Saturday, 25 October 2014

What did you find in the cellar of Hough End Hall in the summer of 1965?

If you are of a certain age you will probably remember playing in Hough End Hall.

Of course we are talking about the 1960s when the place had long been abandoned as a family home and was yet to become a restaurant.

Back then it was an adventure playground for many of the children roundabout and bit by bit their memories are surfacing of what the Hall was like and what they did there.

Now everyone has their own stories and Ian who would have been about 11 remembered the cellar and what seemed “to be a gigantic set of leather and wooden bellows along with two stone fire places one of which was propped up against the wall and the other resting on the floor.

We tried to get the bellows to work and when that failed wrapped a rope around the tall fireplace and swung from side to side.

There were also big bags of what looked like salt.

And when we tired of the cellar we went on to play in the valleys of the roof.”

Ian is the first to admit that given that it was a long time ago, “my take on what I remember may be different to others, and perhaps the bellows could have been smaller or even larger.”

Either way it is a fascinating glimpse into a period in the Hall’s history which has sat in the shadows for too long.

But more of those memories are now coming to the surface and in time I hope for more.

Pictures; the Hall in the mid 1960s from the collection of Roger Shelley,

Labels: Chorlton Halls, Hough End Hall, Withington Halls

Who were these unknown men of the Great War?

This is another of those pictures whose story I doubt I will ever know.

It is from the collection of David Harrop, and is undated and comes with no clue as to where it was taken.

Now there will be somebody out there who can help.

The men are wearing spurs and bandoliers which suggest they were a cavalry unit or from the Royal Artillery.

There may also be something in the design of the train carriages which I think varied from railway company to railway company.

So find which company and we may be able to identify a location.

The original photograph was in a poor state but with the help of David’s friend Bernard we have a clearer image and so it would be nice to know more about these men and their eventual destination.

Picture; unknown unit of British soldiers, sometime during the Great War somewhere in Britain, courtesy of David Harrop

Who laments the passing of the Castle, the Welcome Inn and many more Eltham pubs?

The Rising Sun
If there was one certainty after death and taxes it was that almost everywhere would have a pub.

They might be those old comfortable and picturesque places hard by the village green steeped in history and beer where countless generations of farm labourers had sat and drank or those tall brick built Victorian public houses, all gleaming with brass and frosted glass.

In between there were the small beer houses made possible by the 1830 Beer Act which for the cost a small license allowed the publican to brew and sell his or her own beer often from the back room of the family home.

And finally there were the gin palaces, some trading elaborate settings along with the gin others no better than a dive where in Hogarth’s words you could get drunk for a penny, blind drunk for tupence and  the straw on the floor was free for those who fell down and slept the sleep of the drunk.

When I was growing up and the slum clearances were wiping away a century of poor housing it always seemed that the pub on the corner was the last building to go.  Even now long after most of the warehouses and factories along with the dwelling houses have vanished the pub still clings on.

But even these are vanishing like snow in the full glare of the winter snow.  The Pomona Palace on Runcorn Street facing Chester Road was one of the last on this stretch into town and now it has shut up shop.

I always had a fond spot for this pub whose name echoed the big Pomona Gardens which along with Bell Vue were for a big chunk of the 19th century where you went to enjoy the scenery but above all the variety acts, the fireworks and the special exhibitions.

The King's Arms
And just as the Gardens have gone more and more of the pubs be they on village greens with centuries of history or their Victorian city equivalents are losing the battle to survive.

In Eltham I remember the King’s Arms, the Castle, and out on the edges of Well Hall the Welcome Inn and even further away the Yorkshire Grey and the Dover Patrol.  All now gone and with them I bet many powerful memories from those who frequented them.

I suppose the Castle and the King’s Arms hadn’t that much going for them.  They were new build replacing much older venues with long histories but I did enjoy going to them.

The other three I thought would fare better, after all each was a lonely out post surrounded by residential properties with little else on offer.

But I guess the economics comes into play.  The bigger pubs especially those built to cater for coaching parties or people with cars are just not viable any more.  The coach parties have slowly dwindled and no one quite rightly will consider drinking and driving.

The Castle
Some lingered on as venues for variety acts offering big names at reasonable prices.  But that too has all but come to an end and with it the regular live acts which gave young comedians and musicians a place to play.

Here in Chorlton for the price a cheap bus ticket or even just a 15 minute walk it was possible to be entertained by some of the greats of show biz.

And I rather think the Welcome Inn and the Yorkshire Grey may have hosted more moderate entertainment.

Sitting at home with the chilled dry white, that cheeky but fruity red or the selection of fine organic beers and ciders is all very well but even on a wet February evening I still sometimes miss the call of last orders, and the happy walk home reflecting on the conversation of friends.

Which I suspect is fast turning into sentimental tosh so better just leave it with the thought that at least at home I am not told to drink up.

Pictures; from the collection of Jean Gammons

If you go down to Darley Avenue

Now after the success of Andy Robertson’s project of recording the new build at Oswald Road school he is back with another venture.

This time he is down at Darley Avenue and promises that he will return at regular intervals to chart the changes

And you may well want to check out his first visit back at the end of August.*

Picture; Darley Avenue, October 2014 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Down at Darley Avenue in Chorlton,

Friday, 24 October 2014

Singing Asleep in the Deep with the Oldham P.S.A. on Saturday March 2nd 1907 in Bismark Street

I just wonder how the Tea Party and Concert staged by the Oldham P.S.A. Society went down on Saturday March 2nd 1907 in the Wesleyan School on Bismark Street.

Now I had come across the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Brotherhood back in the 1970s in Ashton Under Lyne.*

They were what they said they were an organization designed to provide a pleasant afternoon with a Christian slant on a Sunday.

The first seem to have sprung up in the mid 1870s and their first national conference was in London in 1906.

There was a political dimension  “The long standing relationship between political Liberalism and Nonconformity brought active Liberals into the movement. In the early twentieth century key Labour and Trade Union leaders became actively involved in the PSA/Brotherhood Movement. 

Labour MPs Arthur Henderson and Will Crooks, and the Liberal MP Theodore C. Taylor were all present at the founding of the National Association of Brotherhoods, PSAs etc in London in 1906. 

Keir Hardie, was also actively involved, he was a main speaker for a Brotherhood Crusade in Lille in 1910. Arthur Henderson MP was elected National President in 1914. 

The National Adult School Union’s ‘One and All’ journal reported 7 out 9 ‘adult school men’ who stood for parliament were successful in 1910.”***

And so back to that tea party and concert.

Judging by Asleep in the Deep I doubt that I would have been entertained by the afternoon.

The song was written by Arthur J Lamb and composed by Henry W.Petrie and had the rousing chorus

“Loudly the bell in the old tower rings,
Bidding us list to the warning it brings. Sailor, take care! Sailor, take care!
Danger is near thee. Beware! Beware! Beware! Beware!
Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, So beware! beware!
Many brave hearts are asleep in the deep, So beware! beware!"***

But perhaps I am being a tad harsh.  I dare say I would have been intrigued by the “Humorous Section.”

It was after all a serious attempt to challenge the power of the pub.

And the Oldham P.S.A. at least had an eye to how to get an audience, for the reverse of the card had a very striking image of Miss Nina Severning.

Now she was I think an actress but all I have turned up is another picture postcard sent in 1904, but there will be someone who can offer me some more information.

In the meantime I shall return to that magical afternoon in 1907, and the promise that  I shall go looking for the Oldham P.S.A. and its secretary Mr J Mcintosh.

At least Bismark Street in Oldham is still there.

It is a narrow street off Park Road, close to Alexandra Park and back in 1890 was dominated by the Trinity Chapel.

Picture; Oldham P.S.A. invitation to its Tea Party and Concert, 1907 courtesy of David Harrop

*The Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Brotherhood,

** The Early Adult School and Brotherhood Movements in the West Midlands: Adult Education, Evangelism or Social Activism?, European Social Science History Conference, Glasgow, April 14 2012

***Asleep in the Deep,

Down in the parish churchyard by Chorlton green in 1976

Well having almost exhausted the collection of images on Chorlton in the 1980s, I think it’s time to wander back another decade.

We are in the parish graveyard in 1976 and I have to say despite walking through the place many times I have no recollection of it looking like this.

And I pretend to be a historian.

Still looking back through the back catalogue of blog stories there are plenty on what the place was like in the 1970s and as you would expect plenty more from before.

So I shall leave you with Lois’s picture of the graveyard just before it was cleared and landscaped, but if you want more follow the link.*

Picture St Clement’s churchyard in 1976, from the collection of Lois Elsden

*St Clement's Church

Recovering from wounds in a Red Cross Hospital during the Great War

Alexandra Park School Red Cross Hospital, date unknown
The story of the voluntary Red Cross Hospitals which were set up during the Great War was not one I knew much about.

Given the huge numbers of casualties I suppose I should have realised that there would be a huge demand for hospital beds to take those recovering from wounds and illnesses.

And even before the war had begun the Red Cross had planned for just such an eventuality.

McLaren Memorial Baptist Church, Edge Lane, circa 1920
What started me off was the discovery of one of these hospitals on Edge Lane in the Sunday School of the old Baptist Church.

Both buildings have long gone but the Sunday School of the Methodist Church on Manchester Road is still there and this was the second of the hospitals in Chorlton.

After that it was just a matter of research to track them down in Whalley Range, Didsbury, Flixton and pretty much everywhere.

Some were in large private homes or like those in Chorlton in public buildings volunteered for the duration of the war.

Alexandra Park School Red Cross Hospital, date unknown
They were quickly established, supported by the local community and with the end of the war closed almost as quickly.

Looking through the newspapers for 1918 and 1919 you can come across plenty of adverts for the sale of the fitments and fixtures, including beds, blankets buckets, typewriters in fact everything which allowed the hospital to function.

And with the sale of all these and the return of the buildings to other uses the presence of the hospitals quickly faded from memory.

Alexandra Park School Red Cross Hospital, date unknown
I suppose it was inevitable having performed their task they receded back from popular thought and within a few generations were pretty much forgotten.

Some of course continued as private hospitals and in time became part of the NHS but many more have been lost to history.

So with that in mind here are three photographs from the Red Cross Hospital at Alexandra Park School, Edgeley in Stockport.

The images pretty much speak for themselves but it is worth drawing attention to the hospital blues which were the uniform worn by men convalescing and the presence of the same wheel chair in all three.

The photographs come from the extensive collection of David Harrop who runs a permanent exhibition in the Remembrance Hall at Southern Cemetery.

Pictures; the Red Cross Hospital at Alexandra Park School, Edgeley in Stockport, date unknown courtesy of David Harrop and the McLaren Memorial Baptist Church, Edge Lane, from the Lloyd Collection,