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READER MESSAGES June-Aug 2002


Collapsed street ' The Landslide' Great Clowes St, SalfordFrom: Nigel Day
Subject: Landslide

Dear Aidan,

I have just discovered 'Eyewitness' and have become totally engrossed in the various pieces of correspondence. I really could do with some help on this one as I can find no reference to the particular incident on any web site searches. You are my only hope!!

Back in the 70's as a pupil at Brentnall Primary School, Bury New Road, I would play with my friends in the area facing the school known locally as the Landslide. We used to stare in amazement at the tram tracks just hanging over the cliff not knowing what or when it happened!

When did the side of the road cave in taking the tracks with it down to the banks of the Irwell and what actually happened? Where trams thrown down and did any houses fall? I do seem to remember at the base of the cliff old remnants of Victorian walls and gate pillars?

I still pass every day on my way to work in Manchester and the mystery still niggles away at me!!

Many thanks in anticipation of your help.

Nigel Day

After receiving your message, I went and took a look at the Landslide, where the top of Great Clowes Street collapsed and fell down the Cliff towards the River Irwell below. I'm told by my adviser on this area, Cllr Jim King, that the landslide took place around 1927. The tramlines used to run along here and disappeared down the embankment along with the cobblestones, walls and railings. Even now, part of the street is left and the tramlines are still there. Salford Local History Library have more information, including newspaper cuttings so that's the place to go. Thanks very much for your message - I've learned something new!



RAY O'NEILL
Well done Aidan, once again you have proved to me that you should be the official historian of 20th / 21st century City of Manchester. I agree in a lot of the problems with the gardens and surrounding area, however I think eventually it will fit in the minds of people as a place to go to meet and chat and have lunch. I feel however that there should be more trees across the lawns and more flower beds along the edges.

In Portland here we have the Pioneer square that was built on public money by the sale of individual bricks that had the names of the family/families on them , with Doric style columns up and lying sideways as though incomplete but with lots of trees, I think you will find that in the book I sent you.

Keep up the good work. Ray O'Neill
Ray O'Neill

Thanks very much - People will probably become accustomed to the Gardens and forget completely how it used to be. What their reaction will be to the office block is another matter. I'll have a look in the book of Portland 'Then and Now' which Ray kindly sent me, and takes pride of place on my bookshelf. Official historian? That would be an honour - and to think that at school I found history boring and gave it up!


Gorton Monastery Interior 1999Gordon Simpson
Dear Aidan I was fortunate enough to visit Gorton Monastery and was impressed by the splendour and scope of the building. It must have in its heydey been a truly wonderful place of worship. My thoughts tried to conjure up what it was like in previous years. I had a go yet was constantly hampered by thoughts of neglect and vandalism so it was hard to imagine. Ican only assume that it was a magnificant social and theological hub of a once thriving pre housing development community. I was told the decline was due to falling people numbers yet when new houses were built surely did they not need the monastery its social centres and its schools. I attribute the real reason to that root of all evil, money, or the lack of it. The order could not afford it the Salford Diocese could or did not want to take it on nor did the people of the parish it served. Result left to ruin. Yet now they have found funds via charity commissions lottery grants et al to refurbish it in a completly different notion which is all too common a business and conference centre not a church. I'm not really whinging, as its a better option to demolition. It just seems ironic in 1989 no money decay of fine heritage. 2002 found money no monastery. What are your thoughts on this? By the way good luck and best wishes to all involved in the restoration project.

Gordon Simpson 4 Fern Close MIddleton M24 2FZ.

Since the 1980's times have changed - In that decade, Manchester was still suffering the effects of industrial decline. Other factors involving local and national government also played a role. The net result was that there was no money to continue to maintain the monastery. There was a redevelopment proposal, but it fell through and the building was left in a kind of limbo. In earlier decades it probably would have been demolished. It was left unoccupied and was vandalised. Many precious artefacts disappeared. Nowadays things have changed. There are plenty of sources of money, prosperity is growing and there is a feelgood factor, though there is still a lot of work to do in east Manchester. To me, it seems wrong to use a church for any other purpose than that for which it was built, but there have been many examples of church buildings being put to new uses, so why not this one? Thanks as ever for your contribution.


Joyce Throsby, who grew up in LevenshulmeKen Hindle

Hi Aidan
Thank you so very much for your article on Levenshulme and particularly the comments by Joyce. As I read through the captions I was continually conscious of the familiarity of her comments, for I too lived in Levenshulme. You can imagine my surprise when I got to the last page to find that the Joyce making all the comments was my own sister, my youngest sister, for there are six of us, myself being the elder brother Ken. Then there's -in age group- Jean, JOYCE, Arthur, Eric & Paul, all of us spending many years of our lives in Worsley Grove.

I've spent many nights at the Palais-de-dance, been to the Aradia both when it was a cinema & as a skating rink, around 1938-9, I think, in fact my grandfather helped put the new floor in for it. We used to go the the Grand cinema & the Regal which was just up the road from it on the opposite side of Stockport Rd. Later it - the Regal- became one of the first Tenpin Bowling Alleys. I was married in St Peters Church on August 1st 1953, so my wife Bud, & I celebrate our fiftieth anniversary next year. Jean and Derrick celebrated theirs on June 5th 2002. Let me tell Aidan you made my day with this article on Levenshulme. Keep up the good work.
Regards
Ken Hindle
Thanks very much indeed for your comments - It's a small world - you in Australia and Joyce here in Manchester and you are brought together via the Internet - and my website. Back in 1938, we could scarcely imagine what would happen in the future. Flying cars? No. Instant communication across the globe, nostalgia and reminiscing on the past? Yes!


Christian McKie
e-mail:
Subject: nostalgic expats
I can't help get slightly ticked off by a large proportion of emails posted on the Eyewitness site from people who left Manchester 30, 40 or more years ago for a life in Australia, New Zealand & Canada. A life free of back to back slums with out door privvies, poor water supplies, high rates of infant mortality, smog and the endless grind working in dirty, hazardous factories only to come home in the endless rain to a sub standard diet of chips AGAIN with gravy.
Now, 40 or so years later after a either a visit home or looking at developments covered on your site the collective cry appears to be "all those changes are for the worse" "it doesn't seem like home anymore" "not like the GOOD OLD DAYS" etc.
What I would like to know is what was so good about the filthy conditions people lived in back in the 50s & 60s? How could life have been better then than it is today. Do these expats expect the people of Manchester today to put up with those conditions and inequalities just to keep their past memories alive? If so then how terribly selfish of those who took the first opportunity that arose to jump ship.

You raise a lot of very interesting and valid points here, and it's all to do with peoples' perceptions. Yes, many expats have fond memories of the Manchester of earlier times, and don't like the changes. Their perception of Manchester was a place of childhood happiness with a strong sense of community. Your perception of the Manchester of that time is very much the traditional picture of old Manchester, that of the grim industrial town full of back to backs and smoky chimneys. Even today, some people in the south of England think Manchester is still like that.

But the truth about the so-called grim industrial town is more difficult to pin down. In the 1950's many people in Manchester lived in pleasant semi-detached houses - there was smog in the winter, but there were hot summers too - and there were outdoor swimming pools to go to. There are all gone now. Small children played out on the street and took the bus to school. There were slums, but no back to back houses - back to back means 'sharing a rear wall' - These had virtually all been demolished by the 1930's. Manchester was smoke-blackened, much of it derelict and laden with a depressing atmosphere of the past, but it had a very distinctive character, with many buildings, squares and attractions which were not to survive for much longer. What we need to do is bring our perceptions closer to reality - the reality of the past and the reality of the present - That's what I'm trying to do in Eyewitness in Manchester. Thanks for your comments!




Subject: Dolphins at Sharston Baths
Hi Aidan, I remember seeing a dolphin show at Sharston baths in the early seventies, I was wondering if you could guide me in the right direction to find out more about this show. I was about 6 years old. When mention it to people they look at me like I'm daft.
I'd be very grateful if you could help, if not may I thank you for your time in reading this and also take this opportunity to say keep up the good work regarding the history of our great city.
yours expectantly,
Keith Holland
Youth Program Worker
Manchester YMCA
I mentioned this to film director John McCormack, who grew up in Wythenshawe, and he remembers the dolphin show. Sharston baths are of course now gone, replaced by houses. They are one of the many public baths in Manchester which were closed in advance of the - in my opinion - disappointing Commonwealth Games pool. Another place where you would have seen water-borne entertainment was Belle Vue Showgrounds, but they have gone too. Manchester is regaining much of its greatness, but many priceless assets were allowed to disappear, and it's still happening today. Thanks for your message.

Keep up the great work in providing us with this outlet to indulge in nostalgia for the Manchester of our childhood. Should you get round to writing a new section on Cheetham Hill, please could you include a photograph of Paisley Terrace? It was just to the north of Cheetham Hill Library. This library is an attractive Edwardian building in a grey stone and with stained glass windows. I think the architecture is called Art Nouveau, or something like that. Anyway, it is a building full of the civic pride of the early 1900's.

Getting back to Paisley Terrace, it opened up rather ignominously with a Victorian public covenience on its left hand side but the remainder of this short cul-de-sac might have been a film set for a Dicken's Novel. It was on a hill I seem to remember. It was a little corner of old Cheetham Village set in a time bubble for it had apparently escaped the later shopping developments in the area. This quaint little corner must have survived up to about 30 years ago. I wonder if anyone else remembers it?
The building of the Cheetham Precinct in the 1970's brought about the Arndalization of the upper reaches of Cheetham Village. The pedestrian walkways, the "seen one seen them all" shop fronts, and the benches for street gangs to lounge around, replaced a run-down, but certainly more civilised area of individualised shops and businesses. I have yet to see one of these mass-produced concrete shopping areas that has a welcoming feel or even just a touch of atmosphere.
Looking forward to future updates of your site.
With my best wishes,
Steven Frais

Yes, I agree about those shopping developments. As for Paisley Terrace, I'm including it on my list of 'requested locations', so we can see what it looks like now. Much of the character and feel of a place is in the details - such as cobbled streets, flagstones, lamps. Unfortunately, many local authorities seem to have little awareness of the value of these details and tarmac the cobbles, rip up the flagstones and install cheap, modern lights. I think we should take the 'film set' approach to maintaining heritage areas - and that means most of Manchester - Maintain the details as much as possible so they are in keeping with the original character. After all, we wouldn't put an Ikea-style stainless steel uplighter lamp in a Victorian living room, but that's what they have done in Ancoats. Thanks for your message.


The Gaumont Cinema taken by Berne Leng, 1949The next contribution is from our resident cinema expert, Berne Leng, it's a message to Joan Georgulis regarding the Gaumont Theatre. I'll include the photo I took at the same spot by the Irwell where Berne Leng took a photo in the early 1950's, plus another of his photos of the Gaumont.

Date: 30 May 2002, 03:01:24 PM
Subject: The Gaumont Manchester and the Wurlitzer Organ.
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear Joan,
I am pleased that my article evoked such happy memories of Manchester, the Gaumont Theatre and the fabulous Wurlitzer Organ. Since the article first appeared last Aug/Sept I have received e:mails from the U.S.A. Canada,New Zealand and Australia and of course the U.K. all with tales to tell.

It amazes me how far peoples lives have taken them since they sat in the stalls, circle and loges of the beautiful Gaumont which is now just a happy memory.

You mentioned the Long Bar (the longest bar in Britain being 60' in length). I went down there a couple of times in order to pinch the Long Bar stools which we used in the Projection room, they being just the right height for us to see the screen as we ran the films. I often wondered if the manager realised that his stools were slowly disappearing and if so where they were going.

From the article you will have realised that the theatre was actually built by Granada who purchased the Wurlitzer Organ, indeed in the order book that Wurlitzer still retain the entry reads Granada Wurlitzer.

The theatre was sold to the Gaumont people 3 weeks prior to its opening and they brought in their own organist, a very young Stanley Tudor who played on the opening night in 1935, and there he remained as resident organist until 1941 when he was called up to serve in the R.A.F.

Upon returning in 1946 he had remembered the last tune he had played there in '41 and turned to the audience and said 'now where was I before I was interrupted, and played the same tune again much to the delight of his many Mancunian fans.
He left in 1953 when the Rank Organisation dismissed all its organists but returned about 1958 for a couple of years.

During his wartime absence many well known organists did guest spots including Reginald Fort and Reginald Dixon so it is
feasible that you heard one of these at that time.

Stanley, however, was also famous for his sing-a-longs when with the words projected on to the screen the Manchester audience would enthusiastically join in.

Stanley continued playing at venues around the country until ill health forced him to retire, but the White Rose Wurlitzer at the Gaumont always remained his first love. He died in 1972.

The Gaumont continued until January 1974 when it closed and remained just a dark derelict building until 1976 when it was purchased and turned into a night club/disco. The Wurlitzer organ which had not been used for years was fortunately rescued by The Lancastrian Theatre Organ Preservation Trust, disassembled and stored in various warehouses one of which caught fire and the outer casing of the organ was destroyed. The original plans, however, still existed and a new casing was made being identical to the original.

It took 16 years to find a new home for the organ, Granada Television Studios (makers of Coronation Street) decided to create a studio tour and cinema history section and the Wurlitzer found itself back with the Company that originally purchased it in 1935.

In 2000 the studio tours site was needed for a new television company and once again the organ had to be dismantled and put into storage where it remains today. A new home has possibly been found in the Longfield suite of the Public Hall in Prestwich. This, however, is a project which will not be brought to fruition for some time. Once installed it will be used for the dance evenings, until then the instrument remains silent.

The Wurlitzer Organ is the only remaining artefact of a theatre which gloried in the title Showplace of the North.
If you would like to bask in the nostalgia of that time half a century ago when you sat at this organ and relive once again the sound of the organ recorded at the Gaumont Theatre then a recording now on CD and cassette of this instrument played by Stanley Tudor is available.

'Powder Your Face With Sunshine is the title Stanley Tudors new signature tune, his original 'Singing in the Rain' was dropped after the Manchester Tourist office complained that it was not making their job any easier!. The CD and cassette of this title is I believe now not available.

If you are interested then let me know and I will point you in the direction for the purchase of the Sunshine recording.
I often play the CD in the car and wallow in those long ago days when a visit to a cinema especially a theatre like the Gaumont was an experience not known to the youngsters of today.

Many thanks once again for you kind remarks regarding my article, it is gratifying to know that people all over the world keep in touch and enjoy Aidans Eyewitness in Manchester and its features.
Berne.

River Irwell at Kersall, early 50's photographed by Berne Leng
River Irwell at Kersal, City of Salford, photographed by EWM 2002

Dear Aidan,

What a lucky chap you are swanning around the world, a half day in Bognor is all I manage !.
Still life is not dull, my computer system went dead, but thanks to Sony is now up and running again, but I had a lot of e:mails to catch up on. Then I dropped a typewriter on my foot and have been in continuous terrific pain for 6 weeks, limping around and getting sleepless nights which is why you are getting this reply at 4:40 in the morning.

That cinema article is still producing e:mails to me asking questions about the Gaumont and cinemas around Manchester and I always answer them giving fuller information than that contained in the article.

Yours readers letter from Joan Georgulis of Texas fascinated me as she had sat at the Gaumont Wurlitzer, not many can say that and I thought you would like to see the type of reply she received. A bit of public relations if you like, but people do not expect a thank you these days and it all helps in the promotion of your site.

With regard to the Irwell photograph I take it you have not started to hunt the location down as yet and that my map and directions have not led you on a wild goose chase. If I can help further please advise.

Meantime following a re organisation of my computer room which was supposed to help me I am now in more chaos than ever and cannot find a box file containing a list of all those guest organists who played at the Gaumont, so I am having to rely on my memory hence Charles Forte getting in on the act.

Have a safe trip home (Manchester needs you).

All the best Berne

Berne was referring to my trip earlier this year to the UAE, and my return to Manchester in June. The UAE is no longer an exotic place for me, it's more like a kind of home from home! I was glad to get back to Manchester and escape the sweltering heat. Thanks as ever for your contributions which are interesting and very well written. I found the spot on the Irwell, see above!



Reddish Lane near Hyde Road Gorton ManchesterOlga Quinn
Subject: Denton

Hi Aidan,
I was born in Thornley Park, Denton, in 1938. I now live in the far south of Tasmania. We are right on the water which is pretty wild at times as there is little between us and the Antarctic. We spend hours fishing and are usually joined by curious dolphins and seals. I was back in the UK on an extended stay in 2000/2001 and was quite amazed by the changes in Manchester.

What I would like to find out is does anyone know the origin of these names: Denton, Dane Bank, Gorton, Reddish.
I was always told Denton was a form of Dane Town and that Gorton was from Gore Town. I was also told that these names were because the Vikings came and fought bloody battles around the area. Can you anyone - help me with the true origins of these names?

Regards,
Olga Quinn

Yes, I believe Denton is from Dane-town - a large swathe of northern England was under the Danelaw, hence a number of Danish-influenced placenames. I head an explanation of gore as being linked to 'gore' i.e. blood and violence, but I think it's just the name of the river - actually more of a stream - Gorton is simply the tún or homestead on the river Gore. Can anyone shed any light on this?


train crash
From:


Hi, I remember, I think, a bad train crash circa 1954 at the viaduct in Red Bank off of Cheetham Hill , Queens Rd, near Marcel Fuest paint equipment distibutors. My dad took me to see this, the coaches were hanging over the bridge.!!!! Dream or what? I cannot find anything on the web. ???

perplexed Pete

No you weren't dreaming, there was indeed a serious train crash on that viaduct. I was browsing in a bookshop and found a very interesting book about train disasters and this accident was included. I wish I'd bought the book now, but that's where you'll find the information. Just goes to show the web doesn't have all the answers. I hope to do a 'Railways in Manchester' feature soon and will ask one of Manchester's foremost railway historians, writer and photographer Eddie Johnson.

 

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