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 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, 

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,

** Tatton Cinema finally to be transformed - after closing its doors in 2001
Work is set to begin next month, Alex Scapens, April 10, 2018,

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The church ... the hall …….. and two Chorlton mysteries

Now, the stretch along Brantingham Road up from Manchester Road to Albany Road might not seem to have a lot to offer, consisting of a few houses on the eastern side, and a car wash and garage on the opposite side.

But this bit of Chorlton has history, starting with the name which was once Stamford Road and the now lost Davenport Hall and St Andrew’s Protestant Episcopal Evangelical Church.

They date from sometime between 1907 and 1909. The church later become St Luke’s Protestant Episcopal Evangelical Church and by 1910 the church and hall were unlisted.

And that for a long time was all I knew, until last week when I came across a set of programmes for the Chorlton Operatic Society which was established in 1907.*

During 1912-13 the Davenport Hall was their headquarters and according to one programme, the  “The Hall measuring 45 ft long and 16 ft wide with Ladies’ and Gentleman’s Clock Rooms, Kitchen, etc may be hired for Parties, Socials, Whist Drives, Meetings etc, on very moderate terms.  Crockery, Chairs, etc., may also be hired separately”. **

It now seems that the hall or the church was still there in 1950 because we have a painting by the artist J Montgomery who painted the building in 1966, using a picture postcard.

The notes accompanying the painting merely say, “Chapel on Albany Road, from a 1950 photograph. The site was later occupied by a garage”.

Not much I know, but it is a bit more than I knew last week, and the logical conclusion is that Davenport Hall and the church of S Andrew/St Luke were one, with the hall serving as both the headquarters of the operatic society
and the church.

But there is a second mystery and that is centred on J Montgomery who painted upwards of 200 paintings from the 1940s through to the mid 60’s and despite them being in the digital archive of Manchester Libraries, there is no information on the artist.

And after a long search stretching back six year’s I have come up with only one reference to him, in a catalogue listing some of his works in a neighbouring library.

During that time, I have appealed for information, introduced the subject of the missing artist in countless talks and walks and got nowhere.

All of which is a puzzle because you would think someone would have a memory of the person, who they had come across in a local church, or the library or just living nearby.

But just as the Davenport Hall has started to come out of the shadows, perhaps Mr Montgomery will also.

We shall see.

A thank you to Lawrence Beedle who reminded me of the hall and church and went looking from Mr Montgomery's painting.

Location; Chorlton

Picture; Programmes from the ChorltonOperatic Society, 1920 & 1927Chapel on Albany Road, from a 1950 photograph. The site was later occupied by a garage, J. Montgomery, 1960, m80123, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

* Chorlton Operatic Society,

** La Fille De Madame Angot programme. La Fille De Madame Angot was performed between May 1st and May 3rd 1913, at the Public Hall West Didsbury

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,

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, & Bricks,

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

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Travelling around Chorlton in the 1930s in the company of Harold Clarke

Now I am not a great fan of those postcards which give you more than one scene.

It is true of course that you get more for your money, but the pictures are smaller and lack the clarity that you get with just the one image.

But if you can date the card you have a pretty neat snapshot of Chorlton and so it is with this one.  It was produced by Harold Clarke, who lived at 83 Clarence Road, which is now Claridge Road.

During the 1920s and 30s he took  photographs of both south and central Manchester.  Some he seems to have marketed himself and others were sold by commercial companies including our own Mrs H. Burt who ran a stationery shop on Wilbraham Road almost opposite the shop of H.T. Burt, “Gentleman’s Outfitter” which only closed a few years ago.

But always he made sure his name appeared on the cards, and with another eye to financial gain some of the scenes reappear on other collections.

The most popular being the two halls and the green.

My own favourite on this one is the image of the Baths on Manchester Road.  Photographs of this bit of Chorlton are quite rare and so it is a welcome addition.

If pushed for another it  would picture  of the junction of Barlow Moor and Wilbraham Roads.

There are quite a few of this spot at the turn of the last century and a few in the 1950s but this is the first to show in detail the houses along Wilbraham Road which were demolished to make way for the precinct.

There had been five of them similar to the ones further along.

Now the bank of course looks little different but it had been a private residence from at least the 1880s and would remain so until it became the bank and underwent a major remake which drastically altered the appearance of the ground floor.

It is still possible to read the name Sunwick on the stone gate post just to the right of where our picture finishes.
Now that is not quite the end of the story but that will wait for another day.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection circa 1930s

Monday, 26 November 2018

A little bit of the High Street in the summer of 1977

There will be quite a few who remember the High Street like this.

It is the summer of 1977, the Silver Jubilee celebrations are still in full swing, and I came back for a brief holiday.

And in that summer of ’77 Eltham looked pretty much as I had left it four years earlier when I finally accepted that Manchester would be home.

Now when I left to go to College I always assumed I would be back, after all Eltham was where I grew up and where I had been very happy.

But the degree led to a job, I was already married and so seamlessly and without really giving it much thought I settled down in the North.

And on those occasions when I did return I noticed the little changes, and then after a longer period away the transformation was pretty dramatic.

The Odeon on Well Hall had closed, the station had relocated and cutting across Well Hall Road was that motorway.

Nor was this all, Willcox’s and Burtons on the corner opposite the church were no more, the Post Office was a pub and somehow a little bit of my childhood was lost.

Still that is the price you pay for moving away.

Not that this is a lament just a recognition that all things must change.

But in the meantime I shall gaze again on the High Street I remember.

Picture; the High Street in 1977 from the collection of Jean Gammons

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,

Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Parade Pickford Lane, Bexleyheath

Now I don’t have a date for this picture, but I bet there will be someone who does.

And I hope will also have some stories to tell us.

So I shall just leave it at that, the Parade, Pickford Lane, Bexleyheath sometime before now.

And soon after it was posted someone offered up a date, "this photo has to be pre 1925 as my flat is not even built yet. You see where the horse and cart is? That's where we are and they built a new set of shops and flats just after 1925."

All I need now is to know who this was and thank them properly.

Picture; courtesy of Mark Flynn,

Saturday, 24 November 2018

Stories from a window ......Mrs Botsford, and her big house on Wilbraham Road

Now I wonder if Mrs Mary Botsford watched with interest the construction of the McLaren Memorial Baptist Church which stood directly opposite her home.

623 Wilbraham Road, 1958
She lived at number 623 Wilbraham Road, and the church was opened in 1906, but as yet I can’t quite date her house.  It is missing from the 1903 directory but is there on the OS map four years later.

Wilbraham Road was only cut in the late 1860s by the Egerton estate, although plans for three alternative routes through Chorlton were drawn up a decade earlier.

Development along the eastern part of the road from Edge Lane to Manchester Road was slow, and by 1894 there were just sixteen properties on the northern side, with another two and the Conservative Club along the southern stretch.

623 Wilbraham Road, 1907
Nine years later in 1903, eight semi detached properties and been built from Edge Lane up to Hastings Avenue, with names like Elmshurst, Denehurst and the intriguing Danialcus House, which became Damascus House, and has a fascinating story which alas is not for here.

I suspect Mrs Botsford was the first resident, and  she will have named it Ardlui House, which may take its name from Ardlui, a hamlet at the head of Loch Lomond. She had been born in Derbyshire in 1831, and her husband had been a goldsmith.

Auction of contents, 1922
According to the 1911 census the house had eleven rooms, and here she lived with just two servants. She died in 1922 leaving £17,764 in effects.*

And something of those possessions can be gained, by reading the advert placed in the Manchester Guardian for the sale by auction, of the contents of the house, which included some fine items.**

I assume the house was then sold, and then came back onto the market in 1929, when it was advertised as, “Good corner house: with possession on completion.”

The purchaser appears to have seen it as an investment property, because within two years the papers carry the first of a series of adverts for both furnished and unfurnished flats.

The ads stretch through the 1930s, and I have no doubt with more research similar ones will turn up for the following decades.

And from then on Ardlui House continued its long association with rented accommodation, leading to the arrival in 1970 of a fresh faced and eager Peter Topping, who told me that “after four years at art college in Preston and Blackpool, I took up a job working in Advertising in Manchester, at the age of 21.

623 Wilbraham Road, 2017
I had looked at many places to live but soon fell in love with Chorlton, and found the top floor of a house to rent at 623 Wilbraham Road.

Little did I know that 47 years later, I would be painting it as part of my "Moment in Time Series" of paintings, that tell the story of the history, of Chorlton-cum-Hardy”.

Peter also gazed across at the McLaren Baptist Church, which by then had just a few years left before it was demolished in the mid 1970s, to be replaced by McLaren Court,which consists of 28 “Retirement Living Apartments” for people over the age of 55.

McLaren Baptist Church
Today few people will know that the church had been one of the buildings used by the Red Cross during the Great War, to tend for sick and wounded soldiers.

It opened in 1914 and along with two others remained open for the duration, and with a generation or so of its closure its work had been almost forgotten.

And in the same way Mrs Mary Botsford presence in Ardlui House has passed out of common knowledge, but she is about to be brought out of the shadows as 623 Wilbraham undergoes a makeover by Armistead Property who specialize in renovating old and often tired properties.***

623 Wilbraham Road, 1932
Unlike other developers who merely tear down the old building, Armistead Property work with the original, restoring the exterior, saving where possible the unique features of the interior while creating apartments for 21st century living.

Advert for Ollivant & Botsford, 1895
And always mindful of the past history of each development they are keen to share that history with the new residents.

So Mrs Botsford will not be forgotten, and nor will Peter Topping, although I suspect it is too early to think his presence will be remembered with a blue plaque.

We shall see.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Wilbraham Road, A E Landers, 1959, m18434, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,, Wilbraham Road, 1907 from the OS for Chorlton, 1907,advert from the Manchester Guardian, 1922

Painting; 623 Wilbraham Road Chorlton. Painting © 2017 & McLaren Memorial Baptist Church, © 2018, Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.

*Mrs Mary Botsford, June 13, 1922, England & Wales Probate Calendars, 1858-1966

**Sale by Auction, Manchester Guardian, May 27, 1922

*** Armistead Property,

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, 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,

** 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,

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, and in 1975 from the collection of Lois Elsden

On Eltham High Street looking south from the new Well Hall Road in 1909

It is one of those scenes that just about makes sense.

This is Eltham High Street in 1909 and the Grey Hound is fairly obvious as is the building to its left, but the others have gone.

Now as you would expect there are stories here which I shall come to when we walk this side of the High Street taking in Back lane, various pubs and some more fine houses.

Location Eltham, London

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

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,

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Looking down the High Street ....... revealing clues about the past

Down the High Street, 2015
This is one of those scenes of the High Street which will be so familiar as to warrant not even a second glance and give or take a few of the businesses along this stretch it is not so different from the one I remember, over fifty years ago.

But there are a few clues to an even earlier period and one helps tell the story of how this bit of Eltham developed during the last century.

It starts with that white fronted building which today is occupied by the pawnbrokers and Costa Coffee.

It dates from the 1720s and was Cliefden House which according to one source retains a fine carved staircase from the 17th century but long ago lost its front garden to a road widening scheme.*

It may have lost much of its more elegant past but at least it is still here unlike the even older and grander house just a bit further down the road.

This was Sherard House and I guess bits of it may still be there under the Nat West bank and in the just as  there might be the odd lumps of masonry from the Congregation Church which was replaced by Burton’s.

Sherard House, circa 1909
All of this I knew although I have to say in the time I have been away more than a few changes have broken cover and surprised me.

So I was unprepared for the news that the Greyhound pub had been partially rebuilt in 1978 or that Mr Burton had walked from the High Street to be replaced by a battery of people selling Big Macs assorted fries and apple turnovers.

Even more of a shock was the disappearance of Payne’s the outfitters, the demise of the Post Office on Passey Place and the demolition of the ABC cinema.

Such sneaky things seem to go on when you leave home.

That said the parish Church is still there its spire just visible on the sky line in the distance.

And if I wanted to be a show off I can reflect that what was Payne’s and is now delicio was occupied by Mr George F Benjafield, clothier in 1918.

His near neighbour at the the Greyhound Ernest Elms and across the road Mrs Dobell was stillliving comfortable in Sherard House.

Picture; looking west down the High Street, 2014, from the collection of Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick and Sherard House, 1909 from The Story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 

*Discover Eltham and its Environs, Darrell Spurgeon, 1992