WH Smiths – Colwyn Bay

I have been here before.

I’ve been there too – Newton Powys home to the WH Smiths Museum

Now here I am in Colwyn Bay generally minding my own and everybody else’s business, when all of a sudden I noticed a cast iron glazed awning.

Proudly announcing the proprietors – sadly supported by a distressing modern addition – now I’m not one to decry and debunk the rising tide of modernity, I’m all in favour of unisex clothing and central heating.

But the unchecked encroachment of vacuous vinyl really is the limit.

Businesses displayed a degree of dignified permanence unknown to the current high street trader. So here it is writ larger than life in stained glass and Carter’s Tiles.

Loud and proud.

And as an addendum here are the delightful tiles from the Llandudno branch, snapped two years previously.

High Street Estate – Pendleton

High Street Pendleton 1930s – the cast of Love on the Dole walk down High Street Pendleton, passing Hill’s Pawnbroker, author Walter Greenwood is ninth from the right.

This was a dense area of back to back terraces adjacent to pubs, schools, churches, mills, docks and cattle markets. Communities formed from shared patterns of employment, education, leisure and worship.

These communities survived into the 1960s and the coming of slum clearance, followed by an intense period of rebuilding in the modern manner.

Archival photographs Digital Salford

Patterns of employment, economic boom and bust, the exponential expansion in higher education, all contribute to the change in character of the area, along with slow and sudden demise in social housing.

2014 and the area begins to be reshaped yet again – this time by former resident Mr Peter Hook, who grew up in the area, the low slung former New Order bass meister described it in a book as – rotten and horrible, like a concrete wasteland

The Orchards tower block, the first of three, is removed piece by piece, each of the 14-storey blocks took around six weeks to be demolished.

The citizens of High Street Estate await the ‘dozers with apprehension and a sense of grim inevitability.

Clearance begins with the promise of new homes, tenants and homeowners are relocated, houses are tinned up or demolished wholesale. – a few remain in situ dissatisfied and afraid.

Altogether, 885 houses in Pendleton are being bulldozed and, to date, 584 have already been demolished, including houses on Athole Street and Amersham Street. Over the Pendleton Together project’s £650million thirty year life, only around one third of new houses being built will be affordable.

Meanwhile, after years of anguish and uncertainty, Fitzwarren Court and Rosehill Close, previously down for demolition, are being saved. Salix Homes will now bring flats in Fitzwarren Court and houses in its ownership on Rosehill Close up to the Decent Homes Standard

Salford Star

So welcome to Limboland – as financial arrangements shift, shimmy and evaporate – government policy, local authority pragmatists, private partnerships and funding perform a merry dance of expediency, around an ever diminishing circle of demolition, development, stasis and deceit.

Peveril Of The Peak – Manchester

To begin at the beginning or thereabouts, Sir Walter Scott publishes his longest novel Peveril of the Peak in 1823.

Julian Peveril, a Cavalier, is in love with Alice Bridgenorth, a Roundhead’s daughter, but both he and his father are accused of involvement with the Popish Plot of 1678.

Most of the story takes place in Derbyshire, London, and on the Isle of Man. The title refers to Peveril Castle in Castleton, Derbyshire.

Poster produced in 1924 for London Midland & Scottish Railway – artwork by Leonard Campbell Taylor who was born in 1874 in Oxford and went to the Ruskin School of Art.

The pub also shares its name with the London to Manchester stagecoach.

Which is all very well as the pub is largely known locals as The Pev – ably run since January 1971 by Nancy Swanick.

Nancy and son Maurice, who runs the cellar, also say they have shared the pub with a paranormal presence over the years.

Customers have seen pint glasses levitate off the bar and fall into the glass-wash, it’s like having our own ghostly helper!

The pub was Grade II listed in June 1988 – a fine tiled exterior and 1920’s interior refit largely untouched, it stands distinctly unattached to anything, decidedly somewhere betwixt and between Chepstow Street and Great Bridgwater Street.

Originally a Wilson’s house – the brewery lantern survives over the door.

I’ve taken a drink or two in here over the past thirty or so years, played pool and table football, watched the half time Hallé musicians swish in and out for a swifty.

A little island of green in a sea of grey.

Pop in for one if you’re passing

Ash Hotel – Stockport

232 Manchester Road Heaton Chapel Stockport SK4 1NN

So once there was a pleasure gardens, and then in 1901 a pub.

Wilson’s Brewery built The Ash Hotel, a grand boozer in a Jacobean manor manner, complete with bowling green and billiard room.

It lasted through to the 70’s and 90’s but gradually it became harder and harder to manage and fill a pub of such size and stature.

Closed – standing unloved and unused until it was finally converted into the Ash Tea Rooms in 2011.

Only to be closed again in May 2018.

Once ringing with the chink of glass on glass, songs and laughter it awaits its latest fate – conversion to flats.

One can only hope that much of its architectural detail will be preserved – particularly the architectural type fascia sign.

And the mosaic flooring.

Only time will tell – if you’re passing tip your hat take a look and celebrate a grand old building which somehow will prevail.

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.

© John Davies

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

Ramsgate Harbour

The construction of Ramsgate Harbour began in 1749 and was completed in about 1850. The two most influential architects of the harbour were father and son John Shaw and John Shaw Jr, who designed the clock house, the obelisk, the lighthouse and the Jacob’s Ladder steps.

The harbour has the unique distinction of being the only harbour in the United Kingdom awarded the right to call itself a Royal Harbour. This was bestowed by King George IV after he was taken by the hospitality shown by the people of Ramsgate when he used the harbour to depart and return with the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1821.

Because of its proximity to mainland Europe, Ramsgate was a chief embarcation point both during the Napoleonic Wars and for the Dunkirk evacuation  in 1940.

The ferry terminal area is built upon reclaimed land.

History is written on shifting sands and stormy seas.

The port has had it’s ups and downs the ferry terminal closing following a tragic accident

On 14 September 1994 there was a failure of a ship to shore structure for the transfer of foot passengers onto ferries. It collapsed in the early hours, causing the deaths of six people and seriously injuring seven more. The investigation into the accident revealed that the same basic miscalculation had been made by both the designer – Swedish firm FKAB, a subsidiary of the Mattson Group and certifying organisation Lloyd’s register. The parties involved, including the client, Port Ramsgate, were prosecuted and fined a total of £1.7m, which at the time was the largest fine in the United Kingdom for a breach of health and safety laws. The Swedish firms refused to pay the £1m fine and as result pan-European law enforcement was changed in 2005.

Hoverlloyd ran a crossing from Ramsgate Harbour to Calais Harbour from 6 April 1966 using small, passenger-only SR.N6 hovercraft. When the much larger SR.N4 craft, capable of carrying 30 vehicles and 254 passengers, were delivered in 1969, Hoverlloyd moved operations to a purpose built hoverport in Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate.

Mothballed and unloved standing largely unused 2019 has seen the winds of change forge a new dawn for the fading fortunes of Ramsgate Harbour. Transport supremo Christopher Grayling MP has summoned the dredgers to clear a way through the confusing clutter of post Brexit Britain.

Seaborne Freight has three months to source the vessels, recruit and train staff, and put all the infrastructure in place to launch the service before we leave the EU – it sounds like a very tall order – Richard Burnett

A company with no vessels a port currently with no access.

There’s only one pilot and that is the Harbour Master. The security fencing is laughable – travellers broke into the port and occupied it for a week not so long ago.

So all is well with the world – we await further developments with a fervour unseen since the previous fervour.

Let’s take a short walk back to my walk around in 2015 – see you on the other side.

Central Retail Park – Great Ancoats Street Manchester

Way back when, when the city was a maverick mixed up maze of citizens, industry, pubs, shops and places of worship the world looked a lot like this.

Local Image Collection

However the process of clearance and redevelopment radically changed and reduced the population and appearance of Great Ancoats Street and its environs.

The back to backs aren’t coming back and their occupants shifted from pillar to post along with the businesses that served them. Following years of decline Manchester takes a long hard look at itself and decides to modernise.

In 1989 an out of town inner ring road shopping centre in the architectural style de jour is built – the anonymous industrial retail hangar appears.

2018 and the nexus of the city has shifted yet again – Ancoats is designated as the hippest place on earth and has no time for an outmoded shopping experience.

All these developers have a certain sensitivity towards this history of the area without neglecting modern tastes. 

So the Central Retail park awaits its fate.

There was to have been another retail complex.

Henderson Global Investors, on behalf of its flagships £1 billion Retail Warehouse Fund, has received detailed planning permission for a food store led regeneration at Central Retail Park, Manchester, investing £40 million in the scheme.

Though nothing lasts forever and the scheme came to nothing.

The latest proposal according to Place North West is for housing – with the attendant heated debate regarding affordable homes.

Of the 61 big residential developments granted planning permission by Manchester city council’s planning committee in 2016 and 2017, not one of the 14,667 planned flats or housesmet the government’s definition of affordable, being neither for social rent nor offered at 80% of the market rate.

Demolition of the former retail units would enable the development of the site by Manchester Life, the city’s joint venture with Abu Dhabi United Group. Previous site owner TH Real Estate, was unable to deliver the project, finally sold the Central Park site to the city council in November 2017.

The long awaited development of the site on Manchester’s inner ring road has edged closer, with site notices posted declaring that demolition is to start on 20 August.

As of last week the lone security guard at home in his brick cabin informs me that demolition has been delayed by the discovery of asbestos on the site.

Watch this forlorn windswept wet space.