Wednesday, 28 February 2018

When Well Hall, Woolwich and Manchester collided........ stories from a book

Now I no longer think it odd that one of the most vivid descriptions of the Royal Artillery’s Barracks at Woolwich should be from letters sent by a young soldier to his wife in Manchester.

George Davison, 1916
Or that his will made in the March of 1918 should have been witnessed by a friend who lived on the site of Well Hall Odeon just minutes away from where I grew up on the Progress Estate.

What links all of these is that they were part of the research I did for a book on Manchester and the Great War which came out last year.*

It told the stories of the people who lived through the conflict, waved loved ones goodbye who were destined for battlefronts around the world, and then got on with the daily demands of earning a living, and bringing up a family against a backdrop of rising prices, and food shortages.

Yesterday I reflected on that “last will and testament" of George Davison who was that soldier and also of his wife Nellie who spent time with the Drinkall family who witnessed the will and who were fond of both George and Nellie.**

In his letter’s home George writes about the conditions in the barracks, the poor quality of the food and the bedding, and the antics of his fellow soldiers.

And more than once I have pondered on the links between me and the Davison’s.

Our house on Well Hall Road would in all probability have been known to them, and I regularly passed the barracks where he was stationed.

Added to which, before he was married he lived just a ten minute walk away from where I live in Chorlton which is a suburb of Manchester.

So while we may have been separated by almost a century I have a strong connection with a soldier from Manchester who lived briefly in Woolwich and Well Hall and became part of my book.

Location; Well Hall, Woolwich and Manchester

Picture; George Davison, 1916, from the collection of David Harrop

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

** Mrs Nellie Davison at Well Hall .......... stories behind the book nu 27 making the connection,

On our village green with the Narnia Lamp post .....

Now, it was our Joshua who first called the lamp post on the village green, the Narnia Lamp post and that is what it has always remained.

2018 from a picture, 1980

We have plenty of pictures of it taken over the years, from high summer, to autumn and a few in the depths of winter when everywhere was covered in a heavy snowfall.

And as everyone knows, in Narnia, before Aslan arrived, it was always winter and never Christmas, a fact that Lucy discovered when she went through the magic wardrobe and stood beside the lamp post in the snow.*

It is often the starting off point for the history walks and will be again on March 25th when we do our first Quirks History Walk.**

And so with that in mind Peter painted the lamp post as it looked one summer’s day back in 1980.

Back then the Horse and Jockey hadn’t acquired the title of the Inn on Green and it would be another twenty-eight years before Peter Dalton bought the pub from the brewery and began its transformation.

During those years our lamp post was a focal point for gatherings on the green from the summer fair to a production of Henry V.  It was also here that by chance one Wednesday evening in 1986 I passed a string quartet, all dressed in formal attire playing a selection from Vivaldi.

There was no audience, but they played on just for the fun of it, and then, and now I thought it seemed so Chorlton.

And for those who want a bit more history I can tell you that the lamp post has moved around a bit.

At one point in the early 20th century it was closer to the lychgate but I guess was moved as traffic got busier.

Later still in 1933 there is a picture of a similar one outside the Horse & Jockey which is different from ours, but why spoil a story?

Painting; The Narnia Lamp post, © 2018 Peter Topping from a photograph by Andrew Simpson, 1980


Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

*The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S Lewis, 1950

**Walking the Quirks of Chorlton cum-Hardy ....... the first saunter through our past, March 25th at 1 pm meet beside the Narnia Lamp post

Home thoughts from abroad nu 1 ................. Well Hall Road on a warm spring day in 1965

An occasional series on what I miss about the place where I grew up.

Now I don’t do nostalgia.  It’s over rated and too often offers up a view of the past which at best is deceptive and at worse downright wrong.

But having been away from Eltham for over forty years I have bit by bit been drawn back.

It’s partly those bouts of reflection that come from someone in his sixties but also because it was one of the places I was happiest.

That said for most of that last forty years it is somewhere I only came back to on flying visits.

In the early 70s Well Hall was home between term time, and then a place to catch up with family and friends and later still where we brought the children for short holidays.

During those early visits I have to confess to a mix of feelings.  It was always nice to be back amongst familiar places but when you are 19 it is easy to be over judgemental.  After all I was living in the heart of Manchester which was vibrant and new, offering up a wealth of experiences and Eltham seemed small beer.

But I never entirely lost the pull of Eltham and in the last few years have begun digging deep into its history and remembering so much from my childhood.

So this is the first of those memories and it is nothing more than that walk I took from our house up to the High street.

We lived just beyond the roundabout and so on a warmish spring day it was no hardship to stroll down past the Odeon and the parade of shops taking a detour into the Pleasaunce before going under the railway bridge up past Spencer Gardens and that second parade of shops before reaching Willcox’s and the parish church.

More often than not there was no real purpose behind the trip which meant you could take your time, be delayed by looking in the window of the electrical shop near Wells the Chemist, gaze at one of the guitars in Norman’s before  deciding on a book from Willcox’s.

And then with the whole High Street ahead of you an hour or two could pass just looking at the shops and visiting the library.

Like others I have very fond memories of the library which offered up plenty to do, from digging out those obscure old volumes from the reference section to choosing an LP and a couple of books.

Of course Well Hall Road offered up more than just a route to the library and on other days when the sun shone it was the way up to the woods and on to Woolwich.

Now I know others will have their own favourite road and I have to concede that Court Yard and Colepits Lane had their attractions but sitting here just 4 miles from the centre of Manchester I will go for Well Hall Road.

Location; Well Hall Road, Eltham

Pictures; Well Hall Road, & Eltham Library, 2014 from the collection of Chrissy Rose

Living on the edge of the village, part 3 of the story of our own one up one down cottages

It is another one of the buildings that has fascinated me and is now revealing some of its secrets and in doing so has a lot to say about how we lived in the township when we were still a rural community.

This picture was taken sometime around the first decade of the last century by which time the cottage was maybe a 100 years old. It was one of those one up one down properties I have been writing about which could be found all over the township. The front door opened directly into the downstairs room and usually at the back was a boxed staircase which led to the upstairs room.

It stood on the edge of the green, just past the parish church, close by what is now the car park to the meadows.

In the 1840s and 50s it was home to John and Mary Taylor. In the June of 1841 he had described himself as an agricultural labourer and a decade later aged 72 he was still working on the land while his wife took in laundry.

Now it is impossible to say which farm he worked for or whether he was part of the casual workforce which found work where they could, but there were three farms around the green and another along what is now Brookburn Road

They rented the house from John Renshaw who had owned properties around Chorlton and paid him 1/6d a week in rent. Now this was about the going rate for such a cottage although rents began at just over a shilling [5p].

The cottage stood on open land with fine views back across the green and out toward the Mersey. Like most homes of the day there was a small cottage garden.

In that summer of 1841 John and Mary were sharing their home with their married daughter Eliza and her husband and three children. John Bentley like his father inlaw was an agricultural laborouer and it maybe that this was a temporary expedient because ten years later John Eliza and the children were living at Lane End. Now given that there were few labourer’s cottages at Lane End it is just possible that they were living in one of the four one up one down properties.

But this is to over push the documentary evidence. So I shall stay with John and Mary Taylor who continued to live at our cottage well into the 1860s and there is more. We can track them across the baptism of their children and their grandchildren and to John’s death in 1868.

They were there at that cottage from 1841 and maybe even earlier. As for the cottage it was still inhabited in 1911 when it was home to William Travis who was 52 years old widower from Ireland who like John Taylor worked on the land. He may have still been there when it was demolished around 1928 when the British Legion Club was opened on the site.

Picture from the Lloyd collection

What’s stirring down by Southern Cemetery?

Andy’s picture of the crematorium by Southern Cemetery will be familiar to many, especially the Friends of Barlow Moor Road.

But I wonder how many know what is going on behind the builders panels?

I must confess I didn't and never got round to finding out.

Prompted by Andy’s photographs, I went and looked on the City’s planning portal, only to draw a blank.

But as you do I decided instead to ask Cllr. Dave Rawson of Chorlton Park Ward.

And within minutes of the email being sent I got the reply "The Crematorium are building new offices and reception rooms with a new car parking arrangements. We met with them quite a while back to discuss their plans and involved neighbours to try and resolve planning issues. I think it might be complete around October”.

Now that is pretty good service on the part of Cllr. Rawson, answers my question and gives Andy untold photo opportunities as the new buildings rise above those builder’s panels.

Leaving me just to say that I have completely forgotten what was on the site, before building began.

But since posting the story we went past and there on the gate post was the words Car Park.

So that is that then.

Location; Southern Cemetery

Pictures; By Southern Cemetery, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Knott what you expect to see ........

Well, when the picture arrived from Andy, with the one liner “Knott what you expect to see”, it just had to be added to the collection of silly stories.

Of course there is a serious point, which as the weather remains Arctic, I am guessing the two birds had enough of sitting it out on the canal.

And I will leave it up to them wot know, to say why the spelling is correct.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Knott what you expect to see, by Deansgate Railway Station formerly Knott Mill, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The passing of old Chorlton .........

Now I say old Chorlton but there will be some who mutter that the former Blockbuster’s store was not that old.

And indeed it wasn’t, but it sat in a building which had a diverse retail history and for most of its existence was home to a printing business.

Nor is that all, because it seems to have begun as the “Market Place”, but just what that was, is as yet unknown.

Still in the fullness of time all will be revealed.

So for now the story is really one of those then and now posts, and there is nothing wrong in that.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; on Barlow Moor Road, 2015 & 2018 from the collection of Andy Roberston

The Clayton Hall stories ....... no 4 ...... Commemorating the Suffragettes

Now far be it from me to use that well known phrase ....."Back by popular demand", but it is, so this Saturday and again on March 17th go along and join Clayton Hall in ...... Commemorating the Suffragettes.

And to quote that well known song "there's a cup of tea and a bun if you come".

More info can be obtained by messaging  the Clayton Hall Fb page, or emailing

Monday, 26 February 2018

The new Manchester ....... Owen Street ....... scenes from a development no.7

Andy described this as one of his favourite pictures, and I do have to agree.

I am not sure what I think of the Owen Street development in the distance, which is coming to dominate the sky line.

I have nothing against modern buildings and new developments but for me the line is simply that, when the structures dwarf human beings it may be a build too far.

That said Andy has caught the growing dominance of those rising towers.

Location; Manchester, 2018

Picture; St Peter’s Square, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Quirky facts about Chorlton-cum-Hardy ..... no. 2

Sunday, 25 February 2018

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 98......... the night the fox came calling

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

The tree without the foxes, 2018
Now strictly speaking it wasn’t one fox it was two, and it was more the early hours of the morning when they parked themselves beside our tree and began that distinctive noise foxes make.

And it was that noise which woke us up, and as you do for a while I tried to ignore it but it didn’t go away and so I went to look.

There were two of them, one making the noise just sitting beside the tree, and the other prowling behind.

Of course by the time I decided to take a picture they had gone, no doubt to disturb someone else.

So instead of a picture of two foxes beside out tree at 2 in the morning you got the tree on its own at 11 am.

It isn’t the first time I have seen a fox on Beech Road, but it is the first time that they took up residence on our front doorstep.

And that made me think about how common they would have been when Joe and Mary Ann moved in to the house when it was built in 1915.  Back then there was still a large amount of farmland to the south of the house all the way down to the river and beyond, and so I suspect that there were foxes.

The old tree, 1974
Go back another half century and they would definitely been a feature of the landscape.

All of which makes for one of those little bits of continuity between us and Joe and Mary Ann.

Of course in the intervening century the urban development will have pushed the foxes out, but as in many towns and cities they are back, finding different things to eat and exchanging fields for pavements and back gardens.

There will be someone I know who will contribute a comment on the rise of the urban fox, but for now I will just close by saying how large they looked.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; from the collections of Lois Elsden & Andrew Simpson, 1974-2018

*The story of a house,

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Unique pictures of Manchester after the bombing, ......... July 1996

I am in Manchester in the July of 1996 just a few weeks after the Manchester bomb which been left by the Provisional IRA in a van on Corporation Street. 

Now the story of the bomb attack and the subsequent rebuilding of this part of the city are readily available as are the dramatic pictures of the explosion and immediate aftermath.

Less often shown are photographs of the subsequent few weeks when people went to look at the damage.  

My eldest son and I must have been down there at the same time as Andy Robertson took these pictures, and it was odd how we both recollected the same feelings and above all remembered the response of other people who came, looked in silence and moved off.

And then there are the anecdotal stories like that of a friend who had to go into the damaged Mark and Spencer’s to assess the damage. 

She recalled “the great shards of glass embedded in the floor” and that “all the cash tills were open with the money just sitting there.” But above it was the overpowering smell of rotting food in freezers which had slowly started decomposing once the power had been cut.

What I find fascinating about Andy’s pictures is not only that they record that period between the bomb and the reconstruction but that they make me realize just how quickly I have forgotten what the city looked like.

And in some ways photographs of more recent times are more disorientating than those old monochrome images of the early 20th century. 

I guess it is because with many of the old ones they are so different that you really are looking at a different place.  

But those taken just twenty years ago are almost like today and so you look at them thinking that you will see the present but are side tracked with the odd detail that confuses you.

So looking down towards the Cathedral there is much that superficially is the same including the MEN which had opened the year before.

But to our left the car park and which had once been a bus station is now an open area with fountains.  And the concrete walkway where Andy stood to take the picture has also gone, severing the overhead link with the buildings on the other side of Deansgate.  It was bridge I remember was seldom used.

Equally fascinating is his photograph of Cateaton Street which ran from the junction of Deansgate and Victoria Street up to Hanging Ditch.  

The buildings look familiar but some have undergone new ownership, no buses now run along the road, and it terminates in Shambles Square and Exchange Square and the pub complex.  

Behind and shrouded in sheets is the old Corn Exchange which had become a centre for odd and quirky little shops.  These were forced out to the Northern Quarter after the renovation of the building and its transformation into the Triangle.

And more from Andy’s pictures later.

Pictures; courtesy of Andy Robertson

Friday, 23 February 2018

When did our brick works close?

I am on another of my quests and this time it is to gather up memories of the Chorlton Brick Works.*

It was here from the beginning of the last century and was supposed to have just a short life.

The Egerton’s who owned most of the land in the township had been keen to prevent any industrial development harming the prospects of selling off their estate for surburban housing.  After all most of the new people who settled here from the 1880s were attracted by the fact that we were just 10 minutes by train from the city centre but on the edge of the countryside and were not over keen to have huge brick works blotting the landscape.

But given that the Egerton’s would have got a good deal from the Chorlton Land & Building Company Ltd I suspect that they were happy to see the blot on the landscape for a short time.  The question is just how long did that blot exist for?

It was certainly still there in 1922 when the owner Joseph Jackson went into partnership with another brick manufacturer but may not have survived into the 1930s.

There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that it had closed before the last world war but Philip Lloyd remembers “seeing the line of aerial buckets moving across, when I was at the library end of Longford Road”  and its opening may have been connected with the war.

German air raids damaged many properties and while in most cases the bricks could be salvaged this was not the case with many of the roof tiles, so it seems logical that  the works reopened.

All of which has set me off on that new quest to find out more about the brick works in the 1940s and hence the appeal to anyone who remembers like Philip seeing the buckets swaying across the sky line.

Those memories must be out there because as the photograph above shows, the chimney of the works was still standing in 1958.  And my old chum David has already posted his wonderful stories of playing amongst the disused bricks as a lad.

And no sooner had I posted the story than Peter Thompson added that
"Just had a coversation with my friend Bill Goodehall (84) who was born on Nicolas Road. He remembers the brickworks as being fully intact on Coronation day 1953. Although he can't remember if it was still operational."


Pictures; detail from the 1907 OS map, Brick works, corner of Longford Road and Manchester Road, A H Downes, 1958, m18034 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council.

The history of Eltham in a day .......... less a competition more a collective showing off

Earlier today I was reflecting on where in the twin cities of Manchester and Salford I would take my friend Susan who will be arriving from Canada in June.*

That said she is only here for a day and a bit so it will be one of those pretty “zippy, pack lots in” sort of trips of the history of my two cities.

And as you do that got me thinking of what I would want to show her if I still lived at home in Well Hall.

It would be I suppose be a mix of what I thought was the iconic with bits that were personal to me and all rounded off by an understanding that there should be some history, the odd “odd” building and more than a few places to stop and drink, eat and drink.

So in no particular order my list would have to include the Pleasuance, and the Tudor Barn, the old parish church, along with the Palace, some of the High Street pubs and perhaps the site of our very first picture house.

Of course if the walk was done properly it would have to start at the old police station at one end of Well Hall make our way by degree down past the hospital and the site of the Welcome, before standing outside our old house at 294 for a quick history of the building and  the Progress Estate.

And then another stop at the Odeon, the Pleasaunce, and station, a rather longer pause at the other end of Well Hall Road taking in that other police station, the church, old tram buildings and Burtons.

I could also throw in the site of the old Crown Woods, and Avery Hill with an option on a excursion to Woolwich on day two.

All of which leaves me just to invite other suggestions, with pictures and a bit of a reason.

Of course there are no prizes, no free invites to the new Eltham cinema when it opens and not even a fancy cake.

No, all that you will earn is a warm glow and the knowledge  that you have shared a bit of  Eltham and Woolwich with the world.

And yes the blog is read on every continent except the one where the penguins live.

So that means that our Ryan's images will be viewed over coffee in Alberta, tiramsiu in Naples, and noodles somewhere east of Beijing

Location; Eltham, Woolwich and a lot more.

Pictures; the Pleasuance, 2016, Ryan Ginn

*The history of the twin cities in a day .......... less a competition more a collective showing off,

The cranes of Salford ........ number 1 .... Adelphi Street

Now I have called the series “The cranes of Salford” and it will feature, record and celebrate the new developments in Salford.

And yes I know “it all looked better before the old Victorian and Edwardian buildings were swept away” but many were no longer fit for purpose, having lost their original use or just got very old and then neglected.

I never knew that old Salford so I am not perhaps the best person to pass comment.

Added to which I freely admit much that is going up is pretty run of the mill, and could have been designed by Year 4 while some are just ugly and too big.

Moreover some that are rising from the streets have no originality and could be buildings from Spinningfields, Docklands, or that brash new development in Milan.

All that as maybe Salford, is changing and Andy Robertson was on hand to record it and in the case of Adelphi Street has kindly offered up an old picture for everyone to compare and contrast.

I say old but it dates only from November 2014.

And that  just leaves me to finish with his last from the shoot which I think is taken from the same spot as the 2014 picture.

The keen observers will instantly want to comment that in three years the cars have moved from off the site to beside it ........ such is progress.

Location; Salford

Pictures; Adelphi Street, 2014 & 2017, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Stockport battle tank .....

Now this is the story of the Stockport battle tank.

I can be fairly confident that it was made sometime after 1918 which could stretch to the following year.

After 1920 I doubt that there was as much interest in a piece of crested china with a war theme.

By then the country had put the conflict to rest and if the china companies were still churning out war pieces, the items would have been of war memorials like our own Cenotaph while the rest of the factory switched back to key rings, miniature replicas of Blackpool Tower and Ann Hathaway’s’ cottage.

But for the four years of the war, crested war china was everywhere from model tanks to aircraft and battleships.

And to make the piece just that bit more marketable, they were sold with the name and coats of arms of towns and cities.

So you could buy the Stockport tank and the Manchester tank along with HMS London, and HMS Liverpool.

Such was the headlong pursuit to turn out such collectables that one company produced a battleship carrying the name Manchester even though the navy had no such battleship during the Great War.

I had no idea just how many of these souvenirs were turned out but of course they one of the ways people at home could identify with the war and with a loved one who was serving in the armed forces.

This one belonged to David Harrop who has an extensive collection of crested china along with memorabilia from both world wars and the history of the post office.

But this one is the biggest and has that additional comment on the side about the signing of the armistice which I will make it just that bit different.

Location; Stockport

Pictures; the Stockport battle tank circa 1919, from the collection of David Harrop

The Kickety Brook, Stretford, once a vital part of our flood defences

I first walked the Kickety Brook with my old botanist friend, David Bishop.

It doesn’t look much but it was vital in its day for protecting the Duke’s Canal at Stretford.

The Canal dates from the 1760s and was cut to bring coal into the heart of the city and also was used by our farmers and market gardeners to ship their produce into the Manchester markets.

But the canal was close to the Mersey which could flood with little warning. In July 1828 flood water transported hay ricks from the farm behind Barlow Hall down to Stretford only later to take them back, while later floods proved to be even more destructive with one destroying the bridge across Chorlton Brook.

It was, wrote Thomas Ellwood the local historian
“no uncommon thing to see the great level of green fields completely covered with water presenting the appearance of a large lake , several miles in circuit,” and he recorded six major floods between  December 1880 and October  1881

By then the stone weir had been in place for nearly a century.  It had been built after a heavy flood in August 1799 had broken the banks where Chorlton Brook joined the Mersey.  This had led to fears that the Bridgewater Aqueduct across the flood plain could be damaged in a subsequent flood.

The weir was designed to divert flood water from the Mersey down channels harmlessly out to Stretford and the Kicketty Brook.  Not that it always worked.  Soon after it had been built flood water swept it away and during the nineteenth century neither the weir nor the river banks prevented the Mersey bursting out across the plain.

This happened in 1840 and in the following year it was rebuilt by the engineer William Cubitt. After litigation the cost of repair was borne by the Bridgewater Trust who paid out £1,500, the Turnpike Commissioners £500, Thomas de Trafford £1,000 and Wilbraham Egerton £1,000.

Today, standing beside the weir you get little sense of the force of the river in full flood. In the winter there can be a pool of water at its base stretching out across the plain but on many occasion in the past on warm summer’s days even this bit of land can be bone dry.

And likewise the Kickety Brook seems just an overgrown and quite forgotten bit of water. The last time the weir took an overflow of flood water was 1915 when these two pictures were taken.

Pictures; Higgibotham's field in flood, 1946, from a painting by J Montgomery, 1963, m80092, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and 1915 pictures from the Lloyd collection

The bits of Chorlton you don’t always see

Now there is nothing rocket science about looking for unusual views of familiar Chorlton buildings.

But as with these two buildings of the back of the old snooker hall and cinema, most people will never get to see them.

The pictures were taken last Saturday from the playground of Oswald Road School during market day.

And in an age of powerful electric lighting it is easy to forget that when the hall was built at the beginning of the last century it was important to find every bit of natural lighting.

So, along with those big windows at the front and the series of roof windows there was another at the back which has now been bricked up.

The design was a common one and similar halls, all built by the same company, can be found across Greater Manchester, although few are still in the same line of business.  True the snooker hall was Temperance and today it is a pub but the place is still a place of entertainment, unlike its big neighbour which was once a cinema but is now the Co-op Funeral Parlour.

Location; Chorlton

Picture, the old snooker hall and cinema, 2018, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Who will mourn Sally's place on Turn Moss?

Once pretty much everyone in Chorlton would have known where Sally died.

Sally's Hole, 1945
It was one of those stories to terrify young children and act as a warning never to play by open water.

And the lesson was equally, young women should never put your trust in a young man who offers the sky but delivers nothing, because as the story went young Sally fell in love but was abandoned and in her utter despair drowned in the large pond on Farm Moss, which was a field of five acres beside the Old Road.*

Just how long ago the tragedy happened is unknown but the pond became known as Sally’s Hole and later Sally's Pond and was a popular place for kids to play as late as the 1960s.

The pond in 1845
By then sadly it was also popular as a place to dump old bikes, discarded milk crates and the odd dead cat.

All of which meant that it was eventually filled in, but the hollow can still be seen by anyone who ventures off the lane.

In the 1840s the pond and the field were farmed by William Whitelegg who rented it from the Egerton estate.

Mr Whitelegg was also the landlord of the Bowling Green pub and went onto build those two fine houses on Edge Lane opposite the church.

And now if I have done my geography correctly Sally’s last resting place will be “the Grass Running Rounds” which form part of the master plan for the redevelopment of Turn Moss.

Leaving me just to wonder who will mourn for Sally and the place she died.

Picture; Sally’s Field, J Montgomery, 1958, copied from a 1945 photograph, m80104, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and detail from the Tithe Map for Chorlton, 1847

*Hawthorn Lane

Past the Four Banks and up to Redgate Farm in the summer of 1900

Looking across the Isles, 1882
This is another one of those walks I would like to have taken if only to set the contrast from what I would have seen just fifty years earlier in the summer of 1853.

Now I have been writing about a series of walks that you could have made along what was then called Barlow Moor Lane north from the junction with Chorlton Row up past Lane End, and on into Martledge.*

We would have seen a few fine houses, a couple of farms, and a mix of more humble dwellings along with a pub and beer shop all surrounded by fields and the meandering Rough Leech Gutter.
But by 1893 the fields had all but gone, as had two of the farm houses, and the old wattle and daub cottages.

There was still a little of that old Chorlton to see.  Up where the Library now stands was Redgate Farm and just before it Renshaws Buildings which dated from the early 1830s and lasted well into the 1920s.

And tucked away in splendid isolation in their own grounds and hidden behind high walls were Beech House and Oak Bank.  These two dated back to the early decades of the 19th century and both in that summer of 1893 would soon also be demolished.

Renshaws Buildings circa 1900
In their place would be the houses that still line Barlow Moor Road and Manchester Road.

These were the product of the housing boom from the 1880s and were the homes of the professional, business and clerical families, many of who used the newly opened Chorlton station to get into the heart of the city in just ten minutes.

Now although I fight it I am an old romantic and I don’t think I would have made much of this stretch of Chorlton in that last decade of the 19th century.

So what would we have seen from what is officially known as Chorlton Cross but is more now popularly called Four Bank Corner, or just the Four Banks?

The simple answer is not that different from today.  What is now the HSBC would soon become Kemps the Chemist and Harry Kemp’s name would be what this corner would be called well into the 1960s.

Sunwick House, circa 1900
Opposite was Sunwick House which is still there but is now the Royal Bank of Scotland and beyond down towards Redgate Farm there was a row of large detached houses set back from the road, while on the north side there were Renshaws Buildings and the old Royal Oak.

This dated back to the beginning of the 19th century and was pretty much just a beer house serving the local population, the thirsty farm labourers and the Manchester trade who had come out from the city for the walk and a drink in the countryside.

The present pub would not be built until the mid 1920s and would replace Renshaws Buildings.  It is still possible to see the kerb and bit of pavement beside the pub which once fronted the old property.

But all of that is a little in the future and so back in 1893 our walk would have taken us north of Sunwick past Warwick and Selbourne Roads up to the farm.

Sedge Lynn, 1885
We probably would not have really noticed the home of Aaron Booth which went by the name of Sedge Lynn.

It stood where Nicholas Road joins Manchester Road. Back.

In the 1890s Nicholas Road had yet to be cut and our little section was still part of Manchester Road which ran off down through what is now the car park of the precinct and over Wilbraham Road. And for those of a tidy mind I might just add that Wilbraham Road was still quite recent having been cut in the 1860s.

Now I have written about Sedge Lynn, Mr Booth and his fascination for amateur photography and it is his pictures which more than anything shows the dramatic transformation of this bit of Chorlton in the decade before our walk.

Looking across Manchester Road towards the station , 1882
In 1882 he took a series of pictures just after he had moved in looking west across the Isles into the area which is now Oswald Road and across Manchester Road towards the station.

Stand on the site of Sedge Lynn today and look towards the station and the view is obscured by the houses of Warwick, Albany and Keppel Roads, which is pretty much what you would have seen in 1893, but a decade earlier this was still open farm land.

Pictures; of Martledge in 1882 courtesy of Miss Booth, Sunwick from the Lloyd Collection and the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Wilbraham Road from the collection of Marjorie Holms

*Chorlton Row is now Beech Road, Lane End is the junction between Sandy Lane, High Lane and Barlow Moor Road, and Martledge was the area north of the Four Banks.

A little bit of 1930 on a table near you

Now I never underestimate the power of a simple object to draw you in and bring you closer to your family.

This is a Rolls Razor which until yesterday I didn’t know existed.

Our Jillian brought it north to join the other bits of family memorabilia.

It will have belonged to Uncle George but with so many things he owned, I am never quite clear whether he used it or just “collected it” at some car boot sale or second hand emporium.

Either way it is a nice object, still with its cardboard box and in pretty good condition given that it will be nearly 90 years old.

The metal case is solid and chunky and came in a variety of finishes from nickel plated, to silver and even gold.

But what makes the razor unique is that it was designed so that the blade could be re-sharpened, using a strip of leather and a honing stone which were contained in the box.

I have to say I have read the description of how it all works, taken the bits out, moved them around but have been defeated as to how the thing did the business of sharpening the blade.

In time I will work it out but for now it is just a nice object, well crafted with functional beauty.

The device was patented in 1927 and was in production until 1953 with our model dating from sometime after 1930.

I can’t recall Uncle George ever using it at our house when he visited, and given that it is still in its cardboard box I suspect it was a casual purchase.

That said it could equally have been Dad who bought it. He too had a habit of buying up objects, with one purchase being sixty copper bars which were fluted with a screw and terminal cap at one end and a sharp point at the other.

They had been manufactured by Frederick Smith in the Anaconda Works in Salford.

It took me a while to  work out what they were and finally discovered after reading the box that were for a wireless, which dated them to a little earlier than our razor.

Such are the things you find knocking around in the family store cupboard.

Pictures; Rolls Razor Imperial No 2, circa 1920 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

What we did in Alexandra Park in 1906, nu 5 ......... admiring the Clock Tower

A short series of how we used Alexandra Park in 1906, from a collection Valentine’s Snapshots of Alexandra Park.

And no sooner had I posted this when Dave Hulson shared this, 

"Hi Andrew, I know the tower clocking Alexandra park was a gift from the market traders of Sheudehill Manchester as they didn't want or need it.

When it was erected at Alexandra Park it's clock faces never kept the correct time

This is where it gets a bit strange it was removed from the park ( date not known) and reappeared at Belle Vue on an island , but I don't know what happened to it after that or the date it was removed."

Well Dave that should set the memories going.

Location; Alexandra Park

Pictures; the Clock Tower, Alexandra Park, from Valentine’s Snapshots of Alexandra Park, date unknown, courtesy of Ann Love

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 97......... the noises we make ... the stories they tell

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

We are early rises.  The first coffee of the day can be at anytime between 5 and 6 am and the first out of the house will be up by the old tram terminus by half past six.

But some in the family depending on work patterns, will sleep on, vaguely hearing the noises being made but letting it sit as a backdrop before falling asleep again.

Now I have experienced both.  Once a long time ago it would be dad stoking the fire, listening to the early news bulletin on the wireless, and me, being just aware of the start of his day but knowing I didn’t have to do anything, and that fairly soon all would be silent again.

Half a century on it is me, raking the ash, running the radio and just “clumping around”.
I suspect that my noises are almost a replication of Dad’s and probably also Joe and Mary Ann’s who
moved into our house in 1915 and were the first residents to call it home.

Their noises would have been very much the background to the early 20th century, with the sound of fires being cleared, coal collected from the cellar and noise of countless horses, from the milkman to traders calling with the items Mary Ann had ordered up the day before.

The Scott’s were very modern and embraced all the new consumer goods.
So by the early 1920s there would have been the sound of the telephone, followed by the wireless and in the mid 1950s the television, all of them marking the major shifts in the lives of people during the last century.

Against this were the loss of all those rural sounds including the cows being walked up the road, the call of the ploughman working the fields and the voices of the itinerant tradesmen who wandered into Chorlton carrying anything from brass buttons, to silk finery and the unglamorous but essential items from cooking pots to bars of soap.

That said, Joe and Mary Ann would have seen cows on Beech Road, called in at the smithy and perhaps bought the their eggs from Higginbotham’s farm on the green, or Mr Riley just yards away at Ivy Farm.

And the final transformation from a rural community to a suburb of Manchester would linger on across the last century while the memories of being sent to buy fresh milk from farms around the green are only now fading from living memory.

We are lucky in being able to track all four owners of our house and while in some cases what we know is sketchy it is enough to be fairly confident what noises would have been made during the last century and a bit.

Noises, which would have included the first time the music of Tamla Motown was played in the house, and the sound of John building his boat.

For me one of the most significant sounds has been that of children at play, because our kids were the first children in the history of the house.

But that as they say is another story.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; from the collections of Lois Elsden & Andrew Simpson, 1974-2018, and Graham Gill

*The story of a house,