Tuesday, 31 January 2017

That lost picture of the Royal Oak in 1902 with young Thomas Kelsey

This is a picture of the old Royal Oak I have never seen before.

The caption gives a date of 1902 and refers to “the boy Thomas Kelsey, son of the landlord of the inn at the time.”

Now it is very unusual to be able to name a person in a Chorlton photograph from the early 20th century.

Usually we are just presented with a sea of faces whose identities are lost in time.

But this is different.

Thomas was born in 1893 in Salford and his parents ran the Duke of York pub at 186 Regent Road, before moving in 1895 to the Royal Oak here in Chorlton.

The pub trade ran deep in the family, Thomas’s father was working in the Glass House on Regent Road by 1881 when he was 18 years old and his parents had run a beer shop just off Regent Road.

But what makes this picture all the more interesting is the detail which it reveals about the pub.

The Royal Oak was originally a beer shop which dated back to the early 1830s and consisted of little more than four rooms.

But what intrigues me is the building behind which seems to have been added on by the 1890s.

The OS map for 1894 and 1907 show that pub had been enlarged and the 1911 census return records that there were eight rooms.

Nor is that all because George Kelsey appears to have been more than just a publican because the sign to our right announces that he was also in the business of “CABS, HANSOMS” and offered a LIVERY STATION.”

Sadly at present I lose them after 1911 but this is a start and in the fullness of time I shall discover more.

But as ever there is always someone who pushes the story on.  So I was pleased when Andy Robertson  trawled the rate books and fond that 1895 as the first year George Kelsey paid rates in the township.

More will be revealed.

That said there is that finger print just below the sign, now that would be a real detective story.

Picture, the Royal Oak, 1902, m50447, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass


*The Royal Oak, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20Royal%20Oak



Painting Well Hall and Eltham ....... nu 1 the Library

An occasional series featuring buildings and places I like and painted by Peter Topping.

Like many in Eltham I continue to remember the library with great fondness.  It was a place I used a lot, borrowing books and records from its collection and spending hours in the reference section.

It was also where our Stella worked and for all those reasons it was the first building I asked Peter to paint using a photograph taken by Chrissy Rose.

Peter and I have been working together on projects for almost a decade including two books and an 80 meter installation along with various smaller displays and plenty of commissions.

And that is all I want to say.

Location; Eltham, London

After all I have written about the library already and its history is well known.*

Painting; Eltham Library © 2015 Peter Topping from a photograph by Chrissy Rose 2014

Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Facebook: Paintings from Pictures https://www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

* The Library on the High Street, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Eltham%20Library

Gasholders I have known and loved ........... no 2 Liverpool Street Salford

Now I knew when I launched the new series on Gasholders I was pretty confident it would make a stir.

And sure enough my friend Andy couldn't resist offering up three of his pictures of the gasometer on Liverpool Street.

All of which I am confident is just the start.

Location; Salford



Picture;Liverpool Street, Salford, 2017, from the collection of Andy Robertson


*Gasholders, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Gasholders

Posters from the Past ........... no 7 enjoying a film and a night out at the Grosvvenor

Take a modern image of a building we all love and turn it into the style of poster which was popular in the middle decades of the last century.

It was a bit of fun from Peter which has become the series Posters of the Past.*

And today it is the turn of the Grosvenor which was opened in 1915 to a design by Percy Hothersall and with almost a thousand seats was I think the biggest cinema outside the city centre at the time.

Even now long after its days as a place to see films have ceased it is still a pretty impressive building.

Its green and cream terracotta tiles marked it out on that stretch of Oxford Road which apart from the Town Hall opposite and the old offices of the Poor Law Union on the corner of Cavendish Street was a drab spot.

And I just missed going there.

It closed as a cinema in 1968 and I had to be content with using it as a pub which it had become after unsuccessful stints as a bingo hall and snooker venue.

Still some of the original features still exist including the balcony, vaulted ceiling and much plasterwork although they have not been treated well.

I guess the cinema entrepreneur, H.D. Moorhouse would be less than amused.  Pretty much all his working life was given over to picture houses and the films, having started as an accountant he got drawn in with a parts share on one and later a string of cinemas, across the city.

And now his cinema is a pub.

So instead let’s slide back to a time when the price of admission to a night of dreams, fears and adventure was just 6d.

I think it would have to be the 1930s with that wonderful film Things to Come.  Of course yours will be different but as they say “you can be at my film night if I can be in yours.

Poster; The Grosvenor, © 2016 Peter Topping

Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

*Posters from the Past  https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Posters%20from%20the%20Past


Monday, 30 January 2017

Number 73 Shude Hill sometime around 1984 ...... and the start of a story

Now I don’t remember number 73 Withy Grove and a full 33 years after John took this picture I doubt many will.

It comes from his 1980s collection of photographs of Manchester and Salford and is just the thing to start a story.*

In time I will trawl the street directories for the early 20th century and also ask my mate Andy Robertson to look up numbers 73 and 75 on his 1969 directory and then armed with names go off again to see what I can find.

In the meantime I will let you ponder on what replaced these two.

I know as well as John and Andy.

It is less a quiz and more just a bit of historical fun.

There are no prizes of course but just the pleasure in beating everyone else to the answer.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Withy Grove, Manchester circa 1984 from the collection of John Casey

*John Casey https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/John%20Casey

Renshaws Buildings in Martledge


Even I have to admit that this bit of road and kerb stone is not the most exciting picture of Chorlton and yet it is all that is left of Martledge that part of the old township which ran from the four banks down to the library.

All this week I have been writing about the place and today I want to focus on the building which ran along the side of this bit of road.  It was a block of six or maybe 12 dwellings and was variously known as New Buildings or Renshaws Buildings.

It was set at right angles to what is now Barlow Moor Road and in its time must have looked the part. It had a large impressive gable end and despite being farm cottages dominated this part of Martledge.

The block was owned and may have been built by John Renshaw sometime before 1832.  He was a market gardener living in a farm house on the Row* who also owned a number of cottages around the township.  Some at least would have been wattle and daub structures but Renshaws Buildings were made of brick.

Now I can be fairly confident that they predate 1832 because they are listed as part of his property qualification which entitled him to a Parliamentary vote in the newly reformed House of Commons.

And it maybe that they represent the first building boom here in Chorlton in the 1840s and 40s by speculative tradesmen who wanted to cash in on the population increase or maybe just the desire of local people to live in a house made of brick rather than wood, mud and straw.


It is unclear how many units there were but the evidence from the census and the old maps suggests that they were one up one down back to back dwellings.  By the beginning of the 20th century part of the block had been converted into commercial use and just before their demolition this bit was a garage.

They came down sometime in the mid 1920s to make way for the present Royal Oak pub.  I wish we had some written memories of what they were like but sadly we don’t.  On the other hand we do have a few photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries along with details of who lived there from the 1840s and the rents they paid, but for all that it is back to the book where you can see Barris’ reconstruction picture of Renshaws Buildings in more detail.  It is based on a number of the photographs and maps and we are looking at it from the west, as if were heading into the township from Manchester.  The kerb stone and narrow road are hidden on its eastern side.

*Today this is Beech Road and his home was on the site of Ivy Court facing the Rec

Pictures; from the collection of Andrew Simpson and Barri Sparshot

When the tide turns......... politics in Chorlton in the 20th century

The Conservative Club circa 1910
I wonder just what an ardent Conservative or Liberal voter born in the late 19th century in Chorlton would make of the local political scene today.

Their first port of call might be those large political and social clubs which were established within a few years of each other on the edge of New Chorlton.

Both were set up by subscription and those who subscribed were drawn from a wide section of the community.

The Conservative Club opened in 1892 and with its public hall and impressive clock tower seemed to mark the Tories out as a force to contend with which seemed borne out by the fact that during a large part of the 20th century Chorlton returned Tory MPs and councillors. From 1918 to ‘23 and again from 1931 to ‘87 we had a Tory MP.

But the Liberals may well have taken heart that political fortunes can fall as well as rise and so their decision to convert Laurston House into a permanent home for the Liberal Association was a sound one.

It opened in 1897 admidst a fanfare of optimism.  But nationally the years around the opening of the club were not good for the Liberals.  They lost both the 1895 and 1900 general elections and would not be returned to office till 1906.

The ups and downs of Liberal fortunes in the 1920s and 30s
Locally they fared better both on the old Withington District Council and after our incorporation into the city on the Manchester City Council and by the 1920s were so evenly balanced with the Conservatives that the Manchester Guardian reported in 1928 that

“there are few wards in which Conservative and Liberal opinion is so nicely balanced.  

Of the eight elections that have been fought in Chorlton since 1920 four have been won by the Conservatives and four by the Liberals.”*

But by the early 1930s the Liberals were on the defensive increasingly being challenged by the Labour Party.

They won their last seat in 1932, saw their sitting councillor Lady Sheena Simon loose to the Conservatives the following year and after 1935 did not  contest another election until after the war by which time Labour were asserting themselves as the real alternative.

That said it would not be until 1986 that Labour won its first council seat defeating the Conservative candidate by a significant margin. And while they failed to win the following year from 1988 they consolidated their position winning all three seats.

Not that they had it all their own way, for there was a challenge from the Liberal Democrats who at one point won two of the Chorlton seats.

The last decade
But in the last few years the Lib Dem share of the vote has been falling against that of Labour.

It is a reversal of political fortunes matched across south Manchester leaving a political landscape that our two visitors from the past would not recognise.

The Liberal Club quietly passed away and the building became the Laurston Club.

The Conservative Association lingered on but finally called it a day and their grand building with its Public Hall was sold to a developer.

By then its political fortunes had all but vanished. The last Conservative MP failed to be re-elected in  1987 and in the years since 2006 they have never achieved more than 7% of the total vote.

All of which would seem a grim scenario for both our Conservative and Liberal time traveller.

Pictures; from the Lloyd collection and election data from the Manchester Guardian and Manchester City Council.


*The Chorlton By-Election, Manchester Guardian December 18, 1928


How we lived and what got us cross ............ Eltham in 1977

Nothing dates more quickly than the contemporary TV or film documentary made in the last forty or so years.

I guess it is partly the style of delivery, the antiquated technology used to make it and the scenes themselves which are often still recognisable but just look a tad odd.

And the most bizarre thing is that it will be the material made say in the 1960s, 70s and 80s which look the most dated.

That said the documentary currently going round the Eltham sites is a fascinating insight into what the area was like back then, and the growing problems of traffic congestion, and the impact of new ways of shopping.

“Part of a 1986 ILEA series called House And Home, this episode looks at the suburban town of Eltham, examining residents with sympathy but almost anthropological fascination while also looking at traffic, transport and domestic architecture. 

Talking us through Eltham life are the White family, including Mr White, who works as a policeman in Westminster: 'It’s not uncommon to be asked the time when standing under Big Ben. As a kindness we try not to look up at it.'”

It has been issued by the B.F.I. and some people may have seen an earlier short posted showing soldiers passing through Eltham during the Great War.



Picture; Eltham High Street, courtesy of Jean Gammons

* Semi-detached Suburban http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-semi-detached-suburban-1977/

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Gasholders I have known and loved

Now I grant you they may not seem the most compelling things to write about or indeed to asdmire.

But if you are of a certain age and lived close to a city or town centre they will have been part of the landscape.

I grew up near one and lived close to another when we occupied a flat in east Manchester.

Most of us will have taken them for granted and yet in their way they were a marvel of the 19th century and as much an symbol of that period as the steam engine or the dark satanic mills.

Until recently I have no idea there had been one on King Street West near the House of Fraser although I do have a fine picture of the coking room of the one on Rochdale Road.

Once the manufacture and storage of “town gas” was an essential part of each town and city and were just taken for granted.

So here in a new series are two pictures of the one in east Manchester from the camera of John Casey dating from the 1980s.

Be warned ............ more will follow.

Location; East Manchester

Pictures; the gasholder in east Manchester, 1980s from the collection of John Casey

*Gasholders, https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Gasholders

When plastic bowls and a picture of San Francisco were a must ........ back at “Kingy”

Now I make no apology at returning to Kingspot.

If you are of a certain age and that pretty much covers everyone in Chorlton, you will remember Kingspot.

And for those who moved in after the shop closed here are two more pictures of what was an institution.

I wrote about it yesterday reflecting that “it was just one of those places we took for granted and long before Pound Shops it was somewhere you could get a bargain.

Here could be found everything from washing pegs, to happy colourful toys and that fabulous print of the San Francisco Bridge at sunset.

Much of what was on offer was plastic and sometimes I wondered whether they had their own plastic factory somewhere east of Hong Kong.



So it was no surprise that Kingspot was always full and getting round the shop could be a challenge which often involved avoiding the buggies, and shopping trollies as you worked you way down the two isles looking for a washing up bowl and ending up instead with two plastic imitation Flying Ducks to hang above the plastic water fountain.

Our kids always seemed to be in their usually when the latest craze for BB guns hit Chorlton which I suspect followed a few days after a new consignment of cheap toys had arrived from China."

And no sooner had I posted the story than  Bernard sent over two of his own pictures adding that "here are a couple of photos of Kingspot I took, I think it was Marhch1998,from data on photo. Maybe you could add them to your Kingspot blog."

Which of course I could and did.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures; Kingspot, 1998, from the collection of Bernard Leach

Sorting Eltham's letters at Blackheath in 1830

A short series looking at the story behind the picture.

Back in the 1977 my friend Jean gave a  talk on the postal service in Eltham during the 19th century which she later turned into a set of articles published in the Eltham Society magazine.

“This is the building in Dartmouth Row, Blackheath which was the sorting office for Eltham and all the surrounding districts from the mid 1830s.

This was where the people of Blackheath would have bought their Penny Blacks in 1840 or a 'Twopenny Blue'- the world's first postage stamps in 1840”

The Penny Black was the world's first adhesive postage stamp used in a public postal system. It was issued in Britain on 1 May 1840, for official use from 6 May of that year.

All London post offices received official issues of the new stamps but other offices throughout the United Kingdom did not, continuing to accept postage payments in cash only for a period.

It was still a post office in 1977 but today is a private residence.


Picture; the sorting office on Dartmouth Row in 1977 and text from Jean Gammons, and The Penny Black fro Wikipedia Commons

Down on Auburn Street by the canal ......... around the corner from Aytoun Street

Now the old brick building on Aytoun Street which in my day was the Unemployment Exhange has gone.

I passed pretty much every day during the week in the early 1970s.

It was planned in the late 30s, held up by the war and completed in 1951 taking three years to build.

At the time I rather thought it ugly and would have agreed with  Pevsner who described it as “brick, thin and cheap.”

Near the end of its life it was run down and not very nice to look at, but casting an eye over old pictures of the place I have to say it had something.

And for those who want to do just that I recommend that thoughtful and always interesting site on Manchester by Skyliner.*

For now I shall close with images taken by my old friend Andy Robertson who was there in 2015 when construction begun after the Labour Exchange had been cleared and was back yesterday to record the new structure.

Location; Auburn Street, Manchester

Pictures; Auburn Street, 2015 and 2017 from the collection of Andy Robertson

*AYTOUN STREET EMPLOYMENT EXCHANGEhttp://www.theskyliner.org/aytoun-street-employment-exchange/





On a January day in Woolwich ................. from Theresa Simpson-lee

Now there is a lot of truth in that simple observation that you should never go back to where you grew up.

Usually it just leads to disappointment as favourite shops, special places and even the atmosphere have undergone vast changes.

Despite what some say Eltham is pretty much as I left it in 1973 and while there are bitts which I mourn the passing of it is pretty much as I remember it.

But not so Woolwich and here I have my sister Theresa to thank who spent an afternoon wandering around the town.

And so I just leave you with the first of a series of pictures taken this month.

Location; Woolwich

Pictures; Woolwich 2017 from the collection of Theresa Simpson-lee

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Remembering Kingspot on Barlow Moor Road

Kingspot, circa 1980s
I went looking for pictures of Kingy today.

It was just one of those places we took for granted and long before Pound Shops it was somewhere you could get a bargain.

Here could be found everything from washing pegs, to happy colourful toys and that fabulous print of the San Francisco Bridge at sunset.

Much of what was on offer was plastic and sometimes I wondered whether they had their own plastic factory somewhere east of Hong Kong.

A post box and a sun shade, May 1959
So it was no surprise that Kingspot was always full and getting round the shop could be a challenge which often involved avoiding the buggies, and shopping trollies as you worked you way down the two isles looking for a washing up bowl and ending up instead with two plastic imitation Flying Ducks to hang above the plastic water fountain.

Our kids always seemed to be in their usually when the latest craze for BB guns hit Chorlton which I suspect followed a few days after a new consignment of cheap toys had arrived from China.

It was no different from when I was growing up.  Back then there seemed to be the regular season for marbles, cap guns and fag cards which on reflection also coincided with the latest shipment of cheap toys from abroad.

In its way Kingy was just a shop version of the market stall, but as we don’t have an old fashioned market in Chorlton this place did the business.

Sitting in the sun,April 1959
It was for a while an institution and there will be many of a certain age with fond memories of the place.

So far only the one picture of the shop has come to light and so I thought I would contrast it with a time before those plastci toys and pegs and pictures were available.

And so here are two taken in the spring of 1959 by Mr Downs who was responsible for many other fine pictures of Chorlton in the 1950's


Shirt sleeves and overcoats on that April day
It was clearly a bright day and some at least of the shop keepers had those canvas sheets over the front of the windows which performed the double task of protecting the display and advertising the business.

Bright as it may have been some waiting by the bus station had opted not to trust that April sun and walked out in overcoat and head scarf.

Others however were just sitting watching events pass by.



Now I first posted the story without that picture of Kingspot and I have Wendy to thank for pointing that it
was already there on the Chorlton facebook site and to Brian who gave me permission to use it  all of which goes to show the power of social networks

And just ours after this story was posted Jean Kingsberry left a new comment Which deserved to be included in the text.

"Thank you for your kind comments.

We rented 360 Barlow Moor Road for 21 years before we were able to buy it.

The flat above was our first home when we got married in 1970, we sold in 2005. My mother-in-law, Eileen lived there from 1972 until she passed away.

Many remember her and the several small dogs she took for walks over the years.

All the family worked in that branch at some time. My father-in-law, Harry, my husband, Keith, our son Craig and daughter Andrea.We retired in 2008, after selling our last shop in Urmston, and now live in Cyprus."

Location; Manchester

Pictures, Kingspot, circa 1980's courtesy of Brian Lee Williams, east side of Barlow Moor Road, May 1959, m17609, and west side by the bust terminus, April 1959, 17610, A H Downs, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

Walking the High Street in 1918

I am on one of those walks which I could have taken just a century ago along the High Street.

Looking east, 2014
Now this is not so difficult given that by 1918 there were plenty of commercial and amateur photographers snapping away and plenty of their efforts have survived.

And armed with the census records and street directories it is possible to name the businesses which ran up from Well Hall Road east down towards Roper Street.

The street directories were issued annually and while they only record the business or house owner they are a good start.

But it will always be the information from the census which offers the stories of the people behind the doors, and when you put them together that walk becomes a fascinating trip into our collective past.

Merlewood House, 1909
So roughly on the site of the Nat West bank were the homes of Mrs Dobell and Mr Joseph Rosselli followed by the show rooms of South Metropolitan Gas Company, the London Parcels Delivery Co, and Arthur Blackney, blacksmith who will no doubt have passed the time of the day with Mr St John the physician and Henry Hallett his immediate neighbours.

On one of those walks I might well have stood outside Mrs Dobell’s fine 20 roomed house and wandered what she did in such a big house given that there was only her and three servants.

Not of course that I would ever have been invited in or for that matter into that equally big pile known as Merlewood which stood next door.

This was the home of Mr and Mrs Rosselli who sat comfortably inside their impressive house of 18 rooms shared with three grown up children and five servants.

Now given that he was a stockbroker I guess I might have seen him waiting at the railway station for a train into London.

But it is more likely that his journey to work would have started many hours after mine.
After all I come from a long line of agricultural workers, silk spinners and itinerant tradesmen and may well have been working for Mr Blackney assisting him with his magical enterprising of heating and hammering.

That said given the date of 1918 it is more likely that I was either in some trench in France or clocking off after a shift at the Arsenal.

And I suspect I am now  in danger of sliding into silly speculation so I shall close.

Picture; looking east up  the High Street, 2014, from the collection of Elizabeth and Colin Fitzpatrick and Merlewood House, 1909 from The Story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 

Posters from the Past ........... no 6 a capital choice of destination

Now the brief was simple.

Take a modern image of a building we all love and turn it into the style of poster which was popular in the middle decades of the last century.

It was a bit of fun from Peter which has become the series Posters of the Past.*

And having made the poster my contribution was to place it in a time before now.

So given Peter’s slogan I suggest a promotional poster from the late 1940s before the age of cheap jet travel, when if you had a month to spare and fancied something luxurious you might well be tempted by the poster in the offices of a well known shipping company in downtown New York.

Tower Bridge is of course one of those iconic structures which is instantly recognizable as London and of course leaves me to offer him a challenge which is to produce in quick succession one of Eltham where I grew up and Rome and Naples which will always be my two favourite cities.

So that is it, leaving me only to say if you have an image of a place which is dear to you and want it included in Posters from the Past send it over and we will rise to the occasion.

There is no prize and the picture must be yours, otherwise Colin Copyright might be after us.
Location London

Poster; Tower Bridge, © 2016 Peter Topping
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

*Posters from the Past  https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Posters%20from%20the%20Past

Stepping back in time in Southport with John Casey

Now history comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and we should never turn away from even the most trivial bits of our past.

So I was pleased when John Casey sent over three photographs from a trip to Southport.

To the casual observer they are just three pictures of the gents in a shop.

But to John and to me and I suspect many others the three images take you back in time.

Today modern design would dictate that the sinks should be part of a continuous unit with electronic sensors to tell the water when to flow and might even have their own drier fixed above the taps.

Likewise the doors to the lavatory  will be made of a material which is lightweight with a universal catch making it easy to operate.

But here in Southport they do things differentlty.

I have never visited the shop so I can’t say whether you still have to insert a coin into the lock but I can be pretty sure that the hand drier will be relatively new and before it the lavatory used one of those old fashioned cotton towels.

And I can still remember a time before the modern metal box and towel were installed when instead there was a wooden bar from which hung a looped towel, which on very busy days would be all be wet.

Which in turn reminded me of the days in winter before central heating when towels always seemed to be damp.

Location; Southport

Pictures; Southport, 2017 from the collection of John Casey

Around Manchester ......... my sort of history book

Now Around Manchester is my sort of history book.*

According to the notes on the back “it begins with the Romans and finishes with graphene, taking in everything in between from religion, politics, cotton, industrial power, railways and canals, to decline and regeneration ........”

And so all the familiar places and people are here but what I like about the book is its concentration on the bits that most historians gloss over.

So here are sections on Harpurhey, Monsall, Newton Heath and Beswick.

And while it is a book on Manchester it does our twin city proud with fascinating insights into Salford's history.

The book is written in an accessible style where the scholarship is detailed but not overpowering.

 What I particularly like is the way Mr Barlow starts with a subject and effortlessly moves around it drawing in related topics and themes.

So chapter 29 starts with Valette the artist and by degree moves on to Albert Square and the Town Hall encompassing Manchester’s bold 1945 plan for the city and takes in “a Spaniard in a Green hat dreaming of Andalusia a New Yorker who hated crowds and a Squadron of Indians each with a blue and white hat, grouped around Mr Gladstone.”

It is a style which reminds me very much of how I first came to know and love the city.
Back in the 1960s with a few hours to spend between lectures at the College of Knowledge on Aytoun Street I would take off on adventures and it is adventures that we get in the book.

One of my favourites is Motorway in the Sky which is the story of the Mancunian Way which when it was built was hailed as exciting and a mark of the new Manchester.

It comes in at just over 400 pages with a mix of colour pictures and is a snip at £14.99.

My only criticism and it is a minor one is that it lacks an index.

But then that will just encourage me to read it all over again.

King Street ...... featured in the book
Now I met Mr Barlow at a recent festival in GMex and decided I wanted the book which I bought today.*

And here is the rub because standing in Chorlton Bookshop I decided that this would be a perfect present for my old friend Gerry who is 70 this week.

But that would mean handing it over before I had fully read it.

On the other hand that would also make public that I had spent the morning reading Gerry’s present.

All of which leaves me no choice but to order a second copy.

Location; Manchester

Picture; cover of Around Manchester, by Wesley Harding

*Around Manchester, Nigel P Barlow, 2016, Manchester Publishing, www.aboutmanchester.co.uk

**Nigel Barlow, http://history.aboutmanchester.co.uk/

Friday, 27 January 2017

The 27 Steps a mystery no more

The Twenty-seven steps, 1959
Just when you think you have pretty much nailed knowing some of the history of Chorlton, up pops an obscure reference which sets you off.


So for about a year now I have been pondering on a caption on a photograph by the local historian John Lloyd where he referred to the 27 steps.

It crops up in a number of pictures and I thought it referred to somewhere along the bank of the Mersey.

I can’t say I had been over energetic in hunting down the spot, consoling myself with the thought that the location had been radically altered and that it had long since passed out of popular knowledge.

Not that I asked anyone.

And like so many other little mysteries it just dropped off the list of things to find out about.

But then Peter Blunn posted this picture on a facebook site which he had come across on the digital archive of Manchester Libraries.

According to the caption this was the “Twenty--seven steps, a noted local landmark on Mauldeth Road West, Manchester 21, railway bridge over BLM Region Main Line to London (St Pancras)”

The railway line and bridge, 1893
The photograph was taken by Mr R.E. Stanley in the September of 1959 and clearly back then the steps were well known.

So one bit of the mystery solved only to lead to another, because the obvious next question is when were the steps constructed?

The line was in place by 1880 and the bridge carrying what is now Mauldeth Road West is there on the OS map for 1893, so still some digging to go.

But I bet there is someone out there who knows.

Picture; Twenty--seven steps, a noted local landmark on Mauldeth Road West, 1959, R.E. Stanley, M18106 courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass and detail of railway line in 1893 from the OS map of South Lancashire, 1888-93, courtesy of Digital Archives Association, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

Posters from the Past ........... no 5 Pullman Dining Pickering to Grosmont

Now here is a poster for my friend Marion Jackson who wrote on Tuesday that  she was enjoying the new series Posters from the Past and "loved the posters you used to see in train carriages." 

And asked if we were going to include "some of the old advertising that was so amusing,  like the ones for wool."

So for Marion and for all those who have never lost their fascination for steam locomotives here is another of our pastiche posters in the style of another time.

"Grosmont developed mainly as a centre of ironstone mining, which flourished during the nineteenth century. 

From here the rock was taken to the Teesside blast furnaces. Grosmont also produced the 'Grosmont brick' from 1870 until 1957, a particularly dense brick which defies being drilled.

Today, the village is dominated by the heritage steam and diesel services operated by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway which runs from Pickering to Grosmont, with an extra service along the Esk Valley Railway line from Grosmont to Whitby on some days during the summer season."**

Now that is about all there is to say, other than just before Christmas we treated Ron to a birthday trip on the East Lancs Railway.

But that is as they say another story, so I shall just finish by asking Marion to tell us more about those wool adverts.

Location; Yorkshire

Poster; Travel By Train, © 2016 Peter Topping
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

*Posters from the Past  https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Posters%20from%20the%20Past

**Route of the Esk Valley Railway, http://www.eskvalleyrailway.co.uk/stations/grosmont.html

Revisiting Marshall Street and the entrance to Marsden Harcombe & Company

Now it’s been a long time since I was down on Marshall Street and so I have no idea if the entrance to the former Marsden Harcombe & Company factory still exists.

Marshall Street, 2015
I knew the building as the Greater Manchester County Records Office which is now in Central Ref and since they moved the place has been empty.

A full year ago I reflected on its future and then as you do forgot about it but Phil Portus has set me off thinking about both the building and Marsden Harcombe & Company again.*

I don’t as yet know when they set up in Marshall Street or when they closed down, but in 1911 James Harcombe, mattress & manufacturer (Marsden, Harcombe & Co) were listed at 19 Highfield Drive Monton” which is a residential property.

So their manufacturing business will have been elsewhere but there is no listing for them on Marshall Street although my eye was caught by The Cosy Workmen’s Home on the corner with Chadderton Street but that will have to wait for another time.

Soap Street, circa 1900
Eventually I tracked the firm to Soap Street which is off Thomas Street and is one of those narrow little places that would not be out of place in a novel by Charles Dickens.

And at some point after 1911 they made that move to Marshall Street but to fasten on the exact date will mean trawling through a pile of directories but I do know that much of the street was still terraced housing at the beginning of the 20th century.

So for now I will just leave you with Phil’s picture and a map of Soap Street from the 1900s . **

And after this was posted, Pauline Sprague Kielty commented that "my Dad and his cousin worked there.maybe in the 30s they made mattresses. Then when Dad was doing the family history 1999 we went there to look up family records as it turned into the records office . Dad noticed the old clocking off clock still attached to the wall."  Magic

Location; Marshall Street, Soap Street, Manchester

Pictures; Marsden Harcombe & Company, Marshall Street, 2015, from the collection of Phil Portus, and Soap Street, 1900, from Goad’s Fire Insurance maps, courtesy of Digital Archive Association, http://digitalarchives.co.uk/

*Lost Images of our Commercial Past ..... part one ........ down on Marshall Street, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/lost-images-of-our-commercial-past-part.html

**Salford Project, http://www.philportus.co.uk/salford-project/


Looking down on Eltham in the late 1960s

The aerial photograph has got to be one of those powerful ways of capturing a scene.

So here we are flying over Eltham sometime in the late 1960s or early 70s.

Over to our left just below the centre of the image is the parish church and behind it on Well Hall Road and the High Street is Burtons now a fast food restaurant.

Travel up the High Street and on the right at the junction with Passey Place is the old ABC cinema.

Now I could go on but rather think the fun of the picture is about leaving it up to you to wander over the view identifying the landmarks.

Location; Eltham, London

Picture; from Looking At Eltham, Eltham Society, 1970, supplied by the Kentish Times

The amazing David Harrop collection is on its travels ............ be the first to display an item

Now anyone who knows David Harrop, will know about his collection which spans two world wars and the history of the Postal Service.

Many of the items from that collection have appeared over the years as stories on the blog and most of the material featured in my book Manchester Remembering 1914-18 was sourced by him.*

The items range from rare photographs and picture postcards, to letters, theatre posters and a lots of everyday ephemera, much of which would usually be thrown away or destroyed.

And amongst the vast cornucopia of “old and historic things” are the big ones, which include pillar boxes, a “posty” bike, a Victorian mail cart and my own favourite which is the RAF clock.

David tells me they have out grown his current storage units and he is looking for somewhere to store some of them for a short period.

And so here is the appeal ............. if you have a spare garage, large secure shed he would be happy to hear from you.

But more than that David is keen for these items from the collection to be seen which leads me to that second appeal to schools, offices or work places who would like a little bit of history to adorn their space to also get in touch with him.

Presently some of his collection is on permanent display in the Remembrance Lodge in Southern Cemetery while in recent years other items have been seen in towns around the North West.

David has various facebook sites where he can be reached or leave a comment on the blog and David will pick it up and be in touch.

Location, pretty much anywhere


Manchester Remembering 1914-18 by Andrew Simpson is published by the History Press on February 2 2017











Order now from the History Press, http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/great-war-britain-manchester-remembering-1914-18/9780750978965/ or Chorlton Book Shop, info@chorltonbookshop.co.uk 0161 881 6374

*A new book on Manchester and the Great War http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/A%20new%20book%20on%20Manchester%20and%20the%20Great%20War

Pictures; from the collection of David Harrop

Thursday, 26 January 2017

In St Ann’s Square ............. high heels and tents on a June afternoon

In any one year you can spend time in St Ann’s Square at the markets, listening to jazz on a sunny day or passing a series of tents.










Location; Manchester

Picture; At Ann’s Square, June 2015 from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Posters from the Past ........... no 4 a book opens the world

Now the series Posters from the Past has arrived in Eltham, and where better to settle than outside our Library.

It was built in 1906 and many of us will have fond memories of the place.

Our Stella worked there in the 1970s and ‘80s, and a decade earlier I sat in its Reference Library and was also a regular visitor to its music section while Jean regularly reminisces about her time there.

All of which means the Library is a perfect candidate for the new series which takes iconic buildings we know and love and offers them up again in the style of a poster from the mid 20th century.

I would like to think that Woolwich Borough Council commissioned one of their team to produce a poster sometime in the 1930s or 40s, but in the absence of one here is Peter’s version.

Poster; Eltham Library, © 2017 Peter Topping
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/paintingsfrompictures

*Posters from the Past,   https://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Posters%20from%20the%20Past

“No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat, At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street”


I have always liked the idea of getting from Chorlton into town in a matter of minutes. It was what made where we live so attractive to the families of those who lived here in the years after the railway arrived.

For some it was the advantage of being able to travel home from the city centre for lunch and be back in time for the afternoon session. So the tram for me just ticked loads of boxes. Not only is it quick but it recreates a little bit of how we used to live. The new railway was so popular that during its first five years the number of season ticket holders rose from 200 to 600.

And the railway didn’t just mean passengers there was also the goods side. Today on the site of Morrison’s and stretching down along Albany Road down to Buckingham Road were three railway tracks and the businesses which relied on the railway to bring the goods. Of these coal was the most obvious. From here operated the coal merchants like Norman Bailey. More than one old friend remembers being sent down to pay for the order of coal.

And then there was also the livestock. The Bailey’s also had the farm at Park Bridge and brought their pigs from the station down to the farm well into the 1950s.

Now Peter’s painting of the tram brings back the excitement of travelling on the railway.

I always think it has a sleek look which is in contrast to the big powerful engines of steam. And it was while I was thinking about a train story that I came across this 1955 picture of Loco Number 73000 passing through the station. In the background is the station and the marshalling yards and beyond them Albany Road.

It is good that the tram has reawakened the old line and put to rest Slow Train that old Flanders and Swann song lamenting the loss of so many branch lines during the Beeching cuts. Written in 1963 it is as much a comment on the end of these railway lines as the passing of a way of life.
“No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat,
At Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street”


Chorlton survived the cuts in 1963 only to close 4 years later and 44 years later it’s possible ride the line again. Not a bad way to close the story on Peter's painting.

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester

Pictures; ©Peter Topping 2011 www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk & Loco Number 73000 passing through Chorlton Station, 1955, the Lloyd collection
comment on the end of these railway lines as the passing of a way of life.