Having spent most of my childhood living on Kersal Flats and having lived there from the very beginning it was so pleasing to find the Kersal Flats website, what a great idea. Hopefully it will preserve memories and history forever. For a while now have been thinking ‘’I must dig out those old photos and send them in’’. I then started to write a few notes to accompany them and have probably gotten a bit carried away with some of my reminiscing, but I can only hope It will help bring back some of your memories of Kersal Flats too and encourage you to do the same.


Before moving to Lower Kersal we liven in Hanky Park, number twelve Elizabeth Street. I was only four at the time but I have vivid memories of life there. Our lot was the same as most other peoples of that area, ‘basic’ is putting kindly. A two up and two down, an outside loo, only one cold water tap and a coal fire place, a bath tub hung on the yard wall, that was it! No one will ever convince me that these where the good old days, it was awful, today there are greater comforts in camping. But as a young kid I knew no different and thought the rest of the world must have been like this. My entire recollections of Hanky Park are all grey and black, like an old film. There was no colour what so ever, everything was drab and an endless landscape of smoky chimneys and cobbled streets. But I knew that things were about to change as I recall having street mates and seeing them being move out of the area one by one and my Mam telling me that soon it would be our turn.


I estimate it must have been late 1959 and with great excitement we were given the keys to view the new flat, 705 Chaucer Court. I remember the day we first went to see it, my Mam, Gran and me caught an old Salford bus (must have been the number two) we got off and walked down South Radford Street and could see with amazement these newly constructed modern towers. The lift was all new-fangled  sparkling aluminium with control buttons and little green lights indicating the floor level, you must realise that this was at the beginning of the space-age and to me this lift was like a space rocket. We got to the seventh floor and walked down the landing and peeping through the gaps in the balustrades I could see for miles around and feel the wind blowing strongly. With great anticipation we opened the door of our new flat for the very first time. It was all white, bright, clean and smelt bran new. The first room on the right was the bathroom; it had a toilet and a plumbed in bath. We’d already seen enough, we’ll take it! I can remember going onto the single veranda which had railings so I could clearly see the view (looking towards the racecourse) and feeling amazed as for what seemed for the first time in my life I could see colour, the river, the newly laid turf of the lawns, the race course and what was still left of the old golf links and the ‘cliff’ beyond. Natural splendour I never new existed, an absolute vista of green foliage, blue sky and fluffy white clouds, it was like we’d immigrated to another country. It was really beautiful. 



We moved in shortly afterwards and soon became the envy of other family members as we now had an inside toilet and a bath with running ‘hot water’. If memory serves, the hot water came from the back boiler of the coke fire, which meant if you wanted hot water, you had to light the coke fire, even in the summer, electric emersion heaters were fitted some time later. Other members of our family, Grandparents, aunts and uncles would come to visit us and have a bath too, usually on a Sunday. Well, if you’ve got water you may as well show it off!


We soon settled in and although things were now a lot cleaner, life was still very basic, we still had no modern day conveniences in the flat, thing taken for granted today like a washer, fridge or phone etc. In fact I was recently telling one off my daughters the fact that as kids, we didn’t have a phone. ‘‘That must have been awful’’ she said ‘’how could you live without a phone’’. I explained it would have been pointless having one as nobody else we knew had one either, so who would you call! It might have come in handy in case of a fire.

The only gadget in the flat was a small electric cooker with two rings, a hot plate and a small oven, oh and a gas poker in the living room for starting the coke fire, great safety feature! The kitchen had a small pantry which was ventilated by air vents in the cupboard door and air bricks in the wall which was supposed to keep food cool, which of course it didn’t. So most provisions had to be bought daily, especially in the summer, with no fridge freezer it must have been very difficult to keep food fresh.

There was a wash house at the bottom of Keats Court (I can only recall the one on the entire estate) and our Mam would go once a week with the washing trolley fully loaded. The laundrette had several washing machines, a spin dryer and gas heated airing cupboards. This must have been a big improvement as previously all washing had to be done by hand.

The new neighbours were all Salford ‘old school’ and looking back they where good and we did look after each other, certainly compared with today. A lot had nicknames like ‘redheaded Floe’ ‘Birmingham Cath’ and ‘whistling Frank’ etc. There were a lot of Dockers who lived on the flats (who all had a nickname) so it’s probable that the practice derived from there. Our Dad Alan Jones (same name as me) worked on the docks most of his life and his nickname was Arkle, after the ‘champion chaser’ racehorse. Chaucer court had an open balcony access so all the kids on the floor would play together; remember, there was little to do inside, there was no daytime tele or all the other stuff that kids take for granted today so we had to keep ourselves entertained. The girls would usually congregate around the enclosed lift area playing shops and hospitals etc while the boys would be tear-arsing up and down the balcony on bikes or scooters. As I got a bit older I was allowed to play out and would spend all day either playing football on the grass or in the hills

Both my sisters were born in the flat, Alison 18 Jan 1961 and Lindsey 17 Apr 1964.  


1962 Our Alison and me playing on the 7th Floor of Chaucer Court.


Me (on the right) and a landing mate, I think his name was Michael



I remember the official opening ceremony for Kersal Flats. This particular day there was a large group of people gathered around the newly erected public benches (remember the ones that had two benches and a flower bed in the middle) adjacent to the shops, obviously something was going on so it didn’t take long for my mates and me to go and see what all the fuss was about. The Lord Mayor was there with all his regalia on and a few press people etc, suddenly a black limo pulls up and out gets this bloke, says a few words nobody could hear, cut a ribbon, a round of applause and off he went. I didn’t know at the time who it was but later found out it was Hugh Gaitskell, the then Labour party opposition leader, often refereed to as ‘’the prime minister that never was’’. He had led the Labour party for years in opposition then sadly poor Hugh died in 1963 just before the next general election which saw labour come to power with a landslide victory. Anyway, we now had a new public bench and commemorative plague, things were really looking up.


I would run regular errands for our Mam to the shops, sometimes several times a day, as I mentioned before there was no refrigeration and little money, so things were only bought as and when needed. I remember the shops well, from left to right there was the paper shop, the pot shop, the chemist, the Mace super market (super market!) the butchers and the green grocers. The green grocer must have been allowed to sell game as often they would have freshly killed rabbits and feathered chickens hung outside from the window canopy with blood still dripping from them onto the pavement, imagine health and safety allowing that today.

The Mace was the main shop, I recall it being converted into a ‘serve your self’ shop were you walked round with a shopping basket and paid at the till and later it gained a licence to serve alcohol, great news for our Dad! I can still remember the manager Bannister Cowsill, he was only a young fella when I was I kid but he was very well spoken, a real gentleman. Often when coming home from school our Mam would be waiting for me stood on the seventh floor balcony. Alan, Shops! She would shout meaning she wanted me to go to the shops for something and would throw down the money wrapped in a paper shopping list. One particular day she threw down a ‘half crown’ wrapped in paper, I lost sight of the descending projectile at the critical moment, just as it reached terminal velocity and it hit me right on the bleadin’ head. The coin flew into the unmowed grass and was lost. I went back upstairs with a lump on my head the size of a golf ball, but I got no sympathy, just a crack round the ear-hole for losing the money.

If our Mam was really skint she would sent me to the shops for things like two ounces of Prem, which would be two slices of cheap meat that had to be cut that thin it was transparent. Or a quarter of cooking cheese which was basically stale cheese but with a bit of imagination could be made into a splendid meal. Fry some bacon and onions then grate the cheese over it with a little milk salt and, pepper, then grill until golden, gorgeous! Or if you were down to your last half crown you could go to the grocers shop and get a few spuds, a carrot and onion, two oxo’s and a small tin of corned beef, ideal for making ‘emergency ash’



As I mentioned earlier kids in the sixties had to keep themselves entertained. The river was a great attraction just simply chuckin duckers or, in the summer playing for hours in the hills of on the cliff. We would make dens and if we were lucky enough to find a piece of rope would find a suitable tree to make a ‘Tarzan swing’  The summer’s days seemed endless as we would go out early and not come home until hungry. If we were thirsty we would simply drink from one of the running streams of water, no one ever died! On summer evenings whole families would walk around the river or on the hills. On odd occasions we would walk up to Drink Water park, the pond would be full of kids swimming, some as naked as the day they were born but it was all innocent. On the way home Dad would nip in the Plough Pub for a few quick ones.


Drinkies with Agecroft Power Station in the background.



Although living in the flats was a great improvement, the flat itself was perishingly cold in winter, especially in 1963 which was one of the coldest recorded winters in recent times. Our bedroom was north facing and obviously not doubled glazed and the windows had ill fitting steal frames which meant that when it got really cold ice would form over the entire windows and at worst would become over an inch thick. We would put everything we could on our beds in an attempt to keep warm, including my Dads work coat which used to stink  like a, well…. a Dads docks work coat, oil fags and beer. The nighttimes were very quite as no one stayed up late and the tele went off well before midnight, plus there was very little traffic about. All that could be heard were the steam marshalling engines and the clang, clang, clang of the empty coal wagons being shunted at Agecroft colliery and the occasional blast of steam from what I assume were safety relief valves from the power station. Winter days were great though and we would spend hours making slides on the ice or messing about on the hills, we would nick milk churn tops from the school on Oalklands Rd which made great one-man bob-sleigh which and would leave big red rings on your arse.    


I attended Lower Kersal Junior School 1960-1966. The first picture is not dated but is probably infants 1st year (1960). The second picture is dated Apr 1963 so this must be junior first year. I wasn’t one for school so have little memories worth telling. The only faces I can remember are some of the boys, in no particular order:- John Hooley, Brian Barnes, Terry Bromley, Pete Silcock, Pete Rudey, Steve Slater, John Evans, Tom Milner and Alan McQueeny. There a few other faces I know but can’t be sure of names. And for the girls (with one possible exception Angela Prescott) I can’t remember a one of them, I must have been a slow starter.




I viewed the clip of ‘the white bus’ sequence in the ‘movies’ section of the website with great interest as I was there the day (or days) it was filmed. I clearly remember the film camera being situated on the top of our block (Chaucer Court). One day the open top white bus itself was parked for a while at the bus stops so again it would cause instant attraction for us kids. The ‘luvies’ were all gathered around the public benches near the shops (I suppose they were admiring the commemorative plague). Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) was there as he was then known to us as Mr Swidley out of in Coronation Street. It’s wasn’t until I ‘googled’ the film recently that I found it was full of young actors that went on to have outstanding careers in films and TV, one being Anthony Hopkins. The film itself was written by Shelagh Delaney (a Salford girl from Dutchy) more famous for her success with stage play and film ‘A Taste of Honey’.

If you observe the clip of film very carefully, note the absence of other vehicles on the road or any parked up, very few working people could afford a car in 1967.


Speaking of coloured busses, who remembers the all cream bus that used to grace us with the occasional visit when in operation as the No 14 or No 92. All Salford busses were painted racing car green with cream trim, but one bus was painted in reverse livery i.e. all the green bits painted cream and visa versa. I recently read Paul Shackcloths’ book ‘Salford in Steam’ and it explains there were in fact several types that were painted like this to commemorate either Salford Civic Week in 1961 or Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953. Some town hall meeting that must have been when the Lord Mayor stood up and asked ‘’what shall Salford do to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elisabeth’’ and someone stood up and said ‘’I know! Let’s paint a bus arse about face’’ But it would infuse great excitement to us kids if one was waiting at the bus stop. They were always kept spick and spam, the seats were polished green leather and the guard, who always looked as though he had a new uniform on, would parade up and down making sure us little urchins were kept in order. We must have looked most regal, all going to school in the Queen Elizabeth Commemorative Coronation Bus.


Bonfire night was a great annual occasion, we would start collecting bonfire wood sometime just after Easter (I exaggerate) but in the days when you had to keep yourselves amused, this was something to do and even look forward to. By the time bonfire night came the fire would be that high Edmund Hillary wouldn’t have attempted it. The head caretaker (who was there for years but I can’t remember his name) would make a large ‘guy’ and it would have eyes that lit up with battery operated bulbs and he would put it on display outside the paper shop and collect pennies to go towards purchasing fireworks, that man used to put a lot of effort into it. We would gather to see the great fire lit and the guy burn, then us lads would all go messing about, like lads do. We used to fire rockets at the flats hoping to hit someone’s window or even better about twelve of us would jump into a lift and let a ‘rip-rap’ off, that was great fun.


Those who lived in the flats from the very beginning will of course remember when the Manchester Race Course was still operational, although only one meeting per year was held there, the November Manchester Cup. In the days when not much happened, this was a real spectacle which would generate lots of excitement and crowds would sit on the banks of the Irwell waiting for the horses to pass. The last couple of meeting were televised so it was fascinating to be able to see the horses from our flat window and see them on the tele at the same time. To this day there is still a plague on the wall of the Racecourse pub listing the wining horses and riders of the Manchester Cup, the last one being Espresso rode by Lester Piggott in 1963. And if I’ve done my homework right the very last winner of the final day was again Lester Piggott riding Fury Royal. Years after the course became abandoned and on one hot summer’s day, when the river must have been quite low we waded across the Irwell onto the old course and it was a great adventure to explore as all the stables were still there with the Irwell Castle house the spectator stands all perfectly intact, why did it close? What a waste.



The most important sporting event which occurred whilst we lived on the flats was the world cup in 1966. In preparation for the great event our Dad had hired a new black and white television about the size of a small wardrobe. It had whacking great screen equipment with 625 lines (the black and white equivalent of HD today). On the day of the final (30th July) Dad went to the Mace shop to stock up on bear and fags and got me a large bottle of Tizer and a packet of crisp, which was unusual. I remember him filling the bath with cold water and submerging the beer bottles in an attempt to keep them cool. Anyway, Dad told our Mum to take the girls (my sisters) out of the flat. He told me that women and girls had no interest in football and anyway, they would only be unlucky. All was going well with a just a few minutes left England were winning 2 -1, just then we heard the front door opening, it was our Mam returning with my sisters, just as Germany equalised. Dad went berserk! He actually blamed Mam for Germany scoring and told them all to get out until after the match. I don’t know where they went but it worked, England won 4-2 and Dad went out early that night, probably to catch the pubs re-opening at 5:30pm. He boozed in the Bridge on Lower Broughton Road, what a cracking night that must have been.


With three growing children the home had simply become too small for us, so we moved out on the 20th Aug 1968 and went to live down Lancaster Road. It was a sad occasion but I think we got out just about the right time because when ever I revisited the flats after this, it always seemed to be more rundown and neglected. On one of my last visits of December 1987 the abandoned flats were boarded-up but by chance I noticed the vandals had removed the barrier around one of the entrance areas. I couldn’t resist and had to enter, knowing this would be my last chance to visit our old flat, I had the dog with me; somehow this seemed to make it alright? The stairwells were strewn with rubbish and old furniture but gradually I made it to the seventh floor and the door of 705 was ajar. As I entered, just for that brief moment my heart sank as the myriad of memories all came flashing back. It was exactly as I remembered it except it seemed to be much smaller, our old bedroom was so tiny, how did three kids with beds and toys (plus our Dads old bike and a piano) squeeze into that?

On the day of the demolition I went with a friend and claimed our spot on the old racecourse to view the final spectacle, although the flats had died long ago, it was still like attending a kind of execution. I took my last look at 705 Chaucer Court and  said my final farewell, after all this place had great significance in my life, it was were my sisters were born, were I saw England win the world cup and were we had hot water! A siren sounded and then Bang! Bang!....... that was it, in seconds it all came to a crushing end.

When the flats were first built they were hailed as the bright new beginning in urban renewal and set the standard for new constructions across the country, but it was all soon to become a massive social engineering disaster. But despite the controversy, I will always remember Kersal Flats as a place where I had a very happy childhood.

Chaucer Court December 1987



I dedicate these little anecdotes to our late Dad, Alan Jones senior who taught me to value lots of things, including local history.