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.

 

Gore Brook – A History

To begin at the beginning, well actually to begin in the middle and walk to the current beginning. The Gore Brook flows from the Lower Gorton Reservoir and from there onwards to meet the Chorlton Brook in the west, though I should imagine that prior to the construction of the waterworks, it was fed by more distant moorland waters.

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Manchester being on the eastern edge of the Lancashire Plain and the western edge of the Pennines is riddled with rivers, rivers which now wriggle in an under and overground web, across heavily developed urban areas. Following the Industrial Revolution former meadow, common and farmland was overwritten by factories, housing and roads, the rural character of the rivers and brooks soon becoming darkened and polluted by the surrounding industries.

I was lead here by my search for a lost pub The Garratt on Pink Bank Lane, then drawn in further by this site The Red Path of Longsight.

The Red Path is a pedestrian link between Pink Bank Lane and the Gorton boundary at Buckley Road. It roughly follows the course of Gore Brook. The original footpath, running from Buckley Road to the bank of the brook, was made using black cinders. It was probably made in the 1940s to provide access to the allotments located on either side. In the early 1950s , a concrete bridge was laid across Gore Brook and the footpath extended to Pink Bank Lane. This section used red bricks in it’s construction, probably supplied by Jacksons brickworks . Crushed bricks were then used as a topping to make the path smoother and fill in any cracks. The thoroughfare soon became known as the Red Path.

So wide eyed and mapless I bowled up at Brook Terrace, just off Stockport Road Longsight, in search of The Gore and its source.

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In the early 1900’s the river was still open and bridged, here at Stockport Road, later culverted and covered – anticipating the arrival of Tesco’s and Granada TV Rentals.

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From there we pass under the railway along Brook Terrace and into Parry Road.

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The underpass is still there and very much in use, as is Stanley Grove School – the Manchester Central Schools’ Kitchens are long gone, along with the food filled, insulated aluminium cases, that fed the hungry mouths of many, with semolina, pink custard, meat pies and lumpy mash.

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Onwards to Elgar Street and still no sign of the river, hidden beneath our feet, the corner of Northmoor Road, can be seen on the corner, no longer distributing dividends, but now providing social housing.

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We arrive at Pink Bank Lane, a rich mix of terraced homes, flats and factories – and the long lost Garratt, and the long lost Gore.

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Though the lazy, lazy river has been confined in a brick lined wind, to meet the ever pressing needs of the Gorton Sewage Works.

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The river then hugs the edge of Annie Lea Playing fields on Buckley Road, until it disappears again as it meets Mount Road, the playing fields are still open ground – the Manchester Cleansing Department, seen on the left – is no more.

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Here on Knutsford Road we see the construction of the tunnels and culverts, the footbridge to the left spanning the railway, is still there.

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Finally we see The Gore reemerging clear, clean, wide, proud and resplendent in Sunny Brow Park, where it is still maintained as a decorative, duck-filled lake.

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Briefly underground again and into the back of Far Lane, skirting the Brookfield Church graveyard.

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Then tunnelling under Hyde Road at the back of the church lodge, appearing once again alongside Tan Yard Brow.

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The manmade waterfall continues to cascade, the Fairfield to Old Trafford railway is now the Fallowfield Loop, Manchester Cycleway, young lads no longer mess about in wellies and torn Tek Sac jeans on the bank, the Tannery no longer tans.

Then we end our journey by the broad expanse of the Lower Gorton Reservoir, implausibly dotted with jolly yachts, and home to a now absent stepped outflow stream. Look up to the east, and there you’ll see the moors, you could go further.

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All archive photographs from Manchester Local Image Collection.

 

 

 

Ashton Moss – The Past

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To the east of Manchester and the west of Ashton sits The Moss.

This area of low lying, deep peaty bog, just outside Ashton-under Lyne, was drained in the mid 1800’s to grow some of the best crops – It was world famous for its celery but also grew good cabbage, cauliflowers and lettuce, with cucumbers and tomatoes grown in glasshouses.

This map of 1861 shows an area criss-crossed with lanes, ditches and field boundaries.

A world that survived into the 1980s, captured here so beautifully by Brian Lomas, prior to the building of the M60.

Photographs from – Tameside Image Archive

Then came the railways:

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With an attendant ghost:

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And telecommunications installation

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Its location on the south east corner of the Lancashire Coalfield, and the burgeoning demands of the Industrial Revolution saw the further development of mining in the area.

As the demand for coal outstripped the output, a deeper mine was opened in 1875, at Ashton Moss. This new pit had its own railway branch and canal arm for efficient transportation of the coal. In 1882 a second shaft was sunk – at 2,850 feet, the deepest in the world at that time.

The New Rocher pit closed in 1887 and Broadoak pit closed in 1904, after which time Ashton Moss pit was the only coal mine still in operation in Ashton. Although it produced 150,000 tons of coal a year in the early 1950s and employed over 500 men, Ashton Moss colliery closed in 1959 and part of its site is now the Snipe Retail Park on the boundary with Audenshaw.

Seen here in this painting by local artist David Vaughan.

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Colliery lamp token.

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This tight little island of land was a contrasting mix of the agricultural and industrial, home also to the urgent demands of a leisured and growing working class.

The area boasted two motorcycle speedway tracks.

One located on the Audenshaw side, just behind The Snipe pub.

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And one in Droylsden at the Moorside Stadium – home to local legend Riskit Riley:

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The stadium later to become a horse trotting track, known locally as Doddy’s Trot

The Moss has also provided a home for Curzon Ashton football club

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And Ashton Cricket and Bowling Club.

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The cricket and the football have both survived the building of the Orbital Ring Road, and the development of the site as a light industrial, retail and leisure park.

The roar of Riskit Riley is heard no more.

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Ashton Moss is an area I have known for some fifty years or so, my grandfather was a collier at the Ashton Moss Pit, I worked trains around the triangle of rail that encloses the area – I returned some time ago to take a look at what remained of a once fertile area.

This area of low lying, deep peaty bog, just outside Ashton-under Lyne, was drained in the mid 1800’s to grow some of the best crops – It was world famous for its celery but also grew good cabbage, cauliflowers and lettuce, with cucumbers and tomatoes grown in glasshouses. The ground was apparently fertilised by marl dug from local banks or pits, and by dung brought by horse and cart from the elephant and tiger enclosures at Belle Vue Zoo, down the road.

Four brothers of the Kelly family came from Ireland shortly after the Irish potato famine of 1840’s, settled on the Moss and still have a descendent selling fruit and vegetables on Ashton Market today.

The Moss is also where Bill Sowerbutts, of Gardener’s Question Time fame, learnt his trade. Bill’s first memories were of his Father’s smallholding on the Moss, which had been bought from a market gardener called Tommy Knight in 1892.

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The celery is long gone, the land now in use as a retail leisure park, intersected by the Manchester Orbital ring road, a Metrolink tram track, several dual carriageways and the existing rail network.

Its passing does not seem to be matter of record save for this archived account of 1989.

I read today of plans to set the 2025 World’s Fair there.

In January 2009 it looked like this, heaps of spoil, recently relocated slag heaps, frozen lakes and puddles, rough tracks, barely preserved rights of way and restricted access.

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