Thursday, 31 January 2019

When we made cider and perry here in Chorlton in 1847

Back in 1847, the journalist Alexander Somerville had walked the lanes of Chorlton looking for evidence of potato blight, that disease which had destroyed the crops in Ireland, and was already in parts of northern Derbyshire.

He didn’t find any but recorded his conversations with some of our local farmers, one of which was James Higginbotham whose land included a strip along what is now the Rec on the corner of Beech Road and Cross Road.

The conversation turned away from potatoes to fruit which made up a significant part of the crops we grew for the Manchester markets and included raspberries, rhubarb, currants and gooseberries and above all apples and pears and in particular the Newbridge pear, and Rose of Sharon apple.

Look at any old maps from the mid 19th century and you are struck by the number of orchards across the township.  Most would have gone to the markets, but some would have been turned into cider and perry and drunk at home.

So it was of particular concern to James Higginbotham that in the June of 1847 his apples and pears were doing well.  As he said to Somerville who dutifully reported the conversations,

“The insects had made great havoc among the fruit in the adjoining orchard during the hot sunny days of May and the first week of June but the cold of last week and the rain of this had come in time to save still a good quantity.  He pointed to his Rose of Sharon apple trees which had bloomed so profusely as to be wonderful; they had been invaded by a terrible army of insects, and had hardly been able to maintain the conflict; but the myriads of diseased invaders wrapped in their winding sheets of cobwebs and laying upon the ground, where the rain had carried them, showed how beneficial the cold and rain had been.  There was still a goodly show of apples left, and the Rose of Sharon branches were again fresh, beautiful and healthy.  The Newbridge pears clustered upon the trees as if the invaders of the orchard had never been.”*

It is a priceless piece of reporting and not just because here are the voices of the people who lived in Chorlton over 160 years ago but because it provides us with the actual names of what types of apples and pears were grown here.

And I am indebted to Mary Pennell of the National Fruit Collection** who kindly dug out some information about both crops. “Newbridge – is in fact a ‘perry pear’. It is also known as ‘White Moorcroft’. Rose of Sharon – an apple variety that was exhibited from Cheshire in 1934. Unfortunately this is the only record for this apple but at least we know that it did at least exist at some stage.”  All of which is very exciting, well to me anyway.

Our Newbridge pears are harvested from the first to the third week in October about the same time as the Rose of Sharon apples.  Now what for me is revealing is that here we have the first evidence that along with cider our farmers were growing perry pears and must have been making perry.  And for anyone unsure, perry is made in much the same way as cider.

So there you have it, and tomorrow I think I shall pursue the story but in the meantime you can look again at the Newbridge pear and pear tree.  And reflect that some of the fruit trees which are there in our gardens may be have links to those seen by Somerville and farmed by Higginbotham.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Pictures; Newbridge pears and pear tree from the National Fruit Collection

*Manchester Examiner, Saturday June 19th 1847


The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no.26 on a sunny day

For four decades the pictures I took of Eltham and Woolwich in the mid ‘70’s sat undisturbed in our cellar.

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

The quality of the original lighting and the sharpness is sometimes iffy, but they are a record of a lost Eltham and Woolwich.

It was, as I remember a warm day and the place was busy.

Woolwich was always a tad more edgy than Eltham High Street, but that was part of the attraction.

Back then I would take friends from Manchester around, showing off the river, the ferry and of course the market stalls.

They always left impressed.

Location; Woolwich

Picture; Woolwich circa 1976, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Rediscovering the Whalley Hotel

Everyone likes a Mary Celeste story. *

Usually it involves a place in perfect condition which appears to be abandoned, with everything left as if the occupants had just popped out for a minute.

And with that comes the hint of a mystery,  or of something not quite right.

In the case of the Mary Celeste it led to all manner of additions to the story which deepened  the mystery, but sadly were not true.

Now I can’t offer up a mystery to go with Andy Robertson’s pictures of the Whalley Hotel which closed suddenly and after a very long interval morphed into apartments.

There is nothing odd about that.

Former pubs, warehouses and churches as well as schools have been transformed into residential properties, with varying degrees of success over the last two decades.

What makes the Whalley just that bit different is that Andy “got in” with the permission of the builders soon after the pub went dark, which I suppose is better described as went dry.

The curtains were still up at the windows, the pictures on the walls, and the last notices to customers were still waiting for someone to read them.

But mixed with all of these, were the bags of cement, piles of plaster board and a mix of power tools.

I didn’t go in the Whalley Hotel that often, in fact the last time I ordered a pint there was in the summer of 1975.

That said, it was a place I passed on the bus most days and more recently a place I have written about on the blog.*

More than that it was a landmark featuring in countless photographs right back into the last century and beyond.

So, for all those who never knew it, and a lot more who did, here are Andy’s last pictures, taken in 2015.

Leaving me just to make an appeal for stories, pictures or memorabilia about Didsbury pubs, which I know is an outrageous piece of opportunism.

But there are no traditional pubs in Whalley Range, and so having written a book about the city centre pubs and those of Chorlton, Peter Topping and I have fastened on Didsbury.

The book is well underway and like the others will tell the stories of pubs and the bars.

You can leave a comment on the blog or message us on facebook and twitter

Location; Whalley Range

Pictures; The Whalley Hotel, 2015, after the beer and customers had gone, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*The Whalley Hotel,

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

The lost orchards of Chorlton

Today I went looking for the Newbridge pear and the Rose of Sharon apple.

They had been grown here in the 1840’s and had caught the eye of the journalist Alexander Somerville who reported that both pear and apple were “fresh, beautiful and healthy.”

I wrote about them recently and it occurred to me that I should go on an adventure with my old botanist chum and see if we could locate any last vestiges of them.  David reckoned that there were still orchards on the other side of the Mersey not far from Jackson’s Boat, but the weather was against us and never being one for getting wet the quest has been postponed.

But in the meantime I set out for find the ones that Alexander Somerville described.  Now these belonged to the farmer James Higginbotham and they took in the land either side of what is now Crossland Road up as far as Higson Avenue.

But there were others dotted across the township.  Now the productive life of an apple tree is about 30-40 years although some can go for 80 to a 100 years,* so with this in mind I doubt that any we find today will date from 1847, but you never know.

So I travel in hope, but even if we don’t find any Newbridge pears or Rose of Sharon apples what fascinates me is that they confirm the possibility that were making cider and perry here in the township.  Of course most of our apples were sent to the Manchester markets but some will have been retained for home use.  And because the Newbridge pear is a perry pear it follows that either we were making perry or we were sending it on to be turned into perry.

All of which also means there is now the hunt for an old press, and if that could be found I would really be very pleased.

*And there are examples which were planted at the beginning of the 19th century

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy

Picture; Higson’s orchard from a detail of the OS map of Lancashire, 1841, courtesy of Digital Archives,

The lost Eltham & Woolwich pictures ...... no.25 in the back garden of Well Hall Road

There is nothing more bitter sweet than uncovering the picture of three of my sisters in the garden in Well Hall.

We were all young with the world a head of us, and now we have fond memories of growing up there.

The image is one of those lost pictures I took of Eltham and Woolwich in the mid ‘70’s which sat undisturbed in our cellar for decades.

But all good things eventually come to light.

They were colour slides which have been transferred electronically.

The quality of the original lighting and the sharpness is sometimes iffy, but they are a record of a lost Eltham and Woolwich.

On that sunny day Dad will have been pottering, I was busy with the camera, and our Stella, Jillian and Theresa were discussing something, only Elizabeth was missing.

Location; Well Hall

Picture; Well Hall, circa 1976, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

On the start of all things Didsbury .......... the pubs and hotels

Now if  I was a member of the Friends of the Kingsway, I might be a bit miffed at the way its contribution to Didsbury is pretty much over looked.

The Gateway, 1959
And that is a shame because it is the great highway out of the city through Burnage to Parrs Wood and beyond.

It was completed in 1923, with plans to extend it to the city boundary in the 1930 Manchester Road Plan, and eight years later work began to extend it over the River Mersey to the Stockport-Altrincham road at Gatley.**

But such an important development gets scant attention in the two history books of Didsbury, with one offering up just nine references, of which only one stretched to a sentence.***

Added to which, neither mentions those two fine examples of 1930s pubs.

These are the Gateway whose license was approved in 1935, and the Parrs Wood Hotel which pipped it by five years.

The Parrs Wood Hoet, 1959
Now I can understand why, because when Mr Million, Mr France and Mr Woodall undertook their books, both pubs were mere interlopers, which couldn’t compare to the historic and iconic public houses in the village.

That said the Gateway and the Parrs Wood should be celebrated as part of Didsbury’s history.

And to rectify that over sight they will appear in the first chapter of our new book, Manchester Pubs – The Stories Behind the Doors Didsbury, which is the third in the series, after the pubs of the City Centre and Chorlton-cum-Hardy.****

Like all our books, this one will include stories of each pub, original Peter paintings, and heaps more, all laid out as a series of walks.

Leaving me just to make that appeal for pictures, memories or memorabilia, details of which you can leave as a comment on the blog or a message via facebook or twitter

Pictures;The Gateway 1959, M42721, & The Parrs Wood Hotel, 1959, m50211, J. F. Harrs, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*New Roads For Manchester, Nine Schemes Approved, Manchester Guardian March 19, 1930

**Extension of Kingsway, Manchester Guardian, October 14, 1938

***A History of Didsbury, Ivor R. Million, 1969, A New History of Didsbury, E. France & T.F. Woodall, 1976

****  Manchester Pubs- The Stories Behind the Doors, Centre Centre and Manchester Pubs- The Stories Behind the Doors, Chorlton-cum-Hardy are available from and Chorlton Bookshop

Petrol cans ....... I wish I had bought

Now the petrol; can has pretty much been around since the motor car.

Roger's petrol can
I can’t say I have given them much thought.  Ours is green and was bought a few years ago after one of those embarrassing moments.

A quick trawl revealed that they come in all shapes and sizes, catering for the purist who favours metal over the flippity gibbet who always buys plastic.

What started me off was this one sent up to me by Roger in a lighted hearted bit of banter centering on our old and now long gone Citroën 2CV.

And in an instant I was pulled.  It looks old and Roger has promised to venture back out to his shed to see if there are any clues to its age.

Unlike many petrol cans today, old ones came with a name or even a logo of the company that  dispensed the.

So, on that fascinating site, A History of the World, run by the BBC and The British Museum, I came across two.

One of which, was a Shell can, which also contained a separate oil container. It had a screw-on top made of nickel silver, which ceased to be used around 1928 when chrome was introduced.

The other was a blue can from the Belfast company, Munster Simms, which had the all-Ireland franchise for petrol.*

Our 2CV
They are in their way, beautiful things, and there are lots more on another site dedicated to all things petrol.**  On its home page, Alan Chandler comments,   "the purpose of this website is to share with other Petroliana collectors and enthusiasts the items and information available regarding our hobby. 

Little is currently published either on paper or the internet covering early petrol pumps, globes, motoring enamel advertising signs and associated petroleum items. 

  This is surprising given the great interest in anything antique and the similar interest in old cars and associated automobilia. 

And three from Mr Harrop
This website is largely based on photographs of the 1500 plus items in my personal collection that I have assembled and restored over the last eight years."

And as these things happen once the blog is posted, the story just grows.

So Roger came back commenting that, "the significant thing about all of these cans is the fact that they were pre filled with one gallon of petrol and the price of the can and its contents were embossed into the can and the cap sealed with wire and a lead seal. 

With the price of fuel being fairly stable 80 years ago, the manufacturers/suppliers of the pre filled cans could safely have the price embossed into the top of the can with no fear of fluctuating prices giving them a headache".

1118 Chester Road, Stretford, undated
And Bill sent this, adding, "the granddaughter of this shop passed the picture on to me. In the early days of motoring those cans of petrol would have been purchased from shops like this one at 1118 Chester Rd Stretford as few garages existed".

All of which I suspect is the start of a new series.

We shall see.

Picture; red Esso petrol can, undated, from the collection of Roger Callow, and three, courtesy of David Harrop, and 1118 Chester Road shared by Bill Sumner

*Petrol Cans


Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Two elephants, a farmer’s son and a travelling circus ......... Part two

Yesterday I re ran the story of my old friend Oliver Bailey’s association with two elephants. *

To be more accurate it was Oliver’s father who was connected with the two elephants, but that was yesterday’s posting.

Today I thought I would share the remarkable account which Oliver has dug out from the introduction by the publishers to the book about the two elephants* and provide a link to the author's excellent blog on the story,

Here you can read not only about the elephants but much more about the history of the circus.

'Salt and Sauce were owned and presented by some of the most famous show business people of their era. Their owners included Carl Hagenbeck, George William Lockhart, Herbet "Captain Joe" Taylor, John "Broncho Bill" Swallow, Dudley Zoo, Tom Fossett, Dennis Fossett, Harry Coady and Billy Butlin. Their presenters included Ivor Rosaire and Emily Paulo. Formerly members and believed to be the longest suriviving members of George William Lockhart's "Cruet", they were featured in various books, newspapers and magazines in their day, and are the focus of a new book "The Legend of Salt and Sauce".

The elephants were famed for their vast array of tricks, but also feared for their temperamental moods. Sauce (known as "Saucy" most of the time) killed George William Lockhart (her owner and trainer) in an accident at Walthamstow Station and Salt killed William Aslett (an elephant groom) when she attacked him in 1957 on Rosaire's Circus.

Despite both Salt suffering dropsy symptoms that had already killed two other members of "The Cruet" she went on to live for five decades. Her death was well documented in the Cambridge local press (source: The Legend of Salt and Sauce) when she accidentally got stuck in Vauxhall lake whilst touring with Ringland's Circus in 1952. 

After seven hours and with the aid of a crane she was freed from the lake, but suffered from pneumonia and died after a week. According to the local press over one hundred wreathes were left for her at the circus. It was predicted that her lifelong companion, Sauce, would die soon afterwards (source: Salt and Sauce were Separated by John D. Swallow), but she lived until 1960, dying from "natural causes".

The book tells the true story of Salt and Sauce, two Indian elephants, who arrived in Britain in 1902 and became involved in the live entertainment industry from the Music Hall scene to circus and finally Butlin's Holiday camp. This is the story of how the elephants became both feared and loved by some of the most famous people of their era, and how their story became mythical among the circus community."

* The Legend of Salt & Sauce: The Amazing Story of Britain's Most Famous Elephants
by Jamie Clubb with Jim Clubb  ISBN Number: 187290436X Publisher: Aardvark Publishing

Pictures; from the covers of the book courtesy of Jamie Clubb

The Happy Window ........ no. 17 from the Goldsmith Collection

Not to be confused with the Happy Door I featured earlier.

Location; Brighton

Picture; the Happy Window, 2017 from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith

Clayton Hall ....... inviting memories of the past

Now I remain a fan of Clayton Hall, more so since I rediscovered it, and came to know the Friends of the Hall.

The team have done much to restore the hall, regularly mount events to celebrate the building and the surrounding area and are always keen to share the Hall's past with parties of school students and interested visitors.

Their events focusing on Bradford Pit and the Great War and Clayton were a great success, and generated memories and artefact's which have increased our knowledge.

All of which just leaves me to reproduce this poster of their next venture.

Picture; poster courtesy of Friends of Clayton Hall, and  Hall in 2017 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Clayton Hall,

Monday, 28 January 2019

Two elephants, a farmer’s son and a travelling circus Part One

Now the reason why Robert Bailey rode an elephant here in Chorlton in the summer of 1942 had a lot to do with the family farm. 

The Bailey farm was at the bottom of Sandy Lane and ran along St Werburgh’s Road and had a large enough supply of water to satisfy the thirst of the two elephants.

The Bailey’s also owned the land where the circus camped.

It was the strip of land which ran along the side of the railway track all the way from St Werburgh’s Road to Wilbraham Road.

And when the circus moved on the Bailey's left their cattle to graze there.

Photographs of the animals  on the land are in the local collection of Manchester Libraries and just to underline the point another photograph contains the sign “Beware of the Bull.”

Nor were these pictures from some distant past but were taken in 1959. Oliver Bailey remembers also driving pigs from the railway station along the roads to the farm.

Picture; Wilbraham Road m18513, Landers 1959, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Sunday, 27 January 2019

We Remember ............

On Holocaust Memorial Day, I have reproduced the following post from Marla Raucher Osborn. 

“Remembering today my grandmother's HORN family of Rohatyn, with four cousins shown in this 1937 Hebrew school photo. None of these children survived. #WeRemember”*

It is sobering to read that a recent survey revealed “Five per cent of UK adults don’t believe the Holocaust – the intentional murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators – really happened and one in 12 (8%) say the scale of the Holocaust has been exaggerated, according to research released on Holocaust Memorial Day (Sunday 27 January 2019).

The poll, commissioned by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a charity established and funded by the UK government to promote and support the international day of remembrance”.**

Anyone wishing to learn more about the Holocaust in Rohatyn should go to the website:

The photo is shown and sourced on our page on the interwar years:

Picture; from Rohatyn Yizkor Book

*Marla Raucher Osborn, Project Lead Jewish Headstone Recovery at Rohatyn Jewish Heritage

**Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Sand, boats and sky .......... on the Kent coast

Now I have never been to Broadstairs.

It is a coastal town on the Isle of Thanet about 80 miles east of London.

To the north is Margate and to the south  is Ramsgate.

We didn’t do holidays back when I was growing up so it is nice to see that our Jillian was recently down there with her partner Jeff.

And during her time amongst the sand, boats and sky she took this picture which I like.

Location; Broadstairs

Picture; the beach, Broadstairs, 2017, from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith

When history met a beer festival and became a story

Now looking out of Manchester Central at a grey city skyline was to be reminded that what was going on inside the exhibition hall was so much better.

Looking out on a grey skyline, 2019
Yesterday was the last day of the CAMRA Beer and Cider Festival, and over the last four days we had observed lots of very happy people, enjoying the beer and cider, comparing notes, and generally just having a good time.

The guests included the dedicated, who selected the drinks they were interested in, completed the check list awarding points, exchanged opinions, and then went off for a different brew.

They mingled happily with those who, while they enjoyed the beer, were less interested in point scoring.

Inside with the beer and cider, 2019
And finally, there were those who saw it as their mission to down as many pints as they could, admitting only the distraction of a challenge on Mr. Porky’s stall where if they could successfully get five ping pong balls in a series of beer glasses, they won a packet of pork scratching.

All of this we observed from our stall, promoting the two Manchester pubs books we published in 2016 and 2017. *

Both of which are not guides to the pubs, but the stories of the pubs, and the surrounding area, richly illustrated with paintings by Peter Topping.

Plenty of people came up to us and commented how much they had enjoyed the first book on the city centre pubs, were back for the one on Chorlton-cum-Hardy and were pleased that we were working on the Didsbury edition.

Quite a few, also shared fresh stories of Manchester pubs.

But of all the encounters on the four days, the best was from young Karl who on the last day bought a copy of the city centre book for his sister, discovered he was in the book and promptly came back and purchased a second copy.

Karl with Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping
Leaving me to reflect, that if you have to promote a book a beer and cider festival in an iconic old railway station is a pretty neat choice.

Location; Manchester

Pictures, inside GMex at the Beer and Cider Festival, 2019, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, Karl meets Andrew Simpson, 2019, courtesy of Peter Topping

*** Manchester Pubs- The Stories Behind the Doors, Centre Centre and Manchester Pubs- The Stories Behind the Doors, Chorlton-cum-Hardy are available from and Chorlton Bookshop

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Sometime on Beech Road and a lesson to photographers

It’s one of those things about taking pictures. 

You have to be disciplined because if you are not then the details get lost.

And that is something I constantly wish I could conjure up with many of the photographs in the collection.

All too often there is no date, and certainly no indication of who the people are that stare back at you.  They are lost to history and with the passage of time there is no one left to claim them.

Now with this one I can speak with some authority not least because I took the picture. We are on Beech Road and I remember it as one of those perfect late spring days which still have the habit of surprising  you.

The sun shines with that bright sharp light which penetrates everywhere but it can be bone cold.

But not on this early Sunday afternoon when it is warm enough to sit in shirt sleeves and linger over that second glass of dry Italian white wine.

As for a date that is rather hazy.  I was standing inside Treshers off license which puts it a good few years ago and I am ashamed to say that is the best I can do.

It is so perfectly Beech Road with that mix of casual drinkers and a jam full of parked cars.

Of course the historian in me has to point out that this is all still relatively new. Café Primavera, and the Lead Station which set up in the early 90s were pretty much all there was on the Road, and as a food review of 2003 pointed out a decade later it will still pretty much the same.

Taking in the whole of Chorlton there were the few familiar names which are still around to day, like the Turkish Delight  but the roll call of the vanished is depressing including as it does Michaelangelo, the New Mai Wah, Palmiro, The Nose Wine Bar, Sasso and Azad Manzil.

Add to this Buonissimo, the deli run by Bob and Del and Murial’s the greengrocers.

Now I am the first to admit that Murial’s was old Beech Road but the fruit and veg were second to none and not only did she run a tab for me but was happy to give some cash during the week which just went on the bill to be settled at the end of the week.

Now this is not some sentimental lament for what we have lost.  During the 1970s into the 80s, food shops on Beech Road were closing fast and by and large not being replaced by anything.

There was a seedy neglected feel about the place which was not made any better when the amusement arcade opened beside the Post Office.

So despite the weekend parked up cars outside our house and the constant procession of people down Beech Road, watching the customers relax in the sun with their glass of dry white is just another part of the story of our road.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

 *Where to Eat in Chorlton, July 2003

Looking out from Salford no. 10

Now, I know there are people who don’t like the design of the Imperial War Museum North.

Added to which there are others don’t like many of the new buildings popping up across Salford.

But then there were plenty of “tasteless” ones which were built during the 19th and 20th centuries, and while some of the new developments are iffy, there are lots that I like, including this one which I know isn’t Salford.

Location; looking out from Salford

Picture; The Imperial War Museum North, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Friday, 25 January 2019

Protecting those who no one one wants to protect ............. on the streets of Manchester & Salford in 1880

“to obtain some legal remedy for wandering children, who were by neglect only acquiring the immorality and the vice of the public streets of Manchester from being at large during late hours”*  

History  is messy, and it can be easy to portray the children's charities as imperious, and driven by their own narrow view of parenting.  So there are those who point to the way the charities in the late 19th century appeared to ignore the rights of parents over the perceived needs of the children.

But to every story there is always another side, which brings me neatly to the work of the Manchester and Salford, Boys' and Girls' Refuges whose activities  were all embracing and almost from the beginning, it campaigned on behalf of those young children making a living from hawking on the streets and by intervening in the courts to prosecute neglectful and abusive parents.

The slow progress to the legal protection of children in the work place dated back to the 1830s, but almost four decades on those who worked the streets selling newspapers, matches and fuses were still left unprotected.

Evidence presented to the Home Secretary by a deputation from Manchester and Salford in 1878 highlighted a situation where “children from 4 to 7 years of age were sent into the streets to sell newspapers, matches, and various other articles at all hours, winter and summer without regard to the inclemency of the weather, and the practice was rapidly increasing.”

Leonard Shaw added “in one evening’s work 10 members went through the streets and laboured till 12 o’clock, each member taking a street in Manchester. In that time they took to their homes some 50 varying in age from 5 to 12 years” and estimated that over Manchester in the three hours up to midnight “there must be somewhere near 1,000 of these children.”

Apart from the sheer scandal of the level of exploitation and the degree of suffering, there was that ever present concern that these young people were in great risk.

Leonard Shaw continued, “they had watched little girls of 6 and 10 years of age in the streets growing into women, singing and speaking to men, and learning all sorts of evil; and they could point to some who adopted the streets for their living.”

But the lack of resources at a local level made it difficult to enforce existing legislation.

In 1880 Leonard Shaw published ‘Street Arabism: Its Cause and Its Cure’, which set out a clear programme to eradicate the scandal. This included the employment of more staff to enforce existing regulations, along with the establishment of regulated brigades of street sellers. These would be furnished with a uniform and badge, which would operate in conjunction with a register of those engaged in the brigades.

There would be a prohibition on children less than 10 years of age hawking any article on the streets, with a restriction on the hours worked by children under fourteen and the provision that parents would be responsible for each breach of the regulations.**

And it was this last suggestion which weighed heavily with the Refuge who had concluded that many of the children selling on the streets were not orphans, nor destitute but had parents, returned home at the end of the night and fitted in their street work after school.

Leaving aside the moralistic tone of much of the commentaries, which referred to “lazy and drunken parents”, the Charity presented evidence that the children were there on the streets to supplement or provide an income for their mothers and fathers.

Writing in 1889 for Manchester Statistical Society, Gilbert R. Kirlew observed, “that in the great majority of cases the parent or parents of these children were drunken or vicious, and becoming the employers of their own children for the time being they provided them with the capital to become street hawkers, and expected, at least, 40 per cent in return for the outlay and labour involved”.

He also pointed out that “a considerable number are the off spring of vice and illegitimate –‘not wanted’ and therefore, uncared for .... and their homes, in many cases are little more than places in which to creep for shelter, like a dog kennel – a considerable portion not even getting meals in them”.***

And in an earlier pamphlet for the Charity he had told the story of two boys aged four and eight who he had encountered, who were neglected by their drunken father living on “bare boards of a dirty empty room”.****

It followed then that the Charity should be become directly involved in the protection of young people.

To that end in 1884, the Charity set up a child’s protection department, in which “26 cases of child cruelty and neglect had been investigated” The following year the Manchester and Salford Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was formed as a branch of the Refuge, operating from the Children’s Shelter, originally located on Major Street.

The Children’s Shelter had been set up in 1884, to give shelter to children sleeping on the streets of Manchester. The unique principle behind the Children’s Shelter was its philosophy to stay open 24 hours a day, meaning no child in need would ever be left out on the streets to fend for themselves. Many of these children were brought to the shelter by a ‘concerned citizen’, often a policeman, a neighbour or member of the clergy. Most did not stay in the shelter longer than a week, being returned to family and friends or placed in one of the Charity’s more permanent homes. The service moved to Chatham Street as a permanent residence six years later.

In its first full year, 522 cases of cruelly treated children were dealt with by the service. Of this number, around 80 were admitted into the Charity’s various homes. Some cases were taken to court and the parents prosecuted.

In 1889 an ‘Act for the Better Prevention of Cruelty to Children’ was passed, giving the Refuge greater power to deal with cases of neglect and over the next ten years 9922 cases were dealt with.

Cases like that of the death of William aged 10 of Salford in 1893. The court heard that he had died after “unnecessary suffering and injury to his health by his mother beating and striking him” and keeping him in a scullery in the family home on Pearson Street in Broughton.

The Refuge took up the case and obtained a successful conviction for “unnecessary suffering and cruel neglect on the part of the mother”, who was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment with hard labour.

Commenting on this successful prosecution, Mr Leonard Shaw, in a letter to the Manchester Guardian, made the promise that “those who cruelly and brutally torture helpless children will receive no mercy at our hands.” He added that during the January of that year the Charity investigated 37 cases involving the welfare of 137 young people and of the 37, “6 were taken to court with more still pending while in the majority a sharp warning and a watchful eye will accomplish that prevention which is the chief object of our society.”

 And that resolute and remorseless task was continued until 1895 when, after the establishment of a local branch of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children the previous year, the Charity handed over “this painful but necessary duty.”

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust*****

*Young Children and Late Hours Deputation to Mr Cross, Manchester Guardian, May 11 1878

**Street Arabism Its Cause and Cure, L.K. Shaw, 1880, Manchester, page 11

 *** Kirlew, Gilbert R., Facts and Figures Relating to Street Children, page 44, Transactions of the Manchester Statistical Society, 1888-9

****Kirlew, Gilbert R, Tim and Joe The Living Dead, 1872

*****The images were all produced at the time , but some were part of the ongoing campaign by the charity to show the ir work with pictures of before and after

When all eyes were on Chorlton, the local elections of 1928

Now I know that local elections do not fascinate everyone, but the 1928 election here in Chorlton had got the lot. 

It was fought out against a backdrop of worsening unemployment figures and an expectation that 1928 might be the year that the Labour Party became the largest group on the City Council.

Across the city the Manchester Guardian did not rate the chances of the Conservatives too highly and speculated that of the sixteen seats they were defending they might only hold eight.

The Liberals who were defending just five were reckoned to be safe in four of the five but it was Labour “with fewer seats to defend and a greater number of more vunerable positions [to] attack,” who were making an “audacious bid to secure a clear majority .... and although the attempt is hardly likely to succeed on the present occasion it is by no means a forlorn one.  The Labour representation has been steadily increasing and the at the moment only requires nine additional seats to give it the preponderance it desires”*

So attention focused here, where the Guardian told its readers the Conservatives were defending a slim majority and one that looked all the more under threat because the year before the Liberals had won the seat with a huge majority of nearly 2,500 votes, but as the Guardian went on to warn “it must be borne in mind that at the present occasion Mr Wicks, the Liberal candidate, is opposed by a serious Labour candidate in addition to the retiring Conservative.”

Sadly any campaign literature is unobtainable at present and we are forced back on the newspapers.  The Labour candidate was Alice McIlwrick who had stood the year before in Didsbury and gained  10% of the vote.

I wish I knew more about her.  She lived in various parts of south Manchester, had married at the age of 20 and was confident enough to issue a challenge to her Liberal candidate to “speak for a quarter of an hour in response to a challenge.”  

Moreover she was indeed seen by the Labour Party as a serious Labour candidate as they sent the Labour M.P., R J Davies and the Councillor Wright Robinson to speak on the same platform.

The result was not I suspect what many had expected.  The Conservatives retained the seat with 4, 788 votes to 3, 955 for the Liberals and a very creditable vote of 1,457 for Labour and 14% of the vote.  It was the first time the Labour Party had contested the seat and it would be another four years before they improved on that share of the vote.

What makes the election even more interesting was that it was rerun a month later.  The Tory councillor had died suddenly and the election was held just five days before Christmas.  Again the Manchester Guardian weighed in with the observation that “there are few wards in which Conservative and Liberal opinion is so nicely balanced.  Of the eight elections that have been fought in Chorlton since 1920 four have been won by the Conservatives and four by the Liberals.”

And in an echo of a more recent Lib Dem assertion that the “Conservatives can’t win here” the Liberals pointed out that the Tory candidate‘s majority the month before was just 253 above what he had polled in 1925 while the Liberals had won the year before with a “record majority of 2,329 votes.”

None the less they were equally quick to point out that Labour “cannot possibly hope to win the seat and  suggest that a number of moderate Labour votes go to Mrs Pilling [the Liberal] who is a strong candidate.”

But in the event the Labour vote held with Alice McIlwrick obtaining 12% of the vote, the Liberals dropping three per cent and the Tories gaining an extra six per cent.

Now this may well have been simply because of the lower turn out by the electorate.  In the November election this had been 52% but a month later it had fallen to 28%.

And in part it may also have had something to do with the intervention of the Salford Diocesan Catholic Federation who had reported that “the questions addressed to the candidates on the education question have been answered satisfactorily by Mr Somervile the Conservative candidate; unsatisfactorily by Mrs Pilling the Liberal candidate, and that Mrs McIlwrick, the Labour candidate, has not replied to them.”**

The right of Roman Catholics to establish parochial day schools for children up to fourteen had become an important issue.  The Salford Diocesan Catholic Federation had held five meetings where candidates in the election were "invited to outline their attitude towards this educational problem.  In addition five test questions have been sent to each municipal candidate, and the answers to these will be published during the weekend. The views of each candidate will determine whether he shall have the support of local Catholics."***
The issue had arisen after a dispute in Levenshulme when the Education Committee had refused to approve plans for a parochial school.

Well I suspect the jury will be out until we can find some more first hand accounts of the election but like all these things I am confident they will turn up.

Picture; The Conservative Club and party headquarters, and the result of the election in November 1928.

* Manchester Guardian October 1st 1928
** Manchester Guardian December 18th 1928
***Manchester Guardian October 27th 1928

Down at Media City ..... no. 2 under a vengeful sky

Now I could make some great claim to attempting to frame the War Museum against a  threatening and grim sky there by drawing a link between a museum which records conflict and the equally violent elements.

But I would be fabricating the truth, which was that Sunday afternoon at Media City was a poor day for taking pictures.

The sun only wanted to come out very briefly and was often hidden by heavy grey rain clouds.

All of which meant that the details of the building were lost in the gloom.

Location; Salford

Picture; looking out from Media City, June 2017 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Slowly fading away .......... no. 9 ...... from The Goldsmith Collection

I suppose it might be more fitting to say. "slowly rusting away".

Location; Brighton

Picture; the Pier, 2017, from the collection of Jillian Goldsmith

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Stories of the Great War from Eltham and Woolwich ............. nu 1 the milestone on Shooters Hill

An occasional series reflecting on the impact of the Great War.

Now I have to say I never really knew the story of the war memorial outside Christ Church on Shooters Hill.

I will have passed it countless times, but when you are young war memorials scarcely register especially when there is the promise of an unknown adventure in the woods behind.

But reading it now is to be reminded of the terrible loss of life during the Great War.

The inscription is simple and to the point.

What gives the memorial its added significance is that it is part of an older milestone of which I knew nothing.

And for that knowledge I have Tricia Lesley to thank who unearthed a wonderful history of Woolwich which gives a detailed description of the milestone and the war memorial.

“Originally on the other side of the road, having been placed there by the New Cross Turnpike Trust, the eighth milestone out of London on the Old Dover Road was accidentally fractured by a Borough Council steam roller during road repairs in 1903.

The Dartford plate had been totally destroyed in the collision.

It was thrown aside to be broken up but Vicar Wilson, with authority from the Borough Engineer removed the pieces to the church grounds where they were dowelled together and set up near the church door.

When the church war memorial was being discussed, Col. Bagnold, chairman of the parish war memorial committee, suggested fixing on the eastern side of the stone a plate indicating the distance to Ypres, with the addition of figures telling of the casualties incurred in defending the salient.  

The Director-general of the Ordinance Survey was called and arrived at the figure of 130 miles to the cloth Hall, correct to one-tenth of a mile.

The whole memorial was unveiled by Major General Sir Webb Gillman and dedicated by the Rector of Woolwich in October, 1922."*

All of which leaves me to say I have the book on order, and wish I had the opportunity to repeat the magic adventure in the woods.

Pictures; memorial stone, courtesy of Running Past, @running_past, Shooters Hill, courtesy of Jean Gammons, 1977 and cover of The Woolwich Story 

* The Woolwich Story, 1970, E. F. E. Jefferson.

The railway station, a beer festival and a change of name ........ Manchester Central

Now, when you spend your working day in the past, somethings pass you by.

Looking out from Manchester Central, 2017
Which is pretty much why I was surprised that GMex had changed its name to Manchester Central, and more so when I went on to discover that the change of name happened in 2007.

That said while I struggle to remember the new name, alternating between Manchester Central and Central Manchester, I do understand the logic, because for 89 years the site was home to Central Railway Station.

And while a lot of work went into transforming it into an exhibition centre it is still recognisable as a railway station, which English Heritage describes as, “Railway station, now exhibition hall and car park.

Beer, cider and good conversation, 2017
1876-9, by Sir John Fowler, for Midland Railway Company; altered. Iron and glass on brick undercroft, with brick side walls. Rectangular plan. 

Single segmental-vaulted vessel of 15 bays with 210-foot span, built on extensive undercrofts; pilastered 2-storey south side with 3 windows on each floor of each bay, those at ground floor round-headed and those above square-headed; segmental arched roof with ridged bands of glazing. 

C20 glazed canopy to entrance at north end. Vaulted undercroft with intersecting tunnel vaults. Intended entrance block at north end never built”. *

I could say more but I think English Heritage has nailed it.

Central Railway Station, 1979
As a railway station it closed in 1969 and reopened as GMex in 1986 and has been hosting events ever since.

And that brings me to the Beer and Cider Festival organised by CAMERA, which is currently in play at the posh front end of the hall.** 

I say the posh end, because from where Peter and I have a stand, we command an excellent view of the great station clock, glass window and a mix of old and contemporary buildings.

Manchester Pubs, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 2017
We are here promoting our two Manchester pub books, and last night which was the opening day we sold a lot.***

Not that this is an outrageous piece of self-promotion, just the usual self-promotion.

What was nice, were the people who came up to us having bought the book at the last festival in 2017 and commented on how much they had enjoyed the central Manchester edition and were pleased that we had now added one on the pubs and bars of Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

And we will be back today, meeting old friends and making new ones until the festival’s close on Saturday evening.

The conversation will drift over the relative merits of the beer and cider, the two pub books and for me memories of the building after the railway trains had departed, and the building became just another car park.

Manchester Pubs, special edition, 2017
Leaving me just to say our stand is close to the official camera presence and we will be pleased to see you.

Manchester Pubs is available from

Location; Manchester

Pictures, inside GMex at the Beer and Cider Festival, 2019, and the railway station in 1979 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

** The Festival began on Wednesday night and finishes on Saturday.

*** Manchester Pubs is available from and Chorlton Bookshop or from us at the festival