Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Looking down on the Chorlton green .................... 1925

An occasional series dedicated to looking down at Chorlton from the air. 

Here is the green in 1925 taken from an Imperial Airways aircraft.

At first glance there is little that has changed, but the village school would still have been in use, the Horse and Jockey would have occupied a small foot print, and on Beech Road the smithy and Joel House had yet to vanish.

Picture; aerial view of Chorlton Green 1925, m72054, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

A delivery van, a lane in North Cray and a little bit of Eltham’s history

A short series looking at the story behind the picture.

This is not just an old van in a country lane but once belonged to Tudor's of  Eltham - Cane furniture specialists.

I remember it well and here  despite the shop having gone is its delivery lorry

Picture; from the collection of Jean Gammons

Monday, 1 September 2014

Somewhere in Manchester before 1911

Now here’s an image with a story, but sadly not one that wants to be revealed.

We are somewhere in Manchester possibly between 1908 and 1911 and the photograph was part of a series of glass slides taken to illustrate the police duty of escorting a procession. 

The original caption simply reads: Procession: Sunday school.

The curator at the Greater Manchester Police Museum suggests that it “may have been in connection with the Whit Walks but I can't be certain. The location is presumed to be Manchester, but there is nothing in the original to say where.”*

That said there is one possible clue to its location and that is the bank directly to our right.  This was one of the branches of the Parrs Bank Ltd, which had premises across the twin cities.  Now given that this is a Manchester City Police photograph that further limits it to a small number of sites.

The road looks to be one of the main through fares into the city which further limits our choice and points to Stockport Road, or Oldham Road in Newton Heath.  Now I can’t be sure but the Parrs Bank on Oldham Road was on a corner which matches our picture, so just maybe we have the place.

As for an event it might be a Whit Walk but these were held in June and even given Manchester’s unpredictable weather the coats, hats and scarves suggest sometime either in winter or early spring.  So we could be looking at a Sunday school procession or some other similar occasion.

The children and there seem to be a fair mix of the well to do and not so well off are treating the walk as something to enjoy and while one serious faced youth looks warily at the camera, the majority are just enjoying themselves.

Along with the solitary policeman the procession is flanked by women many of whom are wearing shawls some loosely over their heads and others partially covering their faces.
It is a wonderful snap shot of early 20th century Manchester and I rather think in time will offer up much more.

Picture; Procession: Sunday School, 1908-1911, courtesy of Greater Manchester Police Museum, http://www.gmpmuseum.com/

*Duncan Broady, Curator, Museum & Archives, Greater Manchester Police Museum & Archive

Of fishing boats, fields and hotels

I suppose there must have been a time when there were far more fishing boats in the harbour than today. 

I counted a few along the landing stages and there might have been more out at sea but I never saw them.  For the rest it was a mix of pleasure craft ranging from sleek sailing yachts to big powered boats.

But then according to the guide books Alghero had always been a trading port and in its time would have seen the ships of Genoa Catalonia and a host of other Mediterraen.

And I guess there would have been a mix of different languages spoken in ad around the harbour, so in that respect little has changed.

In the summer months the predominate language would be Italian, with a sprinkling of English, French and languages from half a dozen other northern European countries.
In the winter, with all of the tourists gone it would be easier to pick out the sound of Catalan or at least a version which has evolved over the 800 years since the first settlers from Catalonia arrived and displaced the original inhabitants.

My fishing boats look strangely out of place very much an anachronism in the Alghero of today.  But there are still a few vestiges of that older time.  Amongst the fine new apartments and hotels to the east of the beach are a few open patches of land and they are still being cultivated.  There is also what I take to be an old stone barn which has been given a coat of cement.  Its use has changed over time and it seems to have become a store house and perhaps even a factory of sorts.

And now it stands neglected and I wonder how long it will be before it and the surrounding land falls to an enterprising man of capital who sees the potential for another hotel.
But I might just be wrong for much of this land to the east of the coat was marsh and was only drained during the Fascist era.

Still judging by the holiday apartments and hotels dating from the 1970s it might well be deemed ancient enough.

Of course the fort and the churches are old and I suspect must in places date back to the 11th century.  In time the place was entirely enclosed by tall walls of which only the eastern side looks out on land.  And that helps explain those narrow streets with their tall buildings.  Given the limit on space the only answer is to build high ad close together.  But those are stories for another time.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The history of Eltham in just 20 objects ........Nu 6, a royal palace and another book

The challenge is to write a history of Eltham in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

Anyone who wants to nominate their own is free to do so, just add a description in no more than 200 words and send it to me.

Now I don’t intend to write about the history of our royal palace, which is so much part of Eltham’s past other than to acknowledge its importance to the area.

Instead I want to highlight a book written all about it by Roy Brook and published in 1960.

It is now out of print but copies can be picked up relatively cheaply which is how I got my copy.

It is more than just the story of the Palace provinding information and maps on Eltham's development.

Picture; cover of the book

Hough End Hall and a story from the Second World War all courtesy of the V&A

The Hall in the mid 1960s
Now I wanted to include a  fine pen and ink and watercolour painting on paper of Hough End Hall  made in 1940 and now in the collection of the V&A.

It is a picture which I have never seen before and fills a gap in the Hall’s history.

More so now that there is a campaign to buy it and use it as a community asset.*

But  sadly the V&A have not yet been back to me to permit the use of the image which is a shame given that I wrote to them way back in early June.

So at present I have included more of those wonderful photographs of the Hall by Roger Shelley taken in the mid 1960s.

There are plenty of photographs from the late 19th century a few from the early decades of the 20th but nothing from the 1940s.

So this is a find and more so because it led on to a fascinating piece of wartime history which I only vaguely knew about.

And here I can do no better than quote from the V& A’s site which tells the story of how in the midst of a war we had the vision to commission artists to record some of our most important and often neglected buildings.

"This work is from the 'Recording Britain' collection of topographical watercolours and drawings made in the early 1940s during the Second World War. 

In 1940 the Committee for the Employment of Artists in Wartime, part of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, launched a scheme to employ artists to record the home front in Britain, funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust. 

It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. 

Their subjects were typically English: market towns and villages, churches and country estates, rural landscapes and industries, rivers and wild places, monuments and ruins. Northern Ireland was not covered, only four Welsh counties were included, and a separate scheme ran in Scotland.

The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. 

This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'. 

Clark also wanted to help artists, and the traditional forms of British art such as watercolour painting, to survive during the uncertain conditions of wartime. He in turn was inspired by America's Federal Arts Project which was designed to give artists employment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The roof of the Hall

Over 1500 works were eventually produced by 97 artists, of whom 63 were specially commissioned. At the time the collection had a propaganda role, intended to boost national morale by celebrating Britain's landscapes and heritage. 

Three exhibitions were held during the war at the National Gallery, and pictures from the collection were sent on touring exhibitions and to galleries all around the country. 

After the war, the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949, and it was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. 

For many years the majority of the collection was on loan to councils and record offices in each county, until recalled by the V&A around 1990. 

The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time.”**

So there you have it, a bit of our time past I only vaguely knew about, a fine new picture of the Hall and a whole treasure trove of other paintings to view.

Not bad for one day.

Picture, the Hall in the mid 1960s from the collection of Roger Shelley, https://www.flickr.com/photos/photoroger/

*Hough End Hall Lets Make it Ours, https://www.facebook.com/groups/houghendhall

**Hough End Hall Manchester  Recording Britain, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O596771/hough-end-hall-manchester-recording-watercolour-dawson/

The old town, a history lesson and an adventure

Yesterday Simone and I went exploring in the old town.

It was one of those afternoons when most of the family opted for the beach again and we went off in search of adventure.  The town of Alghero is really just the area around the harbour and fort and the new development which spread south along the coats and comprises of holiday apartments and the modern town stretching east from the sea.

The name Alghero is not Italian, but Catalan and there is the clue to the history of the town and the island.  Like most of this bit of the Mediterranean it has belonged to various different European cities and royal families who thought nothing of forcing out the indigenous people, resettling their own subjects and eventually just handing it over like you might a newspaper to be used by someone else.

So it was with Alghero, which was developed as a fortified port by one of the trading families of Genova in 1102, before passing from the control of Pisa to Catalonia, and then Spain, who promptly just gave it to the northern Italian royal family of Savoy.

On such decisions as ever hung the fortunes of the inhabitants of the town.  In the Early 14th century the people who had lived here for centuries were evicted after several revolts against Catalan rule and were replaced by settlers from Catalonia which is pretty much how control has been exercised across the ages.  The Romans did it with their retired soldiers, we did it in Ireland and across North America along with the railway it was “how the West was won.”

So nothing new there then, and even today despite the fact that the official language is Italian a small proportion still speak Catalan.  I say small but one linguistic survey suggested 22% speak Algherese Catalan as their first language and up to 90% having some understanding of it.

And as we walked through the narrow tall streets with the washing hanging from the balconies you could so easily have been in Naples or Palermo and Simone who is Neapolitan immediately felt at home.  Here is a warren of streets which spread out to the east of the old fort and at the end of each is a tiny piazza and around every corner a little church.  Not a bad way to start an adventure, with the promise of more to come.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson