Hill Street to Ashton Brothers

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This a journey to work, my mam’s first day at work, cycling from her family home in Hill Street Ashton-under-lyne, to Ashton Brothers Mill Hyde.

Clara Jones was born in 1924, daughter to Nelly and Sam. She grew up in the west end of Ashton, tough and bright – an eldest sister who stood up for her own and looked after herself. On passing her entrance exam to grammar school, she was then denied entry, the family having little or no money for the expenses of uniform and books.

So in 1938 aged fourteen, she found a job and a second hand bike, found herself on the way to work. So in 2017 aged sixty two I followed her, the three miles along the very same roads, the very same roads that had not remained the same.

Hill Street was a mix of poor quality two up two down terraces, industry and pubs. There are no archive photographs to be found, an area thought too unremarkable to record. There remains traces of that industry and newer dwellings.

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Above is the site of her former home.

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The view at Hill Street’s junction with Cavendish Street would have taken in the Brougham Inn, where her father drank and I would later play in 1970 with our band, along with Clive Gregson.

Once a Gartsides Ales pub, my father Eddie Marland had worked at the nearby brewery as a drayman, and told tales of deliveries, where Neddy had much more horse sense, than the drunken drivers.

It closed in 1972 under the auspices of its last landlord Arthur Davies.

All archival photographs from the Tameside Image Archive

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Today all thoughts of horse drawn drays, bands and draught bitter have been washed away by progress, pampas grass, by-passes and ASDA.

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From here we turn right towards Dukinfield, moving from Lancashire into Cheshire, under the railway and over the Alma Bridge – named for the Battle of Alma in Crimea and the local men who served.

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Ahead on the left is the site of Greens Cycle Shop, I bought my first touring bike from Laurie Green, a Dawes Galaxy – he and his partner Eileen were and possibly still are members of one of the oldest cycling clubs in the country, the Dukinfield CC. The shop was once announced by a sign written gable end, now all that remains is this sad fragment.

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Up the hill along King Street she would have passed shop after shop, long established businesses, serving a local community that neither drove or travelled too far, in order to sustain their everyday needs. Broad open-eyed windows displaying varied wares, unhindered by intrusive steel shutters.

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On her left was the Princess Cinema, which can be seen to the right of the photograph below. Opened as the Princess Picture Theatre with 700 seats, the proprietor was W.B. Holt. Later it was operated by Ashton New Theatre Ltd and became part of the H.D.Moorehouse circuit. Its final years were under the operation of Orr Enterprises Ltd of Coventry. Dukinfield was once home to two other cinemas the Palladium and the Oxford – both long gone, swamped by the unstoppable stampede of bingo and telly.

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It currently trades as the Pyramid Snooker Club, there are small remnants of its former self visible to the right and left of the building, unhidden by the tastefully intrusive red and green cladding.

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Today’s fascias exhibit the final, vital, vinyl abandon that characterises the contemporary visual environment of the high street, along with a kaleidoscopic array of international  fast food outlets.

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The Town Hall still stands tall, its clock chimes, boinging down on the diminutive figure of Sir Robert Dukinfield – conqueror of the Isle of Man, the tiny fellow also defended Stockport Bridge against Prince Rupert and conducted the Siege of Wythenshawe.

The constituent parts of the almost recently created Tameside, were once independent UDCs, all with their individual civic pride and unique identity, before that the fiefdoms’ of local dignitaries, afore that just there.

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What were once mighty boozers overflowing with customers and kindness, are now dwellings, overflowing with cold comfort and UPVC windows. When cotton was king, her route would have been peppered with pubs, slaking the thirsts of thirsty workers, hot footing it from the surrounding places of industry and commerce.

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There were once well appointed post offices their architectural type formed in the kilns from local clay, the wholesome white-hot, fired earth technology of the nineteenth century.

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The road now crosses rail at the White Bridge, to the right is the site of the former Dewsnap Yard, where my grandfather Sam and I found work as plate layer and freight guard respectively.

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A view down Victoria Street opens up on the way to Hyde, everywhere, in industry, street and pub names we find evidence of queen and empire – an age of empire, industry and deference that did not survive intact.

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On the right stands the refurbished Newton Hall:

This cruck-framed buildings, stands on the corner of Dukinfield Road and Dunkirk Lane in Hyde, Cheshire. Carbon dating placed the construction of this building to c.1370 and it survived because much later it was encased in a brick building having a blue slate roof. By the 1960s it was in a ruinous condition and in 1968 Sir George Kenyon, the Chairman of William Kenyon & Sons Ltd of Dukinfield, Cheshire, rescued it. Browns of Wilmslow undertook the restoration work and this was completed in 1970.

During the Roman era, a track connecting the Roman garrison town of Mamucium (Manchester) and the fort of Ardotalia (long known as Melandra at Gamesley near Glossop) crossed the river Tame hereabouts and passed close by the site of the future Newton Hall. To cross the Pennines, the Romans then made use of an ancient British ridgeway from Ardotalia. This track was in use until medieval times as a packhorse road.

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An finally here we are at the Ashton Brothers‘ factory gates mam, you along with hundreds of others, would walk on through. She doubtless, with no small sense of trepidation, entering into the whirring world of cotton spinning.

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But it’s all gone, long gone – all that remains is a rusty A and the dusty footings.

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But I remember,

I remember you Clara Jones,

Your bike, your journey to work,

Your kind  smile.

mam

 

Bury – Police Station

Unfortunately, the retail market has changed quickly and dramatically and there is now no demand from the retail sector to meet the original plan, which was for a large supermarket to take over the sites of the former police headquarters and the Castle Leisure Centre, with the proceeds going towards building a new leisure centre on top of the Q Park in Knowsley Street. However, we are still determined to fulfil the potential of the old police headquarters site, where the building is now nearing demolition.

In 2010, Bury police’s headquarters in Irwell Street relocated to a brand new facility at Castlecroft Road, leaving the old site derelict.

Bury Council owns the site and had intended to sell it to a supermarket firm as part of an £8 million project.

That deal fell through in January last year when the supermarket chain suddenly decided to scale back its expansion plans.

Almost a shadow, a shadow of it’s former self, the police station in Bury – a concrete gem by Lancashire County Architect Roger Booth, is in the slow process of absenting itself from the material world.

Closed since 2010, on the day of my visit the podium tower, surrounded by rubble, was little more than a playground for the local kids and urbex intruders. A vista of broken windows, distressed prestressed concrete and tortured steel.

Hurry along nothing to see here – soon.

Other Roger Booth cop shops are available – in Morecambe and Blackpool

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Galt Toys Exhibition

The Manchester Modernist Society are proud to presents an exhibition of Galt toys, games, puzzles, catalogues and books.

At the Manchester Central Library

Commencing Tuesday 4th April running until  Wednesday 31st May 2017

St Peters Square, City Centre, M2 5PD

  • Monday: 9am-8pm
  • Tuesday: 9am-8pm
  • Wednesday: 9am-8pm
  • Thursday: 9am-8pm
  • Friday: 9am-5pm
  • Saturday: 9am-5pm
  • Sunday: closed

Entrance is free.

Launch – Wednesday  12th April  6.00 -8.00.

There will be nine cases on the library’s first floor, by the entrance to the reference section, literally filled with fun and games, which were produced by Galt Toys of Greater Manchester in the Sixties and Seventies.

Under the direction of Ken Garland Associates they rebranded, designed and produced an innovative range of modernist educational and entertaining products, using a simplified, graphic, bold and colourful approach to children’s play.

Come along and take a look!

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Rhyl to Wallasey Hovercoach

After Telstar, Rhyl’s residents and visitors have this week been privileged to see another miracle of scientific progress – the Vickers-Armstrong VA-3, which arrived on Sunday to prepare for the first scheduled passenger carrying hovercoach service in the world. 

Strange but true!

It says so here.

The world’s first commercial passenger hovercraft service ran briefly from Rhyl to Moreton beach in 1962, but ended when a storm hit the passenger hovercraft while it was moored, damaging its lifting engines.

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I’m fascinated by hovercrafts, they were for a while the future that we seemed to have been promised, a future that had consistently failed to arrive.

Until even they failed to arrive, or depart for that matter.

I do have a love of doomed hovercraft services – I’ve been to Pegwell Bay.

Youngest passenger was 21 months old Martin Jones, 128, Marsh Road, who travelled with his mother, Mrs Millie Jones, an usherette at the Odeon Cinema: his grandmother Mrs Jean Morris, and Mrs Morris’s 14 year old son, Tony, a pupil of Glyndwr County Secondary School, the first schoolboy to travel on the hovercraft.  Mr Tony Ward of 13, Aquarium street, a popular figure as accordionist on one of the local pleasure boats a few seasons ago, and his 20 year old daughter Rosemary, cashier at the Odeon, who were among the first to book seats at the North Wales Travel Agency, were also among the passengers.

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Mrs Handley was the manageress of the Sports Cafe and got to know all the crew as they had all their meals there, even a farewell party with a cake in the form of a hovercraft.

The Queen and Prince Philip had received an invitation to undertake the trip, but declined perhaps just as well, for on what proved to be the final journey the hovercraft left Wallasey at 1.15 p.m. on September 14th and both engines failed en route.

There has been talk of reviving the service, a service that sadly seems so far to have defied revival.

“It really will be a feather in our cap for Rhyl.”

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Concord Suite – Droylsden

There is little or no reference to this fine building on the whole world wide web – the wise people of Wikipedia tell us –

The Concord Suite was built in the early 1970’s to house Droylsden Council. The word Concord comes from the town’s motto Concordia, meaning harmony

I’ve passed by for almost all of its life, marvelling at its white modular space age panels. The wide paved piazza frontage affords the lucky viewer a full appreciation of its futuristic whole, a giddy mix of brick, glass and concrete optimism. Civic architecture has never seemed so sunny.

The interior lighting is straight out of 2001, white organic and fully functioning – the upstairs function room is available for functions at the junction of Market Street and Ashton New Road.

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I saw The Fall there for the first time in 1978, suitably shambolic and suitably feisty.

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Renamed the Droylsden Centre on one side, it houses the regulation issue of charity shops and empty units. The main building is home to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, soon to relocate to a new build across the road. The Concord will then provide a home for the workers leaving the now demolished Tameside Council Offices in Ashton.

The tram stops here.

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Barmouth Street – Bradford Manchester

Once again I am following in the footsteps of Rita Tushinghan and the Taste of Honey film crew, this time my research has lead me to Barmouth Street, Manchester.

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To the east of the city centre, Bradford Park School was the scene of the opening scene, Jo’s netball match. The school is now long gone, now the site of a much enlarged public park, as can be seen from the map above.

Shelagh Delaney, author of the original play on which the film was based, can be seen fleetingly in this opening scene, appearing momentarily over the games teacher’s shoulder.

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I have found one archive image of the school, as the scholars prepare for the annual Whit Walks, this along with many other community traditions and conventions, have all but disappeared from the streets of the city.

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This was once a tight knit community, surrounded by industry, full employment and a short lived period of post-war growth and optimism.

A corner shop on very corner, though by the time I worked as a Mothers Pride van lad in the late sixties, many were already on their last legs. A lethal cocktail of closing factories, incipient supermarkets, and an urban renewal programme, which lead to slum clearance, would change the character of the area forever.

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I am indebted to the photographic work of T Brooks who seems to have spent much of the mid Sixties documenting the streets, his pictures are now kept here in the Manchester Image Archives. Sadly I have found no further reference to him or his images, but have nothing but admiration for all those who pass noticed amongst us, camera forever poised.

Central to the social and sanitary life of that that community were the Barmouth Street Baths and Washhouse, where citizens would swim, wash, dry, iron, chat convivially, and surprisingly – play bowls.

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Now long gone, along with the provision of local authority nursery care. There were similar low level pre-fabricated buildings dotted all over the city. Built quickly and cheaply, to provide for a growing population, of largely working-class families, with no shortage of work opportunities.

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This was a time of great social change, a time which the film attempts to anticipate -a more diverse, and hopefully more tolerant time, a time of possibilities and opportunities for all.

Holt Town Manchester – Part One

1785 Established by David Holt, and described as the only known example of a factory colony in Manchester, that is, an isolated mill complex with housing for the workers.

1794 Mills advertised for sale following the bankruptcy of David Holt and Company.

Things, as we know, have a tendency to come and go – ’twas ever thus.

A whole history of the area can be found here.

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River Medlock Holt Town

The area has seen a transition, in some two hundred year or more, from a leafy rural idyll, to smoke choked industrial hell and back again.

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Photographs from the Manchester Image Archive.

In 2014 I visited the site of the former Distillers Company, later Air Liquide UK, production had ceased. The factory was just about standing, litter and detritus strewn, unloved and unwanted, temporary home to the homeless.

The Industrial Revolution has been and gone – bye bye.

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There are plans for redevelopment, couched in the terms of the professional new-speak of the new urban renewalists.

The international design competition for Holt Town looked for a solution to the dilemma of providing a sustainable, distinctive, high density family-led residential community in close proximity of the Manchester regional centre.

Promising open green spaces and housing based on the traditional European perimeter block model, not a mention of a mill.

Possibly lasting a little longer than David Holt’s dream, and subsequent manifestations.

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