Pomona – Manchester

The River Irwell bisects Salford and Manchester, joining the rivers Irk and Medlock, and then turns west toward Irlam, as part of the Manchester Ship Canal. Its course ends just east of Irlam, where it empties into the Mersey.

Urban development is ever so often dependent upon rivers – for sustenance, commerce and amusement. The Irwell and latterly the developments of the canal system has provided all of these in superabundance.

By 1870 the Pomona Gardens is thriving , boasting a concert hall and banqueting suite – further details here from Skyliner.

In the summer of 1887, a nearby chemicals factory exploded, damaging the palace – the area was under threat and destined to rot away to obscurity: the following year the gardens closed forever.

By 1900 the Ship Canal, docks and railways had arrived – Manchester and Salford are at the centre of an unprecedented growth in manufacture and trade.

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During the 1970’s the docks began a rapid decline, largely due to containerisation. The increasing size of freight-carrying ships meant they could no longer navigate the ship canal and this, combined with increased trading with Europe and the east, saw use of Manchester Docks decrease. In 1982 the remaining docks closed and the area became derelict. Recognising the need to redevelop the area, Salford City Council purchased the docks in 1984 using a derelict land grant. The Salford Quays Development Plan was adopted in May 1985, proposing complete reclamation and development of the area for commercial, residential and leisure use.

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Manchester and Salford begin the long haul from post industrial decline to service centred cities – there were even seeds sewn for the development of a luxury marina. When I first visited Pomona the area was seriously overgrown and the underground wiring stripped out.

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Remnant of the initial scheme – pedestrian access, balustrade and lighting.

What would poor old Pomona make of all this?

There was a failed attempt to prevent further development and return the area to nature. Peel Holdings prevailed and pressed on relentlessly with their programme of urbanisation.

I have posted concerning Pomona posts previously.

So it’s April 2020 – I’m on my way from somewhere else to somewhere else, I’ll cut across Pomona Island – the building site is in lockdown – ain’t nobody home.

A Taste Of Honey

This is a film that has stayed with me for most of my life – first seen as a nipper, fascinated by the fact that it was shot in a very familiar landscape.

As years have passed I have watched and rewatched it, finally resolving to track down the local locations used in its filming.

Studying and pausing the DVD, making thumbnail sketches of frames, researching online – referring to Reelstreets.

I have previously written about the way in which the movie shaped a particular image of the North.

And examined particular areas of Manchester such as Barmouth Street.

The film generated world wide attention and remains just as popular today.

Still watched, still loved, still relevant – here are a selection of photographs I took in 2011 – cycling around Manchester, Salford and just a little closer to home in Stockport.

Larkhill Road scene of the moonlight flit

The descent from Larkhill Road

Stockport Viaduct

Stockport Parish Church

Stockport running for the bus to Castleton

Midway Longsight – where Dora Bryan sang

Barmouth Street were the school scenes were filmed.

Timpson’s shoe shop now demolished opposite the Etihad

Phillips Park the back of the gas works in Holt Town

The Devil’s Steps Holt Town

Rochdale Canal

Ashton Canal

All Souls Church Every Street Ancoats

Piccadilly Gardens as we view the city from a moving bus.

Manchester Art gallery – where they watched the Whit Walks.

Albert Square part of the earlier bus ride.

Trafford Swing Bridge

Dock Offices

Chimney Pot Park Salford

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Barton Aqueduct

Through my tour I have attempted to capture a sense of the settings as they are – how, if at all, the areas have changed.

There may be some minor inaccuracies or omissions which I am happy to amend.

You may wish to visit the sites yourselves, the majority of which are easily accessible, above all watch the film and appreciate that which is around you.

Portrait of Shelagh DelaneyArnold Newman

High Street Estate – Pendleton

High Street Pendleton 1930s – the cast of Love on the Dole walk down High Street Pendleton, passing Hill’s Pawnbroker, author Walter Greenwood is ninth from the right.

This was a dense area of back to back terraces adjacent to pubs, schools, churches, mills, docks and cattle markets. Communities formed from shared patterns of employment, education, leisure and worship.

These communities survived into the 1960s and the coming of slum clearance, followed by an intense period of rebuilding in the modern manner.

Archival photographs Digital Salford

Patterns of employment, economic boom and bust, the exponential expansion in higher education, all contribute to the change in character of the area, along with slow and sudden demise in social housing.

2014 and the area begins to be reshaped yet again – this time by former resident Mr Peter Hook, who grew up in the area, the low slung former New Order bass meister described it in a book as – rotten and horrible, like a concrete wasteland

The Orchards tower block, the first of three, is removed piece by piece, each of the 14-storey blocks took around six weeks to be demolished.

The citizens of High Street Estate await the ‘dozers with apprehension and a sense of grim inevitability.

Clearance begins with the promise of new homes, tenants and homeowners are relocated, houses are tinned up or demolished wholesale. – a few remain in situ dissatisfied and afraid.

Altogether, 885 houses in Pendleton are being bulldozed and, to date, 584 have already been demolished, including houses on Athole Street and Amersham Street. Over the Pendleton Together project’s £650million thirty year life, only around one third of new houses being built will be affordable.

Meanwhile, after years of anguish and uncertainty, Fitzwarren Court and Rosehill Close, previously down for demolition, are being saved. Salix Homes will now bring flats in Fitzwarren Court and houses in its ownership on Rosehill Close up to the Decent Homes Standard

Salford Star

So welcome to Limboland – as financial arrangements shift, shimmy and evaporate – government policy, local authority pragmatists, private partnerships and funding perform a merry dance of expediency, around an ever diminishing circle of demolition, development, stasis and deceit.

Salford Shopping City

The construction of the shopping centre and surrounding areas continued and on 21 May 1970 the new Salford Market officially opened. From 1971 onwards new shops inside the precinct itself began to open.

However, due to a lack of funds and a political scandal which saw chairman Albert Jones jailed for eight months construction of Salford Precinct was halted. The site had only 95 shop units compared to the proposed 260, the hotel and two storey car park were never built.

In 1991 the building was refurbished at a cost of £4 million, this included the installation of roofs across various walkways, making large swathes of the centre undercover. The shopping centre which at the time was known as Salford Precinct was renamed Salford Shopping City.

On 9 August 1994 the Manchester Evening News reported that Salford City Council was planning on selling off Salford Shopping City to raise money for local housing repairs, these plans split the ruling Labour Party council, one councillor telling the press that it would be like selling off the family silver.

In 2000 Salford Shopping City was eventually sold to a private company for £10 million in an effort to cut the council’s deficit. It was then later sold in March 2010 to Praxis Holdings for £40 million, the company stated that it wanted to invest in the precinct and link it to the new food superstore.

This is a tale of our times – 60s and 70s redevelopment designed and built in the rampant spirit of free enterprise and uber-buoyant consumerism, falling foul of an economic downturn, subsequent unemployment and shrinking retail spending. Property is ping-ponged between local authority and speculative developers.

Following the riots of 2011 pledges were made regarding the future of the site, plans are still afoot, as yet to be rendered corporeal. Although the area has benefitted from an influx of students and a refurbishment of housing stock, there is pressure on the prosperity of the precinct from thriving retail developments in nearby Manchester and the Trafford Centre.

The architectural core of the site has been retained, including the 23 storey Briar Court residential tower, though diluted by more recent additions, misguided post modern detailing that threatens the integrity of full many a post war development.

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Minut Men Totems – Salford

The three concrete totem sculptures of 1966 by William Mitchell, which stand in the courtyard of the Allerton Building, University of Salford, are recommended for designation at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic Interest: as a good representative example of the commissioning of public artwork as an integral element of the design of new higher education colleges and universities in the post-war period, here succeeding in imbuing a distinct identity and image on an otherwise relatively plain complex.

So it seemed appropriate to cycle to Salford early one sunny Saturday morning, in an otherwise relatively plain manner in order to see the three totems.

William Mitchell was a leading public artist in the post-war period who designed many pieces of art in the public realm, working to a high artistic quality in various materials but most notably concrete, a material in which he was highly skilled, using innovative and unusual casting techniques, as seen in this sculptural group. He has a number of listed pieces to his name, both individual designs and components of larger architectural commissions by leading architects of the day.

Historic England says so, they loved them so much they listed them Grade II.

I loved them so much I listed them lovely, especially in lowish spring light, set against a clear blue sky and framed by the surrounding academic buildings.

Further info here on Skyliner

Go take a look.

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A Taste of the North

Where is the North and what does it look like?

It’s up there somewhere isn’t it, a dark elsewhere, a mythological other place.

I was curious, searching for clues.

I began in a nearby place in a faraway time, my first reference point, the film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play A Taste of Honey.

Set in Salford by Salford born teenager Shelagh.

A  teenager becomes pregnant by a black sailor. She leaves her feckless mother and her flashy new boyfriend to set up her own home. She moves in with a young gay man, who helps look after her as she faces an uncertain future.

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The film’s release in 1962 broke new ground in terms of its matter of fact depiction of contentious and sensational subject matter. My interest in this instance rests with the visual image of the North that it created.

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Larkhill Road Edgeley Stockport

Shot almost entirely on location in black and white by cinematographer Walter Lassally, we are treated to dark treeless vistas, cobbled streets, industrial areas almost perpetually in decline, bleak canals and terraced homes.

As shown in these archive images of the 1950s, illustrating locations that would subsequently be used in the film adaptation.

There is a comprehensive list of locations here at Reel Streets

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Cambrian Street Holt Town Manchester

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Phillips Park Gasworks Manchester

Director Tony Richardson was a product of the British Free Cinema movement, which had previously produced short, sharp documentary and drama work, driven by a leftist outlook and using a restless, immediate approach, aided by the new lightweight cameras and faster film stocks. This is an ethos and methodology that would be carried over into the feature productions of the Woodfall Films company.

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Rochdale Canal Manchester

The film was shot in the flat, low, even light of the Winter which heightened the mildly desolate character of the landscape, though ostensibly Salford set many of the locations are in nearby Manchester and Stockport. An early long and free flowing title sequence and establishing shot, is a bus tour around Central Manchester, a city centre which at the time was still graced by a thick accumulation of dark industrial emissions and miasma.

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A soot blackened Queen Victoria mute and imperious in Piccadilly Gardens, the freshly blooming cranes of post-war renewal tentatively appearing in the background.

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The skyline punctuated by factory chimneys, the tight huddled streets of terraced houses chuffing billowing great grey clouds of smoke – a view familiar in the work of LS Lowry.

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Barton Bridge

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Trafford Swing Bridge

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Stockport Rail Viaduct

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Phillips Park Gasworks

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The location of the home that Jo sets up was ironically the stage set workshop of the Royal Court Theatre (the very theatre where the play was developed and produced) in London – that most northern of cities.

There is a brief respite from this milieu, through a picture in picture sequence based on the image of a suburban bungalow – which along with the coming age of mass motor car ownership, offers the promise of escape.

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A giddy day trip to Blackpool represents the temporary release from a contrasting and constricting world, a trip which for Jo emphasises the divide between Mother and her lover.

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So we the viewers are left with a cloudily clear, black and white world, a pervasive construct that the North and Manchester is eagerly beginning to casually shuffle off.

Where streets are no longer paved with Eccles Cakes and whippets are hip.

Identity through landscape and location can both define and constrain, but that landscape, its representation, and the identity that it produces are all mutually mutable.

Take some time to watch and rewatch the film, freeze frame where are we?

Who are you?