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.

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.

Park Hall Manor Pool – Little Hayfield

First there was a house.

A Grade II listed country house, now divided into two dwellings. c1812. Ashlar gritstone. Hipped slate roof with leaded ridges. Various ashlar triple stacks with moulded tops. Moulded cornice and low parapet. Two storeys, central block with recessed long wing to east, orangery to west.

Historic England

Currently trading as a quick getaway country cottage

This Grade II listed manor house is set within 14 acres of natural grounds, together with the occupied adjoining servants’ wing, and has been sympathetically converted, retaining many original features to provide comfortable accommodation for families wishing to meet up for that special family occasion, and wi-fi is available in the living room. 

Then came a pool:

Previously a private pool belonging to a country club in the 1930’s it later opened to members around 1938 who paid a small fee for its use. The pool is fed by a mountain stream and the water is reported to remain cool throughout the year. In the 1940’s/50’s locals recall the pool being open to the public where it cost a ‘shilling for children and half a crown for adults’ entry. During storms in 1947 the pool was badly damaged and reportedly ‘never the same again’ but postcards in circulation in the 1960’s provide evidence that the pool remained open at least until then.

Now it sits abandoned and hidden in the woods.

I went there in my early teens late 60’s the pool was still intact, well used and well cold. I remember chilly changing rooms with duckboards on concrete floors, a small café with pop and crisp if you had the pennies.

Most of all the simple joy of emersion in clear moorland water, on long hot summer days long gone.

Revisiting in April 2014, following a misguided scramble through brambles, it was a poignant reunion. The concrete shells of the pillars and statuary crumbling and moss covered, the waters still and occluded.

It sure it has subsequently been the scene of impromptu fashion shoots and pop promo videos, possibly a little guerrilla swimming. Though sadly it largely sits unused and unloved – let’s take a look around:

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.

eight laundrettes

It began on an aimless walk out of Wigan on through Frimley, I found heaven on earth in the warm enfolding arms of the Washeteria. A perfectly preserved fascia, interior and machines, more by diffident neglect than good management. Signature wood effect and patterned Formica panelling, over earnest signs demanding the highest standards of personal conduct, etched in thick discoloured coloured plastic, abound on every surface. Stuttering strip lighting and a stone cold linoleum floor. A dull white ceiling, with a surface texture formed from deep frozen ennui.

Three years later I had visited and snapped several examples, all with their own uniques characteristics though all contributing to a typology. 

In the United Kingdom known as launderettes or laundrettes, and in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as laundromatsor washeterias.

George Edward Penury created the word laundromat for Westinghouse. 

According to NALI – the National Association of the Launderette industry, numbers peaked at12,500 in the early 80s but have since dwindled to just 3,000. 

The first UK launderette – alternative spelling: laundrette. was opened on May 9th 1949 in Queensway London.

Come with me now and relive those warm damp languorous moments as we visit eight laundrettes.

All the books sold out in three hours – so here’s your chance to flick through the virtual pages as the prewash finishes.

Pomona – Manchester

The River Irwell bisects Salford and Manchester, joining the rivers Irk and Medlock, and then turns west toward Irlam, as part of the Manchester Ship Canal. Its course ends just east of Irlam, where it empties into the Mersey.

Urban development is ever so often dependent upon rivers – for sustenance, commerce and amusement. The Irwell and latterly the developments of the canal system has provided all of these in superabundance.

By 1870 the Pomona Gardens is thriving , boasting a concert hall and banqueting suite – further details here from Skyliner.

In the summer of 1887, a nearby chemicals factory exploded, damaging the palace – the area was under threat and destined to rot away to obscurity: the following year the gardens closed forever.

By 1900 the Ship Canal, docks and railways had arrived – Manchester and Salford are at the centre of an unprecedented growth in manufacture and trade.

1891
1923
1950

During the 1970’s the docks began a rapid decline, largely due to containerisation. The increasing size of freight-carrying ships meant they could no longer navigate the ship canal and this, combined with increased trading with Europe and the east, saw use of Manchester Docks decrease. In 1982 the remaining docks closed and the area became derelict. Recognising the need to redevelop the area, Salford City Council purchased the docks in 1984 using a derelict land grant. The Salford Quays Development Plan was adopted in May 1985, proposing complete reclamation and development of the area for commercial, residential and leisure use.

Wikipedia

Manchester and Salford begin the long haul from post industrial decline to service centred cities – there were even seeds sewn for the development of a luxury marina. When I first visited Pomona the area was seriously overgrown and the underground wiring stripped out.

2010
2010
2020

Remnant of the initial scheme – pedestrian access, balustrade and lighting.

What would poor old Pomona make of all this?

There was a failed attempt to prevent further development and return the area to nature. Peel Holdings prevailed and pressed on relentlessly with their programme of urbanisation.

I have posted concerning Pomona posts previously.

So it’s April 2020 – I’m on my way from somewhere else to somewhere else, I’ll cut across Pomona Island – the building site is in lockdown – ain’t nobody home.

Manchester Liners – Tiles

In 1898 Manchester Liners Ltd was launched, four second hand ships were purchased and the company naming policy of applying the prefix Manchester was established.

The company began to operate services to Canada and the USA. Manchester Liners started WW1 with 15 ships in its fleet. During the war 10 ships were lost to enemy action, but because of the purchase of replacements the fleet was at 12 in 1918. At the outbreak of WW2, Manchester Liners had 10 ships in service. War losses were 7 ships, but the delivery of war-standard ships maintained the fleet at 8, which was sufficient to resume a weekly service to Canada.

The Manchester dockworkers strike record became so bad, that in 1973 the company decided to move half of its container services to Felixstowe. Furthermore, to obtain lower costs per unit, container ships were becoming bigger than the Canal limits.

History

This was a history of economic growth and prosperity, for some. Tangible commerce, the wealth of a nation built on making things, moving things. Cranes, ships, stevedores and sailors, the world and his wife converging at the base of the Manchester Ship Canal.

All this is long gone, containerisation, recession and state engineered shifts in global manufacture and trade.

They took away the cranes.

The area is now awash with intangible activity – what goes on behind the smoked and mirrored glass?

Just who is moving what around, how, where and why?

But hidden away between here and there is a tiled underpass.

A permissive path.

Where once there was a bridge – before the Manchester Ship Canal was built, the course of the River Irwell was approx. 50-100 yards further north of where the Ship Canal now passes under Trafford Road. This plaque is next to a pedestrian tunnel under Trafford Road, roughly on the line of the old navigation.

Archive photographs Salford History

So here it is a hidden, harshly lit, slightly disabused tribute to the brave souls who sailed the seven seas, stayed ashore, weighed, loaded and shifted stuff.

We all deserve a better deal.

Lynemouth Pithead Baths

Pithead Baths 1938 by FG Frizzell.

Pebbledashed over white brick. Roofs part concrete slab, part glazed behind parapet. Irregular plan, Modern Movement style. Group of blocks of varying height round tall central tower with rounded, glazed stair turret. Walls mainly sheer, with plinth and slight roof projection.

Long block on east of tower has central south projection with glazed, banded steel double door under high strip of windows beneath eaves overhang. Taller storeroom to west has similar doors in 2 recessed banded glazed bays; and abuts on south-east corner of tower. Similar double doors in base of tower. Large lower south-western canteen wing abuts on west side of tower and has banded glazing around two sides above a projecting sill. Slightly-projecting 3-bay office section to north has steel cross casements; on its return another casement and a door with hollow-chamfered jambs and flat hood. Taller bath block behind. Wave pattern on rainwater heads.

Listed 18th December 1985 Historic England

FG Frizell was also responsible for the Elemore Colliery Pithead Baths in James Terrace Sunderland.

This is the youngest colliery in the neighbourhood, having commenced operations for the Ashington Coal Co Lt. in 1934. The shafts, which are situated comparatively near to the coast, are two in number, and both were sunk to the High Main seam level, which is 486 ft from the surface. The downcast No. 1 is 18 ft in diameter and is used for coal-raising on two shifts per day, and the upcast, which has a diameter of 15 ft, is used for ventilation and emergency man riding only.

The seams being worked are the High Main, the Diamond, the Main, and the Yard. Each of these seams shows practically the same nature of roof and floor as throughout the two neighbouring collieries and the distance between the seams is also comparable. They are, of course, found at slightly greater depths at Lynemouth, the Yard seam, for example, being 660 ft. below the surface near to the shafts, as compared with some 300 ft. at Ellington.

Durham Mining Museum

April 1962

It was one of Britain’s largest collieries until it was closed in 1994.

I was cycling the coast in July 2012 and happened by, seeing the tower of the baths from an adjacent path, passing by the faded signage.

Into the raw expanse of a now empty post-industrial landscape.

And on towards the bath house.

I am not by nature an urbex urban explorer, simply an explorer.

Entering the open site, I was well aware of the significance of the building and its history – working lives that had constructed the baths, entered and left through those very same doors.