Portwood Stockport

I often walk around here, the space enclosed by the River Tame and the M60, it was a maze of busy streets, home to peoples’ homes, industry, pubs, clubs and railways.

Much of that is now gone, either left to its own devices, untended rough empty ground, or overwritten by the newly built Tesco Extra and Porsche dealership.

But what was there?

Archi UK – Map 1913

Water Street, Portwood looking north, taken from Avenue Street. Looking underneath the railway bridge, on the left hand side, the first building used to be a public house called ‘The Beehive’, further along was Kent & Swarbrick’s Tripeworks, now a precision engineers, then North West Concrete Works – Easymix. On the right is Coxson’s Brushworks, then the Portwood Mill, Kershaw’s Tannery and the Meadow Mill at the bottom of the street. 

H Lees Stockport Image Archive 1968

The area was also home to the Blood Tub boxing ring.

Outside the Blood Tub Back Water Street Portwood.

Centre row left to right Billy Pitt Taylor Micky Pelham Jack Hulme Jo Moran owner John Morry Bobby Riley Laurie Glen a jockey

2nd row from the back – James Jimmy Rose.

Back row left to right – Charlie Dean An ambulance man Ike Irelands horse dealer – Team from Macclesfield.

Extreme right – Jo Mulrooney.

Front row left to right extreme left – Sidney Smith soft Sidney – a simpleton Jo Hulme.

Copied from a photograph lent by Eddie Pitt 

 

Alligator Rainweara British company, whose main factory was based in Beehive Mill. It was best known for its 1960s collaborations with Mary Quant in the design and production of her Wet Look collection of PVC raincoats.

The firm was started after the First World War by Reuben Satinoff, who had previously founded the London Waterproof Company – Silkimac. It was taken over by his sons after the Second World War. For decades, it manufactured traditional weatherproof raincoats in black, brown and beige, but the collaboration with Quant led to new fabrics including PVC and nylon, and a range of bright and vibrant colours.

At its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, Alligator had a turnover of £5 million per year and was exporting its products to Europe and North America. It was later owned by Baker Street Brands who describe it as one of their heritage brands.

Viewed from Tiviot Dale Viaduct

Tiviot Dale station was located on 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 was situated at the bottom of Lancashire Hill, next to the present motorway bridge. It was opened on 1 December 1865  and was originally known as Stockport Teviot Dale. From 1880, Tiviot Dale was also served by long-distance trains running on the Manchester South District Railway to London St Pancras.

Tiviot Dale 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.

The lines through the station remained in heavy use by coal trains heading for Fiddlers Ferry power station near Warrington from the Woodhead Line. These, however, ceased in 1980 when damage was caused to the nearby Tiviot Dale tunnel during construction work on the M63 motorway – now M60 motorway and the line temporarily closed for safety reasons. The closure was made permanent west of Bredbury’s stone terminal in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986 and the tunnel partially filled in. The area surrounding the station was further altered at the beginning of the 21st century to allow the construction of a supermarket and office buildings, which now block the old trackbed.

Wikipedia

Portwood Railway Station was on the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway – later becoming part of Cheshire Lines Committee – Glazebrook to Woodley line. According to Bolger it opened to passengers on 12 January 1863, along with the rest of the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway, although Butt suggests it opened on 1 December 1865 when the Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway opened.

The station opened for goods traffic in 1865, closing to passengers on 1 September 1875, when it became a goods station. It remained in use until 25 April 1966 when it closed except for coal traffic which continued until 27 March 1972 when it closed entirely except for a private siding.

Today no trace of the station remains, the site being buried under a slip road of the M60 motorway.

Monica Clarke on her tricycle in Marsland Street, behind her across the cobbled street is the Sheba Works – 1951.

Marsland Street east, showing the Haymarket Chambers – 1967

The front of Haymarket Chambers Marsland Street.

Boarded up dwellings on Compstall Court, off Marsland Street.

Portwood Cut 1968

James Harrison bought the manor of Brinnington in the early 1780’s – by 1790 Harrison had three factories in Portwood and others were to follow. In 1796, to provide sufficient water-power to this industrial zone he constructed a substancial millrace. Known as the Portwood Cut, it carried water across the Tame, between his Reddish and Brinnington estates. Harrison also planned the construction of factories at Wood Hall but that particular scheme was abandoned after his death in 1806.

Harrison’s Weir still survives on the river. To the south sections of the Portwood Cut also survive within Reddish Vale Country Park, both as a shallow depression and as water-filled, if somewhat silted and overgrown channel.

Reddish Vale Country Park

Kershaws is one of the only original businesses which still trades in the area.

Established back in 1855 by Joshua Kershaw, the company has gone from strength to strength.

Way back then, it was just a tannery. Today, seven generations on, Edward Kershaw heads a company that is known and respected for it’s quality leather in Europe, America and the Far East.

Kershaws also provide white leather for masonics and bagpipes.

Brewery Street – a view of the steps leading to the railway footpath to Tame Street – 1967.

The mill in the foreground is the Portwood Spinning Mill now called Portwood Mill – on the front of the mill it states Sir Richard Arkwright Portwood Mill.

Employees – Portwood Spinning Company

Coal drops and yard at the rear of the Beehive Spinning Mill

Tame Street gave motorized access to the Cut and here the caravans of travelling folk were parked several times a year, usually until the police ‘moved them on’. The men collected and sold scrap metal, the women sold clothes pegs and told fortunes from door to door. Many of the local people treated them with suspicion and some local pubs would not admit them.

Building work on Lancashire Hill can be seen in the background – 1968 

In 1971 Daniel Meadows visited the Traveller’s Camp and produced this series of photographs, published by Café Royal Books.

From the series: Gypsies and Travellers, Stockport, 1971

© Daniel Meadows

Aerial view 1976

General view of Portwood, seen from the railway bridge on Lancashire Hill.

The Alligator Rainwear factory can be seen in the top right of the picture – 1979

By 1982 the motorway has arrived – and the railway un-arrived.

In a relatively short space of time things come and go and are easily forgotten, their remnants all but erased from the landscape and memory.

Stockport Viaduct

Stockport Viaduct, carries the West Coast Main Line across the valley of the River Mersey in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. It is one of the largest brick structures in the United Kingdom, as well as a major pioneering structure of the early railway age.

Stockport Viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. Work began in 1839 and was completed in 1840. Roughly 11 million bricks were used in its construction; at the time of its completion, it was the world’s largest viaduct and a major feat of engineering. The viaduct is 33.85 metres high. Stockport Viaduct is a Grade II* listed structure  and remains one of the world’s biggest brick structures.

In the late 1880s, the viaduct was widened to accommodate four tracks instead of two. In the 1960s, overhead catenary lines were installed by British Rail for the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme. In the second half of the twentieth century, the M60 motorway was built, passing through two arches of the viaduct.

Wikipedia

The structure is central to the visual landscape of the town – it has been the subject of both literature and art, most notably in the work of LS Lowry.

I believe that this composite composition of a northern landscape, is firmly embedded in the psyche of Stopfordians.

A notion that we are able to apprehend the whole of the structure in one panoramic sweep.

Our present perceptions are inextricably linked to past experience, possibly an illusory past.

It even featured in a feature film – A Taste Of Honey

My photograph below, was taken before access was prohibited.

Though has this uncluttered view ever actually existed?

The area has been a constantly evolving jumble of buildings, in, under and around the viaduct.

This raises the question – when did you last see your viaduct?

I live moments away on Didsbury Road – so why not take a look, circumnavigating the site in search of an answer?

From the recently constructed pedestrian and cycleway a view south across multiple roadways.

Approaching the arches from the west.

Looking east from Wellington Road North and the newly constructed A5154 link road.

Looking along the M60.

Looking along Heaton Lane, to the left Regent House.

Looking along the River Mersey

The Lowry Steps.

The view over the soon to be redeveloped Bus Station.

The view along Daw Bank.

One of the most complete perspectives along Swaine Street.

Swaine Street and Astley Street junction.

Crossing the new bridge to Heaton Lane.

Looking back towards the Crown Inn.

The view over Kwik Fit.

Looking east along the River Mersey, beside the rear of Weir Mill.

The view between the Stagecoach Bus Depots.

Looking east along Daw Bank.

Another clear perspective along Viaduct Street.

Beside Weir Mill.

Beneath the M60.

Looking east along Travis Brow.

This is one cold day in Covid February, the traffic a little lighter, few folk on foot.

Another day would produce another series of views, the light shifts, leaves appear on trees, the regeneration of Stockport sees the built environment shift and shimmy with an alarming regularity.

The landscape formed by the second Ice Age, gouging out a glacial valley and subsequently a conjoined river, is all part of a passing parade; it is acted out over millennia, you yourself are party to but one small part, make the most of it, get out and about take a look.

All this life is but a play, be thou the joyful player.

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.

I am grateful to Stephen Bann who has identified the monument as the Bann Family vault:

Stephen Bann and his younger brother – many thanks for the text and photograph Stephen.

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 is thought be seen in the 1954 film Hobson’s Choice, directed by David Lean and starring John Mills, 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 Street.

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 ever received 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

Factory – Windmill Lane Denton

I’ve cycled by here for some fifty years or more – always admiring its serrated roof.

Way back when we would roam around on our bikes, exploring the waste ground adjacent to Jackson’s Brickworks.

Where we would scavenge tape from the Rotunda tip.

I remember it as a Remploy Centre.

My last 13 years prior to retirement last May were spent at the centre, on Windmill Lane, Denton. Just before I left, a lot of demolition work was done, prior to redevelopment of much of the site.

I seem to remember the place always being referred to locally as Th’ Rehab – the Rehabilitation Centre, a Government training centre, where skills were taught, such as joinery, bricklaying etc, and there was also a Remploy Unit housed there.

Local men could go for a free haircut, administered by a well supervised trainee.

Denton History

1949 Manchester Local Image Collection

It is listed in a 1968 directory of rehabilitations centres.

Currently forming part of Tameside Business Park with multiple occupancy.

Proximity to the M60, seen here under construction is paramount to its future success.

This former production plant for concrete components is now sadly partitioned and houses a number of businesses, only one of which still has a manufacturing base. The engineer for the project was also the client; reinforced concrete engineers, Matthews & Mumby. The intention was to create large floor areas, free from columns, to accommodate fourteen casting beds of about fifty metres in length. The structure of the two sheds was formed from arch units assembled on the ground, jacked into position and post-tensioned to form large tied span arches. Each arch spans approximately thirty metres and was designed to carry up to fourteen one tonne loads along the monorail hangers that ran the length of the factory, centred to each casting bed and suspended from the arches. Lantern section glazing hugs the curve of the arches that act as a reflective surface to provide an even light across the factory floor. The rails and hangers added a further louvered filter to the light, described at the time as ‘the ‘venetian blind’ effect. Originally the elevation between the V shaped columns was also glazed, this has now been filled and significantly reduces the aesthetic presence of the exposed structure and a distinctly ‘modern’ building of the time. 

Mainstream Modern – my thanks to Richard Brook for the text and archive images.

So one sunny day last week, on a lockdown walk I went to take a look around.

The addition of cladding is never an uplifting sight on any site – the integrity of the building is seriously challenged.

Sometimes a former Rehabilitation Centre can do without rehabilitation it seems.

Redrock – Stockport

Much maligned, universally loathed – the Stockport leisure facility everyone loves to hate.

What’s the story?

No more darkness, no more night.
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord, I saw the Light
.

1900

The area between Princes Street and Bridgefield Street was a tight warren of housing, shops and industry, eventually demolished in the 1970s, designated as slum clearance.

Prior to the arrival of the ring road the space remained undeveloped and turned over to car parking.

Little changes as the M60 is opened.

Images TS Parkinson –  Stockport Image Archive

So for over forty years the land lies pretty vacant, but far from pretty.

Until 2015 when planning permission is granted for the £45m Redrock leisure scheme, which includes a 10-screen cinema, restaurants and shops.

Councillor Patrick McAuley, the council’s executive member for economic development and regeneration, said:

This is a very exciting time for Stockport. Developments such as these help our ambition of putting Stockport on the map to bring more people to work, shop and socialise here. We have been keen to involve the public in plans for both developments, by holding various consultation exercises.

We look forward to an exciting few years improving Stockport’s offer.

So good bye to all this, the local authority is making serious progress, developing Stockport’s future, against a background of structural decline and the dominance of Manchester city centre.

The architects for the scheme are BDP – the building was not well received as it was awarded the Carbuncle of the Year 2018.

Judges were left unimpressed by the – awkward form, disjointed massing and superficial decoration, while readers called it an absolute monstrosity.

Though to be fair The Light has a house style that leans heavily towards the anonymous industrial shed.

Sittingbourne

The development has however become a commercial success – once inside customers seem more than happy with the facilities.

The people of Stockport have welcomed us with open arms since opening in 2017. We’ve now had over one million guests join us for everything from the latest blockbusters to opera, theatre and concerts.

It’s been that busy that we’ve just added two additional screens and now offer freshly made pizzas, burgers and sliders. We’ve got plenty more exciting additions up our sleeve for next year too!

Tom DeanBusiness Manager at The Light Cinema

Yet it continues to attract wave after wave of criticism on local Facebook groups, perhaps the former car parking area should be reinstated, or the Victorian slums rebuilt?

I went to take a look for myself during lockdown – see what you think.

Real attempts have been made to make the landscaping and street view amenable to pedestrians, it feels like an attractive and safe urban space.

The view from the north is less successful, the scale and decorative work looks over ostentatious and confused.

Look away if you wish, it won’t be here forever – and if you fancy something different try The Plaza or The Savoy.

Possibly see what’s playing at The Palladium.

That should keep everyone happy shouldn’t it?

Concrete Island – Stockport

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.

Deliberately, he turned his back to the motorway and for the first time began to inspect the island.

Maitland, poor man, you’re marooned here like Crusoe – If you don’t look out you’ll be beached here for ever. He had spoken no more than the truth. This patch of abandoned ground left over at the junction of three motorway routes was literally a deserted island.

JG Ballard Concrete Island

I’m in a different place – the same but different, whilst out walking I went through an open gate, following a well worn path, for the very first time.

Leading who knows where.

The confluence of three rivers, the meeting of motorway and main road.

I ventured further – where if anywhere are we going?

This tight tree lined and paint daubed triangle offers no answers.

Tamed thirty years or so ago, with concrete and steel.

Further and further.

Into an underground world.

Through the railings and into a void – a void that had become home to the otherwise engaged, seeking solace somewhere, finding shelter from the storm. A storm of Twenty First Century austerity, man made – moving money around until those without are out, out in the open, nowhere else to go but here.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home. 

William C. Faulkner

The Mancunian Way – A57(M)

I’m walking, yes indeed I’m walking – I’m walking the Mancunian Way.

Previously posted as historical journey – this, as they say, is the real deal, one foot after another, one sunny afternoon in September.

From east to west and back again – in or on, under and around our very own Highway in the Sky.

Part of the ever changing patchwork of demolition and development which defines the modern city. The carriageway prevails, whilst the pervasive rise and fall continues apace, its forlorn pedestrian underpasses may soon be superseded by wider walkways.

Manchester City Council is spending around £10million to make major changes to the junction where Princess Road meets the Mancunian Way and Medlock Street.

Much to the chagrin of local residents, who value the solace of their sole soulful green space and the frequent users, passing under the constant waves of sooty traffic.

What you see is what you get today, tomorrow is another kettle of concrete, trees, traffic and steel.

Forton Services – M6 Lancaster

Possibly the most famous modern motorway services in the entire land.

Though I’ve never been to see you – I’ve seen your picture reproduced a thousand times or more, particularly your Pennine Tower.

Your even found your way onto a Manchester Modernist’s shirt.

I ride a bicycle, which seriously restricts my access to the world of the M – one and six or otherwise. Having a more than somewhat ambivalent outlook on motor cars and their ways I have nevertheless written a short history.

So to satisfy my idle curiosity, and fill the damp wasteland of a Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, let’s go on a little trip back in time by means of archival images.

What of your history?

Tendering documents were sent out in 1962 describing it as a 17.7 acre site, requiring at least a £250,000 investment, including an eastern corner reserved for a picnic area, and an emphasis that the views to the west must be considered in the design, and facilities must be provided on both sides. Replies were received – from Telefusion Ltd, J Lyons, Banquets Catering Ltd, Granada and Rank

Top Rank’s plan came consistently highly rated by all the experts it was passed between. It showed a restaurant and a self-service café on the west side, the restaurant being at the top of a 96ft (29m) tower. At the top of the tower was a sun terrace – a roof with glass walls, which they had described but hadn’t included any suggestions for how it could be used, adding that maybe it could form an observation platform, serve teas, or be reserved for an additional storey to the restaurant.

Including a transport café on each site, seating was provided for 700 people, with 101 toilets and 403 parking spaces. A kiosk and toilets were provided in the picnic area.

“The winning design looks first class. Congratulations.”

Architects T P Bennett & Sons had been commissioned to design the services, along with the similar Hilton Park. At £885,000, it was the most expensive service station Rank built, and was considerably more than what had been asked of them. They won the contract, but on a condition imposed by the Landscape Advisory Committee that the height of the tower was reduced to something less striking.

Lancaster was opened in 1965 by Rank under the name ‘Forton’. The petrol station opened early in January, with some additional southbound facilities opening that Spring.

The southbound amenity building had a lowered section with a Quick Snacks machine and the toilets. Above it was the transport café which had only an Autosnacks machine, where staff loaded hot meals into the back and customers paid to release them. These were the motorway network’s first catering vending machines, and the Ministry of Transport were won round by the idea, but Rank weren’t – they removed them due to low demand.

In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as appalling. The steak and kidney pie was an insult to one’s taste buds while the apple pie was an absolute disgrace. He said everywhere needed maintenance and a coat of paint, the toilets were smelly and dirty, and the food on display was most unattractive.

A 1978 government review described the services as a soulless fairground.

The Forton Services and the typology generally have had a chequered career, rising and falling in public favour and perception. Purveying food and facilities of varying quality, changing style and vendors with depressing regularity – knowing the value of nothing yet, the Costas of everything.

Ironically the prematurely diminished tower has taken on iconic status in the Modernist canon – listed in 2012 yet closed to the public, admired from afar – in a car.

The Pennine Tower was designed to make the services clearly visible – the ban on advertising had always been an issue, and the previous technique of having a restaurant on a bridge, like down the road at Charnock Richard, was proving expensive and impractical. Rank commissioned architects T P Bennett & Sons to capitalise on the benefits of exciting design while trialling something different. The tower resembles that used by air traffic control, summarising the dreams of the ’60s.

The central shaft consists of two lifts, which were originally a pentagonal design until they were replaced in 2017. They’re still in use to access the first floor, but with the buttons to higher floors disabled. There are then three service lifts, and one spiral staircase – satisfying typical health and safety regulations.

At the top of the tower stood a fine-dining waitress service restaurant, offering views over the road below and across Lancashire. Above the restaurant the lift extended to roof-level, to allow the roof to serve as a sun terrace – although Rank admitted they weren’t sure what this could be used for, suggesting serving tea or eventually building another level.

In reality social changes and cost-cutting limited the desirability of a sit-down meal, and this coupled with high maintenance costs made the tower fall out of favour. The ‘fine dining’ restaurant became the trucking lounge that had been on the first floor, before closing to the public in 1989. It then soldiered on for another 15 years, partially re-fitted, as a head office, then staff training and storage, but even this became too impractical, and the tower is now not used at all.

Although the tower is unique to these services, the concept of large high-level floors can be seen in many Rank services of the era, the idea of each one being to have a visible landmark and a good view of the surrounding area, such as at Hilton Park. The lower-level restaurant at Forton sticks out over the first floor, and partially in to the road, to give an optimum view. Toilets and offices were in the ground floor buildings below.

There are lots of myths flying around that the tower was forced to close by safety regulations, and that it is about to fall down. Like any building which hasn’t been used for 30 years it would take a lot of investment to get it open again, and with roadside restaurants across the country closing due to a lack of trade, nobody has come up with an convincing plan to justify investing in the Pennine Tower.

Many thanks to Motorway Services Online

Take a look at you now.

No more postcards home – y’all come back now, set a spell.

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.

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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

Motorway Footbridge – Stockport

A Moebius Band of motorway formerly known as the M63 wraps and warps itself around the city, ever so conveniently linking the traffic of Greater Manchester with itself.

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Ever so conveniently it passes through Stockport – only moments from my home.

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Before the white man came.

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The view from Princes Street along Hatton Street – towards Heaton Norris Rec. 

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A boon to the modern day motorist, though happily the modern day pedestrian is also catered for in the form of the Hatton Street Footbridge – linking Great Egerton Street below, with Heaton Norris Recreation ground above.

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Images TS Parkinson –  Stockport Image Archive

For the past two years the footbridge has been inconveniently closed, during the development of the Redrock Leisure Facility, built on the site of the former car park, in the foreground of the image above. Thus prohibiting the passage from the Post Modern world of the big brash entertainment box, to the leafy cobbled street beyond.

The Hatton Street footbridge has two spans of in-situ u-section deck, is at ground level on the north side, but is reached by steps or ramp from Great Egerton Street on the south.

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I’m ever so pleased that access has been reinstated, from me it is both fully functional yet imbued with an elegant concrete sculptural grace, worthy of Niemeyer or Lasdun.

So take a walk on the slightly higher side, either way you win.

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The Mancunian Way

The burnt out carcasses of cars are now hastily improvised cloches, following the annual cataclysmic courgette shortage.

Almost everything is made of Graphene, and a robot has taken your job.

The lucky ones are comfortably ensconced in custom built eco-pods, watching implanted Tarkovsky flicks around the clock and eating tasteless gloop.

Or Ultra-HD projections from the past.

Turn on.

Tune in.

Drop off.

Walk the Mancunian way – history buffs and tech heads can take a look here.

Photographs from the Manchester Image Archive

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Motorways an Introduction

Once upon time there was no such things as motorways, we made our way across country in a haphazard fashion, by way of of a raggle-taggle bunch of muddy, puddle strewn byways, tracks A, B and C roads.

Journey times were long and often unpredictable, it was not unusual for a traveller to never ever reach their intended destination.

But then as if by magic:

On 5 December 1958, the day the 8 mile Preston bypass opened.

Robert Gornall was the AA’s first motorway patrol and he was on duty on the Preston by Pass – now the M6, from day one – he even attended the opening ceremony.

Robert recalls that in those early motorway days, when there was no speed limit or hard shoulder, things were very different when it came to dealing with breakdowns. 

Robert said:

 

“This was entirely new and when we reached a broken down car we simply pushed it, bumper to bumper, out of the way to a place of safety where we could fix it – our vehicles were fitted with special rubber bumpers so as not to cause any damage.

Breakdowns came thick and fast because cars just couldn’t cope with the higher speed – engines just simply blew. The vehicles we used were Ford Escorts and even a soft top Land Rover.”

Having overcome these early teething troubles a whole complex network was developed.

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Opened by the transport minister Ernest Marples and other assorted worthies.

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Speed limits and controls were applied to quell the threat of crashes and blow-outs.

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Welcome to the fact packed modern world of the modern motorway.

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New typography and signage systems were developed by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir.

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Special provision was made for provisions for the motorway motorist in special places, with special names – and their own unique approach to modern cuisine.

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Quite literally food on the move at the motorway services.

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Ever eager to communicate their fondness for the modern motorway, the modern motorist would often send a picture postcard to friends and/or family.

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A whole literary and visual culture built up over time, to celebrate a deep and growing affection for the motorway network.

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The rest is history, so break out the string backed gloves, top-down hit the road!

Jacqueline and/or Jack.