Friday, 29 August 2014

Miss Clara Atkinson of Groby Road

I wish I had a picture of Miss Clara Atkinson.  

I found her by pure chance and as so often happens I have become interested in her life.

From 1901 and perhaps earlier she was living on Groby Road and was buried in Southern Cemetery on September 3rd 1942.

I came across her in one of the Corporation employment registers detailing those who worked for the library service in the years up to 1914.

Now in the great sweep of history the Corporation employment registers may seem small beer but not so.

The five books contain a list of Council employees, their birth date, year of engagement and their status along with their salary.

So I know that Miss Clara Atkinson was born on May 29 1877, began work as a Library Assistant in the September of 1900 on a weekly wage of ten shillings and that by 1914 she was receiving £1.4 shillings.

Her father was a meat inspector and in the two decades after she was born the family lived on Water Street close to the Abattoir settling in Chorlton sometime around 1901.

By then her father was dead and she shared the house on Groby Road with her mother and four sisters none of whom married and all of who were buried in the family plot between 1939 and 1959.

As yet the story is quite sparse but I have high hopes that more will be revealed.

It may be that there will be someone who remembers the family  and there lurking in an old family album will be a picture of Miss Atkinson and perhaps her sisters.

After all 40 years is quite a long time to live in one place and there might also be more in the Library archive.

She began work at Chorlton Library on Rusholme Road  The Library and the road have long since gone but the road  ran from Ardwick Green to Oxford Street. and the library was on the corner where it crossed  Upper Brook Street.

Our first municipal Library was not opened until 1908 and it would be another six years before the present one was opened in the November of 1914.

Of course she may have worked there at some stage after it opened  but at present I just don’t know.

That said we may strike lucky and find something in the archives on one of her sisters who also worked as a librarian.

And the those records are a treasure trove of information including completed application forms, list of those employed in 1912 with their salaries and much more.

So I rather think we have only just started with Miss Clara Atkinson of Groby Road.

I hope so because it will reveal much about the working conditions, expectations and leisure activities of a young woman at the beginning of the 20th century.

Picture; the headstone of the Atkinson sisters in Southern Cemetery, August 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

“Regent Cinema, Eccles 1920-1962, opened with Fatty Arbuckle, closed with Ingrid Bergmann”

“Regent Cinema, Eccles 1920-1962, opened with Fatty Arbuckle, closed with Ingrid Bergmann”

Now in terms of cinema history that pretty much sums up how many of our picture houses went.

They opened in their hundreds across the country as this new form of entertainment caught the public attention and started going dark as televisions proved an even greater draw.

And so Andy’s comment which accompanied the photograph pretty much says it all.

The lucky ones became Bingo Halls and some even made their way back to showing films, others became supermarkets, and even undertakers while the unlucky ones remained closed and eventually were demolished.

The Regent fared a little better and so while its bingo days lasted for just a few short years it became a wine bar in 1983, reopened as the Silver Screen night club and in turn was saved by J.D. Wetherspoon becoming the “Eccles Cross.”*

Nor is that quite all because in looking for information on the old cinema I became a cross a wonderful short video on Eccles in 1949 which as you would expect included our picture house.

Picture; the “Eccles Cross” from the collection of Andy Robertson, August 2014

*Regent Cinema, from Cinema Treasure, http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/36699

**Salford Online “Rare and unseen film footage of Eccles in 1949, http://www.salfordonline.com/salfordvideos_page/40710-video:_rare_and_unseen_1949_eccles_film_footage_sees_the_light.html

The history of Eltham in just 20 objects ........Nu 3 a family photograph

The challenge is to write a history of Eltham in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

Anyone who wants to nominate their own is free to do so, just add a description in no more than 200 words and send it to me.

This is a picture of Annie Morris sometime around 1911 outside her home at 25 Court Yard.

She was born in 1848 at 4 Pound Place, and almost her whole life was spent in Eltham.

She was a cook and may have worked for Captain North at Avery Hill and through her life we have a snap shot of what Eltham had been and what it was becoming.

Her grandfather had set up a farrier’s business in Eltham in 1803 on what is now the Library, and “attended the old Parish Church in his leather apron.”*

All of which makes her a little piece of Eltham’s history.

Pictures; from the collection of Jean Gammons

*Eltham District Times, June 1931

A little bit of Naples in 1890 ..... part 5

I cannot resist street scenes from the 19th century and so here today is another from Naples.

The caption says he was a fruit seller and you still get them wandering the beaches in high summer.

Our favourite was the coconut vendor with his distinctive cry of “Cocco Bello” often accompanied by a hand bell and embellished with the promise that “on this hot day I can refresh you” and “I have all you want.”

He would walk the length of the long beach at Rivabella three or four times a day with the pre-cut slices of coco nut in a big plastic container of water.

And of course you still see the fruit sellers plying their trade from big open topped vans in most streets.

I would love to know exactly what he cried out  but that has been lost in time.

Picture; Naples circa 1890, from Napoli coom’era, 2013, courtesy of the publishers, Intra Mo

Thursday, 28 August 2014

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.

*http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/distant-memories-of-manchester-parks.html

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

Down at Oswald Road School, with a new term and a new building

Now it is that time of year again, and as August runs its wet course September will arrive with that “Back to school” theme.

It will be there in every supermarket you walk into, be uppermost in the minds of many young people and of course exercise the last minute preparations in homes across the city.

And down at Oswald Road school the new extension is having the finishing touches put to the interior.

Like many people I have been watching the progress since the middle of the year when the ground was first broken and the steel skeleton was being bolted together.

Much of that progress has been recorded by Andy Robertson who has been diligently photographing the stages of its construction and his work is one of those textbook examples in how how it should be done.

All too often we just take for granted the passing of one building and the creation of another, and that is a shame.

I would love to have seen Beech House which stood on the corner of Barlow Moor Road and Beech Road when it was being built in the early 19th century and later when it was pulled down sometime in 1909.

But that was not to be, so all credit to Andy who I hope will publish all the images in the fullness of time under the title.

And I rather like his own heading "hard hat on a cool tin roof" which came with for the last batch of pictures pictures.

Pictures; Oswald Road School, August 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson

The history of Eltham in just 20 objects ........Nu 2 eight miles to London Bridge

The challenge is to write a history of Eltham in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, and have been selected purely at random.

Anyone who wants to nominate their own is free to do so, just add a description in no more than 200 words and send it to me.

So here we are with a mile stone announcing that it is just eight miles to London Bridge, and reminds us that for most of its history Eltham was a place in its own right and only relatively recently became a part of London.

Picture; courtesy of Jean Gammons