Sunday, 11 June 2017

Searching for the Girls’ Friendly Society in that big house on St Clements Road in 1911

At a church garden party, date unknown
Now I would dearly like to know lots more about the Girls’ Friendly Society or for that matter the night a chap from the Town Hall came to talk on the sanitation in Manchester to a selected group of earnest young men

Come to think about it I would just love to know all I can about the meetings that went on at the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Church Institute which hosted a whole shedful of activities which were run by St Clement's Church.

I  had no idea that the Institute existed and it was only while I was looking for something entirely different on Whitelow Road that I came across a reference to the club on an 1934 map.

And with a bit of digging out of the shadows came the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Church Institute which offered a whole range of entertainments and serious events to the parishioners of St Clement's during the early decades of the 20th century.

It was there by 1911 and possibly a full decade before and may have continued until the 1920s.

Just possibly in the garden of the Institute
At the time St Clement's did not have a church hall and so used eight of the rooms in the house leaving three for Samuel Holt and his wife Christina who in 1911 were described as the caretakers.

During that period it offered a whole range of activities from sewing clubs to lectures and according to Ida Bradshaw was pretty much used during the day and the evening.

All of which brings me back to the Girls’ Friendly Society which was a means by which young women, some of whom may have been servants and living away from home could meet and make friends.

Here in Chorlton most homes employed just the one domestic servant who was expected to carry out all the duties of maintaining the house and had little spare time, so I rather think our Friendly Society must have been a life line for some of them.

Sun and strawberries
And I expect some of them went on the one trip I know the Institute organised to Southport in a charabanc.

Of course much of the documentation will have been lost but there may be an odd newspaper story or photograph and perhaps even a stray letter which makes reference to the Institute.

The house dates from around 1881 and was the property of William Batty who rented it out to various tenants of which Mr and Mrs Crowhurst are the most intriguing.

Thomas Messenger Crowhurst described himself as an “artist, art teacher and landscape painter" while his wife ran a “Ladies School” from the house.

Mr Billing and Miss Attwood, 1913
And it may be when they vacated the property Mr Batty offered it to the church.

All of which opens lots of avenues of research possibilities starting with Mr and Mrs Crowhurst, and Mr Holt the caretaker, and Mr Edgar Taylor who in 1910-11 was the Secretary.

He was an accountant, lived on Park Road and may yet yield up some information.

After all we do have one wedding which took place at the church in 1913 and as Miss Vivien Horsfall Attwood was reported as being from a popular and well known family she may well have spent time at the Institute..

Speculation perhaps but worth following up.

Added to which there are the newspapers which might carry stories of events and perhaps even names which could take us even further.

And it may be that a photograph I had long thought was in the grounds of the church could be in the garden of the Institute.

So I rather think we have not heard the last of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Church Institute.

Pictures, a garden party, date unknown, and Mr Hugget Billing and Miss Vivien Horsfall Attwood  A Chorlton Wedding, the Manchester Courier, April 17 1913, from the collection of Sally Dervan

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