Friday, 21 November 2014

The Queen & Pasley

Sometimes it is amazing how quickly our recent past can vanish.

The Pasley Laundry was opened in 1893 on what is now Crossland Road and did not reach its 100th birthday.

Laundries are a measure not only of the size of a community but of their prosperity.

 Given the arduous nature of wash day it is not surprising that those who could afford to pay for the weekly washing to be cleaned did so. The population had doubled in the ten years before 1901 and the next decade saw an equal increase. The occupations of the residents of new Chorlton ranged from manufacturers, bank managers and solicitors to clerical and skilled workers.

The very mix which is reflected in the large detached and semi detached houses stretching along Edge Lane and High Lane and the tall terraced properties radiating out from the station.

Here were the customers of our five laundries which in themselves were a mix. Yapp’s Laundry was big enough to have branches on Ashton Old Road, Chorlton on Medlock and in Whitefield and Stretford. 

Others like Wing Sam operated from one shop while Martha Keal’s premises on Beech Road was also the home of a her builder husband John. The biggest was the Pasley, later renamed the Queen and Pasley on Crescent Road. It opened in 1893, and at one point employed 50 staff.

All the washing machines were belt driven by a huge steam engine and were the first to install the “float-iron system” which consisted of the multiple roller pressing machines. This was 15 feet wide and 15 feet long and
“was a mass production ironing machine, with delicately poised rollers. You could put a shirt with pearl buttons on it and it wouldn’t leave a mark.”

Vans from the laundry would collect the washing and deliver it to the sorting office where each item would be marked, and classified into bins, before the loads were emptied into the ten washing machines. After being washed the clothes went through stages of being dried before being set out still slightly damp for the ironing and pressing and finally being re-sorted in the packing room and returned in the vans to the customers.

But the Queen & Pasley like all the rest were slowly being squeezed as the growing prosperity of the 1950’s led to people buying their own washing machines and by the self service launderette which are themselves now in decline.

And just after this was posted, Bob and Jean commented that "both my Gran and Granddad worked there in 1911 he was a van driver and I used to pass it a lot as a kid," and  "my mum worked their in about 1946 and then moved to the Grange .I used to go in the summer holidays with other children and one of the staff would take us to the park and look after us."

Picture; the inside of the Queen & Pasley circa 1960 from the collection of Tony Walker

Out on the highway in Orilia, Ontario in the summer of 1942

There is something iconic about this image to anyone who grew up in a city in Britain in the 1950s.

We are in Orilla, Ontario sometime in 1942, and with very little imagination it is the sort of place  you would see in countless Hollywood movies.

Here are the lone petrol pumps sat out on a desolate highway or just on the edge of a small mid western town.

The young men may work in the garage or like as not they have just wandered out to watch the odd automobile head out up the highway to somewhere a lot more interesting.

Of course all of this is just idle speculation based on nothing more than years of watching American movies.

In fact Orillia is a city located in Simcoe County in Southern Ontario, Canada, between Lake Couchiching and Lake Simcoe, 135 kilometres (84 mi) north of Toronto.

Originally incorporated as a village in 1867, the history of what is today the City of Orillia dates back at least several thousand years. 

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of fishing by the Huron and Iroquois peoples in the area over 4,000 years ago as well as sites used by Native Americans for hundreds of years f
or trading, hunting, and fishing.

Known as the "Sunshine City", the city's large waterfront attracts many tourists to the area every year, as do a good number of annual festivals and other cultural attractions. 

While the area's largest employer is Casino Rama, overall economic activity in Orillia is a mixture of many different industries including manufacturing, government services, customer service and tourism.”*

And Orillia is where my friend Lori’s dad lived in the 1940s, and the photograph is of him and two friends hanging out in the summer of 1942.

All of that said it is still the sort of picture I might well have had on my bedroom wall at home in Eltham or later in one of countless student flats across south Manchester.

Picture; Orillia, Ontario, circa 1942, courtesy of Lori Oschefski, whose father is on the far right


At Burndon Park in the September of 1937 with the Wanderers 4 goals up.

I have been rediscovering the photographs of Humphrey Spender.

During 1937-38 he recorded the lives of working people in Bolton as part of the mass observation project.

It is something I wrote about recently when I featured BOLTON WORKTOWN, Photography and Archives from the Mass Observation*

I first came across Humphrey Spender in 1982 when someone bought me a book of his pictures.**

It is a book I never tired of looking at and it was one that I thought I had lost.  Well perhaps put away safely, so safe that I had no idea where.

This loss was not helped by colleagues at Bolton Library and Museum Service who said it was difficult now to obtain a copy.  An observation confirmed by a glance at Amazon where it was being offered  at anything between £30 and £60.  All of which made me even more gloomy given that mine was a first edition.

All however is now sunny because after an evening of hunting it turned up on a bookshelf.

And I have decided I shall feature another of the pictures from their online collection.

It is one I like.

According to the caption it was taken on September 25th 1937 when Bolton Wanderers reserves took on Wolverhampton reserves at Burndon Park in Bolton, and Bolton won 4-0.

I would like to know at what moment Mr Spender took the picture. Perhaps at the point that the home team were cruising to their final goal, and the smiles of the spectators say it all especially that of the man who has turned his back and shares the happiness of the moment.

Picture, courtesy of Bolton Library and Museum Service, who hold the copyright for this image, 1993.83.08.07

BOLTON WORKTOWN, Photography and Archives from the Mass Observation*,

***Worktown People, Photographs from Northern England, 1937-38, Humphrey Spender, Falling Wall Press

A night at the cinema in 1914 .............. December 4 at Whaley Bridge

Now Whaley Bridge may seem a bit of a way to see a film but here for one night only are a selection of films from 1914.

The selection of 14 shorts set to a musical score includes comedy, drama and allied troops at the Front celebrating Christmas.

And there is much more, all at The Mechanics Institute Whaley Bridge for the small sum of £4 [£3concessions]

Doors open at 7 for 7.30.

Phone; 07531 982995

Lost Woolwich .......... no 1 dinner time 1915

Now of all the places I knew in my youth I have to say Woolwich is one of those that has been has undergone dome of the most radical change.

So much so that big chunks of it I have difficulty recognising.

The Arsenal, Powis Street and even the old Pie and Mash shop were as familiar to me as they were to generations of people who grew up in Woolwich and are now just distant memories.

So with that in mind I have returned to images of a time before now.

This one is the Middle Gate of the arsenal at dinner time in 1915, and serves to remind us of just how many were employed behind its gates

Picture; from Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, Amberley 2014

Thursday, 20 November 2014

On a summer's day in Piccadilly Gardens in 1955

Now this just captures a carefree summer’s day in Piccadilly Gardens back in the 1950s.

It was taken in 1955 and pretty much has the lot.

The two stylish young women attract some but perhaps not that much attention.

For whatever reason the two  men in suits stare away while the chap next to them is lost in his newspaper.

So it is down to the woman in the hat and two others to glance at the passing of those stylish young women.

There will be many who remember sitting in the sunken gardens during their break from work, and when I washed up in Manchester in 1969 this was still a popular way of passing the hour on a sunny day.

My friend Sally came across the image in the digital archive collection but when I went looking for the picture the site had gone down which is a shame because I would like to think thee may have been some extra information.

And as ever it is the tiny detail that draws me in.

My Nana had a hat just like and mum had the identical sun glasses which also reminded me of her usual spectacles which were pink plastic with wings at each corner.  Thinking back they were exactly like the fins on those ever so large American cars that sum up the style of the 50s.

As were those big while plastic ear rings designed to look like flowers.

Which brings me back to those two elegantly dressed young women.

In time when I can access the Manchester collection site I may discover that this was a fashion shot but it is equally likely that it was just a random shot on a hot summer’s day.

Either way it is one to treasure.

Picture; courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Stories from other people's family history

Now anyone who spends their time deep in the archives pursuing long lost family members will know just how one discovery takes you off on a whole new set of historical adventures.

And this doesn’t lessen when the individuals are not yours.
I have been exploring the Adlington family for Carol and what began as just a piece of research quickly became something much more.

It started with a newspaper story from 1917, reporting that “WORKSOP SOLDIER MISSING”.

This was Corporal William Adlington and the paper continued “the sympathy of our readers will be extended to Mr and Mrs G.B. Adlington, Carlton-road, Worksop, and family in the sorrow and anxiety that has befallen them respecting the fate of their youngest son, Corpl. William Adlington of the 2nd-5th York and Lancaster Regiment.

On Monday, Mr and Mrs Adlington received a letter from Corpl. Aldington’s commanding officer, stating ‘I am sorry to have to tell you that your son has been missing since May 3rd.  We still have high hopes of news of him and it is possible he is a prisoner of war.”

Like so many families Mr and Mrs Aldlington had both their sons on the Western Front.  Arthur their eldest was with the Royal Army Medical Corps having enlisted “shortly after the outbreak of the war, and has been in France for considerable time, rendering gallant service to the sick and wounded.”

I think Arthur survived but William who had “enlisted voluntarily on March 4th 1915” died on the day he was posted missing.

It was the sort of awful news that many families had to experience and it drew me in to find out more.  Mr and Mrs Adlington had no other children and both died in the 1940s.

He had been the manager of a Singer sewing machine factory but had begun life as a coal miner.  His wife Ada was the daughter of a framework knitter who had been married three times and like so many families stories the research confirmed what had become family lore.

Caroline had joked that he had married three times to ensure he had a partner who could help him in the business.  Now I couldn’t confirm that this had been the motivation for his marriages but the census return showed that he had indeed been married at least twice between 1871 and ’81.

Not that this should surprise us mortality rates were still relatively high in the 19th century and bereaved parents often remarried.

What also came out of the census search was that in 1891 just three years after she had married George her brother was living next door and two decades earlier another young man was living as a lodger in a nearby house who in time would also marry into the family.

None of which is the stuff of great events but is still history and in its way just as fascinating not only because of the lives it reveals but also because it offers up the backdrop by which those great events can be judged.

Pictures; unknown Sheffield Newspaper, May 1917, courtesy of Caroline Smith