Saturday, 29 November 2014

Sarah Sutton, a life lived out on the Row

There are no pictures of Sarah Sutton, nor to my knowledge has she left a diary, or anything which might tell me about her life.

She was born in 1821 in Withington and lived with her husband in a wattle and daub cottage on the Row*. She died in the same cottage 70 years later. Her husband Samuel was a farm labourer which was about what most people did here in Chorlton in the first five decades of the 19th century.
Sutton's Cottage 1892

Unlike the wives of the well to do or even some of the farming families she had no servants to help her.

In the spring of 1851 she had two children under the age of eight, was married to a labourer and had the added responsibility of an infirm father in law.

So tracking her working day is a good start to understanding the daily routines of running a house.

As we have already seen keeping a wattle and daub cottage clean was no easy task. Plaster walls tended to crumble, the roof of thatch could be home to vermin, and the stone or brick floors were damp and in need of constant sweeping.

The interior will have been similar to these pictures from a one up one down brck cottage which stood on Maitland avenue until the 1930s.

Her day would begin at six in the summer and not much later in the winter months. One of the first chores was the collection of water. This might come from a well or the pump in the Bailey farm yard opposite. She may also have used the fish pond on the Row, which was next to her cottage. In having a supply so close Sarah was lucky, for other people on the Row the regular daily journey back with a bucket of water would be a much longer journey. And this simple task would be mirrored across the township and beyond.

Downstairs room Maitland Cottage circa 1930
Water was needed for cooking drinking and washing and there would be a number of journeys to collect it. 

The next task of the day would have been laying and lighting the fire. This may have used wood or possibly coal. 

But traditional wattle and daub fire places were large and not suited for burning coal which needs a smaller fire place and an efficient flu to draw the flame. The compromise was to reduce the size of the fire place which would allow the use of coal now readily available from the Duke’s Canal.

The move from wood to coal may have been underway during the 1850s and while no one was selling the fuel in the township in 1851 there were a number of coal dealers recorded a decade later.

Once the fire had been made and breakfast served, there were beds to be aired, plates washed and the floor swept. Rugs and mats were taken out and banged against the wall, and even before the floor was swept and scrubbed in damp weather the stone flags had to be scrapped with a an old knife blade to loosen the trodden in mud.

But this simple task could only be done after Samuel had gone off to work and her son John who was seven to school. This left baby Ann who was just one and would have required frequent attention. It is likely that Sarah could have relied on one of her neighbours living in the same row. The midday meal needed preparing and if her husband was working too far away his meal would have either been prepared before he left or taken out to him which might have fallen to her son John.

Downstairs room Maitland Cottage showing boxed staircase circa 1930
Most rural families like the Suttons had a diet heavily based on vegetables. 

Some of these were available from the cottage garden, including the all important cabbages and potatoes as well as onions, carrots, parsnips and broad beans.

They were lucky enough to have an orchard behind their home and there may have been opportunities to collect some of the windfall.

 And like many cottage gardens there were also currant and gooseberry bushes, raspberry canes and rhubarb. Gooseberries were ready by June and were popular in the north where there were competitions and societies.

Sarah would also have grown some flowers and one that has survived and still grows on the site of her cottage is greater celandine. It has beautiful yellow flowers and like many that Sarah and others would have grown also had medical properties. Greater celandine is toxic but according to various sources in the right doses can be used for therapeutic uses. She may well have used it as a mild sedative to treat asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough along with other complaints including warts. But it is toxic nature and so not one to try at home.

It still grows on the site at the corner of Wilton and Beech Roads and may be one of the last survivors of our cottage gardens. My botanist fried David Bishop spotted it some time ago and wrote about on his blog,

In the back garden there may have been an area reserved for keeping chickens. Eggs could be expensive and keeping chickens not only avoided having to buy them but could be a small extra form of revenue. So in

1851 the price of a dozen eggs ranged from 4d [2p] in the summer to 8d [4p] later in the year. The family pig was another means of supplementing the family diet and might provide meat for up to seven months. It would be bought in the spring from a local farmer who might wait to the animal was killed and the meat sold before receiving payment in the autumn. This was the only way that some families could afford the cost of a pig which might be between 20s and 25s [£1-£2.25p].
Site of Sutton's Cottage, 2010

But it is unlikely that all their needs could be met from what they grew. Much research has shown that at best the garden supplemented the food they bought. But some might be gathered for free.

There were many wild fruits and plants across the township for the collecting. Wine might be made from a variety of flowers as well as fruit and for those who knew where to look there were rich sources of plants which could enhance cooked dishes.

Pictures; Sutton’s Cottage circa 1892, photograph from the Wesleyan Souvenir Handbook of 1895  and interior of the cottage on Maitland Avenue in the collection of Philip Lloyd, the site today of the cottage on the corner of Beech Road and Wilton Road, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Row is now Beech Road

Text adapted from the Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy,

Another day another walk along the canal .............. pictures of change

I continue to be impressed with what you can see of our past and what is yet to come just by taking a walk along the canal.

Andy Robertson set off on what was one of the last nice days in November and recorded these contrasting scenes of industrial heritage and the new uses for all those brown fill sites.

I like the way that you can study the old railway viaducts set against the
canal and along the way get a closer view of the new blocks of flats which are springing up on all the available open spaces.

Pictures; 2014 Andy Robertson

Specualting on the age of the ghost sign on Keppel Road

Now here is one of those little questions which I don’t readily have the answer to.

We are on Keppel Road with Andy Robertson’s picture and both of us have been wondering when it appeared.

Of course someone will know but it it just isn't me.

It may have been part of that last bit of promotion for Burts’ the outfitters who had a makeover a few years ago involving a television programme.

They had been on the corner of Wilbraham and Keppel Road for the sale of Gentleman’s clothes, including ties, suits and shirts by 1909 and owned another family business opposite selling stationary and postcards.

If the painting dates from that makeover we might just be able to call it a ghost sign.

Either way it is beginning to peel and I doubt that it will be with us for much longer.

Picture; the corner of Wilbraham and Keppel Road, 2014, Andy Robertson

A mystery, a challenge and a romp through Eltham’s history with a neat lesson in social change part 1

Now here’s a trailer for a story that could run and run and I think I am minded to turn it into a challenge.

Here is the question.

What connects a reward issued by the Lord Mayor of London at the height of the Whitechapel Murders with Avery Hill and Mrs Morris of Court Yard?

Those who are regular readers of the blog will know that some at least of the clues are to be found in the stories that have already appeared.

At this point I know the challenge is a bit obscure but the fun will be to see who can begin to suggest a link.

And over the next few weeks I shall offer up bit more of the story.

The winner will be the one who comes closest to the solution.  But just as my old Maths teacher used to say the answer is not as important as the working out.  So full credit to anyone who can put together a nice set of links which have a sound historical grounding.

There is of course no prize other than the pleasure of contributing to the fun.

And just to show I cannot be accused of favouritism I am going to ask my good friend Jean to make the final judgement.

And for those in the know that in itself is a clue.

Picture; Avery Hill from the collection of Jean Gammons

Friday, 28 November 2014

A little bit of the history of Wilbraham Road shops revealed

Somewhere in the collection I have a picture of this corner of Albany and Wilbraham before the shops were built.

Albany and Wilbraham 2014
As Andy’s pictures shows they were additions to the earlier properties which had longish front gardens which compensated for the small area at the back.

I guess the architects and builder were keen to set the houses back from the main road clearly aware that even by the 1890s Wilbraham Road had the potential to become very busy.

It had been cut in the 1860s and was already an important link between the township and Fallowfield, although that said its full potential as a site for new housing was slow to take off.

Albany and Wilbraham in 1911
And the commercial opportunities of this stretch of the road proved too attractive to allow our block to remain private residences.

The same financial incentive led to the conversion of the houses opposite of which one became the Post Office and sadly Mr Hitler did for the others during the Manchester Blitz.

And just at the other end of Chorlton at the corner of Wilbraham and Manchester Roads the same happened to that other row of tall properties.

The clues are all there to see.  The shops jut out filling what were once the gardens, and some of the interiors still retain the steps up from the ground level to what had once been the front rooms.

Shopping at the chemist circa 1910
So while you wait for that prescription the staff are constantly going up and the down from the shop to the pharmacy area and the same design is there at the hair stylists.

I shall close with one of those observations about the continuity of history because the corner shop on Albany has pretty much been a chemist from the moment the conversion happened.

And my next task will be to track down the owner of that building at the turn of the 19th century which will reveal more on the properties.

But that’s it for now.

Pictures; the corner of Wilbraham and Albany Road, 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson, Wilbraham Road, from the series Chorlton-cum-Hardy, issued by Tuck & Sons, November 1913 courtesy of TuckDB, and detail of the same spot from the Lloyd Collection

Heading towards the twin cities along the canal towpath

You don’t have to travel far to get to some large and very impressive expanses of water in the city.

Out to the south along with the two water parks there is the Mersey.

And for those with less grandiose ambitions there are also the Dukes Canal and a some smaller water courses.

But for those with a mind to get in some industrial history as well as water you can’t beat the Ship Canal.

So a few days back  Andy Robertson went off on another adventure,  “with the sun looking interesting”  he “ventured down to Ordsall Lane again, this time turning east along
the tow path. It is amazing how near this place is and I bet more often than not I can drive there quicker than to your place, given Chorlton traffic.”

And here are some of the pictures.

We both have our favourites, for me it was the crane  set against skyline .

The historian in me wonders about the stories that go with this tiny bit of the canal, while for Andy it was that stretch of water with the buildings set against the dying light.

But of course there is so much more. So while the big ships may not now glide along the water way instead there are the rowers continuing to make the walk an interesting one.

Pictures; 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Walking into Eltham in 1862

The parish church in 1860
So, yesterday I was with Bradshaw in 1862 on Shooter’s Hill and today I want to continue to explore one of the walks laid out in the Illustrated Handbook to London and its Environs.*

The book remains a wonderful snap shot of London in the early 1860s and for the curious 21st century reader here are descriptions on how to cross the city by foot, train and boat as well as what was on offer to the tourist of the period.

“For those who either have seen Woolwich, or prefer postponing their visit thither for a distant excursion, we can especially recommend a deviation from Shooter’s Hill down the inviting green lane that leads to ELTHAM, a pleasant walk of hardly two miles.”

And as you would expect the guide goes into great detail about the Palace, its history and its appearance in 1862 all of which I shall leave you to read yourself.

Partly because the guide does it so well and the publishers may jib at me stealing their book.

Suffice to say it makes fascinating reading and is a good contrast to what can be seen today added to which
I am sure there will be those who fall on the description and speculation about the ancient tunnels.

But for me I shall close with Bradshaw’s instruction to

“go and see Eltham Church; not that it is architecturally remarkable, but in the churchyard will be found a tomb to Doggett the comedian, who bequeathed the coat and badge still rowed for every 1st of August by the ‘jolly young watermen of the Thames.”

One he missed, Well Hall from a photograph taken in 1909
Now this is not as daft as it seems given that this was the old church and vanished not that long after the guide book was finished.

Now I do have to confess to a little disappointment in that this is all we get.

The fine large houses along the High Street and beyond do not get a look in, nor does that fine old pile at Well Hall which had been built in the early 18th century and would last into the 20th.

So having done the Palace and the parish Church our guide was content to announce that it was now time to “get back to Greenwich and go home by railway,” which does however open up the prospect of more walks courtesy of the guide to Woolwich Greenwich and Blackheath.

But these are for another time.

Pictures;  Eltham Church, 1860, & Well Hall 1909,  from The story of Royal Eltham,  R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers,,

* Bradshaw’s Illustrated Handbook to London and its Environs, 1861, republished in 2012 by Conway