Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Of Chorlton carnivals, Enoch Royle's decorated cart and a missing church on Albany Road

Now there is a lot in this picture.

The caption says “Decorated float in Albany Road, for Chorlton Carnival in the 1930s? Enoch Royle at the horses head, permission William Jackson.”

And I suppose that decorated float is where we will start.

According to the local historian John Lloyd, Chorlton staged a number of these carnivals during the mid 1930s which seemed usually to be centred on the Oswald Road part of new Chorlton and were part of the Rose Queen festivals which raised money for the Manchester and Salford Hospitals.

The Manchester Guardian in 1937 reported that carnival season had opened with “the gala held in St Margaret’s playing fields, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, on Saturday may be said to mark the opening of the charity carnival season.  

It has a history of five or six years only, but already it has become perhaps the most considerable effort of its kind undertaken in the city on behalf of the Manchester and Salford Medical Charities Fund.  

It has all the customary carnival, features a queen to be crowned with picturesque ceremony, morris dancers and processions of characters in comic and fancy dresss on horseback, cycle or on foot.”

The last recorded was the 1937 one although others like the Stretford one lasted much longer.
Now Enoch Royle crops up in a number of pictures in the collection always with his wagon and always at the bottom of Albany Road.

Now I had assumed he was a coal man and said so in earlier posts,  but in 1929 when he was living at 26 Fielden Avenue he gave his occupation as carter which is important because I had gone looking for his coal yard on the corner of Albany and Brantingham Roads and instead found a church and a hall.

Both appear to have had a short life.  They were there by 1909 but had vanished by the 1940s and tantalizingly there are those who remember a business run from the corner which went under the name of Mores which means that I will have to go into the Ref and trawl the directories.

So that just leaves the house behind the cart which is still, there today and has in its time been both a private residence and a retail outlet.

My earlier story on Mr Royle prompted Andy Robertson to send me a picture of the property from a few years ago but sadly neither of us has a memory of what was beside the property before the garage.

So while I go searching for that bit of the story I shall close with the observation that back them you could see across to Manchester Road.

Picture; of Mr Royle circa 1930s, from the Lloyd collection, Albany Road in September 20102 , with 
Flynn's Electricals, courtesy of Andy Robertson 

*Manchester Guardian, June 21 1937


Confessions of an Airfix collector ........... and much more

Now even when you are ten, the sun doesn’t shine everyday of the summer holidays, and equally there can be plenty of grim grey days stretching through spring and into winter.

Two Roman soldiers 1974
And this being the late 1950s, there was no back to back television to watch and so on slow Sundays with all your friends away at Butlins, the days could lay heavy.

But it being the day after I got my packet money there was always the plastic Airfix model to complete.

They came in different sizes, ranged from small battleships to large complicated Second World War aircraft and could be guaranteed to fill part of a day.

Once assembled, there was the painting, followed by the application of transfers and then hours where my imagination brought the Lancaster bomber or Panther tank to life.

With enough of them it was possible to create a scene filled with planes, vehicles and those little figures which Airfix also sold. One such recreation took over the top of a dressing table which had been covered in an old sheet, dyed green with bits of hedge and trees taken from our big model railway set.

But that wasn’t all because long before the model had been bought there was the endless visits to the shop gazing at what was on offer.

Much battered, 1974
For me three stand out.  There was the one near London Bridge Railway Station, another just off Peckham High Street and finally the one in Well Hall.

I spent hours just looking, especially at the very big expensive ones.

Of course the completed ones in the window always beat my attempts hands down but that never stopped me trying to emulate them.

But the moment comes when music, girls and clothes take over.

That said I never quite lost my fascination for making plastic kits, and in my early years as a teacher, keen to bring history alive in the classroom, I returned to Airfix.

The sock darner .... a world we have lost, 1900
Once the figure or model had been made it went into a glass cabinet at work, coming out to illustrate a history story or the finer point of medieval armour.  They sat beside a Viking oyster shell, some Roman coins and a heap of other very old everyday objects.

But not one to be over precious and authenticity, I fell on a battered open top sandal which in design was exactly like similar ones worn across the hotter parts of the Roman Empire.

And not for the first time I found myself mix historical truth with a fib.
Today almost sixty years after I first embarked on my love affair with Airfix I have but two models left, both dating from my time as a teacher.  They are battered, missing bits but I can’t get rid of them.

Picture; Airfix model of Julius Caesar, 1974, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Other people’s pictures …………. Lisbon …… part 1 ….. just before New Year

Now I remain fascinated by other people’s pictures.

It is partly because the pictures are often of places, I have never been, but also because it is an insight into how other people see the world.

So, here just a day after they were taken are two from our Saul, featuring the bits of Lisbon which are off the tourist beat.

Later in the week there will be more more, from the more traditional haunts, but for now here are two of that other side of any big city.


Location; Lisbon








Pictures; Lisbon, 2019, from the collection of Saul Simpson

David Vaughan


Roman soldiers on Beaufort Street by David Vaughan
I have always been fascinated by the artist David Vaughan, not least because he painted a mural on the side of the butcher’s shop on Whiteacre Road in Ashton.*

It was of the Queen and was done for the Jubilee in 1977 and as I lived in the next street I passed it most days.

Later still I came across another of his paintings on Beaufort Street in Castlefield.

It was behind the reconstructed Roman fort and once showed a unit of the Roman army marching across the wall of the railway viaduct.

Sadly both have now gone, although the Roman soldiers did last into this century but by then  the bright colours had begun to fade and the paint peel. So I was not over surprised when last week I discovered that it had been painted over.

That said much of his work can still be seen at http://www.davidvaughanart.com/

And featured on  Radio 4 :The Artist Who Fell From Grace which “looked back at his life and times with the aid of newly discovered interviews" and the memories of the people who knew him.**

It was broadcast in 2013 and sadly is now not available.

Picture;   Beaufort Street in Castlefield from David Vaughan

*The murals of David Vaughanhttps://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-murals-of-david-vaughan.html

** http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01sjjxx

Monday, 30 December 2019

Mile By Mile, travelling our railways in 1947


“The object of this book is to encourage the passenger to anticipate his progress, and to enable him to know to a nicety, what he next will see from the window at any and every stage of the journey.  

It is such a pity to sacrifice this experience to idle slumber, or to concentration on a magazine that would be better enjoyed at home.”*

Now this seems a pretty neat idea to me, and I have to say it is one that I try to practice, whether I am on a train, tram or the bus.

But I rather think it is an ambitious project that few would undertake, especially when what is being described is nothing less than the routes of the main railway companies in 1947.

But this is what Mr Pike set out to do in a series of little books just as the railways became nationalized.

The publications covered the L.N.E.R, the LMS, and Southern Railways but for reasons which have never been established he failed to keep his promise of one on the G.W.R. **

Nevertheless for the other three here were details of “the gradients of the lines, speed tests and mileages,  viaducts, bridges and embankments, along with tunnels, cuttings, crossovers and streams, rivers and roads.  

For good measure there were also lists of towns, villages, churches and mines, factories and works and an account of features of interest and beauty to be seen from the trains.”

It was all of the information which made a train journey worthwhile.

And of course with the passage of time and the end of both steam locomotives as well as many of the branch lines his guides have become a piece of history.

As you would expect I looked for Chorlton-cum-Hardy and there it was in the L.M.S on a map which included Didsbury, Withington and Central Station, along with the gradients of the line, miles from London and rivers roads and much else.

The London Midland Scottish was a family favourite, with its maroon coloured locos, and maroon and cream painted coaches.

This I suspect had something to do with my dad and uncle’s Scottish roots and for me because LMS Duchess of Montrose was my chosen Hornby Dublo loco on the model railway my father built for me and lovingly maintained.

But I also had a real interest in the Southern Railway which became the Southern Region of British Railways.  It was the one I used from being a child till I left London.

And however unfashionable it is today I remain fascinated by our nationalised railway company which was making its first bold steps soon after Mr Pile began publishing.

All of which brings me back to those railway books and the fact that they are once again available in a single volume, MILE BY MILE ON BRITAIN’S RAILWAYS, S.N.PIKE, published by Aurum Press Ltd, 2011.

It is a book I regularly go back to and one that brings alive that lost age.

Pictures; from the cover of MILE BY MILE ON BRITAIN’S RAILWAYS, S.N.PIKE, published by Aurum Press Ltd, and original Mile by Mile on the L.M.S. 1947


Going back into the shadows for another sixty years? ………… those wall tiles on Wilbraham Road

Now I wasn’t surprised at the interest in a set of wall tiles I wrote about on Saturday*.


They were unconvered by builders during work on the former Shareen Fashion.

I tracked  the tiles to the first owner of the shop, a Mr Worthington Brice who was a fishmonger and poulter, who was in business at the beginning of the last century.

The builders thought the tiles were going to be retained, and be a feature of the new café/restaurant, but perhaps not.

Looking through the window on Saturday, they appeared to be metal strips fastened on to the tiles suggesting that a new plaster board frontage was about to consign our tiles to another prolonged period of darkness.

And that in turn will deprive us of a bit of our history.

The update ...... the animal triangles have been cut out of the wall, the fish it seems are doomed.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; wall tiles, 2019, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Rediscovering the shop on Wilbraham Road of Mr. Worthing Brice ....... fishmonger and poulterer .. https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.com/2019/12/rediscovering-shop-on-wilbraham-road-of.html

In the midst of great wealth ....Span Court and St John's Street


I have been drawn back to Span Court.

It was a collection of six back to back houses in a partially enclosed court off Artillery Street which runs from Byrom Street to Longworth Street behind Deansgate.

They were one up one down with a cellar and did not rate an entry in the street directories which is not unsurprising given that those who lived here were on very modest means and some on the very margins of poverty.

In 1851 in those six houses lived a total of thirty-three people who made their living from the bottom end of the economic pile including six power loom weavers, a cooper, dress maker as well as an errand boy, a hawker and a pauper.

It is very easy to become blasé at the conditions in Span Court, after all historical empathy only goes so far, but this was living at the precarious end.  I rather think that Ann Cass aged 73 who described herself as a pauper had never had an easy life, and now she and her two daughters in their 30s were reliant on their combined wages as power loom weavers and what they got from Annie Harrison, their 38 year old lodger who was a band box maker.



Nor were they alone in taking in lodgers other families in the court were also doing the same and in most cases having to find space in what was at best two rooms and may even have been less, because the majority of  our houses were sublet.  Of the six, five had two families living in them as clearly defined and separate households.  Now these properties did have cellars and there were plenty of people living in the cellars of houses across the city according to the 1851 census.  But usually the enumerator recorded those who lived in the cellars.   But in this case no such records were made, ** which rather suggests that families and their lodgers were living in just one of the two rooms in each of the houses.

And in the case of John and Catherine Pussy it meant finding space for their five children ranging in ages from 20 down to three as well as their 19 year old lodger in what I guess was one room given that the house was shared with another family of four.

Span Court has gone but Artillery Street is still there and you have to walk it to get some idea of how narrow the street was and then try to picture the 83 people who lived mainly in the three courts off it or the 96 who lived on Longworth Street which ran from Artillery Street to St John Street.  The whole census patch amounts to ten streets and their small courts, most not much wider than Artillery Street and bounded by Deansgate and Byrom Street in which crowded a total of 497 people.

But it would be wrong to run away with the idea that this was just a collection of humble streets housing the least well off.  True the majority as the graph below shows  made their living from unskilled or factory work but there were also artisans, shop keepers small businessmen. And almost acting as an island of wealth was St John Street, then as now a place of fine late 18th and early 19th century houses whose residents included accountants, a silk manufacturer and a retired calico engraver and printer.

And it is this last “calico engraver” who I want to finish with as a contrast to Span Court.  James Holt had set up the family business sometime at the beginning of the 19th century had bought and maybe built his double fronted property on St John Street and in the fullness of time retired to Chorlton, leaving his son to run the business and retain in the family home in the heart of Manchester off Deansgate.  This was John Holt who would later in the 1850s move himself to our township.

But the family never gave up their interest in the area surrounding their town home and so by 1912 they owned seven of the fine houses on St John Street as well as shops cottages and a beer shop on the surrounding streets as well as land and the fine estate of Beech House in Chorlton.*

We have rather come to be conditioned by the rich living in gated communities set apart from the less well off and our wealthy families were no different.  Samuel Brooks had established his own estate which would be developed for the well off on the edge of Chorlton, and in the late 1830s Victoria Park Company was set up to “erect a number of dwelling houses of respectable appearance and condition, with gardens and pleasure grounds attached, with proper rules and regulations against damage an nuisances.”**

But the residents of the houses on the north side of St John’s Street backed on to Span Court while the Holt’s own fine house was not only beside a timber yard but its rear windows overlooked a coal yard and the densely packed court of Holt’s Place which consisted of ten small back to back properties.

So Span Court and the poor were never that far from the rich of St John’s Street which I suppose is an interesting take on that much quoted phrase, “the poor are always with us.”

Pictures;Span Court, J.Ryder, 1965, m00212, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, detail from 1842-44 OS map of Manchester & Salford, Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/, other pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson


*Camp Street, Holt Place, James Place, Longworth Street, Severn Street, Byrom Street, Great John Street, Gillow Street, Lower Byrom Street, Charles Street, Peel Street and City Road

** A Short Account of the Victoria Park Manchester, Manchester Corporation, 1937

Greenwich Park, the moment a full 48 years ago .......... nu 1 the walk

It will be a full 48 years ago but the memory of that walk through Greenwich Park on a Saturday in September 1971 has never left me.


I was in my second year at Manchester Poly and the pull of Well Hall and the family were still strong and so I found myself back home with three friends.

Lois was from Weston and Mike and John from Leeds and we travelled down from Manchester in John’s van on the Friday night.

Even now I have to say I haven’t forgotten the kindness of David Hatch who agreed to put Lois, Mike and John up on his floor.

It was a brief stay and most of it is a blur except for the walk from the gates on the Blackheath side through the park to Wolf’s statue, the observatory and that view down to the river.

At any time of the year that short stroll is pretty good but in late autumn it is magic.  The leaves are on the turn and the bright sunlight can still surprise you with its degree of warmth and the way it brings out the colours all around you.

The rest of the day and the weekend is lost to me but that hour and a bit were and remain special, more so because I was showing off my home.

All of which just leaves me to reflect on the postcard which was marketed in the USA and carried the imprint of the American YMCA of which there must be a story, but not for now.

Location; Greenwich

Picture; Greenwich Park, 1905 from the series Greenwich, marketed in 1911-12 by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, https://tuckdb.org/

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Inside 523 Barlow Moor Road in 1960

523 Barlow Moor Road
If like me you were born in the first half of the last century you will remember the old cooking ranges, the small gas stoves, and those brass light switches which long ago were deemed unsafe.

They were the background to everyday life, and are now seldom seen other than in museums.

Our range disappeared from the old house in the early 1950s, the gas stove swapped for a gleaming top of the range Cannon cooker in 1962 and the old phone with its wooden base along with much more went when I was still a baby.

The range, complete with cat
That said one surviving brass light switch long sense disconnected still sits at the top of our cellar stairs, and like countless other Chorlton residents we made our way to Gorton and bought a cast iron bath and a lead lavatory cistern in its wooden box.

They replaced the plastic ones which in 1975 were part of the modernisation of the house.

And so what was taken out in the 1970s in south Manchester was in turn thrown away in favour of an older set of household furniture which was being saved from condemned and demolished properties a decade later on the eastern side of the city.

I doubt that many houses here in Chorlton can still boast those original features so I am indebted to my friend Ann who sent me a series of drawings she made of her home on Barlow Moor Road.

We think it will have been built sometime around 1890 and so what you see are some of the original fittings along with others which will date from the very early years of the 20th century.


Using the open fire
I remember my grandmother still used her range well into the 1950s but also fell back on a small gas stove which was easier to use and far quicker.

Municipal authorities like Manchester were keen to promote cooking on gas and householders could rent or buy on credit the same model that Ann drew in the 1960s.

Telephones may seem a luxury but in some of the more well off homes in the township they were a must, and the names of the good and worthy can be increasingly looked up in the telephone directories from as early as 1900.

It is of course easy to become sentimental about these old feature.  As warm and comforting the range might be it was run on solid fuel, which meant racking out the ashes and carrying heavy buckets of coal.

The telephone
The gas stoves were pretty basic models and the down side of a brass light switch was that someone was made to polish it.

So this is the first of a series which aims to open up the houses of late 19th century Chorlton and I guess for many they will be the first time that such stuff has been seen in the context of our own area.

Moreover and here I must avoid making either me or Ann feel like a museum piece were the things we used in our everyday life.

The phone may not have have lit up when it received a call nor would it store the number of the caller or allow them to leave a message, but it worked.

It did the business of allowing you to talk to someone not in the same house and not send a letter of a postcard.

In the same way the cooker cooked your meal with no recourse to a timer, a split oven or a  fan.

That said I like my phone which lights up in the evening and talks to me, and my fan assisted double oven makes life so much easier.

Picture; 523 Barlow Moor Road, 1959 A H Downes, m17504 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php? and drawings of the inside of 523 Barlow Moor Road courtesy of Ann Love

So who was Miss Edith Townley of 13 Rectory Place in Woolwich and how did she spend the Christmas of 1917?

Now I went looking for number 13 Rectory Place yesterday which was home to Miss Edith Townley in 1917.

Writing to Edith in 1917
It is there on the old maps of the area, along with the street directories and looks to have been a grand property.

In fact walking up Rectory Place towards St Mary’s Street I reckon I might well have felt quite out of place.

But there is no crime in walking past and looking at a posh house, except that none of them are there now.

Instead there are some blocks of flats which is all a bit of a shame.
Along Rectory Place in 1872
But then Miss Townley also seems to be lost to history.

According to this wartime postcard Fred was expecting to be home on leave and was so confident of Christmas in Woolwich that he told her not to send the parcel.

The problem is simply that I can’t find her anywhere in Woolwich for 1917, and that nu 13 had been the residence of the Rev Charles E Dove as late as 1914 but he was also in the habit of changing his address and can be found at one time or another living in several addresses both in Woolwich and further afield.

Added to which there were a lot of Townley’s living in both London and serving in the armed forces.

"Dear Edith .........."
All of which might seem to make this a bit of a non story but I think not.

There will be someone who can help me with when those blocks of flat went up, replacing the grander properties which included nu 13 and with a bit more patience I might be lucky and identify Fred and in turn come closer to finding Edith.

In the meantime I have to say I have discovered a bit of Woolwich I never knew existed and might get to know more about the postcard which set me off on the search.

It belongs to my old friend David Harrop who recently purchased it as part of a batch he found on eBay.

Miss Edith Townley
I look forward to seeing it and getting to know the picture on the front, which may not help me discover anything more about either of them but will perhaps give me a clue to the type of photograph Fred liked and thought Edith might enjoy.

We shall see.

Location; Woolwich, London

Pictures; postcard, December 1917, from the collection of David Harrop, and detail of Rectory Place, from the OS for London, 1862-72, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

A choice of images on Red Lion Street and the story of a lost church

From Red Lion Street, 2014
I am always fascinated at how a photographer chooses an image.

The best capture something about a place and time and leave you admiring the photo but also wondering about the stories that sit there.

This is Red Lion Street on the corner with Catlow Lane and we are looking at one of Andy Robertson’s pictures and instantly it drew me in.

He had been out by Church Street and “had passed lots of lovely buildings but was particularly interested in this one” and I can see why.

A sorry state
This is the rear of the place and it fronts on to Union Street.

Back at the turn of the last century it belonged to Harrison & Co who were carpet factors, and I should be able to follow its ownership back  another half century or more.

Today it is empty, and pretty forlorn.

What had once been a grand entrance is bricked up and painted over and the neglect is pretty apparent from the picture.  Some of the windows are broken, the warehouse doors look to be on their last legs and at least one window frame is in danger of collapsing.

Not a promising prospect.  But that said the building next door has been renovated and has a new purpose.

So in time and with some money so might this one.

The area in 1844
Of course a developer might just pull it down and fill the space with something new.

Now I could rail against this but this little bit of the city has constantly been pulled apart and rebuilt.

The property on the other side of our old carpet warehouse was in 1911 the Bulls’ Head and Commerical Hotel and there was a pub here as far back as 1844 and perhaps longer.

In this warren of tiny lanes and back streets there have always been those smaller enterprises whose fortunes have waxed and waned but were always central to the business life of the city.

St Paul's Church from Turner Street, date unknown
And it is important that people like Andy continue to capture the changes to an area which is often neglected.

That said of course we are on the edge of the Northern Quarter a place which once thrived, went through a pretty shabby period and has emerged as an exciting part of Manchester.

As you might expect the area has always been changing, and back in 1844 Catlow Lane was called Church Lane and continued across Red Lion Street to link with Chapel Street which ran beside St Paul’s Church.

This 18th century church faced onto Tib Street and had “an unprepossessing appearance; it is built of brick, with stone dressings, there is a tower at the west end, the top of which is entirely of stone.  

The interior is very handsomely decorated.  

There are three galleries, the pillars supporting the roof, are gilt, as well as the back of the altar, organ case, pulpit, &c.  

The church has lately been much improved by the addition of a handsome coloured window over the altar.  The choral service is performed here on Sundays at half past ten and half past six.”*

Interior of St Paul's
But it had gone by 1894 and today both this stretch of Church Lane and Chapel Street are buried under the car park.

So on the turn of a photographer’s choice of image comes a a jumbled collection of half stories with the promise of more to come.

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson and detail of the area in 1844 from the OS map of Manchester & Salford, 1842-44, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/ and St Paul's Church, m80323, & m80324, date unknown,courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass 

* The Strangers Guide to Manchester, The Strangers Guide to Manchester, 1850

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Rediscovering the shop on Wilbraham Road of Mr. Worthing Brice ....... fishmonger and poulterer ..

A little bit of Chorlton’s history resurfaced just before Christmas, in what was Shareen Fashions on Wilbraham Road.

There on the wall, unseen for perhaps sixty years were the original wall tiles, from when the shop first opened.

Just when the tiles were hidden under a false wall, I guess I will never know, but a trawl of the directories will reveal its different owners; and what they sold.

So, I know Shareen Fashion were trading from the place in 1974, and that five years earlier it was the wallpaper shop of R. R. Minton, and there will have been others.

But it began as the fishmonger and poulterer’s business of Mr. Worthington Brice, who also has the sweetshop next door.

And so, it may well have been the Brice’s who chose the tiles, and the line of fish which ran along the wall.

Mr. Brice died in 1926 and was buried in Southern Cemetery, and three years later his wife was living at 10 Holland Road, which may have been the family home from much earlier.

I also know that the couple had a shop in Bramhall in 1924, but whether this was shop number two or a change of location I have yet to discover.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; wall tiles, 2019, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Who wouldn't want to live at 11 St John Street?


Now there is no doubting that 11 St John Street in the heart of the city was a pretty impressive address and it was the home of the very wealthy Holt family.*

It had been built around 1794 and despite some very modest cottages on Camp Street and the surrounding streets it was still  open countryside with fields west all the way down to the river, and the same south to the canal basin at Castlefield.  This was very much living on the edge of the city.

True along the river there were some dye works and beyond the Duke’s Canal** a small lime works but that was it.

And even as late as 1819 there was still open land down to the river and across to the canal.  But I rather suspect the writing was on the wall.

The Byrom family had entertained high hopes that the area would be developed along the lines of St John Street with fine late 18th century town houses but it was not to be.

And the coming of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway across the Irwell and part way up Liverpool Road sealed the fate of the area.  Soon it would be warehouses and lots more mean and small cottages which would dominate.

So in a sense it is a surprise that the very wealthy Holt family stayed there as long as they did because they didn’t leave for their very fine estate in rural Chorlton until the mid 1850s, by which time all those fields west down to the river, and south to the canal basin at Castlefield were built over and were either mean small and basic working class cottages or warehouses and timber yards.

Now to be fair, John Holt had to wait till his father died to inherit the pleasant Beech House, but there were other places.

Still when you see the inside of number 11 you can see why perhaps they continued in the heart of the city.

The pictures were taken with the kind permission of the manager, Liz Wilson who actually lived on the top floor back in the 1960s.

Now much of the grandeur has vanished but something of the style and comfort is still apparent and remember from that big bay window which spread across two floors the Holt’s could have views the one up one down properties of Holt’s Place, James’s Place and John’s Place.


Location; Manchester










* Now the contrast is with Span Court and partially enclosed court of six back to back houses in the next street https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=Spam+Court

** The Bridgewater Canal

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Home thoughts from abroad nu 2 ................. walking home from Woolwich on a summer’s night in 1966


Woolwich Common, 1970
Some memories stay with you and are as vivid now as they were then.

I was sixteen, it was the summer of 1966 and I was walking home from Woolwich to Well Hall.
It was a journey I must have made countless times and it was one I always enjoyed, especially once you had cleared the town and made it up to the common.

It was that mix of peace, the lingering heat of a hot summer’s day and the smells from the grass, the bushes and the trees.

The bonus was always those nights that brought on a thunderstorm.

And almost the same spot in 1906
If I was lucky I got home before the rain but either way there were those magic moments when the woods above our house were lit up by the jagged streaks of lightening followed by the roll of thunder.

The best place to see it was just past the police station as the road fell down towards the roundabout.

And usually I was alone which made the event all that more awesome.

After all back in 1966 few people were daft enough to walk out of Woolwich at nearly midnight and so the only company were the occasional passing car or the odd 161 with all its lights off heading I knew not where.

And now a full century later I still think of those nights.

Location; Eltham, London

Picture; Woolwich Common, 1970, from the collection of Jean Gammons and the Royal Military Academy, from the series Woolwich, 1906 and the Royal Military Academy from the series Woolwich Town and City 1905 issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of TuckDB http://tuckdb.org/history


Friday, 27 December 2019

The Girl Annual and a take on the optimism of the 1950s

Annual number 7
Now I am fully aware that I might be accused of nostalgia but I am back with those comic annual books which were published in the 1950s.

They were a by product of the popular comics like Eagle, Girl, Swift and the Lion and came out for Christmas.

But were books I kept going back to throughout the year and now fifty years after I got them as presents I still read them with pleasure.

So, not so much a present for Christmas as a friend for life.

My favourite was the Eagle but Hulton who published it were quick to spot its success could be replicated with a companion comic called Girl and two others aimed at a younger market.

These were the Swift and Robin and in the fullness of time I shall visit them too.

Today however I shall focus on the Girl Annual.

Woman of Action Lotte Hass
Like Eagle it was a mix of popular stories from the weekly comic, with features on history, nature, science and fashion. It also contained advice on a range of subjects from “New Uses for Duffle Coat Buttons” to “Making a Picnic Basket” and rope table mats.

All of which seems a little twee but the books actively sought to show women could have careers from being doctors to competing with men in the most dangerous environment.

So the Girl Annual included pictures of Women in Action including the photographer Michaela Dennis, the deep sea diver and photographer Lotte Hass and the pilot Jacqueline Cochran.

There was also a long article on the careers open to women in the merchant navy.

Now I fully concede that all of these were the caring and sharing professions  but  it did refer to “World’s 
First Woman Radio Operator Aboard ship gets her ticket” and was confident that while this was a foreign ship where “one merchant service makes a start, others will follow.”


New foods for the 1950s's table
Along with these more challehging new careers was the story on foods in many lands, which while it did refer to them as odd foods, was still opening up new horizons to young people brought up on spam and nothing more exotic than a banana.

Both Eagle and Girl reflected that optimistic view of the world which was abroad in the 1950s and which challenges the popular misconception that it was a grey drab decade of shortages, and make and mend just waiting for the “swinging ‘60s.”

It was instead an exciting period when everything seemed possible.

Belle of the Ballet
There was television and jet travel, materials like plastic and the promise of full employment and a welfare state.

There might also be the threat of the H Bomb, countless nasty and brutish colonial wars and the legacy of many old habits and ideas but the world was changing and my Eagle and Girl annuals reflected that change.

And in the process were not afraid to reflect on what had been. So the story of Belle of the Ballet and A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in the blitzed out ruin of a church hall.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Forgotten Chorlton ................. nu 3 clocking the changes at the tram terminus on Barlow Moor Road

Now this is the last of the pictures from that excellent site run by Mark Fynn.*

And as a bonus here are two.  I was going to say in the series of then and now, but quite clearly both are from then.

The first will not be that long after the tram terminus was constructed, from what had originally been land belonging to the Holt family who had lived in Beech House from the 1830s till the beginning of the 20th century.

The house and gardens stretched from the corner of Beech Road along Barlow Moor Road to High Lane and then just behind Cross Ross Road.

With the death of Mr Holt the land was sold for development and the Corporation took a strip which became the terminus.

Before that the trams had stopped at Lane End where Sandy Lane and High Lane met Barlow Moor Road.

And with that bit of tram history I will leave you to compare the two pictures, spot the differences that a few decades make to  a scene and take yourself off to the corner of Beech and Barlow Moor Roads and judge how another sixty years have transformed our terminus.

Picture; Barlow Moor Road circa 1900s and again 1950s, courtesy of Mark Fynn

*Mark Fynn, http://www.markfynn.com

A little souvenir of Woolwich from the Great War?

Now here is the challenge.

HMS Manchester, 1914-18
Has anyone got a similar piece of crested porcelain?

It might have the coat of arms of Woolwich Borough Council or the title Eltham.

The was one of those porcelain souvenir ones which were made and sold in huge quantities during the Great War.

It made perfect sense for the ceramic industry to switch from porcelain models of Blackpool Tower and Ann Hathaway’s cottage to war time themes.

The actual figures were pretty standard but wither it was a tank, or an ambulance, or even a battleship they could be marketed in towns and cities across the country with just the addition of a transfer coat of arms.

Manchester Tank, circa 1917-18
These ones come from the collection of David Harrop and feature in my new book, but I would love to find similar ones from where I grew up.

The closest so far is a replica of the Cenotaph with coat of arms of the City of London.

And there must be others.

But what would be really exciting is one from Woolwich and better still of Eltham.

It is just possible that some where carefully stored away is an ambulance with a local name or badge

Cenotaph, 1920
Now that would be something!

Location; Manchester

Picture; crested souvenirs,  1914-1918, from the collection of David Harrop

Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson was published by the History Press in February 2017

Order now from the author, or the History Press, http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/great-war-britain-manchester-remembering-1914-18/9780750978965/ and Chorlton Book Shop, info@chorltonbookshop.co.uk 0161 881 6374


*A new book on Manchester and the Great War, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Manchester%20and%20the%20Great%20War

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Boxing Day 1959 with the Swift Annual Nu 4

This is the third of those comic annuals produced by the Hulton Press in the 1950s.

Swift like its companions, Eagle, Girl and Robin aimed to provide a mix of adventure stories, practical activities and a focus all things historical and scientific.

And like the others it issued an Annual at Christmas.
Swift Number 4 was published in 1957 and along with strip cartoons there were extended stories, and articles on Man 20,000 years ago, the Lighthouse, St Egwin, and a visit to Swift’s sweet factory.

Like the companion volumes there were plenty of line drawings and colour plates on Birds in the Garden, Wonderful Ants and The Story of Transport.

Now Hulton knew they were on to a winning formula and were not adverse to featuring commercial companies which appeared in the stories, so in Eagle there was Tommy Walls after the ice cream company and in Swift, Ladybird made an appearance in the Sign of The Scarlet Ladybird.

There were also DIY pages and what turned out to be my favourite Trains that run Underground.

Today, they seem a little quaint but at the time they were at the sharp end of what children wanted to know and what they wanted to read.

Looking again at my Swift Annual I have to say that the stories and pictures are pure 1950s.

I treasure the images of the trains and cars and enjoy just slipping back to what for a youngster was a carefree time.

At which point there is that danger of nostalgia creeping in so I might just sit down and make one of the many interesting things that Swift offered up.

In Number 4 these ranged from making animals from pipe cleaners to a Knight in Armour and a Cotton Reel Tank.

But Swift was aimed at both boys and girls and DIY acticities like the stories and featurs crossed what was thought at the time to be the gender divide, so for every tank there was advice on hos to make a  Raffia Girl from dusters, bamboo sticks and garden seeds.

And that is one of the charms of the book for the materials were what could be found in a 1950s house and that from memeory did include pipe cleaners, and discarded cotton bobbins.

I doubt that even then I could laugh at the jokes from page 117 of which these may be the best. Q."Why is a dog's tail like the inside of a tree? A. Because it is farthest from the bark, or Q. What is most like a horse shoe? A. His othershoes."

Now that said  I think this is the moment to close leaving me only to ponder on whether I shall explore the last of the Hulton four which was Robin, or strike off into one of the many rivals.
We shall see.

Pictures; from Swift Annual Number 4, 1959, from the collection of Andrew Simpson