floor and when and why the large entrance on the eastern side was bricked in.

For now I will just close with the thought that it would have been on Mary Moore’s route to Dog House Farm.

Mary lived on the Green and as brutally murdered in the June of 1838, but that as they say is another story.*

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; the farm buildings circa 1970s from the Lloyd Collection, and detail from the OS map for Lancashire showing Park Brow Farm, 1844, courtesy of Digital archives Association,

*Chorlton Row is now Beech Road

**The murder of Mary Moore from Chorlton out in Whalley Range and an inquest in Withington,

Losing the Railway Tavern on Gibbon Road and remembering the chip loaf ............... an August day in 1960

Now it’s almost impossible to recreate an adventure you had when you were ten back in the summer of 1960.

But as you do I tried and it was doomed to failure.

That summer had hung heavy and although some of it had been spent with my grandparents  the rest was the usual mix of various parks, the odd long walk and when flush with pocket money a train ride or a Red Rover bus pass which seemed to offer up the world.

Me, I preferred the train but there is no doubting the freedom those Red Rover’s gave you to wander the city for what was just 2/6d.

I never planned my routes just turned up, bought the ticket and went off.  Sometimes you struck gold and others were one of those long journeys to nowhere.

But for now it was that adventure in the August of 1960 which took us out beyond Lausanne Road and up Gibbon Road.

We had planned to spend the morning in the park at Rye Lane but instead of staying on Evelina Road had turned off on to Gibbon Road and by degree discovered the cemetery which was I have to say a bonus.

Once inside it was far more magical than a park, afforded the potential for all sorts of scary and daft things and held out the promise of a return when the conkers had fallen from the trees.

Of course when you do these things for the first time and especially by accident it’s always a bit problematical if the trip can be repeated.

All of which I knew when I set off to recreate that walk, but the passage of  55 years can be hard on the memory and confronted me with more than a few disappointments.

The first was losing the Railway Tavern which has lingered at the back of my mind ever since we came across it because t was here that we had stopped to ask directions.

The pub was closed but the cleaners were in and the doors wide open and that distinctive smell of stale beer and polish permeated the entrance.

And if that wasn’t memorable enough this was where Jimmy dropped the bottle of Tizer which we had carried from home and which still was half full although by now it was warm and a little flat.

So I had good reason to look for the Railway Tavern only to find it had finally shut up shop in 2003 and been demolished three years later, making it another bit of my past that has been taken away from me.

The site is now new housing and comparing it with Adrian’s picture you would be hard pressed to make a match.

Still the old sign has been left although it’s not the picture I remember.

That said there had been one final bonus of the Gibbon Road jaunt and that was the discovery of the chip loaf.  Early on in the trip we had bought those small round loaves, and as walked we ate the inside.

Then at dinner time we filled the inside with chips and sitting down somewhere along the way home ate the lot.

That at least is something I still occasionally do much to the horror of Tina who being Italian thinks the inside should be filled with a mixture of roast vegetables, a few slices of mozzarella cheese and handful of basil leaves all covered with a dash of olive oil.

I can’t disagree with her but point out that in 1960, the inside would be less sun dried peppers and more likely a pickled egg or onion with a sliver of cheddar and a dash of vinegar.

And they say nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

Which is certainly true in this case because I indebted to Simon Mitchell who has corrected the date of the picture, commenting, "sorry to disagree Andrew, but that photo can't be 1960 as there is an Austin Allegro in the shot and they were not on our roads until 1973."

Not that Simon should apologise I am just pleased we have got it right.  Thank you Simon.

Pictures; the Railway Tavern, 66 Gibbon Road, circa 1970s, from the collection of Adrian Parfitt and a London Transport single deck bus courtesy of Jean Low, 2015

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Saturday, 23 December 2017

A better Christmas ........ because of the work of a children’s charity ........... part two

Now how those young people sent to Canada as part of the British Home Children scheme celebrated Christmas will be as varied as the farms and homes they were placed on.

Two young people from The Haven, 1912
We know from oral and written testimony that their experiences ran the full range, from those who were neglected, and abused to others who had been well treated and set on a path which would lead to happiness and fulfilment as adults.

I suspect there will be far more information about those who spent the festival in a receiving station somewhere in Canada which will offer an insight into their first Canadian Christmas, but that pretty much lays outside my research.

But in the course of the preparation for the new book on the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges I have come across a wealth of evidence on how the charity provided for the young people in their care at Christmas.*

Christmas Doings from The Worker, 1880

That evidence is drawn from the reports, letters and journals of the charity and from the media which described in detail the preparations and the activities over the period.

These involved a series of parties and special events stretching over a number of days and which included the distribution of presents.

In 1907 in all the homes associated with the Refuge, Christmas dinner was on the table at 1 o’clock and there were evening entertainments.

One of these was the Christmas tea party and entertainment given by the Refuge boys at the central buildings in Strangeways.

“The boys themselves arrange the festival bring in the guests literally from the highways and hedges, provide them with a substantial meal and give them an evening’s entertainment afterwards.

At the prison gates, circa 1900
On Thursday January 2 the young men living in the lodging-house have a party and entertainment in the gymnasium.  On Sunday January 5 there will be an anniversary service at Bethesda.  

The Messenger Brigade annual tea party takes place on Wednesday January 8 when prizes will be distributed.  On Sunday January 12, old boys assemble at the Young Men’s Institute at 5 o’clock and after tea will attend an anniversary service in the Refuge.” **

The charity  was also active in working with ex prisoners.  It had started a Prison Gate Mission in 1887, which was consistent with its principle of offering hope and alternatives to those in difficulty along with the practical one of assistance as the prisoners walked out of the prison door.

It helped that the HQ of the Refuge was close to Strangeways prison and so every morning discharged prisoners were met and offered a simple breakfast of coffee, bread and butter at the Mission Room along with advice about jobs and accommodation.

For those released at Christmas, the Refuge made a special effort.

In 1914 of the 50 prisoners who were discharged on the morning of December 24, 39 took up the offer of breakfast which included a “bag of cake, an orange, and a Christmas card.  In addition, the ten women were given packets of tea and the men tobacco and pipes and 7 of the men were also provided with articles of clothing of which they stood in need.” ***

Continuing the work, 2017
In the 23 years of its existence 265,959 men, women and children were helped.

The direction of the charity’s work since its foundation in 1870 has changed reflecting the changes in society and in the provision of care for young people.

But it is still engaged in the vital work of offering a happy and memorable Christmas for disadvantaged and vulnerable families.***

Pictures; detail from the Children's Haven, December 1912, extract from the The Worker, 1880, helping tat the Prison Gate circa 1900, and helping in 2017, all courtesy of the Together Trust

* Stories behind the book ....... nu 1 getting started,

** Strangeways Refuges, Manchester Guardian, December 24, 1907

*** Breakfast for Discharged Prisoners, Manchester Evening News, December 24, 1914

**** Christmas and the Together Trust,

Hardy, lonely outpost on the edge of the township

Hardy is that bit of Chorlton-cum-Hardy that most people are vague about.  

It stretches east from the village and follows the river up past Hardy Lane and was a lonely outpost on the edge of the township.

Across its land were two farms a small hamlet and a little beyond the grand old house of Barlow Hall and the very large and impressive Barlow Farm.

A large part of Hardy was buried under tons of rubbish and the farm disappeared with the development of UMIST playing fields.

Back in the 1840s Charles Wood farmed 60 acres of meadow and arable land and employed three farm servants.

His home at Hardy Farm was on the edge of the flood plain and while he was safe enough the same was not so of the small collection of cottages which were situated a little further south.

In 1841 there were only two of these cottages left which were owned by Samuel Dean who farmed Barlow Farm and they were occupied by John Marsland John Burgess.

Both men were agricultural labourers and probably worked for Dean on his 300 acres.  John Marsland lived with his wife Mary and three grown up sons, Thomas, James and Charley who were also farm workers and John Burgess lived in the other cottage with his wife and son.

I doubt that they were little more than one up one down properties made of wattle and daub with a thatched roof.  A few of these survived into the late 19th century.  Our two had a garden and either relied on their own well for water or used the one up at Hardy Farm.

Sometime in the early 1850s the cottages were abandoned after the Mersey had flooded, but even before then both families had moved on and out of the township, although Charles Marsland had continued working for the Dean family and now lived at Barlow Farm.

It must have been a pleasant enough spot when the sun shone but remained a lonely remote place much favoured by those indulged in illegal prize fighting, but that as they say is another story.

Pictures; Hardy Farm and the land to the east and south from the 1841 OS map of Lancashire, courtesy of

Digital Archives, and the meadows before the metro link from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Sea, sky and some sailing boats .......... no. 15 ..... from The Goldsmith Collection

Location; Brighton

Picture; the beech, 2017, from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith

The new Manchester .......... the less intrusive tower

It is just possible to argue that the tower block in Andy’s picture is less intrusive thatn the new developments taking place across the city.

That said from this angle it does rather dominate the scene.

Location; Manchester

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson, 2017

A little bit of Eltham in Manchester

A little bit of home fell through the letter box yesterday afternoon.

December cover
Amongst the Christmas cards, unwanted adverts for double glazing, came a year’s back copies of SEnine sent up by my dear friend Larissa.*

Like all such magazines there is an online version but I treasure the hard copies and save them up to read over a few weeks.

And on the same day, in the same post came my new membership card for the Eltham Society.

Together they are a powerful reminder of where I grew up and its fitting that they should arrive just before Christmas, which is always a time I think of the family, and our Christmases in Well Hall.

Now I know lots of people will have left their child homes and struck out in new places, making friends, putting down roots and raising a family but most of us never quite lose that bond with where we grew up.

So that is pretty much it.

Location; Eltham

Picture; December, from SEnine publication December, 2017


Friday, 22 December 2017

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 93 ......... the red decoration

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.*

Four decades of decorations, 2017
Now I have no idea of how Joe and Mary Ann celebrated Christmas.

Given that both had been born in the late 19th century and lived well past the middle of the next, they will have seen many changes in how the festive season rolled out.

At the heart of their Christmas will be the ones they experienced as children which will in turn have been partly fashioned by how their parents had celebrated the event back in the 1850s and 60s.

A big tree, 2013
Overlaid onto all that would have been the trappings which came from the last century when technological advances made everything different.

These will have included listening to the old King’s Christmas broadcast on the wireless, his daughter’s made via the telly, and receiving those seasonal telegrams from an ageing uncle who always forgot to post a card.

They may have had a tree, which on balance I guess would have been real but could have been  like an artificial one like ours in Well Hall Road, which Dad had bought in the early ‘60s and was essentially a green wooden rod set in a block with wire and brush branches sticking out of the sides.

Here in Joe and Mary Ann’s house, we went in for real ones, which over the years became taller and now require a bit of surgery to get them to fit into the space between the floor and ceiling.

The baby tree, 2013
And on the way we ended up having two.

A big one and a baby one, for which I blame our Joshua.

Added to which the spare branches became mini trees stuck in flower pots in each of the lad’s rooms, and are now used to embellish the hall.

The one constant are the tree decorations which in their way tell the history of our family Christmas.

Somewhere and I guess they will be with one of my sisters are those gaudy glass ones mother bought in the 1950s along with the small green candle holders which you attached to the tree in the days before electric Christmas lights.

Our decorations only date from the '70s, but have been added to over the decades and pretty much tell their own story of how we have celebrated Christmas.

My favourites are those red, green and gold glass globes which catch the reflection of the lights but shatter easily when they fall.

Rosa's nativity scene, 2015
They are the oldest in the collection and at least one may just have come from Well Hall Road, and perhaps even date back to the 1950s and Lausanne Road.

Others were bought from the German Markets, or the posh shops in town and some were hand made by the boys.

In Italy, Rosa and Simone don’t have a Christmas tree, but instead have a nativity scene which has grown over the years as they add more figures, many of which come from the street of nativity figures in Naples, where you can buy everything from a miniature baby Jesus, to a Trump caricature or a set of the latest team players for Napoli, Roma or Milan.

The big red bauble and friends,2017
But for me it will be that simple red bauble which captures my imagination.

It was bought in the old Woolworths opposite Piccadilly, has survived being dropped as well as being  attacked by the dog and a succession of curious cats, and has made its way from Grey Mare Lane, via Ashton Under Lyne and finally in 1976 to Joe and Mary Ann’s house.

In the process we have discarded the Christmas tinsel, used up four sets of lights and gone from those wonderful bright coloured ones to simple white with an option on blue influenced lights for the baby tree.

But that red decoration has stood the test of time and is now a full decade older than our eldest.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of a house,

Stories from the Great Freeze...... No.2 clearing the snow in London

Yesterday I wrote about the Great Freeze of 1962-63 and as I expected it generated a lot of memories.

This one comes from my old friend Andy Robertson, who wrote, "this was taken outside our house in Fulham in 1963, February or March I guess, and probably by that intrepid photographer Gwendoline Robertson. 

I think it illustrates the makeshift vehicles that were used to clear some of the excess snow. 
I can clearly remember a small slab of ice still there by the kerbside in early April.

This was my last year at Primary school but the only thing I remember is how it disrupted the football season.

Before the freeze my beloved Chelsea were well top of old Division Two, then games were postponed or played on unfit surfaces so our skill factor was nullified but we did manage to get promoted....just!”

Location; Fulham, 1963

Picture; clearing the snow, Fulham, 1963, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Coming soon ........ the new historic plaque for Chorlton

Now after some hard work we will soon have a plaque on a wall here in Chorlton to honour Madge Addy.

She was a remarkable woman who not only went out to Spain during the Spanish Civil War but went on to serve as an agent in occupied France.*

It is a story I have been uncovering for a while and was prompted by a request from Cll Shelia Newman to research the life of Madge Addy who lived in Chorlton.

Interest has grown in Ms Addy since Chris Hall suggested that there should be a memorial plaque to this brave woman and there may be some who also have knowledge of Madge please contact Chris by email at or on 0161 861 7448.

And now the plaque is ready and will soon be installed.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; photograph of the Madge Addy plaque, 2017, courtesy of Chris Hall

*Madge Addy,

Move over Sherlock Holmes ....... the Case of the Mysterious Red Girder and a railway station has been solved

You know, even when a mystery has you stumped, someone will come up with a solution, and they don’t have to have a silly name, wear an even sillier hat and have a friend called Watson.

The Red Girder by Andy Robertson
And so it was with the Case of Mysterious Red Girder and a railway station which set me off on one on Monday.*

The culprit as ever was Andy Robertson whose photograph revealed a bit of red girder which was where it shouldn’t have been.

My own pathetic attempts at sleuthing were quickly swept away by a series of responses, which included a number of pictures and some straightforward suggestions.

Victoria Station, John Knight
So thank you to Bill, and John who both suggested it was part of the original roof and to Antony who went much further commenting that ”the red girder to the left is the yellow lattice girder shown in your photograph of the advertising hoarding Andrew Simpson. Together with the red girder to the right, these supported the old train-shed roof. 

These two girders, and those on the main station building have been deliberately left in situ to ‘preserve the heritage of the station’ (so said the publicity blurb at the time). 

One other reason would have been that cutting the beams was cheaper and caused no damage to the old buildings. Any attempt at complete removal would have been time-consuming to expose the hidden parts of all those joints and very expensive to make the good damage caused (with heritage materials?). 

This also explains the cascade of what appear to be rectangular drain-pipes that were provided to mark the outline of the former train-shed roof.

And that as they say is that.

Well not quite, because just a few hours after the story went live Lee Hutchings told me "I wrote the heritage appraisal for the shed roofs years ago and found that there were 3 or 4 dates of roofs in this location, all culminating over the restaurant, a very small part of the original 1840s roof a few sections of roof from the temporary c1860s shed roof and parts of the 1910s roof, I seem to remember that the 1860s roof was but as an open-sided shed extension that was adapted and extended when the final station frontage was completed in the 1910s".

Location; Victoria Station

Pictures; the red girder, 2017, from the collection of Andy Robertson, and Victoria Station, courtesy of John Knight

*The Case of the Mysterious Red Girder and Victoria Station,

Thursday, 21 December 2017

When the snow fell on Boxing Day and stayed till March .........

It was one of those throw away comments made at the end of a TV show last night which linked a a trailer for the weather forecast with an earlier piece on the Great Freeze of 1962-63.

Early morning, January 2009
The footage had shown the appalling weather conditions and prompted the question, how did we cope?

The snow had begun falling on Boxing Day which almost qualified it as a White Christmas, stopped I think the following day and then began tumbling out of the sky on December 29th locking us into nearly four months of ice and snow with the thaw only beginning in March.

Now when you are thirteen you take such events in your stride and after snow ball fights became boring there was always the game of pulling a wooden bench up the hill at Pepys Park and then descending down the slope.

Late afternoon, January, 2009
All of which had the added thrill that we might get caught by the park keeper who probably had more sense and was keeping warm in his hut beside a paraffin stove.

Come to think of it I don’t recall ever being challenged by one of the keepers in their brown uniforms as we risked life and limb.

But all of that was in the future, on that day in December I barely gave much of a thought to the snow.

It was late on a Saturday afternoon and already dark which made that swirling storm of snow just that bit more magical.

This I know because I still have the Eagle Annual which I got as a Christmas present and which I was reading in our kitchen as the events unfurled.

Ours was a big kitchen dominated by the stove in the corner which heated the water as well as the room.

I suspect it was almost as old as the house and had no thermostat which meant that when it had been on all day the water got so hot that dad had to draw some off.

The Eagle Annual, 1962-63
That was a regular occurrence but more than that there was that sizzling noise made from the water in the tank which was one of those reassuring sounds that seemed to guarantee all was well in the house.

That sizzling noise vied with the sound of the wireless which dad would listen to and which marked him off from mum who preferred the front room and the television.

So on cold winter’s nights you could slide down the Arctic like hall into the kitchen and be met by a wall of heat and Dad, which is how I remember that day when the snow began to fall.

Now I don’t doubt that in the rural areas things were grim with RAF air drops of supplies, farmers digging out buried sheep and the use of snow ploughs on railway locomotives.

But in south east London, life pretty much got on almost as normal.

Looking out over the Rec, 2009
The morning newspaper was pushed through the door, the milk was on the step and dad went to work and I walked to school.

For both of us there was nothing unusual about walking to work and school and although it was slippy I don’t recall there being much of a problem.

As for the rest of the house outside the kitchen, the front room was another warm haven and the remaining rooms, hall and landing were no colder than any winter.

Me in 1962
Dad prepared the hurricane lamps which he left in the loft to ensure that there was just enough heat to prevent the pipes from freezing, and we all had hot water bottles.

And after the first bout of excitement, the ice and snow became nothing special.

The other great freeze of 1947 was harsher and made worse by the post war shortages and the general weariness brought on by six years of war and a hard first few years of peace.

Location; 1962-63

Pictures; Beech Road in January 2009, the Eagle Annual 1962-63 and me in 1962, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A picture a day ..... Barlow Moor Road

A picture a day

During this week of Ddcember I have decided to feature a picture a day, drawn from the collections that span a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of Rita Bishop

A better Christmas ........ because of the work of a children’s charity

Today I am back with that excellent blog produced by the archivist of the Together Trust, and not for the first time I have “borrowed” one of the images.

But I have done so only as a trailer for this month’s article which is all about the work of the charity during Christmas.

Just follow the link to the story.*

Location; Salford and Manchester

Picture;  from The Children's Haven, 1880s, courtesy of the Together Trust

*Christmas at the Together Trust,

**The Together Trust;

Bits on the beech .......... no. 13 ..... from The Goldsmith Collection

Every beech has its share of bits, from deck chairs, limps of sea weed and discarded sandwich wrapper. 

Location; Brighton

Picture; the beech, 2017, from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Snow over the Tudor Barn, one winter's day in 2013

© Chrissie Rose
One of an occasional series which feature contemporary photographs of places with a history.

We are of course in Well Hall looking at the Tudor Barn.

The pictures were taken by Chrissie last year when the snow fell across the south.

And I have to say despite growing up in Eltham I cannot ever remember seeing the Barn like this.

So here are just two of the ones she took.  The rest can be seen on her site Just Looking, along with plenty of other pictures.

Now as you do I asked permission to reproduce them and decided that I would choose my favourite and ask Chrissie to choose hers which she promptly did.

© Chrissie Rose
Reading the forecast I see that there is cold weather to come and certainly up here in the North that might translate into snow.

Not that Manchester gets that much.  We are sheltered by the hills and it has been a while since the snow fell and stayed.

Which for me is a shame because I love the stuff and am grateful that Chrissie caught one of the places which still means a lot to me.

Pictures; the Tudor Barn, © Chrissie Rose, 2013

*Just Looking,