Sunday, 30 June 2019

A unique partnership between a local artist, a historian and a developer ……. Denbigh Villas

Now I don’t think you can get enough of our new History Wall on High Lane which tells the story of two historic Chorlton houses and the surrounding area.

And nor does the Manchester Evening News which featured an article by Helen Johnson describing the wall and the work by Armistead Property Ltd who commissioned the new installation and have restored the two houses, converting the tired old flats into smart new apartments.*

I could say more ……. But I rather think over the last year I have written a lot** about the two old houses, along with some of the residents and of course the work by Armistead Property Ltd, *** who are also sponsor of Chorlton Arts.

So, that just leaves me to suggest you go to the link and read Helen’s story.

Location; Chorlon

Picture; panel one of the new Chorlton History Wall, produced by Andrew Simpson, and Peter Topping and commissioned by Armistead Property Ltd.

*The houses that tell the story of Chorlton through time, By Helen Johnson, Manchester Evening News, June 30th, 2019

**Denbigh Villas

***Armistead Property Ltd, 

"Sellers of Sleep" .............

Angel Street, 1901
Sometimes a phrase captures your imagination, and so it is with "Sellers of Sleep", which is a French, term for the owners of those properties which offer up a bed and little else.

I came across the description on a Radio 4 programme about Marseilles, and it perfectly describes those places where the poor and destitute might pay for the chance to sleep under a roof for the night.

They are of course a part of history , and can be found in Ancient Rome, Medieval London and pretty much everywhere.

And it took me back to a story I had written earlier about 44 Angel Street as I wandered down the street in the company of Samuel L Coulthurst who took a series of pictures of the people and their homes including one rare shot of the inside of number 44.

And today I am back having spent my time crawling over the census return for the same street in 1901.

The pictures reveal a row of late 18th and early 19th century houses similar to those which were going up across the city in the boom years as Manchester quickly became “the shock city of the Industrial Revolution”*

Angel Street, May 1898
The south eastern side from what is now Rochdale Road up to St Michaels’s Fields had been built in 1794 and those we can see in the pictures were there by 1819**

What makes Coulthurst’s pictures all the remarkable is that having identified the houses it is possible to discover who was living in them just a few years later.

On Angel Street in 1898
Now I would love to be able to record who exactly was living at number 44 when in the May of 1897 Samuel took his pictures, but I can’t.

The best I can do is identify who was there on the night of March 31st 1901 when the census was taken.

There were thirty two of them all male ranging from William Paxton aged 22 from Wigan who described himself as a street hawker to Thomas Reed from Ireland who at 74 was still working as a labourer.

All  them earned their living from manual work or the slightly more precarious occupation of selling on the streets.

Outside 44 Angel Street, May, 1897
Most were single although a few were widowers and while the largest single group had been born here there were those from the rest of Lancashire, as well as Ireland Scotland and even London.

I try not to be sentimental but you cannot help feeling a degree of sadness that so many of these men well past middle age were living crammed together in a common lodging house with nothing but a few possessions and the knowledge that with old age, sickness or just bad luck the future might be the Workhouse.

History of course has been unkind to them and most will have few records to stand as witness to their lives and so during the course of the next few weeks I want to track some of them and discover what their lives had been like.

In the process I think we will uncover something of that shifting population at the bottom of the income pile and the extent to which they went from one overcrowded property to another.

Sadly the identities of those staring back at us are lost and so who they were and what happened to them cannot be revealed.

Patrick Corner
But that is not completely the case, because I think standing outside number 44 with his flat cap and parcel under his arm might just be Patrick Comer whose name appears above the door and who fourteen years later is still registered at the address on the street directory.

If this is him he seems to have had a varied life.  Born in Manchester sometime around 1850 he was variously a dyer, a joiner and in 1911 was both listed a step ladder maker and a clothes agent.

He never strayed far from Angel Street and can be found on Mount Street which runs into Angel Street and on Rochdale Road close by.

As for the others they are unknown and I doubt would still have been living at number 44 by 1901.

The very nature of these lodging houses meant that the residents were short term stay but we shall see.

Most of Angel Street also consisted of lodging houses and as I trawl the census return they reveal a rich cross section of those at the margins of late 19th century Manchester life.

Inside no. 44 Angel Street, 1897
And they point to number 44 being a tad unusual in that it was entirely male orientated.  The other lodging houses had more of a mix of men and women, married as well as single and some unmarried women with young children who defiantly refused to describe themselves as either married or widowed.

It will indeed be a fascinating exploration of this part of the city.

Now that should be the end but there is just one last discovery, for I have tracked Mr Samuel L Coulhurst.***

He was a book buyer from Salford, born in 1868 and living at number 4 Tootal Road Pendelton and in the fullness of time I think he also deserves a closer look.

Location, Angel Meadow, Manchester

Pictures; Angel Street, 1900, m85543 44 Angel Street, 1897, m08360, 44 Angel Street 1898, m00195, and Angel Street common lodging house, 1897, m08365, S.L.Coulthurst, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Asa Briggs, Victorian Cities, 1963

**The south east side of Angel Street are missing from Laurent’s map of Manchester in 1793 but are there the following year on Green’s map while the side photographed by Coulthurst show up on Johnson’s map of 1819.

 ***Angel Street, Manchester artist and photographers, Manchester housing conditions, Manchester in the 1900s, Rochdale Road, Samuel L Coulthurst

Lost Images of our Commercial Past ..... part one ........ down on Marshall Street

We take our commercial history for granted.

If asked most people will talk happily about Manchester’s textile history, remembered in that simple one word description “Cottonopolis” and if pushed will be able to name one of those huge engineering works on the east of the city and may even remember that we had our own coal mine.*

But the countless small offices and warehouses are pretty much ignored.

Most have long since vanished, leaving nothing more than a few memories, the odd business card and an entry in a trade directory.

A few of their building still stand but as many of these are in those parts of the city which are fast being developed I doubt that they will be with us for long.

So I was intrigued by Andy Robertson’s latest series of pictures taken on a slow meandering walk from Victoria Station and up around Oldham Road and off towards Rochade Road.

This was always one of those busy but shabby parts of the city, full of small commercial enterprises and a few bigger businesses.

Marshall Street and the surrounding streets  are just one of those areas which you know will soon catch the eye of the developer.

With luck some of the more interesting buildings will be saved and converted into residential but others already old and too tired will vanish.

So Mr Swift's building I think is safe but  I wonder about the future of the Marsden Harcombe Company building.

The later was home to the Greater Manchester County Archives before its move to Central Ref and now like its neighbour is empty, boarded up and waiting the future.

Already a planning application is in for the area on the corner of Marshall Street, Oldham Road and Goulden Street for a mixed development, part residential, part retail and including a pub and restaurant.**

And I expect our little bit will soon attract the attention of a developer.

All of which means that  the Marsden Harcombe Company building should be viewed soon.

Pictures; Marshall Street, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Bradford Colliery.

** Manchester City Council online planning,

Images of our commercial past

In Chorlton .......... when cafe society was still a rickety chair in sight of the greengrocers

It is easy to forget how quickly Chorlton has changed.

Two decades ago much of what we take for granted was yet to happen.

If you wanted a pint or a glass of wine it was still pretty much the case that you were destined to visit one of the pubs and go back another decade and the number of restaurants could be counted on one hand.

So as that brave new dawn of unlimited choice of where and when you drank and ate opened up, here is
Beech Road when the restaurants and cafes were still outnumbered by shops selling, fresh food, nails waxed string and old fashioned newspapers.

Picture; Beech Road with Diamond Dogs, and the Italian Deli in the background, circa 2003

The Woolwich I remember

I like this picture of Woolwich for lots or reasons, but not least because it is how I remember it with the buses negotiating their way past the market stalls and the crowds out looking for a bargain or just enjoying an afternoon in the square.

I have tried dating it but so far it is a pretty wide slot which starts at 1939 and runs through into the 1950s.

That said I don't think it will be later than 1960.

The key will be the bus which someone far more an expert than me will be able to identify.

I know it is an RT which were built for London Transport from 1939 onwards but they remained in service for decades.

Likewise it might be possible to date the make of the car and work out when it was registered but cars like buses have a habit of staying on the road for years which just leaves the building to our left in the main picture and the style of the clothes.

The directories will pinpoint the shop but men’s clothes remained fairly uniform from the 1930s well into the early 60s which just leaves the woman and her hat in the corner.

There is no evidence of blackout or other signs to link it to the war.
and the tram lines are missing so that I think will narrow it to the 1950s, which is just that bit more exciting given that this was the period I could have been there.*

All of that said it is quite clearly from a time well before now and what draws me to the photograph is the sheer bustle and the way the photographer  caught a moment

Pictures; Woolwich circa 1930s-50s, courtesy of Steve Bardrick.

* I just now await someone to put me right on tram routes through Woolwich.

A taste of Naples ...... in Varese north of Milan

Now it is a fairly obvious observation but the simpler the food the better it is.

And nothing better proves the point than Rosa’s peppers.

She uses those sweet green ones which look like fingers and fries them in olive oil garlic and salt and pepper.

And that is it.

Nothing more complicated, but with fresh bread I can think of nothing better to follow a main dish of pasta followed by a selection of fruit.

Location; Varese

Picture; Rosa’s peppers, 2017 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ....... nu 30 Chapel Street sometime in the 1980s

This is another of those images from John Casey.

Location; Salford

Picture; Chapel Street, circa 1980, from the collection of John Casey

Saturday, 29 June 2019

The Chorlton family who changed their name in 1943

Now I am not going to offer up the surname of the family who changed their name, other than to say that in 1943, Albert went before a Commissioner for Oaths and changed his name by deed poll.

Joe Scott's house 2016
It was a formality because he had been using the surname from at least 1939, and that might just suggest a reason, because his original name was Jewish.

He had been born in 1895 in Newton Heath, but by 1925 was living in south Manchester and in that year married Jessie in Hulme.

Two months earlier he had bought a house from the builder Joe Scott and continued to live in the house with his wife until his death in 1951.

Now, some of this I know because Liz who now owns the house, shared the deeds of the property.

She like me was intrigued by the name change, and while there is an obvious possible reason given that this was the 1930s, it would be wrong to jump to conclusion without more evidence.

One thing I will do in time is track back through the directories for the house to look for the moment when Albert began using his new name.

Joe's house in 1974
For now, I am left reflecting once again on how the deeds of a property can unlock so much history.

It begins with that original document couched in dense legal language which none the less off up so much, including who originally owned the land, when it was sold and for how much, and ofcourse the name of first the land purchaser and all the subsequent house owners.

Along the way there may be other treasures, which might be a will, other legal papers and maps.

In our case there are a number of documents relating to Joe Scott who has a special place for me, as we live in his old house which he built in 1915. 

Joe also built a lot of the smaller terraced properties in Chorlton during the first two decades of the last century before embarking on grander semi detathced properties.

And here are two relating to  Albert’s house, one of which carries Joe’s signature, which I grant you may not appear to be the most startling of documents, but is.  Not least because I write this in the room Joe may have used to sign some of the documents in full view of the site behind us where he had his office.

Looking south from Beech Road, 1934
But setting aside this personal aspect, one of the signed documents contains the agreement between the two men, with Albert agreeing “to buy the plot of land and dwelling house [for] the aforesaid price of Four hundred and ninety pounds, subject to Annual Chief Rent of Five pounds …… and agree to pay the said Joseph Taylor Scott the sum of 15 shillings from the date on which possession of the said dwelling house is given  to [Mr Scott] until payment of the balance of the purchase money”.

I also know that the City Council informed Albert in 1935 that his share of “draining levelling flagging and paving”, the road outside amounted to £1,169 5s 9d of which his share was £26 2s 10d.
Added to this we can also date the whole row of houses along Albert’s Road which had started with his group built in 1925 and the remainder built closer to Beech Road which were completed in 1937 and resulted in a renumbering of the entire eastern side of the road.

Neale Road, 1958
And that in turn revealed the date of the demolition of the farm house which had been known as Bowling Green Farm and dated back to the 18th century.

All of which bears testament to the importance of the deeds, but they were only the starting point, and from them I wandered off and discovered more about Albert’s family, his occupation as an apprentice tin smith and his eventual career as a wood machinist making furniture.

Nor was that all, because their marriage certificate revealed that both their parents were dead, which for Jessie appears to have been a greater tragedy.

She was born in 1890 in Chorlton-on-Medlock, was resident in the area, eleven years later, but by 1911 was in the “Orphan’s School” of the Workhouse in New Bridge Street, in Strangeways.

There will be more to uncover, but for now I shall close with returning to that name change.

I have no idea why it was made but its discovery comes at a time of growing anti semtism when some profess a blindness to the rise of such prejudice.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Joe Scott's house, 2016, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and the house in 1974 courtesy of Lois Elsden, South of Beech Road in 1907 from the OS map of Manchester , 1907, looking south from Beech Road, 1934, from Geographia Street Plans, 1934 courtesy of Digital Archives Association,  Neale Road with some of Joe Scott’s houses in the distance, 1958 R.E. Stanley, m18135,, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Art and History ………are where you find them

Now I am the first to admit that as a title it is pretty daft, but it neatly sums up the discovery of a bit of art on the back of a lavatory door in Piccadilly Railway Station.

They were taken by my friend Lois who was up from the south west to see the Mavericks.

We had a arranged to meet for the day, and because she was seeing friends off to Birmingham, and Leicester, Piccadilly seemed the obvious place to meet.

And also being a writer, Lois was intrigued by the paintings reproduced in the lavatory.

I have no idea who painted them or whether similar ones are present in the Gents, but I am fairly convinced someone will offer up chapter and verse.

But for now they were a perfect start to a day which took us across the Northern Quarter where there are plenty of “street paintings”, briefly into Chorlton to see the “History Wall” and then back into town for a meal.

So that is it.

I think I will take a trip back to the railway station to see if there are similar ones in the Gents, and maybe head off to Victoria to check out their lavatory door paintings.

Perhaps there are also others in public buildings I have yet to visit, which prompts the thought that perhaps here we have a new series to rival that of Street Furniture, Coal Hole Covers and Water Troughs.

We shall see.

Leaving me as ever just to  thank Lois for the pictures, and an enteratining day which we reflected marks a 50 year friendship.

Location; Piccadilly Railway Station

Pictures; 2019; from the collection of Lois Elsden

More from the Art Gallery ............ part 2 ...... street scenes and roof tops

Yesterday at the City Art Gallery was a near perfect day.

And so I have returned to some of the pictures I took looking out across the city.

The extension to the Gallery always impresses me.

You go from the fine old building which contains many of my favourite paintings into the glass and metal area which connects to the new galleries.

It is light, bright and makes a perfect link from the old to the contemporary, but above all it is the vast areas of glass which allow you to gaze out beyond the confines of the building to all that is going on.

Now I know that photographing scenes through big windows is fairly common these days but being above the street offers an opportunity to see things in slightly different way so for that reason alone here over the next few days are a some more pictures from big windows.

And the nice thing is that the next time I go everything will be different.

Pictures; looking out on Manchester from the Art Gallery, 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The Swiss and Italian Lakes, a coach tour for just £45 in 1965

Dad to the right in 1955
My dad spent his whole working life in the holiday trade taking people of modest means on sightseeing tours of Britain and mainland Europe.

In the age before cheap air travel this was the holiday for those who didn’t want sun and sand or a week at a Butlin’s.

These were all inclusive trips which offered “Your own reserved seat in a special Glenton touring coach, a tour of your choice, hotel accommodation including dinner and breakfast, gratuities to hotel staff, services of an experienced chauffeur-courier and a specially written guide book.”*

The tours lasted for anything between 7 and 15 days. For £45 Tour C7 in 1965 offered nine days to the Swiss and Italian Lakes, leaving London on the Saturday, staying in Brussels on the Sunday night and travelling on to Lake Lucerne on the Monday, then later in the week to Lake Maggiore and then in to Switzerland and back via Burgundy to London.

To the Italian Lakes, 1965
Of course it is easy today to sneer at an experience where everything was provided and if you failed to look out of the window you might miss a country, but in an age before the internet with television still in its infancy this was a relatively cheap way to see places which would otherwise just be a picture in a book. And this was value for money given that the national average wage in 1965 was £26.

There are still plenty of travel companies offering this sort of holiday but back in the late 1940’s and ‘50s this was an experience just opening up for thousands who were beginning to enjoy the first taste of consumer prosperity.

 They are as much an indication of that new Britain as the washing machine, television and motor car.

*Glenton Tours Brochure 1955

Pictures; Glenton coach cruises Britain and the Continent brochures from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The Black Horse in Sidcup

I never went into the Black Horse in Sidcup.

It had stood on the High Street for 300 years and was demolished in 2011.

According to one newspaper report* it was knocked down on condition that the developers would “build a new facade reflecting the pub as it was in 1897.”

Well I will let you make a judgement on that, for here is the pub as it was sometime in the later 19th century and as my friend Jean photographed it earlier last month.

There is much more to the story which you can follow by reading the original newspaper report but I will leave you with Jean’s comment that this

“was supposed to have had a facade that was an accurate reproduction of the original.  

The new façade is so poor a reproduction that it even its windows were not traditional wood windows”

And if you want, then you can revisit the stories in the series on Sidcup.**

Now I am the first to admit that sometimes old and cherished buildings face huge challenges from changes of use, to the high cost of restoration, but there are plenty of examples where what was a long standing historic feature has been preserved even if it is just the facade.

It will be interesting to see just what people make of the sad tale of the Black Horse.

Pictures; the Black horse in the 19th century and today, courtesy of Jean Gammons

* Developer forced to recreate facade of former Black Horse pub in Sidcup,  Tim MacFarlan, News Shopper, July 10, 2013,


The Isle of Wight August 1970 ......... a concert and a lesson in what to remember for Chris and Marisa

Now just for once I am not going to let the facts get in the way of the story which is another way of saying that I would rather keep my imperfect memories of the Isle of Wight Festival in the summer of 1970 pristine. 

The concert with the hill behind, 1970
The alternative would be to allow reality to spoil what I have remembered for 49 years.

It was a weekend and the four of us were all pretty bored.

The prospect of another night in the pub didn’t appeal and so there and then around seven in the evening we took off from London with sleeping bags, a change of underwear and headed south.

We arrived at Portsmouth, waited I guess till morning and then after the crossing joined shed loads of others on their way to the music.

I am not sure any of us knew what to expect, and had not even thought about the entrance fee.
As it turned out there was a hill overlooking the concert area and to my eternal shame we sat there and watched the music for free.

The line-up I am told included Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Chicago, The Doors, Lighthouse, The Who Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Joan Baez, Free, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson, Donovan, John Sebastian, Terry Reid, Taste, and Shawn Phillips.

And of these I can remember but a few and if I am very honest only the Doors stand out.

The reasons for such a lapse of memory are unclear, and I fell a sleep listening to the Doors.

That said it was magical, because as dusk gave way to night hundreds of camp fires had been lit across the hill.  I would like to think that as the fires burned the Doors played “Light my fire” but I have no idea.

We left the following day missed Jimi Hendrix but felt relieved that we had avoided the mud and gunge which was the area around the lavatories.

So I have to say I came away with no revelations of spiritual awareness, and not even much of a memory of the music.

In the years afterwards I discovered two colleagues I worked with were also there but again to my shame I never shared the fact that we were there for just one day and one night.

And all of this, because two of my Canadian cousins were impressed at my casual reference to the adventure, which in turn has made me come clean.

Location; the Isle of Wight Concert, 1970

Pictures; at the Festival, 1970, Roland Godefroy,who granted permission to use the image  under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 and me in 1970 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

In Northdenden with the Ladies Dart team and Ken's sister Dorothy

One of the very nice things about writing the blog is the opportunity you get to meet people and share their family histories.

Even more so when they are kind enough to let me share their family photographs and tell the stories behind the pictures.

I have been featuring some of Ken’s photographs and they are not only a wonderful personal record but also capture perfectly the 1950s and 60s when I like Ken was growing up.

The first is the “ladies dart team, possibly the Crown inn Northenden. 

The photo has the Stockport Express on the back so they might hav won the league! 
Second from the left is Monica Jarvis, then my sister Dot Smith, and the last on the right is Jackie Rees, I think the picture would have been taken around 1967.”

It just takes me directly back to that period.  I remember my mum with a twin set like that and can think of at least two girlfriends who had the same hair style as the young woman in the front row, fifth from the left.

Not to be out done Ken’s second picture of his sister Dorothy and Pamela McGill at the petrol station on Palatine Road in Northenden also conjures up vivid memories.

Pictures; from the collection of Ken Fish

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ....... nu 29 on a wet Blackfriars Street

Now I am indebted to John Casey for sharing some of his wonderful photographs of Salford and Manchester.

They were taken in the early 1980s and are a powerful reminder of just how much the area has changed in a matter of a few decades.

This one of Blackfriars Street on a wet day some thirty years ago is a favourite of mine and pretty much needs no further comment.

Location; Salford

Picture; Blackfriars Street, circa 1980, from the collection of John Casey

Friday, 28 June 2019

The house which became a hospital ……….. and the lost wartime pictures

Yesterday I was exploring a collection of photographs from the Great War, which were recently acquired by David Harrop.

There are twenty of them and include soldiers and nurses, and while the quality is iffy, they are a remarkable set of images of men recovering from wounds and illnesses in a wartime auxiliary hospital, which is enhanced by the fact that they will have been taken by a nurse or patient.

The accompanying notes refer to Birchfield Auxiliary Military hospital in Rusholme, but at present apart from the name I have yet to come across anything about the place.

After it ceased as a hospital there is a silence in the records, although there is a suggestion that in the interwar years it belonged to the Co-operative Society and acted as a social club for employees, while sometime after that it became the new home of the Hollings Domestic and Trades College until it was demolished in 1959 to make way for the iconic Toast Rack building.

The original Birchfield stood in its own grounds on the corner of Wilmslow Road and Old Hall Lane.

I can track it back with confidence to 1865 when it shows up in the rate books, as owned by a Godfrey Gottschalk with an annual ratable value of £275, and an estimated rental value of £350.
Although there may have been an earlier property on the site or nearby which was rented by Mr. Gottschalk which was an altogether more modest, but still substantial house, which dates from 1856.

Just two years earlier the OS map for Lancashire shows the site as open land with a brick kiln at the rear. 

There is however a Birch Cottage just south of the brick kiln on the other side of Old Hall Lane, which might be our more modest property.

But that is as far as we can go.

There will be someone who knows, and there will be others with pictures of Birchfield in its hey day, and so I shall await that call.

In the meantime we have those wartime pictures.

And a few of them show the interior which looks to have been lavish, as you would expect, given that when its owner died in 1934 he left £188.710 which one calculation puts at  £13,160,000, or £35,560,000 when measured relative to the wage of the average worker, and a staggering £63,470,000.when measured against per capita of GDP.*

All along way from the lives of the men and women in the pictures.

Location Rusholme

Pictures; soldiers and nurse from the hospital, circa 1916, from the collection of David Harrop, and Birchfield, 1959, J F Harris, m42197 and H Milligan, m66420, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Measuring Worth,

Buddy Watkins and talent shows I wished I had seen at Woolwich Town Hall

I went looking the other day for Earlswood Street.

It is off Trafalgar Road and it is somewhere I haven’t been for over forty years.

Back in the late 1960s I worked there in a camping shop and later travelled past it on the way down to the Tunnel.

But this time I was more interested in Earlswood Street because it was here that Buddy Watkins lived or at least used as an address on his business cards.

He was “Buddy Watkins, Rythmn Pianist” and leader of the Buddy Watkins Boys which performed at dance competitions and concerts.

Now I never knew of him or his band but they bounced into my life while I was reading Woolwich Through Time by Kristina Bedford.

And like you do I am off on a search for what I can find out about Mr Watkins.  In the meantime I have his businesss card and a picture and that is a start.

The house is still there, although sadly many of the places he performed at will have vanished.

I guess that Mr Watkins is the chap standing by the piano but that is about it.

But there will be some stories here, and just perhaps people who knew him, saw the band and may even have performed with the Buddy Watkins Boys.

They did after all support those who were brave enough to "Dance, Sing, Act, or Croon" in the amateur
talent contest at Woolwich Town Hall.

All of which is a reminder that our present obsession with discovering would be hopeful stars is not new.

Pictures; Woolwich Through Time is at Woolwich, Kristina Bedford, 2014

A taste of Sicily in Switzerland ......... oranges, chillies and a red onion

Varese, 2016
Now the great thing about holidays is that you come back with a shed load of fresh experiences, a clutch of photographs and above all some new recipes.

And so it was this time.

We usually try to visit the family in Italy at Easter.  This year it was a little earlier and for a full week we sat back and enjoyed Rosa’s cooking.*

She comes from Naples and so much of what we eat consists of vegetables, some roasted others fried and the rest eaten raw in salads and of course lots of pasta.

Occasionally she will offer up something from the north which tends to be heavier, relies more on butter than olive oil and of these my favourite is Pizzoccheri della Valtellina, which is a mix of pasta, potatoes, savoy cabbage and spinach and three types of cheese.**

And for someone brought up on school cabbage Pizzoccheri della Valtellina is a revelation.

This time there was one new dish which comes not from the north or Naples but from Sicily.

Two oranges three cillies one onion & balsamic vinegar
On Thursday we had crossed over into Switzerland to stay the night with Tina’s sister and that evening Rosario offered up a mix of food including a salad of sliced oranges, red onion and chillies in a dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a touch of wine vinegar and oregano.

It was a perfect accompaniment to the green salad, polenta and potatoes served with onions.

I have yet to have a go at making it but it shouldn’t be difficult and in time I think will come one of those standard dishes trotted out all the year round but particularly in high summer.

Location; Sicily & Switzerland

Pictures; Varese and the ingredients for the salad, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Rosa’s cooking,

**Gnocchi di patata, Pizzoccheri della Valtellina, and a lesson in the geography of Italy,

The lost pub on the edge of Didsbury ............. the Kingsway Hotel

I suppose most of us rather like to think of our pubs as cherished old things, which have survived the test of time, having seen off world wars, depressions and two Brexit debates and votes.

And certainly when Peter and I came to write our new book on Didsbury‘s pubs and bars, we were confident that the majority would have clocked their first century and a bit and some like the Old Cock and the Didsbury Hotel could trace their origins back beyond the time that King George lost the American colonies.

But of course, there is a big chunk of the township which owes its existence to the inter war housing boom of the 1920s and 30s.

Out in East Didsbury and onto Burnage and Withington, private developers and the Corporation built new homes, and with these came schools, churches, a cinema and a clutch of brand-new pubs, like the Gateway and the Parrs Wood Hotel.

These two we fell on with abandon, and because we could, we crossed the border into Burnage, and described The Mauldeth Hotel and the Kingsway, reasoning that many in Didsbury might well have traveled to the two for a change of scene, or perhaps a romantic tryst.

These were pubs built for the motor car age with carparks, and an eye to coach parties.

And like the cinemas of the period, the pubs were large, plush and designed to be places of comfort.

Sadly, both The Mauldeth and the Kingsway had closed before we wrote the book.

I had first noticed the To Let sign on the Mauldeth Hotel back in 2014., and while it stayed there into the following year it later closed, reopening as a children’s nursery.

The Kingsway closed in 2018, and I did wonder its fate.

But how that wondering is over, because a few days ago Tony Kelzo posted three pictures of the demolition of the pub.

I haven’t yet checked with the City Council’s planning portal to see what might go up on the site, but rest assured something will.

Leaving me just to mention the book again, Manchester Pubs The Stories Behind the Doors Didsbury, which neatly recounts the history of 49 pubs and bars, across Didsbury and Withington as well as the lost ones.

Together they help tell the story of how these areas changed over time.

The book is available from us at and from E J Morton, 6 Warburton Street, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6WA,  0161 445

Location; Burnage

Pictures; The Kingsway in 1959, H W Beaumont, m49830, again in 1995, M Luft, m47481, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the Kingsway in June 2019, from the collection of Tony Kelzo

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ...... nu 28 Gore Street

It isn’t so much that Gore Street has been lost or even forgotten it is just that it has become another giant Salford car park.

And what were once Morris, Beck, Ridings and Bolton Streets have suffered the biggest indignity of now being relegated to car park entrances with only one still being marked with its name on the street map.

Also gone are Walker’s Place, Temple Place, Short Street, and Back Saxon Street along with three pubs and the Albert Bridge Brewery.

To be fair I have no idea of the state of the housing off Gore Street but I suspect they were not good.

Likewise at least one of the pubs had vanished by the 1890s leaving only the Griffin and the Red Lion on Chapel Street and the Egerton Arms Hotel on Gore Street.

And now only the Egerton is still serving pints.

As for the brewery, according to one source the brewery which stood in the shadow of the New Bailey Prison, was founded sometime before 1788,

Accounts from the Ring O'Bells, Didsbury, show that the pub served Joule's beer in 1791 when two barrels of strong beer cost three pounds and sixteen shillings. The brewery document reproduced on the following page carries the warning ‘Barrels to be returned when empty being never sold’. By the 1840s the brewery on New Bailey Street had about 13,000 barrels in use.”  

The Joule family who had owned it from the beginning  put it up for auction in 1855 and although it was then owned by various brewers by 1868 the site was used for storage and was later redeveloped.

There is more but that would stray into a new series ............ the lost and forgotten breweries of Salford and that is for another day.

Location; Salford

Picture; Gore Street, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*James Joule – Brewer and Man of Science, Brewery History,