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READER MESSAGES April May 2002 Page 1 | Page 2
Gaumont Cinema Oxford St in the late 1940's Photo by Berne Leng

From: Joan Georgulis, née Hill,,
Location: Austin,Texas USA.
Subject: Gaumont and Manchester of the 1940's

Hi Aidan.... Thank you so much for keeping my memories alive of the Manchester I knew and loved. I enjoyed the pictures of the Gaumont...suprised to hear it has been torn down.

My father used to work there in the late 30's and early 40's. He was the Stock taker/Store keeper for the 'Long Bar.' I have memories of each Monday night, going with my mother and brother to the Gaumont. First we would visit my dad in his office. Someone would always bring us a plate of wonderful sandwiches etc. Then we would be taken upstairs to the Theater. This was such a treat for my brother and I... After the show we would go back to my dad's office..then we would all go home together.

The "picture" houses weren't open on Sundays in those days. One Sunday afternoon, my father had cause to spend an hour or so working, and I went with him. There were a few employees cleaning and doing a few other duties. One of the "bosses" took me to that large Wurlitzer organ, and after climbing up on it, he let me press a few keys. Such a thrill! and the sound that filled the empty theater! Then we rode it down and back up again. Throughout later years whenever I was seated in the audience listening to Reginald Fort play (was it Fort or Dixon)? And the audience singing along, I still got that special feeling, to think that I had "played" that organ.One of many memories, of my growing up years in England.

I notice by the e-mails you receive that so many of us Mancunians have left the homeland for various reasons. I married an American in 1949. Those e-mails that come to you on your website, prove how very much we ex patriates are still tied to England by our memories. Also why so many can't realize the changes that are going on in Manchester. These are the signs of the times...and time does march on.

Ancoats Hospital

I'm afraid I can't help feeling "fixed" in the Manchester of my time....The Ritz, Ted Heath. The Cafe Royal, and a wonderful pianist that played there. Belle Vue, Fireworks, and Dancing, so much fun there. Wilkins Jeweler's on Market Street where I used to work, 1946 to 1949. Ancoats Hospital where I worked on the switchboard for a short time. The Kohinoor (SP)? restaurant on Market Street, and that wonderful smell of coffee beans when you entered, especially on a cold day.

Well, Aidan,I could go on and on. However I had better leave room for the next person. Thanks again, and all the best in your endeavors.

Joan Georgulis, Austin,Texas USA. My maiden name was Hill. Would love to hear from old friends.

Some fantastic recollections, proving that Manchester in the 1940's wasn't such a grim place some people imagine, in fact it sounds like it was full of joy, community spirit and excitement. I can't vouch for this, as I didn't arrive until 1958! That's a great way you've put it "I can't help feeling 'fixed' in the Manchester of my time". I think that's a common effect of going abroad - your memories of when you left remain fresh and unobscured. Market Street seems to have been particularly interesting. One half of it was swept away by the Arndale Centre. If you want a taste of how Market Street might have looked today, you should go to Grafton St in Dublin, with its interesting and varied shops, department stores, and oriental Cafe Bewleys, smelling of coffee. Recently the remains of the former Lyons Popular Cafe, at the top of Market St were pulled down - see picture below.

Ardwick Green - site of demolished Hippodrome straight ahead, Apollo Cinema on the right
Name: Chris Whitburn
Location: Perth Western Australia
Subject: EWM Photographs and Mancunian website

Hi Aidan It is great to see your EWM photographs and articles on the web, they bring back some memories and serve to show the changes that have happened in Manchester. I lived in Manchester until 1981 before moving to Calgary, Alberta. I now live in Perth, Western Australia.

I still have great memories of Manchester, although I have never returned for a visit. As a child I lived close to Ardwick Green, so every Saturday morning is was off to the ABC Minor's Matinee at the Apollo, and to the Hippodrome pantomime every Christmas.

I also lived in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Withington, and Heaton Norris and went to school in Levenshulme. In those days lots of kids enjoyed train-spotting as a hobby and during the school holidays we would sit around one of the stations all day looking for 'Namers'. My local spot was Longsight Station where we would get the Manchester - London Express 'The Mancunian' roaring through the station under a good head of steam out of, the then, London Road Station.

In hindsight we must have been quite a nuisance to the railway staff because we were always trying to sneak into the locomtoive sheds at Longsight. Of course all the best engines were in the rear shed and we would take a very dangerous walk along the tracks by the side of the old carriage shed. We were quite lucky not to have been run down!
Capitol Cinema just before demolition

Seeing your story about 'Top of the Pops' coming from Dickenson Rd reminded me that in the late 60's some TV shows were also recorded at the ABC studios on the corner of Parrs Wood Rd and School Lane in Didsbury. It used to be a cinema but I can't remember the name.

I worked as a waiter in the Parrs Wood Hotel on the opposite corner and remember that they recorded a Hughie Green show on a midweek night, ready for transmission at weekend. At about 9pm the bar became packed as the audience, band, and stars all flocked across for a beer. It was quite usual to be called to a table to take an order for people like Tommy Cooper, Tom Jones, Jim Dale, Hughie Green and many others of that era. I have only just found your site so I have lots to look forward to as troll through your pictures. I must confess that after 20 years I don't recognise many of the areas around the city centre.

Thanks for the effort you put in and keep up the good work. regards Chris Whitburn

Some great reminiscences about the Capitol Theatre on Parrs Wood Road, which was demolished to make way for an apartment development named Capitol Court. The Apollo is still there, but the Ardwick Hippodrome has long since been a vacant site with billboard ads. Railway sidings were places of great fascination in the days of steam and the engines held a special fascination. Well thanks for contacting and very best wishes!

Stevenson Square
Name: Shimon Frais
Subject: My memories of Manchester

I stumbled by chance on your well put-together site on the history and changing face of Manchester.

I left Manchester in the mid-80's and probably would not find my way about so easily anymore. It would be nice to see old photos of some of the places I remember.

The Lancaster Arcade off Shudehill was a gem of Victorian architecture. Stepping inside there felt like a step back to the 1880's. I remember climbing the stairs up to the different levels. Maybe there were three balconied floors within the arcade. I recall seeing the post box attached to the wall with the monogram of Queen Victoria. The only shop I remember was Alwyn's (?) coin and stamp dealers. Here I swapped a pair of cufflinks for a battered 1860 shilling. The arcade seemed to bend round with the curve of the Exchange Building. The entrances in the side of the Exchange were unobrusive - you had to look very hard to find them.

I can also remember Marsden Square, long ago obliterated by the Arndale Centre. Coming out of the back entrance to British Home Stores you found yourself in this square with tall, three or four storey buidlngs that I think now must have been from the early 1800's. Maybe they were cloth warehouses or the offices of some cotton barons. They had little sets of stairs leading up to their entrances. A short, narrow strip of road linked Marsden Square with Cannon Street.

Round the corner, not far from the entrance to Paulden's was a Victorian building serviced by an ancient lift and an equally ancient lift attendant, a job that I suspect no longer exists. One of the floors of this building was occupied by a bazaar. I can just about recall standing on the corner of Oldham St and Stephenson Square watching a red trolley bus departing for distant Stalybridge.

I also went to St.John's College at the same time you were there. I recall an excellent modern history lecturer, Derek Riley. He did much to encourage my interest in this subject.

Finally, in North Manchester, I remember an attractive terrace of hand-loom weavers cottages (or so I imagine they were), set back behind long gardens shaded by huge trees. These houses were next to Cheetham Public Baths, a Victorian red-brick monstrosity. Maybe it was a descendant of the designer of Cheetham Baths that came up with the idea of the Arndale Center?

Next to Cheetham Public Baths used to be a green painted wooden kiosk, right by a huge advertisiing hoarding. A good place to buy jelly babies 40 years ago. I think I can remember the side streets off Cheetham Hill lit by gas until the mid-1960's. I always wanted to stay up so I could see the lamp lighter coming round. Were there still lamp lighters in the early 1960's? I really don't know. In the 1950's and early 1960's people really did still keep their doors unlocked in the terraced streets I remember. I am sure there was crime around then but there definitely was a sense of security, The rent was 21 shillings a week in 1960. The houses I remember were the two up, two down with the privvy at the back of the paved yard, opening onto the cobbled alley. The closeness of the houses and the more basic level people lived at fostered a sense of community.

Finally, I bought a re-issued 5 volume history of Manchester, originally written by a clergyman in 1905. It contains a wealth of Manchester history with interesting illustrations. I am sure you know of these books but I didn't notice any mention of them on your site. Regards, Steven

Wow, some more amazing insights into a lost city - a city which should have been allowed to survive. Few people are aware today of the existence of the Lancaster Arcade - It stood on part of the site of the new Urbis Centre. For a sense of what the area demolished to make way for the Arndale Centre used to be like, you have to go to Stevenson Square, once the terminus of trolley-buses. The old warehouses and commercial buildings preserve a vivid sense of past times. Cheetham, now there's another area steeped in history, which I hope to feature soon.

From: Ted Webber
Location: Australia

Hi Greetings from Australia. I picked your address from the web and wonder if you can help me. I am trying to find info about Frederick Chesters McKinless age 33, who "died suddenly" at the rear of 4 Francis St Chorlton upon Medlock on the 15th April 1900. An inquest was held 16th April. Is it possible that you have acess to a newspaper report or the inquest? I have reason to believe that this man was my great grandfather. Any help greatly appreciated. regards Ted Webber

Chasing that information up would be a job of research, which unfortunately I don't have the time to do. Is there anyone out there who can help?

The Didsbury and Ye Olde Cock Inn
From: fiona hall
Location: Australia

Dear Aidan, Yesterday I saw Eyewitness in Manchester for the first time.

I was overjoyed to see the Didsbury photographs as my family has lived there for 60 years. My father is blind but I read the text to him and he was picturing it all in his head. He is now 83 and has been blind for a very short time so is still finding it hard to live with, this has given him great pleasure although he longed to see the photographs.

My father was born at 182 Ogden Lane Openshaw in his Grandmother Irwin's house. The family of Irish stock came from St.Helens. Dad's family emigrated to Canada when he was 5 but when he was 15, during the depression, they sent him back on his own to his Grandmother. The family at this time were living at 12 Granville Lane in Fallowfield. My Great Grandmother a widow and my three Great Aunts, Rachel, Emily and Hannah.

Aunt Hannah was on her own with three children so it was quite a large household. Great Uncles Sam and John were not living at home and Great Aunt Ruth was married and living in Ireland.

My Grandparents returned to England two years later. My Great-grandmother and Great Aunts with children, had moved to Didsbury in the 30's so they stayed together for a short time until my Grandparents got a home of their own in Didsbury. My Uncle Arthur and family still live in the same house he moved into with his parents and brother ( my Father) all those years ago.

My Mother, Father and I lived next door but one to them in the house previously owned by my Great Aunts until we emigrated to Australia in 1963. Uncle Reg lived with us. My Great Aunts moved to a flat in the village.

In the 50's my Mother's brother lived in Didsbury also. Dad and Uncles John, Reg and Tom all drank in the Crown. Around this time Great Aunt Ruth after the death of her husband, returned from Ireland with cousin David.

My large and unusually close family have quite a history with the Manchester children's department. My Great Aunt Emily Irwin was the matron of Cambrian Street schools, Cambrian House at Whalley Range and Broome House in Didsbury. My Great Aunt Hannah Baker worked at Styal Homes and was Assistant Matron at Cambrian House and Broome House. Great Aunt Rachel Irwin was a housemother at Styal. My Grandmother worked at Doctor Rhodes Memorial Homes in West Didsbury. My Parents Bill and Jean Doherty worked at Styal Homes as houseparents, My Mother worked at Summerhill boys Hostel in West Didsbury, we lived there for a time.

From Cambrian Street school right through to Broome house my Aunt Em had a young lady , another Jean and her sister Muriel working with her. Jean eventually married my Uncle Arthur and is now my Aunt.

The amazing Irwin's. They were all smart, funny and young in heart and very gracious. They coped with jobs and family with unending good humour and patience. I was lucky enough to have them in my young life and have memories of wonderful family Christmas's with my cousins. Aunt Em on the piano . The Aunts made everyone do a party piece and smiled and clapped no matter how dreadful it was. I so vividly remember my Dad saying briskly " Very nice Fiona, now sit down" as his nerves could stand no more of my out of tune warbling!!! while the Aunts sat and smiled sweetly, making me feel like a star.

My Father who had the most glorious voice would be persuaded to sing their favourites, "I'll take you home again Kathleen" and "Isle of Innesfree ". amongst them. Wonderful memories but Dad has so many more.

Dad and Uncle Reg would do everything together when they were boys and young men before and after the war. They still remember playing soccer and cricket in the Didsbury Parks and darts in the Crown. They were good at everything. Now memories are very important to him, so thank you. Fiona Hall

Tulips in Heaton Park

I can't tell you how much it means to me that your father is enjoying my photographs even though unfortunately he has lost his eyesight. The gift of sight is obviously very important to me and I don't take it for granted. I have vivid memories from my earliest childhood of experiencing the rich and vibrant colours of flowers, especially deep saturated purples and vivid reds.

In our local park - Alexandra Park Edgeley, Stockport - there was a flower garden for the blind. Plaques printed with braille gave descriptions of the flowers. As a child I wondered what it would be like never to be able to see those deep and powerful colours. I remember there was a blind man who used to get on the number 30 bus near the park. He wore a light buff raincoat and carried a white stick.

I love to take flower photos even today, though I don't know the names of all the flowers. I need a 'phone a friend' flower expert! An ideal of mine is to fully describe the contents of every photo, so that blind people are able to picture it in their mind's eye. Looks like you are helping to do that job for me! Thanks for your message and please pass on my best regards to your father.

Manchester Opera House

Name: Thelma Hamer
Subject: pictures of Manchester.

Dear Mr O'Rourke, I just had to write and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your wonderful photos of Manchester and surrounding areas. You have given me HOURS of pleasure revisiting old memories.

I am an expat living in Canada now and have no prospects of being able to return to my old country so you can imagine how excited I am about your work. I revisited, through you, Wythenshawe Park where I used to play as a child and the Opera House where my mother used to take me, and Piccadilly where I used to get on the bus and spend my allowance at Lewis's (a thing that childrens can no longer do unaccompanied).

I even saw an area where my grandmother used to live that has now been obliterated.

God Bless you and thank you once more. Mrs Thelma Hamer

Thank you very much indeed for your kind comments. It means a a lot to me to know that people are looking at the photographs and using them as a way of exploring Manchester and their memories of it. Ever since I was a child I've been keenly aware of the world around me, though it's only recently I have developed the technique of capturing that world in photographs and sharing it with others. We all have streets, parks, gardens and local districts which mean a lot to us. Most photographers seem to view our commonplace environment as a poor choice of photographic subject, but I find it very very interesting, and will continue to photograph it and present it online.

Northcliffe House Deansgate and the former Lyons Popular Cafe Piccadilly. Two quintessential pieces of Manchester destroyed in early 2002.

From:  "Eunice Barnwell" 
Location: South Australia
Subject:  Mancunian

Hi Adrian,
Just had to write and let you know how much pleasure (and angst) your feature on Manchester city centre has given me. The angst due to the monstrous new buildings, Deansgate is a mess and the desecration of the Piccadilly area, how can they erect a concrete wall there? As an ex-Mancunian living in S. Australia for 37 years it is wonderful to see and hear what is happening back home. I grew up in Prestwich and we have been back in 1986 and 1996. The changes were so great that it was saddening for me in a way, we always like to think our past will always be there. You have done  a wonderful job on the history of Ancoats.  I am very familiar with the city as  my working life 1956 to 1961 was spent in various jobs around the city. I have looked at Liverpool also and will recommend this page to 2 ex- Liverpool friends.

Having visited Liverpool several times, including the Albert Dock and having experienced the Ship Canal Cruise you can understand my appreciation of your work. My husband and I are now in our 60's and he is infirm and not likely to travel home again. Thank you for your articles and your obvious love of the region.
Eunice and Bob Barnwell

I've taken photographs all over the UK and all over the world, - the north west region offers an amazing wealth of stunning images to capture. I'm sorry to hear your husband isn't likely to be able to travel home. I hope my photographs will at least offer a form of 'armchair tourism' - no substitute for the real thing, but cheaper and more convenient! Oh by the way it's Aidan, not Adrian!

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