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.
Legend has it, that the ramp was the location for an unlikely encounter between architect Louis Kahn and top pop combo The Commodores.
The reception drop off was at first floor level and was accessed from street level by a helical ramp. My father’s dilapidated Renault 4 van gave up just near the top. Extremely embarrassed, my father asked Kahn to move over to the driver’s seat and steer, whilst he attempted to push the van the rest of the way. As he began to push a people carrier pulled up behind and out stepped a group of men who began to help. Soon the van was outside the reception and my father and Kahn thanked the men.
The young female receptionist was very excited: ‘Do you know who just pushed your car up the ramp? The Commodores!’
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,
Above the current market office is an impressive painted mural by art students from Dresden commissioned especially for the market in the 1950s in a Socialist Realist manner, depicting farming and industrial scenes.
The Gordon Cullen tiles have been renovated and re-sited within the exit corridor.
Still in clear view the stone relief work of John Skelton November 1956. Three of the eight column have incised Hornston stone works, depicting the activities of the CWS.
Get yourself there pronto – current restrictions considered of course.
Walking the stairwells, ramps and interlocking tiers, the curious pedestrian becomes aware of the ambition and complexity of the scheme. Often identified on local social media groups as an anachronistic eyesore, I feel that it is a thing of rare and precious beauty.
Knock most of the precinct down, free the river, but keep this wall and what is within.
Some are slaughtering imaginary white elephants, whilst others are riding white swans.
Currently under the ownership of Stockport Borough Council, changes are afoot.
Work to redevelop Adlington Walk in Stockport starts this week, as the first stage in the regeneration of the 55-year-old Merseyway shopping centre.
As of today work is still in Covid induced abeyance, it is still possible to walk the old revamped Adlington Walk. The future of retail in particular and town centres in general is in the balance, the best of the past and the finest of the new should be the watchword.
The future shopper is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.
This is where Merseyway Shopping Centre’s future lies.
CBRE Group Inc. is an American commercial real estate services and investment firm. The abbreviation CBRE stands for Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis. It is the largest commercial real estate services company in the world.
Their net worth as of January 28th 2021 is $21.18 Billion.
It is to be hoped that these dreams of entertainment and excitement, may be realised in the not too distant future.
In the meanest of mean times, in the mean time let’s have a look around.
The future moocher is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.
One of the great glories of cinema is that it has the power to take the mundane and make it magical. To most of us, car parks signify a world of pain, where fearsome red-and-white crash barriers dictate our fate and where finding a space is often like finding meaning in the collective works of Martin Lawrence. To others, they meant lost Saturday afternoons spent waiting for your mum to finally come out of Woolworths so you could rush home to catch Terrahawks.
Either way, car parks are grey and dull. In the movies, however, they are fantastic places, filled with high-level espionage, and high-octane chases.
I beg to differ, the cinema and TV has helped to define our perception and misconception of the car park.
The modern day pedestrian may reclaim, redefine and realise, that far from mundane each actual exemplar is different, in so many ways. The time of day, weather, light, usage, abusage, condition, personal demeanour and mood all shape our experience of this particular, modern urban space.
To walk the wide open spaces of the upper tier, almost touching the sky.
Is a far cry from the constrained space of the lower levels.
To walk the ramps with a degree of trepidation, visceral and fun.
This is an inversion of the car-centric culture, walking the concrete kingdom with a carbon-free footprint.
I was inspired by a recent viewing of All The Presidents Men to revisit my local multi-storey on Heaton Lane Stockport.
Cinematographer Gordon Hugh Willis Jr constructs a shadow world where informer and informed meet to exchange deep secrets, ever watchful, moving in and out of artificial light, tense and alert.
Look over your shoulder- there’s nobody there, and they’re watching you.
But they have been here.
Pay here, your time is time limited, your presence measured.
Let’s explore this demimonde together, wet underfoot, lit laterally by limited daylight, walking through the interspersed pools of glacial artificial glow.
Time’s up, check out and move on – tomorrow is another day, another car park; in a different town.
Cinema and car parks wedded forever in the collective popular cultural unconscious.
The BT Hunters – They came in search of paradise and found BT.
Many thanks to my partner in victimless crime – Mr Ryan Lloyd.
This is an atypical single storey building, with a raised central hall and butterfly roof, quite something.
Lots of utilitarian detail, mixing brick, glass and concrete, with pragmatic infrastructure grills and grids.
The upper glazed area an extended asymmetric, external delight.
To set the pulse racing a series of gorgeous Rose Carmine panels.
The angular porch displayed the BT Logo of 1991:
On 2 April 1991, the company unveiled a new trading name: BT accompanied by a new corporate identity designed by Wolff Olins and organisational structure focused on specific market sectors, reflecting the needs of different customers – the individual, the small business or the multinational corporation. The reorganisation was named ‘Project Sovereign’ to reflect the company’s commitment to meetings customers’ needs – ‘The Customer Is King’. Together with a succession of strategic alliances with telecommunications companies worldwide, these changes gave BT the ability to expand overseas.
Which prompted a brief yet uninformed discussion concerning the history of Telecom’s Corporate Identity.
So here’s a brief rundown logo lovers:
Previously the GPO was the umbrella grouping for both telephone and mail.
Sketch for the redesign of the GPO logo by MacDonald Gill in 1934 . The first approved version had two concentric circles but this was soon reduced to one. The annotations also mentions the typeface used as “Gill Sans” which had been created by MacDonald Gills’ brother Eric.
On my previous visit I was in fact apprehended by a uniformed officer, perturbed by my super-snappy happy behaviour. Following a protracted discussion, I convinced the eager young boy in blue, that my intentions were entirely honourable.
Themed bar and event restaurant concept with roller coaster service, hourly special effects shows and exploration tours.
The £300m Blackpool Central development will bring world-class visitor attractions to a landmark site on the famous Golden Mile. Along with new hotels, restaurants, food market, event square, residential apartments and multi-storey parking.
Chariots of the Gods inspires the masterplan for the long-awaited redevelopment. It’s the global publishing phenomenon, written by Swiss author Erich Von Däniken. Exploring alien encounters and unsolved mysteries of ancient civilisations.
Chariots Of The Gods will be the main theme for Blackpool Central. Including the anchor attraction – the UK’s first flying theatre.
A fully-immersive thrill ride that will create the incredible sensation of human flight.
Time it seems changes everything, stranger than fiction.
The Bonny Street Beast’s days are numbered – your local Brutalist pal is no more, wither Wilko’s?
Your piazza planters are waterlogged.
Your lower portals tinned up.
Your curious sculptural infrastructure sunken garden neglected and forlorn.
Your low lying out-rigger stares blankly yet ominously into space.
Likewise your tinted windows.
Your subterranean car park access aromatic and alienating.
So farewell old pal, who knows what fate awaits you, I only know you must be strong.
Not until we have taken a look into the future shall we be strong and bold enough to investigate our past honestly and impartially.
How often the pillars of our wisdom have crumbled into dust!
Here we are again, having posted a post way back when – on Seaside Moderne.
Where the whole tale is told – the tale of Borough Architect John Charles Robinson‘s inter-war Deco dream tempered by Municipal Classicism. A stretch of Pulhamite artificial rock cliffs 100ft high between the new gardens and the lower promenade constructed in 1923. The lower promenade at sea level was remodelled during 1923–5 with a colonnaded middle walk.
So here we are again September 2020, a country in Covid crisis bereft of crowds.
I took a short walk along its length – to the lift and back.
The Cabin Lift is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * It is a nationally rare type of seaside structure that is of interest as part of the history and development of certain seaside resorts * It is of a well-executed design and uses good-quality material to good effect that can be particularly appreciated from the upper promenade * It is a conspicuous and eye-catching structure especially when viewed to maximum effect from the lower promenade * The Cabin Lift’s architectural merit contributes significantly to Blackpool’s importance as a holiday resort of national and international renown.
It’s remarkable – here are my photographs from February 2020.
I advise you to get along and take a look, just as soon as humanly possible.
Recently John Mann was granted permission to snap the deserted interior.
The ghostly gasps of the exercising public exorcised forever.
Eileen Ayres, who has worked at Richard Dunns from before it even opened to the public said:
When I came here this place was super, super modern – state of the art. Now we’re moving to Sedbergh it is great to be in a state of the art facility again. The younger staff are so excited about the move to a new, modern sports centre.
I have a lot of memories of here, a lot of staff I’ve met and become friends with over the years. We’ve had a lot of events here, international events that have taken place here over the years. When Richard Dunn was new a lot of people wanted to hold these events here. Now we have a new leisure centre I hope some of these events come back to Bradford.
I started at 23, I said I was just coming for a year. Here we are 41 years later.
When asked if she thinks it is right to be closing down Richard Dunn she said:
In my heart no, but realistically it has to go. It is run down – it would be way too expensive to run or refurbish. You can’t keep putting money into old things.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.