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From the Tanyard to the Co-op

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By Helen Morgan

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Published on Facebook Nov 2022
Last Updated 12/12/2023

 

I had the privilege of speaking to Peter Watson, the Rogerson’s grandson, in 2022.
It is with grateful thanks to him that I have been able to give this account of their family garage.

 

Some of you may well be familiar with the early photos of the garage, either through our museum or indeed Joan Heinekey’s book, Heald Green in Wartime  . What astounded me, when talking to Peter, was how many buildings were behind the frontage, that I never knew existed. They must have been from the Tanyard and Bark Mill that once stood on the site and can be seen on the Tithe Map of 1839 (below).

The business had an area of 0 acres, 2 roods and 9 perches. It was run by John Worthington, who also bred cattle in the many fields the family owned around that part of the village. The Tanyard was actually owned by the Executors of Isaac Worthington, probably John’s father. Cattle hides were cured with bark powder. The tanning of hides prospered in the 1800s and our village also had another tannery, where Avon Road estate is today, in a field called Tanyard Fold. Around our area everything was in place as an ideal site. We had the animals, water and trees needed for the process. Indeed, Beech House next door (plot 364), was originally called Brook House. It was owned and occupied by the same Worthingtons. The process turned water black and smelly and this was then returned to the brook.

After the decline in the business, around the 1850s, the Worthington family continued to farm. In fact, one of the large houses, later built alongside the Tanyard, was lived in by the Worthington family, too. Their neighbours were the Clarke family who were coal merchants. These homes were eventually replaced by Mercury House that stands there today, and houses the dry cleaners and charity shop.

 

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Fig. 1 Tanyard and Bark Mill, 1839 v 2022
© Cheshire Tithe Maps Online
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Peter’s grandparents, Mary nee Whitfield and John Thomas (known as Jack) Rogerson, bought the garage after they were married. Jack had worked as a chauffeur at Heald Green House that once stood on the old Styal Road, now Irvin Drive. Mary may have worked there in service and that could possibly have been how they met. To begin with they lived above the garage, before moving into a council house on Finney Lane, near West Avenue. Finally, they bought 197 Finney Lane, opposite their garage. Peter had no idea how they raised the money to buy the garage in the first place. Jack’s father had been the Estate Manager for Abney Hall and had lived in an old mill on the banks of the Micker Brook.
 

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Fig. 2 Mary Rogerson in 1925. The 2 houses behind are where Mercury House now stands.
© Peter Watson
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“The one and only petrol pump on Finney Lane was ready every Friday to put the four gallons of petrol into my old blue Citroen, at 1/11/2d a gallon. I even had my windscreen cleaned free of charge at the same time.”
- Eugene Jackson, Soliloquy of Heald Green, 1929 (click to read)

“I am informed that the car is a c. 1915 Sunbeam 16/20, now worth £178,000. I can’t imagine Mrs. Rogerson served many gallons of fuel in her best frock!”
- Philip Moran, Facebook, 2021

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Fig. 3 Mary, Jack and daughter Emily in 1926, along with the now classic car
© Peter Watson
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Fig. 4 Peter’s hand drawn map showing the buildings, and their functions, in front and behind the garage.
© Peter Watson
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Peter told me,

“The bit at the front they had like a sort of shop. They would stand at the door and inside was a table and a fire. I can still picture the big fireplace. There was a sort of drum fitted on the wall with a pipe attached. They used to press a little lever and oil used to come down onto the cinders that would then burn. It sounds terribly dangerous now, but so much was then. They displayed things like torches and batteries. They used to sell and charge up batteries to run radios. To start with there had been no mains electricity at the garage. The earlier photo shows Shell petrol and I don’t remember that. Certainly, by the later 50s, and before he retired, it was all Esso petrol on three different pumps.

"On the later photo a window has become a door. That’s no surprise as they would have had to walk right around the building to get inside there. Through this new door was a big space where paraffin was stored. Everyone had oil paraffin heaters then. There was a raised bit inside there, probably to do with the original purpose of that building.

"At the back was a large cobblestone yard surrounded by low buildings that were used as lock up garages. There was also a huge, open barn that was used for coal lorries, probably by the Clarke family next door. There was a closed barn too. In there a pit had been dug out so that cars could drive over it and be fixed from underneath. My grandad was the mechanic. In the storeroom off this barn were huge glass carboys, 3 feet off the ground, and all empty. I do not know what they had been used for.

"Between the garage and the big houses was a space that had become overgrown with brambles. My cousin Roger and I used to play there, as we did in all the buildings. A car that my grandfather had used in the early 50s was abandoned down there too. I can remember it being used.

"On the other side of the garage was a large brick wall. I do not know whether the land on the other side there belonged to my grandparents or to Beech House. In 1956/7 this became the site of a new Westminster Bank (now Bet Fred).”

 

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Fig. 5a  Finney Lane, c 1957. , after the bank was first built. It has a flat roof and has small bushes around it. The barn behind Rogerson’s garage can be clearly seen.
© Heald Green Ratepayers
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Fig. 5b  Finney Lane, 2021. The garage has been replaced by the Co-op ; the houses beyond now shops.
© Colin Barnsley
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Peter continued,

"My grandfather would always have a bucket of whitewash handy, and it seems during every spare moment they were painting a wall! He must have loved his job, as he also opened on a Sunday morning, Now, in the 1950s, passing trade would probably have been one or two cars an hour only, if that, so that was dedication."

 

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Fig. 6  In this pre-1962 photo, the bank now has a pitched roof and the bushes have grown a bit. Beech House can still be seen behind the trees and was demolished in 1962 for Beech Parade shops (Tesco to Roger Dean). 
© Heald Green Ratepayers
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Fig. 7  Jack in the 1950s.
© Peter Watson
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“H Whitfield’s name can be seen on the Heald Green Garage sign [Ed: in the 1926 photo]. He was one of my grandmother’s brothers. Harry was born in 1903 and died in 1941 of septicaemia. He was the father of Jim (James Whitfield) a young man who worked at the garage in the 1950s. I did not realise that he had anything to do with the business.

"My grandfather had a big black Hillman car with leather interior. It had leather straps inside that the passengers held onto when the car went around corners. The seats pulled down like a taxicab. He used to take people to Blackpool and North Wales, returning 2 weeks later to pick them up. According to Joan Heinekey, Harry ran the taxi service with my grandfather.

"My grandmother Mary was a joint director of the garage with her husband. Unusual in those days for a woman to have a prominent position, especially once married. She did all the paperwork, counted and banked money and discussed matters with Mr Chetham, their accountant. My grandfather did all the practical side of the business, doing car repairs, bicycle repairs and taxi driving. It was an excellent partnership in which they both used their particular skills to enhance the business.

"In 1960 they sold their garage to Esso for £40,000. An enormous amount of money for the time. However, the inflation of the 70s and 80s put paid to it. When my grandmother died aged 92 in the early 90s, after my grandfather, it had all gone. She left only the house on Finney Lane. Frank Cartledge became the manager for Esso. I can remember him coming to the garage before Esso actually took over, for my grandfather to train him up.”

"F and J Cartledge ran the garage selling Esso’s fuel until Frank retired in the early 1990s. Many structural changes took place on the forecourt in that time. At some point all the old buildings that had belonged to Rogerson’s garage were demolished to make way for a more modern looking garage."

 

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Fig. 8  Finney Lane, late 1960s. The garage has a forecourt and the barn buildings have gone.
© Kathy Simpson
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“The garage was demolished around 1968. I know that because we acquired some of the timber to make a fence round our back garden when we moved into Heald Green. We bought one of the newly built town houses on Crantock Drive. They were pulling down part of the garage and they had stacked loads of timber on the front. We asked if we could have some to make a fence around our back garden. At our new house all the builders had put were just 2 strands of wire between fence posts. We couldn’t afford a proper fence, as we had a toddler and another baby on the way. I can’t remember how we got it home as we had no car in those days, probably just carried it in batches. But we were very proud of our new ranch-style fence when it was done!”
- Marilyn Connolly, Facebook and Messenger, 2021

By 1977 the garage was called Heald Green Service Station along with the Esso motto of “Happy Motoring”.
 

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Fig. 9  Advert from Jubilee Festival / Rose Queen Programme, 1977
© St. Catherine's Church
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“I remember working on that garage, 1979/80, run by the Cartledge family. I was removing an old paraffin tank and all was under control, safety in place. Them a jobsworth council waller came along and called the fire brigade. Sealed off the road completely and the fire brigade sprayed the forecourt and all the road with foam, you couldn’t see the forecourt or the road. It was on Granada Reports at night time. Not long after the tank episode it was completely modernised. Took quite a few weeks to do. I worked on all the Esso garages around Manchester and worked for Esso a lot of years.”
- Alan Rae, Facebook, 2021

I spoke to Andrew Wilkinson, a technician, who worked there from around 1979 until 1989/90. 

“During the mid-80s the forecourt was refreshed, and the shop and forecourt were made considerably bigger. The garage had a workshop and a spray bay at the back that became the MOT bay. I was there on a few occasions when the fire brigade was called. During the forecourt refurbishment, an underground petrol tank still had fuel inside, and it had to be flooded with foam. Finney Lane was shut, with traffic diverted, whilst 3 engines were in attendance. I remember another time when the fire brigade was called. A driver had put his automatic car into reverse and went backwards into the front of a tanker that was delivering petrol. Unfortunately, before moving off, the driver had not taken the nozzle out of his car and therefore the pump was pulled from its mounting, causing petrol to spill everywhere! We sold Esso blue paraffin too.”

From the 1950s to the 1970s Esso promoted their smokeless paraffin, rewording the classic song “Smoke gets in your eyes”. There was even a catchy little ditty,” Boom, boom, boom, boom, Esso Blue.” 

 

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Fig. 10  Esso Blue Adverts, Youtube
© Esso
Click On Image To View a Youtube video

 

Andrew continued,

“There were plenty of kids with pushbikes, who would use our air machine to blow up their tyres, until the inevitable loud explosion, followed by tears. Adults too would blow up their tyres to ridiculously high pressures, because the tyre still looked flat at the bottom!! Bobby Charlton was a frequent visitor and he used to tip handsomely for having his car checked. Clive Lloyd was another nice man who visited the garage. When Frank retired everyone was made redundant and the garage shut. Esso then went about another refurbishment that took quite some time to do. The workshops were demolished, and a car wash was installed.

 

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Fig. 11  Esso Garage, 1986
© Ian Ashworth
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Fig. 12  Esso Garage, 1995
© Wayne Munro
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Many residents have recalled their memories of the garage. I personally can still remember the small wall, that used to separate the forecourt from the pavement, before the flower bed arrived. Small children used to love balancing across it, holding onto an adult’s hand.
 

“Two of my children, now in their fifties, walked along the wall in front of the garage as small children, with me holding on.”
- Brenda McDougall, Facebook, 2021

“I remember Frank Cartledge and I seem to recall he had a son called Peter. There was another Peter that managed the workshop and MOT bay."
- Howard Hunt, Facebook, 2021

“The garage on Finney Lane was Cartledge’s in the 1980s. The selling of petrol in litres began around 1979 and garages were obliged to show dual prices until 1988. However, they were allowed to sell gallons of fuel up to 31st December 1994.”
- Peter Stanton Davies, Facebook, 2021

“This was my grandad’s garage. He had it when they repaired cars and did MOTs at the back. It was an Esso after he got rid of it in the early 90s.”
- Melanie Cartledge, Facebook, 2021

“The owner was Frank Cartledge. The manager was Harry Whitehead.”
- Karen Murphy, Facebook, 2021

“I seem to remember it was the only place open on Christmas Day in the whole village at one time. So good for milk and cigarettes."
- Sean Ingham, Facebook, 2021

“Frank used to chase my friend and I out of the garage, when we used to go in to chat with the lads who worked for him.”
- Debbie Grogan, Facebook, 2022

“My brother, Dave Hardman, worked there for quite a while.”
- Louise Adams, Facebook, 2022

“I passed my test in April 1996 and remember that unleaded was 54 point something a litre at the time."
- Anna Charles-Jones, Facebook, 2021

“I worked there about 25 years ago whilst doing my apprenticeship."
- Paul Wade, Facebook, 2021

“The days when our tanks were half full on a fiver!"
- Jenny Smith, Facebook, 2022

“I had a mate who worked there. When anyone who was riding a moped came in to pay for their fuel, he always greeted them with 'what is it, 2 pints and a new flint?' "
- Race Pilbrow, Facebook, 2022

During the 1960s and 1970s, Esso spent millions on advertising on the radio, television and in magazines. The advertising slogan “put a tiger in your tank” was remembered by many. Also remembered were collectibles and the free gifts for collecting tiger tokens including tiger tails. Motorists even hung them out of their petrol tank! Green shield stamps could also be collected there.
 

“The Esso garage also gave out coins of the 1970 World Cup squad. I remember collecting them when dad went for petrol. I had loads of Geoff Hursts and Martin Peters but couldn’t get Jeff Astle. I seem to recall the person running the garage at the time was quite generous and used to give us kids handfuls of coins if you asked nicely. Francis Lee was really common. Jeff Astle and Ian Storey Moore were really rare, I think. I distinctly remember being given a handful of coins and most of them were Francis Lee.”
- Chris Hudson, Facebook, 2022

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Fig. 14  World Cup Coins, 1970
© Esso
Click On Image To View

 

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Fig. 13  Esso Tiger Ad promoting unleaded fuel, 1978
© Esso
Click On Image To View a Youtube video

 

“My dad always used the petrol station there, especially when they gave things away!! Sure they did green shield stamps as well.”
- Gillian Hollingworth, Facebook, 2022

“I used to work there, as did my elder brother in my teens. I was a pump attendant when I was about 15 in 1967. I do remember pocketing the green shield stamps if customers didn’t ask for them. I got a nice wristwatch from them.”
- Nigel Platt, Facebook, 2021

“I remember the gifts when you bought petrol were cassette tapes and glass tumblers.”
- Colin Derbyshire, Facebook, 2022

“and Parker pens.”
- Dawn Ingham, Facebook, 2021

“I remember collecting the soup bowls.”
- Liz Wood, Facebook, 2021

“I remember my dad saving tiger tokens for me to choose a gift. I still have the Status Quo double cassette album that I chose.”
- Sally Percival, Facebook, 2021

“My dad saved up so many tiger tokens for me. I remember getting a Walkman and a Michael Jackson tape with them.”
- Andrea Silverwood, Facebook, 2021

“I also put a tiger in my tank. What about the furry tiger tails!”
- Graham Lowcock, Facebook, 2021

Residents also recalled the fuel crisis of September 2000, when shortages meant long queues at the pumps.
 

“I remember the Esso garage and the queue when there was a petrol shortage.”
- Gaynor Williams, Facebook, 2021

“I do remember there being a fuel strike or something and cars were queuing up and down the road as far as Outwood. I remember walking with my mum to work in the village. The queues were huge.”
- Graham Lowcock, Facebook, 2021

“I remember queuing on a hot summer day with no water with me! I saw the same people going on lunch and coming back an hour later!”
- Julie Bamber, Facebook, 2022

“A family member telephoned our house to tell us that a fuel tanker was expected to make a delivery at Esso in the village that afternoon. We were on fumes by then, so I grabbed our car keys and headed off to Finney Lane. Only to be met by a huge queue of traffic bringing the village to a standstill. Obviously, word had got around! I managed to get down the side of Main and Main and came up Neal Avenue to be met by a similar queue there too. Luckily and eventually, some kind soul let me join the queue, so that I only had to turn left onto the forecourt. A road marshal of some kind was making all the cars wanting to turn right into the forecourt, off Finney Lane, move on and join my queue much further back, probably at least Styal Road lights by then. As I said, we were on fumes and that would really have been our lot if I had not managed to get any petrol and I would have been pushing our car home!”
- Joe (Helen's husband), in conversation, 2022

“I remember the last weekend of the petrol crisis in 2000 because I was due to move my then wife’s mother-in-law from North Manchester over to Cheadle Hulme, to live with us in our newly converted and connected “granny garage”. I was very worried whether I could get any petrol for the trip; most stations had none and were only getting sporadic deliveries. On Friday evening a neighbour advised Tesco’s 24-hour station (Handforth) had some (so Sainsbury’s didn’t, otherwise I would’ve gone and queued there). I went and queued for a number of hours, Friday night into Saturday morning, to get a rationed allowance of fuel and was able to move the mother-in-law Saturday day. However, by Saturday evening, deliveries were beginning to arrive at many other petrol stations, and the crisis was easing.”
- Colin Barnsley, Facebook, 2022

From the late 1990s our local garage was in competition with Sainsburys petrol station, off Wilmslow Road, that had opened in October 1995. Whether that contributed to its closure I do not know. However, a business decision was obviously made around 2004 by Esso, to close the garage and sell the land. I can remember the huge tanks being taken away and the area reduced to rubble. Sadly, no photos have come to light so far of that demolition.

A new building was then built with a small car park on the side and access to the carpark at the back of Bet Fred. The Co-operative store moved out of their old premises, 232/234 Finney Lane (where Tesco Express is now) and into their new building. The grand opening was 14th July 2005. As of 2023 they are still there.

 

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Fig. 14  The Co-op, 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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