Monday, 20 October 2014

Never ignore a memory ............ the smell of bread and hay and the Twilight Sleep Home for painless child birth in Chorlton

“Oh yes I was born at The Twilight Sleep Home on Upper Chorlton Road.”

Advert from the Manchester Guardian, 1920s
And with that casual remark Ann set me off again with the Twilight Sleep Home for painless child birth and thoughts on just how important are listening and recording people’s memories.*

In the past some historians were sniffy about oral history preferring objective and verifiable sources of historical information.

And memories can be highly subjective and unreliable but that said they can also be a powerful way of getting right to the heart of an event in the past.

Only yesterday Tina was baking bread.

It was the Doris Grant’s loaf which had been perfected by Ms Grant in the 1940s, and its claim to fame is that it is made by leaving out the kneading process. Ms Grant had forgotten to knead the bread but it turned out alright, and with a bit more experimentation produced a loaf which was a bit heavier but quicker to make.

And it was pretty much exactly like that made by my grandmother sixty years ago on a range in the kitchen of the family house in Chellaston.

Nothing more simple than the taste of a wholemeal loaf and I was back half a century ago in a tiny village outside Derby.

And in much the same way the smell of warm hay and old plaster and timbers always sends me back to the loft of their barn on hot summer’s days when the only sound was that of insects and the humming of the telegraph wires outside the hatch.

So back to the Twilight Sleep Home.

Now it is not the zippiest of names and has feint comic overtones, but it takes you back to one of those fashionable medical practises of the late 19th and early 20th centuries centring on the attempt to find a painless way for giving birth.

The standard approach had been to administer chloroform but in Germany experiments had been undertaken to see if women could give birth while asleep.

The mother was given a mix of morphine and scopolamine and early results were so promising that by the early 20th century the method had been adopted in the USA and Canada.

There was Twilight Sleep Home which opened in 1917 on Henrietta Street in Old Trafford and moved to Westonby on Edge Lane sometime in 1921 or early 1922.

It advertised itself as offering “Painless Childbirth” and featured regularly in the classified section of the Manchester Guardian until 1927.  During those ten years its name varied slightly but always retained Twilight Sleep

But by the end of that decade there is no further reference to it and given that the practice had received some bad publicity when expectant mothers had died it was reasonable enough to assume it had closed down.

And so our home on Edge Lane was renamed but was still operating as a rest home during the late 1940s but using more conventional methods.

Ann however was born at The Twilight Sleep Home on Upper Chorlton Road in 1944.

Now I can’t be sure whether the Twilight Sleep methods was used but the name was still the same over the door.

Either way mother and child stayed in the home for a fortnight which may seem a long time but will have had more to do with ensuring that mother’s were not pitched straight back into the routines of running a home which with far fewer labour saving machines will have been a tough task.

So that one chance has got me a little further along the trail of knowing more about that Twilight Sleep Home.

Pictures; of Westonby and Edge Lane, 1914, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m17757 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass and the OS map of 1907.

*The Twilight Sleep home for painless child birth, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20Twilight%20Sleep%20Home%20for%20painless%20child%20birth

Wilbraham Road just 27 years ago

Now just occasionally I like to revisit an old photograph I have used before.

This one comes courtesy of Tom McGrath and is from a series he took in the mid 1980s.

27 years later he went back and repeated the shot.

And for those who missed the full story first time around it’s in the blog, *Just 27 years ago.

Pictures; by kind permission of Tom McGrath

*Just 27 years ago
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Wilbraham%20Road




“The Moat, Well Hall”.......... sometime around 1903

The caption just says the “The Moat, Well Hall” and I just love this picture.

It comes from Some Records of Eltham which was published in 1903 and written by Rev. Elphinstone Rivers who was vicar of the parish church from 1895.*

In time I will go digging for more on the author but at present I am marvelling in this old book which my sister Jill found.

The chapters cover the early history of Eltham, include a heap of old documents and some fine pictures which brings me back to this one of Well Hall.

I guess it will have been taken when Edith Nesbit was in the big house which fronted the main road.

This had been built in 1733 and survived until 1930.**

I like what the Rev. Elphinstone Rivers wrote about the spot, "seen from the roadway, the present comparatively modern farm house does not strike the beholder as being of great interest.

The old fashioned cottages a little to the north are of a
much more picturesque character.

If one takes the trouble to enter the farmhouse-yard, however, and walk around the back of the stables, he will encounter a fragment of an antique moat and just beyond he will see a picturesque gable end and chimney stack of ancient brickwork which formed a portion of the venerable mansion of the Ropers.

The spot is beautifully quiet one, and should be visited if one wants to see it at its best, when the setting sun is dipping behind the western horizon lighting up the quant old brickwork with a ruddy glow and filling the glass panes with a golden blaze of brilliance.”

Now for that alone I am pretty pleased our Jill found the book, and I rather think there will be more from Rev. Elphinstone Rivers.

Alas the identity of the man sitting by the moat will I fear never be discovered, but then I haven't read through the book so we shall see.

Picture; of the Moat at Well circ 1903, from Some Records of Eltham


*Some Records of Eltham 1060-1903, Rev. Elphinstone Rivers, 1903

** Well Hall House that fine 18th century pile which went in 1930
  http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/well-hall-house-that-fine-18th-century.html


All you ever wanted to know about Didsbury's past

Every area should have someone who writes about its past.

Didsbury Chapel, 1620
In the case of Didsbury there have been quite a few.  In the mid 19th century there was the Reverand John Booker who wrote A History of the Chapels of Didsbury & Chorlton in 1857.*

It was one of a series he produced on the chapels around Manchester, and all of them have been plundered by historians ever since, because they not only contain accounts of the churches and chapels but are a detailed history of each area.

So along with accounts of the people, there are vivid descriptions of the townships in the mid 19th century which vast amounts of original documents.

Not to be outdone, later in that century Fletcher Moss produced a wealth of material on Didsbury’s history.

But today I want to concentrate on two books written in 1969 and 1976.

A History of Didsbury, Ivor R. Million, 1969
Ivor R. Million published A History of Didsbury in response to requests to build on a lecture he gave on Didsbury in the Middle Ages, while Ernest France and T.F.Woodall added to the story with their own A New History of Didsbury.

They come from that period when local historians in south Manchester were writing about the transformation of their villages and townships from rural communities to suburbs of Manchester.  In Chorlton there was John Lloyd and in Streford there was Samuel Massey.**

In each case the knowledge of what had been was only just fading from living memory but for those buying into the suburbs of south Manchester the revelation that there had been fields, farms and plenty of historic buildings was fascinating.

Neither of these two books on Didsbury’s past is over friendly.  They are packed with detail and original material and both are less an engaging romp through Didsbury’s past and more a carefully researched source of information.

One of their great strengths is that they  drew on new information which had become available long after the works of Booker and Moss were published.

Both also took the reader on a journey around the old township which in the case of France and Woodall added a collection of memories from people who had lived through some of the changes.

Since then there have a series of small booklets on aspects of Didsbury's history and a picture book by Ernest France.***

And now it is time for a new book, which does not attempt to revisit or repackage what already has been published but to do something slightly different.

Didsbury Through Time, to be published later this year
Didsbury Through Time chronicle the changes over the last century and a bi,t mixing old images of the place with new photographs and paintings by local artist Peter Topping and concentrates also on the people who lived there.


So along with Bertha there are stories of the great and good and the humble and industrious ranging from Fletcher Moss the historian and politician to William Wrightham cab driver and Mary Garside the cook at the Priory.

Many of the original pictures have been donated by local people and we would hope that there may be others who would like to become part of what we are doing by lending their photographs or even sharing their memories of what Didsbury was like.


* Booker John, A History of the Chapels of Didsbury & Chorlton, 1857, Chetham Society Manchester

**Lloyd, John, The Township of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 1972, Massey, Samuel, A History of Stretford, 1976

***many of the booklets have been written by Diana Leitch and are aimed at guides to places of interest.  Didsbury in Photographs by Ernest France was published in 1997.

Pictures; Didsbury Chapel in 1620 from Booker John, A History of the Chapels of Didsbury & Chorlton, 1857, cover of A History Of Didsbury Ivor R. Million, 1969, Didsbury Through Time, Topping, Peter, Simpson, Andrew


Salford Station ............ the one you miss

It’s the one you miss. Salford Central Station is on New Bailey Street and is set back between two railway viaducts.

So travelling out of Manchester into Salford even on foot it was not the most visible of places.  

Moreover the actual entrance seemed to retreat away from the road and so apart from the station’s name on the wooden canopy there was  really only the sign above the entrance announcing the way “To the ticket office” and the railway timetables which gave a clue as to what was behind the maroon door.

But all that has changed.  The viaducts have been painted and the detail highlighted, as have the pillars and the entrance is now behind a glass wall which draws you into the station itself.

It is one of our oldest stations having been opened in 1838 as the terminus of the Manchester and Bolton Railway and in 1843 the viaduct across New Bailey Street were built to connect with Victoria Station.  Only the Liverpool Road Station is older, but that closed for passengers in 1844 when Manchester Victoria was built.

Of course the purist will point to the fact that I am mixing up Manchester and Salford and treating them as one but I rather think that is being a wee bit pedantic.

The station has had many names.  For the first twenty years it was just plain Salford, was then renamed Salford (New Bailey) until 1865 when it reverted to its original name and in 1988 it was changed to Salford Central.

I suppose the fact that for a long time it was only open at peak times and is closed on Sundays does continue to make it a bit of a forgotten station.  So to bring it back I thought I would include the 1894 painting of the station by H. E. Tidmarsh from Manchester Old and New.


Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and Manchester Old and New, William Arthur Shaw

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A short cut, a lost house and buildings soon to vanish

For years it was just one of those short cuts you took if you wanted to leave Beech Road and get on to Crossland Road. 

I must have done it countless times. The gap between what had been J.Johnny’s and the two shops led across this bit of open and neglected bit of land to the back alley of the houses where there was a choice of passages onto Crossland.

I often idly wondered if it had always been an open space but never took my curiosity any further. It was I now know the site of Joel House which stood to the rear of a long garden fronting Beech Road.

Now I wrote about Joel House  and its demolition back in 1978 and the event is now far enough away for most people to have forgotten it was ever there.*

Since the building of the gated community which occupies most of this land I had quite forgotten just how much space was here or just how many properties have gone since Lawrence took the picture.

The white building is the back of J.Johnny’s which was demolished as part of the redevelopment of the plot and facing it was one of those lovely old houses which dated back to the early 19th century and vanished almost overnight to leave an ugly open space which has only recently been built on.

Joel House may have gone in 1978 but one of the trees that stood in the garden was left, and was still there when Lawrence took his picture.

It has gone now and might even have been cut down earlier if the plan to build a car park on the site had gone ahead.

 It would have certainly reduced the congestion on this stretch of Beech Road but I rather remember that the Corporation and the traders could not agree on how to fund it. So the open space remained along with the tree.

It is still possible to take that short cut but it is now less a short cut more a wander along a narrow passage way which takes you from Beech Road between the pet shop and Hurricane, round the garden of the gated community and on to the back alley and into the passage which leads on to Crossland Road.

Somehow it is not quite the same.

Pictures; from the collection of Lawrence Beedle, and N.Fife in the Lloyd collection

*http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/dont-it-always-seem-to-go-that-you-dont.html

Thoughts on a Didsbury just 56 years ago

Now I have featured this picture of the War Memorial and Library at Didsbury in an earlier story but I think it deserves to come out again. 

It dates from 1959 and at first glance it does not look that much different but that is to ignore the huge changes that have occurred in just the last few decades.

When Tuck and Son distributed this picture postcard, there was still a railway station opposite with a regular service in to the heart of the city and the Jones family having returned their overdue library books had a choice of shops to visit.

Unlike today where almost everything you want is under one roof they could have wandered from the station up towards School Lane calling in at grocery shops, a newsagents, Smith’s the dry cleaners and Tiny Tots (Outfitters) Ltd, along with Rushton’s the shoe repair service and BSM Radio.

Inside they would have been greeted with that old fashioned style of shop with wooden and glass counters, high shelves and a lack of background music and customer announcements.

And if that was not enough there was the cafe on the corner of Warburton Road along with the Conservative Club above R Dunn’s and the Liberal Party Offices beside The Paint Shop selling Capital Wallpapers on School Lane.

Today the same stretch is dominated by cafes, and restaurants with a few independent traders which is not to pass judgement on the changes only to reflect that there will be many stories and even pictures of the time just 56 years ago when Tuck and Sons sold their picture postcard of the War Memorial and Library with its uncluttered pavement and parked scooter.

All of which is a prelude to an appeal for memories, stories and pictures of this not so distant Didsbury and an outrageous plug for the book Didsbury Through Time.

Didsbury Through Time is available in Didsbury from Morten’s Bookshop on Warburton Street, Didsbury, and of course from all other bookshops.

Picture; War Memorial and Library from the series, Didsbury, Lilywhite, issued by Tuck & Sons, 1959, courtesy of TuckDB http://tuckdb.org/history