Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Just how did Didsbury vote in 1835?

Now every General Election will have a clear set of issues which the political parties offer answers to, and as the Brexit train moves on into even more uncertain times, I was reminded of the 1835 General Election.

Didsbury Village, 1853
It followed just three years after the Great Reform Act reshaped our electoral system, creating the South Lancashire Constituency of which Didsbury, Withington and Chorlton-cum Hardy were part of.

The General Election which followed the Reform Act saw the  two Whig candidates elected, who went on to play their part in the reforming Whig government which prepared the way for a uniform system of local government, created a new way of administering benefits to the poor, unemployed and old, abolished slavery in the Empire and had made some inroads into factory reform. 

But after two years there were divisions within its ranks and some outside who were unhappy with its record. 

The radicals were disappointed that the Reform Act had not gone further and was now seen as an end to further Parliamentary change.  The urban working class were again organising themselves industrially and through the Chartist movement demanding a vote in elections. 

The parish church, 1852
In the rural areas poverty had led to widespread riots at the beginning of the 1830s and the Whig Government made martyrs of six Dorchester farm labourers who had protested at falling wages. 

And while certain sections of the population thought the Government had been too hard on these Tolpuddle Martyrs, there were others who felt the Whigs had not gone far enough in quelling the rural disturbances during 1830and 31.

And both the urban working class and the rural farm labourers were hostile to the 1834 Poor Law which had created the Poor Law bastilles and stigmatised any who needed parish relief.    Against this background there was also a Tory revival which saw it gain ten seats in by-elections between 1832 and 1833.

From the outset the Tories were determined to win.  Their leader Peel had issued a clear statement of policy which appeared to promise both change and stability. 

It was contained in an address to his own electors in Tamworth, but its real intention was to signal to the country that the Tory party could deliver reform where it was most needed but would also conserve the best of the old. 

Didsbury's electorate, 1836
The Reform Act was a reality which Peel would not overturn and it followed that in the same spirit of improvement there should be “a careful review of institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, undertaken in a friendly temper combining, with the firm maintenance of established rights, the correction of proved abuses and the redress of real grievances, -”.   But there was to be no further extension of the vote, “the reform bill was a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question”, and the Tories were opposed “to a perpetual vortex of agitation”.

By contrast the Whigs were divided and complacent and up against a sleek Tory electoral machine, which was as ruthless in the  way it manipulated the registering system as it was in intimidating voters at a time when you cast your vote in the public gaze and your choice was recorded.

How Didsbury voted in 1835
The degree of that intimidation was reported widely in the press who also remarked on the Tory’s monopoly of cabs which they used to ferry their own to the nomination meetings.

Of course, the Didsbury electorate was small, with just 52 men, entitled to vote out of a total population of 1,789.

We will never know just the degree to which intimidation and corruption played a part in Didsbury, although across the border in Stretford, Thomas Joseph Trafford of Trafford Park instructed his tenants to vote Tory, and all but one of them did just that. The level of potential intimidation was all too clear from the one tenant who refused to follow the line.  He expected “in the spirit of the olden times, to hear of Tory vengeance.” 

According to one London newspaper quoting the Manchester Guardian “Mr Egerton of Tatton, we understand personally headed up his tenants, and waited on the booth whilst they voted”.

How Chorlton voted in 1835
As it turned out, 9 of the electorate voted Liberal and 20 voted Tory, with similar results in Chorlton-cum Hardy where the split was 7 voting Liberal, 19 for the Tories and in Withington the Tory share of the vote was 67%.

Leaving me just to search the records to see how far the voters in Didsbury were connected in some way to the Tory Egerton family which owned most of south Manchester.  A similar search in Chorlton showed significant links.

Pictures; Didsbury showing the Church Inn and Old Cock, 1853, from the OS for Lancashire, 1841-53, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, Didsbury Parish Church, 1852, from from A History of the Ancient Chapels, Rev. J Booker, 1852, and tables taken from data published by the Leeds Mercury, January 1835.

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

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 17, the lockup workshop

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

You can find them all over Chorlton usually tucked away behind other buildings or hidden by tall walls. Some I guess were once stables or perhaps even cottages and now they serve as lock up workshops.  They are a reminder that in that crossover period when we were in transition from rural community to dormitory suburb there were still plenty of craftsmen about serving the needs of the township.  In some cases they inhabited what had once been farmyards and in others just patches of land not yet built on.  So opposite the Bowling Green Hotel where the remnants of the United Serviceman’s’ Club stands was one of the building yards of Scott the builder  and just a little closer to the green in what had been Greenwood’s farmyard was a smithy, lock up garages and where Mr Holmes carried out his carpentry business.  And much closer to now the Walker Brother’s ran their builder’s yard from what had once been the farm buildings of the Higginbotham family.  Now mostly the lock up workshops belongs to mechanics, but some are offices while others and morphed into keep fit venues.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Passing the time ............... dining alone

An occasional series of pictures of people and places.

Location; Lugano Switzerland

Picture; Lugano, Switzerland 2009,  from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Down a Chorlton alley ……….. reflecting on small businesses and a bit of our local history

The alley is the one on Wilbraham Road, beside Adastral House and just opposite Buckingham Road and today it is home to Stitched Up which I think have been there since 2015, and before that it was occupied by Annatiques and Anna’s Gift Boutique and Kidzone Clothing.

Andy Robertson came across it earlier last week, commenting, “not noticed this before, between Adastral House and Kingbee Records Block on Wilbraham Road”, and much earlier Peter had painted the earlier business.

All of which got me thinking about the history of the building, and of other buildings which over the years have had many different uses.

Many here in Chorlton began as coach houses accommodating a space for the carriage, and a horse, with a loft above for storing the hay.

I still vividly remember the one at the bottom of Nana’s long garden, outside Derby in the 1950s.

On long hot summer days, the place fascinated me.  It had long ago lost its carriage, horse and hay, but the smell of dried grass lingered on, mixed with that of crumbling plaster and old wood, which was set off by the lazy buzz of insects.

Most of those in Chorlton appear to have morphed into workshop for the repair of cars, while a few have been converted for residential use.

As for this one, I can track it back to 1933, when it shows up as a line of buildings running east, following the railway track.

Just when they were built and what they were used for is still to be discovered.

But some one will know, and the presence reminds me that history is messy, and you can still be surprised at what you come across, and sometimes mystified by what the story behind them is.

Location; Wilbraham Road

Picture; down an alley off Wilbraham Road, 2019, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Painting; Annatiques Chorlton. Painting © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures

A bold new station for Manchester and the film Hell is A City

This has to be one of my favourite Manchester stations. It is Oxford Road Railway Station.

The original station dates from 1849 and in 1960  was replaced by this one which was listed in 1995 and described by English Heritage as a "building of outstanding architectural quality and technological interest; one of the most dramatic stations in England.”*

I do have to agree with them.  Its glass and laminated wood entrance soars into the sky and on a sunny evening the reflection of the Refuge Building is captured in those high windows.

Now its predecessor was a much more modest affair.  It too was made of wood but was workman like and lacked style and presence.

There are a few pictures of this older station but not many and until recently I had not really given it much thought.

Until I came across a still from the film Hell is a City which was set in Manchester starred Stanley Baker and focuses on the search for a violent criminal.

It was made in 1960 just nine years before I arrived in the city and much of the location shots are ones that I remember well.

And there as Stanley Baker confronts the criminal on the roof tops of the Refuge Building is Oxford Road Station, both the Armadillo roof of the new station, the sweeping concrete wall of the car park and the old station.

It stands at right angles to the new station entrance which was something of a surprise but is logical.

Of course you would have to be over 50 and more likely 60 to have any vivid memories of this building and I doubt that there are that many pictures of the two standing together.

And like all such things the new station has undergone change.

That sweeping concrete wall and the car park it protected has gone.  In its place has come a tall steel structure with stone steps, which on a sunny day are occuppied by those waiting for a train or those catching a bit of sun along with their sandwiches.

And it remains a very busy place both inside and outside the rush hour.

Pictures;Oxford Road Station in 2008 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, still from Hell is a City, 1960, from Graham Gill,

The Letter Box graveyeard and other posty stories

In The Woolwich Drill Hall circa 1965
Now one of the places I wish I had visited back in 1965 was the old Woolwich Drill Hall in the company of my friend Jean because there I would have seen a pretty impressive collection of old Victorian pillar boxes.

I suppose we take the pillar box like the telephone kiosk for granted and only really begin noticing them as they disappear from our streets.

And as you would expect here there is a rich and fascinating history, which is best told by Jean.

Victorian Letter Box
“In 1963 the Post Office began to replace all the single-aperture posting boxes in Central London with double-aperture ones.  

Concerned about the loss of so many Victorian examples, which were now being sold for their scrap metal value, I persuaded the manager of the SE London Postal District to send all those he recovered to the former Drill Hall in Woolwich, where I could try to identify the rarest examples and find them a Good Home.   

This he did, and I spent many Saturdays there in the task selecting boxes of all types for donation to a suitable museum. 

As I was in the early stages of researching the history of the many different kinds of Victorian letter boxes (which was to lead to my book The Letter Box, published in 1969), this gave me a unique opportunity to examine at close quarters and in one place the great variety in size and design. 

One of these recovered boxes was donated to The Eltham Society, which then (in 1965) had hopes of opening a small museum of local history in the Orangery. 

The first of many, 1952 Whitehall
Today, I am still looking after this 'Penfold' pillar box (named after its designer, J W Penfold, and dating from the 1860s) in my garden.

One of the replaced pillar boxes (of which all trace was sadly lost ) was England's first pillar box of the present Queen’s reign - erected in Whitehall, near the Horseguards' Parade in November 1952. 

Scotland's first pillar box of the present reign was unveiled at the Inch Housing Estate, Edinburgh, on 28 November. 

Within 36 hours it had been daubed with tar and, after a few more such incidents, it was blown-up by a home-made bomb.  Why?  

This was because it bore not only the legend Post Office and the crown of St Edward but also the E11R cypher, which was offensive to Scots as there had been no previous Scottish monarch of that name and, even worse, England's Elizabeth 1 was responsible for the execution of Mary, Queen of Scotland. 

A little bit of Scotland in Yorkshire
Early in 1953, the Secretary of State for Scotland proposed that future posting boxes and mail vans intended for use in Scotland should bear no cypher at all. 

His suggestion was taken up by the Post Office and, henceforth, these bore only the legend Post Office and the Scottish Crown. 

One of these Scottish post boxes was inadvertently sent to Keighley in Yorkshire- but this went unnoticed by the locals!

Many years later Royal Mail, in order to meet the demand for period letter boxes in special locations, commissioned facsimile 'Penfolds' for places such as Chislehurst in Kent.”

Story and research by Jean Gammons, November 2013

Source; The Letter Box – a history of Post Office Pillar and Wall boxes by Jean Young Farrugia-(Centaur Press 1969).  Further information can be obtained from the Letter Box Study Group

Pictures from the collection of Jean Gammons

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The photograph, a house on South Meade, and a mystery

I am looking at a picture of a group or workmen outside a house on South Meade and at first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about what I am looking at.

The men represent a cross section of skills, ages and experience, and may well have posed for similar photographs across Chorltonville.

But I know exactly which house this was and have already begun to discover its history which starts with the simple fact that it has been occupied by only two families in the century and a bit since it was built.

And so, while we will never know the identity of the men staring back at us, we do have the deeds, as well as a collection of documents relating to its construction, which will help tell the story of this particular house.

The first family to move in was Mr. and Mrs. Jones.  In 1939 he described himself as a “Commercial Traveller in the Gas Industry”.

Everyone will find something interesting in the picture, with some focusing on the appearance of the men, the presence of the apprentice boy, and the flat caps and pipes.

The building contractor was Thomas Whiteley and a search might turn up something about the building firm, but I doubt that will extend to a list of employees.

For now, until Laura passes over its history for me to look over, we are left with the photograph of the workmen and the image of the house.

But for now, it is exciting that we are able to pin a group of craftsmen to one house sometime in 1911.

Leaving me just to ponder on Mr. and Mrs. Jones and a mystery which might be answered by those documents.

We shall see.

Location; Chorltonville

Picture; workmen outside South Meade, 1911, courtesy of Laura Hopkins

Special thanks to Laura, who kindly showed me the picture and has promised to lend me the house documents and to Jude who lives next door, and first told me about the picture.

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford nu 58 ................. Booth Street

Now Booth Street is just what you would expect of one of those twisty little streets off Chapel Street which make their way down to the river.

Unless you have business down there I doubt that you would give Booth Street a second glance.

Today there are a few apartments along the stretch and that is pretty much it.
Back in 1850 the street directory lists just five addresses, starting with Mary Farren, shopkeeper at number 5, George Lord, mechanic at number 12, Daniel Gaskil who was an overlooker at 20 and John Blomeley next door who also an overlooker and finally the firm of James Aspinal Turner & Co, cotton spinners.

There were plenty more properties along with a closed court and a timber yard, but none of the residents of these were worthy or wealthy enough to get a mention in the directory.

Booth Street, 1849
Of course the turnover of occupants in this bit of Salford would have been high and indeed just a year earlier at the bottom of Booth Street there was the Eagle Roller and Spindle Works who likewise is missing from the 1850 list of businesses.

Still there were always the pubs.  On the corner of Booth and Chapel Street there was the Punch Bowl, while back down on Barlow Croft you could have ordered a pint at the Lord Nelson , while heading in the opposite direction there was the Royal Oak and finally starting on the corner of Blackfriars Street there was the Saddle Inn and the Crown.

Now I suspect that both Mr Gaskil and Blomeley who lived on the west side of the street could have worked at James Aspinal Turner’s but it is just speculation as is the notion that they may have been regulars in the Punch Bowl.

But armed with their names I shall in time go looking for them on the census returns  and that will also offer up the names and lives of some of the others who lived on Booth Street.

And that is all for today, but I shall be visiting  the streets on either side over the next few days.

Location; Salford 3

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

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 16, when our water came from pumps and wells

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

Just over 40 years ago there was still a working water pump on Beech Road, and only a few years before that, old farmer Higginbotham finally got round to filling in his old well in the garden of his farmhouse on the green.  All of which goes to remind us that before the arrival of mains water in 1864 from Manchester, the township was reliant on pumps, wells, ponds and streams.  Now my picture was collected by Lois in a village in Sussex but I have every expectation that if you had walked through Chorlton something like 160 years ago there would have been plenty of similar ones.  We might mourn their passing but collecting the water from a pump was a chore and one that had to be done three or four times a day, and by the 1880s most supplies had either become polluted or dried up.  Nevertheless the public pumps were a meeting place and by all accounts a magic place for a six year old to play on hot summer’s days.

Picture; from the collection of Lois Elsden

Watching the sun set over southern Israel

There remains something very powerful about watching the sun set, and in a  way it doesn’t matter much if it is over a tenement in Glasgow, across the emptiness of the Aegean or in this case the hills of southern Israel.

You watch as the sun sinks lower and finally disappears leaving you to ponder on the night ahead.

And out on the hills of southern Israel it looks particularly striking, as the barren landscape slowly becomes indistinct.

Location; southern Israel

Pictures; sunset, 2017 from the collection of Saul Simpson and Emilka Cholewicka

Moor Street in Rusholme some around 1965 ............. now long gone

We are on Moor Street in Rusholme, sometime just before it was cleared away around 1965.

Moor Street circa 1965
Now I can’t be exactly sure of the date, but the picture belongs to Ken Fish whose grandmother lived here from 1911 till 1965.

And given the bricked house in the same terrace I think we must be close to that date.
Moor Street ran from Wilmslow Road to Nelson Street, and you won’t find it today on any modern map.

That said it is possible to locate it fairly accurately because across Wilmslow Road directly opposite was Rusholme Grove which is still there today.  It is a narrow unpromising stretch of road broken twice by short footpaths.

But stand at the point where it joins Wilmlsow Road and look toward the city centre and just across the road is a modern row of shops which makes the site of Moor Street.

Back in 1911 it consisted of 21 properties including greengrocers, a fish and chip shop, a butcher’s and a beer shop.

Ken remembers "the off licence was still there in the sixties, my Gran’s was the last one on the right and the"offy" was next door to my gran’s but was forward of her house with the backyard more or less level with her front door.   

Between them was a footpath that led on to Claremont Road and came out near a paper shop and a police station and some other cottages, they were strange because they were below the level of the pavement and there was a slope to the front doors.

My Gran’s cottage when you went in you stepped directly into the front room and down a step, in between the two rooms were very steep stairs with a door to them.  The back room was the kitchen and the floor was made up of natural flag stones with a grid inset in the middle to the sewers.  

The upstairs I can only remember going up once and the ceiling was very low, the other thing that comes to mind is the heavy drapes over all the doors to keep the draughts out, there was also an outdoor toilet and I think if you wanted hot water you had to boil it."

Now there are plenty of pictures of houses from this period in the digital archive but sadly many will have been lost so Ken’s is a fascinating glimpse of a bit of the city just before it vanished forever.

Picture; from the collection of Ken Fish

Mrs Nellie Davison at Well Hall .......... stories behind the book nu 27 making the connection

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War*

Places Nellie would have visited, the parish church, 1915
By now I shouldn’t be surprised at how what seem random bits of history have a habit of becoming entangled and by degree draw me into the story.

Of course I know that theory that you are only seven handshakes away from  the great and the famous but I was not prepared for just how close I came to a couple who lived in Manchester during the Great War.

They were George and Nellie Davison who were married in 1908 and settled in Romiley after living here in Chorlton-cum-Hardy and in Hulme.

George Davison enlisted in 1914, spent time in Woolwich and Ireland and died on the Western Front in 1918.

Duncan and Nellie Davison circa 1916
Over the last three years I have slowly worked my way through the letters he sent and a collection of his photographs, papers and medals.

Nellie spent time with him both in Woolwich and in Ireland which I thought must have been unusual but perhaps not.

And then yesterday I came across a comment from George that a Mrs Drinkal missed Nellie commenting that “she was lost" without the presence of his wife.  Now that letter was sent from Woolwich which offered up a tantalizing clue as to where Mrs Davison stayed and perhaps where George was billited.

Well Hall Road, 1915
And with the help of my friend Tricia from Bexleyheath we think we know where that house was.

Having found one link to a Mr Drinkal I passed the task over to Tricia who came up with the goods

He was she told me “living at 7a Elmbrook Street which appears to be hutments on the site of where the Well Hall Odeon later stood.

William Henry Drinkal and Hilda May Garrod were married in 1916 at Dunmow in Essex and had their first child in 1917.”

All of which fits because a W H Drinkhall witnessed George’s will in March 1918.
Now I know the spelling is different but the coincidences are too close and so I can now place our Nellie in Eltham in 1916 on Well Hall Road.

And the real prize for me is that the Drinkal home was just minutes from 294 Well Hall where our family lived from 1964.

294 Well Hall Road, 2015
So there you have it.......  half a century may separate me from George and Nellie but there is the link.

It would be easy get a bit silly about the connection but for someone who has spent the last few years getting to know Mr and Mrs Davison, sharing their ups and downs and his final fate there is something powerful in knowing that we share the same place.

All of which just leaves me to thank Tricia, and remind  those who live in Manchester that the George Davison collection will be part of the exhibition in July to commemorate the Battle of the Somme in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

Research by Tricia Leslie

Location, Well Hall, Eltham, London

Pictures; from the collections of David Harrop and Andrew Simpson

Painting; 294 Well Hall Road, © 2015 Peter Topping

Facebook: Paintings from Pictures

Monday, 29 July 2019

Magic nights in Well Hall

I can picture the poster now.

It featured a guitar and a set of unlaced boots, was finely drawn in black ink resting on a white background, and advertised a folk and blues night at Well Hall Peasaunce.

Its design and the event perfectly appealed to a 16 year old and it ended up on the wall behind my bed and stayed there  long after I had left Well Hall Road.

As for the concert it was all the poster promised and while I have long ago forgotten the names of the artists the evening has stayed with me.  It was one of those memorable nights which began with the setting.

To the right of the stage was the southern side of the Tudor Barn with the moat running alongside it and to the left were the gardens with the railway station beyond.

And as the dusk turned into night the odd break in the performance was filled by the sound of trains passing through Eltham and the noise of cars coming down Well Hall Road.

I remember the concert being full and while I did go to a few more  nothing compared with that one.

And that got me reflecting on what makes a perfect memory.

We all have them bits of our past however trivial which stick with us and bring back home.

Going back even further and before we even moved into Well Hall Road I can still remember laying in bed and watching the night sky lit by the blue flash of what must have been a train at Queens Road Station.

I say that but the blue flash may have been caused by something entirely different but it remains with me even now.

As does the day sometime in 1964 when on a first adventure into Woolwich I discovered by sheer chance the ferry and like so many others before and since it caught my imagination.

Now there is nothing unusual in any of these memories.  Since I first posted a story about the concerts in the Pleasaunce others have told me of their magical nights on those hard metal seats listening to the music by the Barn.

And in the same way the Ferry remains one of those bits of so many people's past along beside the market stalls, a traffic filled Powis Street and of course trips to Hind’s in the High Street.

Not that this is not  just another bit of nostalgic tosh but an appeal for those memories, with if possible a picture and better still a story, like the one from my friend Jean on a tram heading home to Eltham with a live eel bought by her grandmother on the market.

And these memories however episodic and disjointed are all part of our history.  Put them together and you have a set of stories to tell your grandchildren.

Location, Eltham & Woolwich, London

Picture; Tudor Barn, Well Hall courtesy of Scott MacDonald, 2013 and the floral display 2014, from the collection of Chrissy Rose

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 15 a barrage balloon

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

It was on the Rec not far from where the children’s play area is now located.  Until the late 1980s it was still possible to see the concrete bed which helped secure the balloon.

Picture; from the collection of Allan Brown

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ........... nu 57 looking across at Greengate ...... from Bearings to high rise

Now if I hadn’t given the game away in the title, there may be may who would find it hard to place this new development which thrusts up into the sky.


But then I have already offered up the location and the rest as they say will be a flood of memories from many who long ago left Salford.

When I last wrote about the spot there were plenty who commented on the shops and more than a few who remembered that bus stop.

For some it was where they caught the bus home after a day at work and for a few it was the staring point for a night out.

And I am hoping that these pictures will produce
more than a few more stories.

Location; Salford

Pictures; on Greengate, 2017 from the collection of Andrew Simpson and in 1980, m66776, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

The age of the parking meter was short ....... we won’t see their like again

Now I am always surprised at what was once familiar street furniture can disappear like snow in the winter sun.

And looking at this 1968 picture of St Peter’s Square there will be a few who wonder what I am on about.

But I suspect that anyone born in the last two decades may wonder what that poll with the domed shaped device beside the car was used for because the age of the parking meter has come and  gone.

It was a short life.

The first in London was installed just fifty years ago which post dated their introduction in an American city by just 40 odd years.*

There are some  in Central London but 3,500 have gone leaving just 800.

And as ever, I can’t remember exactly when they vanished from the streets of Manchester and Salford.

At which point I know someone will come up with chapter and verse and also point me to the surviving ones somewhere.

As it is there were parking meters here by 1961 when the barrow boys of Back Piccadilly were concerned that their livelihood was under threat from the introduction of parking meters along the narrow street in November of 1961.*

Our image was taken in the October of 1968.

And for me the bonus of the picture is that it shows those lost buildings, one of which went I think sometime in the early '70s and the other very recently.

Location; Manchester

Picture; St Peter's Square, 1968, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Time runs out for the parking meter, Josie Barnard, The Telegraph, November 07, 2017,

**Back Piccadilly may lose barrow Boys, Manchester Guardian, November 20, 1961

Bert Woodcock ………….. Chorlton artist ………….part 1

Now I like the way that stories come back, and so it is with one I did on the local artist, Bert Woodcock which I wrote back in 2016.*

I knew Bert and Doris Woodcock but only to nod to and pass the odd comment.

They lived on Beaumont Road directly behind us.

I must confess to my shame I made little effort to get to know them, but these were the years when the children were growing up and with a busy day job lots rather passed me by.

And so, it was a chance conversation with Alan which made me think of them again and the revelation that Bert was an artist who exhibited locally.

I went looking for a reference to his work but drew a blank but given that he was also a commercial artist I suspected in time I would find at least one picture.

And this week Robert Fleming got in touch, with, “Hi Andrew. I recently came across your blog and noticed you had written one about my late 'uncle Bert'.

He was my mother’s uncle (my grandmothers’ brother) but he was always known to myself and sister as uncle Bert and we would visit regularly in Chorlton. 

I have numerous pieces of his artwork and knowledge of his life passed on by my Mother and grandmother.

Happy to chat if you want to do a follow up as well as share his artwork.... a lot of which is owned by me, but none of it local.

He led an interesting life and would be nice to see him memorialized as I have such fond memories of him.

His real name was J H Woodcock by the way but known as Bert. As you said in your blog, he was a commercial artist and painted for catalogues and such in the days when it was cheaper to pay illustrators than it was to take photos. 

He was a soldier, a diehard City fan, very deeply religious and a freemason. He led an interesting life and I would await his illustrated cards every birthday as a child”.

All of which means that I am sure there will be follow up stories from Robert on Bert.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; paintings by Bert Woodcock, date unknown, courtesy of Robert Fleming

*Looking for lost forgotten local Chorlton artists ................ Mr. Bert Woodcock and J Montgomery,

One car, one camera, and three pictures of the changing landscape.

Now the trip in along Chester Road into town continues to be one dominated by new build, most of which is unremarkable and pretty standard.

And then just after passing St George’s the skyline id dominated by those new towers which rise from the ground, almost as if they had been planned to keep the Beetham Tower company.

What is all the remarkable, is that just three years ago only the Beetham scraped the sky, and that transformation has been recorded by Andy Robertson, almost level by level as the towers moved upwards.

Nor has he been alone, because Cathy Robertson regularly also chronicles their development.

And earlier in the week she took four pictures in quick succession, as if to re emphasis the size of the buildings.

Location; coming into Manchester

Pictures; three pictures of the new towers, 2019, from the collection of Cathy Robertson

Sunday, 28 July 2019

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 14, petrol pumps on Claude Road

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

It was at the top of Claude Road as it turns west and is an odd place to site a petrol pump.  I remember it well and vaguely used to wonder why it was there.  My photograph dates from 1972 and the pump was still there twenty or so years later until the bit of land behind the pump was developed into a row of houses in what is now Rainbow Close.  Before that it was just a bit of open land and I guess was the site of either a garage or small builder’s yard.  Now the Egerton and Lloyd estates had not permitted industrial development here in Chorlton but there were plenty of small areas given over to the working of local craftsmen which will  feature in more detail tomorrow, so it maybe that our pump served just such an enterprise.

Which just leaves me to add from a contributor, "I grew up at 41 Claude road there were two petrol pumps one either was a row of workshops where they did repair cars they also owned no. 45 Claude Road which they rented out.the owner had a classic car with running boards and a starting handle as kids in the 70's we cut through the garages to get to the brook to play."

Picture; Street furniture on Claude Road, 1972, m58833, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Manchester's first railway station ........... no.1 waiting for something to happen

Now when Ron shared four pictures of the old railway station and warehouse on Liverpool Road, I was transported back nearly four decades.

The station and carriage shed
I visited it just after it had finally closed and British Rail had sold it to the museum.

It was hard at the time to see just how significant were these old run down buildings.

But these were the first passenger railway station and warehouse, having opened in 1830 when a group of Manchester businesses wanted a quick and cheaper way to get their manufactured goods to Liverpool.
Added to which they quickly saw the commercial advantage of using their railway trains to carry paying passengers.

So here in the pictures is the passenger buildings, beyond which is the carriage shed erected the following year.

And as with so much of the 19th century there was a strict division between those of property and wealth who travelled first class and the rest as seen in the provision of a first and second class booking hall and waiting room.

the 1830 warehouse, railway side
And it is worth remembering just how much the new railway company was at the cutting edge of technological change.  Their steam locomotives may have been the future but tickets were still handwritten and first class carriages were essentially stage coaches placed on a set of railway chassis.

In that respect they were looking back as well as forward.  And that was reflected in their choice of warehouse design, which was direct coy of the existing canal warehouses, complete with arches which allowed waggons to be taken into the building.

Inside the 1830 warehouse
But unlike canal boats which can turn effortless, the railway waggons had to be uncoupled placed on a turntable and then turned 90 degrees before being pushed into the warehouse.

Originally these turn tables were all over the site but the last which was beside the Byrom Warehouse was taken away some time in the 1990's.

And tomorrow there will be more on those early warehouses, of which there were three.

The first built in 1830 opposite the railway station and the second two built the following year which stood at right angles.

These were destroyed in a devastating fire.

The surviving buildings have done well to be still with us, although they were pretty much knocked about.

But have now become part  of the museum complex.

Location; Liverpool Road

Pictures; the railway station and first warehouse, built in 1830-31 as they were in the early 1980s from the collection of Ron Stubley