Sunday, 23 July 2017

Of floods and tourist attractions on the edge of Chorlton


Today I am on the Mersey at the edge of the township.  It is 1910 and judging by the trees we are somewhere in the summer or early autumn.

To the left is the barn of Red Bank Farm and in the distance the tower of Christ Church. It is a photograph I have used before because it perfectly captures the peaceful and benign side of the river l and yet those raised banks are the give way to what the Mersey can become.

Almost without warning it can be transformed into a heavy fast flowing roll of water that can almost over top the high banks along most of its course through Chorlton.  It has always been so and in the past it has broken over those high banks and left a wide lake.

Just what that could all mean for our farmers is there to read in the visit made to Chorlton in the June of 1847 by Alexander Somerville.

He was looking for evidence of potato blight which had destroyed the crops in Ireland and  was in Derbyshire.

And having taken in the township crossed the Mersey at Jackson’s Boat and headed on to Northenden which led him in turn to the Boat House and here

“in the absence of the potato marks, I examined the records upon a wooden post in the Kitchen of the Boat House of the highest Mersey floods since 1709.  In that year the water was a about a yard deep in the kitchen.  It was four feet six inches deep on the 21st of December 1837; it was three feet and some inches on the 31st of August, 1833.  1845 and 1828 were both years of record in the Boat House kitchen.”  

It remains a remarkable account not least because the voices of those he spoke to have been recorded in his newspaper account.

Now I have always made much of the attractions of Chorlton to the Sunday trade out from Manchester for a day in the countryside, and here Somerville did the same for Northenden and Didsbury,

“there were many sweet attractions in the meadows and the shady paths, and on the flowering sward, and by the Mersey’s waterfall, for those to hear that Manchester has many people who seek for and enjoy such delightful places of recreation.  

And I must confess that like many strangers visiting Manchester on business, or passing through it, I have been ignorant that, while it is the centre place of matchless enterprise and industry, it is surrounded with scenery of great beauty- not surpassed even by the beautiful fields, meadows, gardens, and the public pathways through them, lying around London.”

So just perhaps when he passed the banks of the river captured by our photograph he might have reflected on the two sides of our river.


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