Journey along Kingsway key artery of south Manchester and pioneering road
I have a fascination with Kingsway, perhaps because I've driven, walked, cycled or taken the bus up and down it possibly more times than any other road anywhere. Kingsway is a product of early 20th century city planning, one of the first roads in Manchester and the UK to be built specifically for the newly developed motor car. It's part of the A34 which runs between Manchester, the Midlands and southern England.
Kingsway was begun in the late 1920s at the southern end of Slade Lane. The dual carriageway extends south, gently turning left and right on its way south towards Parrs Wood and across the Mersey into Cheshire. The section south of the Mersey wasn't completed until the 1950s.
It probably isn't a thought that passes through the minds of thousands of commuters who use Kingsway every day, but the road is named after King George V, during whose reign it was built. In France or Germany there would probably be a plaque with historical information above the street sign. but the UK we take our history for granted.
Let's take a drive down Kingsway, starting at the northernmost section near Slade Lane. The late May Turner, whom I interviewed in 2003, remembers the construction of Kingsway around 1928. She used to ride on the empty tarmac on her bike. Since then, a lot of traffic has thundered down this busy road.
On either side of Kingsway, semi-detached houses were built. Those houses are still there today and define the inter-war character of Kingsway and the districts it passes through.
The first and only roundabout on Kingsway is the one at the place popularly named West Point, which isn't found on a map.
Here the A34 joins Kingsway from the right, and we go through a double roundabout. The road rises to pass over the first of two sadly disused railway lines. This one carried the former South Manchester Loop Line, now used as a footpath or 'greenway'. The road drops down towards the junction with Grangethorpe Road on the left and Talbot Road on the right.
Kingsway turns gently to the left (east) and continues the short distance to the Mauldeth Road junction. Mauldeth Road station is off to the right.
The road continues in a straight line south to the traffic lights at Green End lane.
Here on the left is a group of 1920s style shop fronts arranged a crescent layout, mirroring the houses on the west wide of Kingway which form a half circle.
Sadly, part of the crescent on the south side was demolished to make space for the Aldi store, which juts out incongruously, ruining the layout conceived by Manchester's far-sighted city planners in the 1920s. Kingsway continues its path south to the junction with Fog Lane.
Interestingly two of the older side roads survive on the left and the right, giving a clue as to the layout before Kingsway was built. On all the side roads to the right (west) side, we see the bridges carrying the railway line which runs roughly parallel to Kinsgway. This is the Styal Line and was built in the early years of the 20th century. (The book by Eddie Johnson gives an excellent historical overview of the Style Line).
South of Fog Lane, Kingsway continues in a straight line to the junction with School Lane. The straightness of Kingsway, as well as its dual layout, are characteristics of a modern road, unlike the narrow and often meandering ancient roads such as Wilmslow Road to the west.
South of School Lane, Kingsway rises to pass over the second of the disused railway lines, this one the former line from Central Station to Cheadle Heath and Derby. Trains to London once ran along here and Metrolnk trams may be be using it soon after a period of disuse spanning the best part of half a century. What a waste.
At Parrs Wood, Kingsway intersects with Wilmslow Road and the road to Heaton Mersey on the left, forming an interesting triangular layout, with a garden in the middle. On the west side is the site of the former bus depot, now a Tesco store. The clock tower remains an important landmark. On the left is the new entertainment complex, which has brought a great deal of traffic to this area. On the right is the art deco apartment building dating from 1939.
The road marches on, again in a straight line due south and crosses the Mersey, parallel with the Styal Line on the right.
At this point, we leave Lancashire and enter Cheshire. The road continues over two railway lines, both still in use, and over the busy M60, former M63 motorway and we approach the junction with the A560 Stockport Road, a frequent traffic bottleneck in both directions. I'm not sure why a flyover wasn't constructed here.
South of the A560, Kingsway sweeps south and up a slight hill as far Cheadle Royal, where the road continues on as the A34 Handforth By-pass, opened in 1994.
And that concludes our journey down Kingsway, a pioneering highway, one of Manchester's key approach roads from the south and a road I still enjoy wallking up and down.
The main bus route along Kingsway is the 50, today operated by Stagecoach, and in the past by municipally owned transport services. Another bus route is the 130 to Macclesfield, currently operated by Arriva. In the past the green double deckers of Crosvill operated the 29 and 30 bus routes along Kingsway. In the mid-20th century, trams ran along the central reservation of Kingsway, ending at Parrs Wood.
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Written by Aidan O'Rourke