Having started in the middle, let’s fast forward to the end – the beginning will have to wait.
We take up our walk along Fred’s Way once more by Mirrlees Fields.
Following the brook along the narrow shallow valley, betwixt and between houses.
Briefly opening out into green open space.
Crossing the road and entering the detached world of the detached house.
No two the same or your money back!
Diving feet first into Happy Valley, home to the Lady Brook stream.
And quickly out again.
Emerging once again into the space between spaces.
The suburban idyll of the Dairyground Estate home to very few semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers; those on state benefit/unemployed, and lowest grade workers.
But home to an interesting array of Post War housing.
Including examples of the style de jour, à la mode conversions and updates extended and rendered, black, white and grey symbols of success or extensive extended credit facilities.
Though the more traditional fairy tale variant still has a space and place, in the corner of some well behaved cul de sac.
Under the railway – through a low tunnel darkly.
We struck oil, black gold, Texas Tea – Tate Oil.
The area of Little Australia – so called as all the roads are named after towns in Australia, is bordered by the West Coast Main Line to the north, the Bramhall oil terminal to the east, Bramhall village centre to the west and Moorend Golf Club to the south.
We emerged into a warren of obfuscation, dead ends and conflicting signs, having made enquiries of the passing populace, we realigned with the new bypass.
Passing over the conveniently placed footbridge over the bypass and beyond.
Emerging amongst faux beams and real Monkey Puzzles.
It was at this point that, unbeknownst to us, we followed a twisted sign, misdirecting us along an overgrown path – to Handforth.
We failed, in the end we failed to arrive to arrive at the end.
Heading west like headless chickens towards the Turkey Farm.
Making our way mistakenly to Handforth Dean Retail Park – rear of.
Crossing slip roads with no pedestrian access and the forbidden territory of an industrial sized gymnasium car park.
Woodford will just have to wait, another day another dolorous excursion.
The Cheshire Lines Committee CLC operated Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway line from Portwood to Skelton Junction, a section of what became the Woodley to Glazebrook line.
It remained a part of the CLC, which was jointly owned from 1923 by the London and North Eastern Railway and the London Midland and Scottish Railway , until 1948 when it became part of the British Railways London Midland Region.
Closed in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986.
What remains is a triangular island faced in glazed and blue engineer’s brick, topped out with trees.
I have entertained the idea of accessing the area by ladder, exploring and possibly setting up camp – though I think the proximity to an almost constant flow of traffic, would prove less than commodious.
It evokes for me an elevated affinity with Ballard’s Concrete Island.
He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.
So here it is as is complete with tags, signs, cracks and all.
It remains as a monument to those who built and worked on the railway.
Tuesday 28th July 2015 waking up early on the outskirts of Okehampton – I went next door to explore – the Wash and Go.
I went back to Okehampton.
Headed out of town along the old railway line to Plymouth – where rests the solemn remains of previous railway activity and Meldon Quarry.
It’s believed that the first quarrying began around the late 1700s when the local limestone was extracted. Over the years this gradually gave over to aggregate quarrying and apelite quarrying until it final closure. The original owners of the quarry were the London and South Western Railway and then came Britsh Rail and finally EEC Aggregates.
Crossing Meldon Viaduct.
Meldon Viaduct carried the London and South Western Railway across the West Okement River at Meldon on Dartmoor. The truss bridge, which was constructed from wrought iron and cast iron not stone or brick arches, was built under the direction of the LSWR’s chief engineer, WR Galbraith. After taking three years to build, the dual-tracked bridge opened to rail traffic in 1874. Usage was limited to certain classes of locomotive because the viaduct had an axle load limit. Although regular services were withdrawn in 1968, the bridge was used for shunting by a local quarry. In the 1990s the remaining single line was removed after the viaduct was deemed to be too weak to carry rail traffic.
The crossing is now used by The Granite Way, a long-distance cycle track across Dartmoor. The viaduct, which is a Scheduled Monument, is now one of only two such surviving railway bridges in the United Kingdom that uses wrought iron lattice piers to support the cast iron trusses – the other is Bennerley Viaduct between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Architects– Percy Bartlett and William Henry Watkins
Built on the site of the Andrews New Picture Palace, which had opened in 1910, and was demolished in 1930. The Gaumont Palace was opened on 16th November 1931 with Jack Hulbert in “The Ghost Train” and Sydney Howard in “Almost a Divorce”.
The imposing brick building has a white stone tower feature in the central section above the entrance. Seating inside the auditorium was provided for 1,462 in the stalls and 790 in the circle.
It was re-named Gaumont in 1937 currently closed and at risk.
The post war redevelopment of Plymouth produced this sizable Portland Stone Shopping Centre.
‘A Plan for Plymouth’ was a report prepared for the City Council by James Paton Watson, City Engineer and Surveyor, and Patrick Abercrombie, Consultant Architect, published in 1943.
Planning is not merely the plotting of the streets of a town; its fundamental essence is the conscious co-relation of the various uses of the land to the best advantage of all inhabitants. Good planning therefore, presupposes a knowledge and understanding of the people, their relationship to their work, their play, and to each other, so that in the shaping of the urban pattern, the uses to which the land is put are so arranged as to secure an efficient, well- balanced and harmonious whole.
The magnificent dalle de verre fascia of the Crown and County Courts.
having had a good old look around I sought shelter for the night, with some difficulty I found a profoundly plain room. The town seemingly full of itinerant contractors, filling the vast majority of available space.
Not to worry let’s have a look at the seafront.
Tinside Lido by J Wibberley Borough Engineer, with Edmund Nuttall and Sons and John Mowlem and Company, builders, with entrance building of 1933 by the same engineer.
Set in a beautiful location overlooking the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe and voted one of the top 10 best outdoor pools in Europe, Tinside Lidois an attraction not to be missed.
Built in 1935, Tinside is a slice of the quintessential British seaside from a bygone era. The Lido is a wonderful example of art-deco style and is Grade II listed.
Time for a timely 99 tub – what ho!
Followed by several pints of Dartmoor Jail in the delightful Dolphin Hotel.
The Dolphin Hotel is a pub on the Barbican , the building, which is known as either the Dolphin Inn or Dolphin Hotel, is a Grade II listed building. It notable as the setting of several of the artist Beryl Cook’s paintings.
The three storey building was constructed in the early 19th century, although it may contain fabric from an earlier structure. It has a slate mansard roof surrounded by a tall parapet with a moulded cornice. The front has white stucco with plaster reliefs of dolphins. The pub is associated with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, some of whom stayed at the hotel on their return from exile in Australia in 1838, when a Mr Morgan was the landlord.
It is a no-frills unmodernised pub famous for its cask ale, draught Bass served straight from the barrel. The sign on the front of the building has always called the pub the ‘Dolphin Hotel’. In 2010 the pub was refurbished, but vandalised in 2014.
Today Monday 27th July 2015 – leaving Ilfracombe the royal we head south along the Tarka Trail, giving Cornwall a swerve.
Though first we feast on a slightly out of focus fry up at the digs.
Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter, this 180 mile, figure eight route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. The southern loop incorporates the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK. Walking or cycling, you can experience the best this beautiful area has to offer.
Then away we go following the former train line out of town.
The Ilfracombe Branch of the London & South Western Railway, ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was sufficiently popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889.
The 1:36 gradient between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe stations was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country.In the days of steam traction, it was often necessary to double-head departing passenger trains.
Named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe.
Despite nearly a century of bringing much-needed revenue into this remote corner of the county, passenger numbers dropped dramatically in the years following the Second World War, due to a massive increase in the number of cars on Britain’s roads, and the line finally closed in 1970.
Much of the course of the line is still visible today, and sections of it have been converted into public cycleways.
We leave behind – theshadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies.
For the equally shadowy world of military installations.
The water tower at RAF Chivenor.
Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training.
In 1974 the station was left on care and maintenance, in 1994 7 FTS left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the Royal Marines.
A most delightful cycle path alongside the estuary of the River Taw.
The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.
Passing under the Torridge Bridge at Bideford – a 650 metre long concrete structure built in 1987.
Three piers are in the river. Each of the piers in the water is protected by concrete fenders twenty four metres long by eight metres wide by eight metres high. The concrete piers of the bridge are around twenty four metres high.
It was designed by MRM Partnership.
Here we are in Barnstaple by the Civic Centre.
It’s described as an ‘iconic’ building, but not many locals would agree, this huge building widely considered to be one of the ugliest in Devon could soon be under new ownership.The council has confirmed that following a tender exercise, it is working with a preferred bidder to finalise the details of the sale.
In 2014Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believed the civic centre could provide up to 84 modern apartments.
Artist’s impression by Peregrine Mears Architects – looks a little too wobbly to me, Peregrine Mears Architects should get right back to the drawing board, where they started from.
The Neo-Classical facade restrained Deco of The Venue.
Formerly The Regal Cinema – opened on 30th August 1937
Architects – BM Orphoot
Revellers dancing at The Worx nightclub– as The Venue was to become.
The building in Barnstaple is for sale with Webbers estate agents for just £225,000. The striking building in a prime position on the town’s Strand was originally opened in 1937 as the Regal Cinema.
The building will probably be best known under the guise of Kaos, the name it was given during the 1990’s and at the height of its popularity.
Other nightclub incarnations at the premises included Babylon, Rockabillies, Coco, Club Tropicana and of course The Venue.
The Tarka Trail crossing the River Torridge, just south of Bideford, utilising the former railway bridge.
The old home town looks the same as I step down from the bike, and there to meet me is – well nobody.
And I realise, yes, I was only dreaming.
I’ll go to Okehampon then – take a look at the lovely tiled Post Office, whilst completely ignoring one of the oldest Norman castles in the country.
Walking around town in search of a B&B proved fruitless, though I was directed to an out of town Roadhouse aways away.
Welcome to Betty Cottles Inn – land of the lost apostrophe.
Rooms are not as photos/described on hotel booking sites, wi-fi hardly ever works. I prepaid/booked for nine nights, I checked out after two days. Needless to say I didnt receive a seven day refund. Owner with attitude problem, he had my money, and was not keen on helping with my concerns about the property. Musky smell to carpet in bar and restaurant areas. Not been cleaned for a long time. Rooms unsafe and not private, with curtains not long enough, lock on room doors inadequate.
Neil H – July 2109
You sneaked in a female into your single room without paying for her and got caught so obviously you have retaliated by way of a negative review. You were probably the most rude and hostile guest we have ever had and have had to report you to booking.com for guest misconduct and also banned you from being able to book here again.
Matthew owner at Betty Cottles Inn
I ate a reasonable meal in the Carvery and chatted amiably with a representative salesman on the move, whilst seeing off a few pints of Guinness – any port in a storm.
The canal received its Act of Parliament in 1792. It was built to supply coal from Oldham and Ashton under Lyne to Manchester. The first section between Ancoats Lane to Ashton-under-Lyne and Hollinwood was completed in 1796.
The Great Central Railway in England came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897, anticipating the opening in 1899 of its London Extension. On 1 January 1923, the company was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway.
I had walked beside the elevated path, alongside the canal coming home from school, rode by it whilst working as a Guide Bridge goods guard.
This was busy railway, steel coal, oil and people hurtling back and forth across the Pennines, under the DC wires of the Woodhead Line.
Thomas Chadwick later joined Bradbury & Co. William Jones opened a factory in Guide Bridge, Manchester in 1869. In 1893 a Jones advertising sheet claimed that this factory was the – Largest Factory in England Exclusively Making First Class Sewing Machines. The firm was renamed as the Jones Sewing Machine Co. Ltd and was later acquired by Brother Industries of Japan, in 1968. The Jones name still appeared on the machines till the late 1980s.
The site is now home to new homes and homeowners, as the are seeks to capitalise on the spread of wealth from Central Manchester.
Arnfield Woods is an exclusive development offering two, three and four bedroom homes, located adjacent to the Guide Bridge train station, which provides direct access into Manchester City Centre and direct access into Glossop.
The world turns:
Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.
In 1898 Manchester Liners Ltd was launched, four second hand ships were purchased and the company naming policy of applying the prefix Manchester was established.
The company began to operate services to Canada and the USA. Manchester Liners started WW1 with 15 ships in its fleet. During the war 10 ships were lost to enemy action, but because of the purchase of replacements the fleet was at 12 in 1918.At the outbreak of WW2, Manchester Liners had 10 ships in service. War losses were 7 ships, but the delivery of war-standard ships maintained the fleet at 8, which was sufficient to resume a weekly service to Canada.
The Manchester dockworkers strike record became so bad, that in 1973 the company decided to move half of its container services to Felixstowe. Furthermore, to obtain lower costs per unit, container ships were becoming bigger than the Canal limits.
This was a history of economic growth and prosperity, for some. Tangible commerce, the wealth of a nation built on making things, moving things. Cranes, ships, stevedores and sailors, the world and his wife converging at the base of the Manchester Ship Canal.
All this is long gone, containerisation, recession and state engineered shifts in global manufacture and trade.
They took away the cranes.
The area is now awash with intangible activity – what goes on behind the smoked and mirrored glass?
Just who is moving what around, how, where and why?
But hidden away between here and there is a tiled underpass.
A permissive path.
Where once there was a bridge – before the Manchester Ship Canal was built, the course of the River Irwell was approx. 50-100 yards further north of where the Ship Canal now passes under Trafford Road. This plaque is next to a pedestrian tunnel under Trafford Road, roughly on the line of the old navigation.
He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.
Deliberately, he turned his back to the motorway and for the first time began to inspect the island.
Maitland, poor man, you’re marooned here like Crusoe – If you don’t look out you’ll be beached here for ever. He had spoken no more than the truth. This patch of abandoned ground left over at the junction of three motorway routes was literally a deserted island.
JG Ballard Concrete Island
I’m in a different place – the same but different, whilst out walking I went through an open gate, following a well worn path, for the very first time.
Leading who knows where.
The confluence of three rivers, the meeting of motorway and main road.
I ventured further – where if anywhere are we going?
This tight tree lined and paint daubed triangle offers no answers.
Tamed thirty years or so ago, with concrete and steel.
Further and further.
Into an underground world.
Through the railings and into a void – a void that had become home to the otherwise engaged, seeking solace somewhere, finding shelter from the storm. A storm of Twenty First Century austerity, man made – moving money around until those without are out, out in the open, nowhere else to go but here.
How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.
Glimpsed once or twice from a train, I’d never been up close and personal.
The Humber Bridge was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1981.
It is one of the marvels of modern engineering and was, until 1998, the longest single span suspension bridge in the world but there are now five other longer bridges of this type. However it is still the longest that can be used by pedestrians.
The bridge is 2,220 metres long and the towers, which are farther apart at the top than the bottom to compensate for the curvature of the earth, are 155 metres high. It was built at the narrowest point of the estuary known as the ‘Hessle Whelps’ and when completed it was admired for its design and elegance, but reviled by others as a bridge from nowhere to nowhere, the crossing comprises a dual carriageway with walkways for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides.
Although approval to build the bridge was granted in 1959 work did not begin until 1972 due to difficulties in financing the project. In 1966 Harold Wilson, the Prime Minister of the day, allowed Barbara Castle, the Minister for Transport, to give permission for the bridge to be built, hoping that the announcement would be a vote winner in the forthcoming Hull North by-election.
The consulting engineers for the project were Freeman Fox & Partners . Sir Ralph Freeman had produced the first ideas in 1927 and in the early 1930s the cost of the project was estimated at £1.725 million and that the bridge would be unlikely to recoup the construction or maintenance costs. In 1935 he had an idea for a 4,500-foot suspension bridge for the Humber Tunnel Executive Committee. Sir Gilbert Roberts produced more ideas in 1955 for a bridge with a 4,500-foot central span, costing £15 million, to be paid for by East Riding County Council and Lindsey County Council. Once it was likely that a bridge would be constructed, Bernard Wex produced the design in 1964 that was actually built. The bridge was built to last 120 years.
The architect was R. E. Slater ARIBA. The administration building for the tolls, was designed by Parker & Rosner. The landscaping was designed by Prof Arnold Weddle. Wind tunnel testing took place at the National Maritime Institute at Teddington and the road deck is designed for wind speeds up to 105 miles per hour (170 km/h).
Previously posted as historical journey – this, as they say, is the real deal, one foot after another, one sunny afternoon in September.
From east to west and back again – in or on, under and around our very own Highway in the Sky.
Part of the ever changing patchwork of demolition and development which defines the modern city. The carriageway prevails, whilst the pervasive rise and fall continues apace, its forlorn pedestrian underpasses may soon be superseded by wider walkways.
Manchester City Council is spending around £10million to make major changes to the junction where Princess Road meets the Mancunian Way and Medlock Street.
Much to the chagrin of local residents, who value the solace of their sole soulful green space and the frequent users, passing under the constant waves of sooty traffic.
What you see is what you get today, tomorrow is another kettle of concrete, trees, traffic and steel.
Opened in 1972 as an almost belated response to George Buchanan’s 1963 Traffic in Towns which had informed the Liverpool City Centre Plan of 1965.
The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.
These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book in 1964.
The Churchill Way was realised and remained in use until September 2nd 2019 – closed and facing a £10 million demolition programme, following a maintenance report which found them to be unsafe – and presumably beyond economic repair.
And so I took one last look around taking snaps, an epitaph to the end of an era, and the end of an idea that was once once rendered concrete.
I ride a bicycle, which seriously restricts my access to the world of the M – one and six or otherwise. Having a more than somewhat ambivalent outlook on motor cars and their ways I have nevertheless written a short history.
So to satisfy my idle curiosity, and fill the damp wasteland of a Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, let’s go on a little trip back in time by means of archival images.
What of your history?
Tendering documents were sent out in 1962 describing it as a 17.7 acre site, requiring at least a £250,000 investment, including an eastern corner reserved for a picnic area, and an emphasis that the views to the west must be considered in the design, and facilities must be provided on both sides. Replies were received – from Telefusion Ltd, J Lyons, Banquets Catering Ltd, Granada and Rank
Top Rank’s plan came consistently highly rated by all the experts it was passed between. It showed a restaurant and a self-service café on the west side, the restaurant being at the top of a 96ft (29m) tower. At the top of the tower was a sun terrace – a roof with glass walls, which they had described but hadn’t included any suggestions for how it could be used, adding that maybe it could form an observation platform, serve teas, or be reserved for an additional storey to the restaurant.
Including a transport café on each site, seating was provided for 700 people, with 101 toilets and 403 parking spaces. A kiosk and toilets were provided in the picnic area.
“The winning design looks first class. Congratulations.”
Architects T P Bennett & Sons had been commissioned to design the services, along with the similar Hilton Park. At £885,000, it was the most expensive service station Rank built, and was considerably more than what had been asked of them.They won the contract, but on a condition imposed by the Landscape Advisory Committee that the height of the tower was reduced to something less striking.
Lancaster was opened in 1965 by Rank under the name ‘Forton’. The petrol station opened early in January, with some additional southbound facilities opening that Spring.
The southbound amenity building had a lowered section with a Quick Snacks machine and the toilets. Above it was the transport café which had only an Autosnacks machine, where staff loaded hot meals into the back and customers paid to release them. These were the motorway network’s first catering vending machines, and the Ministry of Transport were won round by the idea, but Rank weren’t – they removed them due to low demand.
In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as appalling. The steak and kidney pie was an insult to one’s taste buds while the apple pie was an absolute disgrace. He said everywhere needed maintenance and a coat of paint, the toilets were smelly and dirty, and the food on display was most unattractive.
A 1978 government review described the services as a soulless fairground.
The Forton Services and the typology generally have had a chequered career, rising and falling in public favour and perception. Purveying food and facilities of varying quality, changing style and vendors with depressing regularity – knowing the value of nothing yet, the Costas of everything.
Ironically the prematurely diminished tower has taken on iconic status in the Modernist canon – listed in 2012 yet closed to the public, admired from afar – in a car.
The Pennine Tower was designed to make the services clearly visible – the ban on advertising had always been an issue, and the previous technique of having a restaurant on a bridge, like down the road at Charnock Richard, was proving expensive and impractical. Rank commissioned architects T P Bennett & Sons to capitalise on the benefits of exciting design while trialling something different. The tower resembles that used by air traffic control, summarising the dreams of the ’60s.
The central shaft consists of two lifts, which were originally a pentagonal design until they were replaced in 2017. They’re still in use to access the first floor, but with the buttons to higher floors disabled. There are then three service lifts, and one spiral staircase – satisfying typical health and safety regulations.
At the top of the tower stood a fine-dining waitress service restaurant, offering views over the road below and across Lancashire. Above the restaurant the lift extended to roof-level, to allow the roof to serve as a sun terrace – although Rank admitted they weren’t sure what this could be used for, suggesting serving tea or eventually building another level.
In reality social changes and cost-cutting limited the desirability of a sit-down meal, and this coupled with high maintenance costs made the tower fall out of favour. The ‘fine dining’ restaurant became the trucking lounge that had been on the first floor, before closing to the public in 1989. It then soldiered on for another 15 years, partially re-fitted, as a head office, then staff training and storage, but even this became too impractical, and the tower is now not used at all.
Although the tower is unique to these services, the concept of large high-level floors can be seen in many Rank services of the era, the idea of each one being to have a visible landmark and a good view of the surrounding area, such as at Hilton Park. The lower-level restaurant at Forton sticks out over the first floor, and partially in to the road, to give an optimum view. Toilets and offices were in the ground floor buildings below.
There are lots of myths flying around that the tower was forced to close by safety regulations, and that it is about to fall down. Like any building which hasn’t been used for 30 years it would take a lot of investment to get it open again, and with roadside restaurants across the country closing due to a lack of trade, nobody has come up with an convincing plan to justify investing in the Pennine Tower.
Where the Victorians modelled their stations on cathedrals, temples and palaces.
Modern Man models his on shopping centre and office blocks.
Richards and MacKenzie – The Railway Station
Though it seems to me that Macclesfield Station, in its earlier and current states, refuses to dovetail neatly into either of these sloppy binary paradigms.
The former – single storey buildings, fitting unostentatiously into the topographic and practical constraints of the site. A neat, tightly packed rhythm of brick arches with a compact and bijou porch welcoming the expectant traveller.
The latter a functionalist block, fully utilitarian crossings with lift access columns, embodying a particularly industrial demeanour.
From the golden age of steam to the moribund years of diesel, Macclesfield sits comfortably somewhere, betwixt and between ugly duckling and fully fledged swan.
Nestled in the lea of the East Cheshire Highlands, offering practical everyday transport solutions to the beleaguered commuter.
No frills, no thrills.
The London and North Western Railway opened the line between Manchester and Macclesfield on 19 June 1849 – Macclesfield Central was born. Later it would become a key station on the Stafford branch of the West Coast Main Line, remodelled in 1960 and rebranded as the much snappier Macclesfield Station.
Which it proudly announces topically and typographically to the world.
Welcome to Macclesfield a town that is clearly going places, and so are you.
The station won the Best Kept Station in Cheshire Award for 2007, but was reported in summer 2011 to be distinctly shabby, with peeling paintwork.
And yet there is something in the constituent Platonic steel, glass and concrete forms that never ceases to amuse and amaze me, this is Brutalism on a human and provincial scale.
The raw concrete softened with three or four shades of grey, as a concession to the delicate suburban sensibilities of this once silk-fuelled town.
Take a trip with me – join the Cheshire train set.
This a tale of a lane, a shady lane in south Manchester.
This is a tale of several Manchesters, layer upon layer of history.
Ford Bank House occupied much of what is now the Ford Bank Estate and prior to that it was believed to be farm land. Ford Bank House, probably the largest house erected in Didsbury was built in about 1823 by Joseph Birley a cotton manufacturer. The extended Birley family had a widespread influence on Manchester history even going back to the Peterloo massacre where one of the Birley ancestors led a contingent of the mounted soldiers who attacked what was a peaceful protest gathering.
A tale of emergent capital and political control, rendered corporeal in brick, stone, wood, glass and slate. A cotton-rich mercantile class seeking to suppress the democratic demands of a burgeoning proletariat.
Ford Bank House was sold to Thomas Ashton in 1858, when he died in 1898. In 1919 the remaining estate was sold to Dr Herbert Levinstien who worked on mustard gas research during the first world war. In 1934 the estate was sold to Ford Bank Estates Limited who developed and built what is now the Ford Bank Estate.
A tale of a growing and aspirational professional middle class, seeking inter-war semis in a leafy Didsbury glade – and the timely response of speculative builders.
Looking cheekily over the hedge in search of a monkey puzzle.
The ford of Ford Lane crosses the nearby River Mersey – thought to be the route of retreating Royalists following the siege of Wythenshawe Hall in 1644.
In 1901 a bridge was opened at the behest of local emigres engineer and social benefactor Henry Simon – a German born engineer who revolutionised Great Britain’s flour milling industry and in 1878 founded the engineering companies Henry Simon Ltd and Simon Carves.
He and his family were a serious reforming political force in the area – instrumental in the founding and development of the Halle Orchestra, Wythenshawe Park and housing estate.
For many years this was my route to work – cycling from Stockport to Northenden, each and every day forever. Witnessing the rise and fall of the river and the vacillating fortunes of Manchester’s economic regeneration.
This is south Manchester where the years of austerity, central government fiscal prudence and free-market economics, have had a far from adverse effect.
In stark contrast to the malaise of the north and east of the city, here we see a constant parade of skips and scaffold, free from the fickle trick of trickle down. As extensions and mortgages are extended at an alarming rate.
The round windowed gaze of the asymmetric homes, seem endlessly surprised at the good fortune that has befallen the residents of Ford Lane.
A mighty river valley was formed in the second Ice Age, as the glaciers receded and rushed seaward.
The mighty River Mersey was formed on the eastern edge of Stockport, at the confluence of the Tame and Goyt/Etherow rivers.
Thousands of years in the making, as the water-powered mills of the adjacent Pennine Hills migrate to the lower reaches of the towns, in search of water, workers and steam, the full force of the Industrial Revolution takes shape in the west.
The mixed farming of the alluvial valley, which opens up onto the Lancashire and Cheshire Plains, meets and greets the incursion of dye and brick works, mills and manufacturing.
Fred Schofield’s farm 1930
View towards Stockport from Heaton Mersey Park
Serviced by a complex and competing rail system based around Heaton Mersey Shed.
Opened in 1889 and served until May 1968 operating steam locomotives to the end -Coded 9F.
Here we were at the centre of a rail hub spreading out in all directions, to and from the ports, cities and resources of the country and beyond.
Great movements of steel, cotton, coal, people and manufactured goods.
Fireman Eddy “Ned” Kelly
Heaton Mersey railway station was opened on 1 January 1880 by the Midland Railwayand lay on the newly opened line which ran from Heaton Mersey East Junction to Chorlton Junction and on to Manchester Central station.
The station was situated at the southern end of Station Road which still exists. The station was later operated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway and was closed by the London Midland Region of British Railways on 3 July 1961.
The area was criss-crossed by railways – its bridges traversing the roads, fields and river, dominating the landscape in a wild flurry of steam and smoke.
The end of steam – as drivers, fireman and staff were transferred to Newton Heath, was followed by the slow demise of the rail network, freight moved to road and passengers purchasing their first cars and a passport to illusory freedom.
The mighty Mersey is now flanked by newer neighbours, a shiny blue administrativepyramid, business park, car showrooms and nature reserve, the only certainty is change.
Great volumes of earth are moved to from a new topography a topography of leisure – the gentle stroll, jog and cycle replaces the clank of fire doors and shovel on coal.
But take a look around you and you will see the remnants of the industrial age, shrouded in fresh hawthorn and enshrined in birch and beech.
To walk this landscape is to traverse geological, agrarian, industrial and post-industrial time – they all coexist and coalesce. Have an eye, ear and heart open to their resonance and presence, transcend time and space in the Mersey Valley today, you’re part of the leisured generation.