Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Looking for the story of that building on Deansgate

Now I don’t suppose either Andy or I are alone in wondering about the history of the Santander building on Deansgate.

Down on Deansgate in 2015
I had always thought it had once been a pub or perhaps one of those mission halls which gave out food and comfort to the poor of the city and I had always promised myself I would go and find out.

Not that I ever did and it was left to Andy’s daughter to track something of its story.

In 1971 it was a branch of the National Westminster Bank and stood on the corner of Severn Street which was another of those long roads which ran up from Lower Byrom Street to join Deansgate.

And back on Deansgate in 1971
And there the fun begins.

Back in 1911 the site was occupied by the Dog and Partridge which and I am not quite sure when the building was either demolished for the bank or just changed its use from offering pints to cashing cheques.

What I do know is that I should have remembered the bank and the redevelopment of the area which saw the disappearance of Severn Street along with the buildings beside it and in their place a huge block of offices.

And again in 1988
But the facade of the building was retained and incorporated into the present development.

So the mystery has been solved but perhaps not quite because it does raise questions about the history of the bank and who decided to preserve the facade.

Pictures; Deansgate and the Santander Building 2015 from the collection of Andy Robertson, and The National Westminster Bank in 1971, B Garth, m56507 and the back of the facade in 1988, m01553, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

When a cook book becomes a bit of our collective past

Ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar and candied peel  with a lattice of pastry, 2010
I won’t be alone in having several bookshelves filled with cook books.

Most remain unopened from one year to the next and only come down to be looked at for the pictures and the carefully written stories.

Not that there is anything wrong in that but that doesn’t make them cook books.

To qualify for that status the book has to be much thumbed, with more than a few cooking stains and fall open at old favourite dishes many of which you know off by heart anyway.

And these books will all come with a history.

That history might be the book given as a wedding present or as a going away manual for the son or daughter about to set up their own home and they also will be full of recipes that reflect the eating habits of the past.

A fished Meta display, 1947
We still have mum’s two volumes of Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking first published in the USA in 1947.

In its time it was as essential as Mrs Beaton’s guide to household management and followed a tradition which can be traced back to the monthly periodicals issued during the 19th century and the stylish recipe books of the century before.

I think the two volumes were given to mother soon after she settled down with my father and they have been part of my life since.

Not that she used them over much.  They have American measures and many of the foods listed would not have been available in those post war years when there was still rationing.

Here are appetisers like Apple Tempters and Shrimp Cocktail, traditional main courses of liver and onions, broiled, fried or roast chicken and a host of puddings.

Some do tempt me but others like Italian Style Liver Marconi and Tomatoes followed by Baked Pears with Marshmallows I am happy to leave alone.

Met's take in stuffed peppers, 1947
But they reflect that immediate post war period when the growing prosperity of the USA set it apart from Britain.

That said we did have Coronation Chicken that 1953 dish first served at the Queen’s Coronation meal which was a mixture of cold chicken with mayonnaise and curry.  It sounds quite tame today but against the backdrop of years of rationing I reckon it would have been pretty exotic.

I have dipped into Meta Given but it is a world away from what I am comfortable with eating.

So my manual of choice is the Silver Spoon which first appeared in Italy in 1950 and like Meta was meant as the ultimate guide to food, cooking and all you wanted to know about both.

I came across it  a decade ago and saw in it an opportunity to reproduce the meals which Rosa cooks when we go home to Italy.

Now family dishes are not learnt from cook books but handed down and in the case of Rosa’s cooking reflect her upbringing in Naples in the 1940s and early ‘50s when food was in short supply. So most of what we eat is weighted to the food of southern Italy with just the odd nod to the heavier dishes of the north, which means plenty of vegetables, fruit and fish and only small amounts of meat.

Rosa's fish stew, 2010
Of course the Silver Spoon includes the lot but I have to say I slide towards the south and fall back on Rosa’s favourites many of which come with a family story.

Like the one about the about making passata which began with the raw tomatoes and ended with the bottling of the finished stuff which was stored away in the garage and pretty much kept them going all winter.

It was a collective affair with uncles and aunts joining the kids, Simone and Rosa and lasted the day and was as much about getting together and retelling old tales as it was about making food.

Sadly the Silver Spoon leaves out the stories which are a shame and set me off thinking that perhaps it’s time to produce that family cook book which will offer both the workaday meals we remember with a bit of the family history.

We shall see.

Picture's Rosa's Easter tarts and fish stew 2010 and dishes from Meta Givern, 1948 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

One of the last photographs from the Wesleyan College in Didsbury ......... 1940

The year of 1940
Now this is one of those little bits of history which could so easily have been lost forever.

We are looking at a photograph of the students who attended the old Wesleyan College in Didsbury between 1939-40.

For almost a century it had been preparing men for the Methodist ministry and 1940 was a landmark in its history.

During the last world war the college had become a hospital and in 1946 it was sold to Manchester Education Committee which means that this picture has real historical significance.

Added to this we know the names of all those who stare back at us including those who were leaving that year and the teaching staff.

In time it should be possible to track most of the men and in so doing build a profile of that year’s student body and of course go a little way to discovering what happened to  each of them.

Some no doubt went on to serve in the war while others took up posts in the church

Now such photographs are not rare but ones with such a local connection do not always surface.

And for this one I have David Harrop to thank.  David is a keen collector of memorabilia associated with both world wars and the history of the postal service.

The College, 1920
Many of these items have appeared in his permanent exhibitions at the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery, and we have discussed just what the chances are that some of these men will be buried in Southern.

It is a question as yet I have no answer to but I think it will well worth researching.

At present I have come across little material on the final period of the Methodist College which makes the photograph both unique and important.

And points to the importance of such material which by chance has survived three quarters of a century and was spotted by David on eBay.

So as they say watch this spot.

Picture; Students and staff Didsbury College, 1939-40 and the main building of the college 1920, courtesy of Paul O’Sullivan

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Saying farewell to the Post Office bike .......... a little bit of Chorlton's vanished history

One ex Royal Mail post bike, 2015
Now a little bit of postal history slipped past me last year.

For many it will seem a tad trivial but after 120 years the Royal Mail finished off the Post Office bike.

Since 1895 it has been one of those small bits of our daily life which is so commonplace it has gone unnoticed and now it has gone.

This I know because my old friend David Harrop recently bought one from a chap here in Chorlton and was so pleased with the deal that he rode it back to Heaton Moor.

Nor will he have been alone in picking up a surplus bike.

According to the Guardian the Royal Mail had got rid of 14,000 between 2010 and 2014  which left just 4,000 to be disposed of last year.*

Lots of Post Office bikes, circa 1914-18
And of course behind the decision lurks a whole lot of history.

There had been some bizarre and fanciful attempts at inventing and marketing push bikes stretching back into the 19th century but by the 1890s what we would recognise was zipping along our streets and country lanes.

They offered a cheap alternative to public transport, could go almost anywhere and quickly became a craze with the establishment of hundreds of cycle clubs.

And when you added all of that with politics you got the Clarion Clubs, the first of which was started in Birmingham in 1890 by a group of young socialists who combined the bike, friendship and the desire to advance the message.

Barnet Post women circa 1914-18
But more than all of these the bike was the way you got to work.  Look at any picture or news film from the mid 20th century showing people leaving Trafford Park and what strikes you is the sheer number of men and women on bikes.

So it was just sensible for the Post Office to equip its workforce with a means to make delivering our mail a little easier and lot quicker particularly as rounds were very long and as a consequence the load postman carried was very heavy

The standard bike I don’t think changed much over that century and a bit but the details I will leave to David who has a fine collection of Post Office memorabilia some of which can be seen in the Remembrance Lodge at Southern Cemetery along with exhibitions telling the story of those who lived through the two world wars.

Picture; David’s post office bike and Barnet Post women circa 1914-18, courtesy of David Harrop

*Royal Mail to phase out post bikes completely in 2014, Laura Laker, The Guardian, December 9 2013,

**The Clarion Cyclist Club,

Missing that old bridge

My old bridge circa 1940s
I cannot even begin to count the number of times I walked under the railway bridge which spanned Well Hall Road.

But then why should I?

It had carried trains across the road from 1895 and continued to do so for 90 years and I just took it for granted.

And then in 1985 as part of the construction of the relief road and the new station it was replaced by a new bridge which is a functional no nonsense bit of railway architecture and it lacks the style of the one I remember with those columns that adorn the upper part of the bridge and the brackets with their detailed wheels.

Detail of that bridge
Perhaps after those 90 years it had had its day but it is one of those little examples of how function can have style.

The picture dates to sometime after the last war but is pretty much as I remember it.

Go back a couple of decades and there were large hoardings underneath the bridge along with more on the embankment and a poster which ran right across the upper section.

And then it all changed again and now it has gone completely.

A new bridge 2015
I don’t suppose it matters over much but points to that simple observation that we take things for granted.

All of the shops beyond the bridge have changed since that tram trundled past although some further up by the Pleasaunce were operated by the same families when I walked up Well Hall Road.

So not an earth shattering bit of our history but still a bit of it.

Pictures; Well Hall bridge, circa 1940s, from the collection of A J Watkins, reproduced from Eltham and Woolwich Tramways and the new bridge 2014, from the collection of Chrissy Rose

*Eltham and Woolwich Tramways, Robert J Harley, Middleton Press, 1996,

Watching Eltham change ................ nu 3 looking across at the old co-op on the High street with the promise of things to come

Now this will always be the co-op  for me, but then I left Eltham in 1973 when we still had that bookshop near Boots the Chemist, Willcox’s beside Burton’s was still selling newspapers, paperbacks and much else and our railway station was called Well Hall.

Of course nothing stays the same and I am grateful to Jean, Chrissy and Larissa for regularly sending me pictures of the bits that have changed.

And that brings me back to Poundland, which was the site of the old RACS and will in the fullness of time become the site of our new cinema.

As someone who remembers the three picture houses we had with great fondness it is good to know that the plans are in place for a new one.

This is the first of Larissa’s pictures which will form part of a project to record the arrival of the new cinema and sits beside her growing set of pictures of that development at the other end of the High Street.

All too often we fail to clock the changes and within a few years have forgotten what was once there so I look forward to seeing how the project develops and only wish I had photographed our old cinema on the corner of the High Street and Westmount Road.

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

Picture; Eltham High Street, September 2015, courtesy of Larissa Hemment

Lost in memories of listening to Apache in Woolworths on a warm summers afternoon in 1960

Now I wonder just what eight records we would all take away to that desert island.

It’s not a causal question and if you think about it, it turns out to be pretty hard especially if like me you were born in the first half of the last century.

My sixty six years have been packed with friends and events many of which were happy and a few less so.

So do you go for the music you associate with lost romances or stick with the big events from leaving home, seeing the birth of your children to the very great moments of the last two centuries?

And if you do go for the top eight events, does the death of J. F. Kennedy win over Dr King’s “I have a dream” speech or the release of Nelson Mandela or should the end of a world war stand above the magic of a night spent sitting beside the Thames listening to the barges banging together on a summer’s evening with the girl of your dreams?

I guess it is an impossible task more so because it changes with your age and your outlook and especially the love of your life.

Instead perhaps it should just turn on the eight memorable moments.

My first was walking in to a Woolworth’s store and hearing Apache by the Shadows sometime in the summer of 1960.

This still has the power to take me back to a moment in my life before everything became complicated and grown up.

More than that it puts me right back into that Woolworth’s store with its wooden floor, heavy and solid island counters and the smell of ice cream which came in those circular shapes with matching small round cornets.

Now you can’t get more basic than that, but would I take it on that island?  No I  think not which still leaves me a shedful of moments and songs to work through.

Picture; Cliff Richard & the Shadows arrive at Schiphol Airport, the Netherlands, April 6 1962, Nationaal Archief, This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands license.

Monday, 28 September 2015

From Temperance snooker hall to a Weatherspoon's pub

It’s another one of those then and now stories.  

But because I like to reflect on some of the more recent changes to Chorlton I have turned again to the photographs of Tom McGrath.

Tom took a series of pictures in 1985 and revisited the same spot earlier this year and they are as revealing of what we used to be like as any contrast between pictures of the last century and today.

So here we are at the old Temperance Hall.  It had been opened as non drinking snooker venue which is pretty much what it still was in 1985 and of course irony of ironies is now a pub.  But I have to say the owners have done well to save a place which might otherwise have been demolished.

Pictures; by Tom McGrath

Dandelions, traditional food from Italy and childhood memories

The dandelion

It was after I gave up the fight to eradicate the dandelion from our garden that I remembered we were once served them in a salad in Greece.

Like all casual gardeners the presence of this weed is a badge that I don’t care about the garden and a constant reminder that I should be out there pulling them up.

But they are a source of food and en mass I reckon they do look pretty neat.

Now the best time to harvest the leaves is in early spring when apparently they are “tender and delicious and can be served in salads and sandwiches.”

Fields of them
All of which was a revelation to me, but on reflection I can’t think why that should be.

There are many perfectly edible plants that grow wild.

Tina’s mum can often be found collecting these greens and bringing them home to serve up in a meal.

And when the children were younger Rosa would take them into the woods to collect chestnuts which she would either roast or boil.

In my case all I have left from my own childhood foraging is a memory of eating blackberries when out walking the lanes with my grandfather, although I do also cherish a few late September afternoon collecting from fruit from the side of a canal and making a pie with them.

My old friends John and Margaret would make regular journeys onto the meadows collecting Elderberry flowers to make into home wine.

Hedgerow Harvest, July 1946
I suppose it is a habit that we have lost preferring to buy them rather than collect them.

And I guess is also connected with the distance many of us are from our rural past.  Once it would have been commonplace to pick what could be found in the hedgerows.

But even sixty years ago it was for many a peculiarity so much so that in July 1946 the Ministry of Food issued advice of gathering food from the countryside.

These were still years of food rationing after the war and the Government offered a free advice service on how to plan prepare and cook meals.

Hedgerow Harvest declared that “there is a wealth of wild foods in our hedgerows and fields for those who are within reach of the countryside” and provided recipes for Elderberry pudding, Blackberry or Elderberry Roly Poly, Blackberry or Elderberry Kissell and Blackberry or Elderberry Tart, along with suggestions for how to make pickles and chutneys, fruit bottling without sugar, how to preserve tomatoes and jam making."

All of which takes brings me back to Rosa.  She was born in Naples in 1940 and her early years were set against wartime shortages and a style of cooking which made do of what there was and the skill of making a little go along way.

Rosa's meal for dinner
So there are no little bags of salad in her fridge nor pre packed slices of meat with a long sell by date.  Her food is fresh and what is left over goes into another meal that evening or the following day.

And yes she will still collect the green leaves on her regular walks out of Varese and her children still have fond memories of days out with a basket looking for interesting things to eat.

Now I am fully aware that at this point there should appear a Government Health Warning about being very careful about what you collect.

This I fully endorse given my own total ignorance about what to eat from the hedgerows.

Which I suppose is a sad comment on just how much has been lost.

And equally on that simple fact that despite all I have said those dandelions in the front garden make me feel a little uneasy and I rather think will have to go.

Which has also to be an admission that I have never tried eating dandelion leaves.

Pictures; from the Food Free Advice Service of the Ministry of Food in the collection of Vince Piggott, dandelions near you and waiting for Rosa from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Lives revealed .......... a lot more on Mr John Cowen of Woolwich and a lesson in research

Yesterday I discovered a whole lot more on Mr John Cowen who in the summer of 1864 had posed
Mr Cown with hat in hand, 1864
for a group photograph at the Crossness Pumping Station.

There he stood with his hat in his hand surrounded by other men who had laboured to build the pumping station.

The picture yielded the names of those present and the caption a “group of workmen [of the] Local Board taken at Crossness during progress of the main drainage works, about midsummer 1864.”  

And as luck would have it l came up with a John Cowen who at the age of 40 had been admitted for three days to the infirmary of the Greenwich Workhouse which seemed to fit because he had described himself as a labourer and our man on the picture was part of that group of workmen at the Pumping Works.

But then as so often happens with research it all began to unravel.

First there was that simple observation that the man in the picture looked older added to which the profile of a labourer didn’t fit with a man who was qualified to vote in parliamentary elections which just happened to be the second discovery of the day.

The 1832 Reform Act had extended the electorate but not yet to those who merely laboured for a living.

Nightinggale Val  home of Mr Cown in 1874
And Mr John Cowen of Belmont-place, Nightingale Vale did just that in the summer of 1865 using his two votes for the conservative candidates.

At which point I should have dug deeper and gone looking for his home on the 1872 OS map.

Had I done so it would have confirmed that our man was no labourer for back then the road was full of large properties with big gardens set in pleasant surroundings.

All of which was confirmed By Tricia Lesley who had come across the original photograph and like me was drawn to finding out more about Mr Cowen, and I am glad she did because
"I looked John Cowen up in 'Vincents Book of Woolwich' and there are several references to him.

In 1849 under the heading of Woolwich Men it states he was an Ironmonger living at 31 Richard St Woolwich.

In 1852 he became an elected member of the Woolwich Local Board of Health with 947 votes. He served from 1852 -1860 and 1861-1867.

That group picture, midsummer 1864
He was nominated by the Poor Law Board and it states that Mr John Cowen many years Chairman of the Board after Rev F Cameron was continually nominated by the Local Government Board except on one occasion when the power lapsed, in which year Mr Cowen was elected for Kidbrooke in 1876.

He was born on April 1 1804 and died on July 12 1878 aged 74.

He married twice, his first wife Elizabeth died sometime between 1851 and 1868 

His second marriage was to a Mary Ann Morley in 1868 where it states he is a widow.”

All of which better fits with a man in the picture who was posing not as a labourer but indeed one of those directly responsible to the pumping station.

Well that’s the story so far.

Picture; group of workmen [of the] Local Board taken at Crossness during progress of the main drainage works, about midsummer 1864”, courtesy of Chris Mansfield, first posted by Tricia Lesley, and Nightingale Vale, 1874 from the OS map of London 1864-74, courtesy of Digital Archive Association,

Who should remember Roger Hall sent to Canada in 1914? ............ British Home Child Day September 28

Leaving Manchester for Canada 1897 on the Town Hall steps
Anniversaries according to one of my friends “are to be avoided at all costs ......... they are mean things which tempt you down half forgotten paths and are piled high with nostalgia which when you look more closely hide some pretty shabby goings on.”

Now I know what she means and sometimes when applied to the great events of the past they can trivialise the event and the experiences of those who were there.

But they also offer up an opportunity to reflect on what happened and in some cases even raise awareness.

And I think that is the importance of the activities surrounding Ontario’s British Home Child Day on September 28.

It is not the most zippy of titles but it does the business which is to both remember and raise awareness of the 100,000 or so British children migrated to Canada from 1870 to 1930 and by extension those others sent to all bits of the British Empire which in the case of Australia was still going on in the 1970s.

In Canada, 1907
Some were from orphanages, others were in the care of charities or the Poor Law authorities and some were even rescued off the streets.

The policy can be seen as either a well meaning desire to relocate young people to a new world where they could have a fresh start or a cynical move to shift a real social problem as far away from Britain as possible.

It is a subject I often write about because like about ten percent of the Canadian population I am descended from a British Home Child although strictly speaking he was my great uncle and not one of my grandparents.

I knew nothing about his story until I came across a letter from his sister describing how he had been migrated to Canada by the Poor Law Guardians in 1914.

And that chance discovery is often how most of us discover the connection which makes it all the more important that events which focus on that policy of migration and resettlement are brought out to a wider audience.

And yet over here in Britain I doubt that many are aware of what went on.  If pushed they may be aware of how our young people were still being sent to Australia just forty years ago and the uphill battle at first to get anyone to admit to the extent of the migration.*

But in the case of Canada that policy stopped over eighty years ago and sadly few of those who were sent are still alive while the children sent to other parts of the British Empire have by and large not been documented in any detail.

The farmhouse 2010 almost a century after Roger Hall lived there
Nor have there been that many books published in Britain and while  the story of British Home Children is becoming a serious area of study in Canada that is not so over here.

So I hope the day goes well in Ontario along with the others which will be rolled out during the year and more than a little bit of me will be thinking and writing about it again on the 28th, after all a big chunk of our family lives in Ontario.***

Not that they are from my great uncle, he was lost to us sometime around 1925.  Instead these are the children and greatgrand children of his sister who he helped go across to Canada on an “Empire assisted scheme” but that is another story for another time.

Pictures; outside Manchester Town Hall with a party of young people bound for Canada, 1897 and young people on a farm in Canada, 1907 courtesy of the Together Trust and one of the farmhouses where my great uncle worked and lived, 2010 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*British Home Children,

* A story of British Home Children in just 20 objects nu 16 .......... Australia and other parts of the Commonwealth, 

***Events this weekend, Film Forgotten- Saturday September 26 8.30 pm Rainbow Cinema Market Square Movie Theatre, 80 Front Street E, Toronto www.commffest,com & Sunday Seept 27 Black Creek Pioneer Village all day event, www,

Friday, 25 September 2015

Looking for John Cowen of Woolwich amongst the labourers at Crossness and the voting records of Mid Kent

John Cowen with hat in hand, 1864
This is John Cowen.

He was born in 1824 and sometime in the midsummer of 1864 he posed for this picture at the Crossness Pumping Station.

Now the photograph is remarkable because someone has gone to the bother of recording the names of the men who stare back at us.

And that is unusual because while photographs of mid Victorian workmen are quite common it is rare to have their names listed and with a name it should be possible to track an individual and in time reveal something of his life.

I know from the caption that these were a “group of workmen [of the] Local Board taken at Crossness during progress of the main drainage works, about midsummer 1864” which places the picture just a little under a year before the project was finished

Work on the Crossness Pumping Station had begun in 1859 under the supervision of Sir Joseph Baselgette and was completed in 1865.

I doubt we will ever know exactly why our picture was taken or what bit of work had been finished but I have made a start on exploring the lives of those thirty one men standing in front of us.

I could have chosen any one of them and there was no particular reason for settling on John Cowen other than he was easier than most to indentify on the photograph.

That said what has so far come to light is slim pickings.

In the April of 1864 he had been admitted to the Greenwich Workhouse and was treated in the hospital.  He gave his age as 40 and described himself as a labourer all of which is a little difficult to square with the fact a John Cowen of 1 Belmont-place, Nightingale Vale, Woolwich, voted in the 1865 General Election.

This I know because that John Cowen was recorded in the Poll Book for the Western Division of Kent as voting for the Viscount Holmesdale and William Hart Dyke the two Conservative candidates both of whom were elected.

And that is as far as it goes.

The census records have yet to reveal anything about his life before or after 1864 and as yet I can’t find any reference to his birth, death or a marriage.

All of which means I shall just have to try harder.

Picture; group of workmen [of the] Local Board taken at Crossness during progress of the main drainage works, about midsummer 1864”, courtesy of Chris Mansfield, first posted by Tricia Lesley

Another lost cinema ........... down in Gately

The Tatton Cinema at Gatley was not a picture house I ever went in but then Gately was off our beaten track.

All of which is a shame because Andy‘s picture of the Tatton makes me think I would have liked to sit in one of its plush seats surrounded by its 30s decor.

According to Cinema Treasures it opened in 1937 as the Tatton Kinema and included “an 18 foot stage, six dressing rooms, and a restaurant.
In 1971, the restaurant was converted to a 111 seat cinema known as Tatton Minor – the original cinema became Tatton Major. 

In November 1975, the Major closed and was twined with the larger stalls area becoming the 647 seat Tatton Major, the former circle the 247 seat Tatton Minor, and the restaurant cinema the Tatton Mini” closing in 2000.*

Since then it has picked up a twitter page been the focus for lots of public debate and generated memories of the place when it still offered up a night of films.

And that is all I am going to say about the Tatton, but watch this space because Andy was out in Gately and recording much of the place.

Picture; a cinema in Gatley, 2015, from the collection of Andy Robertson

*Apollo Cinema, Gatley Road, Gatley, SK8 4AB, Cinema Treasure,

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Who remembers those long coach journeys out to Ewell for an afternoon’s sport?

Now if like me you grew up in one of the inner London boroughs the chances are that one afternoon a week you were bused out to Ewell in Surrey during term time.

I did four years and may have done a fifth although I rather think by the time I was in year 11 we could opt out.

And it was a mammoth undertaking, involving transporting a whole year group by coach from New Cross to the leafy outer suburbs which for me also meant a Saturday morning during the winter to play in the school rugby team.

It was not for me the highlight of the week, in fact it was an ordeal brought on by my inability to travel on buses, coaches and cars without feeling ill.

It began with the smell of those green coaches which the school hired which even now brings on that same uneasy feeling.

I suppose they were the newest of models and were pretty much the workhorse of the company ferrying school children to Ewell, works parties down to the sea coast and hired out to other companies.

And then as the journey got underway the heat from the engine and the smell of the leather seats mixed with an overpowering scent was enough to set me off, made no easier by the knowledge that this was it for 40 minutes only to be repeated again later in the day.

I won’t have been alone in feeling like that and I guess it was a small price to pay to get us all out to participate in a range of sporting activities.

But it does point to that simple observation that if you went to an inner city secondary school there weren’t going to be acres of green fields surrounding the school.

Back on home base we had the asphalt playground and another on the roof of the new block and that was it.

It was another of those little things that marked secondary moderns off from grammar schools.

But in that brave post War era the LCC and the Inner London Education Authority set about offering us out at Ewell something others took for granted.

Looking back I can see the wisdom of their actions even if the experience was an ordeal.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

On Barlow Moor Road in the summer of 1991

It is almost twenty five years since this picture of that stretch of Barlow Moor Road was taken.

And unlike those grainy black and white images taken in the first quarter of the last century it is at first difficult to see what has changed.

But look closely and just beyond Chorlton Park and to the north of the Brook, the Feathers is still a pub although I can’t quite remember whether this will be one of the periods when it was open or closed, the flats to the rear of McDonald’s have yet to be built and back along Mauldeth Road West there was still that expanse of green in the middle of the road dominated by the tall avenues of trees.

And that in turn meant that there was no Metro line so  a trip by public transport to Wythenshawe was a matter of choosing one of a number of different buses which seemed to take an age to get to Civic Centre.

I can’t quite make out the KFC beside the Brook and can’t remember if what was Blockbusters was still selling cycles.

So even in twenty five years there have been the odd change, and with a planning application in we may yet see the old Blockbusters disappear in the face of a combined bulldozer and crane.

Picture; courtesy of Andy Robertson

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Who will own up to playing in Hough End Hall in the 1960s?

In the space of just a few weeks Hough End Hall has begun to reveal some more of its past.

What is exciting is that this is not the dim distant past but the sort of history that seldom is recorded in anything but the briefest detail.

This is the period of the 1950s and 60s which while it is at present short on documentary evidence is rich in memories, and these are now bubbling up to the surface and with them a new collection of pictures.

The memories are mainly of those who played in the grounds, dared their friends to creep inside the Hall and made fun in the barns and other outhouses.

My friend Faith recalled adventurous days playing by the Bumps which was that stretch of land running east alongside the Brook behind the Hall while June remembered, “we used to hang about here nearly every night it was a farm then and sat on that wall” and Veronica told me about the geese and the mysterious window.

And so these pictures by Roger Shelley taken I am guessing in the mid 60s pretty much sums up this new set of stories.

I have no idea who the young people are and I suppose Roger fell across them during the photo shot and like kids do they just got into the pictures.

They will be grown up now, some with their own children and no doubt would be horrified if their youngsters hung from the rafters of an old barn.

I know I would but from the little my lads have let on they performed equally dangerous dares down at the Brook and if I am honest I can recall similar daft and mildly dangerous antics.

All of which is a lead in to an appeal for more stories about Hough End Hall to compliment an interesting article from the Ancient Monuments Society about the hall in the 1920s and 30s.

But that is for another time.

Pictures; Hough End Hall sometime in the 1960s, from the collection of Roger Shelley,

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

On Hardy Lane on June 7 1977

Hardy Lane, June 7 1977
Now I can be absolutely certain of the date because this was one of the many street parties held to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the present Queen.

Back in Ashton where I had been living the local artist David Vaughan* painted a huge mural on the gable end of a shop and here on Beech Road and across Chorlton there were parties.

So here is a picture of the event on Hardy Lane which perfectly captures the day.

The weather remained good and judging by the spread on the tables it proved a great success.

Picture; from the collection of Caroline Standish

*David Vaughan,

Monday, 21 September 2015

A shopping list, a coal receipt and a little bit of how we lived in the winter of 1963

Now in an age of online shopping I still like the idea of making a list and going down to the shops but I have grown lazy and have reverted to that simple practice of the man with the van.

And today that was what arrived at 6.30 this morning courtesy of the latest supermarket to get into the business of delivering our groceries.

I resisted for a long time arguing the joy of getting out and meeting people and choosing for myself was a paramount adding that it was just another example of that creeping invasion of the internet into my life.

But historically of course the idea of the man with a van is not new, and if I had been from a certain class I might well have expected pretty much all of my food to have arrived at the door courtesy of the “boy and the cart” from the local tradesmen.

The only difference I suppose is that instead of sending the servant with the list or making a phone call today the order is placed by computer and of course the man in the van is equally likely to be a woman.

And as I stare at the itemised receipt I am reminded what a wonderful little bit of history this list is containing as it does not only a record of what we consume but the cost of everything from two bottles of Gavi, three of Pinot Grigio and assorted household products.

All of which neatly leads me to the shopping list made out by my old friend Marjorie Holmes in the winter of 1963 along with a receipt for two bags of coal delivered to the house by H.Hawkard, “Coal & Coke Merchant, Station Approach, Chorlton-cum-Hardy.”

Now such lists and receipts are the stuff of everyday life and most will be discarded pretty much straight away.

My father being a more canny person did tend to keep these records if only to make it easier to shop next time, which I guess is not unlike that tab on the online site which directs you to your favourites.

In the case of Marjorie few of her shopping lists have survived so I can’t say how typical this one was but it gives an idea of the cost of living back in 1963.

Moreover it indicates she was both a regular customer of the Co-op as the divi number at the top of the page testifies and that the order was delivered.

Back in 1963 we still had a Co-op on Beech Road and the coal merchants continued to operate from the Station approach after passenger trains ceased to rum from Chorlton into Central.

Of course there will be those who mutter this is small history, compared to the bigger picture which saw the Cuban Missile Crisis the year before, the assassination of President Kennedy in the November of 1963 and the slow decline in the popularity of the Conservative Government but this is my sort of history.

Pictures; shopping list circa November 1963 and coal receipt, November 1963, courtesy of Marjorie Holmes from the collection of Andrew Simpson

The Bazley Brothers leave their mark in Ancoats

Now as Ron said here is “a different kind of 'ghost sign' of a more substantial nature. It was taken in the June of this year on East Pollard Street. Manchester and knowing your 'nose' for bygone companies, the pictures are yours if you want them” which of  course I did.

Most of the time when we think of ghost signs what comes to mind are those faded and peeling hand painted adverts on the sides of buildings but for me there are also those stones inscriptions above factory doors and those picked out in coloured brick on mill chimneys.

And as soon as Ron showed me these pictures of the old Wellington Mill on East Pollard Street I was hooked.

Bazley Brothers were cotton spinners and they were occupying this site by 1883 and maybe even earlier.

I know that Henry Bazley & Company “spinners of lace muslin and thread yarns” were operating from
Chapel Street Mill Ancoats in 1876  so it shouldn’t be too difficult to track down the move to the Wellington Mill.

And according to one source they were still trading from the building in 1928, but when they moved out has yet to be discovered.

There is a record of a Bazley Brothers winding up their business in 1940 but this may not be them because the head office was outside Manchester.

As for the mill it has more recently had multi occupancy and there were plans back in 2009 to convert it into residential accommodation but as Ron’s pictures show this has not yet happened.

Now I am not an expert on the history of Manchester Mills and have fallen back on Grace's Guide to British Industrial History which records a fatal accident at the mill in 1865 and an advert for the sale of the mill as a going concern thirty years later..**

All of which is a little confusing.

So the next step will be to set a firm date for their move out of the mill and look around at the census returns to see if the family can be tracked across Greater Manchester while crawling over newspaper records.

But in the meantime at least we still have Ron’s building with its name which is a spur to greater research.

Pictures; Bazley Brothers , Wellington Mill, East Pollard Street, June 2014, courtesy of Ron Stubley

*A Manchester View,

***Grace's Guide to British Industrial History,,_Ancoats

Walking again in Nunhead Cemetery

Now we are entering that time of year when more than 55 year ago I wandered into the cemetery in search of conkers.

It’s a story I have told before and it is a moment shrouded in shame.

So I shall say no more of the event but given that many more have and will continue to follow my footsteps I think it is time for a few more of those evocative photographs by Sue Simpson taken in the summer.

Picture; walking in Nunhead Cemetery, July 2015, from the collection of Sue Simpson

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Changing Chorlton ............... down at McFadyen’s Memorial Congregational Church

Now one of the popular posts recently has been a series on McFadyen’s Memorial Congregational Church by Tong Goulding.

It is a familiar landmark which has just undergone a big renovation and I have featured plenty of pictures of how it used to look and at least one when the work was underway but none of the finished building.

So here courtesy of Steve Raw is one of the new entrance with its stunning big window.

It was taken just a few days ago.

And I think it will reappear to adorn more stories from Tony and perhaps the odd reflective piece about our churches over the last century and a cit.

But for now given that lots of people like contrasts, here are two from a time before now.

The first is a favourite of mine, taken I think sometime at the beginning of the last century and reappearing on countless picture postcards

And just to finish one of Andy's Robertson's from the middle of the reconstruction..

Pictures; the Church on a sunny September day, 2015 from the collection of Steve Raw, the Church circa 1900, from the Lloyd collection, and the church during its renovation, 2015 courtesy of Andy Robertson

Exploring Hirst's Yard in Leeds ........ discovering a future ghost sign and pondering on one lost long ago

Hirst's Yard 2014
Now I would like to know more about Hirst's Yard in Leeds.

It is a small alley between Call Lane and Lower Briggate and I guess if you weren’t in the know it’s somewhere you are never likely to visit.

According to one source  “Hirst's Yard was named after William Hirst. 

He was born near Huddersfield and came to Leeds in 1795, where he set up in business as a cloth dresser.”* 

Mr Hirst intrigues me and so in time I will go looking for him but in the meantime its’s down this little cut that has pulled me in and for that I have Ron Stubley to thank.

Ron shares my fascination for ghost signs and sent this one across adding "a bit modern this one Andrew, just came across it while looking at pictures taken from January of last year taken in Leeds. 

Any good for your collection?

Hirst's Yard 1973
And of course it is more than OK,  because these days you don’t see so many hand painted signs advertising products.

Like Ron I think the sign is relatively new and probably dates from around the time that the pub Hirst's Yard opened its doors.

One guide describes it as a "traditional pub with outdoor seats on a cobbled street, hosting regular weekend live music sessions” and it runs from 11 to 15 Hirsts Yard."** 

All very different from when this earlier picture of the Yard was taken in 1973 which can be seen at Discovering Leeds.*

There are those I know who bemoan the rise of the bar culture but it is hard to see how some of these relics of our industrial past would ever get a second chance and would remain run down and forgotten.

All of which leaves me to ponder on how long our sign will survive.

That advert
And then there is that other sign from 1973 on the same gable end, which had long since been lost.

It might just have been a white washed wall but I suspect it was once a full blown advert and so the hunt is on to uncover its story.

That may prove difficult bit we will see after all there may well be a whole shedful of people in Leeds who share our love of ghost signs.

Pictures; Hirst's Yard in 2014 from the collection of Ron Stubley and back in 1973 reproduced from Discovering Leeds, Leeds City Council,

*Discovering Leeds,

** Hirst's Yard,