Sunday, 30 September 2018

When we had a piano shop on Beech Road

Sometimes a picture captures a moment which with hindsight allows you to see that things were just about to change.

 Here is another of those photographs taken by Tom McGrath in the middle 1980s.

I don’t suppose any of us could have realized that as we walked past the old closed up off license that within a couple of years two out of these three shops would be part of the transformation of Beech Road.

For as long as I can remember Muriel and Richard had run the green grocers in the centre of the parade.  On one side had been the off license which had sold bottled beer since the early years of the 20th century, while on the other the shop had been many things, including in the 50s a grocery store and by the time I washed up here was selling pianos.

But all of that was about to change and Tom’s pictures captures that point of change.

The off license which had struggled on into the 1980s became the Italian deli while the piano shop became a cafe before becoming a series of wine bars and growing its extension.

Only Richard and Muriel’s stayed the course, but were about to have a new and very impressive sign put above the door announcing that they were the Purveyors of fine fruit and vegetables, which they were.

But back in the mid 80s such things just didn’t seem to be done in the same way.  If you wanted fruit and veg, then that is where on Beech Road you went.  Just like if you needed paraffin or the odd nail or screw you went to the ironmongers next to Wilkinson’s the butchers.  Everyone knew them and knew what they sold.

Of course within a few years the old council offices had become the Lead Station, the grocers' beside the barbers' had become Primavera and the Wool Shop was to become Truth.

All of which makes Tom’s picture such a wonderful record of the old Beech Road some of us still remember.  And as if on cue as I was standing outside one of the new shops a couple went past telling their friend about “trendy Beech Road.”

What a lot has changed.

Picture, from the collection of Tom McGrath

Be careful of the past you wish for .......

Now, I do feel a bit old when posters I knew have become museum pieces.

I don’t have a date for this one but it was typical of a period of political propaganda dating from the 1930s through to the 1980s.

As a student I had similar ones which decorated the walls of flats I and friends lived in, which I picked up cheaply from left wing book shops.

Back then I believed the propaganda, or if I am honest, wanted to believe it, but it is a view of the world which even then distorted the reality and has all but gone.

This one comes from the museum situated in the old Stasi headquarters in Berlin.

The poster’s slogan runs, “Von den Sowjetmenschen lernen heibt siegen lernen!” which translates as “Learning from the Soviet people means learning to win!”

Peter went round the place yesterday and this is one of the posters he sent back, commenting that “the back story to the poster is that son James’s apartment is in the district where the Stasi headquarters were. His flat is in In the building in front of the Stasi communications building.  All these buildings are still standing. It’s like living in a museum!”

And that last comment got me thinking about what I still had from that period of Soviet propaganda.

The cheap Marxist/Leninist tracts printed in Moscow and Peking vanished a long time ago, as did a fascinating little book of Soviet short stories, but I did come across a book of poetry, and a collection of stories by Soviet Science Fiction writers.

Fifty Soviet Poets, included some like Yevgeni Yevtushenko who were well known in the West, and many who weren’t, and ranged over a variety of different themes, but given that this is a Russian book there is more than a few that are patriotic.

Yevtushenko’s poem, Do the Russians want a War? opens with the lines, “Say do the Russians want a war?- Go ask our land, then ask no more That silence lingering in the air Above the birch and poplar there Beneath those trees lie soldier lads Whose sons will answer for their Dads.  To add to what you have learned before, Say- Do the Russians want a war?”

From the stand point of 1969 when the collection was published, just twenty four years after the end of the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany, when the USSR lost 20 million dead, and every community had its own war memorial, it was easy to see the honesty in that poem.

But now, with the Russian Federation flexing its muscles in many different ways, it seems an anachronism, and echoes the comments about Yevtushenko whose poetry is described as “imbued with a sense of civic responsibility” who was “an ardent champion of revolutionary ideas and principles”. *

And looking again at the small collection of Soviet Science Fiction which was published in the early 1970s, is to be reminded that unlike some Western Science Fiction, these stories are all optimistic, focusing on how human beings working together and applying science will create a better world.

Of course we know that that vision of progress as applied across the old Communist bloc was flawed.  It was shot through with technological short cuts which were environmentally disastrous and was achieved at great human cost.

That said, our own Industrial Revolution, driven by the newly emerging capitalistic mode of production which was based on the exploitation of the workforce, assisted by the Slave Trade and conducted a time when only a handful of men had the vote.

At which point someone will mutter ....... and the point is?

To which I can say, there is no point, no lasting message other than that history is messy and sometimes what you thought would be a better way to order the world doesn't quite hack it.

Although the idea of a planet where people are treated equally, are respected and have the material means to live a life of their choice, free from war, tyranny, disease and hunger seems a good one to me.

Location; Stasi Museum, Berlin,

Pictures; from Stasi Museum, Berlin courtesy  of Peter Topping

* Fifty Soviet Poets, 1969, Progress Press, Moscow, page 176

So this is 1968 and we are looking up towards St Peter’s Square

I have to admit it is a scene which is very familiar and like all good pictures from the past I seem to remember it as monochrome.

Of course that doesn’t make sense but as hard as I try I can’t picture it in colour.

It is just one of those things.

And there will be plenty of others who instantly recognise the scene, even down to the fashionable dress and hairstyle of the young woman on the right.

The picture come to light through a new project which Neil Simpson tells me is “the Town Hall Photographer's Collection Digitisation Project, which currently is Volunteer led and Volunteer staffed is in the process of taking the 200,000 negatives in the collection dating from 1956 to 2007 and digitising them.

The plan is to gradually make the scanned images available online - initially on the Manchester Local Images Collection Website".*

And almost a century later I was pretty much on the same spot and chose to replicate the shot.

Of course at the time I had no idea that someone back in 1968 had stood where I was and taken a picture.

I bet even then the photographer would have had to be careful of the traffic while I had a clear run given that back in 2016 the road was closed as the finishing touches were being made to the tram line in readiness for the Second City Crossing.

Today I wouldn't dream of standing in the middle of the road, taking my time and then taking a picture.

The trams pass that spot with a frequency that means at best I might just get a shot in but I doubt it and that as they say is progress.

Still at least I can turn in a bright colour image.

And that just leaves you to record the differences.

Location Manchester

Picture; of looking towards St peter’s Square, 1968, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and almost the same spot in 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Neil Simpson, Manchester Local Images Collection Website,

A faded sign, a racecourse and a thank you to Trev

Now I like the way I pretty much learn something new about Salford everyday.

And today I had Trev Ryan to thank, who picked up on the story of the Pendleton Co-op which I posted and sent this picture with the comment, “Love this old place... and facing it covered up by a road sign is an old Castle Irwell racetrack sign.”

There will be plenty who know the story of the Manchester Racecourse and in particular its time at Castle Irwell which dated back to the middle of the 19th century and again from 1896 down to 1963 and for those who don’t someone has done a good job of covering it which just leaves me to make an appeal for people to come forward with memories and their own pictures.**

Location; Salford

Picture; faded sign for Manchester Racecourse, 2017, courtesy of Trev Ryan

*Celebrating some more of Salford’s finest buildings ........ the Pendleton Co-operative and Industrial Society,

**Manchester Racecourse,

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Views from around Victoria Bridge ........ that other place

We will all have our own special bridge across the river that takes you from Salford into Manchester.

I will stand on the fence and just say I like them all, from the old Victorian ones to those exciting swirling footbridges which seem to keep popping up.

That said I do like Victoria Bridge, because it affords pretty impressive views of the new developments on both sides of the water.

Now whatever you think of those new developments they are going up a pace, and while I miss the earlier Victorian and Edwardian ones, some of these had pretty much had their day.

And it is also worth noting that the Victorians showed scant regard for what had been there before.

So here is the first of Andy Robertson’s new series on Views from Victoria Bridge,

Location; Salford

Picture; looking out of Salford 2017 from the collection of Andy Robertson

Friday, 28 September 2018

The story that began with a painting and ended with Richardson's the bakers, little Doris Nicholson and Mr William Hale Baylis the photographer

At the Corner, 2015
Now here is one of those stories that just went off in a direction I couldn’t have predicted.

The spot is familiar enough to generations of people who have bought cakes and bread from Richardson’s the bakery, and so when Peter showed me his painting I knew there would be a cake story.

For over a century this spot has been a bakery.

Mr and Mrs Richardson began trading here in 1947, twenty years earlier it had been “Chester and Hodcroft bakers and confectioners,” before that William Nicholson and at the turn of the last century John Hill.

So it’s pretty much an unbroken line of bread and cakes which is only rivalled by the two shops opposite which have always been a newsagents and chip shop since they opened sometime just before the old Queen died.

Of course there have been changes to the building Peter painted which have included the addition of a separate entrance for the flats above and the division of the bakery into two shops.

W H Nicholson, circa 1916
But looking at the painting the similarities with this earlier photograph are all too clear.

And it is this earlier picture which took the story off in a different direction from the one I planned.

I thought I could date it to around 1911 but I rather think that is too early because standing beside Mrs Agnes Nicholson is their daughter Doris who had been born in the early part of 1910 which would put our picture a little later.

In fact it may date from around 1916 because on the reverse of the picture postcard is a reference to Baylis
Photographers, 49 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, and 28 Edge Lane Stretford.

Little Doris Nicholson, circa 1916
Now Mr Baylis was certainly living and working as a photographer at 49 Wilbraham Road in 1911 but was still very active a few years later.

This I know because some of his pictures dated from 1916 are in the Greater Manchester Archive’s collection.

The key might well be Taylor Fletcher who was trading next to the Nicholson’s.

He will be in the trade directories, so find him and we should have a date.

It will be sometime between 1911 when the property was occupied by Mrs Mary Smithman who was there in the January and James Jackson who was selling sweets at the same address in 1929.

All of which takes me back to Mr Baylis who I suspect will in turn offer some another twist in the tale and take us off elsewhere.

Taylor Fletcher's shop and clue left by Mr Baylis, circa 1916
Sadly his house has gone cleared away and replaced by what was the Woolworth’s store which just leaves no 28 Edge Lane which I shall leave for another day.

But he will also appear in the trade directories, and as I know his age in 1911 and place of birth I have every confidence more will appear.

In time I will turn up some more of his picture postcards which were available from Mrs H Burt who traded from 559 Wilbraham Road which was almost directly opposite the other family business of Burt's the Gents outfitters.*

So it really is a story that has taken me across Chorlton involved more than a few local worthies and may yet still astonish me.

Picture; Beech Road circa 1916, from the collection of Rita Bishop.

Paintings; On the Corner, Beech Road, © 2015, Peter Topping,
Facebook; Paintings from Pictures, Web:

*Barlow Moor Road, Mrs Helen Burt and the postcard makers of Chorlton,

“A thick fog hung over our city as we wended our way to the Refuge”* ....... more on the work of the charity

Anyone who grew up in one of our cities in the first half of the last century will remember those thick fogs which muffled all sounds and pretty much obscured everything.

Albert Square, 1910
They would appear without warning, blanket the city and leave a reminder of their passing in that dirty smear of particles that could be found on your clothes, in your homes and above all on your lungs.

But as deadly as these fogs were I have to say as a child I found them fascinating offering as they did an opportunity for adventure and that promise in term time they might lead to an early school closure.

They were the subject of numerous novels of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries allowing Mr Hyde, and a variety of real and imagined villains to stalk the streets unleashing all manner of violence on anyone out and about.

And briefly they made it just that bit more difficult for those wanting to locate the army of destitute children.

But that didn’t deter the work of the Refuge which was engaged finding these children, offering a bed for the night and in the long term giving them life changing alternatives to an existence on the streets which might in time  lead to crime and much worse.

One such search was recorded by Leonard K Shaw on November 28 1872.*

York Street looking towards Charles Street
He was the secretary of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges which had started in 1870 with the mission of giving homeless boys a bed for the night and breakfast before turning them back out onto the streets.

It soon became apparent that the scale of destitute children was much bigger and led to an expansion of the charity’s work into a range of activities including permanent homes, vocational training and seaside holidays.

It also worked  through the courts to prosecute neglectful and abusive parents, campaigned for rated some measures to protect young people trading on the streets and briefly migrated children to Canada.

But during that expansion the Refuge remained a place where destitute boys and girls could be given that bed with no questions asked.

Their plight and the work done by the Charity were publicised in a number of ways of which the short pamphlets are one of the most interesting.

They were a mix of stories, religious comments, adverts for collecting boxes and collecting cards.   The pamplet’s sold for one half penny or 4d per dozen.

The stories revolved around case studies which might describe the awful conditions some of the children were in with the success stories which were the happy outcome of the charity’s intervention.

India House
So on that November night the team had found three lads awaiting admission for the remaining   2 beds.

One boy was admitted straight away.

The other two were brothers, whose father was dead and their mother was serving her prison 5th prison sentence and boys had been sleeping in a yard at the back of one of the worst houses in the Charter Street neighbourhood.

Even now, nearly 150 years after Mr Shaw described the plight of the two boys, what they had experienced shocks you.

And of course that in part was the purpose of the pamphlets which carried titles like Tim and Joe, The Living Dead, Night and Morning and the Cry of Children.

But these were not chocolate box accounts where the stories always turned out well.  Some of the children died and others were beyond help.

In a telling passage in Night and Morning Mr Shaw observed that “groups of idle vagrant boys and girls from about 15 to 18 years of age on  Angel Street, and Charter Street, few of them can read and write, many have been in prison all of them are growing up idle, vagrant, godless too late for them to be saved”

Now from the research I have already done on the charity, who were fully committed to helping young people that was almost a cry of despair.

Oxford Road, 1910
But the work continued as did the fund raising from letters and appeals through the media, to those pamphlets and of course the “before and after” pictures of young people who passed through the charity.

It is easy to be cynical about the pictures and question the degree to which some at least were manipulated images, but the weight of evidence from newspaper accounts, the charity’s annual reports and the letters from the young people support the idea that children were lifted from awful conditions.

Sadly today even in the developed world, poverty its power to stunt the lives of young people is still all too apparent, even if the pea soupers of the past have vanished.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Albert Square, 1910 and York Street looking towards Charles Street, India House, and Oxford Road, 1910 Pierre Adolphe Valette

* Night and Morning, Leonard K Shaw 1872

Albert Square in the May of 1963

I am back with that theme of popular Manchester places before the car was banished.

So here we are in Albert Square sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

The postmark on the back gives a date of May 1963, but it will be a little earlier, and will not have changed much at the end of that decade.

In 1969 the traffic still swirled past Albert on his island and the front of the town Hall was still a place to park your car.

Now I could delve deep into the history of the buildings surrounding the square but I won’t, instead I shall just leave you with that thought that like St Ann’s Square, King Street and now the area in front of the Cathedral there was a time when many of our public places were still shared with the car.

Picture; Albert Square, from the series Manchester, Lillywhite, issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of TuckDB

A wartime photograph

There is something about this photograph that draws you in.

This is John, Annie and Nora Garvey and we must be sometime near the end of the Great War.

Nora was born in 1915 so I think this must be 1917 or perhaps even 1918.

John by then will have been 30 and Annie 28.  They had been married at St Thomas’s in Pendleton and Annie had worked at one of the local cotton mills.

The photograph is one of those standard posed pictures that professional photographers went in for with studio props and often a backdrop.

But what makes this one all the more interesting are the poses and expressions on the faces of Annie and John.

He stares directly into the camera while she looks off to the left.

It may just be that Annie’s attention has been caught at the moment the picture was taken.  Perhaps the assistant dropped something.

Or this picture was one of a series and this was the one which was never meant to be released.

But photographs cost money and I doubt John and Annie wanted an also run in the collection.

So this picture was the one they chose and I can’t help feeling that while she looks a little distant he has an air of melancholy about him.

Of course we will never really know.  Nor at this stage can I say for certain when our picture was taken.

In time I hope we will know more about his military record, including where he served and which regiment that in turn might bring us closer to a date for the picture.

Pictures; Mr & Mrs Garvey and their daughter Nora, courtesy of Alan

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Down by the Oven Door on Beech Road in 1976

I could have cleaned the picture up, played with the settings and achieved a clearer image but that would have been to lose something of what Lois took in the winter of 1976.*

It is, and I know Lois will forgive me for saying so a snap, taken with one of those inexpensive cameras we all had back then and at the mercy of the light and much else.

But that gives the picture something of its value.

This is how pictures often turned out and at the time we took that for granted and were still happy with the result.

For those familiar with the Beech Road of bars, restaurants and quirky, interesting little shops this is another world.

This is the Beech Road I remember, a collection of work a day shops offering everything from apples, cabbages, and fish to paraffin, and oiled string.

At the bottom to the right was the Open Door a reminder that we had a choice of where we bought our fresh bread and cakes as we did for our meat and groceries.

And I am pretty sure Lois would have taken the completed film to Joy Seal's the chemist just a little back between what had been the Police Station and the wool shop.

Location; Beech Road

Picture; looking down Beech Road in 1976 from the collection of Lois Elsden

*Chorlton in the 1970s,

Stories behind the book ....... nu 3 beginning to challenge assumptions

Being homeless, with nowhere to sleep but the streets, and risking all sorts of danger has become commonplace again in Britain.

Newly admitted to the Refuge, date unknown
It is something I thought had vanished but it is back and that of course makes me think of those young people who endured the same experiences on the streets of the twin cities just a century and half ago.

Of course it would be easy to categorise them and look for simple explanations, but history is rarely simple.

It is instead messy and  the explanations for why so many children were destitute and equally the value of what was done to help them is wide open to interpretation.

For those with an interest in British Home Children there are the conflicting arguments about the practice of migration and the miss match between those young people who went on to have happy and successful lives and those who had been mistreated and abused, and were permanently scarred as a result.

In the case of my own great uncle who was migrated by the Derby Guardians in the care of Middlemore  in 1914 he was I suspect already “damaged goods” having spent most of his childhood and early teenage years in care.

From admission book of the Derby Union, 1913
Along with grandfather who was a year younger he was deemed “out of control” and was assigned to a training ship which was really a naval boot camp, but for reasons we have yet to discover he was offered Canada instead.

He was sixteen when he made the journey, making him older than most.

So I am not surprised that he failed to settle on any of the three farms he was placed, finally running away from the last, changing his name, lying about his age, and enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915.

Nor did he settle to army life and on several occasions was disciplined and underwent a series of courts martial.

Not perhaps what we think of as a typical BHC or for that matter the most sympathetic, which points to that simple observation that we should always be wary of generalizations when writing history.

Emma before admission, 1913
And as I dig deeper in to the work of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges the more questions I want to ask, some which challenge my own preconceived ideas about the role of charities in general and the work of children’s charities in the late 19th century.

The most obvious question is just how these young people ended up on the street.

In 1881 Mr Shaw of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges commented that during the course of the charity’s work, on just  “one night 250 children were found on the streets between the hours of nine and twelve.  

Out of that number 50 cases were investigated, and it was found that 33 were between the ages of 5 and 10, and 17 between 10 and 13.  Thirty-four had both parents living, 16 had lost both father and mother and the number of deserving parents was only 9.”

The figures are appalling but the question that leaps off the page is what was deemed a "deserving parent" and what therefore constituted an “undeserving parent.”

Emma after admission, 1913
Now I think we can all be quite confident about what is meant but it is important to uncover the exact  criteria, because that will help inform the search for the causes of child destitution and the growing role of the State in intervening on behalf of the child.

And in the same way those who did surrender their children into the arms of the charities were not all feckless nor in taking them was the Manchester charity t driven by its own lofty opinion of what constituted the needs of child.

More over it was  sensitive to changing events, and so at the outbreak of the Great War it moved quickly “to receive motherless children whose fathers had been called to the front and already quite a number of such children had been received into one of the homes.”**

And three years later noting “the increase in juvenile crime in the city, ........ urged that extension of the system of probation [which] would be productive of good results.”***

It was a policy which reflected its enlightened attitude to juvenile crime stretching back four decades.

The print room, training for a life of self sufficiency, 1913
So as the research continues I have gained a greater awareness of the issues surrounding child care in the last quarter of the 19th century and come to understand the humanity of those working in the field.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust

* Juvenile Offenders, Deputation to the Home Secretary, Manchester Guardian, January 14, 1881,

** The Strangeways Refuge Activity in 16 Branches, Manchester Guardian, October 30, 1914

*** Work for Boys and Girls The Strangeways Refuge and Homes, Manchester Guardian, May 11, 1917

Piccadilly Gardens ....... the early years nu 4 on a warm summer's day in 1956

Now this just captures a carefree summer’s day in Piccadilly Gardens back in the 1950s.

It was taken in 1955 and pretty much has the lot.

The two stylish young women attract some but perhaps not that much attention.

For whatever reason the two  men in suits stare away while the chap next to them is lost in his newspaper.

So it is down to the woman in the hat and two others to glance at the passing of those stylish young women.

There will be many who remember sitting in the sunken gardens during their break from work, and when I washed up in Manchester in 1969 this was still a popular way of passing the hour on a sunny day.

My friend Sally came across the image in the digital archive collection but when I went looking for the picture the site had gone down which is a shame because I would like to think thee may have been some extra information.

And as ever it is the tiny detail that draws me in.

My Nana had a hat just like and mum had the identical sun glasses which also reminded me of her usual spectacles which were pink plastic with wings at each corner.

Thinking back they were exactly like the fins on those ever so large American cars that sum up the style of the 50s.

As were those big while plastic ear rings designed to look like flowers.

Which brings me back to those two elegantly dressed young women.

In time when I can access the Manchester collection site I may discover that this was a fashion shot but it is equally likely that it was just a random shot on a hot summer’s day.

Either way it is one to treasure.

Picture; courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Wishing you well ........... postcards from Woolwich, Greenwich and Eltham for the summer ..... nu 2 Greenwich

A short series with few words looking at the postcards we sent from Woolwich, Greenwich and Eltham.

The description on the back describes “the Parish Church of the Royal Borough of Greenwich is a handsome structure dedicated to St Alphege, which was erected in 1710 from designs by Hawksmore.  

It stands in on the site of two former bull rings dedicated to the same Saint, who suffered martyrdom on this spot at the hands of the Danes.  General Wolfe is buried within its walls.”

Location; Greenwich

Picture; Barrack Field Woolwich Common, circa 1905, Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

One year in story of the Manchester and Salford Children’s Charity

Now it is very easy to overlook that for some of the children’s charities, the migration of young people was a small part of their work.

Outside the Refuge HQ, 1900
The Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuge was responsible for helping thousands of young people during its first fifty years and of these only a comparatively small number crossed the Atlantic and in some years none were sent.

So in 1886 at the annual meeting of the Refuge, the secretary reported that in the previous year 41 children had been migrated to Canada.

But he added that a large home beside the Orphan House had been given “unasked for” at  Cheetham Hill  “where they proposed establishing a training home, which they expected would enable them to rescue from misery here and place in bright Canadian houses some sixty more children each year than they had ever been able to do before.”*

Set against this work were the other activities which included the Central Refuge which was a receiving point and had 115 bed, a home for little orphan children George Street Cheetham Hill which accommodated 145 children, centres providing vocational training to  31 boys and 42 girls.

The newly opened opened Boys’ Rest and Lodging House in Angel Meadow which was one of the worst areas in the city had been very successful.  The “total number of times the beds were occupied  was 4,554, or an average of 13 boys for every night in the year.  175 children have enjoyed the advantage of the Sea-side at Lytham.  The training ship Indefatigable  continues a very useful adjunct to the work of the Refuge as an out let for such of the boys who have been sent there during the past year makes a total of 148.”

The Caxton Brigade, date unknown
And the Refuge continued to have great success with the “The three brigades  - the Caxton, the News, and the Messenger which had given employment to 297 boys during the year.”

And at the core was the Shelter for Wandering Children on Major Street which could take 210 young people.  It was “open day and night and 4984 meals been supplied and the beds occupied by 1,648 times during the year.”

The charity also ran Christmas parties, campaigned for better regulations of children selling goods in the streets and intervened in the courts on behalf of young people who were subject to parental neglect or abuse, and even offered refuge and help to prisoner newly released.

It was an extensive range of activities which continued to expand during the rest of the century.

The yard outside the old Refuge, circa 1870s
The charity suspended the migration of young people with the outbreak of the Great War and never resumed taking the decision that peace time reconstruction might be assisted if the young remained in Briton.

The reports are a fascinating insight not only into the work but also the growing interest in increased intervention on behalf of young people, ranging from calls to better control “street hawking” to a greater emphasis on good practical vocational training.

Along the way there are the bigger debates like that around migration with the Refuge participating in the 1910 conference held to explore ways of “introducing order and uniformity into the work of emigrating people from this country to the colonies.” Nearly 50 agencies were represented the discussions ranged over the validity of the policy to the practicalities.

Earlier in 1905 the charity had become very concerned at accusations concerning the treatment of children in Canada, but that is for another time.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust,

* Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges, Manchester Guardian, February 17 1886

In Piccadilly Gardens on a warm sunny day in the 1950s

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing.

Now I say that because all too often it leads you down a rosy sweet scented view of the past which can be misleading and cheapens people’s experiences.

My son’s are forever telling me with a hint of regret that they envy the fact that I grew up in the 1960s.

They point to the music, the clothes, the films and even the poetry and suggest that it was a decade where all was possible.

Well yes some of it is just about right, but for every great group and powerful song there was also plenty forgettable attempts at the Top Ten, and much the same might be said of the fashions, the movies and a lot of the poetry.

But with all that said I do sometimes slip into that rosy sweet scented smell of the past, and no more so than when I have been thinking about Piccadilly Gardens, as it was, say in the September of 1969* when I first came across the place.

I can still remember sitting with a girlfriend scanning the mid day edition of the Evening News for flats before rushing off to the telephone boxes which surrounded the gardens to make that all important call to the landlord.  Or just meeting up for something to eat in the sunshine and watching the pigeons, well aware that we only had a short time to swap romantic banter.

Now you have to be of a certain age to remember the old Piccadilly Gardens at their best, which of course means that I do.

There were few places in the city centre back in the late 60s and early 70s where you could go and spend the dinner hour on a warm and sometimes hot midday.

From just after twelve till about two in the afternoon, the park benches in the sunken gardens would be full of people.  Here could be found office workers on their dinner break, exhausted shoppers and during the school holidays a fair number of children with or without a parent.

And despite the traffic and the bus station the place was a pleasant haven of relative peace which from spring into autumn was a mass of flowers in those formal displays so loved by municipal gardeners.

I was reminded again of what it had been like when I came across a delightful picture posted on facebook by Paul Ohagan of his mum and some friends.

It is one of those wonderful family snaps which perfectly capture a carefree day out in the city sometime in the late 1950s.

We all have them tucked away in an album or hidden away in a draw and they vividly bring it all back.

In this case I think we are on the bus station side of the gardens, looking up towards Portland Street.  The hedges surrounding the park have yet to grow to the point where they acted as an effective screen against the noise and intrusion of the busy streets.  Judging by the number of people already sitting on the benches we must be sometime in the middle of the day.

And I wonder what the rest of the day holds for our four.  But then such speculation runs the risk of being as fruitless as a bout of nostalgia.

So I think I will leave it at that.  Four young women smiling happily at the camera on a day when the sun was shining, and the grass green


Picture; Piccadilly Gardens from Leisure and Pleasure in the Open Air, Parks Committee, Manchester Corporation 1963, courtesy of Linda Rigby and in the park on a sunny day in 1955 from the collection of Paul Ohagan

Moonlight, Greenwich, 1904

The last of four picture postcards of Greenwich.

Moonlight, Greenwich by Professor Van Hier

Picture, Sunset, Greenwich, in the series, On the Thames, issued by Tuck & Sons, 1904, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

So just what could you buy at 103 Beech Road in 1969?

Now for all those who will wander down Beech Road this Sunday here is a list of the shops you could have visited almost half a century ago.

Beech Road, 2017
Of course back then it would have been pretty much just window shopping given that Sunday trading was very different from today.

In fact go back to the 1950s and buying a packet of butter, and some eggs was much more difficult.

It involved the shop keeper carefully wrapping the produce up with a warning not to tell anyone that she had sold you the food, it being a Sunday.

So one Sunday morning having bought the butter on Queens Road I left the shop feeling very guilty to walk the few hundred yards to our house on Lausanne Road.

It was the walk of fear and I spent it clutching hard the brown wrapper containing my act of illegality while all the time looking out for the local policeman to apprehend me.

Such were the joys and perils of shopping on a Sunday in 1958.
A bit more of Beech Road in 1969

And with that over and out of the way I doubt that I will be alone in saying that a full seven years after our list of 1969 shops and businesses I remember buying cakes in Richardson's, looking into the window of the draper's shop next door, calling in at Joy Seal's, and passing the time with Mr Henderson.

And a bit of Beech Road in 2017
All of which just leaves the regular trips to the Trevor and the odd fish supper from Mr Chan's.

And that's it ...... if you want more take your own trip of nostalgia.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Beech Road, 2017, from the collection of Roger Shelley and in 1969 from Slater’s Directory of Manchester & Salford, 1969 courtesy of Andy Robertson

By the Cenotaph watching the buses go by sometime in the 1960s

Now as we move towards the official re dedication of the Cenotaph in its new position outside the Town Hall I think it is appropriate to look back on the site as it was in the 1960s.

It is a scene many of us will remember.

The Ref has yet to be cleaned, the buses still display their Corporation red livery and the tram line and stop are yet to be built.

In fact look closely and behind the Midland Hotel the shape of Central Station can just be made out and for those who like train stories, there was a service that took you direct to Chorlton and onto Didsbury.

And for those with an even keener sense of history, the so called cafe society had yet to happen.

So if you wanted a glass of wine or pint of beer you had to wait till the pubs opened at 11, and remember that last orders was at 3, added to which I doubt that there was much of a choice in wine.

And as for sitting outside and slowly watching the city pass as you sipped your drink that like the metro was not yet how we did things.

What we did do was something which was called coffee, had the colour of coffee,and was a pale imitation of the real thing.

Of course  if you were really unlucky there was Camp Coffee which I have to say I briefly had a flirtation with but would never today share with the Italian side of the family.

Picture; courtesy of Sally Dervan

Number 73 Shude Hill sometime around 1984 ...... and the start of a story

Now I don’t remember number 73 Withy Grove and a full 33 years after John took this picture I doubt many will.

It comes from his 1980s collection of photographs of Manchester and Salford and is just the thing to start a story.*

In time I will trawl the street directories for the early 20th century and also ask my mate Andy Robertson to look up numbers 73 and 75 on his 1969 directory and then armed with names go off again to see what I can find.

In the meantime I will let you ponder on what replaced these two.

I know as well as John and Andy.

It is less a quiz and more just a bit of historical fun.

There are no prizes of course but just the pleasure in beating everyone else to the answer.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Withy Grove, Manchester circa 1984 from the collection of John Casey

*John Casey

Sunset, Greenwich, 1904

The third of four picture postcards of Greenwich.

Sunset, Greenwich by Professor Van Hier

Picture, Sunset, Greenwich, in the series, On the Thames, issued by Tuck & Sons, 1904, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Monday, 24 September 2018

Who remembers this Beech Road?

One of the things I like about collections of street photographs is how you can sometimes follow the photographer down the road.

 In the digital collection of Manchester Libraries there are some fine examples from the 1950s and 60s where the person behind the camera has meticulously recorded collections of houses and shops, property by property.

 They are today a wonderful snap shot of Chorlton fifty years ago.

So here is another of Beech Road from my old friend Tony Walker taken around 1980. One early Sunday morning Tony went out on to Beech Road and took a series of pictures. This is the second of the ones he took that day and judging from the angle of the picture was taken on the corner of Beech and Chequers.

It is a remarkable picture in that so much of what you can see has now gone.

There has been an off license of sorts on the corner since the beginning of the last century and while the shop is now a deli it does still sell wines.

Beyond was the grocery, a hairdresser and jutting out from the alley another grocers shop, Muriel and Richard’s green grocers and the piano shop.

At the bottom was the Oven Door Bakery in what are now numbers 68 and 70 Beech Road while the old Coop building was yet to become the home of the gift shop, Thai restaurant and Whole Food shop and instead much of it was given over to Strippo who stripped doors for under a tenner

Now I remember Joy Seal who ran the chemist. Her husband told me how when they took the shop over in the 1950s they first had to demolish the huge ovens at the back which had been used to bake bread.

It is still the chemists but the butcher to the right, and the Post Office to the left have gone as have the second hand furniture place and J. Johnny’s hard ware shop. J.Johnny's was a wonderful place where you could buy everything from a scredriver to a plank of wood.

What I particularly liked was that with some items you never paid the same price. On three different occassions I paid three different prices for having some knives sharpened, but in the end I came out evens.

I suppose the only concession to the advance of the new Beech Road was the brief appearance of an amusement arcade next to the post office and the gift shop which had been the grocers beside Thresher’s off license. Neither lasted very long but was a hint of what was to come.

In some ways this period was an unhappy time. More and more of the old conventional retail out lets were closing and it was unclear what would take their place.

These traditional shops could not compete with either the supermarket or the growing trend for home freezers.

So while Safeway’s planned to move to bigger premises by Albany Road and the shop in the precinct selling frozen food prospered our shops went through a lean time and the parade began to take on the appearance of a ghost town.

So the arrival of the Lead Station and the restaurant Primavera heralded a change and a renaissance which at times might now be irksome if you want basic things but has at least returned Beech Road to a thriving and buzzing place.

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker

Raising the money ....... lifting the lives of Manchester and Salford’s less fortunate children

Now the deeper I burrow into the story of the Together Trust for the new book the more impressed I am with the history of this charity.*

Savings box, circa 1900
It started in 1870 offering beds and breakfasts to destitute boys who were found on the streets of Manchester and Salford.

Within a decade it had expanded to include residential accommodation for both boys and girls, vocational training centres, and holidays by the sea.

 It also  campaigned to regulate the employment of young people as street traders and intervened in the courts to protect children from neglectful and abusive parents.

By 1905 the charity was responsible for 192 young people in its Central Refuge and Home, 47 at the Working Youths Home & Institute, 126 in the Boys’ Emigration Training Home and 112 at the Streets Boys’ Training Home.

In addition there were 64 girls at the Elder Girls’ Training Home and Laundry, 112 young people at the Orphan Homes for Little Children, another 59 at the Home for Crippled & Incurable Children and 26 in the Home for Motherless Little Girls.

The Open Day Shelter had received 391 youngsters, 2,583 had had a week’s holiday in Southport and another 231 had spent time at the Lytham Seaside Home.

Summer Camp Appeal, early 20th century
The charity also provided work through its Messenger and Shoe Black Brigades for 225 lads, emigrated 66 to Ontario and along with its work at the Police Court Mission held a daily drop in centre for prisoners released from prison.**

It is an impressive list and of course cost a lot of money.

Some of that funding came from donations and bequests.  Mrs Rylands left £2000 in her will to the Refuge in 1908, Mrs Hyland £30 and Frederick Rothwell £500.

And then there were the appeals to the public which came in many different guises and were as imaginative as any that charities today come up with.

These included the savings boxes which came with a picture on the side of a group of “ragged children” and the request to “Help the Poor Manchester Kiddies.” 

Emma before Admission to the Refuge, 1913
My own favourite is the slot machine which was fastened to the wall and dispensed pencils which carried name of the charity and were marketed as “a cabinet to help a child.”

Foremost as now were the appeals through the media which included letters requesting donations and adverts.

And just like today the charity was aware that what worked was a clear explanation of what your money could buy.

So in 1911 the treasurer, Mr Peers wrote to the Manchester Guardian that it would cost £2000 to run the annual “Summer Camp for Poor City Boys’” which amounted to £60 a week, or six shillings for each boy “covering railway fare and maintenance...... [providing each boy with] four good meals a day and time filled with games of all kinds, rambles on the shores and sand hills, and bathing in the sea.”***

Later in the year there were appeals for the Christmas parties which were later followed up by reports on how successful the parties had been.

These were supplemented by regular appeals in the charity’s own newspaper and by pamphlets which carried harrowing stories of children found destitute on the streets along with success stories. They were sold for one half penny or 4d per dozen and carried adverts for collecting boxes and collecting cards.

The stories could be both painful to read and uplifting.  So in the case of Tim and Joe The Living Dead, when first encountered the boys  “fought , used bad language told more falsehoods than truth, were dishonest, dirty, and almost naked” but when shown kindness were transformed.

Emma after admission to the Refuge, 1913
And in Night and Morning published in 1872 the full horror of life on the streets was described with ”groups of idle vagrant boys and girls from about 15 to 18 years of age [of which]  few can read and write, many have been in prison and all of them are growing up idle, vagrant, and godless.”

But the overriding message was that with financial support the charity could turn around the lives of young people who through no fault of their own were on the streets or at the mercy of neglectful and abusive parents.

And to this end like other children’s organizations, the Refuge made much of the before and after image of a child admitted into their care, along with the success stories.

Some may be cynical of such advertising methods but they were based on reality and the message did work bringing in money which changed lives.

Location; Manchester

As ever, a special thanks to Liz Sykes the archivist of the Together Trust

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust,

*A new book on the Together Trust,

** Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges, Manchester Guardian April 5 1905

*** Poor Lads at the seaside Mr. J. Peers Ellison, Manchester Guardian, May 27, 1911