Monday, 31 July 2017

All you wanted to know about the Progress Estate and heaps more

Now I have ordered up my copy of the new book on the Progress Estate, which is only as it should be.

We moved into our house on Well Hall Road in 1964 and dad was still there a full three decades later.

Back in the 1960s and pretty much until recently I only gave the history of the estate a nod.  I told everyone why it had been built and was proud of the open spaces, and unique buildings, but that was about it.

And when I did start looking into the history of the estate and in particular our house it was done the hard way, piecing together a shed load of research.

So how much better would it have been had I had Mr Billinghurst’s book which has just been published.

The cover price of £13.95 includes free delivery by second-class mail to addresses in the UK. However, each household on the Estate may buy one copy for £10 and people living elsewhere in SE9 may do so for £12.

To order, either write to
stating your name, address and phone number or call or text 07962 877389 to provide the same information.

And that is pretty much that.  As I said I spoke to Keith this morning and put in the order, so hurry while stocks last.

Location; Well Hall, Eltham

Picture; cover The Origins and Evolution of the Progress Estate

*The Origins and Evolution of the Progress Estate, Keith Billinghurst, 2017

**Progress Estate Residents' Association,

The class of ’68 part 3 a comprehensive school called Crown Woods

Crown Woods wasn’t the only comprehensive school delivering a fine education but it was the one I went to.

So it is a place I can talk about with confidence and a lot of affection. I arrived aged 16 in the September of 1966 having done five indifferent years at a secondary modern school, which if I am honest were a standoff.

The middle years had been troubled and were not happy ones and while I became more settled I was ready to leave. So nothing quite prepared me for Crown Woods.

Here were two thousand students, half of them girls, a building which was less than a decade old and a dynamic, young and talented teaching staff. This was all state comprehensive education was meant to be.

Every night there was something going on ranging from the usual sporting clubs, and music sessions to poetry evenings and the big set concerts and drama performances. And without much effort you got sucked into it. I performed a piece by Pinter with Michael Marland the head of the English Department, joined a mixed bunch hosting an evening of 18th century readings and music in a fine period house in Blackheath and co produced a radio programme on folk music broadcast to the entire school.

It was also the way you were left to take on bigger things. So when after a few months of going to a local folk group I fancied putting on a concert at school one evening all I had to do was ask. The details are now lost in the fog of the past but we did more than one so I guess it all went well. Then there was the teaching. 

Never had learning been so exciting and meaningful before or since. These were the years of discovering Shakespeare, John Donne, and of watching as 18th century literature opened up the history of the period giving it context and depth.

It seems so obvious now but then the idea that before we read the set A level plays of Henry IV and King Lear we would immerse ourselves in the other great Shakespearian histories and tragedies.

Or that in preparation for the prose and poems of Samuel Johnson the 18th century writer we would look at the rhyming techniques of Alexander Pope and gaze over countless buildings of the century to understand the idea of balance and style.

Now for a working class boy who had just about reached his limit with Ian Fleming this was a revelation and a passport to another world.

And it extended out to theatre visits, from the National and Joan Littlewoods’s Stratford East to countless little rep companies across London. We were not just watching live theatre but for the space of two years were living it.

Amongst all this was a gentle assumption that the natural next step for many of us was University, a path which had only been trodden by one distant cousin in our family.

 Finally there were the friends, some of whom have lasted through the last 51 years and of course the girlfriends none of whom sadly lasted more than a few months.

Now I was just 16 and I  guess the cynical will shrug and dismiss it all as hormones. After all this is or should be when we live life in an intense and uncompromising way.

And there is also that creeping fog of nostalgia which makes the past a series of hot sunny days. But on balance for me and I think some of the other class of '68 this was a fine place to spend two years.

Pictures from the collection Anne Davey 

Tomorrow; widening horizons and lots of fun

So did you have a relative in the Red Cross during the Great War?

Well if you think you did then the Red Cross has just completed its task of putting all those who served on an online data base.*

Nurses at Willow Bank, Manchester, circa 1915
It includes the scans and transcriptions of over 236,000 paper index cards, each providing details of Voluntary Aid Detachment personnel, known as ‘VADs’, who signed up to help sick and injured servicemen.

The transcription is complete and the Red Cross is now in the process of uploading all the records.

So for anyone wanting to check out a relative the database will be invaluable.

But for those researching the history of a Red Cross hospital there is much here that will also be very useful.

Some of the staff lists of establishments have survived and here in the north west they include a book published by the Red Cross in 1916 and one in 1919.**

All of which means for the Red Cross Hospital in Chorlton-cum-Hardy situated in the Sunday school hall of the Baptist Church it has been possible to discover the lives of some who volunteered.

During that first year of the war 159 volunteers worked at the hospital all and but four came from the township.

Ann Higginbotham aged 22 was the daughter of Alfred and Emily whose family had farmed in Chorlton-cum-Hardy since the 1840’s.  Others like Harry Kemp were new comers.

He had opened two Chemist shops at the beginning of the 20th century and had been elected to the City Council in 1904.

Many of those who served were from the same family.  In some cases a husband and wife volunteered and in another it was a mother and her daughters who gave up time.

In the Kitchen at Heaton Mersey, circa 1914
There were also sisters and brothers acting in various capacities, with some family members helping in the kitchen and others as either nurses or orderlies.

In total there were eighteen families involved.

Some would also be touched by the tragedy of the war.  Thomas Ellwood, who wrote a history of the township and served on the committee, lost his son Thomas in February 1917.

As did Mrs Emma Worlidge who was on the hospital committee, and acted as the Housekeeper. Her son Oswald also died in the February of 1917.

They were a mixed bunch ranging from Mrs Fannie Jane Barlow a mother of two whose husband was an accountant, to Miss Bates whose father was a coal porter and worked in a laundry along with Sidney Bolt who was employed in his father’s shop and Miss Ethel Bedford who was a school teacher.

All were engaged in the November of 1914 when the hospital was opened.  Mrs Barlow who by then was 42 served as a nurse while Miss Bates and Bedford worked in the kitchen and Mr Bolt was an orderly.

It is easy to forget that much of the work done by people like Miss Bates and Mr Bolt were carried out after a day at work, a fact which was not missed by Miss Bowser in her book on the work of the Red Cross.

In one hospital  she visited just outside the city “the entire work was undertaken by mill girls.  

It was a small Hospital and the skilled nursing could be done by one trained Sister who was in charge.  

Under her she had a very large staff of girls and women who mostly had to earn their daily bread by working in factories from early morning until evening.

These women live hard lives, but they ungrudgingly give up hours from their nights in order to get up at five in the morning and go to the Hospital to scrub and to clean until they are due at the factory.  

Again at the other end of the day after they have done long hours at monotonous and often arduous work, they go into the Hospital on their way home and give another couple of hours to the serving of the evening meal, making the beds, and the general tidying up of the words.  
The work during the day is divided amongst the women who have homes and children to tend and can only spare an hour or two away from them.” 

So that database will I expect be trawled over by lots of people.

Pictures; Willow Bank Red Cross Hospital, circa 1914 courtesy of David Harrop, the kitchens, the Red Cross Hospital, Heaton Mersey circ 1914, T Everett-Innes, from the collection of David Harrop

* Red Cross First World War volunteers,

** Red Cross Hospital, An Illustrated Account of the Work of the Branch During the First Year of the War, East Lancashire Branch of the Red Cross Society, 1916 and 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester 1919

***Bowser, Thekla, The Story of the British V.A.D Work in the Great War, 1917

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Pictures from an Eltham bus ........ nu 14 ....... Grove Market almost open for business

The top deck of a London bus has to be a pretty neat way of seeing the world below.

Grove Market, 2017
And when it is the same bus at about the same time every day then you have got yourself a project.

All you need is a camera and the patience each week to record the same spot.

It helps if there is a major new development underway like the one in the High Street and the rest as they say is Larissa Hamment’s Pictures from an Eltham bus.”*

Grove Market, 2013
And yesterday Larissa sent me this one with the comment, "This is the Grove Market development from Court Road, opposite the old Crown pub"

Now if like me you are longer in Eltham it’s good to get Larissa's updates.  I will always have a fond spot for the old Grove Market.

It wasn’t anything special, and pales into insignificance when set against modern shopping developments but for me back in the mid 1960s it stood for all that was modern, cool and stylish.

I opened my first bank account in the Midland Bank, ate burgers in the cafe round the corner, and later still picked up the odd pot of paint and roll of wall paper for Dad.

Court Road, circa 1900
So with that in mind I thought I would look back into the collection for earlier pictures of Grove Market.

Alas I don’t have any of it heyday and so have fallen back on one from Chrissie when the end had come and one from before there was even a market.

Location,  Eltham, London

Pictures;  The Grove Market Development,2017, from the collection of Larissa Hammen, Grove Market, December 5th, 2013 courtesy of Chrissie Rose and in the early 20th century from Eltham Through Time, courtesy of Kristina Bedford, 2013,

*Pictures from an Eltham bus,

Barlow Hall and its occupants, ............ an ancient Chorlton family, the radical on trial for conspiracy and the banker

Barlow Hall is old and while there may have been a building on the site dating from the Middle Ages, the present half timbered structure dates probably from the reign of Henry VIII. Little of the original structure was visible by the 1840s.

Most of the timber work had been covered in plaster or hidden under ivy.

The old great hall which occupied most of the building and open to the roof had been divided off to create two stories, with the lower floor given over to three entertaining rooms.

The Barlow’s had settled here by the fourteenth century, appear to have lived a quiet existence until like many they were caught up in the conflicts over religion in the sixteenth century.

They had adhered to the old faith and been persecuted during the reign of the first Elizabeth.

The family continued to live at the Hall until the last died in 1773 and the estate was sold to the Egerton’s twelve years later.

During the later part of the eighteenth century and into the next it had been home of the radical Thomas Walker, and later to the leading Whig businessman Shakepeare Phillips and in June 1848 to William Cunliffe Brooks.

According to various observers Cunliffe Brooks was keen not only to preserve the building but to share his love of the hall.

This interest never appeared to have left him and led Mrs C Williamson to write in her Recollections of Fallowfield, that his “love for old things is so great that every relic is sacred to him, and even mindful alterations are made in such close imitation of old, they look the real thing.”

This was a passion which was to lead him to display a piece of the original timber which had been exposed after a fire in 1879,and own Chorlton historian may well have been speaking from firsthand experience when he advised that “Mrs Brook’s morning room is worthy of a visit, with its quaint old china, and the vestibule containing some fine old Furniture and an engraving of Wellington with his autograph.”

And the Hall is still there today, home to a golf course.

Picture; Barlow Hall from the collection of Rita Bishop, the Lloyd collection in the 19th century  and Andrew Robertson, 2014

At Central Ref on a sunny day in 1969

Now I remember I was going to publish a picture a month of Central Ref from when it reopened early last year all the way up to July 2014 which marked its eightieth year.

Sadly I didn’t but to mark an equally momentous occasion in its history, here is a picture from my friend Sally of the library in 1969.

Judging by the trees in the picture and the overcoats I am guessing that this will have been one of those crisp sunny days at the beginning of spring, just after the daffodils had started to flower.

Of course I might be hopelessly wrong but it will have been only a few months before I arrived as a student and began my own love affair with the building.

I walked through those impressive metal doors sometime in early September 1969 and for great chunks of the next three years it was where I would spend my Saturday’s.

And like others I had my own special seat in the huge Social Sciences library and there I would sit from when the doors opened till tea time.

On occasions I explored the rest of the building and discovered the basement cafe which was all to the good because for the first few weeks I had camped out on the steps at dinner time with a sandwich and what passed for coffee back in 1969.

All of which reminds me just how different the city has become, which is reflected in the transformation of the Ref itself.

And that’s all you are getting, except to thank Sally for finding and posting the picture.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Central Ref in 1969, courtesy of Sally Dervan

The class of ‘68 part 1 an ending

We were the class of ’68.

Twelve young people from south east London about to leave school for the last time.

It would have been in late June or early July 1968 outside Crown Woods School in Eltham, our exams were finished and we were all preparing for that long hot summer which would end with exam results and the beginning of a new phase in our lives.

Of the twelve sitting on the car I can easily name seven of the young people staring back at me. I’m there fifth from the left, beside me was my girl friend Ann, and on my right was Anne Davey, David Hatch, and Mike Robinson while perched on the car at the edge of the picture was Crispin Rooney and behind us Karen and Richard Woods. I rather think the chap on the end was Keith Bradbury while my dear friend Anne Davey  has informed me that behind us was Jenny Turner and Ian Curle.

We have become that favoured generation, “the baby boomers”. Not for us world wars or bitter trade depressions.

 We were born in to a world our parents were determined would be better and different.

And we grew up against a backdrop of rising prosperity, looked after by a welfare system which confidently planned to care for us from “cradle to grave” and entered adult hood with the promise of full time employment and the opportunity of a university course which for some of us would be totally free.

Now there was a dark side to all this. The Korean War had begun just as most of us were coming up to our first birthday, and the ever present threat of nuclear war hovered in the distance, and as if to round off our child hood by the summer of 1968 there was the awful tragedy of the Vietnam War.

But that summer was a good one, and I have to say truly it seemed the sun shone all the way through.

 Now I was the late comer to the group along with my friend Bernard, we had washed up at Crown Woods Comprehensive in the September of 1966. Me, from a Secondary Modern School and Bernard from a grammar school.

And Crown Woods was  mixed, which pitched both of us into a series of wonderful new experiences and opened up new friendships that have survived the space of over 53 years.

Of course the intervening years have offered up both triumphs and dismal dog days and along the way some of those twelve have disappeared while we have all had to cope with a mix of disappointments as well successes.

Most stayed in the south with only me washing up in the north and never going back. We did the full range of post school careers, with some of us heading off to pursue a degree and others getting down to it directly in offices and factories.

And now most of us are on the cusp of retiring or have done so with all that that will bring. And as I stare back at the class of 68 I ponder on the stories that we made and the people we touched.

Pictures; from the collection of Anne Davey

Tomorrow, part 2, one of the class of '68 and a secondary modern school

William Bates soldier of the Great War ............. died on the Western Front aged 17

The popular image of the young men who lied about their age and went off to fight in the Great War is a powerful one, more so when they died before they reached the official age of enlistment.

Historians will tell you that the number was not that large but it happened and William Bates was one of them.

He was just 17 when he died on the Western Front in the August of 1916, and we have David Harrop and some of his friends to thank for bringing Mr Bates out of the shadows.

David recently bought one of the medals awarded to William Bates who served in the Manchester’s and lived on Great Egerton Street in Stockport.

And that began a search for the young man’s story which David and his friends have pieced together.

David then created a facebook page dedicated to the memory of this young soldier and over the course of the next few weeks with David’s help I will tell that story.

Location; Stockport, Manchester and the Western Front

Picture; medal of William Bates, courtesy of David Harrop

*The William BATES in Memorium PAGE compiled by David Harrop Oct 2016

Saturday, 29 July 2017

523 Barlow Moor Road, captured in a moment in time in 1960 ….. part 2

Now I back at 523 Barlow Moor Road where my friend Ann Love lived during the 1950s and 60s.

"The area at the back of the house was divided in to a lawn, with some flowerbeds, fruit trees, and strawberry beds. 

We kept ducks and hens, so were fortunate to have our own eggs.Granddad used to make a 'Mash' for the chickens from maize, which smelled disgusting.

One year  the ducks seemed to have stopped laying, and it wasn't until Autumn, when the Rhubarb leaves  collapsed, that we found heaps of rotten duck eggs. Granddad was very proud of his rhubarb, and used to cover the plants with old chimney pots to blanch the stems.

There were several sheds, some used for the hens, some for keeping rabbits, and one which I used to play in. 

Mum (or Dad)  whitewashed it for me, and I had a little table and chair, and used to have 'tea' with little Hovis loaves, which you could buy. 

They were about 3 or 4 inches long, and perfect to play with.

The stables at the end of the garden were divided into a garage, a small Chapel of Rest (complete with an Alter and tall candles, which my Dad got from th Catholic Priest down High Lane.) 

The workshop was the last part of the stables, and where Dad used to assemble the coffins. The floor was always covered in curly wood shavings, and there were all manner of interesting tools scattered about.

My Dad was a smoker, and would light up one cigarette from the end of the previous one.

In the winter time, when it was cold and wet, his favourite 'pick me up' was a large cup of milk eg and sugar, all whisked together.

When I as a child, I decided to excavate part of the garden, and dug down and found an old brick path, and a small papier machine box, with a picture of  people dressed in 18th century costumes. It has deteriorated over the years, but I still have it.

At the side of the house was a conservatory, which used to have a door leading into the lounge, but by my time it had been boarded up, and the glass had all gone, but the tiled path was still there.

My Dad retired in 1967, and my parents moved to a smaller house on Mauldeth Rd West. 

Dad sold off many of Granddad's antiquities, and the house was sold to another Undertaker.  

A caretaker and his wife lived in the house, but it wasn't cared for  and in a few years it was sold to a developer, who built over the garden, and altered the front of the house.  

So all these are just memories".

© Ann Love

Models; Howard Love 2014

Thomas Williams of the Canadian Expeditionary Force ............. born in Ontario and buried in south Manchester

Now sometimes stories just have a habit of evolving and so it is with this one.

Over the space of the last few days I have been moving effortlessly from my great uncle Roger who was both a BHC and fought in the Great War to those members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who are buried in our local cemetery.

Like all stories its beginning was a promising one starting with an exhibition which opened on July 1last year  in the Remembrance Lodge of Southern Cemetery.

It had been organised by David Harrop who had drawn from his vast collection of memorabilia from two world wars and was special in that some at least of the exhibits were linked to men who are buried or commemorated in the cemetery.

And just yards away is the line of gravestones of the men of the CEF of which this one belongs to Thomas Williams of the 4th Canadian Mouthed Rifles...

When I  started the research  I only knew him as a name but a little research on the database of the Library and Archives of Canada showed him to have been born in August 1894 in Ontario.*

He was a butcher by trade, stood 5’ 6’’ tall with fair hair and a fair complexion and had blue eyes.

He enlisted in the August of 1915 just days before his 22nd birthday.

So far there is only his Attestation Papers to go on but it is a start and has begun to bring this young man out of the shadows.

He was buried on March 15 1917 and I assume died of his wounds.  It is more than likely that he had been cared for in the big military hospital nearby which before the war had been the hospital of the Withington Workhouse.

It was a hospital I knew well as two of our children were born there in the 1980s and its A&E department saw plenty of us as the lads progressed through a series of sporting injuries.

It closed years ago and has long since been demolished but like Southern Cemetery it is just a few minutes way from where we live.

So with that in mind I resolved that even if I didn’t find out anything more of Thomas Williams I would  be standing in front of his grave on July 1st, which I did.

Location; Southern Cemetery, Manchester

Pictures; the gravestone of Thomas Williams and a Canadian silk postcard from the collection of David Harrop

Friday, 28 July 2017

The Band of Kindness ........ another story of child care from the 19th century

Now I doubt that many will know of the Band of Kindness & Children’s Help Society which was established in 1882, reorganised in 1897 and went through a number of changes to its name which reflected the changes to the focus of its activities.

Band of Kindness, 1897
It is still active today under the title of Disabled Living with its headquarters in Greater Manchester.*

As such it perfectly reflects the way many children’s charities have changed, adapting to the changing needs of society.

I came across it in a box of archive material in Central Ref belonging to the Together Trust which is the subject of the new book.**

The book which I am writing with Liz Sykes who is the archivist of the Trust will describe the work of this children’s charity from 1870 to the present and aims to chronicle the way it has adapted to the changes and philosophy in child care over the last 150 years.

The presence of the Band of Kindness material in the archive owes much to the fact that one of its leading supporters and chairman was a Mr Gilbert R. Kirlew who was involved in the Together Trust and because the two charities worked together.

Letter from the Band of Kindness, 1897
What is interesting is the way that the Band of Kindness developed.

Back in 1897 it worked for “the happiness and blessing of those in our homes and of all we meet.  

The rescue and help of poor City Children and the savour of God’s little ones everywhere  [which] includes the support of destitute children in public and private homes, their emigration to the Colonies, or their temporary stay in the country or at the at the sea side.”

And “the promotion of kindness to dumb animals, as for instance, - our Annual Parade of Working 
Donkeys, when we off prizes for the animals best cared for.”***

By 1903 the Band of Kindness had become The Crippled Children’s Help Society distributing Christmas hampers to disabled children, and in the following year rented a property in Marple with seven rooms offering respite facilities.

Through the rest of the 20th century with minor name changes it continued working with disabled children and families.

Band of Kindness pledge, date unknown
And if like me you are of a certain age you will remember those saving boxes which were placed outside shops and had an almost life size figure of two disabled children holding the collecting box.

It also ran a hospital, a holiday home in north Wales, expanded its work to include adults and broadened its services to include training, occupational therapy and craft classes.

In 1985 it became the Disabled Living Services “as the previous name became offensive and was no longer politically correct”  and finally adopted the title Disabled Living because the “charity was being confused with health and social care services.“*****

Band of Kindness, 1897
Its present offices suffered a fire in 2009 and all its older archive material was lost.

Happily some of it has been retrieved after a chance find of a number of boxes photographs and memorabilia relating to Disabled Living which had been saved buy a former employer.

Which only leaves me to wonder if they know of the Trust’s box and of an interesting piece on Mr Gilbert Kirlew in Getting Down and Dusty which is the blog of the Together Trust.***

So what was lost is found and along the way yet another bit of the story of child care in the 19th and 20th centuries has been revealed.

Location; Manchester

Pictures;  The Band of Kindness & Children’s Help Society, courtesy of the Together Trust******

*Disabled Living,

**A new book on the Together Trust,

*** The Band of Kindness & Children’s Help Society, 1897, Together Trust Archive, M189/1/6/5

**** Disabled Living,

***** Photographs from Canada, 1894, Getting Down and Dusty,

******The Together Trust

Thursday, 27 July 2017

October 31 1918 ...... the day Admiral Jellicoe visited Manchester and a heap of stories

Now I had no idea that Admiral Jellico visited Manchester in 1918.

Inspecting Naval cadets in Albert Square, October 31 1918
Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised that a leading member of the armed forces should have called in.

That said the Manchester Guardian did rather sniffily report that “Manchester has had too little chance to welcome the heads of the navy during the war.”*

And went on to take a side swipe at his and the rest of the naval chief’s failure “to foresee the use to which the submarine might be put.”

But elsewhere the paper also reported on the details of the visit, where he “fulfilled several public engagements .

In the morning he formally opened Brought House, Broughton Park, and a home for disabled sailors and soldiers.  

In Albert Square, after being entertained to luncheon at the Town Hall, he inspected a guard of honour consisting of 67 ratings of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. 

Lord Jellicoe then attended and spoke at a performance at the Manchester Hippodrome in aid of the Million Shillings Fund at the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society.”**

And it is that visit to Albert Square and the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society which caught my eye last week in Central Ref.  I was digging ever deeper into the archives of the Together Trust when I came across a box full of material on this Society***

On the steps of the Town Hall
The society owed its origins to the formation of the Port of London Society, formed to minister to the religious needs of seamen and twenty-five years later merged with the Sailors’ Society to form the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society which promoted the moral and religious improvements of sailors’.****

And almost a century on Lord Jellicoe was there to support the Manchester and Salford branch whose offices were in the Houldsworth Hall on Deansgate.

Just why the material turned up in the Trust’s archives has yet to be revealed, but I guess the link may have been that they were both charities and corresponded.

The Society
Either way it has offered up a new avenue of research, from the intriguing Million Shillings Fund to his speech at Hpouldsworth Hall.

Location; Manchester, 1918

Picture; postcard from the British and Foreign Sailors’ Society, 1918

*Admiral Jellicoe in Manchester, Manchester Guardian, November 1, 1918

**The Watching and Waiting of the Fleet, A Manchester Visit, Manchester Guardian, November 1, 1918

***A new book on the Together Trust,

****Sailors’ Society,

When even Batman and Superman proved no match for Demolition Man ...... the Odeon is officially now a pile of rubble

Well in all the great movies a super hero saves the day.  

He may ride a horse and go under the name of Tom Mix, or wear his underpants on top of his clothes and change in a telephone box but whether man or woman, alien or no, they would save the day.

The evil ones would be defeated, Little Tommy would sleep peacefully in his bed and the Odeon would still offer to entertain the cinema goer for a few brief hours on a wet Monday afternoon.

But as Andy's last picture testifies all the super heroes were off doing other things.

All that is now left is a pile of rubble, leaving Andy to return when bricks and twisted steel are taken away, the ground broken again and that new office development rises from the hole in the ground.

Location; Manchester

Picture; the Odeon, July 25, 2017 from the collection of Andy Robertson

When you are never far away from someone born in Eltham

Now I came across another bit of Eltham today here in Manchester.

To be more accurate it was Cheadle, not Manchester and the bit of Eltham was Ian, who like me left Eltham for the North and never went back.

But both of us still miss the place and we spent a very happy half an hour talking about everything from Well Hall, and the woods to Woolwich and our respective secondary schools.

He to Eltham Green and me to Crown Woods.

Ian stumbled across the blog and later made the connection between me and the new book on the charity.

And as I do I asked Ian if he would like to share his memories of Eltham with some articles for the blog.

Better still have has a shed load of old photographs of the place from the 1920s.

At which point I could mutter “its a small old world” but that would be just stating the obvious, instead I will just offer up the observation that Eltham has worked its magic on the two of us and almost leave it at that ...... but not quite, because just round the corner lives Ed who is from Bexleyheath and who hasn’t lost his south east London accent unlike me.

So watch this spot for a series of unseen Eltham pictures.

Location; Eltham

Pictures; Eltham High Street in 1977 courtesy of Jean Gammons and in  2017, from the collection of Larissa Hamment

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

A story of recent Chorlton in 20 objects nu 1 ......... A Blockbusters card

Now most of us will have one lurking somewhere.

In my case the card made its way from my wallet to a cupboard long after the shop closed but never quite got thrown away.

And now of course it has passed into history and now even the shop has gone.*

But for a long time Blockbusters offered up a cheap way to see a film with the added bonus of being able to rent something for the kids at a knockdown price becoming as much a part of home entertainment as the old TV rental shop and the weekly delivery of the Beano and the Dandy.

It wasn’t the first such shop, that I think was  almost opposite Beech Road which is now an off license and for a time there was that other one on Wilbraham Road facing the Post Office.

Over the last thirty or so years we have used them all, walking out first with VHS tapes, then DVDs and later plenty of games.

So much did it become part of family life that it even provided work for one of our sons.

Now I am always a hoarder and can make an argument out for keeping  the oddest bits of the past and I am pleased I have kept the card.

After all it is now almost as obsolete as the telegram and the telephone card, but it has its place in the story of those Friday nights which became pretty much a ritual.

One of you went off to collect the takeaway while the other sorted out the kids movies, dodged the demands for three packets of popcorn and then argued about who took the films back the following day, which more often than not you forgot to do and so  incurred the fine the next time round.

Pictures; of the Blockbuster card from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the Blockbuster shop courtesy of Andy Robertson

*The Essoldo, Blockbusters and plans for a new Morrisons on Barlow Moor Road,

The Manchester soldier outside Burrage Grove school in 1915

Outside Burrage Grove school in 1915
Now I rather think this photograph will set off a trail of comments.

We are on Burrage Grove sometime around 1915 and the picture comes from the George Davison collection.

George Davison was born in Manchester, enlisted in the Royal Artillery and for part of 1915 and again 1918 was stationed in Woolwich.

I can’t be sure but I don't think this is Mr Davison.

What fascinates me is the way the picture draws together a number of different stories, not least the fact that

I grew up not far from Burrage Grove and will have friends who may attended the school.

And here is one of those first lessons in dealing with photographs from the past.

Knowing that George was from Manchester I misread the name above the gate and went off on a fruitless search for Burnage Grove School.

When this drew a blank I looked again at the picture and found the name of a the photographer who had premises at 40 Plumstead Road, Woolwich and with that came Burrage Grove School built by the London School Board sometime after 1872.

Now this I know because the London School Board was established in 1870 and the OS map of 1872 does not yet show the school, that said it will have been built sometime during the next two decades, and I have every confidence someone will come up with a date.

All of which just leaves our soldier mounted on his horse outside the building.

Burrage Grove, 1872
Looking at the photograph and the map of 1872 Burrage Grove has changed dramatically although the pub on the corner is still there.

So it begs the question of why focus on this obscure picture of a place long gone?

Well I think because like all lost images this one deserves to come out of the shadows.

In time I will find out more about the school along with the circumstances behind this particular picture and perhaps even who he was.

I know that George Davison spent some time in Woolwich in 1915 and returned briefly on his way to France.  It was on this second period in London that he hastily produced a will which was witnessed by two of his colleagues.

It may also be that he spent another spell here in 1917.  There are no letters to his wife for this year and we know that she spent time in London living near him.

But that is to stray into speculation so that just use leaves us with this picture of a soldier from Manchester in Plumstead sometime during the Great War.

And just after the story was posted Phil contacted me with this, "I've had a search through the British Libraries online local newspaper archives about the school for you. 

The earliest reference that I could find is from the 12/09/1878 with references the 'Burrage Grove Board School' in Plumstead donating £2 10s to the relief fund for the families of the deceased of the liner Princess Alice which was lost in the Thames with the loss of 600 lives following a collision. 

That hopefully helps narrow down an opening date."

And so it does, thank you Phil.  All I need now is some one who who knows who the chap on the horse was.

Picture; from the collection of George Davison, courtesy of David Harrop and Burrage Grove from the OS map of London 1862-72, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Elizabeth Gaskell ......... gone and never said goodbye to me

Now there will be those who say most unkindly that when it comes to buildings and Andy Robertson’s  photographs there should be a government health warning pinned somewhere to the property.

I say this with great fondness and heaps of respect for Andy’s work but it seems to be a fact that soon after he has made a building the subject of a new series it vanishes.

Of course that is not strictly fair because part of Andy’s work is to record the end of buildings whether they be gentile old houses that have reached the end or warehouses long abandoned and most recently the Odeon.

So here are a few from his latest series.  What was Elizabeth Gaskell College and is no more which I suspect will bring a few nostalgic comments from past students and sadly a simple observation that I missed its passing.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Elizabeth Gaskell now and then from the collection of Andy Robertson

A not so festive request ................ in the event of being bombed out December 1941

I cannot think how it must have felt to have sat down and planned for the unthinkable.

But across the city and across the country that was what people were being asked to do in the event that their home was destroyed by enemy action in the December of 1941.

Now the Corporation had already put out warnings about what to do in the event of an air raid, had organised the transportation of children out of the city at the outbreak of the war and administered much else to do protecting its citizens.

Earlier In the September of 1939 the Government had undertaken what amounted to a mini census which formed the basis of much war time planning from ration books and indemnity cards  to the establishment of the post war National Health Service.

And by December 1941 people will have been used to the detailed government regulations, restrictions and inquisitiveness which burrowed deep into everyday life.

Even so it must have been hard to fill in a form which told the authorities where you planned to go in the event of being bombed out.  It was the unthinkable and in its way no less awful than the one that confronted my generation about what do in the event of a nuclear strike by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

What is all the remarkable is the way that these little bits of that earlier conflict have survived, not in a museum or in an archive but in someone’s home, casually put away at the end of the war and then with the passage of the decades become part of the collection of “things” which are part of one family’s history and by extension what defines them.

So I have Jayne to thank for this document entitled “HOUSES DAMAGED BY ENEMY ACTION, MUTUAL AID BILLETING ARRANGEMENTS.”

It fell through the door on December 1941 a full year after our Christmas Blitz, but having filled in the form was never sent off, I suspect because there was no one that they could go and stay with.