Friday, 30 November 2018

The picture that missed the bus ....... sometime in the Great War

Now I say missed the bus, but to be more accurate it was the book.

Just weeks after we finished Churches, Chapels, Temples A Synagogue and a Mosque,* Chris Griffiths showed me this photograph of a group of soldiers outside the McLaren Baptist Memorial Church on Edge Lane.

I don’t have a date, but as the church hall was used as a Red Cross Hospital from 1914 until the end of the Great War, it could be any time during those four years.

There may be a clue that I am missing, but for now that is it.

The Sunday school hall was converted into “a ward of 31 beds, kitchens, mess room, bath room, dispensary, pack stores, linen rooms, matrons’ room and office all of which were on the ground floor”.** 

The original plan had been for 25 beds but in May 1915 an extra six beds were added.

During the first two years the hospital catered for a range of wounds from shrapnel to gunshots along with infectious diseases and the effect of gas and the troops came mainly from the Western Front and the Dardnelles.

And thenywill have come from different regiments and different parts of the country, as the soldier in the kilt testifies.

Now because our book is about places of worship in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, the  McLaren Baptist Memorial Church made it into the book even though it was demolished in the 1970s.

We devote quite a bit of space to its role as a Red Cross Hospital, along with the hall of the Methodist church, it is just a shame our picture never made it in to the book.

That said, you can come and discuss the picture and the book at the book launch on December 3rd at Chorlton Library.

We will be there from 7.30 with some festive food and drink, some of the people who helped us and of course a heap of stories.

You can obtain your copy  from us at http://www.pubbooks.co.uk/ or Chorlton Book shop, 506 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9AW 0161 881 6374

Location; Chorlton & Didsbury

Picture; The McLaren Baptist Memorial Church, date unknown from the collection of Chris Griffiths

*A new book on the places of worship in Chorlton-cum Hardy, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20the%20places%20of%20worship%20in%20Chorlton-cum-Hardy 









Gone in Gatley ……. The Tatton Kinema which became the Major and Minor and then the Apollo

I never went to the cinema in Gatley.

I wasn’t born when it opened its doors as the Tatton Kinema, on October 14, 1937, with Dorothy Lamour in “Jungle Princess”.

It had seating for 900 in the stalls and 300 in the circle, and included an 18 foot stage, six dressing rooms, and a restaurant.

I could just have visited in 1971, when the restaurant was converted to a 111-seat cinema known as Tatton Minor, opening on February 4th of that year 1971.

“The original cinema became Tatton Major which closed four years later, when it was twined with the larger stalls area becoming the 647 seat Tatton Major, the former circle the 247 seat Tatton Minor, and the restaurant cinema the Tatton Mini.

It was an extremely successful cinema – one of the most profitable in the North West and was eventually bought by Apollo who renamed it Apollo Cinema 1,2,&3.

A multiplex opened about a mile away and the Apollo Cinema closed around 2000. The cinema has recently been demolished except for its facade, which flats have been constructed behind”.*

And now as Andy’s pictures show it is about to go through another change.
According to the MEN, "the Housing association Stockport Homes has bought the site. 

Planning permission for the Gatley Road site was granted in 2017 - two years after the application was actually submitted. The iconic cinema facade will be kept.

Stockport Homes, which manages the town hall’s housing stock, bought the building last month from previous owner Dickens Property Group”.

The new development is for 7 apartments for shared ownership and 26 apartments for rent for the over 55 age group.

And that is all I have to say.

Location; Gatley

Pictures; The Tatton, 2018, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*cinema treasures, http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/2536

** Tatton Cinema finally to be transformed - after closing its doors in 2001
Work is set to begin next month, Alex Scapens, April 10, 2018, https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/tatton-cinema-finally-transformed-after-14511240

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Wishing you well ........... postcards from Woolwich, Greenwich and Eltham for the summer ..... nu 5 Greenwich Park

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

Now I don’t think this scene of the park had changed over much between when it was sent to Miss L E Thompson of Shepherds Bush and when I played there a full half century and a bit later.

It is unclear whether “C S” lived in Greenwich.  He sent the card from west London just after midday in the August of 1902 and confined himself to the simple message “Isn’t it nice.”

Location; Greenwich Park

Picture; Greenwich Park circa 1902, Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, https://tuckdb.org/

When St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester moved out to Prestbury

I came across David’s story of Collar House in Prestbury and its role in the last world war as an annexe to St Mary’s in Manchester.  He kindly let me reproduce it here.

St Mary's in 1939
Amongst his many activities is the Furness Vale Local History Society and his own blog site, Bricks, both of which are well worth visiting.*

"I was born at St Mary’s Hospital yet my place of birth is recorded as Macclesfield which was where my parents lived at the time.

A little research on the internet has given me some background to the story. 

Faced with the possibility of air raids, the St Mary’s Hospital Board chose to close their City Centre maternity wards. Collar House in Prestbury was owned by the Moseley family who were then living in Wales and in 1939 was rented by the hospital as an annexe. 

This was a large house with extensive grounds. It had its own water and electricity supply as well as a laundry. It was converted to hold 45 beds and had maternity wards and nurseries as well as a theatre, dispensary and accommodation for 30 staff. Nearby Prestbury Hall and Adlington Hall were also to become hospitals. St Mary’s remained at Collar House until 1952 when the maternity wards returned to the City. 

During those 13 years, more than 14000 children were born at the three Prestbury hospitals. Originally a farm, Collar house dates from before 1780 and has been occupied by a number of different families. 


Collar House, date unknown

Collar House, much extended is now occupied by Beaumont Nursing Home.

A book by Mary E. Roberts has been published on the history of Collar House and is available from Waterstones.

The pages of the Manchester Guardian add a little more to the history of this wartime annex of St Mary’s Hospital. The Guardian of 9th December 1939 reported that Collar House had received its first maternity cases that Monday. It was described as a pleasant Cheshire mansion.  

The board of St Mary’s had decided to evacuate cases from a 'dangerous' to a 'safe' location after some deliberation. “Suitable cases” were to be transferred to Prestbury by ambulance leaving more complex cases for treatment at Whitworth Park Hospital.

At the outbreak of war the board appointed Miss D. H. Stuart to Matron-in-Charge. Fifty staff with were initially transferred to Blackpool together with medical equipment. It was soon realised that expectant mothers were unhappy to leave their neighbourhood and the scheme was phased out.


In January 1945, The Guardian reported that the Prestbury Hall Maternity Home had been due to close in a short time. 

The Manchester Public Health Committee, faced with an acute demand for maternity beds had decided that St Mary’s Hospitals should continue running this home for a short time in conjunction with Collar House. 

In March 1946, The Guardian reported that the Public Health Committee had recommended the purchase of Collar House for the sum of £9750. The cost of running the home was £12732 and annual income from patients £4500 leaving a deficit of £8232. The hospital had a capacity for 800 patients a year.

In December 1952 the Ministry of Health had decided to return Collar House to its owner. This would result in a loss of 40 beds. St Mary’s had 82 beds at Whitworth Street and this reduction would threaten its position as a teaching hospital.

In June 1957, a bus crashed in London’s Oxford Street, killing 7 and injuring a further 12. Among the fatalities was Miss Forbes-Graham, matron of Collar House Hospital who was on a week’s leave.  She had worked at St. Mary’s since 1929 and was involved in the evacuation of children from Manchester in 1939.  

She became Sister-in-Charge of Collar House Hospital and continued as Matron when the hospital transferred to the Macclesfield Hospital Group in 1952.


Perhaps that 1946 purchase did not proceed for the 1952 article suggests that it was still being rented, although Collar House remained as a hospital into the 1970’s as part of the Macclesfield Hospital.

I have not seen any reference to any annex of St Mary’s in North Manchester other than the Blackpool episode.  Collar House was used as a convalescent home in the 60’s. I have not as yet found any reference to any other use that Macclesfield Hospital found for the building.

There are several references to Collar House on the internet. One website states categorically that this had been the home of Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists. 

Not very well researched for the Moseley family of Prestbury did not even spell their name in the same way as Sir Oswald."

© David Eastman November 2013

Pictures; St Mary’s Hospital A P Morris, 1939, m53220, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council and Collar Hospital from the collection of David Eastman

*Furness Vale Local History Society, http://furnesshistory.blogspot.co.uk/ & Bricks, http://brickcourse.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The not so different bits of where we live, part 5 ............. Woolwich

Now I am always intrigued at those more recent photographs of where we live.

So while pictures from the late 19th and early 20th centuries are fascinating often everything is so different that it is almost looking at a different landscape.

But those from say the 1960s onwards are often almost the same but not quite, and with this in mind here over the next few days are some from the camera of Jean Gammons all taken in the late 1970s.

And that is all I shall say,

Picture; Woolwich, 1977 from the collection of Jean Gammons

Barlow Moor Road on a sunny morning sometime in the 1930s

We are on Barlow Moor Road sometime in the 1930s on what looks to be a sunny morning.

Of course there is no way of knowing whether it is during the week or the weekend but the awning on the shop by the corner of High Lane is down so I think the shop must be open for business.

The tram is the 46 which was the circular route from town through Chorlton and on to West Didsbury and then back into Manchester.
Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Monday, 26 November 2018

The unique exhibition on Manchester and the Great War finishes this week

The exhibition commemorating Manchester and the Great War at Central Ref comes to an end this week.

It has lasted since September and has been an unqualified success, and occasioning a visit from the Lord Mayor.

To single any one comment out from the words of praise would be unfair, so I shall just urge you to come along and view it.

The entire exhibition is drawn from the collection of David Harrop and is a mix of official documents, letters, pictures and medals, along with personal items some of which were sent back from the battle fronts.

David also maintains a permanent exhibition at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

In Flanders Field is at Central Ref in Manchester for the rest of this week.

Location; Central Ref, Manchester






Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop

Out on Manchester Road at No. 105 ..... from tobacco, stationary and gift tags to CBD

Now Manchester Road is old.

Manchester Road, 1894
It will have been one of the routes our people used when they were leaving the village and traveling the three and bit miles into Manchester.

Later of course there would be the attractions of the Duke’s Canal, and later still the railway from Stretford, but none of these would have pushed out Manchester Road.

And for most of time, travellers would have encountered little to see as they left the village green, made their way across High Lane and out of the township at Martledge, passing the old Royal Oak and Redgate Farm before plunging off across open land to Seymour Grove.

As late as the 1890s that was how it was, with Redgate Farm as the last lonely outpost on the edge of Chorlton.

But developers abhor open spaces, and so within a decade, stretching out from the newly cut Longford Road, there were rows of shops and houses snaking up towards Clarence, Kensington and Cheltenham roads.

By 1909 the space between these three roads had been filled by a brand new set of shops, selling everything from cycles, and shoes to vegetables, fish, sweets and draperies.

Pads, 2016
And in the middle of the parade was Mr James H. Heys, stationer, and tobacconist, and in one of those odd bits of continuity number 105 Manchester Road remained a purveyor of all things tobacco and note paper into the late 1960s and beyond.

Back in the 90s to the beginning of this century I rarely wandered down this bit of Manchester Road, and so missed the slow transformation of the shops and particularly the change from traditional retailers to bars, and restaurants.

I also failed to clock that 105 had become Pads, which sold gifts and stationary, and its more recent rebirth as CBD Coffee Lounge.

CBD Coffee lounge, 2018
But Peter Topping had noticed the changes, and decided to follow it up with a painting of the newly opened coffee shop.

He told me “Until a few days ago I hadn't realised that Pad, (across the road from Unicorn), had closed down. 

So as is my wont, and in a quest to paint whatever shop had taken over the premises, Mrs T and I sidled down to take a look. 

Well, who would have guessed that Chorlton now has its very own CBD cafe? 

Oil, capsules, Gummy Bears and you can even get a tea, coffee and a cake. After a large pot and a sublime chocolate cake, I had made my mind up that this had to go into my 'Moment in Time Paintings Series'"

And for those uncertain about CBD, of which I am one, I shall just suggest you either look it up, or pop in to the cafe.

Location; Chorlton

Painting;  Painting, CBD Coffee Lounge © 2018 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.

Photograph; Pads 2016 © Peter Topping

Map; Manchester Road in 1894, from the OS of South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

Saturday, 24 November 2018

William Barefoot and a day in the archives of the Peoples’ History Museum in Manchester

William Brefoot, date unknown
Now I have to confess that for me William Barefoot was just a name on a plaque in the Pleasaunce, and if pushed I could also point to William Barefoot Drive and a small park in Plumstead.

All of which is  particularly embarrassing given that we were both members of the Woolwich Labour Party and Mr Barefoot had along connection to Eltham as a councillor and to the history of Woolwich.

And it was while I was in the archives of the Peoples’ History Museum that I decided to take a break from researching the Great War and instead begin to learn more about this remarkable man.*

I knew that he had been born in 1872 that his father was a sadler and that the family had lived on Frances Street not far from the Dockyard and I vaguely also knew that he had been a councillor for Eltham for 33 years and was the Mayor of Woolwich not once but three times, all of which is an impressive record of municipal service.

But there was much more.

A Hall, Will Crooks 7 W Barefoot, 1910
“Will Barefoot fought West Woolwich several times without success, but it was as Agent for the Borough Party that he lived and died. 

From the days of his apprenticeship in the Royal Arsenal he was identified with the Trade Union, Socialist, Co-operative and Municipal life of the Borough.  

Woolwich Labour Representation Committee was one of the first to enlist ‘individual members’ and made national history in 1902 when Will Crooks was first returned to Westminster.  

Success followed in every direction and came primarily as a result of Will Barefoot‘s genius for organization.  
He was supported in all efforts by his wife and it was a poignant circumstance that Mrs Barefoot died within a few weeks of her husband’s passing.”**

He worked alongside Will Crooks the first Labour MP for Woolwich and would have been an active participant in many of the great events of the early 20th century from the election of Mr Crooks to the General Strike of 1926.

And during the Great War he was active on the London Food Vigilance Committee.

Food Vigilance Committees had sprung up across the country as a means of drawing attention to the sharp rise in the cost of living and set forth a clear set of policies, demanding greater control by both the Government and local authorities of food and fuel along with the participation of the Labour movement.

Inside the archives, 
So for me Mr Barefoot has come out of the shadows, and I rather think I will be spending more time in the Archives & Study Centre calling up material on his life and contribution.

“The Labour History Archive & Study Centre (LHASC) is the main specialist repository for research into the political wing of the labour movement.  

It holds the archives of working class organisations from the Chartists to New Labour, including the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain.  


From Salford, 2013
The collections provide an insight into the social, political and economic life of the last two centuries.

As well as the archives of political parties and leftwing pressure groups, LHASC collects the personal papers of radical politicians, writers and activists.  

The archives complement the objects, photographs and banners found in the museum collections and researchers may well find material of interest in both.*

William Barefoot Memorial, 2013
All of which may seem a long way from Woolwich, but I think not.

Sitting there yesterday reading the same material he would have handled I was reminded that we shared quite a lot.

Pictures; photographs of William Barefoot, Will Crooks and A Hall along with the interior of the study centre and view of the Museum from Salford, courtesy of Archives & Study Centre, at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, http://www.phm.org.uk/ and  William Barefoot Memorial in Well Hall Pleasunce, from the collection of Chrisse Rose, 2013

* Archives & Study Centre, at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, http://www.phm.org.uk/

** Report of the Annual Conference held the Central Hall Westminster May 25 to 28th, 1942


The silly bits of Chorlton’s history

Now I never turn down an invitation to talk about our past.

The story, 1904
And yesterday was one such invitation, which was part of Chorlton Book Festival which closes today with Superhero You!

In all there were 15 events ranging from the literary to the historic, with plenty of practical activities and of course the Manchester Poets and the ever popular Pub Quiz at the Beech Inn.

And having started the Festival with a walk around Chorlton’s past we were back at the end with a mix of silly objects, more than a few stories of how we used to live and because it was the Book Festival there was a session on 
“When Art met History and became a book”.

The Earth Rod
It was a change to the advertised event and pretty much took up the afternoon with a break for tea, coffee, cake and biscuits.

In the two hours we explored the joys of darning socks, remembering old 78 rpm’s, while extolling the merits of the iconic Nokia 3310, and puzzled over a 45 cm brass bar which in the 1920s was used as an earth rod to aid the reception of an old wireless.

And finishing off with a genuine Viking oyster shell.

Followed by a romp through the Chorlton of 1904 and the story of how art and history combined with modern technology turned my friendship with Peter Topping into six books, which may seem outrageous self promotion ..... which it was.

All of which just leaves me to thank Beverley Smith and her colleagues at the Library, who have made the Book Festival such a success, and to thank Kay Luxon and Peter who recorded the event in pictures and to the 40 or so members of the Grand Day Out group who turned up on a cold dismal November afternoon.

The audience
And for any one wondering about the silly objects, the Viking oyster shell came from the Jorvick excavations in the 1970s. 

The 3310 was my trusty phone for years, a mobile, which you could drop, and it just bounced, had a battery which didn’t run out in half an hour and played snake.

The silly objects
While the earth rod was one of 60 found in my Dad’s shed in south east London which had been made by Frederick Smith at the Anaconda Works in Salford.

Location; Chorlton











Pictures, the event, 2018 courtesy of Peter Topping, & Kay Luxon and from the collection of Andrew Simpson

* Superhero You!..... for all “incredible families to come along to Superhero craft day at Chorlton Library between 11am-4.30”, part of Chorlton Book Festival, www.chorltonbookfestival.co.uk


Friday, 23 November 2018

Tracking the history of Beaumont Road

Now if you want to dig deep into the history of a place deeds are a pretty neat start.

Of course there are a few draw backs.

First you have to own the house and secondly are prepared to be baffled by the language which can be both dense and at times incomprehensible but that said they are a history lesson all on their own.

Reading our own is to get the story of the house from when it was built to all the owners who have ever owned it with the added bonus of discovering who owned the land before it became a building plot.

And if you are very lucky you will also get a heap of legal details about some of the owners.

So in pursuit of the Holt family who owned Beech House at the top of Beech Road I came across the family’s property profile around Castlefield from the 18th century through to the 1900s.

And now I know a little bit more about Beaumont Road.

It was after a casual conversation with Andy who lives there that he kindly offered up his deeds and there was the date 1924, which was a tad earlier than I had thought and helps with the story of how this bit of Chorlton was developed.

In 1915 when Joe and Mary Ann Scott moved into their new home on Beech Road they had a pretty much uninterrupted view from their back bedroom down to the Ville, the Brook and the Mersey beyond.

Now Joe had built many of the houses in the small roads off Beech Road.

These were two up two downs and offered for rent in the years before the Great War, and by the early 1920s he had moved into the bigger properties which were advertised with garages as an option and fully supplied with electricity.

And some at least on Beaumont were built by Joe and 1924 seems about right.

In time I will go looking in the directories to fix the names of the early residents and plot how quickly the first occupants stayed before moving on.

Nor did the changes stop in the 1920s.  In the last decade Joe's lock up workshop at the back of his house was demolished and replaced by the tall brick slab.

Andy added "I know there are different dates for the houses built on the opposite side, these were built in three phases from the other end to your end back. You can tell by the different style and size of the three types,"

All of which is good history and advances the story of this bit of Chorlton.and that just leaves me to thank Andy and see what more deeds come out of the shadows.

Additional research by Andy Lever

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; Beaumont Road, 1975, A Dawson, m17644, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass and in 1975 from the collection of Lois Elsden

Today ......... the bits of our past we forget ....... in Chorlton Library at 2pm

Now, the easy bit is to name each of the four objects opposite.

Less easy, may be dating each and suggesting what they were.

Those, born in the first half of the last century, will get some, but perhaps not all.

And that is part of the challenge if you come along to Chorlton Library this afternoon at 2 pm, and participate in the Great Chorlton History Experience ...... less a talk and more away of remembering what you have forgotten.

So along with a snapshot of Chorlton in 1904, there will be a selection of old things to smile at, and a chance to converse with Peter Topping who is the other half of the Simpson and Topping team who have produced six books on as diverse topics as, Hough End Hall, historic pubs, Churches, Chapels, Temples and a synagogue and mosque and the aptly named Quirks of Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

And to show we have wider horizons, there is also a detailed study of the historic drinking places in city centre Manchester and tour of Didsbury past and present.

What these six books have in common along with the other two I have written is that they all  “tell the stories behind the doors”.

So whether you come to demonstrate your knowledge of the recent past, learn about Martledge and a few dark deeds from the 19th and early 20th centuries or are just curious about the title “When art met history and made a book” all will be revealed at 2 pm in Chorlton Library.

The event is part of Chorlton Book Festival, is free, and is accompanied by a break for tea, coffee, cake and biscuits.*

This is an alteration to the existing advertised event.

Location; Chorlton Library

Picture; things from our past, 2018, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Chorlton Book Festival, November 16-24, https://www.chorltonbookfestival.co.uk/

Thursday, 22 November 2018

A place called Martledge, a dark deed on Wilbraham Road and a lot more Chorlton history .... tomorrow at Chorlton Library

Now that’s a zippy title.

Due to unforeseen circumstances the history afternoon with the author Steve Dikens has been altered.

Instead I shall be in the meeting room of Chorlton Library talking about the history of where we live.

And because it lasts from 2 till 4pm, I will be throwing in the story of two young Chorlton residents who went off to fight in the Great War and the art and fun of writing local history books.

Added to which at the half time interval there will be tea, coffee, cake and biscuits and if all that is not enough, there will be an opportunity to meet our own local artist Peter Topping who has collaborated with me on books, exhibitions and that 80 meter installation which told the story of Chorlton from the 19th century through to the 21st.

So come along and ask Peter about his paintings  and how he designed and produced the six books we have written.

And I will be happy to share stories, and answer all sorts of questions about Chorlton's dark deeds, its swift growth and the distinction between old and new Chorlton with more than one reference to Kemp's Corner.

The event is part of Chorlton Book Festival and starts at 2pm on Friday November 23rd at Chorlton Library.

Location; Chorlton

Picture, St Clement’s Church, circa 1880, from the collection of Tony Walker & Wilbraham Road circa 1900, from the Lloyd Collection 

*Chorlton Book Festival, November 16-24, https://www.chorltonbookfestival.co.uk/

A Valley Grows Up ..... revisiting an old friend

I never tire of reading children’s history books.

Apart from the fact that most are beautifully illustrated and have a simple crisp text they are clues to how the study of history has changed. Victorian and Edwardian books tend to emphasis the growth of the British empire and well into the 1930’s much of the story is told bottom down through Kings and Queens and the brave, rich and great.

But by the 1950s the depiction of our “island story” has changed and much more emphasis is placed on social history.

Historians like R. J. Unstead produced books with fine illustrations which describe the lives of everyone from the nobility to peasant.

And I suppose my favourite of this new wave of books was A Valley Grows Up by Edward Osmond.*

It was published by the O.U.P and sold for 12s 6d. The magic of the book is that it told the story of an imaginary valley from 5000 BC to 1900.

The Valley around 5,000 BC
This it did through ten colour plates plenty of fine line drawings and a clear simple text. Here was the development of the valley’s landscape from prehistoric to Victorian taking in changes from an uninhabited forest through to tree clearing and early settlements.

All are here, from the Celts and Romans through to the Saxons, Normans and beyond.

His wife Laurie Osmond, produced a companion book, The Thames Flows Down, O.U.P., 1957.

The Valley in 1900
Like A Valley Grows Up, it gives that wonderful sense of historical sequence but carefully does not fall into the trap of describing change which is always progressive, always for the best and which seeks to show how the past is just a prelude to the achievements of today.

All the more a pity because it has long gone out of print.

I did however get a lovelly letter from Laurie Osmond who I had written to in the 1980s.

She thanked me for writing was pleased I still enjoyed both books and and kindly gave me permission to use the colour plates in a slide presentation I did for students which took the magic to a new generation.

I must confess to owning two copies of the Valley and one of the Thames.

Picture; cover of A Valley Grows Up

* A Valley Grows Up http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20Valley%20Grows%20Up

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Unlocking the history of Elesmere Road South


We are off on the northern edges of the township and a little beyond, on that area stretching north from the railway line and east from Wilbraham Road.

It is roughly the area along Egerton Road South towards Withington Road and those roads running off at right angles up to Kings Road and it’s somewhere I have rather neglected but it has much to tell of how this part of south Manchester developed in the early decades of the last century.

During the three decades before the Great War much of Chorlton was developed by small time builders and developers, who cashed in on the good tram and rail links with the city centre and the fact that there was still much open land which made this an attractive place for people who worked in Manchester but wanted to live on the edge of the countryside.

The Egerton and Lloyd estates* released parcels of land on favourable terms which allowed the developer to take possession in return for promising to pay a chief rent in perpetuity rather than a cash purchase.  This freed up capital for the developer to build the properties and the chief rent was then passed onto the new owner of the house.

Both estates were mindful of developing the area as a pleasant suburb of Manchester and did not fall over themselves to over develop the township too quickly and at the same time prohibited industrial development.
So apart from the brick works on Longford Road and the aerodrome the land was used exclusively for housing or left as farm land. “Egerton” according to The Manchester Evening News in 1901 was in “no due haste in painting Chorlton red – with bricks and mortar.  Here and there builders have been encouraged and a vigourouse enterprise has been shown in extending along Wilbraham Road towards Fallowfield, but there are countless eligible plots still tempting the speculators.”

A fact that the Evening News reported upset some developers who “knew that £30 an acre would be refused for a field which maybe earning now as little as 50s from the farmer.”**

But the same paper was confident that the future would involve more development specially given that the Lloyd Estate was pushing ahead with “cheaper semi-detached kind -£25- to £35 a year..... The clerk no less than the merchant must be catered for.”

Which brings me back to the area bounded by Egerton Road South and in particular Ellesmere Road South, which were fully developed in the 1920s.  There were some Edwardian properties here but in the decade after the Great War the existing open spaces were built over with those “cheaper semi-detached kind.”

One of the newly built properties on Ellesemere Road South was bought by Herbert Mitchel Taylor and his wife Elizabeth Taylor from Derbyshire.  They bought the house in the year it was built in 1924.  He was a railway official working in the “Goods Department” a job he still held at his death in 1951.

I rather suspect that the other occupants of these new houses will have been drawn from the same occupations, neatly reflecting the premise of the Evening News.
Now in the absence of the 1921 census we will have to fall back on the street directories and the deeds to the properties some of which I have recently seen.

Deeds are a wonderful source, as they give you the name of the original landowner, when the land was sold, who developed it and the succession of property owners, and if you are lucky other documents as well.

They also allow you to track how the chief rents have passed from one owner to another, often ending in the hands of property companies.  Today the values of these have not kept pace with inflation.  In the case of ours we pay just £2, in two yearly instalments while the chief rent for the Taylor’s house was £28.  The instalments fall on the two traditional points in the year when for centuries farmers and tradesmen settled their rents and other debts.

So deeds help unlock the history of an area and remain a valuable insight into what was going on, which leads me to the plea.  If anyone would like to show me their deeds or the details of them I would love to see them.

Picture; detail from the deeds of the Taylor family, courtesy of M and J Pickering.


*There were also Frederick Reynard, Guy St Maur Palmes and Sir Humphrey Trafford
**Manchester Evening News 1901

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Stories from a Chorlton bedroom

Now, you can tell a lot by someone’s wall paper.

And if that wall paper has remained intact for nearly sixty years, it can be a show case for what we once thought was the height of fashion.

So when I was growing up, designs derived from popular comics were a must.

My choice was Dan Dare Pilot of the Future, from the Eagle, and with an eye to both promoting the comic and making some money, the owners sanctioned the use of other favourite characters, allowing some kids to chose Dan alongside, The Riders of the Range and Luck of the Legion.

Here in Chorlton, a young Ken Foster went for wall paper of railway locomotives, ranging from the workhorses of the branch lines, to the romantic full on express engines.

And there, tucked away at the top of each roll was the blue diesel, which in just a decade would pretty much kill off the Age of Steam.

At which point I shall refrain from trying to name each locomotive, secure in the knowledge that there will be a veritable queue of people who can reel off the names of the four, offering up details of their specification, dates of coming into service and where they first encountered each.

But childhood choices must in time yield to other interests, and Ken was no exception, and so by the mid 1960s trains had given over to Freddie and the Dreamers which were just added to the wall paper.

I suspect there would have been other idols but they may well have fallen off.

What didn’t, was the painting of the archer, much faded but still there just as Ken painted him.

At which point this may seem one of those trivial stories, but not so, because the wall paper, the furniture and all those electronic bits that we bought, seldom got recorded in situ.

So there are plenty of examples of old tellies, monster stereos, and funny looking washing machines, which crop up in adverts, catalogues and in showrooms but not usually as they would be in the home.

After all if you live with the stuff, why would you bother to photograph it?    

And that is our loss, because most of us make compromises, so we might yearn for the stylish Habitat sofa but we often end up with a mix of hand-downs from parents, and bargains from second hand shops, which make for a miss match of cluttered styles.

My parents saw the striking modern furniture of the 1950s but bought instead into Utility pieces, which actually lasted a lifetime, augmenting these with porcelain flying ducks and reproductions of the Chinese Girl which mum always called the Green Lady.

Of course Ken’s bedroom is a rarity because most people redecorate, but not Ken whose room complete with locomotive wall paper is still as it was, when he lived above his dad’s cycle shop, which he still runs today, and can now claim to be the oldest continuous family business trading in Chorlton, leaving me to wonder if one day he will open the bedroom to the public.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Ken Foster’s bedroom wallpaper, circa early 1960s, from the collection of Peter Topping




Charlton House ........ the one I always find by accident

Now I found Charlton House by accident not long after we moved to Well Hall and I had taken myself off on “an adventure.”

And over half a century later I came across this picture of the Hall and a description written in 1847.

Both come from a wonderful book called The Land We Live In.*

And it just so happens it too was an accidental discovery.

I was looking for Vol 1 which has some fine pictures of Manchester in the 1840s by the artist C W Clennell.

That volume remains elusive but instead I did find the third volume which I have to say is equally fascinating.

Amongst the chapters which cover the West Country, the Midlands and Ireland there is a section on “the Baronial Halls of Kent.”

And there was an entry on Charlton.

“At the accession of James 1. the manor was the property of the crown.  


The needy train of courtiers who followed the monarch to the rich south were clamorous for provision, and James was nothing loath to supply the necessities of his loving countrymen. Charlton he assigned, the year after his accession to the Earl of Mar.  

The nobleman sold it in 1606 to one of his countrymen, Sir James Erskine for £2,000.  Sir James, in like manner, parted with his bargain the following year for £4,500 to Sir Adam Newton, another northern knight.”

All of which smacks of the sort of deal that might just happen today for a small one bed apartment in the area.

Location; Charlton

Pictures; Charlton House and frontispiece from The Land We Live In

*The Land We Live In A Pictorial Literary Sketch Book in the British Empire 1847 Vol 3
*Ibid, page 23

Pictures from the event ........ Manchester Retold

Now the event was billed as “Manchester Retold ....... A City’s Journey Through History”, and was hosted by the History Press, who brought together six historians to talk about some of “Manchester's pivotal moments in history”.*

Manchester Retold
Those pivotal moments ranged from, Peterloo, through to the Great War, and the Manchester Blitz.

But that is to short change both the event and the historians who were, Graham Phythian, Joanne Williams, Michala Hulme, Sheila Brady, Andrew Simpson, and Michael Billington.**

Joanna Williams,talked about Abel Heywood.

Known in his day as the man who built the Town Hall, Abel Heywood was a leading Manchester publisher who entertained royalty at his home and twice became Mayor of Manchester".

Joanne Williams & Andrew Simpson
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".

Mike Billington, has written the Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme which was published earlier this year, and is the first substantial book on the area since 1898.

It draws on a variety of sources to tell the story of these three areas.

Graham Phythian explored the controversy around the massacre at St Peter’s Field in the August of 1891 and went on to describe Manchester Blitz, finishing with music from the period.

Shelia Brady
Shelia Brady spoke about Chapel Street, in Altrincham which was “was a row of old Georgian terraced lodging houses in Altrincham, home to some 400 Irish, English, Welsh and Italian lodgers.

From this tight-knit community of just sixty houses, 161 men volunteered for the First World War.

They fought in all the campaigns of the war, with twenty-nine men killed in action and twenty dying from injuries soon after the war; more men were lost in action from Chapel Street than any other street in England.

As a result, King George V called Chapel Street ‘the Bravest Little Street in England’”.

Andrew Simpson in conversation with Bill Leader
And as we were  in Central Ref in the heart of Manchester it seemed only appropriate  feature the book Manchester Remembering 1914-18, which draws on official reports and newspaper accounts as well as letters and photographs and a multitude of other personal items.

Much of this material has never been seen before and some of it is unique in that it allows us to follow families through the whole conflict challenging many of those easy and preconceived views of the war.

Michala Hume talking to a member of Central Ref staff
And many of the items in the book have been supplied from the collection owned by David Harrop, who is displaying some of that collection upstairs on the first floor of the Library.

The exhibition is called in Flander’s Fields and will run till the end of November.

So that just leaves me to thank Zara Davis from the History Press who organized the event and the packed audience, who laughed at the right moments, asked pertinent questions of the authors and bought some of the books which were brought along by Urmston Bookshop.***

Four of the authors
And to add it gave all six of us the opportunity to meet and talk to the audience about our books.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Manchester Retold, November 15th, 2018, from the collection of Peter Topping

*History Press, https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/

And some of their books
**Manchester's Radical Mayor is a biography of Abel Heywood,Joanne Williams, A Grim Almanac of Manchester, & Manchester Bloody British History, Michala Hume, The Story of Urmston, Flixton and Davyhulme, Michael Billington, Manchester At War,  & Manchester & Salford Blitz Britain,  Graham Phythian, Chapel Street, Shelia Brady, Manchester Remembering 1914-18, & The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson


***Urmston Bookshop, http://www.urmston-bookshop.co.uk/