Serveway Five – Merseyway

There comes a time in very life when you finally go where you have never been before – even though you have walked by that very same place almost every day.

That’s how I found myself in Serveway Five.

Situated on the north east corner of Merseyway.

1984 – Stockport Image Archive

It is bounded by the former Burton’s store, the long gone BHS now home to Poundland, a later extension to the precinct and a Nineteenth century building. Illustrating the mongrel nature of many English towns, the result of world wars, speculative development and town planning.

It’s a self contained world of loading, unloading unloved and overused.

Home to the pirate parker, carelessly avoiding the imposition of the municipal surcharges.

Shops and goods come and go part of the merry retail gavotte.

The trams once clang, clang, clanged along and the Picture House opened 2nd June 1913, later The Palladium, finally closing in 1956 – now occupied by a huge Charity Shop – Highway Hope.

The Merseyway construction is a modern amalgam of mosaic, brick and cast concrete.

The older brick building now almost rendered and coated in off white exterior emulsion.

There are signs of life and former lives.

This is a nether world that never really was a world at all.

The place where the sun almost doesn’t shine.

And the blue sky seems like an unwelcome intrusion.

So as the retail sector contracts and the virus remains viral – wither Serveway Five?

The Council purchased the development at no cost to taxpayers via the current income stream. The rationale for purchase was to create a sustainable future for the centre via a series of targeted redevelopments. Key aspirations for the centre will be to fully integrate it into the town centre. We also want it to complement our exciting ownerships such as Debenhams, Redrock and Market Place and Underbanks.

The investment will seek to change perceptions of not only the retail offer but also Stockport as a whole. It will ultimately create a town centre that will benefit the local business community and Stockport residents.

Bagnall Court and West View Court – Manchester

Tucked in the crook of West View Road and Shawcross Lane a tower block and an adjacent slab block can be found.

For twenty years or so I’d cycled close by, either on Longley or Ford Lane on my way back and to from work.

By night the blocks are a sight to be seen, illuminated alongside the nearby M60.

Let’s take a look at Bagnall Court.

Originally commissioned by Manchester Borough Council, built by Direct Works and contractors Holst, currently managed by Parkway Green.

Consisting of thirteen storeys and sixty two homes.

The balconies were open and shielded in glass, later to be replaced by thick metal sheeting.

1987 – Tower Block

2020

Around the corner to West View Court – also commissioned by Manchester Borough Council, built by Direct Works and contractors Holst, currently managed by Parkway Green.

Nine storeys in height containing seventy three homes.

1987 – Tower Block

2020 – the distinctive coloured panels and glass shields now replaced.

Beneath the block an amazing void, entrance and stairway.

West View Court has an amazing community cinema The Block.

Hanover Chapel – Stockport

The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.

Italo Calvino – Invisible Cities

Paul Dobraszczyk posted this Shirley Baker photograph, he was puzzled by its exact location, it puzzled me too.

For nearly all that is depicted here, is now no longer extant, save one hopes, for the group of playmates.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

Manifesto of the Communist Party

Shirley Baker was a renowned documentary photographer, who worked extensively in Greater Manchester.

I love the immediacy of unposed, spontaneous photographs and the ability of the camera to capture the serious, the funny, the sublime and the ridiculous. Despite the many wonderful pictures of the great and famous, I feel that less formal, quotidian images can often convey more of the life and spirit of the time.

Her photograph was taken in Stockport 1967 – I first assumed it was taken from St Mary’s Church, looking toward the former power station.

I was mistaken.

Using the Stockport Image Archive, I found the possible site, in this photograph of Tiviot Dale Station.

There on the eastern edge of Lancashire Hill – Hanover Chapel.

Seen here on the maps of 1917 and 1936.

An area of intense activity, road, rail, housing and infrastructure.

Hanover Chapel closed 1962 – though we may assume from Shirley Baker’s photograph, that following its demolition the graveyard remained intact but untended.

The chapel still extant can be see in the 1954 film Hobson’s Choice, directed by David Lean and starring John Mills, seen here awaiting his bride to be – the parish church of St Mary’s on the skyline.

Though closer examination reveals that this is not Hanover Chapel – where did those pillars come from?

Where are we, in a labyrinth of invention with a superimposed Stockport backdrop?

My thanks to Robert Collister for these observations.

Improbably out of time, the cooling towers are yet to be built, or blown up.

Here John is joined by Salford born Brenda Doreen Mignon de Banzie, playing Maggie.

The demolished chapel rubble appears in the foreground of Albert Finney’s gold Roller CB 1E in Charlie Bubbles.

The film’s screenplay was the work of Shelagh Delaney, whose previous work A Taste of Honey also used local locations.

Where Finney has pulled up, feeling proper poorly.

As a serendipitous symmetry, Charlie Bubbles co-star Liza Minelli plays a photographer recording Salford’s disappearing streets.

Bit by bit everything disappears, Tiviot Dale Station closed completely on January 2nd 1967.

Where once there was a continuous run from the chapel to the town centre, the motorway has since intervened.

The Tiviot Dale pub on the right is no more, closed in 2013.

We had people from all parts of the country turn up on our final day, some of them brought their children who wanted to come because they remember the pub so fondly from their childhood. It was really humbling to see that our pub had touched so many lives.

Dave Walker landlord.

The King’s Head/Full Shilling on the left closed in 2015, though still standing.

I remember this pub as a Boddingtons house in the 1970’s. Excellent bitter served by handpump from small vault at the front and a larger “best room” behind, both very narrow given the width of the pub. The landlord employed an unusual method of ensuring everyone got a full pint; a half pint glass of beer was kept between the pumps and your pint was topped up from the half which was constantly replenished to keep it fresh. I have not seen this practice in any other pub.

Phil Moran

When’s the next tram due?

Millgate Power Station operated until 1976.

At the adjacent gas works – gas holder number three was dismantled in 1988, gas holders one and two were removed in 2019.

The nature of infrastructure, housing and industry has changed radically.

Lancashire Hill flats were built in the 60s, designed by City Architect JS Rank, two seven storey blocks containing 150 dwellings; two six storey blocks containing 120 dwellings.

Replacing tight rows of terraced housing.

They themselves clad and revamped.

The Nicholson’s Arms built to serve the flats closed and currently empty, signs say to let – replaced an earlier pub, sited on the corner of long gone Nicholson Sstreet.

The Motorway appears piecemeal in 1974, formerly the M63 now M60.

Today from the road there’s simply no trace of the site’s past purpose.

At the centre of what is now a compact civic grassed area – a trough.

Incongruously in memory of Elizabeth Hyde of Tufnell Park Road London.

The dense stand of trees is impenetrable – no longer a view of the non existent power station and beyond.

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

Isiah 58:12

As a footnote I did meet brothers Stephen, Derek and Peter who appeared in this Shirley Baker photograph 55 years ago – she promised them an ice cream each – they never got an ice cream.

They are seen in Sunnyside Street Ordsall – long since demolished.

A commemorative plaque from the Chapel still exists, sited now on the wall of Wycliffe Congregational Church Georges Road Stockport.

Archival Images – Stockport Image Archive

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.

Deneway Stockport Again

Here we are again then – having stopped to snap this July.

I’ve gone completely round the bend and over the hill – just by leaving my own abode, situated just below Deneway.

Early morning low light on wet roads, the mixed palette of brick simply glows.

Walls fleetingly adorned with shadows of birch and willow.

Marilyn Hair Salon – East Didsbury

12 Gawsworth Ave Manchester M20 5NF

This is not the first time that I have crossed the threshold of a hair salon – having done so first in Failsworth, keeping company with Sheila Gregory and her chatty clientele.

Both Sheila and Marilyn preserve something of the past, not just in fixtures and fittings, but also in something of an old world charm. A land of shampoos and sets, lacquer and curlers, conviviality and coffee cups.

On the day of our chance encounter here in East Didsbury, we are all experiencing the first week of Covid lockdown – the salon is ostensibly closed, yet Marilyn was kind enough to allow us a few socially distanced moments to stop, snap and chat.

She has been here since 1963, nothing and everything has changed. She had intended to retire some time ago, but on the death of her husband she decided to continue cutting and curling, three days a week, living above the shop, doing just enough.

The interior is largely as was, mirrored, Formica topped and charming – with a delightful reception seating area.

All so lovingly cared for – Marilyn was using the current closure to keep up with the upkeep, washing towels and sweeping up.

I worked as quickly as possible not wishing to compromise anyone’s well-being. As ever on these occasions it is a privilege to be permitted to spend time in someone else’s world, thanks ever so Marilyn.

let’s take a quick look around.

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

Sharston Bus Depot – Manchester

Bradnor Rd Sharston Industrial Area

Wythenshawe Manchester M22 4TE

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.

Mainstream Modern

The building is Grade II* listed

Historic England

Manchester Local Image Collection1954

Walking from our house to Sharston, this was the furthest point west – I kept on walking towards the security gates, they opened – I snapped, they closed.

This is now the home of Manchester Airport Parking – no place for a pedestrian, I walked away, slowly circumnavigating this uplifting, uplifted behemoth.

I walked home.

I once was glazed but now I’m clad – how sad!

Elaine Harwood

Hamilton Street – Ashton under Lyne

Prompted by Gillian and Adam’s – A Different North project, my thoughts turned once again to notions of the North, similar notions have been considered in my previous posts:

A Taste of the North and A Taste of Honey.

I recalled the 2016 season Sky Football promotional film, it had featured a street in Ashton under Lyne, it had featured Hamilton Street.

A street spanning the West End and the Ryecroft areas of the town, the town where I had lived for most of my teenage years. The town where my Mam was born and raised in nearby Hill Street, nearby West End Park where my Grandad I had worked, nearby Ashton Moss and Guide Bridge.

This is an area familiar to me, which became the convergent point of a variety of ideas and images, mediated in part by the mighty Murdoch Empire.

Here was the coming together of coal and cotton, an influx of population leaving the fields for pastures new.

In the film, Leytonstone London born David Beckham is seen running down the snow covered northern street.

A credit to our emergent mechanical snow generation industry.

According to snowmakers.com, it takes 74,600 gallons of water to cover a 200 by 200-foot plot with 6 inches of snow. Climate change is cutting snow seasons short, we make snow to compensate, more energy is spent making snow, more coal is burned, more CO2 is released.

The Inertia

It is to be noted that locally there has been a marked decline in snowfall in recent years, the Frozen North possibly a thing of the past.

The temperatures around the UK and Europe have actually got warmer over the last few decades, although when you are out de-icing your car it may not actually feel as though it has. Whilst this can not be directly link to climate change, it is fair to assume that climate change is playing a part.

The Naked Scientists

It is also to be noted that Sky Supremo Rupert Murdoch has described himself as a climate change “sceptic”.

Appearing arms raised outside of the home of a family clustered around the television, in their front room.

Filming the ad was great and the finished piece is a really clever way of showing that you never know what might happen in football, I always enjoy working with Sky Sports and I’m proud to be associated with their football coverage.

The Drum

The area does have a football heritage, Ashton National Football Club played in the Cheshire County League in the 1920s and 1930s. They were sometimes also known as Ashton National Gas, due to their connections with the National Gas and Oil Engine Company based in the town.

Illustrative of a time when sport and local industry went hand in glove.

The National Ground was subsequently taken over by Curzon Ashton who have since moved to the Tameside Stadium.

Ashton & Hyde Village Hotels occupy the front of shirt sponsors spot on our new blue and white home shirt, while Seed of Speed, our official conditioning partners, feature on the arm, and Minuteman Press occupy the back of the shirt. Meanwhile, Regional Steels UK Ltd. are the front of shirt sponsors on our new pink and black away kit. 

Illustrative of a time when sport and local industry continue to work hand in glove.

Local lad Gordon Alexander Taylor OBE  is a former professional footballer. He has been chief executive of the English footballers’ trades union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, since 1981. He is reputed to be the highest paid union official in the world.

His mobile phone messages were allegedly hacked by a private investigator employed by the News of the World newspaper. The Guardian reported that News International paid Taylor £700,000 in legal costs and damages in exchange for a confidentiality agreement barring him from speaking about the case.

News International is owned by our old pal Rupert Murdoch, the News of the World no longer exists.

The view of Hamilton Street closely mirrors LS Lowry’s Street Scene Pendlebury – the mill looming large over the fierce perspective of the roadway. The importance of Lowry’s role in constructing a popular image of the North cannot be overestimated.

He finds a grim beauty in his views of red facades, black smoke and figures in white, snowy emptiness. He is a modern primitive, an industrial Rousseau, whose way of seeing is perhaps the only one that could do justice to the way places like Salford looked in the factory age.

The Guardian

For many years cosmopolitan London turned its back on Lowry, finally relenting with a one man show at the Tate in 2013 – I noted on the day of my visit, that the attendant shop stocked flat caps, mufflers and bottled beer, they seemed to have drawn the line at inflatable whippets.

Drawing upon other artists’s work, in a continuous search for ways to depict the unlovely facts of the city’s edges and the landscape made by industrialisation.

But Murdoch’s Hamilton Street is as much a construct as Lowry’s – the snow an expensive technical coating, Mr Beckham a CGI apparition. Our contemporary visual culture is littered with digital detritus, saving time and money, conjuring up cars, kids and footballers at will.

An illusion within an illusion of an illusory North.

Green screen chroma keyed onto the grey tableau.

Mr Beckham himself can also be seen as a media construct, for many years representing that most Northern of institutions Manchester United – itself yet another product of image manipulation, its tragic post-Munich aura encircling the planet, with an expensive Empire Made, red and white scarf of cultural imperialism.

David’s parents were fanatical Manchester United supporters who frequently travelled 200 miles to Old Trafford from London to attend the team’s home matches, he inherited his parents’ love of Manchester United, and his main sporting passion was football.

Mr B’s mentor was of course former Govan convener – Mr A Ferguson, who headed south to find his new Northern home, creating and then destroying the lad’s career, allegedly by means of boot and hairdryer.

Here we have the traditional Northern Alpha Male challenged by the emergent Metrosexual culture, celebrity fragrances, posh partner, tattooed torso, and skin conditioner endorsements.

It is to be noted that the wealth of the region, in part created by the shoemaking and electrical industries, have long since ceased to flourish, though still trading, PIFCO no longer has a local base.

The forces of free market monopoly capitalism have made football and its attendant personalities global commodities, and manufacturing by and large, merely a fanciful folk memory.

Hamilton Street would have provided substantial homes to workers at the Ryecroft Cotton Mills.

Ryecroft Mill, built in 1837,was the second of a series of four mills built on the site, the first was built in 1834. In 1843, over 10,000 people were employed in Ashton’s cotton mills – today there are none.

This industrial growth was far from painless and Ashton along with other Tameside towns, worked long and hard in order to build the Chartist Movement, fighting to establish better working conditions for all.

The tradition of political and religious non-conformity runs wide and deep here, the oft overlooked history of Northern character and culture.

Textile production ceased in the 1970s and the mill is now home to Ryecroft Foods, a subsidiary of Weetabix.

Ashton like many of Manchester’s satellite towns created enormous wealth during the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries. The workers of Ashton saw little of that wealth, the social and economic void left by the rapid exodus of the cotton industry to the Far East, is still waiting to be filled, in these so called left behind towns.

Photo Ron Stubley

Here is a landscape nestled in the foot of the Pennines, struggling to escape its past and define a future.

Census 2011

St John The Baptist RC – Rochdale

I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit St John’s several times over the years and doubly pleased to visit with a group of some 30 Modernists in March 2020 as part of a Rochdale Walk, prior to the lockdown days later.

I cannot thank Christine Mathewson and her fellow volunteers enough for the warm welcome we were given. They take such pride in their church and are eager to convey that pride along with their obvious erudition.

Approaching from the adjacent railway station we could not fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the church, a wonderful mix of the Byzantine and restrained Art Deco – most clearly expressed in the sculptural angels looming high above the tram stop.

The building is Grade II* Listed and deservedly so – details can be found here on the Historic England site.

The original design pre-1917 by Oswald Hill, executed in 1923-25 by Ernest Bower Norris. Henry Oswald Hill was a promising architect with a clear interest in contemporary church-building trends, as evidenced here and at the nearby RC Church of St Joseph, Heywood, he was tragically killed in action in the First World War.

St Joseph’s

The church uses concrete to its advantage in the construction of the striking, 20m-wide central dome, surrounded by the delicate touch of several arched stained glass windows at the perimeter.

Illuminating the concave space in a heavenly manner.

The apsed sanctuary contains an encompassing mosaic scheme of powerful emotional intensity designed by leading mosaic designer, Eric Newton of specialist firm Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd.

The mosaic is breathtaking in scale, design and execution – nothing can prepare you for its impact as you enter the church.

The quality of the sanctuary mosaic is further enhanced by the use of high-quality tesserae made of stone, coloured marbles and coloured glass, set off by a shimmering background of gold tesserae.

The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.

Historic England

The whole building is full of surprising details of the highest quality.

Lit by simplest yet most effective stained glass.

This is an exemplary building, on entering one is filled with both calm and awe, an experience which is never diminished by subsequent visits.

The mosaic work is on local and international significance – it is unthinkable that it may ever be lost to us, or that funding was not forthcoming to secure its future into perpetuity.

I implore you to visit, whensoever that may be possible.

Please take a moment append your comments on this post and play some small part in ensuring the St John’s is preserved for generations to come.

Bollards

As I was out walking on the corner one day, I spied an old bollard in the alley he lay.

To paraphrase popular protest troubadour Bob Dylan.

I was struck by the elegant symmetry and rough patinated grey aggregate.

To look up on the world from a hole in the ground,
To wait for your future like a horse that’s gone lame,
To lie in the gutter and die with no name?

I mused briefly on the very word bollards, suitable perhaps for a provincial wine bar, Regency period drama, or family run drapers – but mostly.

bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post. The term originally referred to a post on a ship or quay used principally for mooring boats, but is now also used to refer to posts installed to control road traffic and posts designed to prevent ram-raiding and vehicle-ramming attacks.

The term is probably related to bole, meaning a tree trunk.

Wikipedia

Having so mused I began to wander a tight little island of alleys and homes, discovering three of the little fellas, each linked by typology and common ancestry, steadfastly impeding the ingress of the motor car.

Yet also presenting themselves as mini works of utilitarian art – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Having returned home I began another short journey into the world of bollards, where do they come from?

Townscape Products

Hostile Vehicle Mitigation

Huge range • Fast delivery • Right on price

PAS 68 approved protection for your people and property combining security, natural materials and style.

My new pals seem to be closely related to the Reigate.

Available in a mind boggling range of finishes.

Bollards can be our friends, an expression of personal freedom and security.

A pensioner says he will go to court if necessary after putting up concrete bollards in a last-ditch attempt to protect his home.

Owen Allan, 74, of Beaufort Gardens, Braintree, claims motorists treat the housing estate like a race track, driving well in excess of the 20mph speed limit, and that the railings in front of his home have regularly been damaged by vehicles leaving the road.

He was worried it would only be a matter of time before a car came careering off Marlborough Road and flying through the wall of his bungalow.

Braintree and Witham Times

Though on occasion may be perceived as an enemy of personal liberty, precipitating a head on collision with the local authority.

A furious family have been stopped from parking on their own driveway after bullyboy council officials installed concrete bollards outside their home.

We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea here what the with yellow lines and the bollards.

Daily Express

I have cause to thank the humble concrete bollard, having suffered an assault on our front wall from a passing pantechnicon, I subsequently petitioned the council, requiring them to erect a substantial bollard barrier.

Which was subsequently hit by a passing pantechnicon.

They are our modernist friends, little gems of public art and should treated with due respect – think on.

You hostile vehicles.

Russell Gardens – Stockport

I live just around the corner and often walk by, intrigued by this small rectangle of rectangular sheltered homes, I chose to take a closer look.

On adjoining Craig Road there are a group of interwar semi-detached homes, social housing built in 1930, facing on to open ground which leads down to the Mersey.

There is an arc of post war social housing on Hamilton Crescent, which surrounds Russell Gardens.

The homes that constitute Russell Gardens built in 1947 were illustrated in the town’s 1948/49 guide book, considered to be something of value.

Designed as a diminutive Garden Village, smaller in scale to those found in Burnage or Fairfield, but based on the principle of shared green space and community services.

In the 1970s the land to the south, now occupied by the Craig Close development, was yet to be built upon.

And the Cadbury Works still stood close by on the Brighton Road Industrial Estate:

Built in the late 1800s this was originally Silver Spoon (Pan) Fruit Processing Works, then in the 1920s was Faulders’ Cocoa and Chocolate Works. By the 1930s it was Squirrel Chocolate Works and in 1960s became a distribution depot for Cadbury’s. A friend remembers playing among the pallets of the ‘chocolate factory’ in the 1950s. Later it was occupied by small businesses. The works comprises a large rectangular block with sawtooth roof, and central entrance house with tall chimney. The adjacent rail line, built in 1880, branched into the site.

28 Days Later

Recently replaced by a car dealership.

Though many of the surrounding homes were sold off during the Right to Buy era:

After the election of May 1979 a new Conservative government drafted legislation to provide a Right to Buy but, because this would not become law until October 1980, also revised the general consent (May 1979) to enable sales with higher discounts matching those proposed in the new legislation. The numbers of sales completed under this general consent exceeded previous levels. Between 1952 and 1980 over 370,000 public sector dwellings were sold in England and Wales. Almost a third of these were in 1979 and 1980 and it is evident that higher discounts generated and would have continued to generate higher sales without the Right to Buy being in place.

Russell Gardens remains the estate of Stockport Homes managed as sheltered housing for the over 60s.

  • Retirement housing
  • 33 one bedroom flats built in 1947
  • Non-resident part time management staff and Careline alarm service
  • Lounge, Laundry, Garden

The houses are now some fifty years old and in good order, the residents with whom I spoke, seemed more than happy with their homes.

Would that more and more affordable homes for folks of all ages could be built.

The post-war consensus and political will that created this upsurge in construction, has been swept away by market forces.

Let’s take a look at the vestiges of more enlightened times.

Fred Perry Way – Hazel Grove To Woodford

Having started in the middle, let’s fast forward to the end – the beginning will have to wait.

We take up our walk along Fred’s Way once more by Mirrlees Fields.

Following the brook along the narrow shallow valley, betwixt and between houses.

Briefly opening out into green open space.

Crossing the road and entering the detached world of the detached house.

No two the same or your money back!

Diving feet first into Happy Valley, home to the Lady Brook stream.

And quickly out again.

Emerging once again into the space between spaces.

The suburban idyll of the Dairyground Estate home to very few semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers; those on state benefit/unemployed, and lowest grade workers.

But home to an interesting array of Post War housing.

Including examples of the style de jour, à la mode conversions and updates extended and rendered, black, white and grey symbols of success or extensive extended credit facilities.

Though the more traditional fairy tale variant still has a space and place, in the corner of some well behaved cul de sac.

Under the railway – through a low tunnel darkly.

We struck oil, black gold, Texas Tea – Tate Oil.

The area of Little Australia – so called as all the roads are named after towns in Australia, is bordered by the West Coast Main Line to the north, the Bramhall oil terminal to the east, Bramhall village centre to the west and Moorend Golf Club to the south.

We emerged into a warren of obfuscation, dead ends and conflicting signs, having made enquiries of the passing populace, we realigned with the new bypass.

Passing over the conveniently placed footbridge over the bypass and beyond.

Emerging amongst faux beams and real Monkey Puzzles.

It was at this point that, unbeknownst to us, we followed a twisted sign, misdirecting us along an overgrown path – to Handforth.

We failed, in the end we failed to arrive to arrive at the end.

Heading west like headless chickens towards the Turkey Farm.

Making our way mistakenly to Handforth Dean Retail Park – rear of.

Crossing slip roads with no pedestrian access and the forbidden territory of an industrial sized gymnasium car park.

Woodford will just have to wait, another day another dolorous excursion.

We walked wearily back to Stockport.

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.

Georges Road Stockport

Once they built a railroad.

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 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.

Closed in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986.

The blue arrow indicates the Tiviot Dale Station.

in the age of steam mainline St Pancras trains and local stoppers flew by.

My interest lies in the small portion of track at the end of Georges Road – I worked as a Guide Bridge goods guard in and out of the scrap yard there, in the Seventies.

Now I walk past almost every day and it’s almost all gone.

The bridge which it supported now demolished, time called long ago in the long lost Gardeners Arms – originally a Bell’s Brewery pub latterly a Robinsons house.

What remains is a triangular island faced in glazed and blue engineer’s brick, topped out with trees.

I have entertained the idea of accessing the area by ladder, exploring and possibly setting up camp – though I think the proximity to an almost constant flow of traffic, would prove less than commodious.

It evokes for me an elevated affinity with Ballard’s Concrete Island.

He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.

So here it is as is complete with tags, signs, cracks and all.

It remains as a monument to those who built and worked on the railway.

Holloway Wall – 2020

Of course I’ve been here before – and you may have as well.

And I’ve been to Huyton too.

Tony Holloway’s work also illuminates the windows of Manchester Cathedral.

As well as the panels of the Faraday Tower, just the other side of UMIST.

The wall is listed, fenced and obscured by the gradual incursion of assorted greenery.

It’s beginning to attract moss, amongst other things – just not like a rolling stone.

Like nearly everything else, it looks different each time you pass by, more or less light, new tags and signs – so here it is as of Saturday 13th June 2020.

Locked in during the lockdown.

Fred Perry Way – 2009

Some time ago in Stockport Fred Perry was born, lived and moved away – in pretty rapid succession. Nevertheless the Borough claims him as their own and to celebrate the fact, they have devised a Way.

Not the way or an away day but a named way, the Fred Perry Way.

Stretching from North Reddish in the north to Woodford in the south – zigging and zagging through and across highways and byways, avenues and alleyways.

Combining rural footpaths, quiet lanes and river valleys with urban landscapes and park lands.

For the long distance walker it may be useful as a link route. The Fred Perry Way provides a link between the Bollin Valley Way, and through that, the North Cheshire Way, and via a short link between Mottram & Woodford, the Tame Valley Way and Etherow Goyt Valley Way at Stockport. A full crossing of historical North Cheshire could be devised, linking Black Hill & Crowden on the Pennine Way with Hilbre Island, utilising also the Wirral Way/Wirral Shore Way.

LDWA

Which seems like a whole heap of Ways.

Anyway this is what I saw way back when, but I’ll be back again in a bit!

Deneway Stockport

Deneway almost but not quite, literally on my doorstep:

High above the Mersey Valley and 70 meters above sea level Deneway Estate stands proud, affording views of the Pennine White Peak to the south east and nothing but some other houses in all other directions.

Built in 1964, by architects Mortimer & Partners it was an award winner from the word go – coming first in an Ideal Homes sponsored competition.

Very much in the tradition of the Span Estates, it consists of small groups of two and three storey terraced homes, with communal open, well tended front gardens. At the entrance to the estate stands a single low tower block of flats.

The architecture sits quietly and confidently in the landscape, well behaved, prim and proper. Interiors are open plan and afforded ample daylight by generous windows. Detailing is tiled and wood panelled, with low pitched roofs.

Jump the train, walk, cycle, bus or tram, but arrive with eyes and heart wide open to enjoy this suburban gem – it’s right up my street.

This was my very first piece that appeared on the old Manchester Modernist site way back in 2014.

Six years later I walked up the road again and found the flats clad in a funny colour cladding and the plaques moved, much else was as was. I assume, that under deed of covenant, fencing and guerilla gardening within open areas is verboten, along with fancy extensions.

The estate therefore retains its original integrity.

The sun in the meantime however – had gone in.

Here are the pages of Ideal Home which featured this award winning estate.

Wythenshawe Park – Bowls Pavilion

We were on a journey – retracing the route of Yuri Gagarin’s 1961 visit to Manchester, from Ringway to Brooks Bar.

Then all of a sudden we weren’t, having deviated from Princess Parkway into Wythenshawe Park.

Missing the opportunity to pass under the underpass.

A collective decision was made to pass under the cantilevered and much revered bowls and tennis pavilion.

The building opened in 1960, designed by L.C. Howitt City Architect.

I striking contrast to Wythenshawe Hall 1540 – recently restored following an arson attack, the bowls and tennis pavilion shows no inclination toward Tudorbethan revivalism.

Sleek and aloof supported by a single piloti, offering elevated and ground level views of the sporting areas.

Archive photographs of 1969 from the Local Image Collection.

Time, central government austerity and changes in leisure habits have not been kind to the building.

The manufacturers of security railings, grilles and shutters however, have continued to prosper unfettered.

A sadly tamed and poorly fed creature, standing next to the un-mown lockdown crown green arenas.

We were nonetheless arrested by what was and what may yet still be.