Burnage Garden Village Again

I was last here in 2016 on a much brighter, blue skied day in March.

2020 mid-lockdown and overcast, I took a walk to take another look.

There is a perennial appeal to this well ordered island of tranquility, an archetypal suburbia incubated in 1906, a copy book estate.

The housing estate of 136 houses known as Burnage Garden Village, a residential development covering an area of 19,113sqm off the western side of Burnage Lane in the Burnage ward. The site is situated approximately six kilometres south of the city centre and is arranged on a broadly hexagonal layout with two storey semi-detached and quasi detached dwelling houses situated on either side of a continuous-loop highway. The highway is named after each corresponding compass point with two spurs off at the east and west named Main Avenue and West Place respectively. Main Avenue represents the only access and egress point into the estate whilst West Place leads into a resident’s parking area.

The layout was designed by J Horner Hargreaves. Houses are loosely designed to Arts and Crafts principles, chiefly on account of being low set and having catslide roofs.

At the centre of the garden village and accessed by a network of pedestrian footpaths, is a resident’s recreational area comprising a bowling green, club house and tennis courts. The estate dates from approximately 1906 and was laid out in the manner of a garden suburb with characteristic hedging, front gardens, grass verges and trees on every street. 

Verges and paving were freshly laid, hedges and gardens well tended, cars parked prettily.

The central communal area calm and restful, but lacking the clunk of lignum vitae wood on jack, hence the scorched earth appearance of the normally well used crown green.

A detailed appreciation the estate is available here.

Let’s take a leisurely look.

West End Park – Ashton under Lyne

This is a short history of a park, a short history of my family and me.

The movement of earth and people, a tale until now untold now told.

West End Park is a public park, opened in 1893. The site is bounded by Stockport Road, Manchester Road and William Lane. It was developed on land associated with St Peter’s Church.

St Peter’s was built between 1821 and 1824, and was designed by Francis Goodwin. A grant of £13,191 was given towards its construction by the Church Building Commission. The land for the church was given by the patronage of George 6th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, whose cousin, Revd Sir George Booth, had been Rector of Ashton from 1758 until 1797

The benevolent Victorian landowners thought it politic to provide parks for the working folk, fresh air, exercise and perambulation being preferable to the demon drink.

Friendship Old Street – now a solicitor’s office

The area around the park was a dense warren of housing and industry.

Britain from Above

The parks provided a welcome relief from the tarmac, brick and concrete – very, very few homes having had access to a garden.

During the 1930s local councillors simply can’t resist the charms of the rocking horse.

And a burst of colour in the summertime.

The West End was transformed in the 60’s, through slum clearance, the subsequent building of high rise and the introduction of light industry.

My Grandfather Samuel Jones lived in the area – at one time next door to George Formby Senior.

Later moving to nearby Hill Street.

There’s a plaque for George – there isn’t one for Sam.

During the Great Depression men were required to work for the Dole – Sam was required to dig out a sunken garden in the park – he was a collier by trade, a good man with a shovel, built for back breaking work on Ashton Moss.

David Vaughan

Sam in Blackpool 1954

This is the sunken garden in the 1960s

Thirty yards wide, forty yards long and three yards deep, shifted by hand.

Three thousand six hundred cubic yards of earth.

One cubic yard of topsoil weighs about two thousand pounds on average.

Seven million two hundred thousand pounds of earth.

I worked there in the 1970s along with Alec and Danny bedding out the sunken garden, maintaining the bowling green, tennis courts and playground.

Keith Ingham

There were two permanent gardeners in the park, and a keeper in the summer – plus Danny Byrne and me brought in to help at busy times.

Throughout the 70s and onwards, economic decline hit the area hard, the closure of the cotton mills and little hope for the future. Rising unemployment and severe cuts to public spending did little to assure a rosy future for West End Park, or anything or anyone else for that matter.

Help was at hand – one of many public projects funded by our old friends the EU. Changes in the way that parks were used and further spending cuts sounded the death knell for the flowers and bowling. Large open grassed areas were cheaper and easier to maintain.

And so the sunken garden was filled in, this time by mechanical means – all in a days work for a bloke with a JCB.

So I sit and reflect on the labour and conditions that created this and many of our public parks, our legacy is a much impoverished version of the original vision.

I think of my grandad Sam and his comrades, the sweat of their collective brows buried forever.

Our legacy the small state, a bring and buy your own world economy.

It would make you weep.

Mellands Playing Fields – Mount Road

Does it all begin here with Frederick Melland?

His zeal for play-grounds and open spaces was always great, and only a few years ago he took part in an agitation for the acquisition of a new park.

Seen here at the centre of the contemporary map – an empty space with no indication of its current use, or past status – drawn a blank.

It’s here in an aerial photograph of 1931.

Photograph – Britain From The Air

Surrounded by newly built social housing.

Melland Road 1965

Levyboy’s website informs us of the fields’ wartime uses:

As a Military Police and POW Camp
The 48th Battalion Manchester Home Guard used the facilities 

Photograph Brian Wood

I remember from the 60’s onwards the fields in use for amateur football – pubs, clubs, schools and works all supplying teams to the plethora of leagues across the city.

Auster Aircraft of Airliners forced to land at Melland Playing Fields whilst towing banner 1961
1963

Archive photographs – Local Image Collection

The pitches and the sports centre built in 1978 are now closed.

On my previous visit in 2015 the facilities were still open.

New housing has been built on the northern edge.

Gorton has received significant regeneration and investment over recent years as have nearby areas including Levenshulme. This is an aspirational, exciting new development and Arkwright Place has something for everyone – from first time buyers to growing families and downsizers – with a huge range of beautiful homes on offer.

A local campaign was organised to preserve the open space:

At present the fields are fenced and secured – though gaps have been made to allow access for strollers.

The goalposts still stand though currently without crossbars.

Which are stored by the Sports Hall.

The buildings are mothballed – awaiting what?

For me the concrete and brick functionalist changing rooms are a thing of beauty and seem to have been a part of my life for quite some time, as I cycled back and to – on my way to work.

Ten Acres Lane – Manchester

Ten Acres Lane 1904 running south from Oldham Road – not quite crossing under the Ashton and Stalybridge Railway.

I was propelled by the vague memory of an Ashton Lads football match way back in the 1970s – my dad Eddie Marland managed the team in the Moston and Rusholme League.

There was land given over to recreation from 1900, the area is famed for its links to the inception of Manchester United and almost but not quite became home to FC United.

The Recreation Grounds in 1900.

To the left of the inter-war housing in 1963.

So I took a trip back in time along the lane – courtesy of the Local Image Collection.

In 1896 the area was largely farmland.

Baguley Fold Farm – occupying land adjacent to the Medlock Valley.

Farm Yard Tavern closed in 1917 a Rothwell’s pub supplied from Heath Brewery on Oldham Road.

This was an area dominated by the Rochdale Canal and criss-crossed with rail links.

The canal bridge 1904.

Construction work 1920.

These transport links and the proximity to the Manchester city centre inevitably lead to industrial development on a huge scale.

Tootal’s Mill on adjoining Bower Street.

CWS warehouse and works corner of Briscoe Lane.

Mather And Platt’s adjoining the Rochdale Canal.

The area was also home to Jackson’s Brickworks.

There was a Co-op shop.

Going going gone St Paul’s Church seen here in 1972.

Victorian terraces and inter-war social housing – homes for a large industrial work force.

Many of the sights and sites above are still extant though their appearance and uses have changed along with the times. Manchester inevitably continues to from and reform for good or ill.

Sadly the old Rec the Moston and Rusholme League and my dad are all long gone – though it’s just as well to remember them all fondly, as we travel through our familiar unfamiliar city.