Sunday, 13 May 2018

Of sewers, music halls and deep deep tunnels, Barlow Moor Road in 1911

Barlow Moor Road, circa 1911
They're moving father's grave to build a sewer ........ They're moving his remains to lay down nine-inch drains, To irrigate some rich bloke's residence.*  

It was one of those popular songs of the traditional music halls guaranteed to raise a smile but containing a powerful social comment on the status of the poor in our Victorian cities.

And lest anyone should think I am going off on one, I shall just point you to the image of the plaque supplied to me by Graham who reminded me of how part of the Walker’s Croft Graveyard was swept away for the building of the railway station which is Victoria.

Plaque by platforms 1 and 2 Victoria Station
And in a form of helpful slum clearance across the country the homes of the poor vanished in the face of viaducts, platforms and grand station fronts.

Here not only did the area around Walker’s Croft disappear but so did sections of Little Ireland close by Oxford Road.

So it is perhaps fitting that we are looking at the construction of a sewer on Barlow Moor Road hard by Southern Cemetery.
Look closely and the lodge at the entrance to the place is just visible.

Not that any bodies would have been harmed in the building of the said sewer.  Unlike Walker’s Croft there were no human remains in the path of the excavations.

dStationary tam
Having got that out of the way and dismissing the grotesque this is a fascinating picture.

The caption gives a date of 1911 and it cannot be any earlier, because in the January of that year the Corporation extended the tram network south from Chorlton to West Didsbury, and there almost as if on cue is a tram on its way up Barlow Moor Road.

But I am more interested in the work being undertaken by the City Engineers and in particular the huge timber construction above the sewer.

Today I guess it would all be metal scaffolding but back then it was timber.  Nor was this I think out of the ordinary for as late as the 1970s just outside Seaham Harbour in the north east there was a small building site using timber posts to support the scaffolding platform and ladders.

Sewer works
And if we wanted a further reminder of a time not like now it is there in the glimpse of the horse underneath the wooden framework.  This was still a time when most things were still hauled away by horses.

What puzzles me a little is the need for such a large wooden construction and just how the thing worked.

It maybe that this sewer was part of that extensive and deep series of works which were built between 1912 and 1913 in Kensington Road in Chorlton and the Didsbury part of Barlow Moor Road.

These came to light with the discovery of a collection of photographs taken of the men who dug them and revealed how these engineers were alter employed to dig tunnels under the German tranches during the Great War.**

Back on Barlow Moor Road
So I suppose if you are digging deep then the structure above must reflect that.

All perhaps a long way off from father’s grave but maybe not.

Pictures; wall plaque from the collection of Graham Gill and Barlow Moor Road in 1911 from the Lloyd collection.

*They're moving father's grave to build a sewer

They're moving father's grave to build a sewer
They're moving it regardless of expense.
They're moving his remains to lay down nine-inch
To irrigate some rich bloke's residence.
Now what's the use of having a religion?
If when you're dead you cannot get some peace
'Cause some society chap wants a pipeline to his
And moves you from your place of rest and peace...

Now father in his life was not a quitter
And I'm sure that he'll not be a quitter now.
And in his winding sheet, he will haunt that privy
And only let them go when he'll allow.
Now won't there be some bleedin' consternation,
And won't those city toffs begin to rave!
But it's no more than they deserve, 'cause they had
the bleedin' nerve
To muck about a British workman's grave.


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