Sunday, 29 January 2017

Down on Auburn Street by the canal ......... around the corner from Aytoun Street

Now the old brick building on Aytoun Street which in my day was the Unemployment Exhange has gone.

I passed pretty much every day during the week in the early 1970s.

It was planned in the late 30s, held up by the war and completed in 1951 taking three years to build.

At the time I rather thought it ugly and would have agreed with  Pevsner who described it as “brick, thin and cheap.”

Near the end of its life it was run down and not very nice to look at, but casting an eye over old pictures of the place I have to say it had something.

And for those who want to do just that I recommend that thoughtful and always interesting site on Manchester by Skyliner.*

For now I shall close with images taken by my old friend Andy Robertson who was there in 2015 when construction begun after the Labour Exchange had been cleared and was back yesterday to record the new structure.

Location; Auburn Street, Manchester

Pictures; Auburn Street, 2015 and 2017 from the collection of Andy Robertson


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Stepping back in time in Southport with John Casey

Now history comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and we should never turn away from even the most trivial bits of our past.

So I was pleased when John Casey sent over three photographs from a trip to Southport.

To the casual observer they are just three pictures of the gents in a shop.

But to John and to me and I suspect many others the three images take you back in time.

Today modern design would dictate that the sinks should be part of a continuous unit with electronic sensors to tell the water when to flow and might even have their own drier fixed above the taps.

Likewise the doors to the lavatory  will be made of a material which is lightweight with a universal catch making it easy to operate.

But here in Southport they do things differentlty.

I have never visited the shop so I can’t say whether you still have to insert a coin into the lock but I can be pretty sure that the hand drier will be relatively new and before it the lavatory used one of those old fashioned cotton towels.

And I can still remember a time before the modern metal box and towel were installed when instead there was a wooden bar from which hung a looped towel, which on very busy days would be all be wet.

Which in turn reminded me of the days in winter before central heating when towels always seemed to be damp.

Location; Southport

Pictures; Southport, 2017 from the collection of John Casey

Around Manchester ......... my sort of history book

Now Around Manchester is my sort of history book.*

According to the notes on the back “it begins with the Romans and finishes with graphene, taking in everything in between from religion, politics, cotton, industrial power, railways and canals, to decline and regeneration ........”

And so all the familiar places and people are here but what I like about the book is its concentration on the bits that most historians gloss over.

So here are sections on Harpurhey, Monsall, Newton Heath and Beswick.

And while it is a book on Manchester it does our twin city proud with fascinating insights into Salford's history.

The book is written in an accessible style where the scholarship is detailed but not overpowering.

 What I particularly like is the way Mr Barlow starts with a subject and effortlessly moves around it drawing in related topics and themes.

So chapter 29 starts with Valette the artist and by degree moves on to Albert Square and the Town Hall encompassing Manchester’s bold 1945 plan for the city and takes in “a Spaniard in a Green hat dreaming of Andalusia a New Yorker who hated crowds and a Squadron of Indians each with a blue and white hat, grouped around Mr Gladstone.”

It is a style which reminds me very much of how I first came to know and love the city.
Back in the 1960s with a few hours to spend between lectures at the College of Knowledge on Aytoun Street I would take off on adventures and it is adventures that we get in the book.

One of my favourites is Motorway in the Sky which is the story of the Mancunian Way which when it was built was hailed as exciting and a mark of the new Manchester.

It comes in at just over 400 pages with a mix of colour pictures and is a snip at £14.99.

My only criticism and it is a minor one is that it lacks an index.

But then that will just encourage me to read it all over again.

King Street ...... featured in the book
Now I met Mr Barlow at a recent festival in GMex and decided I wanted the book which I bought today.*

And here is the rub because standing in Chorlton Bookshop I decided that this would be a perfect present for my old friend Gerry who is 70 this week.

But that would mean handing it over before I had fully read it.

On the other hand that would also make public that I had spent the morning reading Gerry’s present.

All of which leaves me no choice but to order a second copy.

Location; Manchester

Picture; cover of Around Manchester, by Wesley Harding

*Around Manchester, Nigel P Barlow, 2016, Manchester Publishing,

**Nigel Barlow,

Friday, 27 January 2017

The 27 Steps a mystery no more

The Twenty-seven steps, 1959
Just when you think you have pretty much nailed knowing some of the history of Chorlton, up pops an obscure reference which sets you off.

So for about a year now I have been pondering on a caption on a photograph by the local historian John Lloyd where he referred to the 27 steps.

It crops up in a number of pictures and I thought it referred to somewhere along the bank of the Mersey.

I can’t say I had been over energetic in hunting down the spot, consoling myself with the thought that the location had been radically altered and that it had long since passed out of popular knowledge.

Not that I asked anyone.

And like so many other little mysteries it just dropped off the list of things to find out about.

But then Peter Blunn posted this picture on a facebook site which he had come across on the digital archive of Manchester Libraries.

According to the caption this was the “Twenty--seven steps, a noted local landmark on Mauldeth Road West, Manchester 21, railway bridge over BLM Region Main Line to London (St Pancras)”

The railway line and bridge, 1893
The photograph was taken by Mr R.E. Stanley in the September of 1959 and clearly back then the steps were well known.

So one bit of the mystery solved only to lead to another, because the obvious next question is when were the steps constructed?

The line was in place by 1880 and the bridge carrying what is now Mauldeth Road West is there on the OS map for 1893, so still some digging to go.

But I bet there is someone out there who knows.

Picture; Twenty--seven steps, a noted local landmark on Mauldeth Road West, 1959, R.E. Stanley, M18106 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and detail of railway line in 1893 from the OS map of South Lancashire, 1888-93, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

The amazing David Harrop collection is on its travels ............ be the first to display an item

Now anyone who knows David Harrop, will know about his collection which spans two world wars and the history of the Postal Service.

Many of the items from that collection have appeared over the years as stories on the blog and most of the material featured in my book Manchester Remembering 1914-18 was sourced by him.*

The items range from rare photographs and picture postcards, to letters, theatre posters and a lots of everyday ephemera, much of which would usually be thrown away or destroyed.

And amongst the vast cornucopia of “old and historic things” are the big ones, which include pillar boxes, a “posty” bike, a Victorian mail cart and my own favourite which is the RAF clock.

David tells me they have out grown his current storage units and he is looking for somewhere to store some of them for a short period.

And so here is the appeal ............. if you have a spare garage, large secure shed he would be happy to hear from you.

But more than that David is keen for these items from the collection to be seen which leads me to that second appeal to schools, offices or work places who would like a little bit of history to adorn their space to also get in touch with him.

Presently some of his collection is on permanent display in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery while in recent years other items have been seen in towns around the North West.

David has various facebook sites where he can be reached or leave a comment on the blog and David will pick it up and be in touch.

Location, pretty much anywhere

Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson is published by the History Press on February 2 2017

Order now from the History Press, or Chorlton Book Shop, 0161 881 6374

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War

Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop

Thursday, 26 January 2017

“No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat, At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street”

I have always liked the idea of getting from Chorlton into town in a matter of minutes. It was what made where we live so attractive to the families of those who lived here in the years after the railway arrived.

For some it was the advantage of being able to travel home from the city centre for lunch and be back in time for the afternoon session. So the tram for me just ticked loads of boxes. Not only is it quick but it recreates a little bit of how we used to live. The new railway was so popular that during its first five years the number of season ticket holders rose from 200 to 600.

And the railway didn’t just mean passengers there was also the goods side. Today on the site of Morrison’s and stretching down along Albany Road down to Buckingham Road were three railway tracks and the businesses which relied on the railway to bring the goods. Of these coal was the most obvious. From here operated the coal merchants like Norman Bailey. More than one old friend remembers being sent down to pay for the order of coal.

And then there was also the livestock. The Bailey’s also had the farm at Park Bridge and brought their pigs from the station down to the farm well into the 1950s.

Now Peter’s painting of the tram brings back the excitement of travelling on the railway.

I always think it has a sleek look which is in contrast to the big powerful engines of steam. And it was while I was thinking about a train story that I came across this 1955 picture of Loco Number 73000 passing through the station. In the background is the station and the marshalling yards and beyond them Albany Road.

It is good that the tram has reawakened the old line and put to rest Slow Train that old Flanders and Swann song lamenting the loss of so many branch lines during the Beeching cuts. Written in 1963 it is as much a comment on the end of these railway lines as the passing of a way of life.
“No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat,
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street”

Chorlton survived the cuts in 1963 only to close 4 years later and 44 years later it’s possible ride the line again. Not a bad way to close the story on Peter's painting.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester

Pictures; ©Peter Topping 2011 & Loco Number 73000 passing through Chorlton Station, 1955, the Lloyd collection
comment on the end of these railway lines as the passing of a way of life.

Half a century of looking up the High Street

This is one of those scenes of the High Street which at first glance seems to have changed very little from the first time I wandered up from Well Hall Road in the spring of 1964.

Of course like loads of other people I can reel off a few of the smaller changes ranging from the disappearance of Burton's, Harry Fenton’s, and Payne’s along with the ABC and the Wimpy bar.

All of them very personal to me while for other people we could throw in Hind’s, the Co-op, the Castle and David Grieg’s.

Not that there is anything odd in that, all places change over time and for me at least the passage of fifty-one years is a big chunk of my life.

But go back a century and a bit and the differences between then and now would be more dramatic.

The High Street would have been narrower and there would have been a succession of grand houses  sitting behind their high walls, along with a fair few smaller and meaner cottages tucked away off the main road.

Now all of these I have written about in the past so instead I shall just reflect on the changes to come which will start with that proposed cinema and may also see the reappearance of a few more pubs again.

After all the demise of the Castle and the Man of Kent left a hole and the bar culture and micro pub are fast taking over many High Streets.

Picture; Looking up the High Street, 2015, from the collection of Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick

Memories of the Swan in Collyhurst ................ lost Manchester pubs and a set of questions

Now I say lost but I am not quite sure and I am prepared to offer up a humble apology to the landlord/landlady and clientele of the Swan on  Hamerton Road.

The picture is another from that wonderful collection of Manchester and Salford in the 1980s.

They belong to John Casey and are a fabulous record of what the twin cities were like just three decades ago.

John told me that “this was once our local in the 50s/60s, Norman St. off Rochdale Road, Collyhurst. 

Not sure if it's still there but imagine it will be closed if the building is still standing.  The first is is mine, the other two I think are from Central Library.”

All of which presents me with lots of questions.

Does the pub still do the business of selling beer and cheer?  Is the building still standing and does anyone recognise the other two images?  A trawl of the Local Image Collection didn’t offer a match for the two and given that I only post pictures with permission I shall leave them out which is a shame, given that both perfectly record how parts of Manchester and Salford went through those huge house clearance schemes.

Location; Collyhurst

Pictures; the Swan, circa 1980s 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The White Hart in Eltham, drinking back the years

Now today I am being rather lazy and have not dug deep in to our history to find out about the White Hart.

This I shall do, trawling the directories and the census returns but for now I shall just present these two images.

Chrissie took this image of the present pub earlier this year and I like the way she has caught the place just as the light is fading.

I haven’t been in there for a long time which is a shame because I read it has picked up some nice reviews.

That said I would rather like to have visited its predecessor which was still relatively new when it was photographed in 1909.

And for that matter the pub it replaced.  But that is just the romantic in me.

In the meantime you can always read about Elizabeth Jane Hunt who lived close by.*

Pictures; The White Hart today, © Chrissie Rose, 2014 and the White Hart in 1909, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

*With Elizabeth Jane Hunt and three children in a two roomed house in Eltham in 1911

The places I usually don’t photograph ................... nu 2 from behind

It was September 2014 and I was  on my way to meet up.

Location;  St Ann’s Square

Picture; St Ann’s Square, 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Monday, 23 January 2017

Stories from the Beer Festival .... no 2 hiding from Eric

Now it was day two of the Beer and Cider Festival hosted by CAMRA in GMex and we were well over due a visit from Eric.*

Of all the people who contributed to our book on Manchester Pubs Eric has a special place.

I can’t say it is down to what he added to the book.

His stories, and his memories were at best inaccurate and more often just downright made up, but his presence has been felt in a fair few of the 78 pubs featured in the book.

We only bought him the one pint but there were the hapless punters who made that cardinal mistake of catching his eye and were then doomed to a night of uninterrupted conversation which only paused when Eric made it clear he “needed a wee bit more of the beery stuff” to carry on with his tales of ghosts, abandoned young maidens and disreputable landlord most of which were indeed pure invention.

And given that there were hundreds of different beers and ciders on offer at the Festival we reckoned he might show up and visit us as we sat selling the book.

But he failed to show and by a little after 2 pm on that second day we had sold the entire print run which had amounted to 200 copies.

The 200 had arrived at Peter’s house on December 21st and so in a month they were all gone prompting a reorder which will come in a couple of days.

Leaving aside Eric we met some very interesting people most of whom bought the book and were full of their own stories of Manchester pubs.

Nor was that all for as quite a few we encountered had travelled down from Scotland, across from Yorkshire and up from the south there were plenty of tales of breweries, pubs and other beer festivals which were fascinating.

Manchester Pubs is available from 

Location; Manchester

Pictures, inside GMex at the Beer and Cider Festival, January 19-21 2017f rom the collection of Andrew Simpson

* The Festival began on Wednesday night and finished on Saturday.

The Haigh Family of Chorlton-cum-Hardy .... another story from Tony Goulding

The ‘Haighs’ were very prominent in Chorlton-cum-Hardy and its surrounding areas during the late Victorian/Edwardian era. 

496 Wilbraham Road, 1959
The chief family residence was this large property on Wilbraham Road, which is now numbered, 496 and is occupied by the “Everest Pharmacy” but at this period was no.72 and the premises of “The Oaks Music College”

Research into this family’s story has revealed a somewhat convoluted tale of multiple short term business ventures and family separations which appear to indicate a very volatile domestic background.
The patriarch was William Haigh, born in Disley, Cheshire in 1818, who made his fortune operating a paper mill in Reddish, Stockport.

The 1871 census records show him as employing 14 men, 10 women, 3 boys, and 1 girl.

The 1881 census return shows him to have retired from paper manufacturing and instead in business, with two of his sons and a nephew, making fire-lighters (1) from their residence in Ellesmere Place, Hulme.

At this time William’s wife Anne Eliza, a Londoner, born in 1835, was a schoolmistress running a school Nr. Ormskirk, Lancashire In 1891, the family had reunited and William with his wife ( by then described as a “professor of music”) and nine children had moved  to a large house, “The Oaks” on Greenheys Lane (no. 82) William Snr. died, aged 78 on 3rd March, 1895 and it was around this time that the family’s first presence in Chorlton-cum-Hardy is to be found.

The eldest child of the family, William Chancellor, an automatic machine manufacturer, had settled in the area first: initially at 2, Cranbourne Road, later at 36, Brundretts Road and finally at 5, Cross Road.

Sometime around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries William Chancellor’s widowed mother opened The Oaks Music College. In this venture she was assisted by two of her daughters - Annie Florence, and Marion Alice.

This household also included her three youngest sons; Henry Septimus and John Sidney were continuing the family connection with paper: making paper bags. The youngest Thomas Canning had a sign writing business.

A fifth son also resided nearby Robert Wallace, a “manufacturer of tin fasteners for brasses”, lived at 16, Napier Road. Alfred Assheton, who had continued with the fire-lighter business, was living in Stretford, at 10, Almond Street.

There is no shortage of data on the subsequent lives of this family the difficulty lies in weaving, from a plethora of diverse threads, a coherent tapestry of their story.

By the time of the 1911 census the family had experienced some significant changes. Most of the sons had set up in business as “Herbalists,” with only Robert W. remaining in Manchester, on Stockport Road, Levenshulme.

William C. and John S. set up in Porth, South Wales their brother, Frank Garman, nearby in Barry. To complete the picture Henry S. had opened an herbalist shop in Penygraig, Rhonnda, Glamorgan whilst Thomas C. became a garage proprietor in Porthcawl.
The Oaks College, 1959
The family’s connection with Chorlton-cum-Hardy was maintained by the female line.

The Oaks Music College remained a feature of the area for over six decades.  first under the direction of the widow Anne Eliza and her two daughters, Annie Florence and Marian Alice , later to be joined by Florence M. and Gertrude Mary the daughters of Thomas Canning  and William Chancellor respectively At some point, during the 1930’s, the school moved its premises further along  Wilbraham Road to no. 643 (2)

(The Oaks College 1959

As this picture indicates this building still has an educational use

  In contrast to the distaff side, the males of the family never again feature in the history of Chorlton-cum-Hardy post the 1911 census.

The last to leave the area was Alfred Assheton, who, in 1911, was working as an insurance agent back living with his mother on Wilbraham Road.

His wife, Lillian Frances, and only son, Edward Assheton,(3) were living in Birkdale, Nr. Southport with his mother-in-law Emily Ann Amiel.(4) Also at this house, 72, Wilbraham Road, were William Chancellor’s two children Gertrude Mary and Chancellor William Urquhart, (5) their father having, by then, already decamped to South Wales.

The only one of the seven brothers to remain within the Manchester area was Robert Wallace.

He married Florence Knowles, (6) an artist, at St. Mary’s, Hulme on 16th October, 1894. Florence’s father, George was a Fine Arts Dealer of 117, Moss Lane West. Robert and Florence’s first children Robert Sheridan and Leonard Wallace were baptised at St. Clement’s Chorlton-cum-Hardy while the family were living at 16, Napier Road. (7)

After a brief period residing on Whitefield Road, Stockport during which a third son Charles Leslie was born (on 8th June,1901) the family finally settled at 180, Stockport Road, Levenshulme where two more sons were born George S. (on 19th October,1912) and Stephen A. (on 3rd June,1914)

The 1939 register (8)   records provide an intriguing peek into the later lives of these individuals. The mother, Florence her sons Charles L, Stephen A, and George S, together with her elderly sister Juliet (an artist born 15th February, 1860) were till residing at their address on Stockport Road. Robert Wallace was, unfortunately, a patient at Prestwich Mental Asylum. Charles L is recorded as an engineer’s fitter/boilermaker – Stephen A, a painter, decorator and sign writer whilst George S sort of followed in the family tradition by becoming a Pharmacist.

The history detailed above shows a family seemingly often under stress with parents living apart and short lived fraternal business ventures, A final piece of evidence to support this was the case of Frank Garnan Haigh. In 1911 he, too, was in a mental hospital but in his case he had been committed following a court appearance in August, 1909.

The Western Gazette of Friday 13th August gives a detailed account of the case. Frank was arrested on the previous Monday night, after an incident in the Star Inn, and charged with indecently assaulting a Miss Julia Genge. During the proceedings evidence was given by Frank’s brother Thomas Canning (9) that he (Frank) had a history of unprovoked arguments with and attacks on his brothers. (one of which may have led to the dissolution of his liquid-soap manufacturing business partnership with his brother William Chancellor on 7th July, 1892 at 27, Exchange Buildings, St. Mary’s Gate, Manchester)

© Tony Goulding 2017

Pictures; 496, Wilbraham Road 08/05/1959 – A.E.Landers M 18267, The Oaks College 1959, A.E.Landers M.18438, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  and the Oaks today from the collection of Tony Goulding

1) As late as 1954 a street directory still records a Miss M. A. Haigh as the school’s Principal.
2) The firelighter business was run by William C. and Alfred A. On 5th July, 1886  they were granted a patent for “improvements in artificial fuel”
3) Edward Assheton Haigh trained as a dentist and married Muriel A. Stephens, a medical practitioner, in Wrexham, North Wales in the September quarter of 1930. The couple set up home at 1, Mesmes Park Terrace, Wigan.
4) Alfred Assheton Haigh married Lilian Frances Amiel on 15th November, 1900 at The English Martyrs Roman Catholic Church on Alexandra Road, Whalley Range. Lilian’s father Francis was a jeweller/general dealer.
5) Chancellor William Urquhart Haigh served in the Coldstream Guards during World War 1 but arrived at his battalion in France the very day after the Armistice was signed. He married a certified schoolteacher, Grace Simcock in the June quarter of 1931. The 1939 register shows the couple living in Cheadle, Cheshire with Chancellor’s profession recorded as “Process engineer (Aircraft)”
6) In an example of a historical quirk Florence was born in the house on High Lane, Chorlton which was shortly to become one of Chorlton-cum-Hardy’s first schools, Mr. Robert Davies’s Commercial School.
7) Leonard Wallace sadly died ,aged just 2years old  and was buried in grave I 1609, Southern Cemetery on 31st December 1898
8) The 1939 Register also reveals some details some of the other remaining issue of William and Anne Eliza Haigh. Frank G. was living in Smethwick, Staffordshire still an Herbalist and married to Mary Jane (née. Jones) to whom he left £969-9s-8d when he died on 21st March, 1952. Thomas C, had retired to Colwyn Bay with his wife and two of his children, son, Henry, a motor lorry driver and daughter, Dorothy M., a sweet confectionary dealer. Henry Septimus was still an Herbalist and residing in Barry, Glamorganshire.  The still single John Sidney had returned to Chorlton-cum-Hardy and was working as a refrigeration salesman whilst living at the school run by his sister. Alfred A. is back living with his wife close to his son in Wigan. He died there in the December quarter of 1953. William C doesn’t appear, his death being recorded in South Manchester during the March quarter of 1935.
9) Thomas C. by this time was a successful motor mechanic who had already, in October1905 been granted a patent for an “ improved method of timing explosions in engine” He married Sarah Millicent (née, Bevan) in South Wales before moving back North during World War 1 and raising his family in Bolton.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

News from the West Country .................. more records from Ancestry and a bit of a story from me

Now it did occur to me that someone might accuse me of being in the paid employment of Ancestry. 

St Clements Church Chorlton-cum-Hardy, circa 1860s-1880s
But then I also subscribe to Findmypast as well, and both have featured regularly on the blog,

So that just leaves me to announce that Ancestry have released or updated a shed load of new records from the West country.

They include in no particular order Somerset Goal Registers, 1807-1879, Dorset Bastardy Records 1725-1853, Gloucestershire Prison Records 1728 -1914 and marriage, baptism and burial records from Somerset, piles of stuff from Jersey and more England & Wales Christening records.

Bastardy Order, 1807
Of these e Bastardy Records for where I live are particularly interesting.

“Some of these have survived from Stretford, and include the Orders for Maintenance of Bastard Children, 1702-1811 and Bastardy Bonds from 1715-94 which identified the adult male who would support the child as well as other miscellaneous Orders Relating to Bastardy, for the period 1716-1756, and across the country many of these records have survived in greater quantities.

They reveal a straightforward system designed to identify the father and bring him to court.  This might begin with an examination of the mother by a magistrate or if she was already in labour by a midwife.  

These Bastardy Examinations were common in the early eighteenth century.    Having achieved the information a Bastardy Warrant was issued ordering a Constable to bring the father before the Magistrate.  If the case was successfully made then a Bastardy Order was issued which identified the man and stipulated the amount he was to pay.

BastardyOrder 1807
The documents were pre-printed with spaces for the magistrates to write the names of the mother and father and the amount that had to be paid.  Some of the Stretford ones for the years 1702-1811 reveal the estimated costs which the father was expected to pay.  

Often the sum was decided on a yearly basis which would then be paid quarterly.  This amount varied and may have been based on circumstances.  

The figure of 26 shillings [£1.30p] for the year payable until the child was fourteen appears in some of the Stretford documents but others set an initial payment to cover the birth ranging from £2 down to 10s. [50p] and specify that further payments should be made weekly.  

These also varied from 30d [7p] to 7d [3p].   In some cases the mother was expected to contribute and this could be 18d [7p].

Attempting to make sense of these awards is fraught, but some idea of their monetary worth can be gauged by making a comparison with wage rates and some examples of the cost of living.  Just twenty years later in 1830 Mary Bailey and Higginbotham the farmer  agreed an annual salary of £7.10s [£7.50] from which she bought  in January a pair of stays which cost 10s.6d, [52p], in May a new cap worth  1s.8d [7p] and in July repaired her shoes for 2s.8d [14p].  The cost of renting on the Row for a farm labourer varied from 10d [8p] to 5s [25p] a week.  

Looking out from Higginbotham's farm circa 1880s
Finally the day rate for women workers in the south west was between 7-10d [3p].

Against this backdrop of wages, and spending the magistrates determined that the cost of maintaining an illegitimate child was 7d [3p] a day, and this was slightly more generous than the 26 shillings [£1.30p].

But the system was flawed and there were many in the early nineteenth century who said so.    The moralists argued that payments to a single mother only encouraged illegitimacy and they may even be evidence to suggest they were partly right.  

Both here in the township and in the Parish of Ironville in Derbyshire and no doubt many other areas,  some woman gave birth to a number of children out of wedlock."

From the The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson, 2012

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Stretford and the West Country

Pictures; Bastardy Order, Hannah Hodkinson, and John Barrow St Matthews Church, Stretford, 1807 & St Clements Church Chorlton-cum-Hardy circa 1860s-1880s and looking out from Higginbotham's farm, circa 1880s from the collection of Tony Walker

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Who will have seen this? Inside the old Palais de Luxe

Now I know it must be time for a holiday, one of those get away and reflect on the balance of my life type holidays. 

And why? Well because today I was over the moon at being allowed to see the last remnant of the old Palais de Luxe cinema on Barlow Moore Road.

It has featured in my blogs and in blogs yet to come. Opened in 1915 and closed around 1958 it was the first real picture house here in Chorlton. In telling its story I have come across Charles Ireland the photographer, H D Moorhouse the cinema chain mogul and tracked a wonderful picture of the place to East Dunbartonshire.

And today I gazed on all that is left. Steve the manager of the Co-op store allowed me upstairs to what is now the warehouse. It was I had been told just an open space with nothing left, but that is not entirely the case.

Standing at the front of the cinema roughly where the projectionist would have been you have a wonderful view of the curved roof with all the wooden roof beams bereft of plaster arching over the void.

 But the real treasure is the almost complete set of plaster mouldings which once would have stood proud over the cinema screen.

I guess no more than a few dozen people will have seen it since the picture house went dark. And in the great sweep of the history of plaster moulding I don’t think we are talking high art, but it is all that is left of the old Palais and not I think too much of an exaggeration to describe it as a link with our past.

I can think of numerous people who I know who will have sat in their seats and idly looked at the design while waiting for the big picture. In the week beginning Sunday May 7th 1928 underneath its sweeping arch the Palais showed a mixed bunch of films.

The Call of the Heart was a Western featuring Dynamite the dog, Long Pants a comedy with Harry Langdon, The Climbers a historical melodrama located in the Spanish Empire, during the reign of King Ferdinand VII and Sky High Saunders about a “daredevil pilot who took on all comers and prevailed, whether it was gangsters, good-or-bad women or bad weather.”

And on the night before William Rees and his Orchestra played from 7.30pm. He was a popular musician during the interwar years and later performed in Blackpool and for a time was the conductor of The Huddersfield Philharmonic.

So there you have it a little of the lost cinema history of Chorlton.
Pictures; the exterior of the cinema just after it closed, by A H Downes, May 1959 m09248, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  and the interior by kind permission of Co-operative Group, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The Vanished Ones ............... no 3 less vanished and more returned

Now take a keen photographer with an eye for how the city is changing and you get a new series which for want of a better title I shall call the “Vanished Ones.”

I am back with my old friend Andy Robertson who makes it his business to record the passing of everything from pubs, mills to offices and houses.

Those who follow the blog regularly will know just how tenacious he can be at chronicling the passing of one building and the emergence of another.

And in this case it is less a vanished building and more a restored one.

Although even to say that is to play with words.

This is Fountain Street where it joins Market Street and for a long time I have wondered what was going in to the void created by the building work.

And as I haven’t been on Market Street for a while I am pleased Andy has supplied the answer.

Back in 2012 it was two shops, one on the corner selling phones and the second selling health food.

Sometime in early 2014 the shops closed and work began on making one big retail premise.

Work dragged on into 2015 and then the following year all was done and the place reopened as a phone shop.

Now the chronology surprised me and made me realize that I must have passed the place after it reopened but never clocked the changes.

All of which suggests that I should be more observant.

Location; Fountain Street Market Street 2015-2017

Pictures; Fountain Street Market Street 2015-2017 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Wandering the city in July .......... nu 7 urban living

It was the one day last July when the weather was just about OK.

And that really is all there is to say.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Oxford Road Railway Statuin, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Stories from the Beer Festival .... no 1 meeting old friends

Now if you write a book about Manchester Pubs and in particular the people who drink in them you shouldn’t be surprised if you met them at the beer festival in GMex hosted by CAMRA.*

Looking out from GMex, 2017
What did surprise me was that we met up with three in a matter of a few minutes.

It began when Mike Davey’s wife bought a copy of Manchester Pubs soon after the Festival opened on day two.**

Just a little later Mike came over to announce that he was made up by finding a picture of himself in the book.  “There I am” he told us “in the Marble sitting in my favourite seat.”

And while Mike was with us Yvonne McVitte was buying her copy , and yes she too was in the book!

In her case we had encountered Yvonne, her husband Craig and two friends in the Castle back in September.

The "Four" in the Castle, 2016
Peter couldn’t resist recording their stay in Manchester in the Castle with a photograph given that Yvonne and Craig were down from Glasgow and their friends had travelled across from Yorkshire.

It was a smashing picture made all the better because we met up with them again later in the Crown and Kettle which in turn meant that they appeared on the blog in a story.***

Now what we knew and Yvonne didn’t was that the picture of the four also appears in the book.

* The Festival began on Wednesday night and finishes today.

Location; Manchester

Pictures, inside GMex at the Beer and Cider Festival, January 19-21 2017, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and the four in the Castle,2016  from the collection of Peter Topping 

 * The Festival began on Wednesday night and finishes today.

**Manchester Pubs is available  from 

***A new book on Manchester Pubs,

Friday, 20 January 2017

Chorlton’s first cinema, a Molotov cocktail and a shed load of new stories

The story of Chorlton has just started a new chapter and it is all down to a phone call from Mr Hollinworth.

We all know that you can never close a book on the history of a place because there will always be a fresh discovery, a new set of memories and an unseen batch of photographs which add to the picture and even contradict what we all held to be the truth.

Looking at the petrol station, 1961
So until recently I had no idea that during the Great War there had been two Red Cross hospitals operating in Chorlton or that our first cinema had originally been a variety hall situated on Wilbraham Road.

And now there is the promise of a lot more from Mr Hollinworth who phoned me today after having read the blog.

He was born in Chorlton in 1928 and lived on Silverdale Road until 1951, and has a vivid set of memories of the area.

These include the Manchester Blitz, the bomb that fell behind the air raid shelter on Wilbraham Road and the bomb crater which for a day became a venue for a man with a piano and an impromptu choir to see patriotic songs as a gesture of defiance.

And it is these small bits of history which in their way are as revealing as any academic account of the war and of course are the ones that often get lost.

Our first cinema, circa 1906
So I was intrigued when Edward also told me of the Molotov cocktails that were stored behind the advertising hoardings on the railway bridge which he and his friends were determined to use if German tanks ever rumbled along Wilbraham Road.

But the jewel in the conversation was the story of his father’s garage on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads.*

Today this is the site of the shiny new Morrison’s petrol station but once it was home to our first cinema.

This was the Pavilion which had been the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens which opened in 1904 and became part of H D Moorhouse chain of picture houses three years later.

It offered that usual mix of exciting silent movies from the comedies of Chaplin and Keaton to the daring exploits of Tom Mix and stories of the place have yet to fade from living memory.

That said those memories are second hand because the cinema closed in the 1920s in the face of stiff competition from the newly built Palais de Luxe on Barlow Moor Road and the even newer and far grander picture house on Manchester Road.

Building the new petrol station, 2014
But the actual date of its closure remained unclear until now.

I now know that it had gone by 1924 to make way for the garage and petrol station owned by Edward’s father who had lost a leg aged just 20 in the Great War.

Along with the petrol station there were a set of lock up garages running along the railway fronting Buckingham Road and both the lockups and the petrol station had been built by Edward’s grandfather.

The business was sold in 1951 but the original 1920s building was still there eleven years later and looking at that 1962 picture it is possible to pick out evidence of the old theatre which judging from more recent photographs was a very substantial building.

So there you have it, a chance phone call and a whole new set of stories have been set in motion.

Pictures; the petrol station in 1962 by A Landers, m18047, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens, later the Pavilion 1910 from the Lloyd collection, and the construction of the new Morrison’s petrol station, 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*The story of a garage,

Additional information Edward Hollinworth

Wandering the city in July .......... nu 6 the window

It was the one day lats July when the weather was just about OK.

And that really is all there is to say.

Location; Manchester

Picture; St Ann’s Square, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thursday, 19 January 2017

On the High Street back watching the film of your choice

So Eltham may soon have its own cinema again.*

For any one who can remember the Well Hall Odeon, the ABC on the high Street and the Gaumont this will be good news.

There may even be those who remember the old Eltham Cinema Theatre which opened in 1913 and was demolished in 1968.

I say remember it but long before it was knocked down it had ceased showing films which just leaves us with the three of which the Odeon renamed the Coronet struggled on the longest, finally become empty in 2000.

Although I do think it provides the image of a closed cinema in that warning about the dangers of film piracy shown at the pictures.

Any way I look forward to how the consultation goes and the prospect that once again on the High Street you will be able to “sit back and enjoy a film.”

In the meantime here is a reminder of how things went during the back end of the 20th century.

This is the ABC which closed its doors in 1972 and was demolished soon after

It had stood on the corner of the High Street and Passey Place for half a century.

It was opened as the Palace Cinema in 1922, showed its first talkie in 1930** and for a few brief years from 1966 to 69 was where I went with first Pamela, then Jenny and finally Ann, but that is a story for another time.

Picture; the demolition of the ABC in the High Street courtesy of Chrissie Rose.

*Cinema  Plans, Elthma SENINe Magazine, February page 24,


Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester ........ nu 80 Snow Hill

Now I will have passed that entrance between the shop Shudehill Supply and its neighbour countless times and never ventured down to explore what was on the other side.

Had I done so I would have come across Snow Hill which is a name I rather like and which you know must have a fascinating history.

It ran from Shudehill to Bradshaw Street and was there by 1793 and did not change over much until it was swept away during the construction of the First City Crossing.

I say during the building of the tram line but I am not quite sure, but like all these things someone will put me right.

The romantic in me would like to think it was a picturesque place  but what ever its origins by the mid 19th century it was a workaday street home to waste dealers, a bookbinder and a drysalters company and seventy years later while the names had changed the businesses were much the same.

That said on the corner with Bradshaw Street was the Castle and Falcon which was certainly there by 1824 and with a bit of digging should reveal a rich history, but that is for another time.

So having started with that entry I will finish with that other side of the street.

Both pictures were taken by John Casey in the 1980s.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Snow Hill in the 1980s, from the collection of John Casey

A debate and another lost Manchester pub

Now there has been some talk of what the next pubs book will be about.

The Royal George in 1858
Peter favours “The Pubs of Chorlton, Didsbury and Fallowfield” while one of the visitors to CAMRA’s Beer and Cider Festival at GMex thought that we should stray into Salford while the publican from Rochdale made a case for both her town and Burnley.

But being the historian I rather fancy “The Lost Pubs of Manchester” and just as I was outlining the case my old friend Andy Robertson sent over these two pictures of the Royal George on the corner of Lever Street and Faraday Street.

Andy is a regular contributor to the blog and has built up an impressive catalogue of pictures recording the changes to the city.

He tells me the Royal George was one of his haunts back in 1973 but with the passage of time the pub closed but the building is still there.

The building in 2017
So that is pretty much it.

But as Peter and I will be at the Beer and Cider Festival for the rest of the week as part of the launch for our book on Manchester Pubs I rather think there will be plenty of opportunities to discuss the next project.*

And before I forget, GMex is now officially the Manchester Central Convention Complex, which is a very long and grand name and one I know I will never remember.

So for me it will be GMex while for many others it will always be Central Railway Station, once a gateway to London and the Midlands and of course Chorlton, but that is another story.

Manchester Pubs is available  from 

Location; Manchester

Pictures, The Royal George, 1958, A Dawson m50433, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and in 2017 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*A new book on Manchester Pubs,