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.

Modern.

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!

The George Hotel – Stockport

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15 Wellington Road North Stockport SK4 1AF.

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

A delightful interwar pub on the corner of Heaton Lane and Wellington Road North, I moved to Stockport some forty years ago and was mightily impressed by the restrained exterior Deco design, wrought and hewn from soft pale sandstone. Equally impressive was the wood panelled, open, spacious interior space.

The George was always something of an anomaly, being the only Greater Manchester pub owned by Higson’s Brewery, our almost next door Liverpool neighbour.

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Higsons was founded in 1780 – 1974 saw the brewery merge with James Mellor & Sons. In 1978, Higsons acquired the Bent’s Brewery, which was based next to its North Street head office. Boddingtons of Manchester acquired Higsons in 1985 but decided to abandon brewing in 1989 to focus on its pubs.

They have/had fine former offices on Dale Street

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Boddingtons’ brewing arm was sold to Whitbread in 1990 which then subsequently closed the Higsons Stanhope brewery and then reopened by new owners as the Cains Brewery in 1991. Higsons beer was brewed in Sheffield and Durham for a few years after closure before being discontinued. The beer brand was revived in the current century and reborn in 2017, now served in the swish Baltic Triangle based Higson’s Tap & Still with an interior order that leaps backwards head first, into an imagined future of raw brick, reclaimed wood and industrial flourishes.

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The George prospered – a town centre pub surrounded by workers in search of a wet and shoppers shirking their retail duties in favour of draught bitter or Cherry B.

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Its interior however did not fair so well, ripped out in the 80s – remade remodelled, in the deeply unattractive, anti-vernacular, sub-disco style de jour.

Renamed The Manhattan, riding the fun-pub wave, closed reopened as The George – there followed thirty year of uncertainty, struggling to find an identity throughout a time of ever-changing moods.

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It became a daytime haunt of the hardened, shattered glass, blood on the tracks class of drinker, its reputation in tatters along with yesterday’s fish and chip papers.

The last time I came by you were still open for business.

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I bided a wee while, without imbibing, all the better to record your disabused Art Deco details.

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I came by yesterday and you were all tinned-up with nowhere to go.

Premises To Let as of 13th May 2018 – on the 2nd April 2018 the licence has lapsed, so this will be a further barrier to it re-opening.

And so your faux nowheresville interior will pass into yet another of somebody’s history, along with your fine Deco detail and disco destruction.

This a tale of our age – of monopoly capitalism, stay at home Bargain Booze tipplers, demographic shifts, de-populated town centres, fashion fads and cheap cladding.

Time changes everything except something within us which is never surprised by change.

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Ford Lane Didsbury – Manchester

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This a tale of a lane, a shady lane in south Manchester.

This is a tale of several Manchesters, layer upon layer of history.

Shady history.

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Ford Bank House occupied much of what is now the Ford Bank Estate and prior to that it was believed to be farm land. Ford Bank House, probably the largest house erected in Didsbury was built in about 1823 by Joseph Birley a cotton manufacturer. The extended Birley family had a widespread influence on Manchester history even going back to the Peterloo massacre where one of the Birley ancestors led a contingent of the mounted soldiers who attacked what was a peaceful protest gathering. 

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A tale of emergent capital and political control, rendered corporeal in brick, stone, wood, glass and slate. A cotton-rich mercantile class seeking to suppress the democratic demands of a burgeoning proletariat.

Ford Bank House was sold to Thomas Ashton in 1858, when he died in 1898. In 1919 the remaining estate was sold to Dr Herbert Levinstien who worked on mustard gas research during the first world war. In 1934 the estate was sold to Ford Bank Estates Limited who developed and built what is now the Ford Bank Estate.

A tale of a growing and aspirational professional middle class, seeking inter-war semis in a leafy Didsbury glade – and the timely response of speculative builders.

Looking cheekily over the hedge in search of a monkey puzzle.

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The ford of Ford Lane crosses the nearby River Mersey – thought to be the route of retreating Royalists following the siege of Wythenshawe Hall in 1644.

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In 1901 a bridge was opened at the behest of local emigres engineer and social benefactor Henry Simon – a German born engineer who revolutionised Great Britain’s flour milling industry and in 1878 founded the engineering companies Henry Simon Ltd and Simon Carves.

He and his family were a serious reforming political force in the area – instrumental in the founding and development of the Halle Orchestra, Wythenshawe Park and housing estate.

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For many years this was my route to work – cycling from Stockport to Northenden, each and every day forever. Witnessing the rise and fall of the river and the vacillating  fortunes of Manchester’s economic regeneration.

This is south Manchester where the years of austerity, central government fiscal prudence and free-market economics, have had a far from adverse effect.

In stark contrast to the malaise of the north and east of the city, here we see a constant parade of skips and scaffold, free from the fickle trick of trickle down. As extensions and mortgages are extended at an alarming rate.

The round windowed gaze of the asymmetric homes, seem endlessly surprised at the good fortune that has befallen the residents of Ford Lane.

Owner occupiers preoccupied with owning.

Semi-detached.

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Farewell Grand Central – Stockport

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and hell, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

We have seen things come and go in, on and around Stockport Station’s little acre.

From coal drops to tear drops.

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Archive photographs courtesy of John Eaton

After

The post-industrial leisure complex has come almost full circle – overwritten by the complex needs of the modern day service-worker –  Holiday Inn, Espresso Bar and Mini-mart complement the hot-desked, twenty-four hour online access all areas open-plan office operative.

Gone now the Laser Quest, Super Bowl, Multiplex, Theme Pub days of old.

 

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Photographs from Stockport Image Archive

Time has been called on the post-modern film-set, cast and clad in plastic, brick, steel and concrete.

The future is here today and it means business.

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52 Wellington Road North – Stockport

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Commercial premises or showroom. Dated 1889. Red brick with stone dressings and terracotta decorative details, tiled roof. Rectangular building of 4 x 3 bays with canted corner entrance. Jacobean style. Single storey articulated by pilasters supporting a sculptured frieze. Doorway with arched head and fanlight. One, two and three-light mullion and transom windows to the Parsonage Street front. The Wellington Road front has two large plateglass windows divided by paired pilasters. The windows have removed two pilasters. Cornice, panelled parapet, aedicule with console supporters, swan – neck pediment and date over the doorway. Tall hipped roof. Very prominently sited and under restoration at the time of inspection.

Grade: II listed: 23rd March 1987 – Historic England

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This is a building of some substance, decorated with terracotta work of the highest order, a striking yet diminutive landmark to the north of the town. Situated on a once busy commercial site, where it would have been surrounded by a plethora of retail, industrial and residential property.

My research has shown that its earliest recorded use was under the ownership of JE Jones manufacturing agent for ropes and cords, allied to the local hatting and cotton trades in 1907. Subsequently the base of John Roberts in 1910 – leather merchant, manufacturing  belts, strapping and laces – the company also had premises nearby at 138 Heaton Lane.

It has latterly been in use as Topp’s Tiles, Gordon Ford and Little Amigos Discount Nursery Store – it is currently empty, shuttered and unloved on off at a rent of £1,833 per calendar month from Rightmove.

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As Stockport continues to invest in and develop its town centre, it remains a more than somewhat sorry beacon of decline, an indicator that all to often architecture of local and historic importance, seems to have little or no use in this thrusting modern milieu.

If passing, pause and reflect on the sense of permanence that imbues this building, in an all too impermanent world.

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