Platt Court – William Mitchell

Wilmslow Rd Manchester M14 5LT

Situated outside Platt Court a third of four William Mitchell totems that I have visited – Eastford Square and Newton Heath still extant.

William Mitchell 1960

The Hulme exemplar has gone walkabout.

Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester – Terry Wyke

Tower Block tells us this is one 13 storey block containing 62 dwellings along with one 9 storey block containing 70 dwellings.

Built by Direct Labour commissioned by Manchester County Borough Council

Seen here in 1970.

The flats are now gated, so I peeped tentatively through the fencing.

Then chatting to the site’s maintenance gardener I gained access – here is what I saw.

IRK VALLEY #ONE

The first leg of a journey to the source of the River Irk beginning behind Victoria, finishing by the Hexagon Tower in 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 between Crumpsall and Blackley had been left a neglected river – not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers.

Wikipedia

The river emerges from beneath the city into an area named Scotland – a remnant of Manchester’s links with the Jacobite Rebellion.

To the left were the squalid Victorian homes of Red Bank – currently presenting as the Green Quarter.

The river briefly becomes subterranean again.

This is a river with an ignominious history – famously damned by émigré Friedrich Engels.

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.

Mr Engels currently resides by the Medlock.

The stretch along Dantzic Street into Collyhurst Road was heavily industrialised, of which some remnants prevail.

Along with an abandoned traveller’s camp, where once the gas works had stood.

New housing is being built forming the first wave of the Victoria North masterplan.

Previous enterprises have hit the buffers beneath the railway on Bromley Street.

To the right is Dalton Street once home to the Collyhurst Cowboy.

Here are the remains of Vauxhall Street, named for Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, built in the remains of the Collyhurst Quarry – which in turn became Sandhills.

There are current plans afoot to create a City River Park.

In addition the local authority oversees the Irk River Valley Project , along with Groundwork, United Utilities, Woodland Trust and Greggs.

To the left are St Catherine’s Steps

Immortalised by almost local lad LS Lowry

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.

To the right is the Smedley Hotel.

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.

Alan Winfield 1994

Lost to the world are the Manchester Moderne flats of Kennet House overlooking the Irk Valley on Smedley Lane.

Hendham Way becomes a pedestrianised lane.

Taking the road up and then down, returning to the river, and following the wrong path – alongside the Hapurhey Reservoir and Ponds.

A remnant of the industrial era the reservoirs and ponds, once used by the factories as a source of water, have over the year become a thriving habitat which supports a substantial amount of wildlife.

Then cutting back and regaining the correct path.
Finally arriving at the Hexagon Tower.

Black and white photographs: Manchester Local Image Collection

Tower Blocks – Blackley

Sandyhill Court Sandyhill Rd Manchester M9 8JS

Almost high on a hill stands a lonely tower block.

Seen here in 1987.

Tower Block

Sandyhill Court – Stands on the corner of Riverdale Road and Sandyhill Road and is still a local authority block.

The front entrance has a mosaic and concrete relief, recalling De Stijl particularly Joost Baljeu.

Along with echoes of Jean Arp.

The flats had acquired a stereotypical bad reputation.

Blight flats will soon be high-rise des-res.

Residents on a blighted Blackley estate have been told of plans to deal with the mostly unoccupied high-rise flats that are seen as the cause of the problem.

Manchester Evening News

I entered via the vehicular access – in order to view the four remaining reliefs.

The Lakeside Rise blocks now form part of a private gated community and are accessed from Blackley New Road.

The original blocks and their locations are as follows:

Ashenhurst Court Now Lakeside 1
Heaton Court Now Lakeside 2
Wilton Court Now Lakeside 3
Blackley Court Now Lakeside 4

Bracknell Court demolished – was on the corner of Riverdale Road and Bridgenorth Road adjacent to Heaton Court
Riverdale Court demolished – was on Riverdale Road opposite Bantry Avenue.

Hexagon Tower – Blackley Manchester

Crumpsall Vale Blackley Manchester M9 8GQ

I was last here at the Hexagon Tower in 2015 – on a Manchester Modernist Society magical Orbital Bus Tour.

ICI commissioned the building from Richard Seifert in September 1969, as a research, development and production centre.

I returned in 2022 whilst cycling/walking the River Irk.

Since my previous visit the tower has been made good – after a fashion.

It looked splendid in the late March sun, as I approached along Imperial Way.

Imperial Way named for its progenitor ICI – the Imperial Chemical Industries.

ICI’s Dyestuffs Division had its headquarters at Blackley in north Manchester, in a complex known as the Hexagon, which included its main R & D labs, and an experimental manufacturing plant.

John Rylands Library

New Hexagon House 1958 architect: Serge Chermayeff

Manchester Local Image Collection.

Now I find myself outside the new Hexagon Tower 2022.

Now home to multiple chemical users under the auspices of WAPG.

Travellers Site – Dantzic Street Manchester

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.

Friedrich Engels

This is the street parallel to the River Irk, Dantzic Street, an anglicised version of former German city Danzig, currently Gdansk in Poland.

Gas works, works and a hole in the wall public convenience.

This has all gone.

Once home to putative homes.

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.

Now Victoria North is on the way.

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.

Gypsy Traveller

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.

Joseph P Jones from the Gypsy Council

Travellers Times

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:

A landmark thirty seven storey building as well as two sister towers, Park View and City View.

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.

GM Housing Action

Dalton Street – Manchester

The North’s gone west.

We all went west.

Excepting one individualist nurse.

I went west with my dad in 1958.

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

Photograph: Mikey

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.

Alan Winfield

Robert Tinker was the owner of the Vauxhall Gardens, a Victorian pleasure venue.

At the opening there 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

It was built adjoining the site of the Collyhurst Sandstone Quarry.

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

Seen here in 1985.

Tower Block UK

Subsequently purchased by Urban Splash and refurbished:

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. 

Julie Twist

Currently being record to see post Grenfell regulations.

As the terraces were cleared new low-rise social housing also arrived.

All archival photographs Manchester Local Image Collection unless otherwise stated.

Along with maisonettes adjoining Eastford Square

Photograph: Stuart Collins 2014 – demolished 2015

The remains of the remaining Eastford Square homes tinned up and secured awaiting who knows what.

So let’s take a short walk, see how things stand.

The area now forms the core of the latest municipal Masterplan – Victoria North.

Victoria North is a joint venture programme between Manchester City Council and developer Far East Consortium.

An internationally recognised developer, FEC specialises in residential led mixed-use developments and hotels, along with its casino and car park operations throughout mainland Europe. 

The cowboys are now long gone – or are they?

When I was a cowboy out on the Western Plain
Well, I made a half a million
Working hard on the bridle reins

Come a cow-cow yicky come a cow-cow yicky, Harpurhey

Huddy Leadbetter

Eastford Square – 12/21

Here we are again and again and again, a curious passer-by, curious as to what may or may not have taken pass.

Local Image Collection 1970

There is a report of 2020

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.

Northern Gateway 2018

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.

Construction Enquirer 2021

Northern Gateway rebrands as Victoria North

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.

St Francis of Assisi – Wythenshawe

66 Chalford Rd Wythenshawe Manchester M23 2SG

Sir Basil Spence 1959-61

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.

CANMORE

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

2015 – 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.

Mainstream Modern

Construction.

Completion.

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.

Warwick University

2012

Manchester Evening News 2013

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.

It will also hold church services.

Businessman James Munnery outside St Francis of Assisi

The sound of the pipe organ

St Andrews Church – Wythenshawe

Brownley Road Wythenshawe M22 0DW

JCG Prestwich and Son 1960

As seen by Comrade Yuri Gagarin on his visit to Manchester and on our recent recreation of the route.

B&W photographs Local Image Collection

A solid Italianate brick structure with a til distinctive campanile.

Currently home to the Emmaus Community

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.

The Road to Emmaus 1877 – Robert Zund

Rex Launderette

318 Slade Lane Levenshulme Manchester M19 2BY

Following a brief interregnum we’re back in the soapy study world of the local launderette.

One of many Rex operations – including those which I visited in Hull and Hull.

I am of course nationally and internationally renowned as Rex Launderette – author of the multi-ward winning eight laundrettes.

Should you care to search this wishy-washy blog there are also countless other laundry related posts.

Anyway, I jumped the 197, alighting at the junction of Albert Road and Slade Lane.

I popped into my local Rex and chatted with owner Steve, who had operated the business for some years, in addition he and his dad had run the late lamented Kingsway branch.

I hung around a while chatting and snapping – here’s the snaps.

Higher Openshaw

There’s been more than a few comings and goings along Ashton Old Road.

1906

Where once there were fields, homes and industry arrive, as the Industrial Revolution is in full swing.

1908

The streets to the north of Ashton Old Road are alive with shops, homes, people and prams.

Along with the occasional motor car.

Alpha Street
Bowness Street
Burman Street
Silverdale Street
Toxteth Street
Trevor Street

The Old Road boasted some fine busy boozers.

And a splendid church and school.

St Clements

The man responsible for the majority of these archive photographs is Tommy Brooks of 56 Gransmoor Road.

He is my hero, a member go the Manchester Amateur Photographic Society, cycling the streets of Manchester to produce a unique record of life in the Sixties.

The Manchester Image Collection is awash with his work.

Chapeau Tommy!

Gransmoor Road 1963

The house is no longer there – the area has recently been redeveloped, some older properties demolished, and new homes built.

Though The Gransmoor is no longer The Gransmoor.

Although it briefly became CKs

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.

Whatpub

2010
2021

St Clements still prevails with a healthy congregation.

In 2010 several properties were removed and the land levelled.

Eleven years later old and new now snuggle up together.

The street structure is more or less unchanged.

Though sadly the wonderfully named Ambush Street is no more.

So the big wheel keeps on turning new homes, new folk and new life for East Manchester.

UMIST – Manchester

Every now and then, I get the yen to come back here again.

Having included the site on one of my Manchester Modernist Walks, I pop by protectively just to make sure everything’s still there.

The custodians The University of Manchester may well be averse to listing and have already removed Chandos Hall.

Forever.

In addition, a whole block and a walkway have been subtracted.

Thereby placing the Hans Tisdall mosaics: The Alchemist’s Elements in jeopardy – currently held in storage, who knows what fate awaits them?

Discussions have taken place pre-lockdown, another year on and possibly the possibility of a positive resolution.

Consequently I always approach the site with a slight sense of foreboding, it’s Easter and there’s nobody about.

The trees are just about to burst into leaf, there are bright bursts of cherry blossom on the bough.

The sun shines down from a big blue sky, strewn with wisps of cloud.

Let’s have a look around – it’s springtime for UMIST and Modernity!

Belle Vue Dogs – Manchester

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.

1958

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.

Wikipedia

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.

Diners enjoying their meal at Belle Vue Greyhound stadium while punters line trails outside waiting for the next race, 23rd September 1976.

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.

The new £30,000 stand that has just been completed 29th April 1960.
The track’s Assistant General Manager Colin Delaney with the plans for the new stadium complex. 1989.

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.

Last week I had to dodge behind the hoardings to take some snaps.
The site is secured and demolition imminent.
The stadium will soon be gone – as a footnote I have at home a 50s sign, appropriated on a work’s night out and later gifted to me by my dear departed pal – Dave Ballans.

I’ll always treasure the perspex shark’s fin, Dave’s memory and going to the dogs.

So what of the future?

Belle Vue Place – the name lingers on long after the fun has gone.

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!

St Willibrords RC – Clayton Manchester

1963

North Road Clayton Manchester M11 4WQ

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.

Genuki

The church was Grade II listed in June 1994

Research Portal

Our Lady and St. Joseph Hanwell 1967

The church is sited in a densely populated area of the city, comprising Victorian terraces and inter-war social housing.

The interior has extensive mosaic work by the Manchester firm Ludwig Oppenheimer – whose work can also be seen in St John the Baptist RC Rochdale.

1968

So farewell St Willibords and many thanks to the exceptionally kind and welcoming parishioners who granted me access to this very fine church.

Archive photographs Local Image Collection

MMU Campus Didsbury

799 Wilmslow Rd Didsbury Manchester M20 2RR

I was here, once upon a time, studying to be an art teacher – which eventually I was, then I wasn’t.

Such is life, things that is eventually isn’t, such is the story of this here site.

Facts courtesy of Wikipedia

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.

Both Sandhurst House and the Old Chapel are Grade II listed – the architect was probably Richard Lane.

As of 2018 the site is being redeveloped by local architects PJ Livesey, as a residential area of 93 homes, with the listed buildings being retained.

Here’s a record of my visit, to the soon to be demolished site, in April 2015.

Archive photographs Local Image Collection.

St Cuthbert’s Miles Platting Manchester

Junction of Fir Road and Oldham Road

One fine day, I chanced to walk by just as the service was finishing.

I asked Assistant Curate Rev. Peter Scott if it would be possible to photograph the interior of the church, he kindly consented.

Here are the results, along with shots of the excitingly angular exterior.

The church’s exterior is home to a dramatic concrete relief.

Let’s take a look inside, complex volumes and multiple window-lighting points, along with simple decorative order.

Of particular note – the organ pipes located above the main entrance.

Once again I can’t thank Rev. Peter Scott enough for giving us access to this beautiful church, serving the parishioners of Miles Platting.

Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

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.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!