2018 was the first full year of A Helping of History, my local history show on North Manchester FM. I’ve told stories of North Manchester’s past, welcomed some brill guests to the studio, and been taken ‘on location’ at some of North Manchester’s landmarks. I’ve also done my weekly read of Yesterday’s Papers, and featured tons of iconic local buildings in the Who Am I? quiz. Below is a round-up of everything that happened this year on the show, but I’d like to say a big thanks to North Manchester FM for continuing to let me haunt their airwaves and to Rob Shedwick (aka Digital Front) for being my unofficial producer on the show.
January started with a show about the unusual double life of a one-time Hollinwood publican – Albert Pierrepoint. Pierrepoint had the Help the Poor Struggler Pub in Hollinwood, while also working as a hangman. I followed this with a show about George Augustus Lee, who lived in Cheetham Hill and became the first factory owner to introduce gas lighting to his mill. Surprisingly – and topical, given the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein this month – I found an unexpected connection between George Augustus Lee and Mary Shelley too! Next up, I talked about the Battle of Theale Moor (and how a magician was called in to end a battle between the farmers of Moston and Chadderton), and then Tinker’s Gardens – North Manchester’s very own pleasure gardens. I ended January with a show about one of my absolute favourite tales of North Manchester: Hannah Beswick, also known as the Manchester Mummy.
I started this month with a show devoted to one of Middleton’s (and North Manchester’s) ‘power families’: Meet the Asshetons. Then I followed this with a show about George Victor Townley, a young man from Hendham Vale who killed his ex-girlfriend and was convicted of murder… but what happened next will shock you! This controversial case caused quite a stir in the 1860s and led to much discussion about the ‘insanity plea’.
My other February shows saw my first guests of the year come in to the studio. I spoke to Josie Loftus about the Once Upon a Time project at Manchester Communication Academy, and I interviewed Larysa Bolton about the Ukrainian Folk Art Museum at the Ukrainian Centre on Smedley Lane.
This month, I welcomed Friends of Heaton Hall to the studio to talk about their work and the history of the hall. Later on in March, I spoke to Friends of Clayton Park about their work at Clayton Hall, and about some of the events and activities the hall now offers.
Other shows this month focused on two of the major employers in North Manchester’s industrial history. I talked about the CWS Crumpsall biscuit factory, including some of the products and recipes associated with the factory. And I also talked Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti, the innovative man who opened (though didn’t manage) Ferranti’s in Hollinwood. This show was ‘electric’ in more ways than one, as I also had an interview with the curators of Electric Generations, an exhibition about domestic electricity that was held at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Cheetham Hill.
My first show in April was about Cheetham Hill’s Literary Daughters – Frances Hodgson Burnett, Jessie Fothergill and Maria Theresa Longworth (better known as Theresa Yelverton), who were all born in Cheetham Hill in the nineteenth century and became authors. The following week, I returned to North Manchester’s big industrial employers with a show on Alliott Verdon Roe and the aircraft manufacturing company he founded – Avro.
In the second half of the month, I did my first ‘On Location’ shows – recorded on site at two fascinating (but very different) North Manchester locations. The first was at the Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester in Cheetham Hill. And the second was at Grade I-listed Heaton Hall, where I was taken for a tour by the Friends group.
My first show this month was a rather grisly tale of North Manchester’s past – the story of the Moston Axe Murder from 1888. I quickly followed this dark little story up with a Who Am I? catch-up show, and a chance to revisit some of the iconic buildings that have been featured in the weekly quiz so far. Next up, I talked about Blackley’s Litchford Hall (now the Convent of the Good Shepherd).
I also had some interviews with fascinating guests this month. Liz McIvor of the Co-Operative Heritage Trust came along to talk about the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and the history of the co-operative movement, and I also spoke to Alan Clegg of the John Stocke Charity in Middleton, one of the UK’s oldest charities. This latter show also featured an introduction to another of the area’s ‘power families’: the Radcliffes of Manchester.
My show in June featured two interviews. I spoke to Alan Clegg again – this time about his magazine Memories of Middleton and his involvement in local history projects. I also talked to editor Will Carr about The Ink Trade, a new collection of the journalism of one-time Harpurhey resident Anthony Burgess. Continuing this bonanza of guests, my next show also had two guests! First up, I spoke to Christine Grime of the Edgar Wood Society, and then I welcomed Richard from the Friends of Angel Meadow to the studio to talk about the history of Angel Meadow and the work of the Friends group.
My next two shows were all about parks. I talked about Queen’s Park in Harpurhey – one of the first public parks in Manchester. And then I reported on the 50th anniversary celebrations at Herristone Park in Crumpsall, interviewing local residents, community groups and local councillors about the park’s half-century of history and importance to the local area.
A couple of catch-up shows kicked off July. First up, I offered a few short reviews of local history books I’ve been reading this year. And then I gave a second airing to some of the mystery buildings from the weekly quiz on my Who Am I? catch-up show. The next show was something a bit different, as I talked about the tragic unsolved case of the murder of Sarah Jane Roberts in Harpurhey in 1880.
The next two shows had me reporting on recent local history events in the area. The first was a recreation of a Suffragette rally in Heaton Park – complete with a restaging of the moment Emmeline Pankhurst stopped a tram on the Heaton Park tramway. Next up, I was at Clayton Hall for the unveiling of Polly-do-you-remember?, one of the Bee in the City sculptures for the upcoming public art trail in Manchester. As well as seeing Polly, I also got a bit of a tour of the hall from the lovely Friends of Clayton Park.
My next guest, in August, was researcher Ann Siburuth, who came on the show to talk about post-war Polish Resettlement Camps in Moston and Crumpsall – a fascinating and (now) little-known bit of the history of Broadhurst Park and the former Rec Ground on Hazelbottom Road. The show that followed was a trip to Newton Heath, as I shared the story of engineering firm Heenan and Froude, and their most famous creation – the Blackpool Tower. Another show in August looked at my ‘North Manchester Miscellany’, a collection of small curious tales from around the area – from disappearing children in Blackley to rabies in Crumpsall and turkey-rustling in Moston. And finally, my last show this month looked at the story of activist, rambler and son-of-Cheetham Hill Benny Rothman and the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932.
September began with the answer to a mystery than has been puzzling me for over a year. Chetham’s Library tweeted a picture of a lantern slide, taken somewhere in Manchester at an unknown time. I’ve been obsessing of that mystery lantern slide for all that time, but have finally worked out what (I think) the building is. I revealed my solution – and showed my working – on the show this month!
Following that, I had an interview with Rob Hargreaves and Alan Hampson, authors of Beyond Peterloo: Elijah Dixon and Manchester’s Forgotten Reformers (published this year by Pen and Sword Books). I also had shows about Miss Mary Taylor of Moston, a self-taught scientist and friend of John Dalton who lived in Moston in the nineteenth century, and on Middleton Junction, including a bit of the history of Jumbo Farm and Bradshaw Hall.
This month, I started off with a show dedicated to Booth Hall (the house, not the hospital). I did talk a bit about the history of the Booth Hall estate back when the show started, but in the context of it being part of the medieval Blackley deer park. This time, I focused a bit more on some of the people who lived at the hall, from its construction in 1640 to its demolition in 1908. The following week, I reported on a small exhibition of photos of old Moston, which were taken by the North Manchester Camera Club, at the Cheetham and Crumpsall Heritage Society. I talked to various members of the society about the pictures and about their memories of Moston and the North Manchester area.
The next show commemorated the 150th birthday of a (now) North Manchester-based company – the Manchester Evening News. Although the paper’s origins aren’t in the north of the city, their current location in Hollinwood made me interesting in covering their story. (The site of the current Manchester Evening News building is where Ferranti’s factory was, and before that Birchin Bower, the home of Hannah Beswick. As I’ve already covered Ferranti’s and Hannah Beswick on earlier shows, it seemed only right to talk about the site’s current resident as well!) And then the final show in October featured an interview with Martin Dodge, one of the authors of Manchester: Mapping the City, a new book on the cartographical history of the city, which was published by Birlinn this year.
I started this month with an interview with Andrew Crome about ‘Apocalyptic Ashton’, an event he organized in Ashton exploring the life and legacy of John Wroe. Wroe founded the Christian Israelite Church and sought to make Ashton-under-Lyne the ‘New Jerusalem’. I talked to Andrew about this intriguing aspect of neighbouring Tameside’s history. My next show was a little closer to home, as I told Three Tales of Old Crumpsall – murder at the workhouse, poisoned beer and a fraudulent stationmaster were on today’s menu!
My next show was recorded ‘On Location’ again – this time at St Peter’s Church in Blackley Village. Reverend Eddie Roberts took me around this Grade II*-listed Gothic revival church, and we talked about its history, architecture and identity in the community. My final show in November welcomed Karen Shannon of Manchester Histories to the studio, as we talked about the plans and opportunities for the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre next year.
My last live interview of the year was with Celia Cropper of Friends of Broadhurst Park. I talked to Celia about the twentieth-century history of the park, and also about the work of the Friends group. My next show was inspired by the sad news of the death of Pete Shelley, founder member of Buzzcocks. As it was such a significant place in the Buzzcocks’ careers, I took a little trip (figuratively speaking) to the Electric Circus, the short-lived but famous punk venue on Collyhurst Street. While the music and subculture history might not be my strong point, I was intrigued by this run-down little club (long since demolished), and its place in the local history of Collyhurst. My penultimate show of 2018 featured Three Tales of Old Cheetham Hill – an unsolved murder, the coming of the tramways and an unlicensed slaughterhouse all made an appearance on the show.
Finally in December, it was my Christmas Special. This year, it fell on Christmas Day itself – so I made it extra festive. Like last year, I indulged in a bit of festive nostalgia, inviting residents of Moston, Crumpsall, Cheetham Hill and Miles Platting to share their memories of North Manchester Christmases Past – all with a bit of vintage Christmas music to add to the mood.
My next show will be my first of 2019! Hope you tune in!
I’ll be on air on New Year’s Day with a Yesterday’s Papers Special, reading the local papers from the week between Christmas and New Year, 1940. As always, you can catch the show on Tuesday at 12 on 106.6FM (if you’re in the North Manchester area) or listen online (if you’re further afield).
Happy New Year!