Bricks of Chocolate

It must be a long time since standing on C. C. WINCE BROOK BRIDGE at the bottom of Manchester New Road near the junction with Oldham Road. I knew it was called that because those words were carved into the coping stones. There used to be distinctive shaped bricks in it too. A good reminder (to me at any rate) of the blocks of Milk Tray, when Cadbury’s used to make them in a bar.

Writing about that reminds me of other sweets that I now associate with that part of Middleton. Including Cadbury’s Twenties which boxes you could buy in milk or plain chocolate. A similar type of thing was a box of Terry’s Neapolitans. Twenties and Neapolitans only appeared at Christmas. Terry’s had flavours too – coffee and orange.

Of course, we walked everywhere and shoes came from Fletchers on Long Street, the last shop immediately before the steep hill up to the Parish Church. Other times shoes came from Timpsons or the Co-op, also on Long Street. Shoe repairs were carried out at the Co-op or by Mr Diggle, who had a tiny shop on Rochdale Road, at the junction with Spring Gardens.

There was another shoe shop and repairers on Oldham Road, right opposite Hilton Fold Lane. Sometimes, the proprietor, a very elderly man was to be seen standing on his front step in the early evening. Christmas saw him displaying slippers in his window.

For very young children’s shoes, there was Percival’s, on Market Place. He had a great big tin of Dolly Mixtures on his counter. Given that the top of the sweets was always flat, I’m wondering now if any infant hand ever got any…

Also on Market Place was Broadbents, which was I think, two shops, both double fronted. One sold ladies’ clothing and the other, gentlemens’ and boys’ wear. I think they sold school uniforms too. I remember my grandmother bought some vests there once. Next door to Broadbents was Peter Pell, a gentleman’s tailor who also sold suits “off the peg” as they were then described, meaning, “ready to wear without alterations.”

At the corner of Corporation Street was a chemist’s shop, who also was an agent for Ilford films and had a strange metal advertisement hanging over the door, in the shape and colours (orange and cream) of a box of Ilford film. Funnily enough, of all the slides out of my father’s collection, the Ilford ones have retained their colours better than all the others, including Agfa and Kodak. Strange.

Next door to the chemist was “Home Decor”. This was a high-class outlet and had some striking examples of modern furnishings and art, lighting and some furniture too. We had a lamp from there.

Further still in Market Place was Warners who sold fashionable clothes and work clothes; then there was a pub in green tiles, a bicycle repair shop, and right at the end, at the corner of Townley Street was a sweetshop and toyshop.

On the other side of Market Place, starting with the building that faced the bottom of Townley Street, was Providence – the school and then the Chapel. These were Congregational denomination, or English Presbyterians. They amalgamated in the 1970s and became part of the United Reformed Church. In Middleton, both buildings were just called “Providence.” The school was demolished and the chapel eventually fell down (or was it pushed?).

Then going back towards Market Place gardens, there was BISCO (buiding and industry supplies company?), and then there was Chadderton’s tools and ironmongery. Then there was a building set right back against the retaining wall to the cemetery. That had been a clothing factory in the 1960s for a time.

Then there were other shops in a row, including a mens clothing shop and Roberts, Middleton’s stationers. Roberts was full of paper, lined and plain; typing paper; cash books; ledgers; rules; ink; pens; nibs; biros; coloured pencils; but it was a dark shop and as such, it seemed to typify the town, especially as it appeared to a child. Almost everywhere there was a distinct lack of fun. Middleton was quite a serious place. No wonder I saw chocolate in the bricks.

Fountain Street – The Market

Of course if it was Friday, it was Market Day. There was the old market on Fountain Street although my auntie remembered it being in Market Place. Sometime in the 1920s there, a wheel came off a lurry in Long Street, somewhere near the Assheton Arms and it ran into the market and injured somebody very badly.

It was near the market on Fountain Street that my grandad showed me a wagtail that was strutting about in the croft that was just by the start of the railings. By the time I remember it, the railings were a shade of dark yellow.

Along the railings sat an old chap. He had lost both legs below the knees and walked around on stumps encased in leather and finished off with brass upholstery tacks. He sat before three paintings that he might have done himself. I only remember one of them. It was of a cross on a stark background. His cap on the ground showed a meagre collection.

I had an aunt who lived in Fountain Street too. She used to meet us sometimes. Then we would go down the ramp into the market.

Always a Pessagno’s Ice Cream van there. Then we would look at the pot stall. “For Mammie’s Pearlies” one of them announced. I asked what pearlies were. Nobody answered. Then we went ot Waterhouse’s stall for eggs. There were also trussed chickens with the price written on the wooden skewer in pencil. There was also cheese , a huge round one in a muslin. That always smelled good.

Then we would walk a bit further on. Mr Moores sold biscuits. “A pound of mixed” it was, regularly. Mr Moores had been a POW in Burma. His wife was an organist too. She had a really nice contralto voice.

Then we would walk around the market, taking each aisle in turn. Towels, bedding; overalls; pans, soap, household things, even costume jewellery; clothes, woollens and so on. Always a colouring book, sometimes, a magic painting book, where you just painted water on and the colours appeared as if by magic.

Gas lamps on Suffield Street and on a good day, a glimpse of the Fire Engine.

Home again, leaving the bare bulb-lit stalls and the noise of chatter. Sometimes, there was a roundabout. Sometimes, it rained and I admired – even as a child – the ingenuity employed by the stallholders to keep off the rain. They must have been frozen in winter. I was well wrapped-up and I bloody well was.

Nobody would believe you now.

The New Road (1)

A street that nobody lived on: Fitton Street. It ran from Manchester New Road on to Jackie Booth’s field. There were no houses there when I was little. But the sign was still there. Middleton style – black writing on white background. Sometimes I still see them. Mostly not.  The 122 had its own bus stop near there as well. If I find a picture of it I will post it. But I think there were houses there at one time.


The Commercial (hotel) stood at the bottom of Oldham Road. It was on the Middleton side of the Oldham Road/Manchester New Road junction. This was a wide junction. Eventually a refuge was put there. There was a bus stop outside The Commercial. The front door had a huge stone step outside.

A little way back down Manchester New Road towards Middleton was Smith Street. Nowadays, it is hard to imagine it because the area has been raised and levelled. (It must be somewhere under that roundabout at the bottom of Manchester New Road. In the 1960s, cars used to fly down Smith Street (quite a steep hill) and then climb up the other side to reach Oldham Road again.  It cut quite a big corner off. There was a patch of granite setts or cobbles at the Manchester New Road end. Even now, I can hear the tyres of the speeding cars flapping on those cobbles.


We called them cobbles but they were really setts. Granite setts. Cobbles were strictly speaking large rounded stones got out of brooks and river beds. Real cobbles were instantly recognisable. There was a patch of real cobbles next to the Hare and Hounds I think. I might be wrong but it is a long time since I was there.


There was a shop on Manchester New Road whose window was always a delight. The shop was called “Roylance” and it was just before Mill Street and the Lever’s Arms. The Lever’s Arms was a very neat and tidy building of very good proportions. In particular, the windows were very smart. In its commanding position the Lever’s Arms presented an interesting facade of regency or classical symmetry. It contrasted well with the Electricity Showrooms in the “Moderne Style”. The neon sign on the Electricity Showrooms showed it off well at night.

If you wanted to go to cut through from Manchester New Road to Manchester Old Road you could. That would save you having to walk down Middleton to Mill Street and then out again on the Old Road. There was a little bridge that went over the Irk at the bottom of Leater Street. The bridge was through a little door in the wall at the bottom of that street. Then, when you had crossed the river, you could reach the shops on Manchester Old Road – or the Doctors. Dr Linton had his surgery on Manchester Old Road at number 53. The bridge over the Irk was up some steps and then there was a huge slab of flag rock that formed the bridge itself. It had iron railings and the rail on the top was shiny and smooth no doubt from the many hands that had gone across there. I still hear the fair on there in my imagination.


One of the things that you never hear about now is the dusty windows. Some of those properties that had the dusty windows were unoccupied. Some may have still been inhabited. The level of dust on the windows was such that nobody could see out of them. You certainly could not see in. Windows such as these could be found on the row of houses below the Drill Hall on Manchester New Road; some of the properties on other streets were probably unoccupied for years.



Middleton Telephones in 1911

Here is the list of who had and who had not.

The Middleton system was in its infancy in 1911. You could not dial your own calls. It was in the 1930s before you could dial your own calls from the Middleton exchange. The telephone exchange was on Oldham Road at this time.

How to Make a Call

To make a call, you lifted the receiver of your telephone. If it had a handle generator, you would wind the handle a couple of times to attract the operator’s attention. If not, you just waited.

The Operator Was In Charge

The telephone operator would have her attention brought to your number on the exchange apparatus. It looked like a very high upright piano, Down one side were little discs about the size of tiddley-winks. When you picked up your receiver, the disc would fall into the hole against your number. The operator would answer you and write down the time. The talk was formulaic and never changed. Something like:

“Hello Caller; which number do you require?”

You would then say the number you required. Even if the operator recognised your voice, she was not allowed to chat to you. Rules were strict. Chatting could keep other people waiting too!

About Those Connections

The operator would take the wire connected to your number and then plug it into the plug for the number you required. This would cause their telephone to ring. If they picked up the phone, their disc fell into the little hole and the exchange. The then meant you were connected. The charge started there and then. It cost quite a lot to telephone. About 2d for a minute or so.

No Earwigging!

The operator was not allowed to listen but might interrupt and remind you of the cost. If people did not pay the bill, they could not be connected.

Book in Advance!

There might also be a few lines to Manchester and some to Oldham and Rochdale. These would have to be booked in advance. When the call was placed by the operator, you would be informed and then the charge would start.

In a Queue!

Not only would the Middleton operator deal with calls in Middleton. The Middleton operator would deal with calls from Manchester to Rochdale or Manchester to Oldham and so on.

Sharing the Costs…

Some of the numbers have an ‘x’ or a ‘y’ after them. These were two people sharing the same line for a reduced cost. These “party lines” still existed in Middleton until the late 1970s.

System Lasted for Nearly Sixty Years

Some of the exchanges around Middleton were still connected via an operator into the late 1960s. These included Saddleworth, Tottington, Shaw, Todmorden, Marple and Glossop. For these, you dialled a special local code and waited. The operator would answer “Number please” and then you would say the number you wanted. Then you waited for the clicks and then you would be connected. The operator would say “putting you through now” when you go through. If there was a delay, the operator would say “still trying to connect you”.

How Many or How Few?

On old photographs of Middleton, you can see how many telephones there were by looking at the telegraph poles. Two wires equal one telephone!

Just Put It in Writing!

Even though there were lots of phones by the 1930s, most people still communicated by writing notes and  letters. Sometimes they sent postcards. Mostly, delivery was next day but you could also get same day delivery – and you did not have to pay extra for it.

The 1911 Telephone Directory:

Here is the list of Middleton’s first telephones from 1911. The list is exactly as it was in the directory. Some of the abbreviations are odd-looking now. I wonder if they are all decipherable?

Middleton 1 Public Call Office Oldham Road
Middleton 2 Schwabe, Salis & Co Rhodes wks nr Mid
Middleton 3 Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Middleton
Middleton 4 Fire Station Middleton
Middleton 5 Cromer Mill Ltd., Cotton Spinners Oldham rd
Middleton 6 Dickins & Co., Yarn Polishers, Mers Spring vale
Middleton 7 Thompson Chas. H Boiler Maker Middleton junc
Middleton 9 Travis and Lees, Firwood Mills, Middleton Junction
Middleton 10 Grimshaw Lane Spinning Co Ltd Middleton Junc
Middleton 11 Junction Spinning Co Ltd. Middleton Junc
Middleton 12 Green Lane Spinning Works
Middleton 13 Central Social Club Old hall st
Middleton 15 Soudan Mill Co. Ld. Cotton Spinners Soudan mill
Middleton 16 Lees J. W. & Co Greengate Brewery, Middleton Junc
Middleton 17 Irk Mill Co. Ltd. Oldham rd
Middleton 18 Townley Mill Co. Ltd., Cttn Spinners Townley mill
Middleton 19 Irkdale Bleachworks Co Ltd Middleton
Middleton 20 Partington Jonathan, Contractor Middleton Junc
Middleton 22 Malta Mill Co Middleton Junc
Middleton 23 Town Hall Middleton
Middleton 24 Wood T.H. & Son Lts., Cttn Spnnrs Park mills Mid
Middleton 25 Swan Cotton Spinning Co. Ltd. Middleton Junc
Middleton 26 Hulbert John Coal Iron Merchant Oldham rd
Middleton 27 Albany Spinning Co Ltd. Cotton Spinners Middleton
Middleton 28 Jones F R Westdene
Middleton 29 & Tonge Cotton Mill Co. Dane Mills
Middleton 30 Electricity Works Middleton
Middleton 32 Lawton S & Sons, Finishers and Embossers, Cross st
Middleton 33 Kempsey Ernest & Co Lodge mills
Middleton 34 Argenta Meat Co. Ltd Long st
Middleton 35 Don Mill Co Ltd Don Mill Oldham rd Tonge
Middleton 36 Hilton & Son, Plumbers Decoratrs Manchester old rd
Middleton 37 Electric Traction Co Car depot
Middleton 38 Rex Mill Ltd., Cotton Spinners Rex mill
Middleton 40 Booth & Co., Dyers & Polishers Irk vale dye wks
Middleton 41 Catterall Rev R., Rector of Midd Middleton rectory
Middleton 44 Gas Offices Middleton
Middleton 46 Girvan W.G., Veterinary Surgeon Manchester Old rd
Middleton 49 Kay and Son, Carriers 15 oldham rd
Middleton 51 Hunt and Moscrop, Engrs, Millwigts Central ironworks
Middleton 53 Cocker H & Co Finishers and Stnters Brittania mills
Middleton 54 Heywood and Middleton Water Board Oldham rd
Middleton 56 Wall Paper Manufacturing Co Fielding Mills
Middleton 59 Hollingworth J.A. Pine Ho, Middleton Junc
Middleton 60 Smith William V. “Sunnyside” Kenyon Ln
Middleton 61 Chadwick and Smith Ltd., Bleaching Dyeing Printing Boarshaw wks
Middleton 64 Rothwell J C Dental surgeon 101 Long st
Middleton 65 Heywood J H & Sons, Joinrs & Buildrs Manchester old rd
Middleton 66 Ward WIlliam A., Wholesale Butcher, Wood st west
Middleton 67 Wilton Manufacturing Co Townley st
Middleton 68 Taylor R Builder & Contractor 105 Manchester old rd
Middleton 69 Police Station Middleton
Middleton 70 Farnworth & Duckworth, Carriers (Motor Waggon) Jubilee rd
Middleton 71 & Tonge Industrial Society Ltd Long st
Middleton 72 Taylor Joseph, Hay Corn Mercahnt 51 Mnchstr New rd
Middleton 73 Evans, Travis Stock, Share Broker Lever Mount
Middleton 74 Frost J,. Rayner “Boothroyden ho” Boothroydn Rhodes
Middleton 76 Johnstone George, Surgeon Beech ho Middleton
Middleton 77 Findlay and Leigh, Physicians and Surgeons Manchester Old rd
Middleton 78 Ollerenshaw George, Motor Carrier 44 Townley St Midd
Middleton 79 Crapper B “Mills Hill House” Middleton Junc
Middleton 81 Milne J., Surgeon 68 Manchester Old Road
Middleton 82 Warwick Mill Co. Ltd., Cotton Spnrs Oldham rd
Middleton 83 Times Mill Co. Ltd Middleton
Middleton 85 Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, Middleton junc
Middleton 86 Ashton Noah, Fish, Poulterer, 22 Long st
Middleton 88 Rhodes Mfg. Co. Indian Shirting Mfrs Rhodes
Middleton 89 Don Laundry (A.E.Jackson) Soudan st
Middleton 90 Eclipse Engraving Co Ltd Hall st
Middleton 91 Partington R & Son, Bldrs & Contractr Lodge st
Middleton 92 Ashworth R & Sons., Cotton Manufcturers Tonge mill
Middleton 94 Guardians of the Poor (Oldham Union) (Relief Office) 1 Suffield st
Middleton 95 Butterworth John., Dr., Dental Surgeon Long st
Middleton 96 Walton F. J., Surgeon 54 Spring vale
Middleton 97 Middleton Conservative Club Long Street Middleton
Middleton 98 Manchester and County Bank Middleton
Middleton 99 White Hart Hotel (Geo, Sudall) 86 Rochdale rd
Middleton 100 Old Cock Inn
Middleton 102 Hulbert Edmund Machinry Mcht, West Lea Middleton
Middleton 104 Standard Joinery Works Cheetham st Mdltn
Middleton 105 Skellern Thomas, Plmbr Hse Dcrtr 11 Corporation st
Middleton 106 Mason Arms Hotel (John T Birchwood)
Middleton 107 Kay Jas., Enginr, Machine broker Middleton junction
Middleton 108 Labour Exchange, The Lodge, Lodge Street
Middleton 110 Whitefield Velvet & Cord Dyeing Co. Ltd. Parkfield wks
Middleton 111 Wiggins W. M. Fencegate Middleton
Middleton 112 Neild John, Cotton Agent Birkdale Middleton
Middleton 114 Victoria Hotel Middleton junc
Middleton 115 Ormesher William Lyndhurst
Middleton 125 Wood J Cotton Spinners Boundary mill Middleton junc
Middleton 129 Taylor Albert “Green La Cottage” Middleton junc
Middleton 130 Jopson Ashworth & Edmunds Ltd Kid Clough dye wks
Middleton 133 Crookell W & Co. Electrical Engrs Water st
Middleton 135 Hare and Hounds (Geo E.Heathcote) Oldham rd
Middleton 136 Hilton & Derbyshire Ld., Ch Proprs Mill st
Middleton 137 Assheton Arms Hotel (L.W. Krause) Middleton
Middleton 139 Chapman Thos & Co Coal Mrchts 137 Oldham rd
Middleton 2x Campbell Duncan Ironfounder Preston st
Middleton 2y Howell Mary, Coal Merchant 141 Oldham road
Middleton 3x Entwistle F & Son Solicitors Long st
Middelton 3y Wheeldon F., Surgeon 76 Long st
Middleton 5x Education Dept Long st
Middleton 5y County Court – Post Office Chas
Middleton 6x Wilcockson A.E. Plmbr & Painter 327 Grimshaw la
Middleton 6y Wilcockson Bros., Carriers by Motor Andrew st
Middleton 8x Dempsey J T Joiner Bldrs Mcht Suffield st
Middleton 8y Bamforth J & Sons, Engs’ Mllwts 35 Old hall st
Middleton 10x Verity Printer & Bookbinder Wood st
Middleton 10y Mellalieu W E Plumber and Painter Wood st
Middleton 18x Gorton & Halliday, Plshd Yarn Mfrs Lark hill wks
Middleton 18y Pedley F & Sons. Tinplate workers 174 Oldham rd

Friends on Gas Works Brew

Of all the people that ever walked down Gas Works Brew, it had to be a relative that fixed the spot in my imagination.

For those who know, then you know. For those who don’t, then Gas Works Brew went from the bottom end of Corporation Street up to Oldham Road and you finished up opposite the bottom end of Taylor Street.

Gas Works Brew wound and climbed steeply. There was a hidden street lamp halfway up. It was one of Middleton’s specials. It had been a gas lamp but later it was electric with a swan neck. There were lots of these in Middleton at one time and no two were alike. There were railings up the brew too. At the top end near Oldham Road were old wooden and metal posts stuck into the settled surface.

These posts had been put there during the war. They were all of different sizes and widths. One of them might have been an old railway sleeper. Anyway, there were enough of them to stop any cars going down there although a motorbike might easily have done the trip.

Halfway up Corporation Street there was the old Empire Cinema and Theatre. Aunty Winnie was walking to the Empire with her sister. It was foggy and it was also the middle of the war. As it was the evening, everything was blacked out – no streetlights, no nothing. Turning from Oldham Road, Aunty Winnie walked a little way into Gas Works Brew and then she walked into one of the posts. She didn’t know it was a post and so, she apologised politely.

After the pictures were over at the Empire, they walked back down Corporation Street and by this time the fog was worse than ever. Coming to the top of Gas Works Brew, Aunty Winnie walked into the post again and this time put her arms round it. Once again she apologised.

Not until a week later did her sister point out the posts in the street. “There’s your friend,” she said laughing; “the one you bumped into twice last week.”

It became a bit of fun later and we enjoyed the repetition of the story.

The area isn’t quite the same now. But every time I pass there I think about the absurdity of the story. It was quite a Hylda Baker moment.

Talking of Corporation Street, there was a sweet shop on there just towards the bottom end on the opposite side from the Empire. When I was a child I used to look at the sweets in the window. I always fancied the “Strawberries and Cream” in a big jar in the window.

These were sold in two ounces or by the quarter and were hard-boiled sweets. They were red and white, hard sweets and they were not shiny but had a dull surface. Like they had been dusted in icing sugar.

The shop was very old and looked quite unvisited. I supposed that it might have been busy at one time with people going to the pictures.

Eventually all those houses were emptied and made ready for yet another unfeeling and unsympathetic Compulsory Purchase Order. The shop window became dusty and the jars of sweets disappeared. After that, I didn’t go there any more.

But one day many years later, I bought two ounces of Strawberries and Cream sweets. I forget now where I was. As I ate them I went back to Corporation Street as if in a dream. I looked through the window once again and stepped inside and bought the sweets in my imagination.

To be truthful, I can’t really remember if I ever did go in or not. I might have on the way to the Baths on Fountain Street but at this distance in time I can’t recall.

You couldn’t beat Corporation Street in the old sooty-rain days. The flags really shone. But that shop window certainly brightened my imagination and hopefully a few others too.

The Trams Were a Mixed Blessing

Especially in Middleton. Among other things, the Middleton Electric Traction Company only partly got it right. Amongst their problems were odd track planning; expensive fares; and not reaching their travel goals.

Inadequate Routes

Their routes – Rhodes to Chadderton (optimistically labelled Oldham on the trams) and Middleton to Sudden did not connect with the tramways of the great towns of Oldham and Rochdale; whilst Rhodes was left without a through service to Manchester until the advent of the express buses in the 1920s.

Rhodes Isolated

These were opportunities lost. The Rhodes line to Manchester although sought by the MET company, was never built.  The company was thwarted by Prestwich council who, in 1899, preferred to support Salford and Manchester in keeping the company out of their areas.  The Prestwich interest was ultimately one of rateable value. A line to Rhodes was built quite early on  by Manchester and then leased to Salford. The service was always just short of adequate. This sort of politicking led to what should have been a valuable arterial route becoming a truncated branch line – and one run by the wrong neighbour at that.

We can revisit these topics again. They are a fascinating reminder of some chronically bad plans that were made worse as time went by.

Accidents and Court Cases

Middleton Electric Traction Company had its share of bad accidents too. Going through some old papers has turned up so many that this is another topic that could run and run. However, for now, we could just have a look at the first few years and some grim occurrences that ended in unfortunate fatalities.

Through these accidents and the subsequent hearings, our modern Traffic Acts and Highway Code have been formed. Whatever the causes, they all make fascinating reading. These will suffice for now.

From the Newspapers 1902 – 1907 – A Child Loses Its Life

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Friday 11 July 1902


The adjourned inquest into the circumstances attending the death of Florence Eliza Fitton, 3, of Chadderton, who was killed on Sunday afternoon by one of the cars of the Middleton Electric Traction Company, was resumed last night at Chadderton. George Watson, the driver, said if any person had had his foot on the trigger of the lifeguard he thought it would act. Some of the “gates” were, however, so sensitive that the wind blew them down. The Coroner said the jury had visited and examined the car in question, and on putting their feet on the trigger the lifeguard could not be forced down. Continuing, Watson said the gate that worked the lifeguard was not on the iron hinges but was tied up with string. He had not tied it up, but it was his opinion that the lifeguard would work just the same as being on hinges. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death” and exonerated the driver from all blame. They made a recommendation to the effect that the trigger of the lifeguard should be removed or carefully guarded; and added that the gate, with not being on the hinges, allowed too much “play” and assisted in the lamentable accident.

Adults Are No Safer

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Wednesday 15 July 1903

TRAM CAR FATALITY. Damages for the Loss of a a Husband. An action was brought Elizabeth Clayton, of Oldham, against the Middleton Electric Traction Company for damages for the loss her husband, who lost his life as the result a tramway collision on January 12th on Middleton Road. The action was brought under Lord Campbell’s Act. Mr. Shee. K.C., and Mr. T. F. Byrne were for the widow, and the defendants Were represented Mr. Taylor, K.C,. and Mr. Langdon. From the statement of Mr Shee it appeared that Edward Clayton, lurryman. aged 52. with other men in the employment of the Star Corn Millers’ Company, Oldham, left the mill with a load of flour early in the morning cf January 12th, and proceeded along Middleton road in the direction Radcliffe. Just past Norden-lane. where there is an incline, the tram car ran into the lurry, the shaft horse of which was being led by the deceased. Clayton was thrown down and run over by his own lurry, and carried a considerable distance by the fender the car. The defence denied negligence, and the driver of the tram car said that the lurry was sharply turned on to the line when only 12 yards away from him. He applied the brake, but could not stop in time, and his car struck the lurry. The jury found for the plaintiff for £150. As the sum awarded was less than the sum paid into Court—£151— which his lordship described as a very astute payment, on Mr. Taylor’s request the question of costs was reserved.

Cases Considered Important Enough to Be Reported Elsewhere

Dundee Courier – Monday 20 July 1903

At Manchester Assizes on Saturday, William Henry Coffee, a French Polisher, living at Blackley, recovered £200 damages from the Middleton Electric Traction Company.

Horse Drawn Vehicles and Electric Tramcars Do Not Mix

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Saturday 25 July 1903

TRAMCAR ACCIDENTS. HEAVY DAMAGES AGAINST MIDDLETON ELECTRIC COMPANY. At the Manchester Assizes, on Saturday. William Harry Coffey, a French polisher, brought action against the Middleton Electric Traction Company for damages arising out of a tram car accident. The facts on which the claim was founded were that the tram car ran into governess car in which were plaintiff and a friend, breaking it up, and it was alleged, injuring the plaintiff. Defendants did not deny negligence, but contended that plaintiff had suffered no injury. Plaintiff alleged that he had suffered from the shock and from injury his thigh up to the present time, and that he might never be able to follow his occupation again. Mr. Ambrose Jones and Mr. Rhodes were for the plaintiff, and defendants were represented Mr. Shee, K.C., and Mr. Wingate Saul. The jury found for the plaintiff, and awarded him £200 damages. Judgment was given for this amount with costs.

Some Claims Raised Eyebrows too…

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Thursday 3 October 1907
At the Oldham County Court, yesterday, a claim by Henry Tetlow, a Rochdale carrier, for £4 8s. 6d. against the Middleton Electric Traction Company Limited for alleged damage as the result of a collision between his lurry and horse and a tram car, as adjourned till the 17th of October by the Judge, the driver of the car having sworn that when he examined the lurry after the accident he saw no damages, except a broken shaft. The Judge directed the Plaintiff to being before him the wheelwright who had repaired the lurry. He said he was tired of this sort of thing, and would get to the bottom of this case.

Some Cases Were Open and Shut

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Friday 13 March 1907

THE WRONG TURNING. WHEELWRIGHT’S SUCCESSFUL CLAIM. Yesterday, at the Salford Hundred Court of Record, compensation to the extent of £25 was awarded by a jury to James Redford, a wheelwright, of Chadderton, Oldham, for damages received by him in a tramcar accident. The defendants were the Middleton Electric Traction Company. Mr. Sandbach, who was instructed Mr E. Bold, for the plaintiff, said that on the evening of the 23rd July, Redford was out driving, and called at the Hare and Hounds Hotel, Middleton-road, between Oldham and Middleton. There was some talk of selling the horse to the landlord the house, and for the purpose of showing off the horse Redford got into his trap and drove a little way down the road. A tramcar was coming behind in the same direction, and as Redford turned the horse across the road to drive back the Hare and Hounds, the tram crashed into the vehicle, knocking the horse and trap over, and throwing him against the street wall. The car was going very quickly, and the driver of it gave no warning. Several witnesses, including the plaintiff and the landlord the Hare and Hounds, gave evidence in support of this statement. The defence put forward by Mr. Wingate Saul, who was instructed by Mr. W. F. Chambers, that the car was not going at more than a moderate speed; that the driver rang his bell and whistled, and did all could to avoid the accident ; and that Redford turned the horse quite suddenly without first looking behind to see if any car was coming up.

  • Notice too that newspapers were quite happy to print the word “lurry” – and why not? It is in the Oxford English Dictionary. Zealous schoolteachers outlawed this word after the 1870 Education Act when many pupils were made to feel ashamed of their accents and their use of what were often wrongly referred to as “dialect words”. Prejudice against “lurry” in schools and in day-to-day sniffiness lasted well into the 1970s.
  • Notice also that “tram”, “tram car”, and “car” all mean “tram”.

Lights Out!

On some of the old photographs of Middleton (and other towns), there are street lamps. Gas lamps. They are not lit of course! Imagining the cosy glow of the old gas lamps is a comforting thought these days. But in some pictures, the street lamps are strange. The mechanism that lights the lamp is missing. What can be the reason for that?

Gas street lamps were usually lit by a lamplighter.  Sometimes they contained a pilot light and a wind-up timer. Gas lamps also contained at least one incandescent mantle suspended on a narrow angled gas pipe. But in some photographs, there is no pipe, no pilot light and no mantle. All of the photographs that show this are taken in daylight. There is a mystery here.

For many years it could have been imagined that the sun might have been reflecting on the lamp faces, which were flat glass. That reflection might have explained the non-capture of the gas mechanism in the lamp. They don’t photograph easily anyway. What to say then?

Well: here is a letter from the Manchester Evening News. It is from Tuesday 2nd June 1914. It challenges our views of gas-lit streets. It is also critical of Middleton Corporation and the town and does not pull its punches. However it is interesting and it was 102 years ago.

Here is the letter:

Manchester Evening News – Tue 2 June 1914
Letters to the Editor. STREET LIGHTING AT MIDDLETON Sir, —In last night’s “Evening News” it was stated that: In order to economise, the town council of Schilda, Germany, has directed that on nights, when, according to the calendar, the moon may be expected to shine, street electric and gas lamps shall remain unlighted. Something like this takes place in parts of Middleton, near Manchester. On some of the roads at present a number of lamps has been dismantled, apparently for the summer, and the unlucky individual who is out at night where there is no illumination from tramcars or dwelling-houses has anything but a happy time. If Middleton is to be raised from its parochialism it will have to be less cheeseparing in regard to street lighting. A Victim. Middleton.

In those photographs taken in the summer, it looks like the lights have been dismantled and disconnected deliberately. It seems to have been countrywide. When did the practice end? The last gas lamps in Middleton were in Suffield Street. They got their own story in the 1970s power cuts. It was all in the “Guardian”.

Later on, electric street lights replaced gas street lights.  Even then, in some towns, most of them were switched out at midnight. Right up until the 1980s!

Lights out!