Lark Hill Place, Salford

Lark Hill Place, set within Salford Museum, is a reconstruction of a typical late 19th century street and takes its name from Lark Hill Mansion which once occupied the museum’s site. The street was created in 1957 by the then curator of the museum at a time when slum clearances in Salford saw many areas changed to make way for more modern housing. He decided to salvage and restore several original shop and house fronts and their contents, and with the help of members of the public who donated various objects, and a group of local children who would raid skips for period items and beg or borrow them from their grandparents, he developed Lark Hill Place, with the theme being set on an early winter’s evening in 1897.
From the light and airy museum reception area and café double doors led to a corridor with information boards on the walls, then another set of doors took me into Lark Hill Place itself and I was instantly transported back to the late Victorian era; even at first glance I could see that this place was very unique and extremely interesting.
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Lark Hill Place from the entrance
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Looking left
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Looking right
The street ran left and right from a central ‘square’ and working my way round clockwise from there the corner shop on my immediate left was James Critchley’s clogger’s shop. It originally stood in Whit Lane, Pendleton, until it was demolished, and it supplied clogs and boots to many millworkers and those who worked at the nearby coal mines. Next door was Louisa Greenhalgh’s haberdashery; Louisa’s name first appeared in local directories in the 1840s, listed as a dressmaker, milliner and haberdasher of Bedford Street, Salford. The mahogany door of the shop dates from about 1750 and originally came from Hope Hall, a brick-built house once set in pleasure grounds on Eccles Old Road, Salford, though those have long since been lost to redevelopment.
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Next to the haberdasher’s was William Bracegirdle’s forge which once stood in Salford’s Ordsall Lane. In the late 19th century blacksmiths and wheelwrights were higher up the social standings than other manual workers as they were considered to be the backbone of transport, however when automobiles took over and trade diminished blacksmiths became the first generation of automobile workers, though after 1901 the Bracegirdle family became general labourers.
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Next was the Georgian House, showing what a room in the original Lark Hill Mansion would have looked like in the late 18th century. Much of the furniture is in the Chippendale style and on the right of the room was a square piano made by Christopher Ganer of London in 1789.

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Next door to the Georgian house, and at the end of the street, was the Victorian parlour, richly decorated and furnished and containing two pianos. Above the pianos and against the back wall were several glass domes containing decorative arrangements of stuffed birds, flowers and plants, reflecting the Victorian fascination with natural history and for bringing exotic birds into the home. Although the darkness meant I couldn’t get a clear photo of it, high on the wall outside the room was a fire plate decorated with a liver bird; this came from a property in Salford’s Broughton Street and shows that the house owner had an insurance policy with the Royal Insurance Company which was established in 1845.
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Set back in the far corner was a door with an undertaker’s sign indicating that funeral orders could be taken there even though the undertaker’s premises were elsewhere. Victorian funerals could be lucrative affairs, reflecting the increasing wealth of the industrial classes, but in spite of the potential for undertakers to become wealthy themselves through their work the association with death seems to have prevented them from being seen as truly ‘respectable’; the discreet unassuming sign at Lark Hill represents the careful tone which undertakers used in all their advertising and paperwork, from business cards and catalogues to invoice paper.
On the corner to the right of the undertakers was a Victorian post box and Adolf Renk’s pawnbrokers shop, although the Renk family were never true pawnbrokers; they traded mainly as jewellers and watchmakers. Established in 1836 by brothers August and Charles Renk, originally from Germany, the shop was situated at 144 Chapel Street in Salford. Charles’ son Adolph took over the business in 1903 and it remained in the family until the shop was taken down in 1956, with the main components of it being saved to become part of Lark Hill Place.
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Next door to the pawnbroker’s was the Bracegirdle’s cottage, a simple one-up, one-down affair. William Bracegirdle learned his trade from his father who was also a wheelwright, and he and his wife Elizabeth had four children, Elizabeth, Ellen, Albert and Joseph. Elizabeth worked as a cart hirer while Albert and Joseph became joiners; it’s assumed that Ellen worked away as a housemaid. Their simple home was more sparsely furnished than others, with the one downstairs room being used for cooking, eating, washing and general living, while attached to the wall near the back door was a vertical wooden ‘ladder’ which went through a hole in the ceiling to the bedroom above.
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Next was Mrs Driver’s house with a self-explanatory sign outside the door. Mrs Driver practiced leeching at her home in Bury Street, Salford; she became known as the ‘plaster woman’ as her secret ointment recipe was very popular among the locals. The red and white pole outside the house came from a local barber’s shop; in former times barbers were allowed to carry out bloodletting and minor operations and the poles became symbols of this as the stripes represent blood and bandages.
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Next door to Mrs Driver’s and on the corner of the square was John Hamer’s shop which was originally situated on Salford’s Broad Street. John Hamer was a chemist and druggist and lived with his wife Emma and their three children, Edward, Arthur and Mary; they also had a domestic servant called Elizabeth. In the days long before the National Health Service many people couldn’t afford to see a doctor so would seek the advice of a chemist; John Hamer sold his own remedies, made up in the back room of the shop, and many drugs which are now illegal including opium.
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Across the corner from the chemist was the Blue Lion Tavern which had been a corner-site public house on Cook Street and originally called the White Lion. It was run by Emma Jane Twyford who, in spite of being married, was listed on census records as being the head of her household. Emma was the last proprietor of the Blue Lion as it was demolished in 1892 to make way for a Threlfall’s brewery – the reconstruction at Lark Hill Place was made up from three different pubs demolished during Salford’s 1950s rebuilding works.
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Next door to the Blue Lion was the William and Mary house. Before the Industrial Revolution timber framed houses were common across Salford and one such house dated back to 1306. It was originally built as a manor house for the Wythin Grave family, eventually becoming Ye Olde Rovers Return Inn during the 18th century. It traded as a pub until 1924 then later became a working mens’ café and finally the Rovers Return Trinket Shop before being demolished in the late 1950s.
The William and Mary house at Lark Hill Place was reconstructed with timbers from that building, with wooden panelling from Kenyon Peel Hall, Little Hulton, and a staircase from a house in Gravel Lane, Salford. Representative of a property from the late 17th century it contains objects from the same period, including a high-backed walnut chair, a gate-leg table and a cabinet with marquetry decoration, while on the wall are portraits of Sir Robert Honeywood and Frances Vane who were married in 1631 – Sir Robert was a Commonwealth ambassador to Sweden in 1659.
Set back in the corner to the right of the William and Mary house was the tobacconist’s shop. Eugene Morand, originally from Italy, was a cigar merchant of Chapel Street in Salford; he had a wife, Louisa, and a son, James, and must have been quite a wealthy tobacconist as he also had a domestic servant. According to the trade directories of the time, E Morand Tobacconist’s traded from 1861 to 1893 in Salford, Hulme, and Whalley Range. On the wall to the right of the shop is a Muratti mirror advertisement; it came from a tobacconist’s in Broad Street, Pendleton, and is said to show the actress Lily Langtry who became known as the ‘Jersey Lily’.
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At the end of the street, and facing towards the square, was Henry Radcliffe’s toy shop with its window displaying many different types of toys from the era, including a model ark with a collection of animal pairs, several books and a Victorian rocking horse.
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To the right of the toy shop was the printshop, part of a booming industry in the mass production of text. Salford had its own newspapers, the Salford Chronicle founded in 1868 and the Reporter, founded in 1879. The Reporter changed its name frequently and in later years became the Salford City Reporter, continuing production until 1997 when it merged with the Advertiser. On display in the printshop were a two-handed printing press, several printing tools and a variety of printing blocks.
Next door to the printshop was the music shop containing a wide range of musical instruments and products. Although the commercial potential of musical instruments and recordings developed greatly during the 19th century dedicated music shops were rare in Victorian Salford, with piano tuners being more common. Since more and more people owned their own pianos at home and earlier instruments were becoming harder to maintain the demand for tuning services became too much for the piano makers, so independent businesses and tradesmen were able to flourish, with tuners being well respected.
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On the corner next to the music shop, and the last shop in Lark Hill Place, was Matthew Tomlinson’s general store which originally stood in Fairfield Street, Manchester. It sold a diverse range of products from sweets and chocolate to groceries, fabric dyes, soap and herbal remedies, and several brands on display in the Lark Hill window were still around when I was a child.
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Away from the light and airy main part of the museum, once I’d been in Lark Hill Place for a few minutes I really began to feel as though I’d stepped back in time. Getting photos looking through windows wasn’t easy as there was quite a lot of light reflection but I got enough shots to show what the individual rooms and shops were like. Looking round and getting an insight into Victorian times had been a fascinating experience, and as the museum is only a 10-minute train ride from my local main station it’s a place I may very well revisit in the not-too-distant future.

 

21 thoughts on “Lark Hill Place, Salford

  1. It’s a fascinating place Andrew, one you could spend quite a lot of time in, and made all the more interesting as it’s all been constructed from parts of proper buildings from years ago, not built like a stage set from modern materials.

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  2. What a wonderful museum. I’ve been to a couple similar before and I agree you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. That’s somewhere I would really love to visit.
    If you ever get the chance you would like the Blists Hill Victorian Town near Telford, it’s open air and is a really memorable visit. We were able to take our dog with us and we’ll never forget being approached by a Victorian policeman pushing his bicycle and he got his notebook and pencil out and asked us if we had a dog licence, we lied and then he told us we had a quality dog 🙂 The old fashioned fish and chips we bought to eat out of paper were to die for 🙂

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    1. I’ve never heard of Blists Hill, I’ll have to check it out on the internet – maybe there’s a camp site not too far away. I can research the cost of Victorian dog licences beforehand just in case 🙂

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  3. What a wonderful visit you had.
    I used to take my children there 40 years ago when it was the Lowry museum. I’ve not been back since The Lowry paintings were moved to Salford Quays. Obviously time for a revisit – thanks.

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  4. I only found out about the place by accident, someone at work mentioned it in conversation and it sounded really intriguing. I never really liked the sort of history taught at school but I find local history very interesting so I really enjoyed looking round this place 🙂

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    1. It’s a really interesting place Anabel, and being made up of parts of shops and houses which actually did exist adds to the authenticity of it 🙂

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      1. I wondered if it was the first to be set up, but I looked up York which I remember visiting when I was young, and it turns out to be older. It was the first I ever saw, and I was amazed. It seemed such a modern idea, but apparently it was built like that in the 1930s. But I don’t think it’s made of real buildings like this one.

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        1. York Castle Museum is excellent, quite a while since we visited and would really like to return. I imagine this one is unique having been constructed from real buildings.

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  5. What a wonderful place to visit, I do enjoy places such as this. I’ve just been catching up on your posts and I’m so sorry to say that I missed your post about Sophie, I’m so terribly sorry for your loss. Bless that little doggy, she put up a good fight after her stroke but at least you have the knowledge that her passing was peaceful. It’s such a sad time when we lose one of our furry friends, they’re family after all, and the space they leave in our lives takes some adjustment and getting used to. I know you’ll have lots of happy memories of Sophie and I hope you’ll find comfort in those in time. Sending hugs xx

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  6. Thank you Jo. It’s a month now since I lost little Sophie and I’ve still not got used to the space she has left behind but I’m coping as long as I don’t think back too much. This street at the museum is a great place to visit and I think made all the more interesting as it’s been built indoors from pre-existing buildings – the guy who first thought of it certainly had a brilliant idea 🙂

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  7. Wow, Eunice, what an incredible place, I’d like to visit it too. Like you I am far more interested in social history than who waged war on whom. Look forward to “part 2”

    Sorry to have been AWOL but I horlixed myself doing too many software updates in one go and have spent a few days untangling the muddle I made. I owe you an email (now that I have found it!!)

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  8. That’s just made me laugh Jayne – I didn’t notice it straight away 🙂

    Lark Hill Place is so interesting and it’s incredible to think that it’s been built from parts of real buildings salvaged from demolition. I think that’s what adds to the feel and the atmosphere of the place, which I don’t think would be the same if it had just been built as a replica using modern materials. It’s certainly a place well worth seeing 🙂

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  9. Some good Lancashire names amongst those shopkeepers. Greenhalgh (related to the Bolton bakers?) especially. I’d bet your non-Lancastrian readers wouldn’t know how to pronounce that one!

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  10. I don’t think I’d like to have Bracegirdle as a surname though 😦 Apparently pre-13th century and signifies a maker of belts for breeches.

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