The first leg of a journey to the source of the River Irk beginning behind Victoria, finishing by the Hexagon Towerin Blackley.
The Irk’s name is of obscure etymology, but may be Brittonic in origin and related to the Welsh word iwrch, meaning roebuck
In medieval times, there was a mill by the Irk at which the tenants of the manor ground their corn and its fisheries were controlled by the lord of the manor. In the 16th century, throwing carrion and other offensive matter into the Irk was forbidden. Water for Manchester was drawn from the river before the Industrial Revolution. A bridge over the Irk was recorded in 1381. The river was noted for destructive floods. In 1480, the burgesses of Manchester described the highway between Manchester and Collyhurst which – the water of Irk had worn out. In 1816, of seven bridges over the Irk, six were liable to be flooded after heavy rain but the seventh, the Ducie Bridge completed in 1814 was above flood levels.
According to The New Gazetteer of Lancashire the Irk had – more mill seats upon it than any other stream of its length in the Kingdom and – the eels in this river were formerly remarkable for their fatness, which was attributed to the grease and oils expressed by the mills from the woollen cloths and mixed with the waters.
However, by the start of the 20th century the Irk Valley betweenCrumpsall and Blackley had been left a neglected river – not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers.
Spanning the defunct railway workings, affording a view of the brightly blooming city centre.
Leaving Collyhurst Road, we journey along Smedley Road.
Seen here in 1934.
Passing beneath Queens Road – Queens Park to the right.
Queen’s Park was one of Britain’s first municipal parks created in 1846. The park was originally arranged around Hendham Hall, home of the Houghton family however this was demolished in 1884.
Dropping down to Hendham Vale.
The Smedley Hotel is a very large pub that is hidden away on a quiet back street.Once inside there were a few different rooms and I had a drink in the bar which was fairly large and seemed in need of some attention. The pub still had its old Chesters signs outside and there were three real ales on the bar. I had a drink of Chesters bitter and this was a very nice drink the other beers were Chesters mild and Boddington’s bitter.
I thought this pub would be long gone but it is still standing and I think open for business.
The Irk Valley – the damp, dark and dank Irk Valley.
The south bank of the Irk is here very steep and between fifteen and thirty feet high. On this declivitous hillside there are planted three rows of houses, of which the lowest rise directly out of the river, while the front walls of the highest stand on the crest of the hill in Long Millgate. Among them are mills on the river, in short, the method of construction is as crowded and disorderly here as in the lower part of Long Millgate. Right and left a multitude of covered passages lead from the main street into numerous courts, and he who turns in thither gets into a filth and disgusting grime, the equal of which is not to be found – especially in the courts which lead down to the Irk, and which contain unqualifiedly the most horrible dwellings which I have yet beheld. In one of these courts there stands directly at the entrance, at the end of the covered passage, a privy without a door, so dirty that the inhabitants can pass into and out of the court only by passing through foul pools of stagnant urine and excrement. This is the first court on the Irk above Ducie Bridge – in case any one should care to look into it. Below it on the river there are several tanneries which fill the whole neighbourhood with the stench of animal putrefaction.
Below Ducie Bridge the only entrance to most of the houses is by means of narrow, dirty stairs and over heaps of refuse and filth. The first court below Ducie Bridge, known as Allen’s Court, was in such a state at the time of the cholera that the sanitary police ordered it evacuated, swept and disinfected with chloride of lime. Dr. Kay gives a terrible description of the state of this court at that time. Since then, it seems to have been partially torn away and rebuilt; at least looking down from Ducie Bridge, the passer-by sees several ruined walls and heaps of debris with some newer houses. The view from this bridge, mercifully concealed from mortals of small stature by a parapet as high as a man, is characteristic for the whole district. At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.
The stylishly designed living areas and carefully considered external finishes within the new buildings, have been designed to compliment the rich industrial architectural style of the area.
They were never built
Pinnacle Alliance plans to build 344 luxury apartments on a site near Dantzic Street, as part of the ‘Northern Gateway’. Dozens of investors have paid up to £350,000 for the off-plan apartments in the proposed scheme. But two years since many first paid out for their home, no work has actually begun on the £30m scheme.
The dispute has led to a demonstration in Hong Kong, where around 50 buyers took to the streets over Christmas urging local authorities to take up their concerns. And in an unusual twist, protestors even recorded their own campaign song – to the tune of Jingle Bells – criticising Pinnacle.
On the way out are the Travellers’ homes on the other side of the road, adjoining the Irk valley.
Thought to be in danger of flooding, they were condemned, yet there are plans to build on the site for less contentious or socially inclusive usage.
For centuries the commons of England provided lawful stopping places for people whose way of life was or had become nomadic. Enough common land survived the centuries of enclosure to make this way of life sustainable, but by section 23 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 local authorities were given power to close the commons to Travellers. This they proceeded to do with great energy, but made no use of the concomitant power given to them by section 24 of the same Act to open caravan sites to compensate for the closure of the commons. By the Caravan Sites Act 1968, therefore, Parliament legislated to make the section 24 power a duty…for the next quarter of a century there followed a history of non-compliance with the duties imposed by the Act of 1968, marked by a series of decisions of this court holding local authorities to be in breach of their statutory duty; but to apparently little practical effect. The default powers vested in central government, to which the court was required to defer, were rarely if ever used.
The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said yesterday, that the new laws will target trespassers – who intend to reside on any private or public land in vehicles without permission, and where they are causing significant disruption, distress or harm to local communities.
This new offence will enable the police to fine or arrest those residing without permission on private or public land in vehicles in order to stop significant disruption, distress or harm being caused to the law-abiding majority – she added.
The new law also gives the police the powers to seize and impound vehicles whose owners fail to comply with the new law and who refuse or can’t leave.
You are criminalising a problem that has been created by the failings of a political will to deliver appropriate accommodation.
So here we are – in the shadow of the ever expanding New Manchester – no homes for those who choose their own traditional way of life.
Burnt out shells, discarded toys and a population of ghosts.
Today, we live in a political economy that has been dominated by neoliberalism as a consolidation of the role that capital has in accumulation by dispossession. It has been written extensively elsewhere that contemporary neoliberal land policy affects seemingly disparate groups within the urban population. Less explored, however, is how this logic affects GRT communities in particular.
The traveller site on Dantzic Street lies within the forthcoming Red Bank neighbourhood, on the meander of the Irk, this particular neighbourhood will consist of:
Given its proximity to the Green Quarter and other luxury residences, we can expect the rent gap produced by speculative land values to be fully exploited on this patch of land. As for a new traveller site to replace the one on Dantzic Street, the future remains unclear. Having reached out to an Executive Member for Housing and Employment within MCC about ecological concerns alongside the worries concerning lack of land access to travellers, the first question was responded to with misplaced enthusiasm whilst the latter was yet to be briefed at all.
Now I’m going east to Dalton Street, home to the Collyhurst cowboy.
Photograph: Dennis Hussey
This is an illusion within an illusion, twice removed.
The Hollywood recreation, recreated on the rough ground of post war Britain.
In 1960 the area was a dense network of streets, industry and homes – demolished during the period of slum clearance.
Escaping the dark, dank Irk Valley onwards and upwards to Rochdale Road.
The Dalton Works Arnac factory survived until 2008
The tight maze of Burton Street and beyond, reduced to rubble.
Dalton Street was not home to the Dalton Gang, they lived here in Oklahoma
It was home to imaginary gangs, committing imaginary crimes, in an imaginary Manchester, in ITV’s Prime Suspect Five.
Kangol capped criminals doing business outside the Robert Tinker on the corner of the very real Dalton and Almond Streets.
The Robert Tinker was an estate pub in a run down area of Collyhurst. The pub looked pretty grim from the outside, but it was smarter than I expected inside, I had a drink in the lounge which was carpeted and comfortable. This was a Banks’s tied house and there were two real ales on the bar, I had a drink of Banks’s bitter and this was a decent drink, the other beer was Banks’s mild. This pub closed about two years after my visit and looked derelict, it has now been demolished.
Robert Tinker was the owner of the Vauxhall Gardens, a Victorian pleasure venue.
At the openingthere was a special attraction, a giant cucumber which had been grown in the gardens reaching a length of seven feet and eight inches and a large and beautiful balloon was to be liberated at 9pm
Much of the red sandstone used for building in Manchester and the surrounding area, including stone for the Roman fort at Castlefield, St Ann’s Church in the city centre, Manchester Cathedral and the original buildings of Chetham’s Hospital, came from Collyhurst Quarry. Geologists use the term Collyhurst Sandstone for this type of soft red sandstone, which occurs in North West England
Tinker died in 1836 and gradually his gardens were whittled away, the subsoil was sold to iron moulders who cherished its certain properties and before long the trees were chopped down and houses were being built on the former site.
Those houses are in their turn whittled away, replaced in the 1960’s with fashionable tower blocks.
Architects: J Austen Bent 1965
In total five thirteen storey blocks – Humphries, Dalton, Roach, Vauxhall and Moss Brook Courts
Designed by Union North Architects, the names for the Three Towers were decided in a public competition and the winning names were Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia – naming the towers after the Pankhurst sisters and their mother.
The report argues that the Northern Gateway should offer mixed, affordable and age appropriate housing and amenities. An equitable development plan should be developed, through community-led engagement, to ensure that the benefits of regeneration are shared amongst new and existing residents.
As of 2021 there is inaction and stasis
Collyhurst was described as a ‘forgotten place’ by some residents who felt that there had been insufficient investment in local housing and amenities.
The Northern Gateway remains a hidden portal to who knows where.
Detailed proposals for a second scheme to be delivered within neighbouring South Collyhurst, one of the seven neighbourhoods to be developed as part of the overall Framework, are expected later this year.
Far East Consortium and Manchester City Council’s 390-acre masterplan will now be known as Victoria North, a move that aims to “create a sense of place”, according to Gavin Taylor, regional general manager at FEC in Manchester.
The Northern Gateway has served us well as a name as we shaped plans for the area’s regeneration. But as we begin to bring forward development this year, it’s the right time to start creating a sense of place for what will be a significant new district in Manchester, as well as an identity that people can engage with.
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said:
We are at the beginning of an incredibly exciting phase of history for this part of Manchester and with some eagerness to see how this potential unfolds.
Victoria Riverside, a 634- home development marks the first stage of the regeneration project with the first apartments hitting the market.
The three towers – Park View, City View and Crown View, are based within the Red Bank neighbourhood.
Red Bank has been described as:
A unique landscape and river setting making the neighbourhood perfect for a residential-led, high-density development – all set in a green valley.
The putative William Mitchell totem continues to keep silent watch over the Square.
In December 1956 Basil Spence and Partners were commissioned to design St Francis Church in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester. The project was part of a large building programme by the Manchester Diocese and was to service the new post-war housing estate at Newall Green. The site housed an existing hall that had been serving a dual-purpose as church and church hall but which reverted to use as a church hall once the new church was opened. The foundation stone was laid by Colin Skinner CBE on 23 April 1960 and the church was consecrated on 25 March 1961 by the Bishop of Manchester, W D L Greer.
The main building is predominantly brick; it is set back from the road by a landscaped courtyard that includes a brick tower and 73ft concrete cross. Another large cross rises from the front wall of the church itself making it highly visible from the surrounding neighborhood.
The church can hold a congregation of 250. A small chapel is separated from the main church by a sliding screen and can be used independently for private prayer and mid week-services. On busy days the screen can be retracted to provide additional seating to the main church. A gallery over the entrance porch houses two organs and the choir.
Embroidery for the Church was designed by Anthony Blee and carried out by Beryl Dean and Associates, and Communion silver was specially designed by Gerald Benney.
An austerely simple deign, saved from bleakness by a few deft touches – Pevsner.
The lettering on the font cover is by Ralph Beyer, the painting on the east wall by William Chattaway, who came specially from Paris to paint.
2010 – John Richards
The church also contains four stones brought from prominent Christian locations across the globe including a rose hued stone from Assisi itself, these are embedded in the walls and floor around the building.
St Francis of Assisi’s Church in Wythenshawe stands testimony to the vigour of its first priest, the Reverend Ronald Pitcher. It was Pitcher who organised a local campaign to raise money for its construction, even before William Greer, Lord Bishop of Manchester, launched a wider appeal to fund churches and vicarages in new housing areas throughout the diocese.
It was probably also Pitcher who chose the architect, since he made initial contact with Basil Spence late in 1956. Drawings and a watercolour perspective were prepared by the beginning of 1958, when the scheme was priced at £17,500, exclusive of professional fees.
Following discussions with the congregation it was modified to provide side-aisles, and the estimate increased to £27,000, including an organ. Although the diocese believed the final cost might be as high as £35,000,the design was accepted and Spence formally commissioned at the end of the year.
A church forced to close three years ago after its congregation dwindled to just two has been reborn – as a community centre.
St Francis of Assisi, in Wythenshawe, was forced to shut its doors when its popularity waned and repairs became too expensive.
Now, thanks to businessman James Munnery and Pastor William Simoes, the former Church of England building is rising again as a beacon of hope for the neighbourhood. The pair have teamed up to re-open the church as the New Life Opportunities Centre. Ambitious plans for the not-for-profit venture include sports pitches, a recording studio, and a hall for events and dancing.
Emmaus South Manchester is gearing up to support vulnerable people in Wythenshawe and surrounding areas.
Our charity aims to support homeless people and those suffering deprivation and social exclusion in the local area. Thanks to generous support from St. Andrews Church, we have set up a workshop in Wythenshawe and are now looking for retail premises to sell handmade items produced by local volunteers.
Converted to retail use 24th September 2012 after closure. This interesting Victorian building stands back from the road with what may well be a coach road in front. Inside the high ceilings and glorious plasterwork gave the impression of a gentlemen’s club. Though it previously sold cask Banks’s beers in its earlier years, its final days were seen out with only keg beers being available.
The stadium opened on July 24th 1926 – 7.30 prompt.
In 1925, Charles A. Munn, an American businessman, made a deal with Smith and Sawyer for the rights to promote the greyhound racing in Britain.
Smith and Sawyer met Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle JP. Between them they raised £22,000 and formed the Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. When deciding where to situate their new stadium, Manchester was considered to be the ideal place because of its sporting and gambling links. Close to the city centre, the consortium erected the first custom-built greyhound stadium and called it Belle Vue. The name of the stadium came from the nearby Belle Vue Zoological Gardens that had been built in 1836 and the land on which the stadium was to stand had been an area of farmland known as Higher Catsknowl and Lower Catsknowl.
By June 1927, the stadium was attracting almost 70,000 visitors a week.
In October 2019 GRA Acquisition sold the lease to the Arena Racing Company and just two months later on 19 December housing planning permission was passed resulting in a probable closure in 2020.
The imminent closure came following an announcement on 1 August 2020, with the last race being run on 6 June, won by Rockmount Buster – trained by Gary Griffiths.
Going to the dogs was an institution for many, whole families enjoying the spectacle, possibly having a bet, bite and a pint.
Time changes everything social habits, views on animal welfare and gambling.
The hare no longer courses electronically around the oval track, the traps no longer flap and the Tote has taken the last of your change, for the very last time.
Drink up and go home.
Speedway was first held at the stadium during 1928 but was not held again until 1 April 1988, when the Belle Vue Aces returned to the stadium. The team departed Kirkmanshulme Lane at the end of the 2015 season, prior to moving to the new National Speedway Stadium for the 2016 campaign.
The shale speedway track was 285 metres in length.
I was a regular of a Monday evening cheering on The Aces.
When I cycled by in 2015 the stadium was already looking tired – the dramatic concrete cantilevered gull-wing turnstiles a neglected storage area.
I’ll always treasure the perspex shark’s fin, Dave’s memory and going to the dogs.
So what of the future?
Countryside are proud to showcase our stunning collection of 114 new homes at Belle Vue Place, featuring a choice of stunning 3 & 4 bedroom homes all designed and finished to the highest standard.
And very handy for the speedway just up the road on Kirky Lane!
1937-38 by Reynolds and Scott built in buff brick of a Modernist Byzantine style.
The choice of the Apostle of Holland as a patron saint for the parish was that of a Dutch priest, Fr. Sassen, who bought land for the parish from St. Brigid’s in 1905. The new parish was opened in 1906.
Fr. Charles Hanrahan developed the mission in its infancy and was followed by Fr. Richard Mortimer, who laboured here for a long period, devoting most of his priestly life to the parish.
Fr. Patrick Dillon supervised the building of the magnificent new church of unusual design, which was opened in 1938.
According to local historian Diana Leitch, the site has been in use since 1465; the first house was built in 1603 as part of a large estate with a deer park.
In 1740 the site was purchased by the Broome family, and a new house was constructed after 1785 by William Broome, extant today as the front part of the university’s former administration building, now known as Sandhurst House.
By 1812 the house was occupied by a Colonel Parker, and in the 1820s and ’30s it was a girls’ school.
The site was purchased by the Wesleyan Methodist Church on 18 March 1841 for £2,000, and opened as a theological college on 22 September 1842.
The Old Chapel building, originally the college chapel, is a two-storey building constructed in gothic style, with Flemish bond brickwork, built on a sandstone plinth in 1842.The structure consists of three wings, containing a central hall range, with two domestic wings on each side, initially used as tutor accommodation, forming a symmetrical appearance with the gable end of the upper hall. For many years it was used as a library and lecture theatre.
The ground floor eventually became the student union, and contained a bar and café.
During both world wars the site was used as a military hospital. In 1943 the Board of Education had begun to consider the future of education, following reforms that would inevitably come after the war ended. It was estimated that with the raising of the school leaving age, following the 1944 Education Act, about 70,000 new teachers would be needed annually, almost ten times as many as before the war.
In 1944 a report was produced by the Board of Education on the emergency recruitment and training of teachers, and it was decided that there were to be several new training colleges set up. These colleges were to be staffed by lecturers seconded from local authorities, with mature students selected from National Service conscripts. In 1945 the theological college, which was no longer required by the Wesleyans, was leased to the Manchester Education Authority.The new emergency training college was officially opened on 31 January 1946, with Alfred Body as its first principal.
By 1950, the emergency college was purchased by the City of Manchester and made permanent as Didsbury Teacher Training College, with an initial enrolment of about 250 male and female students. As a result of becoming a permanent college, Didsbury became part of Manchester University’s School of Education.
Over the next two decades, numerous buildings were constructed on the site; Behrens, Birley and Simon were all named after prominent local families with ties to the college.
Didsbury became part of Manchester Polytechnic in 1977, renamed Didsbury School of Education.
The adjacent Broomhurst halls of residence have since been demolished.
Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.
In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.
There were grander unrealised plans.
Including an aerial asylum.
The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.
After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.
The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.