Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.

In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.

There were grander unrealised plans.

Including an aerial asylum.

The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.

After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.

The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!

Drawings are drawn, models are modelled.

1965 Architects: Covell Matthews + Partners

Work is commenced, post haste.

Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.

A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.

Nearly done.

All we need now are tenants.

Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.

The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.

The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.

The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.

The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.

It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.

Manchester Evening News

And of course my good friend Mr Phil Griffin.

Just around the corner the Portland Bars.

Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.

MDMA

Oh and not forgetting the Golden Egg.

Bata Shoes and a Wimpy Bar.

“Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.”

In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.

Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.

However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.

Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.

So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.

While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.

Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.

Black and white archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Stockport Viaduct

Stockport Viaduct, carries the West Coast Main Line across the valley of the River Mersey in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. It is one of the largest brick structures in the United Kingdom, as well as a major pioneering structure of the early railway age.

Stockport Viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. Work began in 1839 and was completed in 1840. Roughly 11 million bricks were used in its construction; at the time of its completion, it was the world’s largest viaduct and a major feat of engineering. The viaduct is 33.85 metres high. Stockport Viaduct is a Grade II* listed structure  and remains one of the world’s biggest brick structures.

In the late 1880s, the viaduct was widened to accommodate four tracks instead of two. In the 1960s, overhead catenary lines were installed by British Rail for the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme. In the second half of the twentieth century, the M60 motorway was built, passing through two arches of the viaduct.

Wikipedia

The structure is central to the visual landscape of the town – it has been the subject of both literature and art, most notably in the work of LS Lowry.

I believe that this composite composition of a northern landscape, is firmly embedded in the psyche of Stopfordians.

A notion that we are able to apprehend the whole of the structure in one panoramic sweep.

Our present perceptions are inextricably linked to past experience, possibly an illusory past.

It even featured in a feature film – A Taste Of Honey

My photograph below, was taken before access was prohibited.

Though has this uncluttered view ever actually existed?

The area has been a constantly evolving jumble of buildings, in, under and around the viaduct.

This raises the question – when did you last see your viaduct?

I live moments away on Didsbury Road – so why not take a look, circumnavigating the site in search of an answer?

From the recently constructed pedestrian and cycleway a view south across multiple roadways.

Approaching the arches from the west.

Looking east from Wellington Road North and the newly constructed A5154 link road.

Looking along the M60.

Looking along Heaton Lane, to the left Regent House.

Looking along the River Mersey

The Lowry Steps.

The view over the soon to be redeveloped Bus Station.

The view along Daw Bank.

One of the most complete perspectives along Swaine Street.

Swaine Street and Astley Street junction.

Crossing the new bridge to Heaton Lane.

Looking back towards the Crown Inn.

The view over Kwik Fit.

Looking east along the River Mersey, beside the rear of Weir Mill.

The view between the Stagecoach Bus Depots.

Looking east along Daw Bank.

Another clear perspective along Viaduct Street.

Beside Weir Mill.

Beneath the M60.

Looking east along Travis Brow.

This is one cold day in Covid February, the traffic a little lighter, few folk on foot.

Another day would produce another series of views, the light shifts, leaves appear on trees, the regeneration of Stockport sees the built environment shift and shimmy with an alarming regularity.

The landscape formed by the second Ice Age, gouging out a glacial valley and subsequently a conjoined river, is all part of a passing parade; it is acted out over millennia, you yourself are party to but one small part, make the most of it, get out and about take a look.

All this life is but a play, be thou the joyful player.

Doncaster Modernism – Revisited

Having taken a tour around town last year, we are now revisiting Doncaster on a socially distanced Manchester Modernist walk.

Arriving by train at 8.30, just in time to check out the new lighting scheme in the station foyer.

Replacing the previous lighting.

Which in turn replaced the original Thirties lighting.

The forecourt redevelopment is a work nearing completion.

I was on my way to Intake by bus so it’s off on the 66 from the Frenchgate Inetrchange.

An urban environment so anonymous, that it can only just recognise itself. I was helpfully informed by two radio controlled security guards that photography was illegal.

More Interzone than Interchange.

Here are my transgressive snaps, I made my excuses and left – on the next available 66.

Decanting from the single decker I made my way across the way to All Saints, a George Pace church of 1956.

Built on the foundations of an unrealised Neo-Romanesque church of 1940, but reorientated east/west.

I legged it back to catch the bus back, the returning 66, much to the surprise of the surprised driver, making his return journey.

Jumping the 41A to Scawsby, displaying my risible home-printed map to the driver, requesting a shout when we arrived at the indicated destination, which he was unable to discern, and which I had failed illustrate.

I had contrived to arrive at the end of the line, a bit part player in a non-existent Béla Tarr film.

The heavy rain continued to fall.

I followed the bus route back to the Church of St Leonard and St Jude on Barnsley Road.

Following a thorough tour inside and out, I returned promptly to the town centre, on the limited stop express X19.

And hotfooted it to the Waterdale Centre, a work in progress, the CGI figures being as yet, a mere figment of the development officer’s fevered dreams.

Doncaster Council documents from the planning application for the demolition say, that while the exact project is not yet fully in place, discussions are taking place with the council on the project and grant funding is being sought to help the future regeneration scheme. But the council has said it supports schemes that would revitalise the Waterdale Centre area for retail, leisure, and tourism uses.

The centre is now owned by the Doncaster-based property firm Lazarus Properties, who bought it from the Birmingham firm St Modwen.

Lazarus director Glyn Smith said his firm had faith in the local economy of Doncaster town centre, even though larger multinationals seemed to be shying away.

Doncaster Free Press

The former ABC/Cannon Cinema

The ABC was built by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) as a replacement for their Picture House Cinema which had opened in 1914. It opened on 18th May 1967 with Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago presented in 70mm. Designed with 1,277 seats arranged in a stadium plan by the architectural firm Morgan & Branch, with input by architects C. ‘Jack’ Foster & Alan Morgan. It was decorated in a modern 1960’s style.

Closed in January 1981 for conversion into a triple screen it re-opened on 9th April 1981 with seating in the 3-screens.

The Cannon Group took control in the mid-1980’s and it was re-named Cannon and it closed on 18th June 1992, screening its opening film “Doctor Zhivago”.

The building has stood empty and unused since then, but in 2007, it was bought by Movie World for just £150,000. It is reputedly being re-modeled with extra screens added, however by 2009, only a clean-up of the interior has been achieved. The building sits empty and unused in 2020.

Cinema Treasures

The delayed opening of the new Savoy Complex will no doubt inform the future of the Cannon.

It’s a familiar tale of the local authority, developers, leisure and retail outlets chasing dreams, cash and hopefully pulling in the live now pay later public.

It’s all part of the Doncaster Urban Centre Masterplan which will transform the way Doncaster looks and the way residents and businesses use the city core.

The area is a pivotal point, I sincerely hope that the Waterdale Centre is revived, along with the adjacent Civic Quarter car park.

Refurbished in 2011 by Potter Church and Holmes since closed.

I noted the restrained Modernism of the National Spiritualist Church.

The service begins with a short prayer. The congregation sings three songs during the service using music that most people would recognise. There is usually a short reading or lesson on something to do with spiritualism or events in the world. There is also a talk by the guest medium who use their inspiration or intuition to compose an uplifting address.

Then the business of contacting the spirit world begins.

Along with its curious relief panels.

Back around to the back of the Waterdale and the surviving former bank fascia, civic offices and library.

Back through the Waterdale to discover the saddest of retail archeology.

The long lost tiled café wall and a mysterious porch.

A gloomy end to a very wet day.