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The bravest street in England: Humble cul-de-sac in Altrincham where 161 men joined up for WWI - including SEVEN brothers from the same family - but only 132 made it back alive

February 7, 2018

  • A staggering 161 men from the same cul-de-sac in Altrincham signed up for WWI

  • There were 60 houses on Chapel Street but 81 men volunteered on the first day

  • Seven brothers from the Norton family went to fight and remarkably all survived

 

The story of a humble cul-de-sac which was described by the King as 'the bravest in England' after 161 men signed up for the First World War has been told in a new book. 

 

The inhabitants of Chapel Street in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, displayed an unrivalled devotion of duty when Lord Horatio Kitchener made his famous rallying call.

 

From the tight-knit community of just 60 houses, a staggering 161 men volunteered - 81 of them on the first day.

 

They included seven brothers from the same family, who all somehow survived the conflict.

 

A blue plaque was unveiled in 2009 on the site of where Chapel Street once stood

 

Tragically, however, 29 men from the street were killed in action, more than from any other street in England.

 

The men who lived in the terraced houses were of various different nationalities. There was a large contingent of Irish lodgers, and a handful from Wales and Italy.

 

Some of them had previously fought in the Boer War and were decorated soldiers.The Norton family led the way with seven brothers signing up - Michael, Thomas, Jack, Joe, Robert, David and the youngest boy Peter.

 

Peter had been granted exemption from military service at the request of his mother Charlotte on the grounds she needed his help in caring for his invalid sisters.

 

But he went against his mother's wishes and joined the Gordon Highlanders in 1916.

 

Older brother Joe, of the 4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards, was shot in both thighs at the Somme in 1916.

 

But after recuperating from his injuries, he returned to the front line and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for carrying wounded personnel to safety under heavy fire.

 

After the war, Chapel Street was a very different community as it struggled to cope with its huge loss.

The street was filled with widows and fatherless children, and without breadwinners in families there was much poverty.

 

A penny coin was issued after the war to the next-of-kin of those who died which was made of bronze and became known as the 'Dead Man's Penny'.

 

But this could not be spent and families had to rely on relief from the local churches to help with food parcels, children's clothing and days out.

 

Their enormous sacrifice was acknowledged by King George V who called Chapel Street 'the bravest little street in England' in a 1919 telegram following a visit to Manchester.

 

Families of those who fought in the war campaigned for many years to get the street recognised for its efforts.

 

In 2009 they were finally rewarded with an English Heritage plaque which read: 'In memory of the 161 men who volunteered and fought in the Great War 1914-18 and the 29 who gave their lives. We will remember them.'

 

Author Sheila Brady, who has written 'Chapel Street; The Bravest little Street in England', has a personal connection to Chapel Street as her great uncle Private James Riley lived there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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December 11, 2018

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