I was born in Openshaw in 1936 and lived there until I left for good in 1960. My father was born in Stoke on Trent, my mother in Clayton, Manchester, and I have always regretted that I never learned about their early years. Their occasional comments made me understand in a very vague way that their lives had been very different from mine, but I didn’t have the interest then to ask for more information. So what this site is about is putting down details of my growing up years so that, long after I’m gone, there will be a record of them.
My children’s adolescence was spent in the Home Counties, which is about as different an environment to Openhaw as one can imagine, and at a time when standards of living had dramatically improved. Without a written record of life in those days, it would be difficult for them to relate to how we lived then.
I had always regarded my life in Openshaw as merely different from what came after, and if I’m honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy living there, and was glad to leave. In recent years, though, I’ve realised that it was a special place in many ways.
It was a homogeneous society, just about entirely working class. It was densely populated, with streets and rows of similar houses. It was very industrialised, the most industrialised suburb in Europe, I read somewhere, and I can believe it. Because of these things, it was very self contained, and had a very strong community spirit. Disastrously, that community spirit was destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s when Manchester Corporation decided to redevelop Openshaw, and scattered the population, in some cases many miles away. And the redevelopment means that there remains little or nothing of the physical environment that I knew.
Industry has also moved on; the goods that were made in Openshaw are now made more cheaply in China and Japan, so the factories closed as the competition grew too fierce.
This project, to record my childhood, had been on my to-do list for many years, always being considered, never getting done. It lacked a trigger, and I found that in a Facebook page called, appropriately, “Openshaw”. I discovered this page about a year ago, and have been very impressed with the lively nature of the site, and also by the fact that a lot of the community spirit that I used to know still exists, even if we are separated and widely spread, sometimes living on different continents.
There is a collective folk memory that I hope to tap into, looking at the photos that are posted, and the comments they generate has brought back more memories than I could have possibly managed by myself. I hope that whatever follows on this site will produce the same quantity and quality of response that the Facebook page has.
How the site will grow and develop is difficult to predict. I know some aspects of our lives that I want to capture, but the ultimate direction and destination will depend on the response from other Openshaw ex-residents.