Saturday, 31 January 2015

“exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” ......... The Chorlton Ratepayers Association 1877-?

For over a hundred years we had our own rate payer association.  It may still be going but I can't find an address or a link for it in Chorlton.

But in the 19th century into the 20th ours was pretty active.

They harried the local authorities on issues to do with Chorlton, expressed their opinions to the local newspapers and put up candidates in municipal elections into the 1960s.

And like snow in the winter sun they have vanished.

There will be people who remember the Association may well have been members and might also have the faded minutes of meetings but I have yet to find them.

It was formed in 1877 after the election of the first Local Government Board the year before.  This replaced the old Poor Law committee which had raised a rate and looked after the governance of Chorlton since the 1830s.

Now much of the work of the earlier interested ratepayers here in Chorlton can be read in the minutes of the Vestry or Ratepayers meetings which were held regularly in the school house on the green from 1838. It is fascinating account of the day to day workings of the new poor law system of government.

But the new Local Board of Health was something much bigger, covering the four townships of Chorlton, Burnage, Withington and Didsbury.

And befitting this larger municipal enterprise some of the resident set up a Vigilance committee which later changed its name to the “Chorlton-cum-Hardy Ratepayers Association, its object to watch over the interests of the township generally and to take such active measures for the protection and welfare of the ratepayers as may be deemed advisable.”

It met four times a year in the Lloyds Hotel and was open to all rate payers who were prepared to pay the annual subscription of 5s and stump up the entrance fee of 1s which included a copy of the rules.

There was also an executive committee consisting of president, vice president, honorary solicitor, auditor, and honorary secretary and ten members which met more often.

Like all such vigilance committees ours exercised its concerns across the board from the state of the highways, issues of public health and transport to the provision of education.

And of course in the great debate on whether we should vote for incorporation into the city in 1904 the Ratepayers Association had a view and indeed continued to do so after we had become part of Manchester.

In those early years after incorporation one of the main complaints was that as the rates had gone up the promised benefits of a public library and tram service had failed to materialise.

It was according to one correspondant to the Manchester Guardian in 1905  “With such high and increasing rates  after if not on account of amalgamation, we may expect the Council to pay early attention to such requirements for the district as tramway routes, baths, and library, as promised, and also much needed  educational facilities by the speedy errection of the proposed elementary school.”*

And I do have some sympathy with the compliant given that in that May of 1905 the tram service still stopped at West Point**and our first municipal library was not opened for another three years and only then in a converted house on Oswald Road.

Added to this according to Mr Shorrocks the rise in the rates had to be seen against the loss “of cheaper gas, which other districts enjoy, being partly [still]  lighted by Stretford gas which costs more than that of Manchester.”

It had been an issue in the first Manchester Municipal elections after incorporation with the Progressive Party arguing, the advance of “good government” involved “exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” and “preserving as far as possible the residential character” of Chorlton.***

And like all ratepayer associations I guess those concerns never went away, which I suspect would make them an interesting area of study.

As it is there is little to go on.  In 1911 according to Kemp’s Almanack and Handbook the registered address for our ratepayers association was Albert Harris, Station Approach.

Now this turns out to be one of the many offices for coal merchants by Chorlton railway station, although Albert Harris described himself as “estate agent and coal merchant.”  He lived on Maple Avenue.

Picture; courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, Withington Town Hall, October 16th 1906 m52133,

*J.H.Shorrocks, The Hard Case of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester Guardian May 22, 1905

**where Seymour Grove joins Upper Chorlton Road and Manchester Road

***Election leaflet, the Progressive Party, October 10th 1904

Revisiting the Great War nu 1 ............ who spoke in favour?

That image of people cheering the news that we were at war in August 1914 and turning out on the streets pretty much sums up what we think was the mood of the country facing its first major continental war in a century.

Men flocked to the Colours, many wanting to do their bit before it was all over and Rupert Brook wrote

"Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping.*

And yet it can only have been one aspect of how collectively the country greeted the news.

After all Sir Edward Grey’s famous comment that "The lamps are going out all over Europe” was made by the man closely associated with the decisions which led to our ultimatum with Germany.**

And on that day the Manchester Guardian had been full of letters deploring Britain’s possible involvement while the editor C.P Scott had commented that

“If we rush into war will be both a crime and ruinous madness in which we risk everything of which we are proud and gain nothing.”***

Such feelings were mirrored by resolutions passed by churches and church bodies calling for neutrality, and large meetings held across Greater Manchester including one at the Milton Hall on Deansgate the day after war was declared reaffirming a belief that we should have remained neutral.

Uppermost were the fears for those who would be called to fight, the loss of treasure involved in paying for the conflict and the unease at lining up with countries like Russia and Serbia.

And amongst sections of the Labour Movement there was the a real concern that “wars are of no concern to Labour.  

The only purpose as far as we are concerned, would be to divert attention from social needs, and the only people who would benefit would be the armament firms. 

We never know what financial forces are behind movements which precipitate nations in to wars of this kind.”****

A sentiment which was matched by resolutions from trade unions like that from the Electrical Trades Union,

“strongly protesting against the present war in Europe as a ‘wanton and wilful waste of human life which will be the cause of unparallelled misery and hardship to the workers of all countries.’”*****

That opposition never really went away and as the war deepened it maintained a constant, but the majority of the country swung behind Britain’s involvement.

By September the Labour candidate in the Bolton by-election was unopposed by the other two parties because he “was a whole hearted supporter of the war policy.”******

And a little over a month later the Labour MP for Manchester East,  John Edward Sutton speaking to a meeting in his constituency commented that  “when our ultimatum was sent [the Labour Party was] practically unanimous in deciding to support the war through.  

Our policy as a party was to sink and fall with the Government, as the Opposition had done, and do their best to bring the war to a successful issue.” ******

Although it is interesting that he maintained that “German Socialists like the Socialists of this and other countries were against war... but were out numbered in the German Parliament by the militarist and aristocratic party” concluding that they now “had to do the best they could for their country just as we believed we must fight the war to the finish.”

His speech was met by frequent applause and that I guess brings us back to the image of the cheering crowds complimented by the recurring news of the numbers enlisting in Manchester Pals Battalions  and the report that of the 280 Manchester undergraduate on the Officer Training Corps over 200 had taken commissions in the two months since the war began.

Next, the treatment of enemy aliens, unemployment, distress and the growing role of women in the war effort.

Pictures; selection of picture postcards from the collection of David Harrop

*Peace Rupert Brooke, 1914

** "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time."

***To a group of Manchester businessmen and Liberals on August 3 1914

****Councillor W.T.Jackson, Secretary of the Manchester and Salford Labour Representation Committee, Labour Protest in Manchester, Manchester Guardian, August 3 1914

***** The Attitude of Labour, Manchester Evening News, August 3 1914

******Bolton By-election, Manchester Guardian, September 15 1914

******The Labour Party, Manchester Guardian, October 12 1914

Back at Eltham Lodge, courtesy of Captain Brooks and his book on Eltham Palace

I am back with the Story of Eltham Palace by Roy Brook and what a treasure trove is here.

For a start it is not just about the Palace and the royal residents who lived there but also an account of the many people who visited it and left their mark on the place and the surrounding area.

One of these was Sir John Shaw who became tenant of both the Palace and its grounds in 1663 and who went on to build Eltham Lodge.*

The Shaw’s continued to live there until 1820.  During the next 19 years it was the home of Lord Wynford, Lady Crewe and Lord Rivers and from 1840 was occupied by Benjamin and Anna Wood.

He was a banker and politician.  He died in 1845 and Mrs Wood continued to live there until her death in 1889.

The chapter on the house contains a fine plan of the ground floor.

Now I have never wandered through its doors so it is interesting to get a sense of what the place was like.

The house faced north and even now the first glimpse of the property as you walk towards it is pretty impressive.

And beyond that front door was the hall and off to the left the parlour. There were two separate staircases in the centre of the house and the breakfast and dining rooms were at the rear facing south over parkland.

“The windows were originally stone mullioned, but the stone was replaced by sash-bars in the time of George II.  

The flat roof probably had a balustraded roof gallery as its central feature when originally built.

Most of the ceilings on the ground floor and first floors are richly modelled with ornament of seventieth and eighteenth century floral design. The parlour on the ground floor has high walls richly decorated with Rococo plaster-work containing the portraits of Roman emperors.

On the first floor the Grand Parlour on the south side originally contained six Flemish tapestries, of scenes from classical mythology.”**

And as you would expect it attracted visitors one of whom was the diarist John Evelyn who recorded in his diary in July 1664 that

“went to Eltham to see Sir John Shaw’s new building; the place is pleasant if not too wet, but the house is not well contrived especially the roof, and the rooms too low pitched; the orangery and aviary handsome and a very large plantation.”

And if you want more there is always Mr Brook’s book or perhaps a visit to the Lodge.

Pictures; from the cover of the Story of Eltham Palace, and exterior and interior of Eltham Lodge from the collection of Jean Gammons.

*Eltham Lodge,

Friday, 30 January 2015

That ghost sign on Beech Road, a painting and a plasterer

Now here is one of those ghost signs which have yet to pass out of living memory.

And if you have lived in Chorlton for as long as I have you will remember when it was called Sunflowers, was run by George and traded beside the launderette.

Back then we still had a greengrocer, a post office and two butchers while just two decades earlier you could call in at the grocers, buy paraffin and a candle from the shop next to Wilkinson’s and choose to get your fresh cakes from Richardson’s or the Oven Door.

So this is a ghost sign for a business which has been around while Beech Road moved from an ordinary little shopping centre serving the old village into the “quirky" hub of small traders offering everything from Victorian antique lace, reproduction wooden crates and original glassware.

Not that we have completely shaken off that older Beech Road.

Look just below the ghost sign and there is one for Gazelle Plasterers which have been trading from the side of the Wholefood shop since the 1980s.*

Leo who runs the business is an excellent craftsman.

We used him back in 1983 and again only earlier last year.

He specializes in fine plaster mouldings and was engaged in restoring some of the features in both Central Ref and Sunlight House on Quay Street.

All of which brings me back to Chorlton Wholefoods which sadly closed recently.

There will be those who remember this stretch of shops as the home of strippo and perhaps even a few when the entire block all the way round on to Stockton Road was the co-op.

But most will have fond memories of that corner business where you could get your organic veg, interesting qourn products and a vast range of food from good wholemeal bread to Tivall sausages.

So here when all that was still possible is Peter’s painting which captures the last period of Chorlton Wholefoods.

The interior had been redone, the frontage given that distinctive black and yellow appearance and the business gave this end of Beech Road a bit of class.

Picture; Beech Road ghost sign, 2015, from the collection of Peter Topping

Painting; Chorlton Wholefoods, Beech Road, 2013 © Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

*Gazelle Art Plaster, Beech Road, 07760 461259

A Salford coal merchant and his two daughters who lived on Needham Avenue in Chorlton

This is Jacob Brimelow, coal merchant and I am guessing we will be somewhere in Salford. 

I don’t have a date but as Jacob was 25 in 1901 and a year later the family migrated to Australia where they stayed until the 1920s it is just possible that we are back in Salford just after they returned.

And there is a lot more to the picture because the wagon carried the name of William Perkins who was one of 11 coal merchants who had their offices at the coal depot on Ordsall Lane in 1911.

Jacob’s father had also been a coal merchant but appears to have changed occupations having described himself as a commercial clerk in 1881 but a decade later was selling coal.

And it may be that we can pin point that change to sometime after 1886 because in that year he is absent from the trade directories.

So with a bit more digging we should able to get an exact date for when he began trading and likewise when in the 1920s Jacob was also plying the Salford streets.

All of which brings me back to that picture and a date.

Look closely and at the rear of the wagon is a motor car while the hat and coat of the woman looking on suggest sometime in the 1920s or possibly early 1930s.

And I think we are dealing with something special for neither Jacob or the lad on the wagon are dirty or in their everyday work clothes.

Added to which the horse is decked out in gleaming brasses and head gear which may mean we are at the start of a special parade, but what that was is for now anyone’s guess.

But I have every confidence we shall.

Not that that is the end of the story, for two of Jacob's daughter who were born in Australia were later to settle in Chorlton and live beside each other in Needham Avenue.

Picture; Jacob Brimelow, date unknown, from the collection of Susan Barlow and familly.

Revisiting the Great War how we see that war and how it was perceived in the past

I have never doubted the sacrifice made during the Great War.

It reached into almost every home and for many the legacy was the loss of a loved one and in some cases more than one and that sacrifice is there in the memorials for the fallen across the country.

They range from small plaques in quiet village churches to large brass polished lists of the men who fought in office buildings along with the more public monuments like stone crosses and our own Cenotaph.

There is as they say a certainty in that national sacrifice but what I continue to revisit are the causes of that war and the numerous differing interpretations of whether Britain should have joined a continental conflict in the August of 1914.

Now I belong to that generation whose view of the war was coloured by Joan Littlewoods’s Oh What a Lovely War and the fact that I grew up in the 1960s which to a young mind pretty much challenged all the conventional wisdoms.

That said as I have grown older I realize that every decade does exactly the same thing and the critical analysis of why we fought and the value of the war were being hotly debated soon after it was all over.

Now there is nothing wrong with that.  History is not set in stone, fresh discoveries, new scholarship and changing ideas mean that every event is open to reinterpretation which is what makes the study of the past both fun and rewarding.

I was brought up with that premises that here was a war of rival imperialisms where the growing antagonisms of the European Great Powers and Japan led to a costly arms race, the creation of two armed camps and the possibility that one or two of these countries fearful that they would lose superiority would strike first.

It sat alongside that even more simple interpretation that in an age when the vast armies of Continental Europe were moved by trains, the train timetable imposed a logic to events.

So that once the decision to move an army up to the border had been made this would have to be matched by others and in the war rooms and Cabinet offices even the suggestion that this might be about to happen called for the issue of mobilization orders.

It was and for me still is an attractive interpretation and took on more validity during the Cold War when the two super powers contemplated a nuclear exchange of weapons even using them as bargaining gambits while at the same time carrying on their conflict using smaller countries to fight proxy wars.

So here and I don’t claim it will always be over original will be few short posts on the mood of Manchester on that August of 1914 and on how that war was seen at various times during the conflict and since.

Tomorrow, Revisiting the Great War nu 1 ............ who spoke in favour?

Pictures; A fag after a fight, 1916, Daily Mail Official War Pictures, and Mother, Why Doesnt Daddy Come Home? date unknown, Bamforth & Co, Holmfirth, the Patriot Series nu 1888, from the collection of David Harrop

Passionate about local history

Eltham in 1909
Now I collect local history groups, in fact I hoover them up, avidly signing up to their newsletters mentioning them on the blog and where practical going to the meetings.

And it is because I just don’t think you can get enough local history.

After all when it comes down to it for most of us where we live is important and making sense of what happened  in the past helps understand how the place has developed.

Of course there are  the sniffy historians who mumble on about parish pump events and the need to see the bigger picture, but the bigger picture always ends at the bottom of your road, whether it’s the closure of the local factory during a depression, or the very real and personal conflict of conscience when them at the top decide that it would be better if we followed a Protestant Prayer Book and attended a church devoid of holy pictures.

And it is the local and the family historians who often unearth the evidence that either confirms or rubbishes the great sweep of history theory.

North Cray, © J.D.Gammon
So all of this is to introduce two new ones, the Eltham Society and the North Cray Residents Association.*

Now I rather suspect the secretaries of both will rightly say “we have got on very well for the last x number of years without this Northern chap writing about us,” which is perfectly true but won’t stop me.

The Eltham Society was founded in1965 which was the year after we washed up in the place, although I have to confess with a hint of embarrassment that I only joined this year.  But in my defence I was 14 in 1964, left Eltham for Manchester five years later and only felt that I could start writing about its history recently.

North Cray beat it by 21 years having been set up in the March of 1944 which strikes me as a bit odd given the titanic sweep of history that was going on at the time.  But then the very idea that people could be thinking about the future at such a time appeals to the optimist in me.

The Tudor Barn, Well Hall © Scott MacDonald
And takes me back to that simple idea that if you like somewhere you will want to keep it nice, watch carefully the developments a foot and judge those changes by what has gone on before which fits with Eltham’s  “Preserving the Past, Conserving the Present, Protecting the Future.”

Often the history side grows out of what was a residents association or in our case a Civic Society.

All too often I chose to dismiss them, falling back on the ignorant prejudice that here were a group of penny pinching hard faced zealots unwilling to spend for the common good or wrapped up in arcane practises.

Nor is this so far from the mark in the late 19th century.  Our own Chorlton Residents Association was quick to scrutinise the profligate actions of local government, but then they also campaigned for the provision of better education, sanitation, public libraries and street lighting, all of which I approve of.**

So yet again history is messy, which just leaves me to suggest you explore the history sections of their web sites.

* The Eltham Society and the  North Cray Residents Association

** “exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” ......... The Chorlton Ratepayers Association 1877-?

Picture; The Kings Arms from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, Footscray courtesy of J.D.Gammon, and the Tudor Barn, courtesy of Scott McDonald