Saturday, 28 February 2015

Sending our 10 year olds out to work in 1911

It used to be fashionable amongst some writers to lament the passing of the Edwardian Age, that short period between the death of the old Queen and almost the start of the Great War.

It can still be paraded as an elegant and almost innocent time which would soon be shattered by the horrors of a continental war which accounted for the deaths of ten million people.

And of course it all makes good telly from costume dramas to high budget films, from those images of sophisticated Edwardian men and women gliding past us to the protests of the suffragettes and a wave of industrial unrest which saw troops dispatched to many of our major cities.

Rarely do the dramas go out of the fine houses and even when they descend to those who lived downstairs we are rarely confronted with the full range of social inequality where in the words of Robert Roberts, “poverty busied itself.”*

The life expectancy of a manual worker was just 50 while for women it was only a little better.
 Life could be an uncertain struggle where illness, unemployment or the death of a wage earner could push a family into poverty and the workhouse.

And even while in gainful employment that family found it increasingly hard to manage as prices rose steadily from the 1890s but wages failed to keep pace.

Manual earnings amounted to sixteen or seventeen shillings a week compared to that of someone in the middle classes who might earn £340 a year.

So some at least surrendered to the option of allowing their children to start work at 10 and while this might not have surprised their grandparents it was shocking enough.

A full 9% of our young people between the ages of 10 and 14 were at work in the middle of 1911 which in the case of boys rose from just 1% of those aged 10-12 to 30% of those who had reached their fourteenth birthday.**

Against this we should perhaps pitch that simple statistic that the richest one percent held 70 percent of the wealth of the country.

Now in time I am going to explore in detail just what these young Mancunians did for a living and draw not only on the official records but the words of the young people themselves.

*Robert Roberts, The Classic Slum page 18

 **Occupations, Manchester 1911 Census Vol 10 page 230

Watching that garage on Wilbraham Road move closer to completion

Now anyone who has been following the progress of that garage on the corner of Wilbraham and Buckingham Roads will like me be pleased that Andy Robertson has been including the work in his collection of photographs of changing Chorlton.

He has already documented the construction of the new school building at Oswald Road, keeps going back to the developments on Darley Avenue and had chronicled all that has gone on with the old Masonic Hall in Edge Lane.

But like him I have been fascinated by the garage.

It was once our variety theatre, and first cinema, and was transformed into a petrol station and shop, modernised in the 1970s and here is undergoing a new transformation.

When it and Andy have finished we will have a unique record of how a little bit of where we live was made over.

Pictures; the new petrol station and garage on Wilbraham Road courtesy of Andy Robertson

Home thoughts of Ashton in the 1970s ..... part 5 looking for the familiar

Now when you have been away from somewhere for a long time it takes a bit of time to readjust and fit your memories to the changed landscape.

I was fully prepared that after nearly 40 years things would be a bit different and as we came in by the tram that vague feeling was confirmed.

And it started with the bus station which was not where I remember leaving it in 1976, quickly followed by the red brick shopping centre and the tall yellowy council offices.

But then with a bit of careful thought it was more that the bus station had one of those make overs which I think have made it a bit better.

That said the Prince of Orange was pretty much as it was when we caught the 218 to Manchester.
It was not a pub we went in often but I remember a fine meal there back in the 1970s and I note that it too has had its makeover.

All of which brings me to Peter’s painting which is part of a series prompted by his recent visit.

And like most of us he fastened on pubs and cinemas, which I guess feature in the memories of most of us.

A few of those I remember well like the Pit and Nelson and the one at the top of Penny Meadow have gone, but then there is the Old Fire Station which was a fire station when I lived here, and more than a few others.

So I suspect Peter will be setting his paint box out pretty much as I finish this.

Painting; the Prince of Orange, Ashton-Under-Lyne,  © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
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Friday, 27 February 2015

See better days and do better things ......... the Cross Keys on Radium Street from Lost images of our Commercial past ...... nu 2

It is a pretty forlorn looking building.

It was once in happier times the Cross Keys.

Back then the large numbers of mills, warehouses and terraced housing will have kept the place busy.

Not so now  as Andy’s pictures shows it has passed its best.

But in the best of all possible worlds anything is possible, and with the fast gentrification of those bits of the city which we all thought neglected and forgotten I reckon there is every chance that what was once the premises of “Elizabeth Louise Bergin ..... Licensed to sell by retail all Intoxicating Liquors to be consumed on or off the premises” will be open again for business.

And I am open to suggestions as to what it might be.  The sensible money will I guess be on a cafe/restaurant, with an option on a smart designer office, or retro clothes shop.

Now there is plenty of new residential property already just a little further up Radium Street, all of which might offer up customers.

A sneaky look at the Planning site hasn’t revealed any developments as yet but it abuts a set of derelict buildings and an open space, so if it fails to catch the eye of an innovative entrepreneur I guess its fate lies with a developer.

Well we shall see.

I shall just close with some more contrasting images of the place as it is and was and reflect that my first experience in a pub in the city was one with the same name, where the landlord turfed us out because we had long hair.

Now despite this being 1969  he may well have thought we some how brought the ambiance of the place down a notch, but none of us had hair which did much more than tickle our ears and we were on Minishull Street.

That said we returned three months later on one of those opportunistic forays having seen him leave.

By then we really had got long hair but the challenge was hollow.

He never returned that afternoon and the beer tasted bad.

It would be idle to speculate on what the landlord/lady of the Cross Keys on Radium Street would have made of us.

Given the time and place I guess we would have not
even got over the door step.

But things change which brings me back to the future of the Cross Keys.

I rather think there will again be pints across the counter mixed I suspect with some interesting New World wines.

Now that should be worth a visit.

Pictures; the Cross Keys, 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson and in 1962, T Brooks, m10189, and by L H Price, m49465, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

And just after I posted the story Neil came up with this interesting addition to the story, The Cross Keys Pub Radium Street, from A Manchester View,

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A ghost sign in Birmingham and a mystery revealed

Now, here is one of those ghost signs which has all but passed away.  

It was found by Ron Stubley “while out and about in the Midlands on Thursday.

 I came across this ghost sign on The Britannia (ex) pub in Aston, Birmingham. 

The pictures are taken from the platform of Aston railway station and, unfortunately, I didn't have time to make a closer investigation. Unfortunately, the script is (to me) indecipherable despite being able to pick out a few of the letters. 

If it's of any interest you're welcome to it - and good luck with unravelling the script.”

Well all ghost signs deserve to be given their time on the blog but like Ron this one has defeated me.

Still I am pretty confident someone will have a degree of local knowledge, and put that beside the sign to come up with a story and bring our faded Birmingham sign back.

According to that excellent 'CAMRA Heritage Pub, "the Britannia situtaed at 287 Lichfield Road, Aston, Birmingham is not a pub with an interior of any importance..

It in now closed having briefly opened as a snack bar.

"It was built in 1899-1900 for Mitchells & Butlers by architects Wood & Kendrick. 

It is an elegant three-and-a-half storey building with brown glazed brick to the ground floor and red brick and buff terracotta above. 

The style is free Classical. Inside tiles cover the passage, the public bar and staircase walls and are by Maw & Co. of Jackfield, Shropshire. The bar-back is original and has etched glass mirrors. 

Between the public bar and the corridor is an unusual screen, its special feature being the extensive amount of glazing. The 'Smoking Room' is announced in etched glass in the door to this room at the rear and Britannia appears too for good measure. 

This room has the usual fixed seats and bell-pushes. If you go upstairs to the function room, note the seat with arm-rests - this was for the chairman at meetings of the Royal Ancient Order of Buffaloes. 

The pub began as the Aston Hall Tavern in 1867, changed to its present name in 1872. Henry Mitchell bought a 99-year lease in 1896, covenanting to rebuild within ten years. 

It passed to M&B who then rebuilt it"*

And that is it.  But given its recent history and that of such large pubs across the country it might not be with us for long and that of course includes its sign, listed or not.

And just minutes after this was posted my facebook friend Angie came up with this, "I've had a rummage on the net Andrew and the sign is for Mitchells and Butlers a Brewery from Cape Hill Smethwick.

I found a site for Birmingham ghost sign hunters ( yep me neither lol but worth a look as they had some fabulous pictures from around the world), and the sign is for what we now call an own brand product and only distilled by them. It (the sign) says, Mitchells and Butlers Clanivor Scotch Whisky"

Now that is what I like, ...... Ron finds the picture I ponder on the mystery and Angie solves it.  Neat piece of team work, although I have to confess my contribution amounted to just sitting and playing with words.

Picture; the ghost sign by the Britannia in Aston, Birmingham. Courtesy of Ron Stubley

*'CAMRA Heritage Pub'

A little bit of our lost tram history ........... coming into St Peter’s Square

Now it always surprises me just how quickly what we take for granted slips into the past.

So here we are with one of the earlier tams coming in to St Peter’s Square.

I don’t have a date for when Peter painted it and that must always be a lesson to us all.

But there will be someone who will be able to hazard a guess, along with the date of the trams construction, its commissioning and its final last run.

And I bet too they will be able to offer up when it was broken up and where.

Setting that aside there is much else that makes this painting a unique bit of history.

Since it was painted the Ref has been renovated, that ugly building opposite demolished and a new one has risen in its place, the Cenotaph has moved and soon so will the metro stop.

All of which is another lesson in what we choose or not choose to record which I suppose just means Peter will be out again on the city streets looking for subjects to paint.

Painting; Manchester Tram, ©  Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Lost Images of our Commercial Past ..... part one ........ down on Marshall Street

We take our commercial history for granted.

If asked most people will talk happily about Manchester’s textile history, remembered in that simple one word description “Cottonopolis” and if pushed will be able to name one of those huge engineering works on the east of the city and may even remember that we had our own coal mine.*

But the countless small offices and warehouses are pretty much ignored.

Most have long since vanished, leaving nothing more than a few memories, the odd business card and an entry in a trade directory.

A few of their building still stand but as many of these are in those parts of the city which are fast being developed I doubt that they will be with us for long.

So I was intrigued by Andy Robertson’s latest series of pictures taken on a slow meandering walk from Victoria Station and up around Oldham Road and off towards Rochade Road.

This was always one of those busy but shabby parts of the city, full of small commercial enterprises and a few bigger businesses.

Marshall Street and the surrounding streets  are just one of those areas which you know will soon catch the eye of the developer.

With luck some of the more interesting buildings will be saved and converted into residential but others already old and too tired will vanish.

So Mr Swift's building I think is safe but  I wonder about the future of the Marsden Harcombe Company building.

The later was home to the Greater Manchester County Archives before its move to Central Ref and now like its neighbour is empty, boarded up and waiting the future.

Already a planning application is in for the area on the corner of Marshall Street, Oldham Road and Goulden Street for a mixed development, part residential, part retail and including a pub and restaurant.**

And I expect our little bit will soon attract the attention of a developer.

All of which means that  the Marsden Harcombe Company building should be viewed soon.

Pictures; Marshall Street, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Bradford Colliery.

** Manchester City Council online planning,

Images of our commercial past

Walking through Stalybridge with memories of 40 years ago part 4 ........ that church on Trinty Street

Now looking at Peter’s paintings and revisiting Stalybridge I realize just how much  of the place we missed including those gems like the Market Hall and the library.

But back in the 70s, we worked in Manchester, and really only got out into Ashton at weekends and trips out to Stalybridge were rare.

I suppose we could have done more excursions but the route into the town from Raynham Street took us past the Sycamore and the park and if the pub didn’t get us the hot house did.

So here is another of the buildings painted by Peter and unvisited by me.

It is Holy Trinity and Christ Church and if you live in Stalybridge you will know its history so I won’t go down that route.

Instead I shall ponder on how people felt when in 1778 the Old St George’s Church, Cocker Hill collapsed only two years after it was built, and I rather think I will go looking for a story.

Painting;  Stalybridge, Holy Trinity and Christ Church  © 2014

 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

OK everyone you can come in again ............ Victoria Station and the new roof

It has been a long time coming but Victoria Station is open again and has a new roof.

Now of course it didn’t really close but for sometime trams never stopped there and much of the main station resembled a building site.

But as Andy Robertson’s pictures show its back in business and it is that roof which is looking impressive.

For as long as I can remember Victoria always seemed a second relation to Piccadilly despite that fine entrance.

And it all seems down to the Northern Hub which will offer new opportunities for train travellers.*

There is even a video which reveals just how our mainline stations will be transformed.**

It was first announced in 2009,  and is a series of upgrades which would cut journey times between cities in Northern England by alleviating the rail bottleneck through Manchester.

“Central to the project will be resolving the rail bottleneck through Manchester city centre to allow more routes, more capacity and quicker journey times across the Northern cities. 

Two new through platforms at Piccadilly will allow 14 trains per hour (up from 10 currently) through Manchester city centre allowing more routes and trains. 

Manchester Victoria station will be modernised as the east-west rail interchange in Northern England. 

Trains from the north east to Manchester Airport will use a new section of railway, the £85 million Ordsall Chord, between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Oxford Road to reach Manchester Piccadilly and continue to the Airport without reversing at Piccadilly and without conflicting movements at the station throat."** 

So there you have it, and if you haven’t been down yet Andy’s pictures should just be the incentive.
Of course work is still going on down there but I know where I will be going tomorrow.

Pictures; Victoria Station, February 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*The Northern Hub,

**Watch: How Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations could look after £1bn redevelopment, Charlotte Cox, MEN, October 8 2014

The Drum, Peter's painting and an excellent story from Pubs of Manchester

This was the Drum in Stretford.

Although it is equally likely that many will remember it variously as the Drum or the Bass Drum and now  it has gone.

Peter painted the place just before Derek the demolition man got going on what had become a sad and forlorn looking building.

Now I have written about the pub before as well as the Angel which had stood on the same spot for centuries and I had wondered about doing a new story on its final demolition and the rise of that fast food place which now inhabits the site.*

But that has been done already by that wonderful Pubs of Manchester, so I shall just direct you to the link below which will smoothly and with less time than it took to order a pint bring transport you to what happened as Peter’s painting was drying.**

Painting; The Drum,© 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures
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*The Drum on Chester Road, soon to be a distant memory along with the Angel Hotel which stood on the same spot from 1780,

**Drum / Bass Drum, Chester Road,

Monday, 23 February 2015

Back in Guide Bridge for the second time ...... finding clues to a picture

Now there are quite a few ways you can date a picture postcard like this.

It’s of Guide Bridge and belongs to Ron Stubley whose dad sent it to him.

Of course a postmark is a good starting point, but that only tells you it was sent, not when the picture was taken or when it was added to the catalogue of the postcard company.

In this case I don’t have a catalogue for Lilywhite Ltd of Brighouse and so it’s down to old fashioned detective work.

The cars are a clue but the registration plates are too small to be read, but the presence of TV aerials takes us into the 1950s while those overhead cables must make it before 1966 when the last trolley bus ran its almost silent course along Stockport Road.

All of which narrows it further to some sometime before that date.

The sign for Gartside & Bent’s brewery on the side of the pub also places it in the 1960s because they were taken over by Bass in 1967.

But the clincher is the Odeon cinema which closed in 1961 so our picture is sometime before then but I guess no earlier than the mid 1950s.

That said there may be someone who can offer an exact date based on the make of those cars, the big advert for machinists or perhaps even the news stories advertised on the side of the shop.

There may even be an expert out there on road signs or television aerials.  Failing that someone with the relevant street directories which will be able to identify the shop owners and get us close to that date.

We shall see.

In the meantime I shall finish by saying this is the second story of the day about Guide Bridge and its cinema.

Earlier today I featured Peter’s painting, of the odeon today which neatly takes the story from the 1960s to the present, and I reckon together they nicely show off Guide Bridge as it was and is.*

Picture; Guide Bridge circa 1960, courtesy of Ron Stubley

*The Guide Bridge Odeon, the Roxy at Hurst Cross and a social club,

The Guide Bridge Odeon, the Roxy at Hurst Cross and a social club

Now I have got to say it takes a great leap of imagination to place the old St Pauls Church Centre on Stockport Road as an Art Deco cinema.

What was the Guide Bridge Odeon, 2015
But that was what it had been, opening in 1936 with Bing Crosby in "Anything Goes" and closing just 25 years later with the film "Man in the Moon" starring Kenneth More.

And by most picture houses that was a short run.

According to Lost Cinema Treasures,* it was planned as “the Verona Cinema a project of local builders; P. Hamer, Verona Cinema (Guide Bridge) Ltd ......[but just as] ......... the construction of the cinema was almost completed P. Hamer sold the building to Oscar Deutsch and it opened as one of his Odeon theatres. 
P. Hamer then used the proceeds of the sale to build the Roxy Cinema, at Hurst Cross, which was designed by Drury & Gomersall.”

The Odeon, Guide Bridge, circa 1938
Which as a blog story rather means that you get two for one because the Roxy opened in 1938 only to close in 1960 and has now gone forever marked only a small supermarket on the site and a row of shops bearing the same name opposite.

So far I have only come across one picture of the Roxy and from that I am not sure it matches in grandeur the Odeon at Guide Bridge.

But I know there are people who remember it and some who worked there, but alas I am not one of them.

I can’t even claim to have gone to the Odeon and when I did walk through its doors back in 1975 it was already a social club and that impressive art deco exterior along with some interesting features inside were long gone.

All of which just leaves me to return to that opening night, when cinema goers not only got Bing Crosby in "Anything Goes" but Harold Lloyd in "The Milky Way".

The Roxy, Queens Road, date unlnown
And depending on who you were taking and how far you wanted to impress the person of your dreams, you could have watched Bing and Mr Lloyd from one of the 330 seats in the circle, or the 834 in the stalls.

All very different from what is on offer today.

Painting; St Paul's Church and Centre Ashton-under-Lyne  © 2015 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
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Pictures; the Odeon Guide Bridge, circa 1938 lender Mr Cropper, t09062, and the Roxy Cinema, date unknown t09060, courtesy of Tameside Image Archive,

* Lost Cinema Treasures,

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Looking beyond the obvious, a photograph and the story of a strike and of strikes yet to come ..... part one

Photographs are not always what they seem. 

We can stare at an image and on the face of it draw all sorts of conclusions.

Conclusions about when it was taken, who the people were and what purpose it served.

I had seen this photograph countless times and never really studied it.

There was a suggestion that the date was 1880 and clearly the presence of the police hinted at trouble.

But study the picture and it tells its own story.

A line of policeman are walking beside the horse and cart and alongside flanking them is a crowd, many of whom are keeping pace with the procession.

Usually at least one person would be caught smiling at the camera perhaps even fooling around but not today.

Look more closely and their faces suggest a collective sense of seriousness perhaps even anxiety.

To our right a young woman is running and the purposeful expression on her face hints that all is not well.

There are questions that need to be asked of the image. Why are the police escorting a cart? Perhaps it was stolen but would this bring so many people out on to the streets? And why is the young woman running to get ahead of the police?

The caption in the police archives reveals that the cart is heading from Piccadilly Gardens along Newton Street.

Now there was a police station on Newton Street, but it is also the direction you might take to get to the wholesale food market.

The clothes of the crowd are much later than the 1880s and put the photograph at the beginning of the twentieth century. This was a time of major industrial confrontation and the years around 1911 saw some of the bitterest clashes between employers and the Government on one side and organised labour on the other.

There were strikes in the south Wales coal fields, and trouble in Liverpool which began with a sailors strike and spread across the city involving other industries.

And while the miners lost the workers in Liverpool were mostly successful and pointed the way forward for other workers in other industries around the country.

There was a growing feeling that industrial action would deliver a better life for working people. And the agitation even spread to the schools. In over sixty cities and towns children came out as well.

The number of working days lost because of strikes climbed as did the number of trade union members, and

In Parliament Churchill, the Home Secretary was often preoccupied with questions on the industrial unrest.

All of this was against a backdrop of wage cuts, poor working conditions, and rapid inflation. Between 1889 and 1910 the cost of food rose by 10 per cent and the cost of coal by 18 per cent.

The life expectancy for working men was just 50 years of age and 54 for women, five per cent of children aged between 10 and 14 were already at work and the richest one percent held 70 percent of the wealth.

Tensions mounted and the army was sent into the striking areas with fatal consequences. A miner was killed in south Wales and two workers in Liverpool.

Here in the city the same awful poverty, dreadful housing conditions and bleak prospects were evident to anyone who cared to walk just a few minutes from the tall impressive headquarters of commerce.

Just a little east of the scene in our photograph were the crowded streets and courts of Ancoats and Ardwick, while in the direction the procession was taking could be found New Cross , Redbank and Strangeways, all of which commentators agreed should be raised to the ground.

The photograph also provides a clue to the time of year. Our young woman is in shirt sleeves and the men in the crowd are dressed in suits.

The summer of 1911 was particularly warm. June had been a mix of sun and showers but July was fine and hot and gave rise to fears of a prolonged drought and it is in early July that our picture was taken.

It may have been Tuesday July 4th but certainly during that week.

I can be fairly certain because it was during this week that the carters went on strike here in the city. Twelve thousand men were on strike and in pursuance of their claim were picketing the docks to prevent the movement of food to the wholesale market.

Picture; Greater Manchester Police Archive, July 1911 by kind permission of Greater Manchester Police Archive, July 1911,

Saturday, 21 February 2015

At that big blue store

I wondered how long it would be before the IKEA building made its way into the Tamseide Image Collection.

After all it is not that old and hardly compares with some of the more majestic buildings that are dotted around the district.

But it is there in the collection, which I suppose is as it should be.

It is big, dominates the spot and provides work and a place to go for quite a few local residents.

Do I like it?  Well I am not sure.  It is a bold statement of modern retail practice and does fulfil a role.

Like many people we have wandered its floors, come away with the flat pack stuff along with those odd little kitchen things and spent hours pondering on the easy to assemble instruction sheets.

But do I like it as building?

No I don’t think I do.  It has function and simplicity added to which you get a fair view of the hills from the top car park but it is all too big and brash for me.

That said Peter’s painting gives a sense of its size and purpose.

And I doubt that I am one to pass informed judgments given I was always impressed by the old bus station.

 Painting; IKEA, Ashton-Under-Lyne © 2015 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
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Friday, 20 February 2015

A reminder of that time when we mended things ........ down on Church Street in Altrincham

Now given that I have the maps and directories for Altrincham in time I should be able to make a good stab at finding out about this building.

It sits beside another oldish building and one that might be relatively new.

Of course the research will do the bit but in the meantime I couldn’t resist posting these two pictures from Andy Robertson’s Altrincham collection.

We are on Church Street not far from the station and number 18 fascinates me.

It looks to be one of those properties that has been overlooked by developers and council planners and you wonder how it has survived.

But that is not all, what is equally intriguing is the business that operates from inside, because this is the Altrincham Shaver and Repair Centre, and here amongst other things you can get your Kenwood Mixer repaired and I guess much else.

Once upon a time shops like these were common, for who would want to go out and buy a new electrical product when it was possible to get that expensive and cherished item repaired?

And the chap in his brown overalls could pretty much be guaranteed to mend anything as long as the parts were available.

The one near us as I was growing up was magic.

Every corner of the shop was piled high with electrical goods and there was that dusty, musty smell which greeted you as you went through the door.

You offered up the broken thing, Mr Anson would scrutinise it, mumble a bit and if it was doable would retreat to the back room and work a bit of that magic.

Alternatively if parts were needed it was left in that back room until it was fixed at a fraction of what it would cost to buy new.

And that was how it was done.  Things were repaired when they broke and while they might not have looked as elegant at least they worked.

So I am pleased that Andy turned up this place and reminded me of how things used to be done.

Picture; Church Street, Altrincham, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson 

Darley Avenue update

Now there will be a lot of people with memories of the secondary schools that stood on Darley Avenue.

And Andy Robertson has been carefully recording the site from when the builders first turned the soil to the point this week when the first houses seem almost finished.

The collection will be one of those unique records of changing Chorlton.

Picture; Darley Avenue, February 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Remembering the Well Hall Odeon with a new painting

Now, there has been a lot of talk recently about the cinemas of Eltham.

And like pubs on the High Street people have started championing their favourite, whether it be the ABC by Passey Place or the Gaumont on the hill.

Of course you would have to be pretty old  to remember that there was another cinema in Eltham on the corner of Westmount Road.

I must have seen it countless times on my way to school at Crown Woods but even now it does not register with me.  It opened in 1913 and was demolished in 1968

Like so many of the early cinemas it proved “not fit for purpose” when the newer, plusher and more modern looking picture houses came along later in the century.

For me the best, and the most modern looking of all our cinemas was the Well Hall Odeon.

It was just minutes away from where I lived and was somewhere I visited a lot and some where all my sisters went on a Saturday morning.

So I was pleased when Peter offered to paint the place and here is his painting.

We have been working together for a number of years now on joint ventures which have included the 80 meter History Wall installation, as well as  exhibitions and a new book.*

Now Peter is a Preston lad always keen to tell me “that you can take the boy out of Preston, but never Preston out of the boy” which I guess is how many of us also feel about Eltham.

Work, marriage and just life may have scattered many of us across the country and beyond but this corner of south east London bounded by the river and Woolwich to the north and Kent over the county line will remain home.

So now that Peter has got a taste for Eltham we may have more of his paintings.

In the meantime just talking about Saturday morning pictures reminded him of the song he sang all those years ago.

It began with the refrain

We come along on Saturday morning
greeting everybody with a smile

We come along on Saturday morning
knowing it’s well worth while

And for those that want to return to those Saturdays mixing the noise, the talent contests and the old films here is a link to that lost world.  Saturday Morning Song **

Painting; The Well Hall Odeon © 2014 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
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*A new book for Didsbury,

**We come along on Saturday morning
greeting everybody with a smile

We come along on Saturday morning
knowing it’s well worth while

Members of The Odeon Club we all intend to be
good citizens when we grow up and carriers of the free

We come along on Saturday morning
greeting everybody with a smile, smile, smile,
greeting everybody with a smile.

And as Peter points out even the screen can get it wrong.

NB the words sung by WHO? say
Members of The GB Club we all intend to be
but the words on screen where
Members of The Odeon Club we all intend to be
Found this explanation on Tinterweb as explanation for GB instead of Odeon

This one has the audio for Rank's other cinema chain (Gaumont British) hence the singer singing "GB Club" instead of "OD-EON Club". But it was the same song otherwise.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

On travelling the East Didsbury line into town ....... part 1 .... waiting

I can remember the day the metro link was opened from town to Chorlton, and I was one of the first to travel the line south to East Didsbury.

I have written about both and so for no other reason than I took the pictures and use the line a lot here are two from the last year and a bit.

It is still the most pleasant way of travelling into the city centre and beats the bus on a quick and easy way to get to the cinema at Parrs Wood.

In time I think I shall write about each of the stops from Market Street reflecting on the history of each, and including pictures and paintings.

So this is just the start.

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Manchester Trams,

See better days and do better things ............. the Odeon on Old Street

The Odeon on Old Street has seen better times.

The Odeon, 2015
It was opened in 1920 as the Majestic changed its name in 1946 to the Gaumont and in 1962 to the Odeon.*

And as if a name change could makes things better was renamed the Metro in 1981 before closing in 2003.

But I guess we shouldn’t be too hard on the place, it did after all survive from the silent movies with Tom Mix through to the talkies and in to the age of Star Wars and beyond.

Sadly as Peter’s painting shows it seems to have passed its best and not even the attractions of cheap slot machines could keep its doors open.

The Odeon in happier days
And I have to confess I never helped it along, because we never went there.  Instead we preferred the picture houses of Manchester, which was simply because that was where we worked and a night in the cinema straight from work made sense.

But there will be plenty of people who remember it in its heyday and may well have chosen it over the Roxy on Queens Road or the Odeon at Guide Bridge.

Not to short change the more adventurous who might well have ventured off to Stalybridge, Hyde, or even to the Oxford in Dukinfield.

All of which reminds me just how many palaces of cinematic dreams once flourished across Tameside.

So with that in mind I rather hope Peter goes off looking for more to paint and who knows this may well result in a shed load of memories, pictures and stories of the back rows of darkened picture houses across the Tame valley.

And not to be out done I shall also rise to the challenge and go looking for the Queens Electric Theatre of which there is a 1912 plan on the wonderful Tameside Image Archive**

 Painting; the Odeon Ashton-under-Lyne  © 2015 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
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Picture; the Odeon Cinema, Old Street, Ashton under Lyne, t09070, courtesy of Tameside Image Archive,


*Tameside Image Archive,

Finding a ghost sign in Altrincham

Now I rather think there is no end to which Andy Robertson will go to record the history of our buildings.

Armed with his camera in one hand and his newly acquired concessionary travel pass in the other I have every confidence that his journies will take him to the far edges of Greater Manchester.

And long may they do so because he has been building up a wonderful record of the often swift changes into the twin cities and the neighbouring townships.

Earlier in the month he ventured out to Altrincham and here is the first in that series.

And where better to begin than with a ghost sign on Moss Lane.
It belonged to G.W. Bonson and at present I know nothing about them, but it is a fine example of its type.

What’s more you get a nice piece of industrial archaeology because at some stage the lower set of windows were bricked up and it would be interesting to know why.

That said there will be someone who know Altrincham well and may well be familiar with the building and its history.

For now I shall just add it to the growing collection of ghost signs and decide which of Andy’ Altrincham pictures to do next.

Picture; on Moss Lane, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Manchester Snowdrop City .......... the National Trust

I suppose if asked to associate a flower with the Great War most people would go for the poppy but the snowdrop also has a long association with that conflict.

They are “a symbol of hope and though out the First world War were planted s tar graves alongside other favourite flowers to remind soldiers of home.”*

So with that in mind the National Trust has planted 100,000 Snowdrops to mark the 100 years since the outbreak of the Great War.

They were planted in the September of last year across the city and the National Trust, supported by Manchester City Council, the cathedral, Manchester University and the City Art Gallery has produced a map of where those flowers can be seen and admired.

The eight venues stretch from St John’s Gardens up to Parsonage Gardens, and the Cathedral into the Northern Quarter and down via Sackville Gardens to the Museum.

And with a bit of flair and imagination the Art Gallery has been decked out with sandbags and snowdrops.

Picture; from Manchester Snowdrop City,

*Manchester Snowdrop City, the National Trust,

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn ............ so what's in a name?

I am never surprised at the way place names and in particular the names of pubs hold a fascinating history.

All too often you take them for granted and if you are really curious rely on one of the regulars propping up the bar to give you the story.

If you are lucky they will know what they are talking about otherwise you have go digging which was what I did when Peter presented me with his painting of the Riflemen or to give it its full name, the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn.

Now that is a long one, running to 55 letters and at various times this has qualified its appearance in the Guinness Book of Records as the pub with the longest name.

Its first entry was in 1955 which was short lived and a tad inaccurate as the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn only became a pub in 1956.  Before that it had been a beerhouse for a century and only gained a wine license in 1950.

Added to which it briefly lost its claim to be in the book when it lost one of the words in its name.

Such are the vagaries of record busters.

Putting that aside there is a real story here, linked with the establishment of the Volunteer Rifle Force in 1859 in response to one of our periodic invasion scares.

These were loosely based around rifle clubs and in turn owed their origins to earlier militia units raised in times of war.

At which point I will not steal someone else’s research and just point you in the direction of the Development of the Rifle Volunteer Movement in Manchester* and the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn.

Between them the full story of how our pub was transformed from the New Inn when it opened in 1855 to the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn via a drill hall and an enterprising landlord.

Paintings; the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn  © Peter Topping, 2015, Paintings from Pictures,
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*The Development of the Rifle Volunteer Movement in Manchester,

**the Old Thirteenth Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn,

The bits of Victoria Baths which seldom get seen nu 2 ........... a roof and a chimney

Now like many people I have a soft spot for Victoria Baths and have followed the long campaign to restore the building.

And so here are a few of the bits of the Baths which I have never seen, and yes they are taken by Andy Robertson who continues to document so many different aspects of the history of the twin cities.

These are the working bits which all those generations of bathers and would be sportspeople have relied on.

Both images speak for themselves but are a reminder of that other side to all fine buildings.

In time I will revisit Andy’s pictures exploring a little more of the Baths you seldom see.

Pictures; Victoria Baths 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

150 years of that Methodist Church in Withington

Now I am not a great one for anniversaries but here is one I think it is worth taking note of because this year is the 150th birthday of the Methodist Church in Withington.

And to celebrate the event Peter Topping painted the church on one of those fine summer days earlier this year.

For me the building is only part of the story but an interesting one.

It was opened in 1865 and was the second chapel built by the Methodists in Withington and continued to serve them well until 1992 when after a survey of the premises, “the church members decided that rather than spend over £100,000 on repairs to the ageing building they would take the bold step of redeveloping the church. 

The redevelopment scheme involved the demolition of ancillary buildings at the rear of the church and the erection of a new floor within the main worship area, to create the space for exciting new projects.”*

And in this respect they were only reflecting the same flexible approach which had led earlier groups of Methodists across south Manchester to worship in cottages barns and even open fields while at the same time working hard to raise the funds to build their first chapels.

In Withington  it all began with “two twelve-year-old girls, Hannah Hesketh and Hannah Langford, who in the 1790s heard the gospel in neighbouring Burnage and asked that a bible class be run for them in 
Withington. From this class held originally in farmhouse kitchens a worshipping community developed who, in 1832, erected a small chapel in old Moat and subsequently built the present building in 1865.”*

A large part of the money for the new church was contributed by Mr Ralph Waller a wealthy industrialist with a factory and showrooms in Manchester. **

He lived at Groombridge House opposite the old green and according to the Manchester Guardian gave a third of the total cost to the building of the 1865 church, which brings us back to that birthday and Peter’s painting.

Painting; Withington Methodist Church, © Peter Topping, 2014, Paintings from Pictures,
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* Withington Methodist Church,

**Dale Street,

Crossing Hulme on a February morning

Now I know that there are some equally spectacular bridges in the city, but this will always be one of my favourites.

I can remember the first time I saw it and more importantly the first time I crossed it on one of those wet evenings when the street and traffic lights played patterns on the pools of water on the road.

Picture; Hulme 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson