Saturday, 1 August 2015

Down on Chorlton Green with the Penny Savings Bank

I like the way stories have a habit of coming around all over again.

And so it is with the Penny Savings Bank.  It was set up in 1887 and according to the bank “any sum may be deposited between One Penny and £50. When the account reached £1 it is transferred to the Manchester and Salford Savings Bank. “

Our branch met every Saturday between 6 and 7 in the old school on the green.

And in placing the Penny Savings Bank on the green “the Trustees and managers” were clear in their own minds that perhaps this area was more likely “to see a large increase in the number of depositors, and cottager’s domestic servants, and parents on behalf of their children.”

After all this was the old centre of Chorlton and still retained something of its rural character including those of meaner means.

All of which was in direct contrast to the new village or New Chorlton which was centred on what we now call the Four Banks but which many will still remember as “Kemps Corner.”

This area grew quickly in the years after 1880 and catered for the new middling people who were moving into Chorlton attracted by its pleasant surroundings but also by the quick rail connection into the heart of the city and later by the extension of the Corporation tram network.

So swift and complete was the development of the area that its old name of Martledge was lost and forgotten in a generation.

And it led to that division of Chorlton in to the “old village” and the new, a division which was still there in the minds of many who were born here.

My old friend Marjorie who had been born in the old village and lived on Provis Road remained a little aloof at that “other bit” which she maintained was all “fancy cakes and silk knickers.”

Now that might have been a tad unfair but from the 1880s that was where the money was in the form of the professional, managerial and clerical classes.

And in turn that was where the banks were leaving us at the other end down by the Green with a post office and a Penny Savings Bank which with the passage of time has now left us with neither.

So I am drawn to both Marjorie’s memories of attending the bank in the 1940s and also by Sandra’s advert she sent me of the Penny Savings Bank dated 1934.

Marjorie remembered depositing money there along with her sister and it was a story I had let slide to the back of my memory.

But Sandra’s ad brought it all back along with that division of the two parts of Chorlton.

Today of course that distinction has pretty much receded in to the past along with Kemp’s Corner and the old school on the green.

And it was yesterday’s story of the conversion of the school and a painting by Peter Topping that prompted Sandra to show me the advert and set off today’s memories

Picture; advert for the Penny Savings Bank, 1934, from the collection of Sandra Hapgood, a Post Office Savings Tin circa 1940, courtesy of David Harrop

Painting; The school on Chorlton Green, © 2012 Peter Topping

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Lost Woolwich .......... no 4 a football team

Now of all the places I knew in my youth I have to say Woolwich is one of those that has  undergone some of the most radical change.

So much so that big chunks of it I have difficulty recognising.

The Arsenal, Powis Street and even the old Pie and Mash shop were as familiar to me as they were to generations of people who grew up in Woolwich and are now just distant memories.

So with that in mind I have returned to images of a time before now.

And so here for those in my family like Geoff who follows Charlton, the odd couple who watch Millwall and Colin and Lee who travel over the river is that local football team from 1905.

Picture; from Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, Amberley 2014

Get there while you can ........... that 19th century building on Hulme Hall Road

Now in the middle of the week I followed up on that story of the building on Hulme Hall Road which had suffered a partial collapse.

The MEN covered the event and Andy Robertson went down to record the state of the building and was back on Thursday.
Work on the building  is well under way which prompted Andy to comment that  “it looks like the demolition could be rapid so I had better get down there often,” adding with an after thought, “it will be interesting to view it from across the canal."

So there you have the end of another bit of our history.

As buildings go I suspect it won’t even get a footnote in a book on the industrial buildings of this bit of the city which is a shame.

I tracked a little of the history of the site earlier in the week but there will be so much more.
Andy might even be lucky and record something of interest next time.

We shall see.

Pictures; Hulme Hall Road, July 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Castlefield mill collapse: Aerial pictures show extent of damage to building on Hulme Hall Road, BY AMY GLENDINNING, July 28 2015, Manchester Evening News,

The story of one house in Peckham number 35 ............ New Cross Library, the Police Gazette and the London Music Room

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

Dad, 1962
Both mum and dad were voracious readers devouring two or three books a week.

In the winter dad would prefer the battered old armchair in the kitchen.

Here beside the equally battered stove he would pass the evening with a succession of historical novels.

Mum on the other hand preferred the front room with the telly mixing the news, light entertainment and those kitchen sink dramas with a variety of reading stuff.

She also wrote short plays, stories and was working on a novel based on the people she came across in our bit of South East London.

Meanwhile Dad would also spend part of those long winter evenings making toys for the five of us for Christmas.

I didn’t think at the time we were unusual and I still don’t and that I suppose is the point, because it is all too easy to slip into simplistic stereo types when you are writing about growing up in Peckham.

Mum, 1956
But like any working class area it was a place rich with variety.

There were plenty of pubs, cinemas and characters who could have stepped out of a Dickens’s novel but at the same time the library on New Cross Road was always full as was the private circulating library based in the local book shop.

Both of them I remember vividly.

The book shop which was opposite the library was stacked full of books to buy and borrow.

It was one of those dark cavernous places where the shelves ran up into the ceiling and each book carried a blue sticker with the name and address of the shop on the back.

Conversations were conducted in hushed tones but they were always animated as mum swapped her opinions on the book she had just read with the owners who in turn would suggest different titles.

Some were by the same author in the same style but other’s would offer up an alternative, “Well Mrs Simpson if you enjoyed that one, why not look at this, it’s only just come into the shop and I think you would find it interesting.”

By comparison New Cross Public Library was that old fashioned style of library with neat solid reading tables, matched by sturdy bookshelves full of everything you might ever want to read, and laid out in meticulous order.

And it was visited with the utmost care to remain as quiet as possible, which if you forgot you were quickly made of aware of by the signs requesting “Silence which were everywhere.”

It was a Carnegie Library built in 1911 and not unlike our own here in Chorlton-cum-Hardy.**

I always thought it was a place to endure rather than enjoy and always tried to avoid visiting.

And yet now as I hold a copy of a book mother forgot to return that smell of disinfectant which still permeates the book takes me right back to the library which I miss.

Now the book was James Joyce’s Ulysses, which I have to confess I have never read and I rather think mum didn’t either.

The Music Room London, 2015
I have thought of returning it but the library has long since relocated but just possibly the current owners would welcome a little bit of the building's past history.

They are the Music Room London, who according to their site established their "first rehearsal studio in 1985, when it was located in the basement of The Garden Gallery on Monson Road, New Cross Gate. This small basement studio, famous for its toasted cheese sandwiches, was frequented by many including Daevid Allen’s Franco-British progressive/psychedelic rock band Gong."***

It offers, "offers 

Now that I think mother would have approved of given  she was always one for anything which shook the trees.

She was I suspect the only person on Lausanne Road to take the Police Gazette.

Looking down Lausanne Road to our house, 2007
In mum’s defence she found the stories of robberies fraud and much worse a fascinating  starting point for stories, and possible chapters in that book.

In fact thinking back our paper bill must have been mega, because along with the newspapers, Police Gazette and a shed full of comics ranging from the Beano, Eagle and Look and Learn there were also Punch, Knitting Weekly and Railway Monthly.

All told a vast acre of news print which came into the house and was devoured before being passed on to mum’s best friend, B who lived at the top of Kinder Street.

That said my Eagles were carefully stored away along with the Lion and Tiger and later the Look and Learn to be brought out on rainy days.

Alas all were junked when we left Peckham, although just last week I came across one of those knitting patterns, but that as they say is for another time.

Pictures; Dad 1962, and mum 1956 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, The London Music Rooms, New Cross Road courtesy of the The Music Room London,  2015, and Lausanne Road, 2007 from the collection of Colin Fitzpatrick

*The story of one house in Peckham,

**Debates which never go away, ......... the story of our public library,

***Music Room London,

Friday, 31 July 2015

Back on Chorlton Green with a painting and a debate

Down on the Green, 2012
Now here is one of those simple lessons about our recent past.

This is the old village school on the green which along with the schoolmaster’s house was built by public subscription in 1878.

And when Peter showed me his painting it set up a discussion because Peter remembers painting it before it was converted into residential accommodation.

And yet I am not so sure.

Back in the December of 2011 I wrote about the planned change of use and even had a tour around the building with Emily from the Horse and Jockey just before it was completed.*

But the exact date of that visit is lost to me which is a lesson in always recording things and I think it is the same with our picture which must date from after the conversion because the windows in the roof and the brick wall and iron railings in front of the entrance were added during the change of use.

Miss Florence Elizabeth Renshaw, 1877
Now of course the first people who moved into the newly renovated building will know for sure, so perhaps I will just pop down and ask.

That said I am on firmer ground with the present building which replaced an earlier school opened in the 1840s.

There are a few pictures of the interior from the 1940s, and a handful of memories of the place both before and after it closed.

These include a VE day party and the regular meeting once a week of the Penny Savings Bank.

That said I do have a picture of one of those needlework samplers undertaken by a young Florence Elizabeth Renshaw, aged 10 and completed in 1877.

Now the Renshaw’s are an old Chorlton family and can be traced back to the mid if not early 18th century.

I have a copy of the legal agreement between James Renshaw and the Egerton’s from 1767 setting out the tenancy agreement for the farm on Beech Road and the family continued to be part of our history pretty much up to today.

Saving your pennies in 1934
And what is exciting about our sampler is that it will have been one of the last undertaken in the older school.

But and here is the second lesson for the day I have misfiled the name of the person who so kindly provided the image.

It is somewhere but as yet it eludes me.

However as a bonus and added since the story was first posted, here is an advert for that Penny Savings Bank which Sandra sent me after reading the post.

It dates from 1934 and will be tomorrows Chorlton story

Picture; sampler of Florence Elizabeth Renshaw, 1877 and the advert for the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Penny Savings Bank, 1934 from the collection of Sandra Hapgood 

Painting; The school on Chorlton Green, © 2012 Peter Topping

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*Changing uses ................ the village school on the green,

On arriving at Castlefield

Nothing quite prepares you for the entrance into the Castlefield Canal Basin.

We had been walking the Duke’s Canal from Stretford into town one summer’s day.  The route is a mix of the residential and industrial and I have to say parts of it are quite boring.

But we were on a waterway which in its time was one of the most important and busiest waterways

The Duke’s Canal or the Bridgewater was built in the 1760s so that the Duke could transfer coal from his mines in Worsley directly into the heart of the city.

It was a great success and showed the way for many other canal entrepreneurs and led to the “Age of the Canal” a much overused title for the period but perhaps an accurate one, for in the 40 or so years after Bridgewater coal was landed in Manchester the country was crisscrossed with a canal network.

And its impact on us here in Chorlton was just as great.

It would have begun with its building for while most of the work was done by the professional “navigators” those hard working hard living men who cut and constructed the canal, there was still some work for our own casual farm labourers.

And I guess one or two would have moved on with the navvies.

These were early days in the construction of the canals and later the railways and I doubt that the reputation the navvies were to make for themselves was much in evidence in the 1760s as they did the Duke’s bidding.

All of which was a darned sight different when just under 90 years later the navvies were back driving the railway line across the same route which would connect Stretford to the city.  By now communities across the country had grown to be more than a little apprehensive of the presence of the railway navigator with their temporary camps and the stories of their riotous lives.

But this is a little away from our walk along the canal.  Today it can be a relatively solitary journey but back in the late 18th and the first half of the 19th century the place would have been alive.

There were the regular journeys of boats taking fruit and vegetables from the farms of Chorlton and Stretford three times a week to catch the Manchester Markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings which proved so successful that the Company had to send the food boats at night and offer farmer’s seats on the packet boats.  And on the return trip they brought back the night soil which our farmers spread on the land.

Then there were the twice daily package boats from Stretford along the canal which transported passengers in comfort and speed.  A ticket for the front room cost 6d [2½p] and the back room 4d [1½p].  This was travelling in style.  

These packet boats were fitted with large deck cabins surrounded by windows which allowed the passengers to sit “under cover and see the country” glide by at the rate of six miles an hour, made possible by  two or sometimes three horses which pulled the packet.  And if that was not style enough the lead horse was guided by a horseman in full company livery.

And as I reflected in an earlier post there was plenty to see.  But despite all this the canal was a narrow stretch of water until of course it reached the Castlefield Basin, for here was a vast expanse of water, with landing stages warehouses and boats that had travelled down the Ashton and Rochdale Canals from far distant parts of the country.

You can get a sense of how busy it could have been during high summer when the tourists and canal enthusiasts moor up, but this is not a working water way anymore.  On a warm Saturday night there might be the sound of good conversation, the clink of wine glasses and the odd snatch of the radio, but not the sound of everything from coal to fine bone china being unloaded, or the babble of different regional accents swapping stories of their trips to Manchester.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and map from Bradshaw’s Inland Navigation of England and Wales, 1830, courtesy of Digital Archives,

Walking along Court Yard in the June of 1841, looking for John Martin and Hannah Simmons

Court Yard, 1858-73
“If you take up a position upon the spot where what we now call the Court-yard meets the High street, you will be standing at the centre of village activity and trade in olden times.”*

Now I am not quite sure when our local historian R.R.C. Gregory means by olden times, but I guess it will be sometime from the Middle Ages onwards.

Because it was here that the weekly market and annual fair were held from 1299 when John de Vesci the lord of the manor obtained a charter for a weekly fair on Tuesdays, and an annual  fair on the eve of Holy Trinity and the following two days.

It continued throughout the Middle Ages and even after it was discontinued there were four annual fairs until 1778.

Mr Gregory also records that the parish stocks “are said to have existed on the left hand side of the way, not many yards from the High-street,” along with a number of  pumps one close to the corner of the High Street, another a little further along Court Yard, with a third near the lower gateway leading to the churchyard.

Now in an age before mains water supplied, pumps ponds and water courses were very important, particularly given the concentration of properties along the Court Yard.

The 1843 tithe map shows seventeen properties along the east side of the road with a few more on the opposite side but this is a little deceptive because according the census return for two years earlier there were no less than thirty-two households which comprised 195 people.

I have yet to look at the Rate Books but it rather looks as if some properties were sub let.

Old buildings on Court Yard, Christmas 1980
Either way our picturesque ancient road was a populous place with the church at one end, the Crown in the middle and another publican at the end, serving both the spiritual and temporal needs of the community.

It was a mixed group of people with plenty of agricultural labourers a sprinkling of skilled artisans and a few who described themselves of independent means.

And as ever it is the people themselves who draw you in, like 25 years old Hannah Simmons, living wither her three children and what I take to be her sister in law and two children plus a fifteen year old girl who could be a lodger of sister.

It is easy to be judgemental and I did wonder whether Hannah was a single parent. Not that the period was as harsh on women who had children outside marriage as we have been led to believe..  There is plenty of evidence here in the parish records of single women baptizing their children in front of the congregation.

But in the case of Hannah the records show she stood beside her husband at the baptising of Elizabeth in 1839, Joseph in 1840 and Sarah in 1843.children.  The record also that a Joseph Simmons was staying on the night of the 1841 census at Middle Park House on the night of the 1841 census, and a decade later they have moved to Shooters Hill.**

Equally revealing is the story of the Crown. In 1840 it was being run by John Blundell who was still there the following year, but seems to have retired by 1843 when the place was in the hands of John Martin who seems very much a young man with a dtermination to go places.

At the age of 19 he is there in the 1837 land tax records renting a stable from a James Wright and land from a Mrs Dobson, and by 1843 is in the Crown renting the building and the yard.

Court Yard in 1843, showing the Crown
And as he began his long partnership with the Crown I wonder what its former landlord did with his retirement, which sadly was not long for John Martin died at the age of 51 in 1844.

 Not so John Martin who was to serve pints for another three decades.

So I shall end by leaving him in the Crown in the spring of 1871 with his clientele from Court Road who were still the same mix of agricultural labourers and related trades with a few posh people thrown in.

But with one exception who in his way pointed to the future.

For living in Queen Alley off Court Road was the young Edward Norton who was the son of the postmaster and who at the age of 14 described himself as a telegraph messenger, and that more than anything points to the future for Court Road and Eltham.

*R.R.C.Gregory, The Story of Royal Eltham, 1909

**Enu 21 6 Plumstead Kent 1851

Pictures; Court Yard from detail of OS map 1858-73, old buildings on Court Yard,1908,   from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on
The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, detail of Eltham High Street,  1844 from the Tithe map for Eltham courtesy of Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone,