Tuesday, 31 October 2017

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

I remember Well Hall............ memories of Eltham

The High Street and Well Hall Road, 1960s
“We moved back to Eltham in 1951.  We had been re-housed in Deptford, but mum missed Eltham so much we moved in with Nan in Lovelace Green, then moved to Well Hall Road in 1957.”*

Now one of the nice things about the blog is the way people want to share their memories of Eltham and along the way I get to make new friends and learn a lot more about the place where I grew up.

All of which is an introduction to a new series which reproduces those memories.
It began yesterday when Jean commented on the story on the old ABC cinema in the High Street.

“So many memories, of me and my then boyfriend [now hubby] at the cinema. We had one of our first dates in the ABC Eltham in 1963.

I also remember the Gaumont on Eltham Hill, but of course the Odeon at Well Hall Road was a fav. 
From the age of 11 yrs old I lived at 232 Well Hall Road, just down from the roundabout.

Many memories, moved to Well Hall Road in 1957, with my parents, Stan and Vi wade, and little sister Susan.

Still have so many family in the Eltham area.” 

And in turn some of Jean’s family chimed in with their own reminiscences.

George admitted “I used to go Scrumping in Well Hall Pleasuance and reflected on “getting a size Nine copper's boot up the backside” when he was caught.

Junior Show Time at the Pleasaunce on August 20th 1967
And the Pleasuance still has the power to bring out more recent memories like that from Amanda who “goes there lots. They have a little play area at the back and it’s lovely down there. 

We usually get fish n chips over the road to take with us,” which is pretty much what we did in the 60s and which I repeated nearly 30 years later with my own children.

In the same way just as our Jill went to the summer shows at the theatre by the moat so did Jean and I bet many will have similar memories of Junior Showtime during those long hot school holidays.

Not to be out done there will be others who share Jeans recollections of the workmen “digging up the tram lines on Eltham hill.  The road surface was wooden tar blocks, and my Nan sent one of the family up to collect the wood blocks for the fire at home.”

Now for that memory I am very grateful because I too can remember Dad bringing home similar wooden blocks for our fire in Lausanne Road.  But with the passage of time I had begun to discount it as just my imagination.

All of which goes to show just how important memories are.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson
*Jean

Mrs Nellie Davison’s War .......... stories behind the book nu 25

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War*

Duncan and Mrs Davison, circa 1915/1916
Nellie Davison nee Latchford was born in Hulme in 1889.  She was one of seven children.

Her father was a dyer but briefly had chanced his luck as a coal merchant but either because he was not suited to do the occupation or for other reasons he had reverted back to his old job.

Her older brothers and sisters had been engaged in a variety of occupations.  Two worked in the fabric trade, another was an iron turner and fitter and the eldest had a fish and chip business.

And by 1911 the family were living in a three roomed house on Percy Street which had been one of a succession of houses all in Hulme all bounded by City Road to the north and Stretford Road to the south.

Postcard to Hulme, 1915
During 1907 she had been walking out with Mr George Davison.

He was three years older and had been born in Harpurhey and  belonged to those “middling people.”

His father was a solicitor’s clerk and George while working as a clerk attended night school studying English, Latin, French and Euclid which was hard work but as he wrote to Nellie “your future happiness as well as my own depends largely on the results of my studies during the next few years.”

Those were successful and their marriage in 1908 was followed by the birth of their son and in the autumn of 1914 he along with thousands of others volunteered for the army.
In the course of the next four years he was stationed in Woolwich, Ireland and in the March of 1918 shipped out to the Western Front.

Now I still do not know that much about Nellie, but by picking through the letters George sent home it is possible to piece together something of her life during the war.

146 Bedford Street, 1894
Fairly early on she moved out of her home in Romiley where she had lived since 1908 and back to Hulme.

This was 146 Bedford Street in Hulme and here she stayed with her son Duncan till the end of the war.  It is unclear if this was where her parents lived or a place she rented.

But it made sense to move back to Hulme given that this was where some of her family were still living.

The cottage in Romiley was rented out to sub tenants and she only moved back sometime in late 1918 or early 1919.

George Davison, circa 1915/1916
What I did find interesting was that during the war Nellie and Duncan upped sticks and spent time in both London and Ireland in rented accommodation either close to the barracks where George was staying or
perhaps sharing the accommodation with him.

Now there will be someone much more qualified than me who will be able to explain how common this practice was but I find it fascinating especially given that rail travel became more expensive and difficult as the demands of the war impacted on the railway network reducing the number of trains.

George didn’t survive the war.  He was killed in the June of 1918 and the extensive correspondence with the various Government agencies throws light in the years that followed.

I know that she never remarried and was still in Romiley in 1955 and there is a hint that Duncan only died in the 1990s.

That as they say is for another post and of course appears as a story in the forth coming book.**

Eltham  Church and Well Hall Road in 1915
But there is one last bit of Nellie's story and it is a bit I overlooked when I first read the letters.  Geotge refers to a Mrs Drinkal who Nellie stayed with or met when she was visiting him in Woolwich in 1915 and there is also a W H Drinkall who witnesed his will three years later before he left woolwich.

The spelling is different but there may will be a link given that a W H Drinkal was living at 7a Elmbrook Street which is listed in the electoral roll for Eltham and three years later when George was briefly back in Woolwich he had to collect a parcel from "Well Hall Post office."

And that would put him close to where I grew up.  Now that makes a connection spanning fifty years.

Location; Hulme

Pictures; of Mr and Mrs Davison and Duncan, 1915/1916 and postcard 1915, from the collection of David Harrop, Eltham in 1915 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Bedford Street, 1844 from the OS for South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/ 

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Manchester%20and%20the%20Great%20War

**Manchester and the Great War, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/manchester-and-great-war

***Coming Soon ......... an exhibition in Southern Cemetery ........... remembering the Battle of the Somme, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/coming-soon-exhibition-in-southern.html


So when is tall too tall? ....... down on Owen Street

Now there is no getting away from that rising development on Owen Street.  

From lots of different location it rises from the ground like a giant Beanstalk left to grow by a young Jack.

I didn’t really comprehend the size of the thing when they started breaking the ground, and even when Andy Robertson’s became interested in its progress it still didn’t really push out the other buildings I was interested in.

But now there is no doubting just how it will dominate the sky line.

And there are others close by which will rival its height.

At which point while I am not averse to modern buildings or to tall ones, there is a sense that these giants are out step with what I am comfortable .

Location; Manchester


















Pictures; Manchester, 2017 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Sunday, 29 October 2017

1934 and inside the Independent College in Whalley Range


We are in the grounds of the Independent College in Whalley Range and the year is 1934.

Our picture is a postcard which “R” says “is a new view of the college which I thought you might like to see.  

It gives rather a good view of the grounds I think.”

He was writing to Mr and Mrs Nelson of Garston Old Road in Liverpool and he went on to say that he had “managed a good spot of work,” and was looking forward to “seeing something of a friend of mine who is preaching at Ormskirk on Sunday.”

There is nothing more to help us with the identity of “R” but given that the college had been built “educate young men of decided piety and competent talents for the Christian ministry,”* I think we can be fairly confident he was destined for a religious career.

By the time “R” was doing his spot of work the college had been open for 92 years and had continued “the preparation of young men for the ministry of the Independent church”** carrying on the work of the  Blackburn Independent Academy which had opened in 1816.

Such independent establishments had been necessary by the ban on dissenters from attending universities.  So here along with the study of theology students “will have the opportunity of gaining philosophical and scientific knowledge, in addition to the classics and mathematics.”

There were to be two resident professors and about fifty-two students the cost was to be met by public subscription and the hope was that this would in time be met by endowments.

The original design was for a gothic style building with a tall tower and a principal front 261 feet in length including two professors’ houses at either end with cloisters in between serving as an arcade in which the students can take exercise in wet weather.  There were to be three stories surmounted by battlements about 40 feet high.

“The arrangements in the interior of the College, forming a communication with different suites of rooms, are well designed and exceedingly simple consisting of corridors running the extreme length of the front and of either wing. The lower story of the building which is sufficiently high above the ground to ensure dryness is intended entirely for servants, and the corridor which connects the different offices runs along the main building.

Entering the College by the broad flight of steps in the basement of the tower we come to the entrance hall on the second or main floor which is a lofty room about 36 feet by 32 and open to the roof.”***

And I suppose this description would have been recognised by “R” as well as the countless other students who continued to study there until its closure in 1980.

Later; more stories and pictures of the college.

Pictures; of the college in 1934 from the Lloyd Collection The Assembly Hall and grounds from The Lancashire Independent College, 1843-93

* resolution of the committee held in the vestry of the Mosley Street Chapel, Manchester February 1816, and quoted by Thompson, Joseph,  in The Lancashire Independent College, 1843-93, Manchester 1893 Memorial Volume, p18
** The Manchester Guardian 1842
*** The Manchester Guardian 1842

Saturday, 28 October 2017

“Wally of the Whalley” Says Goodbye ......... stories of the Whalley Hotel

“Wally of the Whalley” Says Goodbye

It is one of those headlines that you just can’t miss.

“Wally of the Whalley” Says Goodbye appeared in the Manchester City News for November 16th 1951 and featured Mr and Mrs Summer who had run the Whalley Hotel for four years.

Mr Wally Summer and his wife Ethel were leaving Manchester for Anglesey, where they were to take over the Anglesey Arms.

“It's going to be a wrench leaving” he told the City News, “we’ve made hundreds of friends since we came to Brooks’ Bar.  I’ve been amazed at the number of people who have come up to wish us luck.”*

The Anglesey Arms is still there just at the edge of the Menai Bridge.

Now in the fullness of time I would like to find out more about Mr and Mrs Summer.

Painting; The Whalley Hotel,  © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures
*Manchester City News November 16, 1951


More on the ruins of Rome



Down every street another ruin, and around every corner another piazza
















Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Liverpool Road Railway Station, at the cutting edge of techonology


How do you design and build something which has never been done before?

A daunting enough challenge in the 21st century but even more so just thirty years into the 19th century.

And this is the railway story for the day, when an enterprising group of Manchester businessmen set about creating a cheap and quick way of transporting goods from Liverpool to Manchester and back again.  The Liverpool and Manchester Railway did it by both looking back and forwards and in the process made some delightful history.

Who today would float a competition to see which form of traction would be used on the railway and open the contest to everyone from professional engineers to eccentric amateurs?  This was the Rainhill Trials conducted in the October of 1829 with a prize of £500 and the possibility that the winner would make transport history.

And this was a major civil engineering project which called on the knowledge, skills and workforce which had built our canal network and it was the canals which offered a way of storing goods which would be coming in and out of the station complex on a daily basis.

Canal warehouse design had been perfected during the last half of the 18th century.  The main features of the design were a series of loading points called loop holes on each floor and access points for barges to move directly into the building.  Similar loopholes were situated on the roadside of the warehouse.  This enabled goods to be moved from one side to another.  One of the best of these is sited opposite Dukes 92 and has recently been renovated.

The original 1830 warehouse used a combination of loopholes and arches designed to allow wagons to be pushed into the building.  After the great fire in 1866, which destroyed the two newer warehouses, this practice was stopped. It is still possible to see where the lines ran into the building. Turntables existed to turn and push wagons into the warehouse.  Maps of the period show these turntables all over the site. The last one was only torn up in the late 90s.

All along the rail side it is possible to see changes that have been made to the original design.   One of the arches has been enlarged and one of the loopholes adapted.  It is possible to see some of the early winding gear above one of the loopholes, and the different brickwork above other loopholes can see the evidence for where others once were.

And now of course the warehouse along with the station is part of the museum.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Friday, 27 October 2017

Lost and forgotten in Chorlton ........ number 1 ..... the telephone exchange

Now I have to say that I never really noticed our old telephone exchange on Keppel Road.

And looking at Andy Robertson’s picture from 2015 you can see why.

It was a no nonsense functional building which didn’t pretend to be anything special and certainly didn’t want much attention.

It was what it was, a brick box for facilitating telephone conversations.

It’s design will have been replicated across the country with variations, and there is a similar but smaller version which was a Post Office on Oxford Road and another on Lapwing Lane which is now a restaurant and lacks the arched windows.

But even given its utilitarian use, the architect still felt it’s appearance could be lifted a little and so included those arched windows at ground floor level.

When Andy took his pictures it had been closed for a while and was in the process of being “developed”.

But all good stories need an odd correction so from Andrew Cooper came "It wasn't the telephone exchange, it was used by British Telecom but the actual exchange is next to Unicorn".
And from Andrew Holland "It was the one of the HQs where all GPO / BT workmen went to be given their jobs for the day etc. 

There was always bright yellow vans with blue writing in & out of there. In fact my good friend Sammy O'Rouke operated from there. He also was the best barman the Feathers ever had".

And that is that.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; the GPO Exchange, Chorlton, 2015 from the collectuion of Andy Robertson.

Scenes from a railway station part 2 Manchester Piccadilly


I could have lapsed into some profound commentary on the juxtaposition of this single figure on the concourse during a busy day at Piccadilly.  

But he seemed to know what he was doing and only needed the destination board to sort out the time and platform.  It took him just a few minutes and then he was gone.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A little bit of religious dissent in Whalley Range .... The Independent Lancashire College


I like this picture of the Independent Lancashire College in Whalley Range.

It had been here since 1843 and even before it was finished it was causing a stir amongst “the Public and more especially by strangers, respecting this beautiful specimen of gothic architecture which is seen to great advantage from the roads leading westward out of Manchester.”

It origins lay in the fact that Dissenters along with the Catholics were still barred from entering the Universities, and lay professions.  They could not marry in their own places of worship and had to rely on Anglican Churches for registering births and deaths.

This had led to the establishment of an independent academy in Blackburn was opened in 1816 to “educate young men of decided piety and competent talents for the Christian ministry.”**

By 1838 the academy was no longer adequate for this purpose and a new “collegiate building affording more extensive domiciliary accommodation,”” was agreed upon which would be sited in Manchester.

A public subscription was launched to meet the cost of what was estimated would be £10,000.  It says much for the strength of dissent in the North West that within two years the sum of £14, 736 was raised which eventually exceeded £25, 000.

And with all such subscriptions the contributions ranged from the modest to the very substantial, so while Mr Joseph Taylor of Ashton handed over £2, George Hadfield from Manchester gave £2,100, Samuel Fletcher £1,300 and our own Samuel Brooks of Whalley House £1, 550.

Brooks however also benefited from selling the seven acre site for its construction for £3,650.

The foundation stone was laid In September 1840 and the college opened in 1843.

Pictures; of the college circa 1910 from the Lloyd Collection and the Blackburn Independent Academy from The Lancashire Independent College, 1843-93

Tomorrow; the building, the teaching and stories from those who were there

*Manchester Guardian 1842
** resolution of the committee held in the vestry of the Mosley Street Chapel, Manchester February 1816, and quoted by Thompson, Joseph,  in The Lancashire Independent College, 1843-93, Manchester 1893 Memorial Volume, p18

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The unremarkable reveals its secrets ...... at Chorlton station in 1911


This is one of those pictures which don’t get included in the collections of Chorlton.

And you can see why of course.  There is nothing here at first glance which anyone would recognise so there is no point in trying to match it with the present.

Nor do we know who any of the four are and given that the photograph is over a hundred years old I doubt that we ever will.

So most of us would pass over the image and if pressed would label it “four men outside a brick hut, possibly industrial, date unknown.”

For me that is pretty much the attraction.  The date is given as circa 1909 and we are down at the Goods Office by Chorlton Station.

And with that small piece of detail the photograph begins to make sense and I think  starts being interesting.

Look closely and to the left there is a carriage no doubt waiting for someone off the train, while directly in front of the hut is the Public Weighing Machine and to the right the offices of the coal merchants.

In 1911 there were five of them working from the yard by the railway line along with J. Duckett & Sons, building merchants, and J. A. Bruce Alexander, nurseryman.

We may even be able to date more accurately when the picture was taken because according to the 1911 directory one of the firms working in the yard was a Frank Tinker and it is his name which appears above and on the office to our immediate right.

And so to the four. I still don’t know who they are, but one  is wearing a railwayman’s cap with the letters CLC, for the Cheshire Lines Committee which will take me down the route of searching out their staffing records.

The two in the doorway judging by their clothes may be clerical staff which I is confirmed by the sheaf of papers held by one of them.

So the brick hut will be connected to the Public Weighing machine, these are employees of the railway and we are down by the station in what is now the car park of the supermarket.

And looking back at the directories for the years before 1911 there is evidence that the number of coal merchants has grown reflecting I suspect how populous Chorlton was becoming and how successful had been the railway in the 20 or so years since it was opened.

And not long after this was posted I got one of those helpful comments from John Anthony Hewitt "Not really a public weighing machine Andrew Simpson, although it could have been used for that purpose as well as railway duties. 

It was most likely used for sale of coal and other materials, by weight, to local merchants. 

They would weigh-in empty wagons, weigh-out the same wagons laden with coal, etc., and calculate the bill. 

The person holding the papers could be one of the merchants judging by the non-railway style of hat being worn. 

He is also looking slightly bemused [at the bill], whereas the railway clerk has a broad smile on his face."

Location; Chorlton

Picture; from the Lloyd collection.

News from that South African War, circa 1901

The Boer War which lasted from 1899 to 1902 has largely been eclipsed by the Great War.

It sits tucked away with all those smaller colonial campaigns the British army fought across the world after the Crimean War and before the two great world wars of the 20th century.

And yet in its time it was a major event, dividing world opinion, raising in particular questions about the treatment of civilians and accounting for around 75,000 deaths of which between 20,000 and 28,000 were Boer civilians.

And the postcard manufactures were not slow about getting involved.

Raphael Tuck & Sons produced a range of cards covering all aspects of the war from photographs of British soldiers, the Boer commanders and a series of humorous ones.

This comes from a collection of six by the artist L Thackery which alternated between jingoism and a more sober reflection on experiences of British servicemen.

And of course there is a direct connection with Manchester.

In St Ann's Square we have the memorial to the men who took part.







Picture, Memorial St Ann's Square, 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and With the flag to Pretoria, from the series, The Boer War, issued by Tuck & Sons, circa 1901, courtesy of Tuck DB, http://tuckdb.org/

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

West Point on the edge of Chorlton

West point in the 1950s
Well I am back at West Point at the junction of Manchester and Upper Chorlton Roads where they meet Seymour Grove.

Once and it was a long time ago this was commonly known as the Flash and I have to say there wasn’t much there.

In fact before the late 1830s had you wandered north out through Martledge* past Red Gate Farm and Dark Lane up to the Flash there was no Upper Chorlton Road and our route would have taken us up  what is now Seymour Grove but was then called Trafford Lane.

The Flash, 1841-53
Back then Trafford Lane was according to the historian Elwood, “nothing more than an old lane or rough cart road, with deep ditches at each side, overshadowed by trees, and used chiefly by the farmers and foot-passengers of the village.”**

But sometime and it may have been around the time that Samuel Brooks began developing Jackson’s Moss turning it in that desirable southern suburb of Whalley Range, the Flash became West Point.

It might have been helped by the road he cut from Whalley Range into Chorlton at the Flash.  This was Upper Chorlton Road and while it was a toll road may have been a more attractive route into the city than Trafford Lane.

And as such by the late 1850s and early 1860s began to attract those wanting a pleasant place to live.

West Point 1888-93
One of these was Samuel Gratrix who was living on the corner of Upper Chorlton Road where it ran into Manchester Road.

 He was there by 1861.  Opposite was the home of his son which was known as West Point by 1881 and a  name which was adopted as the address for some of the other fine properties nearby.

This raises that tantalizing question of whether the house gave its name to the area or whether West Point had come into common use to describe the point where the three roads converged.

There are plenty of such examples here in Chorlton.  So Chorlton Cross may be the official designation for the junction of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads but people call it the Four Banks, and half a century earlier it was Kemps’ Corner after Harry Chemist’s chemist which stood where the HSBC is today.

Likewise Lane End was historically the name for the junction of Barlow Moor Road, Sandy Lane and High Lane.  And it too had once been known as Brundretts Corner after the grocery shop that dominated the spot back in the mid 19th century.

West Point, in the 1950s
At least two modern historians have written that The Flash became known as West Point at the same time that Samuel Brooks bought Jackson Moss and began developing it as Whalley Range which was 1836.***

Now I can’t verify that, but the name West Point is there in the 1881 census and on the OS map of South Lancashire for 1888-93 and our historian Elwood writing in 1886 more than once makes the point that what once had been known as the Flash was now West Point.

And just twenty years later as the first trams rumbled south from the city their destination boards announced West Point as the end of the route.

West Point circa 1903
By 1908 that famialr row of shops had been built and the small development of houses behind had been laid out which were to become the blue print for Chorltonville.

Commercial photographers never tired of using the junction and snapping the older members of the community sitting on the circualt bench watching as West Point ent about its business.

But like so many popular place names it has fallen a little out of common usage.

That said there are people who still refer to it as West Point and now my new pal David who lives in Firswood has set the ball rolling to get the name re-established with a sign post.  He has already approached a councillor in the Longford ward of Trafford.

Now that I like, and I shall be returning to the story.

*Martledge the northern most community of the township and now the area north of the Four Banks up to the Library which was the site of Red Gates Farm
** Elwood, Thomas, History of Chorlton-cum-Hardy Chapter 6, South Manchester Gazette, December 12 1885
*** John Lloyd, and Cliff Hayes
***8 Enu 16a page 30, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Lancashire 1881

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection and details from the OS map of Lancashire, 1841-53, and South Lancashire, 1888-93 courtesy of Digital Archives http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

In Honour Bound ................. giving up a slice of bread for the war effort



In Honour Bound, 1917
Now here is a jolly poster I have never seen before.

It dates from March 1917 when food shortages were beginning to get the Government worried.

The official line at the beginning of the year was that there was no problem and even by March Mrs Peel of the Ministry of Food commented that “whilst the food position is serious, there is every reason to hope that if people carry out the recommendations of Lord Davenport we shall come through a very difficult period without anything worse than considerable inconvenience.”*

The recommendations had included an appeal for families to adopt ‘The National Scale of Voluntary Rations’ of 4 pounds of bread or 3 pounds of flour, 2½ pounds of meat and ¾ of sugar per week which was the allowances already in place for people eating in restaurants and hotels.

Queue for potatoes, Manchester, 1914
All houses agreeing to do this received a small placard which proclaimed "IN HONOUR BOUND WE ADOPT THE NATIONAL SCALE OF VOLUNTARY RATIONS."

The campaign had begun in the middle of February and by March 11 leaflets “with useful information on rationing and methods of economy [along with the] cards of honour in red, white and blue,” were being prepared.

I have yet to discover just how successful the scheme was but anecdotal evidence suggests that amongst the middle class who were the targets it did have some success.

The London correspondent for the Manchester Guardian reported that that during the first week “out of the fifteen families of barristers, architects, artists, Government officials, and journalists thirteen were keeping their food consumption within the suggested limits.”**

The long queue, 1914
An observation which was supported later that year in a book on food supply and distribution in which the authors asserted “in the short street in which we lived in London last spring three out of four houses showed the placard.  In a certain village of 25 houses all 25 displayed the card.

Altogether as a result of this appeal and an independent “Eat Less Bread” campaign the Food Controller is able to declare that fifteen per cent less bread was eaten in the United Kingdom in June of this year than in February.

In some of the larger cities the consumption of bread was reduced by as much as 25 per cent to 30 per cent.  Portsmouth reduced its weekly capita consumption to 3lbs. 1 oz and Keighley, the ‘model town’ to 2 pounds 07 oz. ‘It is perfectly safe to say,’ says the Director General Kennedy Jones ‘that an enormous reduction has been effected through the voluntary efforts of the people in the United Kingdom in the consumption of practically all food-stuffs.’” ***

All of which sounds fine and dandy but obscured the fact that shortages had been pushing the price of food up since the beginning of the war causing increasing hardship amongst the poor and the working classes.

The London Vigilance Committee, 1917
The Food Vigilance Committees established by the Labour Movement at the outbreak of the war, continued to highlight the issues of food shortages and price rises and demanded that the production and distribution of food should be taken over by the Government in partnership with the trade unions and Co-operative Societies.****

And had also argued for food rationing and even bolder moves to alleviate the problem.  One “very lively conference of working-class women from all parts of London met at Westminster [on February 25] to discuss the voluntary food rationing scheme, with all agreed that the bread rations should be greatly increased ........ a public supply and distribution of milk, and meals for mothers and young children and the establishment of municipal kitchens.”****

The Government however remained  opposed to compulsory rationing despite the growing evidence of shortages and its impact on the poor, with the Food Controller asserting in early November in a Speech at Manchester Town Hall that this was “the voluntary Scheme’s last chance."******

And that proved to be the case for later in the month the Government gave in and began rationing.

Location, Britain

Pictures; The honour card, 1917 from the collection of David Harrop, extracts from documents from The London Food Vigilance Committee, 1915, courtesy of the Labour History Archives & Study Centre,  at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, http://www.phm.org.uk/ queue for potatoes, 1914, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

*Why not official Menus? Food Controller’s Cards of Honour, Manchester Guardian, March 11 1917

**First week of Voluntary Rationing, Manchester Guardian, February 14 1917.

***The Food Problem Vernon Lyman Kellogg, Alonzo Englebert Taylor, Herbert Hoover, 1917, the Macmillan Company New York page 66-67

**** Food Vigilance Committeeshttp://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Food%20Vigilance%20Committees

*****Working Women on rationing, Manchester Guardian, Februry 26 1917

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

West Point the place largely forgotten


Now I don’t often feature West Point which is a shame really but there is quite a lot here, ranging from the murder of a policeman, a grand old pub, and a small housing estate which was a prototype for Chorltonville.

So here is the first of an occasional series on West Point which is where Manchester Road, Seymour Grove and Upper Chorlton Road meet.

Until recently the eastern corner was dominated by the Seymour Hotel which had once been a private residence.

It was a barn of a place and past its best by the time I sometimes went in there.  Like so many of these big pubs it no longer attracted enough people and was demolished for a block of flats.

Location; West Point circa 1950s

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Sapper J Houghton ...... who fought in South Africa and the Great War and was awarded medals by the old Queen and two Kings

Now I don’t know much about Sapper J Houghton, other than he served in the Royal Engineers and participated in both the South African War and the Great War.

I came across him yesterday when my old friend, David Harrop sent me this picture of Sapper Houghton’s medals, which include the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, Victory Medal and two from the earlier conflict.

David tells me they will be in his special exhibition to be held next year in Central Ref to amrk the end of the Great War.

And for those with an interest in that earlier war, Sapper Houghton’s Queen’s South Africa Medal carries three clasps, for the Transvaal, Orange Free State and the Cape Colony.

I know that during that conflict he was with the Telegraph Battalion of the Royal Engineers and reached the rank of sergeant during the Great War.

There is a hint that he might have been from Bury but so far that is it.

In time there will be more.

Location; South Africa and the Western Front

Picture; the medals of Sapper J Houghton from the collection of David Harrop

Sunday, 22 October 2017

A little bit of Manchester in Eltham Palace

Now I do miss Eltham, it was where I grew up and it is a place I was very happy.

But at the age of 19 I went north following a girlfriend who had started a course at Manchester Polytechnic, which on reflection was not the best way for me to choose a degree course especially as she left for London just three months later.

The Sentry, 2007
I stayed and the city has been my home ever since and I do think of it as home, but like all ex pats I never forgotten Eltham and in particular Well Hall.

All of which made the discovery that one of the City’s war memorials was replicated in miniature and sits on a table in the study of Eltham Palace a source for thought.

I came across it recently while working on the new book.*

The original was commissioned by S & J Watts to commemorate those who worked for the company and died in the Great War.

The memorial was erected  in 1922 in the main entrance of the company’s building on Portland Street.

The Sentry is a bronze sculpture, which stands in an arched niche just inside the building and faces a marble plaque commemorating the dead.

It depicts the sentry standing on duty, and was commissioned from the British sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger who also designed the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London.

Eltham Palace, 1961
And to my surprise and pleasure there is a small version of the figure in the study of Eltham Palace, where it was displayed by Stephen Courtauld, who like Mr Jagger was a member of the Artists' Rifles.

So there you have it a little bit of Manchester in the heart of Eltham.

But I can’t close without a reference to the building which holds the orginal statue.

This  is the  large, Victorian Grade II listed building known as Watts Warehouse.

It opened in 1856 as a textile warehouse for the wholesale drapery business of S & J Watts, and was the largest single-occupancy textile warehouse in Manchester.

Today the building is part of the Britannia Hotels chain.

Watts Warehouse, 1973
One source has referred to its ornate style as being typical of
the extravagant confidence of many Mancunian warehouses of this period, but the Watts Warehouse is notable for its peculiarly eclectic design. Designed in the form of a Venetian palazzo, the building has five storeys, each decorated in a different style – Italian Renaissance, Elizabethan, French Renaissance and Flemish – and roof pavilions featuring large Gothic wheel windows.

The interior was similarly lavish in its decoration, with a sweeping iron cantilever staircase, balconied stairwell, and mahogany counters for displaying merchandise.”*

And that makes it a sort of palace.

Location, Manchester and Eltham in London

Pictures; the Sentry, Cnbrb, 2007 Wikipedia Commons, Eltham Palace, from Eltham Palace Ministry of Works Guide Book, 1961and the Watts Warehouse, 1973, m56859 , courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Manchester%20and%20the%20Great%20War

** Watts Warehouse, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watts_Warehouse

The Canadian Women's Army Corps Part 2 ......... The story of Jessie Wright McKellar

In 2013, as part of its 100th anniversary, Lakeland College, located in Vermilion, Alberta, held a special remembrance celebration for the women of the CWAC.  

During the war, the military took over the college and transformed it into the western Canadian training centre. As part of that celebration, I spoke on behalf of the families of those women who served  in the Corps. It is my pleasure to share those thoughts with you.  It is really the story of my mother, but could also be the story of so many others.

I am the proud daughter of a woman who absolutely loved being a member of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. Like most of those who volunteered for service, Lieutenant Jessie Wright McKellar was from small town Canada. Located on the Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario, Keewatin had a population of no more than 3,000.  A close-knit community, most residents were the first and second generations of Scottish and English immigrants.

When war broke out, Jessie saw her brothers and all of her male cousins and friends sign up. She said she felt left out so she moved to Fort William, Ontario, present day Thunder Bay, and worked as a riveter with the Canada Car Company making Liberator bomber planes.  But, when the Corps began advertising, mom jumped at the chance to do something she thought would be special, adventurous and more meaningful!  She joined the CWAC's at the age of 21 and never once regretted the decision.

Mom quickly became an officer and did her advanced officer`s training in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, but was also posted to, or did specialized training, in Perth, Ontario; Medicine Hat, Alberta; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and, Camp Shilo, just outside of Brandon, Manitoba.  Although she was never posted to Vermilion, she met women who did their training there; and, in the early 1990’s, she made contact with two of them. Together, they recalled an experience that only they could share and understand. This meant a lot to mom.

Now, from a very early age, my brother, my two sisters and I knew that we had a mother who was somewhat different from the mothers of our friends!

None of those mothers had a pair of military-issued, clunky heeled, reddish brown shoes that laced up the front; or had a bag in her closet, scattered with moth balls, that contained a khaki uniform complete with matching shirt, tie and cap.

No one else’s mom learned how to parachute by being strapped in a chair on the top of a tower and freefalling to the ground.

Only our mom could tell us about being on parade and leading her platoon down the wrong street, entirely missing the saluting party! Mom did that only once!

And none of those other moms could drive a jeep, change the oil in a car, or knew how to replace that broken fan belt with a brown Lisle cotton stocking.  Well our mom could!

We also thought it was pretty cool that mom could play reveille and taps on the bugle. And, no - that’s not how she woke us in the morning or put us to bed at night! In fact, she read us fairy tales and sang typical children’s songs.  It fell to our dad to teach us war songs. To my dad’s credit, it was only many years later that I learned there were other, more risque versions of those little ditties!

I also remember mom telling us about having her IQ tested.  She said she was pretty naïve about IQ’s, and was quite surprised when the testers came back into the room and said they were going to test her again. “They were pretty excited”, my mom said. “They told me my IQ was 162  and they thought they had a genius on their hands.   But, when they re-tested me, my score was only 142. I wasn't as smart, after all.  Anyway, I guess they thought I was still worth something, so, they sent me off to become an Officer!”

What really excited mom, though, was her aptitude test. It said she would make an excellent plumber!  “This made sense to me”, mom told me.  “I always loved tinkering with things and taking things apart.”  Well, she was certainly right about that!  A few years ago, when we were cleaning out our parents` house, we found all sorts of record players, radios, lamps and small kitchen appliances that she had taken apart…and never  put back together!   And as for that dripping faucet in the bathtub…the current owner says it still drips

Finally, one of my favourite stories was before mom became an officer.  She was working as the secretary for the Major in charge of administration.  Instead of getting my mother’s attention using a bell, like all the other officers used, he would pick up a hammer and bang it against two artillery shells – presumably empty!

What the heck - one last story.  I may as well tell you that mom even got her one and only set of false teeth while she was in the Corps.  These teeth created a story unto themselves.  Mom could chew bubble gum; slice through an apple - skin and all; rip apart plastic; demolish a steak; and cut through embroidery floss –count them- 6 strands of thread! Those teeth were amazing and they lasted over 50 years!  At one time, I thought they would have been an interesting curiosity in the Canadian War Museum. In retrospect, though, it seems clear to me that, whoever made mom’s false teeth all those years ago, had the secret to making the first weapon of mass destruction!

Yes, our mom was quite different from those other moms-and we loved her for it! The four of us always knew there was something special and respectful about having had a mother who served in the War as a member of the CWAC’s.  To this day, I have a picture of mom, in her uniform, in my living room; and my brother posts photos of mom and dad every November on his Facebook page … lest we forget.

 Mom’s memories were vivid throughout her life and she spoke of being in service with pride, fondness and humour. “At a time when many women weren’t even working, I was doing all sorts of things most women never got to do,” she told me.  She also said that women in the Corps did experience life in an exciting and unusual way: she met people from across the country; she got to travel; she learned and did things she would never have known or done otherwise; and she learned, and continued to believe, that women were capable of doing just about anything.  This was but one of the legacies mom passed on to my two sisters and me.

Mom has been gone since 1995; but I am very privileged to be able to honour and express my deepest thanks to her - and to the members of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps - for the service they gave and the paths they opened for their daughters and future generations of women in Canada, within our society, our industries and our police and military presence. They were trailblazers - and they are unique in the history of this country. “Dulcit Amor Patrice.”  In Love of Country, We Serve.

© Susan (Hillman) Brazeau



Photos of Jessie Wright McKellar are from the Author's Family Collection