Friday, 31 August 2018

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, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingersoll,_Ontario#Early_history

Thursday, 30 August 2018

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

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, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sigi-Italian-Girl-Stephen-Hale/dp/1545431876/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1534927648&sr=8-2&keywords=sigi%20and%20the%20italian%20girl

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

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, http://www.sancarlofumo.co.uk/fumo-manchester/#

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, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass and detail of Edge Lane in 1893 from and the OS map of South Lancashire, 1893, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

Monday, 27 August 2018

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, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/search/label/Food%20History

Stuffed Vegetable Marrow and Devilish Potatoes, https://loiselden.com/2018/07/14/28574/

*** 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

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

A short series mostly around the Quays looking at 
 Salford





Location; Salford




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

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Looking at Salford a bit before today ....... nu 3 painting the showroom

Now I am fascinated by pictures taken of places during the last half century.

In their way they can be as interesting as all those old period images of men in tall hats, women in shawls and roads full of wagons pulled by horses.

Often they are like looking through a dirty window, because while some of what you can see is familiar there is much that is not.

Added to which the clothes people wear, the cars parked in the street and the shop fronts all look very dated but at the same time offer up views which are almost like now but not quite

So here is a short series all taken on Chapel Street sometime in the recent past.
None of them are dated but I am guessing they will be from the 1960s into the 70s with possibly a throw back into the 1950s.

And the rest as they is for you to ponder on.

Location; Salford,

Picture; on Chapel Street, date unknown, m77255, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

The new Manchester......... Owen Street..... scenes from a development

Now, there can’t be that many places across the city which don’t offer up a glimpse of the Owen Street Towers.*



Andy has been recording their rise from the very humble beginnings to the Leviathan’s that they are now.

And I caught a glimpse of them from Mauldeth Road West in Chorlton.

But Andy decided yesterday to get up close, and despite the fierce showers he got his images.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Owen Street, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Pictures from Owen Street, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/search/label/Pictures%20from%20Owen%20Street

On being a British descendant of a British Home Child

Now, at the outset this is not to drive a wedge between me or all my Canadian friends who also have descendants of children migrated to Canada, and later to other parts of the Commonwealth and for that matter our Canadian family.

It is more picking up on the suggestion of Jacky Cooper that we should also take a few minutes out to tell people about the extraordinary story of British Home Children and along the way post our stories on social media.

I first came across my BHC by accident as many of us do while researching our family history.  From there I began piecing together the bigger picture which by degree got me to Canada, and a set of friendships with Canadian BHC descendants.

What all of us have in common is a desire not only to explore the BHC story, but to make it more well known.

During the last ten years I have seen BHC develop into a serious area of historical study, with a growing number of social media sites and associations across Canada.

And having done my bit with the blog, and talks I decided earlier this year that it was time for a facebook site based here in Britain with the aim of promoting the story and raising awareness in Britain.  Very early on Tricia Leslie joined as a fellow admin and she has been tireless in making the site work.

Which brings me back to Jacky who posted, “September 28 has been designated British Home Children day in Canada, and the groups there are planning events to mark the day. 

Like other members in the UK I've been invited to a couple of these, and had to decline (Just too much of a commute, though I'd love to go!) wouldn't it be great if this group could do something to mark the day, too? 

I'm pretty sure it's too late to start planning an actual event, but it would surely raise awareness of the children if, for example we each shared a post about 'our' BHCs. It would be easy to organise, and if we put the post on our own timeline as well as here, then all of our friends would get to read at least one personal story about a BHC. 

If we get some group participation, and folk think it's worthwhile, maybe we could even think about planning a small event of our own next year?”

So this is my story, with a suggestion that we all begin to think about that event next year.


Perhaps, something in Liverpool which saw so many young people start the journey across the Atlantic?

In the meantime I will dust down my old 2008 power point and put it up to be shared and suggest people down load the poster at the top of the site, and distribute to friends.

Location; Canada and Britain

Poster; siblings of our family BHC, designed by Peter Topping, 2018

*British Home Children the story from Britain, www.facebook.com/groups/bhchildren

Friday, 24 August 2018

The records of the men who served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force ....... revealed

Now, many Canadian will already know that the grand plan to digitise all the Canadian army personnel records from the Great War has now been completed by Libraries and Archive Canada [LAC].*

James Rogers/ Roger Hall signs up, 1915
But I suspect some of those on this side of the Atlantic who had BHC who enlisted will not know.

LAC completed the digitisation of 620,000 files on August 8 2018, and it is now possible to search the database of more than 30 million images, including casualty and medical forms as well as pay books , passports, personal photographs and correspondence.

And this is particularly significant when over here, something like 60% of the army records of British servicemen from the Great War were lost during the Blitz.

August 5 1915
So in our case although we had six members of my direct family in uniform, we have only the partial records of my great grandfather, nothing on my grandfather, one great uncle or my two uncles.

All of which leaves the great uncle migrated to Canada by Middlemore on behalf of the Derby Union and for him we have a full set.

The records begin with his Attestation Papers and finish with his demob, which given we have few other documents, make this LAC file very important.

The same LAC records also allowed me to track many of the Canadian soldiers who were buried in Southern Cemetery, which is just up the road from us, and was beside the Withington Workhouse which had been taken over as a military hospital.

George Bradford Simpson, 1918
All of which makes the work of LAC so vital for all of us wanting to search for family members who served in the C.E.F.

And of course what is revealed is often surprising.

In the case of my great uncle, the records show that he didn't take to army discipline, which given that he was in and out of institutions  from an early age, and was running "ferrel" meant that he and authority were never going to get on.

Equally interesting is that he gave his aunt as his next of kin, despite his mother being alive.

And this may have been connected with what has slowly come out of the shadows about his mum, our great grandmother, who appears to have found it difficult to cope, and by the 1930s had been committed to the local asylum.

As ever the bits of the jigsaw which help explain his migration are all over the place, and his army records have thrown light on a possible reason for his being sent to Canada, and more athan a bit on what the man was like.


First City Battalion 16th Manchester's
Pictures; Attestation Papers of James Rogers [Roger James Hall] August 1915, George Bradford Simpson circa 1918, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and C Company of the First City Battalion of the 16th Manchester’s 1914 courtesy of Bob Potts.

Location; Canada

* Libraries and Archive Canada [LAC], http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/personnel-records.aspx

The mystery of the old gate posts in Burford Road, .... and the house they called Denby Grange

Now, the two gateposts on Burford Road announce that the property beyond is Denby Grange, and anyone who lives in Whalley Range or Chorlton will know that this usually means one of those grand old houses dating back into the 19th century.

Denby Grange, 2018
Back then if you wanted to be seen as important you gave your house a name, which I suppose aped the great aristocratic palaces and set you apart from the mean terraced properties which were cheap and cheerful.

But as Rachel’s picture shows, the path up from the gatepost reveals a house built sometime in the mid 20th century and there rests the mystery.

I have yet to pinpoint when our modern property was built but I do now know that its predecessor was a large 12 roomed house, with a stable and dates from at least 1893.

It stood pretty much in splendid isolation beside an orchard and nursery owned by a Mrs Harriet Gregory which along with the trees included a large greenhouse.

Denby Grange, 1893
For those who marvel at the ease with which it was possible to call up the old Denby Grange, I have to say it was less magic and more just a matter of knowing where to look.

In this case that began with the street directories which offered up the name of James Howard, who was a Provisions Merchant and who also appeared in the Rate Books.

Tracking back through the rate books, showed that he bought the house in 1894 from an Edward Livingstone who was there in 1893.  Beyond that date it gets a little difficult to identify the house or an owner, which may mean it, had not yet been built.

A gate post ...... all that remains of Denby Grange
But given that we have the names of others who were on Burford Road in 1891 it should be possible to find them on the census for that year and make a guess about Denby Grange.

In the meantime we have the 1911 census which provides a wealth of information about Mr Howard.

So it is a start.

Coming up with a date for the end of Denby Grange has as yet proved elusive, but looking through the directories again for the years after 1911 will deliver the moment when the one house becomes two.

But that is for the future, which leaves me just to reflect that the story of Denby Grange will not start much before the 1890s and that back in 1854 the plot was just fields.

Location; Whalley Range

Picture; Denby Grange gate post, 2018 courtesy of Rachael Stevenson, and Burford Road in 1983 from the OS map of South Lancashire, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,  digitalarchives.co.uk/

Sigi and the Italian Girl ......... one to read this summer

Now I am looking forward to reading Sigi and the Italian Girl.

First because its backdrop is Italy, a country I long ago fell in love with, and secondly because the author Stephen Hale lives just a few houses up from us.

Stephen tells me that “it is set in an Italian mountain village and is a time-shifting tale which moves between the Nazi occupation in the 1940s and the same village's 21st century 'occupation' by hippies and bohemian types. The plot moves between two love stories – grandfather's and grandson's - separated/joined by 65 years. 

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

My own Italian family live in the north at the foot of the mountains, but come from Naples and grew up in that city during the last war.

So that has sold it for me.

I might add that Stephen has taken the bold step of self publishing, which has great advantages, in that while the author takes a risk, it means they are in full control.

All of which just leaves me to say that I will popping up Beech Road to get my own signed copy, and will be back with a review on the blog in a few days.

* Sigi and the Italian Girl, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sigi-Italian-Girl-Stephen-Hale/dp/1545431876/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1534927648&sr=8-2&keywords=sigi%20and%20the%20italian%20girl

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Miss Marjorie Summers of Ashton on Mersey and that Red Cross Hospital on Wilbraham Road

Now there isn’t a connection between Miss Summers and Wycombe House on Wilbraham Road other than that both have links to the Red Cross in the Great War.

Wycombe House, 2016
Wycombe House is the one next to the old Conservative Club and I first became interested in it when
Pawel Lech Michalczyk told me that “the house next to the Chorlton Conservative Club is listed as a hospital in 1917.  It was Wycombe, and described as an auxiliary military hospital in the 1917 Slater's street directory.”

In 1911 Wycombe was home to Mr and Mrs Barnes, their four children and Miss Mary Jane Williams who was 27 and employed as a domestic servant.

Mr Barnes described himself a “Merchant” and is listed in the 1911 directory as the “Managing Directory of James Barnes Ltd.”

It was a big house which was described as having 12 rooms making it large enough to have been run as a small auxiliary hospital.

And during the Great War many families offered up their homes for use by the Red Cross but this one was new to me.

The gatepost, 2016
I had known about the two big hospitals in the Sunday Schools of the Methodist Church on Manchester Road, and the Baptist Church on Edge Lane but Wycombe had passed me by.

And so after Pawel had alerted me to it I promised myself I would go looking for its history.

But I must confess I was drawn away by other things, including that book on Manchester and The Great War.

So after over a year I resolved to visit the house and take a photograph.  This I did and at the same time met the owner who is currently renovating the property, and by one of those odd coincidences his wife is a nurse.

The medal of Miss Summers, 2017
I still have to check out the history of the property from 1911 on till 1919 which may explain just how it became a hospital and what happened to it after the war.

So for now I will conclude with Miss Marjorie Summers who was the proud recipient of this Red Cross medal which was acquired by David Harrop.

I know where was living in Ashton on Mersey in 1914 when she was engaged as an “instructor” and that by 1916 she is listed as “matron.”

Her Red Cross record card bears the stamps of the Linden Lea Auxiliary Military Hospital which was in Brooklands.

And there is a picture of the said hospital.

So there is still plenty to go for.

Location; Chorlton & Brooklands

Reverse of medal
Picture Wycombe House, Chorlton, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and the Red Cross Badge of Miss Marjorie Summers, 1916 courtesy of David Harrop




The Czech motorbike, a cow shed and the Beast from the East

Now, I know nothing about motorbikes but I know a story when it trips you up, and today that is what I got.

We were by Ken Foster’s Cycle shop waiting for a bus, and outside was Sean carefully tending a motorbike.

To my inexperienced eye it looked old, and was in fact built in 1974 in the Czech Republic.

It is a Jawa 559 250cc, which Sean found in a cow shed where it had spent 35 years in the company of a herd of cows.

So much so, that one side of the bike was covered in a mix of smelly cow stuff and needed some tender care and attention from Sean to restore it to when it rolled off the production line.

The Jawa 559 250cc was made from 1962 till 1974 and was called Panelka.

And for those who want to know more,  “The Panelka series had the headlamp top nacelle stretched to the end of the handlebar with an oval speedometer instead of a circular speedometer on the headlamp top nacelle. 

For better security, the FAB switch box was used, whereas in the previous models a PAL switch box with nail type keys were being used. As in the previous models the rear tail lamp was made of translucent red plastic”.*

But enough of this technical jargon, and back to Sean who might have called it the Beast from the East, given that when the storm struck the bike was in his garden and was covered in snow.  Undeterred Sean told me
“It started with a second kick once I took the snow off” and despite its links with the East, he prefers to call it “the Cow Shed Special” adding “I regularly commute from Rawtenstall to Chorlton and have ridden it to Holland and back in 2017 to a Jawa Classic Rally”.

So a little bit of Czech history can be seen here in Chorlton and on the twisty roads which brings Sean from Rawtenstall.

And that is about it, leaving me only to thank Sean for providing the pictures and the story.
Location; Chorlton, the Czech Republic and Rawtenstall

Pictures; the Cow Shed Special, or Jawa 559 250cc from the Panelka Series, courtesy of Sean
*Jawa 250/559,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jawa_250/559

Naples .... where the houses rise like cliffs and look down on narrow and busy places

Over a century and a bit ago a group of Neapolitan photographers set out to capture something of the vibrancy of their city.



And because then as now much of that vibrancy was conducted on the streets they photographed families eating off battered old tables, and women having their hair done in the streets while conversing with water carriers shop keepers and anyone who wandered into the street.

Nor has much changed.

Location; Naples

Picture; Naples in 2017 from the collection of Saul Simpson and Emilka Cholewicka

Gaze upon the present Mr Arbuckley and reflect

Now, in the archive collection there is this picture dating from 1901 by Mr A Bradburn.

The catalogue describes it as “Hulme, Cornbrook Park Road, Boundary through Burnside Works” and lists the buildings as William-Arbuckley-And-Sons, Burnside-Works, B-Barlow-And-Co, and Cornbrook-Works."

And with a bit of digging in the Manchester Rate Books, and the Street Directories,  I should be able to come up with more information on the buildings and the owners.

I rather think one of the reasons Mr Bradburn took the picture is that boundary between Sretford on on one side and Manchester on the other.

More recently Andy Robertson has been down to Cornbrook Park Road, and sent over a series of pictures on the site today, adding “the building on the right is clearly the same as those to its left and have been added on a later date. 

Original building revamped to blend in with the new, probably.

The next pictures were taken a few days ago showing original building still standing and newer ones demolished. 

I know next to nothing about the demolition game (must ask Derek) but it seems to me a difficult task to demolish the buildings to the left whilst keeping the other building in tact? Almost, like they want to preserve it”.

Well I guess, the next few days will show whether Andy is correct and the original ones are to be saved.

And at this point I have say I cannot condone his suggestion that "given this is roughly where the boundary is. 

I bet if you dig up the tarmac the original setts are still there, so meet you there at midnight with our pick-axes”.

Location; Cornbrook Park Road

Pictures; Hulme, Cornbrook Park Road, Boundary through Burnside Works, A Bradburn, November 14, 1901, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass and subsequent pictures, 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson

When steam was bright, colourful and fun .........

Now I thought I would end the short run of steam powered road vehicles, with this painting by Peter Topping of a “Traction Engine in Tatton Park” in 2012.

The series to date has featured black and white images of a collection of steam vehicles I came across in the early 1980s.

I was into black and white  photography at the time, and the the medium did the subjects proud.

But all the vehicles had once left the works in bright coloured livery, and of course the black and white pictures did them no justice.

So to end the short series, here is Peter’s painting which brings to life all that was fun about the age of steam.

Of course the machines could be dirty and depending on your point of view could seem smelly.

But not for me and I suspect not for many others who grew up in the last stages of steam when it pulled our trains,delivered heavy goods and kept the machines working in the factories.

I have never lost that sense of romance and excitement at seeing a steam powered engine.


They were, and still are magic, although Mother always complained about the steam locomotives which passed the bottom of our garden and seem to have saved a cloud of dust, dirt and warm cinders for the moment she hung out the clean washing.

Added to which steam power was always hard work, whether it was shovelling the coal while travelling at high speed on an express train or maintaining all the moving parts of a steam roller.

All of which, as ever, makes history very messy.

Location; Tatton Park & Manchester, 2012 and 1980

Pictures; steam vehicles, 1980 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Painting; from the Tatton Hall series,  © 2012 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Peel Park, a mistake by Tuck and Sons and a trip out to an orphanage in Tottington

Now I don’t suppose Delia or her sister Gertie gave a seconds thought to the glaring mistake made by the picture postcard company which marketed this photograph of Peel Park at the turn of the last century.


The company in question were one of giants of picture postcards with offices in New York, Paris and London, a catalogue of images that covered pretty much all of the world and offered up a picture for almost every event, from Christmas to high summer and including the pin ups and music hall stars of the period and much else.

The company was Tuck and Sons and the mistake is a big one which will not surprise some, and just confirm for others the ability of companies south of Altrincham to get the North all mixed up.

Nor was it the first time Tuck and Sons had done so.

As cards go the quality is not wonderful and may have something to do with the image having been retouched and then “colourized.”

But perhaps it was a small compensation for Gertie who according to Delia had “not had much time to take you about when you were here.” 

Even more so because Delia thought that it was “quite a change for you to be with us.” At first I thought this might be explained away by Gertie’s address which was the Convent Holly Mount Tottington near Bury.

But was confused by a reference to “my love to Tilly and Geff,” but a search discovered that Holly Mount was an orphanage opened in 1888.  By 1897 it could "accommodate up to 216 girls aged from 4to 13 with the Boards of Guardians paying 5 shillings a week for each girl they placed there.  

By 1930 the number of girls had risen to 300 aged from 3 to 16 with the weekly charge being 14 shillings.  Although Holly Mount was primarily a girl’s establishment, boys were also accommodated.”*

Now there is more but I will just direct you to follow the link to the Holly Mount site.

But in time I might go looking for Miss Gertie McCabe and who knows what might turn up.

And for any one still mystified at the mistake the clue is in the right hand corner.

Location; Salford and Tottington

Picture; Peel Park, circa 1900, marketed by Tuck & sons,  from the collection of David Harrop

*Holly Mount Orphanage School, Tottington, http://www.childrenshomes.org.uk/TottingtonHollymount/
Location Salford and Tottington


Tuesday, 21 August 2018

More secrets ........ from Mr Pooley’s grand houses in Cornbrook

Now, I always knew there would be more to find out about Pooley’s Buildings which stand at the end of Princess Street, just off Chester Road.

Pooley's Buildings, 2018
They date from 1820 and still have an elegance about them which is nothing to how they would have appeared when new.

Back then the houses looked out on a large open area boarded by trees, and were set in two large gardens which ran down to the Corn Brook with Corn Brook Park situtated directly behind.

This is the third of the stories on the properties, and yesterday I reflected on how little I knew of their owner who was Mr John Pooley.

A close up, 2018
So I am indebted to Derek Watts who uncovered a heap of information on Mr Pooley’s business interests.  I knew that he had a portfolio of properties bit in the city centre and on Hulme and had come across a reference to a cotton factories run by the Pooley’s.

But Derek unearthed a short pieced from that excellent site, Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, which referred to the textile business of the John Pooley.*

In 1798 Boulton and Watt supplied the Mr Pooley and his partner with a”sun and planet beam stem engine of which the original drawings can still be seen.

The houses in 1849
The company prospered only to go bankrupt in 1827, leading to the sale of the mill’s machinery the following year.

But within a year the bankruptcy had been superseded and in 1841 they appear in the street directories as “John Pooley and Son, cotton spinners, Clarence Street, Hulme; John Pooley, house - Princess Street, Hulme; John Pooley jun., house - Clarence Street, Hulme” only to fail again in 1853."*

Despite these troubles Mr Pooley retained his property empire, which brings us back to his grand buildings on Princess Street.*

I found some of the residents in the 1851 census, and just assumed the houses stayed residential properties, but not so, according to Adam Brock they had a very different story, which was that they became, “the officers mess for a large part of the 19th century before being made into a soldiers retirement home in the early 20th. I have seen photos of old soldiers sitting in the covered area. I'm recalling from memory, so apologies for not being able to provide more detail.

Its lovely building, royalty visiting the barracks dined here. I actually have a relation who rented a flat in the building”.

All of which intrigued me and as you do I went looking for the cross over point which seems to have been 1868.

The mill, the tunnel and the barracks, 1849
In that year Mr Pooley is still listed in the Rate Books as owning them, but from 1869, they appear to belong to others**, and in 1876 they are listed as “Army HQ Offices Northern Division, and in 1911 are referred to as Cavalry Barracks,  Major W W Scott Commander Army Service Corps".**
As such they will have been connected to the Cavalry Barracks which was located close by.

After 1911, there is at present a blank but I doubt that it will remain so for long.
For now I will just conclude with a short extract from Grace’s Guide which uses the 1849 OS map to point out that “the [Pooley] mill was located on the edge of the Manchester conurbation. A few hundred yards to the west were fields and parkland. Immediately south of the mill were large cavalry barracks. 

The mill was fairly large, and had evidently developed in stages (the map shows two separate boiler houses and two separate engine houses). There was a large reservoir in the grounds (approx. 50 yards by 40), and also a smaller reservoir. The grounds also included gardens and two rows of houses, known as Pooley's Buildings. 

The whole site appears to be enclosed by walls.

To the south west of the mill is a very large house overlooking Cornbrook Park, identifed as 'Pooley's Houses'. 

The Corn Brook passed through the park. A path through the gardens behind the houses led to the mill, passing under King Street by a tunnel. King Street would hardly be a busy thoroughfare, as it only served the barracks, so presumably the tunnel met Messrs Pooley's needs for security and privacy".

Location Cornbrook

Pictures; Pooley's Buildings, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson and Pooley's Buildings, 1844, from the Manchester & Salford OS, 1844, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

*John Pooley and Son, Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/John_Pooley_and_Son

**Manchester Rate Books, 1820-1869

***Slater’s Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1863, 1876, 1911.