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

Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015 ....... leaving

Now I like railway stations which are only bettered by airports.

But unlike airports there is no air side which is really the mark of when the holiday begins.

Until then you have the hassle of the taxi, worrying that you have the right terminal and that your bags are the right size, the right weight and above all don’t show you up later on the carrousel at your destination.

So having smiled at the UK security officers who don’t smile back, once you are on air side that is petty much it and you can fell the holiday starting.

But trains are different, walking from the concourse on to the platform can’t be judged “as going airside.”

That said there is still that bit of excitement as you mount the train, find your seat and wait for it to pull out of the station slowly gathering speed.

And then in what seems just minutes bits of inner city Manchester whizz past and the adventure has started.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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.

Of Eltham, Manchester and an artist from Wales

Now I like the way things have a habit of falling together in a most unexpected way.

Manchester  School of Art 1900
So recently when my friend Tricia found a painting looking down Well Hall Road with the parish church in the far distance my interest was tripped which was added to when Lesley stumbled across the fact that the artist had briefly lived in Manchester.

So given that I left Well Hall for Manchester in 1969 it was as they say “game set and match.”

Francis Dodd by the artist
The artist was Francis Dodd who had been born in Hollyhead, educated in Scotland and during the Great War was appointed as an  official war artist.

In 1895 he moved to Manchester.

I found him on the 1901 census living as a “boarder" in a house in Chorlton-on Medlock and three years later he was still there but is listed as the householder.

As yet I have no idea of what he did in Manchester other than that he “worked and taught” here.

He may have attended the prestigious School of Art as a student or even as a teacher.  Walter Crane was the Director of Design from 1893 to 1898, Adolphe Valette taught there from 1906 to 1920 and its graduates include

L.S. Lowry, Eugene Halliday, Liam Spencer and Ossie Clark.

I lost him after he left Manchester and only found him in Blackheath at the end of his life.

Entrance to  the School of Art  1972
All of which set Tricia off on a search and I have to say she found a lot.

“I have been out with my spade again doing some digging concerning the life of Mr Dodd  He was born 29.11.1874., 

He was the oldest child of parent Benjamin Dodd & Jane Francis Shaw. His siblings were Gertrude Helena Dodd bn 1876, Walter Stanley Dodd bn 1877 & Elsie Lilian Dodd bn 1881. 

He married  1911 to Mary Arabella Bouncker Ingle born 1871 Woolwich died 14.2.1947 Blackheath. Francis Dodd then went on to marry Ellen Margaret (Nell) Tanner born 1908 Chelsea. They married in January 1949 in Chelsea he was aged 74, she was 41. To my knowledge I can see no evidence of any children from either marriage.

Frances Dodd took his own life at his home in Blackheath in March 1949 two months after he married his second wife. The Daily Mail states of his death the following.

A short time after finishing an important picture Francis Edgar Dodd age 74, Royal Academican, took his own life at his home 51 Blackheath Park. It was stated at the Lewisham inquest that Mr Dodd was found by his gardener in a gas filled basement kitchen. 
Ellen Margaret Dodd

His wife out lived him by 34 years she died in 1983.

Being an old romantic I have a theory that maybe he pined for his first wife and thought by remarrying it would ease his broken heart but instead it made him miss his first wife even more. Just a notion I have with no evidence whatsoever to back it up.

The visitor at his home on the 1911 census Susan Mabel Dacre a fellow painter was also his benefactor for 14 years whilst he was living in Lancashire.

Miss Isabel Dacre born 1844 Leamington. She befriended Dodd & was his patroness for 14 year & affectionately know as Aunt Susan.”

And that of course brought me back to Manchester not only because of that house in Chorlton on Medlock but the School of Art is a place I know well.  Some of my friends  studied there, others taught there and for a while in 1972 I regularly stood in that entrance.

Odd world.  All we need now is a picture of the 9 roomed house in Blackheath.

Now that we didn't get but instead this from Michael Gorman,
"Isabel Dacre was an important artist in her own right - forming the Society of Women Artists whilst study at the Municipal School of Art and winning the Queen's prize. One of her contemporaries was Annie Swynnerton - who also attended the School - and was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Academy."

Research by Tricia Lesley

Pictures; Mr Dodd and Mrs Dodd, sourced by Tricia Lesley, Municipal School of Art, 1900, m66425, and entrance to the Art School, 1972, H Milligan, m66434,and in 1972, m66433, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

On coming across a Roman ruin

We came across the Largo di Torre Argentina by accident on the way to the Colosseum. 

The weather had been hot all week and so we had set out early to catch the cooler air, and as we came across the square I took some photographs and we moved on.

Only later when I did the research did I discover that here were four Republican temples and a bit of the theatre of Pompey which was also where Julius Caesar had been assassinated. Not bad going for our first morning in Rome.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

At the Tasty Corner in Sorrento and a lesson in why you should always wander

Now it is one of those little streets which you only find by accident.

We were following the line of shops along Via San Cesareo and cut through an arch in a building which opened up on the even narrower via degli Archi.

There will be the sniffy travellers who see only an alley but in the short distance it took us to walk its length there was a tiny sweet shop specialising in a range of bagged sweets including the sugar coated nuts which always go down well with the family and this tiny restaurant with a handful of tables inside and offering these two out on the street.

It was called L’Angolo Del Gusto or the Tasty Corner and its one review described it as  a family run “cafĂ© and bakery [with] good food that is very reasonably priced. 

They are very accommodating and it has just a few tables so you can eat there or take out. We enjoyed the service and the good food.”

Now given that we had paid €75 for a meal the Tasty Corner had an appeal but I couldn't fault where we had eaten and our position commanded a fine spot to watch as people went by so I was content.

I suppose I should have slid across and asked the couple if they were local but it isn’t the done thing.

So I shall just leave you at the tasty corner on hot day in Sorrento in late July with that observation that when is a new place never be afraid to wander off the beaten track.

Pictures; the via degli Archi July 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

No more school at Langworthy Road ......... and in its place a military hospital

Now if you are seven years old and going to school on Langworthy Road in Salford the only bright bit of news as the Great War rolls into its second year might be that your school was to become a military hospital.

In the March of that year the authorities identified five schools which they thought might be suitable “for new hospital accommodation required by the military authorities.”*

The five were Secondary School for Boys, Leaf Square, Grecian Street Girls and Infants Schools, Halton Bank School, Langworthy Road School and Tootal Road School, with the option to substitute “Leicester Road School for one of the others.”

The attraction of the five/six were that they were all modern school.
In the case of Langworthy it had only been opened five years earlier in 1915 and had a total intake of 376 boys, 376 girls and 442 infants.

By all accounts it would have passed an Ofsted visit with flying colours.  The average attendance was nearly 100% and it was judged good by a report in 1905.

All of which just left the difficult question of what to do with 1,194 students.

The authorities had not fully worked out the answer to that question in the March of 1915 but considered that “There a number of Sunday Schools and halls in Pendleton and Broughton districts which may be utilised and suggestion has also been made that schools in the neighbourhood of the five selected schools should have two courses a day – one from 8 am. To 1pm. and the other from 5 pm., - one for each school."

This half day schooling was also adopted by Manchester where by 1915 the number of schools taken over amounted to eight. The first was the Central High School for Boys and Girls on Whitworth Street which had a thousand students and became the headquarters of the 2nd Western General Hospital.

The following year another seven schools were taken over.

These were Alfred Street in Harpurhey, Alma Park in Levenshulme, Grange Street in Bradford, Lilly Lane in Moston, Ducie Avenue, Moseley Road and Heald Place which amounted to the loss of 3897 places.**

It had resulted in a degree of ad hoc provision for some at least. In the February of 1916 the Manchester Museum reported that it was providing effective instruction for 900 to a 1,000 children per week drawn from the higher standards of the elementary schools.***

A similar scheme was underway at the City Art Gallery, the Whitworth Institute, and “kindred institutes in the city” and had proved so popular that children not only travelled some distance to attend but even brought their parents.

And that pretty much is that.

Location Salford

Picture; Langworthy Road Military Hospital, circa 1915-17 from the collection of David Harrop

*The New Hospitals, Five Salford Schools to be used, Manchester Guardian, March 17 1915

** 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester, 1914-1919, Margaret Elwin Sparshot

*** War Service in the Museums, Teaching the Half Timers, Manchester Guardian, February 21, 1916

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

"She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now" ......... a song from 1916 and a choir for today ..... the Woolwich Singers

I have no idea if “She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now” was sung by my grandfather or any of our family who served with the Colours during the Great War.

The song sheet, 1916
But I bet it would have been popular on the Progress Estate which had been built to house workers at the Arsenal.

And the romantic in me wonders if the first resident of the house in Well Hall where we lived sung the song on his way to work.

This was Basil Nunn and if he didn’t sing it then at least he would have known of it.

“She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now” was written and composed by Robert Donnelly in 1916 and told of a wounded soldier who received a letter from his girlfriend announcing that she was working at the Royal Arsenal.

And it pretty much had the lot, he was wounded and in France, she was doing her bit amongst the shells and guns in Woolwich and both were working for a common cause.

So the chorus must have seemed all the more significant to both munitions girl and soldier with its repeated refrain

"I work at Woolwich Arsenal now,
"Give my message to your chums,
"Girls are working ‘midst the shells and guns
"Altho’ ‘tis tiring, as you’re requiring ammunition for the fighting line,
"We’ll do our share for you out there."

Working in the Arsenal, circa 1916
Now I would like to know more about Robert Donnelley but so far I have only been able to find a few references on the electoral rolls for the years just before the Great War and of course this might not be him.

But if it was, then in 1911 he was at 46 Waverley Road in Plumstead where he rented three unfurnished rooms, one basement and two first floor rooms for six shillings a week from a W.J. Weeks.

He also appears on various electoral rolls back to 1902 and possibly onto 1954, but is absent from the census returns saving 1891 when a young Robert Donnelley is living at home with his parents in Plumstead.*

And by one of those nice bits of coincidence his father was an “overseer at the Royal Arsenal.”

Laughter on the Steps, the Woolwich Singers, 2014
So we have almost come full circle but not quite, because the inspiration for the story came from James who lives on the Progress Estate and came across a reference to the song.

And by by another nice twist "She Works at Woolwich Arsenal Now" was first unearthed by a member of the Woolwich Singers who are a “are a community choir, which rehearses weekly on Wednesdays from 6.30 – 8pm at the Clockhouse Community Centre, Defiance Walk, Woolwich Dockyard, Woolwich SE18 5QL."**

The aim of our choir is to sing together, meet new people and have fun!
No one has to sing by themselves and there is no audition to join.

We sing a mixture of traditional and pop songs – something for everyone, and everyone is welcome.”
And that I think would have been something Mr Donnelley would have approved of.

Either way you can judge for yourself  with this version by the singers of that song.***

And the original inspiration from James can be seen at The Progress Estate, Eltham, SE9

Pictures; cover of “She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now” courtesy of  Greenwich Heritage Centre, T Tube Factory, Woolwich Arsenal, from the collection of Mark Flynn, post card dealer,

*Enu 9 46, Plumstead East, Plumstead, 1891

** Woolwich Singers,

***“She works at Woolwich Arsenal Now”

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ........... nu 35 walking along Greengate in the winter of 1849

Greengate in 1849
Now I don’t think there will be many pictures of Greengate in the winter of 1849.

All of which leaves me with a map and a street directory.

The map is self explanatory but street directories may need a bit of an explanation.

They were as they suggest a list of the people and businesses to be found on  the streets of Manchester and Salford.

They came out every year which means that you can track someone more closely than the census which was issued every ten years.

The downside is they only listed the householder missed out those who were deemed unimportant and by extension left out the small and mean back streets.

Greengate from 1 to 35, 1850
That said armed with the names of those householders, it is possible to go looking for them in the census returns from 1841 through to 1911 and once found with a bit deft trawling it is possible to find the missing people and the missing streets.

All of which means that I think we may soon have a new series taking the story of lost and forgotten streets of Salford into the very homes of those who lived on Greengate and Chapel Street, and of course the neighbouring ones.

Greengate from 6 to 34, 1850
So for now I shall be a tad lazy and leave you with the map from 1849 and the first group of residents from the following year.

Now given that the list for 1850 will have been compiled in the winter of 1849 I think we can be confident that in our walk along Greengate we would have been able to meet George Hooley, hairdresser living at number 9 and Thomas Tower who served the pints at the Polytechnic Tavern opposite.

Picture; Greengate 1849, from the OS map of Manchester & Salford, 1844-49 courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

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

In Blackheath in the summer of 1977

Now there is a story here about the history of the postal service.

But that is for another day.  For now I shall ponder on what Tranquil Vale in Blackheath looked like in the summer of 1977.

Just a decade before I had whiled away many happy hours in the bookshop opposite the Crown, and a bit before that as a very junior member of the Charlton Park Rugby Club had spent my fair share of money in that pub on a Saturday after the game.

Not that my sporting career was either very long or distinguished.  It had started when a PE teacher at Samuel Pepys suggested that some of us might like to progress from school rugby to club rugby.

I think I lasted half a season having spent most of the games pummelled by the opposition which was the lot of a 15 year old turning out against men in their 40s.

And all of which is a diversion from our picture, which  is not so different from today.

Of course in the intervening thirty seven year , the House of Tranquillity and Two Steps have gone, but the pub is still there, although I do have to confess that I was a tad disappointed when we visited the Crown a year or so ago.

It had gone the way of so many and become open plan and had lost something of the intimacy I remember when you could wander off into small rooms and hide from the curious.

Nor to my mind does the outside seating do much for me.

But then it is easy to judge a place from the high ground of nostalgia, so I shall shut up and ponder on the story of Blackheath’s postal history which with the help of my friend Jean I shall return to later.

Picture; from the collection of Jean Gammons

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

Naples ........ the woman and a fading poster

Now sometimes a picture has a fascination way beyond your first impression.

This for me is just such a picture.

The woman sits on a battered old chair and off to her right is one of those narrow Neapolitan side streets with buildings that climb cliff like in to the sky and seem to be constantly in gloom.

Someone on the Italian side of the family will be able to identify the footballer on the poster and for all I know he may have played for Napoli which for over 70 years has been Simone’s team.

And even now having lived in the north for decades he still watches every match and can remember all the great games.

This summer we will be back in Naples and just perhaps we will encounter that old woman and if we are lucky Simone will tell me who the young man is.

We shall see.

Location; Naples

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

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

Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015 ..... timetables and questions of destinations

Now I like railway stations which are only bettered by airports.

It is that mix of bustle and purposeful determination on the part of the passengers passing through and of course the promise of adventures yet to come.

Added to which you just know that there are a whole lot of stories unravelling in front of you.

They start with those sitting patiently on the seats, waiting for their connection, working out the train time or just catching up on the last chapter of the book bought at Euston the day before.

And then there are all those hellos and goodbyes.

Some do it in style in those special rooms given over to priority ticket holders while others just catch a quick coffee, snatching a hurried conversation and worrying about the train time, the connection at Birmingham or just sad at leaving after just a short stay.

And amongst all the travellers there will be the confident ones who planned ahead, know to the minute when the train will depart and will have reserved their seats.

Others will be less sure checking the overhead notices twice and may be seeking extra confirmation from the staff in the small office on the platform.

I always like to think I am one of the former and but all too often I leave it to the last moment and then of course it costs more.

Or having pre-booked I still get to the station an hour before I need to, constantly  check my ticket against the ever changing train information and get through all the papers I bought for the journey.

But at least I am secure in the knowledge that no traffic jam or tram delay will make miss the train.

And then long before I need to I make my way to the
platform, patiently wait as my train is cleaned, and  restocked and then happily board fully aware that there will still be acres of time before we leave.

Today there will also be free internet connection and a socket for any of the electrical appliances I might take with me and above all a table.

All of which is so different from that last age of steam travel, but that I think is for another time.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Zeppelins over Well Hall

I have become fascinated by the story of the Allen family who lived just two doors down from us on Well Hall Road and died in a Zeppelin raid on August 25th, 1916.*

Until recently I knew nothing about them or that that their home was destroyed by that air raid.

But Tricia Leslie had uncovered a picture of the war damaged house and Daniel Murphy then tracked it down to what is now 290 Well Hall Road.

And from there Tricia went on to reveal something of the family and the night the bomb fell on Well Hall.

The Allen’s were from Surrey but by 1916 had already spent time in South Africa and New Zealand.

This I know because Tricia had uncovered their census entry for 1911 which showed them living in Surrey but also that their daughter Gladys had been born in Cape Town in 1904, and four years later they were bound on the SS Corinthic for Wellington which left London on February 5 1908.

I guess the journey would have been fairly comfortable given that the SS Corinthic was just six years old.  It was one of those work a day ships which carried freight and passengers and had been built for the route to New Zealand.

Now such globetrotting was not so uncommon and given that Mr Allen was an engineer he would have been part of that generation that went out across the world building and maintaining the machines of empire.

But by 1916 the family was back in Britain and Mr Allen was working at the Arsenal and living in of those brand new homes on the Well Hall estate.

Of course for them that was pretty much the end of the story.

According to newspaper reports of the raid and the subsequent coroner’s inquests the Zepplin that dropped the bomb had taken a random and leisurely route dropping its payload across the south east.

By the standards of the air raids of the Second World War this was a small affair, with just eight people being killed.

But that is not to diminish the loss of life or the damage done and the coroner’s comments reveal the extent to which this was a new type of warfare.

Summing up he said “the interesting point in these cases was as to the safest place.  In each case the bomb appeared to have exploded in the upper part of the house and it seemed that the ground floor and basements were more or less safe, except from falling debris.”**

A fact which was not lost on those in 1940 faced with no air raid shelters.

* Zeppelins over Well Hall,

**District Times September 1916

Research by Tricia Leslie

Picture; the bombed house today courtesy of Daniel Murphy

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,

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ... nu 34 a reassuring discovery

Sometimes amidst shed loads of change along Chapel Street it’s reassuring to see that some things have stayed the same.

And so it is with the Salford Arms.

Not that I have ever been inside and I am sure that there will be plenty of people who will be able to tell me just how the pub has changed in the last thirty or so years.

But even I can spot that the neighbouring building which was Holgate Machine Co Ltd has become the Roast House.

And while it has retained the clock face the hands have gone replaced by a smiley face.

Location; Salford

Pictures; Chapel Street, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and sometime around 1980, m77250, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

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

Ten minutes in a railway station .............. Piccadilly July 14 2015 ..... waiting and looking

Now I like railway stations which are only bettered by airports.

It is that mix of bustle and purposeful determination on the part of the passengers passing through and of course the promise of adventures yet to come.

Added to which you just know that there are a whole lot of stories unravelling in front of you.

They start with those sitting patiently on the seats, waiting for their connection, working out the train time or just catching up on the last chapter of the book bought at Euston the day before.

And then there are the earnest and very pleasant charity workers whose forcefulness is mixed with a steely determination to engage their listeners in the campaign to “beat cancer.”

On any one day there will be so much going on from the long distance traveller to the suburban commuter heading home.

And just occasionally  some one  like me who was just there because it seemed a a good place to be on a wet Tuesday morning.

I could have wandered off into the Northern Quarter and down towards Castlefield but the weather was against me and so trains, passengers and charity workers won out.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Ten minutes in a railway station, Piccadilly July 14 2015 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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,