Sunday, 30 April 2017

This is Rome .......... from 1960

I have never lost my fascination for Rome.

I have friends who long ago fell in love with Venice, others who keep going back to Florence and yet more who never cease talking about Paris, but for me it is Rome.

It started with an all consuming interest in Roman history and has been cemented over the years by visits to the Eternal City.

The place always amazes me and you never quite get away from that feeling that down every street there is a ruin, and around every corner a piazza.

And despite its magnificent buildings, wide avenues and frenetic pace it remains on a human scale.

Over the years I have invested in guide books, scholarly accounts of the city and picked up those free little maps full of adverts for pizzerias, car hire firms and taxis and recently I added This is Rome to the collection and it is one of my favourites.

Unlike the others it is aimed at children, was first published in 1960 and comes from a series written and illustrated by Miroslav Sasek.

Now I am a great fan of the books of Mr Sasek, partly because they are informative and written with a degree of wit but also because of the illustrations which are bold bright and imaginative.

So on one page there is a fine picture of the Pantheon with a bit of history, while on another a mix of motorbikes with the caption, “Rome is full of statues, but full of motorcycles too.  We prefer the statues, they are so much quieter.”

And it is those illustrations which do it for me.

The style is one you saw a lot of in the 1950s and 60s, which still look fresh today.

In the same series are books on Venice, London, New York, Paris and Edinburgh as well as Hong Kong San Francisco and Texas.

In time I think I will collect the lot after all if the ones on Rome and London are representative of the rest they will not only be fun to read, very informative but will provide me with some excellent pictures to look at.

Picture; Rome, 2009 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, remaining images from This is Italy, Miroslav Sasek, 1960, reprinted 2007

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,

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford nu 42 Chapel Street in the 1980s

This one I like.

I could go on about the composition and the the mix of the old and new but will just say that John Casey captured Chapel Street perfectly.

Location; Chapel Street

Picture; Chapel Street, circa 1980s from the collection of John Casey

“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

Walking the Thames

Now I am the first to admit it’s a bit of a silly title but that is exactly what my friend Neil did, once under the river at Woolwich and then again at Greenwich.

It’s not my chosen way of leaving Woolwich for that other place, but Neil had never seen either of the foot tunnels and so it was an adventure.

I have to say that these are adventures I no longer want to do.

I prefer the ferry where I can see where I am going and know that the water is below me and not above me.

I still have vivid memories of that old illuminated sign at the Wapping and Rotherhithe  Underground Stations  announcing  “Men working on Pumps” when I used the Tube regularly in the 1960s to know that over is better than under, a feeling enhanced by one visit to Easington Colliery.

Kay’s father who was Chief Mechanical Engineer at the pit thought I would be interested in seeing how generations of the Baxter family had made their living.

There was no way I could say no to my future father in law, although a mile down and three miles out under the North Sea I wish I had done so.

I last walked the walk when I was ten and have never done the journey since.
I do remember it was exciting.

The floor slowly sloped down there was that echoing sound of your footsteps and the point where the other exist came into view.

So that is it.  I have thanked Neil for his pictures, which have made me a tad homesick but not enough to do that walk.

Location; London

Pictures, the foot tunnels, April 2017 from the collection of Neil Simpson

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

T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, now that's a zippy title

Now I don’t have a date for this post card of T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, nor can I find out anything about the Mollyneux Brothers who marketed it.

Of course in time I will, and the answers often come from people who post into the bog so I travel in hope.

I guess it might be during the Great War, which would be an obvious time for postcard manufacturers to sell pictures of munitions workers.

There are others in the collection which can be dated to the war and while they are by a different company I think I will stick with the Great War.

Now it is just a flight of fancy which is something I don’t ordinarily indulge in but I would like to think that at least one of the girls staring back at us lived in the newly built Well Hall Estate, which a little over 50 years later was where I would call home.

But yes perhaps a bit too much like romantic tosh, especially as there will be some out there who is about to tell me that the particular type of tube being made predated the Great War. Well we shall see.

Picture; T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, from the collection of Mark Flynn, post card dealer,

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 


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

April 25th 1945, a day of liberation and now a national holiday

I am looking at a picture posted by an Italian friend on facebook of a man in a train compartment in the rush hour.

Nothing you might think odd about that except that he has a machine gun slung over his shoulder.  I missed it when I first came across the image and was drawn back by her comment and the date.

She wrote that she found “it fitting, [and] particularly laden with meaning,” because April 25th is a national holiday in Italy and marks both the end of what was left of Mussolini’s fascist state but also the end of the Nazi occupation of Italy on that day in 1945.

Senor Prigile, August 14th 1944
And so I guess the picture was a posed comment on the events of that day sixty-eight years ago.

I would like to have used it but in the absence of copyright details for the present it will just have to sit on facebook and what ever Italian news agency issued it.

In its place there is this picture of Senor Prigile, an Italian partisan in Florence taken on August 14th 1944.

British troops had been ordered to avoid fighting the Germans in the precincts of the city of Florence but Italian Partisans, occupying the Fortress Di Basso exchanged fire with the German snipers that remained after the German forces evacuated Florence.

Now like many of my generation I was brought up on a diet of national stereo types and given the close proximity of the war the crude picture of Italians was that all they ate was  pasta and were all to ready to surrender.

It was an image much hyped by the propaganda of the war years and ignored the many brave Italians who opposed the Fascists both before and after they came to power in 1922.

It also ignored those that against their will were conscripted into the armed forces, to fight first in Abyssinia and Greece and later in North Africa and on the Eastern Front.  Nor is much said about  those who were held in Soviet prisons long after the war and those who never returned.

This I hasten to add is in no way a defence of the fascist regime which so brutally eliminated parliamentary democracy in Italy and did nothing to prevent the exploitation of working people.

Rather it is recognition that there were many Italians who opposed Mussolini and resisted as best they could.  And some who risked their lives to protect allied prisoners of war who had escaped and were  on the run from the German Army.

Corso Giacomo Matteotti on an April afternoon
And I often think of that opposition when we are in the Corso Giacomo Matteotti which is one of my favourite parts of Varese.

Here you can find posh clothes outlets, elegant cafes and wonderful food shops ranging from the expensive bakery to ordinary fruit and veg shops a fishmonger and a butcher.

It is named after the socialist MP who denounced the fascists in the Italian Parliament for election bribery in 1924 and was murdered by them just 11 days later

So I shall be talking to our Italian family later this evening and asking them how the holiday has gone.

Location; Italy

Pictures; Corso Giacomo Matteotti from the collection of Andrew SimpsonSenor Prigile, August 14th, 1944. “This image was created and released by the Imperial War Museum on the IWM Non Commercial Licence. Photographs taken, or artworks created, by a member of the forces during their active service duties are covered by Crown Copyright provisions. Faithful reproductions may be reused under that licence, which is considered expired 50 years after their creation and is in the public domain, Wikipedia Commons."

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 


Lost and forgotten streets of Salford nu 38 Garfield Street and a post card home

Now I am having difficulty locating Garfield Street which was off Trafford Road.

I know it was there because sometime after September 26 1917 Mr and Mrs Lewis received a picture postcard from the Western Front.

It is a beautifully written message which draws attention to the Cathedral on the other side of the card “Hopes this finds you in the best of health, thanking you for the good wishes you so kindly sent in the letter.”

It was signed Jim and I rather think the surname was Elliot but so far I haven’t been able to locate either Jim or Mr and Mrs Lewis and Garfield Street.

Location; Salford

Picture; picture postcard, 1917 from the collection of David Harrop

At Manchester Airport with Les Entremets et Canapes

Now I first flew in 1982 and I have to admit I was 33 which these days is I guess quite old.

But my dad was in his mid 60s and my mum and three of my sisters never took to the air.

So by the time I walked through the doors of Manchester airport it had become a big place and today is even bigger.

I was reminded of all of this when I came across a menu for the restaurant at the airport which I think dates from either the late 1950s or early 1960s.

And right away we are in a different era, for the whole thing is in French with of course an English translation. So the Les Entremets et Canapes [sweets and savouries] consisted of 21 dishes including Parfait Ringway [Vanilla and Strawberry Ice, Cherries, Chopped Nuts, Fruit salad], Campe aux Sardines [Sardines on toast] both at 3s 6d.

There was a Guide to Culinary terms and that invitation to elegant dining with the food “cooked beside your table” which included Tournedos Ringway at 10s 6d, Poulec a la Broche at 21s and Steak Tartar for 12s 0d

There was “VIN EN CARAFE, Rouge [red] at 10s 6d, or 5s 6d and Blanc, [white] for 10s 6d or 5s 6d”

Now I am fascinated by the firm who did the catering.  This was The House of Smallmans who were based in Rushholme and in 1962 at Heald Green, and will be worth a little research.

But in the mean time I shall close with some other images of the airport in the 1950s  ranging from the restaurant to the departure lounge.

Pictures; menu cover, courtesy of Jan Crowe, and airport pictures, Manchester Restaurant, m6219, and Manchester Lunge at Passenger Check in, m62618, 1953, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

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