Friday, 31 May 2019

Three for the ‘ville, number 1, the Sports Pavilion in the Recreation Area, circa 1914

I am in picture mood and over the next few days I want to return to Chorltonville and feature three more pictures of the place.

This was the Sports Pavilion in the Recreation Area not long after the ‘ville had been built.

 Like many projects of its kind the designers were keen to provide places of leisure and the sports pavilion offered both tennis and bowls.

I doubt now that we will ever discover the identity of the people in the picture.  Given that it was taken around 1914 even the young girl will now be dead.

And because this was a commercial photograph it is unlikely that it forms part of a treasured family album which might just offer up a name.

Still the young girl in the dark dress appears on a number in the collection and each case holding a tennis racket.

You have to admire the tenacity of our six 'ville residents, because judging by the leaves on the trees and bushes it must still be sometime in the spring.

But then we do get some nice weather in April and May, so perhaps they have taken advantage of just such a day.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 22 .............. Milk Street

Milk Street is one of those streets I never really noticed.  

Milk Street, 2016
It runs from Marble Street to York Street but once started at Phoenix Street.

Today there is little you can say about it.  Its only notable feature is that concrete lattice wall which hides the entrance to an underground car park, otherwise you are faced with the backs of several buildings.

Now if I dig deep enough I might be able to discover the origins of its name which might have something to do with dairies and the practice of keeping cattle in the city centre.

But if so It will predate 1793 when Milk Street was already there.

By 1850 its residents consisted of six businesses ranging from manufacturers, to a paper.

Milk Street, 1849
There were plenty of other properties including two closed courts and at the junction with York Street the Concert Tavern and the Queen’s Theatre.  The latter was swept away in 1901 for the Parr’s Bank.

And that is it.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Milk Street, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson
and in 1849 from the OS for Manchester & Salford, 1842-49 courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Didsbury’s history through its pubs and bars …… at the press of a button

Now this is less the story of Didsbury’s pubs and bars, and more a reflection on how very soon that story will be in a book shop.

I grew up and began writing when a finished manuscript or leaflet was still handwritten, and then handed over to a professional printer, who composed the text, added the images, and then having created the blocks, consigned it to a printing machine.

In that respect the process was pretty much the same as when Gutenberg produced his bible in 1455, and Caxton labouered on Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, three decades later.

It was a skillful job and was best done by those who knew what they were doing.

But today, that has pretty much been transformed, and so when Peter and I went into collaboration writing a series of books we choose the route of self-publishing.

I researched and wrote the text, Peter sourced the images, along with some of his fine paintings, and  laid out the book.

And then, after exhaustive proof reading, the finished manuscript was sent by the press of a button from a computer down the line to the company producing the finished product.

At which point I have to say that many months of hard work went into writing and laying out the manuscript, but the final act of committing it to the publisher took no time at all.

The downside is the loss of jobs, and of a technology that goes back into the Middle Ages, and beyond, but the positive is that suddenly writing a book becomes accessible to almost anyone.

The cynic may mutter that this opens a pandora’s box, where mediocre and trivial publications flood the market, but that was ever so, as the Penny Dreadfuls of the 19th century testify.

There is still a cost, and there are always issues of distribution, but these can be overcome.  In the case of money, there are now exciting crowd funding possibilities and many budding authors will aim their work at a specific market, which may not even need a book shop to sell through.

We however remain of the belief that bookshops are important, and we sell through local outlets as well as online.

So, yes this is an advert for Manchester Pubs The Stories Behind the Doors Didsbury, but it is also the story of Didsbury’s pubs and bars and how they tell the story of the township.

The manuscript went down the line at 10 this morning, will take about ten days to print and will be ready to be read by mid-June and is available from and local bookshops

Now that is exciting.

Location; Didsbury

Pictures; early printing press, from previously unpublished drawings of the elementary work of Johann Bernhard Basedow, Frankfurt am Main 1922

Down at Christ Church that church in the fields

Now I have to say that Christ Church in West Didsbury has rather been ignored by me.

Christ Church in 2014
As Andy Robertson says “the old main gate and old main entrance are now only about 2 metres from the kerb of one of the busiest roads in Manchester.”

Not that it was always such for back in 1881 it was still surrounded by open countryside standing on Christ Church Avenue which was a wide tree lined avenue leading from Barlow Moor Road down to the Rectory and church which had been built in 1881.

And given its location it was known as Christ Church in the fields.

I have come across a few pictures of the church but this one of the Barlow Moor Road and the arched gateway to Christ Church Avenue about 1925 fascinates me.

The lodge is to the right and a for sale sign to our left.

The gateway in 1925
In 1932 Princess Parkway was cut south of Barlow Moor Road as the main link to the newly developing estate of Wythenshawe, and it was built over Christ Church Avenue and eleven fine looking houses with gardens were built from the corner of Barlow Moor Road down to the church.

So Christ Church Avenue had a short life, just a matter of 51 years, which means that I will have to do some more digging.

Christ Church Avenue in 1894
I am hoping that there will be people with memories of the church in the years just before and after the new road was cut.

And it maybe that there will some more photographs of the building and surrounding land.

I hope so.

But in the meantime here is Christ Church Avenue in 1894 courtesy of the OS map for South Lancashire.

Picture; Christ Church in 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson, the arched gateway from the Lloyd Collection, and map detail from the OS for south Lancashire, 1888-93, courtesy of
Digital Archives Association,

When Tuck & Sons confused Salford for Manchester

Now here is one of those picture postcards guaranteed to upset someone.

It was produced by Tuck & Sons and marketed around 1905, although the actual image maybe older.

It is entitled the Technical School and was part of the series of twelve cards issued as YE ETCHED MANCHESTER.

And if that were not enough the description on the front of the card runs, Manchester, Technical School, Salford, with the added insult that the designer incorporated the coat of arms of Manchester rather than Salford.

This may I suppose  make it a collector’s curiosity and one that seems to have been corrected on later cards.

Picture; Manchester, Technical School Salford, Tuck & Sons, 1905, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Thursday, 30 May 2019

What did Chorltonville do in the last war?

South Drive, 1913
Now I always thought that Chorlton had by and large escaped the damage done to other parts of the city during the last war.

But that was not so and there is plenty of evidence that we got our fair share.*

Some of that evidence came to light in this edition of the Chorltonville News in the form of a compilation of extracts from the minutes of the Association for the war years.***

"In spite of its peaceful location, Chorltonville did not entirely escape the Second World War.  

Nell Lane, 1941
In June 1940 one of the estate workers, Pat Carly Jnr, was called up for military service and left.  An entry in 1944 records that he was then serving in Burma, and would like to take up his job “if he is spared to return”.  

Pat’s departure must have hit the family finances, because in July 1940 his father, also Pat Carly, requested a rise in his wages.  

The Committee agreed to an increase of three shillings and sixpence (about 18p) per week.  Mr Carly again applied for an increase in December 1941, due to war conditions.  

He was given an increase of four shillings (20p) per week, but granted it as a War Bonus – maybe so that it could be withdrawn after the war.

Also in 1940, the Committee was chasing up an application to Manchester Corporation for air raid shelters for the estate, “pointing out that no provision whatever had been made by the Corporation in case of emergency”.

Barrage Ballon on the Rec, 1941
Manchester’s Town Clerk was, apparently, not sympathetic.  He declined to provide the shelters, as the policy of the Corporation was to supply protection only for people caught by an air raid on the streets.  

The Clerk said that “each person who can afford to do so is expected by the Government to arrange for their own protection whilst they are at home”

The Committee accepted this decision, but protected their position by writing to the Corporation stating “that no responsibility can be taken by the Committee in the event of any unfortunate situation”.

The war evidently affected both finances and availability of people.  At the 1941 AGM, the Treasurer reported that the accounts were “as good as could be expected under current difficulties”, but still showed a deficit of over £37.  

The meeting voted a levy comprising a basic charge of 16 shillings, plus 3½d for each linear foot of frontage - under £1.50 for most houses.  

A deputy Auditor had to be found, as the elected Auditors were unavoidably absent.  The minutes do not say the reason, but one was still on “enforced absence” the following year, so presumably had been called up.

In May 1942 the Army erected Nissan huts behind Chorltonville alongside the cobbled lane by Brookburn School.  The Secretary wrote to the Royal Engineers (at Mayfield Rd in Whalley Range) asking whether the huts were for barrage balloons or gun emplacements, “as the Committee were most anxious that the presence of these things would render the Estate a target for the enemy”.

The Royal Engineers suggested he contact the balloon section, so the Secretary went to the local unit at the Recreation Ground in Cross Rd.  The corporal there had no knowledge of the huts and referred the Secretary to the Manchester RAF.  

The RAF replied with the enigmatic statement that the huts’ presence “does not increase the vulnerability of the estate to enemy air attack”.  The minutes do not say whether the Committee was reassured by this.

The Meade, 1913
The Committee was more successful in 1943, applying to the Corporation for extra street lights.  

Lamp posts were not in use because of the blackout, but they noted that the Corporation had introduced a modified form of lighting on some roads.  

They requested that these be introduced to Chorltonville, because of the danger to pedestrians using the roads and footpaths.  The Corporation agreed, and added dimmed lighting around the estate.

Interestingly, there is no note in the minutes recording either VE or VJ Day, but at the 1946 AGM, the Chairman tidily summarised:

“he spoke of the work of the past year, carried out under conditions as in the War, though happily the final Conflict had come to an end.  He continued that this Estate had been maintained under very fair conditions, and proposed that the levy stay the same.”

Pictures; Barage Ballon on the Rec, from the collection of Alan Brown detail from bomb damage at Nell Lane, 1940, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m09736, and pictures of the ville from the Lloyd collection



*** reproduced courtsey of Chorltonville News

The Parsonage in Didsbury by Derrick A. Lea

This I think will be the last of the drawings I will feature of our local artist Derrick A. Lea for a while.

He lived here in Chorlton from the late 1940s till the 1970s, produced many fine woodcuts and has been pretty much forgotten.  Of the ten pictures in the collection six are of Chorlton and all but two of these have featured in the blog.*

But this one is the Parsonage in Didsbury and given that other people have written about the place with far more knowledge than I here is an extract from the site of The Didsbury Parsonage Trust.

“The Didsbury Parsonage (Old Parsonage) is a Grade II listed building situated opposite St James' Church, adjacent to the original village green of Didsbury, Manchester. The building and gardens were left to the citizens of the City of Manchester by Alderman Fletcher Moss in his will following his death in 1919.

The building is probably the second oldest one in Didsbury after St James' Church. It may have been built, at least in part, around 1650 ‘for the use of the minister’.  

The most famous and influential resident was probably Fletcher Moss

In 1864, Fletcher Moss, then aged 22, moved in with his parents and subsequently bought the house in 1885. He died in 1919 after an active life of public service and was renowned for his in depth writing on local history, flora and fauna and local people.

Alderman Moss bequeathed the house and gardens to the City of Manchester on his death in 1919 because he wanted the house and its contents to remain, as far as possible, intact 'to show what a comfortable house of the olden times was like'. Unfortunately, the house became difficult to maintain and in 1922 many features, including stained glass and fireplaces were removed.

In due course the house became an art gallery, containing much of the Fletcher Moss Collection, which included several Turner paintings (now in the National Collection). The emphasis of the displays was on items made in or associated with Manchester.

As an ‘economic measure’, the City of Manchester closed the gallery in the 1980's.  In the fine gardens can be seen the graves of several of Fletcher Moss’s dogs, under the yew tree in the shrubbery fronting the house.”**

Picture; The Old Parsonage, Didsbury, Derrick A. Lea

** The Didsbury Parsonage Trust,

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 21 .......... Parsonage Lane

Now Parsonage Lane really is one of those little side streets which grows wider as you follow it down from Deansgate to Parsonasge.

It was there by 1793 and was already fronted by a selection of properties.

Fast forward half a century and these included a textile factory, the Admiral Hatchlock which also went under the name of Parsonage House, five other properties and the entrance to a closed court.

A search for Admiral Hatchlock drew a blank although I do know that our textile factory had by 1851 become Charlton & Sons Calendar Works which by 1900 had expanded across the road.

Today the original site of the textile factory is a big red office and retail block which is home to the Liquor Store.

And that is the close you will get a to buying a drink on Parsonage Lane because our pub which was still there in 1900 has long gone.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Parsonage Lane, 2016 from Deansgate from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Visiting the posh places ....... in Lugano

It had started snowing in the early hours of Tuesday morning and by 8 am there was a thick carpet of the stuff across the bit of Switzerland we were due to visit.*

But a day and half later it had all but gone and while there were pockets of heaped snow at the side of some roads the weather turned hot enough for most people to walk around without a coat and for some to sport just a tee shirt.

So we left Varese headed into Switzerland and spent the day in Lugano, rubbing shoulders with some very well off people, a couple of coach loads of tourists and a school party.

And before we got to the Lake there were the customary shops to visit.

Location; Lugano, Switzerland

Pictures; Lugano, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Great Burial Scandal

The Great Burial Scandal is a story and I have to thank Ida Bradshaw for picking up on the old references and unearthing the awful truth.

And it is a pretty gruesome one which is difficult to comprehend as you walk through the old parish graveyard on a warm spring day.

 But back in 1881 it was according to some so full that “it is now difficult to tell where there is any land left for new graves, [and because] so many internments have taken place there is not 2ft of earth between the coffin and the surface.”*

There were also lurid tales of existing gravestones being broken up and thrown into the midden of the Bowling Green Hotel to allow new ones to be erected and worse still of bones and skulls appearing and being transported away in wheelbarrows.

Much more was revealed at the official Government inquiry opened by the Home Office in the November of 1881. One witness spoke of “human bones .... knocking about the highway. Only that morning a jawbone with teeth in had been picked up.” 

There were also past sextons who reported the difficulty in finding space to place a coffin and the ever present danger of unearthing past burials. William Caldwell described how he regularly “disturbed human remains in digging” and once before he “could get down to any depth I smashed into another grave, and I was flooded by liquor and human remains.”

Now given that the first parish church had been opened in 1512 it should perhaps not be surprising that the place teemed with the dead. As the Reverend Booth admitted, while the burial records only dated back to 1753 he had come across a headstone from 1660, and confirmed “that the burial ground had been enlarged three times.” Moreover “the interior of the church was filled with graves and the worshippers, Sunday by Sunday, knelt in the dust of their fathers.”

Some of just how crowded the place had become can be got from comparing the picture taken in 2008 and that of 1860, both of which are looking south to where the church was sited.

Medical opinion increasingly turned on the heath issue which was compounded by the rapid growth in the population of the township.

But the real scandal seemed to be that the local church authorities had continued to bury the dead in the church with the present sexton denying that there was a problem and the Reverend Booth being critical of the evidence of previous sextons. Despite plenty of evidence that for a decade or more finding new spaces was difficult.

Of course we should temper our shock and disgust a little and remember the practice of removing old burials to accommodate new was a traditional practice.

 Also I do have some sympathy with the argument made out by Reverend Booth and some correspondents to the Manchester Guardian that for those with family plots there was a real link with wanting also to be buried in the parish church.

But the Home Office Inspector was “satisfied that the churchyard is exceedingly full and that you want an order for the closing of the churchyard and the only thing to talk about is the exceptions.”

The following year this was carried out with the proviso that where families had an existing grave an internment could go ahead providing that the graves could be opened to a depth of five feet without exposing coffins or disturbing human remains.

Finally in 1930 the remains were exhumed and reburied in Southern Cemetery, which I suppose should have closed the story were it not for the discovery of some body parts during the archaeological dig in the late 1970s and early 80s but that is another story.

Pictures from the collection of Andrew Simpson 2008, and the Lloyd collection circa 1860

*from the Chorlton Ratepayer Association to the Withington Local Board of Health January 12th 1881

References from the Manchester Guardian 1881-86, Manchester City Council Town Clerks’ Papers Re Closed Burial Grounds 1930, reports in the dig by Angus Batemean

Walking the Woolwich foot tunnel in 1916

I can’t say I enjoy using the foot tunnels under the Thames.

There would have been a time when walking under the river using the Woolwich or Greenwich tunnel was an adventure.

But then I was only 10 and like the Underground these days if there is a surface alternative I will take it.

It may mean using a bus on a congested road in the rush hour but I prefer it.

Looking back I am surprised I was so nonchalant at the illuminated sign at Rotherhithe warning of “MEN WORKING ON THE PUMPS” and thinking what that meant for the short journey to Wapping.

And the same unease resurfaced when I read that the refurbishment of both the Woolwich and Greenwich tunnels included work to reduce leakage, improve drainage as well as installing new lifts, CCTV communication facilities and signage.

Of course the tunnels are quite safe but at 67 I shall continue to use the ferry or take the longer route and cross by bridge up river.

That said this 1916 image of the Woolwich foot tunnel from the collection of Kristine Bedford perfectly captures how I remember the place.

The tunnel was “built by Walter Scott and Middleton, opened on 26 October 1912 [and offered] a free 24/7 alternative to the ferry crossing, which was periodically suspended during bad weather.”*

Now whenever I used it I was pretty much on my own and that long walk with the echoing sound of my own feet, the light and the stone pavement stretching out for nearly a third of a mile was always an experience.

Added to which there was that slow incline down and the then the slight rise which indicated that the journey was nearing its end.

Once upon a time just before six in the morning and at the end of the day it would have been a much busier place, particularly when the ferry was not running, but this empty scene is how I remember it and given my disinclination to wander underground it will remain a memory.

Picture; Woolwich Foot Tunnel circa 1916, courtesy of Kristina Bedford

*Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, 2014, Amberley Publishing,

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 20 ............. Market Place

New Cathedral Street, 2016
Now I like the way that history has a habit of repeating itself.

So here is New Cathedral Street which runs from Market Street to Exchange Square.

Like me there will be many who remember it being cut in the 1990s following the IRA bomb.

But I had totally forgotten that less than a century ago there was a similar thoroughfare that pretty much followed the same route from Market Street towards the Cathedral.

Market Place, 1900
Back then it was called Market Place and continued as Old Millgate before joining Cateaton Street at Cathedral Gates.

In the 1850s a stroll down the two streets would have taken you past the Wellington Inn, the Black Boy and the Falstaff Taverns, as well as offering up the Fish Market, Fruit Market and the Poultry and Meat Market.

A full fifty years later and while some of the buildings and their usage might have changed the route was still as narrow and twisty leading to the Old Shambles.

And for those of a more adventurous or careless approach  running parallel was a short stretch of Corporation Street which gave access to a string of tiny streets and courts with names like Bull’s Head Yard, Blue Boar Court Sun Entry and Paradise Court.

Market Place, 1851
Now none of those have been recreated, they sit under the new Marks and Spencer and Selfridge stores.

But armed with a few old maps and with a bit of imagination you can at least walk along New Cathedral Street and the ghost of Market Place.

And of course at certain times of the year when the outdoor Markets have come to town there is that added bit of interest from the stalls which might just give up a flavour of the area as it was in the past.

Location; Manchester

Picture, New Cathedral Street, 2016, & Market Place, 1900, from Goad’s Fire Insurance Maps, and in 1851 from Adshead’s map of Manchester, 1851 courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Walking a ghost ………… looking for lost railway stations

Hindlow, Hurdlow, Parsley Hay, and Alsop en le Dale are names that call up images of a sleepy rural past.

Along the route, 2019

And once along time ago they were just a train ride away.

Encountering others, 2019
I should know, because yesterday we visited them, along with Hartington, Tissington, and Thorpe Cloud.

One is a collection of eight homes although it does have its own Norman church.

Another has the pub, while the last we encountered still has a fine stately home, built in the 17th century and owned by a family who may have come over with the Conqueror.

What they all have in common was a railway line, built in the last decade of the 19th century, connecting Buxton to Ashbourne.

The wonder is that it was ever built, because this bit of the Peak District was sparsely populated and remained so.

But the line was a lifeline and at its peak six trains a day ran from Buxton to Ashbourne, carrying passengers, minerals, milk and farm produce.

And in the winter it offered a vital link for the villages and hamlets along the way who might other wise struggle when the snow fell.

As far as you can see, 2019
In 1901 one train which was derailed, remained marooned for three days after a heavy snow storm blocked the line, leaving the crew to be fed by local farmers.

But rail closures are, and were no respecter of communities and ours closed to passengers in 1954, although special excursions were still allowed until 1963, but after that there were no more.

Finally, the line was bought by the County Council and has become a route for walkers and cyclists, commanding fine views across the fields and once past the busy roads, you are plunged into a silent place, interrupted only by the sound of birds.

The route runs through old cuttings, where the trees and the high rock sides seal you in, while at other points the old track is carried on an embankment which offers up perfect views for miles.

And along the way, there can still be found relics of its old railway past, from level markers denoting the gradient to obscure bits of concrete whose function is lost but which will once have done the business of keeping the trains running.

Alsop en le Dale railway station, circa 1959s
It is easy to get lost in what there is, which at one point included a bunch of stray sheep which had escaped from a neigbouring field, but for me it was the tracks railway past, now just a paragraph in a tourist guide, with one of those faded and slightly blurred old pictures which mean little unless like us you have done that walk.

Location; Derbyshire

Pictures; the Tissington Trail, 2019, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and Alsop en le Dale, railway Station, from the collection of J.Wallace Sutherland of Davenport,

Uncovering a murky event at the Red Lion

Now when Andy Robertson sent over this picture of the Red Lion I knew it had to feature on the blog. 

Like a lot of people the “Red” has been one of those pubs which just keeps sliding back into my life.

As a student in the early 70s it was one of those places I haunted regularly when the dive bar of the White Lion became oppressive and I had had enough of Watney’s Red Barrel.

Then through the 1980’s it was where we went after meetings of the Withington CLP and where Keith, Tom and I passed the evening with Roy Grainger and others.

But for all sorts of reasons I stopped going and it was not until a few years ago that I reawakened my interest in the place after discovering it was the venue for the inquest into the murder of Mary Moore, who came from Chorlton, worked for the Chorlton family of Dog House farm and was murdered in Whalley Range on her way home from the Manchester Markets in 1838.

Pubs like the “Red” were often used for inquests.  They were after all public places and were often better suited to such occasions than the local church or school.

In Chorlton the Horse and Jockey was used for the inquest into the murder of Francis Deakin in 1847 and two infanticide cases and I suspect more.  And a little later in the century the Lloyd’s Hotel on Wilbraham Road hosted the Home Office inquiry into the “Great Chorlton Burial Scandal.”**

All of which means it is time to revisit the “Red” and look for stories from its past.

Location; The Red Lion, Withington

Pictures; the Red Lion, 2016, from the collection of Andy Robertson

* The murder of Mary Moore from Chorlton out in Whalley Range and an inquest in Withington,

** The Great Burial Scandal,

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Posters from the Past ........... no 17 ......... Woolwich .......Walking The River

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 because so many of us have fond memories of the foot tunnels under the Thames, here is our take on how Woolwich Borough Council might have marketed the trip.


Painting; Woolwich Foot Tunnel, © 2018 Peter Topping,  Paintings from Pictures, from a photograph by Neil Simpson, 2016


*Posters from the Past,

A little bit of the Ottoman Empire in Chorlton in 1900 Women from Damascus

Woman from Damascus
It began as a story of one house in Chorlton with the odd name of Damascus House and has turned into a search for the work of Pascal Sebah.

The house was one of those big semi detached properties which was built sometime between 1893 and 1901.  It was surrounded by gardens on three sides and had ten rooms spread over three floors with cellars.

On the ground floor there were four large rooms and the kitchen, while on the first floor there were four large bedrooms, a dressing room and bathroom and three more double bedrooms on the second floor.

This was a tall solid property of the sort much sought after by the wealthy business and professional classes.

And it was the home of Abdallah Kabbaz who was there with his wife and two siblings from 1901 to sometime around 1911.

Mr Kabbaz had been born in Damascus in Syria and on the census return added that he was “a subject of the Ottoman Empire.”

Woman from Damascus
At one time the Ottoman Empire had been a major power controlling much of southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.  It was a multinational, multilingual empire but one which by the 19th century was in decline.

And as I revisited the history of the Ottoman Empire I came across Pascal Sebah who was  a photographer specialising in recording the peoples and costumes of the empire.

He had been born in 1823 in Constantinople and his own background reflected the diverse character of the empire.  His father was a Syrian Catholic and his mother was Armenian.

He opened his first photography studio in Constantinople  and by 1873 was successful enough to open another studio in Cairo.

“Sebah's career coincided with intense Western European interest in the "Orient," which was viewed as exotic and fascinating. Constantinopolitan photographers, such as Sebah and Abdullah Freres, had a ready market selling images to tourists -- of the city, ancient ruins in the surrounding area, portraits, and local people in traditional costumes, often holding water pipes. 

Women wearing the tantur
Sebah rose to prominence because of his well-organized compositions, careful lighting, effective posing, attractive models, great attention to detail, and for the excellent print quality produced by his technician, A. Laroche.

Sebah's career was accelerated through his collaboration with the artist, Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910). Osman Hamdi Bey posed models, often dressed in elaborate costumes, for Sebah to photograph. 

The painter then used Sebah's photographs for his celebrated Orientalist oil paintings. 

In 1873, Osman Hamdi Bey was appointed by the Ottoman court to direct the Ottoman exhibition in Vienna and commissioned Sebah to produce large photographs of models wearing costumes for a sumptuous album, Les Costumes Populaires de la Turquie."*

And so after the next few weeks I rather fancy posting some of his pictures as a link with Abdallah Kabbaz and Damascus House.  These are taken from his collection shown in Vienna in 1873.

On the right: a peasant from the Damascus region.

Center: a Druze of Damascus wearing the Tantur, a cone shaped silver base that is usually covered with a veil.

The Tantur was helpful in exaggerating a woman's height.

On the Left: a woman  from Damascus wearing the qabqab, a wooden sandal with mother of pearl engraving used around the house and in the Turkish bath.” Ottoman Empire, Wikipedia,

Pictures; three women from Damascus, by Pascal Sebah, 1873

* Pascal Sebah

Lost and forgotten streets of Manchester nu 19 ........... Back College Land and the vanished Press House Steps

Back College Land, 2016
Now Back College Land looks like it should have some dark and unseemly past with more than a few dreadful tales.

Sadly if they exist I haven’t found them.  Instead there is just this very narrow street connecting Parsonage with College Land.

I think I can date it to sometime between 1793, and the following year when what looks like our street ran back from College Land towards some open land bordering Parsonage.

Just a half century on from that and it is a clearly defined place with even narrower thoroughfares leading off into closed courts on its southern side and a stables on the northern corner beside Parsonage.

I had hoped that it might have a listing on the street directories but it doesn’t which means its residents are pretty much lost to us.  Although Parsonage has offered up names which were on the 1851 census, Back College Land has as yet to offer up its people.

Back College Land and Press House Steps, 1851
Having said that the return for Parsonage did reveal the details of those who lived directly opposite our narrow street.

These were the residents of Press House Steps.  The census records that 122 people lived in just 33 properties bordering the river.*

They worked at a mix of jobs including a porter, some textile workers, and as milliner along with some hat makers and even a poultry dealer.

In the absence of our people from Back College Land I rather think those of Press House Steps will prove most interesting.

We shall see.

And if they prove to yield up some stories it will be a fitting reminder of the people and the place given that it had been swept away by 1900 when the the showrooms and work place of Orme and Sons, makers of Billiard Tables stood on the site.

Location; Manchester

*Press House Steps, Enu 1bb, 20-24, Market Street, Manchester, 1851

Pictures; Back College Land, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and Press House Steps, 1851 from Adshead’s map of Manchester, 1851 courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

In Queens Park Bolton in September 1937 during the National Apprentices’ Strike

You might be forgiven for passing over the picture of these policemen standing in Queens Park Bolton in the September of 1937.

And yet there is a story here and its one that connects my mother who had been working in Derby with the young men and women in Bolton.

The caption with the image provides part of the answer for this was the “Apprentices’ Strike meeting in Queen’s Park. 

The national strike by apprentices was to demand fair wages, the right to union representation and an end to victimisation. 

Apprentices’ wages were extremely low, despite them often been asked to do jobs for which adult workers were paid danger money.  

It was also standard practice for companies to sack them when they became fully qualified and replace them with new apprentices who were much cheaper. 

The apprentices’ slogan was `All out together, all back together’ and they were successful in gaining union representation and fairer wages.”

My mother always spoke with some bitterness at the practice in the silk mill in Derby where she worked which as in Bolton took on young people as apprentices, on low wages only to finish them when they qualified.

Apprentices were 'bound' to their employers for several years by indentures, which strictly forbade any indiscipline, including strike action.

By the mid-1930s, young workers in engineering and shipbuilding were complaining at the lack of adequate structured training and the low wages. Under the slogan 'all for one and one for all', a strike started on Clydeside, Scotland in spring 1937 and by April, there were 3700 apprentices out.

The strike was ended after national negotiations started between the unions and employers, only to break out again in Salford in September, when talks were seen to be non-productive. The strikes spread to Yorkshire, the Midlands and London and only ended in October, when the Amalgamated Engineering Union secured the right to negotiate on behalf of all apprentices. Many local agreements gave boys large increases, and their wage rates were tied into advances won by adult skilled men.”

The photograph was part of a Mass observation “project founded in the late 1930s by a group of young writers and intellectuals, led by Tom Harrisson. They believed that British society was deeply divided, with very little understanding or consideration given to the lives and opinions of ordinary people.

The first focused study carried out by Mass Observation began in 1937 in Bolton, which they called Worktown.

Bolton was chosen as a ‘typical’ northern working class town, and Harrisson recruited a team of men and women who tried to capture a vast range of information about the local population using observation techniques."*

They remain a wonderful and powerful record of life in the industrial north during the late 1930s.


Pictures; courtesy of Bolton Library Museum Services, from the collections, Apprentices’ Strike meeting in Queen’s Park, September 21st 1937, 1993.83.25.37

Looking out from Salford 2 Media City

A short series mostly around the Quays looking at  Salford

Location; Salford

Picture; Salford, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Monday, 27 May 2019

Snow and a bit of history in our parish graveyard

I like snow, not just when it first starts falling, but all of it even when it’s that slushy dirty brown stuff, although I am the first to concede that when it ices over it can be awful.

In the graveyard, circa ealry 1980s
And if you want a snow scene there is no better a place than the parish church yard after a fresh fall of snow.

This picture will have been taken sometime after the makeover which tidied up the old gravestones, landscaped the area and picked out the foot print of the church.

Today it can be an attractive haven, where you can sit and relax for a while but as pleasant a place as it is, I rather wish for the old graveyard, which was full to bursting point with grave stones recording those who have lived in the township way back into the18th century.

It is true that they were in need of some care and attention but the fate of the majority was to be spirited away leaving just a handful.  The rest I suspect were broken up and became hardcore in a development somewhere.

Samuel and Elizabeth Nixon, 2011
And that is a tragedy given that here were so many who had made their lives in Chorlton.

What are left are interesting enough, including the head stone of Mary Moore who was murdered on her way back from the Manchester markets, a local who died in Afghanistan and a mix of the good, the notable and the ordinary.

Not that any in the graveyard should be described as ordinary and many from the Renshaw family, and the Nixon family have a story to tell.

And then there are the bits of grave furniture like the pillar which is broken off and signifies a life cut short.

In the grave yard, 2012
Each of the surviving stones helped when I was writing The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy and all of them continue to fascinate me for the untold stories they offer up.

In the same way I marvel at how small the parish church was which was built in 1800 to replace an older chapel and which was later enlarged.

There are only a few surviving photographs of the interior along with some descriptions dating back into the early 19th century and so far only one more recent description which was given to me by my dear friend Marjorie Holmes, who remembered it before it was closed in 1940.

That contemporary description along with the older ones and the pictures also appear in the book, but now I am endanger of slipping into a bout of outrageous self promotion, so I will stop, and instead reflect on the last picture, which  was taken in 1979 when the meadows were just being developed as part of the Mersey Valley.

In its time the meadows has been a dumping ground for Corporation rubbish and for centuries was farmed as meadow land which was a form of farming which involved flooding and draining the land repeatedly for the production or “early grass”.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; the parish graveyard and the meadows circa early 1980s from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy; Andrew Simpson, 2012,

Back with Yemmerrawanne from Australia who was buried in Eltham in May 1794

His grave stone, 2011
Yesterday I was in the parish graveyard reflecting on the life of the young Yemmerrawanne from Australia who died here in the May of I794.

His was a short life and one that few people will know much about so I was pleased that Dr Keith Vincent Smith was kind enough to add more to the story.

Dr Smith is a historian and curator specialising in the ethnology and history of the Indigenous people of Sydney. His book on the Aboriginal Australian Bennelong published in 2001.*

Bennelong was a senior member man of the Eora who lived in the Port Jackson area close to the first British settlement in Australia and served as an interlocutor between the Eora and the British.

“Yemmerrawanne and Bennelong belonged to a clan called the Wangal on Sydney's Parramatta River, until they ''came in' peacefully to the British convict settlement at Sydney Cove in November 1790. Yemmerrawanne was initiated in early February 1791 on Sydney's north shore (possibly at Manly), home of the Gamaragal (gal=clan). Bennelong officiated at this ceremony in which boys were made men by knocking out the upper front right tooth and 'raising scars' on the bodies of the initiates.

Then in December 1792 the two Aboriginal Australians boarded the transport ship Atlantic with Governor Arthur Phillip for the six month voyage of 10,000 miles to England.

They passed 'ice islands' (icebergs) in the southern Pacific Ocean, rounded Cape Horn and visited Rio de Janeiro, arriving at Falmouth in Cornwall on 19 May 1793.

They reached London by coach on 21 May 1793 and were outfitted that day with clothing suitable to wear in London society at the London tailors Knox & Wilson, including long frock-coats with plated buttons, striped waistbands, breeches, underwear and spotted 'pepper-and-salt' waistcoats and buckled shoes. They later received gloves, hats from Busbys and canes.

Yemmerrawanne, date and artist unknown
They stayed at the home of William Waterhouse, a music page to the Duke of Cumberland, in Mount Street, Mayfair, where they had servants to attend them, wash and mend their clothes and repair their shoes. Coaches were provided for them to go sight-seeing to the Tower of London and St. Paul's Cathedral and they often went to the theatre.

Both Bennelong and Yemmerrawanne became ill at different times and were treated by navy surgeon Dr. Gilbert Blane. Bennelong recovered, but Yemmerrawanne suffered from the lingering lung infection that eventually killed him.

On 15 October 1793 they were taken by coach to Eltham after Yemmerrawanne injured his leg."

We know that he and Bennelong stayed in the house of Edward Kent who may have lived at South End and it was here that he was nursed by a John Briggs at Kent's house for no payment.

The parish church just sixty or so years after his burial in the graveyard
Sadly Yemmerrawanne died and was buried in the parish churchyard.

All of which has added a little bit more to the story of a young man from Australia who until now has only been a footnote in the guide books along with a name on a gravestone and an entry in the parish records.

The story of Yemmerrawanne was researched by Dr Keith Vincent Smith who gave permission to reproduce his work

**Bennelong: The Coming in of the Eora, Syndney Cove 1788-1792, Keith Vincent Smith
Kangaroo Press, 2001 - Aboriginal Australians - 182 pages

Pictures; Yemmerrawanne, Silhouette on paper, Artist unknown, no date, B10 f.14, Dixson Galleries, State Library of NSW, gravestone of Yemmerrawanne,  Irene Smith May 2011, and the parish church from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,