Wythenshawe Park – Bowls Pavilion

We were on a journey – retracing the route of Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 visit to Manchester, from Ringway to Brooks Bar.

Then all of a sudden we weren’t, having deviated from Princess Parkway into Wythenshawe Park.

Missing the opportunity to pass under the underpass.

A collective decision was made to pass under the cantilevered and much revered bowls and tennis pavilion.

The building opened in 1960, designed by L.C. Howitt City Architect.

I striking contrast to Wythenshawe Hall 1540 – recently restored following an arson attack, the bowls and tennis pavilion shows no inclination toward Tudorbethan revivalism.

Sleek and aloof supported by a single piloti, offering elevated and ground level views of the sporting areas.

Archive photographs of 1969 from the Local Image Collection.

Time, central government austerity and changes in leisure habits have not been kind to the building.

The manufacturers of security railings, grilles and shutters however, have continued to prosper unfettered.

A sadly tamed and poorly fed creature, standing next to the un-mown lockdown crown green arenas.

We were nonetheless arrested by what was and what may yet still be.

Burnage Garden Village Again

I was last here in 2016 on a much brighter, blue skied day in March.

2020 mid-lockdown and overcast, I took a walk to take another look.

There is a perennial appeal to this well ordered island of tranquility, an archetypal suburbia incubated in 1906, a copy book estate.

The housing estate of 136 houses known as Burnage Garden Village, a residential development covering an area of 19,113sqm off the western side of Burnage Lane in the Burnage ward. The site is situated approximately six kilometres south of the city centre and is arranged on a broadly hexagonal layout with two storey semi-detached and quasi detached dwelling houses situated on either side of a continuous-loop highway. The highway is named after each corresponding compass point with two spurs off at the east and west named Main Avenue and West Place respectively. Main Avenue represents the only access and egress point into the estate whilst West Place leads into a resident’s parking area.

The layout was designed by J Horner Hargreaves. Houses are loosely designed to Arts and Crafts principles, chiefly on account of being low set and having catslide roofs.

At the centre of the garden village and accessed by a network of pedestrian footpaths, is a resident’s recreational area comprising a bowling green, club house and tennis courts. The estate dates from approximately 1906 and was laid out in the manner of a garden suburb with characteristic hedging, front gardens, grass verges and trees on every street. 

Verges and paving were freshly laid, hedges and gardens well tended, cars parked prettily.

The central communal area calm and restful, but lacking the clunk of lignum vitae wood on jack, hence the scorched earth appearance of the normally well used crown green.

A detailed appreciation the estate is available here.

Let’s take a leisurely look.

Heaton Norris Park – Stockport

Heaton Norris Park’s elevated position gives stunning views of the Stockport town centre skyline and of the Cheshire plain. The central position of the Park means that it is a green retreat for shoppers and local residents. Also it is within easy reach of the Stockport town centre. The land for this park was acquired by public subscription and as a gift from Lord Egerton. Work on laying out the site as a public park began in May 1873, and it was formally opened on June 5th 1875. Since then it has undergone a number of changes. The construction of the M60 has shaved several acres off the park’s size.

The park began life as Drabble Ash Pleasure Gardens – entrance strictly by token only, as commemorated on the BHS Murals in Merseyway.

5 November 1905 – Edward VII declares his eldest daughter The Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, the Princess Royal.

He also orders that the daughters of Princess Louise, Lady Alexandra Duff and Lady Maud Duff are to be styled as Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness.

So they built a big bonfire on bonfire night at Heaton Norris Park – sometimes they still do.

Picture courtesy of ©Phil Rowbotham

In 1935 the area seems to be little more than windswept cinders and thin forlorn grass, traversed by broad uneven paths – overlooking the dark industrial mire below.

Into the 1960s and although now there is the provision of a children’s play area, the park is still in need of a little more care and attention, the immediate surroundings a dense dark warren of industrial activity and terraced housing.

In 1968 the construction of two twelve storey Stockport County Borough Council residential blocks begins, alongside the recreation grounds, Heaton and Norris Towers, creating 136 new homes.

The 1970s sees the banked gardens bedded out with summer flowers and a crazy golf course on the edge of the bowling area. Both of these features are now a thing of the past, the future financing, care and maintenance of our parks is always precarious, especially during times of central government funding cuts and enforced austerity.

© John Davies

The park now has a Friends group to support it, along with I Love Heaton Norris. The area is cared for and used by all ages and interests children’s play, bowls, tennis, conservation area, football, picnic and floral areas – somewhere and something to be very proud of, social spaces for sociable people.

And much beloved of Natalie Bradbury the SS Norris concrete boat.

Take a walk over the concrete bridge or along Love Lane and treat yourself to a day in the park

Archive photographs Stockport Local Image Archive