Monday, 31 December 2018

Manchester Mapping the City* ……… Christmas presents ….. no. 1

Now, Manchester Mapping the City, must be a book for anyone interested in the cartography of the city and its transformation from a small attractive Georgian town into “the shock city of the Industrial Revolution” ** and its present status as an exciting place to live at the heart of large urban conurbation.

I got my copy for Christmas, and I have rationed myself to four maps a day which is hard given that the maps are fascinating, and the accompanying notes illuminate the story of the city.

The book opens in 1728 with panoramic views across the Irwell and take in many of my favorite maps with plenty more I have never seen, including one drawn for the inquiry into Peterloo, the Soviet map and the 1960 plan to introduce parking meters.

Along the way there is the famous 1945 regeneration plan of the city, Goad’s Fire Insurance maps and the delightful Adshead map of 1851.

I was first alerted to the book by Neil Spurr of Digital Archives Association who reproduces excellent old maps in a digital format, and while I was intrigued, I was a tad skeptical, wrongly thinking that there would just not be enough maps to advance my knowledge.

Wood Street, from Goad, 1889
There are in fact 54 sections, each with a map and commentary, staring with those panoramic views in 1728 and finishing with a map from 2016 and a discussion on the wider city region.

Each section offers up an insight into how the city has changed, and the way Mancunians have worked, played, and coped with everything from dire housing conditions, to finding a parking place, and contemplating an underground rail network and a proposed heliport on Victoria Railway Station.

Of the three authors, I have been familiar with Terry Wyke, who has written the notes for some of the maps from Digital Archives Association, has also collaborated on books on the city’s history as well as being a Senior Lecturer in Social & Economic History, Manchester Metropolitan University.

33 & 35, Wood Street, 1909
At which point I am pondering on nominating my favorite map, but that would be premature as I still have twelve sections to go and anyway many have long helped me with research and have found their way into my own books and the blog.

And I suppose, it is the usefulness of each map which makes them all so compelling, leaving me just to reflect on Goad’s Insurance maps from the late 1880s, which detail, not only many of the streets and the buildings but also contain fascinating reference to the materials used in the construction of each property.

Sadly the two houses at numbers 33 and 35 on Wood Street, never made it into the Goad collection, but then they never would given that they were humble properties, but using a photograph of the two along with census material it has been possible to learn something about them along.

They have long ago vanished, but they were opposite the Wood Street Mission which Mr. Goad did include.

Wood Street Mission, 2007
Today the site is a small car park for the Rylands Library and just down from that space is a passageway which may have been the entrance to another court called Bradley’s Yard.

So that is it ……. Christmas present number one with more to follow. 

Pictures; Wood Street, 2007, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, numbers 33 & 35, m05389, A Bradburn courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  and Wood Street, circa 1900, from Goad's Fire Insurance Maps, Digital Archives Association,

* Manchester Mapping the City, Terry Wyke, Brian Robson, and Martin Dodge, 2018

** Victorian Cities, Asa Briggs, 1963

*** Digital Archives Association,

**** Walking the streets of Manchester in 1870 ................ part 4 ... calling on Mr. and Mrs. Hall at no.35 Wood Street,

The class of ’68 part 7 ……. Ranger's House and a folk concert

Now, yesterday a little bit of my past bounced back into my life in the form pf a program and a folk concert ticket.

'....... all that life can afford', 1967
And what follows is less a bit of vanity and more just a comment on how exciting it was to be at one of our big three comprehensives in the late 1960s.

The three were Crown Woods, Eltham Green and Kidbrook, and I went to Crown Woods.

And in the December of 1967 along with some close friends and lots of other people, I took part in two performances of “all that life can afford” at the Ranger’s House in Blackheath.

The house dates from the 1720s and was a fitting venue for a performance of selected verse, prose and music from the 18th century.

The show lasted for two nights, and drew on the writings of Daniel Defoe, James Boswell, Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope and John Wesley, along with Voltaire, Bernard de Mandeville and the duc de Liancourt.

From the program, cast, writers and researcher, 1967
And dominating the evening was Samuel Johnson, whose throwaway comment that “He that is tired of London is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford”, provided the title for the show.

The sequence was in two parts, the first offering up “pictures of the streets [with] gin drinking, poverty and crime and punishment”, and the second exploring “the intellectual and religious life, as well as entertaining in high society, the military and naval activities of Blackheath and Greenwich and the famous Greenwich Fair.” *

The night concluded with the sonnet Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth, which is near you will get to the perfect piece of praise for the city of London.

I remember I had been less than willing to participate and had a long conversation with Mr. Marland who was Head of English and put forward a series of reasons why I couldn’t take part, each of which was more desperate and unconvincing than the one before.

When finally, I gave in, and agreed, Mr. Marland gave me the script with my name at the top and the part I was to play already identified.

Some of the class of '68, 1968
The two nights were a great success but were only one of a number of different performances which the school had offered up.

These included, The Causian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht, An Enemy of the People by Ibsen, Billy Liar, Antigone, The Peterloo Massacre, and the sixteenth century play Gammer Gurton’s Needle along with other dramatic and musical anthologies.

All of which sat beside regular evenings of poetry, prose and music performed by the staff and students of the English Department.

Ranger's House and Samuel Johnson, 1967
Now I fully accept that similar events went on at Eltham Green and Kidbrook, and I do remember the annual Sixth Form Conferences attended by schools from across the capital which featured some of the best figures from the sciences and the arts who were invited to speak.

The point is that these were put on by comprehensive schools, and not grammar or public schools and in doing so were proudly asserting that they were the equal and perhaps superior to the older and established “places of education”.

Nor did it stop there, because Crown Woods gave us the opportunity to act independently.

In the winter of 1967 Dave Hatch and I were allowed to do our own radio show, featuring folk music, which went out on the internal radio system.

And a little later, when I asked if I could run a series of folk concerts with local singers in the school library, the answer was yes.

Folk at Crown Woods, 1968
I long ago forgot the details and had just a vague memory of who performed, but here Dave came to my rescue again, by telling me “you said that you couldn't remember many details. 

The names of two performers stuck in my mind; Gordon Giltrap, who you recruited one Friday night at the Tigers Head, and Terry Yarnell, who worked with Anne's father in Silvertown at International Paints”.

All these opportunities could be replicated by countless others, but I think there was something special in being at one of the “big three” in Eltham and Kidbrook back then.

Pictures; Crown Woods School in “……. all that life can afford”, the folk concert ticket, and the picture of some of the class of ’68, program courtesy of Anne Davey who kept them in her scrap book and Dave hatch for sending them up to me

*Crown Woods School in “……. all that life can afford”

The return of Chorlton's History Trail ............ all you wanted to know about Manchester Road ..... and more

Now there are many things that make Chorlton different from other places, but for me it’s the celebration of the township’s history which comes with the ever-popular History Trail.

The first History Trail, 2012
The first few date back to 2012 and they remain a unique part of the landscape.

Each tells the story of a particular part of Chorlton, with a special nod to the building in which they are exhibited.

The first appeared in the Horse and Jockey with others in shops, restaurants and cafes, out along Beech Road, Barlow Moor Road, and beyond, culminating with the 80-meter-long installation which fronted the construction of a block of flats.

In the new year another of these installations will appear on High Lane where Armistead Properties are renovating numbers 57 and 59.

The six panels will tell the story of the two houses and the development of this bit of Chorlton.

Work on these six history panels is well under way, and they should be unveiled in the March of 2019, leaving me just to add that we are also just completing the story of 105 Manchester Road which will feature the shop of Mr. James H. Heys, stationer, and tobacconist.

The property remained a purveyor of all things tobacco and note paper into the late 1960s and beyond, when after a checkered history, it opened a few months ago as CBD Coffee Lounge, the exterior of which Peter painted recently.

Presenting the CBD painting, 2018
That painting, and our latest “History Trail” panel will soon be up on the wall of the Café.

At which point I could go into detail about what will be included, but that would be to give the story away.

Suffice to say, that once and not that long ago Manchester Road ran out of Chorlton bordered by fields and farms.

For those leaving the township, once they had passed Redgate Farm, they had clear views of the railway line, to the east and open land to the west.

Manchester Road, 1894
Location; Chorlton

Painting; Painting, CBD Coffee Lounge © 2018 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.

Map; Manchester Road in 1894, from the OS of South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Looking out from Salford ..... under grey skies

Now the thing about a panting rather than a photograph is that the artist can have more control over the dominant emotion that the work is meant to convey.

Which isn’t to say that a photograph can’t come close either by the use of light, or how the image is cropped, but with a painting the artist can decide what he/she wants to see rather than what is actually out there.

And that is what I think we have got here with Peter’s painting of the Imperial War Museum North.

Anyone who knows his work will be familiar with the “Topper sky” which is always bright and very blue.

But not here, not with this painting of the museum.  Of course anyone who has stood at any one of the Metro stops around the Quays or up on the Cornbrook platform will recognise that grey grim sky which often brings with it  a biting wind and a fair amount of very wet driving rain.

But leaving that aside I rather think his choice of sky fits well with the metal roof of the building and the much of the subject matter contained in the IWMN.

Peter and I rarely discuss his paintings in advance of them being sent over, so as I sit here I then interpret what I see and write the story in much the same way as he fixes his painting from the landscape.

So it will be interesting to see what he says.

Location; Salford,

Painting; Imperial War Museum North, Painting © 2016 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Down on Maple Avenue with more rare pictures

This is another of those wonderful images from Ray Jones whose family owned one of the houses on Maple Avenue for over a century, spanning the old Queen’s Jubilee, two world wars, and much else.

It was taken by Ray’s grandfather and dates from the 1920s.
That said I bet there will be someone out there who is an expert on such vehicles and can offer up the make, the date and more than a bit of its history.

In the same way there will be someone else who will follow up on the number plate and go to those sites which explain how the letters and numbers can date the car.

But for now I shall just thank Ray and make that obvious remark that there would have been very little other traffic parked up on that sunny day on Maple Avenue.

All of which is in direct contrast to today and leads me to wonder just when the transition happened.

Look at photographs from the 1960s and even early 70's and many roads will still be relatively empty and that I think highlights the need for more pictures from those middling decades.

The collection is full of images from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when commercial photographers plied their trade selling to local residents as well as the picture postcard companies.

But from the 1960s as the trade in picture postcards went into decline the numbers of photographs has also diminished.

I know they will be out there, mostly as snaps which now sit in family albums or at the bottom of the sock cupboard and bringing them out into the light would advance our knowledge of the area.

So that’s the appeal done, leaving me just to thank Ray and say I know exactly which house on Maple Avenue this is, but until I approach the owners it seems unfair to say more.

Instead I will close with a comment from Ray who thinks "the the motor is a BSA cyclecar but I'm not certain."

Location; Maple Avenue, Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture, a car, two kids, and auntie on Maple Avenue, circa 1920s, © Ray Jones

Saturday, 29 December 2018

Deansgate remembered ................ stories from the Fox Inn on Byrom Street nu 1 .... a beginning

For many Deansgate is just a road which takes you from Knott Mill down to St Mary’s Gate.

The Fox Inn, Byrom Street, circa 1914
If you are lucky and the traffic flow is kind you can do the route in minutes.

If like me you prefer to walk it offers up a shed load of interesting buildings from the old public library between Liverpool Road and Tonman Street past the John Rylands and down to the Burlington Arcade.

And if you turn off and stroll down Liverpool Road towards the Duke’s Canal and Castlefield you will be rewarded with a rich lump of history.

Here was our Roman fort and and small town, the Manchester end of the Bridgewater Navigation, as well as the site of the first passenger railway station in the world and heaps more including one of the first recorded Cholera cases back in the 1830s.

Johhny Lee, young Charlie and Joe Gibbons
And it was a place teeming with people making it in the words of the historian Frank Heaton a “Manchester Village.”  It runs down from Deansgate towards the river, bounded on one side by a set of railway viaducts and on the other by Quay Street.

I first became fascinated by it almost four decades ago and keep getting drawn back.

And in those forty years I have researched and written about the area, walked its streets in the company of friends and conducted guided tours of its history.**

So with all of that behind me I was very pleased when Debs got in touch and supplied this picture of the pub her grandmother was born in on August 26 1908.

William Henry Forth, Doris and Florence Forth and Betty Marr
Doris Brack nee Forth grew up in the Fox Inn on Byrom Street and she recorded her memories of the pub and the area in a series of interviews with Mr Heaton who included some of them in his book.

They are a vivid picture of a vibrant working class area in the years after the Great War.

So over the next few weeks with the help of her granddaughter Debs I will be exploring those tapes and piecing together the story of a community.***

It starts with the Fox Inn and this wonderful picture. I know that standing i the doorway beside her father William Henry Forth are Doris and her sister Florence and their friend Betty Marr and Johhny Lee, her cousin Charlie and Joe Gibbons.

Now that’s a good start.

Location Byrom Street, Deansgate, Manchester

Picture; The Fox Inn, circa 1914, courtesy of Debs Brack

*The Manchester Village Deansgate Remembered, Frank Heaton, 1995, Neil Richardson



In celebration of that new Salford …………

Now it is very easy to mourn that old Salford of terraced streets, busy, noisy work places, and grimy streets, which at the same time were full of close knit communities.

Much of it has gone, and while some rail against its passing, there is much merit in what has come to replace it.

And before anyone leaps to shout that the shiny glass and steel buildings of today could be pretty much anywhere, I suspect there will have been those who said the same of the rows of terraced houses, mills and big stone office blocks which took the place of the older 18th century properties.

So that said, here is another in that short series, celebrating the new Salford.

Location; Salford

Picture; New places and old water, 2017, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Friday, 28 December 2018

Walking the city of Manchester in 1841 .......... courtesy of Mr B Love

Now I bet the Handbook of Manchester would have caused a stir amongst the elegant tea rooms and learned libraries of London back in 1842 when it was published.* 

After all our city was as Asa Briggs said “the shock city of the Industrial Revolution" and as such was on the itinerary of both British and foreign commentators keen to know what was going in the North.

And it is worth giving the full title of the book because it lays out just what it is about  The Handbook of Manchester, containing statistical general information on the trade, social condition, and institutions of the Metropolis of Manufactures: was published in 1842.

It was according the Preface a “new and it is presumed, a greatly improved edition of ‘Manchester As It Is,’ – published in 1839.  

Considerable pains have been taken to render this volume one of the most complete of its kind.”

And here are chapters on all the major manufacturing industries, descriptions of the population of the city and surrounding towns and townships and much on the conditions of those who lived here.

It is in short a wonderful bit of history and sits alongside those others by Dr Kay, Mr Engels and many more.

It praises the beauty of many of the new buildings and the industrious nature of its residents but has a keen social eye, commenting that the river Medlock and the river Irk “are made extensively available for manufacturing purposes; hence their waters are thick, black and filthy.”

And for me it will be when Mr Love explores the lives of the cotton workers, along with chapters on the charities, the social scene and crime when the book becomes fascinating.

So there you have it and I am thinking there will be plenty more to come.  The Female Penitentiary and the information on aspects of the city's population were drawn from random and just caught my eye.

Location; Manchester 1841

Picture; Female Penitentiary Emdben–place, Greenheys, 1841, and data from the 1841 Census represented in The Manchester, Handbook, 1842 

*The Handbook of Manchester containing statistical general information on the trade, social condition, and institutions of the Metropolis of Manufactures: being a second edition of Manchester as it is, by B. Love, member of the Literary and Philosophical Society of Manchester, 1842   And is available as a download from Goggle Books

*Victorian Cities, Asa Briggs, 1963

In celebration of that new Salford …………

Now it is very easy to mourn that old Salford of terraced streets, busy, noisy work places, and grimy streets, which at the same time were full of close knit communities.

Much of it has gone, and while some rail against its passing, there is much merit in what has come to replace it.

And before anyone leaps to shout that the shiny glass and steel buildings of today could be pretty much anywhere, I suspect there will have been those who said the same of the rows of terraced houses, mills and big stone office blocks which took the place of the older 18th century properties.

So that said, here is another in that short series, celebrating the new Salford.

Location; Salford

Picture; Imposing Salford, 2017, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Snaps of Chorlton No 9, the family car 1928

An occasional series featuring private and personal photographs of Chorlton.

The year is 1928 and this is the family car of the Holmes family.

Mrs Holmes is sitting in the passenger seat and I rather think that just peeking out over the steering wheel is a very young Marjorie.

The picture was taken in Mr Holmes work yard which was part of the farm yard of what was known until recently as Greenwood’s farm and stood on the east side of the green where Finney Drive is today.

Now I have no knowledge of cars so would welcome some advice on what the car was.

Picture; from the collection of Marjorie Holmes

Thursday, 27 December 2018

The Rivoli, before it became the Essoldo, the Classic and the Shalimar and finished as our last cinema

All our cinemas have gone. Two were demolished one is a supermarket and the last is an undertaker’s. It is hard to decide which has met the worst fate.

The last to go was the Rivoli which I suppose was fitting given that it was the last of the four to be built. It had opened in 1937 and closed sometime in the 1980s.

I remember seeing Gone with the Wind there in 1979, and it was the perfect film to see in such an old fashioned cinema house. The frontage was pretty much all glass, with tall windows reaching from the first floor to almost the top of the building.

The box office was in the centre of the auditorium and behind it there was the sweep of stairs which took you up the circle.

Coming down from the stairs you could look out through the great windows with their faded drapes to the Feathers opposite. Not that we ever went there. A night at the “flicks" would still always end in the Trevor.

Now I guess it had been built to cater for the new Corporation estates which had been going up from the late 1920s. These were south of the Brook stretching out on either side of Barlow Moor Road and out beyond Mauldeth Road West and the Rivoli was situated perfectly to catch this audience.

It was damaged during the war and did not reopen until 1953. For those interested in these things it is still possible to trace the stick of bombs that fell that night, because along with the cinema they destroyed houses on Claude and Reynard which were also rebuilt after the war.

But the Rivoli suffered from the general decline of cinema goers and despite changes of name to the Essoldo, then the Classic and later still the Shalimar it was on the slide.

 When R. E. Stanley took his picture of the cinema it was showing an Italian movie called the Barbarian and the Goliath or as it was alternatively known the Goliath and the Barbarian. Starring Steve Reeves it was a sequel to the very successful Hercules made in 1958 and Hercules Unchained finished the following year. 

Unlike the earlier films this was set in the Dark Ages in Northern Italy when barbarian armies have overrun the country but are meeting with resistance from a local hero, and despite some plot twists and a romantic diversion is really a tale of tyranny versus good and could as one review has suggested been set at anytime in any place.

So just an action film with dubbed voices and as such good enough to fill the mid week slot and the Sunday matinee but not a crowd puller for a big Saturday night. In the same year there had been Ben Hur, North by North West, Some Like it Hot, Pillow Talk and Anatomy of a Murder, as well as On the Beach, Rio Bravo and Suddenly Last Summer.

Come to think of it, I can’t remember seeing a new release there either.

But then if we are honest suburban cinemas were not by the late ‘50s about the brand new film they were comfortable little places to fill the odd evening out between the big movies in town and the telly.

Picture; Essoldo Cinema m09200 March 1959 R E Stanley, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Robin .... A Christmas Annual from the Hulton Press, in 1953

This is the last of those comic annuals which were published by Hulton Press.

Robin was aimed at very young children and while I remember getting the comic and perhaps even the first annual in 1953 sadly neither comic or book have made their way into my collection.

So I have fallen back on a wonderful site dedicated to the Eagle Annual  for this image of the first Robin Annual.*

Eagle, along with Girl and Swift were the companion comics and books which Hulton was responsible for during the 1950s, and for anyone wanting to know more or recreate their childhood the Eagle Annual site  is a wonderful starting point.

Robin contained a lot of colour strips and short stories which parents could read to their children and given the decade it came out in it included stories on Andy Pandy and the Flower Pot Men.

Number one also featured Birthday wishes to the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

And even with the help of the Eagle Annual site that is about the extent of my knowledge, although I can remember cutting the comic up for its comic figures.

Alas all a long time ago.

Now given that this is the end of the short series on the Hulton four I shall also mention Eagle Times, which for the last 25 years has set about keeping the Eagle comic alive with stories features and conversations with those directly involved with it during the 1950s.**

Picture; Robin Annual Nu 1, 1953, courtesy of Eagle Annual

*Eagle Annual,

In celebration of that new Salford …………

Now it is very easy to mourn that old Salford of terraced streets, busy, noisy work places, and grimy streets, which at the same time were full of close knit communities.

Much of it has gone, and while some rail against its passing, there is much merit in what has come to replace it.

And before anyone leaps to shout that the shiny glass and steel buildings of today could be pretty much anywhere, I suspect there will have been those who said the same of the rows of terraced houses, mills and big stone office blocks which took the place of the older 18th century properties.

So that said, here is another in that short series, celebrating the new Salford.

Location; Salford

Picture; Busy Salford, 2017, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wishing you well ........... postcards from Woolwich, Greenwich and Eltham for the summer ..... nu 6 old houses Woolwich

A short series with few words looking at the postcards we sent from Woolwich, Greenwich and Eltham.

Now the caption is none too helpful and offers up just the description “Old houses Woolwich.”

But the building proved popular enough for another postcard company to reproduce a similar photograph with the more a more useful description which places them at “Free Ferry Approach.”

And according to one source was “situated on Hog Lane, later Nile Street, this timber building of fifteenth and sixteenth century origin had deteriorated into a lodging house by the time its northern half was cleared for the Free Ferry Approach during the 1880s.  Its southern half survived until 1905 when it was condemned.”*

Now I went looking for Nile Street and there it was in 1972 running into Rodney Street hard by the river and in time

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Woolwich, 1902, Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

*Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Boxing Day 1959 with the Swift Annual Nu 4

This is the third of those comic annuals produced by the Hulton Press in the 1950s.

Swift like its companions, Eagle, Girl and Robin aimed to provide a mix of adventure stories, practical activities and a focus all things historical and scientific.

And like the others it issued an Annual at Christmas.
Swift Number 4 was published in 1957 and along with strip cartoons there were extended stories, and articles on Man 20,000 years ago, the Lighthouse, St Egwin, and a visit to Swift’s sweet factory.

Like the companion volumes there were plenty of line drawings and colour plates on Birds in the Garden, Wonderful Ants and The Story of Transport.

Now Hulton knew they were on to a winning formula and were not adverse to featuring commercial companies which appeared in the stories, so in Eagle there was Tommy Walls after the ice cream company and in Swift, Ladybird made an appearance in the Sign of The Scarlet Ladybird.

There were also DIY pages and what turned out to be my favourite Trains that run Underground.

Today, they seem a little quaint but at the time they were at the sharp end of what children wanted to know and what they wanted to read.

Looking again at my Swift Annual I have to say that the stories and pictures are pure 1950s.

I treasure the images of the trains and cars and enjoy just slipping back to what for a youngster was a carefree time.

At which point there is that danger of nostalgia creeping in so I might just sit down and make one of the many interesting things that Swift offered up.

In Number 4 these ranged from making animals from pipe cleaners to a Knight in Armour and a Cotton Reel Tank.

But Swift was aimed at both boys and girls and DIY acticities like the stories and featurs crossed what was thought at the time to be the gender divide, so for every tank there was advice on hos to make a  Raffia Girl from dusters, bamboo sticks and garden seeds.

And that is one of the charms of the book for the materials were what could be found in a 1950s house and that from memeory did include pipe cleaners, and discarded cotton bobbins.

I doubt that even then I could laugh at the jokes from page 117 of which these may be the best. Q."Why is a dog's tail like the inside of a tree? A. Because it is farthest from the bark, or Q. What is most like a horse shoe? A. His othershoes."

Now that said  I think this is the moment to close leaving me only to ponder on whether I shall explore the last of the Hulton four which was Robin, or strike off into one of the many rivals.
We shall see.

Pictures; from Swift Annual Number 4, 1959, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

St Barnabus and its journey from Woolwich

Now I have passed St Barnabus Church countless times and never knew it was originally sited in Woolwich.

It was one of those Eltham churches I have already written about but couldn’t resist doing so again when I came across this picture.

It appears in a new book on Woolwich and the history of the building is always worth repeating.

“Designed by Sir George Scott, the Naval Dockyard church was built between 1857 and 1859 in Woolwich Dockyard becoming redundant after the latter’s closure in 1869.  

In 1932-33, the distinctive red brick edifice was reconstructed in Eltham.”*

When I first posted the story it led to a flood of memories from people who remembered it on fire after it had been hit during a bombing raid in  the last war.

Picture; St Barnabus Church,1858,courtesy of Kristina Bedford

*Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, 2014, Amberley Publishing,

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

On Christmas Day with presents from the 1950s

Dinky toy, circa 1955
Now I doubt that any one will be beating their way to a computer today and the readership of the blog will take a dip.

Nevertheless as you are sitting back amongst the discarded wrapping paper, with a day of indulgence ahead I thought that I would just be more than a little selfish and share a few of the Christmas presents that came my way when I was a child.

A book I still read, 1954
Most have long since vanished like the wooden toy forts my dad made, complete with battlements, towers, drawbridges and even one year a portcullis.

This was also the year he made four identical rocking cribs for each of my four sisters for their Christmas dolls.

They were massive affairs and each painted a different colour.

But for me throughout the 1950s and into the early 60 presents were dominated by the train set and the Eagle comic.

So there would be an addition to the big train set which stood on a converted ping pong table and took up all of a big room with its track lay out, marshalling yards stations, signals and model village.  Usually this might be a new locomotive or a few freight wagons.

Alongside these there was always an Eagle annual and the odd Dan Dare toy.*

Dan Dare from Eagle Annual nu Six, Christmas 1956
The toys had usually broken by February but the annuals have lasted the test of time and can still fascinate me over 50 years after I opened them under the tree infront of an open fire.

And as you do I continue to collect a whole range of the books put out for children during the 1950s.

Some I wish I had been given, others are totally new to me, and others still were ones that at the time I would not have gone near but now are as interesting as the Eagle.

Of these it is the Girl  which was the companion to the Eagle annual that I return to.

And that I think is enough of nostalgia for another year.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Eagle,

Monday, 24 December 2018

The Girl Annual and a take on the optimism of the 1950s

Annual number 7
Now I am fully aware that I might be accused of nostalgia but I am back with those comic annual books which were published in the 1950s.

They were a by product of the popular comics like Eagle, Girl, Swift and the Lion and came out for Christmas.

But were books I kept going back to throughout the year and now fifty years after I got them as presents I still read them with pleasure.

So, not so much a present for Christmas as a friend for life.

My favourite was the Eagle but Hulton who published it were quick to spot its success could be replicated with a companion comic called Girl and two others aimed at a younger market.

These were the Swift and Robin and in the fullness of time I shall visit them too.

Today however I shall focus on the Girl Annual.

Woman of Action Lotte Hass
Like Eagle it was a mix of popular stories from the weekly comic, with features on history, nature, science and fashion. It also contained advice on a range of subjects from “New Uses for Duffle Coat Buttons” to “Making a Picnic Basket” and rope table mats.

All of which seems a little twee but the books actively sought to show women could have careers from being doctors to competing with men in the most dangerous environment.

So the Girl Annual included pictures of Women in Action including the photographer Michaela Dennis, the deep sea diver and photographer Lotte Hass and the pilot Jacqueline Cochran.

There was also a long article on the careers open to women in the merchant navy.

Now I fully concede that all of these were the caring and sharing professions  but  it did refer to “World’s 
First Woman Radio Operator Aboard ship gets her ticket” and was confident that while this was a foreign ship where “one merchant service makes a start, others will follow.”

New foods for the 1950s's table
Along with these more challehging new careers was the story on foods in many lands, which while it did refer to them as odd foods, was still opening up new horizons to young people brought up on spam and nothing more exotic than a banana.

Both Eagle and Girl reflected that optimistic view of the world which was abroad in the 1950s and which challenges the popular misconception that it was a grey drab decade of shortages, and make and mend just waiting for the “swinging ‘60s.”

It was instead an exciting period when everything seemed possible.

Belle of the Ballet
There was television and jet travel, materials like plastic and the promise of full employment and a welfare state.

There might also be the threat of the H Bomb, countless nasty and brutish colonial wars and the legacy of many old habits and ideas but the world was changing and my Eagle and Girl annuals reflected that change.

And in the process were not afraid to reflect on what had been. So the story of Belle of the Ballet and A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in the blitzed out ruin of a church hall.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Christmas Postcards

This was sent on December 24th 1906 at 11.30 and given the frequent collections and deliveries would have arrived on the same day.

There was no message but perhaps the caption was enough. The manufacturers had already issued this card and so were cashing in on the season.

Picture; from the collection of Rita Bishop

Riverside House ....... a ghost sign and a walk along Irwell Street

Now back in August of last year on a very indifferent grey day I decided to take myself off to Irwell Street.

On Irwell Street, 2016
It is easy enough to get to, you just wander down New Quay Street until you cross the river or alternatively turn off Trinity Way.

Now I on the other hand had wandered down Water Street on the Manchester side planning to use Princess Bridge and get some pictures of the river and by degree walk into Salford.

But the major new railway build put paid to that leaving me a few indifferent pictures of a building site and the decision to make the crossing at New Quay Street.

It is an area of the two cities which has and is undergoing great change, but the old Royal Veteran public house on Stanley Street is still there, although when I passed in 2011 it was all shut up and is now shrouded in scaffolding.

Looking down towards Irwell Street, 1968
There will of course be people who will be able to tell me about the pub’s history, but for now it is the ghost sign on the gable end which intrigues me.

It is faded but you can still read that it refers to Riverside House and that is the starter for ten for the competition to tell us what Riverside House was and what it did.

Does it refer to the pub building?  If so that may mean that the Royal Veteran shut up shop much earlier than I thought.

All of which means that unless someone knows it will have to a trawl of the directories to confirm what the building was when Mr T Brooks recorded it away in the distance in 1966.

Location; Salford

Pictures; the Royal Veteran, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and looking down New Quay Street, 1968, T Brooks, m02350, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Beech Road in the summer of 1932

We are on Beech Road in the summer of 1932.  

Judging by the shadows and the activity it must be sometime in the

The manager of John Williams and Sons looks on as his assistant sweeps the pavement in front of the shop and beyond him other shop keepers are laying out their produce.

As yet there are few people about and most of those are on bikes are more than likely out on their first delivery rounds.

Most seem oblivious to the camera, except that is for the two by the lampspost who have stopped their conversation to gaze back at the photographer.

The picture perfectly captures Beech Road in the early years of the 1930s.  The stone setts on Wilton Road have yet to be covered and the old railings around the Rec are still in place, otherwise it is not so different from today.

Of course the absence of cars is quite striking as are the shop fronts with their tall windows,  and painted signs.

What is all the more remarkable is that it is a scene which is more familiar to us than to those who walked the road before 1930.

I had always assumed that the row of shops which included John Williams & Sons had been built sometime soon after the beginning of the 20th century.

The site had originally been occupied by Sutton’s Cottage which was a wattle and daub dwelling and may well have been built in the early 1800s and was demolished in 1891.*

So it was reasonable enough to assume that the plot was built over soon afterwards but not so.

The other surprise was that John Williams and Sons were not local traders but in fact owned a chain of grocer shops across the city and beyond which in 1931 accounted for 41 shops of which there were three in Chorlton**, six in Didsbury and
another four in Rusholme.

Now I rather think there is a story here.  Back in 1895 they are listed as John & Sons with five shops in Didsbury abd Fallowfield which by 1911 had become 11 with John Williams described as managing director and the head office at 400 Dickinson Road.

Later still although I can’t date it is a wonderful advert for the company which advertises their ‘“Dainty, Delightful Delicious Tea, [from] John Williams & Sons limited, “The Suburban Grocers”, [at] 28 Victoria Street Manchester Stockport & Branches’.

And looking at the interior of one of their shops sometime in the early 20th century there is more than an element of “class” about the place.

So while the shelves groan with tinned produce and between the potted plants are the familiar posters advertising Californian Apricots at 6½d, and Coffee and other things, it is less cluttered, less in your face and far more discreet.

All of which makes me wonder at what our own shop on Beech Road would have been like, but that like the full story of John Williams and Sons will just have to wait.

Location; Beech Road, Chorlton

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection, 1932

*Sarah Sutton

**32 Beech Road, Wilbraham Road, 211 Upper Chorlton Road.

Back with the Eagle in the 1950s

Now if you were born sometime between the early 1940s and the mid ‘50s, the chances are you were a fan of the Eagle comic.

It is a topic I keep coming back to and the reason is that back then it amounted to the best of British comics.

Its appeal crossed class lines as well gender and if my father was anything to go by attracted an older generation as well.

It came out each week and like other comics of the period had its own Christmas annual which was supplemented by books on some of the other leading characters.

But for me the Eagle Annual which first appeared in December 1950 was a must under the tree and it kept me going through the year, because here as well as comic strips were extended stories articles on sport , history science  and nature.

In between there were practical information on how to make a Kite-released parachute, sending secret messages using invisible ink and making your own printing set.

Never being particularly practical most of these DIY projects rated little more than a second glance.

For me it was the sections dealing with history and the stories which drew me in.

And of the stories it was Dan Dare Pilot of the Future who always was my first choice.

At this point I have to say this is no nostalgic trip. Instead is an exploration of how a popular comic managed at the same to introduce a whole pile of educational information which never led you to think you were back at school.

Nor were the books or comics aimed at the middle class, for there was enough here for any lad like me whose highest aspirations seemed to be a secondary modern school and a future mapped out in one of any one of a number of practical occupations.

The activities were all rooted in things any nine year could do and the stories were  in a world I understood.

And when they were based in space the Wild West or North Africa they were believable.

What is more the science of the future was our everyday life just a little different.

So Dan Dare’s spaceship used dial and buttons and levers, the command structure of Space Fleet including the uniforms which  mimicked the armed forces and of course many of the expressions used were rooted in the language of the 1950s.

None of which should surprise us but allowed every nine year old to feel that this imaginary world was not so far off from their own everyday life.

Of course the Eagle was ruthless in its use of its name which was marketed for all sorts of types and products, but again there is nothing new there.

So that said I shall this evening retreat into that world of the Eagle Annual leaving the cares of the 21st century behind.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Eagle,