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

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