Wednesday, 7 December 2016

On Court Yard in 1911 with Mrs Morris and memories of Eltham in the 19th century

I am looking at number 25 Court Yard, and there in the picture are Mrs Annie Morris and her sons David and Harold.

I don’t know the date but I reckon it will have been sometime around 1911 because in that year David would have been 33 and Harold 24 which pretty much fits with their appearance in the picture.

And there is much more that this image can help us about the history of Eltham.

Number 25 was a five roomed house just past the Crown on Court Yard and it was one of twelve houses running from the pub to a slightly grander set of houses.

The first five or so properties commanded rents of 4 shillings a week and it was here that Mr and Mrs Morris moved sometime in 1900.

This was number 17 Court Yard, but with two years they had moved to number 25 and paid 2 shillings and sixpence in rent.

Either way this was an improvement on Ram Alley where they had lived and which had been condemned as unfit for habitation in 1895, a decision which meant little given that they were still standing in 1930.

These twelve were a mix of four, five and six roomed houses which were home to a mix of occupations including a caretaker, baker, porter, a butcher and two gardeners along with house painters, a general labourer, domestic servant and retired carpenter.

On the surface just your average range of jobs, but of course they reflect the changes that were beginning to push Eltham out of its rural past into something closer to what we know today.

And so while Annie’s husband had been a carpenter one of her sons worked at the Woolwich Arsenal.

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.”*

She had been born in 1848 at 4 Pound Place and recalled that when she was young “Eltham was but a village and children and young people then were forbidden by their parents to be out after dark. When Mrs Morris was two years old a Mrs Miller kept the school in Back Lane. 

The old inns and taverns of Eltham are still of the same identity except for structural changes.”*

Now there is much more of Mrs Morris’s memories and in due course I will come back to them.

Pictures; from the collection of Jean Gammons

*Eltham District Times, June 1931

A house with a story

Now we all have favourite buildings but this is not one of mine.

And yet there is a remarkable story here which takes us back to the early years of commercial photography and the Ireland Photographic Studios which began up in Newton Heath as a side line and became an important family business in the centre of Manchester.*

The Ireland family prospered as commercial photographers and eventually settled here in this house.

The business was taken over by Charles Ireland whose father began the studios and he briefly lived in the house which is now the Buddhist Centre on High Lane but was once the Art School of Tom Mostyn.

So there you have it.

*It started with a picture and became a story.......... Charles Ireland

Picture; from the collection of Andy Robertson

The bridges of Salford and Manchester .......... nu 7 walking over the river

Now this one sprang up when I wasn't looking.

And just because it is silly I shall aim to walk over each of the Salford bridges before Christmas on the same day.

Location; Salford

Picture; the Irwell Street Bridge, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The mystery collection........... part 3 a working day

The last in the series featuring an unknown collection of photographs from the beginning of the 20th century.

Now I am always fascinated by pictures which challenge you to uncover their secrets.

They are usually ones where there are few clues to where they were taken with no date and often shed no light on the identities of the people who stare back at you.

And that is pretty much what we have here from a collection of images which belong to David Kennedy.

The originals were 4 by 5 glass negatives and date from sometime around the end of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century.

Some are of street scenes, others of men and women at work and include a fair number showing life on board a selection of working ships.

They range from causally posed scenes to ones where the photographer has caught his subjects fully occupied and perhaps unaware that they are being photographed.

And amongst the collection are some which open up the world of work in a town somewhere just across the Channel.

Now I say that because at least one picture carries references to Belgium and in particular the towns of Nieupoort and Ostend and intriguingly to a number of restaurants which in the fullness of time might yield some more information on the location of the pictures.

But that aside they capture perfectly a group of people going about the daily routines of work.

A man trundles a cart accompanied by two dogs and given the umbrella covers the top of the cart and his white coat I wonder if he is out selling ice cream.

Of course that is bordering on a heap of speculation, but I am on firmer ground with the working boats and what might be a water tower.

And lastly there is the building with its posters advertising a host of different things including that word Telegraaf which Google Translate tells me is Dutch but is more equally Flemish or Belgian Dutch which fixes our photographs in the northern part of Belgium.

Of the three this one interests me the most.

Our photographer has caught one of those quiet moments perhaps during the midday lunch break when only the dog is out in the heat of the sun.

Something has been going on and I guess will do so again as the open cellar doors and the nearby wagon testify.

But at that precise point in time nothing stirs save the dog, which just leaves us to focus on the posters and in particular that one high up on the wall advertising some long gone event.

Alas I doubt that I will ever know what it was

Pictures; by courtesy of David Kennedy

A Valley Grows Up ..... revisiting an old friend

I never tire of reading children’s history books.

Apart from the fact that most are beautifully illustrated and have a simple crisp text they are clues to how the study of history has changed. Victorian and Edwardian books tend to emphasis the growth of the British empire and well into the 1930’s much of the story is told bottom down through Kings and Queens and the brave, rich and great.

But by the 1950s the depiction of our “island story” has changed and much more emphasis is placed on social history.

Historians like R. J. Unstead produced books with fine illustrations which describe the lives of everyone from the nobility to peasant.

And I suppose my favourite of this new wave of books was A Valley Grows Up by Edward Osmond.*

It was published by the O.U.P and sold for 12s 6d. The magic of the book is that it told the story of an imaginary valley from 5000 BC to 1900.

The Valley around 5,000 BC
This it did through ten colour plates plenty of fine line drawings and a clear simple text. Here was the development of the valley’s landscape from prehistoric to Victorian taking in changes from an uninhabited forest through to tree clearing and early settlements.

All are here, from the Celts and Romans through to the Saxons, Normans and beyond.

His wife Laurie Osmond, produced a companion book, The Thames Flows Down, O.U.P., 1957.

The Valley in 1900
Like A Valley Grows Up, it gives that wonderful sense of historical sequence but carefully does not fall into the trap of describing change which is always progressive, always for the best and which seeks to show how the past is just a prelude to the achievements of today.

All the more a pity because it has long gone out of print.

I did however get a lovelly letter from Laurie Osmond who I had written to in the 1980s.

She thanked me for writing was pleased I still enjoyed both books and and kindly gave me permission to use the colour plates in a slide presentation I did for students which took the magic to a new generation.

I must confess to owning two copies of the Valley and one of the Thames.

Picture; cover of A Valley Grows Up

* A Valley Grows Up

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The remarkable Madge Addy from Chorlton part 1 ....... the Spanish Civil War and secret operations in France

This is the story of Madge Addy who worked in Chorlton, was a nurse in the Spanish Civil War and was awarded an OBE for her wartime work as an undercover agent in occupied Europe during the last world war.

Ms Addy, 1938
It has been a bit of a challenge to uncover the story because while most of the references give her name as Madge she was actually Marguerite and was married twice, first to a Mr Holst and later a Mr Hansen.

All of which makes trawling the records that bit more difficult.

According to one source, she was “from the Chorlton-cum-Hardy area of Manchester. She arrived in Spain in 1937 and became Head Nurse at a hospital in an old monastery at Uclės in Castile. Like some of the other British nurses, she was also involved with the fund-raising campaigns back home. 

Madge would write detailed letters about the work being done in the 'Manchester Ward' at the hospital in Uclės to the Chairman of the North Manchester Spanish Medical Aid Committee to help with the campaigns for medical supplies. 

She was the last British nurse to leave Spain but what happened to her after that did not come to light until recently. 

Spain Fifgts for Independence, poster, 1936-39
She married the Norwegian she had met in Spain, Wilhelm Holst, and during the Second World War she went on to play a vital role in setting up the famous 'Garrow-Pat O’Leary' escape line, working with MI9. 

She was awarded the OBE for her work in France; her bravery included travelling as a Norwegian subject on German civil flights, carrying secret messages sewn into the lining of her fur coat. 

As an English woman operating in enemy-occupied territory, she would have known what the penalty would be if caught.  Madge Addy died in 1970.”*

But there is much more including some of the letters she sent home from Spain and an article from the Manchester Guardian which she gives a description of the revenge carried out by the victorious forces of Franco on the civil population and those who sided with the defeated democratic government of Spain.

Wilbraham Road,, Chorlton, circa 1930s
Like all good stories I came across it by chance after Cllr Shelia Newman had been asked to look into the possibility of erecting a plaque to the memory of Ms Addy.**

The cost will be met by voluntary subscriptions which just leaves a decision on its location.

Now there is a reference to Ms Addy having a hairdressing business in Chorlton just before she left for Spain, so a search of the trade directories may reveal an address.

Beech Road, Chorlton, circa 1930s
In the meantime I think I have found where was living in 1911 which was 58 Rusholme Grove with her widowed mother and five siblings.  Ms Addy was seven and her mother is described as a “dressmaker.”

The house was on the south side of Rusholme Grove was demolished sometime in the 1970s but that address is a start and over the next few weeks I want explore what I can of her story.

There may even be people who remember her and have more letters, pictures and stories of this remarkable woman.

Location; Chorlton, Spain, and France

Pictures; Ms Addy in 1938 courtesy of Shelia Newman, Chorlton in the 1930s from the Lloyd Collection  and Spain Fights for Independence, For Peace and Solidarity Among All Peoples, G. M. 1936-39, from The Palette and the Flame, 1980 

*From Foodships to the front lines: a forgotten Manchester heroine of the Spanish Civil War, Angela Jackson

**Cllr Shelia Newman,  0161 234 1841 (Town Hall)

Looking for the story of Graeme House and that Chorlton Shopping Precinct

Graeme House and Safeway, 1971
We don’t do recent history very well.

I guess it is simply because we take it for granted and don’t even see it as history.

Added to which it is sometimes quite difficult to track down the story.

So when I washed up in Chorlton in the mid 1970s the shopping precinct, Graeme House and that car park were a done deal, but only just.

They had replaced a set of houses and cut Manchester Road in two leaving just two properties as witness to what had once been.

Shops to let, 1971
You can find a few people who remember those houses and one of my friends attended a private school on that lost stretch of Manchester Road, but the memories are fading.

And to date I have found just a handful of photographs recording the demolished houses which ran along Wilbraham Road, Manchester Road, and Barlow Moor Road.

Part of the problem is that such developments don’t warrant being recorded in history books, so Mr Lloyd’s two books skip over the building of the precinct and the book written by Cliff Hayes has just a picture.*

From the Guardian, 1973
Of course the planning applications along with the deliberations of the Planning Committee should still be available but having crawled over the documents relating to the development of Hough End Hall a little earlier this can be long tedious and sometimes unrewarding.

All of which just leaves the local newspapers which will have recorded the events.

Graeme House and car park, 1973
And that has so far thrown up an advert for the remaining offices to still to be let in 1971 and a few photographs of Graeme House and the precinct.

Sadly I am no nearer to knowing why it was called Graeme House.

Intriguingly I did come across Graeme Shankand who was a planning consultant and architect who worked on projects in the North West.

It is a tenuous link but in the process did introduce me to a very interesting architect, who played an important part in founding the William Morris Society.

The precinct, 1973
But that as they say is for another time.

So for now I shall close with the memory of shopping in Safeway not long after it had opened in the precinct.

It was bright, busy and at the time the biggest supermarket in Chorlton, and for a while continued to operate after its bigger store had opened by the old railway station.

Now that should have been the end but to reaffirm that simple observation that history is messy, only hours after I posted the story Ste Passant suggested that the office block may have been named after Henry John Greame Lloyd who cropped up on a legal document.

Now I rather think that he was part of the Lloyd family that owned a large part of Chorlton coming from the same area and leaving £151,021 10s on his death in 1919.

All of which just leaves me to go off and search the records.

Pictures; the Shopping Precinct and Graeme House, H.Milligan, 1971, m17408, m19763, m17832, m17405 and Graeme House, The Guardian, October 22, 1973, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*The Township of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, 1972,  Looking Back at Chorlton-cum-Hardy, John M Lloyd, 1985, CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY, Cliff Hayes, 1999

** Graeme Shankand, John Kay,

*** Buldoze and be damned, Terence Bendixson, the Guardian January 8 1969