Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Back with hay makers in Furness Vale

Yesterday we were with farmer Higginbotham on the meadows collecting hay.  

It proved popular and so here are some more hay makers, this time from Furness Vale.  I posted it at the beginning of April and it fits well with Mr Higginbotham so here it is again.

It stems from my own interest in our rural past here in Chorlton and so I fell on this one which appears on Furness Vale Local History Society site.

Hay Making in Furness Vale, date unknown
The picture is labelled on the reverse "Haymaking, Furness Vale" but the date and location are not recorded although the buildings in the background look familiar.

Now it is a scene which could so easily have been taken here in Chorlton, although to date we have only one photograph of the hay being collected.*

But given that 56% of the land here was pasture and meadowland and that some of the 40% of arable land was used for growing barley I rather think these men and boys could have so equally stepped off one of our own fields.

Man with pile and rake
What I like about this picture is the way that George Tomlinson has isolated sections of the image  and  explains the sorts of detail most of us would pass over.

So  "the man in the centre carries a large wooden handled rake. Behind him can be seen the ownership plate on the cart. The name is Charles Saxby of Disley.  Saxby was owner of Furness Vale Printworks".

All of which puts the picture into a context and demonstrates the power of local knowledge to unlock a photograph

But as I often say it is not for me to lift another’s research so to see all of George’s comments you will have to visit the site at

Picture; courtesy of the Furness Vale Local History Society

*This is from the collection of the Higginbotham family who farmed here from the 1840s.

Salford I am discovering for the first time part 2, Ye Old Nelson

Now it isn’t so much that I haven’t discovered the places in this series, just that I have passed them by without much of a second glance.

So here over the next few weeks are a selection of pictures from Andy Robertson who was out and  snapping buildings he likes and ones that I am being drawn to.

This is Ye Old Nelson whose story I will look up in the fullness of time, and perhaps sooner rather than later.

And yet again that appeal for anyone who has stories or pictures of the place in happier times would welcome for the blog.

Pictures; Ye Old Nelson, from the collection of Andy Robertson, 2014

Mr Greig's superior grocers shop in Eltham High Street

A short series looking at the story behind the picture.

I don’t suppose many people ever look up at the top 132/136 which is a pity given what is there and the history behind it.

The building was “erected for the grocers David Greig in 1905 – the initials are in terracotta in the gables.  Note the fine brickwork, the two balconies, and lots of quirky detail.”*

And not to be out done the building next door at 130 dates back to the mid 19th century

*Spurgeoon, Darrell, Discover Eltham, 2000

Picture; from the collection of Jean Gammons

Homecomings, 1945

I think these will be the last of the pictures from Belleville for a while.

Now I do have more from the collection of Mike Dufresne but these two perfectly tell the story of the return of the Prince Edward Hastings Regiment from its war in Europe.

The regiment left Canada for Britain soon after the war began and saw action in France, Italy and Holland and returned to Belleville Ontario in the autumn of 1945.

I have featured five of the photographs from the collection and each has its own story or perhaps stories, and while there are more pictures I think these pretty much make closure. 

And like all good photographs after you have taken in the image with these two you wonder what else there is.  Now if truth were known I don’t have a clue what else lies hidden.

For a start I don’t know who any of the people are and nor do I know what happened to them so we are left with just asking questions.

Of the four men one is in civilian clothes and yet he appears to share a bond with the other three.  

So are they comrades, and was he invalided out due to an injury?  

Which begs the question of whether the tiny lapel badge is significant?

The military ribbons on the other three testify to the action they have seen but all that is now in the past, and with all the fuss and noise of a homecoming with the town turned out to meet the regiment these four have sought each other out. 

I would like to know what interests them so much about the flag and the detail one of the soldiers is pointing to and for that matter what is being said.

Perhaps it is just a posed shot but there is something in the gaze of one of the four which leads me to think it is more than just a rehearsed photograph.

In the same way I am drawn to the other picture.  The couple stare in a relaxed way at the camera while around them men disembark from the train.

They seem perfectly at ease on that railway station and what I like about the picture is that you have a sense they have been caught in mid motion stopping just for a minue at the request of the photographer.  

And if it does not seem fanciful you half expect them to move off , thanking the photographer and mumbling something about having somehere to go.

There is much more that I could say about these two but none of it would be based on historical research, so I shall just leave them to their reunion on a pleasant sunny day sometime in 1945.

Pictures; courtesy of Mike Dufresne

Music in Manchester........... Jazz in the Square part 3

Now I shall make no apologies about featuring the Manchester Jazz Festival.

I have been taking in the music every year for as long as I can remember.

And so with that in mind during the Festival week I shall be showing some of the historic pictures taken over the last decade.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Higginbotham's farm and the parish church from the air

This is one of those pictures taken by Tony Walker from one of his own model planes sometime in the 1980s. 

To the left at the bottom are the farm buildings and house of the Higginbotham family who lived here on the green from the 1840s and farmed land across the meadows and what is now the Rec.

By the time the picture was taken the working part of the old farm was used as a building yard by the Walker family.

But it is still possible to get a clear idea of the lay out and the of the farm yard.  It was here in one of the barns that the Methodists held services before the first chapel on the Row was built.

In the same way it is possible to make sense of both the geography of the old parish church and the its graveyard.  The original chapel was built in 1512 and its replacement at the beginning of the 19th century.

There is evidence that the graveyard was extended and the shape of the plot may be the clue to this.

Picture; from the collection of Tony Walker

Who remembers the ABC in Eltham?

Who remembers the ABC in Eltham?

I thought I did, and was more or less certain it was where Pamela and I went for our first and only date in 1966.

It was on the corner of Passey Place and the High Street or I thought it was.
Not that I have given it much thought over the years until recently when I began searching the High Street for it.

And as I drew a blank I slowly concluded that I had imagined the whole thing which is one of the down sides of having been born in the first half of the last century.

You just assume that as the evidence is not there it never happened.  Now that I know is silly because all too often in the course of tracking a story or crawling over my family history I have come across events and places which prove I was right.

And so it is with the ABC, for despite my sisters being unable to remember the cinema, there are a few pictures of the place.

It opened as the Palace Cinema on August 22nd 1922 and closed just fifty years later.  Looking at a photograph of the place from the 1950s it seems much larger than I remember it.

I would like to have more images but so far only a few have come to light and all are copyright.

And that rather highlights one of those real concerns about our more recent past that it is vanishing without trace.

In the later 19th and early 20th century the picture postcard made certain that there was a visual record of almost everywhere.

But as the postcard went into decline so did the visual record of places leaving only the images captured by the amateur photographer whose pictures are all too often confined to private collections and rarely see the light of day.

The result I fear will be that many buildings and events like the old Whit Walks will be lost to future historians.

Now that matters and I rather think we should all do our bit for posterity and snap away, passing on the results to local history libraries and history groups, which is pretty much how Manchester has come to have 80,000 digital images of the city going back two centuries which are freely available for anyone to consult.*

And so I shall now go off and email the Greenwich Heritage Centre to see what they have on the ABC. So far I know that just twelve years after it opened the interior was remodelled and that in 1936 it was taken over by the Union Cinema chain who in turn were absorbed by Associated British Cinemas the following year.

It would be another twenty-seven years before it was renamed the ABC Cinema which was about the time I started going there.

I don’t remember how frequently I walked through its doors, but the Gaumont on Eltham Hill was a bit out of the way and given that I lived just up from the roundabout the Well Hall Odeon was a tad too close.

After all if you are out to impress a new girlfriend you can hardly do it on your own door step.

So I rather think that my date with Pamela and the big screen at Passey Place would have been followed by others with Jennie and Ann all of whom I remember with fond memories if alas the ABC has faded.

Pictures of an older Eltham in the absence of the ABC courtesy of Jean Gammons

*Manchester Local Image Collection,