Macclesfield Railway Station

Where the Victorians modelled their stations on cathedrals, temples and palaces.

Modern Man models his on shopping centre and office blocks.

Richards and MacKenzie – The Railway Station

Though it seems to me that Macclesfield Station, in its earlier and current states, refuses to dovetail neatly into either of these sloppy binary paradigms.

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The former – single storey buildings, fitting unostentatiously into the topographic and practical constraints of the site. A neat, tightly packed rhythm of brick arches with a compact and bijou porch welcoming the expectant traveller.

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The latter a functionalist block, fully utilitarian crossings with lift access columns, embodying a particularly industrial demeanour.

From the golden age of steam to the moribund years of diesel, Macclesfield sits comfortably somewhere, betwixt and between ugly duckling and fully fledged swan.

Nestled in the lea of the East Cheshire Highlands, offering practical everyday transport solutions to the beleaguered commuter.

No frills, no thrills.

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The London and North Western Railway opened the line between Manchester and Macclesfield on 19 June 1849 – Macclesfield Central was born. Later it would become a key station on the Stafford branch of the West Coast Main Line, remodelled in 1960 and rebranded as the much snappier Macclesfield Station.

Which it proudly announces topically and typographically to the world.

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Welcome to Macclesfield a town that is clearly going places, and so are you.

The station won the Best Kept Station in Cheshire Award for 2007, but was reported in summer 2011 to be distinctly shabby, with peeling paintwork.

And yet there is something in the constituent Platonic steel, glass and concrete forms that never ceases to amuse and amaze me, this is Brutalism on a human and provincial scale.

The raw concrete softened with three or four shades of grey, as a concession to the delicate suburban sensibilities of this once silk-fuelled town.

Take a trip with me – join the Cheshire train set.

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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.

 

Farewell Grand Central – Stockport

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and hell, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

We have seen things come and go in, on and around Stockport Station’s little acre.

From coal drops to tear drops.

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Before

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Archive photographs courtesy of John Eaton

After

The post-industrial leisure complex has come almost full circle – overwritten by the complex needs of the modern day service-worker –  Holiday Inn, Espresso Bar and Mini-mart complement the hot-desked, twenty-four hour online access all areas open-plan office operative.

Gone now the Laser Quest, Super Bowl, Multiplex, Theme Pub days of old.

 

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Photographs from Stockport Image Archive

Time has been called on the post-modern film-set, cast and clad in plastic, brick, steel and concrete.

The future is here today and it means business.

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London Road aka Piccadilly Station – Manchester

The station was originally built as Store Street Station by the Manchester and Birmingham Railway in 1842, before being renamed London Road Station in 1847.  It was shared by the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne & Manchester Railway and it has been rebuilt and added to a number of times, with two news spans added to the train shed roof in 1881 and island platforms added linking to Manchester Oxford Road in 1882 (replacing two old Manchester, South Junction and Altrincham Railway platforms which were built next to the station).

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An imposing classical façade with a substantial cast iron and glass train shed, the approach sloping up to the frontage, as of necessity the line entered the city on a raised trackbed.

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Initially the approach was lined with railway warehousing, subsequently demolished to make way for the redevelopments of the 1960s.

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Detailed plans are made to reshape the station concourse and entrance.

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Dreams are turned into reality, as near as makes no difference.

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The newly electrified lines opening up the city to a world of high speed intercity travel.

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The Krays it seems were deemed to be unwelcome visitors, everyone else came and went, met with equanimity and a bright new modernist vista.

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The brand new shiny buffet replaces the archaic dining rooms, as Brylcreemed, bow tied and moustachioed waiters are consigned to the scrapheap of history.

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Likewise the gloomy destination boards – out with the old!

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And in with the new.

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We have a fully integrated modern interior to deal with the modern passengers’ every need – including crystal clear signage, seating and bins.

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Stars of screen and stage are guided through with consummate ease, Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev (in his brand new baby seal skin coat) arrive in 1968 to dance Swan Lake at the Palace.

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Esteemed footballer Eusebio on his travels during the 1966 World Cup.

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In 1969 Gateway House arrives, Richard Sieffert & Partners wavy hello and goodbye to  Manchester’s premier railway station.

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Piccadilly has now seen several revamps, the concourse an exercise in contemporary cluttered retail/airport chic, a 125mph Pendolino journey away from the carefully considered internal order of yesteryear.

Who knows what the future holds?

HS2 to name but one – sit back let the train take the strain.

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Tiviot Dale to Norris Bank – Stockport

This is a journey I made as a BR Guide Bridge goods guard in the late 1970s, often with driver Eric Clough, into the George’s Road scrap yard. It was also at one time the Cheshire Lines passenger route out of Stockport Tiviot Dale Station to Liverpool, Southport, St Pancras and beyond.

This is a journey I made on foot through bramble, puddle and scrub on a now disused line, cheek by jowl with a motorway and the passing crowd, blissfully unaware of its existence.

 

 

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Coventry – Railway Station

Steven Parissien, director of Compton Verney Museum in Warwickshire, says:

“Coventry is a great station. Its predecessor was pummelled to bits but it really wasn’t particularly marvellous anyway.

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“The new station really came into its own. Built in the same month as the cathedral, in a way it was just as emblematic as the cathedral, though not quite so famous.

“It’s a light and airy place with a nice design. You do come out and have the ring road right in front of you which pedestrians have to guess where to go but that’s not really the fault of the station developers.”

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The original station was built in 1838 as part of the London and Birmingham Railway and could be entered from Warwick Road, where two flights of stairs took the passengers down to the platform. Within two years it had been replaced, with a new larger station, a few hundred feet nearer to Rugby, this time, accessed via Eaton road. In the late 19th century the Coventry tram network extended to the station at Eaton Road. The original station remained in service as the station masters offices, until the station was redeveloped in the early 1960s by the London Midland Region of British Railways.

Sent to Coventry, under an imperative to explore the post-war redevelopment of a great city, I arrived by train, more than somewhat unsurprisingly at the station.

A fine building of 1962 light and airy, warm wooden ceilings, gently interlocking aluminium, glass and steel volumes, original signage and a lively feeling of calm controlled hustle and bustle.

The ideal way to start the day – take a look.

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