Sunday, 30 April 2017

In spring when a developer's mind turns to demolition ........ down on Deansgate

When I passed the building a few weeks ago the scaffolding was up but I gave no more thought to it.

And now I wish I had.

Andy Robertson with that ever observant eye for a fresh development in the city centre captured the end of the building which was the one between John Dalton Street and Brazennose Street.

The rest as they say will be hard hats, bulldozers and a “grand plan.”

In time I will go looking for those plans on the Corporation’s Planning portal but for now I will leave with the state of play.

But for now I will leave you with a work in progress.

Location; Deansgate

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

The changing face of one shop in Chorlton

I am constantly surprised at how easy our most recent past is forgotten.

Yesterday I launched a new project on Chorlton’s cafes and restaurants.  

It will be both the story of the present clutch of eating places with a reflective look at the ones that have gone and it will be collaboration with local artist Peter Topping.

The first story featured Mabs which was on Wilbraham Road and is now occupied by Oxfam, and Peter followed up that picture with this painting of Tutku Cafe.

And that set me off because I had no idea what had been there.

It was of course Chorlton Discount Store which maintained that 1970s appearance with the pine cladding exterior and offered up a cornucopia of household goods many of which spilled out onto the street.

Before that it was Mrs Twyford’s fruit and veg shop whose family were trading apples, pears and potatoes from the beginning of the 20th century.

Painting; Tutku Cafe  © 2017 Peter Topping 
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*Who remembers Mabs on Wilbraham Road?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

William Eric Lunt ........ a Chorlton soldier from the Great War

I am looking at a picture of William Eric Lunt which I never expected to see.

William Eric Lunt, circa 1914
He was born here in 1895, and died of wounds in the 36th Casualty Clearing Station at the Somme on October 14th 1916.

The Lunt family lived in Chorlton and made their living from farming for all of the 19th century.

In 1845 they rented two acres of land off Moss Lane from the Egerton estate and were market gardeners growing a variety of food for the Manchester markets.

His smallholding was mostly orchard, stretching back from Moss Lane to Rough Leach Gutter and was a smallish amount of land, and like many of our market gardeners Mr Lunt may also have had other jobs as well.

And we know that he paid 4s. 7d a week in rent and in that cottage he and his wife brought up six children.

William and family circa 1905
Which brings me back William who was just 19 when he joined up on September 5th 1914; just one month after the war had broken out.

He was a fit young man weighing 129 lbs and was 5’ 11 inches.

His army records describe his complexion as sallow, his eyes brown and his hair dark, and that at present is all we know of his physical appearance.

In fact that is about all we have, for though there are eighteen military documents, as well his birth certificate and two census returns, none of them shed any light on who he really was, his likes and dislikes, or whether he was serious, humorous or like most of us a bit of both.

But up until yesterday I only had the one picture of him outside the family shop on Sandy Lane when he was about ten years old.

That in itself was one of those rare accidents where a photograph in the collection can contribute to a story of someone you have been researching.

The scroll, 1917
And now we have a second photograph which I think must be very close to the time he enlisted.

It was sent over by Julie Bryce who wrote, “I came across your blog post on William Eric Lunt. 

I'm one of his his great nieces and I have a few photos of him and some documentation commemorating his death which was sent to his parents home at 60 Sandy Lane. 

My daughter sent me a photo of the sign for the William Lunt Gardens in Chorlton and asked me if I thought it might be a relative. I was amazed to find the new estate was named in honour of Uncle Willie as representative of all those of Chorlton who lost their lives in the First World War. 

His sister Gladys May (my grandmother) would have been very proud.”

And it is fitting that the photograph should arrive in the week that my book Manchester Remembering 1914-18 is published, because not only does William Eric Lunt feature in the book but so does the story of the naming of the road here in Chorlton.

I had been asked to suggest names to be considered for the honour and Mr Lunt’s seemed most appropriate.

An embroiderd silk postcard,  1914-18
But this isn’t quite the end of the story because just a month before the photograph arrived another relative made contact.

This was Margret Irvine who came across the story and commented

Councillor Newman has kindly forwarded to me your information about William Lunt. 

Thank you so much for this. I knew some of it from family talk, my own research and recently from your own web pages, but the mystery remained as to why William should have been selected rather than any of the other WW1 casualties, so thank you for an explanation of that.”

I am pleased that William has come back out of the shadows and has gained wider recogntion.

The memorial, 2014
He was to become part of that new Kitchener’s army of young idealistic volunteers many of who were to die at the battle of the Somme.

I wish there was more.

I know he had joined up at Ardwick, was assigned to the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and remained in Britain until the summer of 1916 when he embarked at Folkestone landing on July 27 at Boulogne.

He is commemorated on the memorial in the gardens of the Methodist Church on Manchester Road.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; William Eric Lunt, circa 1914 and the scroll, 1917 from  the collection of Julie Bryce, William circs 1905, from the Lloyd Collection, embroidered silk postcard, circa 1914-18 courtesy  of David Harrop, and the memorial in the Methodist Church, Manchester Road, 2014, from Tony Goulding

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War

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

Who remembers Mabs on Wilbraham Road?

I won’t be alone in remembering a time when there were just a handful of restaurants in Chorlton.
In the late 1970s after you had visited the Mai Wah on Barlow Moor Road, and walked past Azad Manzil there was from memory just the Italian and another Asian restaurant on Wilbraham Road.

The Azad Manzil had opened in 1964 and the others in the decade afterwards and all are now gone, along with a string of cafes of which Mabs was one.

Now I never knew Mabs which was located in what is now the Oxfam shop but my friend Faith was only talking about it recently and Tony who contributes to the blog referred to it in one of his stories.

Of course there have been plenty more cafes over the last century and there will be many people with fond memories of the ones that have long since gone.

And so I think it is time to consider bringing them back out of the shadows in a project which combines both those that exist now and their predecessors.

The idea is Peter’s and as we move effortlessly to finishing the book on Chorlton Pubs and Bars I know there will be lots of people who will jump at the opportunity to share their own favourite cafe or restaurant, offer up a story and maybe even a picture or two.

So that is it, you can contact us by leaving a comment on the blog or by contacting either of us with a direct message via Facebook, Twitter not forgetting the old fashioned way of looking us up in the telephone book.

Location Chorlton

Picture; Mabs, Wilbraham Road, 1959, A E Landers, m18264, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Friday, 28 April 2017

Mrs Bingle and the unveiling of the Cenotaph in July 1924

The Cenotaph, 1925
“Before the Manchester Cenotaph was unveiled on Saturday afternoon, the Lord Mayor explained why it was that a great soldier had not been asked to loose the cords.

‘The victorious nation pays as much as the vanquished in the loss of the flower of its population and there are many broken hearts in the conquering country as there are in the conquered.’  

The same idea was uppermost in the character of the ceremony itself.  Mrs Bingle, a citizen of the working class district of Ardwick, whose three sons had been killed in the war assisted Lord Derby with the unveiling”*

All of which I think was a fitting tribute to those who died and to the families left to bear the loss.

Now both of those invited that day to unveil our war memorial are interesting.  Lord Derby had been closely associated with recruiting men for the war and will forever be linked with the Pals battalions which “should be a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain."**

Rylance Street, 1964
But it will be Mrs Bingle who I think was the more significant choice.

The family were not from Manchester, they came from Stroud in Gloucestershire but had settled in the eastern side of the city by 1899, and in the years before the Great War never seemed to stray far from Rylance Street just off the Ashton Old Road.

Here they brought up eight children in houses ranging in size from 3 rooms up to five.  Mr Bingle was engaged in making umbrellas, their eldest son was a career soldier, another a postman and their youngest son an errand boy.

It was an area of densely packed terraced housing, dominated by the railway depot to the south and surrounded by iron and steel works, the Bradford Colliery and countless smaller enterprises.

In time I will I hope be able to track the lives of Albert and Frances Bingle and their eight surviving children.

The Statue on the "war stone", 1992
But in the meantime it is the loss of their three sons which exercises my thoughts.

History has been capricious with the details of their military careers and so all we know of their eldest son was that he had enlisted by the time he was 18 in 1901 and at his death had reached the rank of sergeant.

 His brother Charles Henry was a gunner and Nelson Allen the youngest of the three was a 2nd Corporal in the Royal Engineers.

That said some of Nelson’s army records have survived and I know that he signed up at Ardwick in the April of 1915 aged 19.

It is so little for what amounted to such a great sacrifice and the enormity of that loss must have been overwhelming, more so because all three died in the final year of the war.

Nelson aged 21 was killed in the March, Ernest Albert the oldest on May 8th and Charles Henry on the 27th.

At the Cenotaph, 1942
Which takes me back to the unveiling when “emotion was gathered up into a sort of climax where state and civic dignitaries stood aside and a stream of women flowed between the obelisks and covered the great expanse of stone with flowers.”***

And that I think this is the moment to close.

But I will return to the story not least to describe the day of the unveiling in more detail perhaps when the Cenotaph is rededicated in its new position in front of the west door of the Town Hall.

And that will also be an appropriate moment to explore the lives of the Bingle family in more detail.

Pictures; The Cenotaph and Cross, St Peter’s Square, Manchester 1925, m52055, Rylance Street where the family were living in 1911, Taken by T Brooks in 1964, m12974, Statue on top of the Cenotaph, St Peter's Square, Manchester Mark Cobley, 1992 m80515, and a service at the Cenotaph in 1942, G Hinks, m09818, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*The Manchester Guardian, July 14, 1924

**Lord Derby speaking in Liverpool in August 1914. The idea had actually been suggested a few days earlier by General Sir Henry Rawlinson  that men would be more inclined to enlist in the Army if they knew that they were going to serve alongside their friends and work colleagues.

He had appealed to London stockbrokers to raise a battalion of men from workers in the City of London to set an example. 1,600 men enlisted in this 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, the so-called "Stockbrokers' Battalion", within a week in late August 1914.

***ibid The Manchester Guardian, July 14, 1924

Suggested by a story, The Cenotaph is Moving by Ann Beswick, March 17 2014,

“Now I must make this a priority” ............. the end of the Odeon

And with these simple words I must make this a priority” Andy has launched a new project chronicling the demolition of one of my favourite cinemas.

I first saw West Side Story there, and later Woodstock, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and later still a shedload of films with our children.

So at least this way the end will be recorded.

Location; Manchester

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

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Looking out at the allotments towards Sandy Lane sometime in the 1960s

Now here are two images of Chorlton which at first glance look familiar.  

We are on the allotments with the Park to our rear looking out towards Sandy Lane.

Back in 1903 my friend Ann’s grandfather lived at number 72 Sandy Lane.

She  grew up in Chorlton on Barlow Moor Road and has contributed a rich set of memories and pictures from the 1950s and 60s.

What I especially like about these two are the contrasts, one in full summer, the other deepest winter with snow still on the ground and of course the difference in colour.

It would be fun to find people who were working those allotments at the time and may have their own stories and pictures to add to the collection.

The painting and photograph will date from sometime in the 1960s and are a reminder that not all things change.

Pictures; of the allotments from the collection of Ann Love

Memories of Woolwich Arsenal

Now of all the pictures in the collection of the Woolwich Arsenal this one I suppose best sums up what was done behind the high walls just beyond Beresford Square.

This is the Bullet Factory, and while others in the collection show the Brass Foundry, Machine Shops, Wood workshop and the Boring Mill here is the end bit of one of the processes.

Hence the Arsenal’s name and its importance particularly when Britain was at war.
And also to the livelihood of many in Woolwich and the surrounding area.

After all the Progress Estate in Well Hall was built to house munitions workers and so many of us who grew up in Eltham are linked to what went on in Woolwich.

I grew up on the Progress Estate as did my friend  Jean and some of her family were employed in that giant plant which at its heyday gave work to 80,000 people and covered 1285 acres.

She remembered that,

“my grandfather and grandmother met working in the Arsenal, may be around the year 1905.

My grandfather had moved down from Norfolk and was an engineer.

They lived with her family in Plumstead, and my dad, the youngest of 5 boys was born at the granny’s house.

Dad was born in 1914 and the family were one of first to move into Love Lace Green.

It’s sad but dad’s mum passed away when he was 3 yrs old in 1917.

My grandfather then met and married another Arsenal girl. 

They all lived at Love Lace Green till 1957, when grandparents died and mum and dad moved to Well Hall Road.

Before my mother went into nursing at the beginning of the Second World War she worked on MUNITIONS, as she called it at the Arsenal.
She never told me much but that when she used to open the drums of CORDITE, THE RATS USED TO RUN UP HER ARMS."

Now any one who has walked around an old textile mill dating from the 19th century will be aware of those leather belts running from the machinery to rods in the roof which in turn were connected to drives.

And here they are each machine with its own belt running off towards the roof.

Picture; the Bullet Factory, Arsenal, Woolwich from the collection of Mark Flynn,

What we found north of Bologna

We were heading back on the long journey from the coast to Milan and having heeded the warnings of heavy traffic we left Alba Adriatica at 5 in the morning.

And sometime around 11 just north of Bologna we came across this stop over beside the autostrade.

There was no cafe or petrol station just a large parking area with a set of lavatories and two of these concrete shelters with seats and a table.

Like so much about Italy there was a functional simplicity about the stop over.  Just a place to park up, stretch your legs, and take a rest with a sandwich.

Location; north of Bologna

Picture; autostrade stop over, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Walking Woolwich on an April day

Now Woolwich is almost a lost place to me.

I left in the September of 1969 and do not go home regularly enough.

And so when I do it all looks very different, and some places so unrecognizable that I am hard pressed to find my around.

I miss the old street market and the chaos that was Powis Street and can’t quite get used to the new railway station or what they have done to the Royal Arsenal and spent a good ten minutes wondering why the Post Office was not where I left it.

But that is the price you pay for moving away and while I miss what I remember I suspect my Woolwich of the 1960s would be as equally bewildering to someone who grew up around Beresford Square in 1900.

They might well want to know why the “Smoke Hole” had gone, why anyone would want to destroy the old Garrison Church and would feel odd on a ferry with no paddle or funnel.

So there you are places change.

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Woolwich,, 2017 from the collection of Neil Simpson

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Back on Hardy Lane a long time before now

We are on Hardy Lane again. 

The caption just says “view from Hardy Lane, near Hardy Lane Farm looking across to Jackson’s Boat in the distance.”

I don’t have a date but I guess it will be before the University took over the land and set to developing it as playing fields.

Picture; courtesy of Mr Crossley from the Lloyd collection

Little Tony, Rock and Roll and Italy in the 1960s

Little Tony in 1967
I came across one of those old faded newspapers yesterday from the 1950s with a story of a local Watch Committee* deploring the “effect of that American style of music commonly known as Rock and Roll on young people.”

And it made me think of the influence of the music, films and life style that we imported from America during the two decades after the last war.

Now of course it had been going on for a long time before Bill Hayley and Elvis Presley strutted across the stage but the 1950s was when I was growing up and so it’s their music and all that went with it that I remember.

Rosa in Naples in 1961
And for Rosa growing up in Naples in the early 1950s the arrival of American culture was even more profound.  It was parodied in the Neapolitan song Tu vuò fà l'americano which gently pointed fun at a young Italian who wanted to look American by drinking whisky and soda, dancing to Rock ‘n Roll and smoking Camel cigarettes.

But the sting was that  this depended on his Italian parents to give him the money,

You want to dance rock and roll; 
You play baseball
But the money for the camels, 
Who give it to you??
Mamma’s handbag!

All of which I was reminded of with the announcement of the death of Little Tony who some had called Italy’s Elvis Presley.

“Born in 1941, Little Tony had a few hits in the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the lead singer of Little Tony & His Brothers. He then returned to Italy where he pursued a successful career as a singer and actor.”**

Little Tony singing Il ragazzo col ciuffo in 1962

His first solo hit was Il ragazzo col ciuffo – The Guy with a Quiff  in 1962 and he went on to record a number of songs which sold over a million each.

And like many singers he made a successful  move into films starring in 20 films and began his own record company.

Watching clips from films and TV appearances there is no getting away from the American influence as in Il ragazzo col ciuffo

But for me it is the song Peggio Per Me - Worse For Me and the accompanying video which best shows not only the impact of American music but also the way it was taken over for an Italian audience of the 1960s

I saw him on TV and enjoyed his performances. He died of lung cancer on May 27, 2013, at the age of 72.

Now for those who want more I shall pass you over to that excellent site Italian Chronicles**, and in particular Italy’s Elvis Bops off to Heaven***which was where I drew much of the material for this story.

Little Tony's site can be visited at

*Watch Committees were responsible for police forces from 1835 till 1964 and so to "appoint constables to preserve the peace."



Pictures; Rosa in Naples from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Little Tony from Wikipedia Commons and You Tube

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Queen & Pasley

Sometimes it is amazing how quickly our recent past can vanish.

The Pasley Laundry was opened in 1893 on what is now Crossland Road and did not reach its 100th birthday.

Laundries are a measure not only of the size of a community but of their prosperity.

 Given the arduous nature of wash day it is not surprising that those who could afford to pay for the weekly washing to be cleaned did so. The population had doubled in the ten years before 1901 and the next decade saw an equal increase. The occupations of the residents of new Chorlton ranged from manufacturers, bank managers and solicitors to clerical and skilled workers.

The very mix which is reflected in the large detached and semi detached houses stretching along Edge Lane and High Lane and the tall terraced properties radiating out from the station.

Here were the customers of our five laundries which in themselves were a mix. Yapp’s Laundry was big enough to have branches on Ashton Old Road, Chorlton on Medlock and in Whitefield and Stretford. 

Others like Wing Sam operated from one shop while Martha Keal’s premises on Beech Road was also the home of a her builder husband John. The biggest was the Pasley, later renamed the Queen and Pasley on Crescent Road. It opened in 1893, and at one point employed 50 staff.

All the washing machines were belt driven by a huge steam engine and were the first to install the “float-iron system” which consisted of the multiple roller pressing machines. This was 15 feet wide and 15 feet long and
“was a mass production ironing machine, with delicately poised rollers. You could put a shirt with pearl buttons on it and it wouldn’t leave a mark.”

Vans from the laundry would collect the washing and deliver it to the sorting office where each item would be marked, and classified into bins, before the loads were emptied into the ten washing machines. After being washed the clothes went through stages of being dried before being set out still slightly damp for the ironing and pressing and finally being re-sorted in the packing room and returned in the vans to the customers.

But the Queen & Pasley like all the rest were slowly being squeezed as the growing prosperity of the 1950’s led to people buying their own washing machines and by the self service launderette which are themselves now in decline.

And just after this was posted, Bob and Jean commented that "both my Gran and Granddad worked there in 1911 he was a van driver and I used to pass it a lot as a kid," and  "my mum worked their in about 1946 and then moved to the Grange .I used to go in the summer holidays with other children and one of the staff would take us to the park and look after us."

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; the inside of the Queen & Pasley circa 1960 from the collection of Tony Walker

Down at Duffy's thinking about Audrey's and the man who sold a nit comb

Now Duffy’s has been serving up pints with football for almost as long as I can remember.

Duffy's in 2008
That said I did once have a meal in the place when it was an Italian restaurant and just about remember what was there before that.

But for those with longer memories and a greater claim to be from Chorlton  it will always be Audrey’s that rather elegant ladies clothes shop.

In the 1950s it was a double fronted premise taking in the next door shop and was pretty much all glass with impressive signage.

Audrey's in 1959
In time I will go looking for the story of Audrey’s and for the history of the chemists who occupied that corner shop at the very beginning of the 20th century.

Back then the parade of shops still known as Pemberton Arcade was relatively new and it may well be that Mr Walter Smith was the first tradesmen to occupy that shop on the corner with Needham Avenue.

In 1903 he was there dispensing his mix of prescription medicines, over the counter cough mixture and much else along with those huge glass jars of coloured liquid which were the hall mark of all chemist shops.

Window shopping for something nice at Audrey's
A full eight years later you could still call in and collect everything from a nit comb, surgical bandage to all a doctor might prescribe, although by then Mr Smith had moved on and sometime after that here will have been a stretch of business up to when Audrey’s opened.

All of which is for another time leaving me only to comment that Peter’s painting of Duffy’s is now itself a bit of history which I guess means he will back down there to paint it again now that it has adopted its bright new green sign and veranda.

Painting; Duffy’s Bar  © 2008 Peter Topping 


Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Picture; Audrey’s 1959, m17591, A H Downes,courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Monday, 24 April 2017

That house beside Malton Avenue that everyone remembers

Now this is one of those buildings with a history and almost everyone you talk to will remember it as everything from a doctor’s to a cafe and to an office.

It is on the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Malton Avenue and was built sometime after 1910 when the area was redeveloped.

It had once been part of the estate of the Holt family whose extensive garden ran from the corner of Beech Road along Barlow Moor Road down High Lane almost to Cross Road and then across back to Beech Road.

When the last of the family died in 1908 their large house was demolished, the trees along the eastern side of the garden were cut down and the Corporation used a stretch to build the tram terminus while the rest became houses, shops and the Palais de Luxe cinema.*

Sadly until now I had not come across much more about the place, and then out of the blue Douglas wrote to me asking about the cinema.  He “lived in the detached house right next to the cinema, on the corner of Malton Avenue and Barlow Moor Road, no 477, so the cinema wall formed one side of our garden. I went to the Burnage High School for Boys and also the Wilbraham School of Music in High Lane.”**

And all of a sudden the building was given a new lease of life as a place which was a home.

Now in the fullness of time I hope that Douglas will share more memories of number 477, the cinema and life on Barlow Moor Road in the 1940s

*A forgotten photograph, ............ the Palais de Luxe in 1928 
from the series Chorlton cinemas,

**Douglas Cook,
Picture; 477/483 Barlow Moor Road, 1959, A.H.Downes, m17516, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

On rediscovering where you were born ............. The General Lying in Hospital at Lambeth

My hospital, 2007
We all have little bits of our past which we stumble across.

Most are too personal to warrant even a sentence in a history book but sometimes you know that there is a story and it is story which will pretty much touch lots of people.

I had never bothered looking up where I was born after all given that it happened on an October day in 1949 I just assumed like so many places in my life the hospital would long ago have vanished replaced by a dreary 1950’s office block or worse a car park.

But the General Lying in Hospital at Lambeth on York Road is still there although it closed for business in 1971.

Now if I am to be strictly accurate the building that saw me enter the world was the second Lying in Hospital.

The first opened on Westminster Bridge Road was replaced by my hospital in 1828 and in its time according to one source 150,000 babies were born there.*

All of which puts me in good company and no doubt once the story hits the web there will be some who come forward with their own stories.

Not that there is much to mine and until I began digging I had even got the name wrong believing that it was the Royal Lying in Hospital.

Nor do I have any memory of this grand building or whether I visited it when my four sisters were born.

I know that after its closure it fell into disrepair, went on to the Buildings at Risk Register and finally a shed load of money was spent on its restoration only for it to be sold to a hotel chain.

Perhaps it’s time for me to book a room there although I hardly think I will end up anywhere near where I resided 65 years ago.***

Picture; the General Lying in Hospital, August 27 2007, © Elliot Simpson

* the General Lying in Hospital,

**York Road, BHO British History on line 


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Growing up in Chorlton part one, the Rec, Acres Crack and the Bone Man

Bob on Beech Road in the 1950s
I made a new friend yesterday and from that friendship will come a whole raft of new stories about Chorlton in the 1940s and 50.

Bob Jones was born in 1944 and grew up on Kingshill Road, attended Oswald Road School and has vivid memories of playing in the Rec, and the local farms and shops.

We joked that a test of someone born here or with long memories of the place is that at some point the Rec and Acres Crack feature in the conversation along with the Queen and Paisley Laundry, the Palais de Luxe and the distinction between old and new Chorlton.

Now I am not going to steal Bob’s thunder, but I shall just leave you with these tantalising glimpses of growing up in Chorlton in the 1950s.

Back then at the age of six Bob did a part time job which involvedthe collection the milk from Higginbotham’s farm on the green and later for Mr Neil the butcher at the bottom of Beech Road close to the Trevor.

His father ran a pet shop in that first little shop next to the Beech and each week one of his jobs was to hand over any animals that had been put down to the Bone Man.

All of which is enough for now.

Picture; Bob outside Mr Neil’s shop sometime in the 1950s, from the collection of Bob Jone.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Watching the hail storm and much more in the Bay of Naples

Never underestimate the surprises offered up in the Bay of Naples

We arrived in Sorrento in the blistering heat of late afternoon and that was how it was for two glorious days before the rain.

Now I am used to those Italian thunderstorms which come out of nowhere, rage with the full force that nature can devise and are over as suddenly as they came.

But in that brief few minutes the sky darkens and the low rumble of thunder becomes defeating as streaks of lightening flash and the rain just comes down like stir rods.

All that we had and hailstones too which even the locals claim were bigger than anything they had seen before.

Then in a matter of minutes the storm had passed leaving a carpet of fast melting hailstorms and a few broken leaves.

But as ever the storm had cooled the air and cleaned the streets, so that the evening stroll on Sorrento was a pleasant affair despite the crowds of tourists who were all intent on capturing that little bit of Italian life.

And Sorrento did not disappoint, all of which is why we returned the following day.

We took in the odd museum and a fair number of narrow streets each with a bewildering number of shops offering all manner of stuff to entice the tourist and which were pretty much replicated in the next half dozen streets.

All of which led us by degree to VIA R. REGINALDO GIULIANI and a meal at one of the many restaurants that spread out across the road from its beginning to the point when the it becomes too narrow.

The meal was good and of course the position offered up plenty of opportunities to sit and watch.

It cost just €70 which for four seemed acceptable until that is we sampled the delights of Naples a place I have fallen in love with.

Rome will always be my favourite city which has the power to draws us back but Naples is something else.

But that is for another time.

Pictures; Sorrento, July 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Hough End Hall still a working farm in the 1950s

This will be the last of the descriptions of the Hall from Oliver Bailey whose family rented and then owned Hough End and the surrounding land.

The Hall from Nell Lane, in 1952
It is a fascinating account not least because it is the only detailed description of the place during the 20th century.

There are a few anecdotes about the place from people who remember it as children and there is the 1938 survey commissioned by the Egerton Estate.

But most of these anecdotal accounts are vague and lack detail while the Egerton survey cannot be copied or photographed.

Back in the 19th century there is a short description of the Hall by the historian  John Booker which includes an engraving * and an inventory of the contents of the farm in 1849 published in the Manchester Guardian but this  sheds little light on the Hall itself.

So Oliver has cornered the market on descriptions of the Hall in the 20th century and at anytime come to that.

And in the process of sharing these memories he provided a plan of the buildings which to my knowledge apart from the Egerton survey is the only idea we have of what was there.

The Hall and surround buildings 1950s
It confirms that part of the hall was a smithy and right up to the end the place was a working farm with Mr Bailey’s pigs, horses and cattle and Jimmy Ryan’s rabbits.

“At one time my father had Highland cattle in the field where the school once was and there may be pictures in the Manchester Evening News archive. 

"My memory might be playing tricks there, he definitely had Highland cattle but they may have been in the field near Chorlton Station or perhaps even in both locations.

He also had a peacock with a couple of peahens and for a period Hough End was nicknamed Peacock farm because of the noise they made and because the peacock used to fly across Nell Lane into the park so lots of people saw it. 

There was a deep depression in the field near the rear left hand corner of the plot of the Hall itself and it was made a by a bomb which dropped there during the second world war, certainly it was known as bomb crater corner. 

According to family history the blast knocked my father over – he was an ARP Warden during the war so could have been out at night on fire watch.

During the war there was a riding school at Hough End, a Mc somebody – a search through a trade directory might find him - and my sisters learnt to ride horses at that time. The horses were kept in the loose boxes in the long building parallel to Mauldeth Road."

All that is left is for me to thank Oliver and his family for taking the trouble to recall the old hall and just hope it provokes more memories.

© Oliver Bailey, 2014

Picture; Hough End Hall from Nell Lane, T Baddeley, 1952, m47852, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Plan; © Oliver Bailey, 2014

*John Booker, A History of the Chapels of Didsbury & Chorlton, 1857, Cheetham Chetham Society Manchester

A scene now lost in time ............. looking out from the short lived cafe in Piccadilly Railway Station

Now that I grant you is not the most imaginative title but it does the business for this scene looking out across the city.

It was taken just after the railway station had its makeover.  Back then this space was a cafe and on a warm day I wandered in took a few pictures promised myself I would return only to discover it had become a supermarket.

Such are the ups and downs of the amateur photographer.
And I know I have featured it before and for those wanting to challenge the date I have to say I can’t remember.

Location; Piccadilly Railway Station

Picture; view from Piccadilly Railway Station, circa 2003, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A short but busy life .............. Broadcasting House 1975-2011

Another in the occasional series of Lost Manchester.

Planning permission had been granted in 1968 and after a hiccup building began in 1971 was finished in 1975 and the place was home to the BBC until 2011.

And for those wanting to impress a companion, about 800 staff worked there and with the opening of the second studio in 1981 the BBC closed Broadcasting House in Piccadilly which had been there for 52 years

Location; Manchester 2011

Picture; Broadcasting House, 2011 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Friday, 21 April 2017

A city landmark already fading from the memory ............ Elisabeth House

It is remarkable how quickly you can forget a building.

Not that I suspect many will mourn the passing of Elisabeth House which was all glass and concrete walls and which was so misunderstood and disliked that no one can quite agree on when it went up.

Various sources suggest a date in the 1960s which does not quite fit with my memories of gazing across at its Victorian predecessor in the 1970s.

But recollections of events, places and buildings can so easily be wrong and I was prepared to accept that this was just one of those times when I was mistaken.

But not so. According to A Manchester View run by David Boardman,* Elisabeth House was built in 1971, which I am pleased to say means that my long term memory is fine, even if I can forget to put the wash on, turn off the lights.

And emboldened by having my memories confirmed I am sure the Ceylon Tea Centre inhabited what became the Dutch Pancake House.

The Tea Centre was  a commercial showcase for Ceylon’s products and it was there that I first discovered a salad could be more than a soft tomato, some limp lettuce and a bit of curly cucumber smothered in salad cream.

Here were rice dishes, some of which were curried and others which contained fruit, nuts and other exotic things.

It was a place I took for granted and then suddenly it had gone and now has been joined by Elisabeth House and soon the cinema just a little down Oxford Road, where I saw West Side Story, Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid and revisited with our young children in the 1980s and early 90s.

I can’t say I miss Elisabeth House but when I ever I do feel a tad nostalgic for the place I turn to that excellent series Blue Murder with Caroline Quentin  which ran for five series from 2003 through to 2009.

Look carefully and there are plenty of shots of the building and as a bonus from inside outwards Central Ref and the Town Hall Extension.

And in time these may well be some of the only images of the building to survive.

Location; Elisabeth House, 2011

Pictures;  Elisabeth House, 2011, from the collection of Ian Robertson

* Elisabeth House - St. Peter's Square

The Lloyd’s ................... one I’ve never seen before

Now I never pass up the opportunity to preview a new picture of Chorlton.

This one is the Lloyd’s sometime in the 1940s.

And it is the small detail I like.

I doubt many will remember that wall to the left of the pub.

At some point a long time ago it was demolished and this became a car park.

Before that this will have been the site of the pub's tennis courts.

It comes from the site of Mark Fynn

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester

Pictures; The Lloyd’s circa 1940s courtesy of Mark Fynn

*Manchester Postcards,

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Naples ........ eating what the city does best

Now if you are in Naples the obvious choice of something to eat just has to be pizza.

We had ordered up some good ones in Sorrento but the Neapolitan ones were better and turned out to be cheaper at 3€.

And when our Saul and Emilka were there last week they ended up with two fine pizzas.

Enough said.

Location; Naples

Picture; Naples in 2017 from the collection of Saul Simpson and Emilka Cholewicka

Looking for the changes on Manchester Road in just over half a century

Now I suppose I can see why this bit of Manchester Road tended to be ignored by those commercial photographers of the early 20th century.

They concentrated on those other bits of Chorlton usually fastening on the area around the four banks or off along Wilbraham Road.

But this row of shops regularly features in the collection of Andy Robertson* and here is his latest along with one taken by Mr Downes in 1958.

Pictures, Manchester Road, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson, and in 1959 by A.H. Downes, m18033, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Looking for our lost launderettes, no 1 ........... Manchester Road,

Coming soon ........ Manchester Remembering 1914-18 ........... a second book signing

Now in one of the most outrageous bouts of self promotion here for all those that missed the first book signing event at Central Ref in February is news of a second opportunity to get a signed copy of Manchester Remembering 1914-18.

The first was attended by the Lord Mayor, some of the descendants of men and women who appear in the book along with a selection of Great War memorabilia from David Harrop.

So successful was the event that we have decided to repeat the day this time at the Imperial War Museum North at Salford Quays on Sunday June 4.

So as they say watch this spot for more details and as a trailer here picked from random is a page from the book.

Location; Imperial War Museum North

Pictures; page from Manchester Remembering 1914-18

*Manchester Remembering 1914-18,

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Inside 523 Barlow Moor Road in 1960

523 Barlow Moor Road
If like me you were born in the first half of the last century you will remember the old cooking ranges, the small gas stoves, and those brass light switches which long ago were deemed unsafe.

They were the background to everyday life, and are now seldom seen other than in museums.

Our range disappeared from the old house in the early 1950s, the gas stove swapped for a gleaming top of the range Cannon cooker in 1962 and the old phone with its wooden base along with much more went when I was still a baby.

The range, complete with cat
That said one surviving brass light switch long sense disconnected still sits at the top of our cellar stairs, and like countless other Chorlton residents we made our way to Gorton and bought a cast iron bath and a lead lavatory cistern in its wooden box.

They replaced the plastic ones which in 1975 were part of the modernisation of the house.

And so what was taken out in the 1970s in south Manchester was in turn thrown away in favour of an older set of household furniture which was being saved from condemned and demolished properties a decade later on the eastern side of the city.

I doubt that many houses here in Chorlton can still boast those original features so I am indebted to my friend Ann who sent me a series of drawings she made of her home on Barlow Moor Road.

We think it will have been built sometime around 1890 and so what you see are some of the original fittings along with others which will date from the very early years of the 20th century.

Using the open fire
I remember my grandmother still used her range well into the 1950s but also fell back on a small gas stove which was easier to use and far quicker.

Municipal authorities like Manchester were keen to promote cooking on gas and householders could rent or buy on credit the same model that Ann drew in the 1960s.

Telephones may seem a luxury but in some of the more well off homes in the township they were a must, and the names of the good and worthy can be increasingly looked up in the telephone directories from as early as 1900.

It is of course easy to become sentimental about these old feature.  As warm and comforting the range might be it was run on solid fuel, which meant racking out the ashes and carrying heavy buckets of coal.

The telephone
The gas stoves were pretty basic models and the down side of a brass light switch was that someone was made to polish it.

So this is the first of a series which aims to open up the houses of late 19th century Chorlton and I guess for many they will be the first time that such stuff has been seen in the context of our own area.

Moreover and here I must avoid making either me or Ann feel like a museum piece were the things we used in our everyday life.

The phone may not have have lit up when it received a call nor would it store the number of the caller or allow them to leave a message, but it worked.

It did the business of allowing you to talk to someone not in the same house and not send a letter of a postcard.

In the same way the cooker cooked your meal with no recourse to a timer, a split oven or a  fan.

That said I like my phone which lights up in the evening and talks to me, and my fan assisted double oven makes life so much easier.

Picture; 523 Barlow Moor Road, 1959 A H Downes, m17504 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and drawings of the inside of 523 Barlow Moor Road courtesy of Ann Love