Our Spring visit was a day of two halves: industrial heritage in the morning followed by an afternoon tour of an historic mansion and the opportunity to stroll around gardens in the warm sunshine.
An early start of 9.00.a.m. was more than compensated for by a pleasant drive through Derbyshire to Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet on the outskirts of Sheffield. Once the largest water powered industrial site on the River Sheaf, it has been a place of metal working for hundreds of years......
How long have you lived in Stockport?
What is that building opposite the Town Hall?
Have you ever visited it?
The chances are that you have never been to the Stockport War Memorial and Art Gallery. If you haven’t, you should be ashamed of yourself as it is a gem; unique, not just in England but in the world. It is the only building, anywhere, designed and purpose-built as a combined war memorial and art gallery. There are now forty people from Marple History who can look their friends in the eye; they have been and they have learned a lot. Lynda Jenkins organised one of the most moving tours the society has sponsored.
Standing at the junction of London Road and Whitworth Street, the building has been largely empty since 1986, gradually deteriorating. It has been a Grade II* listed building since 1974 but that did little to save it. From this prime position it stared reproachfully at every one of the thousands arriving at Piccadilly each day. After years of inaction Manchester finally got tough with the owners. It has now been sold on to another company, Allied London, who will start development in the spring. That left a small window of opportunity for those enthusiastic nerds who wanted to see the interior of an iconic Edwardian building. Jonathan Schofield,Gathering our favourite Blue Badge Guide, leapt in to fill the gap. As well as a series of public tours over the Christmas/New Year period he agreed to put on a special tour for Marple History. Despite the short notice, Hilary Atkinson took up the challenge and assembled 40 like-minded anoraks to accompany her. It’s fortunate that they were anoraks as we were greeted with the traditional Manchester weather.
First a misapprehension. It was not just a fire station but home to a variety of civic functions. It was a police station, an ambulance station, a coroner’s court, a gas meter testing station; even a bank. And not just civic functions; there were 38 flats of varying sizes for firemen and their families, a town within a city.
‘To boldly go where no Society has gone before’ – a noble objective but not true on this occasion. The consultation exercise with the members earlier this year had drawn the suggestion to revisit destinations of yore. So we found ourselves on the way to the Avro Heritage Museum in Woodford. Turn right at Poynton, travel past the airport relief road and enter through the old factory gates. These had given entry to the BAE factory, which closed in 2011, after almost 87 years on the Woodford aerodrome. Houses are being built to populate the site; eventually some 4,000 will materialise. A classic case of changing swords into ploughshares.