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

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