Thursday, 30 March 2017

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 82 ......... Whispering Dave and the gas inspector

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

A boy, a horse and a delivery van, circa 1900
Now I have been thinking about just how many people might wander through a house in its life time.

It may seem a rather silly thing to spend time on but those visitors will all have stories to tell and many will tell us as much about our collective past as they do about the house.

So over the years in this house there will have been a whole host of causal callers from the milk man to the gas inspector along with the dustman and the errand boy.

"Deliveries daily," 1928
And each of those four reflects the wide changes that the country has gone through in a century.

Few people today still rely on a daily milk delivery and yet until a short time ago the familiar clink of bottles on the door step acted as a second alarm call of the morning.

In the same way the practice of putting all your rubbish into one metal dustbin which was then manually lifted into a dust cart is now as distant as the telegram.

But some of those old services have returned albeit in a slightly different guise.

The arrival of the errand boy on his bike with the groceries vanished in the 1960s but has returned with a man or woman in a van and now ordered up online rather than the old fashioned way of sending a hand written note to the shop keeper.

And only last week we were told to prepare for the installation of  “smart” gas and electricity meters which means I will no longer have to send the readings to our energy provider, who incidentally is no longer the Gas Board with office in the Town Hall but a huge multinational company with headquarters somewhere else in the world.

Salford women gas inspectors, 1917 
The quarterly knock on the door from the meter man highlights also that period during the Great War when many local authorities employed women to carry out the readings.

It was a short lived practice lasting only as long as the war persisted and was stopped pretty much as the guns fell silent.

Nor had the practice been universally accepted with women facing opposition from work colleagues and those in charge.

In 1918 Mr Frederick A Price the superintendant of the Manchester Gas Department reporting to the Gas Committee of Manchester Corporation on the work of the 31 women clerks and 85 women meter inspectors concluded that while they were “good and careful workers” and were “industrious and painstaking, they lacked initiative, were not capable of discharging the higher administrative duties [and lacked] the necessary imagination and concentration with the power of organisation” added to which they “liked to indulge in a little gossip.” **

I will never know just who and how many casual callers Joe and Mary Ann let across the door step or for that matter who their friends were.

French friends, 1975
I do now that occasionally they entertained the odd tenant who lived in one of their houses and called with a problem.

The Scott’s occupied the house for over fifty years but by 1976 we were here and something of the comings and goings I can recall.

We had family up as you would expect along with close friends and then for the short period that Mike John and Lois shared the house there were plenty of people dropping in.

These included the French friends who stayed for short periods, and work mates like Whispering Dave who worked at North Manchester High School.

Building the boat, 1975
I never quite knew why he acquired the nickname, possibly because he looked a little like a popular DJ or it might have been his low voice.

He seemed to arrive around tea time and stayed for a while after he had eaten helping John build the boat which grew in the back garden from a skeleton of wooden beams to a fully equipped ocean going sailing craft.

Less welcome on reflection were some who washed up on the door step, were taken in and later abused the hospitality but in the long forty-one years we have been here they were few.

And that seems a positive note to close on, adding only that like the Scott’s we gave shelter to a whole shed load of animals but unlike all the other families who lived here we were the only ones to have children in the house.

A first which was bettered by that simple fact that our Saul was born here in the house in the big bed in the big bedroom.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures;errand boy from the collection of Tony Walker, advert for T.C.Whitaker, 1928 St Clement's Bazaar Handbook,  Salford women gas inspectors, 1917, m08110,, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the reaming images from the collections of Lois Elsden and Andrew Simpson

*The story of house,

** Women at Mens’ Work, Manchester Guardian, January 5, 1918, quoted from Manchester Remembering 1914-18, Andrew Simpson, 2017

An invitation to the church do and the story of Peter Wakeman

The invitation 
Until a few days ago I had no idea that Peter Wakenham ever existed, but he did and he has left an interesting paper trail for a man who described himself as a labourer.

We know where he lived in the middle decades of the 19th century, the names of his wife, two children and when he died.

To this we can also add his birth year and the fact that on September 5th 1833 he was invited to the slap up meal in honour of the Rev. J.K. Shaw Brooke who had completed fifty years as the vicar of Eltham

Now none of this is unusual but men like Peter have tended to be forgotten by history.  It is not that they have been written out but rather no one thought them significant enough to be written in.

Peter in Court Yard from the 1841 census 
All of which is a shame because Peter lived in Eltham for 74 years, worked the land as an agricultural labourer and unlike some of his contemporaries could write his own name.

Now this we know because at the wedding of his daughter in 1840 he signed his name as a witness while both his son in law and his father left their mark. 

His signature in 1840
Illiteracy was still a real problem and to get some idea of the number of people who couldn’t read and write in 1851 the authors of  the census on Education fell back on the simple test of how many were able to sign their marriage certificate as against those who put a cross or mark. 

The “test of marriage marks” was not in itself an over accurate form of assessment as the report pointed out “the art of writing is with great facility forgotten by the poor who find no application for it, while for various causes some who can write nevertheless decline to sign the register.”*

It did however show that the number of people signing with a mark had progressively been dropping from 1839. In that year it was 41.6%, in 1840, 42%, and down to 40.8% in 1841 and by 1851 was 38%.

Wedding record for Ann Wakeham in 1840
And while there was a 4% fall in the numbers of men and women who used their mark this hid a disparity between the sexes. Men using their mark dropped from 33.7% in 1839 to 30.8% in 1851 while in women it fell from 49.5% to 45.3%,

But both his children could write.  Ann signed her name at her wedding and his son was to rise to become a farm bailiff.

What is more remarkable is the way that Peter came to my attention.  There were plenty of agricultural labourers in Eltham all of whom have been remembered in some official records but by sheer chance Peter’s invitation to the Jubilee dinner for Shaw Brooke survived and was recorded by the historian R.R.C. Gregory.

The invitation
One side was printed “1833. Eltham Jubilee, in commemoration of the 50th year the Rev. J.K. Shaw Brooke has resided within the parish as Vicar, universally beloved and respected” and invited “Peter Wakemean ... to partake on Thursday , the 5th day of September, of a dinner provided by public subscription in token of the respect and regard entertained the Vicar of the Parish Of Eltham, 1833

N.B. You are quested to wear this card with the other side in front, in a conspicuous manner, to attend on the day in the Court Yard and to bring with you a knife and fork.”

And that was what Peter Wakeman did for according to Mr Gregory “around the card are the needle marks to shew that it had been carefully sewn upon some conspicuous part of his attire.”**

The day went well and the invitation card was kept, eventually being attached to the back of an engraving of the vicar where it stayed for nearly 75 years.

Court Yard in 1844
Peter died in 1852 and for part of his later years he had lived with his son and family.  Before that we have him on Court Yard which was a densely packed row of 17 houses on the east side and another smaller group facing them.

I can’t place him exactly along the row but this was where he was in 1833 and where he was still living eight years later.

But there is still more to do.  Sadly the parish records are incomplete for the period that his children would have been baptised, but the entry for 1815 gives us the name of his daughter Ann and his wife Sarah. 

Now the hunt is on for both Ann and Sarah.  At present I know Sarah married in Woolwich in 1840 and that Sarah had died before the June of 1841, but there will be more.

It is all just a matter of patient research and perhaps another lucky break like the invitation card, which is how I like my history, a bit messy and always full of surprises.

Next; A walk down Court Yard in the June of 1841

Baptismal record of Ann Wakeman 1815
Pictures; of Peter’s invitation card from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on 
The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, detail of Eltham High Street, 1843 from the Tithe map for Eltham courtesy of Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone,

*1851 Census of Great Britain on Education

**The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909

Baptismal records and census extracts from courtesy of The National Archives

Sarah Sutton, a life lived out on the Row

There are no pictures of Sarah Sutton, nor to my knowledge has she left a diary, or anything which might tell me about her life.

She was born in 1821 in Withington and lived with her husband in a wattle and daub cottage on the Row*. She died in the same cottage 70 years later. Her husband Samuel was a farm labourer which was about what most people did here in Chorlton in the first five decades of the 19th century.
Sutton's Cottage 1892

Unlike the wives of the well to do or even some of the farming families she had no servants to help her.

In the spring of 1851 she had two children under the age of eight, was married to a labourer and had the added responsibility of an infirm father in law.

So tracking her working day is a good start to understanding the daily routines of running a house.

Keeping a wattle and daub cottage clean was no easy task. Plaster walls tended to crumble, the roof of thatch could be home to vermin, and the stone or brick floors were damp and in need of constant sweeping.

The interior will have been similar to these pictures from a one up one down brck cottage which stood on Maitland avenue until the 1930s.

Her day would begin at six in the summer and not much later in the winter months. One of the first chores was the collection of water. This might come from a well or the pump in the Bailey farm yard opposite. She may also have used the fish pond on the Row, which was next to her cottage. In having a supply so close Sarah was lucky, for other people on the Row the regular daily journey back with a bucket of water would be a much longer journey. And this simple task would be mirrored across the township and beyond.

Downstairs room Maitland Cottage circa 1930
Water was needed for cooking drinking and washing and there would be a number of journeys to collect it. 

The next task of the day would have been laying and lighting the fire. This may have used wood or possibly coal. 

But traditional wattle and daub fire places were large and not suited for burning coal which needs a smaller fire place and an efficient flu to draw the flame. The compromise was to reduce the size of the fire place which would allow the use of coal now readily available from the Duke’s Canal.

The move from wood to coal may have been underway during the 1850s and while no one was selling the fuel in the township in 1851 there were a number of coal dealers recorded a decade later.

Once the fire had been made and breakfast served, there were beds to be aired, plates washed and the floor swept. Rugs and mats were taken out and banged against the wall, and even before the floor was swept and scrubbed in damp weather the stone flags had to be scrapped with a an old knife blade to loosen the trodden in mud.

But this simple task could only be done after Samuel had gone off to work and her son John who was seven to school. This left baby Ann who was just one and would have required frequent attention. It is likely that Sarah could have relied on one of her neighbours living in the same row. The midday meal needed preparing and if her husband was working too far away his meal would have either been prepared before he left or taken out to him which might have fallen to her son John.

Downstairs room Maitland Cottage showing boxed staircase circa 1930
Most rural families like the Suttons had a diet heavily based on vegetables. 

Some of these were available from the cottage garden, including the all important cabbages and potatoes as well as onions, carrots, parsnips and broad beans.

They were lucky enough to have an orchard behind their home and there may have been opportunities to collect some of the windfall.

 And like many cottage gardens there were also currant and gooseberry bushes, raspberry canes and rhubarb. Gooseberries were ready by June and were popular in the north where there were competitions and societies.

Sarah would also have grown some flowers and one that has survived and still grows on the site of her cottage is greater celandine. It has beautiful yellow flowers and like many that Sarah and others would have grown also had medical properties. Greater celandine is toxic but according to various sources in the right doses can be used for therapeutic uses. She may well have used it as a mild sedative to treat asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough along with other complaints including warts. But it is toxic nature and so not one to try at home.

It still grows on the site at the corner of Wilton and Beech Roads and may be one of the last survivors of our cottage gardens. My botanist fried David Bishop spotted it some time ago and wrote about on his blog.

In the back garden there may have been an area reserved for keeping chickens. Eggs could be expensive and keeping chickens not only avoided having to buy them but could be a small extra form of revenue. So in

1851 the price of a dozen eggs ranged from 4d [2p] in the summer to 8d [4p] later in the year. The family pig was another means of supplementing the family diet and might provide meat for up to seven months. It would be bought in the spring from a local farmer who might wait to the animal was killed and the meat sold before receiving payment in the autumn. This was the only way that some families could afford the cost of a pig which might be between 20s and 25s [£1-£2.25p].
Site of Sutton's Cottage, 2010

But it is unlikely that all their needs could be met from what they grew. Much research has shown that at best the garden supplemented the food they bought. But some might be gathered for free.

There were many wild fruits and plants across the township for the collecting. Wine might be made from a variety of flowers as well as fruit and for those who knew where to look there were rich sources of plants which could enhance cooked dishes.

Pictures; Sutton’s Cottage circa 1892, photograph from the Wesleyan Souvenir Handbook of 1895  and interior of the cottage on Maitland Avenue in the collection of Philip Lloyd, the site today of the cottage on the corner of Beech Road and Wilton Road, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Row is now Beech Road

Lost and forgotten streets of Salford nu 10 .......... under the arches of Bury Street and beyond

The short trip through the gloom of the railway arches brings you out on a stretch of Bury Road flanked by modern retail and residential properties and ends in a narrow alley.

Along the way you can wander off up one dead end or take the two streets off to the right which will bring you to Blackfriars Road.

Now I thought about digging deep into its history, but instead wonder what other people remember of the buildings, and the people which occupied Bury Street in the time before now.

Location; Salford

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

Italy 2016

We were out exploring and came across the castle, high on a hill.

It dated back to to the 16th century.

Location; Italy

Pictures; Adriatica, 2016 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

War Baby ......... stories by Eddy Newport no 30 .............. Muffin the Mule, Oxleas Woods and a model sailing boat

Another in the series by Eddy Newport taken from his book, History of a War Baby.

The Woods, 1976
I had many fights with my brother Dave.

I would tease him until he lost his temper and chase me round the bungalow with a stick trying to hit me with it.

I defended myself with a dustbin lid. Soon my jealousy was to hold no bounds. David’s friend Olive (our neighbour) parents bought a brand new television set and David was invited in to see it.

A television circa 1950s
TV had just started to become popular. That expense was far too much for our family. I did get in once or twice to see it, but not as regular as David. He watched the children’s hour with Muffin the Mule, Hank the cowboy and other visual delights on children’s hour, all this was excluded from me.

The feeling of the unjustness of it all on a 12-year-old, was too much, and I would tease and fight with David even more. As I was bigger I always got the better of the hassles. My mum said to me “One day David will beat you and then you will be sorry” how true that statement was to be. I guess I got what I deserve. We are very close now.

At the bottom of our  garden was a large fence, the other side of it was a Government Training Centre. An establishment set up by the government to help men after the war to get some qualifications to acquire skilled jobs like plumbing carpenters, electricians, gas fitters and hairdressing.

The later being the most popular with the local establishment. Volunteers were asked to be victims to the trainees for practicing their hair cutting skills. On Saturdays, the children were allowed in to have their haircuts. We would queue up at the gate and then taken through to the large room with all the prospective barbers would be waiting. Depending on who you got, and how much experience he had, you either had a good or bad hair cut. All this was for free so our parents did not worry, too much, as to how their kids looked like when they came home.

Blackheath looking out towards the Common 1976
I remember one Christmas when I was given a model sailing yacht as a present which I was very keen to try out. The nearest pond was the Prince of Wales Pond in Blackheath near the pub of the same name. This pond was very popular with small boating enthusiasts who would bring all types to sail.

Model tug boats, jet propelled boats, all sorts The jets were very exciting to watch as these were set up tethered up to a post set in the middle of the pond, the boat would be set off under a jet propelled engine and go round and round at incredible speed until it stopped, crashed or in some cases flew off its cable and ended up going over the grass beside the pond.

Sometimes a sailing boat would get in its way with the end resulting in damaged boats and a few cross words. I would not let dad rest until he took me to the pond to sail my new boat. She looked magnificent when the wind filled her sails and she took off over the pond. I was very proud of that boat.

Our social life was taken up with visits to Kennington to visit Nanny Hicks or Dulwich to visit our Nan and Granddad Newport. Other occasions were spent in visiting aunts, uncles and cousins.Special times were had when cousins Brian, Freddie and Doreen came to visit us. They lost their dad to illness (Uncle Fred) and came down with Aunt Jennie. They loved visiting us what was to them “the country” There were several wooded areas around and we would go off and explore them. I was to tag along with the two boys and I loved it. Close by in Birdbrook Road lived uncle’s Fred’s brother and his two children Vera and Alan and so they had to pop in to see them whilst they were visiting us. A case of two relations visited, for the price of one journey.

Those Woods again
On hot days we would go up Board Walk, which was about two miles long, to visit Oxleas, Jack and Castle Woods at Shooters Hill.

We would pack a picnic and off we go. These woods is an ancient forest and were famous for the hiding place of the notorious highwayman Dick Turpin, who robbed coaches going up the hill as they slowed down.

Shooter Hill was part of the Roman road Watling Street and the main road to Canterbury and Dover. In the middle of Castle woods was an old folly that looked like a castle tower.

The top of the tower could be seen poking out above the canopy of the woods. This had been converted into a café and for a few pence, one could go up the tower and see the view of London and Kent from its top. This was the climax of our day out.The long walk home back along Broad Walk was an effort and when we got home we were ready for our beds exhausted but happy

Dad about this time enrolled me in the Cub Scouts. The scout hall was adjacent to the church of St James’s in Kidbrooke Park Road. St James’s church had a very tall spire but was bombed during the war and was just a shell of a building.

Next door was a prefabricated building which was used for the services.

Mum had Geoffrey christened there and once we reached a suitable age David and I were sent off to the Sunday school.

What I remember of my time in the cubs was good. I enjoyed the games and I was taught a lot of necessary things to get a badge to sew onto my green jerseys.

I managed to become a sixer which meant I had two silver stars on my cap. I felt confident and important and good about myself.

That was until I went up into the scouts proper and I could not handle the bullying and complexity of what I had to learn there so I left and that was the end of my scouting days.

Soon I was to gain my real freedom, dad got me a bike. Unfortunately, it was a smaller one than my friends had, and a little bit disappointed that it was a ladies bike without a crossbar.

It did, however, give me the freedom to roam wherever I wanted to go. Now I could explore my local area and I was off.

My friends and I went all over the area. All about us was trees to climb, fields to play in and streams to build dams in. A wonderful life at that time, not a care or a worry in the world just a boy having fun.

© Eddy Newport 2017

Pictures;the Woods, the 1950s television and Blackheath from the collection of Andrew Simpson and remaining pictures courtesy of  Eddy Newport

On having not one but three other families .........

My great aunt and the Pember family in Canada, 1947
“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.”*

And anyone who has spent any time researching their family history can testify to that.

The surprises, along with the challenges to what you have been told can be challenging but also rewarding.

Now I am realistic enough to know that there was never a Princess, Duke or famous scientist in our family so no chance of being disappointed at the family story being shown to be fiction.

We were agricultural workers from the Highlands and the Midlands with an equal number of peasants from the lands around Cologne.

That said there is still an unexplored link with the sub Continent but even there we seem to  be dealing with seaman and stewards who worked the liners and tramp steamers that connected the great Empires of Europe with their far flung colonies and not  the dazzling family of an Indian ancestral dynasty.

Not that this is another of those ten point accounts of one person’s family history.

Instead it is a more general reflection on how family history can confront you with a mix of intellectual demands, some pretty harrowing stories and lots of the unexpected.

For me digging deep into the family past is about matching their lives with the bigger picture, otherwise how can you make sense of their experiences, their triumphs and disasters?

So to learn that one of the family was the first to get a University degree, when just four generations before most were illiterate and put a mark against official documents  is to see the transition in a family’s fortunes in a new light.

But it can also be a challenge and bring you up short to discover a close relative committed suicide or spent time in the Workhouse.

Nora Hall and children, that other family circa 1915
These are the sorts of revelations which do make you ponder on whether what you are doing is in some way a tad voyeuristic.

But then that bigger picture enables you to see that the Workhouse was a reality for many in the 19th century and that it walked beside a lot of working class families as a place not just of last resort but also a place to be used as an expedient when times were temporarily difficult.

And yet as grim as some discoveries can be there is the upside, when you come across new members of your family with their own histories to add to your own.

So just over four years ago I came across a second family.  They were the children of my great grandfather who having separated from my great grandmother, went off and married Nora, in Gravesend and in the fullness of time had another five children to add to the surviving four from his relationship with my great grandmother, Eliza.

And only this week a cousin in Canada who I had never spoken to made contact and the process of sharing and discovery began all over again.

Two nephews of my grandmother circa 1938
In the process all of us have learnt more not only about our immediate ancestors but a lot about the places and times that shaped their lives and by extension ours.

Nor is that quite it, because for many of us what starts as a vague wish to know more about great aunt Dolly becomes something much more.

It starts with talking a whole raft of new disciplines from research and writing up the stories, to getging involved in teaching the very skills which just a few months before you were mastering for the first time.

Not bad for a subscription to Ancestry and a trawl of old family documents.

Pictures; from the Pember family, Nita Luce and the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Monty Python