Sunday, 22 January 2017

At the Kings Arms waiting for Fred Wisdom to pull a pint

Now this is one of those familiar pictures of the High Street, looking east towards the church and Court Yard some time in 1915.

It comes from an excellent collection from Greenwich Heritage Centre which I discovered for the first time today.

On the surface it is interesting enough but it is the clues it offers up about some of the people who lived along this bit of the High street.

And because Mr Digby who took the picture focused on the Kings Arms I shall start with the pub and its landlord Fred Wisdom.

I can’t be sure when he took over the place but four years earlier he had been running the Railway Bell in Tonbridge.

He lived here with his wife Elizabeth, their two young children and his two nieces who worked behind the bar and described themselves as assistants.

And there is more because I know that Fred was born in 1878, Elizabeth two years earlier and they had been married in 1899.

I doubt we will ever know why they moved to Eltham but they were here by 1914 and were still pulling pints six years later.

All of which came from trawling the street directories and electoral registers which supply the names of the rest of the inhabitants on the block running up to Court Yard.

But for now my attention has been drawn to the big billboard on the gable end.

It is advertising the serialization of a story by Hall Cains who was one of the most popular novelists in the later Victorian and Edwardian period with many of his books being turned into films.

According to one source they were primarily romances, involving love triangles, but also addressed some of the more serious political and social issues of the day.

And as if on cue the book advertised as being serialized in the popular Reynolds’s News was Woman Thou Gavest Me. which I shall go looking for.

But I will just leave you back on the High Street in 1915.

Picture; the Old Kings Head, High Street Eltham, GRW 276,
courtesy of Greenwich Heritage Centre,

Rediscovering the Savoy cinema on Manchester Road in Chorlton

Now Andy sent me this picture after one of those very heavy rainy days which left vast lakes across Chorlton and made most of us feel thorughly miserable at what was supposed to be high summer.

But what I also like about the picture is that it revealed the side of the old cinema.

The Savoy on Manchester Road opened in 1920 as the Picture House before being renamed the Savoy when it was leased to the Savoy Cinemas alter becoming the Gaumont.

I pass here quite often but rarely really take time to look at the side of the building which reveals much of the grandeur of the place.

The front underwent  quite a few changes before it was finally lost under the present exterior courtesy of the undertaker’s.

The upper floor still exists but sadly “Heath and Safety” concerns have prevented me from getting up there despite appeals to the head office and promise to bring my own hard hat.

So in the meantime this is the best you will get although I couldn’t resist digging out this picture of the cinema from the collection.

It was taken sometime in the early 1920s on what must have been a warm summers day.

The man painting out last week’s film is in shirt sleeves and the two by the entrance are wearing straw hats which were popular in the early decades of the 20th century.

 But what locates it to sometime after 1920 are the films which were being shown.

Sea Wolf was made in 1913, Should a husband Forgive was made in 1919 while Butterfly Man dates from 1920. I am not sure what the films say about cinema audience in the 1920s all three in their different ways were tales of morality .

In Sea Wolf the hero who has been rescued from a collision at sea is unable to break away from his rescuer who forces him to become a cabin boy, do menial work, and learn to fight to protect himself from a brutal crew, but eventually he is set free.

 In Should a Husband forgive, the heroine is at first misunderstood by the love of her life and rejected till she saves him, and finally in Butterfly Man a social gad fly does one good deed but this is not enough to wipe out his many misdoings and the end of the film sees him alone and forlorn.

Sea Wolf had been written by Jack London was an immediate success and in the first film version starred Jack London as a seaman.

Now I have already written about the size and grandeur of these early picture houses and the Savoy was no exception. First there is the stone frontage with its columns, and embellishments topped by the twin domes and then there is the wrought iron canopy.

This was a big buildings possibly the biggest in the township. At night it would be lit up unlike any of our other buildings and even during the day must have attracted comment.

It was of course well sited given that this was the new Chorlton which had grown quickly in the last thirty years providing a ready audience. Next door was the snooker hall and within a few years there would be the rebuilt Royal Oak Hotel.

Pictures; of the old cinema on a wet August day in 2014 courtesy of Andy Robertson and the cinema in 1922 from the Lloyd Collection.

The Great Bank Note Robbery ........ a pub on Hilton Street and a mystery ......... the story we left out

Now I am pretty sure that the Great Bank Note Robbery took place in the Crown and Anchor on the corner of Hilton and Port Street on June 13 1868.

The Crown & Anchor, 2016
I can’t be sure because the press reports only referred to a “beer house in Hilton Street, Port Street.”*

But a trawl of the directories throws up just two beer shops on Hilton Street of which only the Crown and Anchor occupied the corner plot with Port Street and so  it must have been there that a Mr John Rhodes of 5 Stevenson Square was robbed of £1,500.

This was a lot of money but the story seems to have remained unreported for six days, which is all the more remarkable given that June 11th seems to have been a pretty slow news day.

In Parliament the Married Women’s Property Bill which would allow married women to be the legal owners of the money they earned and to inherit property went to its Second Reading, there was an explosion at sea on a yacht off Pontefract causing the death of two sailors and away on the Continent the Federal Council of North German States asked Chancellor Bismarck of Prussia to negotiate on their behalf “for the exemption of private property captured at sea in times of war.” 

The Crown & Anchor, 1851
And here in Manchester the Corporation debated how much space to give the Gas Committee in the new Town Hall to be built in Albert Square and what measures could be taken to prevent the Irwell flooding.

That said I rather think there may have been a scandal in the making given that there was a move to “appoint a committee to inquire and report to the Council as to the truthfulness or otherwise of certain reports which reflect very much to the discredit of the Council and Parks Committee in particular.”*

All of which pushed “the Great Bank Note Robbery” off the front page and when it finally did hit the paper it was confined to page six and as given just twenty lines.

The second newspaper story, Manchester Guardian June 1868
The City Police had arrested Joseph Garner and his wife Harriet who lived in a court off Bury Street in Salford along with Hartley Tillotson and Paul Hampson.

A search of the property turned up two £5 notes while “on Tillotson £17. 15s,2d was found and on Hampson £2.2s 6½d [and] Mr Rhodes identified Harriet Garner as having been, in company with another woman, in the beer house where he was robbed.  When he (Mr Rhodes) left the house he saw Tillotson pass him.”*

Having been arrested they came up in the City Court on the 22nd but as no further evidence was forth coming the four were discharged.

And with that Mr Rhodes seems to vanish.  He is not listed in Stevenson Square in 1876 and there are no more references to the bank notes.  And he does appear an elusive chap I can’t find him on the census returns for either 1861 or ’71 and he was not in Stevenson Square much before the alleged crime too place.

When I told Peter the story we pondered on where in the Crown and Anchor the unfortunate Mr Rhodes would have sat and just how well he may have known Harriet Garner.

Of course we will never know, which is why sadly we chose not to include the story  in the book, but when you have read the entry on the Crown and Anchor you may well want to visit the pub and let your imagination flow.

And that just leave me to say that Manchester Pubs – The Stories Behind The Doors – City Centre is available  from  and the stories about how the book was written can be read by following the link A new book on Manchester Pubs,

Pictures; the Crown and Anchor and Anchor, 2016, and in 1851 from Adshead map of Manchester, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, and an extract from the Manchester Guardian, June 16 1868, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

*Manchester Guardian June 11 1868

The Vanished Ones ............... no 4 back at Hunts Bank with a favourite

Now I am back by Hunts Bank looking up to the Cathedral and there is that missing building again.

It featured a few days ago when Andy Robertson sent me two pictures of a before and after which were taken a year apart.

The after was dates this year and the before from 2016.
Not to be out done John Casey has shared two more which take the story back a full three decades.

Lots of people were fascinated  by the building which had once been a hotel and dated back into the 19th century.

It had been built between 1837-45 by the Manchester and Leeds railway Company and was actually three buildings.

One section consisted of livery stables and offices, the middle building was offices and shops and the northern section was constructed between 1842-43 as a railway hotel serving Victoria Station.

Later the buildings were turned over to retail use and in 1969 were acquired by Chetham’s School which applied for planning permission to convert the building into classrooms.

And now it has gone.

Back in 2014 the case was made for its demolition which makes interesting reading particularly for the details of the proposed use for the site.

So that is about it leaving me only to include a second photograph from John showing a but more of that building along with the cathedral and river.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; Palatine Building and Victoria Street, circa 1980s, from the collection of John Casey

*When Demolition Makes Sense:  MCR’s Palatine Building,

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford ........ nu 41 Chapel Street

Now I know Chapel Street is nether lost nor forgotten but over the next few days here are a few photographs that were taken on a June day this year.

And like all good pictures and stories I leave the rest to you.

Other than to say its the one which might cause some upset ...... light the blue touch paper and retire

Location; Salford

Picture; Chapel Street, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

News from the West Country .................. more records from Ancestry and a bit of a story from me

Now it did occur to me that someone might accuse me of being in the paid employment of Ancestry. 

St Clements Church Chorlton-cum-Hardy, circa 1860s-1880s
But then I also subscribe to Findmypast as well, and both have featured regularly on the blog,

So that just leaves me to announce that Ancestry have released or updated a shed load of new records from the West country.

They include in no particular order Somerset Goal Registers, 1807-1879, Dorset Bastardy Records 1725-1853, Gloucestershire Prison Records 1728 -1914 and marriage, baptism and burial records from Somerset, piles of stuff from Jersey and more England & Wales Christening records.

Bastardy Order, 1807
Of these e Bastardy Records for where I live are particularly interesting.

“Some of these have survived from Stretford, and include the Orders for Maintenance of Bastard Children, 1702-1811 and Bastardy Bonds from 1715-94 which identified the adult male who would support the child as well as other miscellaneous Orders Relating to Bastardy, for the period 1716-1756, and across the country many of these records have survived in greater quantities.

They reveal a straightforward system designed to identify the father and bring him to court.  This might begin with an examination of the mother by a magistrate or if she was already in labour by a midwife.  

These Bastardy Examinations were common in the early eighteenth century.    Having achieved the information a Bastardy Warrant was issued ordering a Constable to bring the father before the Magistrate.  If the case was successfully made then a Bastardy Order was issued which identified the man and stipulated the amount he was to pay.

BastardyOrder 1807
The documents were pre-printed with spaces for the magistrates to write the names of the mother and father and the amount that had to be paid.  Some of the Stretford ones for the years 1702-1811 reveal the estimated costs which the father was expected to pay.  

Often the sum was decided on a yearly basis which would then be paid quarterly.  This amount varied and may have been based on circumstances.  

The figure of 26 shillings [£1.30p] for the year payable until the child was fourteen appears in some of the Stretford documents but others set an initial payment to cover the birth ranging from £2 down to 10s. [50p] and specify that further payments should be made weekly.  

These also varied from 30d [7p] to 7d [3p].   In some cases the mother was expected to contribute and this could be 18d [7p].

Attempting to make sense of these awards is fraught, but some idea of their monetary worth can be gauged by making a comparison with wage rates and some examples of the cost of living.  Just twenty years later in 1830 Mary Bailey and Higginbotham the farmer  agreed an annual salary of £7.10s [£7.50] from which she bought  in January a pair of stays which cost 10s.6d, [52p], in May a new cap worth  1s.8d [7p] and in July repaired her shoes for 2s.8d [14p].  The cost of renting on the Row for a farm labourer varied from 10d [8p] to 5s [25p] a week.  

Looking out from Higginbotham's farm circa 1880s
Finally the day rate for women workers in the south west was between 7-10d [3p].

Against this backdrop of wages, and spending the magistrates determined that the cost of maintaining an illegitimate child was 7d [3p] a day, and this was slightly more generous than the 26 shillings [£1.30p].

But the system was flawed and there were many in the early nineteenth century who said so.    The moralists argued that payments to a single mother only encouraged illegitimacy and they may even be evidence to suggest they were partly right.  

Both here in the township and in the Parish of Ironville in Derbyshire and no doubt many other areas,  some woman gave birth to a number of children out of wedlock."

From the The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson, 2012

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Stretford and the West Country

Pictures; Bastardy Order, Hannah Hodkinson, and John Barrow St Matthews Church, Stretford, 1807 & St Clements Church Chorlton-cum-Hardy circa 1860s-1880s and looking out from Higginbotham's farm, circa 1880s from the collection of Tony Walker

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Who will have seen this? Inside the old Palais de Luxe

Now I know it must be time for a holiday, one of those get away and reflect on the balance of my life type holidays. 

And why? Well because today I was over the moon at being allowed to see the last remnant of the old Palais de Luxe cinema on Barlow Moore Road.

It has featured in my blogs and in blogs yet to come. Opened in 1915 and closed around 1958 it was the first real picture house here in Chorlton. In telling its story I have come across Charles Ireland the photographer, H D Moorhouse the cinema chain mogul and tracked a wonderful picture of the place to East Dunbartonshire.

And today I gazed on all that is left. Steve the manager of the Co-op store allowed me upstairs to what is now the warehouse. It was I had been told just an open space with nothing left, but that is not entirely the case.

Standing at the front of the cinema roughly where the projectionist would have been you have a wonderful view of the curved roof with all the wooden roof beams bereft of plaster arching over the void.

 But the real treasure is the almost complete set of plaster mouldings which once would have stood proud over the cinema screen.

I guess no more than a few dozen people will have seen it since the picture house went dark. And in the great sweep of the history of plaster moulding I don’t think we are talking high art, but it is all that is left of the old Palais and not I think too much of an exaggeration to describe it as a link with our past.

I can think of numerous people who I know who will have sat in their seats and idly looked at the design while waiting for the big picture. In the week beginning Sunday May 7th 1928 underneath its sweeping arch the Palais showed a mixed bunch of films.

The Call of the Heart was a Western featuring Dynamite the dog, Long Pants a comedy with Harry Langdon, The Climbers a historical melodrama located in the Spanish Empire, during the reign of King Ferdinand VII and Sky High Saunders about a “daredevil pilot who took on all comers and prevailed, whether it was gangsters, good-or-bad women or bad weather.”

And on the night before William Rees and his Orchestra played from 7.30pm. He was a popular musician during the interwar years and later performed in Blackpool and for a time was the conductor of The Huddersfield Philharmonic.

So there you have it a little of the lost cinema history of Chorlton.
Pictures; the exterior of the cinema just after it closed, by A H Downes, May 1959 m09248, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  and the interior by kind permission of Co-operative Group, from the collection of Andrew Simpson