Thursday, 24 April 2014

Who now remembers Chorlton Albion?

Chorlton Albion, 1925
Now this is less a story and more an appeal for more stories.

It started yesterday with my new friend Ann asking about Chorlton Albion which had been active in the mid 1920s.

Her dad played for them and just to prove they existed she sent me some team pictures, lists of fixtures and a set of postcards inviting the players to away matches.

This was pretty much at the extent of my knowledge so I asked Lawrence who as ever came back straight away with
"The early years of 20th Century saw the appearance of several football clubs in the suburbs, some short-lived. Chorlton Albion (1925), whose home pitch was on the corner of Hardy Lane and Barlow Moor Road, near where the Co-op is now"*

And added “details about defunct football clubs at this level are patchy at best. It throws up questions of where there were any changing facilities, what fixtures did they play and in what colours?”

Away match postcard
Now I can help with the fixtures because Chorlton Albion appear to have played Stalybridge Celtic AFC on a regular basis, and using the away match postcards it was possible to track them down to Mottram Road where the club still play today.

Sadly Chorlton Albion didn’t stay the course.

Their ground was on Hardy Lane and they may have shared the pavilion and ground with the local cricket club.  Or on a stretch of open ground just a little to the east along Hardy Lane, where by 1934 there were tennis courts and another pavilion.

Which ever site it was in the way history repeats itself just a few years ago I was there watching one of my lads in a football competition.

I wish I had known about Albion then because there might have been something in the club house.

As it is there is one clue in that away match postcard for Stalybridge Celtic.  They were in the Cheshire League which had been formed in 1919 and which Celtic joined in 1923 replacing their reserve team who had been members from the start.

Given that Albion regularly played them I suppose there might me a possibility that our team was also in the Cheshire League, but so far I can find no record of their membership.

Site of their ground, from the OS map 1907
All of which leaves me with the hope that out there someone like Ann will have memories of the team or more pictures, and memorabilia.

That said Ann’s collection is a wonderful start and opens up a fascinating glimpse into such football teams.

The away postcards are couched in a style of writing we have long lost with the Secretary “inviting” her father to play and “being “obliged if you will take part.”

And like our brass band I am intrigued to know how the team got to Stalybridge.

Now my guess would be a train from Chorlton to Stockport and then out to Stalybridge, but I imagine some train buff will put me right on that journey and I am sure someone else will pour down information on the Albion.

Let’s hope so.

Pictures; from the collection of Ann Love.

* from Looking Back series in the South Manchester Reporter 19th August 2010 - Amateurs Had It All by Graham Phythian, a notable football historian.

Always look beyond the old stone wall, out on Seymour Grove in the 1890s

Seymour Grove in 2014
Now here is a lesson in always looking at what you pass by.

Over the years I have passed this spot on Seymour Grove countless times and never clocked the stone wall and the gateposts.

And yet here is a little history and perhaps some stories.

It was Andy Robertson on one of his regular wanders around the city armed with just his camera and a  notebook that recorded what was once here and is now long gone.

Fairlawns in 2014
I say long gone but I don’t really have a clue when the block of flats went up on what had been Fairlawns and the Sycamores.

Nor for that matter when the original two houses were built.  Andy has dated Fairlawns and its northern neighbour which was Beech House to 1871 and within another 20 years the Sycamores had joined the other two.

There was still plenty of open land around the houses in the 1890s and all three properties were big houses.

The Beech and Sycamores had ten rooms a piece and Fairlawns weighed in with 8, and all three were set back from the road with largish gardens.

Seymour Grove in 1894
In 1911 all were occupied by those who could regard themselves as comfortably well off.

At the Sycamores was Mr Rueben Bennet who described himself as a former director of the Old Trafford company of Bennett’s which made church stained glass, while at Fairlawns was Richard Haig Brown who had been a railway manager, and at the Beech lived George Forbes who was listed variously as a nurseryman and Cut Flower Merchant.

Now in the fullness of time I think I shall go digging into the lives of all three but in the meantime will content myself with reflecting on just how easy it is to overlook even our most recent past.

Travel down Seymour Grove today and I doubt that many will give a second thought to what was here  or rather not here just over a century and a bit ago.

Back in the 1840s our spot was still farm land dissected by a culverted water course with views north east to woodland and Hullard Hall and west out across more farmland to Great Stone Farm and Chester Road.

The Sycamores in 2014
The Botanic Gardens had yet to get it’s Royal title and the railway was waiting for the funds to drive the plans into a working line.

That said just a little to the north on the opposite side were Lime Grove House, Broom House and Brainerd Terrace which with a additions and name changes were still there 50 years later.

Today only Broom House has survived.  I doubt that any of the original features are left inside but I bet Andy will be down there soon to photograph it, and  I shall go looking for Mrs Emily Lawton who was there in 1911 along with the other residents back as far as the 1840s when Fairlawns, the Sycamores and Beech House were still just a field.

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson and the OS for South Lancashire, 1894, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

Going to school in Eltham in 1840

Now the National School  was opened in 1814 by the Reverend J.K. Shaw Brooke.

These were church schools and provided elementary education for the children of the poor.

They were the product of the National Society which had begun in 1811 and aimed to establish a national school in every parish delivering a curriculum based on the teaching of the church.

According to a report of the Charity Commissioners from 1819 the annual salary of the school master was to be £20 and by one of those wonderful chance survivals the first register was preserved which the historian R.R.C.Gregory published in his of Eltham.*

“Amongst the “batch of boys admitted were many bearing names that are still familiar in Eltham,
James Shearing, aged 7
John Scriven, aged 11
Thomas Foster, aged 6
Edward Hand, aged 10, 
William Stevens, aged 6
Charles Russell, aged 9
James Kingston, aged 7
I. Wakeman, aged 6
T.Wakeman, aged 8.”

And just like these names were familiar to Mr Gregory and his readers in 1909, some have stepped out of the shadows again today.

Thomas Foster was the son of the blacksmith who helped run the smithy on the High Street and the Wakeman boys were I think related to Peter Wakeman who had been invited to the Jubilee celebrations to mark the Reverend J.K. Shaw Brooke’s fifty years as vicar of Eltham.

This first school was at the end of Pound Place where it joined Back Lane and 1840 the infants’ school was added.

Now given that I have already mentioned Richard White who taught at the school in 1841, and lived on Pound Place I reckon there are a few more stories to come on the National School, its teachers and students.

Pictures; The National Infants School 1909,  from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Back on Court Yard in 1910

Court Yard in 1910
Now you can never have enough of a good picture so I make no apologies for returning to this one of Court Yard which dates from around 1910 and is from the collection of Kristina Bedford.*

Most of what you see has long past out of living memory.

The Congregational Church away in the distance had been opened in 1868 and was demolished in 1936 and the site was redeveloped by Burton’s where I bought my first suit and later still my first grown up overcoat.

The house next to the church was swept away in 1905, demolished when the southern end of Well Hall Road was cut thereby making the route north towards Well Hall and Shooters Hill a tad quicker and more direct.

But the consequence was that the peace of the church was invaded by the noise of trams, carts and later motor vehicles all of which led to the relocation of the church and in its place the still very impressive building which has now become a McDonald’s.

And on the rare occasions I have ventured in there I still miss the wooden cabinets full of shirts and ties, the racks of ready made jackets  and trousers and the catalogues offering all manner of fashionable made to measure suits.

Still someone will mutter such is progress and I guess that also sums up the developments to the left of our picture, which saw the properties pulled down for the Grove Market.

I wish I could remember these for they would still have been standing when we first came to Eltham but they have passed from my memory and I guess in time I will be hard pressed even to remember the site as it was from the mid 60s until recently.

Annie Morris, early 20th century
So I will fall back on the historical record and stories of that row to our right.

I have written about walking past the properties already.**

And it was here that Annie Morris lived when our photographer pitched up on Court Yard.***

In her time she had lived at numbers 17 and 25 Court Yard and before that in Ram Alley behind the High Street.

She was born in 1848 at 4 Pound Place, and almost her whole life was spent in here Eltham.

She was a cook and may have worked for Captain North at Avery Hill and through her life we have a snap shot of what Eltham had been and what it was becoming.

Her grandfather had set up a farrier’s business in Eltham in 1803 on what is now the Library, and “attended the old Parish Church in his leather apron.”

Hers is a fascinating story which takes us back to an Eltham that even more than our picture has vanished.

And yes that is a trailer for more rural Eltham stories along with a few more about Annie.

Picture; Court Yard in 1910 courtesy of Kristina Bedford, from Eltham Through Time,  and  of Annie Morris outside her house in Court Yard from the collection of Jean Gammons.

*Eltham Through Time, Kristina Bedford, 2013,

**Walking along Court Yard in the June of 1841, looking for John Martin and Hannah Simmons,

***Annie Morris, 

Stories of Chorlton in the 1950s, coming soon

523 Barlow Moor Road, 1959
Now I always maintain history is messy and sometimes out of nowhere comes a series of unrelated stories which with no prompting from me fall together.

So coming soon will be that series of unrelated stories which bring together the Griffith’s family who ran the builder’s business at 84 Chorlton Road, the cinema just behind it, various local schools and the family that lived at 523 Barlow Moor Road.

And the connection is Ann Love who is related to the Griffith’s, attended St Clements, as well as the Oaks College and Whalley Range School and lived at 523 when it was an undertaker’s.

Ann’s parents bought their bread from the bakery on Needham Avenue and her dad saw Tom Mix at our first cinema which was on Wilbraham Road between the railway line and Buckingham Road.

All of which covers a fair bit of the stories that have recently appeared on the blog.

Picture; 523 Barlow Moor Road, 1959 A H Downes, m17504 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

The Grosvenor Picture Palace on Oxford Road

I like Peter’s painting of the Grosvenor Picture Palace on Oxford Road which captures the elegance of the place.

It was opened in 1915 to a design by Percy Hothersall and with almost a thousand seats was I think the biggest cinema outside the city centre at the time.

Even now long after its days as a place to see films have ceased it is still a pretty impressive building.

Its green and cream terracotta tiles marked it out on that stretch of Oxford Road which apart from the Town Hall opposite and the old offices of the Poor Law Union on the corner of Cavendish Street was a drab spot.

And I just missed going there.

It closed as a cinema in 1968 and I had to be content with using it as a pub which it had become after unsuccessful stints as a bingo hall and snooker venue.

Still some of the original features still exist including the balcony, vaulted ceiling and much plasterwork.
I guess the cinema entrepreneur, H.D. Moorhouse would be pleased.*

The Grosvenor was part of his picture house chain which included two in Chorlton and given that for a while he lived on Wilbraham Road just down from the Lloyd’s Hotel I guess he must have visited the Grosvenor.

*H.D. Moorhouse,

Painting; the Grosvenor Picture Palace  © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Southern Hotel and the fields to the south of Mauldeth Road West from the air, 1933

An occasional series dedicated to looking down at Chorlton from the air. Here is the Southern Hotel in 1933.
Despite the presence of fields and barns, the development of Corporation housing hints at the urban spread to come.

Picture; aerial view of the fields around the Southern Hotel on Mauldeth Road West, by N. S. Robert, m72051, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council