West End Park – Ashton under Lyne

This is a short history of a park, a short history of my family and me.

The movement of earth and people, a tale until now untold now told.

West End Park is a public park, opened in 1893. The site is bounded by Stockport Road, Manchester Road and William Lane. It was developed on land associated with St Peter’s Church.

St Peter’s was built between 1821 and 1824, and was designed by Francis Goodwin. A grant of £13,191 was given towards its construction by the Church Building Commission. The land for the church was given by the patronage of George 6th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, whose cousin, Revd Sir George Booth, had been Rector of Ashton from 1758 until 1797

The benevolent Victorian landowners thought it politic to provide parks for the working folk, fresh air, exercise and perambulation being preferable to the demon drink.

Friendship Old Street – now a solicitor’s office

The area around the park was a dense warren of housing and industry.

Britain from Above

The parks provided a welcome relief from the tarmac, brick and concrete – very, very few homes having had access to a garden.

During the 1930s local councillors simply can’t resist the charms of the rocking horse.

And a burst of colour in the summertime.

The West End was transformed in the 60’s, through slum clearance, the subsequent building of high rise and the introduction of light industry.

My Grandfather Samuel Jones lived in the area – at one time next door to George Formby Senior.

Later moving to nearby Hill Street.

There’s a plaque for George – there isn’t one for Sam.

During the Great Depression men were required to work for the Dole – Sam was required to dig out a sunken garden in the park – he was a collier by trade, a good man with a shovel, built for back breaking work on Ashton Moss.

David Vaughan

Sam in Blackpool 1954

This is the sunken garden in the 1960s

Thirty yards wide, forty yards long and three yards deep, shifted by hand.

Three thousand six hundred cubic yards of earth.

One cubic yard of topsoil weighs about two thousand pounds on average.

Seven million two hundred thousand pounds of earth.

I worked there in the 1970s along with Alec and Danny bedding out the sunken garden, maintaining the bowling green, tennis courts and playground.

Keith Ingham

There were two permanent gardeners in the park, and a keeper in the summer – plus Danny Byrne and me brought in to help at busy times.

Throughout the 70s and onwards, economic decline hit the area hard, the closure of the cotton mills and little hope for the future. Rising unemployment and severe cuts to public spending did little to assure a rosy future for West End Park, or anything or anyone else for that matter.

Help was at hand – one of many public projects funded by our old friends the EU. Changes in the way that parks were used and further spending cuts sounded the death knell for the flowers and bowling. Large open grassed areas were cheaper and easier to maintain.

And so the sunken garden was filled in, this time by mechanical means – all in a days work for a bloke with a JCB.

So I sit and reflect on the labour and conditions that created this and many of our public parks, our legacy is a much impoverished version of the original vision.

I think of my grandad Sam and his comrades, the sweat of their collective brows buried forever.

Our legacy the small state, a bring and buy your own world economy.

It would make you weep.

Clayton Aniline CIBA Offices

Charles Dreyfus was a French emigrant chemist and entrepreneur, who founded the Clayton Aniline Company on 29 May 1876. The company obtained a lease on a parcel of land in Clayton, Manchester, sandwiched between the Manchester and Ashton Canal and Chatham Street – later known as Clipstone Street.

1904

At its peak in the 1970s, the site occupied over 57 acres and employed over 2,000 people. However, due to the gradual demise of the British textile industry, most textile production shifted to countries such as China and India with the textile dye industry following.

1960

In 2002, the company made 70 members of staff redundant and in 2004 the announcement was made that the site would be closing with the loss of over 300 jobs. A small number of staff were retained to assist in the decommissioning of the plant. The last workers left the site in 2007 and the remainder of the buildings were demolished shortly afterwards.

Wikipedia

Like much of the industry of east Manchester its tenure was relatively short – money was made and the owners departed, without wiping their dirty feet.

The site remained derelict until demolition, followed by extensive site cleansing – to remove the dangerous detritus of 200 years of hazardous chemical production.

It is now occupied by the Manchester City FC training academy.

Vincent Kompany had just completed his £6million move from Hamburg when he realised that Mark Hughes’ sales pitch about the direction the club was going was not entirely accurate.

They took me for a look around the training ground at Carrington – it wasn’t fit for purpose, it was a dump.

I remember there was a punch bag in the gym – and only one boxing glove. And even that had a big split in it!

Then in 2008 the corrupt boss Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra is bought out by Sheik Mansour – the rest is history/mystery.

Mr Peter Swales makes no comment.

My interest lies in the company’s Ashton New Road offices – seen here in 1960.

Demolished and replaced by a distinctly Modernist block by 1964.

A flank was added on Bank Street along with a bank.

Archive photographs Manchester Local Image Collection

The office complex is still standing, now home to Manchester Police, I risked arrest and incarceration, in order to record the distinctive tile work, rectilinear grid and concrete facades.

Attracting several suspicious stares from the open glazed stairwells.

Let’s take a look.