Friday, 31 August 2018

The lost photograph ....... the church on Oswald Road and the mystery artist

This is the story that begins with a building on Oswald Road, tucked away beside two large houses, down a path which in summer is half hidden by bushes and trees.

It was the Elim Church which had been established in 1956 and which within forty years had out grown the premise and moved to a brand new church on Sandy Lane, before removing again to Salford in 2010.

I think I remember the Elim undergoing its transformation to a residential property in the 1990s and that is pretty much it.

A few years ago I got curious and began looking for its story but drew a blank and admitted defeat and moved on.

The entry in the Almanack, 1910
But today, I am back and this time there is a story.

Long before Elim it was the home of the Emmanuel Free Church which appears in Kemp’s Almanac for 1910 and is listed in the street directories for the following year.

Added to that the Reverend Charles Stuart Kitchen, who presided over his “flock” lived with his wife and daughter at 95 Oswald Road which I suppose cut down on his need to commute to the church.

The Almanack, 1910
In 1911 the Kitchens had been married for eight years and their daughter Ellen, Marian, Isabel, Kate was six years old.

And that is about all I know of them.  He had been born in Ontario in 1866 and in 1901 was residing as a “visitor” in a lodging house in Blackpool, and at 35 described himself as a “Congregational Theological Student”.

In time I will find out more about the Reverend Kitchen and his family along with what happened to the church.

It looks to date from 1907, when it appears on the OS map for Chorlton but is missing from the earlier map of 1894.

A trawl of the newspapers has not thrown up any reference to the church or its history from 1911 to 1956, which means we will have to search through the street directories for those 45 years to discover the name change.

But there is one picture dated from 1914 and carrying the title Emanuel Free Church, Oswald Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy and was painted by the local artist J. Montgomery with the date 1914.

The church, 1914
And this just throws up a mystery, because J. Montgomery was painting during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, which suggests that this will have been done from a photograph.

Now I know that many of his paintings were copied from old picture postcards and sadly in the case of the church that photograph is lost.

It may one day turn up, but doesn’t feature in any of the collections which regularly appear in books or on social media.

And that in turn leads me back to J. Montgomery who is himself an enigma.

He was a prolific artist and at the last count there were 200 of his paintings in the Manchester Digital Archive, but we know nothing of him.

The library has no notes on him and regular appeals on the blog have as yet brought forward no one who knew him.
All we have is a listing in a catalogue of some of his paintings in a local library.

The church, 1953
His paintings are not the most artistic but they are in some cases the only images we have of Chorlton in the past.

In the case of the Emanuel Church his painting suggests that the original building was made of wood or like many mission halls of the period made from corrugated iron.

But he did paint a second picture of the church which is equally fascinating.

It is dated 1953, and in that intervening 39 years the building has been extended and has a brick exterior added.

This will have predated its time as the Elim Church so may have been during its time as the Emmanuel.

And it may be that this is one of the rare examples when Mr Montgomery discarded the photograph and actually stood in front of his subject.painting from "live", discarding a photograph.

The church,  1907
But together the two throw up other problems, because looking again at the OS map for 1907 the footprint of the building seems not to conform to the 1914 painting, all of which leaves me even more confused.

And that is it.

Except to say it will  feature in our forthcoming book on the places of worship in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

Like all our other joint collaborations, this book will feature Peter’s paintings, some fine old period photographs and colour photographs, as well as stories by me.

And like the other books, the emphasis will be on the stories behind the doors, which in part will also offer up some history and celebrate our diverse multi cultural places of worship.

So if you have a story, a picture, or a memory of any of the churches, mission halls, chapels and temples in Chorlton, or the synagogue and mosque in Didsbury we would like to hear from you.

You can leave a comment on the blog, or send Peter or me a direct message on facebook or twitter, failing that text me on 07808987110.

And that should have been that, but soon after the story went live, a number of people commented that they remembered the hall from attending antenatal classes along with "babies first birthdays" between 1997 and '98, to attending a playgroup, and even working on the conversion.

So there is still lots more to come.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; the former Emanuel Free Church and Elim Pentecostal Church, 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson, the church in 1914, J. Montgomery, m68858, and in 1953, m80059, J. Montgomery, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and The Chorlton-cum-Hardy & District Almanack and Handbook, 1910, Harry Kemp, and detail of Oswald Road, from the OS map of Chorlton, 1907

Faces from the Royal Arsenal

I doubt we will ever get to know the identity of these eleven women and one man.

I can’t even offer up a date or a location, although judging by the background I think we are in a photographer’s studio.

All of which leaves us with many unanswered questions.

At the end of the war the Royal Arsenal employed some 50,000 men and 250,000 women and girls of which only 10,000 men would be trained after the Armistice which raises the question of what happened to out 11?

All of which leaves us to look more closely at the photograph.

They vary in age and while most are single some are married and I am intrigued by the triangular badge worn by four of the eleven.

After 1915 both men and women munitions workers were issued with brass enamelled badges but these are different.

I have no idea what it ithe badge was for but have asked around and will start doing some serious research but of course if anyone knows that will help.

But like their names I think this is a closed bit of history.

Just possibly someone might recognise one of the faces staring back at us and may even be able to match it against an old battered and treasured picture.

This I know however is pushing the boat out and the chances are very slim., which would make it a rare achievement to put a name to the face of one of 250,000 women and girls of the Royal Arsenal.

But you never know.

We shall see.

Location; Woolwich

Picture; munitions workers at the Royal Arsenal, date unknown from the collection of David Harrop

The Maple Leaf Flag, the European Union, and that house in Ingersoll

Now Ingersoll is one of those places which my Canadian cousins talk about.

It is a town in Oxford County on the Thames River and is in south western Ontario, with a population of just 2016.

The nearest cities are Woodstock to the east and London to the west, and on a visit our Chris took this picture, commenting,  “this is a house in Ingersoll, typical of the Victorian architecture you'll see in the older part of town. 

However, if you look closely at the flag pole, you will see under the Canadian flag, the flag of the European Union”.

And that has to have a story, although at this stage I am not sure what it is.

But Chris has promised to find out adding, “I will make an effort to get a better picture at some point, with both flags flying and in better light” although I think the image he sent is fine.

Still it would be interesting to know why the flag of the EU is there in Ingersoll.

And that just leaves me with the tale of the “Mammoth Cheese”, which was a giant wheel of cheese weighing 7,300 pounds.

It was made in 1866 to promote the area’s cheese industry and was exhibited at the New York State Fair in Saratoga, NY, and then in England.*

Picture; Ingersoll, 2018, Chris Pember

*Ingersoll, Ontario, Wikepedia,,_Ontario#Early_history

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Photographs from the Royal Herbert during the Great War ............ a unique album of pictures

The Royal Herbert, date unknown
Now the story of the Royal Herbert has just got a lot more exciting and that has a lot to do with a fascinating photograph album from the Great War.

It belongs to my old friend David Harrop who has a unique collection of memorabilia covering both world wars as well as the history of the Post Office.

And today I am looking through it with the hope that some at least of the men and the nurses in the pictures can be traced and their stories uncovered.

Christmas Day, 1915
In time I might even be able to discover the nurse responsible for the album.

A few of the nurses are named and tantalizingly two pictures are captioned “myself” so the search is on which may be made easier as the Red Cross continues to add to its online data base of those who served during the Great War.

And then there are the large number of photographs of soldiers in their “hospital blues” recovering on the wards, a few party scenes and handful from soldiers who had recovered and left the hospital.

Summer, 1916
Together they help reveal a little bit of life in the Royal Herbert during 1915 and 1916.

Given the quality of the cameras and the age of the pictures some images have not fared so well but even the poorest have a story to tell.

One of my favourites is of Sister Thomson and a group of men on a ward on Christmas Day in 1915 along with a much faded image of the garden in the summer of 1916.

Now these albums were quite common but I suspect not that many have survived.

Album cover
David has two more which contain comments, poems and drawings of men recovering from wounds and illnesses.

One remains a mystery but the other comes from a Red Cross Hospital in Cheltenham and it has been possible to track  some of the men who made a contribution.

Their stories are as varied as I am sure will be the ones from the Herbert and include a young Canadian who survived the war and went home to live a successful and productive life and another who is buried in the military hospital outside Cairo.

And like all good stories led my friend Susan who lives in Canada to tell the story of that young Canadian and in so doing brought his drawing and his words  off the pages of the Cheltenham book and back from the past.

Now that I have to say was both exciting and moving.

The Royal Herbert album is different in that it only has photographs but in looking through it I have made a link with a hospital I knew well and which at one point in the 1970s treated our mother.

All of which makes it that bit special.

David's permanent exhibition can be seen in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery, Manchester and currently features a collection of material commemorating the Manchester Blitz.

Pictures; from the Royal Hebert collection, 1915-16 courtesy of David Harrop


An early Thursday evening in Varese

Nothing better than an early evening drink on a warm summer's evening
Picture;Varese from the collection of Andrew Simpson

When there was only Egerton Road

This is Egerton Road sometime in the early 20th century.

We now know it as Egerton Road North and there by hangs the clue to its date.

Now I am not sure at present when Egerton Road South was cut but it was not before 1911 and judging by the look of the houses sometime after the Great War.  There will of course be people who know when it was made and all suggestions will be eagerly awaited.

So we are going back to Egerton Road.  The photograph is one from the collection which I always tend to pass over, but that is unfair to both the image and Egerton Road.  It is a fine example of a sunny summer’s day, at the post box end of Chorlton and looking at  the shadows perhaps late in the morning.

I don’t pretend to be an expert of the fashion of the period but I would date the clothes to sometime during the very early 20th century.

Like all the pictures of the period it is the total absence of cars that strike you first, followed by the almost uniform use of blinds at all the windows.  And then for me it is the balcony on the first floor at number two Egerton Road.  I have always thought that such balconies were a late 20th century thing added to town houses and flats but the Edwardians had got there first.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection circa early 20th century

That new novel .......Sigi and the Italian Girl

Now I remain in awe of those who write fiction, which I think is far more challenging than writing factual accounts of the past.

To begin with it demands the ability to create characters with depth which are convincing and who you feel you could know.

And that is what Stephen Hale as done in his novel Sigi and the Italian Girl, which is set in a small Italian village north of Genoa and alternates between today and 1944.

At which point I have to confess this is only a partial revue, given that I only got the book on Monday and have read about 10%, but that is enough to be gripped by the plot, and believe in the characters

Added to which Stephen describes perfectly what a small Italian village is like.

Part of my family is Italian and we regularly spend chunks of the year in the north, and while his village is imaginary it is drawn from his own experiences of a small rural community and chimes in with real places I know.

So there you are.

I shall return with a final review when I have read it, but rest assured the plot and end will not be revealed, for that you will just have to buy it.

It's available in two formats: paperback at £7.99 and Kindle at £2.99.*

* Sigi and the Italian Girl,

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Going to the “flicks" on Longford Road in Chorlton in 1913

Now as a story it is less a detailed and comprehensive piece of history and more just another tantalising clue to how we enjoyed ourselves in 1913.

The Skating Rink and Pucturedrome, 1946 from 1906
Back then the cinema was still in its infancy but that said already from Didsbury down to Withington and across to Whalley Range there were picture houses.

Some like the one on Elm Grove in Didsbury were pretty small fry.

It was called the Bijou Electric Theatre and could accommodate 350 but still bigger than the Manley Park Palace on Clarendon Road which could seat just 200 customers.

Advert, 1914
For those wanting a bigger cinema locally there was only the Chorlton Pavilion on Wilbraham Road which could hold an audience of 800.  It had been operating as a Variety Hall from the early 20th century and was the best you could get in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in 1913.

Or so I thought, because just a few minute’s walk away was the Longford Picturedrome, on the corner of Longford and Oswald Road.

It was a place that has slowly crept into my knowledge.

It  first came to my attention when I came across a painting by J Montgomery who painted the place in 1946 from a photograph dated 1906

He referred to it as “Chorlton Skating Rink (later the Picturedrome”.

There is a reference to as the Chorlton Skating Rink when it was wound up as a company in 1916, but I have always been fascinated by the Montgomery’s use of Picturedrome.

And now I am a little closer to adding a bit more to the story.

In 1914 it is listed as the Longford Picturedrome seating 600 and its proprietor was a James Morland.

Sadly that is all we have and the listing did manage to substitute Street for road in the address.

There was a Mr Moreland living in Old Trafford just a few years earlier but that is it.

As to why it closed I have yet to find out.

It may be the competition with its close rival proved too much, or the Great War finished it off.

That said I am confident that we will find the answer in time.

Location Chorlton

Picture; “Chorlton Skating Rink (later the Picturedrome” J Montgomery, 1946 m80132, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and advert from The Kinematograph Year Book, 1914 page 43

*The Kinematograph Year Book Program Diary and Directory 1914

Stories of the Great War from Eltham and Woolwich ............. nu 3 the ex soldiers

Now until recently I had never come across the story of those groups of ex servicemen who campaigned during and after the Great War. 

Three Woolwich men circa 1900
The first had been formed in Blackburn and was the National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers and its main aims were a demand for employment training, better pensions, and greater government consideration for the problems of discharged men.*

This was followed later in the year by the formation of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers by various London-based veterans groups opposed to the Review of Exceptions Act, which made it possible for men invalided out of the armed forces to be re-conscripted.

It adopted the slogans "Every man once before any man twice" and "Justice before charity"

Lastly there were the Comrades of the Great War which had strong links with both the establishment and in particular the Conservative Party.  Its executive was dominated by MPs and ex officers in direct contrast to the other two.

Top five contests, 1918
At the General Election in 1918 the Federation mounted candidates in 30 constituencies across the country. In five they polled between 47 and 20% of the poll and in seven came 2nd.

Across London their fortunes varied with the Federation achieving 34% in Norwood, down to 6% in Southwark North.

They didn’t put up candidate in either of the two Woolwich seats, possibly because of the popularity of Will Coooks who was elected unopposed and in the new Woolwich West seat which have been deemed unpromising.

But in Woolwich the Federation had a very strong membership and like its other branches across the country organised to protect the rights of ex servicemen.  In Manchester the group were in dispute with several departments the Corporation over promises of reemployment to men who had enlisted while in Woolwich the focus was on the employment rights of disabled ex servicemen at the Arsenal whose jobs were threatened by the practice offering work to pre-war employees.

The Royal Herbert, 1915-1916
The protests included a petition to the King which was presented to Princess Mary when she visited the Victory Club for girls in Beresford Street and demonstration march to the House of Commons.

“With bands and banners, the 11,000 demonstrators made their way [from Beresford Square] to Westminster Bridge where they were stopped by the police and reminded of the Defence of the Realm Act regulation that processions within one mile of the Houses of Parliament were not permitted.  But the men were not to be put off; and thus began what the ‘Pioneer’ described as the ‘The Battle of Westminster Bridge.’

For a solid hour there was fighting as the darkness fell; police with truncheons and batons, vans full of disabled men trying to fight their way through, broken tramcar windows and ginger beer bottles, and pushing and kicking and pummelling – all the ingredients of a riot excepting only the reading of the Act with Lyons’ teashop at Belverdere Road corner a casualty station. Such was the confusion that when Mr Gilden, secretary of the ‘Demonstration Committee came over Westminster Bridge with the news that the notices had been withdrawn he was not allowed through the police cordon.”**

More Woolwich people, circa 1900
Despite angry headlines in the press the Government upheld the actions of the police refused a Labour Party’s call for an enquiry and saw several men charged and fined including Albert Mitchell an Arsenal worker who was fined 40s and £3 costs for breaking a tramcar window.

The Woolwich branch was also instrumental in organising a “comprehensive drumhead memorial service for the fallen on Woolwich Common .... where a crowd of some 50,000 was assembled... With thirty bands and several massed choirs, fifty-two local organizations and sixty-four trade union bands [it] provided what the Kentish Independent described as the most inspiring sight ever witnessed on the Common.”**

Pictures; Woolwich men and a market scene from Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, Amberley 2014, men in the Royal Herbert, 1915-1916 from the Royal Hebert collection, 1915-16 courtesy of David Harrop

*The Lion and the Poppy:  British Veterans, Politics and Society, 1921-1939, Nial Barr

** The Woolwich Story, 1970, E. F. E. Jefferson.

At Fumo ........... yesterday in St Peters Square

Now we have friends who trawl the restaurant reviews, carefully weighing up what is said, picking their way through individual sites and then making their decision where to eat.

Not us, when we are home in Varese, north of Milan or down in Naples where Tina’s parents come from, it’s about falling across places and making a rash decision, and usually we are not wrong.

And so it was yesterday having wandered up into the city along the Oxford Road corridor we happened on Fumo at 1 St Peters Square.*

What caught Tina’s eye was the Strozzapreti, a mix of pasta, asparagus, fennel, peas, mint, broad beans, mascaprone and pine nuts and because I can never resist mushrooms I was drawn to the Pappardelle with porcini, truffle oil, shaved parmesan & basil.

So that was it, we went in and were not disappointed.

The food was excellent and the service perfect.

At which point I could just rehash their web site with the history of the restaurants, but for that you can just follow the link.*

Instead I shall mention Federica who served us, and whose recommendations for what we might like to eat and drink were spot on and to the manager who came from Sardinia and suggested places to visit on the island we hadn’t yet been too.

It was a long pleasant afternoon, punctuated with conversations in Italian with both Federica, and the manager.

Which is not to ignore the other staff who were busy attending other diners.

And because it is a long time since we had a favourite place to eat, I shall just say that this is it.

Location; Manchester

Picture; the inside of Fumo, courtesy of Fumo

* Fumo,

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The Woolwich we have lost........... at the market part 3

Now this picture could have been taken pretty much anywhere at the turn of the last century.

In the collection I have similar ones of Manchester, Salford and Stockport.

And all too often like those in Flat Iron Market in Salford, they were where “poverty busied itself.”*

But this is Woolwich and reminds us that while there was poverty everywhere the presence of the Arsenal secured gainful employment and a regular income.

The image comes from the new book on Woolwich.**

Picture; Woolwich courtesy of Kristina Bedford from, Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford,

*Robert Roberts, The Classic Sum, 1971

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

Mr and Mrs Heywood’s fine house ...... pushing back the history of Edge Lane

Looking towards Chorlton, with Heywood's house on our left, 1914
There will be someone I know who has the answer to the mystery of those two houses on Edge Lane which stood between Longford Park and Alderfield Road.

Mystery is perhaps over egging it a bit but they are there on the maps from the 1890s appear on the rate books for 1863 and will have been demolished well within living memory.

Now I can be pretty sure that they date from 1863 and the first residents will have been Mr & Mrs  Heywood who occupied the house beside the park and Mr John Bury who lived in the adjoining property.

The Heywood family can be tracked to Didsbury in 1851, Stretford a decade later and so I guess the move just across the boundary into Chorlton made sense.

Our two houses and a few more, 1893
Given that they were in Stretford in 1861 and the rate books show them on Edge Lane two years later I rather think they were the first occupants.

And it was an impressive house consisting of thirteen rooms, set in its own grounds and  with commanding views across open land to the north and south.

Mr Heywood variously described himself as a Land agent and Commission Agent who left his wife Hannah sufficient money for her to style herself as of “private means.”

And there is no doubt the family were well off.  In 1851 at the age of 38 he described himself as “retired” and on his death in 1874 left his wife Hannah £7000 and when she died in the November of 1911 she in turn left £12987.

Looking towards Stretford, 1914
All of which put them in good company for the other residents of the grand houses which stretched back towards the village were equally well off  describing themselves as professionals and merchants and living in properties which commanded rateable values of  up to nearly a £100 in the mid 1860s.

These represented what could be described as the first development boom, preceding the one that transformed the area around the Four Banks by almost 20 years.

In part I suspect it will have owed a lot to the arrival of the railway at the bottom of Edge Lane in 1849 which provided these people of plenty with a swift route into town and allowing them also to live in what was still a rural community.

One of the grand houses on Edge Lane and Alderfield Road ,1959
But a century later these grand homes were too big for modern living and they fell to the cheap jack developer who carved them up into bed sits or wiped them away altogether.

After all the the foot print of a house like ours along with its garden could accommodate a large block of flats with space left over for a car park

Happily those that survived have either been converted into more stylish flats or returned to single families.

Sadly ours were torn down.  I am not exactly sure when, but in 1969 the home of Mr and Mrs Heywood was occupied by a James Ashcroft while its neighbour had been subdivided.

So it will have been after that but when is as yet unclear.

On the other hand as so often happens someone  well pop up with the answer.

We shall see.

And within hours of posting the story Peter Thompson, commented that "the Alderfield Road flats were built in 1973. I worked on them as an apprentice painter and decorator aged 16, my first ever job."

And that I am guessing is just the start.

Additional research by Andy Robertson   

Next; some of the other fine homes of the people pf plenty on Edge Lane a century and ore ago

Pictures; looking north along Edge Lane with the Heywood house behind the wall to our left, 1914, Identifier m17758 , and looking towards Stretford, 1914, m17758, Edge lane north east junction with Alderfield Road, A E Lander, 1959, m17783, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and detail of Edge Lane in 1893 from and the OS map of South Lancashire, 1893, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Monday, 27 August 2018

When you could skate on Oswald Road .................The Chorlton-cum-Hardy Ice Skating Company

Now I have a problem with this picture.

It was painted by the local artist J.Montgomery.

I say local because almost his entire collection of paintings feature Chorlton or Whalley Range. But that is all we know about him.  Despite attempts to find out more he remains an elusive character.*

And this pretty much extends to his pictures as well.  Most seem to have been painted from postcards and photographs dating to around the first half of the 19th century and many of these are no longer available.

Which brings me to this painting which is dated 1964 but is of The Chorlton Skating Ring in 1906.

And there is the first problem.  The Chorlton-cum-Hardy Ice Skating Company only came into existence sometime between 1910 and 1911.  It does not appear on either the OS map for 1907 or in Harry Kemp’s Chorlton Almanack for 1910 but is listed in the street directory for the following year.

The population of Chorlton had grown rapidly and with it a demand for more and varied leisure opportunities.  That same 1911 Almanack listed 47 different political, cultural and sporting associations and clubs across the old township.

Our skating ring was situated on Oswald Road.

The site takes in the two semidetached houses on Longford and another six running down Oswald.

These houses are of a similar design and  were built sometime after 1945 by the same builder/developer.

Now I can be fairly precise because our skating company had but a short life.  It was wound up in the summer of 1916 which may put the development a little later and by 1933 the site was again open land.

It is not easy to get the scale of the building from Montgomery’s picture but we do seem to be dealing with a big site.  And something of the size  is possible to judge by walking along Oswald Road today.  It was bounded on the south by Hartley Road extended along Longford to its junction with Oswald Road and down Oswald to a point opposite where Oswald Lane starts.

If Montgomery’s painting is anything to go by it was quite impressive with a large painted gable end, stretching back some distance and would have been ideal as a theatre or cinema.  And here is our second mystery, because the title refers to “Chorlton Skating Ring later The Picturedrome.”

This would suggest it became a picture house but the earliest recorded cinema is the Pavilion on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads which was opened as a variety hall around 1904 and was showing films by 1910 if not a little before.

Of course there was nothing stopping the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Ice Skating Company showing films, after all many of our early picture houses remained theatres.  The Pavilion or as it became known,  the Chorlton Theatre and Winter Gardens were booking variety acts in the summer of 1910 while also showing movies.

I can at present only hazard a guess for its short life.  The Great War may have pushed it over the brink, but there may have been other reasons.  Many especially in the village might have preferred to venture for free onto the meadows when they iced over and there may equally have been stiff competition as a cinema not only from the Pavilion but after 1914 from the purpose built Palais de Luxe on Barlow Moor Road close to the tram terminus.

I might be able to find out a little more by trawling the street directories for the years after 1911, and there may somewhere be the lost photograph that Montgomery used, but I think I will leave it there, well for the time being anyway.

* J Montgomery an earlier post

Pictures; Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council m80132 and detail from the 1907 OS map

Lost scenes of Well Hall

Now this will be the last for a while of pictures of Eltham trams taken from that wonderful book on Eltham and Woolwich Tramways.*

But that said given that there are equally fascinating pictures of Woolwich, Charlton and Lee Green I reckon I will be back.

And one of the reasons is that each of the pictures reveals a lot about how we lived back nearly three quarters of a century ago.

So here is one that will be familiar to many.
We are on the platform of the old Well Hall Station looking down on the parade of shops and taking in the that climb up to the Woods.

It’s a scene I remember very well.

Of course by the time I was making that journey up from the station to 294 Well Hall the trams had long gone but I think the bakery was still there and the scene is not so different today.

That said the last time I looked 24 HOUR MINICABS were now operating from the shop but you can still make out on the side of the building the ghost sign for “Fyson’s Bakery Makers of Daren Bread” which has fared better than the chemist which once occupied the site.**

Or for that matter Daren bread which was a brown loaf popular in the 1930s and 40s which may also have been sold in the old Co-op which is just visible behind the tram.

I missed that Co-op building by a matter of months.  It had opened in 1906 and was demolished in 1964 just as we arrived.

It may still have been there but if so I don’t remember it or its successor being built,

And that is the value of the picture for despite the bits that seem familiar it is a scene which has vanished.

The tram went in the early 50s, the co-op in the 1960s and sadly for me at least the old station two decades later.

Pictures; looking down from Well Hall Station, date unknown, from the collection of E. Course and reproduced from Eltham & Woolwich Tramways, 1996

*Eltham and Woolwich Tramways, Robert J Harley, Middleton Press, 1996,

**Ghost signs in Well Hall,

A book I never tire of ..... The Book of Jewish Cooking

Now I like cook books, because like history books, they can be read for what they offer, but also with the passage of time,  throw a light of how we used to eat.

So back in the late 1940s, the Ministry of Food produced a series of leaflets which could be collected as a book on how to cope with rationing, providing recipes, some of which were traditional and others adapted to the shortages of food.

The rationale was in part the obvious one, but also that the war had disrupted the traditional pattern of cooking, with some children spending time away from the home when they might have learned basic cooking skills and also because wartime production had forced many people in to factory canteens, restaurants and feeding centres.

It is an area which has fascinated me and my friend Lois, who both have written about cook books in our blogs.*

And today I want to go back to an old favourite which is The Book of Jewish Cooking by Claudia Roden.

I first came across her work when I bought Mediterranean Cookery, and became an instant fan, and from there  I progressed to The Food of Italy, and then The Book of Jewish Cooking.

What they all have in common, is a clear and simple style which adds history and geography to the recipes.

And of these her book on Jewish Cooking is a fine example, offering an introduction to the food and the traditions, and then dividing up into sections on the Ashkenazi World and the Sephardi World, both of which are crammed with history and recipies.

So there you have it.

*Food History,

Stuffed Vegetable Marrow and Devilish Potatoes,

*** The Book of Jewish Cooking by Claudia Roden, 1997

**** Mediterranean Cookery, Claudia Roden, 1989 & The Food of Italy, Claudia Roden, 1990

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Under the gas lamp on High Lane in the summer of 1905

I can see why Cissie decided to send this postcard to her young brother in the August of 1905.

He was staying at the delightfully named Gas Works cottage, Ambleside in Westmoreland and it is more than likely that some of the children staring back at us were known to him.

On the other hand Cissie mentions her uncle so it is just possible the she was just staying in Chorlton at Richmond Road* and choose a picture which she thought would appeal to him.

And there is a lot here which I think would appeal to anyone looking at the postcard today.

We are at the point where St Clements Road, and Manchester Road join High Lane and Edge Lane and the children are gathered underneath one of original gas lamp posts which had been set up in 1875 by the Urban Sanitary Authority which within a year would become the Withington Board of Health with its own administrative headquarters on Lapwing Lane.

And for those really interested, our first domestic gas had been provided by the Stretford Gas Company in 1862 who piped their supplies along Edge Lane, while the following year Manchester Corporation extended its main from Seymour Grove.

All of which is more than a piece of historical trivia because on the promise of cheaper gas supplies from Manchester in 1904 turned the vote for our incorporation into the City.

This was part of “an attractive package” which the Withington Amalgamation League set up in 1902 argued would mean a fall in the rates, bring “libraries, baths, reduction in water and gas rates, lower cemetery charges, music in recreation grounds better fire and police protection more deliveries of letters, technical classes, shares in tramway and electricity profits and the prospect of Ship Canal and School Board rates decreasing.”**

This was for many an offer to good to refuse and one that was shared by the City Council.  At their October meeting in 1903, much was made of the assets that Withington would hand over to the Corporation, including the newly built “hospital to which attracted 20-30 acres of land, ....[and] beyond that land for a smallpox hospital, a field for the extension of the tram services and the sewage farm, 80 acres in extent.”

And as Fletcher Moss pointed out amalgamation would bring Alexandra Park “that large park into the hands of the Council” and furthermore “the Corporation was the largest ratepayer in the Withington district and by far the largest owner of freehold estate with the possible exception of Earl Egerton” which meant they would be no longer paying out rates to Withington UDC.

And it seemed only to get better.  Under the terms of amalgamation all existing staff of the Withington UDC were taken on by the Corporation and “the price and conditions of supply of gas, water and electricity to the inhabitants of Withington shall be the same as those of the citizens of Manchester.  That all future tramways in the district of Withington shall be laid as double lines along carriage ways not less than 32 feet wide between curbs.  That two free libraries and two swimming baths to be established in different parts of Withington within five years..... that for a period of twenty years the rate shall not exceed 4s in the £.”

This was a set of promises which proved enough to clinch the vote for incorporation by 4,086 to 805.

So in the summer of 1905 our children had been residents of the city for just under a year.

Now whether they were out from school at dinner time or a weekend gathering is a bit difficult to say, but the picture looks to have been taken in the morning so maybe it was just that usual gathering of children drawn by the magic of a camera.

But not everyone is that bothered at the presence of the photographer.  To our right the work of loading the carriage outside Stockton Range goes on unabated. I would like to know if the carriage belonged to the residents of number 2.  The property did have both a coach house and a stable, so it is possible that Mr Charles Edwards who lived there may have been planning a journey.

Meanwhile in the distance sitting in the sun in front of the church are a mix of what I take to be a mother, grandmother assorted children and babies in prams.  It is a detail I might have missed if it were not that one of the prams looks remarkably familiar and is very similar to the one that just under 90 years later we would use for our own children.

And all that form Cissie’s postcard.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; from the Lloyd collection and Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, Withington Town Hall, October 16th 1906 m52133,

*Richmond Road ran from Manchester Road to Oswald Road

On being Billy no mates in Varese ....... meeting up

Now on a busy Thursday morning in Varese while the family are off shopping there is little to do but sit and watch as the city passes you by.

Location; Varese

Picture; meeting up, 2017 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Looking out from Salford ......... nu 3 the bridge

A short series mostly around the Quays looking at 

Location; Salford

Picture; Salford, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Forgotten Chorlton ................. nu 3 clocking the changes at the tram terminus on Barlow Moor Road

Now this is the last of the pictures from that excellent site run by Mark Fynn.*

And as a bonus here are two.  I was going to say in the series of then and now, but quite clearly both are from then.

The first will not be that long after the tram terminus was constructed, from what had originally been land belonging to the Holt family who had lived in Beech House from the 1830s till the beginning of the 20th century.

The house and gardens stretched from the corner of Beech Road along Barlow Moor Road to High Lane and then just behind Cross Ross Road.

With the death of Mr Holt the land was sold for development and the Corporation took a strip which became the terminus.

Before that the trams had stopped at Lane End where Sandy Lane and High Lane met Barlow Moor Road.

And with that bit of tram history I will leave you to compare the two pictures, spot the differences that a few decades make to  a scene and take yourself off to the corner of Beech and Barlow Moor Roads and judge how another sixty years have transformed our terminus.

Picture; Barlow Moor Road circa 1900s and again 1950s, courtesy of Mark Fynn

*Mark Fynn,