This is an archived website and is no longer updated. Click here to go to the home page
EWM Home Page | Aidan O'Rourke on Twitter and Facebook | Contact

CAN I BEGIN BY ANNOUNCING that there will be an exhibition of illustrations by Trevor Grimshaw at Stockport Art Gallery Wellington Rd South from Saturday 24 April till Saturday 22 May 2004. Trevor Grimshaw made hauntingly beautiful drawings of industrial northern industrial England as it used to be.

He tragically died in a house fire at his home in Hyde in 2002. This will be the first exhibition of his work for quite some time and I'm looking forward to seeing it very much.

Here's a reproduction of my original Trevor Grimshaw drawing of Ancoats which hangs on our living room wall.

If you'd like any more information about the exhibition, please contact me.

Subject: BBC Made in Britain series comes to Manchester
From: Leona Coulter

Dear Aidan,

BBC TV presenter Fred Dibnah will be visiting the north-west within the next few weeks to record interviews and film local industrial sites for the forthcoming television series 'Made in Britain'.

Fred is keen to meet local people who were industrial workers in the '50s and '60s and craftsmen/engineers who still operate small manufacturing businesses in back street workshops, making parts the traditional way.

As the researcher working on the series, I'd be very grateful if you or your readers could suggest any interesting characters or locations.

The View from the North

Thanks for contacting, and hopefully some of the readers out there will be able to help, though I'm not sure if the programme budget stretches to flights to Australia, Canada and New Zealand! I'm sure that like all other of Fred Dibnah's programmes will be both fascinating and entertaining. I'm always very glad to help out in any way with worthwhile local-interest programmes. Here are some fo the cotton spinning machines on show at the excellent Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester.

Dear Aidan, I am an expatriate from the Manchester area, living in Florida USA, and I have not been home in more than 30 years. Somehow I came across your incredibly wonderful pictures, and I have been drinking in the beauty of them as often as I could since then. I have no idea if you can imagine how much these images can mean to someone who cannot come home, but please know that you have given me, and no doubt, many others, a gift of the visit home that is, at the moment impossible for us. I realize that you do not profit from this gift, but perhaps you will have some good feelings that your pictures have warmed the hearts of others, who really appreciate the images you have created. Your pictures are truly beautiful, and I cannot even begin to tell you the pleasure that they have given to me. My most sincere thanks, Carole Traynham, formerly of Reddish.

Carole Traynham

Thank you very much indeed for your wonderful message. However I should point out that I do actually benefit from the work I do, as I have a freelance contract with Manchester Online, who have supported my work since June 1998. Creating my online portrait of Manchester in photos and words is part of the portfolio of freelance commissions I do. ItÕs a job, like being a teacher, working in a glass factory or cleaning out textile machinery! These are all jobs IÕve done previously, but producing Eyewitness in Manchester is by far the best job IÕve ever had, and the positive feedback makes it even better! So rest assured IÕll continue to photograph and write about Manchester as long as I have a digital camera, a computer and an internet connection to work with!

Dear Mr O'Rourke, I was astonished to receive a reply from you, and especially so quickly. What a wonderful job you have!! i am glad that you enjoy it so much. I was astonished to see the one of the Houldsworth Mill in Reddish. When I was a little girl,(I am now 61), my mom worked there as a secretary, and I recall being shown through it with the great flywheel turning. It ran all the spinning machinery.( I was afraid it was going to come off its moorings some day, break through the brick wall, and roll down the street.) Incidentally, from my recollection nothing seems to have changed, except the newer cars! I was also intrigued with the one of Reddish Vale. I had wonderful picnics there with my parents. I particularly loved the bluebells, which carpeted the woods, in springtime. I noticed on your website that you will consider taking pictures of things people request. Would it be possible for you to take one of the Vale, at bluebell time,Please? I cannot recall when they bloomed, but it should not be too long from now..One of my biggest hopes is to be able to come home, and, among other things,see the bluebells. Even if you cannot take a picture, I would be grateful of you could find out for me the usual time for them to bloom, so that I can plan to be home at that time. Again Thank you for the wonderful pictures of home that have meant so much to me, and I am quite sure, to many others in all corners of the world. Sincerely, Carole Traynham.

I will try to get some bluebell pictures from you if I can get down there during the right time of year! Here's the photo of the railway viaduct at Reddish Vale.

Subject: EWM Site
Date: Friday, February 20, 2004 4:16 pm
From: Mariko Lees

Dear Aidan,

Wow! When I found your site I was blown away - yours is the site about Manchester, past and present, that I had been searching for. I especially enjoyed your musical "Magic of Manchester" and summary of 1953, plus photographs - I am currently researching Manchester from the early 1950s to late 1980s for a novel I plan to write and can only say thank you very much for providing me with such a wonderful resource.

Yours Faithfully,

Mariko Lees

Glad you found it interesting. The 'Magic of Manchester' article is simply a true account of how I experienced Manchester as a child. I enjoyed writing it and it took me several days of solid work to pull it together. As I've mentioned previously, I wish I could go in a time machine and visit Manchester as it was. But through the medium of photography, writing and the imagination, it's possible at least to reconstruct the Manchester of other eras in your mind's eye.

Matrix HouseRoss Downing
Subject: Eyewitness in Manchester

Hi, I'd just like to comment and conrgratulate you on your shots on the Manchester Online site. I now live in Sweden but grew up on Chapel St, I haven't been back to the city in over 7 or 8 years and I know that the city and not least that small area of Salford has changed dramatically. It feels wonderful to have little pictures of places I remember like Matrix House and Stephenson's solicitor's the latter being directly opposite my house when I was a kid.

It practically made me weep to see these places again in the character you have delivered them.


I know people are looking at my work but very few contact me. I feel I'm carrying out an important task and not many people realise it. So it's nice to receive some positive feedback. Thank you very much indeed!

Subject: Chapel Street Salford
From: Jones, Ann

Dear Aidan,

Thank you for the pictures of Salford. I grew up in Salford in the 40s /50s. I lived just off Bexley Square and attended St Johns Cathedral School and later Adelphi House.The Rex Cinema was where I used to go with my mother. They had an Usher who looked like the gentleman on the Woodbine packet and the kids all called him Willy Woodbine.

I enjoyed all your pictures.I was back in Mancheseter in September last year and found it to be a very vibrant city. However I hated the wall at Piccadilly Bus station. Am I right in saying that Piccadilly Station used to be called London Road Station. I used to get the train there to Hayfield where my Grandma lived. Thanks fo the memories Ann

Yes, London Road Station, first opened around 1842 became Piccadilly Station when it was rebuilt and the lines to London were electrified in 1960. Woodbines cigarettes are of course the favoured cigarette of British soldiers or 'Tommy's'. There's a fantastic collection of packaging and memorabilia from the 20th century in Opie's Museum at Wigan Pier.

Subject: re memories
From: Jones, Ann

Hi Aidan, just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your pictures. They evoke so many happy memories.

I was born in Salford (1941), just behind Bexley square and have many fond memories of Whit Walks ,Washhouses, and Terraced houses. I have lived in Toronto for 27 years now, but still love to come "HOME".

I was home last fall and very impressed with the rebuilding in Manchester, apart from that terrible wall in Piccadilly gardens. I will be coming back to Manchester again this year, and am really looking forward to it.

Keep up the great work.


Thanks very much for your comments and enjoy your next visit to Manchester!

Subject: Thirlmere Aqueduct.
Date: Friday, January 9, 2004 23:17
From: kristof SEATON

Dear Mr. O'Rourke

At the risk of asking about something that has already been covered by comments on EWM, I wonder whether you can enlighten me about the following.

When I first moved to Manchester I bought an A-Z, which showed and named (part of) the Thirlmere Aqueduct running apparently from Gorton Reservoirs under the railbed of the line which ran through Levenshulme (south) station to Fallowfield and beyond. This line is now open as a footpath, and on walking from Errwood Road to Fallowfield, I noticed a building near Kingsway (I think) with the appearance of a water board structure.

I am wondering where this bit of the Aqueduct leads from and to, and what the purpose of this building might be. It is possible, I guess, that like the railway line, the thing is disused.

Thanks in advance, should you be able to help; thanks in any case for your fascinating site!

Best regards

Kristof Seaton

I'm not sure - The Thirlmere Aqueduct is marked on the A-Z street atlas, but I'm not sure where it goes to. Can anyone help?

Name: Simon Morykin

Hi there! I have been meaning to email you for quite some time. A while ago, I discovered a photo of yours somewhere on the internet and I have been to the exact spot where you took that photo and I love the view! You put your email details on the photo and asked people to contact you if the location was recognised - so I thought I'd get in touch! The email bounced back, so I found your website. I am going to purchase a digital camera in the next few days and will be taking many photos of Lancashire, particularly Bolton, Bury and Manchester.

Hope to hear from you soon, Simon

You mean the photo taken on Winter Hill with the Irish Sea visible to the north west and Manchester City Centre to the south east. Yes, the view is great there. I wonder if it will be possible to see the sea from the new Beetham Tower, which is about to be constructed at the bottom of Deansgate?

Subject: Another expat
From: John Chesworth

My family migrated to Australia from Manchester in 1950 when I was about 10 and we fairly promptly brushed its dust (wiped the slush?) off our shoes. Lost touch with the rellies left behind an' all. I have happy childhood memories, though set amongst grey skies and black buildings.

We lived in Lytham Avenue, Chorlton. I was lucky to have grandmothers who lived on trolleybus lines, in Ardwick (Viaduct St, bet that's no more!) and Moston (Amos St), while my mother's brother was in Oldham with the no.23 tram direct. (Indecently soon after the war they substituted buses so the creaking but beautiful trams were no more.) Esoteric travel, probably explaining my lifelong interest in public transport.

My memories of Manchester are of a cold, dank, rainy and run-down place which I never wanted to see again but recently I have found a renewed interest. A friend tells me this is a natural trend and points out I'm getting older. Surely not.

The New Revitalised Manchester that I see and read about in your excellent EWM with its photos and individualistic captions, seems an entirely different place. I think I shall visit soon. Meanwhile, keep up the good work!

Yes, the new Manchester is almost unrecognisable when compared to the old one, which I remember very clearly. It's important to remember that some parts of Manchester were bright and cheerful in the 1950's, e.g. Piccadilly Gardens and Belle Vue Showground, while many parts of Manchester today are still run down and depressing, e.g. many areas just outside the city centre.

Brian Chicot

I don't know if you welcome this kind of query but I'm not having any luck searching by computer so far. I am anxious to find out what Ardwick Hall was used for in the late 19th century. I suspect it was an orphanage, a workhouse or a reformatory but have not been able to determine this. I would be grateful for your help. Thank you. Brian Chicot ---

I would need to research this to find an answer. Can anyone out there help?

Subject: Manchester 50-60

Hi Aidan

I thought I would drop you a short note about a book I have bought on the internet about Manchester in the 1950-60. It is full of great photographs of that time. I should know I was there. The book is called Around Manchester in the 50s & 60s.

There is one mistake which I would like to bring to your attention. The train accident that in involved the Bury to Manchester electric train on the 15th of August 1953, approximately 7.20 am. The book states on page 89 that it took place on the Baycup viaduct when in fact I am almost sure it was the Smedley Rd Viaduct Collyhurst.

Mr Albert Hardman ex mayor of Bury died in the accident as also did my father James Stewart, also a long time serving railway man. He was on his way to work.

I know that you did not put the book together Aidan but I just wanted to tell somebody.

Best regards.Norman Stewart.Sarnia Ontario.Canada. PPs I could not send on the feed back E Address?

I'm sorry to hear your father died in the accident. Sadly accidents are still with us, though train accidents are comparatively rare. I found the book, it has many remarkable photographs but some factual errors. The August 1954 accident took place on the Smedley Rd, not Bacup viaduct. And the 1964 disaster when a bridge collapsed was at Cheadle Hulme, not Cheadle Heath. I'm sure if you wrote directly to the publisher and author, they would appreciate the feedback.

Subject: Stanley Tudor
From: Ian Peers

Hi Aidan,

just a little tribute to Stanley Tudor - sadly I was too young to see Stanley in his hey day but was privileged to spend several happy years with him at Altrincham Ice Rink where he was the resident organist for many years. I was a young DJ who would take over from him later in the evenings and I often stood in awe next to him as he played his familiar tunes (often with his eyes shut !!) with never a bum note. The BBC used to come down occasionally and record him (I think for the organist entertains). As his health deteriorated his hands would shake more and more but the general skating public didn't notice any drop off in his playing - a great musician and a nice man. Sadly the Ice Rink has now gone but I can still imagine the organ playing all those old familiar tunes.

Best regards ....
Ian Peers

Yes, what a shame the Altrincham Ice Rink has closed, so there is now not one ice rink in the greater Manchester area, apart from the temporary one at the Trafford Centre.

Subject: Yes... Magic!!
From: Jean McAulay
Hello Aidan,
Most enjoyable reading your Magic of Manchester pages, I was born in 1946, so I remember the songs you picked. When I was a child in the 50's radio was so good, each Sunday was Life of Bliss, Ray's a Laugh, Wakey wakey [Billy Cotton] and Two Way Family Favourites, great stuff, One particularly happy memory is of my Dad listening to the Goons and crying with laughter. He died in Wythenshawe Hospital too, he was born in Droylsden 1912 died 1979. In 1953, we had a coronation party in our street. Coalbrook Street, and my dad who was an electrician fitted a flood light at the bottom of the Street to shine on the ER11, I was only 6 years old and very proud.

Thanks again Jean McAulay

Thanks for your message, every piece of information helps us to build a picture of life in Manchester as it was.

Subject: Photos of Manchester
From: kevin

Hya Aidan, just a recommendation for an area of town not covered in your web site. I love to walk around near the old fish market in the area of town cornered by Withy Grove, Swan Street, Tib Street, Church Street, and High Street. This area has been kept on the whole as it has been for many years. I especially like the architecture on Thomas Street. As you may well know this area was used for the BBC series Cutting It, and more recently for a new Jude Law film. Also the Buddhist Centre is in this part of town, and the new Chinese Arts Centre. Both fit in well with the persona of the area as being part of old Manchester, not anything like the 'brash with glass' Exchange Square.

It is nice to see more use for these areas of Manchester that up until recently were avoided by evreybody. This was probably a blessing in disguise as it has allowed the to remain as it was for many years.

Yes, that area of the city centre is very interesting. I have included a few photos from there, but I should feature it in detail. Here's a photo taken during filming of the Jude Law film back in September. It's a remake of Alfie - they used this street in the Manchester due to its strong resemblance to New York, something that I've been saying since I first visited in New York in 1981.

Richard Dougherty
Subject: Always interesting

Hi Aidan, First time I have been back for a long time and well worth the visit to the site. I am an ex pat living in Cardiff who you once sorted out some Failsworth photographs for. My wife and I visited the city centre for the first time in 17 years last December.Changed a bit !!!! What amazed me was hearing seven different languages spoken by customers in what was Lewis`s in a half hour walk arround. Manchester is big, lively, cosmopolitan and has a dynamic feel to it and am looking forward to a return visit this month. Rich

Thanks for your kind comments! Yes, it has changed a lot but I think that Manchester has always been big lively, cosmopolitan and dynamic Š ItÕs just that nowadays itÕs more noticeable than before. ItÕs fascinating to see a place after youÕve been away for a long time. I was in the Middle East for five years, 91-96 but came home every year during leave periods. Very glad you enjoyed the material in Eyewitness in Manchester. ItÕs always gratifying to receive positive comments.

Subject: Closure of st Michaels Ancoats
From: gordon SIMPSON

Dear Aidan, it is with sadness that St Michaels church Ancoats finally closed lest week, ending 145 years of history and service to the Italian, Irish and Catholic communities. It was of course a house of worship in addition to being a preserved building. The church was deconsecrated and I saw the clergy removing the furnishings recently. It is now an empty shell of a building and represents a further nail in the coffin of an already run down area. It is a blow for the Italian and Christian communities in general. What does Eyewitness think on this subject. Regards Gordon Simpson

This is a difficult problem. It is inevitable that some churches are going to have to close because the population has fallen in many areas. The Bishop doesn't have unlimited resources. He can either spend thousands keeping smaller churches open, or close some of them and make better use of the money. It's sad when the very church authorities who are supposed to support churches end up having to close them down. I went to a Manchester Civic Society talk by Nick Rank of architects Buttress Fuller Alsop Williams. He has been involved in the restoration of many local Anglican churches. One church at serious risk is St Augustine's Pendlebury.

Subject: Longsight & Lev. history. from J. Suth. Canada.
From: Joyce & Don

Hi Aidan,
Pleased you added my letter to your site. If I had known I would have made sure there were no 'typos' Incidentally I left the A.T.S in 1947 not 1943 as I seemed to have typed in my letter.

Read one of your letters and saw the comment about the bus terminus. Albert Rd near Crossley Road??? Surely the small terminus was on Stockport Road opposite to the Monarch Laundry, at the end of the small row of shops and not far from "Isherwoods" garage and on the same side as the garage and the laundry and just on the Stockport border.

My husband Tom Arnold, was a bus driver in M/C from 1947 to 1986. Worked at Parrs Wood depot then Birchfields which I believe is now gone. Interested to hear from a friend that the Express Dairy building is also gone and flats built there now.

Going back a little further. When I was very much younger and living in Methuen St, before the war, I remember a housing estate being built on a field opposite Norton Ave. Norton Ave and Wiltshire Ave formed a right angle and the field was in front. When the houses were built they filled the whole area. Hemmons Rd. Ringwood (or was it Ringway) Ave.

The interesting bit is that the 'Sunshine Semis' as they were called were two hundred and fifty pounds and the ones with two rooms were three hundred pounds. I can remember playing among the houses as they were being built. My parents thought they were expensive. Seems odd to-day but then of course wages may have been about two pounds a week, if the 'man of the house' had a job. My Mum's next door neighbour was considered well off because her husband earned three pounds a week. How things change.

Glad to read that Levenshulme is being improved. The last time I saw it nearly three years ago I thought it looked awful. Before the war the children in our area went to Gorton Mount school and then probably to Spurley Hey if they didn't pass the 11plus or their parents couldn't afford the fees to send them to Lev. High or Burnage High. Scholarships were available if parents 'hard up' but there was a little stigma attached. As I remember fees for Lev. High were six guineas a term.

Anyway Aidan, keep up the good work. The site is excellent. All the best from Canada.

Joyce Sutherland.

Very interesting, how perceptions change. The term 'sunshine semis' has been forgotten, though many of those houses continue to provide attractive living accommodation, while many post war blocks of flats stand empty or have been demolished.

Subject: Manchester's size as a city
From: paul sheridan

Hi, my name is Paul. I was wondering if there are any updates on Manchester and its size as a city. I mean are we going be bigger, which I think we should becoming "the City of Greater Manchester". Everyone I know in diferent districts including Salford and Trafford say they use Manchester in their address and postcode along with 0161 as the ares dialling code. So if you have any updates could you let me now please, thanks

At the moment this is a dormant issue, though the problems caused by the imperfect local government arrangements continue. There is no likelihood that anything will change in the near future. Manchester, the local authority area will continue to be a much smaller and poorer place than Manchester, the wider conurbation, which is divided among separate local government units with no single overriding authority.


Subject: Molly Dancers - a mystery half-solved

Some while back I mentioned the custom of small children swathing themselves in old curtains or whatever material they could lay hands on, and going round the street knocking on doors to perform a little song and dance. I thought it was "Morley dancers".

I've been looking at Simpson and Roud's Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore, and found a reference to "Molly Dancers" - groups of men who went around villages in East Anglia on Plough Monday, just after the Xmas Twelfth Night, start of the ploughing season. I guess this was what I misheard or misremembered as "Morley" - as it was sung with the first syllable lengthened - "Mo-lly dancers. . .". And "kicking up a row" may have started as "jigging in a row"! The idea of an African connection (as with Moorish - Morris Dancers) may still hold - apparently the East Anglian dancers often blackened their faces.

I've discovered several websites devoted to "Molly Dancers" - apparently the original custom in East Anglia up to the 1930s has enjoyed a revival. But I've yet to learn how it reached at least one street in the North-West of England, as a children's custom, and whether it was confined to our neck of the woods - a long way from East Anglia or any ploughed fields - or was more widespread.

Mysterious! Has anyone got any thoughts about this? Here are some dancers from the Rose Queen Festival Mobberley Cheshire.

Subject: On submarines, and seven arches

Hi Aidan!
Just revisiting after a while, and catching up with messages. I've sent my reminiscences of Kersal Moor to Joan who enquired from Canada, though my memories don't go back so far as the periods she enquired about, unfortunately.

On a couple of other points, I remember a submarine being docked in Salford, it may have been the same one which someone recalled going up past Barton. It was open to the public, and my dad took me to see it, some time in the early 1950s. One even got a chance to look through the periscope around the docks.

On the 13 versus 7 Arches, which I raised, the two places were different. The seven arches which we knew as kids were nearer Bury New Road, and did not carry any rail tracks when me and my pal walked across the bridge as well as under it. I consulted my pal who tells me it was blown up to make way for the M62 (amusing, as we'd pretended to blow it up in a commando game inspired by reading or seeing a film about the Greek Resistance). He also says it was a road bridge, but had been blocked off to traffic from the road on the Prestwich side that joined it. But I'm not sure why it was built or where it had originally been supposed to go to.

Charlie Pottins

Also mysterious! I'm currently involved with a book on the theme of the M60. I am providing the photographs. More information on this soon.


Subject: Pictures of Manchester
From: Sarah McNab


I'm trying to find a picture of my Grandad's shop as a present for my Mum. The shop was on Stockport Road in Levenshulme and was called N Birkett and it was a watch / clock makers. The shop number was originally 50, but apparently this was changed at some point to 872. My Mum left the shop (where they lived) when she got married in 1957 and my Grandparents left in about 1969. I would be really grateful if you could let me know if you have any pictures? The shop was at the corner of Alma Road, opposite St Peters Church.

Kind regards,

Sarah McNab

The best place to obtain old photos of Manchester is the Archives and Local Studies Unit at Manchester Central Library. They have a huge photo collection and the staff are very helpful indeed. Go to the Manchester City Council website and look for 'Local images'

Subject: Eyewitness in Manchester
From: Daniel McBride

Hi Aidan,
Have always been a big fan of your photographs and site. I was wondering if in the future you could put together a page with all the public squares of Manchester featured. Your views on Piccadilly Gardens are well known but Piccadilly Gardens aside Manchester has some of the most fantastic public spaces in the country in places such as the GN square, St Ann's Square, Cathedral Gardens, Barbirolli Square, Parsonage Gardens etc etc.

Here in Newcastle we only have one solitary public square (Eldon Square) and it's a disgrace, making the city centre an unattractive place to visit in my opinion. A collection of some of the lesser known town centre squares in Manchester might convince my friends and my council that something needs to be done here too. Manchester's made amazing strides the last 20 years and I cant wait to move back to the city again next year.

Daniel McBride
Gosforth, Tyne and Wear.

Yes, I have quite a few photos of squares in Manchester, but it would be nice to present them together in one feature. Thanks for the suggestion I will work on it. Here's a photo of the opening of Exchange Square.


Subject: Eyewitness
Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2004 3:53 pm
From:June Fitzgerald

Hello Aidan,

I have recently taken an interest in the Ancoats area and have found your pages excellent.

Do you have any photographs of the old Italian Whit Walks.

Kind Regards


I personally don't, as Eyewitness in Manchester is a showcase my own photographs, but if you go to the Manchester City Council website and look for 'local images', I'm sure you will find what you're looking for!



Page 1 | Page 2 | EWM Home Page
Join Aidan on his Manchester Photo Walk.
Eyewitness in Manchester Home Page | Aidan O'Rourke on Twitter and Facebook | Contact