Thursday, 19 October 2017

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester .......... nu 2 Pool Fold

Back Pool Fold is one of those twisty little thoroughfares which you think must have a rich and varied history and at sometime have offered up more than a few dark stories.  

Back Pool Fold, 2015
But for now it’s the name that provides a clue to how this bit of the city has changed and it all hangs on the word Back which suggests there must once have been a Pool Fold and sure enough in the late 18th century there was.

It was the continuation of Cross Street which in 1793 terminated at the corner with Chapel Walks leaving Pool Fold to creep up to Market Street past what was then the New Shambles.

And as such would have been familiar to those Dissenters who attended the Cross Street Chapel which dates from 1694 and which is the origin of the name Chapel Walks.

There will be many who remember walking down Chapel Walks past the grassed area at the rear of the chapel and clocking that this was the site of the graveyard.  I

t vanished under the last rebuild of the chapel in 1997, which is the fourth place of worship to occupy the site.

The first was opened in 1694, and destroyed by a mob in 1715, its successor succumbed to an air raid in December 1940 and the replacement built in 1959 survived for four decades.

Pool Fold, from Market Street to Cross Street, 1793
Now I bet there will be someone out there who can offer up an exact date for the moment that Pool Fold became the continuation of Cross Street.

For now I know that in 1794 it was still going under its old name, and by 1849 had been lost to history.

All of which just leaves me to mention Sam’s Chops House.

It cannot claim to have stood on its present site for that long, having opened at Back Fold Place in the 1950s although it does date back to 1872 when Mr Samuel Studd opened his restaurant under the grander name of Sam’s London Chop House.

It was situated in Manchester Chambers on the corner of Market Street and Pall Mall.

The building has long gone but once and not that long ago this corner was home to the UCP shop which for those who don’t know was the United Cattle Products Company which had a chain of 146 restaurants.

You entered from that corner, went up a large staircase into the restaurant and there amongst many cattle products on offer was tripe.

Once Pool Fold, now just part of Cross Street, 2016
We only went in once and never bothered with the pub next door on Pall Mall.  It was called the Tavern and

I can’t say it looked inviting.  There was one entrance, and the windows ran in a long strip high up on the wall.

All of which may seem a long way from Pool Fold but perhaps not given the connection between the UCP, the Shambles clearly shown on the map and the many meat dishes offered up by Sam’s, but then as a veggie I think that is where I shall close.

Other than to say with all the work on Cross Street in connection with the Second City Crossing it will be interesting to see if anything new comes out of the ground.

After all earlier in the year work was slowed by the discovery of burials along the route which may have been from the Cross Street Chapel.

Next; Tasel Alley

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Back Pool Fold, 2015 courtesy of Andy Robertson, Pool Fold 1793 from Laurent’s map of Manchester 1793, courtesy of Digital Archives, Cross Street 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, 

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 16, when our water came from pumps and wells

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

Just over 40 years ago there was still a working water pump on Beech Road, and only a few years before that old farmer Higginbotham finally got round to filling in his old well in the garden of his farmhouse on the green.  All of which goes to remind us that before the arrival of mains water in 1864 from Manchester the township was reliant on pumps wells, ponds and streams.  Now my picture was collected by Lois in a village in Sussex but I have every expectation that if you had walked through Chorlton something like 160 years ago there would have been plenty of similar ones.  We might mourn their passing but collecting the water from a pump was a chore and one that had to be done three or four times a day, and by the 1880s most supplies had either become polluted or dried up.  Nevertheless the public pumps were a meeting place and by all accounts a magic place for a six year old to play on hot summer’s days.

Picture; from the collection of Lois Elsden

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ... nu 47 less a street and more a pub

Now on the surface who could lose the junction of Chapel Street and New Bailey Street?

On Chapel Street in 2016
I bet it will have been just as busy back when the New Bailey Prison stood dark and foreboding and the Joule family were brewing beer from their New Bailey Bridge Brewery.

So if the street is still there what about the buildings?

For those with  rusty memories you can compare my picture taken this week with that taken in 1980.

Of course the space on the left occupied by the hoarding was back then still filled with a big building and the sky line beyond the railway bridge has undergone a transformation.

On Chapel Street in 1980
And so of course has the building to our right which many will remember as the Brown Bull.

In the last decade it has gone through a series of changes from Copperheads in 2008, to the Moti Mahal Tandoori in 2012, Jae’s two years later and most recently as an Italian restaurant.

And things may be about to go through another change because when I passed a few days ago there was a big to let sign above the door.

Location; Salford

Pictures; Chapel Street and New Bailey Street, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and in 1980, m66741, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no.19 looking for bargains and watching the day go by

A short series on the pictures of Eltham and Woolwich in 1979.

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

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

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

This remains one of my favourites, just because it is so ordinary.  The couple moving with some speed, and perhaps with an eye on the "clear out."

And while they make their determined way towards the "End of Season CLEAROUT" the two police officers are deep in conversation.

There is no doubting that this image is of its period.

The police uniforms, the night stick and the hand made clearance sign, all very different now.

I wish i had recorded the exact location, but in those days I was far more3 casual about such things.

It will have been around Powis Street and judging by the clothes late July or August.

This I also know because it would have been the summer holidays and freed from the grind of work I would have been back in Well Hall Road at the family home.

And each day armed with my camera would have set off to record Eltham, Woolwich and beyond.

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Woolwich circa 1979, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Of double pillar boxes, gas detecting paint and that new book

Now the double aperture red pillar box is a rare thing.

There are some in London, one in St Ann’s Square and my old friend David Harrop has collected a gold one in Huddersfield and an impressive one near Windsor Castle, while Peter has painted our own double aperture here in Chorlton.

All of which brings me to the dilemma which once upon a time would haunt me, which was to do with posting in the wrong slot on that big pillar box by the Post Office.

Back then, and it wasn’t that long ago, one slot was marked “UK Only” while the other was for the “Rest of the World”.

And I often wondered what happened if you got it wrong?  Would the Milan Central Post Office return my letter to me or send it on to Aunt Edna in Derby and would they add extra postage to cover its return trip?

Not that I ever bothered to ask in the Post Office what would happen if I posted wrongly or for that matter why the policy seems to have changed.

I can’t say I have come across many of these double pillar boxes.  There was one in St Ann’s Square and I would occasionally come across them in London.

They are according to my friend David Harrop who is an expert on all things posty, “C type pillar boxes.

The first were introduced in London in the 1880s and the double apertures have been used over the years for different destinations.

The ones in London tended to have one slot for London and the other slot for the rest of the country, while more recently one aperture was designated first class and the other second class.

There was a variation which was classified the D type which had a stamp machine on one side and during the last world war some were repainted with a special yellow paint which could detect gas”.

Windsor Castle
David has a vast collection of memorabilia from both world wars and the history of the Post Office, and some of that collection is on permanent exhibition at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

All of which have been included in our new book on the Quirks of Chorlton which will be out for Christmas and in my opinion will be a wonderful present for a stocking filler.

Location; Chorlton, St Ann’s Square, London, Huddersfield, and Windsor Castle

Painting; Double aperture pillar box, Chorlton, © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.

Pictures; C type pillar boxes in Huddersfield and Windsor Castle, 2014, from the collection of David Harrop

Knowing your onions in 1940 ........ wartime propaganda with 222 Squadron

Now I am looking forward to seeing the original of this photograph which David tells me comes from New York.

It will be a fitting end to the story which began when he lent me the Line Book for 222 (Natal) Squadron.*

Line Books are rare and this one was nearly lost and only survived because it was found in a skip, which made its way on to the market and in the fullness of time David came across and added to his collection of war time memorabilia.

And it is a wonderful find because Line Books were the unofficial record of RAF squadrons put together by the pilots and kept in the mess.

So here are comments on operations that were flown including bitter sweet reflections on what happened in the air along with pictures poems, and telegrams sent by men on leave.

It covers the period just after the Battle of Britain goes on to record the moment the squadron was equipped with jet fighters in 1945, and its brief time as a missile unit before disbandment in the 1960s.

And while the book was started just after the momentous events of summer 1940, many of the men mentioned will have fought in that battle.

But today it is that picture which I am drawn to and the caption which appeared with it.

I am not sure of the date or which newspaper it appeared in but here is a wonderful piece of war time propaganda, which combines the seriousness of war, and a light bit of banter.

And along with that a tiny bit of factual information offering up that “the Natal Fighter Squadron ........ is paid for by the inhabitants of Natal (South Africa).  Among the pilots are many South Africans and many of the ground staff came from Rhodesia.  Enough money was contributed to Keep a full squadron in the air at all times.”

All of which reminds you that in both world wars there was a huge “voluntary element” which was partly because we were cash strapped but also because getting everyone to make a contribution was a winning piece of propaganda.

So along with war bonds there was of course the Spitfire Fund many other drives for the war effort.**

But I shall finish by returning to the picture and the story, which continues “the Natal Fighter Squadron in England have sown their onions behind barbed wire!  And here are some of them at work on the allotment.  

They find it a change from the routine work of “bagging” German planes.

A flight-lieutenant from South Africa has seven Nazi planes to his credit with a probable five more ....... he certainly knows his onions!”

Today it is easy to be cynical at the style of the propaganda and even back then I suspect there will be some who pointed fun at its jokey delivery but this was all in earnest and those men in the picture were doing the real thing.

So I am pleased that the Line Book is now in David’s possession who I know will look after it and will refer to it in his current exhibition on the Battle of Britain in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern Cemetery.

Pictures; news clipping, of pilots from 222 (Natal) Squadron, date and source unknown from the Lone Book of 222 (Natal) Squadron, courtesy of David Harrop

*The Natal 222 Squadron,

**The Spitfire Fund,

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester .......... nu 1 Sickle Street

Sickle Street from Market Street 2016
If you walk down Market Street towards St Mary’s Gate you may well miss Sickle Street.

It is a narrow alley which seems to lead nowhere and could just be an afterthought by a careless developer.

But not so it is one of the old streets which connects Market Street with Fountain Street.

It is best approached from Fountain Street via Phoenix Street and will take you by a twisty route back to Market Street which in the 1850s offered up one of those closed courts which was best not investigated by anyone with money in their pockets.

Today it is still possible to follow the course of the street and like them find the way becoming progressively narrower until it is just a canyon between two big buildings.

And that closed court along with a pile of other buildings have gone replaced by a series of car parks and wheelie bins.

Sickle Street, 1849

But with the help of the OS map for 1842, and Mr Adshead's "Illustrated Maps of the Manchester Township, divided into Wards" made in 1850 it is possible to walk along Sickle Street and get a sense of how busy it would have been.

Not that that many of its residents managed to get a listing in the directory for 1850 and the one named court and the smaller unnamed court were even less worthy of a mention.

Location; Manchester

Next; Pool Fold

Pictures; Sickle Street, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and in 1849 from the OS of Manchester & Salford, 1842-49, courtesy of Digital Archives,

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 15 a barrage balloon

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

It was on the Rec not far from where the children’s play area is now located.  Until the late 1980s it was still possible to see the concrete bed which helped secure the balloon.

Picture; from the collection of Alan Brown

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ...... nu 46 Lamb Court

It was called Lamb Court and ran from Chapel Street past the chapel and joined Lamb Lane.

Location; Salford

Picture; Lamb Court, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no.18 the Plaisteds

A short series on the pictures of Eltham and Woolwich in 1976.

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

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

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

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Woolwich circa 1976, from the collection of Andrew Simpson


The names of the Fallen
One hundred years ago on the 31st July 1917 the 3rd Battle of Ypres commenced.

By the time we reached October 1917 it was slowly drawing to a close. Today we know that Battle by the name of Passchendaele.

The images that are in ingrained in our minds is of a battle scarred landscape and the soldiers floundering and sometimes dying in mud up to their waists.

The Battle lasted for 103 days with close to a quarter of a million allied soldier casualties (dead, wounded or missing). Amongst those many casualties were 10 employees of Manchester Corporation Tramways who died during the month of October. PLEASE REMEMBER THEM

Gravestone of J Fogarty MM
John Fogarty – Guard - 19384 Corporal Acting /Sergeant –
21st Battalion Manchester (6th City PALS) D Company Platoon XVII
Died 4/10/1917 Tyne Cot Cemetery Grave ref: XXXIII.A.24 Country Belgium
Locality: West-Vlaanderen

George A Whitworth - Aged 34 - Box Cleaner - 25954 Lance/Corporal 22nd Battalion Manchester  died 4/10/1917 New Irish Farm Cemetery Grave Reference: XXXll.D.11 Country: Belgium Locality: West-Vlaanderen

Harry Scott - Husband of Mary Beatrice Scott of 104 Church Street Newton Heath Manchester. Born in Manchester
Aged 32 Guard 21018 Private 11th Battalion Manchester
Died 7/10/1917 Dozinghem Military Cemetery Grave ref: VII.G.18 Country: Belgium Locality: West-Vlaanderen

Names of the Fallen
William Henry McElroy -  Guard 3/4951 Corporal 6th Batt York and Lancaster – died 09/10/1917 Tyne Cot Memorial Panel Reference: panel 125 to 128 Country: Belgium  Locality: West-Vlaanderen

William Sillitoe - Son of Moses & Mary Sillitoe of 48 Kirkmanshulme Lane Longsight Manchester - Parcel Messenger 22292 Private 23rd Battalion Manchester Died 16/10/1917 Tyne Cot Memorial Panel 120-124 & 162, 162A & 163A Country: Belgium  Locality: West-Vlaanderen

William Lee - Son of Charles & Ann Lee - Husband of Helen of 23 Clifton Street Hulme Hall Lane Miles Platting Manchester. Aged 34 Guard 16114 Private 12th Battalion Manchester 19/10/1917 Duhallow A. D. S. Cemetery Grave Reference: VIII.G.18 Country: Belgium Locality: West-Vlaanderen

Husband of Lillian Mayo 70 Bonsall Street Hulme Manchester Aged 34
Driver 245531 Private 12th Battalion Manchester - Victory and British War Medals Died 20/10/1917 Dozinghem Military Cemetery Grave Reference: XI.G.4 Country: Belgium Locality: West- Vlaanderen

Joseph Stahler and others
Joseph Stahler – Lived at 24 Hereford St Ordsall Lane Salford - Labourer - 276321 Private 7th Battalion Manchester T.F 1st/7th Battalion Manchester 22/10/1917 Coxyde Military Cemetery Grave ref: 1V.H.11 Country: Belgium Locality: West-Vlaanderen

William Fredrick - Cleaner 18798 Private 21st S Battalion Manchester
Died 24/10/1917 Tyne Cot Memorial Panel Reference: Panel 120 to 124 & 162 to 162A and 163A Country: Belgium, Locality: West-Vlaanderen

James Henry - Driver 53363 Gunner 47th Siege Battery Royal Garrison Artillery Died 29/10/1917 Klein-Vierstraat British Cemetery Grave Reference: III.G.7 Country: Belgium Locality: West-Vlaanderen

If you have info on any of these employees or anyone else on the MCT Memorial Plaque please contact me at or by mobile 07985490124


© Martin Logan, 2017

Pictures; from the collection of Martin Logan, photo of Joseph Stahler from  "Manchesters in the Great War"

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 14, petrol pumps on Claude Road

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

It was at the top of Claude Road as it turns west and is an odd place to site a petrol pump.  I remember it well and vaguely used to wonder why it was there.  My photograph dates from 1972 and the pump was still there twenty or so years later until the bit of land behind the pump was developed into a row of houses in what is now Rainbow Close.  Before that it was just a bit of open land and I guess was the site of either a garage or small builder’s yard.  Now the Egerton and Lloyd estates had not permitted industrial development here in Chorlton but there were plenty of small areas given over to the working of local craftsmen which will  feature in more detail tomorrow, so it maybe that our pump served just such an enterprise.

Which just leaves me to add from a contributor, "I grew up at 41 Claude road there were two petrol pumps one either was a row of workshops where they did repair cars they also owned no. 45 Claude Road which they rented out.the owner had a classic car with running boards and a starting handle as kids in the 70's we cut through the garages to get to the brook to play."

Picture; Street furniture on Claude Road, 1972, m58833, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Walking the streets of Manchester in 1870 ................ part 4 ... calling on Mr and Mrs Hall at no.35 Wood Street

Now I am standing outside numbers 33 and 35 Wood Street in 1903.

33 and 35 Wood Street, 1903
In time I will search out who had been living in the two properties although by the time Mr Bradburn took his picture on March 20th 1903 they were unoccupied and in a pretty poor state.

That said I suspect they had never been prime examples of good housing.

In 1870 when we were walking the streets of Manchester they backed onto Paul’s Court, which consisted of eight back to back properties facing onto a narrow open space.

Originally our two houses had been made up of just three rooms but at some point in the 19th century they were extended, by the simple process of knocking through into the two homes they backed  onto.

Without more research I can’t be sure when this was but I do know that in 1871 number 35 was occupied by Mr and Mrs Hall who had moved in the year before and were still there twelve years later.

He was a general labourer aged 46 and had been born in Manchester.  His wife Ann was three years younger and was from Ireland.  They had two children, but the youngest, Jane carries a different surname and there in no clue as to the relationship with Mr and Mrs Hall.*

Wood Street, circa 1900
The rate books show that when they moved in they were paying 2shillings and sixpence which a decade later had risen to 3 shillings.

And back in 1871 number 35 was unoccupied.

Their immediate neighbours made a living from a mix of skilled, semi skilled and manual work.

Three doors down at number 29 Mr Leslie was a shoemaker, while his wife was a seamstress, and there was a brass moulder, butcher, poulterer, two charwomen and a cotton weaver close by.

33 and 35 Wood Street, circa 1900
Now we can actually pinpoint numbers 33 and 35 on Wood Street, for while they have long ago vanished, maps of the period place them directly opposite the Wood Street Mission.

Today the site is a small car park for the Rylands Library and just down from that space is a passageway which may have been the entrance to another court called Bradley’s Yard.

I like the idea of being able to walk along Wood Street and stand in front of what had been a house I have come to know.

Of course the challenge is now to peel back more of its past and in so doing reveal a little of its residents and

We know the names of some of the other occupants, and also that for two decades it was owned by the Taylor family.

Back of 33 and 35, once Paul's Court, 1900
But there will always be much that we will never know, and I suspect the young Jane Thompson will be one of those lost stories.

Still a still down Wood Street is well worth it.  The Mission Hall which the Hall family would have seen every day is still there and is well worth a picture.

After that there is always the Rylands Library or a quick walk down that passage sandwiched between the back of the library and the side of the Magistrates Court and on to a small open square.

Location, Deansgate, Manchester

Pictures; Wood Street, 2007, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, numbers 33 &35, m05389, backs of numbers 33 & 35 m05391, A Bradburn courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  and Wood Street, circa 1900, from Goad's Fire Insurance Maps, Digital Archives Association,

Wood Street, 2017

*Wood Street, 1871 census, Enu 2 11, Deansgate, St Mary’s Manchester, 1871

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ...... nu 45 Queen Street .... a car park and a gravestone

Now this is one of those stories which I know will require a lot more research and will I suspect also lead to a few cross words.

The Gravestone in the carpark, 2016
We are a car park where Clement Chapman came across this gravestone and was moved to comment, “Check this out Andrew --------- ‘And the only car park with a tombstone? 

Why, that would be close to the bargain of Greengate car park on Queen Street where a handwritten notice advises us it's £3.90 all day (£2 on the weekend). 

This cleared site was formally the Bible Christian Church whose preacher the Reverend William Cowherd in 1809 persuaded his congregation to give up meat which indirectly led to the creation of the Vegetarian Society, which is still based in Altrincham, South Manchester. 

Close to the entrance to the car park there are still gravestones visible."

I suspect there will many like me who feel at the very least a sense of unease that a once treasured headstone to a loved one has been left in the corner of a car park.

The Church and graveyard, 1849
I fully accept that we need car parks and certainly this bit of Salford has got its fair share but there is something not quite right about how this one has been treated.

I think I will have to follow Clement’s picture up and try and translate the inscription and the name if only to research this discarded record of a life.

In the meantime if anyone is down there perhaps they could help Clement and I out.

Depending on the date of the headstone we might be able to track them on a census return and perhaps go looking for the burial records of the church.

It is a project in progress and I would argue a very worthwhile one.

Location; Salford

Pictures; discarded gravestone in the former churchyard of  the Bible Christian Church, 2016 from the collection of AntonyMills, and detail of Queen street and the church and grounds in 1849, from the OS Map for Manchester & Salford, 1844-49, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no.17 the Rising Sun in pale blue

A short series on the pictures of Eltham and Woolwich in 1976.

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

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

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

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Eltham, circa 1976, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

With Charlie and Chippy in bombed out London on February 5th 1941 and the telegraph message that all was well

On leave , 1941
There is something quite sobering in realizing that events which were still fresh in many people’s memories when I was growing up are now 75 years old.

For my generation the Battle of Britain was still recent history.

I was born soon after it began and I grew up with family stories of watching the vapour trails in the skies over Kent and those old black and while films of “the Few.”

Later still on warm summers evenings we would drive out to the Kent pubs some of which were close to the old RAF stations.

But 75 years is a long time and it is easy to take the events for granted after all they are well known and the significance of those few months in the summer of 1940 can get lost in the bigger picture of a war which involved millions and was spread over the continents of the world.

The Line Book
To do so of course is to lose sight of what those months meant to the people who lived through them from the pilots who fought in the skies, the ground crews tasked with keeping the plane s airworthy and the backroom men and women maintaining the radar stations and plotting the incoming enemy aircraft.

Added to which were the families of all those in the front line, watching from a distance and always prepared for the worst.

It is not easy to get a real sense of what all that meant but sometimes you can get a glimpse.

And this month I have been lent the Line Book of 222 Squadron who fought in the Battle of Britain.  The book which is really a day to day record of what went on belongs to my friend David Harrop who acquired it after it had been found in a skip.

Charlie and Chippy in London......... "B flight holding its end up" 1941
So over the next few weeks I want to share this very human set of stories, but I am beginning with a telegram which comes from February 1941.

By then the battle had been won and 222 squadron after a spell in Scotland was back in the south of England on “offensive duties.”

And on Wednesday February 5th, “Chippy and Charlie” telegraphed F/Lt Van Mintz D.F.C., with  “just a line to let you know B flight is holding its end up in London.”

All I know of the three is that F/Lt Van Mintz D.F.C.,was according to David, "Brian Van-Metz a South African ace known to his mates as jeep jeep," and "Chippy was Sergeant D J Chipping."

In time I might be able to identify all three but for now it is just one of those tiny pieces of the human story.

Chippy and Charlie were on leave from RAF Coltishall but felt the need to touch base and no doubt would soon return and perhaps will appear in the line book.

We shall see.

Picture; telegram dated 1941 from the collection of David Harrop

Monday, 16 October 2017

Walking the streets of Manchester in 1870 ......... part 3 ........testing the story of dark secrets and awful tragedies in Wood Street

Now it is very easy to fall into the trap of using newspaper reports to draw a picture of the past.

Wood Street Mission, 2017
And so far that is what I have done in the new series on walking the streets of Manchester in 1870.

As everyone knows, just yards from the broad and affluent main thoroughfares of the city, was another world where unless you were very poor you dared not venture.

Wood Street was one of those.

It was and is a narrow street off Deansgate and is best known for the Wood Street Mission which sought to provide basic support for the very poor.

The charity was established in 1869 and is still going today.

Its activities included running a soup kitchen, a rescue society and home for neglected boys, and a night shelter for the homeless.  It handed over thousands of clogs and items of clothing each year, as well as hundreds of toys at Christmas.

Around the Mission poverty not only busied its self but was pretty much what defined the street, and those newspaper reports dug deep into the squalor and human misery.

A narrow passage off Wood Street, 2017
There were five articles published by the Manchester Guardian from February to March 1870 and they ranged over the back streets of Deansgate, across to Angel Meadow and up Market Street and down to London Road.**

The descriptions of awful living conditions, drunkenness and prostitution are as shocking to day as they were nearly 150 years ago.

And the reports are essential reading for those wanting to know more about living conditions amongst the very poor and in particular as a backdrop to the growing movement to care for the legion of abandoned, destitute and abused children.

But nothing should be taken at face value, which meant trawling the records to test how far the vivid descriptions matched reality.

The starting point as ever were the street directories which list householders and with names you can search the census returns to find the families which in turn will offer up information on occupations, the numbers of people living in each house and the density of housing.

Wood Street, 1849
And that data can be matched with maps of the area, making it possible to follow our journalist along Wood Street.

Not that it is that simple, because in 1870 the entire residents of Wood Street were not worthy of inclusion in the street directory which meant looking instead for the nearest properties on Deansgate, and using the name of the householder to visit the census return for the area.

43-49 Wood Street, 1903
Happily it paid off and just over half of the twenty pages of the particular census return were for Wood Street.  In total there were 276 people living in forty four properties, many of which were in closed courts off Wood Street and accessed by dark narrow passages.***

Some of the courts had names like Smith’s Court, Bradley Court and Pilkington’s while others didn’t even rate a name.

Most of the properties were back to back and consisted of just two rooms and will have been in various states of repair.

And at random I fastened on the Ellis family who lived at number 3 Robinson’s Court which was at the western end of Wood Street hard by a Hide and Skin Yard.

The court was accessed through one of those narrow passages off Wood Street and in turn led off to another and unnamed court.

Robinson's Court, 1849
Robinson’s Court would have been dark, admitting little sunshine or fresh air and its occupants would have had daily to cope with the smell of the Hide and Skin Yard, just yards away.

Mr Thomas Ellis was a stone mason’s labourer, aged 33 from Manchester.

His wife Mary had been born in Dublin and was a silk winder.

Together with their four children they occupied the two rooms which made up number 3.

No photographs exist of their home but by exploring the rate books we know that they paid one shilling a week and that their landlord was John Highams who owned all six properties in the court.

33 & 35  Wood Street, 1903
A further search of the rate books will reveal the extent of Mr Higham’s property portfolio and by finding out just how much Mr Ellis earned it should be possible to judge how significant that shilling was to the family budget.

What is interesting about Wood Street is the number of lodging houses which according to the article were at the bottom end of the market with overcrowding being the norm and some verging on “vice shops.”****

I think it may be impossible now to ascertain how accurate was the journalist’s observation of “drunken women standing about the doorway, or coming in with some drunken man whom the gin shops of Deansgate have half maddened.”****

But I suspect the discovery of a group of women in another house is all too true.  “On the knees of the centre figure of this strange group lies a little month-old baby, dying-the last of twins.  It is miserably thin and the yellow skin shows the articulation of its frame.... the eyelids are drawn close down, and a long bony arm weakly and painfully raises itself.”****

One of the courts off Wood Street, 1903
We will never know the identity of any of the group or the final fate of the child, but a few days later the mother had taken refuge in the most debased of lodging houses.

Today Wood Street is still narrow, the Mission building is still there but as for the rest it has long ago vanished.

Location; Manchester, 1870

Pictures; Wood Street, 2007, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, numbers 43-49, 1904, m05386,numbers 33 &35, m05389, backs of numbers 33 & 35 m05391, A Bradburn courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  and Wood Street, 1849, from Manchester & Salford OS, Digital Archives Association,

*Walking Manchester in 1870

**In the Slums, Manchester Guardian, March 3 1870

***Wood Street, from the 1871 census, Enu 2, 9-20, Deansgate, St Mary’s

****In the Slums, Manchester Guardian, March 3 1870

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 13, the school photograph

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

I have no idea of the date but would guess sometime in the early 20th century, if not a little earlier.  If that is the case the picture will have been taken in the yard of the old school on the green, which was built in 1878, replaced an earlier one from the 1840s which in turn had replaced an even earlier school.  In the way of things school photographs do not change over much.  They are drawn from a range of the social groupings, and the children stare back with that mix of seriousness, curiosity and in the case of the little girl on the second row a delightful smile.  In many ways their school experiences would be not so different from their parents but a world away from those of today.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no.16 looking out from Well Hall Station

A short series on the pictures of Eltham and Woolwich in 1976.

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

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

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

Location; Well Hall

Picture; Well Hall circa 1976, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Remembering the Battle of Britain ................ part 1 stories from 222 Squadron

The Battle of Britain

January 1 1941
Now the event has slipped into history and today that battle which began 77 years ago is now far enough away to be the subject of serious historical debate.

A generation of historians who were not born when the “Few” took to the skies have looked at the event with that mix of hindsight and a knowledge of the bigger picture and inevitably some have viewed it differently from how it was portrayed in 1940 and indeed how I saw the event as a boy growing up in the 1950s.

For them events like the invasion of the Soviet Union and Pearl Harbour maybe more significant and a re-evaluation of the Battle might suggest that the the final outcome turned on the decision by the Germans to switch to bombing our cities.

And this month one historian writing in the BBC History Magazine explored the strengths of the two air forces, their logistical support and the key decisions taken by the  RAF command concluding that the Luftwaffe was more at a disadvantage than some interpretations would suggest.*

But as valid as all that is, it doesn’t detract from the heroism and sacrifice of the men and women who were involved, from the pilots who took to the sky, the ground crews who kept the planes flying and those in radar stations across the south of England.

And so over the summer I want to focus on some of those people drawing on the things they said at the time and widening the scope to include many of those who lived through the events.

Of all the material I could have drawn on it is the Line Book for 222 Squadron which will start the series.

This was the unofficial record of the squadron kept in the Officier’s Mess and is made up of those little snippets which meant something to the men at the time and were no doubt read over a pint and passed round the room.

222 Squadron fought in the battle although the book was begun a month or so after it ended.

But that said many of the men who made contributions to the book or read the jokes, telegrams and pictures will have participated.

They are a mix of ghoulish humour, light knock about fun and just the records of men taking time off from the serious business of fighting.

In time I want to explore their stories, but for now I shall dip at random into the book drawing on the comments left by those men.

I have David Harrop to thank for letting use the Line Book.  He acquired it after it had been thrown away and it now sits amongst his collection of memorabilia from the Battle.

But what makes it just that bit more important is that it stretches from November 1940 through to July 1961, covering the squadron’s operations through the war, the moment it switched to Gloucester Meteors which were the RAF’s first jet fighters to its eventual redeployment to a rocket base and there near the end is a simple entry ‘30th September 1957 “The Air Council – No222 Squadron is to disband.”’

And in between there is a whole history of one RAF unit which offers up a fascinating and seamless story but above all draws me a little closer to those men who we know as the "Few."

Like the  anonymous comment "HEARD AT HORSHAM B-the Group Captain! Don't you understand that fighter pilots have to be off the ground within thirty-five seconds.!"

Pictures; from 222 (Natal) Squadron 'Line' Book, 1940-1961 from the collection of David Harrop

*James Holland offers a fresh perspective on the events of the 1940 Battle of Britain BBC History Magazine July 2

The Red Cross Medal and the lost Dover House on Oxford Road ................ stories behind the book part 1

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War.*

The Medal, 2016
Now the great thing about any research is that you never quite know where it will take you so when my old friend David Harrop told me that he had just acquired this Red Cross medal for 1916 awarded to a Manchester support worker it was clear that there was a story.

I don't yet know who the medal was given to but already it has opened up a fascinating story.

The inscription on the medal refers to the Manchester War Hospital Supply Workroom at Dover House which was established in the June of 1916 to meet “the demand for hospital requisites of all kinds.”**

There were three workshops which were to produce “surgical requisites and hospital garments.  To each department a separate and beautifully fitted room has been allotted at Dover House.  

There is for instance a room which is devoted to the manufacture of slippers for men who are convalescent and able to be out of bed.  These are made with strong water proof soles in order that the bolder spirits who find their wards too small for them to wander outside without any untoward results-at any rate from the damp!

In another room the workers are justly proud of a new arm sling, known as the ‘Davies sling’ which they have originated; while in yet another bandages, dressings and surgical swabs are being made.”**

The work was undertaken by a group of volunteers  assisted by “girls from the Manchester High School [who] attend each afternoon and do yeoman work service in the way of running errands and generally waiting on workers.”**

The activities of the workshops was vital in plugging the short fall in hospital materials which were being produced by “working parties connected with individual hospitals and by various funds.” 

Dover House, 1956
But despite this by December of the same year there were fears that the workshops would close for lack of funds. ***

All of which seems rather bizarre given that we were now two years into a titanic struggle where the State had undertaken sweeping powers in the direction and control of labour, introduced military conscription and committed the national treasury in pursuit of victory.

And yet much of the medical care for recovery of wounded and sick servicemen was in the hands of the voluntary sector from Red Cross Hospitals to funds and charities designed to assist the families of men at the Front and provide the fighting men with comforts in the field.

Now I went looking for Dover House which was at 315 Oxford Road on the corner with Dover Street, but it has gone.

Just exactly when it was demolished I have yet to find out.  It was there in 1956 and may still have been standing when I made those regular trips up and down the Oxford Road corridor in the early 1970s.

Nor can I be sure when it was built.  It does not show up on the 1849 OS map of Manchester but is there as the Albert Club by 1863 which was a club for German businessmen.

One of its members was Frederick Engels and in time I should be able to track the club’s history.
I know it was till there in 1886 but by 1895 was listed as Owen’s College Refectory and the Geneva Club in 1911.

As such it was just the sort of grand old pile which the Red Cross were given at the start of the Great War.

So lots more still to find out and when the medal arrived at David’s house we might strike lucky and find a name inscribed on the reverse which will take e off on a whole new journey.

We shall see.

Location; Oxford Road, Manchester

Pictures; Red Cross Medal from the collection of David Harrop, Dover House, 1956, F.Hotchin, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m03869,

*Manchester and the Great War, Andrew Simpson, was published in February 2017,

**Hospital Supplies New Workrooms at Dover House, Manchester Guardian, June 7 1916

***Manchester War Hospital Supply Workrooms, Manchester Guardian December 15 1916