Oxford Road Station – Manchester

Where are you?

Neither here nor there.

Up in the air.

Betwixt and between.

Possibly on the way to somewhere else, stranded at Oxford Road Station.

Tucked in behind Shaw’s Furniture and The Tatler Cinema.

I love every curvy corner, timber frame and canopy, concrete spiral, empty kiosk and precipitous steps – I’m happy to be stranded.


It opened in 1849 and was rebuilt in 1960.



The station was opened as Oxford Road on 20 July 1849 by the Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway . The station was the headquarters of the MSJAR from its opening until 1904. It had two platforms and two sidings, with temporary wooden buildings. To allow for extra trains in connection with the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857, extra platforms and sidings were built. In 1874 the station was completely rebuilt providing two bay platforms and three through platforms. Further reconstruction took place during 1903-04. From 1931 it was served by the MSJAR’s 1500V DC electric trains between Altrincham and Manchester Piccadilly.

The station had become dilapidated by the 1950s, and in connection with the electrification and modernisation programme of the Manchester to London line in 1960, the old buildings were replaced by the current structure by architects W.R. Headley and Max Glendinning and structural engineer Hugh Tottenham. It was designed in a distinctive style in concrete and wood with curves bringing to mind the Sydney Opera House.

Use of the station increased from May 1988 when the Windsor Link was inaugurated between Deansgate and Salford Crescent, connecting lines to the north and south of Manchester.

The station is a grade II listed building.

One of the most interesting and innovative buildings of the period, the most ambitious example in this country of timber conoid shell roofing.

  • Clare HartwellPevsner’s Architectural Guide Manchester.

Further development awaits, widening the viaduct and lengthening platforms as part of the Northern Hub Project.

oxford road

The defunct Platform 6 and lost awning to the left – Photo: 20 3 1971 Tom Burnham

Altrincham bound 931 Metro-Cammell MSJAR 1500 volt DC EMU – all withdrawn by 1971, when the line was converted to AC.

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Screen Wall Water Feature – Manchester


Breakin’ down the walls of heartache, 

I’m a carpenter of love and affection.

So sang Johnny Johnson of the Bandwagon.

They were a permanent fixture at the New Century Hall in the late sixties.

Attached to New Century House, the Hall was an integral part of the extensive Cooperative Society property development in Manchester.

Much of that development now faces an ever uncertain future.

None more so than the adjoining screen wall.

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Set to the north-east side of the building’s entrance forecourt is a concrete sculptural screen wall by John McCarthy with an abstract relief to the south-west side facing into the forecourt. The wall is aligned at a right angle to the building’s main entrance and has a shallow rectangular pool (now drained) set in front. The wall includes numerous openings from which water originally flowed into the pool, but the system is no longer in working order. The pool also originally incorporated small fountains.

Information from Historic England

At a time when the whole of the centre of the city seems alive with construction, refurbishment, gentrification and more quarters than you could shake a stick at, this forlorn and seemingly unloved gem stands, shrouded in shrubs.

I’m a carpenter of love and affection, who would not care to see, this particular wall:

Broken down.

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St Peter in Chains – Doncaster

A church shrouded in history and mystery – and on the day of my visit:

Torrential rain.

How appropriate as:

On the eve of the Reformation came a reputed miracle for Robert Leche and his family who were saved from drowning after invocation of Our Lady of Doncaster.

Its location on the Great North Road seems to have placed it through the years at the centre myth and magic.

On 30 November 1350, licence was granted for alienation in mortmain by, John son of Henry Nicbrothere de Eyoun and Richard le Ewere of Doncastre to the Carmelite Friars who are coming there to dwell in the town of Doncastre, of a messuage and six acres of land there, to build thereon a church in honour of St Mary and houses to dwell in.

A shrine was established to Our Lady of Doncaster.

Time and the Reformation were not kind to the shrine and Our Lady.

She and the church of St Peter came and went over the years until:

A new church was opened by Cardinal Heenan on Palm Sunday 1973, octagonal in shape. John Bentley’s Tabernacle Door, the four reredos panels and the altar designed for the old church are incorporated in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the new church.

The statue of Our Lady of Doncaster now stands in a circular shrine chapel on the north side of the church. Phyffers’ statue stands in an oak reredos with modern stained glass windows depicting St Joseph, the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Assumption.

A large and striking design by J. H. Langtry-Langton, incorporating important furnishings by J. F. Bentley from the predecessor church, along with good furnishings of the 1970s. The churches houses the modern successor to the medieval shrine of Our Lady of Doncaster.

Ambitious in scale, dotted with vertical detail, the main body of the church has an integrated meeting hall and clerical house. I remain however, more than somewhat unconvinced by its brick monumentality.

On September 23, 1974, the budding Liverpool star married his childhood sweetheart, Jean, at St Peters in Chains Roman Catholic Church in his hometown of Doncaster. 

There was no fanfare, no fans, no celebrity guests and certainly no Hello! style deal. Kevin was just 24, his bride a year younger. 

Watching them with a tear in their eyes were his proud parents, Joe, a miner, and Doris.

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Kevin says: ‘Jean and I hadn’t planned to get married for months, but I had a five-week ban for fighting with Billy Bremner and, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining, so we decided to use the time to get married quietly.’ 

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Back to Beswicks

You’re never more than a thousand yards from a main road, six feet from a rat, or a quarter of a mile from Beswick, one of many Beswicks.


Beswick was once a bustling mixed industrial and residential area of east Manchester, alive with back to back terraced housing, pubs, clubs, shops and people.

Sixties slum clearance swept away most of its past when Fort Beswick was built.


Remember the Alamo?

Forget Fort Beswick.

It’s gone – wind the Bobbin up.

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Turn it into a Library

Beswick Library

Wind the library up


Build another


Call the Police!

But the Police Station has closed now, and moved further on.



There are traces of the past that remain, homes and pubs that have survived the revival.

Where is Beswick now?

On the edges of the Eastland’s dream, on the outside of everything.

Sheik Mansour ensures the construction of a brand new shiny world.

The private provision of an almost public space.


Everyone knows this is nowhere.

But Beswick?

Coverdale Baptist Church – Ardwick

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At the eastern end of the broad wide curve of Coverdale Crescent sits a church.

Built in 1970 to accommodate the pious observation of the area’s  residents.

The residents of the so-called Fort Ardwick.


The Fort is no more, demolished, the newer Coverdale Estate now covers the area.

The church aka The Wellcontinues to function as a focus for community and religious activity.

The exterior now seems just a little careworn, though planting and structural maintenance, manage to keep up a modicum of appearances.

Museum and Art Gallery – Doncaster

On one wet Monday, not so very long ago, I took the train from Stockport to Doncaster, not really knowing what to expect, I was more than pleasantly surprised, to find the Museum.

Tucked behind the Civic Centre, Police Station and Magistrates Court sitting very quietly, very much minding its own business, and very much on Chequer Road.

Ever so quietly in fact, for on Mondays, it’s closed, ever so very much closed.

Fortunately with the ill advised and poorly prepared visitor in mind, there is ever so much to be seen from the outside, looking in through closed gates and locked doors.

Doncaster Museum was officially opened on the Friday 30th October 1964 by Princess Margaret. The building was designed in the office of the Doncaster Borough Architect’s Department in a team led by borough architect Mr L.J. Tucker. It was completed at a cost of £290,000, which included the purchase of the land that it stands on. It was the first ever museum and art gallery in this country to be entirely funded from local rates. The frame and general construction of the museum and art gallery was carried out in reinforced concrete. Externally concrete framework and ribs are exposed, while panel infilling between the ribs is executed in hand-made rustic facing bricks.

The two sculptures on the outside of the building are by Fabio Barraclogh and Franta Belsky, and the tile decoration was apparently carried out by Mr Tucker, with tiles that he got from a builders’ merchant- firstly this spiralling cast bronze to the right of the building’s front elevation.

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And secondly two large figures on the side elevation to the left.

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The upper tier of the building is clad in pale, softly toned and smooth mosaic panels.

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On the lower tier, to the side and rear are exquisite ceramic mosaic relief panels, combining individual elements in several unique combinations, each with a central roundel within a square setting. These reliefs are flanked with dark hardwood panels, comprised of raised vertical fins.

Sadly they are partially hidden from full view, behind dark green wire fencing.

Opened in 1964 the building is pure Festival of Britain, a cantilevered upper storey overhanging the entrance with a glass fronted elevation -here it is in 1972.


Monday 9th February 2016 and the formerly open aspect, has been landscaped and fenced.

I’ll be back – to take a good look around the inside, but never on a Monday or Tuesday.


Beswick – Manchester

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Between Openshaw and Bradford sits Beswick.

Beswick is a small district located on the east side of Manchester bounded by Ashton Old Road, Ashton New Road and Grey Mare Lane and was incorporated into Manchester in 1838. Pronounced Bes-ick the “w” is silent. Before 1066, in Saxon times, the district was called Beaces Hlaw – Hlaw was an old word for a small hill, often used as a burial mound. By the 13th century it had changed to “Beaces Wic” indicating that the area was predominantly farm land. Who or what the Bes element of the placename signified is open to interpretation, though the simplest and most plausible is that it belonged to a person called Bes or Bess.

In the 60s it was, as I remember it, a typically vibrant mixed East Manchester community, industry, housing, retail, entertainment and goodness knows what bumping along together incautiously, down tight streets of Victorian terraced housing. I worked in the area as a Mother’s Pride van lad, hauling bread, cakes and galvanised trays in and out of a plethora of superabundant corner shops.

The year of 1970, approximately, dawns, ushering in a decade of great change, slum clearance and the building of brand new homes – the end, by and large, of the back to back corner shop world.

A process mirrored in my previous post

10 years later, and long gone the years of postwar full employment, and the made round to go round world of the weekly wage.

The early 1980s saw growing unemployment and world-wide recession. The large new estates suffered most. Inner city districts of Manchester saw street riots in 1981, as did many other major cities around Britain. Manchester had suffered badly as a result of the recession. In 1986, over 59% of adult males living in Hulme were unemployed; in Miles Platting the figure was 46%; Cheetham Hill and Moss Side both had an unemployment rate of 44%. The main group of unemployed were young people under the age of 21. Hulme’s youth employment was recorded at 68%, and Cheetham Hill suffered 59%. 

Manchester 2002


It is true that the new developments have great advantages in many ways over the terraces they replaced. Tenants who live in houses without baths or indoor sanitation and with no hot water are delighted to move into bright new flats and maisonettes, with indoor plumbing, with baths, and accommodation which has more rooms and far better kitchen facilities and central heating, even though they sometimes grumble at the cost of that central heating.

Gerald Kaufman MP

But although we can build a new housing development, we cannot easily recreate the warm community spirit which has vanished with the terraces which have been demolished. There is the noise from neighbours on the deck above and the deck below. The wind-swept balconies along which tenants have to walk are not as cosy as the streets from which they have come. Those welcoming corner shops, with their bright lights on winter evenings, have gone, and sometimes a new development has no new shops for too long a period. Even when they come, there are not enough of them.

The scale of the buildings is often daunting. I have in mind Fort Beswick and Fort Ardwick in my own constituency. The design is frequently all too forbidding. That is why the two estates are called Forts

When the tenants of these development have lived in cosy old houses, however inadequate they were in terms of physical provision, they are bitterly disappointed by the shortcomings of new property which they have looked forward to occupying.

Handsard – Multi-Storey Developments 1974

The year of 1990, approximately, dawns, ushering in a decade of great change, multi-storey development clearance and the building of brand new homes – the end, by and large, of the one on top of another topsy-turvy world.

Fort Beswick was subsequently demolished.

The beat goes on as Len Grant records the most recent redevelopment of East Manchester.

And the M.E.N shouts loud and proud from the roof tops, heralding a brand new, privately funded public domain

Picture credits Manchester Image Archive

Coverdale Crescent Estate – Ardwick

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and as it would subsequently transpire, loosely attached Bison concrete wall-frame system panels.

Wythenshawe apart, the City of Manchester admitted that it had 68,000 houses described as “grossly unfit” by 1959. 


Its solution was to demolish 90,000 dwellings between 1954 and 1976 and to erect 71,000 dwellings by way of high rise flats and to move residents out to newly prescribed “overspill” estates – at Heywood and Langley in the north, Hyde in the east and Worsley in the west.

Most of these displaced people, however, found themselves resettled in tall tower blocks, which, no matter how architecturally innovative, or how improved their facilities, proved disastrous in social terms. 

Manchester 2002

In Coverdale Crescent Ardwick such an architecturally innovative development was built.

The estate, which became known as Fort Ardwick, was a deck access block of 500 homes. Completed in 1972, it was built with the same Bison concrete wall-frame system that had been used in neighbouring Fort Beswick.

By the mid-1980s it was clearly suffering from structural faults. The council employed a private firm of consultants to survey the estate, which found that water was leaking through roofs, steel fixings were corroded and concrete was breaking away. The council had to spend £60,000 immediately to bolt 1,100 panels back on to the building’s internal skin. The city architect, David Johnson, claimed that the report highlighted the rapid deterioration of Fort Ardwick’s fabric.

They said it was shoddy, thrown up, not enough care taken. The concrete panels weren’t made properly – the holes didn’t quite line up. You know what it’s like – you’re putting a flatpack cupboard together and something’s not in the right place but you just bodge it instead of sending it back, starting again, because you want the cupboard up and you’ve got other shit to do.

They had to get these consultants in, after they’d finished, to rebolt all the panels or something , so the whole thing didn’t fall down. Cost a bloody fortune my nan said, and that’s our taxes. And even then the rain got in. They’d put straw between the concrete, which sounds a bit medieval to me, and no-one wants wet straw walls, right? Cockroaches and rats and mould and that.

My nan remembers when they knocked down the terraces. I remember when they knocked down the fort. And maybe they had a point about it being shoddy, because soon as the diggers got their claws in, the whole thing fell to pieces, like it was made out of cardboard and bits of sellotape, not concrete and glass. A fort one week, a pile of rubble the next. No-one wept for it, they say.

I didn’t cry, but I stood at the end of the street and watched the diggers pawing at the walls, ripping the place to bits, our old kitchen wall gone and the cooker and the cupboards and the crap plastic clock just there for everyone to see. Except there was no-one else looking.

Sarah Butler

Local MP Gerald Kaufman reported to Parliament in 1974 that, during a conversation with residents, one of them had proclaimed that

“If Labour wins the election, it ought to do two things: abolish the House of Lords, and demolish Fort Ardwick.”

The estate was demolished in the 1980s and the new Coverdale Estate was constructed on the site in 1994.

The House of Lords still stands unabashed by the Thames.

Photo credits H Milligan 1971 LIC and MMU Visual Resource

Best Launderette – Brunswick Street Manchester

I was out walking on the corner one day.

I spied some old washing.

In the doorway it lay.

Well there was a doorway, but no door.

There was a door, but not attached to the doorway.

Well there was washing, I had inadvertently found the Best Laundrette.

Unattended, seemingly unloved, washing spinning happily, unobserved.

Guantanamo orange walls, stormy petrol blue sky linoleum floor.

Lit by several stark, bare fluorescent tubes.

I quickly went about my business, made my excuses to myself and left.


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