Wednesday, 31 December 2014

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 50 ............ greeting a New Year

December  in Chorlton
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.*

Now to be completely accurate we will not reach the centenary of the house until the middle of next year but we were close enough when I started these stories to make it almost that full century.

And nothing concentrates thoughts on that big anniversary than New Year’s Eve.

I have no idea how Joe and Mary Ann celebrated but it should not be too difficult to reconstruct given what I know of them and the way people welcomed in the New Year in the first half of the 20th century.

Of course the war years will have made the night a little different.

In 1915 when they moved in we were in the second year of the Great War and for the duration of the conflict I guess New Years Eve would have been a quiet affair tinged with the hope that the war could not last much longer.

A Happy New Year, 1921
By contrast those that they saw during the Second World War may have been even quieter given the shortages and the threat of air raids.

These may have lessened as the war drew to a close but never entirely went away and the memory of the Manchester Blitz was still a vivid one.

There had been fire bombs on the farm house directly opposite more at the top of Beech Road and in some of the surrounding streets along with a stick of high explosive bombs which fell across Barlow Moor and Claude Roads severely damaging the cinema and some houses.

Nor I suspect were the years directly following the end of the war any more elaborate.

There was still rationing which lingered on in to the 1950s compounded by fuel shortages and the scars left by the bombing.

All of which would have made it a very different evening to the one that John Mike and Lois enjoyed in the 1970s or the ones that have gone on in the years we have lived here.

Waiting for the New Year Eve 2009
Central to many of them was the trip to the pub which may either have involved seeing in the New Year with Stan and Moira in the Trevor or going on to a party.

Later on through the 80s into the 90s we stayed in with a couple of rented films for the kids, some champagne and a table full of food.

Now all in their way different but in other ways there was a continuity which binds all those decades together.

It starts with that simple observation that until relatively recently you didn’t have to buy a special ticket to get into a pub, fireworks were confined to a few short bursts of colour in the night sky and drifting across from the docks you could hear the sound of the ships sirens.

And last year there was one more break with tradition for while some of the lads spent the night in the house we had left for Varese to see the New Year in with Tina’s family.

Varese is an hour from Milan and the night was a big affair with a meal which went on for hours punctuated by games and welcoming in the New Year between courses.

Waiting for the New Year in Varese, 2013
We celebrated a full hour before Chorlton.

But this year we will be here and I rather think most of the lads will be if only before they go off into the night to see in the new year somewhere else leaving us to toast Jooles Holland and assorted guests in much the same way that Joe and Mary Ann accompanied Andy Stewart and the White Heather Club.

Pictures; New Year Greeting card, 1921, Tuck & Sons courtesy of  Tuck DB,,  from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of house,

*The Story of one municipal flat in Varese,

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Down at the Portland Basin in Ashton-Under-Lyne admiring the Cavendish Mill

Now I collect old textile mills which I am the first to admit is not as easy as stamp collecting.

Cavendish Mill, © 2014 Peter Topping
More so because with every year that passes more of these monuments to our industrial heritage vanish although today there is a growing trend to convertt them in to residential properties which at least preserves them.

My own special haunt is Ancoats but as I lived in Ashton I had to add the Cavendish Mill to the collection.

By one of those rare coincidences we were down at the Portland Basin in the summer and not much later Peter Topping made the same journey and in the process painted this image of the old mill posting on a number of sites, with the accompanying comment that "the Cavendish Spinning Company Limited was registered in 1884 with the sole purpose of building the Cavendish Cotton Mill. 

Taking on a fireproof design it was the first mill in Ashton to have concrete floors and a flat roof. 

On the canal side it is 6 floors high, and 5 floors on the other sides. Its main feature is the octagonal staircase that... But wait a minute... What am I doing writing this!!! As local historian Andrew Simpson says he tells the stories and Peter paints the pictures. So I am going to have to stop there and leave you to look at the painting and soon after Christmas Andrew has promised to tell the story.”

All of which was a challenge I couldn’t refuse.

The mill continued spinning cotton until 1934 but remained in industrial use until 1976 and has now been converted offering a mix of residential commercial and community use.

All of which was information fairly easily available but as ever I wandered off looking for a something more.

And there it was in a directory for cotton mills in Ashton-Under-Lyne for 1891 which told me that had I been in the Royal Exchange in Manchester between 1 and 1.30 each week day I could have met with the agents of the company with a view to buying some cotton.

I may even go looking for the exact spot where I could have done the business because the entry listed them at “No., 10 Pillar” and no doubt I could also have listened as the agents proudly told me that they had "72,000 spindles, 328/408 twist and 168/468 weft.”

Now that is the sort of fascinating detail to add to my collector’s picture.

Painting; Cavendish Mill, © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures


Monday, 29 December 2014

So no more will I meet you at Kemps’ Corner

One of Chorlton best known landmarks .... rebuilt to form an extension to a bank
Kemp’s Corner is no more and lives only in the memories of  older residents.  

And yet for more than half a century it was one of the places in Chorlton which was a recognised meeting place.

It was located on the corner of Wilbraham and Barlow Moor Roads and was the site of Harry Kemp’s Chemist shop.

Now it is a story I have told before but is worth bringing out of the shadows again underling that simple observation that despite planners efforts to designate a place with an official name if it doesn’t catch the popular imagination it will not be used.

So it is with the junction of the two roads.  The official name which appeared just before the end of the last century is Chorlton Cross, but older people still think of it as Kemp’s Corner and most people today refer to it simply as the Four Banks.

Detail from the story in the Stretford and Urmston Journal, 1978
Both names arose out of popular usage, for not only was Kemp’s Chemist a prominent shop and he was a local politician but above the shop door was a big clock which I guess made meeting there that bit easy while today the presence of  a bank on each corner continues to make it a landmark.

All of which is a long way round to this newspaper report which captured the moment when Kemps’ Corner disappeared.

The Chemist had been run by the Coop for a while and then became a fast food out let but eventually the Midland Bank bought the building and set to converting it.

And the rest is almost history, for as someone said to me the idea that the place could have been known as Kentucky Fried Chicken Corner was just not going to happen.

Once the Midland had taken the corner we were on the way to the “Four Banks” which is itself an echo of an earlier name.  For back at the end of the 19th century someone had told a friend on a postcard to meet her at Bank Corner.

Picture; the Chorlton edition of the Stretford and Urmston Journal, April 13, 1978

Sunday, 28 December 2014

A little bit of history and a call for live music with the Smirks

I have been looking at my collection of old campaign badges.

Mine stretch back to the late 1960s and encompass many of the big issues of the period.  They are a wonderful introduction into the politics of the period ranging from CND, pensioners rights and plenty of industrial struggles.

Some are funny, a few very angry, a small number a little pretentious and the rest are wonderfully optimistic.

But behind them all were things that mattered to me at the time and most I still feel the same about nearly 40 years since I bought them.

Of course often the badges were a quick response to an immediate situation whether it was a factory closure a threat to a public service or a demand for a change in Government policy.

At other times they were about raising awareness which might be anything from “No to Nuclear Weapons”  “Manchester against Racism for Equality” or support for anti colonial movements.

Some did have more to do with wishful thinking but the majority were rooted in real things and upon the outcome turned the prosperity and hopes of whole communities.

This makes these humble little badges important because they are somebody’s history.

Put enough of them together from a particular period and you a have an insight into what was going on.

Of course they are only a start and the historian will dig much deeper than just the campaign badge but they are a pointer into the mood of how some people thought and acted.

And they were pretty much an instant response.  Two people with a badge machine and an imagination could respond to events passing them out in hours at a meeting or demonstration.

All of which leads me to Smirks against Travolta and the badge which I think my friend Lawrence gave me.

I was vaguely amused by it and really missed the point that there was a very real issue about the threat to live music from the growing popularity of discos and recorded music.

And as ever in going back to the Smirks I was led down a path to Jilted John whose demo record featured two of the Smirks.  From there by a slow process to Kirsty MacColl and There’s A Guy Who Works Down the Chip Shop which may be a long way from Dog Walkers Against the Bomb and the Peoples March For Jobs but it is fun.

Pictures; badges from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Of night clubs and cinemas on Market Street in Staylbridge

Now I collect old cinemas and in my time have watched films in some of the oldest we have and stood outside many more which have long since gone dark.

But the Palace on Market Street in Stalybridge passed me by, or to be more accurate I passed it on many occasions when we lived in Ashton back in the 1970s but never went in.

To my shame when we went to the cinema it would have been in Manchester, where both of us worked by day and where we were drawn back to at the weekends.

Recently on one of those rare visits out to Stalybridge I clocked the place and was not surprised to see that it had closed and been converted into a night club.

That said it only shut up shop in 2003 which meant it survived longer than many picture houses, pretty much just missing it centenary.

It had opened in July 1913 as the Empire Picture Palace and seated 850 later becoming part of the H.D.Morehouse chain which operated it until the 1960s after which it was taken over by an independent operator closing finally in 2003.

And I seem to have missed its brief period as a night club which just leaves me to thank Peter for sending me his painting of the building.

At which stage I wish I could say it brought back happy memories which of course are not the case.

But I bet there will be many who remember magical nights at the Palace and perhaps even a few who will own up listening to their parents talking of their times at the old Empire.

If so I would like to hear them and include them in future stories of Stalybridge in the past.

After all Peter also painted quite a few of the other iconic buildings after a visit to Stalybridge in late November.

Painting; Rififi, once the Palace Cinema at Stalybridge,  © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures


*Cinema Treasures,

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 49 ............ no more advent calendars

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.*

Christmas 2014
Now in its long history none of those who have lived here before us ever faced the moment when buying the chocolate advent Calendars had become a thing of the past.

In the great sweep of history it may seem the most trivial of events but it marks a milestone in the story of this house.

Joe and Mary Ann never had children, John, Mike and Lois along with Mr and Mrs Hunter were really just passing through on to greater things and families elsewhere.

So it was only us who had children here and now have they all grown up and moved out.

Of course they will all still be here for Christmas for varying lengths of time but not from day one of opening the calendar.

Christmas 2014
Last year was the last when there was a row of them side by side on the bookshelf, each with their name carefully written at the top, because you can never be too careful even with a 23 year old that confusion will not cause them to eat someone else’s December 17.

And along with that has gone the hard decision of which product to go for from the bewildering choice.

That said it invariably ended up with four Cadbury’s and one Milky Bar.

But they have now gone the way of the Easter Eggs and the east egg hunts and mark a shift in the story of the house.

Still, pretty much all the other Christmas traditions have stayed the course.

Christmas 2012
The presents will still be put out on the night each in beside their own individual stockings which have been with them since birth and always in the same location around the front room.

And as they return with their partners these two have been added to the collection.

There will be the two Christmas trees indulgent I know but Adam’s in the precinct will do us a good deal as they have done for 30 years.

The big one will stand in the front room and the baby one in the dining room.

On the day, after the opening of the presents and before we eat there will be the traditional football match on the Rec, marked only by the fact that what once lasted an hour is more likely to be 30 minutes of gentle kick about.

This year we will have Simone and Rosa again who fly in from Milan on the 22nd and I am hoping that Ron Carol and Hayden will pop in.

Such are the traditions which all of us evolve over time.

Christmas 2013
Now I have no idea how Joe and Mary Ann celebrated Christmas but for Mike Lois and John it was a holiday of “two halves” with the actual day spent with families in Leeds and Weston.

Before the event and afterwards they would be back here and Christmas happened just a few days before the 25th with a big meal which included anyone who was around.

I was there for the Christmas of 1977 and back again when we had bought the house a few years later.

Christmas 2013
Which means I can account in one way or another for over a third of the history of the house reflecting that it wasn’t always advent calendars and I guess will not be again.

And that is the postscript because there was surprise and consternation that the advent calendars would be missing and so they have duly appeared in a row, although three of them were not touched till the 20th.

So the house continues to exert its traditions which is pretty much as it should be.

Pictures; Advent Calendars 2014, Christmas 1977 courtesy of Lois Elsden, and Christmas, 2012, 2013 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*The story of house,

Far from Eltham in the cold winters of Canada .......... the story of one family in the 1900s

The continuing story of one family who left south east London for Canada in 1913, told by Carol Spencer.*

The family in 193 with two unknown chilldren
"The first summer was spent in a tent until they got a log home constructed.

This was a small home with a kitchen, living room and two tiny bedrooms on the end.  It was about 20 feet by 8 feet in size with a cellar underneath. The roof was covered with sod lifted from the ground near the house.

The logs were chinked with mud and straw to block the cold winds in winter.  Later the inside walls would be covered with first newspapers and brown paper whichever was available.

Eventually Maude was able to add wallpaper and decorate but that was far into the future.  A wood cook stove in the kitchen and a heater in the living room provided heat.  Apple boxes and any wooden crates were used for storage and shelving as they became available.

The cellar was a dugout hole which you entered by a trap door in the kitchen.  This was used to store the winter’s supply of vegetables and canned food Maude processed in the summer and fall.  The first year the garden was a disaster.

Edwin, one of his sons and an unknown girl
Not having ever gardened Maude chose the spot where they had removed the sod(top soil) to make the roof. It seemed wise as it save plowing up the grass.  Unfortunately all the nutrients plants need to grow are in the top soil. Her garden was extremely poor.

As well there were many berries growing wild around them some right at their door.  These berries were saskatoons and blueberries and very plentiful through July and August.  A bachelor came by and told them that the saskatoons were poisonous never let the boys eat them.

This incorrect information was most unfortunate as fresh fruit was hard to come by and these berries could easily have been canned and used all the next winter.  They were a great addition to their diet in following years.

Edwin would supplement their diet hunting rabbits, prairie chickens, ducks, geese and deer.  This supplied meat when they had no pigs or cattle to butcher.

Chickens were also raised to supply eggs as well.

Supplies such as tea, coffee, flour and sugar had to be purchased at the local store, Red Cross Store and Post Office.

It was about 5 miles away and when families were short of cash things could be purchased on credit.  Very few luxuries such as candy or bought bread were bought.

The first year was very hard and lonesome.  Maude thought there must be a bridge nearby as she could hear hooves pounding of a bridge quite often.

This sound turned out to be the sound of a prairie chicken flapping its wings in a mating ritual not a bridge at all.

They had to clear a certain number of acres of land and with all the stones and trees this was very hard work.

They managed to do this and Edwin used the stones to build fences, reminiscent of England’s, around his farmyard.

Things remained difficult over the years and many jobs were taken on to supplement their income.

Norman became a well-digger and dug many wells throughout the area.  He and his boys were also very musical and they played at any local dances often for $1 or nothing.

He also became a justice of the peace as many of the other homesteaders were unable to speak or read English.  He would help them with legal papers and letters.

Maude became a midwife in the area and delivered many of the babies as there was no doctor or hospital closer than 30 miles away.

She took on the job of caretaker at the school that was built and was proud of the desk she received as payment, a proper piece of furniture.

Maude and Edwin became good friends with their new neighbors a gentleman from Germany with a teenage daughter and son.  These people could not speak English and Maude taught Nanny English using the Sears mail order catalogue.  This family remained close friends over the years."

© Carol Spencer, 2013

Pictures; courtesy of Carol Spencer

*The Harland Family,

Next; a success in Canada, new farms and a growing family

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Shopping for Christmas wih T.C. Whitaker on Beech Road

It is the shop of Thomas Charles Whittaker at the bottom of Beech Road where it curves round into the Green.

And for me the attractions are many.  First we have a date, secondly it is possible to identify three of the four people in the picture and lastly there is that wonderful detail of all that the shop had to offer.

The date is 1906 and judging by the adverts for “CHOICE NEW CURRANTS AND SULTANAS [for] XMAS”and the boxes of Mincemeat we must be in late November or December.*

Standing in front of the shop by the open door in Thomas who was 40 years old when the picture was taken and to his right is his son “Charlie” and away in the corner is Mr Fox who the caption tells us was about to become the manager of the Stanley Grove shop.

Now it says something about the concentration of people around the green that old Thomas Whittaker could feel it made business sense to open another shop just round the corner and off the green, and later had another store I am told on Ivy Green Road.

But the captions and the photograph do not quite fit.  If the date is indeed 1906 then the figure to the left of Thomas Whitaker cannot be his son Charlie who would have been just ten years old, and while the Fox family lived at 19 Stanley Grove there is no evidence that they were running a shop at any time between 1903 and 1911.

There was a grocery shop at number 2 but this was run by the Whitely family.  Interestingly enough it was still a shop as late as 1972 and today while it is a residential property it is possible to see its origins as a shop.

So all of this points to a later date perhaps closer to the Great War or perhaps after 1918which  would be more creditable given the appearance of Thomas and his son Charlie. So all that is needed is a trawl of the later street directories for Stanley Grove and the occupants of nu 2.

And I suspect that the Whittaker’s bought up the little grocery story sometime after 1911, by which time widow Whitely was 55.

Now I am in real danger of becoming boring and reducing the story to something like the medieval debate on how many angels could dance on a pin head.**

So instead I will return to those wonderful shop displays which have all the brash marketing of that famous slogan “pile them high and sell them cheap.”  The windows are covered with products and adverts for products, ranging from fruit to biscuits and those great sides of meat hanging in the open while beside them over the door is an assortment of brushes.

All of which might allow Thomas to claim that from his shop there was all that the discerning shopper might want.

And of course there are all the household names that are still familiar from OXO and Crawfords, to Bovril and Skipper Sardines.  I like even the carefully crafted descriptions either side of the family name announcing the shop as a place of “High class Provisions, Family Grocer and Italian Warehouseman”

It is not the only photograph in the collection and I must at a later date introduce another which will have been taken at the same time and shows Mr Rogers with the horse and cart.  But that as they say is for another time.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection.

* There will be those Christmas experts who will point out that the date must be earlier in the year for no one serious about Christmas cakes and puddings would leave it till November to make them.

**Which apparently is really a piece of propaganda put about during the Reformation to discredit Catholic theology.

The family from south east London who did good in Canada in the early 20th century

This is the last for a while of stories about Edwin and Maud Harland who left south east London for Canada in 1913.

The family in 1913
It was written by Carol Spencer who is a descendant of the couple.

"Edwin managed to prove up his homestead and was very proud when his two sons procured homesteads next to him as they came of age.

His farm never grew very much larger. He managed to have a small herd of 7-10 cattle of which he was extremely proud too.

They had to work off the farm during the First World War and moved down to Lashburn which was about 40 miles south of the homestead at Red Cross.

While there Edwin worked for local farmers and dug wells.

He also built them a small home in the village.  Maude worked at the hospital as a cook and the boys attended school.  About 1919 they moved back to the homestead.

Tired of the hard life on the farm and all the neighbors and family having moved away to better land and prospects near Frenchman Butte, Maude decided to leave and move to the village of Frenchman Butte.

The family today
Edwin could not leave his dream even though it did not have a good future and stayed on the homestead.

He remained there until about 1960 when he fell ill and was cared for by his eldest son Lloyd until his death in 1970.

Edwin is buried at the Fort Pitt Church, Fort Pitt, Saskatchewan only a few miles south of his
homestead in Red Cross.

His eldest son, Lloyd and his sons and grandsons have brought Edwin’s dream to fruition as they run a large successful cattle ranch at Fort Pitt to this day.

Edwin and Maude gave so much to all the family in offering them opportunities they may never have had had they not been brave enough to take a chance themselves in 1912."

*The Harland Family,

© Carol Spencer, 2013

Pictures; from the collection of Carol Spencer

Monday, 22 December 2014

A story behind the picture, ............ ploughing on Beech Road in 1890

It’s a familiar enough picture and takes you back to that moment when Chorlton had almost lost its rural character.

It was taken around 1890 on Beech Road and may have been one of the last times the land was ploughed before becoming the Recreation ground.

But like so many photographs there is much more.

The picture belonged to William Higginbotham who may be the man behind the plough. His family had lived on the green since the 1840s and most of the land they farmed was on either side of the Brook stretching up towards the Mersey. But they also worked a small strip of land between the Row* and High Lane.

In the 1840s this was almost entirely Egerton land and was rented out in strips to a number of farmers. Along with James Higginbotham, there was William Bailey, George Whitelegg and Thomas White.

This pattern of land tenure was not so different from the old medieval strip farming where each peasant had a share of the land in different places.

This was repeated across the township and so while the bigger farmers had most of their land concentrated near the farmhouse, the land of smaller farmers and market gardeners were distributed across the area.

The Higginbotham’s farmed a mix of meadow and pasture land close to the Mersey and arable along the Row.

This arable farming along the Row continued well into the 19th century so as late as 1893, there was open farm land and orchards running from Cross Road down to what was to become Wilton Road and stretching back to High Lane.

Pictures; ploughing on Beech Road, circa 1890 from the Lloyd collection, and detail from the 1841 OS map for Lancashire by kind permission of Digital Archives,

*The Row or Chorlton Row is now Beech Road

On the trail of more closed public lavatories

Burton Road
I am not sure what has surprised me most about the clutch of stories on our closed public lavatories.

Firstly it is the sheer number of them that are still around but more sadly the fact that so many are closed.

Today along with another from Andy Robertson who was out on the top of Burton Road are two more from the camera of Slideshow John.

The first is from the Princess Road and Barlow Moor Road junction  and the second is on Hollyhedge Road in Benchill.

Princess Road
Leaving aside all the old ladies and penny jokes it remains an awful situation that cash strapped local authorities have had to close so many.

Pictures; Burton Road, 2014, from the collection of Andy Robertson, and Princess Road and  Hollyhedge Road 2014, courtesy of Slideshow John

Hollyhedge Road

The Harland family of Saskatchewan, and a search for two young people

Now I have come to know the Harland family.*

They left south east London for a new life in Canada in 1912 and were one of that country’s success stories.

The early years were hard and they began life in Canada in a tent but with hard work and I guess a bit of luck they succeeded in carving out a decent life for themselves on a number of different farms across the country.

The story was written by Carol Spencer who is one of their descendants and will be featured on the blog through June and July.

Along with the story Carol supplied me with a series of photographs and it is one of these that has drawn me in and led me off on a trail of investigation.

At first glance there is nothing unusual about the image.  Edwin and Maud are pictured with their two barefooted sons beside a log cabin sometime in 1913.

But it is the other two young people who interest me.  They are unknown and of course might just be friends or the children of neighbours.

But they could also be British Home Children employed on the farm.  Now I don’t usually do speculation but in this instance I am tempted to run with the idea.

The Harland farm near Frenchman Butte in northwest Saskatchewan was not a large one and “things remained difficult over the years and many jobs were taken on to supplement their income.  

Edwin became a well-digger and dug many wells throughout the area.”**

Even so  so I guess it is a possibility that they did from time to time take on labour and that the two staring out at us were also from Britain.

But I doubt we will ever know, my friend Jean has promised to ask Carol and it may just be that a document or letter referring to a British child might turn up.

And that of course raises an exciting avenue of research which might spin off into discovering who these two were or at least the names of children employed by the Harland’s.

That said I am at the limits of my knowledge and will have to explore the extent to which BHC were engaged in this part of Canada and who were the most likely charities to settle young people here in the first decade of the 20th century.

All of which may or may not help us with discovering the identities of the two young people, and with history being what it is it is just as likely that they were friends of the family in which case it has all been a bit of a wasted journey.

Well we shall see.

Pictures; courtesy of Carol Spencer

The Harland Family,

**Carol Spencer, Edwin Norman Harland 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Snapshots of the Great War nu 4 .............. the Gala in Alexandra Park that never happened and thoughts on the “massacres” yet to come

It was going to be the third of a series of Galas “to be held under the auspices of the Educational Committee” of the Manchester & Salford Co-op and was planned for August 15 1914 in Alexandra Park.

M&S Co-operative Herald, July 1914
There had been two earlier events one at Yates’ Field in Fallowfield and the other in Broadheath with “RACES, MAYPOLE DANCES, SPOON AND BOOT CLEANING COMPETITIONS”  as  well as a “FANCY DRESS COMPEITION” with tickets for refreshments at 3d for adults and 2d for children.

The earlier two had been scheduled of July 11 and July 25, but the Alex Park gala was planned for August 15 just eleven days after Britain became involved in the Great War.

The secretary of the Educational Committee wrote that “at their first meeting, held 10th August, [it was] "most regretfully decided to postpone the gala.

All arrangements had been completed, but it was felt not to be a time for festivities when the nation, without the slightest warning was involved in a Continental War.

Had we not lived through the few days which have just elapsed it would have been discredited that so much could have transpired in so short a time.  August 1914 has become a landmark in history.  

We knew that on the Continent of Europe things were not quite comfortable owing to the assassination of the heir to the Austrian throne, but that by the fourth day Britain would be involved in war was unthinkable.  
M&S Co-operative Herald, September 1914

We went on our holidays and gave ourselves to to the enjoyment, for was it not the last bank holiday before the winter?”

The letter is revealing in so many ways not least because the Co-op movement was founded on the principles of co-operation which extended across national borders and yet here was the secretary reflecting on how unthinkable it was for Britain to be involved in a general war but matching much of the nation in believing that

Britain has had this unholy war thrust upon her, and since it must be, the nation, a whole and undivided nation, has risen as one man to bear the burden, whether to face the enemy on the field of battle, or to minister to the wants of those left behind.”

Of course not all in the Labour Movement shared that view.   Kier Hardie argued against the war and continued to do so till his death in 1915.  Nor was he alone.

Unknown unit, date unknown
But the mood of the country was more with the secretary of the Educational Committee who concluded that “Let us all hope and pray that never again shall it be possible for such an atrocity as war to be embarked upon by any nation, and to that end let every aid and encouragement be extended to our rulers when the end has arrived and saner councils can be held.

No country should ever again have such a preponderance of power to plunge nations into war.  

Horrible as the massacres are to contemplate, if war is ever to be abolished good will have come out of evil.  God save the Allies.”

This is not the often paraded pro war sentiment of the early months of the conflict but a more measured and sober approach as befitting an organisation based on co-operation.

Pictures; of the Manchester and Salford Co-operative Hearld, July & September 1914, courtesy of the National Co-op archive, and unkown unit from the collection of David Harrop

The National Co-op Archive,
 Located in central Manchester, the National Co-operative Archive is home to a wide array of records relating to the history of the worldwide co-operative movement. The collections include rare books, periodicals, manuscripts, films, photographs and oral histories, and provide researchers with an unrivalled resource for the development of the co-operative movement, from the initial ideas of the eighteenth century to the present day.

From south east London to Canada in 1913 part 2

This is the continuing story of Edwin and Maud Harland who left their home in south east London for Canada.*

Edwin as a young man
The story was written by Carol Spencer a direct descendant

"In the spring of 1913 Edwin set out to find his own piece of land.  They went on to Saskatoon and he made a couple of expeditions out to find the land of his dreams.

He travelled up to Carrot River area but was sure there were not enough trees.  (Carrot River is one of the richest farm areas in our province).  Next he checked out Red Cross District in Northwestern Saskatchewan.

Carrot River has rich, flat prairie land with lots of water.  Red Cross has many trees and rocky soil.  To Edwin the choice was clear!  Red Cross had trees for firewood and many rocks to build with.

Unfortunately rocks were not used much for building and trees needed to be removed before plowing.  His lack of farm experience left them in a difficult, tough life style.

The train line had reached Edam by this time and Edwin again loaded his family and belongings on the train and headed to northwest Saskatchewan to claim his homestead.

Maud with one of her sons to the right
Once in Edam a wagon and horses were purchased and all their belongings were loaded on to it and off to the claim they headed.  It was about a 60 mile journey and would take 2-3 days.

The road was a dirt trail of wagon ruts that required them to cross the Turtle River over which there was no bridge.

To Edwin it looked quite shallow and narrow.  He had Maude drive the wagon across then realized he was still on the wrong side of the river.  Being fairly athletic he decided he could very likely just jump the river and rejoin his family.

It was quite cool and the water was very cold as the ice had just thawed.  He backed up and took a running leap his long coat-tails flaring out behind.

Unfortunately he misjudged the distance and landed in the middle of the stream with the coat-tails floating out behind him.

Cold and wet he had to continue on as his family tried to hide their mirth!!  There were several stopping houses along the way for the family to stop at nights until they reached their claim."

Next; their first summer in Canada

© Carol Spencer, 2013

Pictures; courtesy of Carol Spencer

*The Harland Family,

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas in Chorlton, circa 1989 and a quest for a special toy

Anyone with children born in the 1980s will remember the desperate hunt to collect the four Ninja Turtle figures.

I can’t remember which Christmas it was but the quest to find all four pretty much occupied the run up to the day.

The four and you had to try and collect all four were Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael and shops just couldn’t keep pace with the demand.

It was I suppose not unlike the stories my mum told about food rationing in the last war.

The rumour would circulate that one of the four was available from a certain toy shop and the race was on.

I remember there was an informal agreement that if you were out and you struck gold you bought as many as you could so that they could be shared out.

I am sure Quarmby's did their best but it was the big stores who offered the best chance of success.

Our eldest managed to get all four and in the way these things work all have now been lost.  But we do have a replica which came into the house a few Christmases ago for another of the lads.

It is Raphael who apparently was the bad boy of the team, being aggressive and sarcastic.

On a more pleasant note we still have mountains of Lego which once formed ships, castles, space rockets and pirate islands, now sadly reduced to their parts, kept in bin bags and waiting for something to happen.

But these were the toys of the 1980s and 90s when the boys were growing up.

Mud in 1974
Go back another decade and I could have picked space hoppers, scalextric, my little pony along with groups like the Bay City Rollers and Mud but I won’t.

Between them Mud and the Bay City Rollers divided the girls I taught and for a few years the school Christmas parties were dominated by alternating hit singles played out on an old record player  linked by a series of tired looking cables to the sound system which was already twenty years old and feeling its age.

These were the years when I had just become a responsible adult, had got married and was buying a house in Ashton Under-Lyne.

It would be a full ten years before I began pondering on wish lists and children’s toys.

That said I never quite lost my fascination for toys and in particular train sets, but that is for another time.

So given that I wandered into to that decade when my  sons were growing up I shall leave you with yet another image of Raphael and call a halt on all these Christmas postings.

Pictures; model of Raphael, Ninja Mutant Turtle from the collection of Josh Simpson, picture of Mud in 1974 from Wikipedia Commons, Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974, Author, AVRO

Snapshots of the Great War nu 3 ........... the Manchester Pals

Now I don’t have a date for the picture but it’s of a young James Callaghan of the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

He was one of almost 10,000 men who enlisted in the eight Manchester Pals battalions which were formed in the first few months of the Great War.

The day after Lord Liverpool called for the formation of a Pal’s battalion in Liverpool, Manchester followed suit.

He had spoken of the need for "a battalion of pals, a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool.“

In the early days the authorities couldn’t keep pace with the numbers wanting to join up.

Of the almost 10,000 who enlisted 4,776 were killed.

In recognition of the commitment and sacrifice made during the Great War the People’s History Museum has an exciting programme of events to accompany their changing exhibition A Land Fit for Heroes which runs till February 2015.*

Picture; James Callaghan, date unknown courtesy of Joe Callaghan and embroidered picture post card from the collection of David Harrop

*A Land Fit for Heroes,

Friday, 19 December 2014

Down in Darley Avenue ......... part 3

 Now one of Andy Robertson’s projects in recording changing Chorlton is Darley Avenue.

He began Taking picture of the site of the old school soon after the builders broke the ground for the new estate and he has been going back regularly.

So here is one of the next in the story.

The buildings are up awaiting and awaiting a roof and then once the places are weather proof the business of fitting them out can begin.

Pictures; from Andy Robertson’s series on Darley Avenue 2014

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Walking through Stalybridge with memories of 40 years ago part 2 ........ two pubs and a canal

They say you should never go back to a place that you left a long time go especially if it is somewhere with fond memories.

Now Stalybridge is one of those places.

When we lived on Raynham Street 40 years ago Stalybridge was where we went after a walk in Stamford Park.

After all it was just a short trip and rang the changes from Ashton market and the library.

Not that I can ever remember visiting any of the pubs and so Peter’s paintings are a nice reminder of what we may have missed.

At which point I usually go off on a bit of historical research, but today I shall just let the pictures capture a bit of Stalybridge and wish I had taken a few photographs of these places 40 years ago.

Of course I am sure there will be plenty of people with memories, stories and pictures of the two pubs along with the canal and perhaps in the fullness of time they might share them on the blog.

Which just leaves me to offer up one last confession which is that as far as I can remember I never managed to visit the canal.

And that was also my loss for nothing adds to a place than the presence of water, be it a river or a waterway.

Painting; The Q Inn, The Old Fleece Inn, Huddersfield Narrow Canal Stalybridge,  © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Wondering about ghost buildings and ghost signs down at the Rochdale Canal on Whitworth Street West

I like this picture of the Rochdale Canal with the Central Station and the Beetham Tower.

It was one of a series Andy Robertson took a few days ago and neatly captures the changing skyline and also reveals more if you look more closely.

The canal runs from Castlefield up to the Dale Street Basin and cuts through the city and after decades of neglect is back as a working waterway.

In the same way some of the old railway track which ran into Central is now part of the Metro link while the old station has become the modern exhibition centre.

But what draws me is in the line of that ghost building to the left of the huge window and the ho;es in the brickwork which would have been for floor joists.

In time I shall go looking for the evidence of that ghost building and perhaps also descipher the ghost sign below the parapet.

Of course there may well be someone who can supply the answers and maybe come up with more of the history of this spot which for those who don’t know is the corner of Whitworth Street West and Albion Street.

Pictures; from the collection of Andy Robertson, 2014

Snapshots of the Great War nu 3 ........... entertaining the wounded troops at the Ardwick Empire in 1917

If you were wounded and recovering in hospital in a city far from home I guess time must have weighed heavily.

And so the Special Matinees for Wounded Soldiers would have been an attraction not to be missed.

The programme and ticket are dated May and August 1917 and were for the Ardwick Green Empire.

Now in time I will find out exactly what was on offer because my old friend David Harrop turned up a copy of the programme with the inside pages.

Just as now some of the support for wounded soldiers came from charities and the performance of August 2nd 1917 was provided by the “Lloyds Bank Entertainment Fund for Wounded Soldiers."

The Ardwick Empire was built in 1904 on the corner of Higher Ardwick and Hyde Road and stayed in business till it was demolished fifty years later having changed its name to the New Manchester Hippodrome in the mid 1930s.

Back in 1917 our wounded soldiers would have been recovering in one of the many Red Cross Hospitals across the city.

Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop

*The Ardwick Empire,