Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Barlow Hall, a court case and the promise of a park for Chorlton and Didsbury on the banks of the Mersey

It was one of those stories that you uncover by accident and will require lots more research but that won’t stop me beginning the tale.

Now I had been crawling over the Manchester Guardian looking for references to the opening months of the Great War and amongst other things there was a series of articles about the Corporation’s intention to buy the Barlow Hall estate and turn it into a park.

Lord Egerton had signalled his wish in the April of 1914 to sell the land for £50,00, which the Manchester Guardian reported “works out at more than a £150 an acre [and which] at present brings in an income of about £900 a year.  

The Parks Committee, in addition to inspecting the property, have had it valued at £30,800, or about £95 an acre.  

Their advisor in arriving at this figure took into consideration the fact that nearly 300 acres of the land is low lying, which raises difficulties in the matter of drainage and limits its usefulness, except of course, for such purposes as farming, recreation, and sewage treatment.”*

Added to which the Egerton estate reserved “the rights of drainage for the adjoin high land at present draining into the lower levels; provision for a quarter of the cost of maintain the river banks and certain restrictions affecting the use of the land for building, advertising and sewage purposes.  On the other hand, 

Lord Egerton would provide an entrance road, 80ft wide from Barlow Moor Road to Barlow Hall; a right of way, 50ft wide from Hardy Lane, Chorlton and an entrance to the land from Darley Avenue, in West Didsbury.”

Now there was opposition with letters to the Manchester Guardian, but at a small meeting of the Chorlton-cum-Hardy Ratepayers Association a decision approved the purchase but the members present were concerned about the impact on the Golf Club whose links was owned by the Egerton estate and would be part of the purchase.

Despite the cost the Parks Committee decided to recommend the purchase to the Council in the September with Alderman Harrop arguing that this was a good deal particularly as it meant the acquisition of Barlow Hall for £25,000.

And that is as far as I have got although thee are also some fascinating glimpses into the life of the Hall when it was still the residence of Cunliffe Brooks which came from a high profile court case in 1900-01 which centred around the attempt of his widow and daughter to prove that his main domicile was Scotland, but that is for another time.

Pictures; Bluebell Wood, Barlow Ley, circa 1900, and west front of Barlow Hall, circa 1900 from the Lloyd Collection

*The Proposed South Manchester Park, Manchester Guardian, April 30, 1914

The one we have all forgotten ...... in the Square in 1978

I say the one we have all forgotten, but for many it will be a scene they have never experienced.

We are in St Ann’s Square looking towards Exchange Street with St Mary’s Gate beyond on a warm sunny day in 1978.

Back then you negotiated your way around parked cars, and waiting taxis while in the distance was that parade of shops which stretched down from the old Marks and Spencer’s with its bending canopy.

Today that building has gone, as have the parked cars and taxis and from our vantage point there is a clear view across New Cathedral Street which was cut when the area was redeveloped after the bomb.

Location; St Ann’s Square

Picture; St Ann’s Square, 1978, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

Memories of the Co-op, a tram journey and a live eel

I am always on the lookout for memories of Eltham and Woolwich before today, and so I was pleased when Jean shared some of her childhood ones.

Now if you are of a certain age you will more than likely remember your Co-op Divi number, this you offered up every time you purchased something from the local store.  There were also those light weight brass and tin tokens.

It always seemed to fall to me to slip down Well Hall Road to the RACS for the odd thing which of course meant remembering the number.  But then they went over to those blue stamps which long ago had their day and now I have a card which I hand over at the till.

But enough of me.  Jean also had those Co-op chores.

"I remember the tin tokens my granny used to get from the Co-op in Welling- she always let my cousin and I sort them all out around Christmas time and then she took us both to the Co-op in Woolwich to exchange them for real money. 


I used to love seeing the little brass things whizzing around that Co-op taking cash from one place to another, I suppose. 

We used to get to Woolwich by Trolley Bus - once and only once she took us on to a Tram, I loved every minute of this but Bryan was sick as a dog so the experience was never repeated.  

She always used to tell us as we got on the Trolley Bus that we would have to leave Woolwich by four o'clock as that was when the knives came out. Amusing this, years ago, but not so funny now in the light of that dreadful killing in Woolwich of that poor soldier recently.  


Thinking of Trams reminds me of a story she told me about my Grandfather (one of Granny Morris's sons and the baby on her lap in the old photo I think I sent you). 

He worked in the Woolwich Arsenal and came home to Welling by Tram. 

He loved eels and often bought some live ones in Beresford Market. One day they fell out of the container straight into a lady's lap!!  

Hysterics all round (I would have died)."

Pictures; number 46 tram, courtesy of the Eltham Society on its way to Woolwich circa 1940s and Beresford Square, in the middle decades of the last century, courtesy of Mark Flynn, http://www.markfynn.com/london-postcards.htm

Walkng the streets of Manchester in 1830 in the company of J. T. Slugg and in search of Antonio Preduzzi.


St Ann's Church, 1793
I am on the streets of Manchester in the early 1830s in the company of J T Slugg* and in search of Antonio Preduzzi.

Over the last few days I have been exploring that Italian connection with the city and it has led back from Little Italy in Ancoats at the end of the 19th century  to the Preduzzi brothers who came from Lombardy and settled here in 1810 starting up a series of successful businesses.

They were living in what at the time was reckoned to be one of the most exciting places in Britain and which was talked about  as a model of the new age.

Here could be seem the raw enterprise and keen innovation of the new capitalism reflected in the ever increasing number of cotton mills, dye works and the acres of poorly constructed homes for a workforce which was increasing every day.

And because these men of industry wanted a quicker and cheaper way of transporting their products to and from Liverpool they built a railway which was not just a railway but the first passenger railway using technology which would define how locomotives were built and pretty much set the seal on how a railway would be run.

Of course we all know that behind those smoking power houses of cotton manufacture and great show warehouses there were the mean and narrow streets leading to even meaner and darker courts where little light or fresh air penetrated but which were home to all those who toiled for long hours and little remuneration.

This is that other side of the new way of doing things and was much commentated on by Dr Kay, Dr Gaultier, Frederic Engels and a possession of curious visitors.

And as revealing as these accounts are of the horrors of Manchester they are often paraded at the expense of the more benign descriptions of the city in the 1830s and 40s and for this I have turned to J.T. Slugg who arrived fresh faced and not long out of his teens from Bacup in the March of 1829.

The Infirmary, 1824
Fifty years later he set down his memories of the place which began with a walk up Market Street to Piccadilly and the Infirmary.

Less than a decade before he had arrived in the city this main thoroughfare had still been a narrow way flanked on either side by buildings which dated back a century or more.

These were home to taverns, sweet and bookshops the odd warehouse and a number of coaching offices. And in an age soon to be dominated by the railway it is a fitting reminder that for long distance travel the stage coach was still supreme.

And this was still at a time when “there was a very heavy duty on all kinds of glass, and as a consequence not a single shop-window contained any plate glass, but were composed of small squares of ordinary glass.”**

These would have been the sort of shop fronts that would have been familiar to Antonio and his brother.

He had opened a shop as a picture dealer in Spear Street around 1810, and later moved to Tib Street before settling at 31 Oldham Street. By this time, he was trading as a carver and gilder, and maker of looking glasses and picture frames. Oldham Street in the 1820s was a wide street containing ‘some very elegant shops and houses’.  Antonio's shop was above a confectioner's on the right-hand side from Swan Street.

The Infirmary, 1793
Here he framed and glazed needlework, drawings and pictures; re-gilded and silvered old frames and mirror plates; and made and repaired barometers, thermometers and hydrometers.

He also had premises at 44 Deansgate in the early 1820s and in 1831, to larger premises at 33 Piccadilly, opposite the Infirmary.

Like his previous shop, this one was on the first floor with a flight of steps leading up to it. The shop extended quite a long way back and had two long counters and a little sitting room beyond. There were also workshops on the premises.“***

This placed him in a prime position  which he shared with a few other shops, some rather fine houses and the offices of the Manchester and Salford Waterworks Company which supplied the town with its drinking water.

33 Picadilly, the shop of Preduzzi & Co
Directly opposite was the Infirmary which “was a plain brick building  [and also] included the lunatic asylum.  Infrontwas the sheet of water known as the Infirmary Pond, separated from the footpath by palisading.  

At the Infirmary gates stood the public baths, the income arising from them being appropriated to the support of the Infirmary.  

The charge for the cold bath to non subscribers was 1s.; to subscribers of half-a-guinea, 10d.; and to those of a guinea, 9d.  

The price of a vapour bath was 5s; of a vapour and hot bath when used together, 6s.; and of the shampooing bath, 7s.”****


And while we are familiar with the huge show warehouses like S & J Watts on Portland Street which were built expressly to showcase the products of our textile mills, there was not a “single warehouse in either of these streets, Mosley Street, Portland Street, Peter Street, Oxford Road or Dickenson Street” but soon enough they would make their appearance at the cost of hundred of buildings in the neighbourhood which would be destroyed.

I don’t know what Antonio made of these changes which were transforming his adopted city.  When he had arrived in 1810 it was still possible to walk in to open fields just a short way along Oldham Road while to the south all of Hulme, Moss Side and Chorlton on Medlock were pleasant open space.

And yet by his death in the Chorlton Workhouse in 1846 great swathes of these spaces were the preserve of terraced houses, cotton mills and dye works.

Pictures;St Anne's Church and Manchester Infirmary from the Laurent map 1793, 33 Piccadilly and the Infirmary from the 1844 OS of Manchester & Salford, by permission of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/ the buildings opposite the infirmary including the premise of Peduzzi & Co, 1824, m5291, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council  

*J.T. Slugg, Reminiscenes of Manchester, 1881
** Slugg, chapter 1
*** Collections Department, Museum of Science & Industry
**** Slugg, chapter 1

Painting Salford .....no 5 under grey skies

Now the thing about a panting rather than a photograph is that the artist can have more control over the dominant emotion that the work is meant to convey.

Which isn’t to say that a photograph can’t come close either by the use of light, or how the image is cropped, but with a painting the artist can decide what he/she wants to see rather than what is actually out there.

And that is what I think we have got here with Peter’s painting of the Imperial War Museum North.

Anyone who knows his work will be familiar with the “Topper sky” which is always bright and very blue.

But not here, not with this painting of the museum.  Of course anyone who has stood at any one of the Metro stops around the Quays or up on the Cornbrook platform will recognise that grey grim sky which often brings with it  a biting wind and a fair amount of very wet driving rain.

But leaving that aside I rather think his choice of sky fits well with the metal roof of the building and the much of the subject matter contained in the IWMN.

Peter and I rarely discuss his paintings in advance of them being sent over, so as I sit here I then interpret what I see and write the story in much the same way as he fixes his painting from the landscape.

So it will be interesting to see what he says.

Location; Salford,

Painting; Imperial War Museum North, Painting © 2016 Peter Topping, Paintings from Pictures.
Web: www.paintingsfrompictures.co.uk

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Down behind Deansgate Station with the memory of a dark and forbidding period in our history

I think it must be a full decade since I wandered around the small network of streets behind Deansgate railway station.

During the 1980s and into the turn of the last century the area bounded by Commercial Street, Jackson Street and Omega Place was part of a series of guided walks and talks  I did around this part of the city.*

They had started as a study of Liverpool Road Railway station grew to include the pubs, surviving houses in Castlefield along with the canal basin and spread out across Deansgate.

Back in the 1980s much of the area was still a place waiting for something to happen, and now thirty years later this has happened.  The empty and derelect buildings have either been converted into smart office and residential properties or been replaced by tall 21st century glass and steel structures.

But Andy Robertson has managed to capture a little of what I remember and looking at his pictures it is easy to conjure up those walks I made and something of what the area was like back in the mid 19th century.

Over two decades ago I wrote that

“in a small area which still keeps the original place names of Commercial Street, Jordan Street and Omgea Place, the 1853 Sanitary report records two hundred people living there in what is now a small car park.  It was still possible in the mid 1980s to see the levelled walls of the buildings at ground level.

Chorlton-upon-Medlock which also neighbours Castlefield and includes Little Ireland, had a population in 1851 of 35,546 squeezed into 6,951 houses.


The high numbers of people who were buried in the St Johns graveyard can further attest this density of living in the area. 

Between 1848-51 the burial records show 457 deaths, which is matched by an inscription, which reports that 22,000 lie in the park. 

Similar data comes from Angel Meadow where 44,000 people were buried between 1789-1816."  

The 1853 report commented that the houses on Omega Place were by no the worst properties that could be found in the area but still rereading the report is to be transported into a world of overcrowding, poor sanitation and grim prospects.

Which just leaves me to add that this was once Knott Mill Railway Station.

Pictures; Little Peter Street & Commercial Street, 2014, from the collection of Andy Roberston

*Castlefield, http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Castlefield

**Report on the Sanitary Condition of Certain Parts of Manchester, M126/5/1/13, Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, quoted in Castlefield, Andrew Simpson, 2003



Snaps of Chorlton No 8 the loss of Rowe House


An occasional series featuring private and personal photographs of Chorlton.

Row House had stood on the corner of Beech and Acres Road from the early 19th century.

It had been home to the Blomely’s who also gave their name to the fish pond which stretched up Beech Road, and was later lived in by William Batty, politician, jeweller and Methodist

For a while the house was also used as our “Penny Reading Room”, while the adjoining building had been a laundry and factory.

None of which saved it from the developer.

Picture; from the collection of Lawrence Beedle