Sheffield Streets

I had time to kill – in search of early Sunday morning visual thrills.

I took to the mean streets of Steeltown UK.

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.

Raymond Chandler 

It was 8am – low bright sun pierced the achingly empty space between the long high industrial buildings.

There was nobody to share the morning – yet the clearly audible kling and klang of work pervaded the air, along with the lingering aroma of engine oil and decay.

This is what I found:

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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.

 

Strangeways #3 – Black and White World

I’ve been here for the last fifteen years on and off, snapping away, capturing something of the area’s ever changing moods, the old, the new, the borrowed and the blue.

Wading through the archives, or searching for the remains of modernity.

On this occasion I have chosen to work on black and white film – the medium conveying something timeless, at a time when things are forever changing.

Let’s take a contradictory look and walk around those familiar, unfamiliar streets of Strangeways – where colourfully clad industrial barn, collides with blackened brick and stone behemoth.

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Strangeways Manchester #2

Way back in the Twentieth Century – Cheetwood Industrial Estate was built.

The future was functionalist flat-roofed, concrete, steel and brick boxes.

Adorned with the flowing scripts and signage of the multi-nationals, nationals and local companies, intent upon rendering corporeal the post-war optimism, attendant full-employment and the buoyant business of business.

Fast forward to the future – the roofs have been pitched up, the windows bricked up or shuttered or both, walls encased in sad cladding.

The semi-permanent signage replaced with terminally temporary vinyl.

Joe Sunlight’s neo-classical pediments have been painted a funny colour.

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Strangeways Manchester #1

Strangeways?

– How strange.

The Strangeways family themselves are certainly recorded in antiquity at the site, although the name appears differently over time; Strongways in 1306, Strangewayes in 1349 and Strangwishe in 1473. In the late 1500s in records at Manchester Cathedral the surname is spelt Strangwaies.

My thanks to Thomas McGrath for his – Long Lost Histories: Strangeways Hall, Manchester

Before panopticon prisons entered the public imagination, and incarceration was the order of the day for the disorderly, it was all fields around here – with the odd house or baronial hall.

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Swire’s map of 1824

Strange days, over time the prison is built, the assizes appears and disappears and tight groups of tired houses cluster around the incipient industry. The fiefdom’s of old become tie and tithe to successions of industrial plutocrats.

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Broughton Street 1910Photograph J Jackson

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Kelly’s map of 1920

The area becomes the centre of the city’s rag trade, a large Jewish Community, the largest outside of London, grows up around Strangeways, Cheetwood and Cheetham Hill – houses, mills, wholesale, retail, warehouse, ice palace, beer-house, brewery. The area is home to several of Joe Sunlight’s inter-war industrial developments – his Jewish family were named Schimschlavitch, his father a cotton merchant. The family emigrated to England in 1890 and settled in Manchester.

So much for Joe Soap – the area was also the location for local lads, Karl Marx, and Marks & Spencer.

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Derby Street 1901 – 1924

Further developments took place with the building of the Cheetwood Industrial Estate – a postwar group of flat-rooved, blocky brick and concrete utilitarian units.

So let’s take a look at the ever so strange streets of Strangeways, in that period of change during the latter part of the Twentieth Century, when manufacturing, retail, repair and distribution were almost, just about to disappear in a puff of globalisation, economic depression and Thatcherism. Where Jack and Jill the lads and lasses, traded, ducked, dived, wheeler dealed from Cortinas, Transits and low milage, one owner, luxuriously leather-seated and walnut-dashed Jags. A vanishing or vanished world, where however briefly – Manchester went architecturally mod.

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Bent Street

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Broughton Street

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Carnarvon Street

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Chatley Street

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Cheetwood Street

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Derby Street

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Julia Street

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Knowsely Street

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Sherbourne Street

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Stocks Street

All archival photographs from the Manchester Local Images Collection

 

 

Gorsey Bank – Stockport #3

Once there were homes – 200 homes tucked between the M60, River Mersey and A560 Stockport Road.

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I’ve been here before, many times, seen those homes demolished and the site returning  to nature, brambled and overgrown, as the long standing lampposts disappeared for scrap, the kerbs covered in thick grass and moss.

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Then the diggers arrived, the trees felled and the site cleared – no longer any trace remained of the lost homes of Gorsey Bank.

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Building commences, steel erected, fences, roads and paths instated.

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Welcome to the Aurora Industrial Park – open for business.

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Emerging from the houses, the undergrowth, the Mersey clay and sandstone – a shiny new assemblage of state of the art industrial sheds. I’ll  wander by from time to time, listen to the ghostly chatter of busy neighbours, going about their business.

Wait for the trees and brambles to take over again.

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