Friday, 23 February 2018

When did our brick works close?

I am on another of my quests and this time it is to gather up memories of the Chorlton Brick Works.*

It was here from the beginning of the last century and was supposed to have just a short life.

The Egerton’s who owned most of the land in the township had been keen to prevent any industrial development harming the prospects of selling off their estate for surburban housing.  After all most of the new people who settled here from the 1880s were attracted by the fact that we were just 10 minutes by train from the city centre but on the edge of the countryside and were not over keen to have huge brick works blotting the landscape.

But given that the Egerton’s would have got a good deal from the Chorlton Land & Building Company Ltd I suspect that they were happy to see the blot on the landscape for a short time.  The question is just how long did that blot exist for?

It was certainly still there in 1922 when the owner Joseph Jackson went into partnership with another brick manufacturer but may not have survived into the 1930s.

There is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that it had closed before the last world war but Philip Lloyd remembers “seeing the line of aerial buckets moving across, when I was at the library end of Longford Road”  and its opening may have been connected with the war.

German air raids damaged many properties and while in most cases the bricks could be salvaged this was not the case with many of the roof tiles, so it seems logical that  the works reopened.

All of which has set me off on that new quest to find out more about the brick works in the 1940s and hence the appeal to anyone who remembers like Philip seeing the buckets swaying across the sky line.

Those memories must be out there because as the photograph above shows, the chimney of the works was still standing in 1958.  And my old chum David has already posted his wonderful stories of playing amongst the disused bricks as a lad.

And no sooner had I posted the story than Peter Thompson added that
"Just had a coversation with my friend Bill Goodehall (84) who was born on Nicolas Road. He remembers the brickworks as being fully intact on Coronation day 1953. Although he can't remember if it was still operational."


Pictures; detail from the 1907 OS map, Brick works, corner of Longford Road and Manchester Road, A H Downes, 1958, m18034 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council.

Of trolley buses and a company called SELNEC

The trolley bus never did much for me.

They were much quieter than the bus or the old trams but they always made me feel ill.  I think it was the combination of the heat and the smell of the leather seats with the disinfectant which I found uncomfortable.

Stevenson Square December 1966, the last Manchester trolley bus
But they were a common enough sight in many of our cities to warrant a bit of a story.

I can’t remember using them at home but London Transport operated them for thirty years on 68 routes with 1811 trolley buses.

Here in Manchester the service which began in 1938 covered 9 routes using 189 vehicles.

Ours came off the road in 1966 and this one in Stevenson Square was the last in the December of that year.  Stevenson Square was the terminus of trolleybus services to Audenshaw and Stalybridge.

Piccadilly with an Ashton-Under-Lyne trolley bus, 1960
Nor were we alone in operating trolley buses, and it is equally possible that had you jumped on a trolley bus to Ashton-Under-Lyne it would have been the blue and cream ones operated by Ashton Corporation.

They had been quicker off the mark staring operations in the February of 1925 on five routes with just 19 trolley buses and like Manchester abandoned them in 1966.

This was just three years before I arrived in the city so the sight of this Ashton trolley bus in Piccadilly around 1960 is one lost to me.

But I do just remember the sheer number of corporation bus companies in the city in 1969.

The green livery of the joint Transport and Electricty Board
Along with the disticntive red livery of Manchester and the blue and cream of Ashton there was the green of Salford and the green of the Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Joint Transport and Electricity Board along with the maroon and cream colours of Oldham.

And no doubt if I dug deeper I could come up with the routes of some of the neigboring authorites whoses trams, trolley buses and motor buses entered the city.  All of which came to an end in 1969 with the formation of a unified bus company covering the whole of greater Manchester and initially known as SELNEC, or South East Lancashire North East Cheshire.

A SELNEC bus, 2008
Its orange and white livery would not have been my choice but then having to choose a colour scheme which did not upset the local feelings of the eleven participating bus companies would always have meant coming up with something very different.

This was a huge undertaking, covering a large conurbation and an operation broken down into four divisions, each with their own different coloured logo.

And for those who like these things here are the eleven corporation companies, the number of vehicles they brought to the enterprise and the division they belonged to.

Now that will endear me to some but risk the derision of others who mutter train spotter, which is a little inaccurate given that this began as a story about trolley buses and has gone way beyond that.

So with that in mind I shall take leave of the almost silent successor to the tram.

Stalybridge bus station and the last Ashton trolley bus, 1966
Pictures; Manchester Corporation trolley bus, Stevenson Square 1966, and Ashton-Under-Lyne Corporation trolley bus, Stalybridge bus station, 1966 © Alan Murray-Rust, Wikipedia Commons, Ashton-Under-Lyne Corporation trolley bus in Piccadilly, 1960, and Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley & Dukinfield Transport & Electricity Board motor bus from the collection of J.F.A.Hampson, SELNEC Bus, Mikey from Wythenshawe, Museum of Transport, Wikipedia Commons

The history of Eltham in a day .......... less a competition more a collective showing off

Earlier today I was reflecting on where in the twin cities of Manchester and Salford I would take my friend Susan who will be arriving from Canada in June.*

That said she is only here for a day and a bit so it will be one of those pretty “zippy, pack lots in” sort of trips of the history of my two cities.

And as you do that got me thinking of what I would want to show her if I still lived at home in Well Hall.

It would be I suppose be a mix of what I thought was the iconic with bits that were personal to me and all rounded off by an understanding that there should be some history, the odd “odd” building and more than a few places to stop and drink, eat and drink.

So in no particular order my list would have to include the Pleasuance, and the Tudor Barn, the old parish church, along with the Palace, some of the High Street pubs and perhaps the site of our very first picture house.

Of course if the walk was done properly it would have to start at the old police station at one end of Well Hall make our way by degree down past the hospital and the site of the Welcome, before standing outside our old house at 294 for a quick history of the building and  the Progress Estate.

And then another stop at the Odeon, the Pleasaunce, and station, a rather longer pause at the other end of Well Hall Road taking in that other police station, the church, old tram buildings and Burtons.

I could also throw in the site of the old Crown Woods, and Avery Hill with an option on a excursion to Woolwich on day two.

All of which leaves me just to invite other suggestions, with pictures and a bit of a reason.

Of course there are no prizes, no free invites to the new Eltham cinema when it opens and not even a fancy cake.

No, all that you will earn is a warm glow and the knowledge  that you have shared a bit of  Eltham and Woolwich with the world.

And yes the blog is read on every continent except the one where the penguins live.

So that means that our Ryan's images will be viewed over coffee in Alberta, tiramsiu in Naples, and noodles somewhere east of Beijing

Location; Eltham, Woolwich and a lot more.

Pictures; the Pleasuance, 2016, Ryan Ginn

*The history of the twin cities in a day .......... less a competition more a collective showing off,

The cranes of Salford ........ number 1 .... Adelphi Street

Now I have called the series “The cranes of Salford” and it will feature, record and celebrate the new developments in Salford.

And yes I know “it all looked better before the old Victorian and Edwardian buildings were swept away” but many were no longer fit for purpose, having lost their original use or just got very old and then neglected.

I never knew that old Salford so I am not perhaps the best person to pass comment.

Added to which I freely admit much that is going up is pretty run of the mill, and could have been designed by Year 4 while some are just ugly and too big.

Moreover some that are rising from the streets have no originality and could be buildings from Spinningfields, Docklands, or that brash new development in Milan.

All that as maybe Salford, is changing and Andy Robertson was on hand to record it and in the case of Adelphi Street has kindly offered up an old picture for everyone to compare and contrast.

I say old but it dates only from November 2014.

And that  just leaves me to finish with his last from the shoot which I think is taken from the same spot as the 2014 picture.

The keen observers will instantly want to comment that in three years the cars have moved from off the site to beside it ........ such is progress.

Location; Salford

Pictures; Adelphi Street, 2014 & 2017, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Thursday, 22 February 2018

The Stockport battle tank .....

Now this is the story of the Stockport battle tank.

I can be fairly confident that it was made sometime after 1918 which could stretch to the following year.

After 1920 I doubt that there was as much interest in a piece of crested china with a war theme.

By then the country had put the conflict to rest and if the china companies were still churning out war pieces, the items would have been of war memorials like our own Cenotaph while the rest of the factory switched back to key rings, miniature replicas of Blackpool Tower and Ann Hathaway’s’ cottage.

But for the four years of the war, crested war china was everywhere from model tanks to aircraft and battleships.

And to make the piece just that bit more marketable, they were sold with the name and coats of arms of towns and cities.

So you could buy the Stockport tank and the Manchester tank along with HMS London, and HMS Liverpool.

Such was the headlong pursuit to turn out such collectables that one company produced a battleship carrying the name Manchester even though the navy had no such battleship during the Great War.

I had no idea just how many of these souvenirs were turned out but of course they one of the ways people at home could identify with the war and with a loved one who was serving in the armed forces.

This one belonged to David Harrop who has an extensive collection of crested china along with memorabilia from both world wars and the history of the post office.

But this one is the biggest and has that additional comment on the side about the signing of the armistice which I will make it just that bit different.

Location; Stockport

Pictures; the Stockport battle tank circa 1919, from the collection of David Harrop

Missing that old bridge

My old bridge circa 1940s
I cannot even begin to count the number of times I walked under the railway bridge which spanned Well Hall Road.

But then why should I?

It had carried trains across the road from 1895 and continued to do so for 90 years and I just took it for granted.

And then in 1985 as part of the construction of the relief road and the new station it was replaced by a new bridge which is a functional no nonsense bit of railway architecture and it lacks the style of the one I remember with those columns that adorn the upper part of the bridge and the brackets with their detailed wheels.

Detail of that bridge
Perhaps after those 90 years it had had its day but it is one of those little examples of how function can have style.

The picture dates to sometime after the last war but is pretty much as I remember it.

Go back a couple of decades and there were large hoardings underneath the bridge along with more on the embankment and a poster which ran right across the upper section.

And then it all changed again and now it has gone completely.

A new bridge 2015
I don’t suppose it matters over much but points to that simple observation that we take things for granted.

All of the shops beyond the bridge have changed since that tram trundled past although some further up by the Pleasaunce were operated by the same families when I walked up Well Hall Road.

So not an earth shattering bit of our history but still a bit of it.

Pictures; Well Hall bridge, circa 1940s, from the collection of A J Watkins, reproduced from Eltham and Woolwich Tramways and the new bridge 2014, from the collection of Chrissy Rose

*Eltham and Woolwich Tramways, Robert J Harley, Middleton Press, 1996,

The Kickety Brook, Stretford, once a vital part of our flood defences

I first walked the Kickety Brook with my old botanist friend, David Bishop.

It doesn’t look much but it was vital in its day for protecting the Duke’s Canal at Stretford.

The Canal dates from the 1760s and was cut to bring coal into the heart of the city and also was used by our farmers and market gardeners to ship their produce into the Manchester markets.

But the canal was close to the Mersey which could flood with little warning. In July 1828 flood water transported hay ricks from the farm behind Barlow Hall down to Stretford only later to take them back, while later floods proved to be even more destructive with one destroying the bridge across Chorlton Brook.

It was, wrote Thomas Ellwood the local historian
“no uncommon thing to see the great level of green fields completely covered with water presenting the appearance of a large lake , several miles in circuit,” and he recorded six major floods between  December 1880 and October  1881

By then the stone weir had been in place for nearly a century.  It had been built after a heavy flood in August 1799 had broken the banks where Chorlton Brook joined the Mersey.  This had led to fears that the Bridgewater Aqueduct across the flood plain could be damaged in a subsequent flood.

The weir was designed to divert flood water from the Mersey down channels harmlessly out to Stretford and the Kicketty Brook.  Not that it always worked.  Soon after it had been built flood water swept it away and during the nineteenth century neither the weir nor the river banks prevented the Mersey bursting out across the plain.

This happened in 1840 and in the following year it was rebuilt by the engineer William Cubitt. After litigation the cost of repair was borne by the Bridgewater Trust who paid out £1,500, the Turnpike Commissioners £500, Thomas de Trafford £1,000 and Wilbraham Egerton £1,000.

Today, standing beside the weir you get little sense of the force of the river in full flood. In the winter there can be a pool of water at its base stretching out across the plain but on many occasion in the past on warm summer’s days even this bit of land can be bone dry.

And likewise the Kickety Brook seems just an overgrown and quite forgotten bit of water. The last time the weir took an overflow of flood water was 1915 when these two pictures were taken.

Pictures; Higgibotham's field in flood, 1946, from a painting by J Montgomery, 1963, m80092, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and 1915 pictures from the Lloyd collection