Yuri Gagarin Manchester 1961

Exactly three months to the day after his flight in Vostok I had ushered in a new age of space exploration, on 12 July 1961, the trim figure of Yuri Gagarin strode down the gangway of a British Viscount airliner and walked briskly out across the runway of Manchester airport towards a sea of expectant faces, and flashing camera bulbs.

Working Class Movement Library

There are many excellent accounts of his visit – for a detailed view Gurbir Singh’s book Yuri Gagarin in London and Manchester is hard to beat.

It is from this source that I was able to retrace Yuri’s journey, from the then Ringway Airport, to the offices of the AUFW at Brooks Bar.

Archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Thousands lined the wet streets of Manchester that day as he passed by in his beige open topped Bentley – standing proud waving to all and sundry.

This is Yuri’s journey via the Manchester Local Image Collection.

A loose approximation of what he may have see on that day in 1961.

We were allowed out of Brownley Green school to line the road as he passed, great memories.

I stood on Chester Road with my mum, I was 4 years old, but still remember it.

At that time, I was a student, working my socks off in the Central Library, I went outside into St. Peter’s Square to watch him pass, he gave everyone a big smile.

Still tell my children, tiny at the time – you saw the first man in space, I remember his smile.

Worked in an office in Albert Square – had a grandstand view of him arriving at the Town Hall.

I can remember a police escort taking Yuri to Albert Square via Princess Parkway through Withington, Fallowfield and Moss side, there were hundreds of people lined up watching a waving at him.

When Gagarin visited Manchester he was given a bronze bust of Lenin made by the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers. Four were made in total and my Dad owns one of them.

My Grandad’s funeral was on the day he came, as we passed down Altrincham Rd onto the Parkway policemen who were holding back the crowds saluted, he would have loved it.

Yeah I seen him stood up in a big car with a green uniform on. It was going down Brownley Rd passing Meliden Crescent heading for the Airport in Wythenshawe, I was about 6 years old.

Working for Manchester Parks as a 20 yr old on Princess Parkway and he came past me as I was mowing the grass, in an open top Rolls or Bentley, he saluted me personally as he passed, of course I stood to attention and returned the salute – Magic Moment

Ringway Road

Shadow Moss Road

Post-war social housing

Simonsway

Brownley Road

St Andrews Church JCG Prestwich and Son 1960

Housing built 1934

1960 development

St Luke The Physician1938-9 by Taylor and Young

Benchill Hotel – demolished Autumn 2012

Altrincham Road

Royal Thorn – demolished 2001

Princess Parkway

St Ambrose A well-detailed, relatively modest post-war design by Reynolds & Scott, with an impressive and largely unaltered vaulted interior.  The dedication relates to St Ambrose Barlow, a Catholic martyr from nearby Barlow Hall. 

Barlow Moor Road

The Oaks demolished in the early 1990s following a brief life as the Sports Bar

Manchester Road

The Seymour – demolished 2002

Upper Chorlton Road

The Whalley Hotel closed in 2014

Chorlton Road

Imperial Picture Theatrewas opened in 1914. Seating was provided in stalls level only. It had a 5 feet deep stage and two dressing rooms. There was also a café in the cinema. Around 1929 it was equipped with a Western Electric sound system.

Architect W.H. Matley

The Imperial Picture Theatre was closed on 15th January 1976 with Charlotte Rampling in Caravan to Vaccares and Jean-Claude Brialy in A Murder Is a Murder Is a Murder.

Cinema Treasures

164 Chorlton Road Hulme Manchester – offices of the Amalgamated Union of Foundry Workers, it was at their invitation that Yuri had visited Manchester.

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?

Beanland House No 2 – Ashton under Lyne

Gambrel Bank Road Ashton under Lyne

I have been here before in 2015 en passant, snapped the homes chatted to a resident and off, she had informed me that they had been post-war experimental concrete homes.

I thought no more about it – but subsequently I did, returning to the road to take another look.

Here’s one I didn’t make earlier.

There are four semi detached homes constructed from concrete, rendered painted and clad over the years, windows replaced, additions and amendments made.

Though the basic design characteristics have been retained.

There are no local archival images or histories, I assume that they were post-war, an addition to the inter-war Smallshaw council estate.

In an area which in 1848 was given over to mining and agriculture.

I have subsequently learnt from an online contact Mr Sid Cat, that the homes are Beanland No 2.

They are listed on the BISF site – 102 were built.

More than this I cannot say – further searches for Beanland proving largely fruitless.

In addition there are also several semi detached houses of identical shape and proportion faced in brick – why?

Suffice to say here we are now and here they all are.

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.

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

Underpass – Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes synonymous with something or other, the town where everything is an off centre out of town centre, where anything was new once.

A broad grid of boulevards, sunken super-highways and an extended series of balletic roundabouts swirls the cars around.

Beneath this merry carbon hungry dance, we find the cyclist and pedestrian, the self propelled underclass passing through the underpass.

During my eight hour non-stop walking tour I encountered several – here they are, home to the homeless – others somewhat desolate and deserted, grass between the paving stones, the occasional casual tag and discarded can.

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Concrete Toon

Everything is up in the air.

Tyneside is self evidently enamoured of elevation – they simply adore bridges, having five and another one as well.  Walking driving, running trains across the mighty Tyne Valley, why they even write songs about them.

In the Swinging Sixties T Dan Smith vowed to create a Brasilia of the North, which as good as his word he did, though sadly lacking the requisite regard for the law of the land.

What remains is a complex interwoven structure of urban motorways, walkways, multi-storey car parks and tower blocks. To explore is to enter a world of the sublime, exhilarating and still yet mildly confusing.

Can you get there from here?

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