Tuesday, 22 August 2017

A soldier of the Great War ............ George Henry Longstaff, 1879-1917

This is the grave of George Henry Longstaff who died April 29 1917 in Bradford Hospital and was buried in Prestwich Cemetery and given he belonged to the Canadian Expeditionary Force I wondered at the story which led from Canada to Prestwich.

And there was indeed a story which started not in Canada but in Lancashire in 1897 where Private Longstaff was born.

In time I will search out his early life, but I know that by 1901 he was working in the Preswich District Lunatic Asylum as an “attendant upon the in the insane.”  His father has also worked in the same hospital.

He married Margaret Mary Hindley in 1903 and left for Canada three years later where he became a “rancher.”

And in 1915 he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and sailed the following year for Britain.

He arrived in France in January 1917, and a month later was “in the Field,” sustained gunshot wounds, and was transferred back to Britain where he died of those wounds in the April of 1917.

We are fortunate in that we have his entire military records which include his will, and a description.

He was 5 feet 9½ tall, with a “fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.”

I would like to think his family which included eight siblings visited his grave, although sadly as Antony’s picture bears witness looks a little forgotten today.

So I am pleased Antony came across the grave and we were able to find out something of Private Longstaff.

Location; Prestwich, & Canada

Picture; the grave of Private George Henry Longstaff, Prestwich Cemetery, 2017 courtesy of Antony Mills

*Library and Archives Canada, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/first-world-war/personnel-records/Pages/image.aspx?Image=471147a&URLjpg=http%3a%2f%2fcentral.bac-lac.gc.ca%2f.item%2f%3fop%3dimg%26app%3dCEF%26id%3d471147a&


Tracking the age of your house in Chorlton

Now one of the first golden rules of research is that you never turn down any information you are given.

It might not fit with what you are doing but from experience it will sometime in the future.
Age of Buildings of chosen area

All of which is why I leapt at the offer from Phil Portus of an undergraduate project he undertook on Chorlton in the summer of 1968.*

Phil was in his first year of a Geography and Geology BSc and set out to answer the question “to what extent did Urban growth after 1850 proceed within the physical framework of pre-existing patterns of land ownership” which involved using the tithe map of 1844 and comparing it with OS maps of the period from the 1840s across the rest of that century and into the next.

The final piece of work included his written answer along with a series of beautifully drawn maps and overlays showing land ownership in 1844, the age of buildings from before 1844 through to 1955 and two detailed overlays of land ownership and the age of properties on the northern side of Beech Road from St Clements to Barlow Moor Road and back to Hardy Lane.

What is all the more remarkable is that this of course was done before the internet which meant that there was no recourse to online searches and pretty much everything was drawn from documents held in the archives and local history library down at the Ref.

And judging by his conclusions also involved a lot of field work out on Beech Road and the neighbouring roads observing the properties and matching their position against the field boundaries and the tithe plan.

All of which contributes to our knowledge of the history of Chorlton.

Detail from Age of buildings in chosen area
But like all research it also offers up unexpected information and prompts for further research.

So while I knew that the social housing which stretches south down Barlow Moor Road dated from before the Second World War I had never researched it in enough detail to come up with an end date of 1923.

Likewise Phil confirmed what I always suspected that small pockets of infill development around Ivy Green were undertaken between 1939 and 55.

Which just then left those unintended consequences, like the date that Church Road became Chequers.

Now I am not alone in spotting just how many name changes were made, and plenty of people have their own personal one, but I had always been puzzled as to when this might have happened.

The logical date was when we voted to join the city in 1904 but the changes were much later with people suggesting the late 1960s or early 70s and Phil at least has confirmed that Church Road was still in use in 1968.
That said Stephen has commented, "I can't agree with the idea that Chequers Road only got that name as late as 1968. I was at St John's RC primary school from 1955 to 1962, and it was Chequers Road then. 

Maybe some locals still referred to the old name. I still think of Zetland Road as Holland Road, it's old name, as the name change took place after I had ceased to use it on a daily basis to get to and from school."

So there you have it, a piece of research undertaken forty-nine years ago which  is still doing the business but may need a revisit.

*Salford Project, http://www.philportus.co.uk/salford-project/

Picture; overlay of properties on the north side of Beech Road, 1968 courtesy of Phil Portus

Barclay’s Sparkling Beer ....... a journey from Well Hall across to Southwark and on to Imperial Russia and Khartoum

Now even I have to admit that it isn't the most zippy title but it does pretty much sum up the journey I have been on.

After all when Steve Bardrick turned up two cans of Barclay’s Export Sparkling Beer and posted them on the Well Hall site I was hooked.

For a start it's the Sparkling Beer title that draws you in along with the faded blue cans and screw tops.

All of which set me off on a journey which took me to stories of working on the docks and managing to get hold of blue cans of the stuff which according to one source were offered up cheaply to ships crews.

“In the 70s-80s ships crews could buy a ration of duty free beer. 

The most popular by far were "Blue Cans" or Barclay's Sparkling Bitter, to give it its correct name. 

They cost 13p for a 33cl can and I believe they must have been around 7% alcohol as they made your gums tingle!”*

Barclay Perkins was a brewery which dated back to the 17th century and merged with Courage in 1955.

Both had breweries in Southwark but while Courage made Porter Barclay Perkins went into lager in the 19th century exported to Imperial Russia and even set up a brewery in Khartoum.

There is lots more but it all takes us a long way from that garden in Well Hall any way there will be someone who knows heaps more about the blue cans and the brewery.

But like others I am intrigued to know what the contents tasted like.

Location; Well Hall, Eltham

Picture; two cans of Barclay’s Sparkling Beer, found in a garden in Well Hall, 2016, courtesy of Steve Bardrick

*Does anyone remember "Blue Cans?", The Home Brew Forum,


A Wednesday afternoon in Varese


It was just another ordinary afternoon in Varese, the sun was hot, it was getting on to late afternoon and I was waiting on the family who were clothes shopping.

So as you do I wandered up and down one of the fashionable streets taking in the street musicians, the cafe,s and the people eating ice cream.

The Corso Giacomo Matteotti is one of my favourite parts of the city.  Here you can find posh clothes outlets, elegant cafes and wonderful food shops ranging from the expensive bakery to ordinary fruit and veg shops a fishmonger and a butcher.

It is named after the socialist MP who denounced the fascists in the Italian Parliament for election bribery in 1924 and was murdered by them just 11 days later.

The area was once a monastery and little bits of it are still there hidden behind later buildings including two wonderful cloistered spots which  offer havens of peace off the busy thoroughfare.

And I kept coming across a group of men who just kept walking up and down, talking, stopping and then moving on.  I followed them  up the street and back down and then back again.

Every so often they looked as if they were about to part company but then they were drawn back together.

Perhaps for an hour and half I watched them before finally two walked off, but the others remained.

Location, Italy

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Bowling along on the Berlin Tram

Now I will apologise at the outset for the title and move on, to the interesting stuff.

The Berlin network is one of the oldest, having been established in 1865 and is the third largest tram system in the world beaten only by Melbourne and St Petersburg.

It runs 22 lines covering 430 kilometres and boasts 800 stops.

All of which made it a perfect subject for Peter to paint.

Now there are plenty more fascinating facts but I shall leave them for another day.

That said there will be plenty out there who will have lots to say including Peter who has done the Berlin tram routes and is therefore a better authority than me.

Location; Berlin

Painting; the Berlin tram © Peter Topping, 2008

Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Facebook: Paintings from Pictures https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures




Collier Street Baths Salford


Now I went looking for the old baths on Collier Street recently prompted by a series of pictures taken by Andy Robertson.

And I have to say it wasn’t the actual building I was searching for.

Andy has done a fine job of recording them as they stand today, so I went off to search for the history of the baths.

I know that they were built on the site of the Salford Workhouse by the Manchester and Salford Baths & Laundries Company which built similar baths in Manchester.*

And that they were designed by Thomas Worthington who was also responsible for the Infirmary at the Chorlton Workhouse.

Some of the building has been demolished and what is left is a Grade 11 listed building.

But as Andy’s pictures’ show it is in a sorry state, and the level of dereliction appears to be advancing.

Looking at photographs from two years ago and comparing those with some from February along with Andy’s it is hard to see what future it can have.

Now I am sure I may have missed a detailed piece of research on the place and likewise overlooked a plan to save it, all of which I hope will be pointed out to me, but in the meantime I would get down there before it has gone.

And once that has been done there is always the Eagle Inn which according to one source is a “hidden gem of a traditional back street boozer and commonly known to the locals as the Lamp Oil. 

There are three small rooms off a central corridor with a central bar serving Holt Bitter. 


It is a Grade II listed building dating from 1902. 

There is a fine terracotta plaque of an eagle with the name above the door and for years this was the only pub sign.”**


Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson July 1014





*Greengate Baths, Collier Street, http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/leisure-sites/87442-greengate-baths-collier-street-salford-14-02-14-a.html

**What Pub?,  http://whatpub.com/pubs/MAN/9899/eagle-inn-salford

Monday, 21 August 2017

Missing the tram in Milan

Now it is odd just what you can miss on a visit to Milan.

Crossing under the Porta Nuova 2013
Some of our family live just a little north of the city in Varese and we sometimes take the train to Milan, but although I see them in the distance I have never caught a Milan tram.

The service began in 1881 and now extends to 170 km with 17 urban lines and one interurban line and about half of the tram lines pass by, or terminate near Piazza del Duomo.

So given that the piazza is a favourite spot you would think we would have hopped on one but no, and I don’t think I have even got a picture.

So there you are.

Location; Milan

Picture; Trams numbers 1754 and 1582 of the ATM of Milan under the Arches of Porta Nuova, 2013,  Giorgio Stagni, who as the creator has licensed the picture under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.