Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Burrowing deep into the Great War ................the War Emergency Workers National Committee

Women munition workers Belsize works, Openshaw, 1918 
Yesterday I had one of those mornings which for me was pretty near perfect.

I was in the Labour History Archive and Study Centre in the Peoples’ History Museum looking at the work of the War Emergency Workers National Committee which was formed the day the Great War broke out “by the Labour Party, the Trades Union Congress, and the Co-operative movement, plus a number of other affiliated organisations such as the Fabian Society. 

Manchester Tramways Employees in uniform, 1915
The main concern of the WNC was to defend the interests of organised working people. 

The size of the collection goes some way toward showing the impact of the war on people’s lives. 

With over 20,000 pages of correspondence on all domestic matters relating to the war including: rents, food, employment, agriculture, pensions, railways, war babies, air raids and women’s war service etc. 
Bullet Factory, the Royal Arsenal Woolwich, 1918

It is a large collection of papers that relates very closely to the day to day domestic environment during the war. 

Importantly it depended on the actions of what used to be called the ‘rank and file’ of the labour/trade union movement for its running, it was far from a ‘top down’ committee.”*

Now there will be those that mutter I have wandered off into the academic stratosphere but not so.

During the war there were massive rises in food prices along with fuel and rents, a persistent concern about the adulteration of food and growing anger at pay levels and working conditions.

And all these issues were being grappled with by the National Committee.

There are correspondence about the separation allowances paid to the wives of men who had enlisted, reports of sweated labour and the exploitation of children and the availability of speakers on a range of issues from food prices to rent rises.

It is the stuff of everyday life made more vivid by the backdrop of the war.

In 1915 the Stockport Labour Party reported on the level of representation on pensions committees, and Mr J. Robinson of the Stockport Branch of the Tailor’s Society queried the rates for making Khaki tunics.

Later still in 1917 the National Committee was engaged in the registration of shops in Manchester and the rising price of coal.

What makes these documents fascinating is that not only do they cover the whole country but are powerful examples of ordinary people challenging wrong doing and seeking to improve conditions.

So I have no doubt that they will reveal much about life during the war

All of which just leaves me to reflect on what a pleasant place the archive centre is for burrowing deep into the past.  The staff were most helpful and friendly and there are grand views of the river.

Pictures; Women Munitions workers Belsize works, Openshaw, 1918 m08093, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass the Bullet Factory, Arsenal, Woolwich, 1918,  from the collection of Mark Flynn, http://www.markfynn.com/london-postcards.htm and  Manchester Tramways Employees in uniform, 1915 Don’t You Wish you were boak in Bolton from the collection of David Harrop

* Labour History Archive and Study Centre, Information Guide No. 8, http://www.phm.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/8-World-War-I.pdf Peoples’ History Museum, http://www.phm.org.uk/

Postcard as promised, bought in romantic Sorrento, posted in romantic Manchester

So who still ends picture postcards?  

Now I know I don’t, and I guess that is true of many.

After all texting, camera phones, and the internet all instant ways of telling someone you are having a
wonderful time on holiday.

Of course back in the late 19th and early 20th century it was still the cheapest and most reliable way of sending a message.

Cheap postage, and frequent collections and deliveries meant a card sent from Blackpool in the evening would arrive the following morning.

So you could not only warn the family you would be home for breakfast but also arrange to meet a friend later in the day.

Today all that has changed, so it was nice to receive this in the post today.

It is of a place that I still find fascinating,  a period of history which always draws me in. and is a postcard the first of the year.

No more needs to be said other than an apology to Joe and Bron for not sending them a similar card when we were in Sorrento in July

Potscard; from Joe and Bron.

Back in the Northern Territory in 1984

I am back in Australia just 30 years ago with more pictures of the Northern Territory.

They were taken by June Pound just as the area was being transformed by the Ord River scheme.

This area was home to cattlemen from Sidney who farmed the land here about.  It the summer it was hot arid and unpromising but according to June the winters were full of water.

So hence the scheme to regulate the water supply.

Pictures, from the collection of June Pound

Monday, 29 September 2014

Barlow Hall and its occupants, ............ an ancient Chorlton family, the radical on trial for conspiracy and the banker

Barlow Hall is old and while there may have been a building on the site dating from the Middle Ages, the present half timbered structure dates probably from the reign of Henry VIII. Little of the original structure was visible by the 1840s.

Most of the timber work had been covered in plaster or hidden under ivy.

The old great hall which occupied most of the building and open to the roof had been divided off to create two stories, with the lower floor given over to three entertaining rooms.

The Barlow’s had settled here by the fourteenth century, appear to have lived a quiet existence until like many they were caught up in the conflicts over religion in the sixteenth century.

They had adhered to the old faith and been persecuted during the reign of the first Elizabeth.

The family continued to live at the Hall until the last died in 1773 and the estate was sold to the Egerton’s twelve years later.

During the later part of the eighteenth century and into the next it had been home of the radical Thomas Walker, and later to the leading Whig businessman Shakepeare Phillips and in June 1848 to William Cunliffe Brooks.

According to various observers Cunliffe Brooks was keen not only to preserve the building but to share his love of the hall.

This interest never appeared to have left him and led Mrs C Williamson to write in her Recollections of Fallowfield, that his “love for old things is so great that every relic is sacred to him, and even mindful alterations are made in such close imitation of old, they look the real thing.”

This was a passion which was to lead him to display a piece of the original timber which had been exposed after a fire in 1879,and own Chorlton historian may well have been speaking from firsthand experience when he advised that “Mrs Brook’s morning room is worthy of a visit, with its quaint old china, and the vestibule containing some fine old Furniture and an engraving of Wellington with his autograph.”

And the Hall is still there today, home to a golf course.

Picture; Barlow Hall from the collection of Rita Bishop, the Lloyd collection in the 19th century  and Andrew Robertson, 2014

Out in the Northern Territory in 1984, reflecting on two Irish brothers from Sydney who were looking for land

Welcome to the Northern Territory, 1984
Now the blog knows no boundaries and so here we are in the Northern Territory of Australia.

The pictures date from 1984 when my friend June and her husband visited the Northern territory just as the area was transformed by the Ord River scheme.

“The pictures are of part of a cattle station pioneered by two Irish brothers from Sydney who were looking for land on which to raise cattle in the 19th century. 

The land was arid and was very bad in the dry season but, in the wet, there was plenty of water - sometimes, of course far too much. 

Lake Argyle, 1984
In the 20th Century it was decided to dam the River Ord a project which was known as the Ord River scheme, which was intended to bring the desert country to life. 

We visited this area in 1984 on a trip around Australia in a coach. 

When the dam was completed and started to fill a rescue of wild life marooned by the rising waters was necessary.

We saw it when it was full and there was a lot of cultivation going on. 

"The land was arid and very bad in the dry season," 1984
I know that some people were concerned that the soil was very fragile and that it was being 'overcropped'. In the first photograph you will get some idea of how dry this area is in most parts.”

All of which is a trailer for some stories of Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Pictures; of the Northern Territory, 1984, June Pound

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Visions of a better world .......... nu 3 the political poster

Labour 1945
Now I have been thinking of the future in the aftermath of that vote in Scotland.

More so because my paternal grandparents and some of my uncles were born there and I wonder what they would have voted.

Given that they were all born in the 19th century I rather think they would have been for the Union.

But since that vote change is in the air and all things are possible I thought I would just look back at the political poster at election time and reflect that this is usually a time when visions of are most visible.

In 1945 the war in Europe had ended in May and the wartime Government announced a General Election for July 5th.

It was the first in ten years and given the popularity of Winston Churchill many assumed the Conservative Party he led would be victorious.

Conservative 1929
But while the war time leader was popular there was a mood for change and one that the Conservatives were not seen to be able to deliver. For many they were associated with the grim years of the 1930s dominated by mass unemployment, the Means Test and appeasement.

Some with longer memories reflected on the failure of the 1918 Conservative dominated government of Lloyd George and succeeding Tory governments to make Britain a land fit for heroes after the Great War.

This was in direct contrast to the policies of the Labour Party who were committed to social reform, ranging from a national health service, a new housing policy and an expansion of state funding for education.

Their slogan And Now Win the Peace offered a bright new future which reflected the aspirations of those who had fought in the Peoples’ War.

Liberal Party early 20th century
And for those who want to follow up on the remaining two posters with their visions of a better Britain the stories can also be read on the blog.*

Picture; Labour Party Campaign poster 1945, Labour Party, and reaming posters from Politics: Exploring the Political Poster in Britain which was on display at the People's History Museum, Manchester, in 2012, http://www.phm.org.uk/whatson/picturing-politics-exploring-the-political-poster-in-britain/

* Posters of the 20th century, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Posters%20from%20the%2020th%20century

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Standing beside history ............. a new story from the Together Trust

Outside the Town Hall ready to leave
Now there is something very powerful in being able to stand on the exact same spot as a group of people whose history you know something about.

We are outside the Town Hall in Albert Square and like countless others I have stood on those steps and never tire of being impressed by the entrance and the large open space beyond with the broad stone staircases and the carved and painted images which celebrate our municipal achievement.

Of course I have no idea about what the party of young people standing there in the May of 1914 thought or felt and to try and speculate would be idle and unhistorical.

But it is a good starting point for the latest blog from the Together Trust which focuses on the last groups to be migrated by the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refugue to Canada and the work done to monitor their well being.

Since 1870 sending some of our young people across the Atlantic was seen as a way of giving them fresh start.

It was a policy which some challenged at the time and many since have come to criticise.

The Manchester and Salford Boys’and Girls’ Refugue began sending children in their care from 1870 but stopped just before the outbreak of the Great War and I think they were the first agency to do so.

This weeks’ blog begins to explore some of the documentation that went with that migration focusing on the “emigration books that remain in the archive [and which] show reports for children up to the age of eighteen and sometimes beyond.“

All of which is an important tool in understanding what went on and by extension might well help with any one tracing their own relative who crossed the Atlantic.

At which point I will not steal any of the archivist’s thunder and instead point you towards the blog and leave you to do the rest.

Suffice to say that the report on 17 year old Alfred draws you in and shows just what there is on offer.

Picture; Emigration Party outside the ManchesterTown Hall, courtesy of the Together Trust, 

* Emigration during WW1, http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/

At Stalybridge Railway Station with a pint, a pie and a view of the hills,

Platform 4, 2014
I have fond memories of Stalybridge Railway Station.

Back in the mid 1970s it is where we would catch the train to the North East on rolling stock which must have dated from the early 50s.

There was even a sign in one of the lavatories which announced that “in the event of inclement weather water can be obtained from the guard” which I always took to be if the pipes had frozen.

But someone will put me straight on that and no doubt also the exact date when the old buffet on platform 4 was enlarged and transformed into its present very pleasant restaurant which I think was 1998.

It is still a grand place to take a pint and pie and takes you back to all those old fashioned buffets on stations across the country.  All too often now a meal or a drink on a station  is in one of those  anonymous chain outlet which can be seen on any city centre of high street.

But not so the restaurant on Stalybridge Station, it has good food, some interesting customers and above all with only a bit of imagination you could be back with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in the film Brief Encounters.

Now that may just challenge most readers so I shall just say it was made in 1945 and perfectly captures a British Railways Buffet which had changed very little a decade later when I passed through them.

Looking across to the hills, 1983
The station  was opened in 1845   by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway and is just fifteen years younger than that first passenger railway station on Liverpool Road.

So like Huddersfield Station which I wrote about yesterday this is a fine place to see the history of how railway stations were going in the early years of the Railway Age.

What is better you can still get there by train from the city so no worries about excepting that second pint, just, “let the train take the strain.”

And just before someone mutters what about the folk club, yes there was one but for reasons I don't remember I never went.

But I bet my friend Brian did and he has added just a bit more to the story.

"The station was opened by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, which became the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire, and then the  Great Central.

It station became jointly run when the L&NW Railway opened the line from Stockport to Yorkshire on 1849."

All of which leaves me with offering Brian a pint in the station buffet.

In the meantime there is lots more to read about our stations at *Manchester Railway Station,  http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Manchester%20Railway%20Station

Pictures; Stalybridge Buffet Bar on platform 4, El Pollock - from geograph.org.uk This image was taken from the Geograph project collection. See this photograph's page on the Geograph website for the photographer's contact details. The copyright on this image is owned by El Pollock and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. The station in 1983,  Mr. M. Schofield, courtesy of Tameside Image Archive, http://www.tameside.gov.uk/history/archive.php3 and inside the Buffet, from Stalybridge Buffet Bar, https://www.facebook.com/StalybridgeBuffetBar/photos_stream

Remembering those from Heaton Mersey who served in the Great War, today and tomorrow at Heaton Methodist Church

Now until recently I had no idea of the number of buildings which were turned over to Red Cross Hospitals during the Great War.

But bit by bit their history is coming to light.  Most were in buildings donated for the duration of the conflict and ranged from Sunday School Halls, to private residences and were used for soldiers recovering from wounds and illnesses.

They were partly funded by voluntary contributions and many of the staff were volunteers, and once the war was over the contents of the hospitals from beds to bed pans, blankets, typewriters and crockery were auctioned off.

Most of the buildings returned to their pre-war use and within a generation the presence of these Red Cross hospitals was forgotten.

Today only a handful of people may know of the existence of one in their neighbourhood.

So to help focus on these over the weekend there will be an exhibition at Heaton Methodist Church and a tour of the homes of the men from Heaton Mersey who served during the war.

The exhibition at Heaton Methodist Church, Cavendish Road, will be open from  10 – 4, today and  2-5 Sunday with the  walk at  1pm on  Saturday  and 3pm Sunday

* Heaton Methodist Church, https://www.facebook.com/hmmchurch

Pictures; courtesy of David Harrop

Friday, 26 September 2014

Huddersfield Railway Station ......... what they did after building our own Liverpool Road Station

We were in Huddersfield recently enjoying the last of the summer sunshine and following Bradshaw’s railway guide.

Now I am a great fan of Mr Bradshaw and bought in to his three maps of The Inland Navigation of England and Wales which he produced in 1830 as well as his Illustrated Handbook to London which came out in 1862.

At which point I should say that the actual inspiration for the trip came from that television series based on the railway guide and given the magnificent shots of St George’s Square and the surrounding buildings we were hooked.

The station was built in 1846 received praise from both Sir John Betjeman and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner and is very impressive.

That said the interior is much smaller than you would expect from that grand frontage and the two buildings at either end are now pubs.

But it is still magnificent and has that statute of Harold Wilson who I have to admit I’d forgotten come from Huddersfield.

So for those who want to see where railway architecture went after Liverpool Railway Station was built in 1830, this is the next best place.

Our own first station was a bold statement for the new railway age but this one coming just 16 years later has all that confidence that said "the railway is here to stay" and that I like.

And  it is still a busy place with trains coming and going and a shed full of passengers travelling east to Leeds and beyond and  west to Manchester and Liverpool.

It may not have the size of Piccadilly or Victoria or that restaurant at Stalybridge but there is no doubting that we are doing serious rail travel here.

What is more you can can still get to it by train from Manchester, now that can’t be bad.

We went by car but had planned on using the train which is just how you should visit a railway station.

And that just leaves me to send you back to all those earlier stories of Manchester's railway stations.*

Pictures;  of Huddersfield Station and St George’s Square, August 2014, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Next; that station at Stalybridge, for a pint, a pie and a view of the hills.

*Manchester Railway Station,  http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Manchester%20Railway%20Station

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Progress Estate, just one year off a century

Now the blog is read pretty much everywhere.

This is not a boast, that is something I am too modest to do but since November 2011 when it began it has been read by lots of people across the globe.

So with that in mind I wanted to show Well Hall off to the world.

So here are three pictures taken by Jean Low and her husband of the Progress Estate.

They feature the different styles that were built and capture what makes the estate a much sought after place to live and one which many look back on with fond memories.

And that includes me who moved to Well Hall Road in 1964 when the Progress Estate was almost fifty years old.

If you live in Eltham its history is well known and for those who don’t I shall just say it was built in 1915 by the Government as homes for the workers at the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich and was originally called the Well Hall Estate before changing its name after it had been bought by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.

Now that just leaves me waiting for someone to take a picture of 294 Well Hall Road where we lived from 1964 till 1991.

I know I should have taken one when we lived there but I didn't.

Well you tend to take a place for granted and I have to admit I miss it.

But when ever I pass the place it looks as good as I remember it.

And if you want more follow the story at Living in a piece of history, the Progress Estate Well Hall, in the spring of 1964, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/living-in-piece-of-history-progress.html

Pictures; courtesy of Jean Low

Watching as the fields around Hough End Hall become housing estates

The Hall from the air in 1925
I just wonder what Mrs Lomas of Hough End Hall made of the creeping urbanization which bit by bit encroached on the land surrounding her home and farm.

The Lomas family had lived in the hall from the late 1840s.

Back then her uncle in law farmed over 200 acres stretching east into Withington and west up to the borders of Chorlton-cum-Hardy.

But at the beginning of the 20th century speculative builders had begun putting up houses along Sandy Lane and Nell Lane and a little later during the Great War the aerodrome occupied land to the rear of the hall.

That said there was still plenty of open land during the early decades of the last century.

In 1925 when the photograph above was taken the hall still appears to be in splendid isolation with just a hint of housing to the north.

Out to the south of the Hall in 1933
Now appearances can be a little deceptive because while the Brook continues to flow through open fields, the land directly opposite the Hall had become Chorlton Park and Nell Lane had been widened.

Seven years later the area to the south of the hall was filling up with Corporation housing and dominating the corner of Nell Lane and Mauldeth Road West was the Southern Hotel.

Mrs Lomas died in 1940 and by then the farm was down to just over 3 acres and a large belt of land out towards Whalley Range had also been built on.

I wish we had a diary or some letters from Mrs Lomas which might shed light on what she thought, but at present there is nothing all of which just leaves me with these two pictures.

The full story of the Hall, some of the people who lived worked and played there can be found in the first book exclusively devoted to its history which will be published later this year under the title, Hough End Hall, the story.

Pictures; Hough End from the air, 1925, Imperial Airways, m72046, and the Southern Hotel and land to the south of the hall in 1933, N S Roberts, m72051, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

*Hough End Hall the story, Andrew Simpson, Peter Topping to be published later this year

The shock of the new, being a railway passenger in 1830

Now I am not sure that some of the detail is completely accurate on this painting by A.B. Clayton of the “Inaugural journey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway 1830” but what I like is the way that it captures the shock of the new.

There rattling along at an impressive speed is the future while looking on are two oldish chaps who were no doubt born in the previous century when the canal was the cutting edge of transport technology and the horse the fastest you could travel.

One of the men leans on the sign warning the curious of the dangers presented by the innocent line of railway track.  And it was at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway that William Huskinson the MP for Liverpool was killed when he was run over by Locomotive.

Now there are plenty of descriptions of the opening day and memories of people who travelled the trains from Liverpool to Manchester but my favorite is from J T Slugg’s wonderful book Reminiscences of Manchester published in 1881, and describing the city in the 1830s*.  Slugg lived here in Chorlton and knew Thomas Ellwood whose writings on the township are still required reading by anyone who wants to know what the village was like in the 19th century.

Likewise Slugg paints a detailed picture of “this system of travelling” which “it seemed impossible to jump from old practices and habits into a new order of things without passing a transition stage [so] as there had been two classes of passengers by coach – inside and outside- so there were at first only two classes of trains. The first class trains went at 7 and 10 a.m., and 2 and 5 p.m.; and the second class at 7-30 a.m., and 1 and 5-30 p.m."

And of course the accommodation varied with the cost of the fare.  For 7s you got to sit in a first class carriage holding four passengers and for a shilling less you shared with five others.  Second class cost 5s for “glass coaches and in open carriages, 3s.6d.”  Those who had not booked in advance were not permitted to travel.

But perhaps the most revealing insight into that age of transition was that “there were no wayside stations except at Newton, and [so] the train stayed anywhere on the line to suit the convience of passengers.”

Moreover the “directors announced that they were determined to prevent the practice of supplying liquor on the road, and requested that passengers not alight, [but] before this regulation as to liquor was issued I [Slugg] took a journey to Liverpool in the stand up boxes, and well recollect on the return stopping at Patricroft, opposite to an inn on the left-hand side and seeing a young woman, carrying a large tray of glasses containing liquors and cigars, which she supplied to many of the passengers.”

But that is enough for now.

Pictures; Inaugural journey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway 1830, A.B.Clayton, in the public domain and the rest  from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Slugg, J.T.,Reminiscences of Manchester, 1881

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Looking for clues in an old family photograph .......... George and Nellie Davison in Ireland in 1916

Many of us will have a family picture like this dating from the Great War.

This one of George and Nellie Davison was taken in 1916.

In late 1915 George was posted to Woolwich and from there to Ireland and ultimately the Western Front where he died just months before the end of the conflict.

And the picture is just one of an extensive collection of material stretching back to 1899 and on into the middle of the 20th century.

It includes school reports, a testimonial as well the notes he wrote to Nellie from Chorlton when they were “walking out” and letters and postcards sent from 1915 to 1918 and continues on with the inevitable official correspondence.

Nor does it finish there because there are also letters written by Nellie, medical bills and much more stretching into the 1950s.

There may be similar collections but this one allows us to track one Manchester family pretty much across the 20th century and brings together much of that everyday material which is often lost.

Now I am not an expert at decoding family portraits like this, but there are many clues which confirm what I already know about the family and in particular George’s war service.

His cap badge spurs and bandoleer offer information up on his regiment and the stripe helps further date the picture.

But it is the name of the photographer on the reverse which fastens our picture to sometime in 1916.

This was J.S. Kingston, of Kilborgan Hill, Bandon which is in County Cork just south of the city of Cork.

Kilborgan Hill is a pleasant road that runs up from the square.  Mr Kingston is listed in the directories* from 1913 till 1922 at North Main Street,Bandon, and in time I should be able to locate the photographic studio, but for now it is enough to know that Bandon was where George was stationed for most of 1916.

And their presence together in Bandon also confirms what I had begun to conclude from some of Nellie’s letters that she had spent time in Ireland and may well have been with him later when he was sent back to Woolwich.

In turn it might also explain the total absence of any letters for 1917.  I had at first assumed that they were lost but it is equally likely that the couple were together during the year.

At some point she sub let their cottage in Romiley and returned to Manchester, perhaps to be close to family and also refers in a letter to renting a room “while in Ireland and London.”**

I had no idea that she had moved around the country so much during the war and begs the question as to how common this was.

All of which will take me back to his letters.

The evidence suggests that she was not in Ireland for long because the photograph was sent to her back in Hulme.

But in the meantime I shall close with another look at the photograph focusing on the studio props with the painted backdrop and Nellie’s formal pose holding the piece of paper.

Picture; family portrait Bandon, 1916, from the Davison collection, courtesy of David Harrop

*Guys Cork Almanack, 1913 and Postal Directory 1921

**July 7 1919

Chorlton’s Corner shops ................. number 11

On Monday we were on the corner of Sandy Lane and Whalley Avenue sometime in the 1980s.

And because I am lazy I have decided to stay on the same road and have used the second shot taken on that day by Mr Lloyd.

Lazy yes, but still a fascinating peice of our recent past.

I just await someone to go back down Sandy Lane and capture the same shot today which I hope will be followed up with some memories.

Using goggle street maps doesn't count, you have to get out there on this sunny day.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Ashton-Under-Lyne Market on a sunny day in the 1950s

This is another of those cards for which I don’t have a date, but judging by the clothes and the vans we are sometime in the 1950s.

So this is the market place in Ashton-Under-Lyne a full twenty years or so before I knew it.  

The impressive Town Hall is still covered in a century of soot and grime, the market stalls are positioned differently from where I remember them but the place still looks familiar.

Like all market places there is a bustle and purpose to what you see. The merchandise is piled high and you have a choice ranging from fresh food to clothes, and novelty goods and toys.

So in that respect not a lot has changed.  The last time I was there the stalls of vegetables and fruit competed with plastic toys, dubious electrical goods and all manner of fashions.

And on the periphery are the ice cream vans and fast food businesses, offering tea, coffee and sandwiches with of course the attractive looking but often slightly stale cakes and buns.

All a lot different from the designer markets which regularly appear in the city centre and on the village green.

These remain a bit of a novelty, but all too often there is little to choose between Italian week and that German experience, and I rather think that in many cases the produce is exactly the same.

As for bargains I don’t know.

All of which is a bit different from the old Grey Mare Lane Market opposite where we lived and the Ashton market.

I still remember that wonderful bright marbled sponge cake in layers you buy in slabs and the record stall from which I bought a treasured Marvin Gaye, Tammy Tyrell LP which over thirty years later I still have.

But enough of such memories.

Instead I shall add those of Margaret Gain who posted that she was "born and bred in Ashton and that is exactly as I remember the market. 

My mum shopped there every other day. 

The ice cream vans were Fairclough's and Howard's. Kelly's salad stall, Latus for fruit and veg, the dolls hospital, the roundabouts and the swings. 

It was a real delight to go to the market. 

There's an excellent book called 'to market, to market' in the Local Studies Library all,about Ashton Market."

All of which leaves me to hope there will be plenty more memories from Margaret and others who remember the scene.

Location; Ashton-Under-Lyne, Tameside, Greater Manchester

Picture; Market Place and Town Hall from the series Ashton-U-Lyne, issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of TuckDB http://tuckdb.org/history

The not so mysterious birth place of James Heard

Yesterday I started what I thought was one of those mysterious hunts for an elusive man.

The man in question was James Heard who is buried in St Wilfred’s in Northenden.

Ken Fish came across the gravestone and was intrigued by the reference to NB beside Mr Heard’s place of birth which we both took to be New Brunswick in Canada, and dispute the reference to Fochabers in Scotland as his place of birth both of us held to the Canadian connection.

Now a trawl of the Canadian records courtesy of my friend Lorri threw up a few with the right name and date of birth, none of which were born in NB.

And it took Brian Robertson to put me finally straight, "Hiya Andrew. As I have said on my Facebook group, NB is 'North Britain'. That is what people called Scotland a century or so ago. I have seen it on old postcards that my family hold."

So as ever the simple explanation is the best.

And for all of of you who mutter "well that was a walk up a garden path to the brick wall and the dead rose bush," I have to agree but it was fun along the way, demonstrating once more that history is messy but never dull.

Picture; of the gravestone of James Heard in St Wilfred’s, September 2014, courtesy of Ken Fish

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chorlton’s Corner shops ................. number 9

We are on the corner of Sandy Lane and Whalley Avenue sometime in the 1980s.

The picture pretty much speaks for itself, but I will point out the last hint of a ghost sign on the gable end, which to be more accurate I guess was a sign board which carried the advert.

And now I just await someone to go back down Sandy Lane and capture the same shot today which I hope will be followed up with some memories.

Picture; from the Lloyd Collection

Hough End Hall ............. what we have lost and what we can save

Cover from Hough End Hall The Story
Hough End Hall was all that a rich and influential Elizabethan merchant and politician could want of a country home.

Sir Nicholas Mosley built it in 1596 to replace an older family mansion and it stayed in the possession of the Mosley’s well into the 18th century.

Form then right the way through till modern times it has been a farmhouse, restaurant and suite of offices and during those centuries has been much knocked about.

In 1888 Mrs Williamson in her book on Fallowfield  wrote that “the mansion itself has been little altered outwardly since its erection by Sir Nicolas Mosley, excepting that the large entrance porch, which was formerly at the end now occupied by the tool house, is removed and several antique windows have been replaced by modern ones.

Internally everything is changed; in fact, the only trace of former grandeur is the ornamentation of the tool house.  A handsome carved oak staircase, which until quite recently led from the tool house to an upper chamber, has been taken by Lord Egerton to Tatton, and there certainly shows to more advantage.”

It was now she concluded “a comfortable substantial farm house.”

On the ground floor the central part of the building along with the north wing had become small rooms including a dining room, sitting room, kitchen and bathroom to the left of the entrance and a drawing room to the right.

Most remarkable of all was the conversion of the south wing into a smithy which remained in use well into the 1950s.

During the later 20th century it underwent massive internal renovation and today there is little that Sir Nicholas would recognise.

The Hall today
So with all that in mind it is time for a new book on the history of the building.

I say new but in fact there has not been a book entirely devoted to its history and so anyone wanting to find out about Sir Nichola's home has to trawl through a series of books and newspaper articles most of which use as their source a book written in 1858.

Hough End Hall the story aims to address that by describing the building, along with the people who lived, worked and played there over its 400 years and covers everything from when it was built to the uncertain decades when it was nearly demolished.

The Hall, circa 1910
And it is richly illustrated with a collection of images including pictures and photographs from the last two centuries with paintings by Peter Topping.

There will be those who might well agree that here in this book  there is “all you ever wanted to know, but never knew where to look.”

It will be on sale later in the year and the money raised from each copy sold will go to the campaign to buy the hall and save it for community use.

I am not sure what Sir Nicholas would make of that but I am pretty sure Mrs Williamson would approve.

Pictures; cover of Hough End Hall the story by Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping, and the interior of the hall in 2014 from the collection of Nigel Anderson

* Williamson, Mrs C, Sketches of Fallowfield, John Heywood, 1888, page 48

**Hough End Hall the story by Andrew Simpson and Peter Topping will be published later in the year

Back on the streets of Ashton-Under-Lyne in the 19th century

Victorian Ashton, 1974

I have fond memories of Ashton-Under-Lyne.

It was where I lived for three years in a small terraced house off Penny Meadow and it suited me just fine.

It was after all about as far away from south Manchester as you could go and the life of a student which had been my lot for four years.

But above all for someone interested in 19th century history it had the lot.  Here were the mills, a canal and a fine market hall and the old PSA building.*

Now I know that if I had washed up in Oldham, Rochdale or any one of a number of the mills towns in the region I would have found something of the same, but Ashton was where we lived and it was Ashton’s industrial and social past that we explored in the mid 1970s.

It was a place which really came into its own during the 19th century.  So while it had been a market town since 1284 it remained a small place until the Industrial Revolution.

Its population in 1775 was about five thousand and according to one account the town was contained in “four narrow dark streets formed by mean looking dwellings.”**

But during the last quarter of the 18th century and the first four decades of the 19th it rapidly expanded as the textile industries were developed.

So the population increased and in just fifteen years from 1827 “the place has been rapidly augmented; .... the banks of the canal and the Tame are now lined by numerous streets; the area betwixt Old Street and Charlestown is nearly built upon, and a portion of it forms  a spacious Market-place, on the north side of which is erected an elegant Town Hall; the fields formerly bordering on the north of the Old Cross have been transformed into street avenues; the east side of the Rectory has received a large accession of habitations, the west side of Oldham Road is become a portion of the town; and the vicinities of Henry-square and St Peter’s Church abound with edifices.”***

Ashton, 1841-54
It is a story which has been told in part but for me one of the most excellent and enduring accounts is that of Victorian Ashton which as the Preface says, is not so much a history of Ashton in the 19th century but “a collection of essays dealing with aspects of life at the time, and a record of what remains of the period today.”****

I bought it back in 1974 when it was first published and regularly go back to it. It includes articles on 19th century housing, the Churches and Chapels, leisure and Industrial Archaeology along with descriptions of Chartist activity and individuals like Hugh Mason.

Ashton in 1834
In the almost forty years since the publication of Victorian Ashton, the town has changed a lot and some of the places featured in the book will have gone.

Rereading the section on the Industrial Archaeology of Ashton-under-Lyne by Owen Ashmore is to be reminded of just how much of the economic and industrial landscape has altered in the last four decades.

Likewise the account of the town’s 19th century housing by Sylvia A. Harrop is a wonderful record of what was and still is.

Ashton in 1821
So I am rather pleased that I still have my forty year old copy of Victorian Ashton, and equally pleased that it is still available from Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.*****

What is all the more remarkable is that while I paid 75p for it in 1974, it still retails for just a £1, which I reckon has got to be a major incentive to get a copy.

Pictures; Victorian Ashton, courtesy of Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, population increase taken from Nineteenth Century Housing in Ashton, Sylvia Harrop, Victorian Ashton, and detail of the town centre from the OS map for Lancashire, 1841-54, courtesy of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/ extracts of Ashton in the 1830s from Butterworth Edwin, A Historical Account of the towns of Ashton-Under-Lyne, Stalybridge and Duckinfield,

*Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Brotherhood, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/tram-and-pleasant-sunday-afternoon.html
**Butterworth Edwin, A Historical Account of the towns of Ashton-Under-Lyne, Stalybridge and Duckinfield, 1842, page 52
***ibid Butterworth, page 54
**** Victorian Ashton, Ed by Sylvia A. Harrop and E.A. Rose, Tameside Libraries and Arts Committee 1974
*****Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, Central Library, Old Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL6 7SG, http://www.tameside.gov.uk/archives