Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Travels on a tram ....... the much neglected Firswood

Now, never let it be said that Andy Roberston doesn’t roam wide.

In the space of two days he took off from Chorlton to Pomona and on in search of the new Trafford spur, and had time to explore Firs Wood, once a place of open fields and a farm.

Location, Firswood

Picture; on the tram 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Sunday, 28 October 2018

Revealing the secrets of a Salford building

Now if like me you belong to that generation that grew up during or just after the last world war the scene of the side of house revealing what had once been a family home is still all too vivid.

And perhaps also for those that lived in clearance areas the memory of houses shorn of their front walls and roof exposing the peeling wall paper and empty fire places would have also been a common sight.

So here for all those who rarely see such sights is one from Andy Robertson’s collection which may very well have now gone.
Location; Salford

Picture; the end of a Salford building, 2016, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Little Tony, Rock and Roll and Italy in the 1960s

Little Tony in 1967
I came across one of those old faded newspapers yesterday from the 1950s with a story of a local Watch Committee* deploring the “effect of that American style of music commonly known as Rock and Roll on young people.”

And it made me think of the influence of the music, films and life style that we imported from America during the two decades after the last war.

Now of course it had been going on for a long time before Bill Hayley and Elvis Presley strutted across the stage but the 1950s was when I was growing up and so it’s their music and all that went with it that I remember.

Rosa in Naples in 1961
And for Rosa growing up in Naples in the early 1950s the arrival of American culture was even more profound.  It was parodied in the Neapolitan song Tu vuò fà l'americano which gently pointed fun at a young Italian who wanted to look American by drinking whisky and soda, dancing to Rock ‘n Roll and smoking Camel cigarettes.

But the sting was that  this depended on his Italian parents to give him the money,

You want to dance rock and roll; 
You play baseball
But the money for the camels, 
Who give it to you??
Mamma’s handbag!

All of which I was reminded of with the announcement of the death of Little Tony who some had called Italy’s Elvis Presley.

“Born in 1941, Little Tony had a few hits in the UK in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the lead singer of Little Tony & His Brothers. He then returned to Italy where he pursued a successful career as a singer and actor.”**

Little Tony singing Il ragazzo col ciuffo in 1962

His first solo hit was Il ragazzo col ciuffo – The Guy with a Quiff  in 1962 and he went on to record a number of songs which sold over a million each.

And like many singers he made a successful  move into films starring in 20 films and began his own record company.

Watching clips from films and TV appearances there is no getting away from the American influence as in Il ragazzo col ciuffo

But for me it is the song Peggio Per Me - Worse For Me and the accompanying video which best shows not only the impact of American music but also the way it was taken over for an Italian audience of the 1960s

I saw him on TV and enjoyed his performances. He died of lung cancer on May 27, 2013, at the age of 72.

Now for those who want more I shall pass you over to that excellent site Italian Chronicles**, and in particular Italy’s Elvis Bops off to Heaven***which was where I drew much of the material for this story.

Little Tony's site can be visited at

*Watch Committees were responsible for police forces from 1835 till 1964 and so to "appoint constables to preserve the peace."



Pictures; Rosa in Naples from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Little Tony from Wikipedia Commons and You Tube

In Flanders Fields at Central Ref* ...... the Lord Mayor’s visit

Now the growing popularity of the exhibition in Central Ref commemorating Manchester’s involvement in the Great War got a Civic recognition last week.

David and the Lord Mayor
On Wednesday, the Lord Mayor Councillor June Hitchen, toured the exhibition.

She was shown round by David Harrop, who organised the display of memorabilia from his extensive collection which includes material from Miles Platting and Newton Heath which is the ward Councillor Hitchen, has represented for the last 16 years.

Also attending were the three councillors for Chorlton Park, Cllr Dave Rawson, Cllr Mandie Shilton-Goodwin, and Cllr Joanna Midgley, all of whom have shown a special interest in David’s permanent exhibition of material drawn from both world wars in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

Both of these exhibitions are quite unique for not only are they drawn from one private collection and range from medals, letters, official documents and other personal items, but many have a direct link with Manchester.

David with "Civic Friends"
And so it was fitting that one of the visitors on that day should be Helen Flanagan who discovered that some of the exhibits on display had belonged to her great uncle.

Nor has she been alone in being able to make a personal connection with In Flander’s Fields.*

Over the course of the last month and a bit other people have told David of their own links with the exhibition, making this truly an event for Manchester as well as Greater Manchester.

But given the length and the impact of the Great War, David has also added items from his collection which focus on other parts of Britain, including the bombardment of Scarborough and a scrap book compiled by a young Londoner during the early years of the war.

Discussing the exhibition
And it is of London that I shall close, because central to the exbition has been the George Davison Collection.

Mr Davison was born in north Manchester, grew up in Chorlton and began his married life in Hulme.

But as a member of the Royal Artillery he spent a lot of time in Woolwich  and was billeted just yards from where I grew up in Eltham.

His wife also stayed briefly at that address and one of the residents signed Mr Davison's will.

All of which takes the exhibition out of Central Ref and the city to a wider place.

Location Central Ref

Pictures; The Lord Mayor’s visit, 2018, courtesy of Helen Flanagan

*In Flanders Fields will continue in Central Ref till the end of November

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Antonio Peduzzi making what we wanted at 33 Piccadilly in 1824

Antonio Peduzzi was from Lombardy and settled in Manchester around 1810, ran a series of successful businesses, was married twice and ended his days in the Chorlton Workhouse on Stretford New Road where he died in 1846.

It is not much of an obituary for a man who had the courage to leave his native Italy, settle here in Manchester mixing his skill as a craftsman with more than a bit of entrepreneurial verve, loved two women and died insane in the workhouse.

But it is the starting point for a fascinating story which was first revealed by Alex Roe who works in Milan, has a wonderful site offering up all sorts of news about Italy and is related to Antonio Peduzzi.

I began thinking about the Italian contribution to the city a few days ago in the story Of Naples in 1961 and Little Italy in Ancoats in 1901 and as you do I was drawn in to the history of those Italians who came over at the beginning of the 19th century, which is the cue for Alex who wrote that

“my very distant relative Antonio Peduzzi died in 1846 after having been certified insane. Antonio’s madness may have been caused in part by the loss of both of his wives. He did not have any children either, poor man.

Prior to his insanity and death, Antonio Peduzzi ran what was by all accounts a successful business which framed and glazed needlework, drawings and pictures; re-gilded and silvered old frames and mirror plates; and made and repaired barometers, thermometers and hydrometers. He had premises in Oldham Street and in Deansgate in the early part of the 19th century.

Antonio Peduzzi’s brother, and my more direct ancestor, was called James. Not a very Italian name, I know. I don’t know whether it was his real name, or one he had chosen to make his life in England a little easier.
James Peduzzi married Elizabeth Ward. The couple had three children, one of whom was Francis who would have been my great, great, great, great, great grandfather. I may have got the number of ‘greats’ wrong! Sorry, but it’s greatly confusing.

James Peduzzi set up in business as a picture frame maker in Spear Street in Manchester and later expanded into the making of thermometers and barometers. After applying for British citizenship, James was able to buy property, which he duly did.

In 1848, James bought a workshop and engine in Foundry Street, off Oldham Road. The property included other small workshops, houses and some shops. James’ business, it seems, flourished which fits in with the family rumour that the Peduzzi’s were quite well-off.

One of James’ sons, born in 1815 was Francis, who along with his younger brother – another James, joined his father in the Foundry Street premises.

Francis left this world in 1866 and his wife took over the business, but, and for reasons unknown, the Peduzzi business ceased trading after Elizabeth’s death in 1870."

33 Piccadilly marked in yellow in 1842
So with Alex’s permission and the help of the Museum of Science & Industry whose collection includes a barometer made by the Peduzzi company I plan to explore more of the life of Antonio and something of the Manchester he knew.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; the buildings opposite the infirmary including the premise of Peduzzi & Co, 1824, m5291, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  33 Piccadilly and the Infirmary from the 1844 OS of Manchester & Salford, by permission of Digital Archives,   and detail of Carvers, Gilders, &c. From Pigot & Dean’s New Directory of Manchester & Salford 1821-22

Friday, 26 October 2018

Painting Eltham and telling its stories

Now here is a plan. 

Take the key iconic buildings of Eltham, turn them into paintings and tell their stories.

It is something I have been doing for years using the paintings of Peter Topping and exploring the odd, the sad and the funny stories behind each building.

And having read the blog it is time to read the book.

Back in November 2016, Peter and I published Manchester Pubs which told the story of 78 iconic public houses and has already sold out of its first two print runs and now because I grew up in Well Hall and Peter likes Eltham we are planning to do the same here.*

Of course there aren’t as many pubs so we decided to broaden it to include those places we all like and which have a history.

I nominated our house on Well Hall Road, along with the parish church and the library where our Stella worked.  One of my sisters threw in the old tram sheds and Peter wanted the Park Tavern.

So that is the plan, what we need are some more suggestions for favourite Eltham buildings, after all the idea is to make the project one that is shared by everyone from Shooters Hill down to the Palace and everywhere in between.

But given that we both now live in Manchester we need some good modern photographs of the outside of each building with some of the inside and if possible a few locals doing the shopping, sampling the beer or helping clean the pews.

So that is it ........... the new project Painting Eltham and telling its stories

You can get in touch by leaving a comment on the blog or leaving a message on our brand new Facebook site Painting Eltham and telling its stories

Location; Eltham

Painting; The Park Tavern & Eltham Library  © 2015 Peter Topping


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*A new book on Manchester Pubs,

In the company of the Manchester Bees ..... no.22 ..... The Inscape 3

Now, just a few months ago the Manchester Bees were a tourist attraction.

Lady Buzzington
They were visited, photographed and written about and during the summer I regularly featured them on the blog, and then they were gone.*

But not quite, because here are three I missed, courtesy of the archivist of the Together Trust who alerted me to the final resting place of three bees.

These are Lady Buzzington, Let there bee love and Robot battle bee, which are now in the offices of the Together Trust in Cheadle.**

The design and names of the bees were created and voted for by students from Inscape House School which is a non-maintained day special school in Cheadle, Cheshire,  meeting  the needs of children and young people aged five to 19 years with autism spectrum conditions and related social communication difficulties. ***

Let there bee love
At which point I shall just quote what the school has said about each bee.

"Lady Buzzington was painted at Inscape's 25-year anniversary party this May, with each hexagon on the bee decorated by past and present students and staff. 

The multicoloured design of the bee reflects the diverse nature of autism and its glorious variety of outcomes.

Let there bee love was inspired by a song with the same name from Manchester band Oasis. 

Many of the young people at Inscape are nature lovers, so they designed their bee covered with flowers. 

Robot battle bee
Its design also represents peace, love and unity and the colourful and diverse nature of the many children who painted it.

Robot battle bee's unique design is partly realistic and partly robotic, with a steampunk edge. 

Its design reflects Manchester's industrial and worker-bee heritage, with cogs, wheels and Victorian machinery hidden amongst its design"..

And that is it.

Location; Together Trust, Cheadle

Pictures; three bees courtesy of the Together Trust

*Manchester Bees,

**Together Trust,

***Inscape House School,

Walking down Kender Street looking for the cocoa works and finding a lost cinema

It will be something well over half a century since I last walked down Kender Street and even now it’s the smell of cocoa which is the first thing that comes to mind.

Kender Street, 1872
We lived at number 14 for about a year and a bit back in 1950 into ‘51 and for most of that decade and into the next we regularly  went back to visit one of mum’s friends.

And Kender Street was also one of those alternate routes from Lausanne Road up to the public library on New Cross Road, the wool shop and mum’s other favourite haunt the private lending library.

Now I went looking for all those places recently and of course the passage of fifty five years has not been kind to my child hood memories.  The cocoa works along with number 14 and a big chunk of the street have gone as have the library, the wool shop and much else.

And so comprehensive has the change been that I did begin to question just how much I remembered.

Undaunted I turned to a set of historical maps running from 1872 till 1954.

Most are online courtesy of Southwark Council* and they offer a pretty neat picture of the area over 80 or so years.

Now I couldn’t confirm the cocoa plant but I was struck by the number of industrial units ranging from a print works, and iron works to a cooperage and engineering plant.  Most were developed in the years after 1872 and plenty of them were still there around Kender Street and Pomeroy Street in the early 1950s.

Of course having spent years living in east Manchester which retained its heavy industry until the 1980s and only saw the colliery close in 1968 I shouldn’t have been surprised.

What I did find fascinating was the lost cinema on Queens Road which I only discovered from one of those old maps.**

This was the Ideal Cinema House which stood between Kender Street and Pomeroy Street.

It had opened in 1914 as the Queens’ Cinema House, changed its name a year later to the Queens’s Road Cinema and in 1916 was renamed again the Ideal Kinema and when it was bought by Naborhood Theatres Ltd around 1935 becoming the  Narborhood Cinema.

And there in its 790 seat theatre audiences could have thrilled to Tom Mix, Charlie Chaplin and enthralled at the first talkies.

Alas it’s time as the Narborhood were numbered.  It was destroyed by German bombs in 1940 and the remains demolished the following year which I suspect was why I knew nothing of its existence.

All of which just points to that simple observation that if you want to revisit your childhood, best do it with some maps, and the odd history book.

Of course there may be someone who has a picture of the old cinema and even of the cocoa plant, and may be even the Eno’s Fruit Salt Works on Pomeroy Street whose wall also backed on to the gaden of nu 14 Kender Street.

Now that would be something.

Picture; Kender Street !872, from the OS for London 1872, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, 

* Southwark Historical mapping

**Naborhood Cinema, 277-281 Queen's Road, Cinema Treasures,

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Everyone Remembered .........commemorating those who fought in the Great War

Each of the forthcoming memorial services for the men and women who participated in the Great War will be a special event.

But for me attending the event in Cheadle on November 13 2018 will be particularly poignant.

Over the last two years I have worked closely with the Trust on a new book to mark their 150th anniversary, and in the course of that project I came to know something of the young men associated with the charity who went off to fight.

A plaque has been commissioned, in memory of those who died and will take pride of place in the Cheadle grounds.

Alongside this Together Trust have also been awarded five silhouettes, funded by the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust for display.

Young people from our Ashcroft service have been working hard to learn more about the charity during World War One and have been involved in art work, music and poetry. A

ll will be displayed on Tuesday 13th November and we hope the local community will join us to remember those who fought.*

You can read the full story of the preparations for the day by following the link to their blog.*

Location Cheadle

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust

*Remembering those who fought in WW1,

“Regent Cinema, Eccles 1920-1962, opened with Fatty Arbuckle, closed with Ingrid Bergmann”

“Regent Cinema, Eccles 1920-1962, opened with Fatty Arbuckle, closed with Ingrid Bergmann”

Now in terms of cinema history that pretty much sums up how many of our picture houses went.

They opened in their hundreds across the country as this new form of entertainment caught the public attention and started going dark as televisions proved an even greater draw.

And so Andy’s comment which accompanied the photograph pretty much says it all.

The lucky ones became Bingo Halls and some even made their way back to showing films, others became supermarkets, and even undertakers while the unlucky ones remained closed and eventually were demolished.

The Regent fared a little better and so while its bingo days lasted for just a few short years it became a wine bar in 1983, reopened as the Silver Screen night club and in turn was saved by J.D. Wetherspoon becoming the Eccles Cross.”*

Nor is that quite all because in looking for information on the old cinema I became a cross a wonderful short video on Eccles in 1949 which as you would expect included our picture house.

Picture; the “Eccles Cross” from the collection of Andy Robertson, August 2014

*Regent Cinema, from Cinema Treasure,

**Salford Online “Rare and unseen film footage of Eccles in 1949,

Mr Greig's superior grocers shop in Eltham High Street

A short series looking at the story behind the picture.

I don’t suppose many people ever look up at the top 132/136 which is a pity given what is there and the history behind it.

The building was “erected for the grocers David Greig in 1905 – the initials are in terracotta in the gables.  Note the fine brickwork, the two balconies, and lots of quirky detail.”*

And not to be out done the building next door at 130 dates back to the mid 19th century

*Spurgeoon, Darrell, Discover Eltham, 2000

Picture; from the collection of Jean Gammons

Up the Junction with those brooding Owen Street Towers

Now yesterday Andy took himself off to photograph the Grand Junction which has always caught my interest but a pub I never visited.

Those two towers
There was no reason for my failure to call in other than that I lived in Chorlton and never quite got round to breaking my journey and getting off the bus that was taking me to town.

Recently I decided I should give the place a go only to find it had closed.

But more on the Junction later, for now it’s those two tower blocks on Owen Street that have got into the story.

After all you can’t miss them, and even more than the Beetham Tower they seem to be the buildings you can see from so many different parts of south Manchester.

All of which is how they got here, but now that is dealt with, on to the Grand Junction which my copy of The Old Pubs of Hulme Manchester, informs me was first licensed in 1846, although it was intended as a pub the year before.*

In 1969 it lost its third floor and is now closed.

Location; Hulme

Pictures; the Grand Junction 2015 and 2018, and those towers, 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson

* Potts Bob, The Old Pubs of Hulme Manchester, 1983

Manchester Retold ......A City’s Journey Through History ...... Part 2 ..... Grim Tales

Now I am looking forward to Manchester Retold ......A City’s Journey Through History, which is a special evening of readings and book signings with local authors, hosted by the History Press at Central Ref.*

As the title implies this will be an opportunity to sink deep into our collective history with Graham Phythian, Joanne Williams, Michala Hulme, Sheila Brady, Michael Billington, and me.

The subjects covered by the six historians include Manchester during two world wars, the darker side of the city’s past, the history of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme, and the contribution of the residents of Chapel Street in Altrincham to  the Great War.

And as I promised earlier I have decided to feature each of the six in turn, and so in no particular order, the second is Michala Hume, whose book, “A Grim Almanac of Manchester collects together 365 of the darkest tales from Manchester’s history – terrifying true tales of riot, assault, murder and crime, of slums, disease, death and disaster.

It is filled with amazing historical horrors ranging from the bizarre – such as the night a poisoned cake caused a sickness to sweep through Ancoats – to the horrific, like the tragic time twenty-three people were crushed to death attempting to escape a fire in the overcrowded Victoria Music Hall.

Some of these incidents were resolved, but many remain mysteries to this day**.

At which point I could write about Ms Hulme, but instead, you can talk to her yourself on the night.

The event will take place in the Performance Space of Central Ref, and is free ...... but with only 108 places you are advised to follow the link and book soon.**

* Manchester Retold,

**A Grim Almanac of Manchester, Michala Hume, 2015, £12.99 & Manchester Bloody British History, Michala Hume, 2016, £9.99

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

The 10/- insurance........ and other stories

I suppose it must have been my dad who got me to carry a 10/- note in my wallet whenever ever I went out.

Three telephone kiosks, Kanresbrough, 2013
It was an insurance against having spent up and was the emergency reserve.

I pretty much carried it from when I was 16 through to when I left Well Hall for Manchester three years later.

By which time I had abandoned smart jackets, Ben Sherman shirts and neat ties for the uniform of a student, and wallets didn’t quite fit the image.

But now I have reverted to the habit and carry a fiver, which I know is daft, because in this almost cashless world we inhabit, my piece of plastic will pay for a bus ride, a cup of coffee and much more.

My favourite Nokia, 2014
And that got me thinking of the passage of time and the things we, and our parents and grandparents never went out of the house without.

For some, depending on wealth and status it would have been the pocket watch, which might have been engraved and would have been suspended from a heavy silver or gold chain.

While during the war years there would have been the necessity of always having your identity card, and in the early stages of the last world war the all important gas mask.

Both dad and grand dad always wore hats, which in the case of granddad was a flat cap and for dad it varied between a beret and a homburg.

And for mother and Nana it was the head scarf, which might be swapped for a hat on special occasions and was always accompanied by one of those string bags, which had to be carried “just in case I see something I want.”

Today the move away from plastic shopping bags has brought a return to the “bag just in case” but the watch I think may be on its way out.

Pocket watch, 2016
After all, who needs to a watch when most of us carry a mobile?

And that mobile phone offers up a shedload of things which made much of what we carried or needed to do totally redundant.

Like looking for the right change for the telephone box, buying an early edition of the Evening News, and the most basic of all, not having to prearrange a meeting place after a day shopping separately in town.

Now I grant you that in the great sweep of history stories this is nothing more than a triviality, but it is the small bits of the past which are often so much more fun to read about.

And yes I do think Wagon Wheels are smaller today, Jubilees were a con, and sherbet and liquorice sticks are as disgusting now as they were when I was ten.

Abandoned and forgotten, 2015
But I still savour sherbet lemons, miss the white dot as the telly was turned, have no idea what to do with our growing collection of ancient mobiles, and wonder what happened to my ten bob note.

Location; sometime before now

Pictures; three telephone kiosks, Knaresborough, 2013, my Nokia 3310, 2014, a selection of our old phones, 2015, and the watch of Earl C Duffin, courtesy of David Harrop

In celebration of the new Salford ......... nu 6 waiting for a tram

A short series mostly around the Quays looking at  Salford

Location; Salford

Picture; Salford, 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Bowling along on the Berlin Tram

Now I will apologise at the outset for the title and move on, to the interesting stuff.

The Berlin network is one of the oldest, having been established in 1865 and is the third largest tram system in the world beaten only by Melbourne and St Petersburg.

It runs 22 lines covering 430 kilometres and boasts 800 stops.

All of which made it a perfect subject for Peter to paint.

Now there are plenty more fascinating facts but I shall leave them for another day.

That said there will be plenty out there who will have lots to say including Peter who has done the Berlin tram routes and is therefore a better authority than me.

Location; Berlin

Painting; the Berlin tram © Peter Topping, 2008


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Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The Priory ........ a campaign to save a row of trees .......... and that new book

Now here is a story with a contemporary ring.

St Peter's Priory 1895, from 7 Maple Avenue
In the April of 1897 more than a few residents of Chorlton were moved to write to the Manchester Guardian in defence of a row of trees which were in danger of being demolished.

One correspondent described the plan to cut them down as an “act of vandalism” while another argued that the loss of “the plantation of well grown trees which now graces the garden adjoining St Peter’s Priory” highlighted a trend where “Chorlton is growing so rapidly that green acres are disappearing almost under the pressure of bricks and mortar, and it seems more than a pity, nay almost a crime, to cut down a single tree unless absolutely imperative.”*

Oakley, 1894
The trees in question ran parallel to Barlow Moor Road in the garden of St Peter’s Priory, which had once been known as Oakley, and even earlier as Oak Bank, and had been built in the early 19th century as the home of William Morton, and later the Cope family.

Oak Bank was a substantial building standing in its own grounds, close to the modern junction of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham roads.

Nothing now exists of the house but the path leading to it is now Needham Avenue. The house was situated in a garden which covered the area running on either side of Needham Avenue as far as Barlow More Lane in one direction and Corkland Road in the other.

The Oakley gatepost, 2016
The estate also included a large meadow field and small wood stretching back from Needham along Barlow Moor Lane to Lane End.

William Morton had been there since 1821, but on his death his will stipulated that the house and land had to be sold within five years.

When this happened is not known, but in 1845 a Miss Crofton was there paying rent to the Executors of Mr Morton.

By 1847 the house and land were in the possession of Frederick Cope who rented both to John.  This was a short term arrangement and by 1850 the Cope family were living at Oak Bank.

William Morton had described himself as a member of the gentry.   Frederick Cope was a wine merchant.

Oakley gardens after development, 1907
And in 1892 the house became the Priory of St Peter, the “object of which was the conversion of England by means of outdoor lectures and sermons to non Catholics”.**

But its existence was short lived and four years later, “it was found impossible to carry out the terms of the contract with the vendor of the property, and the estate was sold".

This was only a temporary hiccup and a year later “the land and buildings known as Chorlton High School on High Lane were purchased”.**

All of which brings me back to those trees, because as ever, there was a developer waiting in the wings, and in the space of a few years, the Priory was demolished, the trees cut down and the garden was built over.

The stretch along Barlow Moor Road became Pemberton Arcade, with Needham and Priory Avenues behind, and Maple Avenue to the south.

Pemberton Arcade, Barlow Moor Road, 1982
The story of the “battle of the trees” is now well in the past, but as we know the issues of redevelopment and the loss of green bits is topical, as is the conflict between public and commercial use, which was also echoed back in 1897 by another “tree letter”.

Writing on the same day, J.G.J, argued that the Oakley site should be given over to a public school and free library “which are required badly”.

It never happened and Chorlton had to wait another decade to get the school and a temporary library.

But those are for other stories, leaving me just to point out that the full story of St Peter’s Priory along with the opening of the Catholic Church on High Lane appear in our new book on the places of worship in Chorlton, which is an outrageous plug I know, but one I will pursue.

I have finished writing it, Peter is in the process of adding the photos and paintings, and laying it out, and soon the finished book will be winging its way to the publisher, ready for self publishing, by Christmas.

You can obtain your copy  from us at or Chorlton Book shop, 506 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9AW 0161 881 6374

Pictures; St Peter’s Priory, circa 1895, from the collection of Ray Jones, the gate post of Oakley from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and the Oakley from the OS map of South Lancashire 1893, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, and the OS for Manchester & Salford, 1907

*Correspondence to the Manchester Guardian, April 7, 1897

** Monsignor Joseph Kelly, St John’s Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Commemoration New Church Year Book, 1928

In Flanders Fields in Central Ref ......... remembering James Pearson Biddle and an announcement

Now the exhibition by David Harrop, commemorating the contribution of the people of Manchester and Salford, during the Great War has been running at Central Ref for just over a month and a bit.

I asked David to select each week one cabinet which could be featured on the blog.

This is Cabinet 3 and David tells me it “includes the posthumous medal of James Pearson Biddle of Didsbury, who is commemorated on the war memorial outside Didsbury Library".

But the fascination of the exhibition is the scope of material to see, and so in the same cabinet there are pieces of crested porcelain, a newspaper report, and part of a scrap book, compiled by Master Harold James Bain.

And in recognition of the significance of the exhibition which commemorates the contribution made by the people of Manchester, Salford and surrounding area, the Lord Mayor of Manchester will be visiting in Flanders Fields, on Wednesday.

The exhibition is on the first floor of Central Ref and runs until the end of November.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Cabinet 3, of the In Flanders Fields exhibition, courtesy of David Harrop

Monday, 22 October 2018

At the vicar's jubilee in Eltham with Peter Wakeman in the field by the vicarage in the September of 1833

“in many of the homes of Eltham ..... so impressive were the demonstrations that took place [to commemorate his fifty years in office in 1833] that the children and grandchildren of those who witnessed them find to this day, a congenial theme for conversational purposes.”*

I still find it quite amazing that an event that took place in the September of 1833 could still be remembered so vividly over seventy years after it happened.

Of course it may well be that this has been exaggerated in the retelling, but I have no doubt that R.R.C Gregory who commented on the impact of the celebrations to mark the jubilee of the Reverend John Kenward Shaw Brooke’s tenure as vicar were accurate.

Mr Gregory was an excellent historian whose meticulous account of the history of Eltham is well researched and not apt to linger on the might have been.

John Kenward Shaw Brooke was vicar of St John’s in Eltham from the age of 24 in 1783 till his death in 1840.

Now that was indeed some record and that combined with his reputation resulted in John Fry’s newly built row of cottages taking on the name of Jubilee Cottages, a name they retained till their demolition in 1957.

And so to the celebrations which was held on the field by the vicarage behind the High Street.  Much of what we know of the event comes from a hand bill and a ticket of invitation which had sat behind a framed engraving of the vicar for seventy-five years.

One side was printed “1833. Eltham Jubilee, in commemoration of the 50th year the Rev. J.K. Shaw Brooke has resided within the parish as Vicar, universally beloved and respected” and invited “Peter Wakemean ... to partake on Thursday , the 5th day of September, of a dinner provided by public subscription in token of the respect and regard entertained the Vicar of the Parish Of Eltham, 1833
N.B. You are quested to wear this card with the other side in front, in a conspicuous manner, to attend on the day in the Court Yard and to bring with you a knife and fork.”

And that was what Peter Wakeman did for according to Mr Gregory “around the card are the needle marks to shew that it had been carefully sewn upon some conspicuous part of his attire.”

Along with the meal there was to be a host of activities including Gingling Matches, Scrambling for Penny Pieces, Eating Rolls and Treacle, with Dipping for Marbles, Dipping for Oranges, Climbing the Pole and Jumping in Sacks as well as  Hurdle Stakes and Flogging the Ball out of the Hole.

All of which was pretty straight forward apart from Gingling Matches which I discovered was  “an old English game in which blindfolded players try to catch one player not blindfolded who keeps jingling a bell”

And then as now the day was finished off with “A grand display of Fireworks.”

I suppose it might seem very tame but this was rural England at play, and these were the ways we would have entertained ourselves in the early 19th century.

Nor is this all, for the observant of you will have picked up on the fact that Peter had to provide his own knife and fork and that the meal had been provided by a subscription.

But in other ways our event looks forward for each guest had to bring proof of identity and wear it as both a way in to the event and as a means of securing their continued presence.

Our card may not be a smart device but it was nevertheless the way you proved who you were on the that September day.

I rather think I will now go off and search for Mr Wakeman for here I feel is yet another story.

Pictures;  from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

*The Story of Royal Eltham, R.R.RC. Gregory 1909

Pictures from a past ....... no. 1 the Greek island

It is a sobering thought that the young boy who happened to being walking down the flight of stairs in 1981 will now be well into middle age.

It was my first time in Greece; and everything was bright, fresh and different with everyday a promise of a new experience.

Never underestimate the impact of a foreign country on a lad from south east London, the extent of whose horizons were bounded by Manchester in the north and Brighton in the south.*

It began when the door to the plane opened at the airport and you were hit by that wall of heat, intense sunlight and unfamiliar sounds, carried on with the ferry hoping journey from the Piraeus across the Aegean and ended on a tiny island burnt brown by the summer sun.

I can’t now remember where I was when I took the picture, and for over thirty-five years this image along with countless others sat half forgotten in our cellar.

Location; Poros

Pictures; on the stairs, Poros, 1981 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*This precludes a long weekend in Paris the year before, or the cruise holiday to Istanbul, Athens and Naples in 1969 paid for the parents of my by then girlfriend.  Neither count as they spoil the story.

So ........ what is stirring down at Dock 4 in Pomona?

Now I never knew the old Pomona, but like so many areas left empty by the retreat of traditional industries, the land that was once Dock 4 is about to get a new lease of life.

Not that we should be surprised, for across the twin cities any brown site is being earmarked for development.

And with each of them, young Andy Robertson is on hand to record the changing landscape.

In the course of the last few years, he has patiently photographed the two Owen Street towers, wandered across Salford recording the demise of old buildings and everywhere taking pictures of cranes, building sites and near completed blocks of apartments and offices.

This week he was back on one of his favourite places which is the area around Pomona.  The pictures speak for themselves.

And as ever they raise questions about the flurry of new developments which some people complain about, bewailing the demise of old Pomona, old Salford and old Hulme.

To a degree they have a point, but the question that hangs in the air, is what should happen to brown sites?

The obvious answer is social housing and lots of it, but behind that solution is the assumption that any old bit of land is OK for social housing however industrialized the sites had been.

But money and nature abhor a vacuum and so we have private developments in abundance.

And before we all shudder at that, it is well to remember that rightly or wrongly much of the “old places” were built in the 19th century by property speculators, businessmen and industrialists with an eye on profit above anything else.

So while some of our great warehouses and factories were built with beautiful and intriguing features, the rows of terraced housing that went up beside them, were basic, and in the early 19th century pretty low on quality.

Well rant over, apologies to Andy for hijacking his pictures and I await the next stage.

Location; Pomona

Pictures; Pomona, 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson

From a window ........ Castlefield on a Sunday

Now I am just going to let the picture say it all.

This was the view from a window in Castlefield yesterday.

Location; Castlefield

Picture; Looking out over Castlefield, October, 2018, from the collection of Cathy Robertson

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Of things to come ....... the tram that takes you to Trafford Centre

Now I am a great fan of the tram, and will be one of the first to travel on any new route.

I was there for the opening of the last bit of the line from St Werburgh's to East Didsbury, took the long trip up to Rochdale, and happily watch out of the window as the tram passes through east Manchester.

 My preferred route through town remains the Second City Crossing, although I do also love the journey from Cornbrook via Deansgate Castlefield in to St Peter's Square.

All of which means I want to be one of those trams that takes the spur to Trafford Centre.

Andy Robertson was down by the construction of the line where it is about to join Pomona tram stop, and took a series of pictures.

I will of course now lay down the challenge for him to follow the route and record more of the construction which should be ready in 2020.

So Andy, plenty of time to take plenty of photographs.

Location; Pomona

Pictures; the new Trafford Centre spur under construction; 2018 from the collection of Andy Robertson