This is a short history of a park, a short history of my family and me.
The movement of earth and people, a tale until now untold now told.
West End Park is a public park, opened in 1893. The site is bounded by Stockport Road, Manchester Road and William Lane. It was developed on land associated with St Peter’s Church.
St Peter’s was built between 1821 and 1824, and was designed by Francis Goodwin. A grant of £13,191 was given towards its construction by the Church Building Commission. The land for the church was given by the patronage of George 6th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, whose cousin, Revd Sir George Booth, had been Rector of Ashton from 1758 until 1797
The benevolent Victorian landowners thought it politic to provide parks for the working folk, fresh air, exercise and perambulation being preferable to the demon drink.
The area around the park was a dense warren of housing and industry.
The parks provided a welcome relief from the tarmac, brick and concrete – very, very few homes having had access to a garden.
During the 1930s local councillors simply can’t resist the charms of the rocking horse.
And a burst of colour in the summertime.
The West End was transformed in the 60’s, through slum clearance, the subsequent building of high rise and the introduction of light industry.
My Grandfather Samuel Jones lived in the area – at one time next door to George Formby Senior.
There’s a plaque for George – there isn’t one for Sam.
During the Great Depression men were required to work for the Dole – Sam was required to dig out a sunken garden in the park – he was a collier by trade, a good man with a shovel, built for back breaking work on Ashton Moss.
Thirty yards wide, forty yards long and three yards deep, shifted by hand.
Three thousand six hundred cubic yards of earth.
One cubic yard of topsoil weighs about two thousand pounds on average.
Seven million two hundred thousand pounds of earth.
I worked there in the 1970s along with Alec and Danny bedding out the sunken garden, maintaining the bowling green, tennis courts and playground.
There were two permanent gardeners in the park, and a keeper in the summer – plus Danny Byrne and me brought in to help at busy times.
Throughout the 70s and onwards, economic decline hit the area hard, the closure of the cotton mills and little hope for the future. Rising unemployment and severe cuts to public spending did little to assure a rosy future for West End Park, or anything or anyone else for that matter.
Help was at hand – one of many public projects funded by our old friends the EU. Changes in the way that parks were used and further spending cuts sounded the death knell for the flowers and bowling. Large open grassed areas were cheaper and easier to maintain.
And so the sunken garden was filled in, this time by mechanical means – all in a days work for a bloke with a JCB.
So I sit and reflect on the labour and conditions that created this and many of our public parks, our legacy is a much impoverished version of the original vision.
I think of my grandad Sam and his comrades, the sweat of their collective brows buried forever.
Our legacy the small state, a bring and buy your own world economy.
The Wall, along with the low rise dwellings built to its south, replaced Victorian slum terraced housing. There were nearly 1200 houses on the site at Byker. They had been condemned as unfit for human habitation in 1953, and demolition began in 1966.
The new housing block was designed by Ralph Erskine assisted by Vernon Gracie. Design began in 1968 and construction took place between 1969 and 1982. The architects opened an office on site to develop communication and trust between the existing residents. Existing buildings were to be demolished as the new accommodation was built.
The new high-rise block was designed to shield the site from an intended motorway, which eventually was never built. Construction materials for Byker Wall were relatively cheap, concrete, brick and timber. Surfaces were treated with bright colours, while brick bandings were used on the ‘Wall’ to indicate floor levels.
Its Functionalist Romantic styling with textured, complex facades, colourful brick, wood and plastic panels, attention to context, and relatively low-rise construction represented a major break with the Brutalist high-rise architectural orthodoxy of the time.
When Historic England awarded Byker its Grade II* listing in 2007, they praised both its ‘groundbreaking design, influential across Europe and pioneering model of public participation’. The estate’s main element, the Byker Wall, is – like it or loathe it – an outstanding piece of modern architecture. The conception and design of the estate as a whole was shaped by unprecedented community consultation.
I went for a walk around one morning in May 2017, the photographs are in sequence as I explored the estate. It’s hard to do justice to the richness and variety of architecture in such a short time, but I only had a short time.
A Grade II listed country house, now divided into two dwellings. c1812. Ashlar gritstone. Hipped slate roof with leaded ridges. Various ashlar triple stacks with moulded tops. Moulded cornice and low parapet. Two storeys, central block with recessed long wing to east, orangery to west.
This Grade II listed manor house is set within 14 acres of natural grounds, together with the occupied adjoining servants’ wing, and has been sympathetically converted, retaining many original features to provide comfortable accommodation for families wishing to meet up for that special family occasion, and wi-fi is available in the living room.
Then came a pool:
Previously a private pool belonging to a country club in the 1930’s it later opened to members around 1938 who paid a small fee for its use. The pool is fed by a mountain stream and the water is reported to remain cool throughout the year. In the 1940’s/50’s locals recall the pool being open to the public where it cost a ‘shilling for children and half a crown for adults’ entry. During storms in 1947 the pool was badly damaged and reportedly ‘never the same again’ but postcards in circulation in the 1960’s provide evidence that the pool remained open at least until then.
Now it sits abandoned and hidden in the woods.
I went there in my early teens late 60’s the pool was still intact, well used and well cold. I remember chilly changing rooms with duckboards on concrete floors, a small café with pop and crisp if you had the pennies.
Most of all the simple joy of emersion in clear moorland water, on long hot summer days long gone.
Revisiting in April 2014, following a misguided scramble through brambles, it was a poignant reunion. The concrete shells of the pillars and statuary crumbling and moss covered, the waters still and occluded.
It sure it has subsequently been the scene of impromptu fashion shoots and pop promo videos, possibly a little guerrilla swimming. Though sadly it largely sits unused and unloved – let’s take a look around:
Charles Dreyfus was a French emigrant chemist and entrepreneur, who founded the Clayton Aniline Company on 29 May 1876. The company obtained a lease on a parcel of land in Clayton, Manchester, sandwiched between the Manchester and Ashton Canal and Chatham Street – later known as Clipstone Street.
At its peak in the 1970s, the site occupied over 57 acres and employed over 2,000 people. However, due to the gradual demise of the British textile industry, most textile production shifted to countries such as China and India with the textile dye industry following.
In 2002, the company made 70 members of staff redundant and in 2004 the announcement was made that the site would be closing with the loss of over 300 jobs. A small number of staff were retained to assist in the decommissioning of the plant. The last workers left the site in 2007 and the remainder of the buildings were demolished shortly afterwards.
It began on an aimless walk out of Wigan on through Frimley, I found heaven on earth in the warm enfolding arms of the Washeteria. A perfectly preserved fascia, interior and machines, more by diffident neglect than good management. Signature wood effect and patterned Formica panelling, over earnest signs demanding the highest standards of personal conduct, etched in thick discoloured coloured plastic, abound on every surface. Stuttering strip lighting and a stone cold linoleum floor. A dull white ceiling, with a surface texture formed from deep frozen ennui.
Three years later I had visited and snapped several examples, all with their own uniques characteristics though all contributing to a typology.
In the United Kingdom known as launderettes or laundrettes, and in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as laundromatsor washeterias.
George Edward Penury created the word laundromat for Westinghouse.
According to NALI – the National Association of the Launderette industry, numbers peaked at12,500 in the early 80s but have since dwindled to just 3,000.
The first UK launderette – alternative spelling: laundrette. was opened on May 9th 1949 in Queensway London.
Come with me now and relive those warm damp languorous moments as we visit eight laundrettes.
All the books sold out in three hours – so here’s your chance to flick through the virtual pages as the prewash finishes.
Gorton has received significant regeneration and investment over recent years as have nearby areas including Levenshulme. This is an aspirational, exciting new development and Arkwright Place has something for everyone – from first time buyers to growing families and downsizers – with a huge range of beautiful homes on offer.
A local campaign was organised to preserve the open space:
At present the fields are fenced and secured – though gaps have been made to allow access for strollers.
The goalposts still stand though currently without crossbars.
Which are stored by the Sports Hall.
The buildings are mothballed – awaiting what?
For me the concrete and brick functionalist changing rooms are a thing of beauty and seem to have been a part of my life for quite some time, as I cycled back and to – on my way to work.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 1898 Manchester Liners Ltd was launched, four second hand ships were purchased and the company naming policy of applying the prefix Manchester was established.
The company began to operate services to Canada and the USA. Manchester Liners started WW1 with 15 ships in its fleet. During the war 10 ships were lost to enemy action, but because of the purchase of replacements the fleet was at 12 in 1918.At the outbreak of WW2, Manchester Liners had 10 ships in service. War losses were 7 ships, but the delivery of war-standard ships maintained the fleet at 8, which was sufficient to resume a weekly service to Canada.
The Manchester dockworkers strike record became so bad, that in 1973 the company decided to move half of its container services to Felixstowe. Furthermore, to obtain lower costs per unit, container ships were becoming bigger than the Canal limits.
This was a history of economic growth and prosperity, for some. Tangible commerce, the wealth of a nation built on making things, moving things. Cranes, ships, stevedores and sailors, the world and his wife converging at the base of the Manchester Ship Canal.
All this is long gone, containerisation, recession and state engineered shifts in global manufacture and trade.
They took away the cranes.
The area is now awash with intangible activity – what goes on behind the smoked and mirrored glass?
Just who is moving what around, how, where and why?
But hidden away between here and there is a tiled underpass.
A permissive path.
Where once there was a bridge – before the Manchester Ship Canal was built, the course of the River Irwell was approx. 50-100 yards further north of where the Ship Canal now passes under Trafford Road. This plaque is next to a pedestrian tunnel under Trafford Road, roughly on the line of the old navigation.
Where once productive and fulfilling lives were lived, buddleia now blooms, whilst thin grass entwines around forlorn fencing and betwixt ever widening cracks in the uneven paving.
Development in South Collyhurst will take the form of residential-led, family-focused neighbourhoods. We’ll be providing a variety of housing types and tenures to encourage diversity, along with a mix of social and community infrastructure that supports a family lifestyle in close proximity to the city centre.
There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.
William Jennings Bryan 1896
Indeed, You have turned the city into a heap of rubble, a fortified town into ruins; the fortress of strangers is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.
And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.
The putative William Mitchell cast concrete block stares stolidly at its surroundings, overseeing a slow and painful decline.
All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.
There’s no business like no business – it’s no better out the back.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a significant residential-led development connecting the north to the centre of Manchester. Working with our partners we’re re-imagining the essential neighbourhoods of our city.
It has a canted front which is triangular in shape which has a large white cross at its apex.
The interior features full height stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary and St John by John Baker Ltd.
Born in 1916, John aka Jack studied at the Central School in London and worked under James Hogan at the Whitefriars stained-glass studios before joining Samuel Caldwell junior at Canterbury Cathedral in 1948 to help reinstate the medieval glass removed for safekeeping during the Second World War.
He subsequently authored English Stained Glass; the revised edition of this work, English Stained glass of the Medieval Period , which was to become one of the most popular soft back books on English medieval glass ever published.
Apart from his conservation skills, John was also an inspired teacher at Kingston College of Art. He produced windows for a number of churches, including eleven windows for the church of the Holy Name, Bow Common Lane, Mile End; two windows and a brick sculpture for the church of Little St Peter, Cricklewood; eighteen windows for St Anne’s church, East Wittering, Sussex; two large abstract windows for Broomfield Chapel, Abbots Langley; ten large concrete and glass windows for the new parish church, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield; and twenty-two glass windows for the Convent Chapel, St Michaels, Finchley. He also created a huge Jesse window for the church at Farnham Royal. The church was demolished in 2004, but the glass is now in storage, and some of the panes will be installed in the welcome are of the new church.
His favourite works were the windows he produced for Auckland Cathedral, New Zealand – as seen above.
John Baker, born Birmingham, 11 March 1916, died Hastings, 20 December 2007.
Cycling back from Town, zig zagging between the A6 and Birchfields Road, I headed down Beresford Road and bumped into a behemoth.
A huge inter-war Whitbread boozer long since closed, now a retail food outlet and badged as the Buhran Centre, also trading as Burooj.
This change of use is far from uncommon, the demographics, socio-economic conditions and drinking habits which shape this and countless other pubs, have since shifted away from the lost world of this immense, roadhouse-style palace of fun.
No more outdoor or orders here – the supermarket now supplies the supplies for the self satisfied home drinker.
The sheer scale of the building guaranteed its demise, a three storey house with no more stories to tell.
Searching online for some clues as to its history there is but one mention, on the Pubs of Manchester:
This is my attempt, in some small way, to redress the balance, snapping what remains of this once top pub.
I found a typical inner Manchester suburban thoroughfare, a healthy mix of homes socially and privately owned, industry, independents shops, schools and such. Kids at play, passers-by passing by, captured in 1971 by the Council’s housing department photographers.
This was not a Golden Age – wasn’t the past much better, brighter, cheerier and cleaner reminiscence – simply a series of observations.
Something of an iconic, totemic, pin-up poster boy/girl for the Modernists, I bumped into you one rainy day, on the way from here to there. Initially attracted by an unexpectedly bright slab of primrose yellow and white.
Golden Lane was developed in the early 1950s to create local housing for essential workers in the City of London, following the devastation of the Blitz. At the time only around 500 people actually lived in the City of London so the estate was deliberately designed with small units to house single people and couples comprised of the broad social and professional mix needed to support the local community. 554 units were built of which 359 were studios and one bedroomed flats; the remainder were maisonettes and early tenants included caretakers, clergymen, doctors, police offices, cleaners and secretaries. Today there are approximately 1,500 people living on the estate in 559 flats and maisonettes.
Golden Lane was commissioned from architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon by the City of London Corporation (which still manages it) and built on bombed sites previously occupied by small businesses and industries. Some of the basement areas of the former buildings were retained as sunken areas of landscaping. Building took place over a 10-year period between 1952 and 1962 when Crescent House on Goswell Road was completed. Golden Lane was listed Grade II in 1997 (Crescent House is Grade II*). When built, Great Arthur House was the tallest residential building in London and its Le Corbusier inspired design included a resident’s roof garden. The estate also included a leisure centre with a swimming pool and tennis courts. It is now run by a private operator and is open to both residents and the general public.
I stuck around too take a look, struck by the variety of scale, detail and space within a relatively tight integrated development. Mature greenery abounds along with a delightful water feature.
It would appear that following the 70s right to buy the estate is a 50/50 mix of social and private ownership, relatively trouble free and well maintained, something of an anomaly in our go-ahead, left behind land.
As with all things material and corporeal there was time when you simply didn’t exist.
1860 adjacent to Woodward Street and the Rochdale Canal, a simple agglomeration of loose limbed industrial buildings and such – yet to be christened Blank.
Unrelieved by decorative or other features; bare, empty, or plain a blank wall.
Showing a lack of comprehension or reaction – we were met by blank looks – synonyms: expressionless, empty, vacant, deadpan, wooden, stony, impassive, inanimate, vacuous, glazed, fixed, lifeless, uninterested, emotionless, unresponsive, inscrutable.
A space left to be filled in a document – leave blanks to type in the appropriate names – synonyms: space, gap, blank space, empty space.
A cartridge containing gunpowder but no bullet, used for training or as a signal.
Make (something) blank or empty – electronic countermeasures blanked out the radar signals.
Informal North American defeat (a sports team) without allowing them to score – Baltimore blanked Toronto in a 7–0 victory.
Though contradictorily I have found reference to a bankrupt foundry in the London Gazette 1857.
You appear again during the Manchester Blitz.
By 1960 you are on the map and the area is on the up and up.
Though I have to ask the question of the namers of streets – why so Blank, an off day at the office – we have whole blocks named for poets, painters, and far flung places, so why so Blank?
Hadn’t they heard of nominative determinism – born to be Blank.
This Municipal Modernist development seems to have been short-lived and subject to yet more demolition in the area, to be replaced by late 70’s terraced housing.
Blank Street inexplicably became Fulmer Drive.
Which in turn had been tinned up and demolished around 2008.
How did that happen – seemingly viable homes previously changing hands for £100,000 deemed surplus to requirements – land banking, ahead of an as yet unseen masterplan?
Your life was short and sharp – shaped by economic shifts, world war and the local authorities ephemeral housing policies. There is little evidence of your existence, photographic or otherwise, so I want to set the record straight – draw a blank.
Here you are as of July 2019 – tarmac intact, drains fully functioning, pavements paved, awaiting orders. A circuitous run of grassy ridges resembling the remains of some Roman or Iron Age fortification.
Why is there just one remaining tower block dancing unclad around Ancoats?
Let’s go back in time and see if we can find out – it seems that back in 1807 there wasn’t a Woodward Street to be found, the ever expanding industrial might of Manchester had not yet reached these particular green fields of Ancoats.
By 1824 it shows a fresh face to the world christened Woodworth Street, sparsely dotted with new development.
Almost fully formed in 1836 and renamed as Woodward Street, the area begins to accumulate the familiar domestic and industrial clutter of a burgeoning Victorian City.
By 1860 the street is fully formed and open for business.
Workers finding homes in austere and functional brick back to backs, typical of the period’s housing.
Fast forward to the early Sixties and the street is showing signs of age – the century old industries are already in decline, steady jobs, mills and factories gone west and east, well-worn housing looking terminally tired and in need of a little care and attention.
But wait what’s this coming around the bend?
The first wave of urban regeneration, post war optimism incarnate, a bright new shiny future – out with the old and in with the new, as Municipal Modernism stamps its big broad architectural feet all over Woodward Street.
Our story is far from over, this optimism is short-lived the homes, houses and industry are swept away yet again, replaced with two story modern terraced housing and an all too obvious absence of regular employment – yet the tower blocks prevailed.
Former streets were over written and remain as poignant vestigial marks in the landscape.
Though their future was built on more than somewhat shifting and uncertain sands.
A tower block has been left lying empty for a whopping 18 years. The 13-storey building at Saltford Court in Ancoats has been unoccupied since Manchester council closed it in the 1990s. It was bought by top developers Urban Splash six years ago but residents have now hit out about it still being empty. Neighbours of Saltford Court say it has become an ‘eyesore’ and magnet for vermin since the firm bought it.
A large group of blocks stood tinned up and unloved, yet owned, for a number of years, victims one supposes of land-bankers, developers speculating on an even better return, as the warm waves of gentrification washed slowly over them, from nearby New Islington.
All but one was refurbished, clad and re-let.
Woodward Court was spared – set aside for the homeless.
A period piece surrounded by Post Modern and Revivalist pretenders.
Having travelled back in time along Ten Acres Lane why not come along with me now and see just what’s left – right?
Each Manchester street tells its own tales of homes and people been, gone, rebuilt and buried – whole industries evaporating laid waste by seismic economic forces, land changing use again and again – shop door bells which are a now but a ghostly tintinnabulation on the wind.
Starting from the Oldham Road end the clearance of older terraced homes was followed by the construction of newer 70s social housing.