In Haunt

Burnage – a place of potentially ancient origins, a Utopian-styled garden village, colourful corporation housing… and plenty of stories! A project celebrating the history and significance of this Manchester suburb has been busy inviting members of the public to share their stories, under the title ‘Burnage: A Place Called Home’, with many of its features online for all to enjoy.

Burnage A Place Called Home

Why Burnage? The project was developed in order to celebrate what is a historically inspiring yet often overlooked area, as well as in response to the provocation ‘Burnage hasn’t got any history!’. Determined to show differently, Burnage Activity and Information Hub had been running popular local history groups at the library, before setting up a Memory Bank for people to submit their real-life stories. The result was a wide range of accounts, emphasizing not just the deeper history of the place, but the significance of the Corporation estates and how a community emerged.

In turn, ‘ Burnage: A Place Called Home’ was forged, as an 18 month project (funded by the Heritage Lottery) collating these stories and showcasing what is the all-too-often stigmatised legacy of social housing and corporation development – which actually had a transformative and lasting impact on the area.  The beginning of this house-building drive in the area stems from the aftermath of WWI, with many troops returning from time at war. Notably, Prime Minister at the time David Lloyd-George had promised ‘Homes fit for Heroes’, and a number of new ideas had been proposed in order to improve living standards, especially in terms of the urban population. This included the Tudor Walters Report of 1918, a government report setting out higher standards for social housing provision. In turn, the launch of ‘Burnage: A Place Called Home’ in 2018 marked both 100 years since the end of WWI, and the Tudor Walters Report itself.

Now, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the importance of local resilience more than ever, Burnage stands out. As well as previously being the site of an ancient hamlet and a Roman Road, it holds a rich industrial and communal history, with its strong civic identity still evident today. The work of ‘Burnage: A Place Called Home’ over the last two years has included working with partners at Manchester Central Library’s Archives+ to explore images, film and oral histories of the area, with the University of Manchester’s Dr Charlotte Wildman and Southway Housing also being partners to the project. It certainly has made progress, with the remarkable ‘Stitching Burnage Together’ – a patchwork quilt created by groups across the Burnage community, a range of heritage based exhibitions, displays, school visits – and now the varied website where people can browse the stories of Burnage and see another side to this bustling place. One of the most remarkable activities was how the project invited the community to ‘build their street’ as part of the Big Burnage Lego Map! (pictured below)

By John McCrory

The area certainly has seen plentiful change over the years – from having areas of common pasture during the Middle Ages, to areas of farmland emerging, and eventually becoming a township, with the Egerton family being major landowners in the area. Hence, Burnage hasn’t always been so urban… the writer George Bernard Shaw reportedly once described it as the prettiest village in Manchester! Yet by the late 19th century, Burnage had become a place of what was a growing cottage industry at the time, weaving.

It was then the 20th century that saw a range of changes in Burnage’s land use. For example, in 1919, Cringle Hall in Burnage became the new home of the Manchester Babies Hospital, then continuing in this location (later under the name the Duchess of York Hospital for Babies), until 1986. By John McCrory

 In addition, Burnage Garden Village is another example of a development here with a lasting legacy. Influenced by Ebenezer Howard's Garden Cities movement (as outlined in his book Garden Cities of  To-morrow) with its utopian principles of better urban living standards and improved use of space, it was built in 1907, consisting of 144 houses to the West of Burnage Lane. The houses themselves were designed by the local architects Gustave Agate and J. Horner Hargreaves, embodying suburban housing ideals of the Edwardian era, and presented in a roughly hexagonal layout.

Garden Cities Movement styling was especially evident in the consistency of hedging, front gardens, trees and grass verges around the estate – as well as the features of interlinking pedestrian footpaths, tennis courts, bowling green and a clubhouse! Meanwhile, Arts and Crafts Movement principles can be seen in the format of the houses themselves, low-set with rooves that often extend below the height of the eaves within – allowing for maximised usable living space, and plentiful natural light. Also notable for the time, was the inclusion of indoor bathrooms, running water and an electricity supply.

Picture below by Steve Marland. Find out more, including his post on 'Burnage Garden Village', on his Modern Mooch website here.

By Steve Marland

In turn, Burnage Garden Village offered a radical alternative to the often cramped, poor-quality housing that had emerged out of industrial era Manchester; with overcrowding, poor sanitation and inadequate space being all-too-common problems. Burnage became somewhat of a blueprint for a better way of living – and there were some rather radical first residents too! Take the example of Tom Larrad, who was Labour Councillor for Ardwick and lived at 9 East Avenue; significantly active in Labour politics during the 1920s and 30s. Meanwhile, at 21 East Avenue was the Wallhead family, including member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) Dick Wallhead, who worked as a lecturer and journalist – a notable objector to World War I, who went on to be elected to Manchester City Council in 1919. Daughter Muriel embraced similar views, becoming an ILP propagandist (primarily on anti-war terms), whilst her brother James was also a conscientious objector. At 26 North Avenue was Clara Doughty, a member of the Women’s Freedom League, whilst at 5 West Avenue, Maud Dean was also a member of the Women’s Freedom League and lived with her husband, Herbert.

The progressive mood of the new occupants was also matched by the will for welfare improvement that drove residential development. Further housing expansion came to Burnage, fuelled not just by ideals but the necessity to house a growing population.

By John McCrory During the 1920s and 1930s, 3700 cottage style houses were built by the Manchester Corporation– affordable and high-quality – putting Burnage on the map as a place of municipal vision. It also provided a source of work for people after the war, and 275 previously unemployed workers helped to build Errwood Road (above), with the first ‘all electric house’ (including features such as lighting and a washing machine) opening for public view in 1926. More houses then formed what we may call a ‘Council Estate’ today, close to Kingsway – a road which was itself constructed in the 1920s and named after George V.

Burnage was after all a place where people lived – and worked. Renold Works was key feature of the local landscape from 1906 onwards, the factory of Hans Renold, who invented the roller chain. Additionally, he was a key champion of worker’s rights and supported a Hans Renold Social Union being set up, a group that encouraged leisure activities and a sense of community amongst colleagues. Renold also introduced a 48-hour week, one of the first employers to do so, as well as providing a canteen and sick fund. There are also examples of how local working life and housing plans came together. The Cooperative Estate, for instance, was built for the workers at the M&S Cooperative: consisting of 40 houses and a range of thorn-inspired road names i.e. Blackthorn Drive.

Memories Burnage’s growing residential estates, as well as their leafy surrounds, are evident on the ‘Burnage: A Place Called Home’ website. It includes fond accounts of the nearby Errwood Park and Cringle Fields; complete with recollections of a busy bandstand, local pub football teams playing tournaments and even the inclusion of a lido! There are also further details about what the original Burnage Corporation Houses were actually like – with many including unique ceiling racks, as well as the option of having a colour-painted front door. Pictures highlight how the residents’ choice of bright colour schemes really brought the façade of the houses alive!

However, Burnage’s burgeoning housing did not come obstacle-free. Although the number of new dwellings increased, the community provisions did not – with a number of ideas stalled by the Great Depression, including the original plan of the library. Yet in a response perhaps testament to the unique spirit of the area, people developed their own clubs and activities in an array of spaces. A mobile library quickly began to serve the area instead, and during WW2 the local library was housed in a semi-detached house on Bournelea Avenue! After all, it seemed that the residents of Burnage were keen readers, with this makeshift library issuing more books than the libraries in Hulme, Gorton and Newton Heath. Residents also continued to petition for a permanent library, and although it did move to another temporary location in 1947 (some former wooden mortuary huts), the current library was finally built in 1974. Even more remarkably, after it came under threat, local people have been running the library themselves since 2013, under the title Friends of Burnage Library in partnership with Manchester City Council and Southway Housing Association. This was a fast-thinking local response, and these communal efforts, transforming the library through a lively body of volunteers into an information Hub, has been recently awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. Even the shutters on the library front (pictured below) are decorated in an original piece by Hammo, the Northern Quarter mural artist!By John McCrory 

During the turbulence of the Covid-19 pandemic, the community of Burnage has continued to strive for positive progress, adapting to help local residents according to the circumstances. This has included providing phone support for people who may be isolated or vulnerable, and supporting local causes such as the Foodbank. In turn, the project’s title ‘Burnage: A Place Called Home’ seems more apt than ever, and its own resilience during the pandemic has included adapting its planned exhibition into an innovative outdoor display (pictured above)! Thanks to support from Burnage Academy and Green End Primary School – who let the project use their railings for display purposes  – an outdoor art trail was created out of panels showcasing the community quilt (pictured below). 

To find out more about the project, visit http://burnagehome.co.uk/wp/. There are also three downloadable guides online, with walking ideas in Burnage for those who may fancy exploring further.

Burnage A Place Called Home

All photographs by John McCrory, with the exception of the aforementioned photograph by Steve Marland and the final photograph which is by Kate Turner

Article by Emily Oldfield 

Related

0 Comments

Comments

Nobody has commented on this post yet, why not send us your thoughts and be the first?

Leave a Reply