Once there was a river there, formed by the thunder of Irish Sea ice gouging a great glacial valley, bowling along boulders and millstone grit through phyllosilicate clays and sedimentary sandstone.
Then there wasn’t.
The Mersey, formed in Stockport as the Tame and Goyt conjoined, inconveniently filled with industrial grime and mire, then conveniently covered over in 1936.
Creating the thoroughly modern thoroughfare Merseyway.
The giant concrete culvert and bridge leaving the river cowering cautiously below.
Of time and a river – little stands still and the town is whisked briskly into the late Twentieth Century with plans for a pedestrianised precinct.
Completed and opened in 1965 the shopping precinct was concrete poetry in motion, incorporating the surrounding topography and extant architecture with grace and aplomb. Combining retail, restaurants and car parking facilities in a manner that critic Ian Nairn considered to be amongst the finest in the land.
We had travelators, integrated paving, street furniture, and lighting across several levels. A carefully considered whole, combining all that was best in modern design with style, élan and panache – along with Freeman, Hardy and Willis.
A clock tower, an Alan Boyson concrete car park screen and public art.
Would that it was still so, a variety of additions and subtractions have left Merseyway in architectural limbo, concrete legs akimbo across the river below, striding towards the future in a more than somewhat bewildered manner.
Yet we still continue cast our eyes upwards towards a clock that isn’t there, ride a non-existent walkway to the sky, try on an imaginary crop-top in C&A’s Clockhouse.
Photographs Stockport Image Archive