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.
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 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.
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.
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.