Telephone Exchange – Stockport

Typically, as with timid police officers, telephone exchanges seem to travel in pairs.

An inter-war brick building, of a utilitarian brick Classicism, restrained in nature, along with a post-war concrete construction.

These are pragmatic architectural forms, constrained within a typology, and responding to the nature of the technology contained within.

Here is the building of 1934 – BT Archives

In 1961 – when Exchange Street was but a rough track, the area was also known as Blueshop Yard.

Stockport Image Archive

The concrete cousin constructed in 1971.

So here we are in 2021 taking a close look at these BT beauties, without further ado.

Torn Poster – Georges Road Stockport

Mimmo Rotella Best known for his works of décollage and psychogeographics, made from torn advertising posters. He was associated to the Ultra-Lettrists an offshoot of Lettrism and later was a member of the Nouveau Réalisme, founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany.

Inspiration to all lovers of the torn poster, The Society of the Spectacle reduced to the exasperating Esperanto of the inexplicable.

Working towards the demise of the – autocratic reign of the market economy.

Hannah Höch 

I wish to blur the firm boundaries which we self-certain people tend to delineate around all we can achieve.

My name is Kurt Schwitters – I am an artist and I nail my pictures together.

New things had to be made out of fragments.

Together they begin to define the realm of cut and paste collage technology, the chance encounter, the hastily arranged marriage and the jarring clash of culture and counter-culture.

They are my guiding lights – by which to live, look and learn, to loop the Möbius loop into an expanding geometry of new meanings.

The lines curve toward each other and intersect.

JCDecaux was founded in 1964 in Lyonby Jean-Claude Decaux. Over the years it has expanded aggressively, partly through acquisitions of smaller advertising companies in several countries. They currently employ more than 13,030 people worldwide and maintain a presence in over 75 countries.

Outdoor advertising, reaches more than 410 million people on the planet every day.

Some days everything falls apart.

Serveway Five – Merseyway

There comes a time in very life when you finally go where you have never been before – even though you have walked by that very same place almost every day.

That’s how I found myself in Serveway Five.

Situated on the north east corner of Merseyway.

1984 – Stockport Image Archive

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.

Hanover Chapel – Stockport

The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.

Italo Calvino – Invisible Cities

Paul Dobraszczyk posted this Shirley Baker photograph, he was puzzled by its exact location, it puzzled me too.

For nearly all that is depicted here, is now no longer extant, save one hopes, for the group of playmates.

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.

Manifesto of the Communist Party

Shirley Baker was a renowned documentary photographer, who worked extensively in Greater Manchester.

I love the immediacy of unposed, spontaneous photographs and the ability of the camera to capture the serious, the funny, the sublime and the ridiculous. Despite the many wonderful pictures of the great and famous, I feel that less formal, quotidian images can often convey more of the life and spirit of the time.

I am grateful to Stephen Bann who has identified the monument as the Bann Family vault:

Stephen Bann and his younger brother – many thanks for the text and photograph Stephen.

Her photograph was taken in Stockport 1967 – I first assumed it was taken from St Mary’s Church, looking toward the former power station.

I was mistaken.

Using the Stockport Image Archive, I found the possible site, in this photograph of Tiviot Dale Station.

There on the eastern edge of Lancashire Hill – Hanover Chapel.

Seen here on the maps of 1917 and 1936.

An area of intense activity, road, rail, housing and infrastructure.

Hanover Chapel closed 1962 – though we may assume from Shirley Baker’s photograph, that following its demolition the graveyard remained intact but untended.

The chapel is thought be seen in the 1954 film Hobson’s Choice, directed by David Lean and starring John Mills, here awaiting his bride to be – the parish church of St Mary’s on the skyline.

Though closer examination reveals that this is not Hanover Chapel – where did those pillars come from?

Where are we, in a labyrinth of invention with a superimposed Stockport backdrop?

My thanks to Robert Collister for these observations.

Improbably out of time, the cooling towers are yet to be built, or blown up.

Here John is joined by Salford born Brenda Doreen Mignon de Banzie, playing Maggie.

The demolished chapel rubble appears in the foreground of Albert Finney’s gold Roller CB 1E in Charlie Bubbles.

The film’s screenplay was the work of Shelagh Delaney, whose previous work A Taste of Honey also used local locations.

Where Finney has pulled up, feeling proper poorly.

As a serendipitous symmetry, Charlie Bubbles co-star Liza Minelli plays a photographer recording Salford’s disappearing streets.

Bit by bit everything disappears, Tiviot Dale Station closed completely on January 2nd 1967.

Where once there was a continuous run from the chapel to the town centre, the motorway has since intervened.

The Tiviot Dale pub on the right is no more, closed in 2013.

We had people from all parts of the country turn up on our final day, some of them brought their children who wanted to come because they remember the pub so fondly from their childhood. It was really humbling to see that our pub had touched so many lives.

Dave Walker landlord.

The King’s Head/Full Shilling on the left closed in 2015, though still standing.

I remember this pub as a Boddingtons house in the 1970’s. Excellent bitter served by handpump from small vault at the front and a larger “best room” behind, both very narrow given the width of the pub. The landlord employed an unusual method of ensuring everyone got a full pint; a half pint glass of beer was kept between the pumps and your pint was topped up from the half which was constantly replenished to keep it fresh. I have not seen this practice in any other pub.

Phil Moran

When’s the next tram due?

Millgate Power Station operated until 1976.

At the adjacent gas works – gas holder number three was dismantled in 1988, gas holders one and two were removed in 2019.

The nature of infrastructure, housing and industry has changed radically.

Lancashire Hill flats were built in the 60s, designed by City Architect JS Rank, two seven storey blocks containing 150 dwellings; two six storey blocks containing 120 dwellings.

Replacing tight rows of terraced housing.

They themselves clad and revamped.

The Nicholson’s Arms built to serve the flats closed and currently empty, signs say to let – replaced an earlier pub, sited on the corner of long gone Nicholson Street.

The Motorway appears piecemeal in 1974, formerly the M63 now M60.

Today from the road there’s simply no trace of the site’s past purpose.

At the centre of what is now a compact civic grassed area – a trough.

Incongruously in memory of Elizabeth Hyde of Tufnell Park Road London.

The dense stand of trees is impenetrable – no longer a view of the non existent power station and beyond.

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.

Isiah 58:12

As a footnote I did meet brothers Stephen, Derek and Peter who appeared in this Shirley Baker photograph 55 years ago – she promised them an ice cream each – they never ever received an ice cream.

They are seen in Sunnyside Street Ordsall – long since demolished.

A commemorative plaque from the Chapel still exists, sited now on the wall of Wycliffe Congregational Church Georges Road Stockport.

Archival Images – Stockport Image Archive

Deneway Stockport Again

Here we are again then – having stopped to snap this July.

I’ve gone completely round the bend and over the hill – just by leaving my own abode, situated just below Deneway.

Early morning low light on wet roads, the mixed palette of brick simply glows.

Walls fleetingly adorned with shadows of birch and willow.

Bollards

As I was out walking on the corner one day, I spied an old bollard in the alley he lay.

To paraphrase popular protest troubadour Bob Dylan.

I was struck by the elegant symmetry and rough patinated grey aggregate.

To look up on the world from a hole in the ground,
To wait for your future like a horse that’s gone lame,
To lie in the gutter and die with no name?

I mused briefly on the very word bollards, suitable perhaps for a provincial wine bar, Regency period drama, or family run drapers – but mostly.

bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post. The term originally referred to a post on a ship or quay used principally for mooring boats, but is now also used to refer to posts installed to control road traffic and posts designed to prevent ram-raiding and vehicle-ramming attacks.

The term is probably related to bole, meaning a tree trunk.

Wikipedia

Having so mused I began to wander a tight little island of alleys and homes, discovering three of the little fellas, each linked by typology and common ancestry, steadfastly impeding the ingress of the motor car.

Yet also presenting themselves as mini works of utilitarian art – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Having returned home I began another short journey into the world of bollards, where do they come from?

Townscape Products

Hostile Vehicle Mitigation

Huge range • Fast delivery • Right on price

PAS 68 approved protection for your people and property combining security, natural materials and style.

My new pals seem to be closely related to the Reigate.

Available in a mind boggling range of finishes.

Bollards can be our friends, an expression of personal freedom and security.

A pensioner says he will go to court if necessary after putting up concrete bollards in a last-ditch attempt to protect his home.

Owen Allan, 74, of Beaufort Gardens, Braintree, claims motorists treat the housing estate like a race track, driving well in excess of the 20mph speed limit, and that the railings in front of his home have regularly been damaged by vehicles leaving the road.

He was worried it would only be a matter of time before a car came careering off Marlborough Road and flying through the wall of his bungalow.

Braintree and Witham Times

Though on occasion may be perceived as an enemy of personal liberty, precipitating a head on collision with the local authority.

A furious family have been stopped from parking on their own driveway after bullyboy council officials installed concrete bollards outside their home.

We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea here what the with yellow lines and the bollards.

Daily Express

I have cause to thank the humble concrete bollard, having suffered an assault on our front wall from a passing pantechnicon, I subsequently petitioned the council, requiring them to erect a substantial bollard barrier.

Which was subsequently hit by a passing pantechnicon.

They are our modernist friends, little gems of public art and should treated with due respect – think on.

You hostile vehicles.

Fred Perry Way – Stockport to Reddish

The third and last leg, starting from the confluence of the Tame and Etherow where the Mersey begins.

Passing the remains of the railway bridge carrying the Cheshire Lines through to Tiviot Dale Station.

Over the river and beneath the terminal pylon.

Along Penny Lane beside Lancashire Hill flats.

Across Sandy Lane into Coronation Street.

Once a rare sight on our roads the ubiquitous SUV reigns supreme on our suburban streets – the level of UK car debt currently stands at £73 Billion.

We weaved in and out of the highways and byways of South Reddish.

Through Unity Park where the goals are lower than low.

The hoops are higher.

And the bowls are rolling.

Past the perfect Platonic bungalow.

Taking the well worn path betwixt and between the houses.

Crossing open country.

Encountering exotic planting worthy of the French Riviera.

Noting the voguish transition of the local semi-detached housing from white to grey and the now familiar sight of the Range Rover in the former front garden.

The reverse of a roadside sign can often be far more interesting and attractive than the obverse face.

Reddish South Station sustained by the once a week parliamentary train, on the Stockport to Stalybridge Line, coincidentally the only time, as a goods guard, I ever worked a passenger train, was along here, one Christmas long ago.

We stopped at Denton, a request stop, the seasonally boozy passenger gave me a fifty pence tip.

George’s – where I bought a bag of chips on the way back, great chips, friendly and safe service with a smile.

Houldsworth Working Mens Club designed by Abraham Henthorn Stott forming part of the model community developed by the late-C19 industrialist Sir William Houldsworth, which included cotton mills, workers’ housing, school, church and a park.

Church of St Elisabeth 1882-3, by Alfred Waterhouse one of the finest Victorian churches in the country – both of the buildings are Grade II Listed.

Over the way the former Victoria Mill, converted into apartments.

With adjoining new build.

We faithfully followed the signs, noting a change from blue to green.

Somewhere or other we went wrong, our luck and the signs ran out, we instinctively headed north, ever onwards!

Traversing the Great Wall.

Mistakenly assuming that the route ended or began at Reddish North Station that’s where we landed.

Back tracking intrepidly along the road we found the source of the Fred Perry Way.

In the North Reddish Park – where tennis can still be played today albeit with a somewhat functionalist net, on an unsympathetic surface.

Journey’s end.

To forget, you little fool, to forget!

D’you understand?

To forget!

You think there’s no limit to what a man can bear?

Russell Gardens – Stockport

I live just around the corner and often walk by, intrigued by this small rectangle of rectangular sheltered homes, I chose to take a closer look.

On adjoining Craig Road there are a group of interwar semi-detached homes, social housing built in 1930, facing on to open ground which leads down to the Mersey.

There is an arc of post war social housing on Hamilton Crescent, which surrounds Russell Gardens.

The homes that constitute Russell Gardens built in 1947 were illustrated in the town’s 1948/49 guide book, considered to be something of value.

Designed as a diminutive Garden Village, smaller in scale to those found in Burnage or Fairfield, but based on the principle of shared green space and community services.

In the 1970s the land to the south, now occupied by the Craig Close development, was yet to be built upon.

And the Cadbury Works still stood close by on the Brighton Road Industrial Estate:

Built in the late 1800s this was originally Silver Spoon (Pan) Fruit Processing Works, then in the 1920s was Faulders’ Cocoa and Chocolate Works. By the 1930s it was Squirrel Chocolate Works and in 1960s became a distribution depot for Cadbury’s. A friend remembers playing among the pallets of the ‘chocolate factory’ in the 1950s. Later it was occupied by small businesses. The works comprises a large rectangular block with sawtooth roof, and central entrance house with tall chimney. The adjacent rail line, built in 1880, branched into the site.

28 Days Later

Recently replaced by a car dealership.

Though many of the surrounding homes were sold off during the Right to Buy era:

After the election of May 1979 a new Conservative government drafted legislation to provide a Right to Buy but, because this would not become law until October 1980, also revised the general consent (May 1979) to enable sales with higher discounts matching those proposed in the new legislation. The numbers of sales completed under this general consent exceeded previous levels. Between 1952 and 1980 over 370,000 public sector dwellings were sold in England and Wales. Almost a third of these were in 1979 and 1980 and it is evident that higher discounts generated and would have continued to generate higher sales without the Right to Buy being in place.

Russell Gardens remains the estate of Stockport Homes managed as sheltered housing for the over 60s.

  • Retirement housing
  • 33 one bedroom flats built in 1947
  • Non-resident part time management staff and Careline alarm service
  • Lounge, Laundry, Garden

The houses are now some fifty years old and in good order, the residents with whom I spoke, seemed more than happy with their homes.

Would that more and more affordable homes for folks of all ages could be built.

The post-war consensus and political will that created this upsurge in construction, has been swept away by market forces.

Let’s take a look at the vestiges of more enlightened times.

Fred Perry Way – Hazel Grove To Woodford

Having started in the middle, let’s fast forward to the end – the beginning will have to wait.

We take up our walk along Fred’s Way once more by Mirrlees Fields.

Following the brook along the narrow shallow valley, betwixt and between houses.

Briefly opening out into green open space.

Crossing the road and entering the detached world of the detached house.

No two the same or your money back!

Diving feet first into Happy Valley, home to the Lady Brook stream.

And quickly out again.

Emerging once again into the space between spaces.

The suburban idyll of the Dairyground Estate home to very few semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers; those on state benefit/unemployed, and lowest grade workers.

But home to an interesting array of Post War housing.

Including examples of the style de jour, à la mode conversions and updates extended and rendered, black, white and grey symbols of success or extensive extended credit facilities.

Though the more traditional fairy tale variant still has a space and place, in the corner of some well behaved cul de sac.

Under the railway – through a low tunnel darkly.

We struck oil, black gold, Texas Tea – Tate Oil.

The area of Little Australia – so called as all the roads are named after towns in Australia, is bordered by the West Coast Main Line to the north, the Bramhall oil terminal to the east, Bramhall village centre to the west and Moorend Golf Club to the south.

We emerged into a warren of obfuscation, dead ends and conflicting signs, having made enquiries of the passing populace, we realigned with the new bypass.

Passing over the conveniently placed footbridge over the bypass and beyond.

Emerging amongst faux beams and real Monkey Puzzles.

It was at this point that, unbeknownst to us, we followed a twisted sign, misdirecting us along an overgrown path – to Handforth.

We failed, in the end we failed to arrive to arrive at the end.

Heading west like headless chickens towards the Turkey Farm.

Making our way mistakenly to Handforth Dean Retail Park – rear of.

Crossing slip roads with no pedestrian access and the forbidden territory of an industrial sized gymnasium car park.

Woodford will just have to wait, another day another dolorous excursion.

We walked wearily back to Stockport.

Fred Perry Way – Stockport To Hazel Grove

Second time around – having once cycled the whole way in 2009.

I’ll do anything twice or more – so here we are again, this time on foot.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start – in the middle, the section from the town centre to Hazel Grove.

Maps are available here for free – we declined the offer, deciding to follow signs instead, many of which were missing or rotated, the better to misinform and redirect – such is life.

We are mostly lost most of the time, whether we like it or know it or not.

We begin at the confluence of the rivers Mersey and Goyt – which no longer seems to be a Way way, the signs having been removed, and proceed down Howard Street, which seems to have become a tip.

The first and last refuge for refuse.

Passing by the kingdom of rust – Patti Smith style.

Passing under the town’s complex internal motorway system by underpass.

Where help is always handily at hand.

Whistling past the graveyard – the site of the former Brunswick Chapel where one and hundred and fifty souls lay lying.

Onward down Carrington Road to Fred’s house.

Through Vernon Park to Woodbank Park – with its heroic erratic.

Almost opposite the entrance to the museum, now set in shrubbery, are the foundations, laid in September 1860, of what was to be a forty metre high Observatory Tower. Despite a series of attempts, funds for the tower could not be raised and the ‘Amalgamated Friendly Societies of Stockport’ eventually had to abandon the idea.

Historic England

Out east and passing alongside the running track.

Lush meadows now occupy the former football field, twixt inter-war semis and the woodland beyond.

Out into the savage streets of Offerton where we find a Buick Skylark, incongruously ensconced in a front garden.

The only too human imperative to laugh in the face of naturalism.

We have crossed over Marple Road and are deep in the suburban jungle of mutually exclusive modified bungalows.

Off now into the wide open spaces of the Offerton Estate – the right to buy refuge of the socially mobile, former social housing owning public.

People living on Offerton Estate have been filmed for a programme entitled ‘Mean Streets’ which aims to highlight anti-social behaviour in local communities.

MEN 2007

The next thing we know we’re in a field, a mixed up melange of the urban, suburban and rural, on the fringes of a Sainsbury’s supermarket filling station.

We cross the A6 in Hazel Grove and here for today our journey ends

Ignoring the sign we went in the opposite direction.

As we reach the edge of Mirrlees Fields – the site of the only Fred Perry laurel leaf logo emblazoned way marker.

The Fields are currently designated as a green space and are not available for residential development. But MAN would like to overturn this designation for over one third of the Fields.

MAN Energy Solutions UK is the original equipment manufacturer of Mirrlees Blackstone diesel engines.

Before the Blackstone MAN came in 1842 – the fields were all fields.

To be continued.

Georges Road Stockport

Once they built a railroad.

The Cheshire Lines Committee CLC operated Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway line from Portwood to Skelton Junction, a section of what became the Woodley to Glazebrook line.

It remained a part of the CLC, which was jointly owned from 1923 by the London and North Eastern Railway  and the London Midland and Scottish Railway , until 1948 when it became part of the British Railways London Midland Region.

Closed in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986.

The blue arrow indicates the Tiviot Dale Station.

in the age of steam mainline St Pancras trains and local stoppers flew by.

My interest lies in the small portion of track at the end of Georges Road – I worked as a Guide Bridge goods guard in and out of the scrap yard there, in the Seventies.

Now I walk past almost every day and it’s almost all gone.

The bridge which it supported now demolished, time called long ago in the long lost Gardeners Arms – originally a Bell’s Brewery pub latterly a Robinsons house.

What remains is a triangular island faced in glazed and blue engineer’s brick, topped out with trees.

I have entertained the idea of accessing the area by ladder, exploring and possibly setting up camp – though I think the proximity to an almost constant flow of traffic, would prove less than commodious.

It evokes for me an elevated affinity with Ballard’s Concrete Island.

He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.

So here it is as is complete with tags, signs, cracks and all.

It remains as a monument to those who built and worked on the railway.

Fred Perry Way – 2009

Some time ago in Stockport Fred Perry was born, lived and moved away – in pretty rapid succession. Nevertheless the Borough claims him as their own and to celebrate the fact, they have devised a Way.

Not the way or an away day but a named way, the Fred Perry Way.

Stretching from North Reddish in the north to Woodford in the south – zigging and zagging through and across highways and byways, avenues and alleyways.

Combining rural footpaths, quiet lanes and river valleys with urban landscapes and park lands.

For the long distance walker it may be useful as a link route. The Fred Perry Way provides a link between the Bollin Valley Way, and through that, the North Cheshire Way, and via a short link between Mottram & Woodford, the Tame Valley Way and Etherow Goyt Valley Way at Stockport. A full crossing of historical North Cheshire could be devised, linking Black Hill & Crowden on the Pennine Way with Hilbre Island, utilising also the Wirral Way/Wirral Shore Way.

LDWA

Which seems like a whole heap of Ways.

Anyway this is what I saw way back when, but I’ll be back again in a bit!

Deneway Stockport

Deneway almost but not quite, literally on my doorstep:

High above the Mersey Valley and 70 meters above sea level Deneway Estate stands proud, affording views of the Pennine White Peak to the south east and nothing but some other houses in all other directions.

Built in 1964, by architects Mortimer & Partners it was an award winner from the word go – coming first in an Ideal Homes sponsored competition.

Very much in the tradition of the Span Estates, it consists of small groups of two and three storey terraced homes, with communal open, well tended front gardens. At the entrance to the estate stands a single low tower block of flats.

The architecture sits quietly and confidently in the landscape, well behaved, prim and proper. Interiors are open plan and afforded ample daylight by generous windows. Detailing is tiled and wood panelled, with low pitched roofs.

Jump the train, walk, cycle, bus or tram, but arrive with eyes and heart wide open to enjoy this suburban gem – it’s right up my street.

This was my very first piece that appeared on the old Manchester Modernist site way back in 2014.

Six years later I walked up the road again and found the flats clad in a funny colour cladding and the plaques moved, much else was as was. I assume, that under deed of covenant, fencing and guerilla gardening within open areas is verboten, along with fancy extensions.

The estate therefore retains its original integrity.

The sun in the meantime however – had gone in.

Here are the pages of Ideal Home which featured this award winning estate.

Car Park Ramp – Stockport

We recently took a look around Redrock, today we visit the next door neighbour – the car park ramp.

Replacing the old Debenham’s ramp.

Linking the old world of Merseyway with the shiny new NCP.

I don’t drive no car so I have to make do with the ecologically sound and ever so affordable means of pedestrian trespass, proceeding incautiously I recorded my journey into the unknown.

Returning safely to Basecamp I investigated further, circumnavigating the drainage area.

I have to admit that I am over fond of this small sacred space, a modern impenetrable temple of Brutalism. My ambition is to stage an art/music event within, just wait and see/hear if I don’t!

Redrock – Stockport

Much maligned, universally loathed – the Stockport leisure facility everyone loves to hate.

What’s the story?

No more darkness, no more night.
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord, I saw the Light
.

1900

The area between Princes Street and Bridgefield Street was a tight warren of housing, shops and industry, eventually demolished in the 1970s, designated as slum clearance.

Prior to the arrival of the ring road the space remained undeveloped and turned over to car parking.

Little changes as the M60 is opened.

Images TS Parkinson –  Stockport Image Archive

So for over forty years the land lies pretty vacant, but far from pretty.

Until 2015 when planning permission is granted for the £45m Redrock leisure scheme, which includes a 10-screen cinema, restaurants and shops.

Councillor Patrick McAuley, the council’s executive member for economic development and regeneration, said:

This is a very exciting time for Stockport. Developments such as these help our ambition of putting Stockport on the map to bring more people to work, shop and socialise here. We have been keen to involve the public in plans for both developments, by holding various consultation exercises.

We look forward to an exciting few years improving Stockport’s offer.

So good bye to all this, the local authority is making serious progress, developing Stockport’s future, against a background of structural decline and the dominance of Manchester city centre.

The architects for the scheme are BDP – the building was not well received as it was awarded the Carbuncle of the Year 2018.

Judges were left unimpressed by the – awkward form, disjointed massing and superficial decoration, while readers called it an absolute monstrosity.

Though to be fair The Light has a house style that leans heavily towards the anonymous industrial shed.

Sittingbourne

The development has however become a commercial success – once inside customers seem more than happy with the facilities.

The people of Stockport have welcomed us with open arms since opening in 2017. We’ve now had over one million guests join us for everything from the latest blockbusters to opera, theatre and concerts.

It’s been that busy that we’ve just added two additional screens and now offer freshly made pizzas, burgers and sliders. We’ve got plenty more exciting additions up our sleeve for next year too!

Tom DeanBusiness Manager at The Light Cinema

Yet it continues to attract wave after wave of criticism on local Facebook groups, perhaps the former car parking area should be reinstated, or the Victorian slums rebuilt?

I went to take a look for myself during lockdown – see what you think.

Real attempts have been made to make the landscaping and street view amenable to pedestrians, it feels like an attractive and safe urban space.

The view from the north is less successful, the scale and decorative work looks over ostentatious and confused.

Look away if you wish, it won’t be here forever – and if you fancy something different try The Plaza or The Savoy.

Possibly see what’s playing at The Palladium.

That should keep everyone happy shouldn’t it?

Where The Gas Works Wasn’t – Stockport

1878 Gas making at Portwood commenced

1969 Old retort house demolished

1988 Gas holder number 3 dismantled

2003 Last aerial view showing the gasometers in the raised position

2019 Removal of gas holders 2 & 3

Thanks to 28 Days Later

The area was formerly a dense web of housing and industry.

With the gas works at its heart .

High speed gas once the fuel of the future is almost a thing of the past. Coal Gas produced in coke retorts long gone, North Sea Gas hissed off.

Low carbon heating will replace domestic boilers from 2025, the need for gas storage holders is minimal.

Goodnight Mr Therm.

There are currently 53 listed holders on the Historic England site.

Some have been repurposed – WilkinsonEyre has completed work on Gasholders London; a development of 145 apartments within a triplet of listed gasholder guide frames.

Little now remains of the Portwood Gas Works.

These are the rearranged remnants re-sited by Dunelm Mill – it’s curtains for our industrial heritage.

What’s left?

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One of the UK’s largest retail parks, Stockport Retail Park benefits from a strategic location on the M60 Manchester orbital motorway making it one of the city’s most accessible parks. The park forms a natural extension to the town centre, offering a wide range of uses from value convenience to fashion and home as well as a number of cafés and restaurants.

This is the post industrial landscape of consumption and its infrastructure that faces the defunct and mothballed site, whatever next?

Concrete Island – Stockport

He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.

Deliberately, he turned his back to the motorway and for the first time began to inspect the island.

Maitland, poor man, you’re marooned here like Crusoe – If you don’t look out you’ll be beached here for ever. He had spoken no more than the truth. This patch of abandoned ground left over at the junction of three motorway routes was literally a deserted island.

JG Ballard Concrete Island

I’m in a different place – the same but different, whilst out walking I went through an open gate, following a well worn path, for the very first time.

Leading who knows where.

The confluence of three rivers, the meeting of motorway and main road.

I ventured further – where if anywhere are we going?

This tight tree lined and paint daubed triangle offers no answers.

Tamed thirty years or so ago, with concrete and steel.

Further and further.

Into an underground world.

Through the railings and into a void – a void that had become home to the otherwise engaged, seeking solace somewhere, finding shelter from the storm. A storm of Twenty First Century austerity, man made – moving money around until those without are out, out in the open, nowhere else to go but here.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home. 

William C. Faulkner

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

Pendleton

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

Stopford House – Again and Again

Third time around – on a late lockdown April evening.

I’ve been here before and before, yet I come back again and again.

It’s different every time, deserted at the best of times, during the worst of times it seems even more so – not a soul in sight. The low warm sun affords the bare concrete a pale pink and orange glow.

The mix contained coarse aggregate from the Scottish Granite Company of Creetown, a fine Leemoor sand from the Fordamin Company, together with white cement.

So here we are again, again:

Church of The Latter Day Saints – Stockport

Bramhall Lane Stockport SK3 8SA

Built 1961-1963 – architects Ivan Johnston & Partners of Liverpool.

The proposed modernistic architecture of the building, caused some qualms among members of Stockport’s Planning and Development Committee, which was still discussing the plans early in 1962, but in the end it was built much as the architect had intended.

A 70ft. spire on Bramhall-lane Davenport, will be a new landmark in Stockport next year when the no-labour-cost £41,000 chapel of the Mormons – The Church of Latter-Day Saints, from America – is expected to be complete. The Stockport branch of 150 members will fund over £8000 of the cost and will provide food, shelter and pocket money for volunteer builders from all over the country. 

Text and archive image Davenport Station

A striking A Line addition to the Stockport skyline – its steeply pitched roof punctuated by prominent triangular bays, and partnered with a prominent remote tower of wood and steel.

The front elevation is of concrete, constructed with panels of a rough grey aggregate.

Take a walk around, there have been some additions of single storey ante rooms.

This remains a simple, confident and assured building.