A short circuitous tour around the town’s post war architecture.
Stockport along with every other town in the country was asked by central government to draw up a plan for reconstruction, to be implemented at the end of WW2. The result was invariably a wholesale rebuilding of bomb damaged and aged industrial, civic and domestic architecture.
Post 1945 such plans were seldom realised, Coventry and Plymouth being the exceptions. Changes in government, shortages of materials, labour and finance all played their part. We are left with a piecemeal implementation taking place over a much longer time scale than was originally envisaged.
The proposed Market Hall remains a fantasy in line and wash.
The Town Hall was spared and the planned civic sector took shape over some sixty years, the station approach area is now in its second phase of rebirth and rebuilding – the original 80s development of Grand Central now largely rubble – a new new plan is now in play.
A whole new transport interchange is to be built, replacing the existing 80s Bus Station.
Some 60s structures have been and gone, others are to be demolished or transformed into apartments, as towns strive to repopulate the centres following decades of abandonment to the moribund absence of a thriving night time economy.
So as of January 2019 we find ourselves at the centre of a town with change at its very centre, some of that which we see will be transformed, some will disappear.
All That Is Solid Melts into Air.
A compact 70s block, that combines the roughest of precast panels, with the smoothest of *V* shaped supports, housing the car park below. The north face is a solid block of rough mid-toned aggregated recessed concrete, the remaining elevations pierced with windows and to the east a brick service tower.
I miss the Water Board offices, formerly adjoining the site.
Sixties built Hilton House is the former home of local furniture manufacturers New Day. It continues to impress, more or less unaltered, with its dramatic interlocking volumes confidently occupying the topography of the site. A commanding block of some ten storeys, with well proportioned bands of windows and mixed stone and concrete cladding. Linked to two further horizontal blocks, which are finished in contrasting styles.
The building is currently in occupation as office space but there are imminent plans to convert the development into apartments following a Studio KMA concept design.
There had been proposals to extend the Town Hall provision since 1945, which were finally realised in 1975. Designed by JS Rank OBE and built at a cost of £1,500,000 – to provide additional office provision for the Local Authority. A further two blocks were planned but never built.
The main block is clad in 1400 exposed aggregate precast panels and the link blocks have ribbed walls constructed with in situ concrete, bush hammered to expose the limestone aggregate. The precast panels were carefully matched in order to harmonise with the existing Town Hall, the mix contained coarse aggregate from the Scottish Granite Company of Creetown, a fine Leemoor sand from the Fordamin Company, together with white cement.
There are tow levels of underground parking beneath the whole of the development. The piazza between the blocks was to have had a water cascade falling into a pond running the whole length of the area.
Though exciting and expansive in the modern manner the piazza area, sadly, seems little used.
Missing in action Covent Garden Flats once a little inter-war Berlin style low rise development now a Barratt Home urban paradise.
The story of Merseyway begins in 1936 with the quarter mile bridging of the river. It continues with a series of post-war integrateddevelopment proposals, finally completed in 1965. It has accommodated much earlier buildings, notably the Co-operative Store, now Primark, and the properties on the adjoining Prince’s Street. The multi storey car park with its pierced cast concrete screen and tower dominates the site. Many original features are missing, sympathetic paving, sculpture, exterior travelators, signage and kiosks. The use of the upper tier is negligible and piecemeal additions have left a rather cluttered feel, replacing a former well structured integrity. Just recently a small portion of the river has been exposed, following the repairs to the bridge of 1891. There have been discussions regarding the opening up of the whole extent of the river, revealing it through reinforced glazing.
Opened in 1965, and extensively refurbished in the 1990s, it is a large pedestrianised area built on stilts over the River Mersey with two levels of walkways giving access to the retail units.
The scheme was developed by a consortium of interested parties who formed as Stockport Improvements Limited. In partnership with the Stockport Co-operative Society. The architects were Bernard Engle and Partners in conjunction with officers of Stockport Corporation. The separation of pedestrians and cars, the service areas, the multi level street, the city block that negotiates difficult topography to its advantage, are all planning moves that are of the new, ordered and systemised, second wave modernism in the UK.
Notable is the pierced concrete car park screen by Alan Boyson.
Constructed from three basic modules, each one being rotated to form six options in a seemingly random order.
At the side of the BHS store in Merseyway are five concrete panels depicting local people, events and symbols. Commissioned by BHS in 1978 – To fill space on the blank wall at the side of the shop. They are the work of Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins, 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, establishedthe Colchester Arts Group, during the 1930s. Their work was featured in the Festival of Britain, GPO Tower and Expo 70, along with other retail outlets in Bexhill, Cwmbran, Southhampton, Newcastle and Colchester.
The Hatton Street footbridge has two spans of in-situ u-section deck, is at ground level on the north side, but is reached by steps or ramp from Great Egerton Street on the south.
By 1974, the motorway had reached the outskirts of Stockport , running onto the congested A560. The 2.5-mileStockport East-West bypass opened to traffic in July 1982 as far as the Portwood Roundabout, then junction 13 of the M63, now junction 27 of the M60. A significant feature of the bypass is where the motorway passes through two of the arches of the large railway viaduct in the centre of Stockport – one of the largest brick-built structures in Europe. In much of the cutting on the eastern side of the viaduct, red sandstone, on which much of the town is built, can be seen very close to the motorway. The section of motorway was widened from two to three lane carriageways in 1999 and 2000, around the time when the M63 was renumbered to M60.