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.
Once home to cheeky monkey, soon to be Monkee Davy Jones.
His runaway, overnight fame made his humble Gorton home a mecca for adoring fans.
The school’s interior was a mix of wide open halls and closeted classrooms.
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.
To begin at the beginning or thereabouts, Taylor Street was at the heart of Gorton to the east of Manchester city centre.
A typical street of tightly packed brick terraces, dotted with shops, pubs, people and industry. I worked there as van lad for Mother’s Pride bread back in the 70s and saw those shops, pubs, people and industry slowly disappear.
Beyer Peacock whose immense shed dominated the northern end of the street, simply ceased to be, as steam gave way to diesel.
As full employment gave way to a date with the dole.
Adsega opening on nearby Cross Street heralded the arrival of the super fast, self-service supermarket, and sounded the death knell of the cosy corner cupboard.
The local pub was The Bessemer – its name forging an unbreakable link with the surrounding steel industry, that eventually broke.
To the left of the pub is the Bishop Greer High School construction site – the first of the new build that would later dominate the area, along with wide open spaces where shops, pubs, people and industry once were.
When the school eventually shut its doors, it became an annex of Openshaw Technical College, and I found myself working there in the 80s at the East Manchester Centre, until its eventual closure.
It’s now sheltered accommodation for the lost and lonely:
Located in a quiet suburb of Manchester with excellent links to the city centre, Gorton Parks has an exceptional range of facilities spread out across five separate houses, each offering a different care option. Melland House offers dementia residential care, Abbey Hey provides nursing dementia care, Debdale is the house for intermediate nursing care and Sunny Brow offers general nursing care.
We sought solace in The Pineapple.
The streets were trimmed and slimmed, much of the past a mere ghostly presence, almost imprinted on the present.
A brave new world of brand new modern housing, with an Estate Pub to match.
A busy bustling boozer – lots of live and local action for the lively locals, latterly seeing out time as a house of House – a real bangin’ Bashment, bass-man bargain basement.
Until time is finally called – no more four to the floor, last one out shut the door.
Nothing lasts forever and a sign of the times is an upended pub sign, lying dormant in the dust.
The Chunky no longer a great big hunk o’funk.
The big screen TV forever failing to deliver all the action, live or otherwise.
Latterly transformed into Dribble Drabble.
And so the beat goes on as successive waves of success and recession, boom and bust free-market economics, wash over the nation and its long suffering folk.
Its enough to drive you to drink.
Designed by architects Cruikshank and Seward in the Sixties, to house the cutting-edge computing power of the time, the ICT later ICL Tower, towered over Wenlock Way, Gorton in East Manchester.
A landmark for many from bus, train, car, Shanks’s pony or low flying VC10.
A place of work for thousands.
At a time when modern technology looked a little like this:
Sadly ending like this:
Two weeks into the demolition process the east elevation is no more, revealing a concrete honeycomb of torn steel and fresh air.
A few weeks time and it will be little more than so much dust and memories.
From Ardwick Green in the west to Abbey Hey in the east – runs Hyde Road Manchester.
It’s a a road I have travelled from my early teens onwards, visiting friends, family, speedway, school sports days, fun and frolics at Belle Vue, tea and toast in Sivori’s, bike parts from Cowans. Working at the former Bishop Greer School, drinking in it’s many pubs, going to the flicks at the Apollo.
It was an area thick with the hustle and bustle of folks going about their business – working, shopping, boozing, waltzing in the Elizabethan, or the waltzers, bobbing up and down on the Bobs. A self contained community, just about prosperous enough in times of full employment – take just one more walk with me.
All photographs from the Manchester Local Image Collection
My journey begins here, at the Brookfield Unitarian Church, Hyde Road, Gorton, in search of the mausoleum of a man, who helped to shape the history of engineering, locomotion and Manchester.
Richard Peacock 9 April 1820 – 3 March 1889 was an English engineer, one of the founders of locomotive manufacturerBeyer-Peacock. Born in Swaledale, Richard Peacock was educated at Leeds Grammar School, but at 14 left to be apprenticed at Fenton, Murray and Jackson in Leeds.
At 18 Peacock was a precocious locomotive superintendent on the Leeds and Selby Railway. When the line was acquired by the York and North Midland Railway in 1840 he worked under Daniel Gooch at Swindon, but reputedly fled to escape Gooch’s wrath. In 1841, he became the Locomotive Superintendent of the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway, subsequently the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway from 1847. In this role he was responsible for founding the Gorton locomotive works for this railway, although he had left the firm shortly before they were completed in 1848.
In 1847 Peacock was present with Charles Beyer at a meeting at Lickey Incline which it is generally acknowledged gave birth to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. George Stephenson was elected as first president and Charles Beyer as a vice president. Peacock became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1849.
In 1853, he joined Charles Beyer to found the celebrated locomotive company Beyer-Peacock. Peacock had originally met Beyer through the acquisition of locomotives from Sharp Brothers, and as mentioned earlier through both being among the founders of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in 1847.
The locomotives designed and built in Gorton in their thousands were exported to the four corners of the globe, Manchester a confluence of capital and ingenuity, harnessing a workforce of millions, to produce a treasure trove of things and stuff
Shipping to Buenos Aires 1929
2 10 0 Locomotives bound for Turkey 1949
Last Diesels in the Paint Shop
By 1966 it was all over, the politically motivated, managed decline of manufacturing industry, a failure to adapt and compete, the loss of Empire, an increase in competition from other nations, all contributing to the almost inevitable, closing of the door.
Archive photographs copyright Manchester Local Image Collection
The clang, hiss and controlled chaos of the boiler shop, just a faint, empty echo – listen.
There remains a legacy, the memories of all those men and women who laboured under those aching skylit eaves, millions of weary travellers world wide.
Not forgetting the church that Richard Peacock benevolently built, the mix of non-conformist worship, Liberal politics and philanthropy that informed Victorian Manchester, which still stands extant in stone, around our city.
Designed by Thomas Worthington in 1869-71, it has a six bay nave with north and south aisles. Arcade columns are of polished granite and wall faces are plaster lined with a large painting over the chancel arch. The roofs have been repaired but the interior has suffered from consequential water damage to the plasterwork which, at the time of visiting, was drying out. The church has been a victim of heritage crime.
Listed and left to the pressures of time tide, wind, rain and unwanted ingress.
Inset into the north wall of the church, facing onto Hyde Road – sculptor John Cassidy.
The Peacock Mausoleum is also the work of the church’s architect Thomas Worthington.
This sumptuous mausoleum takes the form of a Gothic shrine with a steeply pitched roof and arched openings filled with tracery and surmounted by gablets. The statues standing on slender pedestals at the four corners of the monument represent a Blacksmith, a Draughtsman, an Engineer and the architect himself. Further carved embellishments include head-stops, bats and twining ivy.
Condition – still sound, though the bronze angels that used to stand on the gables at either end were stolen some years ago in 1997.
So we arrive at the end of another journey through time and space and Gorton, the lives of so many long lone souls, bundled up in the graveyard of a now closed church, the fortunes won and lost eroded by the vagaries of the climate – economic and meteorological.
To begin at the beginning, well actually to begin in the middle and walk to the current beginning. The Gore Brook flows from the Lower Gorton Reservoir and from there onwards to meet the Chorlton Brook in the west, though I should imagine that prior to the construction of the waterworks, it was fed by more distant moorland waters.
Manchester being on the eastern edge of the Lancashire Plain and the western edge of the Pennines is riddled with rivers, rivers which now wriggle in an under and overground web, across heavily developed urban areas. Following the Industrial Revolution former meadow, common and farmland was overwritten by factories, housing and roads, the rural character of the rivers and brooks soon becoming darkened and polluted by the surrounding industries.
The Red Path is a pedestrian link between Pink Bank Lane and the Gorton boundary at Buckley Road. It roughly follows the course of Gore Brook. The original footpath, running from Buckley Road to the bank of the brook, was made using black cinders. It was probably made in the 1940s to provide access to the allotments located on either side. In the early 1950s , a concrete bridge was laid across Gore Brook and the footpath extended to Pink Bank Lane. This section used red bricks in it’s construction, probably supplied by Jacksons brickworks . Crushed bricks were then used as a topping to make the path smoother and fill in any cracks. The thoroughfare soon became known as the Red Path.
So wide eyed and mapless I bowled up at Brook Terrace, just off Stockport Road Longsight, in search of The Gore and its source.
In the early 1900’s the river was still open and bridged, here at Stockport Road, later culverted and covered – anticipating the arrival of Tesco’s and Granada TV Rentals.
From there we pass under the railway along Brook Terrace and into Parry Road.
The underpass is still there and very much in use, as is Stanley Grove School – the Manchester Central Schools’ Kitchens are long gone, along with the food filled, insulated aluminium cases, that fed the hungry mouths of many, with semolina, pink custard, meat pies and lumpy mash.
Onwards to Elgar Street and still no sign of the river, hidden beneath our feet, the corner of Northmoor Road, can be seen on the corner, no longer distributing dividends, but now providing social housing.
We arrive at Pink Bank Lane, a rich mix of terraced homes, flats and factories – and the long lost Garratt, and the long lost Gore.
Though the lazy, lazy river has been confined in a brick lined wind, to meet the ever pressing needs of the Gorton Sewage Works.
The river then hugs the edge of Annie Lea Playing fields on Buckley Road, until it disappears again as it meets Mount Road, the playing fields are still open ground – the Manchester Cleansing Department, seen on the left – is no more.
Here on Knutsford Road we see the construction of the tunnels and culverts, the footbridge to the left spanning the railway, is still there.
Finally we see The Gore reemerging clear, clean, wide, proud and resplendent in Sunny Brow Park, where it is still maintained as a decorative, duck-filled lake.
Briefly underground again and into the back of Far Lane, skirting the Brookfield Church graveyard.
Then tunnelling under Hyde Road at the back of the church lodge, appearing once again alongside Tan Yard Brow.
The manmade waterfall continues to cascade, the Fairfield to Old Trafford railway is now the Fallowfield Loop, Manchester Cycleway, young lads no longer mess about in wellies and torn Tek Sac jeans on the bank, the Tannery no longer tans.
Then we end our journey by the broad expanse of the Lower Gorton Reservoir, implausibly dotted with jolly yachts, and home to a now absent stepped outflow stream. Look up to the east, and there you’ll see the moors, you could go further.
All archive photographs from Manchester Local Image Collection.