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.

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.

Heaton Norris Park – Stockport

Heaton Norris Park’s elevated position gives stunning views of the Stockport town centre skyline and of the Cheshire plain. The central position of the Park means that it is a green retreat for shoppers and local residents. Also it is within easy reach of the Stockport town centre. The land for this park was acquired by public subscription and as a gift from Lord Egerton. Work on laying out the site as a public park began in May 1873, and it was formally opened on June 5th 1875. Since then it has undergone a number of changes. The construction of the M60 has shaved several acres off the park’s size.

The park began life as Drabble Ash Pleasure Gardens – entrance strictly by token only, as commemorated on the BHS Murals in Merseyway.

5 November 1905 – Edward VII declares his eldest daughter The Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, the Princess Royal.

He also orders that the daughters of Princess Louise, Lady Alexandra Duff and Lady Maud Duff are to be styled as Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness.

So they built a big bonfire on bonfire night at Heaton Norris Park – sometimes they still do.

Picture courtesy of ©Phil Rowbotham

In 1935 the area seems to be little more than windswept cinders and thin forlorn grass, traversed by broad uneven paths – overlooking the dark industrial mire below.

Into the 1960s and although now there is the provision of a children’s play area, the park is still in need of a little more care and attention, the immediate surroundings a dense dark warren of industrial activity and terraced housing.

In 1968 the construction of two twelve storey Stockport County Borough Council residential blocks begins, alongside the recreation grounds, Heaton and Norris Towers, creating 136 new homes.

The 1970s sees the banked gardens bedded out with summer flowers and a crazy golf course on the edge of the bowling area. Both of these features are now a thing of the past, the future financing, care and maintenance of our parks is always precarious, especially during times of central government funding cuts and enforced austerity.

© John Davies

The park now has a Friends group to support it, along with I Love Heaton Norris. The area is cared for and used by all ages and interests children’s play, bowls, tennis, conservation area, football, picnic and floral areas – somewhere and something to be very proud of, social spaces for sociable people.

And much beloved of Natalie Bradbury the SS Norris concrete boat.

Take a walk over the concrete bridge or along Love Lane and treat yourself to a day in the park

Archive photographs Stockport Local Image Archive