P h o t o B l o g

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Back Alley

February's Theme Day is "Paths and Passages". Ashton has many streets of terraced houses, many of which were built in the 19th century to house the growing population of workers in the cotton mills. Behind these houses are alleyways like the one in today's photo.

I know that some of the overseas visitors to this blog are fascinated by our terraced houses. One of the problems of building rows of houses is how to get access to the rear. The streets were therefore built with alleyways, giving access to the back yards of the houses. In some of the longer streets there were "ginnels" or passageways through to the back with part of a bedroom above.

When many of the terraced houses were built, there were no inside toilets, but they had their toilets or "privvies" in the back yard or courtyard, sometimes shared with neighbours! These toilets fed into containers that had to be emptied every week or two by the so-called "night soil man", who arrived with his horse and cart. The night soil man would definitely need to use the back alley, as nobody would want the stuff brought through the house! The coalman, too, would come around the back delivering sacks of coal to people's back yards.

Nowadays many of the back alleys are "gated" for improved security. This alley runs along the back of Henrietta Street and leads to a wide courtyard between Ramsden Street and Halifax Street. Many back alleys have now been paved with concrete flag stones but I chose this alley for today's photo because it is paved with traditional cobbles or setts.

More back alleys can be seen here and here.

Click here to view thumbnails for all the participants in today's Paths and Passages theme day.

See Google Aerial View of this location.
See LiveSearch Birds Eye View of this location.


  1. I do find it sad they are now gated. A part of my youth died when I first came across a closed alley. I can ear the strains of Corrie. A very homely choice.

  2. In our old house in Leeds, where I lived when I was in my late teens, the shared loos were still standing, and even had toilets in them - although no-one used them. A lot of my grandmother's funny stories (she's from Sheffield originally) involve the outside lav (and also the "pittle pot" which was kept under the bed for night time use!!)

  3. An alleyway is a great way of interpreting today's Theme. Something like this is so British.

  4. One ingenious contraption that rarely gets a mention is the 'Tippler' - intended to flush the outside toilet with waste water from the kitchen sink.

    Basically, this was hinged container located under the back yard flagstones which remained horizontal when it was empty. As it filled up with water from the kitchen sink, the weight of water at one end caused it to tip, sending its contents off to the toilet. Job done, if you'll pardon the expression.

  5. I used to be scared of using the 'Tippler Toilet' at my aunty's. Sometimes the tippler mechanism would be activated by the force of a pee. I was afraid of being sucked into the toilet or something unspeakable coming up the toilet bowl to bite my bum!
    This a very evocative photo of something that is fast disappearing but is very familiar to me from my youth.

  6. I remember the tippler we had in union St , like Meg I was terrified of it , i was convinced an aligator lived in it! The toilet itself was an oblong wooden contraption.My mum reorted to having me use the potty instead!
    The picture of the alleyway makes me remember the echos that your feet would make as you ran along the alley

  7. I almost had a touch of "I may be gone for some time" taking the wheelie bin to the edge of the kerb this morning. The thought of walking through snow to use an outside 'lav', as we had to, didn't bear thinking about. Neither did the fact that the Andrex puppy hadn't been born at that time.

    Regarding the bins, the binmen of old must have had a job and a half having to carry metal bins and contents from the back of the houses to the cart at the front.

  8. Thought I was looking at a photo of the alley and our back yard (leading to a "T" shaped alley) from when I lived on Ashton Old Road in Singers Sewing Machine shop (just below the old Halfway House at Ogden Lane). We also had outside toilets (1930's)but at least we had our own in our back yard.
    If the high back yard door had the iron security bolt locked on the inside when the bin men came, they jumped to the top of the door and used a long hook to slide it back so they could get to the bins! A lot of what was in the bin was coal ashes, maybe peelings and probably empty tin cans. Newspapers were cut into squares for use in the toilet, and we carried groceries home in wicker baskets with an embroidered cloth over the contents or in paper carrier bags. No fancy wrapping up in those days, and food like dried peas, raisins, etc. was from bulk supplies so not much was pre-packaged! Joyce

  9. They have a tippler toilet, or at least the tippler part of it, rigged up and working in the sewer section of the Manchester Museum of Science.
    I remember that when it was raining hard, water from the downspouts along the terrace would be constantly operating the tipplers. The "clunk - sploosh" would sound up and down the back street.


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