Manchester angel

Last Saturday, I featured the curious puzzle of Victor Haines and Manchester House, an item that was raised by David Evans sending me an image of a Brownhills business featured in the family history research kindly shared by Mavis Woodhouse.

Victor Haines clearly had a bit of an clothing and cleaning emporium somewhere in the  High Street, but the question was where; I’d not heard the name mentioned before. Speculation included opposite the Station Hotel, and in the row of shops where Clariges is today.

The thing is, the answer was hiding in plain sight all along.


I have an idea, but I’m not saying just yet. Where was this in Brownhills please? Image kindly supplied by Mavis Woodhouse, via the young David Evans.

In the wee small hours of Sunday, I spotted the following image, in my copy of ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington. The answer had been there all along, and there was some great information about the shop, too.


This is clearly a cropped version of the photo supplied by Mavis Woodhouse and appears in Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo and Geoff Harrington. Sometimes, the answers are under your nose.

This is the same photo featured in the advertisement, but cropped; it is, however, much clearer.  I hadn’t spotted, for instance, the wee fellow sat on the sack on the right, or the man in the doorway. What are those bundles, anyway? Washing?

Note the 1911 note, top right, and no mention of Victor Haines, but that it was run by the ‘Kent family’ – that’s interesting. What do we know of them? Who was Victor and where did he go? Any connection to lost Brownhills building company Edge and Haines?

Meanwhile, on Sunday, local historian and Walsall Wood wonk Clive Roberts was walking down the High Street to see his mum, when he spotted that some of Manchester house still remains. Top spot, Clive – top spot.

I’d also like to thank others who spotted this yesterday too; including Lisa Ashby on Facebook, reader Mike and Reg Fullelove who clearly all thought long and hard about it. You are all local history sleuths. I’m impressed.

For those who can’t see it, the sky blue buildings – although now truncated – still show the same odd interface between rooflines and window alignment as the original.

P1080104 (Large)

Note the raid roofline on the right-hand blue shop; then compere it to the photo from Mavis Woodhouse. That is the remnant – now truncated – of Manchester House. Image kindly supplied by Clive Roberts.

In the melee, top contributor and friend of the blog John Anslow raised the following important and interesting point, which I think deserves attention. Top marks too for the Under Milk Wood reference, as the Richard Burton radio version is one of my favourite pieces of audio ever.

John said:

Just been talking to my brother Paul, who lived in Wales for some time. He told me that many Welsh towns still have a Manchester House or a Liverpool House or even a Walsall House. He thinks that Manchester House would usually be a draper’s store (Manchester being a city of cotton mills) and recalled the passage in “Under Milk Wood”:

‘And in the town, the shops squeak open. Mr Edwards, in butterfly-collar and straw-hat at the doorway of Manchester House, measures with his eye the dawdlers-by for striped flannel shirts and shrouds and flowery blouses, and bellows to himself in the darkness behind his eye
MR EDWARDS (_Whispers_)

I love Miss Price.’

Walsall House presumably stocked leather goods; we’re not sure about Liverpool House – any ideas?

Paul tells me that Croxall’s grocery store in Pelsall occupied London House.

Any ideas on this? It’s a very good question.

Thanks to all for your contributions, that was one I really didn’t expect to grow in the way it did. Brilliant. Comments please, or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

And finally, for no other reason than the commonality of name, the great Pete Coe, performing the wonderful Manchester Angel. Sorry for the poor recording, it’s all that seems to exist.

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11 Responses to Manchester angel

  1. Of all the many things that Brownhillsbobsbrownhillsblog is about…this is the one for me. 🙂

  2. Andy Dennis says:

    Liverpool House after prime minister Lord Liverpool?

    The 1911 Census tells us that Alfred Ernest Victor Haines, was 29, draper and tailor born Studley, Warks. His wife was Lily Annie, also 29, assisting in business and a native of Gillingham, Kent. They had been married 5 years and there were three children: Leonard Victor (3), Dorothy Lilian (2) and Compton Warwick (1 month), all born Brownhills. He declared that they had 3 children living and none who had died, but see below.

    Victor, son of a carpenter, moved about a bit, Aston, Solihull and Brierley Hill, South Wales and reached Brownhills in the first decade of the last century, in about 1905-1906.

    According to British Army WWI records, Alfred Eernest Victor Haines of Manchester House, High Street, Brownhills, Walsall, draper & outfitter, married on 26 Oct 1906 at Gillingham, Kent to Lilian Anne Lillpatrick. They had 4 (!) children Leonard and Dorothy, who appear in 1911 above, and Daisy and Marjery (sic). These last 2 were born 1912 and 1914, so not in 1911 census.

    He was number 67272 Gunner, Royal Garrison Artillery, enlisted 2 Jun 1917, 466 (S) Battery (S = Siege). Received “B.W. and V. MEDAL” (British War and Victory) Dec 1921. In July 1917 he was based at South Camp, Ripon. Religion Baptist. On 25 May 1818 he suffered some kind of injury in the field and was admitted [presumably to hospital] sick on 20 June. He was granted 3 weeks leave in UK via Boulogne. Eventually, he was discharged in 30 Jan 1919. At discharge, it says he served in France and his medical condition was A1.

    Alfred E V Haines died aged 64 in 1946 (registered Jan-Mar Lichfield 6b 465). Nothing I can see in the Probate Calendar.

  3. John Anslow says:

    Hello Bob,

    This appears to be the same shop in 1998:

    Still a drapers by the look of it.

    In Clive’s photograph above, is that a ghost sign coming through the blue emulsion on the parapet above the first floor windows? I’ve tried sharpening the contrast but without success.

    • Clive says:

      Hello John. Your right mate, i have zoomed in on the orignal photo and you can see the stains from the fixing that held a sign to the wall.

  4. Andy Dennis says:

    Walsall House, Barmouth
    The Old Tea Rooms, (‘Walsall House’), occupy an early 18th century building with a later addition to the right. It was converted from cottages to become a leather goods and hardware shop in the 20th century – from Only one example, but it looks like the hunch was right.

  5. Pedro says:

    I think you can safely say that a Manchester House would be a drapery store..

    1863 in Glouscester
    1880 in Taunton
    1885 in Hull
    1890 in Arroath
    1914 in B’ham Bull Street, Grey’s
    1933 in Preston

  6. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    good fun!…, them there bales…? to be recycled.. as top drawer paper..or dyed khaki?
    are we sure of the date of the photo?
    kind regards

    • Andy Dennis says:

      I wonder if they were sacks of shoddy, useless offcuts to be recycled for use in fulling – a felt-making process – or maybe paper milling or mattress stuffing.

  7. aerreg says:

    re kents if my memory serves me right kents shop was on the corner of bricklin street were caters electric shop was the remark about karki being dide iwas told by an old stalwood of many years ago long past on the cloth was dipped blue serg and made good working suits he was a wonderful man and told of his days carrying his parcels of trade as far as trentham on a byke suits exetra god bless from aer reg

  8. Judith Hugman says:

    Manchester House later became Harold Brookes drapers next to job centre 111 high street brownhills ,Iworked there.

  9. Ann Swindale says:

    There was also a Manchester House Draper’s in Hirwaun, the village where I was brought up in the Aberdare valley, South Wales.

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