Thursday, 30 April 2015

Peck's Salmon paste ........ spread on bread and a meal in one

Peck's meat and fish pastes were something I grew up with.

They came in small glass jars and offered up a variety of tastes, from fish, salmon, beef and chicken and were spread on bread.

I had all but forgotten them until my friend Lois opened up the flood gates of memory with a story on her blog.*

I did go looking for the story of Peck's a few years ago but the research led nowhere and I gave up.

Now I knew there was an Australian connection because the jars arrived via a friend of mums who was given them at work and she said they were from Australia.

It never occurred to me to ask but I think B worked for a wholesale firm and these came as one of the perks of the job.

You were never quite sure what would arrive and I suspect that was also how it was with B.

I remember they dominated our lives and were a quick meal, although now I have no idea which I preferred.

Looking back now over fifty years I see they sit along with dripping, blancmange and tinned fruit salad as part of our basic diet and would only be replaced by the fish finger, beef burger and instant whip sometime in the 1960s.

Not that any of this helped with Peck's products.

The best I could do comes from the site of General Mills which is a food company based in Minneapolis and which has  factories still producing the pastes in Australia.**

It would appear that Peck's were making their spreads in Britain by 1891 and opened up in Australia in 1904 reaching their highest sales in the 1950s and 60s.

All of which fits and confirmed that I hadn't mistaken our Australian paste jars and of course offers up that simple observation that more often than not childhood memories are more likely to be true than imagined.

And in turn reminds me of that post war period when rationing had ended but the full impact of the consumer revolution had yet to arrive and in the absence of a cornucopia of instant foods, Pecks pastes on sandwiches did the job.

Pictures; adverts for Pecks product date unknown, taken from Spreading the love for a vintage Australian brand

*Paste sandwiches anyone?

** Spreading the love for a vintage Australian brand, Taste of General Mills, March 2015,

A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects nu 11 .......... a success story

A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, have been selected purely at random and will reflect one of many different stories.

Tom and Frances were two of the children migrated to Canada by the Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges.

The Refuge had begun in a modest way in 1870, providing a bed and meal for the night for boys found homeless on the streets of Manchester & Salford.

It quickly extended its work to girls as well as boys, provided long term care for the destitute, and abused, while publically campaigning against child exploitation as well as using the law to prosecute neglectful parents.

It also provided holiday homes for the children in its care, vocational training and from 1870 till 1914 migrated some children to Canada.

It was one of the first charities to stop sending children.

This is a letter from one of its agents commenting on two of the children who were sent across.

Picture; from the archives of the Together Trust, courtesy of the Archivist,

More from the Art Gallery ............ part 4 and metal and roof tops

We were in the City Art gallery on a near perfect day, and as the sun shone I took took some pictures.

And so I have returned to some of the pictures I took looking out across the city.

The extension to the Gallery always impresses me.

You go from the fine old building which contains many of my favourite paintings into the glass and metal area which connects to the new galleries.

It is light, bright and makes a perfect link from the old to the contemporary, but above all it is the vast areas of glass which allow you to gaze out beyond the confines of the building to all that is going on.

Now I know that photographing scenes through big windows is fairly common these days but being above the street offers an opportunity to see things in slightly different way so for that reason alone here over the next few days are a some more pictures from big windows.

And the nice thing is that the next time I go everything will be different.

Pictures; looking out on Manchester from the Art Gallery, 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Stories from Chorlton Bookshop ..... part 2

Inside the shop
Yesterday I ran part one of the story of our own bookshop and here today is the second instalment.

It sits in a long line of Chorlton businesses which have offered books to the residents of the township.

Back in 1911 there were three listed as bookshops and stationers.

Two of these were  in New Chorlton and the third on Beech Road.

These along with the private lending libraries which were operating from the 1890s and the even earlier Penny Readings and the Reading Room on Beech Road catered for a wide clientele wanting to read everything from fiction through to the serious stuff.

So we shouldn’t be surprised that when the first temporary public library was opened in the November of 1908 it was a runaway success.  It began with the provision of a thousand books a reading room and a meetings room and during the first two months the membership climbed to 1,100 and the number of books was doubled with a promise of another 1,000.

And in passing we should not forget Brian the Book who operated successfully from his shop on Beech Road from the 1970s and the very popular Book Festival sponsored by the Library Service every November.

All of which places Chorlton Bookshop into a context and makes it a little bit of the history of where we live.

Wilbraham Road, 1983 © Tom Mcgrath
"At the time that Chorlton Bookshop opened for business in May 1983, bookselling still had the slightly fusty reputation of being a 'gentlemen's profession', with many deals being sealed with handshakes and sombre promises. 

Some of these gentlemen were slightly taken aback on discovering that the manager of this new shop was a young woman. 

Vicky recalls opening accounts with publishers with handwritten letters composed in her bedroom, where she'd only recently finished revising for her A-levels.

It was a steep learning curve, too. The first order for stock books was for £40 – which sounded like at lot back in the day, but in practice it was hardly enough book to fill one shelf. 

Nowadays, as you'd expected, stock re-ordering is done electronically and transmitted via the internet. Back then, it was a case of making a mental note of what had been sold and jotting it all down when the shop went quiet.

Customers of long standing may remember back to when Vicky manned the shop with her parents, who fitted in working here around their day jobs. Between them they share vivid memories of chasing after an over-eager shoplifter with bags down Wilbraham Road towards the crossroads, and of donating books as children's presents to a group of striking miners.

Wilbraham Road, 2013, © Tom Mcgrath
One Christmas morning, Vicky heard a crash and came down to find a man lying in the window display. He'd been thrown though the window by some friends after one festive drink too many. 

Luckily he was unhurt, but this incident might help explain the presence of distinctive iron gates across the windows now. 

Vicky has devised countless (more conventional) window displays, taking in thirty Christmas specials, which have been much admired. They've even won awards, including a  trip to Acapulco.

Memorable events over the years include visits from Postman Pat's van, and Harry Potter's flying car (though road-bound on that occasion); a Second World War quiz night, with cans of Spam as prizes; and a tarot-reading evening which got so lively that the police were nearly called.

Chorlton Bookshop
We've served many famous faces, from Coronation Street stars - right back to Doris Speed, who lived nearby - to local football legend Denis Law. 

Past customers also include many Manchester music luminaries like Ian Brown, Bernard Sumner, John Bramwell, Tony Wilson and more than one ex-member of The Fall. Morrissey bought several Oscar Wilde collections from us in one go. 

Author and poet Jackie Kay has been a regular customer. Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi, came in for a browse while visiting friends locally, and complimented us on our fiction range . 

And one day several members of the England cricket team, lead by David Gower, came in mob-handed, fresh from Old Trafford – in their whites – to buy an address book.

Wilbraham Road circa 1903
Ceri and Alan Johnson have indeed now retired, though they still help out with deliveries to local schools. 

After thirty years, we're now at the stage where our youngest original customers are coming in with their children. 

All things being equal, we'd love to think that we'll be around to serve their grandchildren one day."*

Pictures; Wilbraham Road, in 1985 & 2013, courtesy of Tom McGrath, Wilbraham Road in 1903 from the Lloyd Collection, and remaining photographs courtesy of Chorlton Bookshop

* Andy from Chorlton Bookshop

The story of British Home Children in just 20 objects nu 10 .......... the parent

A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, have been selected purely at random and will reflect one of many different stories.

Now I do not have a picture of my great uncle who went over to Canada in the May of 1914 with the Middlemore charity, and only a handful of photographs of his sibling’s one of whom was my grandfather.

But I do have one of his father who was my great grandfather and that I think will be rare amongst the stories of British Home Children.

He was Montague Hall who was born in 1872, served in the old Queens army from 1888-92 and lived with my great grandmother for eight years

This one was taken sometime around 1914 when he had re-enlisted in the British Army.

His relationship with my great grandmother was I think a tempestuous one, and they separated sometime in 1902.

He stayed in Gravesend in Kent and she returned to Derby with her three surviving sons where she had her daughter in the Workhouse later that year.

All of the children spent time in care and were later placed by the Poor Law Guardians with employers.

Great Uncle Jack was apprenticed to a blacksmith, Laura was sent into service in Northumberland, and granddad went to sea, leaving my great uncle Roger to cross the Atlantic where he was placed on different farms before running away to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and changing his name and lying about his age along the way.

On arriving in Britain with his regiment he was stationed just a few miles away from his father who by then had married and had a second family.

Which brings me back to the picture which was supplied my cousin who is the granddaughter of Montague’s marriage..

Neither families knew of the existence of the other but both were searching for Montague’s story and in that bizarre way we found each other through my great uncle.

Picture; Montague Hall circa 1914, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

On Lapwing Lane with a ghost bank

Now here is one of those buildings that I have never given much thought to.

It is the former bank on Lapwing Lane and I must have passed it countless times, and on occasion stared at it from the window of the restaurant opposite.

I did once try to take some pictures but the light was wrong and I gave up which is a shame because I might have been inspired to dig down in to the history of The Mercantile Bank of Lancashire.

Instead I have had to wait till Andy Robertson wandered past took these pictures and set me going.

As yet I haven’t found out much other than it merged with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank in 1904 which merged with the Bank of Liverpool and Martin in 1927 which subsequently changed its name to Martins and in turn merged with Barclays in 1969.

But there will be someone out there who knows all about the bank and in time will be in touch.

In the meantime I know that our building dates from 1903, which means it had a brief existence as the Mercantile Bank.

Such are the exciting times of the banking world.

And since I posted this Richard has dug deeper and discovered that the Mercantile Bank Of Lancashire Ltd was "founded in 1890 with a head office at temporary premises in Guardian Buildings, Cross Street, Manchester, with capital of £1m, its early growth reflected the continuing industrial prosperity of Manchester. 

The completion of the Manchester Ship Canal resulted in over 200 new accounts, and on 30 June 1891 the bank reported a net profit of £2,806. 

Several branches were opened in the Manchester area, as well as others across Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. 

In 1900 branches were acquired on the Isle of Man by amalgamation with the Manx Bank. 

Soon after, however, the Mercantile Bank began to run into difficulty, partly due to the effect of the Boer War on investments. 

The board of directors saw that as a relatively small bank, they could only survive by further amalgamation. 

In the early part of 1904, several meetings were held with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank, and on 1 July the business of the Mercantile Bank was transferred to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank."*

And in turn the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank merged with he Bank of Liverpool and Martin in 1927.

Pictures; former Mercantile Bank of Lancashire, 1903, courtesy of Andy Robertson, 2015

*Barclays Bank PLC,

Discovering the story behind the photograph

Now sometimes a photograph just takes you over and you know you just want to find out as much as you can about it.

This is Alice Wareing who married Eric Kettle in 1922 at the Primitive Methodist Church on High Lane.

They lived on Buxton Avenue in Didsbury and during the 1930s performed in local amateur dramatic productions.

I don’t know which group but it will be local to south Manchester and there might be a clue in the picture with contains the word Didsbury, but that might just refer to the photographer.

It is also possible that they were with the Methodist players.

This group performed in the Sunday school beside the church on Manchester Road.

Their stage dates from the 1930s and given that I have stood in the hall on the stage I rather think it would be fitting if this were the case.

And that stage will soon be no more as the Edge Company who now occupy the old Sunday School are about to modernise the hall.

In time I hope I will be able to find out more.

The picture is one of two which was sent to me by my friend Ann along with a press cutting of Alice and Eric’s marriage.

This is equally fascinating providing those sorts of details which all too often are lost.

So I know who attended the wedding, the outfits of the main participants and the honeymoon destination of the couple.

All of which offers up a revealing insight into the lives of Mr and Mrs Kettle and opens up a shed load of research into the amateur dramatics societies of south Manchester eighty years ago.

Pictures, Alice and Eric Kettle, circa 1930s, courtesy of Ann Love

The last ever pictures of the Wagon & Horses in Sale

Well there is pretty much a finality in Andy Robertson’s latest picture of the Wagon and Horses in Sale taken earlier today on a grey and cold afternoon.

After centuries of serving up happy pints on sad Mondays, and sparkling G&Ts on hopeful Fridays it is now just a pile of rubble.

And for any one of the nearly 3,000 people who have followed Andy’ pictures from April last year when he first recorded the place as an empty and forlorn looking ghost pub, to earlier in the week when the scaffolding went up and Barry the bulldozer arrived here is all that is left

But I am sure Andy will be back recording the breaking of the soil followed by all the stages which will lead to that mixed retail and residential development.

Pictures; the Wagon and Horses, 2014-2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Stories from Chorlton Bookshop ..... part 1

Every place should have a bookshop.

Now I know how easy it is to go online and order up a book, but it’s not the same as wandering past shelves of the things, picking one down at random and weighing up which of the three on a particular subject is what you want.

And I was in our own book shop recently buying not browsing and reflecting that it is 32 years since Chorlton Bookshop opened its doors.

So to mark that event I have decided to focus this month on their story which has been written by them.  But like all good history stories this one strays out to include something about the neighbouring shops and fastens us back in the 1980s.

"506-508 Wilbraham Road is in the midst of a row of ten shops built back in Edwardian times. 

Each shop came complete with a large flat upstairs, designed to encourage shop-keepers to 'live in'. 

They also came with restrictive covenants, forbidding the sale of alcohol or hot food. 

According to a map of the area from 1905, these particular shops then belonged to Miss Gertrude Cartledge, listed as a fancy draper, and a furrniture broker called Frank Johnson.

By coincidence, another Johnson family took the shop over in May 1983. Living in Sale, Ceri Johnson was working as a nurse, Alan Johnson as a teacher at Wilbraham High (now Chorlton High). 

They had the idea of opening a local bookshop, partly as a form of long-term retirement plan. From working in the area, Alan had noted that Chorlton didn't have its own bookshop at the time. So they put the idea of opening one to their daughter Vicky, who had recently left school and started working at Inprint bookshop in Sale precinct. 

Vicky duly became manager of their new Chorlton Bookshop, for which they'd found premises - the aforementioned 506-508 Wilbraham Road. 

The family recall sitting on the wall across the road from the shop, which then bordered a car park, and watching pedestrians and traffic passing by, to get the measure of the location and its potential.

At that point in time, the shop had just been vacated by Chapman's Tobacconists. This posed very particular problems in terms of shopfitting. 

Not only did it require the usual redecorating and rewiring, but the vast array of wooden shelving for tobacco brands had to be removed, and the walls and ceiling also needed a very thorough repaint to remove dark brown nicotine stains. An ashtray was found screwed to the wall inside the toilet, too. 

There was a trap-door leading down to the cellar behind the counter, but it was no use so was sealed up. Chapman's had a functioning range operating in the cellar, too. They had left behind a huge old-fashioned push-button till, but it proved to be an unwieldy beast and was soon replaced. 

On the plus side, removing the pegboard that was in place across the back of the shop revealed the original fireplace, which was duly pressed back into service. (The gas stove that's presently in use isn't original, though: it was only installed around 15 years ago.

 Some clues to the age of the shop still remain today, though. A shed in the back yard contains traces of the original gas lamps, and a copper wash boiler.)

For the record, back when the shop first opened, our neighbours on the row were: Coupe's furniture shop (now Croma); a newsagents (and still is, though with different owners); Elizabeth's, a haberdashery and wool shop run by the elderly Cameron sisters (with fittings like the set of a Dickens adaptation, which were eventually bought, appropriately enough, by Granada - the shop itself has recently become an off-licence);

 Arison's hair salon (which opened not long before the bookshop, and is still going strong); a pet shop (now Fred's); a baker's (now Junipers); a chip shop, owned by local cricketer Geoff 'Noddy' Pullar (which is now Yeo Pan); a crockery and hardware store (whose owner Hazel moved into house removals, and is still currently in situ); Chorlton Food Mart (now Chorlton Off-Licence); and a junk / antique shop (now Mahbub)."*

Pictures; Wilbraham Road, circa 1900, from the Lloyd collection, all remaining pictures courtesy of Chorlton Bookshop

* Andy from Chorlton Bookshop

The story of British Home Children in just 20 objects nu 9 .......... the migration party 1897

Manchester Town Hall, 1897
A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects which are in no particular order, have been selected purely at random and will reflect one of many different stories.

The year is 1897 and we are on the steps of Manchester Town Hall which is a building I know very well.

The young people staring back at us are about to leave for Canada under the care of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges.

The scene will have been replicated countless times from the beginning of the practice and the Manchester & Salford Boys’ & Girls’ Refuges continued sending young people till 1914.

The Together Trust holds many similar images and for those of us with a BHS in our family, pictures like this are a powerful link to link to that person.

Now I never knew my great uncle who left Derby with the Middlemore organization in 1914, and I have no pictures of him and few letters and other personal effects, so in a way this is the best I can do.

Anyone who wants to nominate their own is free to do so, just add a description in no more than 200 words and send it to me.

Picture, Migration Party, Manchester Town Hall, 1897, courtesy of the Together Trust,

A Picture History of France 1951

I never tire of looking through A Picture History of France by Clarke Hutton.

It is another in the series which was published in the 1950s, by the OUP and while it ran to three reprints is not unavailable except as a second hand copy.

I first came across it on a rainy day in Edmund Waller school sometime around 1958.

Like the others in the series it is the artwork that marks it as something special.*

Back then the text was a little too dense but the illustrations were bold and colourful.

At the time I have to admit to being unimpressed with that artwork which lacked the realism of illustrations in other history books.

But now it has a quality which appeals to me.

The style is typical of the period, and looking at the buildings and the historical figures is to be reminded of similar illustrations on posters, and adverts in books, magazines and even on those framed pictures you got in train compartments.

A Picture History of France covers the entire history of the country and in keeping with the approach to history which was becoming fashionable breaks from a series of stories of Kings and Queens and widens its story concluding with a survey of France in the 1950s.

I could have chosen any one of the illustrations from its sixty-one pages but fastened on this describing the south.

Pictures; cover of A Picture History of France, and a detail from page 60

* A Picture History of France by Clarke Hutton, 1951, OUP

**A Picture History of Australia, Britain, Canada, Great Discoveries, India, Italy, Russia, The United States of America

Monday, 27 April 2015

A lost envelope from 1896, Mr Waller's textile factory and Tariff and Dale in the Northern Quarter

It was this old envelope found behind a pipe at 45 Dale Street which set me going.

To Messrs Willcocks and Son, 1896
Now 45 Dale Street had been the showroom and factory of Mr Ralph Waller who was there from the mid 1850s until his death when the building appears to have been sub let to other businesses.*

And this is where William Henry Willcocks enters the story.

In 1893 the London Gazette announced the dissolution of the partnership “between William Henry Willcocks and William Dockray, carrying on business as Merchants at 45, Dale-street, in the city of Manchester, and at 9, Foster-lane, Cheapside, in the city of London, under the style or firm of Willcocks and Dockray.”**

Mr Willcocks continued trading from Dale Street occupying the building with other businesses and in the August of 1896 he received this envelope.  Sadly the contents have long since vanished but it was the start of another little story which took me to Chorlton and back to Dale Street.

Hampton House, 1893
In 1881 William Henry Willcocks was living on Edge Lane and it was there that his son Clarence Smalley married Annie Muriel Kenworthy also of Chorlton in January 1900.

I would love to have been a guest at the wedding which may well have been held at either Hampton House on Edge Lane home to Miss Kenworthy or Edgecombe House also on Edge Lane which was the home of the Willcocks.

So far no references to the wedding have come to light but both houses looked grand places and might well have hosted the reception.

Hampton House was set well back from the main road in its own grounds while Edgecombe had 14 rooms which I suspect hint that neither family skimped on the wedding.

The bale crusher, 2015
And that is not the only connection between 45 Dale Street and Chorlton, because the present owners of the building also own the Lead Station and will be opening a new bar and restaurant in Mr Waller’s warehouse.

It will be called Tariff and Dale and draws from the history of the place as I discovered yesterday when I was invited down to explore the building in its last stages of renovation and conversion.

Now it isn't often that you get to explore a building which is giving up its history.

And as I will never be on the guest list of English Heritage, when you do get a chance to crawl over a mid 19th century textile warehouse and factory in the heart of the city you just have to accept.

The logo, 2015
And there was lot to see from the weighing machine which now stands at the entrance to the bale crusher.

It would have so easy to get rid of these but given that they are part of number 45 it seems fitting that they have been retained.

As have the layers of different paint on some of the walls which tell their own story.

And with one of those nice nod’s to the history of the place, that envelope and the bale crusher have influenced the design of the menu.

But that I shall leave for people to discover when they visit Tariff & Dale which will be open form early May.

Pictures; Mr Wilcox’s envelope and logo 2105, courtesy of Tariff and Dale, detail from the OS for South Lancashire, 188-93 courtesy of Digital Archive Association, and the interior 2015, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Dale Street,

**London Gazette, 1893,

Possibly the last time I visit the Wagon & Horses in Sale

This is not quite the end of the story of the Waggon & Horses in Sale but I rather think it must be close to the end.

The pub shut up shop over a decade ago and has been empty ever since.

Now the place clearly struck a chord with many people because the story posted a fortnight ago which reported on the appearance of scaffolding was read by 2,600 people in just a few days.*

Opinions were divided about the plans to demolish it which were approved last year as was the earlier application to build a mixed retail and residential development on the site.

There were those who lamented the loss of another pub from their past and those who while expressing sadness at its closure could see how the new development would be better than an empty building.

And now that debate all seems a tad academic.  Andy Robertson who took the earlier pictures of the pub with its scaffolding went back yesterday to discover work is well underway to reduce it to a pile of rubble.

And by now it may well have just become a hole in the ground, all of which just leaves that appeal for anyone with pictures, stories or memories of the pub to share them.

In the meantime there are a few other stories of the place which might spark some interest.**

Pictures; the Waggon & Horses, April 27 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*So it’s goodbye to the Waggon and Horses in Sale ..... closed for a decade and soon to be a hole in the ground,


Sunday, 26 April 2015

Chorlton from Alexandra Road 1920 by Nora Templar

Looking towards Chorlton from Alexandra Road, 1920 Nora Templar

It is hard to think that just within living memory there will be people who remember the cows bringing brought back to the farms on the green, and of farmers cutting the harvest crops.

Nora Templar captured this scene looking across the fields from Alexandra Road towards Chorlton in 1920.

Nora was a well local historian who had lived at Dog House Farm from 1910 until the late 1950s. Like her father she was also an artist and some of his work will feature later in the year.

Picture; from the Lloyd collection

The Glue Man, three young people and a fascinating insight into the Britain of 1943

Now the thing about old films is that long after their contemporary appeal has faded they become a piece of history.

It starts with the the clothes, the cars and the buildings and moves on to the assumptions, prejudices and attitudes of the people portrayed along with its period comment on the events of the time.

So it is with A Canterbury Tale, made in 1944 by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

The film is loosely based around the Canterbury Tales and involves three very different people all with their own unique and powerful stories who come together in a Kent village just outside Canterbury in the summer of 1943.

The three consist of a British sergeant an America sergeant and a Land Girl who are thrown together by the mystery of the Glue Man.

The events last only a few days but in the course of those three days we get to see how these young people from different places and different walks of life work together to solve the mystery and come to a closer understanding what they have in common.

Now given that the film was made in 1944 it is pretty easy to see the motivation that drives the plot and that of course is part of its value today.

The threat of a common enemy in the form of the Glue Man unites the three and along the way we get to know more about their own lives which have been put on hold by the war.

And as the plot unfolds the film offers some wonderful scenes of Kent over 70 years ago, from the bombed out houses on streets in Canterbury to rural scenes in the fictitious village of Chillingbourne.

These are themselves a priceless record of a past which no longer exists.  The hay waggon loaded high with a land girl sitting on top, the old men outside the pub and the carpenter talking about when to lay down timber for the future are scenes of a rural way of life which seem timeless but has pretty much vanished..

And of course that is one of the messages of the film that here is a way of life unchanged for centuries which is at the very heart of what we were fighting for.

Added to which it provided an opportunity to show just what we had in common with the United States as the that young American talks to a carpenter and finds out that he lays down timber for the future in exactly the same way as in America.

And as you would expect of a film with an eye to its propaganda value, all three receive good news.

The Land Girl discovers her boyfriend who was shot down has survived and that his father no longer opposes them getting married, our American gets news that his girlfriend is serving with the Women’s Army Corps in Australia and the British sergeant gets to play the organ in Canterbury Cathedral.

All of which in itself echoes those themes of the People’s War which pitched people out of their ordinary lives and threw them new challenges and in the process showed how the country was united in its determination to win.

And that is all I want to say, if you want more the film is available and as well as being a good tale is real history lesson.

Of course there are a shed load of equally interesting films from the period which no doubt I will return to.

Pictures; cover from A Canterbury Tale, and Canterbury in 2009 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Remembering the Gallipoli Campaign in Southern Cemetery today

As part of the events to mark the centenary Gallipoli Campaign  there will be a special exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery today.

Medal awarded to Private E F Hahn who is buried in Southern Cemetery
In April 1915 British, Empire and French soldiers were landed at Gallipoli in what was seen by some as a way of breaking the deadlock on the Western Front by an assault in the Dardanelles against the Ottoman Empire.

This second front if successful would it was hoped draw Bulgaria and Greece into the war on the allied side, stop the Ottoman offensive against Russia and lead to the capture of Constantinople and the exit of the Ottoman Empire from the war.

The campaign began with an allied naval bombardment in February and continued with the landing of troops in April.

Amongst the units which fought at Gallipoli were battalions from the Manchester Regiment who were landed in the summer and along with the rest of the expeditionary force were evacuated in December.

And so it is appropriate that there should be an exhibition devoted to the men of that campaign at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

The collection is a unique one covering everything from medals and letters to the simple and touching memorabilia which would have graced homes across the city.

These very personal records of the men who fought and their families have been collected by David Harrop who has mounted major exhibitions last year at Southport and Oldham.

The lodge is open from 9am - 4pm seven days a week.

Pictures; ANZAC medal of Private E F Hahn, courtesy of Margaret Cooper and the lodge  from the collection of David Harrop

Saturday, 25 April 2015

On the occasion of the golden wedding anniversary of Mr and Mrs Wareing of Buxton Avenue ......... a greetings telegram from 1942

Now I am back with the telegram.

For 189 years they were the quickest way of sending a message and the arrival of the Telegram Boy might herald all sorts of news.

Nana received one in 1942 informing her that my uncle was missing, another a little later with the news that he was a Prisoner of War, and the most dreaded of all telegrams which broke the news of his death on the other side of the world.

So for me the telegram is always associated with grim news, but of course there were plenty of happy ones and my friend Ann sent me two.

Both were sent in the August of 1942 congratulating Mr and Mrs Wareing of Buxton Avenue on their Golden Wedding anniversary.

Of the two this is my favourite from Barbara and Margaret Preen with the delightful image to accompany the message.

They were married in 1892 and had lived in Buxton Avenue since 1911.  Mr Wareing described himself as a road surveyor and at present that is all I know, but I guess Ann will have them and in the fullness of time more will be revealed.

For now it is a nice reminder that telegrams were for all occasions and all seasons.

Picture; greeting telegram, 1942, from the collection of Ann Love

The Parkside Hotel Moss Side a case of once closed a turn for the better?

Now this is the Parkside Hotel, or at least it was.

It stands on the corner of Parkside Street and Lloyd Street South and will offer up many memories of people who went there before or after a match.

It isn’t a pub I ever went in and I can’t track down its history.

I don’t know when it was built or when it closed, but I am confident that there will be peoplewho can supply the answers.

It will have been converted sometime after the last football match was played nearby.

And I have to say that its conversion to flats has saved the place and if this 1971 photograph is anything to go by has left it a cleaner and more impressive building.

Pictures; the Parkside Hotel, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson and back in 1971, Miss M Wildgoose, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

Tomorrow in Southern Cemetery remembering Gallipoli

Gravestone of Private E F Hahn wounded in Gallipoli died in Manchester
As part of the events to mark the centenary Gallipoli Campaign  there will be a special exhibition in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery tomorrow.

In April 1915 British, Empire and French soldiers were landed at Gallipoli in what was seen by some as a way of breaking the deadlock on the Western Front by an assault in the Dardanelles against the Ottoman Empire.

This second front if successful would it was hoped draw Bulgaria and Greece into the war on the allied side, stop the Ottoman offensive against Russia and lead to the capture of Constantinople and the exit of the Ottoman Empire from the war.

The campaign began with an allied naval bombardment in February and continued with the landing of troops in April.

Amongst the units which fought at Gallipoli were battalions from the Manchester Regiment who were landed in the summer and along with the rest of the expeditionary force were evacuated in December.

The Lodge
And so it is appropriate that there should be an exhibition devoted to the men of that campaign at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery.

The collection is a unique one covering everything from medals and letters to the simple and touching memorabilia which would have graced homes across the city.

These very personal records of the men who fought and their families have been collected by David Harrop who has mounted major exhibitions last year at Southport and Oldham.

The lodge is open from 9am - 4pm seven days a week.

Pictures;  from the collection of David Harrop

Friday, 24 April 2015

At Gallipoli with young Harry from Manchester and one more story from the Manchester & Salford Boys' & Girls' Refuge

"Three boys from Central House," date uknown
There will be many stories about Gallipoli over the next few months and some have already appeared in the blog.*

This week marks the landing of allied soldiers on the shores of the Ottoman Empire in the Dardanelles.

Along with units of the British Army there were men from Australia and New Zealand, Canada and India as well as France and the French Colonial Empire.

Amongst them were many from the twin cities, some who served with the Manchester’s and others with  the Royal Fusiliers, and their contribution has also featured here.**

But today I am drawn to the stories of those young men who were in the care of the Manchester & Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuge who enlisted and in particular young Harry who served with the Marines at Gallipoli as well as Jutland and the earlier naval engagement at Heligoland Bight.

“Harry was one such marine. Born in 1892, Harry entered the Higgin’s Home in Cheetham Hill on 9th May 1903. 

Like many of the other children in the homes on George Street, Harry was an orphan. 

A few months later he transferred to the Atkinson Home where he remained for the next three years prior to returning to his elder sister’s care. 

He then joined the Indefatigable to be trained for a life in the Navy.”***

And for the rest of Harry’s story I suggest you visit the Together Trust’s blog  Harry and the Gallipoli Campaign.***

Now I am a great fan of the blog which focuses on the work of the charity and is a good starting point for anyone who wants to know about its activities as well as the wider story of how young disadvantaged people were helped.

But there is more because the archivist is most helpful in assisting those wanting to know more about their own family members who passed through organisation.

Getting down and dusty....... the blog
And for me it pretty much ticks the box.

I live here in Manchester and have a great uncle who was migrated to Canada as a British Home Child by another charity in 1914.

Sadly his records and those of his siblings one of whom was my maternal grandfather are fragmentary, and what there is can be written on one page.

So this archive is an important one and a powerful resource for those with relatives who were in care in the twin cities, not only because there may be a record of them but also because of the general background to the work of this caring organisation.****

Picture; Three boys from the Central Home, now on Active Service with the Marines, date unknown, courtesy of the Together Trust

* Gallipoli,

*The Manchester Regiment,

***Harry and the Gallipoli Campaign,

****The Together Trust,

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Queen Tika, Gene Autry and a hidden city ............. memories of Saturday Morning Pictures

I remain fascinated how one image has stayed with me for over half a century and still has the power to take me back to a Saturday morning in the Peckham Odeon .

The Thunder Guard enter the secret rock
That said it could have been the  ABC on the Old Kent Road.

So distant is the memory that I can now no longer even locate the site of the two cinemas.

But the scene where two horsemen descend into an ancient city 20,000 feet underground whose residents abandoned the surface thousands of years ago has never left me.

Saturday Morn' at the Pictures
The city had a Queen and all the political and social structure of a pre industrial society but many of the trappings of the future.

So while Queen Tika is assisted by Lord Argo, and her soldiers ride on horses, there are robots and a sinister death chamber powered by electricity.

For years I pondered on those scenes and had begun to think it was all in my imagination.

But no they were real enough and part of Phantom Empire, which ran to12 episodes and was filmed in 1935 by Mascot Films.

And I have an article by James Howard in Eagle Times to thank for bringing that memory out into the sunlight.*

The film was “an amalgamation of science fiction, and the western genre” and starred Gene Autry one of the “singing cowboys.”**

The plot was convoluted, involving an evil Professor, his equally unpleasant gang and a plan to cheat Mr Autry out of his farm which stood on a deposit of radium.

Queen Tika, a robot and Lord Argo
And in to this already twisted tale is introduced the city of Murania which along with its robots and death chamber has a bunch of very advanced scientists and a machine which can restore life.

Queen Tika is unaware of a revolution planned by Lord Argo and a group who have been saved from the death chamber and is more concerned that the outside world will discover the city.

So to foil that discovery she sends her “Thunder Guard” to the surface to pretty much have a go at anyone they come into contact with including of course Mr Autry, who in turn breaks into the city and the rest as they say will be continued.***

Now until I read Mr Howard’s article I had no idea of the plot or that it ran to a full 12 episodes, and am tempted to buy the DVD if only to explore the extent that Hollywood tried to mix the Western with science fiction against a backdrop of revolution, robots and death chambers.

In the meantime it is reassuring that another of those child hood memories is rooted in reality, even if that reality was a tad far fetched.

All of which just leaves me to explore Mascot Films, and the actress Dorothy Christy who played Queen Tika.

Mascot Films was one of those small American film companies which specialised in making film series and B westerns and is notable for producing the first film serial to use sound.  This was the King of the Kongo in 1929.

The company was formed in 1927 and merged with several other companies to form Republic Pictures in 1935.

Ms Christy was born in 1906 and her film career lasted from 1929 till 1953 and so like Mascot Films covered one of the most important periods in the history of cinema.

All of which I had no idea of as I sat in that cinema just 50 or so years ago.

Such are the twists of history.

Pictures; from Saturday Morn’ at the Pictures, reproduced in Eagle Times, 2015

* Saturday Mornin’ at the Pictures, No 2 The Phantom Empire, James Howard, Eagle Times Vol 28 No 1 Spring 2015,

**James Howard Ibid Saturday Morn’ at the Pictures

***The Phantom Empire is now available on DVD