The George Hotel – Stockport

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15 Wellington Road North Stockport SK4 1AF.

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

A delightful interwar pub on the corner of Heaton Lane and Wellington Road North, I moved to Stockport some forty years ago and was mightily impressed by the restrained exterior Deco design, wrought and hewn from soft pale sandstone. Equally impressive was the wood panelled, open, spacious interior space.

The George was always something of an anomaly, being the only Greater Manchester pub owned by Higson’s Brewery, our almost next door Liverpool neighbour.

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Higsons was founded in 1780 – 1974 saw the brewery merge with James Mellor & Sons. In 1978, Higsons acquired the Bent’s Brewery, which was based next to its North Street head office. Boddingtons of Manchester acquired Higsons in 1985 but decided to abandon brewing in 1989 to focus on its pubs.

They have/had fine former offices on Dale Street

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Boddingtons’ brewing arm was sold to Whitbread in 1990 which then subsequently closed the Higsons Stanhope brewery and then reopened by new owners as the Cains Brewery in 1991. Higsons beer was brewed in Sheffield and Durham for a few years after closure before being discontinued. The beer brand was revived in the current century and reborn in 2017, now served in the swish Baltic Triangle based Higson’s Tap & Still with an interior order that leaps backwards head first, into an imagined future of raw brick, reclaimed wood and industrial flourishes.

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The George prospered – a town centre pub surrounded by workers in search of a wet and shoppers shirking their retail duties in favour of draught bitter or Cherry B.

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Its interior however did not fair so well, ripped out in the 80s – remade remodelled, in the deeply unattractive, anti-vernacular, sub-disco style de jour.

Renamed The Manhattan, riding the fun-pub wave, closed reopened as The George – there followed thirty year of uncertainty, struggling to find an identity throughout a time of ever-changing moods.

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It became a daytime haunt of the hardened, shattered glass, blood on the tracks class of drinker, its reputation in tatters along with yesterday’s fish and chip papers.

The last time I came by you were still open for business.

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I bided a wee while, without imbibing, all the better to record your disabused Art Deco details.

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I came by yesterday and you were all tinned-up with nowhere to go.

Premises To Let as of 13th May 2018 – on the 2nd April 2018 the licence has lapsed, so this will be a further barrier to it re-opening.

And so your faux nowheresville interior will pass into yet another of somebody’s history, along with your fine Deco detail and disco destruction.

This a tale of our age – of monopoly capitalism, stay at home Bargain Booze tipplers, demographic shifts, de-populated town centres, fashion fads and cheap cladding.

Time changes everything except something within us which is never surprised by change.

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Strangeways Manchester #1

Strangeways?

– How strange.

The Strangeways family themselves are certainly recorded in antiquity at the site, although the name appears differently over time; Strongways in 1306, Strangewayes in 1349 and Strangwishe in 1473. In the late 1500s in records at Manchester Cathedral the surname is spelt Strangwaies.

My thanks to Thomas McGrath for his – Long Lost Histories: Strangeways Hall, Manchester

Before panopticon prisons entered the public imagination, and incarceration was the order of the day for the disorderly, it was all fields around here – with the odd house or baronial hall.

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Swire’s map of 1824

Strange days, over time the prison is built, the assizes appears and disappears and tight groups of tired houses cluster around the incipient industry. The fiefdom’s of old become tie and tithe to successions of industrial plutocrats.

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Broughton Street 1910Photograph J Jackson

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Kelly’s map of 1920

The area becomes the centre of the city’s rag trade, a large Jewish Community, the largest outside of London, grows up around Strangeways, Cheetwood and Cheetham Hill – houses, mills, wholesale, retail, warehouse, ice palace, beer-house, brewery. The area is home to several of Joe Sunlight’s inter-war industrial developments – his Jewish family were named Schimschlavitch, his father a cotton merchant. The family emigrated to England in 1890 and settled in Manchester.

So much for Joe Soap – the area was also the location for local lads, Karl Marx, and Marks & Spencer.

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Derby Street 1901 – 1924

Further developments took place with the building of the Cheetwood Industrial Estate – a postwar group of flat-rooved, blocky brick and concrete utilitarian units.

So let’s take a look at the ever so strange streets of Strangeways, in that period of change during the latter part of the Twentieth Century, when manufacturing, retail, repair and distribution were almost, just about to disappear in a puff of globalisation, economic depression and Thatcherism. Where Jack and Jill the lads and lasses, traded, ducked, dived, wheeler dealed from Cortinas, Transits and low milage, one owner, luxuriously leather-seated and walnut-dashed Jags. A vanishing or vanished world, where however briefly – Manchester went architecturally mod.

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Bent Street

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Broughton Street

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Carnarvon Street

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Chatley Street

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Cheetwood Street

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Derby Street

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Julia Street

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Knowsely Street

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Sherbourne Street

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All archival photographs from the Manchester Local Images Collection

 

 

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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Hyde Road Pubs – Gorton Manchester

For almost fifty years I’ve cycled, walked and taken the bus up and down Hyde Road.

To work or to take snaps.

Or take a drink.

The first proper pub crawl I ever went on was up and down here, and these photographs which were taken from the Local Image Archive, represent a world now largely long gone. Of those places pictured only the Travellers, Wagon and Horses, Plough, Nelson and Friendship survive. What was a busy thoroughfare alive with masses of working people and lively boozers is now a shadow of its former self. Many of the breweries are also no more – Wilsons and Boddington’s, once employing hundreds of people and supplying hundreds of pubs, have all but vanished, you may catch a glimpse of a stray sign or two dotted around town.

If there are any pubs missing apologies, but following the expert advice of Kenneth Allen I think I have all of the Gorton boozers.

Take one last walk, raise a glass – cheers!

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Higson’s Offices – Liverpool

127 Dale Street, corner of North Street, just by the Ship and Mitre, across from the Queensway Tunnel entrance?

Yes that’s the one, Liverpool’s most remarkable, least remarked upon building.

So clean, so modern, so new, a delightful grid of materials, glass, steel, polished marble, brick and patinated beaten metal.

Stand back and wonder, move in and sigh with delight.

As I went about my snappy business, I was approached by a local – Mark.

Surprised by my curiously, up close, slow scrutiny of the building, he went on to explain that he was familiar with the architect Derek Jones who had worked on the design for Ormrod and Partners in 1964.

Formerly home to Higson’s Brewery offices, now housing the Merseyside Museums administration and design teams, the exterior is largely intact.

So am I.

Go take a look.

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