Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Celebrating our Municipal Town Halls part 6 .......... Manchester Town Hall*

Well I could hardly leave our own Town Hall out of the collection.

It is a building I have been fascinated by for nearly half a century, although when I first saw it I was not convinced.  Back then I was still into classical buildings and rather was disdainful of all that Gothic stuff.

Plenty of people would come to its defence including one friend who pointed out that it had just been cleaned as if that would make me like it all the more.

Of course that Gothic prejudice has long vanished and during the 1970s into the 90s I spent many hours in the building and came to fully appreciate it as a fine statement of all that municipal power.

And here I have to mention Mr Tidmarsh whose illustraions have been regularly used by any one wanting to show our city in the last decades of the 19th century.

Many of them can be found in the three volumes of Manchester Old and New by William Arthur Shaw published in 1894.

I noticed a recent auction of the 3 which estimated that they might go for
£30-£40, and there are also paper back versions as well as an e book.

I chose to opt for the Library copies which once ordered up arrived at Chorlton Library in a matter of days, something I am sure would have pleased the Corporation's Library Committee back at the beginning of the last century.

Pictures, Manchester Town Hall, by H.E. Tidmarsh from Manchester Old and New, William Arthur Shaw, 1894

*Our Municipal Town Halls,

Shops I have known

I can’t even remember when I took this photograph but it wasn’t that long ago.

Like all these types of shops there was a wonderful collection of anything and everything ranging from under a £ to a tenner.

In the pursuit of a washing line I can across a pink plastic embossed flower vase, mounds of household goods and of course that picture of New York Bridge in the early morning.

It provided cheaper versions of things and more often and not things which were unavailable in the supermarkets.  Its passing was quickly filled by other such shops and now in the last month a new You and Me has opened up beside the bus station.

Not that it has always been a shop.  Back at the beginning of the 20th century it was the home of Mrs Margaret Barber and her six children.  In those days it was a fine 11 roomed house facing out on to Maple Avenue.

But some time during the mid century the extension was added and it became a shop.

Now I will set myself the job of digging out just what Harvey’s were selling in the May of 1959 when A.H.Downes took his photograph and I guess it continued for sometime before becoming You and Me.

And for those who regularly pass the spot they too will have seen it transform into different furniture shops.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and from a series taken by A.H. Downes in May 1959,  m17594, Courtesy of Manchester , Information and Archives, Manchester City Council 

Home Thoughts of Ashton in the 1970s .............. part 7 things you forget

My memories of Ashton are pretty much frozen in time.

We settled down on Raynham Street in the March of 1974 and I left three years later.

I have been back but each time I return the town has changed just a little bit more and it becomes more difficult  to locate places I once knew and in some cases impossible now even to remember what they were called.

One whole strip of shops on Penny Meadow had gone including the newsagents along with the old PSA building round the corner.

And while the Albion warehouse was still there I tried but failed to remember the name of the pub opposite.

It was a place we used sometimes when we couldn’t be bothered to walk the extra distance to the Lord Napier.

Now the Lord Napier usually won out because it had a couple of lava lamps and back in the 70s I was a sucker for a lava lamp.

Sadly the name of that other pub eludes me even now.

I notice that in Andy Robertson’s picture it is called Sullivan’s and back tracking through Google street maps that was its name back in 2008.

And in much the same way that building on the corner of Whiteacre Road and Botany Lane is only a vague memory.

Of course those who still live in Ashton will remember both but I am at a loss, and points to that simple truth that sometimes you should never leave going back to a place for too long.

During the same visit I went looking for the house of Pam and Ian.

Rhey lived in one of those really tall properties looking out on the railway line.

It may have been located on Ashlynne but I can't be sure.  All I do remember is that back when they moved in they made the awful discovery that there was no power to the upper floors of the house.

They thought there was power after all when they viewed it  there were power points but when they came to move in with all that optimism of first time buyers, the power points had vanished leaving only the screw holes and no electricity, and if that were not bad enough the previous owner had taken all the lamp bulbs, which made moving in on a cold Saturday in January no fun.

Our more modest house on Raynham Street proved less of a disappointment but that is another story and leaves me only with the memory of standing outside the Albion waiting for the 153 express into Manchester at 6.30 in the morning, which pretty much meant that during the winter I only saw Ashton in daylight at weekends.

Pictures; of Ashton-Under-Lyne 2105, courtesy of Andy Robertson

Back in Well Hall

Now I think you can never get enough pictures of Well Hall and especially photographs by Chrissie Rose, so here are the last of those she took earlier in March.

Picture; Well Hall in March 2015, from the collection of Chrissie Rose

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

At the bus stop in Piccadilly in 1961

It is 5 pm on a sunny afternoon in 1961 and the rush hour is in full swing.

And if you lived in great chunks of Manchester it would be the bus which would be taking you home.

Now it would be a full eight years before I washed up in the city but W.Higham’s picture perfectly captures the bus station I remember.

It is of course a scene that has vanished.  The old glass and steel shelters went a long time ago and the building behind on Portland Street was another of those that I remember but its demolition passed me by.

Behind the bus shelter and the line of commuters the sunken gardens fare better, lasting into this century before they too succumbed to change which I still have doubts about.

Every time I gaze on that great concrete slab I wonder if a more sympathetic device could have been created to screen the busy transport hub from the open spaces of the new gardens. And whether the gardens could just have been tidied up and left as they were rather than creating that wet windswept expanse of tired grass and water feature.

All of which I know opens me up to the criticism that I am wallowing in nostalgia but not so.  The gardens were a pleasant place offering a degree of peace in the heart of the city and a welcome lunchtime break.*

And by extension for those who wanted to miss the rush hour torture they were a pretty good place to sit it out till the buses were half empty.

And that couple of hours between the day time people leaving and the night crowd coming in is still a magical time.

The city seemed to get a wee bit quieter and a little calmer, but you knew it was just a lull before the business of fun took over from that workaday atmosphere.

The gardens were a particularly good place to observe it as were the city centre pubs.  Stay long enough in one of the pubs and you could watch as tired office workers and shop assistants slid away after a few drinks having discussed their day and were replaced by a more energetic and optimistic crowd whose enthusiasm for the night ahead grew as the rounds were bought.

So I still wonder at how many of those at that bus stop waiting in the late afternoon sunshine decided that tea in Chorlton and an evening with Coronation Street, Dick Emery and the Avengers might be less attractive than the call of a few drinks and a film at the Odeon.


Picture; Piccadilly Bus Station at 5pm, W. Higham, 1961, m56932, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Charlton in 1922

The caption on the postcard just says Old Charlton, and the date is given as 1922.

Now that’s not much to go on but it is enough to anchor the scene and allow reflection on how this bit of south east London has changed.

Picture; courtesy of Mark Flynn,

Sandy Lane and the lost cottages

This is one of those pictures in the collection I keep returning to but which continues to retain its secrets.  

The caption states “old cottages in Sandy Lane after abandonment but before demolition.  The nearer was occupied by Mr Morris the Sweep.  His parrot was hung outside during good weather and he had a cylinder phonograph in the window.”

I am pretty sure that we are on the corner of Fairhaven Avenue and Sandy Lane and that the building behind the lean too is the side of number 2 Fairhaven.  It has the distinctive pattern of brick which you can still see today.

But we don’t have a date for the photograph or for the buildings but I rather think they may date from 1850 if not a little earlier, and the picture from the middle decades of the last century.

A trawl of the street directories and rate books  should pin the time Mr Morris and his neighbour last occupied the properties but that is for the future.

In the meantime there are a few things that we know about them.  They consisted of just two rooms and by the end of the 19th century into the 20th were both occupied by very old widows.

Mary Anne Nield at number 8 was 80 years old in 1911 and living with her unmarried daughter who described herself as a corset maker.

Her neighbour Charles Samuel Walker was 76 and gave his occupation as gardener and seems to have supported his 37 year old daughter.

And while we don’t know when they were demolished it must have been sufficiently late into the last century to make these some of the last one up one down brick dwellings in the township.

Finally I am left intrigued by Charles Morris.  He had been one of our three chimney sweeps in 1911 when he was aged 57.  In that year he was living with his wife Florence at number 12 Sandy Lane, which was a four roomed house. So we are with presented more questions.

Did he move into number 8 sometime later in the century, or has John Lloyd got the caption wrong and number 8 was never occupied by Mr Morris the Sweep, his parrot cylinder phonograph in the window?

All of which is why I keep returning to the photograph with as yet little success.  Ah well I suppose it will all turn on those directories and rate books.  But that is for another time.

And a little after I posted the story Ted Harris and Gary Page came back with information that narrows the time slot of when the picture was taken.
“I was wondering” Ted wrote, “if the road sign might help with dating.  A quick search has found that after 1947 new signs had a '+' rather than a 'x' on them.”

And Gary added, “the bill board in the picture is advertising wrestling at Belle Vue. The first wresting match at Belle Vue was in 1930 at the King’s Hall. The bill boards must have been there for some time as I remember them,  born 1958”

So possibly after 1930 and before 1947.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection