Street Life: Sugar and Spice (and all things nice)

If 1963 was Philip Larkin’s ‘annus mirabilis’, we baby boomers had ours in 1953. On the 5th of February that year, along with butter and sugar, sweets came off ration. Suddenly all that governed our purchases was how much we had to spend.

Although it wasn’t the closest to home, the sweet shop of choice was known to us kids as ‘the old man’s’. As I went to school with his daughter, he must have been considerably younger than I now am.The shop’s attraction was that while the front window displayed packets of dried peas, Kingpin flour and custard powder, the side window was a child’s box of delights. Standing outside discussing what we should choose was almost as enjoyable as the sweets themselves.

Glass jars of 6d a quarter items such as sherbet lemons, pear drops or cinder toffee were ranged along the back. These sweets were not individually wrapped as they are today; on the rare occasion we laid out 3d for 2 ounces, they were weighed out into a triangular poke bag. A few minutes in a warm pocket soon bonded the sweets into a solid mass which stuck to the paper more effectively than any glue.

Immediately In front of the jars were display cartons of the more expensive toffee bars and packet sweets such as spangles and fruit gums that mostly cost 3d. In my humble opinion, the banana split Palm toffee was well worth the investment.

The very front of the window had the cheap and cheerful stuff like ‘all day sucker’ lollies, arrow bars or 4 for a penny fruit salads, mojos and blackjacks.Photo compliments of Brian Winstanley

I seem to recall tuppence (less than 1p) being regarded as the amount grown ups were likely to part with on an ad hoc basis. The most popular tuppence worth was Kali and Spanish. I searched for Kali on the internet and was surprised to find it still available under that name. Kali is tart lemon crystals not at all like sherbet or the insipid rainbow crystals also available at 6d a quarter.

For tuppence you got a poke bag containing an ounce of Kali and a halfpenny Spanish to dip in. The Spanish was hard with a bitter taste and should not be confused with the soft sweet liquorice whirls, pipes and shoelaces sometimes also known by the same name.

The Kali/Spanish combination was one of the finest taste sensations ever. By the time the Kali was finished, there was usually about 2 inches or so of Spanish left. Without the Kali, the taste was too strong for me and I generously donated what remained to my granddad who loved it.

Another treat was penny ice lollies. They were made in flat aluminium moulds and came from a freezer whose large cabinet belied the smallness of its interior. Our favourite flavour was Vimto, but there were a minority of kids who favoured milk lollies.

And then there was ice cream. In the early years of Victoria’s reign, Manchester began to attract Italians who were skilled workers in stone or glass. Musicians and peddlers followed and swelled their numbers so much that part of Ancoats was known as ‘Little Italy’.Photo of J Burgon’s horse drawn ice cream cart (with the kind permission of Mr Ray Boggiano)

Fortunately for us, some Italians turned their hand to the manufacture of ice cream. Originally it was dispensed in licking glasses which gave it the nickname ‘hokey pokey’. The derivation was hocus pokus because the thick glass magically magnified the small amount of ice cream it contained. This unhygienic method of service was replaced by the variously shaped and uniquely textured biscuits known as wafers.

The family preference was for twists, but sometimes my granddad would ask me to bring him what he called ‘a shutter’ (an ice cream wafer to the rest of the world).

There were no electronic chimes for us. It was a brass hand bell that summoned us to Bertaloni’s cart that was pulled by a beautiful white horse (similar to that pictured). The driver was known to everyone as Tony – which might have owed more to our stereotyping of Italian names than his birth certificate.

Another of my all time favourites was a scoop of Tony’s ice cream collected in a bowl taken for the purpose. Back home I dropped it into a glass of Limeade. This was a double treat as fizzy drinks were a rare luxury in our house.

I wonder if you can still buy that hard Spanish at the chemist’s, because the thought of that on-line Kali is making my mouth water.

Moston ‘Diggy’

I once heard that children around the Church Lane area referred to themselves as ‘doggies’ or ‘diggies’, depending whether they lived at the end nearest the dogs’ home, or towards the Lightbowne end, close to former clay pits. By 1951, these had been worked out and infilled with shale, or used as a tip by the corporation, but the local name, the ‘diggy’, persisted. However, clay was still being dug out near Ashley Lane and north of Lily Lane to supply a huge, but now largely forgotten, local industry: brick-making.Map showing Kenyon Lane in 1933 with the brickworks on the left and Lily Lane school at the bottom

Moston, besides the peat mosses which gave it its name, also has extensive areas of clay, as many a gardener knows, and for centuries local potters had availed themselves of this resource. As the industrial revolution spawned a demand for workshops and housing, firms were established to produce bricks, tiles, chimney-pots and earthenware pipes. One such, the Moston Pottery, Tile and Brick Co, had been established by 1863 at the south end of St. Mary’s Rd, near the present-day Dean Brook pub.

Collieries such as Moston and Bradford also had brickworks: they were digging through clay to reach the coal, so why not use it, rather than dumping it? Other early names such as J H Charles and S & J Higham, came and went in the Victorian period, but by the end of the century, major players had arrived in the area.

Amos Reid Bullivant, a builder and joiner from Burgh-le-Marsh, Lincolnshire, came first to Blackley, then to Moston Lane, about 1873, and by 1900 his sons William, Amos and John had joined him in the business. Amos issued shares in 1903 to acquire land and establish a brickworks in an area roughly bounded by Moston Lane, Kenyon Lane, Lily Lane and Ashley Lane. In 1908, with an extended share issue by his son, John, it became the Moston Brick and Building Company Limited.Silton Street, towards Ashley Lane. Originally a cul-de-sac, the near end now connects with Minster Road, part of a 1996-2000 development, on former clay pits

As the name suggested, the firm not only produced bricks, but could undertake whole building contracts, from design (if required) to construction. An early example was the erection in 1909 of terraced houses on Silton St, Birchenall St, Hartley St and Penn St, on land close to the works and purchased by John’s brother, William. Some of these have recently been demolished, but quite a few remain.

In 1913 the Company purchased three 5-ton tipper lorries, demonstrating their expansion and modernisation, and by 1939 there were around seven clay pits in operation, some connected by narrow-gauge tramways to the works.

After World War II, they played a major part in the rehousing programme, all around Greater Manchester, such as 64 of the houses in the Greaves Estate at Rochdale. The scale of their business is revealed in a reply to a query about brick requirements, published in the Liverpool Echo in November 1945:-

“We have erected many thousands of houses, both for municipalities and private schemes. The total number of bricks for a five-roomed house is 15,000 to 18,000 and for a six-roomed house 20,000 – J.Bullivant, Director.”

As well as houses and flats, Moston Brick built many other commercial, educational and religious buildings. A few examples may give an idea of their range:-

Telephone exchanges at Collyhurst and Moss Side (1926), cinemas in Prestwich and Clayton (1928-9), Tuberculosis Dispensary (now the Sickle Cell unit), Oxford Rd (1931), Appleby Lodge, Fallowfield (1936), St.Patrick’s RC Church, Collyhurst (1937), Lansdowne House (shops and offices), Didsbury (1938), Woodthorpe flats, Victoria Park (1940), Regent Rd flats, Salford (1946), Higher Lane primary school, Whitefield (1953), the Central Synagogue, Jackson’s Row (1953), Moston Labour Club, Chain Bar (1955) and St.Clare’s Church, Blackley (1958).

Aside from the cinemas, most of these are still standing.

The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1931, during a depression in the building trade, but managed to revive and carry on until 1973 under John Norman Bullivant (John’s son), being finally wound up in 1976. I haven’t discovered whether brick production ceased during this period, or earlier, but the works was demolished in 1977 and replaced by light industrial units the following year.

There is now no trace of this once-important concern, but their legacy is still all around us. Collyhurst Exchange, Ryder St, built for Post Office Telephones in 1926 and still used by BTSt.Patrick’s RC Church, Livesey St, opened in 1937 as a replacement for the original (1832) building Manchester’s Central Synagogue, completed in November 1953. Moston Brick’s price for this was just over £63,400

Age UK Manchester opens a new shop in Harpurhey

I’ve come to Age UK Manchester’s newly opened shop where I’ve arranged to meet Ros Morton, the Manager. Ros runs it alongside the Deputy Manager, Shelley, with the help of five volunteers.“Might be obvious, but talk me through the sort of items you sell and what you don’t.”

“We sell women’s, men’s and children’s clothing” she starts, “shoes, handbags, belts, toys, books, DVD’s, household items, ornaments,  bric-a-brac, jewellery (apart from worn ear-rings), furniture and electricals.”

Ros explained that not all items of furniture are suitable for resale because of Trading Standards rulings and drivers check Fire Hazard labels before collection. Some other items need fire labels too but all the details are on their website.

I’d assumed stock was received in plastic charity bags – the type that drop through your letter box; but that’s not quite the case.

“We’ve found the best way to get donations is by promoting the shop around the local area; letting people know we’re here by word of mouth and on social media. We’ve done a few events, handed leaflets out about Age UK Manchester, how to volunteer, how to donate and about our collection and delivery service.

Nearly all the stock sold in the shop is donated, mostly by people filling up the special bags (available at our shops), or by just dropping items off during shop opening hours.”I donate to charity shops and buy from them. For me, condition is really key.

“Of course customers want to buy clothes in good condition. We sort and check what we sell but we don’t waste anything. Damaged clothing is sent for recycling and we receive payment for it so it still brings in income. “

“Do you ever negotiate on a price for something?” I ask her.

“It’s important for the people who have been kind enough to donate their items that we set a fair price and not undervalue them. We’ve lots of experience and take into account the original cost, the condition and, to be fair to the buying customer, keep it affordable.

The money we make in this shop helps to fund activities and services we provide in Manchester, like the ones at the Crossacres Resource Centre in Wythenshawe, and our information and advice line in Manchester City Centre.”

I wander around the shop. There’s a nice, positive feel about the place. It’s well organised, easy to find what you’re looking for and the displays are inspired.

Ros has experience as a community worker as well as charity shop manager and loves both aspects.

“For me this isn’t just a shop. People come in, have a look around and buy things at a reasonable price but it’s a friendly place, we have regular customers who drop in for a chat. Sometimes they make a purchase and sometimes they don’t. If they leave feeling good then that’s fine.

We’ve got lots of space and we’re looking into getting the most out of it. Not just how to generate more income but how we can contribute to the community.”It’s getting busy so I take my leave and thank Ros for her time.

The idea of perfectly good clothing ending up in the dustbin or cluttering up cupboards is bonkers. Passing them on to a charity shop’s got to be better, so have a clear out. If you fancy treating yourself this one’s well worth a visit.

The Harpurhey shop is located opposite B&M, just click here for details, including opening times and volunteering opportunities.

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