On the day of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, I cycled around Ashton under Lyne in search of landmarks of her sixty year reign.
Today, on the day of her funeral, I set out for a walk around Stockport, to record a town largely closed for business. Overcast but far from downcast, I defied the almost persistent fine rain and these are the pictures that I took.
Many of the subjects are products of her time on the throne.
The traffic was much lighter, there were few pedestrians, a couple of cafés were open and two men watched the funeral service on the Sky TV stand in the precinct.
You were conceived as an integral part of the Merseyway development, which on its inception, was held in the highest regard.
Innovative architecture with confidence, integrity and a clear sense of purpose.
The failure of BHS was a national disgrace, venal management, asset stripping, avaricious, grasping rodents ruled the day.
Dominic Chappell, who had no previous retail experience, bought the high street chain from the billionaire Sir Philip Green for £1 in March 2015. The company collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs 13 months later, leaving a pension deficit of about £571m.
A sad end for a company with a long history and presence on the high street.
With an architectural heritage to match:
BHS’s chief architect at this time was G. W. Clarke, who generally worked alongside W. S. Atkins & Partners, as consulting engineers. The stores – like Woolworth’s buildings – were composite structures, with steel frames and concrete floors. Clarke sometimes appointed local architects.
At first, like C&A, BHS retained the narrow vertical window bays and margin-light glazing that had characterised high street façades in the 1930s, but by the end of the 1950s Clarke had embraced a modified form of curtain-walling.
This architectural approach became firmly associated with BHS, with framed curtain wall panels – like giant TV screens – dominating the frontages of many stores.
Of late the store has been home to Poundland – though time has now been called.
Poundland’s retailing concept is extremely simple: a range of more than three thousand – representing amazing value for money.
Our pilot store opened in the Octagon Centre, Burton-upon-Trent, in December of 1990, followed by new stores in High Street, Meadowhall and other quality trading locations. Shoppers loved the concept and so did fellow retailers and landlords. The stores proved to be a huge success. Meadowhall’s success was repeated by further stores opening by the end of the year.
The store has been a success even during COVID restrictions, let us hope that the planned return goes ahead.
So here is my record of the building as is, a tad tired, but in its day a simple and authoritative amalgam of volumes and materials.
Mixing variegated grades of concrete, tiling, mosaic, brick, steel and glass.
Walking the stairwells, ramps and interlocking tiers, the curious pedestrian becomes aware of the ambition and complexity of the scheme. Often identified on local social media groups as an anachronistic eyesore, I feel that it is a thing of rare and precious beauty.
Knock most of the precinct down, free the river, but keep this wall and what is within.
Some are slaughtering imaginary white elephants, whilst others are riding white swans.
Currently under the ownership of Stockport Borough Council, changes are afoot.
Work to redevelop Adlington Walk in Stockport starts this week, as the first stage in the regeneration of the 55-year-old Merseyway shopping centre.
As of today work is still in Covid induced abeyance, it is still possible to walk the old revamped Adlington Walk. The future of retail in particular and town centres in general is in the balance, the best of the past and the finest of the new should be the watchword.
The future shopper is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.
This is where Merseyway Shopping Centre’s future lies.
CBRE Group Inc. is an American commercial real estate services and investment firm. The abbreviation CBRE stands for Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis. It is the largest commercial real estate services company in the world.
Their net worth as of January 28th 2021 is $21.18 Billion.
It is to be hoped that these dreams of entertainment and excitement, may be realised in the not too distant future.
In the meanest of mean times, in the mean time let’s have a look around.
The future moocher is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.
It is bounded by the former Burton’s store, the long gone BHS now home to Poundland, a later extension to the precinct and a Nineteenth century building. Illustrating the mongrel nature of many English towns, the result of world wars, speculative development and town planning.
It’s a self contained world of loading, unloading unloved and overused.
Home to the pirate parker, carelessly avoiding the imposition of the municipal surcharges.
Shops and goods come and go part of the merry retail gavotte.
The trams once clang, clang, clanged along and the Picture House opened 2nd June 1913, later The Palladium, finally closing in 1956 – now occupied by a huge Charity Shop – Highway Hope.
The Merseyway construction is a modern amalgam of mosaic, brick and cast concrete.
The older brick building now almost rendered and coated in off white exterior emulsion.
There are signs of life and former lives.
This is a nether world that never really was a world at all.
The place where the sun almost doesn’t shine.
And the blue sky seems like an unwelcome intrusion.
So as the retail sector contracts and the virus remains viral – wither Serveway Five?
The Council purchased the development at no cost to taxpayers via the current income stream. The rationale for purchase was to create a sustainable future for the centre via a series of targeted redevelopments. Key aspirations for the centre will be to fully integrate it into the town centre. We also want it to complement our exciting ownerships such as Debenhams, Redrock and Market Place and Underbanks.
The investment will seek to change perceptions of not only the retail offer but also Stockport as a whole. It will ultimately create a town centre that will benefit the local business community and Stockport residents.
Once widely admired, Ian Nairn esteemed architectural writer, thought it an exemplary exposition of modern integrated shopping and parking, sitting perfectly in its particular topography – way back in 1972.
This German magazine dedicated several pages to coverage of Merseyway back in 1971.
Note the long lost decorative panels of Adlington Walk.
Many thanks to Sean Madner for these archive images.
Mainstream Modern has recorded its conception and inception, as part of a wider appreciation of Greater Manchester’s architecture.
The architects were Bernard Engle and Partners in conjunction with officers of Stockport Corporation and the centre opened in 1965. The separation of pedestrians and cars, the service areas, the multi level street, the city block that negotiates difficult topography to its advantage, are all planning moves that are of the new, ordered and systemised, second wave modernism in the UK. The aggregate of the highways engineering, the urban planning and the shifting demands of retailers frequently arrived at a form and order such as this. In this way Merseyway is unremarkable, it’s like many other centres in many other towns – consider the rooftop landscape of Blackburn. It is, however, typical and has been typically added to and adjusted during its life and presents perhaps the face of the last retail metamorphosis before the out-of-town really made the grade.
Each successive remaking and remodelling has seriously compromised the integrity of the development. We are left with dog’s dinner of poorly realised Post Modern and Hi-Tech additions, along with a failure to maintain the best of the original scheme.
Once there was a river there, formed by the thunder of Irish Sea ice gouging a great glacial valley, bowling along boulders and millstone grit through phyllosilicate clays and sedimentary sandstone.
Then there wasn’t.
The Mersey, formed in Stockport as the Tame and Goyt conjoined, inconveniently filled with industrial grime and mire, then conveniently covered over in 1936.
Creating the thoroughly modern thoroughfare Merseyway.
The giant concrete culvert and bridge leaving the river cowering cautiously below.
Of time and a river – little stands still and the town is whisked briskly into the late Twentieth Century with plans for a pedestrianised precinct.
Completed and opened in 1965 the shopping precinct was concrete poetry in motion, incorporating the surrounding topography and extant architecture with grace and aplomb. Combining retail, restaurants and car parking facilities in a manner that critic Ian Nairn considered to be amongst the finest in the land.
We had travelators, integrated paving, street furniture, and lighting across several levels. A carefully considered whole, combining all that was best in modern design with style, élan and panache – along with Freeman, Hardy and Willis.
A clock tower, an Alan Boyson concrete car park screen and public art.
Would that it was still so, a variety of additions and subtractions have left Merseyway in architectural limbo, concrete legs akimbo across the river below, striding towards the future in a more than somewhat bewildered manner.
Yet we still continue cast our eyes upwards towards a clock that isn’t there, ride a non-existent walkway to the sky, try on an imaginary crop-top in C&A’s Clockhouse.