Saturday, 30 June 2018

The fires above Stalybridge ........ June 29 2018

We woke to the distinctive smell of smoke this morning as we have done every day since Monday.

Most days it is just a hint but on the first day it was very noticeable, and there was just a slight haziness, like looking out through a dirty window.

Of course our slight discomfort is nothing compared with what those on the east of the city and particularly in Stalybridge at the foot of the fires must be experiencing.

We are a full 16 miles away while Stalybridge is right beside it.

I have resisted writing about the fires, because there is that sense that to do so is an intrusion on the misery of others but last night Peter posted a picture from Spinneyfields, high above the city streets of the hills and the fires to the east.*

There have been many other powerful images of those fires but this one a full 10 miles away tells the story.

Leaving me just to reflect on the dedication of the firefighters, now joined by the army and on the generosity of the general public who have donated to the comforts of all those struggling to contain the fires

Location; Spinneyfields, Manchester

Picture; looking across to the fires on Saddleworth Moor, from the collection of Peter Armistead

*20 Stories, 1 Hardman Street, Manchester,

All that’s fit to print ....... reading Chorlton’s news over the last 150 years

Now when you have lived in Chorlton for over 40 years you get to have read a lot of local and almost local newspapers.

Open Up, 2018
They came in all sorts of shapes and sizes, have varied in content and purpose and now courtesy of Open Up, have an on line version.

And here I must admit to a personal interest because I have been writing for Open Up for six years, starting when it went under the name of Community Index, and appearing in first its Chorlton edition, and then its Didsbury version.  Since then it has expanded, changed its name and along with its home edition has expanded the second magazine to cover south Manchester.

Before that we tended to be included in the City wide papers** along with those that added us as a passing thought which included the Journal stable of papers, and The Reporter series and the Chorlton and Wilbraham News.***

Of all of these my favourite is the South Manchester Gazette, which only lasted three years but had the foresight to commission our own Thomas Elwood to write the story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

The South Manchester Gazette, 1885
There were 26 articles which appeared during the winter of 1885 and into the spring of the following year and along with Reverend Booker’s A History of the Ancient Chapels of Didsbury and Chorlton, published thirty years earlier, remain the starting point for reading about the Township’s past.

And while Mr Elwood drew on the book by the Reverend Booker, he also recorded the memories of local residents who could talk about the Chorlton of their youth and by extension call up conversations and memories from their parents and grandparents, taking us back to the time when King Georg 111 lost us the American colonies.

Chorlton Green, 1984
But no review can miss out the short lived Chorlton Green which was an alternative community newspaper.

It ran from January 1984 to sometime in May 1986 and the first editorial set the style, “Let 1984 come alive with Chorlton Green....Chorlton Green is a community newspaper, and offers Chorlton the voice it’s never had before – in personal opinion, in creative work and as an information exchange”. 

Chorlton Peace Festival, 1984
And over the next two years the paper covered a lot of what went on in Chorlton and never shied away from controversial stories but could also ponder on the return of the tram and a time in the future when we might become “South Manchester’s Bohemian Heartland” including an “artist’s quarter” with a “glossy sheen of alternative bookstores, exotic antique shops, delicatessens and specialists in ....countercultural accessories”.

They didn’t see the explosion on the bar culture but I rather think got the rest about right.

We got our copy from Bryan the Book who sold it from his bookshop and it may even have been on sale at the newsagents on Barlow Moor Road, opposite Hanbury’s.

The Almanack, 1910
All of which leaves just me including the front page of The Chorlton-cum-Hardy District Almanack and Handbook For 1910.

It was published in that year by Harry Kemp who was one of our first councillors elected to Manchester City Council in 1904 and who had two chemist shops one of which gave the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Wilbraham Road the its popular title of Kemp’s Corner, which lasted as a name well into the 1960s’ predating the official designation of Chorlton Cross and the now frequently used Four Banks.

It is not a newspaper but has a wealth of local information, about what we were like, and in its way is part of all that was fit to print about Chorlton.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; cover of Chorlton Up July-August, 2018, courtesy of Open Up Magazines,  front page of South Manchester Gazette, 1885, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,, front page of Chorlton Green, 1984 courtesy of Bernard Leach, the Chorlton Peace Festival, 1984, from the collection of Tony Walker,  front page of The Chorlton-cum-Hardy District Almanack and Handbook For 1910, Harry Kemp, 1910 and Barlow Moor Road, 1980, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Open Up,

Barlow Moor Road, 1980
**The list is quite long and includes the Manchester Chronicle [1897-1963], The Manchester City News, [1864-1958], The Manchester Courier, [1825-1916], The Manchester Evening News, [1868-2018], The Manchester Guardian, [1821-1959], The Manchester Metro News,[1991-2],

*** Chorlton Journal [?], Chorlton and Wilbraham News, [?]Stretford * Urmston Journal, [?, ]South Manchester Chronicle, [1889-1897], South Manchester Express/Advertiser, [1992-2000], South Manchester Gazette [1885-1888], South Manchester Reporter [1993-2011]

The story of a British Home Child ...... born in London, enlisted in the C.E.F., and died in Manchester in 1918

There is a story yet to be told about the twenty-six men of the Canadian Expeditionary Force who are buried here in Southern Cemetery.

Grave of Thomas John Loveland, 1918, Southern Cemetery
They will all have been patients in the nearby military hospital which until the Great War began had been the hospital for the local Workhouse.

And each will have died while recovering from their wounds or illnesses.

In time I want to follow up each of their lives in as much detail as I can.

For now I know that this is the grave of Thomas John Loveland of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps who died on November 6 1918, just days before the Armistice and end of the war.

He was just 21 years old and had been born here in the United Kingdom in London and he may even have been a British Home Child because his Attestation papers show his trade as a farmer and his next of kin as Eliza who was still living in the UK.

Cover of Canada in Khaki, 1917
Eliza was his sister who was just six years older than Thomas.  

Their father who had been a gas labourer had died in 1903 at the age of 35 leaving his wife Eleanor to bring up five children on her own. 

The eldest who was Eleanor was eleven years old and the youngest was just two. 

By 1911 they were living in a four roomed house at number 4 George Street at Walsoken in Cambridgeshire.  

But only Eliza and her mother are in the property which they share with a William Fearis and his daughter who was 18 months old. 

Both Mr Fearis and Mrs Loveland give their status as widowed and she describes herself as “Domestic housekeeper.”

In time I am minded to explore the story of Mr Fearis but for now I am content just to record that on the night of census Mrs Loveland’s youngest son was visiting. 

He was eleven years old, is described as a “scholar” and this offers up the possibility that he too was in care.  I doubt that he could have been living with either of his elder siblings because they were only sixteen and fourteen.

A page from Canadian Khaki
So I think we can be confident that on the death of Edward Loveland in 1903 all the children bar Eliza went into care.

In 1915 Eliza is still at the address when Thomas enlists in Canada.

And there the trial pretty much comes to an end.  I don’t yet know when their mother died or what happened to Eliza although her elder brother was killed on the Western Front in 1917.

All of which sort of brings the strands together.  Our own British Home Child like Thomas enlisted in the August of 1915 but he survived, we live just minutes way from Southern Cemetery where Private Loveland lies.

In little over three weeks there will be a special ceremony in Southern Cemetery to mark not just the centenary of the Battle of the Somme but also for Canada Day.

And the picture of all twenty-six graves of the men of the CEF were taken by David Harrop who has commemorated the centenary of the Somme with a special exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern and which will feature memorabilia connected to the Canadian Expeditionary Force, including the book Canada in Khaki.

And just as I posted the story Liz who is the archivist of the Together Trust  suggested that "he was a Barnardo’s boy by the looks of it."*

Southern Cemetery
The Together Trust was the old Manchester and Salford Boys'and Girls' Refuges and from 1870 were active in offering care to disadvantaged young people in the twin cities of Manchester and Salford.

Their archive is a wonderful collection of material covering the work carried out by the charity.

 And as Canada awoke and got into its stride Catherine West kindly did the research and confirms that
Thomas was a Barnardo's Home Child. He is listed on the Library and Archives Canada site at either or 

Once there go to online research and search the British Home Child database."

So a pretty good result all round and another bit of international research.

The story of Manchester's involvement in the Great War is featured in the new book Manchester Remembering 1914-18, published today by the History Press.

Location; Southern Cemetery

Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop and of Southern Cemetery from Andrew Simpson

*Getting down and dusty/

**Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson

Order now from the History Press, 

A little bit of gentle fun at the seaside in the 1930s ........ no 3 the nice boy

A short series reflecting on a bit of gentle fun from the seaside.

That said each of the four has something to say about the period in which they were sent.

But I will leave you to draw conclusions.

Location; at the seaside in Wales

Picture; courtesy of Ron Stubley

Friday, 29 June 2018

No chips .... no fish .... no mushy peas .... no pies ...... on Beech Road ..... in the summer of 2018

I wonder how many of the Friends of Beech Road who visit each weekend will have clocked that our chippy has closed.

Now the passing of any local business is a something to regret, especially as it was the source of many a quick meal over the last forty or so years.

And its history goes back much further, because along with the newsagents next door it has consistently sold the same thing since it opened at the beginning of the 20th century.

That makes it almost unique and its record is only matched by four Chorlton pubs, and the bakery opposite.

These are the  Horse & Jockey which got its license in 1793, The Lloyds, which started serving in 1868, the Beech from the early 20th century and the Trevor Arms, from just 1908, although in the case of the Trevor there was a beer shop on or next to it from the 1870s.

And in answer to the torrent of comments about the other pubs, the Bowling Green moved into its present building in the early 20th century, having traded from the 1780s from a building next door, and the Royal Oak only dates from the 1930s, having also moved out of its original building.

True, that pub over the water also dates from the 18th century but it is no longer in Chorlton, while the Spread Eagle was a private residence much longer than it has ever been a pub and hotel.

On a happy note, I am pleased that Neil who ran the chippy is still frying chips and battered fish but is now opposite the old swimming baths, which just leaves me to report that there are rumours that no 42 Beech Road will continue its long relationship with food and reopen as a Chinese takeaway.

I wonder what it will be called, and I do remember the chippy has gone through a series of different names, of which my favourite must be the “Vimto Chippy” so called because of the Vimto stickers around the window.

And once we have a new name it maybe time  to revise the Quirks of Chorlton-cum-Hardy which was published last year, including a paragraph on the return of a Chinese takeaway to Beech Road.*

Location; Beech Road

Picture; the chippy, 2017, from the collection of Peter Topping

*A Quirky book about Chorlton,

A little bit of gentle fun at the seaside in the 1920s ............. no 3 "The Midnight Choo-Choo”

A short series reflecting on a bit of gentle fun from the seaside.

Location; at the seaside in Wales

Picture; courtesy of Ron Stubley

Thursday, 28 June 2018

CUBS & THE MEADOWS ...... a story from Trevor James

The first in a new series of growing up in Chorlton by Trevor James

The Old Road, 2016
The picture of the 1st Chorltonville cub and scout group shown on your blog for Wednesday, 15 November 2017 from Frank Tomlin was of particular interest to me, as I might be included in it. Unfortunately, I cannot tell for sure, given the picture quality. Together with my best friend, Leonard Smith, I was a Wolf Cub in the 1st Chorltonville (52nd Manchester) pack from 1952-1955.

We both lived in the same street on the Barlow Moor estate.

Every Friday (I think) throughout the year, we would set off at 5.30pm and walk along Floyd, Hardcastle and Burrows Avenues, down Hardy Lane, along Hurstville Road and through the passage at the end into the ‘Ville’.

The hut where we met was at the end of Brookburn Road, as it becomes a path across The Meadows. At the end of the meeting, we walked back home, in the dark much of the year, between the ages of 8 to 11 years old and neither we nor our parents thought anything of it.

The Cub Pack, circa 1950s
The one person in the photograph I can identify has a moustache and wears a Scout hat. When I knew him, he was the local Scout District Commissioner – don’t think I ever knew his name.

He always reminded me of Jimmy Edwards; just as funny and loud, too. Our first Akela was --- Blair; my mother was quite taken with him, saying he had ‘matinee idol’ looks. Our later cubmaster was Tom Alcorn, who was much younger (probably early twenties); both lived in Chorltonville.

In the summer, if it was fine, much of the meeting was held outdoors, on the Meadows, playing games. That’s where we spent much of our time, especially at weekends.

Hardy Farm, 1965
We usually approached via Hardy Lane; beyond Hurstville Road it was just a farm track. I’m not sure if I remember Hardy Lane Cottages or merely think I recall them, but I certainly remember Hardy Farm.

As you walked through it, there was an orchard on the right (Leonard & I went scrumping apples there, once, and we were discovered by the farmer), then an open, Dutch barn with corrugated iron roof , and lastly an open-fronted brick barn. This last had an orange box nailed to the gable end, with the middle stave knocked out. This was occupied, as intended, by a barn owl.

On the opposite side of the track was the farmhouse and ancillary buildings. The track at this point sloped down quite sharply. The last building was the cowshed or shippon, where the farmer (Mr. Mellor?) hand-milked his three or four cows. He had a retail milk round; the milk was unpasteurised, but TB-tested, of course. We didn’t use his milk, ours was delivered by the Co-op. The rumour was that Mr. Mellor watered the milk.

Beyond the farm the track flattened out and, about the point at which it bent to the left, there was a pond on the righthand side. For some reason, a fairly large-diameter cast-iron pipe crossed the pond, 1-2 feet above the surface. It pointed in the direction of the sewage farm, but where it came from I don’t know – maybe Barlow Hall, as it looked as though it predated the Barlow Hall estate. The pond had all that small boys could wish for – minnows, tadpoles (in season), newts, water beetles.

The Meadows, 2002
If we had gone down on our bikes, we ventured slightly further afield. Our boundaries were never discussed but were tacitly agreed.

On the Chorlton bank of the Mersey, the towpath downstream from Jackson’s Boat bridge as far as ‘Thunder Bridge’, which carried the railway line (now Metrolink) over the river; upstream, on the towpath, not far at all, as there was nothing of interest except for Barlow Wood (which we knew as Bluebell Wood).

However, we did cross the river, which was grossly polluted, smelt vile and whose flow was punctuated by small rafts of foam – still in the period 1952-55. We didn’t stray far along the towpath in either direction; instead, we would cycle up Rifle Road about as far as the first corner. At that point, we turned left off the road and into a ‘field’, which at that time was a dump for all sorts of rubbish, some six feet high.

We rode over this, back to the river. What we rode over in many places was white and fluffy. In hindsight, it must have been white asbestos. I’ve still no (severe) breathing difficulties, fingers crossed.

© Trevor James, 2018

Location; the 1950s

Pictures; the Old Road, 2012 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, First  Chorltonville Cub and Scout troop, 1950s, courtesy of Frank Tomlin, Hardy Farm, 1965, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the Meadows, 2002, from the collection of David Bishop

A little bit of gentle fun at the seaside in the 1930s ........ no 2 Pinched

A short series reflecting on a bit of gentle fun from the seaside.

That said each of the four has something to say about the period in which they were sent.

But I will leave you to draw conclusions.

Location; at the seaside in Wales

Picture; courtesy of Ron Stubley

Living in a two up two down house any time from the 1890s

Behind the houses, 1979
The two up two down terraced house remains a feature of most of our towns and cities.  

Most were built in the mid 19th century onwards, some were adapted from older two roomed back to backs and some were altered to add another room, or the addition of an extension.

But across the country, particularly in the north and the midlands they were and still are a major part of the housing stock.

And many of us will have close connections to them. My mother and grandparents lived in one in Derby, and the first house I bought was a two up two down mid terrace in Ashton -Under- Lyne.

Now this is no romantic descent into some warm cosy nostalgic commentary on two up two downs.  They are fine for those starting out together when there is just the two of you with an option on a baby but cannot have been fun for a large family.

After all where do you put everybody?  Not that this was ever a new problem.  Overcrowding both in the towns and cities as well as the countryside has always been the lot of many working families.

12 Hope Street, Derby, circa 1930s
Back in rural areas in the 19th century parents fell on a range of strategies.

Where possible some of the children stayed with relatives or deals were struck with neighbours who involved families with boys and girls sharing out the children and setting up single sex bedrooms in each other’s houses.

And if none of that was possible it was down to the blanket across the room dividing the area in two.*

All of which brings me back to the house in Ashton -Under -Lyne.  It was the usual model.  You walked in off the street into the front room and directly facing you was the door to the back room.  In our case the stairs ran from the very back of the second room up to a small landing and the two upstairs rooms, one of which had been divided to take a bath room.

Almost all the original features had gone and so it was impossible to know what the downstairs fireplaces had been like, the design of the range or even the doors, for all of them including the front door had that 1950s makeover which involved a sheet of hardboard which was nailed on.

Outside at the rear we had a yard with the lavatory and beside it the gate to the alley.

12 Hope Street, Derby, 1926
Back in 1911, our house with its four rooms had been home to James and Catherine Porter, their four children and James’s sister.

And here really is what must have been a problem, for the Porter’s had a ten year old daughter, two sons aged 3 and 2 and a baby and then there was Elizabeth Porter the 39 year old sister.

Now I cannot be sure but I suspect the problem had only recently become more complicated, because Elizabeth had been living with her father who had died the year before and we can only guess how they all fitted in.

And there we pretty much have to leave the family.  Elizabeth was working as a cotton winder in a local mill and so may have found alternative accommodation or maybe they all adapted and made the best they could.

The house is still there and while many of these two up two downs have been cleared away, plenty more are still doing the business.

Ours dated from sometime at the end of the 19th or the very beginning of the 20th century and like so many it was built within sight of the local mill and what had been a colliery.

Just across from the house along Whiteacre Road, there were three coal pits and two reservoirs all gone now although when we were there the site was still just a landscaped hill.

Picture; Behind the houses, 1979, back yard of 12 Hope Street, circa 1930 and 1926, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

* Reports of the Special Assistant Poor Law Commissioners on the Employment of Women & Children in Agriculture in England, HMSO, 1843

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

And will there be no more Simpson pies from Urmston?

And of course the answer is no there won’t be, ....... Simpsons Ready Made Food Ltd, closed a while ago and the site is being readied for a proposed housing estate.

Planning permission has been granted for the demolition of the factory and the erection of 58 properties, consisting of houses and apartments, of which two are classed as “affordable rent units”, and four “shared ownership units”.*

Andy Robertson has been down to the site twice and his latest pictures come with the observation that there is scaffolding up around the front building, “perhaps they are keeping the outer bit as part of the redevelopment”

Well having looked at the plans it would appear the building will go, and the space will be filled with eight properties.

Location; Urmston

Pictures; the site, 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Trafford Planning Portal.  Demolition of existing factory buildings to allow for residential development comprising; 58no. new dwellings. Alongside ancillary works including; a new main access from Stretford Road and associated landscaping.  0481/FUL/17

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford nu 16 ......... not so much lost but waiting for something new

Now I seem to be drawn back to Greengate and have decided to feature this one from Andy Robertson who over the years has been recording the changes to the twin cities and so here is his take on Greengate.

I asked him to wander down and take a few photographs of the place.

And this is the one he began, taken in 2016, with which he tells me was made more difficult by the absence of some old familiar landmarks and the equal absence of street signs.

So there you have it .......... and when he wanders back I bet it will all have changed again.

Location; Salford

Picture; Greengate 2016 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

...... "to be young was very heaven" ..... growing up in the 1960s & 70s

Now I am always wary of giving a decade a title and with it a description.

I grew up in the 1960s and became grown up in the 70s.

The first is always portrayed as the swinging decade and the following as the dismal decade.

And of course there is some truth in both.

To be 14 in 1964 was to be in very heaven.  It began with the music and that feeling that we could all be, "Beautiful boys with bright red guitars in the spaces between the stars" *

And it followed on with the fashions in clothes, furniture and films all adding to that sense that here was something different where anything was possible.

For those just a tad older than me, it meant leaving a job on a Friday and walking into a new one on Monday, and blowing Friday's wages on a set of Ben Sherman shirts, or Quant make up, with an eye on a stylish set of fabrics from Habitat.

By contrast the 70s were one of those lean dismal periods dominated by growing industrial unrest, stack shoes and lava lamps.

That said I liked and still like lava lamps, along with loon trousers, and much else about the 70s.

As for the 1960s, there is something slightly at odds with what I lived through.

I was a boy from south east London, at home on Well Hall Road, Eltham High Street and Woolwich market.

I didn’t have the spending power of those at work and no one told me about the Marque Club until I left for Manchester in 1969.

And so, I saw much of that swinging period at a distance, taking in the films of Michael Cane, and Terence Stamp, watching Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy on the news, and wondering if I had the chance would I be a Mod or a Rocker.

On balance it would have been a Mod, and with the limited money I had that was where I slowly progressed, but in the absence of friends with scooters and Parkas, I opted for the 161 bus or the 8.40 to Charing Cross.

Leaving me starting the 70s in Manchester at The Twisted Wheel and an introduction to what would become known as Northern Soul, and wandering across my newly adopted city, exploring all that it had to offer.

And then by the middle of the decade, buying our first house out in Ashton, getting married and starting the job I did for 35 years.  All of which marked my passage into becoming grown up.

I suspect many who read this story will have similar experiences, and like me cherish both decades for what they offered and what we did during them.

So in the words of Brian Patten, "My celluloid companions, it’s only a few years
Since I knew you.  Something in us has faded.
Has the Terrible Fiend, That Ghastly Adversary,
Mr Old Age, Caught you in his deadly trap,
and come finally to polish you off,
His machinegun dripping with years … ?"**

Which is far too serious, so instead, I will call time with Roger McGough’s Vinegar,
i feel like a priest
in a fish & chips queue
quietly thinking
as the vinegar runs through
how nice it would be
to buy supper for two"***

Location; the far away decades

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Mrs Albion You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter, Adrian Henri

**Where are you now, Batman,? Brian Pattern

***Vinegar, Roger McGough

All three from The Mersey Sound, 1967, Penguin

A house with a story

Now we all have favourite buildings but this is not one of mine.

And yet there is a remarkable story here which takes us back to the early years of commercial photography and the Ireland Photographic Studios which began up in Newton Heath as a side line and became an important family business in the centre of Manchester.*

The Ireland family prospered as commercial photographers and eventually settled here in this house.

The business was taken over by Charles Ireland whose father began the studios and he briefly lived in the house which is now the Buddhist Centre on High Lane but was once the Art School of Tom Mostyn.

So there you have it.

*It started with a picture and became a story.......... Charles Ireland,

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

Ghost signs in Stalybridge

Now it has all been very quiet on the ghost sign scene.

But today Ron sent me this one.

He wrote, “another Stalybridge one for you Andrew, Melbourne Street. facing the river. 

Can't decipher the bulk of it but the repeated word 'blend' has me thinking of a tea merchant or grocery business. 

Perhaps you'll have more luck from your ghost sign contacts? Love the bay window on the side.”

Well I have to say I wasn’t much more successful but I did pick out the word Bacon.

Also three is is that interesting bit of detail over the bricked up window which announces "Est 1847."

Cleary the business moved here after the window was bricked up and looks slightly newer than the surrounding sign.

All of which just leaves someone to remember the shop to write in to the blog.

And if we are very lucky someone who has access to the trade and street directories will go looking for Melbourne Street and supply not only what the business sold but also a name and a date when they ceased trading.

I hope so.

Location; Stalybridge

Picture; ghost sign at Melbourne Street, 2017 from the collection of Ron Stubley

Monday, 25 June 2018

Of ferries, and monuments and odd bits of transport history ....... by Lake Maggorie at Easter

We were a mixed bag on the mid day ferry to Intra.

There were a handful of locals, off to meet friends and family, a few tourists and us, along with an assortment of cars, two motor bikes and a lorry.

There weren’t that many of us, but then the ferry service across Lake Maggorie runs every twenty minutes so unless you have a pressing appointment there is no need to force yourself on to a full boat.

That said I am guessing there is a morning and evening rush hour, but at noon we pretty much had the ferry to ourselves.

Now the weather at Easter can be unpredictable.  Earlier in the week it had rained incessantly with the odd flash of lightening.  But Thursday had dawned sunny and bright and by the time we arrived in Laveno it was almost t-shirt weather and so on a whim we had taken the ferry to Intra.

It is a short enough journey lasting about twenty minutes, and the views across the lake were magnificent.

Not everyone however was bothered with the scenery, and this included one of the tourists who resolutely spent the journey staring at a map, and continued to do so as we docked.

He didn’t even give a glance as the platform at the landing point was lowered into place, which was a shame because had he done so he would have got a glimpse of transport history.

Looking down there was the original landing stage which I suppose had been abandoned when the ferry’s got bigger or the vehicles got larger and there was a need to add a new ramp which is lowered when a ferry arrives and raised once it had departed.

Given the small number of people on the ferry, we were ashore in a matter of minutes and within another five were parading beside the Lake looking for a suitable place to eat.

And there were plenty of bars, and restaurants along with the usual mix of touristy shops and in the warm sunshine were doing a grand trade.

At the Caffe Sempione an elegantly dressed couple had taken up a table with a commanding view over the water having chosen to ignore both the “Tea Room” and the “Lounge Bar”.

But the majority of people had oped for the large cafe whose tables and chairs were situated just behind the the war monument.

And not for the first time I pondered on the difference between many British war memorials and those erected in Italy.

In Britain they tend to be sited by churches, cross roads or specially designated spots which only come into their own on special occasions.

Not so many Italian monuments which are planted foursquare at the heart of the town giving them a prominent position amongst the living.

And so while you sit sipping your coffee or aperitif, there is no ignoring the sacrifice made by people on your behalf in wars which might otherwise be long forgotten.

All of which I think is a fine way for a war memorial to work.

Location; Intra, Lake Maggiore

Pictures; Intra, 2018 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 107 ......... when Sundays lay heavily

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.*

Perhaps it was simply that England was playing in the World Cup and the sun was cracking the paving stones, which accounted for the utter stillness that fell over the road and the Rec yesterday afternoon.

That said it hadn’t been any livelier in the morning, and while the Friends of Beech Road didn’t disappoint us, and as ever chose to park on both sides of the road, mounting the pavement for good measure, there was little evidence of anyone around.

And in an instant I was transported back to those slow Sundays of my youth, when the day lay heavy with the prospect of little to do.

Until the middle of the 1950s there was only the one TV channel which closed in the afternoon and reopened around seven.

Most of my friends were in the same boat but for whatever reason we never met up, leaving the day a dreary one filled with rereading comics and waiting for the evening.

None of which was made any better by the prospect of school in the morning.

Just how Joe and Mary Ann spent their Sundays is unknown to me, but they were one of those generations who experienced profound change in their leisure time.

Both had been born in the 1880s, and began their married life just after the dawn of the Edwardian era, and while things were more relaxed than we sometimes think there were still limitations on what fun could be had.

But in the course of the fifty eight years they lived here in this house, they experienced a deluge of different forms of entertainment, from the cinema, to the wireless and on to the television with first 78s, then 45s and LPs all thrown in.

When they first moved here in 1915, the Rec across the road was still relatively young and they would have known plenty of people who would have remembered when this 2 acre plot was all that was left of a set of fields called Row Acre which ran down from what is now Cross Road all the way to Acres Road.

Although back in the 1870s both had been called lanes.
I suspect Joe and Mary Ann would occasionally have taken a turn in the Rec but may also have stepped out through the fields behind them down to the Brook and on across meadow land to the Mersey and beyond.

Joe who built many of the smaller houses around Chorlton may also have wandered into the newly built Chorltonville, and making the decision that his houses would all start with electricity and not old fashioned gas lighting.  That decision was to become a selling point in much of his advertising literature by the early 1920s.

But I am in danger of straying into speculation so I will close where we began with yesterday.

By the evening the Friends of Beech Road had moved on, taking their cars with them and the television was offering up a range of entertainments, leaving me to water the garden just as Joe might have done and settle down for night.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; Beech Road, 2018, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and in the late 1940s, from the Lloyd Collection

*The story of a house,

Living in Sibson Road, more from the lives of those who lived in Chorlton in the 1930s

Another story from Sally Dervan

This story starts with me looking through a box of old photographs and finding a photo of my nana and grandad sat under the pier at Blackpool.

The funny thing is, in almost every one of my childhood memories, my Nana always comes as "one of a pair" but the other half of the pair was not usually my Grandad.

My Nana and her sister Lily were as different as chalk and cheese, despite this, in later life they spent most of their time together. Their bickering was constant and their outlook on life, poles apart.

Lily was anxious, a "worrier” where my nana was practical, down to earth and seemed to shrug off problems.

As a child , my mum was very fond of "Auntie Lil " she would turn to her rather than to her own mother for comfort and a sympathetic ear , knowing that my Nana would be very likely to tell her to "shape herself " rather than  give a hug or any sort of comfort .

Two very different people who had some spectacular rows but always supported each other when life dealt them a bad hand.

At certain times in their lives, one would prove to be just what the other needed.

All though they lived most of their lives in Manchester, the sisters were actually born far from there, in Coolfin Street, Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Lily (or Eliza Jane as she was christened) was born in 1908 and my Nana, Ethel in 1910.

When they were young children they moved with their parents and four brothers and sisters, "over the water” to Manchester, where their father, Fred, had obtained a position as an overseer of a commercial laundry. The family lived in a "two up two down" house in Thompson Street Levenshulme, with their mother Minnie supplementing the family income by working alongside her husband as a laundry assistant.

In 1930 when she was 22, Lily met David Ridgway at a dance. David was a clever young man, from Flora Street in Hulme, similar back to back terraced housing to Lily's home in Thompson Street.

The pair were about to take a step up, David got a good job and on their marriage in 1931, they settled into semi detached suburbia, buying a house off Sibson Road in Chorlton.

This spacious semi with a long back garden must have seemed like heaven to Lily after the sooty streets of Levenshulme. Lily set about the task of "homemaking” with enthusiasm.

One of her first purchases being a pair of matching fireside chairs .Their brown upholstery and elegant “Art Deco" curved wooden arms made them both stylish and comfortable.

I have no doubt that Lily and David envisaged many happy hours sat either side of the fire in their chairs in the years to come.

Sadly that image of domestic bliss was never to be, with the advent of war; David joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, progressing to Pilot Officer.

Tragically, David was shot down and killed, over France on 16th September 1943, aged 35 and his remains laid to rest far from home, in Pont Audemer Communal Cemetery in France.

Lily remained in the Chorlton home they had shared together until her death in 1998, aged 90. I remember their house fondly from childhood, always neat and tidy with a kitchen pantry that was as cold as any modern fridge, and a white duck as vicious as any guard dog that lived in the back garden.

And in the little used front parlour, the room kept "for best" stood two fireside chairs.

© Sally Dervan

Pictures; from the collection of Sally Dervan

Sitting in the Shovel Inn ........ and telling stories of King George 11 and generations of Carnforth farmers

Now if you want a pub with a bit of history, then the Shovel Inn in Carnforth is a good start.

It was already well into its third decade when King George 111 lost us the American colonies, although I am not sure back then it was a pub.

Still someone will know.

Andy Robertson who sent over the pictures tells me that “it dates from 1750.  It is on North Road which was the main road before the A6 came into existence”.

And as you do I went looking for more on the Shovel Inn and found that it has a listing on Historic England which offers up the following,  “Public house, '1750 MHM' on lintel. Pebbledashed rubble with slate roof. 2 storeys. 

Main entrance in north west gable facing North Road. Windows sashed with plain stone surrounds. 

One on each floor of the gable with the doorway with plain stone surround to the right. Gable has coping and kneelers. North east wall has 3 windows on the 1st floor, the ground level being higher on this side. 

Gabled wing against south west wall has a window or each floor of the wall facing North Road, and a coping with kneelers. 

At the right-hand end of the southwest wall are windows with plain reveals and a doorway and porch with plain reveals”.*

So later this week I shall go looking for it on the old maps and start the long trawl through the census records, unless of course someone else beats me to it.

We shall see.

Location; Carnforth

Pictures; the Old Shovel Inn, Carnforth, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Historic England,

A water trough and a tram transformer now that’s value for money .......... up Manchester Road

Now as water troughs go this is one I had all but forgotten.

It is situated where Manchester Road and Audenshaw Road diverge and I passed it pretty much every day when we lived in Ashton back in the 1970s.

And I have Ron to thank for supplying the pictures and setting me off on the story.

It was erected in 1879 and is made of polished Cornish granite and carried the inscription "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN REGARDETH THE LIFE OF HIS BEAST" and like so many it is now used as a flower tub.

But in the late 19th century and into the 20th it would have offered up a welcome break for carters and farmers travelling the Manchester Road.

Nearby was the canal and up ahead were the mills of Ashton and not so far away that jam factory,
Like many people I just took water troughs for granted.

They were a bit of that street furniture which were always there and when I was growing up still offered water to passing horses pulling milk floats and the carts of the local rag and bone man.

That said by the mid 1950s there wasn’t that much demand and the one near us was usually dry filled only with some decaying leaves bits of litter and a thin layer of grit.

But once they had been an important part of the landscape as was the tram transformer which I have to say I also took for granted.

In fact if I am honest I don’t think the one which stands behind the Audenshaw trough even registered with me.

It dates from around 1903, carried the coat of arms of Manchester Corporation and was made by the British Electric Transformer Company.

Now I think I can be fairly certain of the date because British Electric Transformer Company of Hayes in Middlesex which had been registered in that year took over from the British Electric Transformer Manufacturing Co.

And the date also fits with the extension by Manchester Corporation Tramways of its route to Audenshaw from Piccadilly.

This transformer pillar was restored by Norweb in 1983 and given its distinctive black and gold colour scheme.

I might be wrong but I rather remember is as painted a dull matt light green but then it was a long time ago.

All of which just leaves me to thank Ron for providing the images, jogging my memory and offering up another little obsession to sit with that of ghost signs.*

Pictures; the Audenshaw trough 2015, courtesy of Ron Stubley

*The Ghost Sign

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Growing up in the 1950s ....... with endless hours of just having fun

For many of us born in the 1940s and 50s, we were afforded a tremendous freedom to fill our leisure time with carefree and endless pursuits.

Manchester, 1979
And it didn’t matter whether you were a lad from south east London, or south Manchester, there was a freedom, with no tagged on parental questions about what you did or where you went.

Of course we weren’t alone, and every generation will be able to tell similar stories, but I grew up in the 1950s so this is my story, and I suspect that of many who were young at the same time.

It is a theme I return to regularly and I guess as I roll towards my 69th birthday it’s an inevitable preoccupation.

But today it is less about the adventures and more about just how we got away with it, and why our parents seemed comfortable with waving us off in the morning and not seeing us till teatime.

Manchester, 1979
This is particularly pertinent as through the 1980s and into the 90s I had no such relaxed approach to where our kids were as they grew up.

I don’t think mum and dad were any less caring and certainly when I got into scraps they exhibited the same mix of concern, anxiety and relief as I did when our Joshua fell out of a tree and Benjamin required another A&E visit after yet another football injury.

Nor were we “latch key kids” which is a term I don’t like anyway.  True dad was at work but mother was at home, and from memory those friends who might fall into that latch key category were no less loved by parents who took an equal interest in how their children were doing.

So the explanation is I suspect elsewhere.

My parents were born in the early part of the last century to parents who were themselves growing up in the decade before the old Queen died.

The Avalon Marshes, 2018
And that I suspect is the context.  They lived through two world wars, and a trade depression and I suspect all of that gave them a different perspective on risk and freedom.

Talking to my partner and her siblings whose parents were born in Naples in 1940, the story is much the same, with the added twist that in school time they had finished school by one in the afternoon offering up even more opportunities to wander free.

Naples in the 1940s was a hard city, where poverty didn’t just stalk the streets, but sat comfortably in the houses of many, which was then compounded by the war, allied bombing and dire shortages of food.

It would be easy to over state this as a theory but I think it works.

And I am very grateful that that freedom was there.

Not that there were no risks.  I well remember the adventure that ended in three of us sinking in Thames mud before being rescued, and there will have been predatory adults and the ever present chance that bravado and stupidity could lead to a serious accident.

The Avalon Marshes, 2018
Happily we were spared these, and instead experienced the fun of wandering aimlessly where we wanted, doing what the Italians describe as “the sweetness of doing nothing”.

And I was reminded of all this today on looking at two fine photographs from my friend Lois who used them to accompany a story she wrote about a picnic and walk through the Avalon Marshes.*

The story and the photographs took me back fifty years to similar trips, with nothing more than a curiosity to see what was round the corner coupled with a huge dollop of free time.

Leaving me just draw the conclusion that adventures are no less exciting whatever your age.

Location; the 1950s

Pictures; carefree kids beside the Rochadale Canal, from the collection of Andrew Simpson,1979, and the Avalon Marshes, 2018 courtesy of Lois Elsden.

*The Avalon Marshes,