The Turnpike Centre was designed by J C Prestwich and Sons architects, who, incidentally, also designed Leigh Town Hall nearly 70 years earlier.
Since its opening in 1971, the bustling library, thriving art gallery and popular meeting rooms have seen a phenomenal 12 million people walk through the doors, while staff have answered almost 400 thousand questions and issued more than 17 million books, cassettes and CDs.
The fascia is graced by a grand cast concrete relief the work of William Mitchell.
All but abandoned by the cash-strapped local council in 2013, Turnpike Gallery in the former mining town of Leigh near Wigan, is entering a new stage in its history with the creation of a community interest company to run its programme.
I do have a particular penchant for pâtisserie – though close in spirit to their Euro equivalents, the vernacular bakers of the North are by comparison, sadly now a seldom seen, rare and precious breed.
My dad’s three sisters Alice, Jenny and Lydia all trained as confectioners, and he himself was a van man for Mother’s Pride. In my turn I worked as a van lad at their Old Trafford base.
Flour, eggs, sugar and fat are in my blood.
In their way the growth of the mass-market bakers, along with the motor car and supermarket hegemony sealed the fate of the local bread, cake and pie shop, along with the demise of the associated skills and attendant early morning work patterns. When I visited Cochrane’s in Audenshaw, it was clear that their youngsters no longer wished to take on the family baking business. So the once unremarkable sight of remarkable rows of fancies, growlers and tarts, is now a thing of familiar folk memory, rather than a sweet and savoury reality.
On both of my visits to Leigh I have passed Parker’s – the windows warm from the freshly baked confectionery – including the almost unique Singing Lily – sweet double crust pies, a large circle of shortcrust pastry folded over dried fruit and rolled until the fruit is visible, sugared and baked.
Next time I’ll go in and try one or two treats – get it while you can.