Sunday, 30 April 2017

Looking for the lost ...... one street over time in Ancoats ..... no 3 Homer Street when the developer came knocking

The story of one street in Ancoats, and the people who lived and worked there.

North of the river, 1819
Homer Street was located just south of St Andrew’s Church and was bordered by the canal to the north, the river to the south and London Road Railway Station to the east.

A short walk in pretty much any direction would offer a mix of cotton mills, dye works and timber yards all of which provided work for the residents of our street.

I can’t be exactly sure when it was built, but St Andrews which is just one street away was opened in 1831 and by 1837 the properties show up in the rate books owned by a Mr Price.

And just eighteen years earlier on Johnson’s map of 1819 the area up from the river to the canal was still open land although already it was edged with buildings.

The area, 1966
Homer Street seems a cut above some of the others.

The houses consisted of four rooms and they commanded a rent of 1 shilling and 9d a week.

This was at a time when the best wages paid in the cotton factories in 1833, for a man in his 30s might earn 22 shillings and 8d.

Sometime between 1934 and 1988 the properties were demolished and the site is given over to a sheet metal works which continued to occupy the site until the 1960s when for a while the land was vacant.

During the 1970s and until quite recently the area was a bus depot which ceased operating at the beginning of this century.

It is now a food warehouse owned by Amato Food Products.**

It would be intriguing to know if anything the Homer Street properties still exist just below the surface.

Not that I would ask Mr Amato to dig a hole in his warehouse floor.

Location; Ancoats

Pictures; a section of Ancoats whre Homer Street was to be built in 18i6, from the Johnson’s map of Manchester, 1819 courtesy of Digital Archives Association, and  St Andrew’s Square from St Andrews Street, facing west, 1966, T Brooks, m10604, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Homer Street,

**Amato Food Products,

What a difference a century makes ............. looking down to Eltham Hill in 2015 and 1915

I like this view from St John’s church yard down towards Eltham Hill.

It is one I have taken for granted but nicely shows just how Eltham has changed in a century and reminds me how I have yet to track down the story of Eltham Brewery and the Kenward brothers who were listed as the owners in 1914.*

The brewery was originally further up the High Street but so far I haven’t discovered much in the way of any references to either building.

And that is a bit odd given the number of people who will have once worked for the Kenward brothers.

That said I did come across a James Kenward at Rosslyn on Footscray Road in the 1890s but he appears not to have been connected with brewing, so the hunt goes on.

In the meantime I will also go in search of shop keepers who occupied the properties on the south side of the road.

Location; Eltham, London

*When a pint of Eltham Ale cost 2½d and came from our own brewery ......... Eltham in 1874,

Pictures; looking down to Eltham Hill, 2015 from the collection of Elizabeth and Colin Fitpatrick,  and the brewery in 1915 GRW 325 in 1917, GRW 215, courtesy of Greenwich Heritage Centre,

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 Four freedoms, Free Speech 4 Listening

A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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 
Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

*Who remembers Mabs on Wilbraham Road?

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Looking for the lost ...... one street over time in Ancoats ..... no 2 Homer Street and the Ward family

Now I would like to think that one of these young people could be Ethel Ward.

Students at St Andrews School, 1920
She was living with her parents at number 9 Homer Street and it is just possible she attended St Andrew’s School which was at the end of the road.

Homer Street and in particular number 9 has over the last few days drawn me in and I want to know more.

It was just a few minutes away from Fairfield Street and on a quiet night the Ward family would have heard the distinctive clung of railway waggons being shunted in the nearby sidings, caught the smell from the river and the dye works and worried that young Ethel might do something daft beside the canal.

Homer Street, 1894
That said I remember my old friend Norman who had been born close by telling me how he had learnt to swim by being thrown in that same canal.

I last visited number 9 in 1851 when it was home to two families.

At that time I knew little about the property but now know that it consisted of four rooms which given that there were seven of them must have made it a squeeze.

Just exactly what the condition of number 9 was like is unknown, but by 1911 it was at least 74 years old having been built as part of the swift development of the area in the early and mid 19th century.*

The class of 1920, St Andrew's School, 1920
The earliest entry in the rate books is 1837 when the block was owned by a Mr Price who is still the owner in 1851.**.

I suspect Mr and Mrs Ward counted themselves relatively lucky because many of the surrounding properties consisted of just two and three rooms and were home to large families.

He was an electrician for Manchester Corporation and as such was a skilled worker.

They had been married for eleven years and Ethel as their only child.

For Ethel there would have been little that could be said to have offered up exciting places to play.

Just a short walk down Phobe Street was a tree lined Recreational Ground which backed on to the river but it was dominated by a cotton mill off to the east and the Ancoats Goods Yard to the north delivering a fair share of noise, smells and if the wind were in the wrong direction no doubt the old cloud of smoke.

Of course there is a danger in letting your imagination over play the industrial scene and I have also to concede that by the time our school picture was taken Ethel would have been fourteen and already working, perhaps in that very textile factory that overlooked the Rec.

St Andrew's Square, 1966
Her home and the rest of the houses on Homer Street had gone by 1938 although the street and some of the surrounding ones continued to appear on maps, but by the end of the century even their imprint had vanished under a site which had various industrial uses and now is a warehouse for Armato Food Products  and it was the current owners who suggested I might be interested in the site.***

Which is almost the end, but I have to add that in wandering the neighbouring streets I did come across a Mr Simpson living with his wife and two boarders in three rooms at number 17 St Andrew’s Street.  He was no relation but I like the way a random search throws up a Simpson.****

Pictures; St Andrew’s School, Homer Street, 1920, m48646, and St Andrew’s Square from St Andrews Street, facing west, 1966, T Brooks, m10604, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and Homer Street in 1894, from the OS for South Lancashire, 1894 courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Homer Street, Enu 12 272, Central, Manchester, 1911

**Manchester Rate Books, 1837- 1851

***Amato Food Products,

****St Andrews Street, Enu 12 188, Central, Manchester, 1911

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

The Four freedoms, Free Speech 3 Listening

Brian Harrison

A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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

Looking for the lost ...... one street over time in Ancoats ..... no 1 Homer Street

You won’t find Homer Street.

St Andrew's School, 1910
It disappeared sometime between 1934 and 1938 and I guess was part of an early clearance policy.

There will be ways of finding out but for now I am going to concentrate on the 100 or so years it was there when it was home to generations of families who worked in the factories the mills, and the timber and railway yards.

The project was prompted by my friend Bob Armato who commissioned a report on the area in advance of building a warehouse on the site.  By then Homer Street and the neighbouring properties on St Andrew’s Square, Gees Place, Dryden Street and Marsden Square had vanished so completely that they do not appear on any modern maps.*

Homer Street, 1851
But go back into the middle of the 19th century and they are all there.

It is difficult at present to get a sense of what the houses were like, but some at least were back to backs that looked out on to narrow and half enclosed streets and courts.

At the end of Homer Street was a reservoir and three streets down was the Mount Street Dye Works.

Sometime around 1851 the St Andrew’s National School was opened.  It is there on Adshead’s map of that year but is missing from the OS for 1849.

In time I will explore its story but so far I know that in 1911 the boys school had 248 students on roll although the average attendance was just 155, while the girls school had 272 with an average attendance of 160.

St Andrew Street, 1850
Some at least of the students would have been drawn from Homer Street.**

In 1851 it consisted of 15 houses which were home to 93 people.

The occupations of the residents included a porter, charwoman, several labourers, a carter and a number who did various jobs in the textile industry.

Most were from Manchester or the surrounding townships but a fair few as you would expect from the date were from Ireland.

At number 9 was Mr John McCormick a stone mason from Ireland living with his wife Mary who had been born in Manchester and their son James.  The house was also occupied by the five members of the Harris family.  Mr Harris and his wife were also from Ireland although their children were born here.

St Andrew's Church. 1960
There is much more and over the next few weeks I shall wander back to the beginning of Homer Street and forward into the 1930s in an effort to record some of the changes to the area and how the families of Homer Street fared.

But I shall conclude by observing that for almost all of its existence it didn't even get an entry in the street directories leaving me to fall back on St Andrew Street's listing for 1850***

Location; Ancoats

Pictures; St Andrew’s School, Homer Street, 1920, m48646, and St Andrew’s Church, 1964, T Brooks, m10604, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and Homer Street in 1851, from Adshead map of Manchester 1851, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Amato Food Products,

**Homer Street, Enu 1u 2-6, London Road, Manchester, 1851

***Slater's Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1850, page 90

Hardy, lonely outpost on the edge of the township

Hardy is that bit of Chorlton-cum-Hardy that most people are vague about.  

It stretches east from the village and follows the river up past Hardy Lane and was a lonely outpost on the edge of the township.

Across its land were two farms a small hamlet and a little beyond the grand old house of Barlow Hall and the very large and impressive Barlow Farm.

A large part of Hardy was buried under tons of rubbish and the farm disappeared with the development of UMIST playing fields.

Back in the 1840s Charles Wood farmed 60 acres of meadow and arable land and employed three farm servants.

His home at Hardy Farm was on the edge of the flood plain and while he was safe enough the same was not so of the small collection of cottages which were situated a little further south.

In 1841 there were only two of these cottages left which were owned by Samuel Dean who farmed Barlow Farm and they were occupied by John Marsland John Burgess.

Both men were agricultural labourers and probably worked for Dean on his 300 acres.  John Marsland lived with his wife Mary and three grown up sons, Thomas, James and Charley who were also farm workers and John Burgess lived in the other cottage with his wife and son.

I doubt that they were little more than one up one down properties made of wattle and daub with a thatched roof.  A few of these survived into the late 19th century.  Our two had a garden and either relied on their own well for water or used the one up at Hardy Farm.

Sometime in the early 1850s the cottages were abandoned after the Mersey had flooded, but even before then both families had moved on and out of the township, although Charles Marsland had continued working for the Dean family and now lived at Barlow Farm.

It must have been a pleasant enough spot when the sun shone but remained a lonely remote place much favoured by those indulged in illegal prize fighting, but that as they say is another story.

Pictures; Hardy Farm and the land to the east and south from the 1841 OS map of Lancashire, courtesy of

Digital Archives, and the meadows before the metro link from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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

The Four freedoms, Free Speech 2 Speaking

A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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

The Four freedoms, Free Speech 1 Speaking

Andrew Simcock & Gerald Kaufman MP

A series of pictures taken in the 1990s debating the future of the National Health Service. 

Originaly issued last year.

In 1941 President Roosevelt spoke of looking forward to a world founded on "four essential freedoms." 

"Freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear."

Later Norman Rockwell turned them into four paintings of which my favourite is the first where a blue collar worker speaks at his local town council meeting. And it struck me as I looked around the hall that we were doing exactly the same thing.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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