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. 

Ford Bank Residents

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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Back to Bideford Drive – Baguley

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Here we are again – having previously travelled back to the inception of the estate in the 1970s.

Structurally little has changed, politically and economically things have shifted.

Tectonically:

The Conservative Party had committed itself to introducing a Right to Buy before Margaret Thatcher became Party leader. After the election of May 1979 a new Conservative government drafted legislation to provide a Right to Buy but, because this would not become law until October 1980, also revised the general consent to enable sales with higher discounts matching those proposed in the new legislation. The numbers of sales completed under this general consent exceeded previous levels. Between 1952 and 1980 over 370,000 public sector dwellings were sold in England and Wales. Almost a third of these were in 1979 and 1980 and it is evident that higher discounts generated and would have continued to generate higher sales without the Right to Buy being in place. 200,000 council houses were sold to their tenants in 1982, and by 1987, more than 1,000,000 council houses in Britain had been sold to their tenants.

The Right to Buy: History and Prospect

The post war policy of building and renting local authority housing was swamped by the phrase property owning democracy, on which the popular conservatism of the 20th century rested, and with it a vision of the good society, was coined by the Scottish Unionist Noel Skelton in a quartet of articles for the Spectator entitled Constructive Conservatism, written in the spring of 1923. The appeal of Popular Capitalism proved compelling, however the periods of de-industrialisation, and the subsequent lull in the building of new affordable homes, has created a myriad of obstacles for those simply seeking somewhere to live and work.

The estate illustrates this historic shift, replete with homeowners decorative amendments and addenda, managing agents and trusts and an end to the architectural integrity of the development.

One could become all Ian Nairn about this, swathed in Outrage.

I myself feel that despite the cosmetic surgery, this remains a homely enclave, residents going about their business in a relatively orderly and happy manner.

Take a look:

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