Where The Gas Works Wasn’t – Stockport

1878 Gas making at Portwood commenced

1969 Old retort house demolished

1988 Gas holder number 3 dismantled

2003 Last aerial view showing the gasometers in the raised position

2019 Removal of gas holders 2 & 3

Thanks to 28 Days Later

The area was formerly a dense web of housing and industry.

With the gas works at its heart .

High speed gas once the fuel of the future is almost a thing of the past. Coal Gas produced in coke retorts long gone, North Sea Gas hissed off.

Low carbon heating will replace domestic boilers from 2025, the need for gas storage holders is minimal.

Goodnight Mr Therm.

There are currently 53 listed holders on the Historic England site.

Some have been repurposed – WilkinsonEyre has completed work on Gasholders London; a development of 145 apartments within a triplet of listed gasholder guide frames.

Little now remains of the Portwood Gas Works.

These are the rearranged remnants re-sited by Dunelm Mill – it’s curtains for our industrial heritage.

What’s left?

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One of the UK’s largest retail parks, Stockport Retail Park benefits from a strategic location on the M60 Manchester orbital motorway making it one of the city’s most accessible parks. The park forms a natural extension to the town centre, offering a wide range of uses from value convenience to fashion and home as well as a number of cafés and restaurants.

This is the post industrial landscape of consumption and its infrastructure that faces the defunct and mothballed site, whatever next?

West End Park – Ashton under Lyne

This is a short history of a park, a short history of my family and me.

The movement of earth and people, a tale until now untold now told.

West End Park is a public park, opened in 1893. The site is bounded by Stockport Road, Manchester Road and William Lane. It was developed on land associated with St Peter’s Church.

St Peter’s was built between 1821 and 1824, and was designed by Francis Goodwin. A grant of £13,191 was given towards its construction by the Church Building Commission. The land for the church was given by the patronage of George 6th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, whose cousin, Revd Sir George Booth, had been Rector of Ashton from 1758 until 1797

The benevolent Victorian landowners thought it politic to provide parks for the working folk, fresh air, exercise and perambulation being preferable to the demon drink.

Friendship Old Street – now a solicitor’s office

The area around the park was a dense warren of housing and industry.

Britain from Above

The parks provided a welcome relief from the tarmac, brick and concrete – very, very few homes having had access to a garden.

And a burst of colour in the summertime.

The West End was transformed in the 60’s, through slum clearance, the subsequent building of high rise and the introduction of light industry.

My Grandfather Samuel Jones lived in the area – at one time next door to George Formby Senior.

Later moving to nearby Hill Street.

There’s a plaque for George – there isn’t one for Sam.

During the Great Depression men were required to work for the Dole – Sam was required to dig out a sunken garden in the park – he was a collier by trade, a good man with a shovel, built for back breaking work on Ashton Moss.

David Vaughan

Sam in Blackpool 1954

This is the sunken garden in the 1960s

Thirty yards wide, forty yards long and three yards deep, shifted by hand.

Three thousand six hundred cubic yards of earth.

One cubic yard of topsoil weighs about two thousand pounds on average.

Seven million two hundred thousand pounds of earth.

I worked there in the 1970s along with Alec and Danny bedding out the sunken garden, maintaining the bowling green, tennis courts and playground.

Keith Ingham

There were two permanent gardeners in the park, and a keeper in the summer – plus Danny Byrne and me brought in to help at busy times.

Throughout the 70s and onwards, economic decline hit the area hard, the closure of the cotton mills and little hope for the future. Rising unemployment and severe cuts to public spending did little to assure a rosy future for West End Park, or anything or anyone else for that matter.

Help was at hand – one of many public projects funded by our old friends the EU. Changes in the way that parks were used and further spending cuts sounded the death knell for the flowers and bowling. Large open grassed areas were cheaper and easier to maintain.

And so the sunken garden was filled in, this time by mechanical means – all in a days work for a bloke with a JCB.

So I sit and reflect on the labour and conditions that created this and many of our public parks, our legacy is a much impoverished version of the original vision.

I think of my grandad Sam and his comrades, the sweat of their collective brows buried forever.

Our legacy the small state, a bring and buy your own world economy.

It would make you weep.

Hartshead Power Station – Offices

We have of course been here before, to see a concrete bus shelter and a derelict control room.

All that is solid melts into air as Marx and Marshall Berman told us.

Though remnants remain – this is a short journey through a hole in fence, down into the warren of power station offices past.

They have been stripped of their former use and meaning, transformed into a transitory art performance space, paint and plaster now peeling, appealing to the passing painter, partially reclaimed by nature.

Let’s tag along:

Park Hall Manor Pool – Little Hayfield

First there was a house.

A Grade II listed country house, now divided into two dwellings. c1812. Ashlar gritstone. Hipped slate roof with leaded ridges. Various ashlar triple stacks with moulded tops. Moulded cornice and low parapet. Two storeys, central block with recessed long wing to east, orangery to west.

Historic England

Currently trading as a quick getaway country cottage

This Grade II listed manor house is set within 14 acres of natural grounds, together with the occupied adjoining servants’ wing, and has been sympathetically converted, retaining many original features to provide comfortable accommodation for families wishing to meet up for that special family occasion, and wi-fi is available in the living room. 

Then came a pool:

Previously a private pool belonging to a country club in the 1930’s it later opened to members around 1938 who paid a small fee for its use. The pool is fed by a mountain stream and the water is reported to remain cool throughout the year. In the 1940’s/50’s locals recall the pool being open to the public where it cost a ‘shilling for children and half a crown for adults’ entry. During storms in 1947 the pool was badly damaged and reportedly ‘never the same again’ but postcards in circulation in the 1960’s provide evidence that the pool remained open at least until then.

Now it sits abandoned and hidden in the woods.

I went there in my early teens late 60’s the pool was still intact, well used and well cold. I remember chilly changing rooms with duckboards on concrete floors, a small café with pop and crisp if you had the pennies.

Most of all the simple joy of emersion in clear moorland water, on long hot summer days long gone.

Revisiting in April 2014, following a misguided scramble through brambles, it was a poignant reunion. The concrete shells of the pillars and statuary crumbling and moss covered, the waters still and occluded.

It sure it has subsequently been the scene of impromptu fashion shoots and pop promo videos, possibly a little guerrilla swimming. Though sadly it largely sits unused and unloved – let’s take a look around:

Clayton Aniline CIBA Offices

Charles Dreyfus was a French emigrant chemist and entrepreneur, who founded the Clayton Aniline Company on 29 May 1876. The company obtained a lease on a parcel of land in Clayton, Manchester, sandwiched between the Manchester and Ashton Canal and Chatham Street – later known as Clipstone Street.

1904

At its peak in the 1970s, the site occupied over 57 acres and employed over 2,000 people. However, due to the gradual demise of the British textile industry, most textile production shifted to countries such as China and India with the textile dye industry following.

1960

In 2002, the company made 70 members of staff redundant and in 2004 the announcement was made that the site would be closing with the loss of over 300 jobs. A small number of staff were retained to assist in the decommissioning of the plant. The last workers left the site in 2007 and the remainder of the buildings were demolished shortly afterwards.

Wikipedia

Like much of the industry of east Manchester its tenure was relatively short – money was made and the owners departed, without wiping their dirty feet.

The site remained derelict until demolition, followed by extensive site cleansing – to remove the dangerous detritus of 200 years of hazardous chemical production.

It is now occupied by the Manchester City FC training academy.

Vincent Kompany had just completed his £6million move from Hamburg when he realised that Mark Hughes’ sales pitch about the direction the club was going was not entirely accurate.

They took me for a look around the training ground at Carrington – it wasn’t fit for purpose, it was a dump.

I remember there was a punch bag in the gym – and only one boxing glove. And even that had a big split in it!

Then in 2008 the corrupt boss Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra is bought out by Sheik Mansour – the rest is history/mystery.

Mr Peter Swales makes no comment.

My interest lies in the company’s Ashton New Road offices – seen here in 1960.

Demolished and replaced by a distinctly Modernist block by 1964.

A flank was added on Bank Street along with a bank.

Archive photographs Manchester Local Image Collection

The office complex is still standing, now home to Manchester Police, I risked arrest and incarceration, in order to record the distinctive tile work, rectilinear grid and concrete facades.

Attracting several suspicious stares from the open glazed stairwells.

Let’s take a look.

Ravensbury Street – Droylsden Cooperative Society Store

On the corner of Ravensbury and Stockholm Street Clayton Manchester there stands a Cooperative Shop of 1908.

We have previously visited another fine example on Northmoor Road.

In 1902 the area is still set to open ground.

This Manchester Local Image Collection photograph of 1912 shows new terraced homes emerging to meet the housing needs of the world’s first industrial city.

Stockholm Street

Here is the street in 1965 the shop already shut.

The corner shop on Bank Street still trades.

The Stuart Street Power Station does not.

Changing patterns in shoppers habits sealed the fate of many local and corner shops, as larger supermarkets opened, increased mobility and car ownership became more common.

When I first visited the building was undergoing renovation work.

The beautiful terracotta tile work and corona obscured by scaffolding .

I returned last week to find the job almost done – converted to flats, in an are which has seen a great duke of improvement to the general housing stock, paving and street furniture.

A joy to see a fine building almost returned to its former glory, with a much needed social purpose, reviving the hopes of the city’s western edge.

Hartshead Power Station #1

I’ve been here before in search of a bus shelter.

I’m back here to day in search of an abandoned control centre at the long gone Hartshead Power Station.

The station was opened in 1926 by the Stalybridge, Hyde, Mossley and Dukinfield Transport and Electricity Board.

The station was closed on 29 October 1979 with a generating capacity of 64 megawatts. It was demolished during the late 1980s, although part of the site is still used as an electrical substation.

First glimpsed on an urban exploration site, I had awaited an opportunity to slip through the fence and take a look around – here’s what I found.

Most of the valuable equipment stripped out leaving and empty shell, covered in layers of the taggers’ interventions.