Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Stories from Naples, Cambridge and Varese ......

Now there is something exciting when a close member of the family decides she is going to write about her life.

Naples, 2017
And all the more so when she was born in 1940 in Naples, arrived in Britain as an economic migrant twenty years later, and then returned to Italy, bringing up a family of five in the northern city of Varese.

Rosa grew up during the tough years of the last world war and the immediate post war period when Naples was still a city where “poverty busied itself”.

Like many Italians she migrated to where the work was, but while for most that meant the great industrial cities of the north, like Milan and Turin, she travelled to Britain and worked in a series of jobs.

And she left Italy just days after she had got married, only to be reunited with her new husband later in the year when he too arrived in Britain.

I am particularly interested in how two young Italians took to Britain and to the city of Cambridge just as the “swinging “60s” burst forth, and their experiences as economic migrants, when the country was perhaps more tolerant of those who came to work here.

Varese, 2016
They stayed for nearly a decade, worked hard, bought a house, paid their taxes and got involved in the community.

But that episode was a short one, and I want to know also, about the years in the north after they returned, when Italy continued to build its “economic miracle”, and delve deeper into her life in Naples.

Both Rosa and Simone came from families who had lived in the city for generations so along the way there will be much to learn about the place.

Rosa's Easter pies, 2014
I have no experience of trawling Italian documents but I am up for it which will be a fascinating learning curve for me and I hope help Rosa.

So that is it for now.

Tina has bought Rosa one of those big diaries from a shop in Le Corti in the centre of Varese, and in time I might be able to put the story on the blog.

Leaving me with just that obvious observation, that everyone has a story to tell.

Location Italy & Britain

Pictures; Naples in 2017 from the collection of Saul Simpson and Emilka Cholewicka and Varese, 2014-16 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

A gun, a gear, and an advert .......... the silly story

Now if you are a certain age and  watched 1950s television, the chances are you will remember the American TV series “Have Gun Will Travel”.

It was according to one source, the adventures of a man called Paladin"  who was named after one of the warriors in Charlemagne's court.

“Paladin is a gentleman gunfighter who travels around the Old West working as a mercenary gunfighter for people who hire him to solve their problems for them. Although Paladin will charge steep fees to clients who can afford to hire him, typically US$1000 per job, he will provide his services for free to poor people who need his help. Like many westerns, the television show was set during a nebulous period after the Civil War.”*

It aired in the United States in 1957 and ran until 1963, and at some point in the early ‘60s it was shown on British TV.

I can’t now remember any of the episodes but the title has stuck with me, partly because for a long time it was a catch phrase.

And as such was adapted for the advert ....... “Have Gear Can Travel” which appeared in the Eagle comic in the August of 1962.

This I know because my friend Tricia found the comic on eBay, bought it, and sent it up from London.

It will have been a copy I will have read and that makes it a bit special.

But over and above that, it will also have been a product which was familiar to Ken Foster’s dad who opened his cycle shop in Chorlton in the mid 1950s.

Ken still runs the business from Barlow Moor Road and I rather hope he likes the advert.

I know I love the name of the firm who made it the “The mighty atom-a gearbox in a hub”.  They were Sturmey Archer who were established in 1902 by Henry Sturmey and James Archer.  The firm last through the last century until in 2000 the assets and trade mark were sold Sun Race of Taiwan.

So, yes a silly story, but one that allowed me to remember a favourite TV western, and to mention my friends Tricia and Ken.

So that is it.

Location; 1962

Pictures; advert from The Eagle,  Vol 13 no.32 August 11 1962

*“Have Gun Will Travel” Wikipedia, 

"When history met art and became a book"

Now "When history met art and became a book" pretty much sums up the collaboration between me and Manchester artist Peter Topping.

Good Neighbours, 2018
It started as a request to use one of his paintings on a blog of mine, and quickly morphed into a series of projects, where I wrote the stories and Peter painted the pictures, culminating in the 80 meter installation along Albany and Brantingham Roads, which told the history of Chorlton from the 16th century to the present day.

It started with the story of Chorlton Green and by degree made its way across Chorlton to the site of the old Cosgrove Hall studio, and was designed as a walk, starting in 1512 and finishing in 2013, and quickly became known as the History Wall.

The History Wall, 2012
And with the success of the “Wall” we have gone on to write five books, with another ready for publication later this year, hosted a series of history walks and participated in Chorlton's Big Green Festival, Chorlton Arts Festival and played a part in the campaign to save Hough End Hall for community use.

All of which means we will have lots to share with Chorlton Good Neighbours who have invited us to their February meeting, which will take place on Thursday February 1st at 1.30. in St Ninian’s Church, on Egerton Rd South, Chorlton, Manchester M21OXJ

There will be lots of stories about Chorlton, a good selection of Peter’s paintings, along with copies of all our books, ............ and a few surprises.

Location; Chorlton

Painting; Good Neighbours © 2018 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.

*Chorlton Good Neighbours, 
Egerton Road South, Manchester Area, Manchester M21 0
Phone:0161 881 2925

Mr Hoyle's fine show warehouse and offices ................ nu 50 Piccadilly

Joshua Hoyle building, 2016
Joshua Hoyle’s fine building on the corner of Piccadilly and Auburn Street was one of those places I knew well.

It was after all close to the College of Knowledge where I spent three years and was one of the buildings you saw as you came down the long stretch from Piccadilly Railway Station to the lights.

I think it was still inhabited in the late 1960s although it looked pretty grimy and unloved.

But once upon a time it was the show warehouse and offices of Joshua Hoyle, cotton spinners.

Poster, 1920
In time I will go and look up the history of the company. I know that they were established in 1834* built a fine new mill in Bacup in 1865 and moved their offices from  number 24 Mosley Street to Piccadilly  in 1904 when they built the new showroom and warehouse at the corner of Auburn Street.

For a long time the building lay empty and neglected but is now a hotel which Andy Robertson photographed on a fine May day.

And it points to that simple observation that you don't have to tear down every old building just because it is no longer in use for the purpose it was designed for.

That said there are plenty of conversions which have made a dog's dinner of the original  building, and I have yet to go inside the place.

But it looks heaps better than it did and that is enough for me.

Entrance, 2016
So there you are.  Of course if any one would like to treat me to a night in the place I won't say no.

Location, 50 Piccadilly, Manchester

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson 2016 and poster 1920 courtesy of Graces Guide to British Industrial History

*Graces Guide to British Industrial History,

It's those steam engines again

Now you pretty much know you are on to a winner with the “magic of steam power”.

And the pictures that have begun to flood in from people, sharing their steam powered vehicles, are testament to how many people share my fascination for all things steam.

I don’t pretend to be an expert and my knowledge extends just far enough to recognise the pall of smoke, and more importantly knowing when to get out of the way of these giants of locomotion.

So here are two from Roger and Paula.

The brightly coloured steam bus as photographed by Roger last year at the Busfest held in Whittlesey near Peterborough.

The other, from Paula was one of those chance moments caught when the steam engine passed her house a
few years ago.

Location, Peterborough and Well Hall

Pictures; steam bus, 2017, from the collection of Roger Callow and a stream machine 2015, courtesy of Paula Nottle.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Sunlight on Sharp Street ...... earlier in the week

It is of course stating the obvious to say that pretty much anywhere looks better in bright sunlight.

That said I can think of a few forlorn places behind gasworks and those old tanning works which would challenge the idea that a warm sunny dayncould transform a rubbish scene.

But Andy’s pictures of his adventure down by the old Ragged School near Angel Meadow prove that Sammy sunshine can lift a place.

Back in the 19th century and into the 20th the area was grim and even in the 1990s it wouldn’t qualify for a scenic award.

For while the crummy housing, and decaying factories and warehouses had gone it was still a dismal place not lifted by its history which was equally grim and depressing.

Now I could go on about the awful living conditions around Angel Meadow and its slide into an area of open spaces, car parks, and empty properties, all waiting for something to happen.

But I won’t, instead I will share more of Andy’s photographs which are chronicling the transformation of the area.

Some will mutter that the developments are bland, off the peg architecture and will be home to many who do not care about the history all around them.

 But that is to be unfair to the residents and to the developments, which have the merit of replacing those old windswept car parks which were empty by 6 pm with a bit of busy life again, albeit a less grim one.

Location; Sharp Street

Pictures; down by Sharp Street , 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Those who went from Ancoats to serve in the Italian army in the Great War

Manchester Guardian, 1919
“Italians seem to be re-establishing themselves in Ancoats as fast as the military authorities will allow.”*

Now I have long been fascinated by Little Italy and the contribution made to the life of the city by the Italians who settled there in the late 19th century.**

And as you do just naively assumed that when the Great War broke out in 1914 some at least would enlist.

Now at present I have no way of knowing who and how many did but the real story comes in to its own eight months later when Italy joined the war on the side of the Allies.

Even then I just assumed they would join up locally, but being Italian nationals they chose to return to Italy.

To Our Italian Comrades, 1915-1918, Manchester, 2014
The Manchester Courier reported in August 1915 that 70 young men had already left and went on to reveal that many older men were also planning to leave.

As always behind such decisions are a wealth of stories like those men who made the long journey only to be found medically unfit.

Or the  “young Italian medical man resident in Manchester [who had] the misfortune to be born in Berlin was at the outbreak of the war placed in a concentration camp by the English authorities [and] while anxious to join his colours to fight the Germans had to fraternize with the enemy prisoners [until] he could return to Italy only to find his eyesight debarred his entering the army and so was on his way back to England.”***

And behind that decision to leave for home came the equally difficult choice of uprooting the whole family and taking them back as well. As the Manchester Guardian observed “many of the poorer men will be careful to take their families with them, so that the Italian Government my provide for their maintenance if the need should arrive.”****

But once the war was over “men have been coming back-in some cases whole families have come back-to Ancoats, mainly, it may be under the pressure of economic considerations, but not-without a certain pleasure  in the return.” 

The reporter might have also added that for some at least the decision to serve in the Italian army had been at considerable economic sacrifice.

One such case highlighted by the Manchester Courier in 1915, involved a successful Italian ice cream vendor who sold his business and furniture leaving his wife to find work in a local firm to support their children.

Outside Nazaren Bela's Ice Cream shop, Jersey Street, 1922
Of course many of the stories that appeared in the papers during 1915 were in part designed to bolster the mood for war which had gone off the boil in the eight months since the start of the conflict.

And much had been made of the spontaneous demonstrations by “a considerable number of Italian subjects living in Manchester and Salford for the war” including a “procession through the main streets of the city to the Town Hall” just days after Italy joined the war.

It was estimated that 300 men might eventually leave for Italy and given that there were about 1000 Italians in the twin cities with upwards of 500 in Ancoats this was a major contribution to the war.

All of which puts into context that newspaper story of the return of so many to Ancoats.

Pictures; The Manchester Guardian, September 6 1919, Memorial “To our Italian comrades, from the collection of Sally Dervan, 2014, and outside Nazaren Bella’s Ice Cream Shop on Jersey Street, 1922, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Italy in Ancoats, the Colony coming back after the war, Manchester Guardian, September 6 1919

**Little Italy,

***Manchester Courier, August 1915

****The Italian Colony, Excitement in Ancoats, Manchester Guardian, May 26 1915

The story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme ....... coming soon

Now I am very pleased that my old friend Michael Billington’s book will soon be published.

It is the Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme and having had a preview of the draft manuscript I am looking forward to the finished book.*

Michael’s book draws on his own extensive knowledge of the area where he grew up, is supported by meticulous research and is full of fascinating photographs.

I sneaked a preview of the cover which he tells me, “the photos were carefully chosen. 
As Flixton was the main township until the 1870s I have given the Flixton church prominence. 
St Clement's in Urmston is the small photo on the right as the vicar and churchwarden have been incredibly helpful and supportive. 

The house on the left is Link House which became Simpson's Ready foods (Willy Simpson plays in a band with me) and the middle one is the opening of Davyhulme Circle with Ernest Leeming behind the little girl presenting the flowers. The lady in the white dress at the foot of the cenotaph is my maternal; grandmother”.

And the rest as they say will be revealed when the book hits the book shops later in the year.

* The story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme, Michael Billington, 2018, the History Press

Monday, 29 January 2018

Walking out in Shudehill ........

Now the area around the bottom of Rochdale Road has undergone many changes over the last two and bit centuries.

And, after a pretty quiet time there is plenty going on again, which range from new residential projects to the return of some much loved pubs, albeit with new names.

So with this in mind, Andy Robertson took himself down to Rochdale Road and wandered across from Wellington Road and Gould Street down to Angel Street towards Angel Meadows and took a series of fascinating pictures recording the old and new buildings all of which will feature over the next few weeks

But I am starting with my favourite, for which there is no need for further explanation.

Location; Shudehill

Picture; shop front, Shudehill, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

The new Manchester ........ Owen Street ....scenes from a development no.6

Now it used to be said that the Beetham Tower could be seen from almost anywhere in Greater Manchester, and I rather think the same will be said of the towers down at Owen Street.

Andy Robertson has been recording their story from the very beginning, and at first I didn’t appreciate just how high they were going to be.

So I am very pleased that Andy did and has been building up a unique record of one city centre development.

This one taken on Chester Road, yesterday afternoon is one I particularly like.

And that is all I am going to say.

Location; looking into the city

Picture; the Owen Street development, 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Sunday, 28 January 2018

A market, a bottle of gin and of course a story ..... Chorlton last week

Now to miss quote Samuel Johnson, when you are tired of the markets, you are tired of life, for there is at a market all that life can afford.*

Ashton Under Lyne, 1979
It’s a bit contrived, but the alternative was from Mr Wordsworth, originally written in 1802, “Dull would they be of soul who could pass by”** a Manchester market and not marvel at the full majesty of all the stuff.

Those of us who grew up or lived beside an open air market will remember with fondness, the fun, bustle and the variety of offers.

In my case it was Woolwich and later still Grey Mare Lane and Ashton markets.

Down at Beresford Square in Woolwich the buses gingerly manoeuvred a path through the stalls and you were always in awe of the skill of the London Transport drivers.

But enough of such nostalgic tosh, and instead here is a tale of Chorlton and our own market.

Selling Hunters Gin, Chorlton, 2018
Just a week or so ago Peter was out and about sampling the produce on the stall outside the library when he came across Hunter’s Gin, was offered a small glass, took the pictures and challenged me to come up with a story with a bit of history.

As far as I know we never had a market but the idea of selling gin from a small family concern is as old as they go.

So much so that it became a national scandal leading to drunkenness, terrible abuse and at least one riot in London, where of course they always do things to extremes.

The Gin, 2018
To combat such excesses, the Government passed the Beer Act in 1830 which allowed anyone who could afford price of the two guinea license to brew and sell beer from their own homes.

The result was an explosion of beer houses across the city which was replicated here in Chorlton.

Most had a short life, and were really just a means to get over a temporary bout of unemployment or other financial hiccup.

Most vanished as quickly as they were established and were soon forgotten, like the one run on Chorlton Green, while others became notorious, like that of Mrs Leach’s superior beer house where Francis Deakin was murdered, and a few like the Travellers Rest, and the Trevor transformed themselves in to pubs.

The Traveller’s Rest on Beech Road was up and running by the 1830s and only closed in the early 20th century, while the Trevor had opened on its present site as an unmanned beer shop in the 1870s.

Selling spirits required a separate license, and many pubs including some of ours found it hard to get permission, which nicely brings me back to Hunter’s Gin.***

They have a website, with a blog and this intriguing description from one of their labels, “Hunter’s Cheshire 
Gin is a high quality, export strength London Dry Gin full of character with its heart in Cheshire.  Subtle citrus overtones with a spicy fruit edge – using Cheshire apples from historic Norton Priory garden’s orchard, a single batch distillation from a 300 year old recipe, including Balkan juniper berries and coriander lemon and sweet orange peel, Florentine orris root, French angelica and Madagascon cinnamon bark, a unique and sublime fusion of the highest quality botanicals and alcohol. .....”***

Washing the prawns in Woolwich, 1979
And that is it.

Except to ponder on whether Peter came across a similar scene to this one from Woolwich market which I took back in 1979.

Location; Chorlton & Cheshire

Pictures; at the Chorlton Markets from the collection of Peter Topping and Ashton and Woolwich markets from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Samuel Johnson in conversation, 1770, "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford"

** William Wordsworth Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802
***Hunters Gin,

The day they left a steam roller outside our house

Now it is not every day that someone parks up a steam roller outside you house and leaves it there for a weekend.

A bit of me wondered if an official from the Council might come and give it a ticket for being an industrial
vehicle outside a residential property.

I suspect clamping it might have posed a problem.

Of course it was part of the road works which took place all last week and have caused so much chatter on certain social media platforms.

I have been less bothered about the parked machine, reasoning at least it has taken up a space which would otherwise be filled by a visitor, the like of which regularly turn up at weekends and park up outside the house reducing the available places for those who live along the road.

At which point someone will pass a caustic comment about the Friends of Beech Road being less than friendly to out of town drivers.

So instead I will ponder on the words steam roller, which I grew up with and still use to describe those big heavy machines which flatten and finish a newly covered road.

I know why they are called steam rollers but am wondering if that is still the official term for them, and if not what is the correct way to address such a machine.

All of which will no no doubt provoke further sneering comments about what a waste of a story this one is.

Perhaps, but at least it gives me the opportunity to show off the one parked up and the grand real steam engine which in 1980 was part of the Steam Exposition in Manchester.

At which point someone, possibly the sneering contributor will point that the dates on the old steam roller and the credits don't tally.

And they would be correct.

But I wonder if they have come up with the new name, which apparently is "road roller" which makes perfect sense, but somehow lacks the romance of  "steam roller" and that just offers up one last steam vehicle which will feature  in its full glory tomorrow along with a few more steam powered treasures.

Location; Chorlton and Manchester

Pictures; steam rollers, 2018 and 1980

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Another adventure peeling back the past on Baptist Street

Now I know I must get out more, because if I did I wouldn’t have missed the Baptist Street Dig.

The dig
Andy Robertson was down there yesterday and sent over some fine pictures of what is being uncovered.

The area is bounded by Baptist Street Rochdale Road, Sharp Street and Ludgate Hill.

The streets were laid out by the early 1790s but building was restricted to chapel, all of which began to change during the early 19th century and by 1849 there were fourteen houses on the site some of which were back to back properties and one closed court called Dakin’s Court.

So I think the buildings in Andy’s pictures will be those houses.

And tomorrow I will go looking for the census returns to see who lived there.

Location; Baptist Street

Pictures; the Baptist Street Dig, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Today at 2 pm .......Five go quirky in Chorlton ........ history, art and a few bikes

What goes around comes around, and so I am pleased to announce that the partnership between one historian, three local artists and Ken Foster is back for its second year.

The theme for the 2018 exhibition is the Quirks of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, which of course builds on the highly successful book which was published at the end of last year.

Inspired by the idea of the odd, the interesting and the daft, Susan Parry, Stephen Raw, Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping have taken up the invitation from Ken Foster to display an exhibition of their work in his cycle shop on Barlow Moor Road, from Friday January 26th through to Sunday January 28.*

There will be a chance to meet the artists, share your Chorlton story with me, listen to Susan play the guitar,
 and get advice from Ken in the art of how to maintain your bike.

Now that has to be a winning combination.

And so in preparation for today me, Peter, and Linda Topping were at Ken's shop yesterday afternoon putting the final touches to the exhibition.

I say me, but all I did was hold the bluetack which as everyone knows is an important part of the preparations.

And after that was done we took a few pictures.

Location Ken Foster Cycles, 374-376 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, M21 8AZ

*Ken Foster’s Cycles,
374-376 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 8AZ 0161 881 7160

Friday, 26 January 2018

The insurance clerk, the travelling salesmen and Mrs Buxton from the USA ....... a bit of Chorltonville in 1911

Now every bit of Chorlton has its own story and Chorltonville is no exception.

South Drive, 1913
Most people will know it began as a bold venture to supply decent homes at affordable rents on a plot of farm land at the beginning of the 20th century.

There had been a modest pilot scheme which had been built behind Upper Chorlton Road, but the ‘ville was the big one.

The houses were built in record time and by April 1911 the first residents were showing up on the census for that year.

They were tenants rather than owners but within a decade the association had been wound up and the properties began to be sold off.

The estate has remained a popular place to live and many of my friends have passed through or chosen to settle and bring up their families in this quiet secluded place.

Something of its history has featured in our new book the Quirks of Chorlton-cum-Hardy* and Peter and I have now been invited to give a very brief talk to the Residents Association at next month.

And with that in mind I went back to the records to see just what the demographic of the estate was like back at the beginning of the last century.

It is a big task and involves trawling the census returns street by street.  So far I have been looking at South Drive, and have covered just 39 homes, from numbers 1 to 65, and 2 to 22.  There are gaps which suggest some homes were vacant and I am fully aware that this is but a small sample but it’s a start.

The Tradesmen calls, 1913
What strikes you is the number of residents who gave their occupation as a commercial r travelling salesmen.
In all there were 14 of the 39 engaged in the job, along with a number of clerks, two shop keepers, two teachers and a University lecturer.

And what is particularly interesting is that some at least of these occupations reflect the new industries.

One of our salesmen was selling telephones, another electrical cables, and a third heating, ventilation and lighting, while Ms Vera Harris of South Drive was a typist.

But amongst all this “new stuff” there were the more traditional ways of earning a living of which domestic service featured highly.  Of our 39 residents, six employed a servant and one family had two.

It will be interesting to see how this small sample compares with the rest of the ‘ville and with the whole of Chorlton.  But that is a very big undertaking.  An earlier study suggested that in total 29 households in Chorltonville employed a servant.

So, for now I will just close with the reflection that a walk down South Drive in the April of 1911 would have been punctuated by a hosts of accents including more than a few from London, as well as the North East, a few from Northern Ireland and two from the USA and two more from Sweden.

All of which makes the place as cosmopolitan as it is today.

Location; Chorltonville

Pictures South Drive, early 20th century from the Lloyd Collection 

*The Qurks of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson & Peter Topping, 2017

A little bit of our collective past ........ art and the 1970s

Now I know it’s not rocket science to say that the art you see on advertising posters, books and packaging reflects the styles of the period.

My favourites are the images that were popular in the 1950s and 60s, which had a bold and attractive appearance and were used to sell everything from fish paste, railway tickets to newspapers and clothes.

This one dates from 1971 and was the front cover for the Belmont Garden Fete in Cheadle which was the annual event staged to raise money and make people aware of the work of the Manchester and Salford children’s charity which is now the Together Trust.

As part of the research into the history of the charity for the book commemorating their upcoming 150th anniversary, the archivist of the Trust shared this with me.

And I like it, not least because it remains a very familiar style.

Location; Cheadle

Picture; the programme of the Belmont Garden Fete, 1971, courtesy of the Together Trust

*A new book on the Together Trust,

The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no. 48 ..... my river

Now after almost half a century of living away from south east London I still miss the river.

And I am the first to say that it was a noisy, smelly and grimy place which could also be capricious and dangerous but it was part of home.

I loved the smell and the colour of the water which often came with  oily streaks, and I loved the fact that there was always something going on.

It might be a tug or a stately sailing ship or just the birds following a line of barges on their way down river.

And in the evening outside the Cutty Sark sitting with friends, the stillness of the night might be interupted as the moored barges banged together on the swel from a passing pleasure boat.

This was one of the pictures I took of Eltham and Woolwich in the mid ‘70’s which sat undisturbed in our cellar.

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

The quality of the original lighting and the sharpness is sometimes iffy, but they are a record of a lost Eltham and Woolwich.

And this one really is a lost scene for which no more needs to be said.

Location; Woolwich

Picture; looking across the River, circa 1978, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Going, going and soon to be gone ......... bits of Salford ..... lost or soon to be from the camera of Andy Robertson

Now for anyone who still lives in Salford or regularly passes the landmarks of their youth there is that depressing feel that all is vanishing at a pace.

Of course many of the buildings are well passed their sell by date and some were pretty awful places to live or work in when they first went up a century and a bit ago.

But others, either through the cold climate of economic change, or neglect are empty and waiting for something to happen.

This as we all know may involve a developer in an office miles away, speculating on the gain to be made from  a demolition job and the substitution of another tall block of flats/offices or shopping experience.

This is not to vilify developers, some of their projects do lift a run down area, and in the process provide jobs and make the place a little nicer.

Added to which there is that simple observation that the Victorian and Edwardian developers were equally ruthless when it came to new building projects which destroyed Tudor and Georgian properties.

So with all that in mind, and for those that don’t get back regularly here are three old favourites, from the camera of Andy Robertson.

He accompanied the pictures with the simple comment, “1 gone in 2016 Ye Old Nelson, 2 gone in 2017 Black Horse, 3 going in 2018? The Crescent”.

That said Pter tells me that the Black Horse will be back.
I do hope so.

Location Salford

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson, 2016-2018

Thursday, 25 January 2018

The one that didn’t quite work .......

I thought I was being very clever and could catch the reflection on the glass roof of the information sign at the metro stop.

And yesterday on a very grey day with the threat of rain it looked as if it could work, but it only sort of did.

So perhaps the image and the story should be parked in the series on Street furniture, and not “Four clever photographs from Andrew in St Peter’s Square”.

And if I am lucky there will be more than a few better pictures posted to accompany the story.

We shall see.

But in my defence against those who mutter what’s this to do with history?

The answer is that it wasn’t that long ago when we only had two metro platforms which were situated elsewhere in the square, and there will be many of us who remember a very different place.

Location; Manchester

Picture; at the metro stop, 2018 and almost the same spot, 1981, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

“Have now been a soldier for a week ... I do hope the war will be over before you can enlist” .....

The message on the postcard is simple enough but is still a powerful reminder of the fears and anxieties of those of those caught up in the Great War.

The full message runs, “Dear Leonard, Have now been a soldier for a week, and sincerely hope, for several reasons that the war will be over before you can enlist.  

Best wishes , 

Youe affectionate cousin Herbert”

It was sent to an address on Ayres Road in Old Trafford, and in the fullness of time I will go looking for the person who the card was addressed to and that might in turn lead me to Herbert.

For now I am left with the image on the front which is of the River Ouse at York and wonder why Herbert chose that picture postcard from the rack on the counter at the YMCA in York where he wrote the message.

It may simply have caught his fancy or perhaps it reminded him of a more happy time.

And that just leaves me to reflect on the very many other personal items contained in the book Manchester Remembering 1914-18 which was published last year.*

It tells the story of those who lived through the Great War and much of the material was supplied by David Harrop who shared this card with me.

Location; York

Picture; On the Ouse at York circa 1914-1916 from the collection of David Harrop

*Manchester Remembering 1914-18, Andrew Simpson, 2017, the History Press

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Queen & Pasley

Sometimes it is amazing how quickly our recent past can vanish.

The Pasley Laundry was opened in 1893 on what is now Crossland Road and did not reach its 100th birthday.

Laundries are a measure not only of the size of a community but of their prosperity.

 Given the arduous nature of wash day it is not surprising that those who could afford to pay for the weekly washing to be cleaned did so. The population had doubled in the ten years before 1901 and the next decade saw an equal increase. The occupations of the residents of new Chorlton ranged from manufacturers, bank managers and solicitors to clerical and skilled workers.

The very mix which is reflected in the large detached and semi detached houses stretching along Edge Lane and High Lane and the tall terraced properties radiating out from the station.

Here were the customers of our five laundries which in themselves were a mix. Yapp’s Laundry was big enough to have branches on Ashton Old Road, Chorlton on Medlock and in Whitefield and Stretford. 

Others like Wing Sam operated from one shop while Martha Keal’s premises on Beech Road was also the home of a her builder husband John. The biggest was the Pasley, later renamed the Queen and Pasley on Crescent Road. It opened in 1893, and at one point employed 50 staff.

All the washing machines were belt driven by a huge steam engine and were the first to install the “float-iron system” which consisted of the multiple roller pressing machines. This was 15 feet wide and 15 feet long and
“was a mass production ironing machine, with delicately poised rollers. You could put a shirt with pearl buttons on it and it wouldn’t leave a mark.”

Vans from the laundry would collect the washing and deliver it to the sorting office where each item would be marked, and classified into bins, before the loads were emptied into the ten washing machines. After being washed the clothes went through stages of being dried before being set out still slightly damp for the ironing and pressing and finally being re-sorted in the packing room and returned in the vans to the customers.

But the Queen & Pasley like all the rest were slowly being squeezed as the growing prosperity of the 1950’s led to people buying their own washing machines and by the self service launderette which are themselves now in decline.

And just after this was posted, Bob and Jean commented that "both my Gran and Granddad worked there in 1911 he was a van driver and I used to pass it a lot as a kid," and  "my mum worked their in about 1946 and then moved to the Grange .I used to go in the summer holidays with other children and one of the staff would take us to the park and look after us."

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; the inside of the Queen & Pasley circa 1960 from the collection of Tony Walker

Out with the photographer Robert Banks on the streets of Manchester sometime before 1912

Now I can be fairly confident that Mr Banks took this picture of Oxford Street sometime before 1912, but more about that later.

In the meantime I shall start with the man himself who had one of those remarkable careers which seemed to epitomise the self made Victorian man.*

He stands alongside some of our other Manchester photographers.**

He was born in 1847, he father was a journeyman carpenter and at the age of 15 he was working as a woollen piecer in a mill.*

And yet within a few years he had become an illustrator on the Oldham Chronicle and at 21 had opened a photographic business on the High Street in Uppermill all of which was but a prelude to a successful career in Manchester.

Having set up business in the city in 1873, he quickly won a series of commissions and as they say never looked back.

During the rest of the century and into the next he photographed many of the most important events that occurred in the city and was quick to issue these in collections for sale.

And never one to miss an opportunity I am told that having taken pictures of the unveiling of the statue of Queen Victoria he made a special journey to Windsor Castle and presented them to the Royal Family.***

But he will also be remembered for a wonderful collection of street scenes like this one of “Oxford Street from Whitworth Street. [Showing] on the left St Mary’s Hospital and Total’s Warehouse, and on the right the Theatre of Varieties and St James’s Hall, with St Peter’s Church in the distance.”

It is a scene few now remember.

St Peter’s Church and the hospital were demolished a long time ago and the elaborate facade of what is now the Palace Theatre disappeared behind those drab tiles in 1957.

And what no one will now  recognise is the building beyond the theatre with its tall clock tower, for this was St James’s Hall, built in 1884, closed in 1907 and briefly reopened as a cinema in 1908 and was replaced in 1912 by St James’s Buildings which still stand on the site today.

Something of what the hall was like can be seen from the Gould’s Fire Insurance Map which dates from around 1900.

But that is enough for now.  My friend Sally has kindly given me more of Mr Bank’s pictures from a collection she bought and I now have a promise of some of his earlier photographs taken in Saddleworth which the Museum there has promised to pass over.

So it rather looks as if there will be lots more of Robert Banks to come.

And as often happens, someone has helped with the story.  Lee Hutchins has written that "St Peters Church in the distance was taken down in January 1907 and St Mary's Hospital to the left was completed in 1901 so taken between 1901 and 1906"

Pictures;, Oxford Street before 1912, courtesy of Sally Dervan and detail of St James’s Hall from Gould’s Fire Insurance Map, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

*Robert Banks,

**Manchester artist and photographers,

***from a conversation with James Stanhope-Brown who also told me that sadly there is no reference in the Royal collection to the event.  He has also published Manchester From the Robert Banks Collection, in 2011, the History Press