Tuesday, 31 March 2015

At the bus stop in Piccadilly in 1961

It is 5 pm on a sunny afternoon in 1961 and the rush hour is in full swing.

And if you lived in great chunks of Manchester it would be the bus which would be taking you home.

Now it would be a full eight years before I washed up in the city but W.Higham’s picture perfectly captures the bus station I remember.

It is of course a scene that has vanished.  The old glass and steel shelters went a long time ago and the building behind on Portland Street was another of those that I remember but its demolition passed me by.

Behind the bus shelter and the line of commuters the sunken gardens fare better, lasting into this century before they too succumbed to change which I still have doubts about.

Every time I gaze on that great concrete slab I wonder if a more sympathetic device could have been created to screen the busy transport hub from the open spaces of the new gardens. And whether the gardens could just have been tidied up and left as they were rather than creating that wet windswept expanse of tired grass and water feature.

All of which I know opens me up to the criticism that I am wallowing in nostalgia but not so.  The gardens were a pleasant place offering a degree of peace in the heart of the city and a welcome lunchtime break.*

And by extension for those who wanted to miss the rush hour torture they were a pretty good place to sit it out till the buses were half empty.

And that couple of hours between the day time people leaving and the night crowd coming in is still a magical time.

The city seemed to get a wee bit quieter and a little calmer, but you knew it was just a lull before the business of fun took over from that workaday atmosphere.

The gardens were a particularly good place to observe it as were the city centre pubs.  Stay long enough in one of the pubs and you could watch as tired office workers and shop assistants slid away after a few drinks having discussed their day and were replaced by a more energetic and optimistic crowd whose enthusiasm for the night ahead grew as the rounds were bought.

So I still wonder at how many of those at that bus stop waiting in the late afternoon sunshine decided that tea in Chorlton and an evening with Coronation Street, Dick Emery and the Avengers might be less attractive than the call of a few drinks and a film at the Odeon.


Picture; Piccadilly Bus Station at 5pm, W. Higham, 1961, m56932, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

London in the 1960s

Now I was too young to have read London Perceived when it was published in 1962.

Well I say too young but at thirteen I could have read this set of descriptions of London by V.S. Pritchett but at the time I was too busy exploring the city myself.

Back then it was a Saturday trip down to Queens Road station and a train trip to where ever 2 shillings and sixpence return could take you.

Sometimes you struck sheer magic and at other times like when we ended up by a canal on a dreary wet February even I had to concede adventures weren’t everything.

Still there were enough successful ones to make it all worthwhile, and this book pretty much brings it all back.

For me I have to say it is the photographs that fascinate me more, like the one of the three “Lorry Drivers: Tower Hill” by the hut selling “coffee, sandwiches, cakes.”

I remember that spot along with the cabin and could have quite easily been there on that winter’s day when Evelyn Hofer took the picture.

And I have to say that her collection captures that London of the late 1950s and early 60s.  Here there is a mix of buildings and street scenes along with some powerful images of people from the city gent, and dock workers, to the odd teenager all moody with his winkle pickers and flamboyant hairstyle.

Now recently I have featured books which cost little when they were published but now cost a shedful of money, but I am pleased to say not this one.  I paid £12.99 for my brand new paperback reprint in 2003 and a quick trawl of the internet revealed bargains at £2.99 for a paperback copy and £3.75 for hardback.

So no excuses then.

Picture; cover London Perceived, V.S. Pritchett, 1962, reprinted by Penguin, 2003.

A cinema classic in Bury

Now it is always a joy to open an email from Andy Robertson whose quest for recording our history knows no bounds, and is limited only by where his bus pass will take him. 

And so here after a tram ride on a wet grey March day Andy offered up this grand old relic of the cinema age.

It is the Art Picture House on Haymarket Street in Bury.

It was built in 1922 on the site of a theatre which had originally Baptist Chapel which was then converted into a warehouse.*

Today it is a Weatherspoons, all of which makes for a rich and varied
history which has been researched by the Theatre Trust.*

And the more I look at it there are distinct similarities with the that cinema on Oxford Road, once known to many as "Studios one to a million."

There is more, but for that you will have to read their blog and go up to Bury following in the tramstops of Andy Robertson.

Picture; the Art Theatre, Bury, 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*The Theatres Trust Theatres Database, 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Round About A Pound A Week ......... London life and London Poor ..... 1913

“Take a tram from Victoria to Vauxhall Station.  

Get out under the railway arch which faces Vauxhall Bridge, and there you will find Kennington Lane.  

The railway arch roofs in a din which reduces the roar of the trains continually passing overhead to a vibrating muffled rumble.”

And with those opening lines Mrs Maud Pember Reeves plunged into a detailed account of the lives of families struggling to make ends meet in the Lambeth of 1913.*

She was a social reformer and feminist who served on the Executive Committees of the Women’s Trade Union League, the National Anti Sweating League, and the Central Committee for Women’s Suffrage along with the Committee of the Fabian Society.

And it was after a lecture given to the Fabian Women’s’ Group on the Economic Disintegration of the Family in 1908 that she and other members of the group set about recording the daily budgets and lives of working class families in Lambeth.

The book details everything from the area where they lived to the daily battle to bring up a family in damp and lousy properties, while balancing a household budget and the ever present threat of unemployment.

It is a book which compliments that of Robert Roberts’s description of life in Salford at much the same time. **

So given that I will no doubt be returning to the book I shall conclude with a little more from the opening chapter

Lambeth, 1874
“From either end of the arch comes a close procession of trams, motor-buses, brewers’ drays, coal lorries, carts filled with unspeakable material for glue factory and tannery, motor cars, coster-barrows, and people. 

It is a stopping-place for tramcars and motorbuses; therefore little knots of agitated persons continually collect on both pathways, and dive between the vehicles and descending passengers in order to board the particular bus or tram they desire.

At rhythmic intervals all traffic through the arch is suspended to allow a flood of trams, buses, drays and vans, to surge and rattle and bang across the opening of the archway which faces the river.

At the opposite end there is the cross current.  The trams slide away to the right towards the Oval. In front is Kennington Lane and to the left at right angles, a narrow street connects with Vauxhall Walk leading further on into Lambeth Walk, both locally known as the Walk.

Such is the western gateway to the districts stretching north to Lambeth Road, south to Lansdowne Road, east to Walworth Road, where live the people whose lives this book is about.

They are not the poorest people of the district.  Far from it!  

They are, putting aside the tradesmen, whose shops line the big thoroughfares such as Kennington Road, or Kennington Park Road, some of the most enviable and settled inhabitants of this part of the world.  

The poorest people- the river-side casual, the workhouse in-and-out, the bar room loafer – anxiously ignored by these respectable persons whose work is permanent, as permanency goes in Lambeth and whose wages range from 18s. to 30s a week.

Picture; cover Round About A Pound A Week, , Virago ed 1979 featuring an image from the Greater London Council Photograph Library and detail of the area in the 1870s from the 1874 OS for London, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

* Round About A Pound A Week, Maud Pember Reeves, 1913, Virago ed 1979

**The Classic Slum, Robert Roberts, 1971

Tatton Hall ....... once the preserve of the rich and now a place to mix a bit of history with a load of fun

Now I am going to lay aside my prejudice for stately homes.

It is something which I have carried it with me since childhood and is based on that simple observation that all such posh places were funded by exploiting the labours of those who were doomed never to get closer than the estate gates and maintained by an army of servants and labourers whose contributions to the great house went largely unrecorded.

Nor do I totally accept that tosh about preserving the past.

So while some might argue that there is no comparison between Blenheim Palace and a 1930 semi built on the outer reaches of Manchester. I am not so sure.

But both have histories, both were built for someone to live in and both were cherished by their inhabitants.

In the case of Tatton Hall it is now open to all and run by the National Trust after the last owner, Maurice Egerton bequeathed the mansion and gardens to the National Trust on his death in 1958.

And for all those who live in south Manchester, the Egertons at one time pretty much owned all of it having begun to acquire great chunks from the 18th century onwards and only parting with the land in the late 19th and early 20 centuries.

All of which may seem a long way from a pleasant day in Tatton Park which if you choose the day correctly will offer up a shed load of attractions, from steam engines to the fun of the fair.

These Peter has captured well in his series of paintings on Tatton Hall.

My favourite remains that traction engine which reminds me of the time when steam was the thing powering everything from pumps and textile machines to trains and even to carousel rides.

Today it is hard to imagine that once that distinctive smell of steam and warm oil along with the noise and smoke of a steam machine was the backdrop to most people’s lives.

All of which makes Tatton Hall’s visitor attractions worth a visit, not that it over changes my views of stately homes, but I shall put that prejudice to one side.

Paintings; from the Tatton Hall series,  © 2011 and 2015 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures,
Facebook:  Paintings from Pictures

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Unpicking the clues of a postcard, .... Piccadilly sometime in the early 20th

This is one of those photographs I keep coming back to because there is so much going on.

We are in Piccadilly and the old Queen dominates the picture.  I don’t have a date but guess it must be some time in the first two decades of the last century.

Now we can narrow the date down a little.  The card was marketed by Fred Judge who began the business in 1903.

And there is one further clue.  This card is numbered 1724 which was one of seven in a series on Manchester and included Albert Square, the Town Hall, Market Street, the Cathedral and the University and yes you guessed there is study group who may be able to date the series.*

But leaving aside the date it is the sheer amount of detail which makes the card such a treasure.  Sitting on the steps of the Queen’s statute are two boy scouts.  Now I can’t be certain but it looks like they may just have some cleaning implements at their feet which could link them to Good Turn Day which was introduced in 1914 and morphed into Bob a Job Week in 1949.

All of which takes me back to a date.

But there is so much more to see.  There is the man who is casually leaning against the lamp post and the pile of discarded rubbish in the litter bin.  Like others in the picture he is wearing one of the straw hats which seems to remain in fashion into the 1920s.

We must be sometime in the summer given the presence of women in blouses and our scouts without their coats.

The long line of trams reminds us that this was a busy part of the town with most of them destined to head down Market Street which  would also be thronged with pedestrians on route down to St Mary's Gate or visiting the many shops and offices which ran its length.

And judging by the number of passengers on the upper decks of the open trams plenty of people have chosen to take in the fine weather on this summers day.

My own favourite detail is the horse drawn cab, number 382.  As it waits for a fare the horse is feeding from its feed bag.

Now it should be possible check out the name of the cab driver and as they say a whole new story awaits the telling.

Picture; from the collection of Alan Brown


Park Row in Heaton Mersey gives up a few of its secrets

Now until a few days ago I was totally unaware of Park Row in Heaton Mersey or for that matter that there was once a bleach works close by.

But this tiny picturesque group of houses has drawn me in.

According to Pevsner they are “attractive early-mid Victorian terraces” and that I think is a good starting point, although in time I might also become interested in neighbouring Vale Close which “is probably 17th century.”*

It took me a bit of time to locate them on the census record and I have yet to find them in a street directory but after about half an hour of wandering across Lancashire I found them for 1911 and that revealed the entire records back to 1841.

Any one of those census records will be a wonderful insight into who lived in Park Row and how many of the residents owed their livelihood to that bleach works which was just minutes away from the houses.

And they will also tell us much about the people themselves, including where they came from, how many children they had and the degree to which people moved out of Park Row.

All of which will shed light on social mobility, overcrowding and much more.

But for now it is the 1901 census which offers up a picture of what was going on at Park Row.

In all there were 99 people living in the 17 houses of which 41 were working in the April of 1901 when the census was taken.

As you would expect over 50% worked with textiles, either as weavers, spinner’s dyers or at that bleach works.

That said only four of the forty-one would have made their way to the Upper Bleach works and it may even be that some or all of them worked at the neighbouring one.

And then there is the location of the cotton mill which employed another thirteen of our residents including nine weavers, three spinners and Mr Jackson of nu 17 Park Row who was a "weaver overseer."

Those works might also have employed  seven from the Row who described themselves variously as electricians, engineers, messengers and a carter.

In time I might even be able to discover where our three gardeners, domestic servant and housekeeper were employed.

All of which suggests that Park Row has much more to reveal.

Pictures, Park Row, 2015 and from a picture postcard date unknown, from the collection of David Harrop

*Lancashire: Manchester and the South East; Clare Hartwell, Matthew Hyde, Nikolause Pevsner, 2004

An Easter history walk .......... advance warning ........... now that's a zippy title

Now I make no apologies about mentioning Easter, and an Easter egg hunt in March given that the hunt is linked to those ever popular history walks.

And so returning by popular demand this Easter Sunday I will offering up a bit more of the history of Chorton, with that added attraction that along the way there will be opportunities to take part in the hunt for Easter eggs.

So starting starting at 3 on Easter Sunday from the Post Box Cafe we will be setting off to explore the history of Martledge in the late 19th century.*

Martledge was the area roughly from the Four Banks down to the Library and was so transformed from the 1880s that even its name was forgotten and locals referred to it as “New Chorlton” or the “new village.”

The walk will take us past some farms, the old Royal Oak pub, a very interesting block of houses dating from 1832 and by degree out across the Isles to gaze at the sight of the old Chorlton Ice Rink and finish off with the story of the Great Burial Scandal and the almost forgotten stories of Chorlton and the Blitz.

Along the way there will be tales of dark deeds, quite a bit about the people we might have encountered and more than one silly story.

Like the day the lady from Beech Road lost her skates while visiting our skating ring on Oswald Road and went on to make a fascinating discovery.

The event is being staged by the Post Box Cafe and for the price of £8 for adults, and £5 for children you get all the history you might want and more plus hot drink for the walk and then soup or cake on return for grownups and  juice and an Easter egg for the children.

And if you want more information follow the link.*

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Looking for Alice ...... 250,000 Bexley records now online and that postcard from Chislehurst

Now I would love to track Alice who sent this postcard of Sidcup Road on December 23 1915.

But while I have the name and the address of the person she sent it to, Alice will always evade me.

If only she had added her surname and then I might have been lucky and found her on the census return for the area and now also from one of the more than 250,000 parish records for the London Borough of Bexley.

Until now they were available from the Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre* but have been digitalised and can be accessed at Ancestry** and cover local baptisms, marriages and burial from1558 to 1985.

And along side these Ancestry has also released a set of Bexley civil cemetery records which include casualties of the Slade Green Munitions Factory disaster, which killed 11 female workers and a foreman in 1924.

Described by newspapers as a "‘tragedy that rocked the nation’, a memorial for those killed in the fire still remains at Erith Cemetery today" details of which have just been released by Who Do You Think You Are***

So for anyone in Eltham with an interest in Bexley there may well be a cornucopia of research opportunities.

Of course not everyone will subscribe to Ancestry but the  Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre is just a short trip away on Townley Road, Bexleyheath.*

And like all good studiy centres there is a huge collection of things to look at ranging from Electoral registers and poll books which start in 1833 to Kent local directories, rate books, Ordnance Survey maps from the 1860s and  school records, including admission registers.

And if you want more there are local newspapers dating from 1874, local council plans and photographic collections.

But if like me you live along way north of Watford Gap it will have to be Ancestry which offers up a route to Bexley’s past.

Sadly even here I will not be able to discover any more about Alice and as yet the person she sent the card to in Hereford is equally unwilling to come out of the shadows.

So I shall have to content myself with that card which I have written about in the past and which gives us a nice insight into how commercial picture postcards worked.

It is a pretty scene taken in high summer and was originally released in 1905 but with that eye to a profit the postcard company re released it in the December of 1915 with the addition of a Christmas message printed across the front.

Picture; Sidcup Road, 1915 from the series Chislehurst, marketed by Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, https://tuckdb.org/

* Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre, Central Library, Townley Road, Bexleyheath, DA6 7HJ


*** Centuries of Bexley parish records added to Ancestry, jonbauckham, 26 March 2015, Who Do You Think You Are?

**** That mysterious cottage in Chislehurst

Down in Heaton Mersey with that lost bleach works

The Bleach Works, date unknown
Now the thing about industrial archaeology is that it can turn up in the most unexpected places and be a surprise to many who have lived nearby for ages.

Sites which once hummed with purpose, employing hundreds of people with a history stretching back centuries can vanish leaving almost nothing while relatively new ventures also disappear and are lost forever.

The site in 2015
What they all have in common is that once gone pretty soon they are forgotten and their rediscovery can be a revelation.

What helps is to have someone in the know.

David Harrop is one of those people.  On a recent expedition around Heaton Mersey he came across that mystery bell which may have belonged to the bleach works.*

And here I show my ignorance for I never knew that there were bleach works in Heaton Mersey.

An invoice rom the bleach works, circa 1890s
That said unless you knew of the existence of the Upper Bleach Works it is hard to picture what must have been a noisy and perhaps smelly industrial enterprise.

Today standing beside the cottages of Park Row and Park View it is hard to think that here was a little bit of the industrial revolution.

The bleach works were doing their bit by 1844 and I have no doubt that with a bit of research it should be possible to push this date back.

But the buildings and reservoir are gone and the site has grown back with a mix of bushes and trees.
Dig a little and I bet things will turn up.

The site today
In the meantime I was fascinated by this invoice from the Upper Bleach Works which along with David’s picture postcard from offers up a bit of its history.

Now there will be plenty who remember it as a going concern and some who may even have memories of working there and with luck they will come forward to tell a story.

All of which matters especially given the onward creep of new development which in time will cover the site with new buildings, but also because the stories of those who worked there and carried out a process which can be traced back to at least the start of the 19th deserve to be retained.

Of course some of those accounts may already exist safely and so my first port of call will be Stockport Heritage Centre.**

Pictures; postcard of the Bleach Works, date unknown, invoice from Upper Bleach works and the site today from the collection of David Harrop

*A little mystery down in Heaton Mersey, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/a-little-mystery-down-in-heaton-mersey.html 

**Stockport Heritage Centre, stockportheritage@gmail.com

Standing on Talbot Road watching the progress

Now never say that the blog is just about the past.

Here is 39 Talbot Road as it was in September of last year and yesterday as recorded by Andy Robertson who commented that the pictures “shows the area has been cleared, at least of vegetation, presumably for some imminent redevelopment.”

And I can report that according to Trafford Council’s Planning on line site, the cleared land will become "a car park for a temporary period of two years including erection of timber gates as a site entrance.”*

Which followed on from a previous
application for "the  demolition of existing building and erection of part five/part six storey block of offices. 

Provision of 90 parking spaces with access from Talbot Road." Which was approved in 2003.

So as they say watch this space and in the fullness of time I reckon there will a few more pictures from Andy, all of which will add to the growing portfolio of images of how where we live continues to change.

And that is important because we so seldom bother to clock the changes.

Pictures; 39 Talbot Road, 2014-15 courtesy of Andy Robertson

*39 Talbot Road Stretford, Ref. No: 83473/FULL/2014, http://publicaccess.trafford.gov.uk/online-applications/simpleSearchResults.do?action=firstPage

Revealing more of the work of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls‘ Refuge.

Parent Indenture, 1903
Now I always look forward to a new post from the archivist of the Together Trust which hold the records of the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls‘ Refuge.

From 1870 this charity extended its work from providing a bed and a meal for destitute children from the twin cities to an organisation which campaigned for the rights of children, offered training to enable young people to rise from poverty and settled some on farms and homes across Canada.

What I particularly like is the insight into the work of the charity and today’s post focuses on the agreement undertaken by the charity, the children and their parents.

There maybe those who criticise the language of the indentures as a tad patronising and question also the degree to which a parent was expected to surrender authority over their child in favour of the charity and I have to say they sit uncomfortably with me.

But that merely goes to highlight the degree to which poverty and the lack of real State intervention made the work of such charities necessary.

As the secretary of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges reflected the charity had “during its forty-six years helped 10,831 children, and “besides these thousands of temporary cases have been helped [along with] poor delicate children sent to the seaside home, ........ poor boys sent to summer camps for a week’s holiday which have numbered no fewer than 55,891.” *

This was a record set against the desperate degree of poverty and hardship experienced by our homeless children back in the 1870s who were “getting their living by begging, selling papers and matches, or by blacking boots in the streets, and when they could not raise 3d. for a night in a common lodging house slept out.

They were to be found lying under stalls in Shudehill Market, in the various alleys under the railway arches, and among bales of cotton in railway yards.”

Forty-six years on the secretary commented “I could have taken you to half a dozen places where you would have found young lads sleeping out; today I do not know of one.  Indeed I do not think boys and girls are to be found sleeping out, .... thanks to the work of our own agencies and of others in Manchester and Salford.”

At which point I will stop and direct you to that post which contains some interesting documents with its observations on the work of the charity and offers no better start fo anyone wanting to research the issues of child poverty and destitution..**

Pictures; courtesy of the Together Trust

*The Passing of the City Arab Manchester Guardian January 3rd 1916

**Getting down and dusty, http://togethertrustarchive.blogspot.co.uk/

Friday, 27 March 2015

On discovering the service records of a British Home Child

Attestation Papers, James Rogers, James Roger Hall, August 1915
I have no pictures of my great uncle who went over to Canada in 1914 with the Middlemore charity.

Nor has he left much else in the way of personal material and even the official records stretch to just a few census returns, the register of his birth and fragmentary documents from the social services, Middlemore and the Derby Poor Law Guardians.

My great aunt left a few memories of the man and I have two letters and that is about it.

I know he had an unhappy time, was placed on three farms between May 1914 and August 1915 before he ran away from his last placement, changed his name, lied about his age and enlisted in the Canadian Army.

Attestation Papers, August 1915
But that decision has at least offered up a wealth of information and has gone some way to bring him out of the shadows.

I know what he looked like, the colour of his eyes, his hair and his weight and general health and I can follow his experiences from his enlistment through to his basic training, embarkation for Britain and onward journey to the Western Front.

Moreover knowing who he served with it is possible to read the war diaries of his unit and get an understanding of what he went through in France from the daily tedium of training and fatigues to the brutal realities of serving on the front line.

And along with his medical records are a list of his misdemeanours which suggest that the troubled adolescent in Derby who could not settle on farms in NB and NS found the discipline of army life no easier.

Between 1916 and 1918 he faced four military courts from refusing to obey an order to absent without leave while on active service.

George Bradford Simpson, circa 1918
But of all the military documents it is perhaps his Attestation Papers which are the most revealing for this is the moment when he sets his face against everything in his life so far.

It starts with that name change and the falsification of his age and goes on to deny the very existence of his mother, preferring instead to offer his aunt as his next of kin.

Now this is not the place to explore why that might have been and while I can vouchsafe some reasons they will always be speculation.
Suffice to say that his mother who was my great grandmother may have been a difficult woman who in her way was no less troubled than her son.

After his demob he all but vanishes from the record.  I know he was instrumental in helping his sister cross to Canada in 1925 and there is a suggestion from her that he had gone west but there the trail ends.

So those army records offer up a brief glimpse of my great uncle and are all the more important given that we have none of the military records for the others in the family who fought in the Great War.

In all six of my immediate family joined the Colours, and they include my great grandfather, my grandfather, two of his brothers and two of my uncles..

C Company, First City Battalion, 16th Manchester's September 1914
But ironically it is the one family member who left for far away Canada whose military career is intact.

Sadly the records of the other five are part of the 60% of service records which were destroyed in the Blitz.

So today I have one letter from an uncle dated December 1918 as his unit prepared to cross the Rhine into Germany, a few photographs, the demobilisation papers of my grandfather and a few bits from my great grandfather who served in the armies of the old Queen between 1888 and 1892 and briefly served again during the Great War.

Not that this will surprise anyone who has gone looking for their family history but there is perhaps a slight irony in that the man who was sent from these shores, and whose later life would end in a mystery should for a brief few years provided the most detailed records of any of his family.

Pictures;, Attestation Papers of James Rogers [Roger James Hall] August 1915, George Bradford Simpson circa 1918, from the collection of Andrew Simpson and C Company of the First City Battalion of the 16th Manchester’s 1914 courtesy of Bob Potts.

74 years ago ........... part 3 searchlights and the Sleeper

Form an occasional series looking back to the summer of 1941 and using material from Lilliput.

The caption reads “The Sleeper”

Pictures; "The Sleeper" Bill Brandt, from Lilliput, July 1941

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Manchester Pals .............. lives from the Great War revealed

Men of the First City Battalion, the 17th Manchester's in Heaton Park, 1914
I have wondered about the fate of these eight men sitting in Heaton Park in the September of 1914.

They were part of the First City Battalion which was the 16th Manchester’s and was the first of the Manchester Pals’ battalions formed at the outbreak of the Great War.

In all there were eight such battalions which were created during August and November of 1914 and which  had already been preceded by three service battalions raised at the Regimental Dept at Ladysmith Barracks in Ashton-Under-Lyne.*

Now much has been written about the rush to enlist at the beginning of the war and the sheer speed and enthusiasm is reflected in the completion of the first four city battalions by mid September.

Lord Derby had reiterated his call for the formation of a “Pals Battalion” in Liverpool on August 27th and the following day leading Manchester industrialists and local figures met in the city’s Town Hall and resolved to raise a battalion of men drawn from the clerks and warehousemen of the city and to carry the name of the Manchester Clerks and Warehousemen’s Battalion.

Embroidered postcard, date unknown
The rest can be read in that excellent account of the Manchester Pal’s Regiments by Michael Stedman along with a brief summary in  The Manchester Regiment, at the Long Long Trail**

Suffice to say that 10,000 men enlisted in the Manchester Pals of whom 4,776 were killed.

And so instead I want to return to two who survived.

One of these was 36 years old Cyril Hopwood Bowman who enlisted on September 3rd and was a bank clerk with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank at their Portland Street branch.

We have his full military records, a photograph of him with C Company of the 17th Manchester’s and much more.  But despite knowing that he settled down in Didsbury after the war where he died in 1954 followed by his wife four years later I have drawn a blank with finding his family.

Not so young James Callaghan of the 8th City Battalion who also survived the war and was the father of one of my friends.  His son Joe has eight photographs of Mr Callaghan in uniform and a collection of stories his father told him of active service during and after the war.

Mr Callaghan of the 8th City Battalion, date unknown
Together the stories of these two men not only provide a vivid account of their experiences but also personalise a conflict which with the passage of time often just becomes focused on those who died on the battlefields.

Perhaps in time I might yet get to discover the identities of the eight in Heaton Park and and their stories but in the meantime I shall return to Mr Bowman and Mr Callaghan.

Pictures; First City Battalion, the 16th Manchester’s in Heaton Park, from the collection of Bob Potts, embroidered postcard of the Manchester Regiment from the collection of David Harrop, and Mr Callaghan courtesy of Joe Callaghan

* The First City Battalion, the 16th Manchester Regiment, the 2nd City Battalion, 17th Manchester Regiment, the 3rd City Battalion, 18th Manchester Regiment, the 4th City Battalion, 19th Manchester Regiment, the 5th City Battalion, 20th Manchester Regiment, the 6th City Battalion, 21st Manchester Regiment, the 7th City Battalion, 22nd Manchester Regiment, the 8th City Battalion, 23rd Manchester Regiment, the 11th 12th, 13th Manchester’s

**Manchester Pals, 16th, 17th, 18th,30th, 21st, 22nd & 23rd Battalions of the Manchester Regiment A History of the Two Manchester Brigades, Michael Stedman, 2004,  The Manchester Regiment at the Long, Long, Trail, http://www.1914-1918.net/mancs.htm

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

In Northdenden with the Ladies Dart team and Ken's sister Dorothy

One of the very nice things about writing the blog is the opportunity you get to meet people and share their family histories.

Even more so when they are kind enough to let me share their family photographs and tell the stories behind the pictures.

I have been featuring some of Ken’s photographs and they are not only a wonderful personal record but also capture perfectly the 1950s and 60s when I like Ken was growing up.

The first is the “ladies dart team, possibly the Crown inn Northenden. 

The photo has the Stockport Express on the back so they might hav won the league! 
Second from the left is Monica Jarvis, then my sister Dot Smith, and the last on the right is Jackie Rees, I think the picture would have been taken around 1967.”

It just takes me directly back to that period.  I remember my mum with a twin set like that and can think of at least two girlfriends who had the same hair style as the young woman in the front row, fifth from the left.

Not to be out done Ken’s second picture of his sister Dorothy and Pamela McGill at the petrol station on Palatine Road in Northenden also conjures up vivid memories.

Pictures; from the collection of Ken Fish

A quiet day along the Rochdale Canal

I first stumbled across that stretch of the Rochdale Canal which runs from the Dale Street Basin to Castlefield through the heart of the city.

It was sometime in the mid 1970s and still find it a fascinating place.

So here over the next few days are some images taken by Andy Robertson on a sunny March day.

Picture; the Rochdale Canal March 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

74 years ago ........... part 2 ........... pictures

Form an occasional series looking back to the summer of 1941 and using material from Lilliput.

The caption reads “Striped Scarves ...... will be worn again this year.”

Pictures; “Striped Scarves ...... will be worn again this year” from Lilliput, July 1941

Hough End Hall ............. a time before now courtesy of Julian Beech

I have often wondered just what Hough End Hall would have been like before those tall office blocks were built which now loom large over this 400 year old building.

Of course to remember a time when you could have had an uninterrupted view across open land in all directions from the hall broken only by trees and the odd farm building would be to step back almost a century.

The office blocks may only date from the 1960s and 70s but the houses to the north and south of the hall were pretty much all in place by the late 1930s and the park had been laid almost a decade earlier.

All of which makes this photograph by Julian Beech so interesting.  Having taken the picture he set about with Photoshop to mute the surrounding buildings.

Now there are plenty of images of the hall dating back into the middle of the 19th century but what I like about Julian’s is that instant connection with what is now and what was once.

Picture Hough End Hall, March 2015, courtesy of Julian Beech

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Lives revealed from the Great War ........... Cyril and Mabel Bowman of Atwood Road Didsbury

The Victory Medal of Mr Bowman
I am looking at the Victory Medal which was awarded to Cyril Hopwood Bowman, who enlisted on September 3rd 1914 and came through the Great War.

Now there is nothing exceptional about that, many did including five of my immediate family.

But the thing about those who went off to fight is that all too often we never delve too deep into their lives before or after that conflict.

In part that is because the media and many historians have focused on those who never came back, whose lives were cut tragically short and became the Lost Generation.

And yet many more did return, settled down, lived long and productive lives and while they may never have forgotten the war put it behind them.

I don’t know how far Cyril Hopwood Bowman managed to readjust to civilian life.

After all until yesterday I knew nothing of him, his wife or his life before the Great War.

It was the news that my friend David Harrop had acquired Mr Bowman’s Victory Medal that set me off looking for the story of this one man.

Cyril Hopwood Bowman was born in Pendleton in 1885 and when war broke out in 1914 he was working as a bank clerk for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank.

C Company, 17th Manchester Regiment, date unknown but circa 1914-16
He enlisted on September 3rd 1914 and joined the 2nd City Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

The 2nd City Battalion or the 17th Manchester’s was one of those new units made up from the hundreds of white collar workers who joined the Colours at the outbreak of war.

In November 1915 he was posted to France and apart from a short break two years later he remained on the Western Front where he was wounded and was finally demobbed in March 1919.

War Memorial, Didsbury, circa 1959
And there is much more for he was one of the 40% of First World War soldiers whose military records survived the Blitz of 1940-41.

And so we know he was 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 114 lbs, had brown eyes black hair, and had a ruddy complexion.

Laid bare in the same documents are his full medical history, a letter from his mother asking that he be considered for clerical duties after he had been wounded and undergone a serious operation for a recurrent health problem and his service on the Western Front.

In 1917 he had married Mabel Frost also from Pendleton and also born in 1885, and as you do I became intrigued by their courtship.

He lived in Pine Road Didsbury and she on Atwood Road and after  the war they settled down in what had been her family home.

So had they known each other for a long time, were they members of the same church, or debating society or had they met on the way to work?

And there for the moment their lives become vague. Mr Bowman died in 1954 and Mrs Bowman four years later.

I thought they may been buried in Southern Cemetery but there are no records of their internment or cremation in any of the city’s cemeteries and at present I have no idea whether they had children or whether he returned his old occupation of bank clerk.

Roll of Honour, the Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank
That said he can be found on the Roll of Honour of the Lancashire and Yorkshire bank which lists him as having worked at the Portland Street branch.

And we also have a photograph of C Company but as yet I cannot identify Mr Bowman so while I have gone looking for a man who will be 35 when the picture was taken I have so far drawn a blank.

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank, 133 Portland Street, circa 1900
But then just maybe someone who remembers him from when he lived in Atwood Road may be able to help and in the meantime I think I will venture down to those two houses in Didsbury, and check out 133 Potland Street where he worked in 1914 which was just on the corner with Oxford Road.

All of which just leaves me to thank David who set me off on the search and to wait for when Mr Bowman’s medal goes on display in his permanent exhibition of Great War memorabilia at the Memorial Hall in Southern Cemetery.

It is a wonderful collection of material including photographs, medals, postcards and letters along with official documents and the many other items.

Pictures; Victory Medal from the collection of David Harrop, C Company, 17th Manchester Regiment, date unknown, Manchester Regiment City Battalions, 1914-16, and Lancashire & Yorkshire Bank, Roll of Honour courtesy of The Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society, War Memorial and Library from the series, Didsbury, Lilywhite, issued by Tuck & Sons, 1959, courtesy of TuckDB http://tuckdb.org/history and detail of Portland street showing 133 Portland Street, from Goad's Fire Insurance Maps, circa 1900, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/