Tag Archives: Manchester

Pewter At The Manchester Arms

25 Nov








The pewter mug from the Manchester Arms measures approximately 4 4/3 inches and 3 3/4 inches in diameter at the mouth.

On the lip just to the left of the handle there is a “PINT” stamp, and to the left the makers mark, the letter “E”, a picture of a crown, and the letter “R”. Below that is the number “239” – the uniform verification number ER is for Edward VII, so the cup dates from around 1905.


Reg Harris – The Fallowfield Flyer

1 Nov
Reg Harris in action at the Reg Harris Stadium in Fallowfield (Fallowfield Statium) in 1956. Image courtesy M. Singleton.

Bury-born Reg Harris in action at the Reg Harris Stadium in Fallowfield (Fallowfield Statium) in 1956. Image courtesy M. Singleton.

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Toy Manchester Guardian Dinky Austin Covered Commercial Wagon

31 Oct

Dinky die-cast toy replica of the Manchester Guardian Austin covered wagon from the 1950s. Image courtesy J. Leech.

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Lost in Mancslation: The Dictionary of Mancunian

14 Mar
Lost in Mancslation. © 2014 HistoryME.

Lost in Mancslation. © 2014 HistoryME.

I’m sure I’m not unique amongst Mancunians (people from Manchester) when I say from time to time I’m misunderstood. It is particularly noticeable in the environs of fellow Mancs and/or when I’m in a salubrious pub (one with original mahogany, etched glass and a vault) after a beer or two or three, when my Manc dialect becomes its most lyrical and poetic – a composite of liquid fuel and local accent – that ignites a unique prose, that is audible to the many, yet understood by predominantly only the lucky few.

Language is ever-evolving and dialects are no different as I’m sure the developers behind the new speed reading app Spritz – which aims to change the way we read – have already found out.

In my quest, like most Mancunians, to find the quickest and easiest (some may wrongly say lazy) route to being understood, it seems that other people don’t always agree that we’re on the right path to our very own Manc-Esperanto.

Our notable dulcet toned Manc dialect, again some may argue, isn’t always the easiest on the ear and to this day even some of my own family would concur as much. In addition, my girlfriend – owner of the most delectable ‘worldly’ accent – a mixture of tones from Kashmir via the Middle East and the London melting pot – would in true Judas-style support this claim.

The Manc dialect is a non-rhotic accent, where ‘r’ sounds have gone missing. Vowels are over-enunciated, a’s are cut-throat sharp, u’s become terrace like chants, starting h’s and finishing t’s become invisible, g’s have absconded and glottal stop middle t’s abound.

“A person with increasing knowledge and sensory education may derive infinite enjoyment from wine”, Ernest Hemingway once said.

Similarly to the Mancunian dialect, few people know a fine wine of the highest order, even if its flowery bouquet has the power to render the olfactory bulb into a orgasmic state straight out of Woody Allen‘s 70s comedy sci-fi classic, Sleeper. I for one fit the bill as an anosmic and whom all olfactory arousing sensory pleasure is wasted. Even Sex Panther won’t awake my cilia! So it’s no surprise that Mancunians are so misunderstood. The Manc dialect like the finest Chateau Cheval Blanc 1947, is mature,  incredibly rich and textured like fine velvet, not too bitter on the palette and with a peacock’s tail of linguistic complexity, that only the most erudite among us, truly understands.

I feel a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove is on the cards. International trade! Never mind learning Mandarin, a billion Chinese students out there should be learning Mancunian.

In my journey to be at least understood by my love ones, I have compiled a mini dictionary – in no particular order – of some typical Mancunian words and slang. Please feel free to practice your beautiful Manc diction and add to the list:

Angin (disgusting)
Bobbins (rubbish)
Bog (toilet)
Buzzin (ecstatic)
Dead (very)
Dibble (police)
Fool (daft ‘apeth)
Gaggin (thirsty)
Ginnel (alley)
Keks (trousers)
Mam (mother)
Mingin (horrible, unpleasant)
Mint/nice one/ top (excellent)
Mither (bother, trouble, aggravation)
Nah (no)
Scrikin (crying)
Snide (ungenerous, tight, fakes esp. stolen goods)
Sound (good)
Tantrum (strop)

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Galilean Field Glasses by Thomas Armstrong & Brother Limited

8 Jun
Thomas Armstrong & Brother Limited binoculars. Image courtesy of H. Hill.

Thomas Armstrong & Brother Limited binoculars. Image courtesy of H. Hill.

This is a pair of binoculars or Galilean Field Glasses by Thomas Armstrong & Brother Limited. They are also known as opera glasses or theatre glasses, traditionally used at performance events where the extra magnification gives a better view. They are particularly popular amongst horse racing fans, where the portability and extra magnification affords a better view of the action.

Victorian diamond sapphire rose gold brooch by Thomas Armstrong & Brother Limited.

Victorian diamond sapphire rose gold brooch by Thomas Armstrong & Brother Limited. Image courtesy of J. Shaw.

Thomas Armstrong & Brother Limited were renowned producers  of scientific instruments, in particular optical equipment between 1837 and 1901.

Like many businesses of the time and indeed now, they looked at every opportunity to expand their market and to turn a profit, dealing in diamonds and decorative jewellery for a period of time, like this unmarked Victorian 9 carat rose (gold and copper alloy) gold brooch (pictured right).


Detail showing the worker bee. Image courtesy of H. Hill.

Looking down on the eyepieces you can see the word ‘theatre’, ‘field’ and ‘marine’, which are fixed on the spindle or eyepiece-changing mechanism and represent three different views and three different magnifications.

According to Watson (1995), in Binoculars, Opera Glasses and Field Glasses, “the differences in magnification are not great” (p. 10).


Image courtesy of H. Hill.

Of particular note is what on first inspection looks like two blobs separating the makers name (T.Armstrong & Bro) and city (Manchester). However, these seemingly unremarkable blobs are actually worker bees, denoting it was produced in Manchester.


Image courtesy of H. Hill.

The worker bee has often been used to represent industry and productivity and it was for this very reason it was adopted as the motif of Manchester during the Industrial Revolution and incorporated into the coat of arms in 1842, when Manchester was a hive of activity and was changing forever how products were produced and made. Today the worker bee can be seen adorning many buildings and street furniture throughout the city of Manchester.


Worker detail. Image courtesy of H. Hill.


Thank you to H. Hill for the invaluable help I received in writing this post.


Watson, F (1995). Binoculars, Opera Glasses and Field Glasses . Oxford: Shire Publications Ltd. p10.

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Clipper Card Machine – Manchester Bus Service – c1990s

14 Nov

Clipper Card Machine – front view. Courtesy. J. Shaw.

This is a Clipper Card machine c1990s from what was then the Greater Manchester Bus Service.

It is a Almex Model  M, a precursor of the modern magnetic card and smart card systems, such as the London Oyster Card which allows for single journeys throughout London via bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London.

One main difference being that Almex Model and the Clipper Card unlike the Oyster service in London was that they weren’t digital and relied on more traditional forms of data and information collection.

The machine entered service with the launch of the Clippercard in December 1979 by Greater Manchester Transport.

More on the history to follow shortly.

Clipper Card Machine – diagram. Courtesy. J. Shaw.

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Look and Learn from November 1975 – “Preserving the heritage of the once mighty metropolis of Manchester”

20 Oct

The story of Manchester which was known as “Cottonopolis” by Pat Nicolle. © 2005-2012 Look and Learn

Preserving the heritage of the once mighty metropolis of Manchester

June 7, 2012 

© 2005-2012 Look and Learn

Look and Learn issue number 720 published on 1 November 1975. Courtesy D. Hampson.

This edited article about Manchester originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 720 published on 1 November 1975.

As its name suggests, like Rochester and Cirencester, Dorchester, Lancaster and Chester, the great city we know today as Manchester, capital of the north, was a Roman castra, or crossing place. It was established where a number of their major through-routes, to Hadrian’s Wall at Carlisle, to York, to the Dee estuary and to London, crossed.

Set the point of a pair of compasses at that crossing-place, marked by the 15th-century cathedral, and draw a circle five miles in radius, and you enclose a million people. Double that radius, and your circle encloses a population of 2,500,000, the largest concentration of human beings in one area, apart from that of London, anywhere in Britain. This is Greater Manchester.

Portrait of James Brindley (1716-1772), British engineer by Francis Parsons. Wikimedia Commons, March 30, 2009 at 11:21 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Yet, and here is a strange thought, in the Middle Ages, Manchester was only a village, with a market, two water-mills and a communal oven. Even as late as the mid-18th century it was referred to as “the very image of a radiant little garden city”. It had a grammar school, a river abundant with trout, and a small population, most of whom, women and men alike, worked as weavers.

Then came James Brindley, and the Duke of Bridgewater’s canal. As a result, Manchester almost literally exploded. Coal became available in huge quantities and low cost. Textile machines took over, invented by men like Arkwright and Crompton. The Industrial Revolution, with all that it implied, was born, right here, in the Romans’ Manucium, the once “radiant little garden city”. Never was a change more swift, more complete. So many textile mills were established that a small town soon won for itself the title, “Cottonopolis”.

The Opening of the Bridgewater Canal A.D. 1761 by Ford Madox Brown. Wikimedia Commons, April 6, 2007 at 17:45 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

For two centuries it has continued to expand. More mills, more and more workers and more and more major industries. Towns encircling it expanded, too, until their boundaries tended to merge with one another. Bolton and Bury, Wigan, Altrincham, Oldham, Stockport and Rochdale, among others, became embraced. Problems arose, many of which were easily solved. Others with some difficulty. “Boom towns”, whether in Alaska or in Lancashire, can grow too fast and run into trouble. There is, too, always the risk of their forgetting what made them, what treasures they are in danger of losing through overgrowth.

Packet House, Worsley. Wikimedia Commons, September 17, 2007 at 15:02 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

Happily, the Greater Manchester Council woke up to the danger before it was too late, and set about a major salvaging operation in good time. Proud of a city that had started as a halting place at the crossing of Roman roads and, eighteen centuries later, had been the setting for the birth of the Industrial Revolution, the council has resolved to show us all what this great area has to offer historically, architecturally, and in many other respects.

It was fitting that a start should be made at Worsley. Where Brindley’s canal leaves the coal mines, at the all-important boat-steps, in front of the Packet House, the site has been restored to its original condition. But in one sense Worsley remains a village, and its civic society has worked out a history trail that enables people to trace the many points of interest, mostly associated with the Duke of Bridgewater himself.

The Old Wellington Inn, Shambles Square, Manchester. Wikimedia Commons, June 20, 2009 at 18:44 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

In the heart of Manchester, on the edge of the old market, or “Shambles”, now being developed into a shopping precinct, there is the early 14th-century Wellington Inn. With its adjoining half-timbered buildings, it has been raised five feet – no mean achievement in itself – so that a centuries-old merchant’s house is preserved amid the great new buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

City trails have been prepared here, too, with leaflets to tell you what you can see for yourself if you care to raise your eyes above shopfront level and look for the many plaques and other records of builders’ names and dates of construction left by men who had taken pride in building a great city. You may have walked past these a hundred times without realising what you were missing. Such trails have been worked out in other neighbouring towns, Wigan, for instance.

The VUM Mathematics Tower prior to its demolition. Wikimedia Commons, January 19, 2008 at 16:38 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

With the swift growth of Manchester during two hundred years, many of the buildings came to look grimed and shabby. Many of them have been given a face-lift, or been replaced recently by buildings in a more modern idiom. Pall Mall Court, in King Street, is a good example. Another is the education precinct, with its upper-level walk-ways and, topping all else, the Mathematical Tower. Elsewhere in the city is the complex of magistrates’ courts, Crown Court has a beautiful example of the use of white ceramic tiles and contrasting bronze glass.

It is work such as this, whether in the City of Manchester itself or in the towns circling about it which constitute Greater Manchester, that reveals how very conscious the authorities are today of the great heritage which is theirs and of the necessity for preserving and maintaining and developing it too.

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Last Link To Manchester’s Past Demolished

1 Oct

Princess Street, Manchester during demolition in August 2012. Courtesy J. Nightingale.

Sadly in early August of 2012, Manchester lost yet another link to its almost forgotten past.

Building on Princess Street in 2012. Viewed from Charles Street. Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net).

Little so far is known about this building on Princess Street.

However, what we can ascertain was that it was certainly one of the oldest buildings if not the oldest in this part of Manchester and possibly a rare example of 18th/19th century business premises, with its own overhanging privy seen still insitu which at some point would have emptied its contents straight into the River Medlock below.

In the early 1800s, toilets were usually nothing more than communal cesspits, shared by dozens of families and frequently became blocked with waste. Sometimes they overflowed into wells, infecting drinking water in the process. This persisted until the first Public Health Act 1848 was created to improve sanitary conditions across England and Wales and to ensure that all new houses had drains and lavatories.  This was administered by a single local body or Local Board of Health, who also oversaw water supply, sewage, refuse collection and street cleaning.

So the building looks more likely that it was indeed business premises.

Building on Princess Street, Manchester before demolition in 2011. Courtesy M. Singleton.

The building or buildings may have been one of the very first to have replaced some of the more distinguished houses vacated by the middle classes as they were largely displaced in the early 1800s as the Industrial Revolution further tighten its grip with the growing need for business space as well as for workers housing as the population swelled and grew at an unprecedented rate.

By the 1800s many of the middle classes moved to more wealthy and leafy suburbs like Ardwick Green in search of fresh air, which was becoming an increasingly luxury and rare resource.

Building on Princess Street, Manchester viewed from River Medlock, November 2011. Courtesy J. Pickstone.

In the 1850s, the sheer stench emanating from the build up of fecal matter in areas like this gave rise to the miasma theory; the belief that poisonous gases caused illness. In particular it was believed that the main scourge of  the Victorians, cholera was caused by breathing in such “poisonous” gas. A theory that had been popularised during the Black Death in the 14th century and largely prevailed until physician John Snow’s  investigations into the Broad Street (Soho, London) cholera outbreak in 1854, when he proved by mapping the cases of cholera throughout the area that it was indeed water and not gases that were the infections vector.

The building stood next to Fac 251 club (118 Princess Street)


Thank you to D. Easton, E. Glinet, J. Nightingale, J. Pickstone for their  invaluable help in writing this post.

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The Once Green Oasis of Manchester

2 Sep

This is a postcard of Piccadilly Gardens from 1949 viewed from Portland Street. Courtesy of R.Jones.

This is a postcard of Piccadilly Gardens in 1949 viewed from Portland Street. The printer or maker is unknown.

Piccadilly Gardens after Tadao Ando’s design and development. Courtesy of P. Stanley.

For most Mancunians, Piccadilly Gardens has traditionally been the centre of Manchester. This is due to Piccadilly Gardens being at the centre of public transport and also as it is a rare and much treasured green oasis in and amongst all the stone and brick and in 2012 concrete that enwraps it.

Unlike London which developed many large and impressive inner city parks, the relentless march of industry in Manchester throughout the 18th and 19th century saw most of Manchester’s inner city green space decimated and torn up to be replaced with factories, mills and warehouses. Buildings of round-the-clock toil and sweat, commerce and business and billowing chimneys; the pillars of industry that once proliferated the landscape and drove and transformed Manchester into world renowned metropolis of cotton – Cottonopolis has it was known worldwide.

Within this transformation, where once green space and open fields were plentiful, land was now carved up and sold off to industrialists and men of ambition. This was the birth of the modern city and the defining separation from the countryside where our ancestors had worked and lived their lives for centuries.
Further reading

Strange Ways at Strangeways

2 Sep

Image courtesy of N.Bowles.

The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act came came into power in 1965 ending 305 years of capital punishment in the United Kingdom. For over 3 centuries state sponsored death had been used to uphold the laws of the time and protect the interests of those in power and the society it governed.

On 13th August 1964 at precisely 8.00 a.m. The traps of hanging gallows 50 kilometres apart opened simultaneously for the very last time, dropping and ending the lives of the last two men to be hung in England under the Homicide Act 1957


Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans in 1964.

Peter Allen and Gwynne Evans in 1964.

At Manchester’s notorious Victorian Strangeways Prison, 24 year old Gwynne Owen Evans was hanged for the capital murder of John West whilst at the exact same time 21 year old Peter Allen was hanged at Liverpool’s Walton Prison for his role in the murder. Both held out for a reprieve, which would never come. Unknowingly, they would both enter the dark annuls of history as the final victims of a cruel chapter in our forgotten history.


We cannot know what their last thoughts must have been as they resigned themselves to the will of a society that sought justice and retribution for the murder of 53 year old John Alan West who they fatally stabbed in a bungled burglary.


Strangeways Prison built in 1861 and shown here in the early 1900s showing its Victorian Panopticon design.

Strangeways Prison built in 1861 and shown here in the early 1900s showing its Victorian Panopticon design.

Britains leading hangman Albert Pierrepoint made a gruesome craft of hanging, but even his skill and indeed that of the executioner Harry Allen could never have hoped to curtail the psychological suffering the majority of us pray will never know.

The appalling conditions they must have endured whilst they awaited their fate and which many people around the world continue to endure today and like Evans and West become victims of societies that exact the most barbaric and inhumane justice for heinous crimes that they believe misguidedly will rid society of its ills.

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