Sunday, 30 August 2015

Food parcels from the New World and thoughts on family far away

Revisiting an old story

We got a food parcel today from Canada.

"a package of maple products from here in southwestern Ontario"
Along with a recipe book my cousin had included some typical products which “are characteristically Canadian and little harder to come across in England.”

So here was the tin of maple syrup, Maple Ice Wine Sauce, a packet of Maple tea and a collection of maple sweets and chocolate covered raisins.

And of course within minutes of opening the package I tried the sweets opened the wine sauce and pondered on making a maple tea.

It was a smashing idea made all the better for being unexpected, and it got me thinking about food from abroad and how such parcels bring you closer together with family far away.

Back when families were crossing the Atlantic or taking that even longer journey to new lives in Australia and New Zealand the arrival of parcels must have been a powerful link to all that they had left behind.

One group of letters I came across from a family who left Manchester for Kansas in the 1880s constantly refer to news from home, commenting on the political fortunes of Gladstone and the Liberal Party, the merits of Home Rule and the excitement of the arrival of a piano shipped via Liverpool which was none the worse for the long sea voyage.

The Harland family in 1913 in Canada
In the same way I am fascinated by our recent food parcel particularly because they have come direct from Canada.

These are not Canadian goods repackaged in some warehouse north of Slough but just as they came off the store shelf in Ingersol Ontario.

And I get the same mix of feelings when we have been visiting family in Italy and come home with the odd item.

So I rather think there are some stories here about food, migration and how we keep close to our families.

Now people travelled more often and much further in the 19th century than we are told in those school history books.

Even in the early 19th century there is evidence that some people were regularly travelling back and forth between Britain and bits of the Empire.

That said for most who undertook the trip to Canada, or Australia it was for keeps, a variation of that old theme “you make your bed and you lie in it” so anything that reminded them of home must have been fallen on eagerly cherished and then saved.

Much as I shall savour our food parcel.

Picture; parcel from Canada, Andrew Simpson courtesy of Chris, Andrea, Josh and Justin, 2014 and the Harland Family in Canada in 1913 from the collection of Jean Gammons

A picture a day .... Barlow Moor Road circa 1920s

A picture a day

During this week  I have decided to feature a picture a day drawn from the collections that spans a century and more of Chorlton

Picture; from the collection of the Lloyd Collection

Back on Pound Place a long time before now

Pound Place was always somewhere I tended to walk past and looking down it now I can’t even remember what stood on the site of the Council Offices.

I have written about  it in the past not least because of its old cottages which once occupied the site and because part of it was the village pound or pinfold which was used to accommodate stray animals and.*

Now a few photographs of Pound Place from the beginning of the 19th century have survived, but today I thought I would feature another of those drawings by Mr Llwyd Roberts who was living in Eltham in the early 1930s.**

During his stay here he drew many pictures and some of these appeared in the Kentish Times in 1930 and were reprinted in Old Eltham sixty-six years later.

Picture; Pound Court, Llwyd Roberts, circa 1929-30, from Old Eltham, 1966, courtesy of Margaret Copeland Gain

*Pound Place,

**Llwyd Roberts,

Summer in the City

Now for no particular reason other than I took them and they are of Manchester, here is a short series celebrating places I like.

All have appeared before and some a long time ago.

Pictures; around Manchester 2002-2015

Another story from Tony Goulding ............. links between two Chorlton murders

Now it is always nice to see a fresh telling of story you have done.

I wrote about the murder of Francis Deakin in The Story of Chorlton-cum Hardy and now Tony Goulding has revisited it with an interesting link and I am pleased to say has uncovered more about the story with a link to a second better known murder.

The tranquil, small, (still) rural community of mid-nineteenth century Chorlton-cum-Hardy was rocked to its very foundations by two sensational crimes. The murder of Francis Deakin on  5th May 1847 and the "assassination" of P.C.Cock on 1st August 1876.

The case concerning the murder of P.C. Nicholas Cock by the most notorious master criminal of the mid-Victorian era, Charles Peace, together with the subsequent mis-carriage of justice, which saw
 The trial and wrongful conviction of a young Irishman William Habron, is a celebrated one. It even featured in a 1949 film "The Case of Charles Peace"
The earlier murder is perhaps less well known. An all-day drinking session involving three neighbours ending in tragedy. Frank Dakin (or Deakin ) and John Cookson, both market gardeners with small holdings (Deakin's being of 3 acres) near Chorlton Green, spent the day of 5th May 1847 drinking in the beer house kept by Mrs. Leach the wife of a local mechanic ,George Leach

According to the evidence , given at the inquest held in the “Horse and Jockey" and the trial at Liverpool , at about 4-00 pm , by which time the three men had been drinking ale (some laced with "six pennyworth" of rum ; provided by Cookson) for around 7 hours, Frank Deakin was fatally stabbed with a kitchen knife by George Leach; who was aggrieved that they had tried to intervene in an argument between him and his wife. The murdered man was just 35 and left a wife and six children, the youngest just three weeks old.

As a skilled .literate mechanic, when in work, George Leach could earn good wages but it appears that he had a volatile personality, fuelled by periodic problematic heavy alcohol use and had led a somewhat adventurous life.

At the time of his arrest he was 39 years old and in the employ of The Manchester and Leeds Railway at Newton, which necessitated him living away from home for weeks or fortnights at a time. He had previously worked in France for 18 months and just a month before the murder he had appeared in court as a co-defendant in “The Warrington Conspiracy" trial.

A 2 month long industrial dispute at  "Jones and Potts" steam engine works at Newton-in-Makerfield resulted in a huge trial of 26 officials and members of  " The  Journeymen Steam-engine Machine-maker and Millwrights Friendly Society " facing conspiracy charges. George was only found to be involved in "picketing"
Having been tried at the South Lancashire Assizes held at Liverpool Crown Court, on 11th August, George Leach was found guilty of "aggravated" manslaughter and sentenced to be transported for life. However, on 16th October 1851 following representations having been made, including by Salford's first M.P. Joseph Brother ton (who was part of the Grand Jury at his trial) and a Mrs. Catherine Crews of Holborn, George's sentence was commuted to 7 years transportation.

Due in part to a marked decline in the number of transportees being accepted by the various Australian states, George would never be sent and was  in fact discharged early on 6th July 1852 (His remorse and good behaviour whilst in prison are both well documented.) and returned to obscurity.
One of Francis Deakin's sons, Francis (Deakin) was involved in the later murder; the one of P.C.Cock. The Habron brothers who were accused of the crime -the youngest, William, being convicted were employed by him as agricultural labourers in his market gardening business.                      
There is also another link between the cases the "name above the door" of the beer shop run by the  Mrs. Leach where the stabbing of Frank Dakin took place was Charlotte Hayson (of Hobson Hall Farm ) whose grandson , Henry  was to give evidence at the trial of the Habrons. Apparently Charlotte was a relative of Mrs. Leach who procured the license in order to provide a stable income for her during her husband’s frequent absences.

Fortunately the death sentence passed on young William was commuted to life imprisonment. It remains a moot point, whether this was due to his youth (he was barely 18 at the time of the crime) or because the verdict was regarded as somewhat unsound; there being a suggestion that the evidence was very circumstantial (if not suspect) and there was some prejudice against the Habrons.

As Irishmen they may have also encountered distrust and hostility as a consequence of the prevailing violence associated with land disputes in Ireland.
On his release from custody William returned , with his £500 compensation to his childhood home in Ballyhaunis , Co. Mayo, Ireland  and appears to disappear from the available records, although there does exist a record of a William "Hebron" born 1890 in Ballyhaunis travelling to New York in 1911. It is possible this man is a son of one of the three Hebron brothers connected with the P.C.Cock murder or at least a near relative.
Finally the full report of the inquest on Francis Deakin in "The Manchester Courier and General Lancashire Advertiser”, of 8th May 1847, is a very detailed one which uses very flamboyant language. It includes a list of the jurors sworn in which is a veritable "Who's Who” of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy township of the time.

The flavour of the article is evident from the opening paragraph, which includes the following description of:-
    “The rural village of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, a sweet quiet spot such as it is scarcely possible to conceive of as lying so contiguous to this overgrown, smoke-blackened conglomeration of bricks called Manchester ------"

On 18th.August the same paper reported the trial in great detail   from this it appears that George only avoided a murder conviction and a consequential death sentence by the work of his defence team led by one of the leading barristers of the day, Sergeant Wilkins.

The soundness of Cookson's testimony was questioned as evidence was given that he may have been too intoxicated to recall with accuracy what took place on the fatal day. Further suspicion of the reliability his evidence was also cast by a light being shone into his past activities as a "fiddler at country wakes", a "rat catcher”, and a "bullward"in bullfighting rings.

The defence also called Francis Rook Wragg described as a local surgeon and temperance advocate but more accurately a Chemist and Druggist of Sackville Street, Manchester.

He testified that he had visited the beer house at about 2-30 p.m.on the day in question staying for an hour in the hope of influencing George Leach to rejoin him in " The Total Abstinence Society" . He suffered some abuse from the murdered man, which his friend (George) took offence at, and also witnessed some other provocative behaviour both by Mr Cookson and by Francis Deakin himself.

©Tony Goulding

Pictures; the Horse and Jockey circa 1970 from the collection of Tony Goulding


The story of one house in Peckham number 41 ............ remembering the bomb sites and much more

The story of one house in Peckham over a century and a half, and of one family who lived there in the 1950s.*

Now I know I am a dinosaur when I talk to my kids of playing on bomb sites.

For them the Second World War is just another bit of the past as remote as the victory of Wellington at Waterloo or Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon.

But if I am honest I don’t suppose bombsites featured that often in our leisure time but they were there and we did play on them.

And there were still plenty of other reminders of that conflict, from the still relatively fresh signs announcing EWS** sites and Shelters, to the gaps in terraced houses and open spaces.

Directly opposite us on Lausanne Road where a land mine had demolished a row of houses was one of those EWS sites which once held water in the event that the mains were hit during a raid.

The old cellar floors had been covered with a layer of pitch and the walls built up to create a huge tank.

There was another at top of the road and there would have been others.

Not that I experienced the bombing.  I was born in 1949 and my parents rarely spoke of it which left me to pick up snippets from films and comics which are not the most reliable way to learn your history.

Nor were there much in the way of TV documentaries, after all television was in its infancy and the war was still less than a decade away and still vivid enough for most people to want to leave the subject well alone.

I don’t think it even really impacted on us.

So there may have been bomb sites but essentially they were just open spaces with little to offer, unless it was the crypt on the roundabout by St Mary’s Road.

It had taken a direct hit and after rubble had been cleared away the entrances to the cellars blocked up.  It may even have been used as a makeshift shelter.

But for us in the 1950s it was place to explore.

And it attracted small groups of kids most of whom didn’t know each other but were united by a sense of adventure and a candle which offered a bit of light by which to venture down the stairs into the labyrinth.

I don’t know what we expected to find and from memory we found nothing.

Unlike the day Jimmy, John and I took our lives in our hands and wandered across a half demolished block of houses somewhere on Queens’ Road and came away with bits of metal and a gas mask still in its box.

Such treasures were not often come across and instead if you wanted a relic of the war you had to buy it from those army surplus shops.

One year I remember there was a craze for what must have been ammunition bags or gas mask holders.

They were made of green canvas with a strap and cost one shilling, and became an essential part of your clothing.

Of course surplus military equipment was everywhere and an old army great coat was as warm as anything you could buy at the clothes shop.

A fact which was reflected in my choice of clothes as a student in the late 1960s.

A navy blouse jacket, RAF great coat and an American combat jacket were still cheap, durable and did the business for a generation which missed National Service and so did not associate any of them with square bashing and endless fatigues.

I recently came across my old great coat which continued in my wardrobe as something I wore well into the early 80s.  It was an officer’s version with a fitted waist and was far superior to the first I bought which was nothing more than a tent.

But perhaps it’s best that they have long ago been discarded as fashion accessories, given that my son’s really would pronounce me as old and beyond the pale.

Pictures; Walter Green  House next to the site of an EWS, 2009 from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick, and surplus equipment,  Vintage Belgian Army Haversack Bag, 1950s, McGuire, RAF coat, from Vintage French Lifestyle,

*The story of one house in Peckham,

**EWS, Emergency Water Supplies

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Time for a tram I think

Now I can’t pretend to know much about trams, except that this one which was one of the last in Manchester rolled in to the tram terminus on Barlow Moor Road on Sunday November 22nd 1942.

Now according to my dad I was there to see the last London tram clunk in to the New Cross depot from Woolwich in 1952.  By then here in Manchester they had been a thing of the past for over three years.

The decision to get rid of the old bone shakers had been made as early as 1930 but like so many things the last world war had intervened and the end of the tram was delayed till 1949.  At their peak in 1928 Manchester trams carried 328 million passengers on 953 trams via 46 routes and along 292 miles of track.

Leaving the old tram terminus on Barlow Moor Road you could have rattled north along routes which took the traveller via Wilbraham Road, or Upper Chorlton Road and Seymour Grove towards town.  Alternatively there was always the route south past Southern Cemetery to West Didsbury.  And no doubt there will be someone who will be able to get give me the tram route numbers and describe in detail the journey along the Parkway, and Wilmslow Road.

So the trams bit by bit gave way to the bus and the trolley bus.

I really would have liked to have traveled on one, despite my Dad who was very dismissive of them claiming that they were uncomfortable, noisy and liable to breakdown.  Not that I ever reckoned the trolley buses which superseded them.

My memories of the Derby trolley buses were of sleek green machines that glided along almost silently and were always guaranteed to make me feel sick.  Perhaps it was that distinctive smell, a mixture of leather and disinfectant which with the warmth of the inside made me feel ill.

Still they also have gone to be replaced by the ever bigger and not always very pleasant bus.  But then there is always the metro tram.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection