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.
Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.
A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
This building formed part of the later phasing of the proposed Garden Suburb of Wythenshawe. It was intended to house up to 100 double-decker buses but was put to use as a factory for components for Lancaster bombers during the war. It is included here for the functionalist qualities of the building and the acknowledgement of the daring of the City Architects Department. Academic papers, as late as 1952, cited this simple structure as exemplar of its type; Elaine Harwood notes, ‘this was the pioneering example of the means of construction, and the model for larger shells at Bournemouth and Stockwell’. The arches that support the shell have a span of over fifty metres and are spaced at twelve metre intervals. The concrete shell roof is of the short-barrel type commonly used on single span buildings such as hangars, it is uniformly around seventy millimetres thick. The only single span structure larger than this was indeed an aircraft hangar, at Doncaster Airport, demolished around 1990. This building is now in the ownership of an airport parking company that utilise it as vehicle storage; close to its original function.
Once upon a time there was almost nothing, as there often is.
Green fields, sylvan glades and a pleasant park in Grosvenor Square.
Then all of a sudden, at the heart of the Square sat All Saints Church.
Underneath Manchester’s All Saints Park is a hidden history – an estimated 16,000 bodies. For this was the site of a former Victorian Cemetery, set up to cater for the parishioners of All Saints.
All Saints Burial Ground officially opened on Wednesday 19 April 1820. The first interment was that of twenty-one-year-old Fanny Knowles, who lived on London Road. Her funeral was conducted by the founder himself, Charles Burton. It would be another month before the next interment took place. In the first year burials were slow with only 55 interments, however, by 1851 the number had increased to over 600 per annum.
The whole area having been a centre of housing, education, entertainment, commerce, public services and worship, was becoming the fiefdom of first the Polytechnic and subsequently the Manchester Metropolitan University.
But formerly there were peoples’ homes here.
Then the 1960s saw a huge programme of slum clearance in Manchester and whole communities across the Square and nearby Hulme were moved, rehoused in a thoroughly modern milieu.
The fascia has been retained but the name has not been changed to protect the innocent.
Next door the Chorlton on Medlock town hall still has its portico in place, the adjacent Adult Education building has been surgically removed.
Richard Lane, the architect of the Friend’s Meeting House on Mount Street, designed the Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall on Grosvenor Street. It continued in that role from 1831 until 1838 when Chorlton-on-Medlock became part of the city of Manchester. In the years that followed it was used by the local community for a variety of functions but the redevelopment of the area meant that the local population diminshed and the building became redundant. In 1970, the interior was removed, a new structure added to the rear and it became part of the Polytechnic which became the Manchester Metropolitan University.
The Fifth Pan African Conference was held there between October 15th and 21st in 1945.Ninety delegates from across Africa, Europe and the Caribbean, attended the meeting and among the delegates were a number of men who went on to become political leaders in their countries including: Hastings Banda, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and Jomo Kenyatta.
Former Chorlton Poor Law Guardian’s HQ then Registry Office, now the Ormond Building of Metropolitan University – and at the far right edge St Augustine RC.
The Manchester Ear Hospital on Lower Ormond Street, shortly before being transferred to Manchester Royal Infirmary. Most of the building was demolished, but the facade retained as part of MMU’s Bellhouse Building.
To the right the Presbyterian Church.
Cavendish Street School
The memorial stone on the front of the school, laid on June 17th, 1908, declared that it was the Forty Seventh Municipal School. Strangely, it seems that it was called the Cavendish Street School despite the fact that it wasn’t on Cavendish Street.
It was subsequently utilised by the Polytechnic sculpture department – then demolished to make way for something else of an educational nature.
Some or all of our social and architectural history has been overwritten, lost or swept aside by the tide of history.
Though on a dark snowy night you can still make out the bright red corporation buses, passing by in a dark cloud of diesel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fred Schofield’s farm 1930
View towards Stockport from Heaton Mersey Park
Serviced by a complex and competing rail system based around Heaton Mersey Shed.
Opened in 1889 and served until May 1968 operating steam locomotives to the end -Coded 9F.
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.
Fireman Eddy “Ned” Kelly
Heaton Mersey railway station was opened on 1 January 1880 by the Midland Railwayand 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.
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 administrativepyramid, business park, car showrooms and nature reserve, the only certainty is change.
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.
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.
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.