Underpass – Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes synonymous with something or other, the town where everything is an off centre out of town centre, where anything was new once.

A broad grid of boulevards, sunken super-highways and an extended series of balletic roundabouts swirls the cars around.

Beneath this merry carbon hungry dance, we find the cyclist and pedestrian, the self propelled underclass passing through the underpass.

During my eight hour non-stop walking tour I encountered several – here they are, home to the homeless – others somewhat desolate and deserted, grass between the paving stones, the occasional casual tag and discarded can.

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Ringway – Manchester Airport

Expecting to fly?

Well not really, the first time I ever visited Ringway was by bike, aged eleven cycling from Ashton-under-Lyne along leafy Cheshire lanes for what seemed like an age. A gang of Lancashire brigands arriving in the departure lounge, with bike pumps and duffle bags.

In the Sixties, when flying was infrequent, the airport was seen as sleek, new, glamorous and exciting – quiet literally at the cutting edge of the Jet Age.

Modern.

You were or are there, destination somewhere else, far more exotic than suburban Wilmslow.

Manchester Ringway Airport started construction on 28th November 1935 and opened partly in June 1937 and completely on 25th June 1938, in Ringway parish north of Wilmslow.  In World War II, it was the location of RAF Ringway, and was important in the production and repair of military aircraft and training parachutists.

After World War II, it gradually expanded to its present size, including massive expansion of aprons, runways and car parking areas. Among the first expansions was car parking and service buildings north of Yewtree Lane.

From 1958 to late 1962, Terminal One was built: this was the first of the airport’s modern large terminals and the first major public building north of Yewtree Lane.

You were or are there, so why not tell the world – with a postcard.

Wish you were here?

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Let’s go there now, back in time, through the most magical Manchester Image Archive.

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John Lewis Mosaics – Milton Keynes

I was lured here, siren like, by an un-purchased eBay postcard – which precipitated a virtual four colour process printed journey around the shopping precincts of the UK.

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It only seemed appropriate to finally arrive at MK Central in real life, by train from Stockport – walking at last wide-eyed and expectant, along the whole length and width of Midsummer Boulevard to centre:mk

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the Shopping Building in 1973. It was to be the largest building of Central Milton Keynes. It had a total length of over one kilometre and a maximum width of one hundred and sixteen metres . It was built at the highest point in the New City. The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Christopher Woodward, who had been significant architects at the MK Development Corporation; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners. The shopping area was opened on 25th September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher. The building’s sleek envelope accommodated one hundred and thirty shops and six department stores, arranged along two parallel day-lit arcades, each eight hundred meters long and planted with sub-tropical and temperate trees.

A big bad Miesian box of glass and steel that goes on forever and forever.

At the very far end of forever is the John Lewis store, to the right of the entrance there are a series of tiled panels – these are possibly the work of Lucienne and Robin Day

Way back when, when brown was the new brown, brown still is the new brown.

Fresh and crisp and even.

Bobbing up and down precipitously on low marble walls, from amongst the sub-tropical and temperate trees, I bring you these thirteen tiled panels.

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Working so close up and personal at altitude, photographing such large pieces in confined spaces, it’s not until you arrive home that you discover that together they spell:

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What a delightful surprise!

The George Hotel – Stockport

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15 Wellington Road North Stockport SK4 1AF.

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

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

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

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

They have/had fine former offices on Dale Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Long Lane Post Office – Heald Green

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190 Wilmslow Rd, Heald Green, Cheadle SK8 3BH

The original Long Lane Post Office is still there but not here:

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However – I digress.

One fine day, some time ago there popped into my consciousness a Sixties retail mosaic in the Heald Green area – I tracked down its precise whereabouts online, in the modern manner.

Thinks – one fine day, just you wait and see I’ll pay a visit to the Heald Green area.

So today I did, it started off fine and finished up less so.

Jumped the 368 from Stockport Bus Station alighted at The Griffin.

Walked aways up the road and there it was, almost intact – it’s original name obliterated with lilac exterior emulsion – did it once read healds?

Why of course it did – the local dairy and retailers were the shop’s original owners.

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A few tesserae are missing otherwise the piece is as was – a wobbly jumble of text, shape and colour.

Self service – at your service.

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Macclesfield Railway Station

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Farewell Grand Central – Stockport

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and hell, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

We have seen things come and go in, on and around Stockport Station’s little acre.

From coal drops to tear drops.

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Archive photographs courtesy of John Eaton

After

The post-industrial leisure complex has come almost full circle – overwritten by the complex needs of the modern day service-worker –  Holiday Inn, Espresso Bar and Mini-mart complement the hot-desked, twenty-four hour online access all areas open-plan office operative.

Gone now the Laser Quest, Super Bowl, Multiplex, Theme Pub days of old.

 

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Photographs from Stockport Image Archive

Time has been called on the post-modern film-set, cast and clad in plastic, brick, steel and concrete.

The future is here today and it means business.

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