Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Before the Great War cinemas were being built at an ever increasing number and opening at a rate of about 60 a month, this is one such cinema and stands on the corner of Grosvenor Street and Oxford Road in Manchester.  It takes part of its name from its location, The Grosvenor Picture Palace, although today it is now a Sports Pub called The Footage with two big screens for the sports enthusiast.  Designed by Percy Hothersall in 1913 its green and cream faïence tiles are striking.  You will observe the two sides are different
the longer one being located along Oxford Road, I rather like the stained glass circular windows.  It must have looked like an entrance to another world when it was all lit up for its opening in 1915 with the historical drama Jane Shore starring Blanche Forsythe.  Hothersall designed at least two other cinemas locally, one which does not survive, and the other, a 'supercinema' of 2,324 seats The Piccadilly Picture Theatre only the façade survives and it is now a retailing outlet, one the residents is Co-operative Food which also moved into an old cinema premises further north in 
Carnforth.  Once again only the façade survives but this has a bit of cinema history in that it stands near Carnforth station where the filming of David Lean's Brief Encounters took place in the 1945 and it stood in for 'Kent'. (Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations)  Locals were used as extras so I imagine when it was screened in Carnforth the interest was not only in the film's story. I have in the past asked what the cinema was called but nobody ever seemed to know but thanks to the Cinema Treasures site I eventually discovered it was built some time pre 1923 as the Kinema (Frith postcard image here) and later renamed The Roxy it closed in the 1960s.  In those early days it was one of the James Brennan's portfolio of cinemas and theatres who was sometimes called the 'cinema king' because of the number he owned  in this corner of north west of England including
my local, also called the Roxy (a lot of his cinemas were called The Roxy). Here is a postcard image from possibly the 1950s and in this case the cinema survives (but not the Rose Garden) although the art deco interior has been split horizontally with the cinema now living on what used to be the balcony.  This is not my nearest cinema which is a rather unadventurous multiplex but it is my cinema of choice for its atmosphere and large screen, it celebrated its 75th birthday in 2012.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at C here

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Benthall Edge Woods

A few days before I took this photograph the cricked back I'd had for months had suddenly and unexpectedly shuffled everything back into place like a row of dominoes and I felt like bounding up these steps in celebration.  Needless to say I didn't make it to a bound but walked sedately up through Benthall Edge Woods.  Many paths converge here and it is a popular woodland walk so the steps both protect the woodland environment and the walker from sliding on muddy slopes
I have been told there are 469 steps in total but didn't count them.
Despite plenty of signposts (none of which were the one we were looking for) we managed to miss part of the purpose of the walk which took in the remains of the industrial revolution, an old quarry and lime kilns
Somehow ending up out of the woods amongst baby bovines
Coming down through the woods and dropping onto the route of the Shropshire Way on the way back
where we eventually saw one lime kiln just off the Severn Way footpath but there was some construction work going on so sadly we couldn't approach, however the late summer woodland greenery more than made up for the disappointment.  This part of the Severn Way long distance footpath runs along an old disused railway line
which no doubt would be marked on this information board of the area that was being drilled into place by the side of the car park on our return.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at B here

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Abbey to Abbey

Near the Severn river in peaceful surrounding stands Buildwas Abbey, although its past was not always as serene as it looks because it is near the border of Wales and battles between the Welsh princes and the English took place in this area.  One incident was the kidnapping of the abbot in 1406, although perhaps an abbot should be wary here for one was murdered by a monk.
The abbey was founded in the 12th Century as a Savignac order which within a few decades merged with the Cistercians.  When I wandered around the grounds at Buildwas I did not realise there was a connection with the abbey of my home town, for it was a group of monks from Furness Abbey that were sent here to establish Buildwas Abbey.
Furness Abbey also lies in peaceful surroundings (here seen in the Autumn light which highlights its beautiful sandstone). It too was in a border country only this time it was the Scots that were likely to raid and it too would fall into ruin with the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII,
The architectural details are more ornate at Furness Abbey but it was one of the richest abbeys in the land and also built some time earlier, so perhaps more influenced by Norman or Romanesque architecture whereas  
Buildwas was showing the development of a distinctive Early English style.  Like Furness the Buildwas stone is interesting for it is of different shades and alters with the light.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, which has reached its 16th birthday and this  this week is starting all over again at A here.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


I inherited a bound set of The War Illustrated from my paternal grandparents. One hundred years after publication I'm exploring its pages to discover the people and their times.
"Thoughts of 'Noel' - The French Soldier Sends a Greeting from the Battlefield"
I was looking for something connected with the 1915 New Year in the War Illustrated but couldn't find anything however coinciding with my love of all things postal I thought this illustration of a French soldier sending Christmas greetings home was an appropriate one.  I have two of my  maternal Grandmother's first husband's Christmas messages to her, he never made it home.   If someone was killed or missing the letter were returned to the sender with a message on them to that fact.  The French on the other hand put a rather poignant message on their mail returned to sender "  le destinataire n’a pu être touché à temps" (the recipient could not be reached in time).

I know little about the French postal system during WW1 beyond the fact that it was sorted in the National Music Conservatory in Paris. The UK postal service of the first world war was an amazing piece of organisation delivering 12 million letter a week. At first the post was sorted by the army units in France, but it soon became apparent that it would be better to do it in the UK so they built the Home Depot sorting office in Regent's Park, London.  When completed it was the largest wooden building in the world.  The average time for a letter to be delivered to the western front was 2 days, if it did not have to be censored.  Letters were censored at the port of Le Harve and then later in Boulogne so the enemy could not learn any information from the letters, but they also had a great deal of success in catching spies this way.  Both countries of course censored mail and also provided postcards to the troops, some where there was a list of messages like this where the appropriate one was chosen

 This French card is interesting with the various theatres of war in Europe on one side:


where I suppose one indicated by number where your unit was.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Zebra Grate Polish

Of course the first thing I noticed on this display of old enamel signs on a fence at the Blists Hill Victorian Town open air museum was the Z (it helped that it was on a bright yellow background). That elusive end letter of the alphabet for ABC Wednesday was sorted by the Zebra Grate Polish sign (a substance launched in 1890 by Reckitts).   It was one of the housewife's tasks to polish up the grate to a gleam, commonly called blackleading   The routine was old newspapers spread out in front of the grate, for it could be a messy business, and then the paste applied evenly all over the object in question, which would be a fireplace or the more elaborate cast iron range, then came the hard work of using the polishing brush to bring up the sparkling gleam.

Reckitt and Sons marketed their product in a similar non-descriptive way as the other famous marketing brands of the era such as Lever's Sunlight Soap and Coleman's Mustard.  The Zebra of course appeared on their tins and on the advertising which
often portrayed cute children in combination with  a zebra called Zebo.
but sometimes there was not a zebra in sight, only stripes. 
While trying to find some images to go with my photograph for this post I came across a great lamentation that modern day grate polish for things such as wood burning stoves does not give the same results as the old Zebra or Zebo products. The conclusion was that you would have to recreate it from scratch.  It originally consisted of pure black graphite finely ground, carbon black, a binding agent and a solvent to keep it fluid for application.  The problem with modern products is that they have a water based binding agent to make them idiot proof (and additionally absolve the manufacturer from any disaster involving their customers in chemicals)  however the fact that it is water based means it does not enter deeply enough into the substrate of the cast iron.  Who knew I would learn all that while trying to find images for an ABC post.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at Z here