Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A lost photograph and a clue to a vanished building

Sometimes you fall across a picture by chance which fills in a gap in your knowledge and at the same time is a joy to look at in its own right.


It is also unusual in that it is not one I have seen before and I doubt that at first glance many today would be able to place it.

 It is a postcard sent in the summer of 1905 and shows that section of Barlow Moor Road running north from the junction with Wilbraham Road towards what would now be the library.

There is little that is familiar. But perhaps the first clue is the building of John Bailey, joiner and cabinet maker. It is still there today but is now the solicitor on the corner of Barlow Moor and Warwick Road. 

Adjoining the building and further down Barlow Moor Road there are other buildings which are still there today albeit with some changes.

All of which leaves the two buildings beside Bailey’s the joiner behind the chap leaning on the fence. The white building set back is the old Royal Oak which had been selling beer from early in the 19th century.

It was here in the 1860s that drunken mobs from Manchester had to be chased off by locals and earlier still the scene of a pub theft which resulted in the convicted thief being transported.

But it is the building to the right of the Royal Oak which really caught my attention. This is Renshaws Buildings owned by a local farmer who lived on the Row.* It dates from the very early 1830s and maybe even older.

It was one of a number of properties built for rent by local businessmen like Renshaw the farmer, Brownhill the wheelwright and Grantham the tailor.

They may have been the first wave of new brick built cottages, replacing the old wattle and daub properties and aimed at the increase in population in the township.

These were for the local market and the census returns show that they were inhabited by farm labourers and tradesmen.

I cannot be sure of when Renshaws Buildings went up but we can be sure they were in place by 1832 because their ownership along with other properties guaranteed Renshaw a property vote after the 1832 Reform Act

Looking at the number of units in Renshaws Buildings and the number of families recorded in the census record they have been one up one down dwellings in a block running at right angles to the main road.

The picture may also be unique in that it could be the last time it was photographed like this.

Within perhaps ten years the front had been converted into a garage and by the late 1920s had been demolished to make way for the new Royal Oak.

Today the only evidence that it was ever there is the kerb running down the south side of the pub.

So there you have it, this postcard from 1905 remains one of the best images of Renshaws Buildings, a building which I have followed from its construction sometime before 1832.

*Chorlton Row is now Beech Road

Picture; Renshaws Buildings and the Royal Oak circa 1905, from the collection of John Lloyd

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