Four different groups used aerial images and old maps to examine different areas of South Manchester dating from 1927 onwards with the aim of finding out about people's lives and specifically their gardening opportunities (you can use the references below on the Britain from Above website to view the images for yourself):
1. The Gorton Foundry image Ref:EPW019380 1927
The oldest images (1927) focused on a heavily industrialized neighbourhood in Gorton and showed the Gorton Foundry with its massive buildings, lots of chimneys, railway sidings and cramped back-to-back houses. A tram can be seem making its' way along the street. There are no visible gardens.
2. Belle View Zoological Gardens Ref:EPW017763 1927
Meanwhile, at the same time and not very far away, the images of Belle View Zoological Gardens tell a different story. Formal flower beds and neat paths lead to the amusement rides and the many buildings housing the animal collections. The lake with the clock tower and 'The Bobs' roller-coaster can clearly be seen, as can the speedway. It tells the story of a sector of society that had access to money for pleasure, able to visit gardens and amusements. Beyond the walls, the industrial areas can be seen in the distance along with areas set aside for allotments. We are fortunate in this location to be able to compare this to a second image taken 20 years later in 1947 showing the area after the war (EAW006252). The park survived unscathed with a few changes to the grounds, but there is a clear change in town planning with new council houses, high rise flats and a general loss of open space occurring. However, another important feature in the landscape increases; the allotments. Considering the time (2 years after the end of the war) it is likely that this was due to the Dig for Victory campaign and this provides us with some interesting ideas for our garden.
3. Melland Playing Fields Ref: EPW036836 1931
The arrival of the Council House Estate gave working class people in urban areas the opportunity to have some space - a garden of their own. The images of Melland are fascinating and show wide crescent shaped streets, houses with their own back gardens and provision for local shops. The open spaces show a football game in action, whilst the streets are not filled with cars, but with people walking. With an eye to the future, the roads had been built well before the majority of families started to own their own cars.
4. Debdale / Gorton Reservoirs Ref:EPW047417 1935
Belle Vue was not the only location to have formal gardens and the images of the reservoirs provide a glimpse of Debdale Park and the beautiful old house standing in the grounds. There is a mix of housing styles and a mix of open spaces.
The pupils became aerial detectives and looked for clues about how people lived with three key questions in mind:
a) What has changed?
b) How has it changed?
c) What has stayed the same?
Transport, homes, gardens, food, work, schools, football and even elephants were discussed! They then compared the old maps to modern aerial images and photographs and worked out whether they could identify any of the landmarks today.
The opportunity to use a Stereoscope was well received, with many children commenting that it was like using modern day 3D glasses. Indeed, the stereoscopes were the first generation of 3D glasses and vital in interpreting the scale of the images being viewed.
It was a fascinating session and really highlighted the ability of aerial photographs to tell a story which connects to modern day lives. The images provided much food for thought for the development of our garden project.