Palmerston Street – Beswick Manchester

To begin at the beginning – some years ago I traced the route of the River Medlock, I chanced upon a forlorn pub called The River, all alone, desolate and boarded up, presiding over an area that I assumed, would once have supplied ample trade to a busy boozer.

I returned last week in search of some rhyme or reason, for such a seemingly sad and untimely decline.

So here we are back at in Manchester 1813, the seeds of the Industrial Revolution sewn in adjacent Ancoats, the fields of Beswick still sewn with seeds, the trace of Palmerston Street nought but a rural track.

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Sited on land between Great Ancoats Street and Every Street was Ancoats Hall, a post-medieval country house built in 1609 by Oswald Mosley, a member of the family who were Lords of the Manor of Manchester. The old timber-framed hall, built in the early 17th century, and demolished in the 1820s was replaced replaced by a brick building in the early neo-Gothic style.

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This would become the Manchester Art Museum, and here the worst excesses Victorian Capitalism were moderated by philanthropy and social reform.

When the Art Museum opened, its rooms, variously dedicated to painting, sculpture, architecture and domestic arts, together attempted to provide a chronological narrative of art, with detailed notes, labels and accompanying pamphlets and, not infrequently, personal guidance, all underlining a sense of historical development.

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Housing and industry in the area begins to expand, railways, tramways, homes and roads are clearly defined around the winds of the river.

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In 1918 the museum was taken over by the city, it closed in 1953 and its contents were absorbed into the collection of Manchester City Art Gallery, as the State increasingly took responsibility for the cultural well being of the common folk.

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The building was finally demolished in the 1960’s – just as the area, by now a dense warren of back to back terraces, was to see further change.

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Along the way was the the River Inn, seen here with a fine Groves and Whitnall’s faience tiled frontage.

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The street also offered rest, relaxation and refreshment through the Church, Pineapple and Palmerston pubs, as recored here on the Pubs of Manchester blog.

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The River seen here in the 1970’s struggled on until 2007.

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Further along we find the Ardwick Lads Club, further evidence of the forces of social reform, that sadly failed to survive the forces of the free market and the consequent Tory cuts in public spending and wilful Council land-banking.

The Ardwick Lads’ and Mens’ Club, now the Ardwick Youth Centre, opened in 1897 and is believed to be Britain’s oldest purpose-built youth club still in use [and was until earlier in 2012]. Designed by architects W & G Higginbottom, the club, when opened, featured a large gymnasium with viewing gallery – where the 1933 All England Amateur Gymnastics Championships were held – three fives courts, a billiard room and two skittle alleys (later converted to shooting galleries). Boxing, cycling, cricket, swimming and badminton were also organised. At its peak between the two world wars, Ardwick was the Manchester area’s largest club, with 2,000 members.

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On the 10th September 2012 an application for prior notification of proposed demolition was submitted on behalf of Manchester City Council to Manchester Planning, for the demolition of Ardwick Lads’ Club  of 100 Palmerston Street , citing that there was “no use” for the building in respect to its historic place within the community as providing a refuge and sporting provision to the young of Ancoats.

At the top turn of the street stood St Mary’s – the so called Lowry church.

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Used as a location for the film adaptation of Stan Barstow’s A Kind Of Loving

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The homes and industry attendant schools and pubs were soon to become history, all that you see here is more or less gone. Slum clearance, the post-war will to move communities away from the dense factory smoke, poor housing stock and towards a bright shiny future elsewhere.

Whole histories have subsequently been subsumed beneath the encroachment of buddleia, bramble, birch and willow.

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The land now stands largely unused and overgrown, awaiting who knows what, but that’s another tale for another day.

Archive images from the Manchester Local Image Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

William Temple Church – Wythenshawe

The Anglican Church of William Temple was opened in 1965 on the corner of Robinswood Road and Simonsway as the church of the Civic Centre. The mission was already well-established, having begun many years previously in Shadow Moss School Room, latterly operating in a dual-purpose building on Simonsway. The architect, George Pace, agreed with the proviso that he should not design a ‘pseudo’ building, but that it should be modern in concept. This he did and particular attention was paid to the acoustics with a view to music and drama being performed there. One of Pace’s stipulations was that, as with all the churches he designed, there must be no plaques attached to the walls commemorating the dedication of the church or in memory of anyone, for he said he built his churches to the Glory of God. The only lettered stone is on the back wall of the church and it has on it the date of the consecration and a symbol, which is Pace’s original sign for William Temple Church.

The internal supports of the church are black-painted steel girders, not romantically symbolising the industry of the area, as it is sometimes said, but because when it was discovered that the church had been built on swampy ground an extra £2,000 was needed for foundations; the wooden beams of the original design had to be changed for cheaper steel ones. There is symbolism, however, in the placing of the font between and beneath the three main weight-bearing supports of the church.

The pews have an interesting history, having been brought from derelict churches in and around Manchester. The present lady churchwarden said:

“whenever we heard of a church being demolished we borrowed Mr. Owen’s coal cart and went off to see if we could buy any of the pews. Many times I’ve sat on the back of the wagon, in the pouring rain, with the pews, bringing them back to Wythenshawe to be stored until our church building was completed!”

Some time after the building was opened a fire damaged some of the pews. With the insurance money all the pews were stripped and bleached, giving an element of uniformity and a bright welcoming atmosphere in the church generally. An interesting thought was voiced that as many people living in Wythenshawe now had their origins near to the centre of Manchester they may be sitting in the same pews in which their ancestors once sat.

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Sale Pyramid Odeon Cinema

Cinema Treasures

Located in Sale, Cheshire, now part of Greater Manchester. Designed by the famous British cinema architectural firm, Drury & Gomersall, the Pyramid Theatre is a classic example of an Egyptian-style cinema in Britain and had a 1,940 seating capacity.

The frontage although not particularly Egyptian in overall design does have various Egyptian style mouldings and fluted pillars. Internally, the Egyptian theme was again largely mouldings and finishes like Graumans Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The theme was included in the specially designed Christie Organ, which was installed in the Blue Coat School in Oldham.

Following a request by the school to remove the organ in 2008, the organ was in storage for five years. The Christie has now been donated to the Lowe Side Trust, by the LTOT,  along with funding for refurbishment and installation, of both consoles, into Lowe House Catholic Church, St. Helens, Lancashire. As of the beginning of 2018 the the original pit console is now fully functioning in the Church. The Egyptian style stage console is now under refurbishment to full theatre specification. Website for this project will be available shortly.

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The Pyramid Theatre changed hands a couple of times between its opening on 24th February 1934 and 21st December 1942 when it was taken over by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain. It was re-named Odeon on 18th June 1945.

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In 1981, the Rank Organisation closed 29 of its Odeon cinemas and the lease for the Odeon Sale was bought by the Tatton Cinemas group and it was re-named Tatton Cinema. Stage shows returned to the theatre, however the runing costs caused the lease to revert to Rank in 1984 and the building was closed.

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The cinema was purchased by Trafford Borough council for £200,000, but by 1987 the costs to the council were estimated at £1.5 million. A campaign was started to save it from demolition.

In 1988, it was advertised for sale by tender and by 1990 the cinema was converted into an American themed nightclub, known as JFK’s

The nightclub closed around 2001 and the auditorium was transformed into a franchised L.A. Fitness Centre, using a former front stalls exit as its entrance. The main entrance and foyers are currently unused. In 2013 it became a Sports Direct Fitness Club.

The Pyramid Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building in November 1987.

It is currently closed and seemingly unused.

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I often cycle passed and wonder about your past, and a possible future.

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Our cinema heritage is and always had been under threat, listed and unloved desperately seeking the care and attention to survive into another other century. Subsequent repurposing has proved temporary and unsustainable, without the concerted efforts of local authority, charitable trust and enthusiastic amateurs, you will remain a silent pharaonic sentinel by the side of Washway Road.

Forever.

“Only the best is good enough for Sale”

 

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Varna Street – Rogue Studios Manchester

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Once there was a school – from May 16th 1898, there was a school.

One of many Manchester School Board schools built in an imposing functional, triple storied style, they often seemed several times too big, for the infants which they contained.

With one thousand five hundred pupils, it was dubbed the largest school in Lancashire.

Nestled in a tight corner formed by the Lanky Cut and the train line below, surrounded by the huddled masses, in their manifold terraced homes.

 

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Once home to cheeky monkey, soon to be Monkee Davy Jones.

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His runaway, overnight fame made his humble Gorton home a mecca for adoring fans.

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The school’s interior was a mix of wide open halls and closeted classrooms.

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Archive photographs from the Manchester Local Image Collection

Eventually the school bell rang for the last time, and a newer brighter home was found for the little learners.

Lights were turned off and the doors of Varna Street were closed.

But not for the last time, a new use was found for this recently listed building.

Having lost their city centre base Rogue Studios were offered the site by the local authority, and in double quick time they have created a home for artists, a community resource and project space, which will continue to prosper for years to come.

Many thanks to Ms. Jenny Steele Rogue artist for my guided tour.

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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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Ringway – Manchester Airport

Expecting to fly?

Well not really, the first time I ever visited Ringway was by bike, aged eleven cycling from Ashton-under-Lyne along leafy Cheshire lanes for what seemed like an age. A gang of Lancashire brigands arriving in the departure lounge, with bike pumps and duffle bags.

In the Sixties, when flying was infrequent, the airport was seen as sleek, new, glamorous and exciting – quiet literally at the cutting edge of the Jet Age.

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You were or are there, destination somewhere else, far more exotic than suburban Wilmslow.

Manchester Ringway Airport started construction on 28th November 1935 and opened partly in June 1937 and completely on 25th June 1938, in Ringway parish north of Wilmslow.  In World War II, it was the location of RAF Ringway, and was important in the production and repair of military aircraft and training parachutists.

After World War II, it gradually expanded to its present size, including massive expansion of aprons, runways and car parking areas. Among the first expansions was car parking and service buildings north of Yewtree Lane.

From 1958 to late 1962, Terminal One was built: this was the first of the airport’s modern large terminals and the first major public building north of Yewtree Lane.

You were or are there, so why not tell the world – with a postcard.

Wish you were here?

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Let’s go there now, back in time, through the most magical Manchester Image Archive.

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John Lewis Mosaics – Milton Keynes

I was lured here, siren like, by an un-purchased eBay postcard – which precipitated a virtual four colour process printed journey around the shopping precincts of the UK.

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It only seemed appropriate to finally arrive at MK Central in real life, by train from Stockport – walking at last wide-eyed and expectant, along the whole length and width of Midsummer Boulevard to centre:mk

The Milton Keynes Development Corporation began work on the Shopping Building in 1973. It was to be the largest building of Central Milton Keynes. It had a total length of over one kilometre and a maximum width of one hundred and sixteen metres . It was built at the highest point in the New City. The architects were Derek Walker, Stuart Mosscrop, and Christopher Woodward, who had been significant architects at the MK Development Corporation; and the engineers were Felix Samuely and Partners. The shopping area was opened on 25th September 1979 by Margaret Thatcher. The building’s sleek envelope accommodated one hundred and thirty shops and six department stores, arranged along two parallel day-lit arcades, each eight hundred meters long and planted with sub-tropical and temperate trees.

A big bad Miesian box of glass and steel that goes on forever and forever.

At the very far end of forever is the John Lewis store, to the right of the entrance there are a series of tiled panels – these are possibly the work of Lucienne and Robin Day

Way back when, when brown was the new brown, brown still is the new brown.

Fresh and crisp and even.

Bobbing up and down precipitously on low marble walls, from amongst the sub-tropical and temperate trees, I bring you these thirteen tiled panels.

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Working so close up and personal at altitude, photographing such large pieces in confined spaces, it’s not until you arrive home that you discover that together they spell:

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What a delightful surprise!