Greetings on a beautiful spring morning! As the local history group isn’t meeting I’ve decided to write a regular blog instead. One of very few advantages of the current situation is that people who can leave the house are walking far more and exploring their neighbourhoods. Looking at buildings and places in a slow and more considered way opens up all sorts of historical puzzles. I’ve been revisiting places I haven’t been to for a long while and discovering many new nooks and crannies of history. I’ll share these on the blog over the next few weeks. A lot of the things I’ve seen raise questions – so if anyone has any information about them please comment on the blog.
My first observation is a stone halfway up a building on Barlow Road in Levenshulme – located at the Cromwell Grove end of the road, opposite the old swimming pool, next to a row of shops and at the beginning of the cobbled entry. It looks like a foundation stone which has been relocated in Levenshulme on a more recent building, hence the different dates – 1904 relates to the date of the block of shops, 1845 is the date of the original location of the stone. Toni from the group found that Rev Richard Bassnett (1800-1865) was the rector of St James’ Church in Gorton from 1831. He also baptised a Richard Bassnett Preston in 1855, probably a relative through his mother’s family, who went on to become a church architect. Preston designed many local churches, including St Andrew’s Levenshulme and St Werbergh’s, Chorlton, and his designs were described as “impeccably correct in detail, built to last until the Day of Judgement, and very, very dull!” .
St James’ was originally a chapel which existed from at least 1562. Bassnett clearly organised its rebuilding, probably as Gorton grew during the industrial revolution – he presumably didn’t pay for it himself! The current church of St James was built in 1871, so it looks like Bassnett’s church didn’t last very long – I haven’t been able to find any prints or photos of it.
But there is a puzzle… Why did the stone end up in the wall of a block of shops in Levenshulme? There is a gap between the demolition of Bassnett’s church (probably about 1870) and the building where the stone is currently located (1904). Perhaps the stone was saved as an object of curiosity and randomly placed in its current place? Or perhaps there is another reason. In 1904 a certain O.H. had their initials carved into the stone. Who was O.H.? Any suggestions gratefully received…
In the light of Government guidelines and the nature of our group we have taken the decision not to meet for the foreseeable future. We wish all our members well and look forward to meeting again as soon as possible!
The group recently spent the afternoon mapping the shops on Burnage Lane. The recall of some of the members was truly remarkable and, between us, we managed to locate most of the shops and other commercial buildings from the later 1940s onwards. This led to much reminiscing about the the variety of shops and what was available in Burnage. There were different blocks of shops (i.e. the crossroads at Mauldeth Road, the crossroads at Grangethorpe Road, Green End roundabout etc), but each one had a grocer, a greengrocer and a newsagents. This meant that people didn’t have far to go to buy their basic necessities. Locals could also buy children’s clothes, shoes, medicines, hardware and many other things in Burnage, although Alison noted that there was no fishmonger. It was also interesting that people’s shopping was confined to a very narrow locality – no one was able to remember the shops on Lane End even though it borders Burnage/Didsbury.
On a very cold January afternoon, after a morning flurry of snow, the group braved the elements for visit to the old heart of Stockport. We began our visit to St Mary’s Church, located on the edge of the market place of the old medieval town. The large parish church was originally medieval, but only the original chancel survives, and the rest of the church dates from 1813. Apparently the locals were ringing the bells with such enthusiasm after the victory at Trafalgar that the tower and church were in danger of collapsing and had to be demolished.
We spent a fascinating hour at the church and, in particular, the heritage centre in the vestry. This contains a remarkable collection of local photos and exhibits and can be recommended to anyone with an interest in the history of the area. The volunteers at the centre were very helpful and well informed.
After fortifying ourselves with hot drinks we continued our trip with a tour of Staircase House, a rare survival of a merchant’s house that spans the centuries from the later middle ages to the Victorian period. The house is a warren of rooms, each dressed for the different eras with period furniture and fittings. It provides an illuminating insight into the evolution of a domestic building, its building materials and functions, and you feel as if you are stepping back in time as you pass through the rooms. Some of the group found the uneven floors and the audio guide tricky to navigate (particularly the audio guide set to German!), but overall it was an excellent trip and can be heartily recommended! Many hadn’t visited before and are planning a return trip.
One of the members of our group, Ann, recently brought a milk bottle to a meeting that was dug up in her garden. The bottle dates from around the mid-C20 and has the name of the dairy embossed on the glass – Norris & Sons, Dahlia Farm, Burnage. Here are Ann’s memories of Mr Norris…
Henry Norris , son of J. Norris and Sons
I was born in 1941 at 9, Enfield Avenue, Eastern Circle, Burnage. Mr Norris live in Rose Cottage, Burnage Lane in front the Paragon Laundry, later Smart’s.
He had a lovely brown horse and a well painted cart in cream with brown writing with I think his name. Mr Norris was a lovely man, tubby build, very rosy cheeks and a gravely voice. He wore a brown old trilby hat and brown corduroy trousers.
Each Saturday morning with my friend Rose Slack who lived next door, we would wait for Mr Norris and help deliver the milk in the Circle. Of course, we had a motive!It was so we could have ride on the cart. We loved it.
In “Carry on Burnage” by Dennis Lloyd Nadin, a Peter Lakin recalls his father worked as a milkman for Norris Dairy on Burnage Lane.
We will be going on a trip to Stockport on Tuesday 28th January – visiting St Mary’s Church and Staircase House. We will be leaving from Burnage Library at approximately 1.00 pm and returning by about 5.00 pm. If anyone would like to join us please make contact through the blog and we will try to arrange transport.
We are delighted to be welcoming Dr Ali Ronan back to group on Tuesday February 4th, to present the new documentary she has been recently working on. Ali will be introducing the documentary and taking questions at the end.
This documentary tells the story of the women who met to protest the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty in 1919. Drawing activists from the international campaign to get the vote, the women wanted to prevent all future wars. They became the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom (WILPF) which is still working today.
“Versailles 1919: Return of the Dangerous Women” is a short documentary (20 minutes) directed by Charlotte Bill and made by Clapham Film Unit, a collective of filmmakers working with communities to tell stories not told elsewhere. It was researched by and features volunteers from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
All our meetings are free and everyone is welcome to attend. We will be meeting at 14.00 at Burnage Library. Come and join us for lively discussion, tea and biscuits!