Saturday, 24 June 2017

A Tale of Two Countries ...... by Norma Davis Cook ... .... part three

By  the time Bert had turned eighteen and his contract was fulfilled, he decided to stay at the farm and work for wages. The Clendennings had no children of their own and were quite satisfied with Bert, so they decided to request a girl from the Middlemore Home.  Mrs. Clendenning was very specific in stating her wishes:  “Will you please send me a nice smart little girl, age 11 or 12 years old, good looking with dark hair.  I will adopt her and give her a good home.”  In May of 1920, twelve-year-old Mary Priscilla Pitt joined the Clendenning household.

Albert (Bert) Davis
Mary had been born to Charles and Elizabeth Pitt of Dudley, England, on August 4, 1907.  Dudley was located in an area known as the “Black Country”, due to the coal mining and iron industry that employed many of the men.  Charles Pitt had been a deaf-mute from the time he was a child, but was able to work as a laborer in the boiler yard of the iron works.  He and Elizabeth had a second daughter, Sarah Elizabeth, who only lived a few months.  Later, a third little girl was born, named Violet May.

In 1918, Elizabeth Pitt died, leaving Charles unable to care for their two daughters by himself.  He made the trip to Birmingham to place his little girls at Middlemore.  The admission record revealed their destitute condition and also hinted at their ethnic heritage by describing Charles as “mulatto”.  After living at the Home for two years, Mary was sent to Canada without her little sister.

Helping with housework was something Mary probably would have been accustomed to, but her poor eyesight prevented her from performing her chores satisfactorily.  At the annual inspection in 1924, it was noted that Mary was not receiving any wages and the recommendation was made to transfer her to the home of a doctor’s family in Nova Scotia, where she stayed several months until reaching her eighteenth birthday.

Jane (Davis) Ayres
Upon her return to Carleton County, she and Bert were married on September 16, 1925.  They lived in Waterville, Carleton County, NB for all their married life and had five children, with four sons still living.
Mary’s sister, Violet, had stayed at Middlemore until she was fourteen, and then was discharged to return to her hometown of Dudley, where she lived with her mother’s younger brother, Harry Farley.  It is uncertain whether her father, Charles, was still living by then. Violet had lost contact with Mary over the years of separation, so she wrote to Middlemore Home for help in tracking down her sister.  In 1928, Violet journeyed to Canada, where she got reacquainted with her sister and went on to build a life for herself with a husband and children.

Jane (Davis) Ayres kept in touch with her sons over the years, sending special gifts at Christmastime.  Her husband, William, had served in the First World War and died shortly afterward.  Jane passed away in 1936.

© Norma Davis Cook, 2017

Location; Canada

Pictures; from the collection of Norma Davis Cook

Friday, 23 June 2017

The Odeon reveals a few secrets ....... the ongoing story of its demolition

Now I have seen plenty of pictures of Central Ref over the years but never one framed by a demolition site.

But in the course of recording the end of the Odeon that is exactly what Andy has done.

There in the background is the Library and in front of it a pile of rubble, a JCB and a bit of the inside of the old cinema.

Because this is the moment when Derek the Demolition man has started on the facade of the cinema and in the process opened up the inside to anyone who cares to gaze up into the spaces which most haven’t seen for decades.

I spent many happy hours in there as did my kids.

It was here that I saw West Side Story, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and on one memorable afternoon when I should have been listening to a lecture on American Foreign Policy between the wars I watched Woodstock and wished that I had been there in that field with Country Joe and the Fish instead of a food factory by the river Thames.

But I suppose three days in a field on Max Yasgur’s farm in Orange County, New York listening to everyone from Janis Joplin, Santana, the Who and Jefferson Airplane along with Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, and Canned Heat was never going to happen.

So sometime on a warm September day in 1971 I swapped Mr Wilson for Melanie, Country Joe and lots of happy young people in a field.

And while the Odeon was not that field we had the bonus of choc ices and Kia-ora drinks with the full knowledge that afterwards there was the promise of a few pints and a takeaway.

It has taken sometime for the demolition men to begin on the facade but soon even that will be gone allowing Derek the Developer to impose another new development and leave me to mutter something about abandoning hope and magic for a pile of steel and glass.

And yes I am well aware that at the end the Odeon was not a shinny example of a cinema at its best but it still had something that none of the modern multiplexes can emulate.

And that just leaves me with Andy's comment and question, "looking pretty grim. can you spot the gentlemen's facilities?"

Location; Manchester

Pictures; the Odeon, 2017, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Recreating the lost Well Hall House with Edith Nesbit

Well Hall House from Well Hall Road, 1909
Well Hall House has passed out of living memory.

It was built in 1733, was home to some Eltham notables and was demolished in 1930.

It stood between Well Hall Road and the moat and replaced the Tudor manor house which Sir Gregory Page knocked down to build his fine 18th century house.

But a building which dominated Well Hall, and was known by many seems to have left little trace.  There are a few photographs a handful of maps and the land records of the tithe schedule.

Wll Hall, 1874
Together these show a tall building which ran to three floors, had a wing on each side and was set in an estate of about 33 acres including a front garden, a walled garden to the south, the moat , three ponds, a stream and much meadow and pasture land along with the farm buildings which included the present Tudor Barn.

A little to the north were Well Hall Cottages which in the 1840s had been a complex of six properties but by 1911 seem to have become a farm house and one cottage.

But Well Hall house was sufficiently enclosed that I doubt the cottages proved much of an intrusion, and so within its grounds the occupants of the big house got on with their favoured lives wandering the fourteen rooms and looking out east across the fields and west across their gardens.

Judging by the photographs I am not sure it was a place that would have caught my fancy.  It was tall and the design fitted that classical style of balance so that what you saw on one side was replicated on the other.

All of which is not much for a house which stood for just under two hundred years, but as these things work there is one other source of information, and that comes from Edith Nesbit, the novelist who lived in the house from the late 19th century into the twentieth.

Contained in some of her books are references to Eltham, Well Hall and the house itself.  And of these it is The Red House written in 1902 which provides some wonderful insights into the place.

The back of Well Hall House from the Paddock and moat, 1909
The book itself is a light account of the lives of a newly married couple who inherit the Red House and choose to live there.

In the course of the year that follows Ms Nesbit describes in some detail the house, its gardens, the nearby cottages with references to the village the parish church and offers up walk on parts for both Woolwich and Blackheath.

But it is the house which draws you in, with its panelled rooms, great hall, vaulted cellars and kitchen still with the equipment which would have been in use through the 18th and 19th centuries.

Added to this there are observations about the rooms which had been much messed about by changing fashion.

The front of Well Hall House, date unknown
Now like all such descriptions I suspect there will be points when the Red House departs from the actuality of the original, but I am confident that there is more that will have been the same than less.

This in turn stretched to her descriptions of the gardens, including the walled one, the presence of the railway with its station and embankment and the parish church.

Edith and her husband Hubert had taken on the house and 7 acres of the land.

Of course there may be more sources of information sitting in the Greenwich Heritage Centre and in the letters of the people who visited Edith and her husband at Well Hall which included the Webb’s, H.G.Wells and Bernard Shaw but in the meantime the Red House seems to have done the old place proud.

Location; Well Hall, London

Pictures; Well Hall House circa 1909,  from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Rob Ayers, and Well Hall House, from The Edith Nesbit Society, map of Well Hall from the OS Map of Kent 1858-74

A Chorlton bank and a pub ......... “no one expects the Spanish Inquisition”

It remains one of my favourite Monty Python throw away comments and it struck a chord as I came across these pictures taken by my old friend Tony Walker.

They are familiar enough places but both look very dated and are as remote from today as any one of those early 20th century postcards I often post.
But back in the the 70's I just took them for granted and then they had changed.

I used the bank from time to time and in the same way  fell across the doors of the Lloyds when we were eating at the little Italian restaurant on Wilbraham Road or for a thank you drink on election night.

Now my branch of the Midland was in town so I only used it only occasionally and of course in those days before internet banking your branch of a bank was still an important place.  The staff knew you and the bank manager was privy to your innermost financial secrets.

In the same way my local had been the Trevor where we were known, served a little quicker and on occasion when Stan felt like it allowed to stay just a tad longer after closing time.

All of which meant that the Lloyds was another place which was a different experience.  It still had the small rooms off the main staircase and a bar which from memory was quite small.

And in the way of things I didn’t expect either to change.  They were what they had always been since I arrived here in the winter of 1976.

Looking at the two pictures and comparing them with what they had looked like just sixty years earlier it is clear that they had been done no favours by the respective design teams and builders.

In 1975 the bank was just an anonymous slab from which to display its name, and the Lloyds despite the summer sun looks tired and ugly.  As Kemp's the Chemist the building on the corner of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads had something while the Lloyds back in 1900 looked impressive.

Still both pictures are now history and just perhaps in another fifty years there will be those who see something about the two.  We shall have to see.

Pictures; from the collection of Tony Walker

A Tale of Two Countries ...... by Norma Davis Cook ..... part two a ship journey and a new life

On board the ship, the children were confronted with sights and sounds and smells that they had never experienced before.  Seasickness was common for the first few days, but most of the travelers recovered quickly.  The chaperones assigned older children to help look after the younger ones.  Entertainment was provided by the crew members and some of the other passengers. 

SS Carthaginian, date unknown
Nearing the shores of Canada, fog set in, causing a delay in their arrival.  On June 8, 1912, the Carthaginian docked in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia.   An official from Middlemore, Mr. George Jackson, and his wife, accompanied the children destined for New Brunswick.  Others in the group were distributed throughout Nova Scotia.

Traveling by train to Carleton County, Albert and Edward were met at the station by the couples who had applied to take them into their homes.  Mr. Jackson’s instructions had been to place these boys near each other because they were twin brothers.  Albert (Bert) went to Howard Brook with the Clendennings; Edward (Ted) was placed in the neighboring community of Carlisle with the Sharpes.  The two families were related, so it was assumed that the boys would be allowed to maintain contact with each other.

The port of Halifax, date unknown
Unfortunately, there were many long, lonely days before they ever saw one another.
Soon after his arrival in Howard Brook, Bert was taken to the little country school and dropped off for the day. Nervously opening the door, he was met by the curious stares of ten little girls, the only other students in the class.   It had been some time since the lad had even seen a girl; at the Middlemore Home back in Birmingham, the boys and girls were kept in separate wings.  Bert immediately turned around, slammed the schoolroom door and ran all the way back to the Clendennings.  Of course, they insisted on taking him to school once again and making him stay there all day.

Ted, the elder of the twins, had been born with a weaker constitution than Bert, so he was not suited for the intense physical labor of farming.  By the time he was fifteen, Ted was eager to be done with farm life.  He had run away a few times, but was always found and forced to return.
In the summer of 1916, both boys were visited by their mother’s sister, Edith, with her husband, Stephen Long.  The twins were surprised to learn that their aunt and uncle had been living in Saint John, NB but were moving back to England with their three little boys.  Edith told her nephews that, if she had only known what was happening, she would have taken them into her own home.  How different their lives might have been!

CPR station, Woodstock, NB
When Edith arrived back in England, Jane was able to receive a first-hand account of the boys’ welfare, which prompted several letters to Middlemore, pleading for the twins to be returned to their family.  Jane had gotten married to William Ayres, the butler who worked at the estate where she was a cook and they were both eager to reunite the family.  Her request was denied, due to the fact that the boys still had a few years remaining to finish their contract with the Canadian farmers.

The sending agencies for British Child Migrants generally investigated each applicant who wished to receive a child.  Inspections of the placements were scheduled every year, usually in the summer, but the child was often not available to be questioned.

Because of Jane’s anxious pleas, the inspector made sure to speak directly with Ted on his next round of visits.  It was obvious to him that the young man would be better off somewhere else, so approval was given for a transfer.

After the harvest was finished that season, Ted went to stay with Robert and Georgia Clendenning—more relatives of the couple for whom Bert worked.  It wasn’t long before the inspector received a telegram from Ted with the encouraging message that his new placement was a great improvement.  His clothes had been mended, he had new gum rubbers for his feet, and it felt like home.

One of the unexpected results of being transferred to the Clendenning home was that Ted got acquainted with their granddaughter, Dorothy, who would eventually become his wife.
Over the next few years, Ted moved from one job to another, spending some time in the United States, as well as in Montreal, Quebec, where he trained to be a mechanic.

Ted and Dorothy were married on August 11, 1928.  They lived in Connecticut during the early part of their marriage, and then returned to New Brunswick to raise a family of ten children.

© Norma Davis Cook, 2017

Location; Canada

Pictures; courtesy of Norma Davis Cook

Searching for a bit of history up beside the Cat and Fiddle

Now I have to say Andy got a better day when he was up by the Cat and Fiddle than we did.

In our case we were passing through obeying the instructions of the sat nav which not for the first time took us on a long and roundabout route home.

Added to which what had been a hot sunny day turned into a grey dismal one with the clouds looking heavy and threatening.

No sooner had we left the area and the sun came out again, the temperature climbed and all was well.

What I didn’t know was that we had been on the boundary between Cheshire and Derbyshire and that close by was not only a picturesque old bridge with a coaching history but evidence of an industrial past.

Andy told me that “on Monday we had ‘half a day-out’. 

Went to Cat & Fiddle on A537 Macclesfield to Buxton Road for a cuppa and the facilities but it was closed. 

Looking for a place to eat our emergency sarnies we turned down this track less than a mile away and it led to Derbyshire Bridge which was (still is?) boundary between Cheshire and Derbyshire. 

There was also a decent toilet there and a free, deserted car park.

Turns out this track was the original Macclesfield to Buxton coach road (2nd image from bottom). 

The bridge looks quite interesting. 
Coal was mined not many yards from here. An innocent day out and you still accidentally stumble upon history!”

That said it appears that the Cat and Fiddle no longer sells beer.

It had opened in 1813 and closed in 2015, and there appear to be no plans to reopen it.

So it was perhaps fortuitous that I decided not to suggest we call in , after all it had been my choice to use the stat nav.

But given Andy’s pictures of the bridge and the surrounding countryside I think we should go back, receded perhaps by some solid research into the story of coal mining in the area and of course something of the coaching past.

We shall see.

Location on the original Buxton to Macclesfield road

Pictures; on the original Buxton to Macclesfield road, 2017 from the collection of Andy Simpson

Walkng the streets of Manchester in 1830 in the company of J. T. Slugg and in search of Antonio Preduzzi.

St Ann's Church, 1793
I am on the streets of Manchester in the early 1830s in the company of J T Slugg* and in search of Antonio Preduzzi.

Over the last few days I have been exploring that Italian connection with the city and it has led back from Little Italy in Ancoats at the end of the 19th century  to the Preduzzi brothers who came from Lombardy and settled here in 1810 starting up a series of successful businesses.

They were living in what at the time was reckoned to be one of the most exciting places in Britain and which was talked about  as a model of the new age.

Here could be seem the raw enterprise and keen innovation of the new capitalism reflected in the ever increasing number of cotton mills, dye works and the acres of poorly constructed homes for a workforce which was increasing every day.

And because these men of industry wanted a quicker and cheaper way of transporting their products to and from Liverpool they built a railway which was not just a railway but the first passenger railway using technology which would define how locomotives were built and pretty much set the seal on how a railway would be run.

Of course we all know that behind those smoking power houses of cotton manufacture and great show warehouses there were the mean and narrow streets leading to even meaner and darker courts where little light or fresh air penetrated but which were home to all those who toiled for long hours and little remuneration.

This is that other side of the new way of doing things and was much commentated on by Dr Kay, Dr Gaultier, Frederic Engels and a possession of curious visitors.

And as revealing as these accounts are of the horrors of Manchester they are often paraded at the expense of the more benign descriptions of the city in the 1830s and 40s and for this I have turned to J.T. Slugg who arrived fresh faced and not long out of his teens from Bacup in the March of 1829.

The Infirmary, 1824
Fifty years later he set down his memories of the place which began with a walk up Market Street to Piccadilly and the Infirmary.

Less than a decade before he had arrived in the city this main thoroughfare had still been a narrow way flanked on either side by buildings which dated back a century or more.

These were home to taverns, sweet and bookshops the odd warehouse and a number of coaching offices. And in an age soon to be dominated by the railway it is a fitting reminder that for long distance travel the stage coach was still supreme.

And this was still at a time when “there was a very heavy duty on all kinds of glass, and as a consequence not a single shop-window contained any plate glass, but were composed of small squares of ordinary glass.”**

These would have been the sort of shop fronts that would have been familiar to Antonio and his brother.

He had opened a shop as a picture dealer in Spear Street around 1810, and later moved to Tib Street before settling at 31 Oldham Street. By this time, he was trading as a carver and gilder, and maker of looking glasses and picture frames. Oldham Street in the 1820s was a wide street containing ‘some very elegant shops and houses’.  Antonio's shop was above a confectioner's on the right-hand side from Swan Street.

The Infirmary, 1793
Here he framed and glazed needlework, drawings and pictures; re-gilded and silvered old frames and mirror plates; and made and repaired barometers, thermometers and hydrometers.

He also had premises at 44 Deansgate in the early 1820s and in 1831, to larger premises at 33 Piccadilly, opposite the Infirmary.

Like his previous shop, this one was on the first floor with a flight of steps leading up to it. The shop extended quite a long way back and had two long counters and a little sitting room beyond. There were also workshops on the premises.“***

This placed him in a prime position  which he shared with a few other shops, some rather fine houses and the offices of the Manchester and Salford Waterworks Company which supplied the town with its drinking water.

33 Picadilly, the shop of Preduzzi & Co
Directly opposite was the Infirmary which “was a plain brick building  [and also] included the lunatic asylum.  Infrontwas the sheet of water known as the Infirmary Pond, separated from the footpath by palisading.  

At the Infirmary gates stood the public baths, the income arising from them being appropriated to the support of the Infirmary.  

The charge for the cold bath to non subscribers was 1s.; to subscribers of half-a-guinea, 10d.; and to those of a guinea, 9d.  

The price of a vapour bath was 5s; of a vapour and hot bath when used together, 6s.; and of the shampooing bath, 7s.”****

And while we are familiar with the huge show warehouses like S & J Watts on Portland Street which were built expressly to showcase the products of our textile mills, there was not a “single warehouse in either of these streets, Mosley Street, Portland Street, Peter Street, Oxford Road or Dickenson Street” but soon enough they would make their appearance at the cost of hundred of buildings in the neighbourhood which would be destroyed.

I don’t know what Antonio made of these changes which were transforming his adopted city.  When he had arrived in 1810 it was still possible to walk in to open fields just a short way along Oldham Road while to the south all of Hulme, Moss Side and Chorlton on Medlock were pleasant open space.

And yet by his death in the Chorlton Workhouse in 1846 great swathes of these spaces were the preserve of terraced houses, cotton mills and dye works.

Pictures;St Anne's Church and Manchester Infirmary from the Laurent map 1793, 33 Piccadilly and the Infirmary from the 1844 OS of Manchester & Salford, by permission of Digital Archives, the buildings opposite the infirmary including the premise of Peduzzi & Co, 1824, m5291, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council  

*J.T. Slugg, Reminiscenes of Manchester, 1881
** Slugg, chapter 1
*** Collections Department, Museum of Science & Industry
**** Slugg, chapter 1

A little souvenir of the Great War

Now somewhere there will be the definitive book on the production of crested china during the Great War.

And before any one says anything I am well aware that in most books on the conflict crested china will not rate much more than a foot note.

But that is to ignore their importance for both morale and jobs during the period 1914-18.

Before the war the porcelain companies had turned out a host of different china figures many of which were linked to the seaside resorts and carried the coats of arms and names of the holiday towns.

And with the outbreak of war it just made economic sense to focus on war themes.

So there were tanks, ambulances, battleships and even a bull dog and recently I came across porcelain Red Cross Nurse.

Over the years I have written several stories showing off the variety that were on offer.*

When I first came across them I was intrigued that in the depths of a long grim war people should want to keep a reminder of the fighting.

But then if you had a son, husband, or sweet heart in the navy or on the Western Front driving a tank, the porcelain model of a battleship might be comforting.

And at a time when travel restrictions meant holidays were a thing of the past a souvenir porcelain ambulance at least kept someone in a job.

The surprise is just how many have survived the century.

Location; the Great War

Picture; from the collection of David Harrop

*Dusting down that china souvenir of the Great War.............. stories behind the book nu 4,

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Manchester's first railway station ........... no.1 waiting for something to happen

Now when Ron shared four pictures of the old railway station and warehouse on Liverpool Road, I was transported back nearly four decades.

The station and carriage hsed
I visited it just after it had finally closed and British Rail had sold it to the museum.

It was hard at the time to see just how significant were these old run down buildings.

But these were the first passenger railway station and warehouse, having opened in 1830 when a group of Manchester businesses wanted a quick and cheaper way to get their manufactured goods to Liverpool.
Added to which they quickly saw the commercial advantage of using their railway trains to carry paying passengers.

So here in the pictures is the passenger buildings, beyond which is the carriage shed erected the following year.

And as with so much of the 19th century there was a strict division between those of property and wealth who travelled first class and the rest as seen in the provision of a first and second class booking hall and waiting room.

the 1830 warehouse, railway side
And it is worth remembering just how much the new railway company was at the cutting edge of technological change.  Their steam locomotives may have been the future but tickets were still handwritten and first class carriages were essentially stage coaches placed on a set of railway chassis.

In that respect they were looking back as well as forward.  And that was reflected in their choice of warehouse design, which was direct coy of the existing canal warehouses, complete with arches which allowed waggons to be taken into the building.

Inside the 1830 warehouse
But unlike canal boats which can turn effortless, the railway waggons had to be uncoupled placed on a turntable and then turned 90 degrees before being pushed into the warehouse.

Originally these turn tables were all over the site but the last which was beside the Byrom Warehouse was taken away some time in the 1990's.

And tomorrow there will be more on those early warehouses, of which there were three.

The first built in 1830 opposite the railway station and the second two built the following year which stood at right angles.

These were destroyed in a devastating fire.

The surviving buildings have done well to be still with us, although they were pretty much knocked about.

But have now become part  of the museum complex.

Location; Liverpool Road

Pictures; the railway station and first warehouse, built in 1830-31 as they were in the early 1980s from the collection of Ron Stubley

With farmer Higginbotham on the meadows collecting in the hay around 1890

This remains one of my favourite pictures of that time when we were still a rural community.

We are on the meadows in a field farmed by the Higginbotham family sometime around 1890.

Now I can be fairly confident of that because the picture comes from the Higginbotham collection and the boy on the horse might well be the last of the family to have farmed this land and live in the farmhouse on the green.

Much of their land was concentrated out to the west of the village hard by the river and was meadowland and we are out there with them as the cut grass is being collected.

After it was cut, stacked and left to dry it was loaded onto the wagon with rakes and pitchforks which required a large amount of skill and hard work.

Each person had a specific job.  Some were employed to lift the hay up to the men on the wagons.

On top of the wagons these men would take the hay and build it into a square load.

To get some sense of the sheer hard work and skill that was involved, we only have look at the photograph of hay making around 1890.

To lift the hay from the ground to the height of the stacked wagon did indeed require strength and stamina.

And great care had to be taken in building the hay load. There was no rail on the wagon and if the load were not evenly distributed the hay might fall off once the horses began to pull the load.

Even the best stacked hay load might have an accident.

And just such an accident happened to the farmer John Joseph Briggs during the “harvest home”  which was the old custom where the last wagon loaded with the harvest would be decorated and escorted back accompanied by wives workers and children some of whom sat on top.*

But when the load overturned he abandoned the practice.

Hay making was an intensive period and there was often extra work for the casual labourers and it also attracted village children.  Some may have come to watch while others will have tarried after bring food from home for their fathers.

They are there in many pictures of hay making and harvest time and this day on the meadows is no exception.  They are sitting close to the wagon amongst the hay.

But I rather think given the date and the clothes of some of the children in the picture old Higginbotham has caught the interest of a group of the newcomers whose parents had been settling down in the properties around Martledge and the station in the last decades of the 19th century.

Unlike our village children the daily routines of the agricultural world was both different and exciting.

And so being allowed to hold that broad wooden rake and stand beside the hay maker was something to talk about that evening.

But despite the idyllic scene this was hard work and wages reflected that fact.

In the middle years of that century wages at harvest time ranged from 15s a week to 18s, 21s and even 24s, which compared well with task work which might pay between 14s and 21s and special work like drainage bringing in 5s for men and 7s 6d for boys.

So there we have it, hay making on the meadows sometime in the 19th century.

Picture; collecting hay from the Higginbotham collection

* Briggs, John Joseph, Melbourne 1820-1875, edited by Philip Heath Melbourne Historical Society 2005.  John Joseph Briggs farmed Elms Farm just south of Derby and kept a diary

Miss Edith Townley of Woolwich and a story of Rectory Place

Now Miss Edith Townley of 13 Rectory Place Woolwich remains a mystery.

Miss Edith, 1917
And that is after my friend Tricia joined in the hunt.

I first came across Miss Edith on a postcard dated 1917 which had just been acquired by David Harrop who knowing my links with Woolwich passed it onto me and I couldn’t resist attempting to find her.*

Tricia also took up the search.

Her grandmother and great grandmother had lived in Rectory Place and so like me there was a connection as she says  “looking at Vincent’s book of Woolwich it states that Rectory Place and the streets to the north of it were built on the Glebe or Rectory land in the 1820's. 

A G.F.S., charirty stall, 1928
The rectory itself was built in the midst of 3 acres of garden, orchard and pasture which has since been considerably curtailed. The remainder of the glebe was advertised to be let.

The first Woolwich bank of which there is any mention was a private concern known as Noaks & Ward and then later as Budgen Ward & Co, and was held in a house in Rectory Place, later occupied by Mr T H Jones and known as Glebe House.

I have tried to search for your Edith Townley on the Electoral Roll but have had no luck. There was no electoral roll books for 1916 & 1917 and of course woman did not finally get the vote until about 1928 and then only if they were over 21. Some women got the vote in 1918 but only if they were over 30 and a home owner.

A church garden party, date unknown
The address for Edith states GFS Lodge which is a Girls Friendly Society which I am guessing is some sort of safe haven for young girls like Edith. Strangely enough I could not find anything for her on the census either.”

Now I had come across the GFS **in connection with some stories I wrote about a Miss Wright who ran a branch of the organisation here in Chorlton-cum-Hardy and the history of the society is well worth a read.***

And a fresh look at the organisation may well bring us closer to Miss Edith.

But for now I will close with another even more personal link between Tricia and Rectory Place because Tricia sent me a picture of “my great uncle known to us as blind uncle Bill although he was baptized as Henry Bertie Schofield Holmes.

He lived with his parents Henry William & Ellen Holmes ( my gt grandparent)  at 31 Rectory Place from early 1900's - 1950ish.

Mr Holmes, date unknown
He used to sit on a chair in St Mary's Passage reading a braille bible and I think passers by would give him money. He wasn't born blind but became blind when he was a young boy after playing cricket in the sun without wearing a hat and apparently got sun stroke.

Whether that was true or not I don't know. My mum said he was a lovely man that was popular with everyone.”

Location; Woolwich, London

Research by Tricia Leslie, 2016

Pictures; postcard to Miss Edith Townley, 1917 courtesy of David Harrop, GFS and Guides’ Stall from the 1928 St Clements’s Bazaar Hand Book courtesy of Ida Bradshaw,  pictures of a garden party organised by the church, date unknown, and picture of Mr Holmes, date unknown from the collection of Tricia Leslie

*So who was Miss Edith Townley of 13 Rectory Place in Woolwich and how did she spend the Christmas of 1917?

**The Girls Friendly Society,

**The Girls Friendly Society,

*** *Girls Friendly Society,

A Tale of Two Countries ...... stories of British Home Children by Norma Davis Cook ... .... part one

The life of a British Child Migrant, or Home Child, was often one of poverty, cruelty, and uncertainty. The homes to which they were sent were not always an improvement on their previous circumstances.
In many cases, the immigrant children were treated no better than slaves.   Being removed from everything familiar and placed into a foreign and hostile environment created a sense of not really belonging anywhere, or to anyone.Such was the life of my grandfather, Albert Davis.

Grandmother, Edward,Albert and Helen (Aunt Nell)
Albert and his twin brother, Edward, were born on February 2, 1901 in Birmingham, England, to an unmarried servant girl named Jane Davis.

Her family name was originally Davies, but she seems to have altered it slightly when the boys were born.

No father is named on their birth certificate, nor on any other known record.

Jane was the eldest in a family of nine children, having one brother and seven sisters.  She entered domestic service as a teenager, eventually becoming a cook at an estate in Yorkshire.

Helen (Aunt Nell)
While Jane worked to support her family, the boys stayed with her widowed mother and younger sister, Helen, at a modest home in Haseley, on the outskirts of Birmingham.

The boys carried fond memories of their “Aunt Nell” all through their lives. By all accounts, they were well cared for and had a happy childhood, even though they were not part of a traditional two-parent family.
As time went on, Jane’s mother grew too old to continue caring for the twins and made plans to move in with her married son.

Edward and Albert
On the advice of a local physician, Dr. John Berlyn , who was familiar with the family’s situation, Jane admitted Edward and Albert to the Children’s Emigration Home in Birmingham, founded by John T. Middlemore.

The admission record, dated March 8, 1912, states the following:   “Nice children, above the average of our class, clean and tidy.  

Children are twins and mother has struggled bravely for them for eleven years.”

The record goes on to explain:   “She has been receiving on and off money from the father but he has not kept up his payments at all regularly as stated in the agreement drawn up by a firm of solicitors.  

He has recently been married so there will be a greater difficulty now in his keeping up his payments.”

Jane was to contribute a portion of her earnings to the Middlemore Home for the support of her sons.  She had been led to believe that the boys would be returned to her when her situation improved.

 In May, 1912, barely a month after the Titanic sunk to a watery grave in the North Atlantic, Edward and Albert Davis boarded the Carthaginian in Liverpool, along with a large group of Middlemore children and journeyed across that same ocean to Canada, leaving behind all they held dear.

They would never return to their mother or their homeland again.

© Norma Davis Cook, 2017

Picture ; courtesy of Norma Davis Cook

Miss Violet Sedgwick just 21 years old and busy in a munitions factory ......... stories behind the book nu 16

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

Miss Violet Sedgwick, 1918
Now Miss Violet celebrated her 21st birthday on January 8 1918 and later the following month posed for this photograph at Gales Studios which had branches across the country from Glasgow to Manchester, Leeds to Sheffield and down as far as Bristol and Portsmouth.

I can’t be exactly clear that this is Miss Violet but her name appears on the back with the date of her birthday and the day the picture was taken along with her address.

I do know that she went on to marry William L Thompson in 1920 and she died in 1959.

It is just possible that when the picture was taken she was engaged to William and it may also be likely that she is wearing his regimental badge on her coat which was what wives and sweethearts did during the Great War.

I can’t quite make out the details of the badge but William was in the Pioneer Corps of the Royal Engineers and worked on the roads and quarries.

So maybe it is not too fanciful to suppose that back in the February of 1918 this very posed picture was meant for him.

Two from the munitions factory, date unknown
And I am guessing that she was a munitions worker mainly because the picture came with a batch from my friend David Harrop all of which were of munition girls and all from roughly the same period of the war.

Munition work was both hard and dangerous with the ever present threat from explosions and the real danger of being poisoned by the chemicals in the cordite and TNT.

So much so that women working with munitions ran the risk of discoloured hair and skin and were recommended seaside breaks to clear their systems.

In 1914 the Government had assumed that they would need to employ 10,000-15,000 women in factories which were to be ready in three months, but by the June of 1915 the number enrolled for munition work actually stood at 78,946.**

But despite the dangers and the very real need for women workers their pay was well below that of men engaged in similar work.

In March 1916 the Secretary of the Woman’s Interests Committee revealed that the average weekly wage in Manchester for an adult women working on munitions was under 14s which was third of what a man was paid. ***

That's the stuff to give 'm, date unknown
Not that this deterred women from working in the factories and many faced the dangers with a mix of bravado and stoicism as their contribution to winning the war.

So iit is fitting to pause and remember the work done by munition workers in factories across the country from Trafford Park down to the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich and pretty much everywhere in between.

Pictures; Miss Violet Sedgwick, 1918,  two munition workers, date unknown and picture postcard  from the collection of David Harrop 

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War, was published in Febrary, 2017

** Supply of Armament Labour , the Official History of the Ministry of Munitions Vol 1 Industrial Mobilisation, Naval and Military Press & the Imperial War Museum, 2009, Page 17

*** Correspondence, Manchester Guardian, January 21, 1916

Painting Salford ............ nu 4 a tall block to guide you

Now I know that there are some who deplore the way the old Salford has gone.

In some cases it was through neglect, the grand plans of the council or a developer’s  new scheme and sometimes because what went just wasn’t worth keeping.

This is Sovereign Point down at the Quays.

Location; Salford,

Painting; Sovereign Point. Painting © 2010 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.

Reflecting on the forthcoming Canada Day and its significance for Southern Cemetery

We are just a week away from Canada Day.

Major Charron
It is day which has grown in significance for me as I have uncovered more of my Canadian family history and can count on a growing number of Canadian friends and colleagues.

Two of my direct family migrated to Canada, one in 1914 who was taken over by the MIddlemore charity on behalf of the Derby Workhouse and a great aunt who made the same journey nine years later on an Empire assisted scheme.

In the case of my great uncle having arrived in Canada in 1914, he volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force the following year and in the summer of 1916 was back in Britain before going on to the Western Front.

He like the other six men of my family who went off to war came back, but many others didn’t and it is of the 26 Canadian soldiers buried in Southern Cemetery along with others from Australia and New Zealand which today are exercising my thoughts.

Honouring those who participated in two world wars
All died of complications to wounds they had sustained in the fighting or from illnesses they contracted, and most died in the nearby hospital.

Last year to mark their deaths on what was the anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme as well as Canada Day a special service attended by Major Charron of the Canadian army took place in the cemetery.

He was accompanied by parties of school students, civic signatories including the local MP and veterans organisations.

Many of whom then visited the permanent exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge which features memorabilia from the Great War.

The exhibition is run by David Harrop and this year like last there will be items directly related to the Canadian armed forces.

Location; Southern Cemetery

Pictures; the service of Remembrance, July 1, 1916 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Sitting at the edge of the pavement playing with the melted tar ........ Lausanne Road in 1959 .....during the heatwave

Memories can be deceptive, but sometime in the summer of 1959 on a very hot day with little to do me and a mate sat on the pavement in front of the Swiss tavern playing with the meting tar.

The Swiss Tavern, Lausanne Road, 2007
Now I fully accept that this will not rank with the great moments in history, but on an equally hot day I think I am allowed to share it.

I can’t be sure of the year but I know 1959 was a hot one, so much so that some Londoners took to sleeping in the parks.

But it could have been another summer, what is important is that I remember just what I was doing.

I suppose it was too hot to want to stray far from the house but by the same token I didn’t fancy being indoors.

Our house on Lausanne Road, 2017
So there we were idly playing with the melting tar using old discarded lolly sticks to draw the stuff back and forth.

And of course on that heavy hot day there was little in the way of traffic to worry us, thinking back there was not much else.

The day if it was just the one I remember as very hot, and very quiet with nothing to disturb the stillness.

What puzzles me is why today, the same doesn’t happen on very hot days.

Do the authorities use different tar?  Or is it that we just don’t get as many hot days?  Which given the current heat wave seems odd.

Or at 67 am I just too old to sit at the pavements edge with a lolly stick and some melting tar?

Location; Lausanne Road circa 1959

Pictures; our house on Lausanne Road and  the Swiss Tavern, 2017, from the collection of Elizabth and Colin Fitzpatrick

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Lives revealed from the Great War ........... Cyril and Mabel Bowman of Atwood Road Didsbury

The Victory Medal of Mr Bowman
I am looking at the Victory Medal which was awarded to Cyril Hopwood Bowman, who enlisted on September 3rd 1914 and came through the Great War.

Now there is nothing exceptional about that, many did including five of my immediate family.

But the thing about those who went off to fight is that all too often we never delve too deep into their lives before or after that conflict.

In part that is because the media and many historians have focused on those who never came back, whose lives were cut tragically short and became the Lost Generation.

And yet many more did return, settled down, lived long and productive lives and while they may never have forgotten the war put it behind them.

I don’t know how far Cyril Hopwood Bowman managed to readjust to civilian life.

After all until yesterday I knew nothing of him, his wife or his life before the Great War.

It was the news that my friend David Harrop had acquired Mr Bowman’s Victory Medal that set me off looking for the story of this one man.

Cyril Hopwood Bowman was born in Pendleton in 1885 and when war broke out in 1914 he was working as a bank clerk for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank.

C Company, 17th Manchester Regiment, date unknown but circa 1914-16
He enlisted on September 3rd 1914 and joined the 2nd City Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

The 2nd City Battalion or the 17th Manchester’s was one of those new units made up from the hundreds of white collar workers who joined the Colours at the outbreak of war.

In November 1915 he was posted to France and apart from a short break two years later he remained on the Western Front where he was wounded and was finally demobbed in March 1919.

War Memorial, Didsbury, circa 1959
And there is much more for he was one of the 40% of First World War soldiers whose military records survived the Blitz of 1940-41.

And so we know he was 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 114 lbs, had brown eyes black hair, and had a ruddy complexion.

Laid bare in the same documents are his full medical history, a letter from his mother asking that he be considered for clerical duties after he had been wounded and undergone a serious operation for a recurrent health problem and his service on the Western Front.

In 1917 he had married Mabel Frost also from Pendleton and also born in 1885, and as you do I became intrigued by their courtship.

He lived in Pine Road Didsbury and she on Atwood Road and after  the war they settled down in what had been her family home.

So had they known each other for a long time, were they members of the same church, or debating society or had they met on the way to work?

And there for the moment their lives become vague. Mr Bowman died in 1954 and Mrs Bowman four years later.

I thought they may been buried in Southern Cemetery but there are no records of their internment or cremation in any of the city’s cemeteries and at present I have no idea whether they had children or whether he returned his old occupation of bank clerk.

Roll of Honour, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank
That said he can be found on the Roll of Honour of the Lancashire and Yorkshire bank which lists him as having worked at the Portland Street branch.

And we also have a photograph of C Company but as yet I cannot identify Mr Bowman so while I have gone looking for a man who will be 35 when the picture was taken I have so far drawn a blank.

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank, 133 Portland Street, circa 1900
But then just maybe someone who remembers him from when he lived in Atwood Road may be able to help and in the meantime I think I will venture down to those two houses in Didsbury, and check out 133 Potland Street where he worked in 1914 which was just on the corner with Oxford Road.

All of which just leaves me to thank David who set me off on the search and to wait for when Mr Bowman’s medal goes on display in his permanent exhibition of Great War memorabilia at the Memorial Hall in Southern Cemetery.

It is a wonderful collection of material including photographs, medals, postcards and letters along with official documents and the many other items.

Pictures; Victory Medal from the collection of David Harrop, C Company, 17th Manchester Regiment, date unknown, Manchester Regiment City Battalions, 1914-16, and Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank, Roll of Honour courtesy of The Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society, War Memorial and Library from the series, Didsbury, Lilywhite, issued by Tuck & Sons, 1959, courtesy of TuckDB and detail of Portland street showing 133 Portland Street, from Goad's Fire Insurance Maps, circa 1900, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,