Middleton Walk

Middleton has not the gloom of so many South Lancashire towns its size. It benefits from its position close to the hills, but it has also the advantage of a large medieval church on a hill and of a number of buildings by one of England’s most original architects of the period around 1900.

Nikolaus Pevsner – The Buildings of England

He refers to Edgar Wood 1860-1935

He was the most advanced English architect of his generation, stylistically moving through through art nouveau, vernacular, expressionist and finally art deco phases a decade or more before other designers. He became England’s uncontested pioneer of flat roofed modern buildings. He worked more like an artist than an architect, designing buildings, furniture, stained glass, sculpture, metal and plaster work.  His buildings are mostly clustered in the towns of Middleton, Rochdale, Oldham, Huddersfield and Hale.  Influenced by the writings of William Morris, he saw himself as an artisan serving the people of these localities.

We begin our tour at the Queen’s Jubilee Free Library of 1889 located on Long Street.

Sixty-seven sets of designs for the proposed free library at Middleton were received by the Corporation of that borough in response to their advertisement; and a joint committee comprising of six members of the Corporation and six non-members has awarded the premium to Mr Lawrence Booth, architect of this city.

Curiously, we encounter an anchor.

Around 10pm that evening when weather conditions deteriorated to near hurricane-force gales, with the Sirene making little headway despite tacking.

Losing her helm, her sails in tatters and within sight of the Great Orme, the gales drove her back through the night towards the Lancashire coast. Eventually, and with great difficulty, Captain Gjertsen and his crew managed to manoeuvre the stricken vessel between the Central and North Piers. Becoming increasingly unmanageable, and swept in by the rushing tide and gale force winds, the Sirene looked a doomed vessel. She was helpless in the close shore currents, and unable to drop anchor she was at the mercy of the waves. She was carried alongside the North Pier, tearing off a section of the pier superstructure and part of her own keel.

Thousands of people lined the Promenade to witness the spectacle as she came in on the south side of the pier; many more stood on the pier itself, but there was a mad rush for safety when the ship collided against the structure.

Heritage Blackpool

The captain and crew survived, including the ship’s cat, many offers were made for the cat, but the captain refused them.

Onwards through Jubilee Park opened in 1889 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

In 1906 Alderman Thomas Broadbent Wood commissioned his son, Edgar, to design a flight of steps to lead up to a contemplation spot in the park – the inscription reads:

Who works not for his fellows starves his soul.

His thoughts grow poor and dwindle and his heart grudges each beat, as misers do a dole.

Nearby we find a memorial to the Middleton Flood – following torrential rain, the canal embankment at Mills Hill broke, flooding the already swollen River Irk, subsequently deluging the town.

Up the hill to Grade 1 Listed Parish Church of St Leonard.

Much of the present building was erected in 1412 by Thomas Langley – born in Middleton in 1363, who was Bishop of Durham and Lord Chancellor of England. He re-used the Norman doorway from an earlier structure to create the tower arch. Also distinctive in this region is the weather-boarded top stage to the tower.

The church of St Leonard was enlarged in 1524 by Sir Richard Assheton, in celebration of the knighthood granted to him by Henry VIII of England for his part in the Battle of Flodden in 1513. The Flodden Window, in the sanctuary, is thought to be the oldest war memorial in the UK. It commemorates on it the names of the Middleton archers who fought at Flodden. The church also has one of the finest collections of monumental brasses in the north of England, including the only brass in the UK depicting an English Civil War officer in full armour, Major-General Ralph Assheton.  

George Pace designed a war memorial and, in 1958, added a choir vestry and installed new lighting.

Wikipedia

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dscf3808.jpg

Middleton Old Cemetery once the Thornham and Middleton Burial Ground, which became the local authority cemetery in 1862.

Retrace to the Library – adjacent is the Parish School 1842

Across the road the Old Boar’s Head

Part of the timber framing to the right of the front door has recently been tree-ring dated and confirms a building date of 1622. The first tenant was Isaac Walkden, son of Middleton schoolmaster, Robert Walkden. Isaac died during a typhus epidemic in the summer of 1623. His will, preserved at Lancashire Archives, includes an inventory of all his possessions listed on a room by room basis. There were a total of 9 beds and 20 chairs or stools in the 6 rooms. This, together with barrels, brewing vessels, pots, glasses, etc, strongly suggest the building was an inn. The Walkden family went on to run the Boar’s Head until the end of the 17th century. They also farmed nearby land including what is now Jubilee library and park.

In 1888, the fledgling Middleton Corporation purchased the building from the church with the intention of demolishing it to build a town hall. Discussions were held in 1914 but, thankfully, the plan was abandoned due to an outcry from the public spearheaded by architect Edgar Wood.

Down the road is Wood’s Methodist Church and School Rooms 1897.

Tucked away is the Durnford Street Clinic.

Further down Long Street to the Assheton Arms Hotel.

Then around the corner to the Manchester & Salford Bank again by Edgar Wood

Next door the former Market Place Bank latterly RBS.

Plans to convert a long-vacant town centre bank into a nightclub have been revived despite previously being rejected over anti-social behaviour concerns.

An application to change the use of the former Royal Bank of Scotland, in Middleton, was refused by Rochdale council’s planning committee eighteen months ago, with members citing a history of alcohol-fuelled trouble in the area.

Rochdale Online

Further up Market Place the faience fronted Bricklayers Arms formerly a Bents and Gartsides boozer – delicensed in 2012 and Converted to a takeaway.

Moving along Wood’s much altered Guardian Buildings 1889.

The Guardian Buildings, were commissioned by Fred Bagot, the proprietor of the Middleton Guardian newspaper and a man with a reputation at the time for keeping a tight control of finances. In consequence, Guardian Buildings were one of Edgar Wood’s low budget buildings, of which there are several in and around Middleton. The building housed the operations of the newspaper with the cellar containing the printing machines and the tall ground floor housing a shop, office and more machines. The whole of the first floor, with its pair of oriel windows, was taken up by the composing room.

Time has not been kind to the Grade II Listed United Reformed Church 1860.

28 Days Later

It fell into disrepair after the church moved to smaller premises in Alkrington in the 1960s.

The building collapsed in July 2012, when it was hit by a fire.

On Townley Street Lodge Mill built in1839 beside the River Irk battling on despite recent setbacks.

In August 2019, Martin Cove and Paula Hickey opened a small ice cream shop on the ground floor of the mill – named the Ice Cream Shop at Lodge – selling locally-made ice cream from Birch Farm, Heywood.

Across the way the magnificent Sub Station and Electrical Department Offices.

Then taking a turn around the banks of the Irk down Sharp Street onto Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC Way, where we find the Middleton ArenaBDP 2009

Then over the road to Oldham Road and Grade II Listed Warwick Mill 1907 G. Stott of J. Stott and Sons.

The mill recently changed ownership and new owner, Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd, has been working with Rochdale Borough Council over the past nine months on proposals to redevelop the site.

The plans will form the cornerstone of a new masterplan for Middleton town centre focusing on delivering new homes, business space, highway and environmental improvements, new walking and cycle routes to pave the way for the planned extension of the Metrolink into Middleton Town Centre.

The Business Desk

In 2005, the new Middleton Bus Station was opened – Jefferson Sheard Architects.

The station, with 13 stands, cost £4.5 million and replaced the previous station which dated to the 1970s.

The Middleton Arndale Centre commenced trading in 1971, although it was officially opened by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent in March 1972.

Once home to The Breadman designed by Rochdale’s town artist of the time, Michael Dames.

Photo: Local Image Collection – Touchstones

Now trading as the Middleton Shopping Centre

The brick reliefs illustrating the town’s history are by Fred Evans of Dunstable, who completed the work in one week during May 1972 using a high powered sandblasting blaster.

Thanks to Phil Machen for the top tip.

At the centre of the public domain the Middleton Moonraker 2001 by Terry Eaton

According to folklore, the legend has several different interpretations. One version is that a traveller came upon a drunken yokel trying to rake a reflection of the moon in a village pond, convinced it was cheese.

This version conveys the notion that the men were drunk and acting foolishly.

However, an alternative narrative – and perceived to be the most reliable version – tells a different story and dates back to the time when smuggling was a significant industry in rural England.

It appears that many residents wish to rid themselves of the Moon Raker moniker and presumably become Middletonians.

There’s so much more to Middleton’s history than the Moonraker. Why did they spend all that money on a fairytale?

There were 3,000 Lancaster bombers built in Middleton during World War Two, a magnificent contribution to the effort to beat Hitler.

The bulbs inside the moon which light it up at night haven’t worked for five years.

Bernard Wynne

Along Long Street the Cooperative store what was – next door the long gone Palace Cinema demolished in 2001.

More Edgar Wood – three shops 1908.

Tim RushtonMiddleton Gateway

Middleton celebrates its history and rightly so – now is the time to take stock and plan for the future.

More green space, public transport, pedestrians and cyclists prioritised to meet the Green Agenda.

Mixed development for housing, retail and leisure in the town centre.

Take some time to explore and dream.

View the Masterplan click here

For more information on Edgar Wood click here

52 Wellington Road North – Stockport

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 07.25.27

Commercial premises or showroom. Dated 1889. Red brick with stone dressings and terracotta decorative details, tiled roof. Rectangular building of 4 x 3 bays with canted corner entrance. Jacobean style. Single storey articulated by pilasters supporting a sculptured frieze. Doorway with arched head and fanlight. One, two and three-light mullion and transom windows to the Parsonage Street front. The Wellington Road front has two large plateglass windows divided by paired pilasters. The windows have removed two pilasters. Cornice, panelled parapet, aedicule with console supporters, swan – neck pediment and date over the doorway. Tall hipped roof. Very prominently sited and under restoration at the time of inspection.

Grade: II listed: 23rd March 1987 – Historic England

20384

35147

35148

Stockport Image Archive

This is a building of some substance, decorated with terracotta work of the highest order, a striking yet diminutive landmark to the north of the town. Situated on a once busy commercial site, where it would have been surrounded by a plethora of retail, industrial and residential property.

My research has shown that its earliest recorded use was under the ownership of JE Jones manufacturing agent for ropes and cords, allied to the local hatting and cotton trades in 1907. Subsequently the base of John Roberts in 1910 – leather merchant, manufacturing  belts, strapping and laces – the company also had premises nearby at 138 Heaton Lane.

It has latterly been in use as Topp’s Tiles, Gordon Ford and Little Amigos Discount Nursery Store – it is currently empty, shuttered and unloved on off at a rent of £1,833 per calendar month from Rightmove.

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 08.03.22

As Stockport continues to invest in and develop its town centre, it remains a more than somewhat sorry beacon of decline, an indicator that all too often architecture of local and historic importance, seems to have little or no place, in this thrusting modern milieu.

If passing, pause and reflect on the sense of permanence that imbues this building, in an all too impermanent world.

P1210198

P1210199

P1210200

P1210201

P1210202

P1210203

P1210204

P1210205

P1210206

P1210208

P1210209

P1210210

P1210211

P1210212

P1210215

P1210216

P1210217

P1210218

P1210220

P1210221

Leeds – The Garden Gate

Friday afternoon, clouds gather along a long walk from the Leeds city centre, following an unforgivingly long dual carriageway, not without its hard won charm, we reached the Garden Gate.

A Tetley Heritage pub the most beautiful in Yorkshire, clad in warm glazed ceramics of the highest decorative order, a terrazzo porch and open door welcomes the weary walker.

Ready for a pint?

Leeds Pale Ale £2.60 a pop and a fine drop it is too, why not stay and have another!

The interior arrangement of rooms cluster around a fine tiled bar, linked by corridors, clad in curved wood and large etched windows, lit with the original fittings – all in an intoxicating Nouveau style.

The cellar is lined in heavy glazed white brick and retains its rugby league history with extant showers and physio room, former home of the Garden Gate ARLFC – it says so on the first aid kit.

A thinned bar of green soap rests on the side of the long-dry bath.

The staff and customers were warm, chatty and informative – my thanks for their generous hospitality.

Its worth the walk.

My thanks to Ms. Natalie Ainscough for her cheery company, innate sense of direction and can do attitude.

http://www.gardengateleeds.co.uk