Bromley Street Manchester

Bromley Street – its northern tip joining with Dantzic Street in the valley of the River Irk, so far so very bucolic, so very, very nice, the street that was going places, tucked cosily beneath the shade of the old L&Y bridge.

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The south bank of the Irk is here very steep and between fifteen and thirty feet high. On this declivitous hillside there are planted three rows of houses, of which the lowest rise directly out of the river, while the front walls of the highest stand on the crest of the hill in Long Millgate. Among them are mills on the river, in short, the method of construction is as crowded and disorderly here as in the lower part of Long Millgate. Right and left a multitude of covered passages lead from the main street into numerous courts, and he who turns in thither gets into a filth and disgusting grime, the equal of which is not to be found – especially in the courts which lead down to the Irk, and which contain unqualifiedly the most horrible dwellings which I have yet beheld. Below it on the river there are several tanneries which fill the whole neighbourhood with the stench of animal putrefaction. The view from Ducie Bridge, mercifully concealed from mortals of small stature by a parapet as high as a man, is characteristic for the whole district. At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

So said Mr Friedrich Engels.

“Not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers” – was surrounded by road, rail, dwelling and factory, high density industrialisation through most of the last century.

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Then all of sudden along came a series of events, that saw a shift away from inner-city manufacturing, the outsourcing of all sorts and the demolition of homes. The area and the city became a pale shadow of its former self. Help however was at hand, the boom in buy to let, overseas investment and an ever expanding professional middle class, eagerly  paddled up the murky Irk, emulating the massed forces of 7th Cavalry and the Lone Ranger combined – hurrah!

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What have you got to lose?

It’s the gravy train as thick, dark and rewarding as the very inky Irk itself!

The stylishly designed living areas and carefully considered external finishes within the new buildings, have been designed to compliment the rich industrial architectural style of the area.

A development that even Mr Friedrich Engels himself would be proud of.

But wait, all is not rosy in the digitally constructed flower box garden, that you may see before you, in our online presentation and brochures.

Pinnacle Alliance plans to build 344 luxury apartments on a site near Dantzic Street, as part of the ‘Northern Gateway’. Dozens of investors have paid up to £350,000 for the off-plan apartments in the proposed scheme. But two years since many first paid out for their home, no work has actually begun on the £30m scheme.

The dispute has led to a demonstration in Hong Kong, where around 50 buyers took to the streets over Christmas urging local authorities to take up their concerns. And in an unusual twist, protestors even recorded their own campaign song – to the tune of Jingle Bells – criticising Pinnacle.

On the day of my visit the site was home to several jackdaws, the charred husk of a burnt out car, hastily discarded childrens’ toys, the most curious of plywood constructs and a sense of anything and everything, ceasing to make any sense whatsoever.

This stunning development will be an original and inspiring place to live.

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Trafford Park Hotel

It takes a whole corporation to raise a village:

The first American company to arrive was Westinghouse Electric, in 1899, and purchased 130 acres on two sites. Building work started in 1900, and the factory began production of turbines and electric generators in 1902. By the following year, British Westinghouse was employing about half of the 12,000 workers in Trafford Park. Its main machine shop was 899 feet long and 440 feet wide; for almost 100 years Westinghouse’s Trafford Park works was the most important engineering facility in Britain.

In addition to the factory Westinghouse built a village for his workers on the American style grid system of avenues and streets.  The community had shops, eating rooms, a dance hall, schools, a church, and a cinema.

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And where there is people there is almost inevitably pubs, as sure as night shifts follow day shifts.

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Built in 1902 to keep the Trafford Park industrial dust down, quenching the thirst of the workers employed in the world’s first and largest industrial estate – get in and get outside a pint or two.

Speed headlong through the years and by 1984, a mix of industrial and economic decline and the general move away from the urban mix of housing and factories, the end is in sight for most of the Village’s homes.

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Photograph Nigel Richards

Move a little further along the line and by 2009 and the pub is closed, temporarily home first to a marijuana farm, and subsequently squatters.

Paul, 46, originally from Chew Moor, Bolton, was left homeless in May when his house was repossessed after he lost his job as a mechanical engineer. He found The Freedom Project through its Facebook group and was invited to move in to the Trafford Park Hotel. He said: “The group is apolitical – it’s about freedom of expression, activity and thought.” Enterprise Inns have taken members of The Freedom Project to Salford County Court where a judge gave the brewery an order for possession of the building. 

Enterprise Inns declined to comment.

It takes a whole judicial system and corporate clout to deny a man home.

In February 2017 pub was sold for £900,000, though on the day of my August visit there were few signs of the planned conversion to flats or hotel.

One day time will be called on time itself, in the meantime take a walk down the Avenue and feast your eyes on a Grade II  listed terracotta and brick behemoth.

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Fire Station – Bury

Curvilinear, cantilevered, concrete canopies wave – wave goodbye.

Opened in 1967

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Closed in 2012, it continues to stand idly by, as the Bury Town centre doughnuts the site with shiny new developments.

A striking tower topped by a hyper parabolic roof with a cheeky twist, it remains an elegant feature on The Rock.

Facing an uncertain future it can only be a matter of time, as the new build proliferates that the fire station disappears in a puff of smoke.

Who you gonna call?

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Ghost Signs – Scarborough

All towns have ghosts, none more so than Scarborough.

High atop a castle topped, wind whipped promontory, lies Anne Bronte, overlooking the harbour below, wayward Whitby whalers wail, lost fisher folk seek solace.

Its walls ache with traders past, scissors that no longer snip, click-less shutters, unlettered rock and loaves that no longer rise.

Layers of sun baked, peeling paint on brick, rendered almost illegible.

As Alan Resnais would say Scarborough, mon amour!

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St Barnabas – Manchester

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There has been a church here since 1837, there is still a church here.

Almost.

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Openshaw in the 60s was still a busy community of terraced homes and their occupants, tumbling cheek by jowl with industry, both heavy and light.

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A tightly wrapped world of corner shops and sun-canopied Silver Cross prams.

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The original imposing, imperious St Barnabas’s was demolished, to be replaced by a sharper space age architecture, embodying a new age of optimism.

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Photographs from the Manchester Image Archive

At the same time the soot-blackened Victorian terraces, are in part replaced by newer brick and block homes, the future seemed bright.

The industry however, once so invincible, both light and heavy, begins to disappear, becomes weightless, invisible.

Slowly the assured social cohesion of that new age comes unstuck.

When the doors of one St Barnabas’s close, likewise eventually another closes.

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Tiviot Dale to Norris Bank – Stockport

This is a journey I made as a BR Guide Bridge goods guard in the late 1970s, often with driver Eric Clough, into the George’s Road scrap yard. It was also at one time the Cheshire Lines passenger route out of Stockport Tiviot Dale Station to Liverpool, Southport, St Pancras and beyond.

This is a journey I made on foot through bramble, puddle and scrub on a now disused line, cheek by jowl with a motorway and the passing crowd, blissfully unaware of its existence.

 

 

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Balfron Tower London

The Balfron Tower Conservation Area was designated in October 1998 around the two residential blocks designed by Ernö Goldfinger for the London County Council in the 1960s. The Conservation Area boundary protects the listed Balfron Tower and Carradale House, and other buildings in the ‘Brownfield Estate’, including Glenkerry House, a community centre, shops and associated low-rise housing development.

The 27-storey Balfron Tower is Goldfinger’s first public housing project, and a precursor to his better known Trellick Tower in North Kensington. The neighbouring Carradale House and Glenkerry House sit within the landscaped areas developed at the same time. The Brownfield Estate, also known as the East India Estate, is now recognised as a fine example of planned 1960s social housing. Considered to be exemplary examples of the post-war housing schemes, Balfron Tower and Carradale House were listed in 1998 for their cultural & architectural merit.

This was my first visit, to a key building in the short history of modernist post war housing, currently something of a sleeping giant, awaiting Prince Charming’s kiss.

What will it awake to?

Tower Hamlets are mid consultation, as evidenced in this here document.

On an overcast and ever darkening afternoon, the rain cutting in on a chill wind, set against a slate grey sky, its surfaces and volumes were ever so slightly forlorn.

There is much to be done by way of regeneration, with the attendant issues of heritage, funding, gentrification and inevitably who lives where and why?

Everything you may care to almost know is here.

I walked around the area and took these pictures.

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