Canal tragedy, shops are made from old hall and IMPS are happy campers

Middleton Guardian - - BYGONE DAYS - HAROLD CUN­LIFFE

THIS week we pub­lish part two of our Whit­sun­tide fea­ture, which we show some pre­vi­ously un­seen pho­to­graphs courtesy of Mrs He­len Stubbs, who is the youngest daugh­ter of the late Chris­tine PearseJones.

Chris­tine was in­formed that the an­nual whit walks were due to be phased out, so with this in mind she cap­tured im­ages of walks dat­ing around 1969. Other pho­to­graphs fea­tured date from the 1950’s. Spe­cial thanks to her daugh­ter, He­len for mak­ing these pho­to­graphs avail­able.

By­gone days reader and fam­ily friend Mike Stringer dropped in last week to have a chat. We had of­ten spoke about a rel­a­tive of his fam­ily who lost his life in 1951 by drown­ing in the canal at Mills Hill.

Last year we lo­cated the ac­tual re­port which was pub­lished in this news­pa­per at the time of the in­ci­dent. It was a tragedy when Har­vey Stringer, age 13 of Elm Street lost his life in a part of the canal known as the ‘Iron Donger’. The name Donger comes from the noise which em­anated from the bridge when the old steam en­gines passed over it.

From what was pub­lished at the time we find that Har­vey had had a swim­ming les­son the pre­vi­ous week, this be­ing his first at­tempt at this new sport, and be­ing good at most sports he was ex­cited at learn­ing a new skill, fol­low­ing his les­son he spoke of noth­ing else.

The tragedy be­gan fol­low­ing the break up of his school for the Whit­sun­tide hol­i­days, this would mean that he would have to wait two weeks be­fore he could at­tend the Baths with his school. Har­vey and three of his pals de­cided to have a dip in the canal, Peter Holt of Elm Street, Les­lie Howarth, also of Elm Street and Har­vey Whit­worth, Mars­den Street, Mid­dle­ton Junc­tion, went along to the canal near Scowcroft Bridge, which is lo­cated not far from Mills Hill Bridge.

None of the four boys could swim, but in choos­ing a nar­row part of the canal they could plunge in the wa­ter and reach the op­po­site bank, Peter was the first to ac­com­plish this. We find that Har­vey, who was good at run­ning and other sports, found that if he took a good push off he could eas­ily reach the op­po­site bank. Peter slipped as he was div­ing and hit the bot­tom of the canal. See­ing him floun­der­ing Har­vey Stringer jumped into the wa­ter to help him. In the ex­cite­ment the other boys on the em­bank­ment man­aged to pull Peter to safety, but when they looked round Har­vey was nowhere to be seen, he had dis­ap­peared.

A mes­sage was sent to a nearby pub­lic house, the Gar­den­ers Arms, where a call was made to Chad­der­ton Po­lice. One of their pa­trol cars was in Lau­rel Av­enue when the call came in, on route to the canal an off duty of­fi­cer joined in the res­cue, this was Sgt Duxbury who was do­ing some gar- den­ing at the time at his Lau­rel Ave home.

Ar­riv­ing at the spot where Har­vey was last seen Sgt Duxbury jumped in and found the boy at the bot­tom of the canal. Har­vey was brought out of the wa­ter where he was given ar­ti­fi­cial res­pi­ra­tion which we are in­formed lasted an hour, but with­out suc­cess. Young mas­ter Stringer, one of a fam­ily of seven was in the scouts, at­tend­ing Wade Street, Mid­dle­ton Junc­tion.

He was to at­tend a scout func­tion the fol­low­ing day to be pre­sented with a cup which he won for run­ning. RE­CY­CLING Old Hall Street has quite a bit of the old hall about it. Mr Henry Robin­son who built the shops in the area of Old Hall Street and Manch­ester New Road used ma­te­ri­als from the old Mid­dle­ton Hall which was be­ing de­mol­ished.

The back door of a jewellers shop, re­mem­bered by some peo­ple of a cer­tain age, as ‘Swin­burne’s’ had the back door from Mid­dle­ton Hall.

Other items from the hall were a set of six chairs, which were low and small and de­scribed as oc­ca­sional chairs, found at a house at Mount Rd. One of the shops was once the lodge to the hall, be­ing a sin­gle story build­ing, had two up­per floors added later. This could well have been Hor­ridges shop.

It was Whit­sun­tide 1909 when a cor­re­spon­dent wrote to a num­ber of news­pa­pers claim­ing that a Ro­man Road never passed through Rhodes, or Mid­dle­ton. He had read a re­port which doc­u­mented the Ro­man Road from Manch­ester, but he was hav­ing none of it.

He claimed that it was only a foot­path which ex­isted from Blackley, not mak­ing any ref­er­ence to Lever Bridge, the path ran past Wood Cot­tage from the di­rec­tion of the for­mer White Lion in Blackley.

It was known that march­ing Ro­man’s would choose high ground which was firm to avoid their ve­hi­cles from be­ing bogged down. Next week we pub­lish the de­tails of one of the old­est routes into town.


At one time we as­so­ci­ated Whit Week as hav­ing been blessed with glo­ri­ous weather. As a child I re­mem­ber it be­ing very hot weather each year.

Wear­ing new clothes with shirts that made your neck sore, which were stiff­ened with starch, and try­ing not to turn my head dur­ing the wit­ness­ing of the whit walks. The best part was that rel­a­tives and friends would give to­kens of money for your wear­ing of your new clothes.

These were the days when you only had new clothes once a year. Hand me downs or the jumble sale was the nor­mal way of be­ing clothed.

We find that dur­ing the mild weather of the 1930’s there was a com­pe­ti­tion to pro­duce a recipe for the most nu­tri­tious, least ex­pen­sive and eas­i­est veg­etable soup to make. This con­test was world wide.

The com­pe­ti­tion was judged by two of the most fa­mous chefs, who de­cided that the best soup was one made by a Bri­tish Army cook based at Alder­shot. Staff Sergeant Brown of the Army School of Cook­ery com­peted with over 600 cooks and house­wives from all parts of the world, and won.

Now here is the best bit, he came from Mid­dle­ton. The moon­raker’s cre­ation was backed by the Savoy Ho­tel, London, who of­fered the prize. It was an­nounced by the vice-chair­man and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Mr G. Reeves-Smith, that all three win­ning en­tries came from Staff-Sgt Brown.

He said, “The win­ning recipes ful­fil every re­quire­ment in be­ing nu­tri­tious, sim­ple, tasty and in­ex­pen­sive. The to­tal cost of in­gre­di­ents, in quan­ti­ties enough to serve eight peo­ple, would be only one shilling (five pence today), for the cau­li­flower cream soup, one shilling and ten pence (9p) for the mine­strone,

Long St, 1950’s. Chris­tine with her eldest daugh­ter, Gil­lian. Mid­dle­ton

Har­vey Stringer, who lost his life in the canal

Wood Street show­ing the

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