BBC Manchester Voices

In 2003 BBC Manchester ran a project called Manchester Voices. An article on Levenshulme is reproduced below (copyright BBC Manchester) and a selection of archive recordings of people in Levenshulme from the BBC Manchester Voices project is available HERE

VOICES: A history of Levenshulme (the Beautiful Village) by John Wiggett

(BBC Manchester archive, link to original article HERE)

Manchester Voices A Parade in Levenshulme

Levenshulme is about 6 miles south from the centre of Manchester and was indeed a village in its own right, located on the Manchester to Stockport Road, now known as the A6.

Before 1950 we had our own council offices on Stockport Road – now used as a second hand furniture sales point.

The main road was cobbled from Manchester to Hazel Grove then known as Bullock Smithy 12 miles away.

Manchester Voices Tiled floor in former council building

Two sets of tramlines ran along the centre of the road, Bullock Smith being the terminus. In my day, ‘going all the way’ meant just that – from Manchester to Bullock Smithy. The tram passengers had to negotiate horse drawn traffic in order to mount the tram.

As time went by, one or two motorcars came on the scene and this manoeuvre became a definite hazard. In any weather the motorist applied his brakes and stopped 10 yards on.

Levenshulme had 5 chemist shops, 2 of them being national multiples, ‘Timothy Whites’ and ‘Boots’. All main roads and side streets were lit by gas, yes even side roads.

Manchester Voices Levenshulme street scene

A man was supplied with a bicycle and a 4ft cane with a hook fitted to the end. His job was to switch the pilot light full on to light the lamp, and reverse this procedure in the morning.

Alarm clocks were a novelty, so a knocker up’ was employed. You booked your early morning call with him and we had a long cane with a gardeners wire leaf rake attached. He would not go away until he saw you at the window.

All roads were tree lined. I well remember how romantic my own road looked even in winter.

The famous Red Brook men’s shirts were made in Levenshulme and sold in premises now selling home decorating materials. They moved on as the shirts sold well.

The building set back from the road now the Iceland Supermarket was the venue for professional wrestling; among the stars were the Pye Brothers. Later the premises became a roller skating rink, and for a short time a dance hall.

Manchester Voices Wrestler Jack Pye

If you want milk today you go to a supermarket but before the self appointed milk marketing board came along, milk was produced and sold by local farmers and you go the lot, nothing skimmed off. You could get an inch (2.5cm) of cream in a pint of milk.

Our own family milk came from Alderley, Cheshire. A young woman drove a pony cart from a farm in Alderley to Levenshulme, and measured it into the customer’s own jug.

At our house we gave her pony a carrot and she had tea and toast about 9am every morning. Levenshulme had 3 Post Offices, 5 churches catering from most religious affiliations.

Manchester Voices Family Days in Levenshulme

The Roman Catholic Church at that time was in Clare Road with a convent next door. The present site of the RC church now located off Elbow Street, was a council incinerator and on the same site, the Manchester Police Force and stables for 12 horses. The entrance was in Stanhope Street and the back entrance on Delamere Road, along the cobbles. This section later moved to Chorlton where it is today.

At the corner of Alma Road was a Methodist Church. This site is now Kwik Save Supermarket. An interesting point arises from this.

The last funeral to be conducted at the church was a well regarded local man, Dr John Porter whose surgery was in the basement of his own home, located next to the Post Office on Albert Road.

Television had not been invented. People at home listened to radio shows like ITMA (It’s That Man Again) Tommy Handley.

Manchester Voices ITMA

Only the wealthy had telephones, we all wrote letters using a 2-½ d stamp (slightly more than 1 new pence).

The present wooden community centre was built as a primary school, which later merged with Chapel St School to take over a corrugated iron building known to a generation of children as The Tin School. During a hail storm the teacher had to shout.

The Community centre building became a job centre where the unemployed went to collect the ‘dole’. The 6ft high safe is still on the premises.

Manchester Voices Levenshulme Community Centre

The Lloyds TSB bank on Stockport Road was originally 2 shops – one of them owned by Mrs Hurst was a newspaper and confectionary business and this lady was well known as the first port of call for anyone looking for ‘digs’ (accommodation). The Bank was the Manchester and Salford Trustee Savings Bank, and the incumbent Bishop of Manchester inherited the title of President. Well, it had to be above board with a Bishop in the Chair.

No 24 Decametre Road became the home of Victor Silvester, a nationally recognised conductor of a 25-piece strict tempo dance band.

Manchester Voices Victor Silvester

He moved to London (where the money was) and his younger brother took over the house. I have had Christmas cards from the family for 40 years. I can still feel a sentimental twinge when I think of Christmas, dark nights and main street shops lit by gas lamps.

Levenshulme really was a beautiful village where everyone knew everyone else.

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