Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 14, petrol pumps on Claude Road

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

It was at the top of Claude Road as it turns west and is an odd place to site a petrol pump.  I remember it well and vaguely used to wonder why it was there.  My photograph dates from 1972 and the pump was still there twenty or so years later until the bit of land behind the pump was developed into a row of houses in what is now Rainbow Close.  Before that it was just a bit of open land and I guess was the site of either a garage or small builder’s yard.  Now the Egerton and Lloyd estates had not permitted industrial development here in Chorlton but there were plenty of small areas given over to the working of local craftsmen which will  feature in more detail tomorrow, so it maybe that our pump served just such an enterprise.

Picture; Street furniture on Claude Road, 1972, m58833, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

What was lost is found .........down in Didsbury with a forgotten house and a team of archaeologists

I doubt that there are that many people today who will remember the two houses buried under the car park in the old Didsbury College. 

Down in Didsbury with cellars, archaeologists and lots more
They date from at least the 1840s, and were demolished sometime in the 1960s and have been brought out of the shadows by an exciting archaeological dig by a team from CgMs who are working on behalf of P.J. Livesey the company which will be developing the site now that the college has moved down to Birley.

When the dig began no one was quite expecting what was found.

It began as it always does with a trial trench, stretched to two and by degree an extensive set of stone flagged cellars, some bits of marble fireplace the odd bit of electrical equipment and a gas fitting have been revealed.

The site in 1844
All of which suggests that one of our two houses was fairly high status.

So now I am off on a bit of a hunt to find out more.

The archaeologists will be finished by the end of the week and their report on the site and the finds will follow in due course but I can’t wait and so have begun trawling the census returns and street directories looking at clues for who lived there.

And as so often happens it was a chance conversation with Noel who was walking his dog that offered up a tantalising first clue in the form of a picture which may exist of the house and his memory of its demolition sometime in the 1960s.

So in the fullness of time I shall go looking for the story behind the houses, and close with a thank you to Robert and Pascal who are two of the archaeologists who took us round and to P.J. Livesey who allowed us down there and supplied the pictures.

The site today

Pictures; the dig down at Didsbury, courtesy of P.J. Livesey and detail of the area in 1844 from the 1844 OS for Lancashire, courtesy of Digital Archives, Association,

* P.J. Livesey


On discovering the pubs of Urmston .......... the Lord Nelson

The Lord Nelson is one of those grand old public houses which you know has a history.

That said I have yet to discover its full story.

I know it was home to both the local Friendly Men’s Society who met there in the 1870s and to the Urmston Social Cycle Club who held their meetings in one of its fine rooms in 1911 and boasted a membership of 62 of who 20 were “ladies.”*

The exact date of its construction eludes me but Peter’s painting is very similar to photographs of the building in 1880 and I am guessing it will date from sometime in the previous decade, although sources point to an early pub.

That excellent site Trafford Lives adds that Urmston was “once one of the local notorious centres for the  cruel sport of bull - baiting and baits were held on the cobbled forecourt.

In the days of the stage coach the inn was a frequent stopping place for travellers who used what was the only road from Stretford from the west. Hot Cross Buns were sold outside the Lord Nelson at Easter.**

And of course the moment the story is posted there will be someone with detailed knowledge of the place and so I wait in hope that they will come forward.

Painting; the Lord Nelson, Urmston  © 2013 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

*The Urmston Urban District,

**Trafford Lifetimes,*&fKeyword=Lord+Nelson

What have they done in Woolwich?

Now when you spend so much of your time crawling over the past you are apt to forget that when places change it is not all for the worse.

So when Colin and Liz went out one Sunday into Woolwich armed with a camera, and an old set of photographs I had high hopes that what they would come back with would be interesting and maybe even fun.

The quest was to match the old faded images of Wollwich from a century ago and chart the changes that have happened along with a sense of whether the changes were better or worse.

Now being a grumpy old historian I rather thought that not all had turned out for the best.

But I do have to admit that  that some of what we inherited from the early 20th century was by now grimy, unfit for purpose and quite frankly should have been demolished ages ago.

More over planners do not always get it wrong even if commercial considerations do sometimes create ugly buildings which brutalize the environment.  But not these figures.  They both intrigue me and make me smile and you can't say fairer than that.

Picture; from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A history of Chorlton in just 20 objects number 13, the school photograph

Continuing the story of Chorlton in just a paragraph. They are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

I have no idea of the date but would guess sometime in the early 20th century, if not a little earlier.  If that is the case the picture will have been taken in the yard of the old school on the green, which was built in 1878, replaced an earlier one from the 1840s which in turn had replaced an even earlier school.  In the way of things school photographs do not change over much.  They are drawn from a range of the social groupings, and the children stare back with that mix of seriousness, curiosity and in the case of the little girl on the second row a delightful smile.  In many ways their school experiences would be not so different from their parents but a world away from those of today.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Those pipes down on Manchester Road ...... beside the swimming baths

Now I have always been impressed by these pipes but have never stopped to take a picture of them.

So I was pleased that Andy Robertson has done so and shared them with the blog.

They carry water from the Lake District and may just have been the target of enemy bombers during the nights of the Manchester Blitz, when a fair number of both fire bombs and high explosive bombs fell close by.

And for those who want more about the pipe, Neil Simpson sent me this, "the 'pipes' are part of the Manchester Ring Main feeding water from the Lake District all around Manchester."

There is a great map in this leaflet. 

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

Washing prawns Woolwich 1978

It is another one of those vanished scenes.

Beresford Square, Woolwich 1978.  Back then the market traders seemed to squeeze into every available pocket of land, and still the buses had to make their way through.

Woolwich in the 1960s and 70s was an exciting place to grow up in.  It was busy, vibrant with the Thames just at the bottom of Powis Street and much more.

I went back recently and it all seemed much tamer, much quieter and somehow less interesting.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson