Opened in 1972 as an almost belated response to George Buchanan’s 1963 Traffic in Towns which had informed the Liverpool City Centre Plan of 1965.
The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.
These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book in 1964.
The Churchill Way was realised and remained in use until September 2nd 2019 – closed and facing a £10 million demolition programme, following a maintenance report which found them to be unsafe – and presumably beyond economic repair.
And so I took one last look around taking snaps, an epitaph to the end of an era, and the end of an idea that was once once rendered concrete.
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.
This was planned to be the Verona Cinema, a project of local builders – P Hamer Verona Cinema Ltd. The construction of the cinema was almost completed when Hamer sold the building to Oscar Deutsch and it opened as one of his Odeon theatres.
Hamer then used the proceeds of the sale to build the Roxy Cinema Holinwood, which was designed by Drury & Gomersall.
Opening date of the Odeon Theatre was 29th June 1936, when the first programme was Bing Crosby in “Anything Goes” and Harold Lloyd in “The Milky Way”. Designed by the noted cinema architectural firm of Drury & Gomersall, the frontage had a neat entrance in brick, with white stone facings on the window surrounds. There was a parade of shop units on each side of the entrance which had matching brickwork and a white stone trim.
Inside the auditorium the seating was arranged for 834 in the stalls and 330 in the circle. The side splay walls on each side of the proscenium was decorated in wide horizontal bands, and topped with a backlit illuminated grille.
The Odeon was closed by the Rank Organisation on 11th March 1961 with Kenneth More in “Man in the Moon”.
It was converted into St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church. Former cinemas have made good conversions to churches and the fabric of the buildings are generally respected. In this case though, the sad story is that the front entrance has been rendered over and inside all details of it cinematic past have been erased. You would never know you were inside what had been been an Art Deco styled building.
Opened 22 April 1920 with “The Forbidden City” and designed by Arnold England, the Majestic Picture House was part of the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres circuit. With 1,233 seats in stalls and balcony and a splendid facade faced in white faience tiles on two sides of the building on its prominent town centre corner site of Old Street and Delamere Street, the cinema was a great success.
It had an oak panelled foyers which had beautiful coloured tapestry’s on the walls. The interior was in a Georgian style and it was equipped with a pipe organ and a seperate tea room and cafe which were located on the upper floor.
It passed, with all the other PCT houses to Gaumont British Theatres in 1929, but it was not until 12th July 1946 that it was renamed Gaumont. The Majestic Picture House was renovated in July 1936, with new seating installed and a re-recoration of the foyer and auditorium. A new Compton 3Manual/6Rank organ was installed that was opened by organist Con Docherty.
Later being merged into the Rank Organisation, the Gaumont was re-named Odeon on 11th November 1962. It was eventually sold to an independent operator who renamed it the Metro Cinema from 6th November 1981.
With capacity now down to 946 seats, the Metro Cinema continued as a single screen operation until the middle of 2003, sometime after a multi-plex had opened in the town. In 2008 (with seats and screen intact) the building was unused except for the long foyer area, linking the front and back elevations of the Metro, which was a Slotworld Amusement Arcade. By 2011, the entire building had been stripped out and stood empty and unused.
It was my local cinema as a lad – attending Saturday morning matinees as a member of the Odeon Boy’s and Girls club. Hundreds of the nosiest kids. regularly warned by the manager that the film would be stopped if the raucous behaviour continued.
Now it’s just an empty shell, superseded by multiplex and latterly a lost Slotworld.
Unlisted unloved sitting at the heart of the town – too late for the last picture show.
Standing stately on the corner of Carruthers and Pollard Street, safe as houses.
As safe as the houses that are no longer there, along with the other public houses, along with the jobs, along with the punters – all long gone, it’s a long story.
Mind that tram, full of the boys and girls in blue, off to shriek at a Sheikh’s shrine.
The Bank of England was one of Ancoats’ first beerhouses, licensed from 1830 and ten years later it was fully licensed with attached brewhouse. The brewery did well, in fact it had another tied house, the Kings Arms near Miles Platting station nearby. The brewery was sold off in the 1860s but continued as a separate business for a few years.
Eva Brothers of Crabtree Forge, Crabtree Lane, Clayton, Manchester.
1909 The partnership of James Eva, Archibald William Eva, Victor Eva, Arthur Eva, and Frank Eva, carrying on business as Forge-masters, at Crabtree-lane, Clayton, Manchester, under the style or firm of Eva Bothers was ended. All debts due would be settled by Archibald William Eva, Victor Eva, Arthur Eva, and Frank Eva, who continued the business under the same style.
By 1953 The EVA group of companies was the largest edge tool makers in the world, exporting most of their products. The associated companies included: Chillington Tool Co, Edward Elwell Limited of Wednesbury, A. W. Wills and Son Limited of Birmingham, John Yates and Co Limited of Birmingham, and the Phoenix Shovel Co Limited of Cradley Heath.
1958 Acquired T. Williams Drop forgings and Tools of Small Heath, Birmingham
1959 Planned to convert into a holding company; depressed demand for heavy engineering but continued group prosperity were anticipated.
1960 Eva Brothers paid dividends and made scrip issue; changed the name to Eva Industries as the holding company.
1976: Eva Brothers continued to be a part of Eva Industries.
This is where Manchester’s prosperity was created, engineering along with King Cotton, formed the financial foundations of the city. These industries are now all but vanished, along with the communities and skills that created them, work and wealth are elsewhere.
Years of free-market economics, acquisition, asset stripping, amalgamation and monopoly have bequeathed a legacy of loss.
Once bustling and business like sheds and yards, are now forests of buddleia and bramble. The sound of metal on metal, but a dull memory, amidst the wilder side of wildlife and the gentle whisper of peeling paint.