|READER MESSAGES June-Aug 2002|
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!
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.
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
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.
Youth Program Worker
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?
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 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.
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.
During his wartime absence many well known organists did guest spots
including Reginald Fort and Reginald Dixon so it is
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.
'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.
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.
What a lucky chap you are swanning around the world, a half day in Bognor
is all I manage !.
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!
What I would like to find out is does anyone know the origin of these
names: Denton, Dane Bank, Gorton, Reddish.
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?
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.