The Fingerpost House - 244 Outwood Road
A family home built for love

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By Helen Morgan

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First Published 8/9/2021
Last Updated 11/1/2022

 

Helen Morgan talked to the Andrew family in July 2021, about their lives in Heald Green and living at "The Fingerpost House"

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Fig. 1 The "Fingerpost House" ; 244 Outwood Road, at the corner of Queensway and Outwood Road 1950s
© Ratepayers' Association
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Fig. 2 The fingerpost sign, corner of Queensway and Outwood Road 2021
© Helen Morgan
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During the War [WWII] years, the Andrew family lived at 20 Rosslyn Road; mother Irene, father Norman and their 3 children - Christine (born 1939), Susan (born 1940) and Michael ( born 1943). In 1948, baby Heather was born to make the family complete.  It was a tight squeeze with the girls in one bedroom, Michael in the box room and baby Heather in a crib in her parent’s room.
 

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Fig. 3 All four children in the Andrew family 1949
© Andrew Family
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The Andrew family attended St Catherine’s church on Sunday, with Michael in the choir there. Irene would stay at home to cook their lunch. In later years Irene would attend confirmation classes, whilst Eric Mercer was the vicar. Once confirmed, Irene attended church midweek.

Susan and Michael remember the plot of land on the corner of Queensway and Outwood Road as just a short cut. However Norman had other designs for it, and set in motion a plan to have a family home built there. In 1949, Norman asked Walter Meredith, the builder of St Catherine’s, to draw up plans to Norman’s specifications. At the same time, designs were created for the surrounding gardens. This beautiful house and gardens were created and the family moved in in 1950.

 

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Fig. 4 Walter Meredith's Plan for 244 Outwood Road
© Andrew Family
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Fig. 5 Garden Plan for 244 Outwood Road
© Andrew Family
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Heather wrote, of her childhood, “My father must have loved my mother very much. As the builder at St Catherine’s church finished his work, my father had bought the land on the corner of Finney Lane. He designed 244 Outwood Road very beautifully with the coloured glass windows at the front with the little Dutch boy and the windmill. It was to be a surprise.”
 

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Fig. 6 Walter Meredith Stained Glass, 244 Outwood Road
© Pamela Statham
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Fig. 7 Walter Meredith Stained Glass, 244 Outwood Road
© Pamela Statham
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Fig. 8 Walter Meredith Stained Glass, 244 Outwood Road
© Pamela Statham
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I asked Hilary Cunliffe-Charlesworth, the granddaughter of Mr. Meredith the builder, about his connection to Holland.

“He was a builder, which was a restricted occupation in both wars. He never travelled outside the U.K. It was just popular. The family had no connection to Holland, though my grandfather loved the countryside.”

The new house was perhaps more of a shock for Irene who said, “What have you done that for, I quite like the little house!!”

“Changeless in a changing world,” was Norman’s motto.
 

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Fig. 9 Irene and Norman in their garden at 244 Outwood Road in 1960
© Andrew Family
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The house had 4 bedrooms each with a fire on the wall, and 2 of the bedrooms had small wash basins. There was a set of French windows that led out into the beautiful garden, although Michael could not remember them being open, as the radiogram was in front of them.

In the garden was “Gnome Corner”. Norman built this at Rosslyn Road with real windows, and re-erected it in their new garden. 
 

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Fig. 10 Gnome Corner at 244 Outwood Road, 1950
© Andrew Family
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There was room for a piano. Irene would play it after cleaning the house on a Saturday. She came from a musical family who played instruments and sang.

In the lounge was a large open fireplace with white tiles surrounding it, etched with animals. On seeing Pamela's photos below, Michael remembered, “It was lovely. I did recognise the little 4-inch tiles there but they didn’t mean anything as a child then, but of course it was nice to have the open fire. Then we got bricks either side to make it a smaller fire, probably because we had central heating then, the old big bore, so you didn’t really need that full size.”

At Christmas time beside the fire, their tree had real candles on it.
 

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Fig. 11 Fireplace and surrounding tiles 2021
© Pamela Statham
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The piece de resistance was the kitchen with its anthracite Aga.

Michael recalled, “To load it you had to lift the lid up, then a circular disc in the centre. Then you’d pour the coke in and then a little door at the bottom you riddled it and all the ashes came out. Then you put the hot ashes in the bin. That was good, it was a hard job there. Labour of love. That’s like 70 years ago isn’t it.”

“It was great as kids the Aga, you’d come in really cold, lift the lids up and blasts of hot air, get rid of the dog ‘cos the dog used to love lying in front of it the Aga there, close the kitchen door. There was a rack so it was brilliant, wash your shirt, put it up, dry very quickly.” 

Susan said, “Everybody had racks in those days. Mum would iron tea towels, dishcloths, underpants. Her mum was in service throughout Mum’s childhood and adult life at home and so she was taught by her mum.”
 

Heather said, “ Do you know what she used to do with the Aga? She used to lift the lid and had 2 little irons. Both went onto the hot part of the Aga where you put the pans. Then she’d take one and use that and then put that one back and take the next one and use that, spit on it to see if it was hot enough. That’s what they did. If [the spit] rolled off that was it, it was fine.”

Cleaning the Aga was a rigorous task done once a year by Norman, and the children helped. Susan recalled, “Dad was very meticulous. He got every mark off it, mum wasn’t as house proud as he was. Dad did it almost with a toothbrush. He got it so clean.”

Heather used to like polishing the Aga too. It was eventually replaced with a gas one, which reduced the laborious filling and emptying.
 

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Fig. 12 The modern Aga 2021
© Pamela Statham
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In the 1950’s housework was hard work, with no time-saving equipment.

Susan explained, “Mum did lots of things that took a long time. She had an old Servis washing machine there, which I think we had in Rosslyn Road. She had it, got electrocuted once and it threw her across the kitchen floor. That also happened with a little electric stove she had. The trouble with Agas, they get so hot, that in summer it can be unbearable. So she had this little electric one.”

The children could remember always having 3-course meals and it all had to be eaten. Their mum was a very good cook and would serve up fantastic savoury meals and wonderful puddings.

The kitchen had a pantry. Heather recalled Mum with sugar bags. "After the War Dad used to laugh his head off. We had that many bags of Tate and Lyle on the wall on the top shelf. We had 3-course meals every night she cooked on the Aga.”

The family bakery was at 94/96 London Road, very close to Manchester Piccadilly station. Norman and Michael worked there and had to be up at 4am. From their mother’s childhood, Michael remembered, “They used to have a 'knocker-upper', I think they called it, a bloke with a stick banging on the windows [Ed. to wake you up, like an alarm clock].”

Susan added, “And a gas lighter because they were all gas lamps weren’t they that they had.”

 

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Fig. 13 Norman in garden with the children; rose petal strewers at Rose Queen Fete 1948/49
© Andrew Family
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While attending St Catherine’s, Christine, Susan and Norman were involved with the Rose Queen Festivals. The girls would dress up and join the procession around the village. Norman would contribute his baking skills along with lots of ice cream!

Susan said, “Chris and I used to be in the Rose Fete and Dad’s contribution was he used to go into Manchester to buy big freezers full of ice cream and give them to the church. He’d be making ice creams, wafers and cornets, from his big tub and he did that. When Dad died, he died on 26th June and it was the Rose Fete going by at the time, but he did that for many many years.”

Heather remembered the strawberry tarts more than the ice cream. Michael said, “The thing about strawberry tarts in those days you just had local strawberries whereas today Kent or Scottish strawberries. They didn’t used to in those days, move around. So in the shop it was like a 2-week window for strawberry tarts and they’d just queue round the block and round again, a 2-week and that was it. If you didn’t get them now you’d miss it for another 12 months.”

 

Opposite the house, before the shops were built on Finney Lane, there were just fields. Heather wrote down her memories.
 
“As a child I had total freedom. After breakfast mother would let me cross the lane to play in the beautiful field with wildflowers, a stream which I collected tadpoles in. Then I would play until lunchtime. From a very young age of 5 or 6, I had a lovely time playing with my friend Lesley from down the lane. She would play in the field with me across the road and we would sit on the big tree stump and pretend to ride ponies and play Cowboys and Indians and climb trees and sometimes bump knees. The farmer used to burn the field once every year and then, as with volcanoes burn the land, all the beautiful wildflowers came back.”
 
It just sounds idyllic doesn't it? How wonderful it must have been growing up in the 1950s. From Heather’s description you can get a real picture in your head of lazy summer days.

However all good things come to an end.  Heather continued, “Sadly one day I saw buildings going up and no sight of the lovely field. More shops that we didn’t need. One of these was the first small supermarket. On Saturdays I took the shopping list from my mum. Rather than go to the grocers, I asked for cheese and was given a shiny bag rather than wax paper. PLASTIC! The feel of it was horrid.”

All 4 children had an excellent education. Chris attended Cheadle Etchells in classes with 50 children. It was no surprise then that only 2 managed to go to Moseley Hall Grammar School with the rest going to Broadway.  Norman decided to do something about it and Chris was sent to a boarding school in Wales called Pentre Mawr in Demby.
 
Michael recalled a funny story. "Dad drove a van but would borrow Aunt Lucy’s Jaguar car to take [Chris]. It was a long sweeping drive and at the start of term the headmistress would be there to meet and greet. On this particular day he drove her in the van, much to the horror of the onlooking headmistress, who tried to send him around to the tradesman’s entrance!!”
 
I can just picture that and it makes me laugh out loud. Christine had elocution lessons there and Michael could remember the rhyme. Have a listen to him retelling it in his wonderful posh voice! [Ed: 8/9/21 - I will be adding audio-visuals here in the next few days]

Susan went to Etchells until she was 9, and then Ladybarn House School up to being 11, when it was on Grange Road in Cheadle Hulme. She finished her education at Withington Girls School until she was 18.
 
Michael started at Etchells, but from the age of 6 until he was 13, he used to get a bus to Harden House School in Alderley Edge and then went to North Cestrian Grammar School. Heather went to Cheadle Etchells up to being 7 years old, before Withington Preparatory until the age of 11. She then went to St Hilary’s in Alderley Edge.

 

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Fig. 14 Heather (back, right) and her classmates at Cheadle Etchells 1953. Her best friend Lesley is in the rocker at the front
© Andrew Family
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The house was sold in 1997 to the Statham family who themselves sold it on in 2021, moving to live in High Peak.

 

Sadly, eldest sister Christine passed away in Canada a couple of years ago; but from listening to Susan, Michael and Heather reminisce about their family history and childhood memories, it took me back to a very different Heald Green than that of today.

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Fig. 15 A brew and a chat with the Andrew family at Helen's house 2021
© Sarah Morgan

Click on the picture above to watch The Andrew Family audio/visual on Youtube
 

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Fig. 16 The Fingerpost House, 244 Outwood Road, 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Ed: Helen takes a keen interest in the remaining trees around the village, and those on this corner are some older examples.
 
The trees were measured 1.5 metres off the floor around their girth. The oak tree outside the house measured 9ft 4 inches (285cms). The two oak trees on Outwood Road measured 7ft 2 inches (218cms) the nearer one in the photo and 6ft 1 inch (186cms). I asked my tree expert, Chris Hudson, to date them for me.

He replied, “The fingerpost house comes out at 133 years, however it may be slightly older. As this has been affected by compaction due to the road and development, it could be up to 150. The 2 smaller oaks on Outwood Road by my calculations come out as much younger trees. However the calculations I use are really for larger diameter trees and the calculations appear to skew when you use them against smaller diameter trees, particularly in urban situations. Both would be about 120-130 years.”

Ed: Read how you can work out the approximate age of an oak tree here or more generally, here.

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