Hamilton Street – Ashton under Lyne

Prompted by Gillian and Adam’s – A Different North project, my thoughts turned once again to notions of the North, similar notions have been considered in my previous posts:

A Taste of the North and A Taste of Honey.

I recalled the 2016 season Sky Football promotional film, it had featured a street in Ashton under Lyne, it had featured Hamilton Street.

A street spanning the West End and the Ryecroft areas of the town, the town where I had lived for most of my teenage years. The town where my Mam was born and raised in nearby Hill Street, nearby West End Park where my Grandad I had worked, nearby Ashton Moss and Guide Bridge.

This is an area familiar to me, which became the convergent point of a variety of ideas and images, mediated in part by the mighty Murdoch Empire.

Here was the coming together of coal and cotton, an influx of population leaving the fields for pastures new.

In the film, Leytonstone London born David Beckham is seen running down the snow covered northern street.

A credit to our emergent mechanical snow generation industry.

According to snowmakers.com, it takes 74,600 gallons of water to cover a 200 by 200-foot plot with 6 inches of snow. Climate change is cutting snow seasons short, we make snow to compensate, more energy is spent making snow, more coal is burned, more CO2 is released.

The Inertia

It is to be noted that locally there has been a marked decline in snowfall in recent years, the Frozen North possibly a thing of the past.

The temperatures around the UK and Europe have actually got warmer over the last few decades, although when you are out de-icing your car it may not actually feel as though it has. Whilst this can not be directly link to climate change, it is fair to assume that climate change is playing a part.

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It is also to be noted that Sky Supremo Rupert Murdoch has described himself as a climate change “sceptic”.

Appearing arms raised outside of the home of a family clustered around the television, in their front room.

Filming the ad was great and the finished piece is a really clever way of showing that you never know what might happen in football, I always enjoy working with Sky Sports and I’m proud to be associated with their football coverage.

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The area does have a football heritage, Ashton National Football Club played in the Cheshire County League in the 1920s and 1930s. They were sometimes also known as Ashton National Gas, due to their connections with the National Gas and Oil Engine Company based in the town.

Illustrative of a time when sport and local industry went hand in glove.

The National Ground was subsequently taken over by Curzon Ashton who have since moved to the Tameside Stadium.

Ashton & Hyde Village Hotels occupy the front of shirt sponsors spot on our new blue and white home shirt, while Seed of Speed, our official conditioning partners, feature on the arm, and Minuteman Press occupy the back of the shirt. Meanwhile, Regional Steels UK Ltd. are the front of shirt sponsors on our new pink and black away kit. 

Illustrative of a time when sport and local industry continue to work hand in glove.

Local lad Gordon Alexander Taylor OBE  is a former professional footballer. He has been chief executive of the English footballers’ trades union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, since 1981. He is reputed to be the highest paid union official in the world.

His mobile phone messages were allegedly hacked by a private investigator employed by the News of the World newspaper. The Guardian reported that News International paid Taylor £700,000 in legal costs and damages in exchange for a confidentiality agreement barring him from speaking about the case.

News International is owned by our old pal Rupert Murdoch, the News of the World no longer exists.

The view of Hamilton Street closely mirrors LS Lowry’s Street Scene Pendlebury – the mill looming large over the fierce perspective of the roadway. The importance of Lowry’s role in constructing a popular image of the North cannot be overestimated.

He finds a grim beauty in his views of red facades, black smoke and figures in white, snowy emptiness. He is a modern primitive, an industrial Rousseau, whose way of seeing is perhaps the only one that could do justice to the way places like Salford looked in the factory age.

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For many years cosmopolitan London turned its back on Lowry, finally relenting with a one man show at the Tate in 2013 – I noted on the day of my visit, that the attendant shop stocked flat caps, mufflers and bottled beer, they seemed to have drawn the line at inflatable whippets.

Drawing upon other artists’s work, in a continuous search for ways to depict the unlovely facts of the city’s edges and the landscape made by industrialisation.

But Murdoch’s Hamilton Street is as much a construct as Lowry’s – the snow an expensive technical coating, Mr Beckham a CGI apparition. Our contemporary visual culture is littered with digital detritus, saving time and money, conjuring up cars, kids and footballers at will.

An illusion within an illusion of an illusory North.

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Mr Beckham himself can also be seen as a media construct, for many years representing that most Northern of institutions Manchester United – itself yet another product of image manipulation, its tragic post-Munich aura encircling the planet, with an expensive Empire Made, red and white scarf of cultural imperialism.

David’s parents were fanatical Manchester United supporters who frequently travelled 200 miles to Old Trafford from London to attend the team’s home matches, he inherited his parents’ love of Manchester United, and his main sporting passion was football.

Mr B’s mentor was of course former Govan convener – Mr A Ferguson, who headed south to find his new Northern home, creating and then destroying the lad’s career, allegedly by means of boot and hairdryer.

Here we have the traditional Northern Alpha Male challenged by the emergent Metrosexual culture, celebrity fragrances, posh partner, tattooed torso, and skin conditioner endorsements.

It is to be noted that the wealth of the region, in part created by the shoemaking and electrical industries, have long since ceased to flourish, though still trading, PIFCO no longer has a local base.

The forces of free market monopoly capitalism have made football and its attendant personalities global commodities, and manufacturing by and large, merely a fanciful folk memory.

Hamilton Street would have provided substantial homes to workers at the Ryecroft Cotton Mills.

Ryecroft Mill, built in 1837,was the second of a series of four mills built on the site, the first was built in 1834. In 1843, over 10,000 people were employed in Ashton’s cotton mills – today there are none.

This industrial growth was far from painless and Ashton along with other Tameside towns, worked long and hard in order to build the Chartist Movement, fighting to establish better working conditions for all.

The tradition of political and religious non-conformity runs wide and deep here, the oft overlooked history of Northern character and culture.

Textile production ceased in the 1970s and the mill is now home to Ryecroft Foods, a subsidiary of Weetabix.

Ashton like many of Manchester’s satellite towns created enormous wealth during the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. The workers of Ashton saw little of that wealth, the social and economic void left by the rapid exodus of the cotton industry to the Far East, is still waiting to be filled, in these so called left behind towns.

Photo Ron Stubley

Here is a landscape nestled in the foot of the Pennines, struggling to escape its past and define a future.

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Holt Town – Part Two

Here we are again in Holt Town, back in 2017 the area was in transition, its past almost erased and its future somewhere, over some far horizon.

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1880 the streets appear
Cambrian Street seems to have been known as Gibson Street until 1960.
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Things have changed, the trees are taller, the buildings decayed – the cafe closed, and the Corporation Manure Depot long long gone.

Plans have promised new affordable homes as part of the Eastlands Masterplan.

Things have changed since A Taste of Honey was in town.

Nothing now remains of this mill complex on Upper Helena Street
The homes on Upper Cyrus Street are long gone
Cyrus Street now over grown and Big Bertha demolished
The New Inn now the Hong Kong Funeral Home
St Annes School and the shop now closed
It had become the Luchbox Café now also closed
Still standing

Archive images – Local Image Collection

The area was my playground. Holt Town was always a but scary, there were old factories along the opposite side with wartime helmets in. A scrap yard under the arch. I remember sucking up mercury off the floor with a straw obviously from a spillage, no thoughts of danger, I’m alright now. The Seven Wonders, as we knew it, River, canal, railway, road, waterfall all crossing each other, not sure why? A fantastic industrial area to grow up in. The Don Cinema at the top corner at Mitchell Street and Ashton New Road.

I could go on.

Philip Gregson

Time’s up for the tiny urban cowboys.

Let’s see what’s going on.

Former football field
Upper Cyrus Street
Lind Street
Upper Helena Street
Pollard Street
Lanstead Drive
Cyrus Street
St Annes School
Cyrus Street
Devil’s Steps
River Medlock

A Taste Of Honey

This is a film that has stayed with me for most of my life – first seen as a nipper, fascinated by the fact that it was shot in a very familiar landscape.

As years have passed I have watched and rewatched it, finally resolving to track down the local locations used in its filming.

Studying and pausing the DVD, making thumbnail sketches of frames, researching online – referring to Reelstreets.

I have previously written about the way in which the movie shaped a particular image of the North.

And examined particular areas of Manchester such as Barmouth Street.

The film generated world wide attention and remains just as popular today.

Still watched, still loved, still relevant – here are a selection of photographs I took in 2011 – cycling around Manchester, Salford and just a little closer to home in Stockport.

Larkhill Road scene of the moonlight flit

The descent from Larkhill Road

Stockport Viaduct

Stockport Parish Church

Stockport running for the bus to Castleton

Midway Longsight – where Dora Bryan sang

Barmouth Street were the school scenes were filmed.

Timpson’s shoe shop now demolished opposite the Etihad

Phillips Park the back of the gas works in Holt Town

The Devil’s Steps Holt Town

Rochdale Canal

Ashton Canal

All Souls Church Every Street Ancoats

Piccadilly Gardens as we view the city from a moving bus.

Manchester Art gallery – where they watched the Whit Walks.

Albert Square part of the earlier bus ride.

Trafford Swing Bridge

Dock Offices

Chimney Pot Park Salford

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Barton Aqueduct

Through my tour I have attempted to capture a sense of the settings as they are – how, if at all, the areas have changed.

There may be some minor inaccuracies or omissions which I am happy to amend.

You may wish to visit the sites yourselves, the majority of which are easily accessible, above all watch the film and appreciate that which is around you.

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Barmouth Street – Bradford Manchester

Once again I am following in the footsteps of Rita Tushinghan and the Taste of Honey film crew, this time my research has lead me to Barmouth Street, Manchester.

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To the east of the city centre, Bradford Park School was the scene of the opening scene, Jo’s netball match. The school is now long gone, now the site of a much enlarged public park, as can be seen from the map above.

Shelagh Delaney, author of the original play on which the film was based, can be seen fleetingly in this opening scene, appearing momentarily over the games teacher’s shoulder.

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I have found one archive image of the school, as the scholars prepare for the annual Whit Walks, this along with many other community traditions and conventions, have all but disappeared from the streets of the city.

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This was once a tight knit community, surrounded by industry, full employment and a short lived period of post-war growth and optimism.

A corner shop on very corner, though by the time I worked as a Mothers Pride van lad in the late sixties, many were already on their last legs. A lethal cocktail of closing factories, incipient supermarkets, and an urban renewal programme, which lead to slum clearance, would change the character of the area forever.

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I am indebted to the photographic work of T Brooks who seems to have spent much of the mid Sixties documenting the streets, his pictures are now kept here in the Manchester Image Archives. Sadly I have found no further reference to him or his images, but have nothing but admiration for all those who pass unnoticed amongst us, camera forever poised.

Central to the social and sanitary life of that that community were the Barmouth Street Baths and Washhouse, where citizens would swim, wash, dry, iron, chat convivially, and surprisingly – play bowls.

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Now long gone, along with the provision of local authority nursery care. There were similar low level pre-fabricated buildings dotted all over the city. Built quickly and cheaply, to provide for a growing population, of largely working-class families, with no shortage of work opportunities.

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This was a time of great social change, a time which the film attempts to anticipate -a more diverse, and hopefully more tolerant time, a time of possibilities and opportunities for all.

Holt Town Manchester – Part One

1785 Established by David Holt, and described as the only known example of a factory colony in Manchester, that is, an isolated mill complex with housing for the workers.

1794 Mills advertised for sale following the bankruptcy of David Holt and Company.

Things, as we know, have a tendency to come and go – ’twas ever thus.

A whole history of the area can be found here.

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River Medlock Holt Town

The area has seen a transition, in some two hundred year or more, from a leafy rural idyll, to smoke choked industrial hell and back again.

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Pollard Street

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Photographs from the Manchester Image Archive.

In 2014 I visited the site of the former Distillers Company, later Air Liquide UK, production had ceased. The factory was just about standing, litter and detritus strewn, unloved and unwanted, temporary home to the homeless.

The Industrial Revolution has been and gone – bye bye.

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There are plans for redevelopment, couched in the terms of the professional new-speak of the new urban renewalists.

The international design competition for Holt Town looked for a solution to the dilemma of providing a sustainable, distinctive, high density family-led residential community in close proximity of the Manchester regional centre.

Promising open green spaces and housing based on the traditional European perimeter block model, not a mention of a mill.

Possibly lasting a little longer than David Holt’s dream, and subsequent manifestations.

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A Taste of the North

Where is the North and what does it look like?

It’s up there somewhere isn’t it, a dark elsewhere, a mythological other place.

I was curious, searching for clues.

I began in a nearby place in a faraway time, my first reference point, the film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play A Taste of Honey.

Set in Salford by Salford born teenager Shelagh.

A  teenager becomes pregnant by a black sailor. She leaves her feckless mother and her flashy new boyfriend to set up her own home. She moves in with a young gay man, who helps look after her as she faces an uncertain future.

I have compiled a series of photographs of the film’s locations. 

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The film’s release in 1962 broke new ground in terms of its matter of fact depiction of contentious and sensational subject matter. My interest in this instance rests with the visual image of the North that it created.

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Larkhill Road Edgeley Stockport

Shot almost entirely on location in black and white by cinematographer Walter Lassally, we are treated to dark treeless vistas, cobbled streets, industrial areas almost perpetually in decline, bleak canals and terraced homes.

As shown in these archive images of the 1950s, illustrating locations that would subsequently be used in the film adaptation.

There is a comprehensive list of locations here at Reel Streets

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Cambrian Street Holt Town Manchester

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Phillips Park Gasworks Manchester

Director Tony Richardson was a product of the British Free Cinema movement, which had previously produced short, sharp documentary and drama work, driven by a leftist outlook and using a restless, immediate approach, aided by the new lightweight cameras and faster film stocks. This is an ethos and methodology that would be carried over into the feature productions of the Woodfall Films company.

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Rochdale Canal Manchester

The film was shot in the flat, low, even light of the Winter which heightened the mildly desolate character of the landscape, though ostensibly Salford set many of the locations are in nearby Manchester and Stockport. An early long and free flowing title sequence and establishing shot, is a bus tour around Central Manchester, a city centre which at the time was still graced by a thick accumulation of dark industrial emissions and miasma.

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A soot blackened Queen Victoria mute and imperious in Piccadilly Gardens, the freshly blooming cranes of post-war renewal tentatively appearing in the background.

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The skyline punctuated by factory chimneys, the tight huddled streets of terraced houses chuffing billowing great grey clouds of smoke – a view familiar in the work of LS Lowry.

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Barton Bridge

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Trafford Swing Bridge

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Stockport Rail Viaduct

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Phillips Park Gasworks

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The location of the home that Jo sets up was ironically the stage set workshop of the Royal Court Theatre (the very theatre where the play was developed and produced) in London – that most northern of cities.

There is a brief respite from this milieu, through a picture in picture sequence based on the image of a suburban bungalow – which along with the coming age of mass motor car ownership, offers the promise of escape.

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A giddy day trip to Blackpool represents the temporary release from a contrasting and constricting world, a trip which for Jo emphasises the divide between Mother and her lover.

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So we the viewers are left with a cloudily clear, black and white world, a pervasive construct that the North and Manchester is eagerly beginning to casually shuffle off.

Where streets are no longer paved with Eccles Cakes and whippets are hip.

Identity through landscape and location can both define and constrain, but that landscape, its representation, and the identity that it produces are all mutually mutable.

Take some time to watch and rewatch the film, freeze frame where are we?

Who are you?