Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

Walton’s – Ashton Under Lyne

William Walton’s and Sons – 152 Stamford Street, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL6 6AD

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Founded in 1832 – when Stamford Street looked a lot like this.

Much has changed during the ensuing years, Walton’s it seems has not.

On Monday 24th October 2011 I had the privilege of meeting current owners Margaret and Dave, spending time chatting and taking photographs.

Thank you.

They tell their own tale – take a look.

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Precinct – Ashton under Lyne

Possibly my first brush with modernism and modernity, the shopping precinct in Ashton under Lyne. Typically in the mid Sixties, British towns reinvented themselves as space age retail experiences, in stark contrast to their middle aged, Middle Aged market centre, market centred identity.

Out with the cobbles and stalls, in with the travelator, frothy coffee, concrete and a pedestrianised, undercover, all weather, super convenient haven of heavenly fun!

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And lo, it came to pass, let construction commence.

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Simply add a few decorative embellishments courtesy of the Direct Works’ pavoirs.

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You have built it and now they will come:

Little did you know you had created a punk rock icon.

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Featured on the cover of fanzine Ghast Up #3 – many thanks to MDMA

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Many thanks to the Tameside Image Archive

Ashton Moss – Expo 2025

Why are we here?

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A heady cocktail of capital, coal, cotton, cultivation, commerce and cricket created you.

The end of the age of celery heralded the construction of a new landscape of consumption.

Spoil and soil from the cuttings of the M60, added to by Etihad detritus created an elevated mound some hundred feet in height, across an area of seventeen hectares.

Where are we going?

Playing golf has been permanently postponed, the proposed light industrial units were knocked back by local authority planning officers, and residents’ objections.

So let’s get off to the Expo!

I took myself off there, take a look around, get a feel for the place. Currently the province of rebel dog walkers and guerrilla gardeners, I was informed that the rights of way are regularly blocked by an employee of Cordingley’s Estate Agents, who closes the gaps in the perimeter fencing, subsequently photographing his wiry handiwork. The gaps are then promptly reopened and walkways reestablished.

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Short eared owls have been spotted.

I was told of the legend concerning Peg’s lantern – fearing for the well being of her son, Peg wanders the dark lanes in search of the errant offspring, later found drunk in a ditch.

This area is a locus of deep, deep energies and histories, monkey with it at your peril.

These are observations from a hill:

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Ashton Moss – Leisure and Light Industry

Absolute disgrace the food was disgusting and we’re we was sat it stunk of urine.

Never again will I go.

Welcome to the modern world, once home to the world’s finest celery, now home to the world’s worst online reviews.

The area, under cultivation for over a hundred years was bulldozed to one side, and left in a heap. The M60 arrived wiped its feet on the greensward  and awaited the expected redevelopment.

Welcome to the brand new shiny nowhere, the dual carriageway expanse of Robert Sheldon Way carries you away to a strikingly inevitable array of chains, human bondage has never appeared so  clean and bright.

Muse developments:

Good design is required as a key aspect of pursuing sustainable development indivisible from good planning. Good design involves seeking positive improvements in the quality of our built, natural and historic environment, addressing the connections between people and places.

 

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Ashton Moss – The Past

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To the east of Manchester and the west of Ashton sits The Moss.

This area of low lying, deep peaty bog, just outside Ashton-under Lyne, was drained in the mid 1800’s to grow some of the best crops – It was world famous for its celery but also grew good cabbage, cauliflowers and lettuce, with cucumbers and tomatoes grown in glasshouses.

This map of 1861 shows an area criss-crossed with lanes, ditches and field boundaries.

A world that survived into the 1980s, captured here so beautifully by Brian Lomas, prior to the building of the M60.

Photographs from – Tameside Image Archive

Then came the railways:

Map Cobb Guide Bridge area

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With an attendant ghost:

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And telecommunications installation

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Its location on the south east corner of the Lancashire Coalfield, and the burgeoning demands of the Industrial Revolution saw the further development of mining in the area.

As the demand for coal outstripped the output, a deeper mine was opened in 1875, at Ashton Moss. This new pit had its own railway branch and canal arm for efficient transportation of the coal. In 1882 a second shaft was sunk – at 2,850 feet, the deepest in the world at that time.

The New Rocher pit closed in 1887 and Broadoak pit closed in 1904, after which time Ashton Moss pit was the only coal mine still in operation in Ashton. Although it produced 150,000 tons of coal a year in the early 1950s and employed over 500 men, Ashton Moss colliery closed in 1959 and part of its site is now the Snipe Retail Park on the boundary with Audenshaw.

Seen here in this painting by local artist David Vaughan.

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Colliery lamp token.

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This tight little island of land was a contrasting mix of the agricultural and industrial, home also to the urgent demands of a leisured and growing working class.

The area boasted two motorcycle speedway tracks.

One located on the Audenshaw side, just behind The Snipe pub.

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And one in Droylsden at the Moorside Stadium – home to local legend Riskit Riley:

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The stadium later to become a horse trotting track, known locally as Doddy’s Trot

The Moss has also provided a home for Curzon Ashton football club

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And Ashton Cricket and Bowling Club.

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The cricket and the football have both survived the building of the Orbital Ring Road, and the development of the site as a light industrial, retail and leisure park.

The roar of Riskit Riley is heard no more.

Ashton Moss

Ashton Moss is an area I have known for some fifty years or so, my grandfather was a collier at the Ashton Moss Pit, I worked trains around the triangle of rail that encloses the area – I returned some time ago to take a look at what remained of a once fertile area.

This area of low lying, deep peaty bog, just outside Ashton-under Lyne, was drained in the mid 1800’s to grow some of the best crops – It was world famous for its celery but also grew good cabbage, cauliflowers and lettuce, with cucumbers and tomatoes grown in glasshouses. The ground was apparently fertilised by marl dug from local banks or pits, and by dung brought by horse and cart from the elephant and tiger enclosures at Belle Vue Zoo, down the road.

Four brothers of the Kelly family came from Ireland shortly after the Irish potato famine of 1840’s, settled on the Moss and still have a descendent selling fruit and vegetables on Ashton Market today.

The Moss is also where Bill Sowerbutts, of Gardener’s Question Time fame, learnt his trade. Bill’s first memories were of his Father’s smallholding on the Moss, which had been bought from a market gardener called Tommy Knight in 1892.

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The celery is long gone, the land now in use as a retail leisure park, intersected by the Manchester Orbital ring road, a Metrolink tram track, several dual carriageways and the existing rail network.

Its passing does not seem to be matter of record save for this archived account of 1989.

I read today of plans to set the 2025 World’s Fair there.

In January 2009 it looked like this, heaps of spoil, recently relocated slag heaps, frozen lakes and puddles, rough tracks, barely preserved rights of way and restricted access.

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