Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Furness Vale Local History Society

It’s always nice to be recognised and yesterday The Furness Vale Local History Society http://furnesshistory.blogspot.co.uk/ told their members of my blog and I want to return the favour.  
Furness Vale is a village in the High Peak between New Mills and Whalley Bridge. The society  hold an archive of documents, maps and photographs of the area and hold meetings on the first Tuesday of each month except July and August. A guest speaker usually presents an illustrated talk of local or regional interest. Membership is available at an annual fee of £5. For further information contact George Tomlinson 01663 742440.

Now I know Furness Vale.  It is another of those places that canal, road and a railway come together.  The High Peak Canal which was begun in 1794, completed in 1805 and connected Ashton Under Lyne with Buxworth while the railway came through fifty or so years later.  I guess at that period it would have had a similar feel to it as our township.


Pictures;  The recent and forthcoming programme of events of The Furness Vale Local History Society and detail from Bradshaw’s Canal maps 1830, courtesy of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

Belle Vue and Pomona Gardens ....... at the cutting edge of 19th century popular entertainment


Now I have to be honest and say zoos like circuses do nothing for me.  But in an age before the internet and the telly for many people the zoo and circus were their introduction to exotic animals.  After all however nice a rabbit and next door’s cat were they exotic they weren’t

And here in Manchester there was always Bell Vue Zoological Gardens, which contained not just a zoo but also an amusement park and exhibition hall.  I am told that at its peak it occupied 165 acres and attracted over two million visitors.  And yes I was one of them, usually as a part of a school trip at the end of the summer term.  If memory serves me it must have been 1974 and perhaps 75.  I know it can be no later than 1977 because that was the year the zoo closed followed three years later by the amusement park.

So this advert from Leisure and Pleasure in the Open Air 1963 which I hasten to add was not a dubious publication brings back many memories.  Here laid out are all the attractions that Bell Vue had to offer.And Bell Vue had been pulling them in since 1836.

But during the 19th century  it was not the only such place.  "Closer to home were the Botanical Gardens on Chester Road and the Pomona Gardens at Cornbrook in Hulme.    The Botanical Gardens was a more gentle place, with what one observer described as “fine specimens of trees and shrubs in the extensive arboretum and plant houses and conservatories.... holding beautiful specimens of plants collected from around the world.”    
Pomona Gardens was in contrast another of those boisterous gardens of fun.  Like Belle Vue it boasted a similar mix of attractions including “the magic bridge, Gymnasium, flying swings, bowling green, rifle shooting, romantic walks and a promenade for both adults and juveniles as well as boat trips on the Irwell.”    


In the summer of 1850 it pulled out the stops with its “Splendid representation of the ERUPTION OF MOUNT VESUVIUS, as it occurred in 1849, the most terrific on record.”   Here was the “magnificent Bay of Naples, painted and erected by the celebrated artist Mr. A.F. Tait, and extends the whole length of the lake covering upwards of 20,000 yards of canvas and is one of the Largest ever Erected in England.” 


These places truly played to the Victorian desire for self improvement with a dash of raucous fun.  So when in 1857 Manchester staged an Art Exhibition in the grounds of the Botanical Gardens it was a great success attracting great numbers of people.  Nor all of whom were from the more privileged sections of society.  Special excursion trains catering for working people were organised, with some travelling down from the north east.


Still the gardens were not cheap.  Bell Vue had originally charged a subscription ticket of 10s [50p] for a family and 5s [25p] for an individual while Pomona Gardens in the summer of 1850 demanded 1s [5p] for adults and 6d [2½p] for children.  These prices were beyond the reach of our labouring families and may have been a deliberate ploy to keep such places for the better off.  Sound commercial sense however won out and in the case of Bell Vue, the subscription tickets were abandoned in favour of a general admission price of 4d which later rose to 6d in 1851."*


Picture; from Leisure and Pleasure in the Open Air, Parks Committee Manchester Corporation 1963, courtesy of Linda Rigby
*From Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Society Transformed due out in September
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Here’s an offer you can’t refuse


It’s not every day that you get the chance to decide on becoming part of a city.

But that was exactly what happened in the January of 1904, when the ratepayers of Chorlton along with those of Burnage, Didsbury, and Withington were asked to take a leap and join the big city neighbour.

We had been part of the Withington Urban District Council since it was set up in 1876  and bits of its legacy are sill knocking around if you know where to look.  Some of the streets grids still bear the name Withington UDC and out by the meadows are the remains of the sewage works, although I have to confess my favourite bit of this long vanished little local authority is Withington Town Hall.

Now it is one of those places I have passed countless times and even once sat in the great hall during an election meeting in 1987 but at the time never really thought much of it.  I always thought of it as a pale imitation of the Town Hall in Albert Square, but then there was a time I didn’t much care for it either.   Of course I have changed my opinion about both.

In that town hall on Lapwing Lane took place some of the really important debates about the development of the township including the extension of the sewage system, the provision of more schools and of course the amalgamation with the city.
Manchester had been steadily expanding from its creation as a borough in 1838.* So it was natural that those areas to south which included the Withington UDC and Moss Side should at some point look to the advantages of being incorporated. 

For some the advantages were so clear that they openly campaigned for our inclusion.  The Withington Amalgamation League set up in 1902 argued that the rates would fall, and we would gain “libraries, baths, reduction in water and gas rates, lower cemetery charges, music in recreation grounds better fire and police protection more deliveries of letters, technical classes, shares in tramway and electricity profits and the prospect of Ship Canal and School Board rates decreasing.”**

This was for many an offer to good to refuse and one that was shared by the City Council.  At their October meeting in 1903, much was made of the assets that Withington would hand over to the Corporation, including the newly built “hospital to which attracted 20-30 acres of land, ....[and] beyond that land for a smallpox hospital, a field for the extension of the tram services and the sewage farm, 80 acres in extent.”  And as Fletcher Moss pointed out amalgamation would bring Alexandra Park “that large park into the hands of the Council” and furthermore “the Corporation was the largest ratepayer in the Withington district and by far the largest owner of freehold estate with the possible exception of Earl Egerton” which meant they would be no longer paying out rates to Withington UDC.

And it seemed only to get better.  Under the terms of amalgamation all existing staff of the Withington UDC were taken on by the Corporation and “the price and conditions of supply of gas, water and electricity to the inhabitants of Withington shall be the same as those of the citizens of Manchester.  That all future tramways inthe district of Withington shall be laid as double linesalong carriage ways not less than 32 feet wide between curbs.  That two free libraries and two swimming baths to be established in different parts of Withington within five years..... that for a period of twenty years the rate  shall not exceed 4s in the £.”  There was to be a special Withington Committee of the City Council.

Of course there was opposition some of which centred on whether the rate deal could have been improved, and the degree to which the assets were being handed over too cheaply but even these tended to accept that eventual amalgamation was inevitable.

So it fell to the vote of all rate payers which curiously was done by postcard.  “A circular on the subject to be posted to ratepayers on the Thursday of January 21st, along with a reply postcard to be returned by the morning of the 26th”which according to one aggrieved letter writer gave only the weekend and the Monday with no public meetings before returning the vote.  This might strike us as an odd way to vote but was the method which had been adopted by the various poor law councils in the townships since 1834.

The result was pretty conclusive with 4,086 voting for incorporation and 805 against.  And in the April of the same year Moss Side UDC also voted by 2,781 to 643to join the city.

Now if like me you enjoy crawling over election results then the first one of the new Chorlton Ward is fascinating.  The story of the campaign including the candidates, their election platforms will come later, but on Tuesday November 1st 1904 the electors here in Chorlton ward had a choice six candidates for three seats.  The Progressive Party fielded three, the Conservatives two and there was an independent.  In some ways the Progressives were the most interesting and you can read about them at http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/more-reflections-on-international.html

The result was bizarre, because the electors chose one from each of the parties standing, which may reflect the wish to give each party a fair chance which was how one voter told me she would vote in 1982 when all three council seats here in Chorlton were being contested.

Picture; Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, Withington Town Hall, October 16th 1906 m52133, election result from the collection of Lawrence Beedle

* When it was formed from the city centre, Ardwick, Beswick, Cheetham, Chorlton upon Medlock and Hulme.  And despite being unable to expand to the west because of Salford, took in Harpurhey, Bradford with Beswick and Rusholme in 1885, followed by Blackley, Clayton, Crumpsall, Moston, Newton Heath, Openshaw and West Gorton five years later and Heaton Park in 1903.

**The advantages to be derived by this district becoming amalgamated within the boundaries of the city of Manchester, Withington Amalgamation League, 1903

Mourning a loved one in 1850


It is easy to forget just how big was the business of catering for bereavement in the 19th century.

There were very clear guide lines about the length of mourning and the clothes one should wear.

And like all matters to do with appearances the new as well as the prevailing fashions in mourning attire were closely followed by some social classes.

I don’t know if any of our people here in Chorlton ventured to use Mr Beddoe’s but there would have been some who could have afforded him and if they did not already know he would have been able to provide “every Article for Deep or Slight Mourning of the Newest and Most Fashionable Styles.”

A far cry from the simple coffin ordered by the Bailey family of Ivy Farm on the Row* in 1854 from Richard Pearson Joiner & Builder which cost £2.  But perhaps more in line with the one ordered thirty years earlier from Mr John Renshaw who charged "£3 13s 10d for a coffin lined with flannel.”

And in these things I do not pretend to be an expert so it was something of a surprise when I came across an explanation for those broken burial pillars in parish graveyards.

We have one, and for years I supposed it had been the target of vandals or suffered from neglect.  But no the broken piece reminded those who passed that here was a life which had ended abruptly and which had not run its full course.


* The Row or Chorlton Row is now Beech Road

Pictures; from Slater's Directory of Manchester and Salford 1850 and the monument to Philip Ree in the parish graveyard from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Monday, 28 May 2012

What they tried to sell us in 1850 part three


I just wonder if some of the raspberries used by Gadsby & CO "At Albert Bridge" were sourced  from here in Chorlton.

Many of our farmers and market gardeners grew fruit for sale in the Manchester Markets, and when the contents of Red Gates farm was auctioned in the November of 1855 the advert stressed the

“Sale of Very Rich Meadow Hay, Wheat, Oats, Potatoes, Swede Turnips, Mangle Wurzel, Raspberry, Currant Trees, &c.”

It was

"The Whole of the Very Excellent Produce of Fruit Trees comprising of 45 tons of very good well got hay, about 120 thraves  Of wheat, about 170 thraves of oats, about 100 loads of potatoes  about 25 tons of swede turnips, about 20 tons of mangol wurzels, a large quantity of raspberry and currant trees and a quantity of rhubarb plants.  Sale to commence at one o’clock."  Further particulars may be had by applying to the Auctioneer, Patricoft; or 18 Cooper street, Manchester”

So the advert from Slater’s Directory of Manchester & Salford intrigues me, but I guess we will never actually know.  The auction was occasioned by the departure of the farmer, William Whitelegg who had been farming at Red Gates from at least 1841 and probably much earlier.

The story of the farm crops up quite a lot in the blog and lasted into the 20th century before becoming the site of the library in 1914.

I have also wondered the fate of William M’Ferran the “Practical Chronometer & Lever Watchmaker at 7 Victoria Street Four Doors from the Exchange Manchester.”  Now I could trawl the trade directories and hunt the census records but I think I will let William M’Ferran rest.  Suffice to say his price list is an wonderful introduction into world of Practical Chronometers with his “Lady’s Gold Pattern Lever, gold dial, beautifully engraved back” at £11 and the “Elegant London Made Ladies and Gentlemen’s GOLD CHAINS” weighing four sovereigns and selling at £4."  In contrast to a police constable’s weekly wage of £1 a week or a teacher’s annual salary of £55.

Now I have no doubt that Mr William Whitelegg had his own chronometer which might just have been paid for in part by his raspberry and currant trees.

Picture; from Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford 1850

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Coming soon, Oswald Field, five cottages, a slice of rural Chorlton and a bit of a mystery


It started as a simple story of five cottages on the edge of the township, and turned into something much more.  They were the homes of gardeners, and shoemakers and might seem nothing very remarkable but they are full of our history, and have a bit of a mystery.

And while they were demolished sometime in the 1860s they have left their foot print just off Oswald Road to this day.





Picture; detail from the 1841 OS map of Lancashire by courtesy of Digital Archives,http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/ /

Barton Arcade, a Victorian shopping experience

I think the first time I came across Barton Arcade must have been an accident. I guess it would have been in the early 1970s perhaps 1971 on one of those days when rather than sit in the library I had taken myself off to discover the city.

 Even today it is easy to miss the place. If you walk along Deansgate the two entrances are set into the Barton Building, and even from the other side it is possible to fail to glance down the narrow alley between Exchange Street and St Ann’s Square. But if you do there it is in all its Victorian glory, wall of glass and iron four storeys high.

It was built in 1871, listed as a Grade 11 building in 1972 and restored in 1980 and given our record in the late 60s and early 70s it is almost a miracle that it wasn’t demolished.

Now in the years I have known the place there has been quite a turnover in the shops on the ground floor, so the shop where we bought a settee became a lamp shop and has changed its use yet again, while what was once The Exclusive Oillly Store is a restaurant. I suppose it is the way of things. After all in the Arndale not far away retail businesses come and go.

Upstairs there are offices but I must confess I have only been up there once, looking for help for a broken camera, but sure enough there was some who could help. Of course once we had more arcades but they have all gone which is sad really because I can remember the rather rundown one in the old Corn Exchange which offered stuff that seemed unavailable elsewhere.

There are equally impressive ones. I always like going to the one in Leeds and was recently in The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan but the Barton Arcade is special, perhaps because I always associate it with a very happy time in Manchester, or just because it is a nice place.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The end of the History Trail, at the Bar on Wilbraham Road

The Bar is the end of the History Trail. And I think it is quite fitting that it should end here in this parade of shops. The story began on the green in the Horse & Jockey which is one of the oldest pubs in the township in one of the oldest buildings.
And here we are in one of the last parades of shops to be built sometime at the turn of the 20th century in the Bar which is a fine example of the new Chorlton.

There are six venues where bits of our history are on display with some of Peter’s paintings, and if you don’t know by now he is the artist and I am the story teller. In the course of rolling out the trail we discovered it would be fun to invite people to be part of the exhibition by posting a comment either on the blog or on the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON site on facebook.

 Now there is plenty to take in from the station to our first cinema. Both in the way helped transform the lives of those who lived here.

 Peter’s work is on display around Chorlton and can also be seen at https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures and details of my book, Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Community Transformed which will be published in September can be found at http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton Pictures; © Peter Topping 2012

Friday, 25 May 2012

Rare pictures of Manchester children in Canada

Now I have made no secret of my reservations of the British Home Child scheme but in researching the story I have been drawn into the work of the Manchester & Salford Boys and Girls Refuge which was founded in 1870 to give destitute children a bed for the night.

 During its first decade it broadened its activities, and the more I know of its work the more I have a lot to admire. It did send children to Canada but so did other children’s organisations.

The Together Trust which holds its records have published some of the photographs of the children that were sent from here and they appear on the blog at http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/photographs-fom-canada-1894.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed:+TogetherTrustArchive-GettingDownAndDusty+(Together+Trust+Archive+-+getting+down+and+dusty!

 They remain a fascinating archive and one that I hope will continue.

Picture; Courtesy of the Together Trust

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton, part 17 washday


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.

I want to return to stories of washday at our house sometime in the late 1920s.  It is something I have written about in the past.*

And today I want to share this picture.  It is the copper and I am sure that Mary Ann Scott would have used it on that wash day.  Not however this one. John tore out ours when he lived here briefly in the 1970s and this one sits in the cellar of our neighbour’s house.

But it is exactly like the one Mary Ann used and there was evidence in the grate of the last time it had been fired up.  I guess that might well have been sixty years ago.  Washing in the cellar would have been time consuming and heavy work.  The clothes would first have to be separated, then soaked before going into the copper and later still transferred to a tub beside the mangel, and then brought up to dry in the garden.   And each process would have involved rinsing the clothes in the sink, opposite the copper.  Until recently I never thought why the cellar floor slopes gently to the drain just outside the cellar door but of course there would have been plenty of water that needed to drain away.

Now Joe and Mary Ann may have used one of the laundries.  There was one at the bottom of Beech Road and another just around the corner on what is now Crossland Road.  Later still I guess they may have bought a washing machine.

Of course I have no way of knowing.  When John, Lois and Mike moved in after the death of Mary Ann there was only a cooker in the kitchen.  So it is just one of those mysteries which will never be solved.  And I suspect it won’t be long before this copper is also demolished and something of the history of wash day on Beech Road is lost for ever.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/100-years-of-one-house-in-chorlton-part_24.html
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/100-years-of-one-house-in-chorlton-part_27.html
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Chorlton%27s%20lost%20laundries%20and%20launderettes

West Point, Seymour Grove 1903


Another one of those pictures which don’t often get published in the collections. It is West Point, Seymour Grove 1903.
Picture; from the Lloyd collection

Thursday, 24 May 2012

What they wanted us to buy in 1850 part two

In an age before the National Health Service with no antibiotics, those that could afford it looked for any means by which they could stave off illness and remain healthy.

 Here from 1850 is a delightful advert for Mrs Holland’s Hydro-Vapour and Medicated Baths.

Picture; Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford 1850

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

"to give the poor lad a chance of becoming an honourable self respecting citizen" ..... helping the destitute children of Manchester


I don’t know the names of any of these young lads, nor the details of family or their futures.  And that is fine by me.  Everyone even those captured on a photograph over a hundred years ago deserves that much.

But I know where they were and why, and can share the story of one of them.
They are in the Strangeways Refuge for Boys on Francis Street, just off Great Ducie Street and the year is sometime around 1900.

What we do know is that some perhaps most of them were street children who had been living off their wits, not a stone’s throw from the Royal Exchange that huge expression of Manchester’s wealth and trading, in what many regarded as the second city of the country.

The Central Refuge and Workshops had been opened in 1871 by the Manchester & Salford Boys and Girls Refuge and Homes.  It was the central headquarters for their work , a home for those considered destitute and a place where the boys could be taught a trade.  The building was completed in three sections with the last in 1883 doubling the building capacity and allowing for the accommodation of 120 boys.  Here could be found a laundry, as well as the training areas, and gymnasium.

In its early years the charity just offered homeless boys a bed for the night and a meal but fairly quickly began to intervene in cases of child cruelty, campaigned against the use of young children as street hawkers, established similar refuges for girls, as well as setting up holiday camps and in 1872 started sending children to Canada.

Looking back in 1921 its historian concluded that
“Its one simple ultimate object has been throughout its career of half a century to give the poor lad a chance of becoming an honourable self respecting citizen.  Hundreds of old boys in all parts of the world refer to it in what is meant to be an affectionate appellation as ‘The Old Ref’  Its influence has gone through all the earth.”*

And there were success stories like “Joe” who came into the Refuge "wearing a pair of men’s old ragged trousers, held up by a piece of thick twine over an old striped shirt, ... while around his mud caked feet were the ends of the ragged trousers.”

Despite some early difficulties of adjusting to a new life and a period working in the Shoeblack Brigade, he joined the navy distinguished himself and settled back down with a wife and family, a “respected God-fearing citizen, living in his own house, in the employ of one of our town corporations; and what without much blame to him, he so easily might have been but for the help given, a prey and burden on Society with great loss to the State and infinite loss to himself.”**

The language strikes me as a little old fashioned and throughout the book there is little done to point a finger at the political and economic values that allowed children to end up on the streets.  But that is harsh.  There were opponents of the system at the time who spoke and campaigned for a better world and then there were those that accepted that it was happening but did their utmost to save what they could.

There is no easy answer and as I reflect on that debate I shall continue to dig deeper into the charity’s work.

Pictures; Strangeways Refuge courtesy of the Together Trust, details of the refuge buildings from Goad’s Fire Insurance Plans, courtesy of Digital Archives http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/
*Edmundson,William, Making Rough Places Plain, Manchester 1921
**Edmundon, page 53-54
Read the Together Trust's blog at  http://www.togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In the summer of 1906


It is the July of 1906 and you are looking at the school athletic ground.  The picture I think perfectly conveys that image of mid Edwardian Britain.  On the surface the country seems at ease with itself, the weather that year was good and from August through to September we experienced a heat wave. 

Of course the realities were a little different.  There was a European arms race, a growing mistrust of the military and imperialist ambitions of Germany and at home the simmering class conflict which was about to break out into a period of industrial unrest. http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Story%20of%20a%20strike%20and%20of%20strikes%20yet%20to%20come

1906 was also the year that the Woman’s Social and Political Union stepped up their campaign for an extension of the vote to women.  And with hindsight we know that this peaceful scene will itself be changed dramatically by the Great War.*

But I want to finish by returning to the suffragettes, and in particular to Ada Chew, who chose not to chain herself to street railings, break the windows of politicians or end up in prison being forced fed.  She was not a suffragette, choosing instead to campaign within the labour movement for the vote.

Born in 1870, while working in a clothes factory in her 20s she was sacked for writing articles to the local newspaper criticising working conditions. From there she became active in the Independent Labour Party and in 1896 toured the north east of England in the Clarion Van arguing the case for socialism.

And during the next two decades continued to be active in the labour movement as an organiser for the Women’s Trade Union League and then from 1911 to 1914 for the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. 

This was the body which the WSPU had broken with over the issue of militant action and of course it is the WSPU which often features in the history books.  But the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was no mild debating group.  In 1912 it established the Elections Fighting Fund Committee (EFF) headed by Catherine Marshall which intervened in four by-elections campaigning for the Labour Party against Government candidates.  Labour had committed itself to opposing any franchaise bill which did not include votes for women and while the Party failed to win any of the four elections the Liberals lost two.

It would be nice to think that in that summer of 1906 some of the people captured on our photograph were already moved by the issue of votes for women.  Of course we will never know.

Pictures; the Athletic ground from the Lloyd collection and British suffragette with a poster, giving out newspapers from the Pankhurst Society web site http://www.thepankhurstcentre.org.uk/museum/suffragette-history

*stories of Chorlton during the Great War can be read at http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Chorlton%20and%20the%20Great%20War


Monday, 21 May 2012

Memories of one house on Beech Road


My mother always reckoned that if there was one certainty in life it was history.  After all as she would say “a fact is a fact” and so if you found enough of them and put them together you had a pretty clear idea of what happened in the past.

But as I have learned it is how you put them together, and what you want to make of them and so just because the world thinks Richard 111 was a thoroughly bad chap and that the Battle of Hastings was on balance a good thing, these are judgements which only work if you choose your facts selectively.

Now over the last few months I have been writing about the house we live in, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20story%20of%20a%20house

It began as affectionate set of stories about One hundred years of one house in Chorlton, or the continuing story of the house that Joe and Mary Ann Scot lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.  And as it bumped along over 16 episodes it turned into a reflection on how Chorlton has changed.  I too have been selective about the changes I chose to write about and the pictures and facts that helped tell the tales, which meant it remained a personal account of the place I washed up in during December 1976, and bought a few years later.

So it was with a lot of pleasure that I realized that my old friend Lois who also lived here had written about her memories of the same house at the same time http://loiselsden.wordpress.com/2012/05/20/a-house-with-a-heart/

It is a wonderful take on how a house becomes part of the people who live in it, and just goes to show what facts can do when used by a good writer.

Picture; the house sometime in the mid 1970s, from the collection of Lois Elsden

Westonby, a lost house on Edge Lane


I went looking for Westonby yesterday.  It stood on Edge Lane in an extensive set of grounds which extended south to Turn Moss Road and back along Edge Lane almost opposite Alderfield Road.

It was built some distance from the main road and from the north and east there were fine views of open land which took in Turn Moss all the way down to the farm and the old road.

Some its grandeur can be got from the advert which appeared in 1905 announcing its auction, just two years after it had been built.

Now I can track the residents during the early years and with a bit of research could find out when it was demolished, for demolished it was, and judging by the style of the houses I would guess sometime in the 1940s or 50s.  It was just too big for that period and just like some of the other fine houses along Edge Lane fell to the developers who replaced these old rambling places with smaller town houses and blocks of flats.

I rather think there is a story here which says much about the development of Chorlton and fits with what I wrote recently http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/one-hundred-years-of-one-house-in.html

Sadly I can find no pictures of Westonby and I doubt that there is anyone who remembers the old pile.  But I am a persistent sort of chap.  In time I shall trawl the directories for the years after 1911 looking for the moment the place disappears from the lists, have a go at looking at the story of the people who lived there and maybe just maybe come up another advert for the pace or even a description.  We shall see.
Picture; advert from the Manchester Guardian, May 20th 1905

Gossip and the Guardian, a newspaper from 1963


Now I stopped reading the Guardian in the mid ‘80s, switched to the Independent and near the end of the last century  started reading the Telegraph, not I hasten to add out of a profound ideological change but more because it was the best way of knowing how the “other side thought”.

And during a year when the sections of the press worked hard to discredit journalism and when reporting elections has often been reduced to personalities, I came across this old fashioned restatement of what some newspapers set out to do.

It comes from 1963, when a tired Tory Government was looking decidedly terminal and when were still at the height of the Cold War.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The war diary lost in a celllar


Now I belong to the generation that grew up directly after the last world war.  

Neither my parents or grandparents talked much about it and so most of what I knew came from those old British “stiff upper lip steady as you go” movies and the bombsites which littered where I grew up.

These I took for granted, played on them and just occasionally wrenched “treasures” from discarded corners.

It has become a bit of a family joke, where my boys fake a London accent and lampoon me whenever I talk about playing on bombsites.

But then that was what we did.  London was full of them.  The rubble had been cleared away and the remnants of buildings made safe but they were everywhere.

Just across from us where a row of six houses had been hit, there was still a gigantic brick water pit, made from clearing the debris from the cellars, bricking up the sides and filling it with water to assist with fires during raids.  And less than five minutes walk away was another.

Now I write about these not out of some cosy nostalgic post war reminiscences but more as a reflection on how that war had impacted on the first peace time generation and as a reminder of how those very visible signs of the conflict have all but vanished.

The bomb sites have been built on, most of the temporary air raid shelters put up in back gardens have rusted away and even the painted signs indicating public shelters are so faded that they are beyond recognition.

So it was a delightful surprise when my friend Linda told me of the discovery of a war time diary painted on two plywood boards and nailed to the coal cellar walls of her house on Claude Road.  They were the work of young student at Whalley Range School who kept a record of the air raids during 1940-41.

They are a mix of what was happening here in Chorlton with descriptions of the raids on Manchester and further away.  And what makes them so valuable is that they record those tiny events which never make the headlines, but are central to the lives of the small people caught up in a great moment in history.

And so on Tuesday October 9th 1940 there was from 8.23 till just gone 10 “everything with incendiaries in road behind” and on the following night “the worst yet Very prolonged Plenty of HE’s [high explosive bombs].  Lot of line bombs round here” and in the early hours of the next morning there were “incendiaries in Ville.”

It is easy to get a sense of the fear and the dread of the unknown.  Some of the comments just refer to the “sound of guns” or “the sound of a plane” and “Explosions in the distance” as well “distant light gunfire” or “guns and bombs, but long wait in between.”
This is warfare experienced from the cellar or from the shelters, of sitting in a darkened space trying to make sense of noises which at best were some distance away and at worse getting closer.

The entries continue into the March of 1941 and then stop abruptly on the night of March 17th which is odd because according to one source Manchester continued to be bombed throughout the war and was even a target for a V1 raid on Christmas Eve 1944.

Now I know that this not the stuff of big history but it is the stuff of ordinary history. So far there is very little that has been published about the impact of the war on Chorlton, and sadly the bank of living memories have not been fully recorded.*  All of which means that this compliments the little which already exists.

I am well aware that as yet I have not verified the entries but I have no reason to think that they are not accurate, and as such and until something comes up to challenge them they are a remarkable.  And unlike the bombsites, air raid shelters and faded signs they are still here as testimony to a conflict experienced by a young girl.

*These include
Bomb Census Manchester, Richard Moss, www.culture24.org.uk/places+to+go/north+west/manchester/art29704
Chorlton & the Blitz, Bernard Leach, Chorlton Civic Society, 2008
Luftwaffe over Manchester, Peter J Smith, 2003,
Memories of Chorlton, Chorlton Good Neighbours 2011
And various accounts collected by me, some of which have appeared here at http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Chorlton%20in%20the%201940s

Picture; Barrage Balloon on the Rec by Beech Road from the collection of Alan Brown

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Shakespeare on the green for the 500th anniversary


So, there we were on the green, watching a theatre group perform Henry V in full view of the building which was already old by the time Shakespeare was born.

Now I have watched Shakespeare’s plays performed at the Old Vic in Stratford as well as  London, caught plenty of amateur performances and watched a riveting version of Henry V at the Royal Exchange, but this was magic.

For a start it was in the open air with the audience just a few feet away from the actors* and it was played just as it might have been in a Tudor theatre, with a mix of audience participation, humour and respect for the story.

It was, just one of the events in the three day celebration for the 500th anniversary of the building on the green which is the Horse & Jockey.

Now I know how hard Emily, the events manager and Peter the owner will have worked to get it all together, and there is still the Victorian day tomorrow, with another round of activities.

At this point I could wander off into a history story, loosely connected with the building or the green but will content myself with the thought that the three days fit nicely with what we do here in Chorlton all year round.  We are after all in the middle of the Arts festival with the film, food and book festivals still to come.

*Sir Robert Cecil’s men

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Distant memories of Manchester parks ...... Piccadilly Gardens in 1963 and a Chorlton paddling pool around 1930


You have to be of a certain age to remember the old Piccadilly Gardens at their best, which of course means that I do. 

There were few places in the city centre back in the late 60s and early 70s where you could go and spend the dinner hour on a warm and sometimes hot midday.

From just after twelve till about two in the afternoon, the park benches in the sunken gardens would be full of people.  Here could be found office workers on their dinner break, exhausted shoppers and during the school holidays a fair number of children with or without a parent.

And despite the traffic and the bus station the place was a pleasant haven of relative peace which from spring into autumn was a mass of flowers in those formal displays so loved by municipal gardeners.

I can still remember sitting with a girlfriend scanning the mid day edition of the Evening News for flats before rushing off to the telephone boxes which surrounded the gardens to make that all important call to the landlord.  Or just meeting up for something to eat in the sunshine and watching the pigeons, well aware that we only had a short time swap romantic banter.

So to the picture, which comes from a delightful little booklet issued by the Corporation in 1963 entitled Leisure and Pleasure in the Open Air, kindly lent to me by Linda Rigby.  I guess the picture dates from the 1960s but could so easily date from anytime from the 50s back to even before the last war.  Although here I have to be a little careful, because experience has taught me that there will be someone out there who can date the photograph by the bus in the background, the buildings around the gardens or even by the particular floral display.  So I will confine myself to a guess that it is early spring, for while the flowers are in their beds the leaves have yet to appear on the trees.

I reckon I am on firmer ground with the booklet.  It is a wonderful piece of history in its own right.  Here in its thirty or so pages are the details of each of the city’s parks and recreation grounds, from Wytenshawe, Heaton and Philips down to our Rec and even smaller patches of green. 

Here to are details of the events being staged in the parks with everything from the big events like the Manchester Show down to “Jerko the Clown, Magic and Mirth in various parks during the week August 12th to 17th and the costs of everything from pony rides to bowling.

All of which reminds you just how much went on in our parks a little under fifty years ago.  So as a tribute to that municipal provision I am going to share some of the delights on offer over the next few weeks, starting of course with the Rec and Chorlton Park.

“Beech Park, Beech Road, area 2.6 acres.  This small Park was acquired in 1904 and forms a pleasant open space with a bowling green, newly planted shrubberies and an open space for games.” 
“Chorlton Park, Barlow Moor Road, area 29 acres. The park is rather attractive with playing fields, bowling green, tennis courts putting green, playground and paddle pond.  There are pleasant herbaceous borders, flower beds and a very fine rose garden.  The most recent amenity is an Elderly Men’s Rest which overlooks the bowling greens.”

And on a hot summer’s day around 1930 a commercial photographer caught the paddling pond in full use.  It captures perfectly the sort of carefree day most of us remember from our own childhood and I wonder if such a simple activity would be repeated today.  The paddling pond was still there in the late 80s but has now gone.  So to has the barn in the centre of the picture which is a reminder that as late as the 1930s there was still much of the old rural Chorlton still around.

Pictures; Piccadilly Gardens from Leisure and Pleasure in the Open Air, Parks Committee, Manchester Corporation 1963, courtesy of Linda Rigby and the paddling pond from the Lloyd collection

Friday, 18 May 2012

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 16 when the landlord came knocking


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.

I am on a mission. I want to find a rent book.  Now it is not any sort of rent book.  It has to be a rent book for one of those houses owned by Joe Scott who lived in our house.  He built and owned a lot of the smaller houses behind Beech Road, and only began selling them off after the last world war.

By all accounts he was a decent chap who built solid and reliable houses to a simple and well tried model.  You can see them on roads like Provis and Neal and even on Beech Road.  They were a step up from the old two up two down properties where you walked straight in from the street into the front room.

Instead there is a small entrance hall with two rooms off on the ground floor, and another three upstairs.  They have a small garden at the front and a slightly bigger one at the back.  These were the “six shilling a week” homes which were springing up across the township in the first decades of the 20th century.*

And our Joe was right there building and renting them out.  Now, I suspect there are very few which are still rented most have passed into private ownership.  But they have stood the test of time and can command very respectable sale prices.  One I notice is currently on the market for £319,000 which admittedly has a lot to do with it being sited on Beech Road “close” as the estate agent told me “to the village.”

We tend to forget that this was the time of the rented property and many of our larger houses were also built for rent.  Those large semis on Albermarle, Keppel and Selbourne were being offered for rents of between “£22 and £25 a year and had been built for the new “middling people” who worked in Manchester but wanted somewhere to live on the edge of the countryside.  And Chorlton offered just that.  Our railway station had been opened in 1880 and could whisk the commuter into the heart of the city in under ten minutes and in 1905 when these houses were on offer, there was still plenty of open farmland to the south of new Chorlton.  So we were the ideal suburban spot, with the city just down the line and fields, cows and country air but minutes away.

Not surprisingly these houses were marketed as “Good Family Houses; close to the station; beautified for new tenants: rents £25.”  While the slightly superior properties at 37 and 43 High Lane were being offered at “£42 and £36”, no doubt because they were “Excellent Family Houses [with] two entertaining rooms, six bed rooms, w.c, kitchen, pantry, cellars, nice gardens: cycle, green and summer houses” 
This was the period when most of our larger semis and more modest terraced houses were erected across new Chorlton.**

It is a subject I keep coming back to because the two decades either side of 1900 were the period when what we know as Chorlton today came into existence.  http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/whats-in-chief-rent.html http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/new-chorlton.html
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/divided-chorlton.html
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/100-years-of-one-house-in-chorlton-part_23.html

Now these properties were for those who could afford to negotiate an annual deal and did not have to worry about the landlord's agent calling each week.  Although it was possible as the ad's made clear that weekly or quarterly arrangements were available.  But like all such deals it seems to have meant paying more.  So number "32 Wilton Road. (opposite park: suit small family)" was going for £5.10s which was a lot more than the bigger houses in New Chorlton, closer to the station.  This of course might just have reflected the position of Wilton opposite the Rec and close to the old village and so nearer the green fields and meadow lands.

What is interesting is that in the March of 1905 the market seems sluggish and many of our properties were being offered at reduced rents, which might have just been an advertising ploy or just possibly hints that the building bubble was just about to burst.

Sixty or so years later, many of the more impressive homes underwent that most basic humiliation of being divided up into bed sits, peopled by a transit population, whose tenancy lasted little longer than the university term or a better job offer in another part of the city.  Now I speak from personal experience, being single and on a low income meant my early years in Manchester were spent in one room in converted Victorian houses which were sad neglected and shabby versions of their former selves.

If you were lucky the landlord would have redecorated the walls with wood chip and some neutral colour of emulsion, although in my case in one flat the original paper had just had an amateur coat of some watered down paint thrown over it.

And the delights of such living just went on. You shared the bathroom which was seldom cleaned, the whole house was always cold with a hint of damp and the hall always seemed full of junk mail and letters to residents who even the landlord had forgotten.

But the market has moved on and as Chorlton began to attract new people wanting to buy bigger more interesting properties but who couldn’t afford Withington or Didsbury Chorlton became an obvious choice.  And so what once had been a bed sit conversion returned to a large family home. There are of course still examples of bed sit land but even here there are changes.

Above; Holland Road as it was and now Zetland Road is one  that has gone full circle from family home to bedsits and back again to single family occupancy

Perhaps because of what Chorlton has become the conversion of old turn of the last century properties has taken on a new twist.  Bed sits are out and instead there are designer style accommodations aping those of the city centre warehouse developments.

And with house prices here in Chorlton climbing through the roof it will I suspect be the fate of many young people to opt for renting a place, if only because buying here in the township is beyond their means.  Not that it was ever easy.  My first house cost me £4,200 for a two up two down late 19th century terraced house in Ashton-Under-Lyne beyond the eastern boundaries of the city, when I was earning less than a £1,000 a year.  And when I bought Scott’s house it was a struggle, made worse by the rapid rise in interest rates during the 1980s.

So for some, just as it was when Joe Scott began building his houses in this part of Chorlton, renting is the only viable way of securing a home in the area which pretty much brings me back to where I started.  So if there is anyone who has an old Joe Scott rent book please let me know.

*Manchester Evening News 1901

Pictures; Neal Road with some of Joe Scott’s houses in the distance, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, 1958 R.E. Stanley, m18135, and adverts for rented properties from the Manchester Guardian March 1905, Holland Road circa 1920 from the Lloyd collection

500 years of a building on the green


It is just 500 years since the first parish church was opened and an enterprising entrepreneur built three wattle and daub cottages on the green which are now the Horse & Jockey. 

In September St Clements will be staging a number of different events around Chorlton to remember its presence here in the heart of the township.

And the Horse and Jockey are hosting their own celebrations to mark the 500th birthday of the building it now occupies which was quite old by the time Henry V111 fell in love with Ann Boleyn.

It will begin on Friday May 18th with music and themed decor from the 1940s, roll into Saturday with a Tudor experience including a guest appearance from the touring theatre group, Sir Robert Cecil’s Men, along with a falconry display, traditional folk music and Morris dancing and conclude on the Sunday with a Victorian day out.

And that is where Peter and I come in to the fun.  We have been staging our History Trail across Chorlton during May and chose the Horse and Jockey as the starting point for an exhibition which has covered the story of where we live over 170 years in six venues.

So we thought it quite fitting that we should help celebrate the 500 years with a special display in the pub.  Peter as you know paints pictures of Chorlton and I tell the stories.  There will be a brand new painting of the Horse and Jockey by Peter along with stories from its past including the people who drank here, used it as a home, and a court of law as well as a welcome refuge from an illegal boxing match.

So come and find us in that part of the pub that was once the home of Miss Wilton and as you would expect we have plenty of tales about the Wilton’s including when her father Sam robbed the village of its green and built a bridge across the Mersey.

And there will something of the people who lived at the other end of the building including a bit of a mystery.


Peter’s work is on display around Chorlton and can also be seen at https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures and details of my book, Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Community Transformed which will be published in September can be found at
http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton

Pictures; © Peter Topping 2012




Thursday, 17 May 2012

Longford House and our own Chorlton radical


It is I have admit an odd view of Longford Hall which was built in 1857 and demolished in 1995, but I rather like it, and it does convey something of the grandeur of the old building which Pevsner in 1969 described Longford Hall “as the only surviving example of the Italianate style of architecture in the Manchester district.” *

The Hall was built by John and Enriqueta Rylands as a fitting home to a textile manufacturer who in 1888 employed 15,000 people in 17 mills and factories.**

Now this weekend will be the centenary of the park which became a public place in 1911 when the Rylands’ estate was sold off, but I want to reflect on the previous building and one of the families who lived there.

It was known as Longford House and had been the home of the Walker family, of which perhaps the most interesting was Thomas Walker, one time pillar of Manchester society but also a radical politician who campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade, supported the French Revolution and was indicted for treason in 1794.

The family lived at Barlow Hall from the late 18th century spending the summer there before moving back for the winter to their town house on South Parade which faces what is now Parsonage Gardens.  And it was there that a mob attacked Walker who was forced to drive them off by discharging a pistol in the December of 1792.

This was at the height of political debate over the issues of press freedom and the French Revolution.

Emboldened by drink and fired on by agitators, groups hostile to the radicals began to gather around the city.  Walker was in no doubt that this was pre planned.  ‘Parties were collected in different public houses, and from thence paraded in the streets with a fiddler before them, and carrying board on which was painted with CHURCH and KING in large letters’


On four separate occasions a mob gathered outside South Parade, broke the windows and attempted to force their way in.  Supported by friends Thomas Walker was forced to fire into the air to disperse the crowds.  The magistrates did nothing to prevent the events and while a “regiment of dragoons was in town, booted and under arms”    and ready to disperse the rioters no order was given.  As if to add insult to injury the main concern of the magistrates when they finally met Walker was that he should not fire at the crowd again if the mob returned!  These attacks had been matched by similar ones on the home of Priestly in Birmingham and in Nottingham.”***

Walker survived both the attacks and was acquitted of treason, after which he retired to the new family home at Longford House where he died in February 1817 and was buried in the parish church on the green.

Pictures; Longford Hall, 1920, Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, m67353, and the Walker family gravestone in the parish churchyard from the collection of Andrew Simpson.

* Pevsner N, The Buildings of England South Lancashire,
**  http://friendsoflongfordpark.org.uk/
*** from Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Community Transformed to be published in September http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20for%20Chorlton


On being ten with a hayloft as a playground

When you are ten, away from your friends and spending the long summer holiday with your grandparent’s time can hang heavy, especially as they had yet to own a TV.


I remember endless hours spent playing beside the ornamental ponds imagining them to be a series of secret lakes which hid mysterious monsters. Or looking down into the apparently bottomless well in the greenhouse with the pungent odour of growing tomatoes and wondering who would rescue me if I fell in.

But these were as nothing compared to what greeted me in the hay loft above the barn at the bottom of the garden. There was still a powerful lingering smell of hay which combined with the heat from the slates and the fustiness of the crumbling mortar made this a place with a difference. If I was particularly daring I would open the loft hatch allowing fresh grass scented air to invade the room and look out across the fields. This was daring given the drop to the lane below seemed enormous.

On other days I just walked the country lanes, empty of everything but the occasional bird. There can be no greater sense of freedom than to be alone with just the hum from the telegraph wires and the blistering heat.

I don’t ever remember getting lost, but then I don’t suppose I ever went too far and never underestimate the homing powers of a ten year old who had not eaten since breakfast. Not that I remember many of the meals.

Our bread was baked at home on a huge black range. It was strong brown bread which granddad buttered before he cut a slice. The vegetables were also home grown and more than anything I remember her peas which Nana cooked using cloves which was fine until you ate one by mistake.

They had bought 170 and turned into bedsits with their living accommodation at the back of the house. I however got to stay in the front room and can still remember what seemed the long and scary walk from their kitchen. The candle I took with me cast small pools of dim light and I was never quite sure what lurked in the corners of the passageway. True there was some safety when I got to the light switch by the front room but then there was still a night of darkness to endure punctuated only by the headlamps of passing cars.

Despite my night time fears this was a good place to grow up, and a world away from how my grandparents had lived close to the centre of Derby. In their two up two down terraced house in Hope Street people lived on top of each other, knew each other’s secrets and were even aware when they visited the outside lavatories in the back yard.

Chellaston and in particular 170 Derby Road were different. Our neighbour kept pigs at the bottom of his garden, there were fields behind us, and everywhere there was grass, trees and open land. But I suppose these very things that had brought my grandparents to the village also brought others. They were in fact partly responsible having sold two of the three fields behind the house to a local builder who quickly filled them with houses.

The summer of 1961 was my last holiday there. I have to say the intervening years have wiped my childhood memories. The trolley bus terminus at Shelton Lock is fenced off and the disused weed infested canal has gone and 170 Derby Road is no more.

We were lucky to visit just before it was demolished. In its empty, abandoned and neglected state it seemed much smaller than I remembered. Nor did the garden seem to stretch forever while the stables had shrunk.
But I guess that is why we treasure those long ago memories belonging as they do to a time when the sun always shone, our grandparents were always cheerful and the worst that could befall a ten year old was a Sunday when it rained.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Funding the homeless children of Manchester


Now I have to confess I had only a vague idea how the children’s charitable institutions were funded during the late 19th and early 20 centuries.

And yet their reliance on voluntary contributions and their own drive to raise revenue gets to the very heart of how we looked on the welfare of the sick and needy before the establishment of the Welfare State.
They were not alone of course on relying on charity.  The annual Rose Queen procession here in Chorlton was just one of a number of fund raising events that local hospitals used to garner funds. http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/chorlton-carnival-most-considerable.html

The Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges, had from the start relied on money from local businesses to set up their first home for boys on Quay Street off Deansgate in 1870, and by the end of the century the cost of running all their activities ran to £10,000 a year.  This was “made up of the freewill offerings of thousands of contributors, from the penny of the little child for the benefit of little children less happily placed, to the legacy of £10,000 for endowment purposes.”*

It is an interesting insight into the way philanthropy worked, “One morning a letter was opened which contained a cheque for a thousand pounds from a widow lady for a special object; the next letter opened was also from a widow and brought six penny stamps with a slip on which was written ‘Half of all I have in the world.’”**
Just how far the proportion donated came from the poor is an interesting question and one which might prompt the cynic to ponder on the degree to which the poor helped the poor.  Or for that matter the relative proportions of sacrifice made by the wealthy and the not very wealthly.

As I write this I am looking at a donation card issued by Barnado sometime in the late 19th century.  Entitled “Card for Self Denial” it very much plays on the Christian idea of denial and asks “What can you give up for Christ’s Sake during the week.”  The “ABC of Self-Denial details what can be given up like the C for Comforts.- Buses and tram rides, 3rd class instead of 2nd or 1st and Tobacco or F for Food. – One week of moderate fare.” 

And what would strike us as very modern and target aware, is how it details just what a sum of money would buy.  So “£10 will pay for the complete outfit and passage money one child Emmigrated to Canada”, while “£3.10 will cover the entire cost for one year of boarding out a child in the COUNTRY”

Now it would be very interesting to know how these were distributed.  I suppose they would like Christian aid envelopes today have been available in the churches, chapels and missionaries.  And like Christian Aid, Barnado singled out a specific week in August.

It does indeed strike me as very modern as were the advertising campaigns run by the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges.  These appealed for everything from a donation for the running of their homes like this one which appeared in the Manchester Times in 1877 for the Orphan House Cheetham Hill, "£10 a year or 17 shillings per month will support or educate an orphan or homeless boy" to raising money for summer holidays.  It is a topic covered by the Trusts own blog at http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/orphan-homes-at-cheetham-hill.html#uds-search-results

Here then is a rich field of research.

Pictures; Donation Card from the collection of Lori Oschefski, and the summer holiday appeal courtesy of the Forward Trust

Using the building as a clue, the History Trail and Copperfield


Now if you have done every one of our History Trail venues, you will have got a pretty good understanding of how where we live has evolved over the last 170 years and seen some very nice paintings by Peter.  He paints pictures of Chorlton today and I tell stories about its past.

We chose six venues across the township each of which have something special to tell about those last 170 years and if you have followed them in chronological order then Copperfield is number five.  Of course you don’t have to do them all and you could visit them as you fancy, but then as a historian I do like time lines and historical order, which I guess is about the only time I try to impose any order on my myself.

Now part of what we have to say at Copperfield is contained in the building itself, not that you have to be a time detective or an architect to figure it out.  Just go there read the story board and compare the old photographs with Peter’s pictures and then tell us what you think either by posting a comment on the blog or on the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON site on facebook. 

Peter’s work is on display around Chorlton and can also be seen at https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures and details of my book, Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Community Transformed which will be published in September can be found at

Pictures; ©Peter Topping 2012

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Where was New Chorlton? Chorlton Eatery and stage 4 of the History Trail


There will few of us left who still think of old and new Chorlton.  And I have to confess that even though I am one of them I am a bit of a fraud.  For the distinction to have any real meaning you have to have been born before the last world war.

In my case it is just because I spend so much time crawling over the history of the township that I think of the two places.

Now any one venturing into the Chorlton Eatery, Copperfield or the Bar will be firmly in new Chorlton which is why Peter and I sited part of the History Trail in these three venues. 

The trail tells the story of Chorlton over the last 170 years first around the green and Beech Road and then later north towards the four banks.  Peter has been working on painting Chorlton as it looks today while I have been writing about its history and that distinction between old and new.

So why new Chorlton?  Well if I told you that it would just give the game away and part of the fun is following the trail and getting some of the answers for yourself.  Of course we would always like to hear from you and you can post your comments on the blog or on the GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON site on facebook. 

Peter’s work is on display around Chorlton and can also be seen at https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompicturesand details of my book, Chorlton-cum-Hardy A Community Transformed which will be published in September can be found at

Pictures; © Peter Topping 2012


Monday, 14 May 2012

Uncovering the grim stories of Manchester's streets in the 1880s


The Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuge was set up in 1870 to provide a night’s accommodation for homeless boys on the streets of Manchester.

Within a decade it had developed its role as a rescue organisation, extended this to girls, began work on giving youngsters a future and started campaigning against the exploitation of children as well as highlighting child cruelty.  Very early on the Refuge’s became involved with the British Home Children scheme.

Like many groups dealing with child care in the late 19th century the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges saw it as one of the options open to them for dealing with abandoned and mistreated young people.

It is all too easy just to go with the general historical accounts of homeless and abused children giving only a nod to the indignation felt by those men and women engaged in rescuing our young from the streets.    Indeed there is a danger that we downplay their work in the light of the controversial policy of sending thousands of children to Canada and later Australia.

So here we are back on the streets of my city discovering the level of human suffering at first hand with that added benefit that I am writing about somewhere I know, with all the opportunities to visit the low haunts and dismal places frequented by these children.

At this stage there is no grand plan, just a series of posts retelling what I have unearthed with no attempt even to join it all up.  That will come later.  I can’t even claim that this is original research.  It is largely drawn from a history of the organisation which was published in 1921.*

Parental cruelty towards children is not new but I suppose as we moved into the last quarter of the 19th century we might have come to expect that they would have been protected much earlier.  After all it might be a cheap observation but nevertheless an accurate one that a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals had been set up in 1824 but the first such organisation for children did not emerge until 1883.

Likewise the 1835 Cruelty to Animals Act prohibited bear baiting and cock fighting and extended earlier legislation to protect bulls, dogs, bears and sheep from “cruel and improper treatment” but an “Act for the Better Prevention of Cruelty to Children” which made parental neglect cruelty and so punishable was not passed till 1889.

And so it often fell to the voluntary organisations to both campaign on the issue of child cruelty and to act to protect the children. In the July of 1884 the Manchester Refuge set up a Child Protection Department and during the next three months investigated 26 cases of child cruelty, which in turn led to the establishment of the Manchester & Salford Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children by the Refuge.

“The society was soon active in the interests of cruelly treated children, with 522 cases being dealt with during the first complete year in 1885.”** Of these 80 were admitted to the Refuge’s homes or other institutions and “in the majority of cases the parents cautioned.”

At the same time the Open All Night Shelter which had been established in 1884 first at Major Street and then Chatham Street Piccadilly had special provision for children who were the victims of parental cruelty.

This took many forms but their exploitation as cheap labour was one that the society was particularly active in highlighting as were others.  In the July of 1888 the Secretary of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children asserted that 200,000 young people made a living on the streets of our towns and cities.

“The majority of street children maintain their parents in whole or part, and to his parents such a child is a valuable slave. Before he is fully grown even while still suffering from child ailments, when the stones under his feet are frozen he is sent out to wander, to plead, to pester, to get thrust out of the way and cursed by some, to get his match box the penny for which all the joy and health of his childhood are being sold”***

All of which is pretty emotive stuff and the cautious objective side of me wonders at the degree of exaggeration, but similar reports can be read in the Manchester Guardian, the Manchester Evening News and the archives of the Manchester & Salford Refuges.

And the evidence is there in the number of cases reported to the courts and the level of prosecutions.  In the ten years from 1885 the society dealt with 9,922 cases of mistreatment.  In 1892 alone “375 cases involving the welfare of 1,324 children were reported, investigated and dealt with.  Of these 375 cases 40 were carried to court and convictions obtained in 37.”  Two years later “out of 705 cases 100 were taken to court, resulting in 94 convictions.”

There is of course much more to do, but I am confident that the Manchester archives, along with the help of the Trusts’ archivist, Liz Sykes will begin to provide a better understanding of the problem and a clearer appreciation on my part of the work done by the Refuges.

*Edmondson, William, Making Rough Places Plain, Manchester 1921
** ibid Emondson page39
*** Waugh, Rev Benjamin, Secretary of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in The Contemporary Review, July 1888, quoted by Edmondson


You can follow the Forward Trust which was once the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges at http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/


Picture; Courtesy of the Together Trust and  Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council m68185