Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.

In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.

There were grander unrealised plans.

Including an aerial asylum.

The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.

After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.

The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!

Drawings are drawn, models are modelled.

1965 Architects: Covell Matthews + Partners

Work is commenced, post haste.

Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.

A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.

Nearly done.

All we need now are tenants.

Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.

The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.

The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.

The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.

The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.

It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.

Manchester Evening News

And of course my good friend Mr Phil Griffin.

Just around the corner the Portland Bars.

Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.

MDMA

Oh and not forgetting the Golden Egg.

Bata Shoes and a Wimpy Bar.

“Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.”

In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.

Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.

However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.

Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.

So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.

While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.

Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.

Black and white archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Pedestrian In A Car Park – Piccadilly Manchester

Here we are again – in a spin, oh what a spin that I’m in.

Up and down the spiral ramp, the eternal allure of the unknown and forbidden, walking the way of the motor car.

I was in town on an overcast day, prior to a Covid jab appointment, what better way to relax and reflect on our current condition, here on this whirling sphere.

A transgressive trip to a twisted world of spiral delights.

Stockport, Hull and London have all been previously explored – here we are now going up the back of the Plaza.

The work of architects Covell-Matthews Partners, further details here at Mainstream Modern.

The car park ramp serviced the Piccadilly, now Mercure Piccadilly Hotel; one of the three main elements of Piccadilly Plaza, along with City Tower and the late lamented Bernard House.

In its day, synonymous with Manchester’s emergent manifestly modern image – scene of Albert Finney’s homecoming, in the film Charlie Bubbles.

And also used, in the then fabulously glamorous Dee Time – host Simon Dee descending the ramp in his ‘E Type’ Jaguar.

Legend has it, that the ramp was the location for an unlikely encounter between architect Louis Kahn and top pop combo The Commodores.

The reception drop off was at first floor level and was accessed from street level by a helical ramp. My father’s dilapidated Renault 4 van gave up just near the top. Extremely embarrassed, my father asked Kahn to move over to the driver’s seat and steer, whilst he attempted to push the van the rest of the way. As he began to push a people carrier pulled up behind and out stepped a group of men who began to help. Soon the van was outside the reception and my father and Kahn thanked the men.

The young female receptionist was very excited: ‘Do you know who just pushed your car up the ramp? The Commodores!’

The RIBA Journal

Hang on to your hats lets take a trip up the helix.

And down again.

NB The Modern Moocher neither advocates nor encourages the pedestrians’ invasion of the motor cars’ private spaces.

Let it be known throughout the land, that it is at heart, a very, very daft and dangerous thing to do.

Woodford Garden Village

We begin at the beginning of the end – fields full of fields

Dotted with farm buildings – then, along comes an Aerodrome.

A serious problem arose in 1924 when Avro was notified that the current airfield used by the company at Alexandra Park would be closing. After a hurried search to find an alternative location, Avro settled on New Hall Farm at Woodford and completed the move later that year.

In 1999, Woodford became part of BAE Systems as a result of the merging of British Aerospace with Marconi Electronic Systems. Plans to build the Avro RJX airliner at Woodford were shelved in 2001 which left production of the Nimrod MRA4 as the only active project at the site. Woodford Aerodrome finally closed in 2011 when the Nimrod MRA4 project was cancelled, ending almost 80 years of almost continual aircraft manufacture at the site.

Avro Heritage Museum

Which in due course became a museum.

The site was subsequently acquired by Redrow.

Redrow has started construction on the first phase of 950 homes at the 500-acre former Woodford Aerodrome site near Stockport, nearly two years after planning consent was granted.

Preparatory works are underway and sales of the houses are expected to launch in June with the opening of show homes on the site.

The redevelopment of the 500-acre site, which is being brought forward by a joint venture between Harrow Estates, part of Redrow, and Avro Heritage, will also feature a primary school, employment area, pub, shops, community facilities, and areas of open and recreational space.

Place Northwest

A 21st century development was on its way.

James Fisher 1954

However, the architectural style owes more to Baron Hardup, than Flash Gordon.

The Tudor-Bethan style of Metro-Land, that oh so very, very English pantomime tradition of the village green, merry boys and girls dancing around Maypoles clutching wicker baskets, full of plastic daffodils.

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small ‘amenity,’
Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

John Betjeman Inexpensive Progress

This is progress realised as regression, a pastiche of a pastiche, of a pastiche, of a pastiche.

Finding some small comfort in the imitation game, hurtling along radial roads, encased in the biggest, live now pay later motors, which borrowed money can buy.

Seeking succour in the certainty of an illusory past, whilst peering through the nets and blinds, at a seriously uncertain future.

You’re as pretty as a picture, a picture torn from a yellowing scrapbook, scanned and enhanced, to remove any unseemly rough edges and/or ruffians.

This was tomorrow calling, wishing you weren’t here.

Work is still underway and the surrounding landscape feels raw, windswept and wounded.

All of the plots on this phase are now reserved, but don’t miss out on the available homes on our other phases! 

Just minutes from Wilmslow, Poynton and Bramhall, and within easy reach of Manchester for both work and leisure, Woodford is perfectly placed to offer the best of both the thriving city and the glorious Cheshire countryside. This makes it the perfect location for our high-quality Heritage Collection homes, which combine the very best of classic Arts & Crafts architecture with modern, family friendly interiors of the very highest specification.

Redrow

The Oxford, Richmond, Leamington, Lincoln and Canterbury – reassuringly reassuring you, that you are in fact – nowhere.

This is it you have arrived – a gold-star, cast iron, paper thin investment for a certain aspirational section of society.

Goodbye Woodford Garden Village.

Now if the harvest is over, and the world cold, give me the bonus of laughter, as I lose hold.

Portwood Stockport

I often walk around here, the space enclosed by the River Tame and the M60, it was a maze of busy streets, home to peoples’ homes, industry, pubs, clubs and railways.

Much of that is now gone, either left to its own devices, untended rough empty ground, or overwritten by the newly built Tesco Extra and Porsche dealership.

But what was there?

Archi UK – Map 1913

Water Street, Portwood looking north, taken from Avenue Street. Looking underneath the railway bridge, on the left hand side, the first building used to be a public house called ‘The Beehive’, further along was Kent & Swarbrick’s Tripeworks, now a precision engineers, then North West Concrete Works – Easymix. On the right is Coxson’s Brushworks, then the Portwood Mill, Kershaw’s Tannery and the Meadow Mill at the bottom of the street. 

H Lees Stockport Image Archive 1968

The area was also home to the Blood Tub boxing ring.

Outside the Blood Tub Back Water Street Portwood.

Centre row left to right Billy Pitt Taylor Micky Pelham Jack Hulme Jo Moran owner John Morry Bobby Riley Laurie Glen a jockey

2nd row from the back – James Jimmy Rose.

Back row left to right – Charlie Dean An ambulance man Ike Irelands horse dealer – Team from Macclesfield.

Extreme right – Jo Mulrooney.

Front row left to right extreme left – Sidney Smith soft Sidney – a simpleton Jo Hulme.

Copied from a photograph lent by Eddie Pitt 

 

Alligator Rainweara British company, whose main factory was based in Beehive Mill. It was best known for its 1960s collaborations with Mary Quant in the design and production of her Wet Look collection of PVC raincoats.

The firm was started after the First World War by Reuben Satinoff, who had previously founded the London Waterproof Company – Silkimac. It was taken over by his sons after the Second World War. For decades, it manufactured traditional weatherproof raincoats in black, brown and beige, but the collaboration with Quant led to new fabrics including PVC and nylon, and a range of bright and vibrant colours.

At its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, Alligator had a turnover of £5 million per year and was exporting its products to Europe and North America. It was later owned by Baker Street Brands who describe it as one of their heritage brands.

Viewed from Tiviot Dale Viaduct

Tiviot Dale station was located on 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 was situated at the bottom of Lancashire Hill, next to the present motorway bridge. It was opened on 1 December 1865  and was originally known as Stockport Teviot Dale. From 1880, Tiviot Dale was also served by long-distance trains running on the Manchester South District Railway to London St Pancras.

Tiviot Dale 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.

The lines through the station remained in heavy use by coal trains heading for Fiddlers Ferry power station near Warrington from the Woodhead Line. These, however, ceased in 1980 when damage was caused to the nearby Tiviot Dale tunnel during construction work on the M63 motorway – now M60 motorway and the line temporarily closed for safety reasons. The closure was made permanent west of Bredbury’s stone terminal in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986 and the tunnel partially filled in. The area surrounding the station was further altered at the beginning of the 21st century to allow the construction of a supermarket and office buildings, which now block the old trackbed.

Wikipedia

Portwood Railway Station was on the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway – later becoming part of Cheshire Lines Committee – Glazebrook to Woodley line. According to Bolger it opened to passengers on 12 January 1863, along with the rest of the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway, although Butt suggests it opened on 1 December 1865 when the Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway opened.

The station opened for goods traffic in 1865, closing to passengers on 1 September 1875, when it became a goods station. It remained in use until 25 April 1966 when it closed except for coal traffic which continued until 27 March 1972 when it closed entirely except for a private siding.

Today no trace of the station remains, the site being buried under a slip road of the M60 motorway.

Monica Clarke on her tricycle in Marsland Street, behind her across the cobbled street is the Sheba Works – 1951.

Marsland Street east, showing the Haymarket Chambers – 1967

The front of Haymarket Chambers Marsland Street.

Boarded up dwellings on Compstall Court, off Marsland Street.

Portwood Cut 1968

James Harrison bought the manor of Brinnington in the early 1780’s – by 1790 Harrison had three factories in Portwood and others were to follow. In 1796, to provide sufficient water-power to this industrial zone he constructed a substancial millrace. Known as the Portwood Cut, it carried water across the Tame, between his Reddish and Brinnington estates. Harrison also planned the construction of factories at Wood Hall but that particular scheme was abandoned after his death in 1806.

Harrison’s Weir still survives on the river. To the south sections of the Portwood Cut also survive within Reddish Vale Country Park, both as a shallow depression and as water-filled, if somewhat silted and overgrown channel.

Reddish Vale Country Park

Kershaws is one of the only original businesses which still trades in the area.

Established back in 1855 by Joshua Kershaw, the company has gone from strength to strength.

Way back then, it was just a tannery. Today, seven generations on, Edward Kershaw heads a company that is known and respected for it’s quality leather in Europe, America and the Far East.

Kershaws also provide white leather for masonics and bagpipes.

Brewery Street – a view of the steps leading to the railway footpath to Tame Street – 1967.

The mill in the foreground is the Portwood Spinning Mill now called Portwood Mill – on the front of the mill it states Sir Richard Arkwright Portwood Mill.

Employees – Portwood Spinning Company

Coal drops and yard at the rear of the Beehive Spinning Mill

Tame Street gave motorized access to the Cut and here the caravans of travelling folk were parked several times a year, usually until the police ‘moved them on’. The men collected and sold scrap metal, the women sold clothes pegs and told fortunes from door to door. Many of the local people treated them with suspicion and some local pubs would not admit them.

Building work on Lancashire Hill can be seen in the background – 1968 

In 1971 Daniel Meadows visited the Traveller’s Camp and produced this series of photographs, published by Café Royal Books.

From the series: Gypsies and Travellers, Stockport, 1971

© Daniel Meadows

Aerial view 1976

General view of Portwood, seen from the railway bridge on Lancashire Hill.

The Alligator Rainwear factory can be seen in the top right of the picture – 1979

By 1982 the motorway has arrived – and the railway un-arrived.

In a relatively short space of time things come and go and are easily forgotten, their remnants all but erased from the landscape and memory.

Stockport Viaduct

Stockport Viaduct, carries the West Coast Main Line across the valley of the River Mersey in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. It is one of the largest brick structures in the United Kingdom, as well as a major pioneering structure of the early railway age.

Stockport Viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. Work began in 1839 and was completed in 1840. Roughly 11 million bricks were used in its construction; at the time of its completion, it was the world’s largest viaduct and a major feat of engineering. The viaduct is 33.85 metres high. Stockport Viaduct is a Grade II* listed structure  and remains one of the world’s biggest brick structures.

In the late 1880s, the viaduct was widened to accommodate four tracks instead of two. In the 1960s, overhead catenary lines were installed by British Rail for the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme. In the second half of the twentieth century, the M60 motorway was built, passing through two arches of the viaduct.

Wikipedia

The structure is central to the visual landscape of the town – it has been the subject of both literature and art, most notably in the work of LS Lowry.

I believe that this composite composition of a northern landscape, is firmly embedded in the psyche of Stopfordians.

A notion that we are able to apprehend the whole of the structure in one panoramic sweep.

Our present perceptions are inextricably linked to past experience, possibly an illusory past.

It even featured in a feature film – A Taste Of Honey

My photograph below, was taken before access was prohibited.

Though has this uncluttered view ever actually existed?

The area has been a constantly evolving jumble of buildings, in, under and around the viaduct.

This raises the question – when did you last see your viaduct?

I live moments away on Didsbury Road – so why not take a look, circumnavigating the site in search of an answer?

From the recently constructed pedestrian and cycleway a view south across multiple roadways.

Approaching the arches from the west.

Looking east from Wellington Road North and the newly constructed A5154 link road.

Looking along the M60.

Looking along Heaton Lane, to the left Regent House.

Looking along the River Mersey

The Lowry Steps.

The view over the soon to be redeveloped Bus Station.

The view along Daw Bank.

One of the most complete perspectives along Swaine Street.

Swaine Street and Astley Street junction.

Crossing the new bridge to Heaton Lane.

Looking back towards the Crown Inn.

The view over Kwik Fit.

Looking east along the River Mersey, beside the rear of Weir Mill.

The view between the Stagecoach Bus Depots.

Looking east along Daw Bank.

Another clear perspective along Viaduct Street.

Beside Weir Mill.

Beneath the M60.

Looking east along Travis Brow.

This is one cold day in Covid February, the traffic a little lighter, few folk on foot.

Another day would produce another series of views, the light shifts, leaves appear on trees, the regeneration of Stockport sees the built environment shift and shimmy with an alarming regularity.

The landscape formed by the second Ice Age, gouging out a glacial valley and subsequently a conjoined river, is all part of a passing parade; it is acted out over millennia, you yourself are party to but one small part, make the most of it, get out and about take a look.

All this life is but a play, be thou the joyful player.

Ashton under Lyne Interchange

We have already said goodbye to all the previous incarnations.

And eagerly awaited the rebirth.

This time as an interchange, where bus, tram and train converge – the most modern of modern ideas.

The brand-new Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange is now open, providing passengers with much-improved facilities and a modern, accessible gateway to the town. 

The Interchange supports the economic growth of the town and helps people to get to and from their places of work as well as Ashton’s great shops, markets, restaurants and bars in a modern, safe and welcoming environment.

The Interchange has been developed by Transport for Greater Manchester in partnership with Tameside Council and funded with support from central government’s Local Growth Deal programme.

The building contractor was VINCI Construction UK. 

Architects were Austin Smith Lord

I managed to get there, just before I wasn’t supposed to get there.

So goodbye to all this:

No more exposed pedestrian crossings, draughty shelters orange Ms, and analogue information boards.

It’s an integrated, enclosed, digitally connected, well-lit, secure unit.

I found it to be light, bright and well-used; a fine mix of glass, steel, brick, concrete and timber.

Spacious, commodious and clearly signed.

Linked to the shopping precinct.

It’s almost finished – I hope that everyone is happy?

They even found Lottery Heritage monies to fund public art.

The work of Michael Condron and a host of local collaborators.

Ashton Bus Station – Pictorial History

In my memory of days long gone by, I call to mind the stops strewn around St Michael’s Square – all points east I assume, Stalybridge, Mossley, Micklehurst, Dukinfield, Glossop and beyond.

Prior to 1963, Ashton-under-Lyne’s buses and trolleybuses stopped at a variety of termini throughout the town centre. Manchester Corporation services called at Bow Street and Old Square, by Yates’ Wine Lodge; Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation’s buses opted for Market Street and Wellington Road by the town hall.

SHMD’s stopped at St. Michael’s Square.

So says Mancunian 1001 so sagely.

In 1927 there’s no room for a bus station, the town’s full of old houses.

But following extensive demolition, the site was cleared for a brand new bus station, with toilets, shops, offices, staff canteen and depot.

To be followed by the completion of the Shopping Precinct, Beau Geste and Ashton Arms.

Ashton zooms forward into the future, its flat-roofed modern facilities complemented by ranks of low-level shelters and edged to the east by a walled lawn and flower bed – where we all loved to sit of a sunny day.

And the under the cover of the canopy at night, ready for the time of your life, at the Birdcage, pub or pictures.

I remember the kiosk on the corner, a jewellers around the other corner.

I’ll meet you under the clock.

Photo: Ron Stubley

Here we see that the original shelters have been replaced and realigned.

Temporary Queensbury shelters were put in place prior to the addition of GMPTE’s standard shelters, seen in Stockport and Oldham bus stations. By the close of 1983, the recognisable GMPTE ones emerged. The cover at the precinct end was later glazed and became stands A to C.

The second version of Ashton-under-Lyne’s bus station opened on the 18 March 1985. After two and a half years refurbishment work, it was opened at 11.30 by Councillor Geoffrey Brierley.

Mancunian 101

And that’s the corner where we would deck off the open backed buses, hitting the pavement at speed.

That’s the deep blue and cream Ashton livery later superseded by SELNEC, GMPTE and TFGM – the wonderful full fare, unfair world of Margaret Hilda Thatcher’s privatisation, Arriva, First and Stagecoach first.

Then in the 1995 with the development of the Arcades Shopping centre, the whole site is reconfigured, now seen nestling in the shadow of the Dustbin.

Though as we know, nothing lasts forever and the shelters, passengers and buses get shunted and rebuilt yet again,

Even the Dustbin has gone west.

Opening in 2020 – the current version.

The majority of photographs are taken from online sources – please contact me if you are aware of the author’s name – I will post a credit.

I’ll be posting some pictures of my visit to this brand new Interchange, mixing it up with trams, trains and a tuppence one to the Cross.

Derby Day 2013 – Etihad Stadium

This is my first visit to a match day at the Etihad – having last watched City at Maine Road, from that uncovered corner enclave, the Kippax Paddock – the so called Gene Kelly Stand

Singing in the Rain

It all ended in ruins.

Demolished, the last ball kicked in anger Sunday 11th May 2003.

To the other side of the city and rebranded Eastlands, occupying the former Commonwealth Games Stadium.

Owners John Wardle and Thaksin Shinawatra came and went.

Since 4 August 2008, the club has been owned by Sheikh Mansour, one of football’s wealthiest owners, with an estimated individual net worth of at least £17 billion and a family fortune of at least $1 trillion.

A far cry from Peter Swales and his TV Repair shop on Washway Road.

The game has changed, money is in motion, fans travel from every corner of the globe, fuelled by the Murdoch Dollar and the insatiable thirst for televised football.

So it’s the 22nd September 2013 – I though I’d take a look around town first.

Kits and colours in abundance – though some of these colours can and will run.

Off then to the Etihad and its the Pellegrini squad versus Moyes’ boys.

This is a world within a world as the Middle East seeks to lighten its carbon footprint, and put its size nines all over east Manchester.

Corporate greeting on Joe Mercer Way, executive sweeteners, in the form of earthbound airline hostesses.

Groups from the Antipodes happy to embrace the jumbo blue letters – no boots, no hustling, no barging through swelling crowds, no menacing looks from beneath feather cut fringes.

No none of that any more.

I made my excuses and left.

Manchester City ensured David Moyes’ first derby as Manchester United manager ended in abject humiliation with a crushing victory at the Etihad Stadium.

In contrast to the despair of his opposite number, it was a day of delight for new City boss Manuel Pellegrini as he watched the rampant Blues make a powerful statement about their Premier League ambitions.

Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure gave City a commanding half-time lead and any slim hopes of a United recovery were snuffed out by further goals from Aguero and Samir Nasri within five minutes of the restart.

BBC

Bonny Street Police Station – Blackpool

We are here are again – you Bonny Street bobbies, it seems, are not.

Departed for pastures new – to Marton near to the big Tesco. 

As well as a front counter, the new headquarters provides a base for some of the local policing and immediate response teams, an investigations hub and 42 custody cells.

Live Blackpool

On my previous visit I was in fact apprehended by a uniformed officer, perturbed by my super-snappy happy behaviour. Following a protracted discussion, I convinced the eager young boy in blue, that my intentions were entirely honourable.

Having visited the Morecambe site un-accosted.

And witnessed Bury’s demise.

I’m something of a Roger Booth aficionado, largely still at large.

Whilst Richard Brook is something of an expert.

Suffice to say I pay a visit to see my old pal the cop shop, whenever I find myself in town, stop to chat and snap – how are things, what’s happening?

Blackpool Central that’s what!

It seems that you are to become an Alien Diner.

Themed bar and event restaurant concept with roller coaster service, hourly special effects shows and exploration tours.

The £300m Blackpool Central development will bring world-class visitor attractions to a landmark site on the famous Golden Mile. Along with new hotels, restaurants, food market, event square, residential apartments and multi-storey parking.

Chariots of the Gods inspires the masterplan for the long-awaited redevelopment. It’s the global publishing phenomenon, written by Swiss author Erich Von Däniken. Exploring alien encounters and unsolved mysteries of ancient civilisations.

Chariots Of The Gods will be the main theme for Blackpool Central. Including the anchor attraction – the UK’s first flying theatre.

A fully-immersive thrill ride that will create the incredible sensation of human flight.

Time it seems changes everything, stranger than fiction.

The Bonny Street Beast’s days are numbered – your local Brutalist pal is no more, wither Wilko’s?

Your piazza planters are waterlogged.

Your lower portals tinned up.

Your curious sculptural infrastructure sunken garden neglected and forlorn.

Your low lying out-rigger stares blankly yet ominously into space.

Likewise your tinted windows.

Your subterranean car park access aromatic and alienating.

So farewell old pal, who knows what fate awaits you, I only know you must be strong.

Not until we have taken a look into the future shall we be strong and bold enough to investigate our past honestly and impartially. 

How often the pillars of our wisdom have crumbled into dust! 
 

Erich von Däniken

Richard Dunn Sports Centre – Bradford

Rooley Avenue Bradford West Yorkshire BD6 1EZ

Named for local lad pugilist Richard Dunn, the ambitious imagining of architect Gordon Elliott – the sports centre opened in 1978.

Comprising pools, sports hall, dance studio, sauna, gym and ancillary facilities the centre was certainly state of the art.

Sweeping interlocking arcs of concrete, were at the heart of the structure.

Topped out with a suspended canopy.

Attracting huge crowds on the occasion of its opening.

Images The Telegraph and Argus.

The building was to be demolished in April of this year – it closed in November 2019.

I assume that the state of the art became less state of the art – as running costs grew and newer greener technology became state of the art.

The state of the art Sedbergh Sports and Leisure Centre opened in September 2019.

Initially the Richard Dunn site was to be sold for development, this along with plans for demolition seem to be in abeyance.

Arrangements are being made to turn Bradford’s Richard Dunn Sports Centre into a temporary mortuary should the current Coronavirus crisis escalate.

April 2020

It’s remarkable – here are my photographs from February 2020.

I advise you to get along and take a look, just as soon as humanly possible.

Recently John Mann was granted permission to snap the deserted interior.

The ghostly gasps of the exercising public exorcised forever.

Eileen Ayres, who has worked at Richard Dunns from before it even opened to the public said:

When I came here this place was super, super modern – state of the art. Now we’re moving to Sedbergh it is great to be in a state of the art facility again. The younger staff are so excited about the move to a new, modern sports centre.

I have a lot of memories of here, a lot of staff I’ve met and become friends with over the years. We’ve had a lot of events here, international events that have taken place here over the years. When Richard Dunn was new a lot of people wanted to hold these events here. Now we have a new leisure centre I hope some of these events come back to Bradford.

I started at 23, I said I was just coming for a year. Here we are 41 years later.

When asked if she thinks it is right to be closing down Richard Dunn she said:

In my heart no, but realistically it has to go. It is run down – it would be way too expensive to run or refurbish. You can’t keep putting money into old things.

Telegraph and Argus

Fairfield Road – Edge Lane

In 1802 there’s mostly nothing here, nothing to speak of.

A few buildings on Ashton Old Road and fields, lots of fields.

Then along comes the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing is in the ascendancy, mostly.

Vision of Britain

Ferguson Pailin Electrical Engineering are established in 1913 on Fairfield Road/Edge Lane.

By 1939 the factory is fully formed and the area a dense warren of industry and terraced housing.

Makers of heavy duty electrical switchgear and general electrical engineers, of Higher Openshaw, Manchester.

1913 Ferranti Ltd sold its switchgear patents and stock to Ferguson, Pailin Ltd. Samuel Ferguson and George Pailin had worked for Ferranti as switchgear engineers. They left in 1913 to set up their own switchgear business at a factory in Higher Openshaw, Manchester.

Graces Guide

The company was acquired by Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) in 1928. Following the restructuring of AEI in 1960, Ferguson, Pailin & Co ceased to be a separate subsidiary and was merged into AEI switchgear. Following the takeover of AEI by GEC in 1967, the Higher Openshaw works became part of GEC Switchgear. In 1989, GEC merged its electrical engineering interests with those of Alsthom to form GEC Alsthom. The factory was later closed by Alstom in 2003, with most of the employees finishing on 22 November 2002.

Wikipedia

The company has a Facebook page which shares former employees memories – from which these archive photographs were taken.

Notably the firm provided extensive leisure facilities for their employees.

The company acquired Mottram Hall to give employees an opportunity to go on affordable holidays during World War II. The company bought three properties in 1939/40 in order to provide holidays for staff and workers during the war. Mottram Hall was bought for the works, a small hotel in Llandudno for the middle level staff and a property in Criccieth for senior staff. Mottram Hall was sold as surplus to requirements by GEC in 1968 and is now a luxury country house hotel.

Sadly the days when benevolent employers thought to take care of their employees in such a manner, are largely a thing of the past.

For business guests, our sleek and sophisticated conference rooms feature the latest technology to get your agenda off to a prompt and professional start. Plus, catering facilities and a plush break out space for comfortable downtime between meetings.

Last time I passed through many of the factory buildings were still extant though underused. A portion of the site lost to the development of the Lime Square Shopping Centre.

Lime Square is a shopping destination which is helping to put the heart back into Openshaw district centre here in east Manchester. Lime Square is home to the stunning Steamhammer sculpture and a host of great High Street names.

By and large replacing the plethora of busy local businesses which once thrived in the area.

Part of the site became the site of a car park for B&M Bargains.

Empty car parking and to let signs in superabundance.

So there we are the end of an era – the decline in manufacturing, the structure ending life as an empty warehouse.

But wait, what’s all this?

Your Housing Group, the Warrington-based affordable housing provider, wants to build a residential scheme on the site of a former warehouse on Edge Lane, with work starting this summer subject to consent.

The project in Openshaw comprises 216 homes available on a mix of tenures, according to a planning application submitted to Manchester City Council. A total of 72 will be for sale as shared ownership schemes, another 72 will be for private rent, and 72 will be for affordable rent.

Place North West

The development, to be known as Edgefield Green

Your Housing Group

As of Friday 13th November 2020 – the site has been cleared, little or no signs of its former occupants save for a dilapidated fence or gate.

This land is your land.

Our hearts beat as one as we had our fun but time changes everything.

Tommy Duncan of the Texas Playboys

So there we are another phase of development for one small area of Manchester, should you change to pass, just spare a moment to recall those thousands of souls that laboured their whole working lives – right here on Fairfield Road and Edge Lane.

Wythenshawe Civic Centre

A social history of Wythenshawe and its Civic Centre can be found here at Archives +.

A general history of the garden city’s development can be found here at Municipal Dreams.

Lest we forget, the story begins with a level of overcrowding and human misery that is – thankfully – almost unimaginable in Britain today. In 1935, Manchester’s Medical Officer of Health condemned 30,000 (of a total of 80,000) inner-city homes as unfit for human habitation; 7000 families were living in single rooms.

The estate was always considered to be, in some sense, the realisation of an ambitious vision.

The world of the future – a world where men and women workers shall be decently housed and served, where the health and safety of little children are of paramount importance, and where work and leisure may be enjoyed to the full.

Cooperative Women’s Guild

Work began in the interwar years, and continued following the hiatus of 1939-45. The shopping centre named the Civic Centre was open in 1963, the actual Civic Centre containing a swimming pool, theatre, public hall and library in 1971.

A triumph for Municipal Modernism conceived by the City Architects and realised by Direct Works. This post war development owed more to the spirit of Festival of Britain optimism, new construction methods and materials, rather than the grandiose functionalist classicism of the original scheme.

The Co-operative Superstore was a key element in the provision of provisions.

Along with Fine Fare and Mercury Market.

Cantors

Shaw’s

Fred Dawes Whitworth Park Gas Showrooms

New Day furnishing the local HQ was at Hilton House Stockport

The flats were demolished in 2007

Edwards Court and Birch Tree Court 1987 – Tower Block

First there was a bowling alley.

Which became the Golden Garter

Closed 3rd January 1983

Then there was a theatre The Forum

There still is – The Forum is a bright and modern hub for co-located services used by community and business.

The original Forum opened in 1971. One of Manchester’s largest public buildings, it had a leisure centre, library, theatre, main hall and meeting rooms. By the mid 1990’s it was under used, had deteriorated internally and externally and needed substantial investment.

The new Forum, along with a new police sub-divisional headquarters and improved transport link was designed to help strengthen the town centre, and provide a landmark project to raise Wythenshawe’s profile within Manchester and beyond.

In the 1980’s they put on a superb array of shows including Roll on 4 O’Clock which starred John Jardine, Jack Smethurst and Glynn Owen. Oh What a lovely War; What the Butler Saw and Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett.  Bury’s own Victoria Wood starred in Talent which she wrote.  Another Manchester icon Frank Foo Foo Lammar, famous as the top drag queen of the North-West  whose club was re-known for its great party nights appeared in The Rocky horror Show.

A land of elegant covered walkways and raised beds.

A land of 24 hour petrol stations and quadruple Green Shield Stamps.

Some where along the way we lost our way – taxi!

Photographs Manchester Local Image Collection

Doncaster Modernism – Revisited

Having taken a tour around town last year, we are now revisiting Doncaster on a socially distanced Manchester Modernist walk.

Arriving by train at 8.30, just in time to check out the new lighting scheme in the station foyer.

Replacing the previous lighting.

Which in turn replaced the original Thirties lighting.

The forecourt redevelopment is a work nearing completion.

I was on my way to Intake by bus so it’s off on the 66 from the Frenchgate Inetrchange.

An urban environment so anonymous, that it can only just recognise itself. I was helpfully informed by two radio controlled security guards that photography was illegal.

More Interzone than Interchange.

Here are my transgressive snaps, I made my excuses and left – on the next available 66.

Decanting from the single decker I made my way across the way to All Saints, a George Pace church of 1956.

Built on the foundations of an unrealised Neo-Romanesque church of 1940, but reorientated east/west.

I legged it back to catch the bus back, the returning 66, much to the surprise of the surprised driver, making his return journey.

Jumping the 41A to Scawsby, displaying my risible home-printed map to the driver, requesting a shout when we arrived at the indicated destination, which he was unable to discern, and which I had failed illustrate.

I had contrived to arrive at the end of the line, a bit part player in a non-existent Béla Tarr film.

The heavy rain continued to fall.

I followed the bus route back to the Church of St Leonard and St Jude on Barnsley Road.

Following a thorough tour inside and out, I returned promptly to the town centre, on the limited stop express X19.

And hotfooted it to the Waterdale Centre, a work in progress, the CGI figures being as yet, a mere figment of the development officer’s fevered dreams.

Doncaster Council documents from the planning application for the demolition say, that while the exact project is not yet fully in place, discussions are taking place with the council on the project and grant funding is being sought to help the future regeneration scheme. But the council has said it supports schemes that would revitalise the Waterdale Centre area for retail, leisure, and tourism uses.

The centre is now owned by the Doncaster-based property firm Lazarus Properties, who bought it from the Birmingham firm St Modwen.

Lazarus director Glyn Smith said his firm had faith in the local economy of Doncaster town centre, even though larger multinationals seemed to be shying away.

Doncaster Free Press

The former ABC/Cannon Cinema

The ABC was built by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) as a replacement for their Picture House Cinema which had opened in 1914. It opened on 18th May 1967 with Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago presented in 70mm. Designed with 1,277 seats arranged in a stadium plan by the architectural firm Morgan & Branch, with input by architects C. ‘Jack’ Foster & Alan Morgan. It was decorated in a modern 1960’s style.

Closed in January 1981 for conversion into a triple screen it re-opened on 9th April 1981 with seating in the 3-screens.

The Cannon Group took control in the mid-1980’s and it was re-named Cannon and it closed on 18th June 1992, screening its opening film “Doctor Zhivago”.

The building has stood empty and unused since then, but in 2007, it was bought by Movie World for just £150,000. It is reputedly being re-modeled with extra screens added, however by 2009, only a clean-up of the interior has been achieved. The building sits empty and unused in 2020.

Cinema Treasures

The delayed opening of the new Savoy Complex will no doubt inform the future of the Cannon.

It’s a familiar tale of the local authority, developers, leisure and retail outlets chasing dreams, cash and hopefully pulling in the live now pay later public.

It’s all part of the Doncaster Urban Centre Masterplan which will transform the way Doncaster looks and the way residents and businesses use the city core.

The area is a pivotal point, I sincerely hope that the Waterdale Centre is revived, along with the adjacent Civic Quarter car park.

Refurbished in 2011 by Potter Church and Holmes since closed.

I noted the restrained Modernism of the National Spiritualist Church.

The service begins with a short prayer. The congregation sings three songs during the service using music that most people would recognise. There is usually a short reading or lesson on something to do with spiritualism or events in the world. There is also a talk by the guest medium who use their inspiration or intuition to compose an uplifting address.

Then the business of contacting the spirit world begins.

Along with its curious relief panels.

Back around to the back of the Waterdale and the surviving former bank fascia, civic offices and library.

Back through the Waterdale to discover the saddest of retail archeology.

The long lost tiled café wall and a mysterious porch.

A gloomy end to a very wet day.

South Bay Scarborough – Chalets

The world is inherently unstable, along comes a train a resort appears, along comes a ‘plane a resort disappears, along comes a virus and people disappear.

Whole chunks of the land fall in the sea, eventually.

The South Bay Gardens were slipping away.

Some of the oldest sun bathing chalets almost became an Arts Hub.

Seaside chalets were under threat, with the cause believed to be the failure of a retaining wall.

The swimming pool has been and gone, only an empty shell remains.

There are speculative plans and piecemeal repairs, but these are difficult times, and attracting substantial finance and flocks of tourists to revitalise the town, is no simple matter.

From 2011 I have visited South Bay, intrigued by all the above, but there’s a special place in my heart for these concrete chalets.

They never get a mention.

Here they are some years ago.

The primary coloured paint almost still fresh on their well locked doors.

They stand forlorn on the concrete shore overlooking an indifferent North Sea, hoping for a future in an uncertain age.

As I snapped I chatted to a local ANTIFA Anarcho Punk – ex Mansfield Miner and political activist, he feared that they would be swamped by some tidal wave of gentrification.

If so when, not soon.

As a post script I have been informed that the site was used as a kid’s den in the CBBC TV series All at Sea!

Scarborough Technical College

Gollins Melvin Ward & Partners 1961

Scarborough TEC formerly known as Yorkshire Coast College, Scarborough Technical College, Scarborough Technical Institute, and Scarborough School of Art is a further education college located on Lady Edith’s Drive Scarborough. It is a constituent college of the Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education.

Yorkshire Coast College was originally an independently controlled institution, but due to consistently poor results and long-term financial difficulties was taken over by the Grimsby Institute in January 2010.

In November 2016, the name was changed from Yorkshire Coast College to Scarborough TEC, with the TEC standing for Training, Education, Careers.

Wikipedia

Now it’s closed, the land to be sold for a housing development.

Colleges, once under the stewardship of the local authority are now independent businesses and as such subject to mergers and acquisition, for better or for worse.

1961

This is a building of architectural significance, GMW being responsible for several other ground breaking curtain wall towers and blocks – including Castrol House, now Marathon House one of the first curtain wall buildings in the UK, along with the Arts Tower in Sheffield.

In August 2015, GMW was taken over by another business, Scott Brownrigg, “as part of plans to move into the airport sector.”

It represents a time when vocational education was in the ascendancy, building for a manufacturing future with forward thinking, open, democratic and accessible architecture.

That optimism along with the attendant architecture are no longer, it seems – dish of the day.

It was a proud boast for many people in Scarborough that Robert Allen Palmer, the pop music icon, was raised and schooled there. Robert went to Scarborough Boys’ High School and studied art at Scarborough Technical College.

Photograph copyright Brian Cooke 2011

He played in his his first band there, The Mandrakes evolving from a gathering of pupils from the Scarborough High School for Boys during the summer of 1964.  Meetings and practice under the work in progress title of The Titans, first in the crypt of a church and then a former chicken hut, took place.  Allen – to become Robert in 1969 Palmer, joined after a successful audition and the first gig took place in a local youth club towards the end of the year.

British Music Archive

Robert’s Mum says fame never changed him, “He never seemed any different, he took us on Concorde two or three times and the Orient Express and we always celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas, everything, together.”

BBC

So I bowled up last Thursday following a tip from local lad Mr Ben Vickers, it rained and rained, armed with a Poundland one pound umbrella I took my chances and took some snaps.

Broken and boarded windows, spooky drips dripping and ghosts for company, heavy hearted marking the passing of an abandoned future and rapidly receding past.

Peck House Rotherham

Peck House, a long vacant commercial property on a prominent route into Rotherham, could be flattened for redevelopment as the owners begin discussions with the Council over its future.

The building on Eastwood Trading Estate, and its unique stylings, was the headquarters of Joseph Peck departments stores
.

Rotherham Business News 2017

The owners of the site, Backer Electric, occupy the adjacent building where they continue to manufacture heating elements, supplying products in high volume to the majority of household brand names. Options to reuse Peck House and the site have been investigated for a number of years.

A structural survey was carried out which found the building to be structurally sound and secure and therefore the Council has not been in a position to insist on its demolition.

In 1985, plans came forward to change of use of the retail/wholesale store to a church. In 2004, outline plans were submitted for a development including a hotel, restaurant, hot food takeaway and petrol station for the wider area. In 2014, Peck House was one of a number of sites discounted as the location for a new £5m primary school.

As of Wednesday 26th August 2020 it’s still there underdeveloped and overgrown.

In the company of local resident Helen Angell and having become aware of the site through the paintings of Mandy Payne and the photographs of Sean Madner – I was eager to pay a visit.

Joseph Peck departments stores originated in Rotherham in the late 1800s and had branches in Worksop, Barnsley and Sheffield.

I have only been able to find evidence of the Sheffield store – which may not be linked.

Though there are references to a Rotherham store on Bridgegate.

Joseph Peck was in Bridgegate in Rotherham, and in the late 40’s at Christmas, they had a grotto and a Father Christmas. The queues of parents and children would go down the yard and up Bridgegate. My mum and dad always took my brother and I to see Father Christmas and get a present from him. The store was a department store selling just about everything that was available just after the war. Mum took my brother and I coming up to one Christmas, she was trying to find a bicycle for my brother and I, but they didn’t have one. As we came out of the store, one of old fashioned three wheel railway delivery lorries was just pulling out of the yard. On the back was a blue bike. Mum stopped the driver and asked him where he was taking it. He told her ‘Redgates at the bottom of Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. She shouted ‘Taxi’, and told the driver to ‘follow that lorry’. Just before the lorry arrived on The Moor, she told the taxi driver to overtake the lorry and go to Redgates. We rushed in, she found the manager and asked him about the bike. He hadn’t known that one was being delivered so Mum told him she’d have it without even asking the price. The lorry driver didn’t even have to take it off the lorry, and delivered it to our house next day.

My elder brother had it first, then me, then my younger brother, and finally our young sister. It was still being used when I flew the nest in 1959. 

Merry Christmas everybody.

Sheffield Forum

So here we are confronted with some tip top architectural type high atop the low-rise industrial facility.

What’s more there is a panel of ceramic tiles many with a pronounced profile in relief – a fugue in lemon, grey and a deep Prussian Blue.

No reference to the manufacturer or date online sadly, suffice to say that they are truly enchanting – look!

Fred Perry Way – Stockport To Hazel Grove

Second time around – having once cycled the whole way in 2009.

I’ll do anything twice or more – so here we are again, this time on foot.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start – in the middle, the section from the town centre to Hazel Grove.

Maps are available here for free – we declined the offer, deciding to follow signs instead, many of which were missing or rotated, the better to misinform and redirect – such is life.

We are mostly lost most of the time, whether we like it or know it or not.

We begin at the confluence of the rivers Mersey and Goyt – which no longer seems to be a Way way, the signs having been removed, and proceed down Howard Street, which seems to have become a tip.

The first and last refuge for refuse.

Passing by the kingdom of rust – Patti Smith style.

Passing under the town’s complex internal motorway system by underpass.

Where help is always handily at hand.

Whistling past the graveyard – the site of the former Brunswick Chapel where one and hundred and fifty souls lay lying.

Onward down Carrington Road to Fred’s house.

Through Vernon Park to Woodbank Park – with its heroic erratic.

Almost opposite the entrance to the museum, now set in shrubbery, are the foundations, laid in September 1860, of what was to be a forty metre high Observatory Tower. Despite a series of attempts, funds for the tower could not be raised and the ‘Amalgamated Friendly Societies of Stockport’ eventually had to abandon the idea.

Historic England

Out east and passing alongside the running track.

Lush meadows now occupy the former football field, twixt inter-war semis and the woodland beyond.

Out into the savage streets of Offerton where we find a Buick Skylark, incongruously ensconced in a front garden.

The only too human imperative to laugh in the face of naturalism.

We have crossed over Marple Road and are deep in the suburban jungle of mutually exclusive modified bungalows.

Off now into the wide open spaces of the Offerton Estate – the right to buy refuge of the socially mobile, former social housing owning public.

People living on Offerton Estate have been filmed for a programme entitled ‘Mean Streets’ which aims to highlight anti-social behaviour in local communities.

MEN 2007

The next thing we know we’re in a field, a mixed up melange of the urban, suburban and rural, on the fringes of a Sainsbury’s supermarket filling station.

We cross the A6 in Hazel Grove and here for today our journey ends

Ignoring the sign we went in the opposite direction.

As we reach the edge of Mirrlees Fields – the site of the only Fred Perry laurel leaf logo emblazoned way marker.

The Fields are currently designated as a green space and are not available for residential development. But MAN would like to overturn this designation for over one third of the Fields.

MAN Energy Solutions UK is the original equipment manufacturer of Mirrlees Blackstone diesel engines.

Before the Blackstone MAN came in 1842 – the fields were all fields.

To be continued.

Yuri Gagarin Manchester 1961

Exactly three months to the day after his flight in Vostok I had ushered in a new age of space exploration, on 12 July 1961, the trim figure of Yuri Gagarin strode down the gangway of a British Viscount airliner and walked briskly out across the runway of Manchester airport towards a sea of expectant faces, and flashing camera bulbs.

Working Class Movement Library

There are many excellent accounts of his visit – for a detailed view Gurbir Singh’s book Yuri Gagarin in London and Manchester is hard to beat.

It is from this source that I was able to retrace Yuri’s journey, from the then Ringway Airport, to the offices of the AUFW at Brooks Bar.

Archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Thousands lined the wet streets of Manchester that day as he passed by in his beige open topped Bentley – standing proud waving to all and sundry.

This is Yuri’s journey via the Manchester Local Image Collection.

A loose approximation of what he may have see on that day in 1961.

We were allowed out of Brownley Green school to line the road as he passed, great memories.

I stood on Chester Road with my mum, I was 4 years old, but still remember it.

At that time, I was a student, working my socks off in the Central Library, I went outside into St. Peter’s Square to watch hi