On The Waterfront – Llandudno

A welwyd eisoes.

I’ve been here before, as have others before me.

The town of Llandudno developed from Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements over many hundreds of years on the slopes of the limestone headland, known to seafarers as the Great Orme and to landsmen as the Creuddyn Peninsula.

Some years later.

In 1848, Owen Williams, an architect and surveyor from Liverpool, presented landowner Lord Mostyn with plans to develop the marshlands behind Llandudno Bay as a holiday resort. These were enthusiastically pursued by Lord Mostyn. The influence of the Mostyn Estate and its agents over the years was paramount in the development of Llandudno, especially after the appointment of George Felton as surveyor and architect in 1857.

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The edge of the bay is marked by concrete steps and a broad promenade, edging a pebbled beach which arcs from Orme to Orme.

Walk with me now and mark the remarkable shelters, paddling pools and bandstand screens, along with the smattering of people that people the promenade.

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Taylor Street Gorton – The Pineapple

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To begin at the beginning or thereabouts, Taylor Street was at the heart of Gorton to the east of Manchester city centre.

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A typical street of tightly packed brick terraces, dotted with shops, pubs, people and industry. I worked there as van lad for Mother’s Pride bread back in the 70s and saw those shops, pubs, people and industry slowly disappear.

Beyer Peacock whose immense shed dominated the northern end of the street, simply ceased to be, as steam gave way to diesel.

As full employment gave way to a date with the dole.

Adsega opening on nearby Cross Street heralded the arrival of the super fast, self-service supermarket, and sounded the death knell of the cosy corner cupboard.

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The local pub was The Bessemer – its name forging an unbreakable link with the surrounding steel industry, that eventually broke.

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To the left of the pub is the Bishop Greer High School construction site  – the first of the new build that would later dominate the area, along with wide open spaces where shops, pubs, people and industry once were.

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When the school eventually shut its doors, it became an annex of Openshaw Technical College, and I found myself working there in the 80s at the East Manchester Centre, until its eventual closure.

It’s now sheltered accommodation for the lost and lonely:

Located in a quiet suburb of Manchester with excellent links to the city centre, Gorton Parks has an exceptional range of facilities spread out across five separate houses, each offering a different care option. Melland House offers dementia residential care, Abbey Hey provides nursing dementia care, Debdale is the house for intermediate nursing care and Sunny Brow offers general nursing care.

We sought solace in The Pineapple.

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The streets were trimmed and slimmed, much of the past a mere ghostly presence, almost imprinted on the present.

A brave new world of brand new modern housing, with an Estate Pub to match.

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A busy bustling boozer – lots of live and local action for the lively locals, latterly seeing out time as a house of House – a real bangin’ Bashment, bass-man bargain basement.

Until time is finally called – no more four to the floor, last one out shut the door.

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Nothing lasts forever and a sign of the times is an upended pub sign, lying dormant in the dust.

The Chunky no longer a great big hunk o’funk.

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The big screen TV forever failing to deliver all the action, live or otherwise.

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Latterly transformed into Dribble Drabble.

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And so the beat goes on as successive waves of success and recession, boom and bust free-market economics, wash over the nation and its long suffering folk.

Its enough to drive you to drink.

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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Ford Lane Didsbury – Manchester

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This a tale of a lane, a shady lane in south Manchester.

This is a tale of several Manchesters, layer upon layer of history.

Shady history.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Owner occupiers preoccupied with owning.

Semi-detached.

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Heaton Mersey Vale – Stockport

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.

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Fred Schofield’s farm 1930

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View towards Stockport from Heaton Mersey Park

Serviced by a complex and competing rail system based around Heaton Mersey Shed.

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Opened in 1889 and served until May 1968 operating steam locomotives to the end -Coded 9F.

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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.

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Fireman Eddy “Ned” Kelly

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Heaton Mersey railway station was opened on 1 January 1880 by the Midland Railway and 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.

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Further photographs from Grip 99

Crossing the Mersey – the link between Gorsey Bank and the Shed

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Surviving until 2007

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B&W photographs Stockport Image Archive

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 administrative pyramid, business park, car showrooms and nature reserve, the only certainty is change.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Marland Bricks

What’s in a name?

That which we call a brick, by any other name would smell as sweet.

Chancing across a written reference to the Marland Brick in the book The Trains Now Departed, I was slightly taken aback – from wither and whence it came and went.

I was aware of the my patronymic local connection:

This most interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from Marland, a minor place in the parish of Rochdale, in Lancashire. The placename itself is composed of the Olde English elements “mere”, a lake, pool, and “land”, land.

However:

There are also places called Peters Marland in Devon, recorded as “Merland” in the Domesday Book of 1086 (the site of a church dedicated to St. Peter), and Marlands in Somerset.

So our southern cousins were clay-mongers, manufacturers of fine bricks to boot.

Marland Cream brickwork is a feature of North Devon. The hard cream bricks were made at Marland Moor by a succession of companies using stoneware ball clays dug from the Petrockstowe Basin. 

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Between Great Torrington and Hatherleigh, in north Devon, lie alluvial deposits of ball clay, a particularly useful clay which first found use for pottery and clay pipes in the seventeenth century. However the remoteness of the location prevented the growth of the industry and by the nineteenth century it only met local needs for pottery and bricks.

The impetus for the industry came, perhaps, with the opening of the London & South Western Railway to Torrington in 1872 for a few years later the owner of Clay Moor, William A. B. Wren, started to exploit his land. By 1877 he had sunk several pits and erected at the Marland Brick & Clay Works kilns, cottages and stables. Clay was being taken to Torrington station behind a traction engine but over six or so miles of poor quality roads this was not very efficient.

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With the coming of the railway to Torrington, in 1881 a private mineral line was built to connect to the Marland area. This led to a great increase in production and was a factor in the opening in 1925 of the North Devon & Cornwall Junction Light railway, between Torrington and Halwill Junction, which superceded the mineral line. Closing to passengers in 1965, the section between Meeth and Barnstable remained open for freight, but by the 1980’s was moribund.

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There are still remnants of the Marland Works Branch visible to this day.

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Images from 28 days later

One of our famed family brick built achievements is the Chelfham Viaduct:

A railway viaduct built in 1896-97 to carry the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway across the Stoke Rivers valley. Designed by L&B engineer, FW Chanter, and containing over a quarter of a million Marland bricks, its eight arches – each 42 feet wide and 70 feet high – meaning that the 132-yard long viaduct is the largest narrow gauge railway structure in England.

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The L&BR’s peak period came between 1902 and1913 when it carried almost 97,000 passengers a year. Yet the considerable endeavour invested in the railway was not enough to save it; as traffic dwindled, the line succumbed to closure by Southern Railways on 29th September 1935. Most of the trackbed and buildings were sold at auction in 1938. Although Chelfham Viaduct was retained, its parapets were taken down to about one foot above ballast level. In 1943, it featured in a film, The Flemish Farm, representing the Franco-Belgian border.

The structure was granted a Grade II listing on 25th February 1965. In 2000, in partnership with the Railway Heritage Trust and the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway Trust, British Railways Board completed a programme of remedial works.

Then later today, casting my mind back to my 2105 cycle tour from Weston Super Mare via Ilfracombe and  Plymouth and onward to Hastings, I remembered a former chance encounter.

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I had been here before, blissfully unaware of the local family connections along the Tarka Trail – thick as a Devon cream-tea coloured brick.

So when I eventually return to the area to fully explore our family heritage, I shall be sure to doff my cycling cap and smile whilst passing the warm cream expanses of Marland Brick.

 

 

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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