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.
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.
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 yeartoo!
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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?
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.
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.
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.
This time of year, with limited light and an inclement climate, it’s far easier to travel by picture postcard. Researching and searching eBay to bring you the finest four colour repro pictures of our retail realm.
Heaton Norris Park’s elevated position gives stunning views of the Stockport town centre skyline and of the Cheshire plain. The central position of the Park means that it is a green retreat for shoppers and local residents. Also it is within easy reach of the Stockport town centre. The land for this park was acquired by public subscription and as a gift from Lord Egerton.Work on laying out the site as a public park began in May 1873, and it was formally opened on June 5th 1875. Since then it has undergone a number of changes. The construction of the M60 has shaved several acres off the park’s size.
The park began life as Drabble Ash Pleasure Gardens – entrance strictly by token only, as commemorated on the BHS Murals in Merseyway.
5 November 1905 – Edward VII declares his eldest daughter The Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, the Princess Royal.
He also orders that the daughters of Princess Louise, Lady Alexandra Duff and Lady Maud Duff are to be styled as Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness.
So they built a big bonfire on bonfire night at Heaton Norris Park – sometimes they still do.
In 1935 the area seems to be little more than windswept cinders and thin forlorn grass, traversed by broad uneven paths – overlooking the dark industrial mire below.
Into the 1960s and although now there is the provision of a children’s play area, the park is still in need of a little more care and attention, the immediate surroundings a dense dark warren of industrial activity and terraced housing.
In 1968 the construction of two twelve storey Stockport County Borough Council residential blocks begins, alongside the recreation grounds, Heaton and Norris Towers, creating 136 new homes.
The 1970s sees the banked gardens bedded out with summer flowers and a crazy golf course on the edge of the bowling area. Both of these features are now a thing of the past, the future financing, care and maintenance of our parks is always precarious, especially during times of central government funding cuts and enforced austerity.
The park now has a Friends group to support it, along with I Love Heaton Norris. The area is cared for and used by all ages and interests children’s play, bowls, tennis, conservation area, football, picnic and floral areas – somewhere and something to be very proud of, social spaces for sociable people.
I’ve been here before to record the beginning the middle and the end of Covent Garden flats – now there is a new beginning, beginning.
If you’re ready to start the next exciting chapter of your life, come and experience Nuvu Living at Covent Garden, Stockport. You will find our stunning new development that sits perfectly in this modern and vibrant community. Ideal for first time buyers and growing families, Covent Garden offers a fantastic collection of 74 spacious and contemporary 2 and 3 bedroom homes and 1 and 2 bedroom apartments.
Nuvu Living for the nuvu people in the cheerful anonymity of none-architecture.
Replacing the old with bigger, better shiny homes at a cost yet to be disclosed.
Another history overwritten.
Goodnight sweet flats.
With the bustling heart of Stockport just a few minutes’ walk away, this contemporary development sits perfectly in this modern and vibrant community. An ideal location for singles, couples and families, all the amenities you will ever need, including supermarkets, schools, bars, restaurants and more are all close to home. Plus, the centre of Manchester is just 7.5 miles away and easy to get to by road or rail. So, if you are ready to start the next exciting chapter in your life, come and experience Nuvu Living at Covent Garden, Stockport.
I have shuffled and shopped up and down Castle Street for some forty years or so – things have come and things have gone – and continue to do so. High streets have always been subject to so many external forces, they reshape and reform, in rhythm with the times and tides of history.
Horse drawn carriages and trams are long gone, along with the double-decker bus, people powered people rule in a pedestrianised precinct, charity begins at Barnardo’s, the Co-op has been and gone and returned, just up the way.
Two whole chapels, pubs and cinemas seem to have just disappeared.
So let’s take a short trip through time and space along a short strip of Stockport’s past.
Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.
A delightful interwar pub on the corner of Heaton Lane and Wellington Road North, I moved to Stockport some forty years ago and was mightily impressed by the restrained exterior Deco design, wrought and hewn from soft pale sandstone. Equally impressive was the wood panelled, open, spacious interior space.
The George was always something of an anomaly, being the only Greater Manchester pub owned by Higson’s Brewery, our almost next door Liverpool neighbour.
Higsons was founded in 1780 – 1974 saw the brewery merge with James Mellor & Sons. In 1978, Higsons acquired the Bent’s Brewery, which was based next to its North Street head office. Boddingtons of Manchester acquired Higsons in 1985 but decided to abandon brewing in 1989 to focus on its pubs.
Boddingtons’ brewing arm was sold to Whitbread in 1990 which then subsequently closed the Higsons Stanhope brewery and then reopened by new owners as the Cains Brewery in 1991. Higsons beer was brewed in Sheffield and Durham for a few years after closure before being discontinued. The beer brand was revived in the current century and reborn in 2017, now served in the swish Baltic Triangle based Higson’s Tap & Still with an interior order that leaps backwards head first, into an imagined future of raw brick, reclaimed wood and industrial flourishes.
The George prospered – a town centre pub surrounded by workers in search of a wet and shoppers shirking their retail duties in favour of draught bitter or Cherry B.
Its interior however did not fair so well, ripped out in the 80s – remade remodelled, in the deeply unattractive, anti-vernacular, sub-disco style de jour.
Renamed The Manhattan, riding the fun-pub wave, closed reopened as The George – there followed thirty year of uncertainty, struggling to find an identity throughout a time of ever-changing moods.
It became a daytime haunt of the hardened, shattered glass, blood on the tracks class of drinker, its reputation in tatters along with yesterday’s fish and chip papers.
The last time I came by you were still open for business.
I bided a wee while, without imbibing, all the better to record your disabused Art Deco details.
I came by yesterday and you were all tinned-up with nowhere to go.
Premises To Let as of 13th May 2018 – on the 2nd April 2018 the licence has lapsed, so this will be a further barrier to it re-opening.
And so your faux nowheresville interior will pass into yet another of somebody’s history, along with your fine Deco detail and disco destruction.
This a tale of our age – of monopoly capitalism, stay at home Bargain Booze tipplers, demographic shifts, de-populated town centres, fashion fads and cheap cladding.
Time changes everything except something within us which is never surprised by change.
A mighty river valley was formed in the second Ice Age, as the glaciers receded and rushed seaward.
The mighty River Mersey was formed on the eastern edge of Stockport, at the confluence of the Tame and Goyt/Etherow rivers.
Thousands of years in the making, as the water-powered mills of the adjacent Pennine Hills migrate to the lower reaches of the towns, in search of water, workers and steam, the full force of the Industrial Revolution takes shape in the west.
The mixed farming of the alluvial valley, which opens up onto the Lancashire and Cheshire Plains, meets and greets the incursion of dye and brick works, mills and manufacturing.
Fred Schofield’s farm 1930
View towards Stockport from Heaton Mersey Park
Serviced by a complex and competing rail system based around Heaton Mersey Shed.
Opened in 1889 and served until May 1968 operating steam locomotives to the end -Coded 9F.
Here we were at the centre of a rail hub spreading out in all directions, to and from the ports, cities and resources of the country and beyond.
Great movements of steel, cotton, coal, people and manufactured goods.
Fireman Eddy “Ned” Kelly
Heaton Mersey railway station was opened on 1 January 1880 by the Midland Railwayand lay on the newly opened line which ran from Heaton Mersey East Junction to Chorlton Junction and on to Manchester Central station.
The station was situated at the southern end of Station Road which still exists. The station was later operated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway and was closed by the London Midland Region of British Railways on 3 July 1961.
The area was criss-crossed by railways – its bridges traversing the roads, fields and river, dominating the landscape in a wild flurry of steam and smoke.
The end of steam – as drivers, fireman and staff were transferred to Newton Heath, was followed by the slow demise of the rail network, freight moved to road and passengers purchasing their first cars and a passport to illusory freedom.
The mighty Mersey is now flanked by newer neighbours, a shiny blue administrativepyramid, business park, car showrooms and nature reserve, the only certainty is change.
Great volumes of earth are moved to from a new topography a topography of leisure – the gentle stroll, jog and cycle replaces the clank of fire doors and shovel on coal.
But take a look around you and you will see the remnants of the industrial age, shrouded in fresh hawthorn and enshrined in birch and beech.
To walk this landscape is to traverse geological, agrarian, industrial and post-industrial time – they all coexist and coalesce. Have an eye, ear and heart open to their resonance and presence, transcend time and space in the Mersey Valley today, you’re part of the leisured generation.
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and hell, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
We have seen things come and go in, on and around Stockport Station’s little acre.
From coal drops to tear drops.
Archive photographs courtesy of John Eaton
The post-industrial leisure complex has come almost full circle – overwritten by the complex needs of the modern day service-worker – Holiday Inn, Espresso Bar and Mini-mart complement the hot-desked, twenty-four hour online access all areas open-plan office operative.
Commercial premises or showroom. Dated 1889. Red brick with stone dressings and terracotta decorative details, tiled roof. Rectangular building of 4 x 3 bays with canted corner entrance. Jacobean style. Single storey articulated by pilasters supporting a sculptured frieze. Doorway with arched head and fanlight. One, two and three-light mullion and transom windows to the Parsonage Street front. The Wellington Road front has two large plateglass windows divided by paired pilasters. The windows have removed two pilasters. Cornice, panelled parapet, aedicule with console supporters, swan – neck pediment and date over the doorway. Tall hipped roof. Very prominently sited and under restoration at the time of inspection.
This is a building of some substance, decorated with terracotta work of the highest order, a striking yet diminutive landmark to the north of the town. Situated on a once busy commercial site, where it would have been surrounded by a plethora of retail, industrial and residential property.
My research has shown that its earliest recorded use was under the ownership of JE Jones manufacturing agent for ropes and cords, allied to the local hatting and cotton trades in 1907. Subsequently the base of John Roberts in 1910 – leather merchant, manufacturing belts, strapping and laces – the company also had premises nearby at 138 Heaton Lane.
It has latterly been in use as Topp’s Tiles, Gordon Ford and Little Amigos Discount Nursery Store – it is currently empty, shuttered and unloved on off at a rent of £1,833 per calendar month from Rightmove.
As Stockport continues to invest in and develop its town centre, it remains a more than somewhat sorry beacon of decline, an indicator that all too often architecture of local and historic importance, seems to have little or no place, in this thrusting modern milieu.
If passing, pause and reflect on the sense of permanence that imbues this building, in an all too impermanent world.
A Moebius Band of motorway formerly known as the M63 wraps and warps itself around the city, ever so conveniently linking the traffic of Greater Manchester with itself.
Ever so conveniently it passes through Stockport – only moments from my home.
Before the white man came.
The view from Princes Street along Hatton Street – towards Heaton Norris Rec.
A boon to the modern day motorist, though happily the modern day pedestrian is also catered for in the form of the Hatton Street Footbridge – linking Great Egerton Street below, with Heaton Norris Recreation ground above.
Images TS Parkinson – Stockport Image Archive
For the past two years the footbridge has been inconveniently closed, during the development of the Redrock Leisure Facility, built on the site of the former car park, in the foreground of the image above. Thus prohibiting the passage from the Post Modern world of the big brash entertainment box, to the leafy cobbled street beyond.
The Hatton Street footbridge has two spans of in-situ u-section deck, is at ground level on the north side, but is reached by steps or ramp from Great Egerton Street on the south.
William B Ball
I’m ever so pleased that access has been reinstated, from me it is both fully functional yet imbued with an elegant concrete sculptural grace, worthy of Niemeyer or Lasdun.
So take a walk on the slightly higher side, either way you win.