Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A Wilbraham Road now lost to living memory

The junction of Wilbraham Road with Albany and Corklands Roads, circa 1903-13
This is one of those scenes of Chorlton which has pretty much vanished from living memory.  

So while there will be many people who recognise the properties on the right hand side of the photograph only a handful will have visited the first row of shops on our immediate left and there will be no one who knew them when they were still just private residences.  Today the site where they stood is taken up with our Post Office and the Post Box Cafe.

We are on Wilbraham Road at the junction with Albany and Corkland sometime before the autumn of 1913.

Bikes, horses and carts
Now I can be fairly confident of that because the picture was taken before Manchester Corporation extended its tram network along this stretch of Wilbraham Road.

At the beginning of that year the tram had reached Whalley Range and by February the Alexander Road service from town was extended to Wilbraham Road which would be the terminus for five months until the railway bridge at Chorlton had been strengthened and track laid to join Barlow Moor Road.

The last part of the network from Whalley Range into Chorlton was opened on October 13th 1913.

So no later than 1913 and may be before 1903 when that group of three houses to the left of the picture were converted into shops.

The lost houses with their shops, circa 1903-13
In 1903 they were still private homes with longish front gardens which were lost when the rather clumsy looking shop fronts were added.

It was practice which was replicated all along Wilbraham Road both on this stretch and the section beyond Barlow Moor Road up to Manchester Road.

Photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries show many of these properties still with gardens and in many cases the conversions throw up clues as to what happened.

In some of the shops at the rear there are still steps up into what would have been the front rooms of the houses, while  old maps show the original foot print of the building.

The corner of Albany and Wilbrham Roads
This is all too clear from that row of shops on the right of the picture.

Look carefully and there is a clear mismatch between the upper stories of the houses and the retail frontage.

Look even closer at the first shop on the corner with Albany Road and there is something of a mystery.

The awning has the name of Edwards Dispensing chemist and this is also the name above the door but above that is a sign for Francis B Flint who is listed as the chemist from at least 1903 through to 1911.

It is I guess just a little mystery which a closer look at the directories for the years before 1903 will solve by revealing that Edwards was the previous occupant.

The lost houses without their shops circa 1885
And in the same way those directories hold the secret to why so few people will have known our shops on the left hand side, for they vanished under the impact of a direct hit during the Manchester blitz of December 1940.

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection

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