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

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