Posts tagged ‘redevelopment’
Marie has long harboured a rather unusual desire to visit Eccles. A group rather charmingly called Freccles have erected a sign at Eccles station saying ‘Discover Eccles past, present and future’. This goads and challenges her every time she goes through on the train. I think she was spurred on further by the discovery that Dr Christopher Eccleston himself unveiled the sign.
So. We set off to discover Eccles in all three tenses. After a false start due to all the trams being cancelled for a month, we grudgingly got the bus. We were expecting Eccles to be the kind of place you should get to by tram. Freccles, of course, would tell us we should have got the train.
The first thing that struck us as we got off the bus was the ubiquitous smell of baking bread. Assiduous Googling has failed to uncover any explanation for why Eccles smells of yeast, so it must remain a mystery. Unless someone wants to tell us – answers on a postcard please.
Despite the enticing smell and the lovely invitation from Freccles, Eccles past, present and future was playing a bit hard to get. Nothing grabbed us immediately as we wandered around the shops.
We saw a cross with a plaque and hoped it might have some historical interest. But the plaque had been written by someone with a greater concern for pinpoint geographical accuracy than local history or folklore:
Well, that’s good to know. Just a shame we hadn’t brought a compass, or we could have gone and looked at the spot where the cross used to be but now wasn’t.
Shortly after the cross, we were distracted by a loud and insistent quacking. Many people would have ignored this, but we pursued it to its source. Which turned out to be a CCTV camera. We tried to video this so that we could demonstrate the quacking to you, but it didn’t work so you’ll have to take our word for it. Quacking. We can only assume it was unhappy about something, but we couldn’t work out what, so we left it to its quacking and pressed on.
Being a little unsure what delights Eccles would have to offer us, we had assembled a shopping list of sites to visit, including a couple of requests. We like requests, and we haven’t had a proper one since Liz and page 39, so this was very exciting. If you have a curiosity in your district and no one else cares, and if you can find us, maybe you could invite us to come and look at it then burble whimsically about it.
Number one request came from Marie’s friend Julie from Knit Club. (Knit Club rule no 1: We do not talk about Knit Club. Or I don’t, anyway.) Julie passes two things every day on her way to work which appear to be giant sandcastles. She wished an explanation.
It took us some time to find them, but zedders cannot be foiled so easily. Here they are:
Some mild trespassing into a church car park established that these are not, in fact, huge sandcastles. No, they are a grotto to the Virgin Mary in a priest’s garden!
I’m not sure whether or not this is stranger than the giant sandcastles theory. We were particularly fascinated by the weird white figure or object at Mary’s feet. From this distance, it looked vaguely like a piglet. Clearly some obscure bit of church lore neither of us had come across before. I should note at this point that I restrained Marie from scaling the spiky fence to get a better photo. I’m getting better at trespassing, but raiding priests’ gardens in broad daylight is still a step too far for me.
On the way to our second request, we were distracted by some local points of interest:
Request number two also came from Knit Club. The knitter in question wanted to know why a large, and apparently historically significant, piece of machinery was displayed on the edge of a lorry park up a side street in suburban Eccles.
Well, we found the machine, and it is impressive:
Post-zedding research established that it’s actually an example of the world’s first ever steam hammer, invented by Mr James Nasmyth.
Mr Nasmyth was challenged, a bit like us. Some people are challenged to find sandcastles, some people are challenged to invent big hammers that power Industrial Revolutions. We all have our contributions to make.
He invented his hammer so that they could forge the bits to make the SS Great Britain in the 1830s and 40s. Apparently, none of the existing hammers could lift up high enough to bash what needed bashing. Enter Mr Nasmyth. And for his pains, he now has several streets named after him in Eccles, and his machine displayed on the edge of a lorry park.
Well done, Mr Nasmyth!
Our final destination was also somewhat industrial. We had to walk down a canal to get there, which turned out to be the prettiest bit of Eccles so far:
We walked past a lot of men and boys fishing on the towpath. This prompted some discussion about hobbies. I have a friend who goes scuba-diving, and I always tell him I don’t like hobbies where the phrase ‘You might die’ must be used when describing them. I have now added a second undesirable hobby-phrase: ‘You have to carry a box of maggots’.
Zedding. You probably won’t die, and it doesn’t involve any maggots.
After the canal, we struck off the beaten track in search of our destination. We saw these mysterious runes on the stones of a bridge:
I reckon Dwarves built it.
Then we got lost in what appeared to be a mangrove swamp. A mangrove swamp full of shopping trolleys, with a man drinking super-strength lager in a little grotto at the end. Perhaps he was a lager pixie.
Eventually, we got sight of our target: the cheese bridge. Otherwise known as the Barton Swing Aqueduct. This was designed by James Brindley, beloved of Birmngham. (I was very disappointed to learn on researching this blog that Mr Brindley wasn’t a Brummie at all.) When a Parliamentary Committee asked James some awkward questions about his plans for how two canals would cross over, he didn’t hesitate. He just called for a cheese and built a working model there and then.
It’s very clever. It closes in all the water with doors at each end, then swivels the big box of water around to make room for tall ships to go past. It is, however, not used very much now, and very very difficult to get to.
We got a nice glimpse of it from the road bridge further down the road – and also of the M60 crossing the Ship Canal in the other direction.
We then had to scramble up a dirty alleyway to a derelict house, into a dead end, and round a corner, before finally emerging near the bridge.
Someone had obviously thought it would be nice to put a pretty pagoda and a picnic spot by this marvel of engineering. But that’s all gone the way of so many well-intentioned regeneration projects, and become a place for teenagers to drink cheap cider and break glass stuff:
The bridge was still there, though – complete with cranes to lower its special doors into place – and we even saw a barge go over it:
While scrabbling around the scary alleys, we’d bumped into a man who turned out to be, not a murderous drug addict, but a bridge enthusiast with a very posh camera. So we got to share this sight with someone else. It doesn’t seem to be a sight many people are bothered with any more. Poor James and his cheese.
On the way back, we nearly got the chance to trespass into this impressive tower:
A workman left the gate open, but we chickened out of going in because he might have shouted at us. Shame on us!
So we made our way back to the shops, and went in search of a baker that would sell us Eccles cake, because it would seem wrong not to eat some as long as we were here.
During our search, we found a shop that sold a range of astonishingly tacky Catholic iconography – and cookers and fans:
It may not be clear from the scale of the photo, but those are the Biggest Rosaries In The World. They’re probably only ever bought by giant mutant nuns.
We also found a battered old mural. It’s called ‘Eccles Wakes!’ but I think it may have gone back to sleep:
Alas, we had left it too late to buy Eccles cakes from the baker, and they’d sold out. So we went to Morrisons and bought them there instead. Doesn’t feel quite the same somehow. We brought them home and ate them while writing this. I can report that an Eccles cake is very like a pasty filled with Christmas pudding. Genius.
Location: Eccles past, present and future (but mainly present)
Date zedded: 4 August 2009
A to Z: Page 91 squares H3, H4, G3, G4, F3, F4. E4, E3, E5, F5
Target square: F5
Getting there: There should be a tram but there wasn’t. We caught the number 33 bus from Piccadilly Gardens instead. Or you could go via Eccles railway station and look at Christopher Eccleston’s lovely mural. Freccles would like that.
Squares this expedition: 10
Running total: 121
It being a lovely day, we both thought that it would be nice to do a zedding. I thought our public deserved an extra installment as you are always so appreciative.
We headed out to Purcell Street, it being one of the selection of options we have lined up for ourselves. We picked this because of the random connection with Liam’s name rather than because of any charm inherent in the location itself so we didn’t know how this expedition would turn out
There is a moment in every zedding when you know you’ve started. It comes not when you set out, or when you arrive, but when you know. This time it was a bit of graffiti which called to Liam from across the road. “Big ideas need big spaces” We approve of ideas. And spaces for them to happen in. We found our bus eventually, and the nice bus driver was very helpful as we thrust our A to Z under his nose and said “We want to go here” He said he could take us near there and that was good enough for us.
Following advice from the mother of zedding, who has been providing zedding guidelines to students and corrupting their minds, we were alert on the bus to the messages which were present on the route, chief of which was that without facebook on your mobile you would be missing out on life to a damaging degree. Also, it’s good to raise your heart rate (with a car), it’s all good (chips), It all adds up (units of alcohol). And the slightly more positive, “Ideas that make your garden grow” – more growing ideas.
We were headed first to Gorton Monastery as it is described in a book of mine as “The Taj Mahal of Manchester”. And if you are on page 110 anyway then it sounds like a must see. Along with the railway depot and the biggest car auction site in Europe (lucky us, we also have the biggest Next in the world).
The bus dropped us in a suitable spot so we could approach the Taj Mahal via a little park. The park was a bit run-down and disappointing, but did contain some neglected roses which were so gorgeous it was like they were showing off. While I was appreciating them, Liam found an impressively eroded stone which told us that this was Gorton Open Space, opened by the mayor and an entire committee of aldermen in 1893.
There were also some goalposts that, in our sporting ignorance as the nerdy kids who always got picked last for teams, we thought were for footballing gnomes. It turns out they’re for five-a-side football
But that paled into insignificance beside the Taj Mahal: Gorton Monastery looks like someone got hold of a church and held it by the roots of its hair until it stretched very tall and thin indeed. Lots of buttresses like Pugin was afraid that his church would fall down after standing on its tippy toes and streeeeeetching reeeally tall. Zedding fans will be pleased to hear that there were gargoyles, no photos tho.
There was someone photographing it when we got there. I want flickr badges. I want to be able to spot fellow flickrers. I was too british to ask him tho, but because I heard the tell tale whir of film I surmised he knew what he was doing. Once he moved I went and stood where he was and got what would have been a nice angle but with the back of a sign in. On my own initiative, I got a better shot. Have I told you about my developing hatred of lampposts? I hate em. I hate the blighters, they wander into shots. After taking pics of the outside, we crossed the road and went trespassing.
Gorton Monastery has been restored from the ruins it was allowed to fall into when abandoned by the Franciscans in 1989. When we arrived, there were event men sitting on boxes and getting things out of vans. So I followed them inside while Liam trailed along slightly reluctantly. They were setting up for some sort of banquet for Barclays. Yup Barclays. The Bank. It seems the church is now a conference venue and you can tuck into your sushi by the light of gothic candles in front of the glittering altar. They don’t seem to mind you wandering in and taking pics tho.
Outside there is a lovely little courtyard which Liam was happy to venture into. I left him there having seen signs for the loo. After using the facilities, I had a little explore. I opened the door to a lovely dining room. and another lovely conference room off that which had pictures of the ruined monastery ready to to be hung. I snapped these quickly as I knew Liam would be fretting outside. He thinks I’m going to go with him to the Loiterers Resistance Movement but he needs to practise his trespassing first.
Outside there was this sculpture to Mother Teresa and Interfaith niceness. And a sign pointing to ‘The Angels’. We found some boards explaining what the angels were so we didn’t go find them. As well as soulless corporate bashes, the Monastery Trust are setting up a local community centre called The Angels. I like to think of this as quite Robin Hood of them, taking Barclay’s money and putting it into Gorton. Which is nice and more encouraging than the last encounter we had with urban development.
For those of you with a little extra cash lying around, you can adopt an angel for £50, restore a stone carving for £20 or sponsor a saint for £5000. Yup, I said Sponsor a Saint. The saints disappeared from the church during the derelict years, turned up at auction as garden furniture and are currently being looked after by Manchester City Council.
We went off through the barren wastes of industry, risking our lives to cross the urban streams of HGVs. At one point Liam veered off course yelling “stairs to nowhere! stairs to nowhere!” There were indeed stairs to nowhere. Here he is at the summit of them, nowhere, pointing out where once playground furniture stood. Here I am, twirling in memory of a roundabout.
We passed the beautiful Beswick Cooperative Society building, founded in 1912. It was pretty cool.
Carrying on down the street we found a pub which had found a creative solution to the problem of outdoor smokers needing shelter from the Manchester climate, by acquiring some trolley parks. We think the Post Office should watch out in case they decide they need two cylindrical red ashtrays.
Having plucked Purcell Street from obscurity, not far from obscurity but still, we are pleased to report that it is pleasing in its own right. It is part of a Home Zone where the streets have been redesigned so cars can park outside but children can play in safety. And it has pretty patterns in the road with some interesting white balls.
We spied a park and I wanted a closer look at the willow tunnel. Liam made me squeal like a girl by running into shot as I was taking a picture in it. We passed a nice manor house which I didn’t want to trespass in to photograph as there were girls on bicycles in the grounds (I have my limits).
I was all zedded out with achy feet and a plan had been hatched to visit an eating and drinking establishment with a roof terrace. On the way however, we passed the inviting grounds of Manchester Grammar School, it being 7pm it was fairly quiet and good trespassing practice for Liam. He was shocked I walked on the grass to get the owls tho. MGS (as its old boys must affectionately call it) has its own cricket pavilion, with the flip floppy numbers like all is well in England. And lots of posh looking stuff. I found a stick which some small boy must have spent ages stripping of bark to make smooth – it’s mine now.
Location: West Gorton, Longsight & Fallowfield
Date zedded: 10 June 2008
A to Z: page 110 squares D2, D1, C1, B1, B2, C2, C3, C4, C5, B5, A5
Getting there: Bus from city centre stop Eo, Picadilly
Squares this expedition: 11
Running total: 46
Marie’s historical research has brought up loads of stuff about Ancoats. This is an area on the outskirts of the city centre which has seen heavy industry, slums, run-down estates and now a big regeneration project. It was apparently ‘the world’s first industrial suburb’. So we thought we’d go take a look.
It being the Mayday bank holiday, though, we first had to go marching with trade unionists and socialists and anarchists (and anyone else who wanted to join in). We were making known our displeasure that destitute people who come to the UK fleeing war and persecution are being expected to find the money from God-knows-where to pay for essential services from our glorious NHS.
Overheard on the march: an anarchist explaining why the communists were a bit too scary for him.
Having done our liberal do-gooding bit, we headed for Ancoats via lunch in the Northern Quarter. We had a debate over zedding philosophy – Marie had a list of historical sites to visit, but I wanted to go to Cardroom Estate in the middle and go down all the little streets called things like ‘Spinning Jenny Walk’ and ‘Bobbin Walk’ and ‘Yarn Walk’. Eventually we set off, and we knew we’d started zedding when we saw a car with antlers:
It seemed to have something to do with a film crew, so watch out for a car with antlers coming to a TV screen near you.
On Great Ancoats Street, there’s a big shiny futuristic building which used to be the offices of the Daily Express.
Marie, who has now become a walking history textbook, explained that despite appearances, it was actually built in the 1930s. If you get up close, you can see the old-school concrete and rivets. There’s an even older building opposite, which you can see in the reflection. This one used to house a night shelter for women needing ‘further care and discipline’, and rooms for servants who wished to avoid ‘the moral peril of the lodging house’. I’ve obviously been staying in the wrong lodging houses.
And some new flats were wrapped up waiting for yuppies to open them up and live in them:
Manchester has a good surplus of identical-looking flats, though, so unless the credit crisis ends soon, we think it may be a while before these ones get unwrapped. Nextdoor we saw what’s happened to a lot of the businesses and homes that used to be around here:
This comprehensive list of dangers has been stuck on all the derelict buildings in Ancoats as far as we could see. Bit of overkill – can they really all have asbestos, weak roofs and the rest?
We liked this example of a business that is new to Ancoats, though. It’s bye bye butty shops, hello flower arrangements carved from fruit :
And further down was this, apparently the ‘classic view’ into Ancoats:
A fine old mill has been turned into flats:
Before being renamed Royal Mills, Marie tells us, these were McConnel and Kennedy Mills. They were an important scene in the account of the Plug Strikes of 1842, protesting against pay cuts and in support of the Chartists. It ended up with 10,000 people on the streets, the Riot Act was read, and they brought in ‘six-pounder field pieces’ to pacify the crowd. Apparently the military presence was ‘restrained’ because they didn’t want a repeat of Peterloo. We wonder what would have been regarded as unrestrained… A bit different from our friendly anarchists of the morning, who were at no point chased down the Oxford Road by dragoons.
The street outside was being carefully recobbled, no doubt to retain the Northern ambience of the area for the new inhabitants. (Presumably this notion of Northernness wouldn’t include the traditions of dissent and organised resistance, which don’t sell flats so well.)
We were very excited to discover, opposite, a small porthole in a brick wall. We’d set out hoping to see some bits of an installation called The Peeps which is scattered across Ancoats. Spaces have been walled up and lit, with peepholes to look through. We’d found our first one, and it was pleasingly mysterious for what was essentially a brick cubicle with weeds growing in it:
Thanks to the artist Dan Dubowitz, who deserves a mention just for his marvellous name. Unfortunately we didn’t find any more of them, though.
There we were, spiritually engaging with the area, enjoying a playful public work of art which could have been designed for zedders, reflecting on history. We were rudely awakened on the other side of the canal:
It may be relevant that this was just down the canal from Canal Street, whose signs are often defaced in a similar manner…
Further on, past a charming retail park (‘The biggest toy superstore in the world’, allegedly), we passed an eighteenth-century lock-keeper’s cottage surrounded by building sites and scaffolding. This seemed to sum up the feel of a lot of the area for us:
Wonder what they’ll catch?
We don’t know what this building was, but it made Marie the history nerd unhappy:
We turned left at the big pencil
and saw some of the bits which haven’t been turned into flats yet:
Further on, a strange road crossed a barren wasteland. It had no clear markings and felt kind of like a pedestrian precinct, resulting in some hairy moments when we forgot we were standing in the middle of a road. It also had some interesting arty lampposts marked ‘New Islington’ (the rebranded Ancoats). The designer had taken to the extreme his attempt to blend in with the surroundings, so they were rusty and depressing. There was also the remains of a hospital which made Marie sadder. (Fortunately, it’s going to be restored. And turned into flats.)
The only signs of humanity were a man drinking Lucozade on a bench, and this forlorn remnant:
On the other side of the road should have been the Cardroom estate. But it wasn’t:
The redevelopers beat us to it. And they must have done it very recently, because that wasteland appears in my 2007 A to Z as a warren of little streets:
I’d heard through work that a lot of the redevelopment in Ancoats was done without consulting local people, tearing down good houses to make way for designer flats that locals won’t be able to afford. Looking at this space where a community used to be, that was easy to believe.
Opposite the desert (an estate agent might say that they benefited from expansive views) were some houses made of giant jigsaw bits:
We rejoined the canal here, and noted the spiral ramp for towhorses at the bridge. Very historical but doesn’t look so dramatic in a photo:
Then there were more mills and warehouses. Most, surprise surprise, becoming designer flats. The old Sankey’s Soap Factory is now a nightclub, though (we detected it because of the loud music and the big bus outside). Marie wishes it to be known that the sign on the tower is the original one from the 1920s, restored.
Opposite was a nice piece of graffiti (probably not from the 1920s):
In the midst of all the building sites stands an old church of the ugly-huge-Victorian-brick variety. Marie was very keen to visit, as she’s seen slides of it being lovingly restored – it’s going to be a community centre or arts space or something, which will be a nice change. But it’s presently completely inaccessible, all the surrounding roads sealed off. Creepy.
The streets were still eerily deserted, but we spotted some little bits of interest:
Then we came upon Victoria Square, a great big nineteenth-century block of flats which was intended to house people after slum clearances. It didn’t work though, because the slum dwellers couldn’t afford the rent and had to move elsewhere. It also can’t have helped that, according to our friend Bazza, the architect ‘must have thought he was designing for an alien race – wooden skirting boards were not provided, since these might have been ripped out and burned!’
Sounds familiar. It appears that city developers learn very slowly…
Opposite Victoria Square were some smart terraces, also originally intended for working-class people but priced out of their reach. Apparently, these were originally named after the wonderful technical advances they contained. But in the 1960s, ‘Sanitary Street’ was not regarded as such an attractive name, and some letters were removed to make it ‘Anita Street’. It’s interesting that today, people are achieving the opposite effect by removing letters just down the road.
Further down, we passed another derelict church – but this one clearly has its defenders:
Researching afterwards, we found that Manchester’s Italian community have been fighting to keep the church open for years, but the Bishop’s having none of it. Marie was very upset to read the story of an ice-cream lady whose dying wish to have her funeral at the church was refused: poor Auntie Vicky. Marie feels solidarity for ice-cream people.
Date zedded: 5 May 2008
A to Z: page 95 squares F3, G3, G4, H4, F4, H3
Getting there: Walk from city centre
Squares this expedition: 6
Running total: 35