Coach A Visit To
Tinker's Gardens
Coach
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The above-mentioned place (shown on the 1845 map, offered below) once existed in a Manchester district known as Collyhurst. The place went by the formal name of Vauxhall Gardens but was known, locally, as Tinker's Gardens. A street still found in that area (Vauxhall Street) bears witness to its once existence.
You're now asked to allow your imagination to drift back to the time when you'll find the Gardens still there. (Some of the characters are a product of imagination but the situations and events are just as they actually were.)

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map1848

My name is Michael Thompson. I was born in the district of Collyhurst, in 1818, and I'm here to tell you about a very popular place in our district - which the local folks call Tinker's Gardens.

However, if you look at the recently printed map I've offered, you'll soon notice it's marked as Vauxhall Gardens. But the name "Tinker's Gardens" persisted as the preferred one; because Mr Robert Tinker - who owned the Grape and Compasses Coffee House and Tea Gardens - which he started up in 1797 - cleared the land in that area to eventually bring the gardens into existence in the place shown on the map.

My father, Jethro Thompson, told me how, before that, it was a wild, uncared-for dell and how it afterwards became a very pleasant place for sitting amongst its greenery and chatting with friends and drinking tea or coffee.

But now you're probably wondering why it finally obtained the name of Vauxhall Gardens and began to be so well-known beyond its district and popular enough to attract all sorts of people from all around?

It all started soon after Marquis Wellington's victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Salamanca, in 1812 (six years before I was born). The battle, it seems, gave Mr Tinker a grand idea for creating a celebration. My father said he remembered this stated in an advert in the Manchester Mercury Newsheet. He even remembers the day of publication - which was August the twenty-fifth of that year - because that happened to be the day a friend of his got married at Saint Michael's Church, near Ashley Lane.

After the wedding, they all went out to the Gardens for the evening to see what the advert promised. It stated that Mr R. Tinker proposed to celebrate the glorious event of Wellington's victory with "illuminations". And to provide for this, he hung lamps with glass of various colours in all the trees along the paths around the Teahouse and then up the slopes of the dell. He also put on a big firework display and had a local brass-band playing, all evening, in the centre of the Gardens. My father said the advert kept its promise.

Such shows are easily held because the rising slope of the district from the River Irk forms a natural amphitheatre around the Gardens, where sightseers can gather and see everything taking place. This particular display attracted a large crowd, who payed one shilling and sixpence each to have a seat and watch the fireworks; and also listen to the band whilst being served tea or coffee.

To give the place an added attraction, Mr Tinker's advert called the gardens the "Elysian Gardens". It seems he liked the title sufficient to change the Teahouse into an Alehouse and - soon afterwards - called this the Elysian Gardens. But even this change of name didn't last long. London was the big attraction for events; and Mr Tinker decided to copy the Capital's fashionable Vauxhall Gardens. This then became the "official" title, as you can see from the map. However, local people liked the original name, so the gardens remained Tinker's Gardens for all of us in our district - no matter what it says on the map.

My first real memory of the place was when my father and mother took me along with my brothers and sisters, to see the big balloon ascent in 1827. It happened to be a Friday which was also my birthday - August the tenth. Because my father saw it as being a special show and a very special day for all the family, he said he would meet the expense for each of us to get the best seats where we'd get a good view.

We needed to get there early, before the show started, so we could choose the best seats; and since both the Master and Lady of Collyhurst Hall (where my father worked as head gardener) were attending the show, they permitted my father the afternoon off. This they did on condition that he drove them to the Gardens in their carriage, in the early afternoon, and back to the Hall, in late evening.

I still have the advert about the show, which I keep in my storage chest with all my other special rememberances. It gives full details of the balloon . It tells it was made of twelve thousand yards of best silk cloth, whose alternate panels were crimson and gold. It measured over one hundred feet in circumference and was sixty-two feet high. It made a grand sight.

Mr Charles Green - the aeronaut - had charge of the balloon's preparation and its ascent; which happened to be his seventy-ninth; one of these being by command of King George the Fourth on the day of his coronation. The balloon we saw was the very same one seen by the King and had the words, "The Royal Coronation" displayed upon it. It had to be filled with gas at the recently built Gas Works along St. George's Road, on the morning of our particular show. They brought the balloon from there tethered by ropes - using men and horses to pull it along from the Works and then along Collyhurst Road to the Gardens.

Just before its ascent - at about five of the clock in the afternoon - a choir, accompanied by a brass-band, sang the anthem "God Save The King" . And you should have heard the cheers as it went up. It's said the crowd in and around the Gardens numbered about fifty-thousand - coming from miles around. I'm sure the cheers they made helped it to rise way up in the clear air so high - just as it did.

Those in the car suspended beneath its large crimson and gold ball waved flags to the cheering crowd until they drifted out of sight, way over Collyhurst Hall. Then the singers started to sing popular songs of the day. The ones I liked were: "When Arthur First in Courts Began"; "Glorious Appolo" and the "Derbyshire Ram". Then, after that, the full choir accompanied by the band rendered a grand chorus called "Air Ballooning"; and then finished with "Rule Britannia". I'll remember that day all my life.

There was another show four years later, in 1832, using the same balloon. It happened on the eighteenth of June, which was a Monday. I have a copy of the advert for that particular show - which I also keep in my treasure chest along with the others about the Gardens. I was fourteen years of age at the time and hadn't long since started my proper job at Collyhurst Hall. My wage wasn't all that much, but some of its pennies helped pay for all the family to attend the show in the evening. This time, they inflated the balloon in the Gardens and it cost two shillings each person to see it being done, and then see the ascent. Seeing the actual ascent only cost one shilling and six pence each, so we went to that.

After the ascent, the show became very much like the one on my birthday, in 1827, and finished up with songs similar to the previous show. This time, one of the main singers in the choir sang an amusing song called "Johnny Green's Description of Tinker's Gardens" - which caused lots of laughs. It finished up declaring the Gardens as the finest place in the nation - which I thought was true. The aeronaut this time happened to be Mr Charles Green's son; and this particular ascent became his seventy-fourth.

The last real event after the 1832 showing happened seven years later - in 1839. That's the year I got married to Mary Jane, in St Michael's Church - a Church in the area known, locally, as Angel Meadow.

Mr Tinker died three or so years earlier and Mr Pownall then took over the Gardens. The 1839 show happened on a Saturday evening. It had no balloon and was mainly a display of various coloured lamps hung in the trees and on poles marking out the paths, then followed by a firework display - like the first one Mr Tinker held in 1812.

In the year my daughter, Victoria Jane, was born - in 1852 - the Gardens closed. I feel sad she'll never see the shows we saw; but I still have the adverts for her to look at and can tell her about the balloon because there's an illustration of it in one of the adverts.

Also, my wife, Mary Jane, and my son, John Jethro, knew the gardens so they will all be able to tell Victoria Jane all about them and how lovely it once was.

But it soon became obvious the Gardens must come to an end as industry began to move along the River Irk and around and beyond the Gardens. I suppose even the Dye Works (the one called Collyhurst Dye Works, which you'll see marked on the map - positioned to the left of and just below the Gardens - where I now earn my living as an Overseer) helped to bring about its end.

We could see it all happening because, soon after the 1832 show, Collyhurst Hall was sold and its land became a brickwork because of the clay deposits found there. Also, the Manchester-to-Leeds railway drove its way across the Irk Valley and cut its way under St George's Road - as you can see on the map. All this industry began to make the area lose its attraction. We now hear the Gardens are to be dug out and become a sand quarry to supply sand to the increasing foundries in the district. More people are moving into Manchester; and we must have work. In our district, it's jobs or the Gardens, it seems?

My father, Jethro - who died in 1850 - would be very sad to know the Gardens are to be no more. He loved the area and Collyhurst Hall where he'd worked all his life, since a boy. He told me how the Hall, in its heydays, had a carriageway lined by tall trees that stetched all the way to Miles Platting; and on both sides of this carriageway there were thick woodlands from which the Hall obtained its timber and fire-wood. He said you could hear the birds singing in the woodland as if they were in paradise.

He also told me how - as a boy - he played in a field called Angel Meadow - just near where St Michael's Church was built - and how the view from there was one of fields and trees covering the Irk Valley. And how, in the spring, many of the trees burst out into a mass of pink and white blossom. In the Autumn, farmers used to bring their hogs along Ashley Lane to feed off acorns and the fallen wild apples.

Manchester is growing all the time and life always seems to be a story of losing and gaining, gaining and losing. Anyway: I know how it used to be when I was a boy; and I've still got the adverts to tell what happened in Tinker's Gardens.

I hope you enjoyed me telling it to you?

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