I ended up at Manchester Polytechnic purely by accident; back in the sixties, if you wanted to study English at University you had to have Latin and for various reasons I did not have O-level Latin… but that’s another story. There were 13 universities I could apply for… none of them were interested in me and like a lot of students I went through what is known as ‘clearing,’ and so ended up at the College of Commerce, otherwise known as Colcom, within Manchester Polytechnic.
I met the best friends in the world and before long there was a group of five of us who were very close; In 1974 or maybe it was 1975, one of our group, John decided that rather than living in bedsits and flats, he would buy a house, and he found the details of a large, three bedroomed property on Beech Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy.
At that time I was working at Manchester Airport, the others were teachers and as I worked shifts I was free to pick up the keys and do an initial inspection of the house. It had been owned by an old lady who had died, so when I turned the key and stepped into the house, it had been empty for some time although it still had some of her furniture.
If you are interested in knowing the history of the house, my best friend Andrew Simpson has written a series of excellent articles chronicalling the history of this wonderful place.
It was a sunny day as I entered the spacious hallway with a generous staircase leading up on the left; there were curtains and nets at the windows but even so, the rooms were full of dusky light, the house warm and welcoming. I wandered round from room to room; it was peaceful and magic. From the large front room there is a view straight across the small front garden, across the red brick wall, across Beech Road to the park. The front room was full of oversized furniture, slumbering dimly, covered in dust. The fireplace had a huge mahogany surround, with mirrors inset in true Edwardian early Georgian style. There was a mahogany picture rail with a few obscure pictures suspended by picture hooks and wires.
Behind the front room was a dining room looking out over a small sheltered garden which backed on to a little alley which ran between Beaumont and Provis Roads. There was a very small kitchen at the back, and between the kitchen door and the door to the cellars was the back door leading out of the side of the house. Cautiously I went down into the cellars, they were large, extensive and dry, no smell of damp or rot, just perfect for storage. There was a coal hole and there was the remains of a pile of coal, dusty and smelling of bacon. There was also a boiler down here… but above all there was space!
Upstairs there was a small unusual shaped landing with two large bedrooms, one small one and a bathroom. The windows were large and the rooms full of sunshine. This house was perfect.
John bought it and we moved in, three of us, John, Mike and me. Over the years other people lived with us for periods of time, including Jen and Andrew. We had many happy times here, unforgettable!
We started having Christmas celebration before Christmas with friends as we tended to go away from Manchester back to our own families. Note the 1970’s Habitat lampshade!
We had many visitors over the years we were there, we loved cooking and entertaining!
… and then John got bored… so after building his own telescope, grinding and polishing the lens himself, he built a boat – in the dining room!
He shaped the timbers for the boat by nailing them into the floor and then filling the room with steam… I think he constructed a little tent over the whole thing. If you look at the floor today you will still see the outline of the boat in nail-holes in the floorboards!
Once the structure was moved into the small back garden, it was then built upside down. It was covered with fibre glass – if you dig in the garden you can still come across traces of it thirty-five years on! It was quite heavy by the time the hull was finished and needing turning over, so we recruited as many friends as we could, including Andrew, Whispering Dave, and our friends Kevin and Wendy, all with strong muscles! A key member of the team was Jack Harker, who though many many years older than us was a very good friend.
These photos have faded, and even if like them the memories are a little blurry, I still remember those very happy times and those people with love.
Postscript: John sold the house when he got married, and, after a couple of years with a different owner, Andrew bought it and lives there still!
Post-postscript: I visited Andrew and his beautiful partner Tina today; the house, as ever welcomed me as warmly as Andrew and Tina did.