Saturday, 31 May 2014

Who now remembers the Cavendish Hotel?

The building today
There are few old buildings left along  most of Stretford Road from Cavenshish Street, but Andy found some.

In his relentless crusade to photograph our late 19th and 20th century history he recently wandered into Hulme and took this picture of the Cavendish Hotel.

It is now student accommodation but for a big chunk of the last century it was a pub.

It was photographed in 1958 by H W Beaumont and again twelve years later by which time it had been pained all white matching the smaller Cavendish Arms which was directly opposite.

Now try as I may I cannot find any history of either of them during early decades of the last century.

Both are missing from the 1911 street directory and neither area on the OS for 1934 so both appear to be much later than I thought which rather gives them a short life.

The Cavendish Hotel in 1958
I guess the Cavendish Hotel was doomed once the house clearance began in the area.

It will still have been serving pints during my early years in Manchester but I never ventured down Cavendish Street being content to inhabit the All Saints area offering up as it did the attractions of the Eight Day, Johnny Roadhouse and the old Student Union Bar in what once had been the Till & Kennedy shop.

And that pretty much is it, less a story and more a vehicle to show case one of Andy’s pictures along with two from the archive.

Now I bet there will be people who did go in there and may have a story.
I hope so.

The Cavendish Hotel in 1970
Pictures, the Cavendish Hotel today from the collection of Andy Robertson, and in 1958 by H W Beaumont, m26897, and in 1970 taken by A Dawson, m49355, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

“Many happy returns of the day,” December 9 1930

Now this is another of those birthday cards from earlier on in the last century.

It was sent by Nellie to Edith in the December of 1930, and I think I may have found Edith in the census records.

In the same collection of cards is one to Edith on her 21st sent in 1920 which means that she was born in 1899 and there is an Edith on the 1911 census living in Birkenhead.

Here she is listed as the step daughter of Thomas Aldred along with her sister and brother and four half sisters.

Tracking the family back her mother married her father in 1893.
He was Miles H Parkinson, a postman who died in 1903.

Two years later Rose Parkinson remarried and by 1911 had had four more children.

And that for the time being is all there is, but there will be more.
Edith was still unmarried at 31 and it may be possible to turn up her life after 1911.

We shall see.

Picture; courtesy of Suzanne Moorehead

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Mother Why doesn’t Daddy come Home? Postcards from the Great War

Now as I work through the large amount of material that David Harrop has lent me for the new book, I thought it was only right to share some of it.

So over the next few weeks I will be dipping into the collection.*

The material will cover all the years of the conflict, focus on those who fought and those who stayed at home and will track the fate of individual families during the four years.The first of the collection was sent in the May of 1915 and judging by the message, Will had yet to go overseas.

Today we may find the picture a tad uncomfortable but I guess it chimed in with the growing feeling as the war dragged into its tenth month with no sign of an early end.

By then the war of movement was over, the trenches had become permanent and the military strategy was based on mass frontal attacks across No Man’s Land and the realisation that both sides were pretty evenly matched.

Not that I shall just be featuring the Western Front.

What is particularly moving about the collection is that David has been able to follow particular families, starting with a young man’s enlistment to the letters home and his discharge or more sadly the news of his death and the correspondence about the posthumous medals and war pension.

And in the way these things work it will be impossible to draw a strict line between Manchester, and Salford, Stockport and the nearby towns of Ashton and Oldham and Rochdale, if only because some of those in the collection came from one, lived in another and worked across another municipal border.**

It is an important collection and I am immensely grateful to David for providing me with so much from it.

That said the pressure is on both because I need to make progress but also because some of the items will appear in two exhibitions David is mounting.***

Picture; from the collection of David Harrop

*David Harrop,

**The Great War,

***The Atkinson, Lord Street, Southport from July 28 and Oldham Archives, Union Street, Oldham, from August 4

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

That set of buildings called Oak Bank in Withington

Now as my friend Andy says we seldom look up at the buildings we pass.

It is of course something we are all guilty of and so assisted with more of his pictures and a few from my collection here over the next few weeks are the tops of buildings we don’t often clock.

The shops, 2014
We are in the heart of Withington on Wilmlsow Road looking at the Oak Bank parade of shops.

I remember them well and what is now an estate agents was in the early 1970s a newsagents from where I bought a double LP of the Kinks.

It was going cheap which I suspect had something to do with it being mono rather than stereo but I still play it and it contains all of the hits and many that were only B sides.

But enough of such trivia, these are Oak Bank Buildings, and according to that excellent little book A walk through the History of Withington were where The Manchester and County Bank opened a branch in 1877.

The building “which has a date stone of 1876, has ornate, rather Italianate brickwork and stands on the south side of Devenport Avenue and Wilmslow Road on a site that was formerly gardens.”*

And sure enough there on the OS for 1853 are those gardens and the name Oak Bank.

So I shall go off and trawl the census records and rate books and in the fullness of time return with a little more on Oak Bank and what look to be an interesting set of gardens.

But in the meantime I shall just reflect that the modern shop fronts have done nothing for the building or the casual decision of someone to obliterate the features of one of the properties by covering the front in white paint.

And before I am accused of a latter day Luddite I have to say I accept the need for change and the recognise the commercial pressures on businesses to promote themselves in the most effective ways but sadly the modern singe and frontage do nothing for this grand old set of properties.

This I suppose means I shall also go looking for pictures of the shops from the late 19th and early 20th
centuries just to prove a point.

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson, and the detail of Oak Bank from the 1853 OS for Lancashire, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

* A walk through the History of Withington, Withington Civic Society, 2014,

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Two old Withington pubs

The Albert, 2014
Today I am out in Withington exploring two of those pubs I haven’t been in since I lived behind the library.

Back then the object was to enjoy the beer and the company and not think over much about the surroundings which is a shame because had I done so I might just have added something to my nights in the Albert and the Victoria.

Of course I have passed them plenty of times but never been back inside although given their age I have thought about what stories might lay behind the doors.

And so when Andy presented me with pictures of the two I decided to go looking for their history.

Withington in 1853
In this I was ably assisted by Withington Civic Society and their excellent publication, A walk through the history of Withington.*

“The Albert Hotel and the shop next door are the oldest surviving Buildings in the centre of Withington.  

On October 26 1793 John Rigby (yeoman of Withington) sold to John Bowker tree acres of land known by several names.  Lower End Pasture Field, the Hay Meadow or the Croft.  

In 1824 Edward Langford, a joiner, acquired a dwelling house gardens and premises probably on this site.

The Albert, 2014
Between 1824 and 1829 he remodelled the site and built three cottages which in 1852 he sold to Thomas Holt a cashier.

During the next ten years, Thomas Holt converted the three cottages into two tenements to form a beer house, a shop and a dwelling house.  The first mention of the public house by the present name was in 1897 when it was called the Albert Inn.”

Back in 1853 the properties were still pretty much surrounded by open land and it would a decade before the field next to them was sold and a full fifty-four years before the Victoria Hotel opened for business.

The Albert Hotel, 2014
“In 1862, the land on the site of the present Victoria Hotel was sold.  In 1905 Hydes Brewery bought the site from Mr W. M. Kay.

The pub, at that time had a basement and in the yard there was a small cottage.

In 1906/7, Hydes demolished the cottage and the stable extended the public house at the rear and built the single storey side section now fronting Queen Street.  

The interior was renovated in 1984, but the exterior has remained unaltered since those times.”

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Robertson, map detail from the OS 1841-53, courtesy of Digital Archives Association,

* A walk through the history of Withington, Withington Civic Society, 2014,

War time Naples, genocide in Brazil and spying in the Balkans, stories from the pen of Norman Lewis

Sometimes without very little effort you get drawn into someone’s life which in the case of Normal Lewis was both a surprise and a pleasure.

In my case it came about in Waterstones which like a lot of people is part of what you do on a Saturday afternoon in between browsing the shops, having a meal and catching a film.

There in the travel section was his book Naples ’44 which describes his year in the city with the allied armies during the Italian Campaign. He was an intelligence officer seconded to the American 5th Army.  During the course of the year he kept a diary which became the book.

It is a closely observed description of life after the war has moved on leaving an aftermath of broken buildings, a desperate lack of food and a breakdown of the usual conventions of morality.

Not that the violence is quite over.  The Germans continue to bomb the city; there are delayed action mines which have been buried in the cellars of buildings as well as bandits, vendetta’s and the casual acts of barbarity inflicted on the civilian population.

Amongst all this there are vivid accounts of life lived out on the streets, the power of superstition and bravery and generosity of the Neapolitans.

All of which I want to return to but right now it is Mr Lewis who fascinates me, more so because his writing career stretched on in to  his 90s, which gives me hope.

So with due deference to his publishers whose account of his life I have lifted directly here is something of the story of this remarkable man.

“Norman Lewis's early childhood, as recalled in Jackdaw Cake (1985), was spent partly with his Welsh spiritualist parents in Enfield, North London, and partly with his eccentric aunts in Wales.

Forgoing a place at university for lack of funds, he used the income from wedding photography and various petty trading to finance travels to Spain, Italy and the Balkans, before being approached by the Colonial Office to spy for them with his camera in Yemen.

He moved to Cuba in 1939, but was recalled for duty in the Intelligence Corps during the Second World War. It was from this that Norman Lewis's masterpiece, Naples '44, emerged, a resurrection of his wartime diary only finally published in 1978.

Before that came a number of novels and travel books, notably A Dragon Apparent (1951) and Golden Earth (1952), both of which were best sellers in their day. His novel The Volcanoes Above Us, based on personal experiences in Central America, sold six million copies in paperback in Russia and The Honoured Society (1964), a non-fiction study of the Sicilian Mafia, was serialised in six instalments by the New Yorker.

Norman Lewis wrote thirteen novels and thirteen works of non-fiction, mostly travel books, but he regarded his life's major achievement to be the reaction to an article written by him entitled Genocide in Brazil, published in the Sunday Times in 1968. 

This led to a change in the Brazilian law relating to the treatment of Indians, and to the formation of Survival International, the influential international organisation which campaigns for the rights of tribal peoples.

He later published a very successful book called The Missionaries (1988) which is set amongst the Indians of Central and Latin America.

More recent books included Voices of the Old Sea (1984), Goddess in the Stones: Travels in India (1991), An Empire of the East: Travels in Indonesia (1993), The World the World (1996), which concluded his autobiography, as well as collections of pieces in The Happy Ant Heap (1998) and Voyage by Dhow (2001). With In Sicily (2002) he returned to his much-loved Italy, and in 2003 his last book, A Tomb in Seville, will be published."

Picture; from the covers of Naples ’44, Jackdaw Cake and Voices of the Old Sea, courtesy of Eland Publishing Ltd,

Monday, 26 May 2014

Looking for a pint and a film on Wilmslow Road, a lost pub and a vanished cinema

What was the White Lion, today in May 2014
Now when Andy posted his most recent set of pictures he warned me I would be upset.

They are of Withington and in particular the old White Lion where I spent many happy hours in the early 1970s.

Back then I was less interested in this fine old building with its period features, and more with the dark slightly claustrophobic dive bar which was just the old beer cellar.

In a desperate attempt to sell more Watneys’ Red Barrel someone in advertising at the brewery had come up with a campaign based on revolutionary leaders and some catchy phrase based on red and revolution.

But it didn’t quite work for while there was Fidel Castro or it might have been Che Guevara there was also Khrushchev a figure who most people would not link with turning the world upside down even if you are a keen follower of the 20th Party Congress.

But enough of this and back to Andy’s comment which was more to do with the hole in the ground next to the pub.

When there was beer and films on the corner, 1930
This as many will know was once the Scala Cinema, which was one of our oldest surviving cinemas having been opened in 1912.

Here you could see the films you had missed in the city centre and at a fraction of the cost with the bonus that you didn’t have far to go to get a drink afterwards.

Sadly I cannot remember the interior at all or anything that I saw there and now it has gone.

There were grand ideas about keeping it open and for what would replace it.

None of these came to pass and yes Andy is right I am a tad upset mainly because like many of my generation I grew up with the cinema.

It started with Saturday Morning Pictures ran on with the big film you went to with your parents and then bit by bit it included the mucky films with your mates and the all to special trips with a girl friend.

The Scala cinema site, 2014

And it was value for money, two films, a newsreel along with some pretty dodgy adverts for Sid’s Second hand car business and the Shining Pearl Chinese Restaurant.

At which point someone will mutter “oh get with the times” and I suppose I am in danger of slipping into nostalgic tosh, so I shall leave you with these images and a promise of some iconic Withington pubs with long histories, all taken by Andy Robertson.

Pictures; Wilmlow Road, 1930, m41845, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the rest by Andy Robertson

More on those private lending libraries

Sometimes a story just does not want to go away.

I didn’t think there would be much information on the private lending libraries which I have featured on the blog in the last few days. They were after all small time affairs, run from the back of the local newsagent or bookshop and most had disappeared by the mid 1960s.

But of course this does mean that their existence is still within the living memory of many people. So I have been indebted to Philip, David, Jill and Ida for sharing their memories of these libraries. And today Ida phoned me again to tell me about the newsagents on the corner of Beech and Chequers Road.

In the 1920’s it had been run by Lilly Brown and the family were still there in the 1960s. Ida remembers ”the counter was along the side of the shop facing Beech Road and the lending section was at the end. It dealt mainly in romances and Sci Fi and was a branch of a big concern based in Whalley Range.”

This was the Allied Library which was on the corner of Upper Chorlton Road and Wood Road North.

 It had grown as a chain of rental libraries in the years after the last world war.

At its peak in March 1962 it hired out 362, 000 books through 1,489 books.

The Lloyd family which had operated their own private lending library from 1909 accepted an offer from Allied to supply books on a rotating basis, which greatly increased the number and range of books which the "Lloyd's Circulating Library," could lend. The arrangement according to Philip lasted into the 1950s.

Boots the Chemist which had started its library in 1898 closed the service in 1966. I guess the continued expansion of municipal libraries, cheap paperbacks and television each played their part in making private libraries less viable.

My mother stopped visiting hers in the early ‘60s and she would no doubt not have been alone in looking elsewhere to read.

By all accounts the Boot’s libraries were impressive, “The Inverness branch of Boots the Chemist, was in the High Street. - it was on the first floor and was fitted with wooden bookshelves, chairs, tables and even notepaper and fresh flowers. Members paid a subscription and were able to borrow books, light romances and 'whodunnits' being the most popular. By 1938 Boots libraries were issuing 35 million books each year. 

The company liked to emphasise its reputation for providing clean books.”

And this is the key to the success of all these privately run libraries. There was no deposit, the subscription was modest and the service friendly. My close friend told me the library my mother and hers used “was a small place but absolutely packed with books - a lovely, warm place in the middle of winter! I would get Mum her books sometimes - just went to the counter and asked for romances and, between the man's memory and mine, we nearly always managed to find something she hadn't read.”

This probably also accounts for their popularity in the US where it peaked in the 1930s. For anyone wanting to go further visit

Picture; Allied Libraries at No 202 Upper Chorlton Road taken in August 1960 Downes A H m40870 Courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Today for the second time, walking our history from Chorlton pub to Chorlton pub starting at the Horse & Jockey

The Horse & Jockey, 2014
Chorlton’s pubs reflect the story of how the township changed from a rural community into a suburb of Manchester.

So why not walk the history in the company of historian Andrew Simpson and artist Peter Topping taking in all the historic pubs of Chorlton.

Starting at The Horse & Jockey and ending at the Post Box Cafe with the chance to purchase a guest beer.

 The earliest were just small beer shops consisting of one or two rooms and many lasted just a few years.

But as Chorlton expanded during the late 19th century, new pubs were built which were bigger and catered for the new more respectable middle class clientele.

The Bowling Green, circa 1900
The old Travellers Rest at the bottom of Beech Road was opened in 1830, and consisted of just five rooms of which the ground floor front room served as the pub while the Bowling Green dating from the 1780s was a ramshackle place but the biggest we had during the early 19th century.

Forty years later Mr Lloyd and Mr Platt opened their impressive stone fronted public house with its grand staircase, numerous rooms including a large meeting room and added a bowling green and tennis court.

Two of the oldest have survived although one no longer serves beer and can be compared with those built at the beginning of the 20th century, and the new wave of bars that have sprung up recently.

Along with the changing architecture there are plenty of stories of what went on behind the doors from dark deeds to official meetings as well as a range of social and cultural activities.

The Sedge Lynn, 2014
Starting at The Horse & Jockey the walk will take in eight of the most iconic buildings which reflect the changing architecture and history of Chorlton.

The walk will have supporting graphics and text at the venues along the way, there will be a description of each building and some of the events that occurred behind the doors with old pictures and paintings as it is now.

Along the way we shall be looking at The Horse & Jockey, The Bowling Green, The Beech, Franny & Filer, The Trevor, The Lloyds, and The Royal Oak finishing at The Post Box cafe where there will be a mini exhibition of the whole event and some guest beers on offer.

The Post Box, 2014
So there you have it less a pub crawl more a walk through our history and its free and a competition details of which are available from Chris at the Post Box cafe.

Paintings; © 2014 Peter Topping,
Paintings from Pictures,

Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Waiting in St Peter's Square for the tram and pondering on the future

Everyone has their favourite metro stop in the city centre.

For me it is St Peter’s Square surrounded by Central Ref, the War Memorial and with clear views across to the Midland Hotel, the Bridgewater Hall, and down Oxford Street with the City Art Gallery thrown in as an extra.

By comparison Market Street is too busy and Piccadilly will forever be scarred by that concrete wall which leaves Shude Hill and Deansgate Castlefield.

Now I will concede there is a lot to see from the elevated platform facing Central Station and it runs St Peter’s Square a close second, but my first choice pretty much calls the tune.

That said I wonder if I will feel at home after the completion of the Second City Crossing and the relocation of the platforms.

“The existing stop in St Peter's Square will be relocated to the northern end of the Square, near the Mosley Street/Princess Street junction and the existing tracks will be realigned between Elisabeth House and the Central Library. 

This will provide the opportunity to create a major civic space.”*

And given that “St Peter's Square is anticipated to contain the busiest tram stop on the Metrolink network”

I can see the logic of moving the Cenotaph “which would provide better opportunity for contemplation. The area of the square by the Cooper Street entrance to the Town Hall provides an appropriate setting for this hugely important memorial, with strong civic focus and much improved views from around the square.”

We shall see.  Certainly this fits with the artist’s impression of how the new area will look when finished.

After all the traffic flow and the present metro can be pretty distracting for anyone wanting just to sit in the space around the memorial, while its new location in front of the eastern entrance of the Town Hall seems fitting.

In turn this will free up the space opposite the Ref as a broad open area free of all traffic save the tram.

Well we shall see.  With all such open spaces there is that real danger they become wide expanses full of litter and devoid of any beauty.

On the other hand Albert Square works so perhaps will St Peter’s Square.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The Second City Crossing, Manchester Metrolink,

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Outside Central Ref on a warm late morning

It has been a long time since I have been able to appreciate the sheer beauty and simplicity of the entrance to Central Ref.

It wasn’t just because of all that scaffolding and fencing that got in the way; it was also that bit of road in front which was forever being clogged up by buses.

Now you get a grand view from the platform of the metro stop and I guess when that in turn is moved the view from the new gardens will be all the more impressive.

And what I also like is the way people are already beginning to reclaim the steps as a place to meet, sit and pass the time of day.

On a hot summer’s day it was a pleasant enough place to spend the odd half an hour away from the books, the notes and the grind of study.

It will I think become another of those precious open spaces which are beginning to pop up all over the place and enhance where we live.

That said the men were still moving the steel fencing as I took the picture, and over to the right and left there was still much clearing and making good.

Picture; Central Ref, May 2014 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

“a smell box” donkey stone, and memories of our recent past, a new story from Sally Dervan

We all love to tell a story, especially if we think we have a really good one.

In my work with older adults I meet many people with fantastic stories to tell.

The danger is, that within your circle of friends, it doesn’t take long before everyone has heard your “story“ and a repeat  performance of “ during the war “ may be met with a groan or a long sigh.

A younger person will often miss the value of stories told by previous generations.

In my case, I now cherish the family stories that were told to me as a child, even though I may have yawned when I listened to them for the “umpteenth” time as a kid. I really wish that some of the people who told me the interesting bits of their lives were still around so I could ask more questions

For those of us with an interest in history, people’s stories are simply fascinating.

At a recent event at Wythenshawe, I was asked to represent the organisation I work for by offering leaflets and information that might benefit the carers of people with Dementia.

It is easy to walk past a table full of leaflets,(I have seen a lot of people do that before) so we decided to put together an eye catching table full of memories next to the leaflet table and to encourage people to come and tell us some of the things their families may have grown tired of listening to.

The table contained old photos of Wythenshawe, old advertisements, vintage magazines, a donkey stone, old buttons, marbles, games and books.

There wasn’t a thing on the table that didn’t prompt some sort of memory from a passer by.

Some people sat for a while and gave us a lot of detail , others looked , made a comment and moved on , but everyone left us with a smile on their face , either because the memories were good ones , or because it was good to have a chance to tell the story to fresh and interested ears.

One of the items on the table was a “smell box.“ This is a wooden box with 13 little bottles inside .

Each bottle contains a different smell that can magically transport you back to another place and time. The smells include things like Germolene, The Dentists Surgery, Fresh Cut grass, Blackpool Rock.

It’s amazing where a smell can take you, even today, and more than 25 years since she died I only have to smell Yardley face powder or “4711” perfume and I am back with my Nana.

Memory is a fascinating (and sometimes frustrating!) thing but so valuable to us.

Several years ago we took some of the older people from our Day Centre to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool .It’s a stunning place and full of memories for some of our older people.

A ballroom dancing display was in full swing. I sat there fascinated, but I wasn’t watching the dancers, I was watching the slippered feet of a very frail lady in a wheelchair. I hadn’t known she was a dancer; her Alzheimer’s disease had made her speech muddled at times. Luckily, her feet remembered all of the steps and were executing them almost perfectly on the footrests of her wheelchair as the dancers glided by.

There is more than one way to have your story heard...

© Sally Dervan
Pictures; from the collection of Sally Dervan

Friday, 23 May 2014

One hundred and ten years of elections in Chorlton

I am looking at the election address of the three Progressive candidates who stood for election here in Chorlton in 1904. 

This was the first local election after we had voted to join the city of Manchester and of the six candidates who put themselves forward, three were Progressives, two Conservatives and one an Independent.

The three Progressive candidates stood on the platform of advancing “good government” which involved “exercising a rigorous protest against extravagance” and “preserving as far as possible the residential character” of Chorlton coupled with the need for “adequate Schools, Libraries, Open Spaces, Public Baths and everything which counts for the better health and morality of the people”

The result was one of those odd outcomes with one Progressive, one Conservative and the Independent being elected.

And during the next two decades elections continued to be dominated by the Conservatives, the Progressives and Independents.

Although that is to simplify the scene, because there was a blurring of what it was to be an Independent and Progressive, so that at least two Progressive candidates slipped between the labels and one even later described himself as a "Ratepayer."

Not until 1922 would there be an election where Liberal faced Conservative and where over the next few years the electoral battle would be so finely drawn that

“Of the eight elections that have been fought in Chorlton since 1920 four have been won by the Conservatives and four by the Liberals.”*

But from 1928 the Liberals were on the defensive increasingly being challenged by the Labour Party.

All of which is a story for another time, but as we have just had an election  I rather think I will close with the result.

Now there will be those who mutter that the outcome here in Chorlton was no surprise but that would be to misread elections.

The year after Labour won its first election victory in 1986 the Conservatives held onto their seat and it would not be until the following year that Labour won again.

And at the start of the new century the Lib Dems seemed to be a serious challenger to the dominant position of the Labour Party here in Chorlton wining two seats.

But in the last few years their share of the vote has fallen back and from a commanding 44% in 2010 has slid ever downwards, so that today they achieved 15%.

There will be plenty I guess with explanations but that also is for another time.

Picture; Progressive Party election material, 1904 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

**The Chorlton By-Election, Manchester Guardian December 18, 1928

The History Wall is back at its permanent home at Chorlton High School

The History Wall is back.

The Wall today
This was the 80 meter installation sponsored by McCarthy and Stone which told the story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy from a small rural community living around the green in the 17th century to the busy and lively place we know today.*

It was designed as a walk and consisted of 16 large panels with paintings by Peter Topping and stories by me and allowed the visitor to discover the stories and the people who lived here.

During the eight months that it stood along Albany and Brantingham Road it drew lots of local attention, featured in the media and even became a tourist attraction.

The Wall in 2012
As Lord Bradley of Withington said at the official opening “this was a unique collaboration between a local historian and an artist with a developer to enliven a building site and bring history alive.”

And befitting the event the opening and the story behind the project was the subject of the  short film GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON - Opening of Exhibition of "Chorlton-Cum-Hardy The Story" by Hardy Productions, UK.**

But the installation was only a temporary exhibition and with the completion of the new development the wall came down ready for its permanent home at Chorlton High School.

This is a suitable final resting place.

Just behind the wall is the historic Hough End Hall while away to the north is Chorlton Brook and to the west the park all of which have been part of  the township’s history.

And for me and Peter it has a personal connection because between us seven of our children attended the high school and many of the original  photographs in the display came from the collection of John Lloyd who taught generations of young people on this site and the others that made up Chorlton High.

The start of the story
The wall was the culmination of a project which had aimed to place my stories and Peter’s paintings in selected venues across Chorlton in a history trail.

Each small exhibition placed the spot in its historical context and included something which was special to the venue, whether it be an historic event or a tale of the people who lived behind the door.

And the collaboration has gone on with a book about Didsbury, a series of walks and talks and plans for new ventures based on Manchester.***

And each of us continue with our own projects.

Peter has an exhibition of his work including some of the paintings which feature on the wall along with others of Chorlton, Manchester and beyond  which can be seen at CHORLTON-CUM-HARDY... A MOMENT IN TIME EXHIBITION. 

The Exhibition is on till May 25th 2014 at Arison Gallery, 512 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, M21 9AW. Telephone: 0161 881 6734, email: web:

I am deep in writing a book on Manchester and the Great War  along with a series of talks and walks, while continuing to write for the blog and preparing  a second book on the history of Chorlton.****

But I digress the History Wall can be seen  at Chorlton High School on Nell Lane

All of which  just leaves me to to thank the school for giving the exhibition its permanent home and McCarthy and Stone who sponsored it.

Pictures; the Wall at McCarthy and Stone's development by Tom McGrath and at Chorlton High School by Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures, 

*Chorlton the History Wall,

**GLAD TO BE IN CHORLTON - by Hardy Productions UK,

***Didsbury Through Time, Peter Topping & Andrew Simpson, Amberley 2013

****The Story of Chorlton-Cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson, 2012,

Looking inside great grandma's house

The range complete with cat
If like me you were born in the first half of the last century you will remember the old cooking ranges, the small gas stoves, and those brass light switches which long ago were deemed unsafe.

They were the background to everyday life, and are now seldom seen other than in museums.

Our range disappeared from the old house in the early 1950s, the gas stove swapped for a gleaming top of the range Cannon cooker in 1962 and the old phone with its wooden base along with much more went when I was still a baby.

That said one surviving brass light switch long sense disconnected still sits at the top of our cellar stairs, and over the years we put back the old fire places, bought a cast iron bath along with  a lead lavatory cistern in its wooden box.

They replaced the plastic ones  were part of the modernisation of the house.

An open fire and a kettle
I doubt that many houses in Ashton can still boast those original features so I am indebted to my friend Ann who sent me a series of drawings she made of her home.

We think it will have been built sometime around 1890 and so what you see are some of the original fittings along with others which will date from the very early years of the 20th century.

I remember my grandmother still used her range well into the 1950s but also fell back on a small gas stove which was easier to use and far quicker.

Municipal authorities like Manchester were keen to promote cooking on gas and householders could rent or buy on credit the same model that Ann drew in the 1960s.

Telephones may seem a luxury but in some of the more well off homes they were a must, and the names of the good and worthy can be increasingly looked up in the telephone directories from as early as 1900.

It is of course easy to become sentimental about these old feature.  As warm and comforting the range might be it was run on solid fuel, which meant racking out the ashes and carrying heavy buckets of coal.

That old telephone
The gas stoves were pretty basic models and the down side of a brass light switch was that someone was made to polish it.

The phone may not  have lit up when it received a call nor would it store the number of the caller or allow them to leave a message, but it worked.

It did the business of allowing you to talk to someone not in the same house and not send a letter of a postcard.

In the same way the cooker cooked your meal with no recourse to a timer, a split oven or a  fan.

That said I like my phone which lights up in the evening and talks to me, and my fan assisted double oven makes life so much easier.

And as I often do I shall conclude with an appeal for pictures and stories of great grandma’s house.

Pictures; drawings of the inside of number 523 in 1960, courtesy of Ann Love

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Searching Burrows Brothers Tea Blenders

Now I am back with that wonderful ghost sign for Burrows Brothers Tea Blenders.

The image comes from that excellent site where there is a nice piece on the shop and Arthur Brooks of Brook Bond Tea.*

I had no idea he was born in Ashton just 150 yards away from this spot in a shop where his father sold loose tea.

But the rest of the story you will have to go to

For now it is Mr Burrows and his brothers who intrigue me.
I have done the lazy task and searched the net to no avail.  So I rather think it will be the old fashioned way of trawling hard copies of local street directories and the rate books which give dates and perhaps names.

There may of course be people who remember the firm my even have worked for them.
So today I shall be off to the local history archive.

I may equally strike lucky with news from someone of their knowledge of the Brothers.

We shall see.

And just a few hours after I posted the story Michael Winterbottom wrote to me that  "can't help much but my late mother worked in accounts for Burrows in the late 40s. 

I remember her saying that Mr Burrows lived in a hitel in Buxton and commuted by car from there. She also remembers the tea being delivered in crates from the sidings at Charlestown station. 

I'm pretty sure that they sold more than tea as well. 

Hope this helps and good luck !"

Well it certainly did Michael, thank you and was just a start because Michael was followed by Valerie Newman who remembers the "shop sold coffee roasted beans.   You could smell the coffee from the bottom of the avenue, they also sold broken orange peko from Ceylon known as Sri Lanka today and next door was a shoe shop not sure but think it was Timpsons."


Pictures;Martin ©

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Waiting for a tram and planning journeys across the city and beyond

Now I rather take the Metrolink for granted.

It has been with us since 1992 and its tram lines connect the city centre with Altrincham, Ashton-Under-Lyne, Bury, Didsbury, Eccles and Rochdale, and plenty of places in between.

And soon there will be that extension to the Airport and the Second City Crossing with firm plans and bright thinking to extend the service into Stockport, more of Salford, Trafford, and east to Stalybridge with the prospect in the future of tram-trains over the existing heavy rail network out to Hale, the Hope Valley, Marple, Glossop and Hazel Grove.

All along way from the old Pic-Vic idea and the call for an integrated and efficient system of public transport which in 1968 aimed to improve the north south links and make it easier travel between Piccadilly and Victoria Stations which were unconnected and at opposite ends of central Manchester.

The rest as they say is history and while there can be the Sunday closures and signal faults from time to time, the network is pretty neat, and much faster than the bus.

At which point there will be those that point out that if you don’t live along or close to the track it still has to be the bus, and on certain services the failure to add extra units’ results in overcrowding and the risk of having to stand for part of the journey.

Still I like it and it remains my preferred way of getting into town even if it means first walking from Beech Road down to the metro stop at Morrisons.

What I didn’t know was that our network was the first modern service of its kind in the country beating Sheffield by two years and only preempted by Blackpool’s.

All of which was uppermost in my thoughts as I waited St Peter’s Square for my Jill and Geoff to arrive from Altrincham.

During the wait I clocked the frequency of trams and their different destinations and the sheer number and variety of passengers passing through.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Thinking about the fate of the Waggon and Horses in Sale a decade and a bit since it stopped serving

Now as ever there is always a story it just does not always turn out the way you think.

So here I am with a derelict pub on Cross Street between Mersey Road and Glebelands Road in Sale.

It is another of those pictures by Andy Robertson who is collecting an important collection of photographs which record how quickly our past is vanishing.

This was the Waggon & Horses

Now I have yet to track the pub back to its beginning, but it was there in 1875 and just over a hundred years later made a stir by replacing the electric pumps with the traditional hand pumps and barrel and sold real ale.

It was still serving the stuff in 2003 when according to the last landlord the place was sold to a developer and in the way of these things over a decade later it has yet to be developed.

And at this point I shall pause and direct you to the excellent Manchester Pub site which has a wonderful collection of pictures of the Waggon & Horses dating back to 1900 and equally fascinating a series of pictures from the inside long after last orders were called.

Now given the appearance of the place I suggest that anyone who wants to see it should do so  soon.

Once that is done there is that impressive pub the Volunteer a little further along Cross Street which I rather guess takes its name from the Volunteer Drill Hall that was close by.

That said someone will correct me and perhaps offer some interesting stories of both the Volunteer and the Waggon & Horse.

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson, 2014

*Guest Pub - Waggon & Horses, Sale,  from PUBS OF MANCHESTER PAST & PRESENT,

Out on the canal at Stalybridge

Now I have found 18 images of the Lock house on the canal at Stalybridge but this one is a new one.

I say new but it will have been taken sometime around 1909 and is another of the six I have been featuring from the series Tuck & Son produced.

They were one of the major producers of picture postcards during the 19th and 20th centuries and their cards pop up everywhere.

In this case on a wonderful site dedicated to the company.

Picture; the Lock House, Stalybridge, from the series Stalybridge, produced by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB,

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

My old Nokia and thoughts on what we have lost

It was so long ago that I can’t even remember which Nokia model this was, but it was my first mobile phone.

I don’t count the brick I briefly rented around 1994, it was very heavy not easy to use and really at the time there were few people I wanted to contact using it.

And in the two decades since I haven’t moved much further.  I briefly tried a smart phone but discovered I wasn’t smart enough to use it and went back to the company to ask for a down grade, to a phone which just allows you to call people, send texts and play snake with a battery which doesn’t run out by lunch time and which if you drop it just bounces on the floor.

So not for me the magic of sending emails receiving the latest news and buying online I will stick with a machine that is as antiquated as the wireless and the telegram.

Both of which are now history, pretty much along with the picture postcard and the telephone box.

Once the picture postcard reigned supreme.

A card sent in the morning could be expected to arrive in the afternoon allowing you to alert the family that you would be home from holiday later that day or just arrange to meet for tea.

Now if you can find a picture postcard it will cost an arm and leg to send it and it may take an age to arrive.

In much the same way I doubt that it is as easy to find a telephone kiosk.

Back in the early days of competition with Mercury BT were putting them up all over the place, and now they are disappearing in the same way as they arrived.

Of course there are still plenty around but like the 218 from town they no longer appear in bunches.

Time I think to go recording them.

Pictures; a cherished first Nokia from the collection of Andrew Simpson, and a telephone kiosk in Henry Square, t01643, circa 1990, courtesy of Tameside Image Archive,