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READER MESSAGES June-Aug 2002

Birmingham New Street Station Bull Ring office building and Virgin train

Dear Aidan
First up, well done on an excellent and involving website; it's interesting looking at the 'hits and misses' of Manchester's redevelopment and comparing them with those of the redevelopment of Birmingham, the only city in England of comparable size.

The last time I was in Manchester in January 2001, I felt the quality of architecture and urban design was generally rather good. The Northern Quarter in particular contained some wonderful little flourishes, while the post-bomb reconstruction has created a skittish space in Exchange Square.

The standard of new apartment buildings is also generally quite high - I would say higher than in Birmingham, where there have been some quite poor examples of 'city living' accommodation slapped up, with less old mills for tasteful conversions - and the attention to the public realm was generally impressive. Some great architectural practices and property developers in Manchester, too: Stephenson Bell, Ian Simpson and Urban Splash.

Ian Simpson have designed an extremely elegant new skyscraper in Birmingham which is set to go on site sometime soon hopefully, and Urban Splash's work on Fort Dunlop is eagerly anticipated.

As for Manchester, it was difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion that the 1996 IRA bomb was in fact an incredible bit of good fortune. Is it taboo to say this? Surely some/many/all? Mancunians must think the same - two decades' worth of development has been packed into a few years. If there is a drawback to that, it's a slight dimunition in the atmosphere and character of the city since when I first when in 1995 - in 2001 I noticed an encroaching blandness, with too many chains partitioning the city (especially Starbucks, scourge of Birmingham, too).

BUT! Your website has brought even less positive tidings. I was absolutely aghast to see that the Hacienda has been demolished, I couldn't believe it. It is an act of dementia. Apart from the significance of the thing, it was an attractive, if
unassuming, building that would have been worth keeping. Do we know what its replacement will look like? Also disappointed to read that Northcliffe House Deansgate and the former Lyons Popular Cafe in Piccadilly have gone.

The former in particular had great character. I really hope Manchester isn't making the same mistakes as Brum
in the 1960s as it hurtles towards the future. Manchester had a lucky escape when an original plan at that time to build 50 tower blocks from Piccadilly Gardens down to Oxford Road failed to materialise; it would be a shame to engage with such follies in the 2000s, when we ought to know better.

Anyway, keep up the good work. I look forward to visiting both website and city again.

Birmingham
P.S. www.urbancontemporaries.co.uk is a Brummie site worth looking at - not fully
developed yet, not nearly as informative as yours, but rather pretty nonetheless.

Rokos Frangos

I am considering a comparative Manchester-Birmingham Eyewitness in Manchester feature, with side by side pictures and articles on the main attractions in both cities, including City and Town Hall, Art Galleries, redeveloped squares etc. I've included a recent view of Birmingham New St Station, with a view of that now very run down looking office building. It's interesting to note that if Manchester City Council had had their way, there would now be, sitting on top of the Free Trade Hall, a cylindrical shaped tower of similar size and shape to the one in Birmingham. The proposal was defeated after the Civic Society complained and there was a public inquiry. Yes, I think most people seem to agree that the bomb created new opportunities, though personally, I think the development has been too rapid and many things have been lost. The building to replace the Hacienda will be another hi-tech apartment complex. There will be a five-storey curved facade recalling the original building, which as you say should have been retained. Thanks very much for your contribution, very well written, I didn't have to correct a single capital letter or apostrophe!


Dear Aidan a Fallowfield man in a recent edition of reader messages enquired as to the magic shop on Bridge Street. As a very young child my dad practically every Saturday used to take me there. It was run by a dour schoolmistress-like lady in her mid-60s and her name was Mrs Arnold. I'm sure of this as it was a regular Saturday ritual as a small boy. Hope I have been of some assistance yours Gordon Simpson
By the way can you tell me a bit more about the photography seminars you run as I am interested in finding out more about interesting topic all the best.

Thanks for your info regarding the magic shop. I'm sure many more people out there will remember the shop - I can't say I remember it myself. As for the photography seminars, I hope to do some in the autumn. I'll announce dates and locations when I've finalised them.


Thanks for your updates.Have just returned to Canada after a trip to Manchester. Had a nice time visiting relatives and having my Brother-in-law drive my wife and I around Yorkshire, the Well Dressings in Derbyshire. Lake district etc., Looked around Manchester city centre. Was not impressed ! Piccadilly is a G.D. mess, not even now they've got the fountain to work will improve the situation.

Upset to see North M/cr High has gone. At least 5. Cathedral Yard is being preserved, where I started work 60 years ago. Around that area some improvements were noted. Lord knows how people can manage to live so well with regard to the cost of living. Or is it just that the Canadian Dollar is worth so little!! You should all come here and see our country while the exchange is favourable. Best Wishes keep up the good work. Leslie Hall

Thanks for your observations! I know I've been saying this for a long time but I hope to visit Canada soon and if any Eyewitness in Manchester readers would like to show me round, that would be great!


Bryan Hamilton
I was born at No.13 Midway Street in 1934 and then moved to Carrill Grove and Elbow Street before moving back to Midway Street in 1940 where I stayed for 10 years until 1950. My primary school years were spent at St. Peters Church and Crowcroft Park Schools. In your excellent review of Levenshulme reference is made to the house next to the Farmers Arms. That building was a plumbers and plumbers merchants called Allens and Miss Allen lived in the house behind the shop and they had a large yard at the rear.

My wife lived in Hornbeam Road (in those days it was called Hawthorn Road) and she lived opposite one of the houses in your photograph. The made up portion of Matthews Lane ended at Lonsdale Road and the remainder of the Lane was very much the same as that shown in your photograph of Nico Brook by Mellands Road Playing Fields. On the side of Matthews Lane opposite Lonsdale was a dairy farm run by a man Called Frank Jowett and my first job was on that farm. We delivered milk on the Manor Estate and to houses all over Levenshulme and Longsight using a two wheeled cart drawn by a horse with milk being ladled in to jugs etc. direct from the churn.

An area of Levenshulme that may be worthy of your camera is the area between Stockport Road and Slade Lane bounded on one side by Park Grove which ran under the Manchester/London line and on the other side by Albert Road. That are used to be part of my paper round and places like Central Avenue and the surrounding roads seemed to me at 11 to be occupied by the intelligentsia of Levenshulme

A horse drawn cart and milk ladled into jugs? Sounds like ancient history, but even at my tender age of 44 I can remember horse drawn traffic on the roads. I am going to do a return visit to Levenshulme, which will show many changes and improvements since I started the Levenshulme feature nearly a year ago. I'll take a look at the area between Stockport Rd and Slade Lane, which is full of very interesting nooks and crannies.


Bryan Hamiltonpeter
I grew up in the Davyhulme area around Broadway, Davyhulme parish church and later The Bent Brook Hotel
I now live in Australia and have not seen the area or England for over 30 years. Please publish some photo's of this area.

OK, your requested pictures are noted and will appear in my 'requests' feature, coming in the not too distant future, so please be patient!


Peter Hodkinson
Queensland
Australia
As a kid growing up in the Davyhulme area I can remember the distinctive building across the road from the police station. I am sure that in the fifties it was a billiard hall and then in the late fifties it was transformed into Terry's discount store.

Regards
Peter Hodkinson
Queensland
Australia

I think that's right, I've had other correspondence on that building.


Keith Lambert
Dear Aiden,
I wonder if you would be able to help me with my quest and post the following message on the site? It looks like the perfect place to reach people who may have knowledge of the concert.
>>>>>>>
Hello Everybody. I'm hoping to locate anybody in the area who attended the LED ZEPPELIN concert at the Kings Hall in Belle Vue on November 30th 1971. I'm hoping to locate tapes/photos/tickets/posters from the gig and personal anecdotes from ex-audience members as I am writing a book about Zep's early Northern gigs.

All The Best,
Keith.

I was never an avid fan of Led Zeppelin myself, though listening to the car radio once whilst driving through Belgium they played some tracks from the first album you'd never hear on British radio - they were great. One of the earliest major concerts I remember is David Bowie at the Hardrock, Great Stone Road Old Trafford, back in 1972. Actually I didn't go, one of my great regrets in life. This venue is now a B&Q store. David Bowie appeared again recently in Manchester. Hope you get some interesting info and best of luck with the book.


Paul Lancaster

I am thinking of buying a property in this area of Manchester. After hours of searching on the web, I have been unable to find any 'public opinion' pages relating to this area. Could you please help me on this subject?
Thanking you in anticipation,
Paul Lancaster

There's no substitute for going there and taking a look yourself, but who knows that area well may be able to help. I'm not a Mostonian, so I wouldn't like to give any detailed advice, especially where property is concerned. As you will know, prices in some parts of Manchester and Salford have dropped through the floor, with disastrous consequences for property owners. I'm not sure about Moston - can anyone help? Best of luck with your purchase.


St George's Church Hulme being converted into apartmentsbanda.maddocks
Subject St Georges Hulme
Dear Aidan
I am sill enjoying your articles and photographs on your EWM site, Manchester Online helps me to keep in touch with my home town. I spent the first 18 years of my life in Nancy Street, Hulme, close to the Barracks Park, now living in Wanganui, New Zealand.

I know that my local church, St George's in Hulme has been converted into flats, oops, sorry, I should say apartments. Can you find time to wander along there and take some photographs please, I am sure Hulmites world wide would appreciate it, thank you.
Keep up the good work, best wishes from Alan J Maddocks.

Well here's how it looked during the renovation work. I will publish an updated photo of the fully renovated building soon. Call me old-fashioned, but a church isn't a place to have your pad. Your bedroom might occupy the same space where the vicar would have delivered his sermon celebrated the religious service. Churches have been re-used as workshops, community centres, offices and, in Dublin, a tourist office, but as your place of retreat after you've 'scored' on a drunken night out in Castlefield...? No, it just doesn't seem right to me, but I'm obviously not in tune with the times, and proud of it!


St Nicholas Church Burnage under renovationSandra Walker
Dear Eyewitness
What a fascinating site!! I have just discovered you! My name is Sandra and I live in Perth, Western Australia. I used to live in Burnage, next door to Levenshulme, from the late 30's to early 60's and some of your photos really brought back memories!

I remember dancing at the Palais and going to the Palace cinema. The best man at my wedding lived on Marshall Road and so on. There used to be some beautiful old homes up near Cringle Fields even when I lived there. I'd heard it had gone downhill a bit over the years (Levenshulme) but hopefully its on the up now.

I must let my elder sister in Canada know about this site as I'm sure she'll remember it even more than I do.
Can you slip one or two pictures of Burnage in in your next batch??

Liked the piece on Piccadilly as well though there's not too much left of what I remember from the 50's and 60's. Good to see the old city coming back at last though!!

Must get back to checking out the Commonwealth Games - I was hoping for more views of the city in the TV coverage, but there only seems to be quick glimpses. Last time I saw Salford Docks they had big ships in there!! Looks much better now.
Thanks for all the memories this evening - I'll keep looking
Regards
Sandra

Very glad you have found my site and I hope you'll come back often! Glad you liked the Levenshulme piece. The area round Cringle Fields is actually very nice indeed. I'll be including some Burnage photos in the upcoming 'Requests' feature. Here's St Nicholas's Church on Kingsway during renovation - I'm glad to say it will continue to serve as a church! Everything in Piccadilly that was there from the 50's and 60's (and indeed much of what was there in the 1850's and 60's) the survived up till 1999 when they swept it all away to make way for what we see today.


Early 50's Manchester Corporation bus (Museum of Transport, Boyle St) in front of Manchester Town Hall, Albert SquareJean Smith
I have enjoyed your memory page. I left Manchester in 1968 and joined the army Q.A.s I remember going to the Twisted Wheel Roundtrees Sound [ George Best days] crossing Piccadilly Gardens to get the number 100 to Wythenshawe and getting the 65 home to Moston. I could go on but ..... thanks for the memories. I now live in Melbourne Australia cheers Jean Smith

I remember crossing Piccadilly to take buses to Moston, Stockport and other places. Now that it's changed, it seems so much more distant than it did before. Thanks very much for your contribution - only a short piece but just the mention of a bus number will be enough to spark peoples' memories. Does anyone remember the 74? That bus was my direct link with the centre of Manchester. It went from Stockport via Edgeley, Cheadle, Parrs Wood, Parrs Wood Road, Talbot Road, Kingsway, Slade Lane, Longsight, Ardwick and terminated in or close to Piccadilly. Here's a recent photo of a bus which might have operated the 74 route in the 1950's and 60's. Bus experts can you confirm?



From DAVID RAYNER in STOKE-ON-TRENT.
Hi, Aidan,
I was reading your comments on the Eyewitness in Manchester website about your childhood in Cheadle Heath and your memories of the railway there in the early 1960's and I thought I would let you know my experiences regarding this, but of a decade earlier.

Eva Road Cheadle Heath Stockport I was born David Welsh, at 1, Eva Road, Cheadle Heath, in April, 1947 and lived there until September, 1954, when, at the age of seven and a half, I moved with my then family to Stoke-on-Trent, where my father had got a job as a miner in the now non-existent North Staffordshire coalfields.

Almost as soon as I could walk, I began wandering off to explore my neighbourhood. Yes, I was a real little wanderer in those days.

My surrounding neighbourhood was to me, at that time, a place of wonder and enchantment. I was surrounded on both sides of Cheadle Heath by the railway. The grassy railway embankment that led from the bottom of Elm Road to the Boundary Bridge on Stockport Road, fascinated me. There was a footpath from the bottom of Elm Road that led all the way along the side of the embankment to the bridge. Often, it was misty and raining…oh, but when the sun did come out, the grass on the embankment was almost too dazzling a green to look at. At the Boundary Bridge, was the terminus for the red and white Stockport Corporation trams, which were still running when I was four and a half years old and I remember riding on them from Cheadle Heath to Mersey Square with my mother. The fare was tuppence for her and a penny for me for the one mile journey.

Boundary Bridge Cheadle Heath Stockport I would make for this terminus and watch the driver or conductor pull on a long piece of rope connected to the trolley on the roof of the double-decker tramcars and unhook it off the overhead line and then walk around with it, pulling it as he went, and then hook it on the overhead line above the other end of the tram, so that the tram could make its return journey to Reddish via Mersey Square. "Warra doin', mister?", I would ask him. "Turnin' the tram around, sonny", he would reply.

When the trams stopped running, they were replaced by Crossley and Leyland double decker buses in the red and white livery of Stockport Corporation transport, with the Borough coat of arms on the side, bearing the latin legend "Amino et Fide", which means "Courage and Faith." The number 40 bus went from Gatley to Mersey Square, via Cheadle, Cheadle Heath and Brinksway and the number 38 bus went from Councillor Lane to Mersey Square, via Cheadle Heath and Edgeley.

Sometimes, the number 40 bus would terminate at Cheadle Heath and, to turn around, it would turn left off Stockport Road into Elm Road, then left into Eva Road…causing great excitement among myself and my little pals. "A BUS! A BUS!" we would exclaim as this huge red and white Crossley double decker sailed past our houses in Eva Road. Then, it would turn left again into Birchfield Road and right onto Stockport Road.

New footbridge replacing the old 'Monkey Bridge'I lived very near to the Cheadle Heath railway station with its sidings and wagons and grassy embankments. My favourite area of the railway was off Edgeley Road, down Bird Hall Lane. Here, at the top of the lane and situated just to the nearside of the Edgeley Road bridge, was a giant turntable where they used to turn the giant steam engines around and I loved watching the activities there. Further along the lane, there was an opening in the hedgerow that led to a rusty, rickety old tubular-framed footbridge over the railway that for some reason was known locally as "The Monkey Bridge". The footway was made up of old wooden slats, some of which were so loose, that I had to be careful where I put my feet, so as not to fall through them and land on the tracks and end up under a passing train.

This was 1953. I was six years old. Slim, fair-haired, hazel eyed and wearing short grey trousers, brown sandals and blue chequered shirt and full of mischief. I would stand on this bridge as the huge, black steam engines came by underneath, yelling with excitement as they engulfed me with steam, pulling their cream and maroon carriages to I knew not where. It was truly magical and I'll never forget the wonder of it.

Not that I didn't come back from all my wanderings unscathed. In 1953, I was kneeling in the road on Stockport Road, trying to retrieve something out of the tramlines that I'd dropped (the tramlines were still in situ even though the trams were no longer running), when a car came round the corner of Edgeley Road at some speed. There was a screech of brakes and a sickening thud as the car hit me and knocked me flying for several feet! Miraculously, except for cuts, bruises and shock, I emerged unscathed.

Brinksway with view of PyramidAnother remarkable brush with death occurred at around 4pm on a Sunday in the July of 1953, when I fell sixty feet down the sandstone cliffs at Brinksway into the River Mersey. This occurred because at around nine O'clock that morning, while I was playing on the railway embankment to the west of Cheadle Heath station, I was befriended by a man, who eventually led me off to his house, where he lived alone, situated somewhere in the Avondale Road area. There, he had his way with me. At around 3pm, he let me go and, disorientated, in a strange area and unsure of my surroundings, I wandered about until I eventually came to Brinksway. What happened next has never been established for certain, but for some reason, I opened a gate that led to a very steep footpath. This led to a dwelling called Rock Cottage, situated right on the edge of the cliff. Somehow, I must have lost my footing and plunged screaming over the edge of the cliff, down into the river far below. As I was only four feet high at the time and the river at the edge was at least eight feet deep, it's quite obvious that I must have gone under…although, through the shock and trauma of the incident, I have never had any memory of either the fall or of the rescue that followed. My life was saved by two very brave and courageous men, Bill Howard and Jack Morris, who, thank God, just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Jack dived into the river and dragged me out unconscious and near death and both he and Bill got me onto a ledge just above the river and Bill gave me artificial respiration and somehow brought me back to life.

I attended Cheadle Heath Council Infants School in Edgeley Road. This was known locally as The Tin Bucket, due to its dark green, corrugated iron design. Across the road from the school was the huge Smith's Crisps factory, that backed onto the railway sidings at Cheadle Heath Station. I had an auntie who worked there and her job was to fill the little dark blue grease papers with a portion of salt, twist them into a little bag shape and put one in each bag of crisps before sealing the bag. There was only one flavour of crisps in those days…plain…and during the warm weather, when the windows in the classroom were open, the smell of the crisps being cooked would drift into the school, making me feel hungry.

Although I only lived in Cheadle Heath for less than eight years, that, to a little boy, is a very long time and would seem to a child like sixteen years would seem to an adult. My childhood there was full of teeming life and incident…more than I could ever convey in this email…and the above and many more memories of my Cheadle Heath childhood are as fresh in my memory in 2002, as they were when they were new…over fifty years ago. I hope you've enjoyed reading this as much as I've enjoyed typing it. If there's anything in the above that you wish me to elaborate on, please don't hesitate to ask me about it.

Kind regards from David.

Phew, my goodness, what an amazing - and shocking account. Your description has reminded me of a few names I had forgotten, like the Monkey bridge where I too loved to stand as the steam trains passed underneath.

I'm very sorry to hear that you were the victim of what we now call child abuse - People think it's a modern phenomenon, but of course it's not - if anything it was more of a problem in the past, when it was a taboo subject. Thank you very much for sharing your account with me - I would love to read more.

Hi, Aidan,
Thanks for your reply. I'm very pleased you found my account of my Cheadle Heath childhood of interest, even if it was heavily truncated.

Most of the locations mentioned have changed beyond recognition now, of course. Especially the area that was Cheadle Heath station. But Eva Road, Elm Road (now called Elm Road South) and Birchfield Road look pretty much the same and still have cobblestone streets. The big difference would be in the huge amount of parked cars in the streets. When I was a little boy, no one, except the doctor and the newsagent, had a car and the streets were deviod of parked vehicles.

Regarding my being led off to his house by the middle aged man, which I remember the details of as if it were yesterday, you are quite right. Sex was a very taboo subject in those days, but that kind of thing went on more then than it does now, except without the publicity. The reasons are easy to understand. There was no such thing as "stranger danger" in those days. Children wandered about freely on their own, unchaperoned. To us children, there were two kinds of adult. A man who talked nasty to you was your enemy and a man who talked nice to you was your friend. Therefore, it was quite easy for someone so inclined to befriend a young boy out on his own and lead him off to some isolated spot where they couldn't be observed. I never told my parents about the man and what he did to me in his house, because I knew that I would get into serious trouble for going off with him in the first place. The man would also have been aware of these conventions of the time and that's why he eventually let me go, safe in the knowledge that I daren't tell anyone about it, for fear of getting myself into a lot of trouble. It all sounds very odd by today's standards, doesn't it? But that the way things were then. The Greek word "paedophile", meaning "child lover", which seems to have been introduced into this country in fairly recent times, was unheard of in 1953 and the most that anyone would have called this fellah at that time would would have been "a dirty old man."

I was born just after the war and many things were on ration until well into the 1950's. So it was a very different world in which myself, my family and our neighbours could, by today's standards, be regarded as very poor. No one in Eva Road had a bathroom, for instance, just an outside toilet next to the coal shed. When having a bath, you used to place a big tin bath in front of the fire and hot some water up in the gas geyser attached to the kitchen wall and fill pans and kettles with hot water, then take it to the bath and pour it in. Don't forget that this was just after the war and little had changed for the working class since the 1930's. Refrigerators in houses were unknown and you had to get perishable foods every day from the corner shop. Washing machines like the ones of today were also unknown and clothes were washed using a dolly tub and a mangle.

Street lighting was by way of gas lamps and the old lamplighter would come every evening carrying his big long pole with the hook on the end, open up the glass panel at the top of the lamp post, and turn on the gaslight. Returning in the morning to turn it off again. Sounds like a hundred years ago, doesn't it? Well, things were really this different in the Stockport of fifty years ago.

As far as I know, the tramlines were visible on Stockport Road until the road was tarmaced over around 1956. They are, I believe, still under the surface and sometimes re-ermerge to public view when roadworks mean the surface has to be dug up.

Regarding Ringway, now known as Manchester Airport. When I was a child, the constant heavy stream of low flying jet airliners that now roar over Cheadle Heath every few minutes, was unheard of. Only occasionally, would a little single-engined light aircraft fly overhead. Thank you for your interest in my recollections, Aidan.

All the best to you from David.

Thank you for a remarkable contribution. As the locations are so familiar to me and close to where I live, I couldn't resist the temptation to go back and photograph some of them - I've included four photographs above.

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