Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Travels with friends in Whitworth Park …. re-discovering the place by the gallery

Now, I have to admit that visiting Whitworth Park has always been an afterthought.

In the 1970s, it was just that big green place you passed on the bus from bed sit land into town, and when I began regularly going to the Whitworth Art Gallery a decade later it was the open space you saw from the side windows.

Occasionally, I might cut through on a warm summer’s day, clock the statute of the King, and take the first exit out to the bus stops.

All of which is a shame, because there is lots to see, and indeed, once upon a time even more. 

"The park was established as part of the Whitworth Institute, a memorial concept to famous engineer Sir Joseph Whitworth. 

The Institute secured the land for Whitworth Park in 1889, which was then known as Potters Field and the Park was opened in 1890. 

The park was formally handed over in October 1904 on a 1000-year lease. 

The Whitworth Institute was taken over by the University of Manchester in 1958 when it became the Whitworth Art Gallery. 

The University of Manchester remains the owner of the park and Manchester City Council is the lessee. There is a statue of 'Edward VII' by John Cassidy and a First World War memorial to the 7th Manchester’s”.*

Looking through the collection of old picture postcards, I came across a few which showed it off in all its glory, just a decade and a bit after it opened.

And to my surprise there amongst the images is one of the boating lake, which rather threw me given that it isn’t there now, and for a moment I wondered if the postcard company had got the wrong park.

But no, they hadn’t and there was indeed a lake in Whitworth park.

And this I know because I went to one of the authorities on the area which is Bruce Anderson and in particular to his wonderful site, Rusholme and Victoria Park which has several pages devoted to Whitworth Park.

At which stage I won’t steal his research, but rather direct you to the link and to an excellent history of the place.**

Leaving me just at ask Bruce when the lake disappeared, and to go looking for the spot.

Location; Whitworth Park

Pictures; looking out on the park, 2018, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and picture postcards of the park, 1907, courtesy of David Harrop

*Whitworth Park,

*Whitworth Gallery and Park, Rusholme and Victoria Park,

A family of seven in a two roomed cottage on the Row, ........ one up one downs part 1

It is hard today to imagine bringing up a family in just two rooms and yet many people here in the township during the 19th century and before did just that.

These were houses with just two rooms often with only a ladder to give access to the upstairs room, and they were common enough across the country both in our towns and cities but also in the countryside.

Only three still exist in Manchester and these are on Bradley Street backing on to far grander buildings on Lever Street.

We had our fair share but they have all been demolished and the evidence is scanty.

One survived on the edge of Chorlton on Maitland Road into the 1930s  but those which would have been here in the centre of the township along the Row and around the green vanished a long time ago.

 Most would have been wattle and daub cottages and while we still had something like fifty in the 1840s all went during the next half century with the last on the corner of Beech Road and Wilton being pulled down in 1892.

Now it is possible using old photographs, OS maps and census returns to locate them on what are now Beech Road and the green.

There were a group of them on the northern side of Beech Road almost opposite Reynard Road, a solitary example opposite the parish church close to what is now the car park for the meadows and more on Sandy Lane and there will be more in Martledge and Hardy.

These were all brick built and most survived into the 20th century and back in the 1830s and 40s were owned by local landowners, businessmen, traders and farmers.

At present we know most about those on Beech Road. They were owned by James Holt who had made his money in Manchester and retired to Chorlton to live in Beech House sometime around the mid 1830s. In the May of 1845 he was renting them out to John Hooley, John Whitehead and James Whitby and the rents ran from just under 4/- down to 3/4d. John Hooley was a joiner and Whitehead an agricultural labourer.

Trying to make sense of what proportion of their wages was paid in rent is difficult. But an agricultural labourer in Lancashire might earn between 11s and 18s. But these varied, and so in the most intense period in the summer months this could rise to 13s and fall later in the year to 12s or less.

Likewise women and children were better paid during the warm busy months. It is also worth noting that women’s wages in parts of Lancashire were the highest in the country. Added to this there was the money that could be earned at harvest time, and from task work and activities like drainage work.

Now overcrowding was a common feature of rural life and the Whitehead’s had five children ranging in age from 12 down to six months with the added complication that of the five one was a boy aged 12 and the rest were girls.

Families fell back on different strategies to cope, with some farming out some of the children to a grandparent or making arrangements with neighbours where by the girls of the two families slept under one roof, and the boys under another. In other cases they just relied on the blanket across the room. All of which allowed moralists and social observers a field day and was reported in great detail by Poor Law Commissioners on the Employment of Women & Children in Agriculture in 1843.

The cottages on Beech Road were demolished sometime around 1911, but those on Sandy Lane and the one opposite the parish church lasted much longer, but more about those later.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection, circa 1895

By the lake at Mergozza ........ remembering those who marched away

It is a simple monument as befits the small village of Mergozzo.

The memorial looks out across the lake and stands in the main square, ringed by restaurants and surrounded by stone benches, making it part of the community.

Location; Mergozza

Picture; the war memorial Mergozza, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Snaps of Stockport no 2 buying a bargain sometime in the 1950s

This is the second in the series of images of Stockport from the 1950s.  

They were all taken sometime in the 1940s by William Ernest Edmondson whose son has kindly given me permission to publish them.

Some have almost passed out of living memory but this one is recognisably little different today.

The Boar’s Head on the corner of Vernon Street and Market place is still there as are the stalls.

Of course the traders have changed and the clothes belong to a very different time but otherwise there is much that Mr Edmondson would be familiar with.

Pictures; of Stockport, from the collection of William Ernest Edmondson, courtesy of Ian Edmondson

The Welcome Inn ................... the early days

Now some stories just have a habit of not wanting to go away.

They stay hanging around challenging you to go off and discover something new to add to what has already been said.

And so it is with the Welcome Inn which every time I feature the pub strikes a chord with many people usually about my age.

In particular it is tales of Sunday nights which continue to bubble up enriched by the memories of meeting future husbands or lasting friends.

And I should know because while I was just that bit too young to drink I would listen to the happy crowds coming back down Well Hall Road past our house in the mid 60s a little after closing time.

More recently I began looking for the history of the place, and while a few people were able to offer up names of past landlords the very early history of the pub proved illusory.

And then my old friend, fellow researcher and local historian Tricia Leslie told me about The Woolwich Story by E.F. E. Jefferson.

It is as she promised me a wonderful account of the Borough from the earliest of times up to its merger with Greenwich.

I have already used the book and know I shall go on plundering it for some time to come.

So in the chapter on the 1920s I came across this “On the brow of the hill stood a large wooden building used as a workmen’s club but demolished about 1927 when the Welcome Inn was built.  

This modern hostelry set new standards in both furnishing and service.  Seated in comfort, one had to preserve patience until the waiter came to take the order, for customers were not permitted to get their own drinks at the bar. 

But this arrangement proved too leisurely, annoyed those who only had time for a quick one and tended generally toward the restraint of trade. A wise host discontinued the practice.”

Now I have no idea when that service was discontinued but I well remember the practice was still in use in some of the big Manchester pubs in the late 1960s, with the waiters in white jackets and in some rooms a bell push to summon assistance.

Sadly there are few photographs of the waiters or indeed the interiors and it would be nice if any could be shared of the Welcome in its heyday.

So that is it.  I now know when the pub was open which was clearly aimed at the Progress Estate and the new build going up behind the pub and the appeal is out for pictures.

We shall see what we get.

But in the meantime I shall go looking at the electoral registers which will give us the names of the landlords or landladies from when it opened through to the 1960s.

Location, Eltham

Picture; the site of the Welcome courtesy of Jean and the cover of The Woolwich Story

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

A bit of Chorlton's cinema past ........... the lost and forgotten Picture House

Now I wasn’t born when The Picture House on Manchester Road thrilled Chorlton’s cinema audiences in the 1920s, and while I could have sat in the six penny stalls  four decades later I never did.

The ceiling, 2019
So I have no idea what the interiors was like, and despite many efforts over the years, the Co-op always turned down my requests to view the upper floor.

And the reason for that was that after years as a workshop for the Co-op funeral business, the floor was deemed unsafe, and I never got the chance.

But more recently Chris Peacock from the Chorlton Community Land Trust went in with a surveyor and took a remarkable set of photographs.

Despite nearly sixty years, there is plenty left which will strike a chord for all those who visited the cinema up to when it closed in 1962.

The Picture Houe, 1920s
The red domed roof, the plaster decorations and some of the other features of the place are still there, as are some of the original electrical fittings.

I won’t slip into the silly stuff of writing about stepping back in time and looking for the ghosts of Chorlton’s own cinematic past, but there is a sense that is what we have here.

More so, because apart from a bit of plaster moulding in the old The Palais De Lux on Barlow Moor Road, nothing now exists of any of our other picture houses.

Plaster detail, 2019
And it is perhaps fitting that it should be this one, which still offers up evidence of the days of going to the “flicks”.  The Picture House/ Savoy/Gaumont was the grandest of the five which offered up adventures, romances and comedies from the early 20th century through to 1991.

The exterior was in grand style and even after it had its Norwegian Wood make over it still looked the part.

So, for all those with fond memories of the place, and especially those who remember the appearance of the Bee Gees on stage, here are a few of the pictures Chris took and Simon Hooton placed on facebook.

Leaving me just to highlight the link to Chorlton Community Land Trust, which are “a group of local residents who are passionate about having a voice and influence to shape the area where we live for the benefit of Chorlton’s diverse community.

The stairs, 2019
We believe in people stepping up to help create a more fair and greener world where housing and urban regeneration works in our interests rather than those of big business”.

So that is it ............ except to say there lots of people who would like the old cinema saved, and perhaps brought back into use as a community hub, and maybe even a cinema, with an option for a permanent exhibition to the Bee Gees.

We shall see.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures;  The interior of the old cinema, from the collectionof Chris Peacock, 2019, The Picture House; 1920, from the Lloyd Collection, and in 1958, A H Downes, m09220, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

As the Gaumont, 1958
* Chorlton Community Land Trust,

Wilfred Pickles, the Chorlton Repertory Theatre Club and a whole new set of stories

Now you have to be a certain age to remember Wilfred Pickles, Mabel and Have Ago.

For most of us this will be at the edge of our growing up and will forever be linked to the Light Programme  the wireless and the catcphrases, "How do, how are yer?" "Are yer courting?" "What's on the table, Mabel?" and "Give him the money, Barney."

In 1954 it transferred to the television under the title “Ask Pickles.”

I can’t remember much about the show but I know it was very popular with a weekly audience of over 20 million, and featured ordinary people who were the sort you stood at the bus stop with, listened to in the shops and could be your friends.

That made it very different from the at TV show “What’s My Line" with its panel of well bred well behaved people with their plumy voices.

So I am not surprised that the Chorlton Repertory Theatre Club would ask Mr Pickles to be their President.

Over the years there were plenty of amateur dramatic groups in Chorlton and as early as 1910 one was listed in Kemp's Almanack and reflected the fact that as the township grew many of these were the “middling people” with jobs that allowed them time at night to explore all sorts of cultural and sporting interests.

Where many of these groups performed is lost, but some will have used the Public Hall which was part of the Conservative Club and others may acted out their dreams in church halls.

So Sally’s find is quite a find and while I don’t yet have a date it opens up a whole exciting new set of stories and will I hope set memories running and perhaps will also stir up comments on Mothers Pride.

Well we shall see.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; advert for the Chorlton Repertory Theatre Club, date unknown, from the collection of Sally Dervan

Walking the River ......... the scenic route

A short series taken from one day when I walked along the River.

Back then the Thames was still a place to to earn a wage and watch and ships, and barges plied the way on the water.*

Location; the Thames

Picture; the River in 1979, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The lost Eltham and Woolwich pictures,

In Levenshulme with a now lost historic pub

Now, this image of the Midway Hotel has sat in the collection for ages, so long in fact that I had forgotten I had it.

But as you do, as part of a “spring clean” I revisited the Levenshulme picture postcards and decided this was a must to show.

I think I once drank in the pub, but it will haven a long time ago, and never knew its history.

But with the help of that excellent site, Pubs of Manchester, I can now say that, “The Midway was rebuilt in 1904 as this imposing pub at the junction of Matthews Lane and Stockport Road in Levenshulme.  

The original Midway dates back an impressive 300 years earlier, first licensed in 1604. 

 Sadly, the Midway has closed and has been taken over by an obscure college having been a cash & carry at some point previously.  The pub may have had an Irish name in the 1990s but I'm not sure”.*

And that just leaves me to comment on the message on the back which reads, "I heard you wanted this", which was sent to a Miss Greaves of 9 Bristol Avenue, in Levenshulme, and also contained this odd series of numbers, 4 .15. 18. 9. 19., for which I have no explanation.

Location; Levenshulme

Picture; The Midway Hotel before and after its rebuild, circa 1906, from the collection of David Harrop

*Pubs of Manchester,

In Mergozzo with tall houses and twisty streets

Mergozzo is a tiny place, sandwiched between the mountains and the lake, with a population of 2,135 and a cluster of houses which nestle beside each other.

Their design defies any sense of planning and they spread out in all directions.

And for the unwary tourist they hold surprises, like the way they make a road a dead end, simply by growing out of their neighbour.

Added to which because the old town hugs the side of the mountain, the streets climb up in long stretches of stairs, disappearing into the shadows.

Beyond this old bit of the town, are new houses which are neat boxes following a common plan with equally neat gardens to front and back and an ample place for a car.

This last feature is in distinct contrast to the old town where because of the twisty narrow streets car spaces are at a premium.

And that adds to the charm of the place, where you are never far from the sound of the water lapping the stone wall by the lake, or the careless conversations of locals and tourists in the town square.

Location; Mergozzo

Pictures; Mergozza, 2018, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Snaps of Stockport no 1 outside the Plaza

Now I always think the snap often outweighs the carefully prepared photograph.

Snaps have a freshness and directness that is often missing from  the ones taken by professional and commercial photographers.

These “superior” images may have a lot going for them but the snapper captures the moment.

Added to this we know that behind that snap is a picture which was special to the person who took it.

So here over the next few weeks are a series of snaps taken by William Ernest Edmondson who along with his wife worked in the Town Hall at Stockport.

They date from the 1950s and some reveal a Stockport that has all but been lost to living memory.
And that on its own makes them special.

They were first posted on facebook by his son Ian who has kindly granted me permission to republish them on the blog.

Pictures; of Stockport, from the collection of William Ernest Edmondson, courtesy of Ian Edmondson

On Stockport Road …………. Looking for clues

Now I don’t as a rule do then and now stories, but I am intrigued by these picture postcards of Stockport Road in Levenshulme.

I can’t exactly date either.

In the case of the first I know we are sometime between the 1950s and 60s but the post mark is obscure, and all I can be sure of, is that it was sent in the summer to Mr. Hayes who was in a caravan in Wales.

The card was from his mum by his mum who thank him for his picture postcard, “which arrived this morning”, went on to ask if he was enjoying himself, and if he had met anyone he knew and concluded with “S& D are still beautifying.  Auntie Alice has been here for her tea”.

The older one was addressed to someone in Longsight, but was never sent, although there is a comment written on the reverse “Showing the Pack Horse Hotel before it was rebuilt”.

At which point I am confident someone will come forward with a set of answers.

Location; Stockport Road, Levenshulme

Pictures; Stockport Road, Levenshulme, dates unknown, from the collection of David Harrop

Monday, 14 October 2019

Walking the River ......... men at walk

A short series taken from one day when I walked along the River.

Back then the Thames was still a place to to earn a wage and watch and ships, and barges plied the way on the water.*

Location; the Thames

Picture; the River in 1979, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The lost Eltham and Woolwich pictures,

A Load of Love from Chorlton-cum-Hardy from Floss to Frank in 1914

Now this is one of those picture postcards which I couldn’t pass by.

It was sent by Floss in June 1914 to Frank at 56a Noble Street, Wem and the message on the back wished  “many happy returns of your birthday.  Hope you will like this P.P.C will give you something when I come home.

Give my love to mother and Sid and all the other kids.  With best love.”

It may be that Floss was working here or just passing through when she bought the card and sent it from Chorlton sometime in the evening of June 1st.

Sadly it is not I think a card unique to here.

It was published by  the Corona Publishing Co., Blackpool and will have been overprinted by order of a local stationer’s.

And judging by the way the "sentiment" crosses the edge of the border this too may have been decided upon by the owner of the shop.

So if you had lived in Withington, Didsbury, or even Blackpool that horse with its cart of flowers would have been available.

It might even have been in a shop in Wem where Frank lived.

And to conclude I went looking for 56a Noble Street in Wem and found it a century after our card was sent. 

It is one of two narrow houses which share an entry and stands in an equally narrow street behind the High Street and does not appear to have changed in a hundred years.

In time I will go looking for Frank but for now, I will close with a smile which comes from spotting that the address has been posted as Chorlton-Gum-Hardy .... so not content with being a joke on music halls for a century, we will now be known as the place with a glue factory.

Picture; A Load of Love from Chorlton-gum-Hardy, from the collection of David Harrop

Mr Emerson's ghost sign in Stockport and the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Brotherhood

The Emerson sign, 2014
I am back with that ghost sign in Market Place, Stockport.

It is a fine example of a street advert that has survived long after the business has gone.

I fell across it purely by chance a few months ago and it has intrigued me ever since.

And I am not alone, my friend Sally has written about it and it regularly evokes comment from people I talk to from Stockport.

I know the firm was there by about 1905 but had never gone much deeper by crawling over the street directories, and then by chance I discovered an advert for Mr Emerson from 1895 and my interest has been set off again.

The Emerson advert, 1895
But today it was the book from which the advert came that set me off because it was a copy of the 1895 Heaton Mersey PSA Magazine.

And as you do

Now I had come across the P.S.A,or to give them the full name, the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Brotherhood back in the 1970s in Ashton Under Lyne.

They were what they said they were an organization designed to provide a pleasant afternoon with a Christian slant on a Sunday.

The first seem to have sprung up in the mid 1870s and their first national conference was in London in 1906.

Now this is another of those areas I want to dig deep into.  There was a political dimension  “The long standing relationship between political Liberalism and Nonconformity brought active Liberals into the movement. 

Market Place, 1905
In the early twentieth century key Labour and Trade Union leaders became actively involved in the PSA/Brotherhood Movement. Labour MPs Arthur Henderson and Will Crooks, and the Liberal MP Theodore C. Taylor were all present at the founding of the National Association of Brotherhoods, PSAs etc in London in 1906. 

Keir Hardie, was also actively involved, he was a main speaker for a Brotherhood Crusade in Lille in 1910. Arthur Henderson MP was elected National President in 1914. The National Adult School Union’s ‘One and All’ journal reported 7 out 9 ‘adult school men’ who stood for parliament were successful in 1910.”*

And there appears to be a Temperance aspect so there is a lot to play for and find out.

The Emerson shop and sign 1895
I had not thought they had a presence in the south of the city but they were here in Chorlton.
Harry Kemp’s Chorlton Alamack for 1910 listed  “The P.S.A. (Men’s Meeting),  Macfayden Memorial Church.  Sundays, 3 p.m. William S Bradshaw, 4, Beechwood Avenue. & P.S.A. (Men’s  and Women Meeting), Wesleyan Mission Hall. Sundays, 3 p.m, Secy., E.H. Astle, 34 Reynard Road.”

And now I find them in Heaton Mersey which I suppose shouldn’t be a surprise, and along with Mr Emerson give me more research opportunities.

Picture; Parish Church and Market, from the series Town & City, by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,  the ghost sign of J. Emerson from the collection of Andrew Simpson and advert for Emerson’s Tailoring from the P.S.A., Magazine, 1895 courtesy of David Harrop

** The Early Adult School and Brotherhood Movements in the West Midlands: Adult Education, Evangelism or Social Activism?, European Social Science History Conference, Glasgow, April 14 2012

Posters from the Past ........... no 18 ......... Rome The Eternal City

Now the project is simple, take an image of a building we all love and turn it into the style of poster which was popular in the middle decades of the last century.*

And today  we are in Rome, one of my favourite cities, wondering how the Tourist Office might have marketed the Eternal City.

Location; Rome

Painting; Rome, © 2018 Peter Topping,  Paintings from Pictures, from a photograph by Andrew Simpson, 2008


*Posters from the Past,

Osibisa, the old Till & Kenendy Building and a memory

Now for no particular reason I played Woyaya by Osibisa.

The venus for Osibisa?
The LP has sat on the shelf with a shed load of other vinyl which I treasure but seldom play.

And within the time it takes for the music to roll around the room I was back in the 1970s.

It was one of those records that we played late in the night, usually accompanied by the all pervading smell of joss sticks and was pretty much the sound track to a very happy time.

We knew we had grown up a bit, not because we were living in our first house but by the purchase of the sound system which of course following the times was a mix of different bits and pieces.  The speakers were Wharfdales, the record deck was a Pioneer and the tuner was that odd shaped model from Sony with a large dial which took up all of the wooden cabinet.

I have often wondered what our neighbour made of us and the music but she was always pleasant and made us mince pies at Christmas and so I perhaps she too was a fan, despite the fact that she had been born 1900 and had a never moved more than half a mile from Raynham Street off Whiteacre Road in Ashton.

And here is the thing, I am still trying to work out whether we heard Osibisa live.  If we did it would have been in the old Till & Kennedy building which by then had become the student’s union of the Manchester Polytechnic.

But even by 1971/2 I think they were successful enough to have regarded a student’s union as small beer.

That said we all know the story of Paul and Linda McCartney with the rest of Wings turning up on a Saturday afternoon offering to play at a student’s bar.

And just a few years earlier the College of Commerce on Aytoun Street had hosted a impressive line up of musicians from Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues and Barclay James harvest, along with Roy Harper, the Edgar Broughton Band and Canned Heat.

So you never know. It maybe I was right and if so I would love the memory confirmed.

Pictures; the Righton Building, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson 

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Clocking the continuity of Beech Road …………… now that’s a zippy title

Now, despite all the new restaurants, wine bars and gift shops that present themselves along Beech Road, it is easy to overlook the continuity of businesses.

Beech Road circa 1900
So, take this old image of the road, from some time around the turn of the last century, and it is possible to spot the bakery on the corner with Neale Road, and the newsagents at the junction with Chequers Road.

And long with these there was the wine merchants of Mason & Burroughs, which continued to trade under the name of various companies until as Victoria Wines it closed about a decade ago.

Added to these, there has been a pet shop at various locations along Beech Road, and a stationer.

Mason & Burrows, 1900
Some like the newsagents can claim to have always traded as such right back to when Mr. Nixon opened in the early 1900s.

And while Mr. and Mrs Nixon were new to the trade, his father had run the stationers, in what is now 68 Beech Road and his grandparents had offered up beer and cheer in the Traveler’s Rest from the 1840s.

Nor is that the end, because Mr. Nixon’s great grandfather ran the pub over the water in what is now Jackson’s Boat, while Mrs. Nixon’s grandfather was Brownhill the wheelwright.

Today, the newsagents is run by the Etchells family who have been there since the 1960s, and next door in what is now a Chinese takeaway, opened as fish and ship shop at the same time as Mr. Nixon began selling newspapers.

All of which leads me back to Mason & Burrows, which is now occupied by épicerie Ludo, a place I have long been a fan of.  For here can be found a wonderful range of freshly baked bread, an equally interesting selection of wines and lots more food in between.

épicerie Ludo, 2018
For those of us who missed Buonissimo after it closed, the return of a deli on to Beech Road is most welcome, and I have to say that Ludo and Darren go out of their way to source my requests.

So, there it is, …………… and for those who didn’t know, the Co-op at the bottom of Beech Road, follows in the footsteps of the one that stood almost opposite.

Of course, patterns of shopping have changed and our tradional shops which included a grocer, a green grocer, butchers, hardware store and even a televion repair shop have gone, replaced by the advent of cafe society, the gift shop and the hairdressers.

Cafe Society, 2004
Location; Beech Road

Pictures; Beech Road circa 1900, from the collection of Rita Bishop, épicerie Ludo, 2018, courtesy of the owners, and café life, 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

In the Market Place in Stockport in 1905

We are in Stockport at the Market Place with the parish church in the distance.

Now the date is a little unclear but the postcard was registered by Tuck & Sons Ltd on July 31st 1905 and I guess the photograph will date from about then.

And there are clues that confirm this.

Andrew  Beckett & Sons whose ice cream van stands in the corner of the picture was trading in 1902 at both 11 Wellington Street South and 26 Middle Hillgate in 1902.

And as you would expect there is a story here.

Andrew Becket was born in 1830 in Italy and I doubt that Beckett was his given name.

He was in England in Runcorn by 1865 and was living at numbers 1 & 3 John Street in Stockport by 1881

A decade later the family had moved to 26 Hillgate.

But in 1901  the firm is in the hands of his son Angelo who while he was born in Runcorn had an Italian wife, gave both his children Italian forenames and employed four men all born in Italy.

All of which just leaves me to ponder on the identity of the young man staring back at us in the van.

It might be Alberto Cavilli or Guiseppina Pasquale both of whom were working for Angelo in 1901 but both will have been in their early 20s in 1905 so perhaps not.

Nor is that the only clue to the date, for in the same street directory for 1902 there is one Joseph Emerson, tailor at 28 Market Place, and that is his shop on the left.

His painted sign on the side wall proudly announced that he promised that “MORNING ORDERS IN 8 HOURS PROMPTLY EXECUTED” and offered everything from suits, overcoats to trousers and much more.

The firm has long gone but the sign is still there, faded and a little difficult to read but very much the same as in our 1905 photograph.

In time the picture will reveal much more but there is much to look at, from the men in deep conversation to the detail of the delivery van in the distance and those closer to us.

Picture; Parish Church and Market, from the series Town & City, by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, and the ghost sign of J. Emerson from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Walking the River ....... the Power Station

A short series taken from one day when I walked along the River.

Back then the Thames was still a place to to earn a wage and watch as ships, and barges plied the way on the water.*

Location; the Thames

Picture; the River in 1979, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The lost Eltham and Woolwich pictures,

On Beech Road 40 years ago looking for a second hand telly and electric fire

This is another of those images of the more recent past and one that plenty of people will remember.

As it happens I was recently talking to Alan who owned the business at 115 and as you do we reflected on what Beech Road had been like in the 1970s which in turn led to the original story and being a tad lazy I shall just let you go back and read it along with  the other stories.

Picture; from the collection of Lawrence Beedle

Of places to see and things to do ..... La Pagul in Mergozzo ......

Mergozzo is a tiny place.

It is home to 2,135 people, but I am stumped as to how many more pass through during the holiday season.

Many of these tourists do in fact seem to be passing through.

Some are just staying an hour before climbing back on their motor bikes or into their cars in search of something new to see.

A few more use it for a few days as a base for walking the mountains, or cycling along the shores of the lake.

And a handful, like us have opted to wash up for the week, making no claims to anything more energetic than sitting in the sun, on the grass beside the lake.

I am surprised just how few of us there are enjoying a beach holiday without the beach, and how warm the lake water can be, even at 10 in the morning.

We had driven over from Varese where the family live and the journey takes less than an hour which means we can nip back and forth with no sense that this has been a chore.

But for most of the time we stay by the lake with the odd adventure around the town, which is less all of us and more just me and a camera.

What strikes you is the total lack of town planning.  The houses rise from the sides of the mountain, and streets come to an end because someone has extended their home or added another to the ones already there.

And where the streets haven’t been blocked, they rise up to  another level with the aid of steep steps, making me wonder just how easy they are to navigate after a week of snow has fallen.

But then, given how narrow the streets are and how little daylight penetrates I can’t think that much snow gets through.

So I go looking for a restaurant for the evening of which there are more than a few, but some are no more than over priced snack bars with indifferent food, delivered by surly waiters.

Of course they may just be tired after a long season, but I think not.   The small dark haired woman who served us on the first day never seems to smile and her companion has mastered the art of ignoring customers judging perfectly that moment just before the expectant dinners lose patience and are about to leave.

But amongst these are the more welcoming restaurants of which La Pagul, shines out.   It is tucked away in a side street and on our first night was closed.

But the big barn doors and the selection of community posters pinned outside announcing a variety of events caught our attention.

That said it wasn’t our first choice, that fell to another place which always seemed fully booked.

So, on our last night we tried it, and it was indeed a choice well made.

The staff were attentive, friendly and helpful, the food excellent and the other customers were mostly locals which pretty much confirmed its worth.

And for those who want to know about the food, we started with a shared plate of fresh vegetables with grilled goat’s cheese, followed by gnocchi in a light Gorgonzola sauce with the some delightful puddings.

The decor had a feel of the late 1960s and early 70s with art work inspired by Dali and an easy going approach which was reflected in the way they welcomed in the flower seller, allowing him to offer his wares, and even giving him something to teak away with.

Location; Mergozzo

Pictures; around, 2018, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and La Pagul, courtesy of the restaurant

*Ristorante La Pagul, Vicolo XI, 4, 28802 Mergozzo

First in the Fight ……launches at the People’s History Museum …... November 14th

Now I am looking forward to the book launch of First in the Fight next month at the People’s History Museum.

According to the press release, First in the Fight has been “written by Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock, and with 20 individual Women in Print illustrations, First in the Fight tells of a city where, from the women who marched to St Peter’s Field flying the flag for reform to the first entrepreneurs, women have stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight for equality and change.

First in the Fight has been on a fascinating journey of its own, beginning with the public campaign championed by local councillor Andrew Simcock that led to the creation of the Emmeline Pankhurst statue, that now stands in St Peter’s Square in Manchester.  

All 20 women featured in the book were also part of the campaign, with their stories united by historian and author Helen Antrobus in First in the Fight.  

The stories featured in First in the Fight are those of Margaret Ashton, Lydia Becker, Louise Da-Cocodia, Margaret Downes, Elizabeth Gaskell, Annie Horniman, Sunny Lowry, Kathleen Ollerenshaw, Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst, Sylvia Pankhurst, Mary Quaile, Elizabeth Raffald, Esther Roper, Enriqueta Rylands, Olive Shapley, Shena Simon, Marie Stopes, Ellen Wilkinson and Emily Williamson”.

Now both the subject matter and the story of how the book was written is fascinating and one I shall be returning to over the next month and a bit.
Location; People’s History Museum, November 14th, at

Pictures; statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, St Peter’s Square, and cover of First in the Fight, courtesy of Andrew Simcock

Tram Terminus Levenshulme

Now I don’t know either Stockport Road or Levenshulme very well, and despite the clue on the back which referred to the Pack Horse pub, I gave up trying to locate exactly where we are.

There is no date, and so I await those with greater knowledge to offer up more.

Location; Levenshulme

Picture; Tram Terminus Levenshulme, date unknown from the collection of David Harrop