Petition Manchester’s London Road Fire Station: Standing Up To The Apathy, Neglect & Abuse by Britannia Hotels for 26 years. Enough is Enough.

Petition Manchester’s London Road Fire Station: Standing Up To The Apathy, Neglect & Abuse by Britannia Hotels for 26 years. Enough is Enough.

The London Road Fire Station is one of Manchester’s great lost buildings, possibly the greatest.  I say lost, but it’s still standing, more or less.  The owners, Britannia Group, have done less than the bare minimum needed to keep it intact and it now looks like it’s in danger of falling down.  Sign the petition to have the previously overturned Compulsory Purchase Order overturned and, hopefully, something done to rescue the building.

(The petition site asks for a donation, you can ignore it and still have your signature included.  I accidentally did this twice.)

Bye bye Toast Rack?

The ‘Toast Rack’, built in 1960, was designed by Leonard Cecil Howitt – the man behind Manchester’s Crown Court and Blackley Crematorium.

It forms the centrepiece of MMU’s Hollings campus, which specialises in fashion courses as well as food, tourism, hospitality and leisure.

MMU chiefs are keen to commemorate the building’s history and have teamed up with the Manchester Modernist Society to record its story. The Society – an appreciation group for fans of the last century’s overlooked architecture – has moved into the top of the building to work with students on the project.

via Is it the end for Manchester’s iconic Toast Rack building? | Manchester Evening News –

I’ve never been into teh Toast Rack.  Maybe I need to take a trip there before it’s gone.

Walking in the air: Castlefield’s own High Line Park – Gardening – Property – The Independent 1

Anything New York can do, Manchester can do better. Or so say the residents of Castlefield who are campaigning to create their own High Line Park on the top of one of the city’s derelict Victorian railway viaducts.

via Walking in the air: Castlefield’s own High Line Park – Gardening – Property – The Independent.

I’ve long felt that something like this needed doing on the Castlefield viaducts.  It was one of the things that didn’t make it into Sounds of Soldiers.

An architectural wander around the Plymouth Grove hotel

The Plymouth Grove hotel

I’ve been meaning to get photos of the Plymouth Grove for years. I was out that way earlier this week shooting other stuff so I decided to stop by.

It’s a Grade 2 listed building and, according to the guy who appeared to be working on it they’re starting a refurbishment project, so I got in at the right time for decay photos. There are more photos at the Plymouth Grove set on Flickr.

An architectural wander around Ashton Under Lyne

Ashton Under Lyne architectural wander

I recently moved to the eastern side of Manchester, and have found myself in Ashton quite often in the last few months. The town has some interesting buildings and has rekindled my interest in taking photos of architecture.

Ashton Under Lyne architectural wander

The day I chose to take my first wander had one of those Mancunian overcasts where my camera registers the sky as a featureless pale grey. So no brooding clouds behind any of the buildings in this set. Sorry.

You can see the full Ashton Under Lyne architectural wander set on Flickr.

The Longford and Essoldo cinema building in Stretford

The curved deco frontage of the old cinema in Stretford has long been one of my favourite pieces of architecture in Manchester, so it’s been awfully lax of me not to go and find out more about it before. This blog gives a potted history of the building and is keeping up to date with the current owners plans to bring it back into use.


Here’s a poor picture I took of the frontage ages ago.

Chester Road, Stretford Stretford Essoldo

And some better, and arty, pictures by Flickr users Gene Hunt and bitrot.

deco frontage

This interesting feature, which I photographed on a recent ride, is the side entrance to the cinema. I don’t think the main building and this row are connected any more.

When it opened as the Longford cinema in the 1930s the front entrance was grander, designed to look like a giant cash register by architect Henry Alder. It was lavishly appointed inside and outfitted with a stage so that theatre performances could be put on one week out of every four. It became an Essoldo cinema in 1950 and, as audiences dwindled, was bought by Ladbrokes in 1965 and turned into a bingo hall. A large chunk of the frontage was bulldozed away in 1979 when Chester Road was widened, leaving just the fondant curves which caught my eye the first time I rode through Stretford. (All of these details have been cribbed from the history page, which goes into more, and fascinating, detail.)

I have an inkling to model the Longford, or at least adapt its curves for use on model railways, probably using 3D printing. I’ll be watching developments with the real version with interest as well.

An architectural wander around my childhood

The old single track road bridge over the Lune

I’m not sure what inspired today’s little journey, but some time over the weekend I decided I should head out to the place my family lived between 1972 and 1976- Halton. Part of it was the memory of crossing a narrow bridge to get there.

The bike and I hopped on a train to Lancaster and then I got my bearings and headed out of town toward the M6. A little way the other side of the motorway along the A683 there’s a narrow road which might be easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. Down here, after a few twists and turns, you come to a single track bridge across the river Lune.

The old single track road bridge over the Lune Canoeists Canoeists The old single track road bridge over the Lune

After watching the canoeists for a while I crossed over and wandered around Halton, trying to remember which road we used to live on. (I think I narrowed it down to two possibilities, I’ll have to ask my parents.).

Lancaster architectural details

I headed back to Lancaster along the northern side of the river, stopping to look at work being done on the Lune Aqueduct. I didn’t get a decent picture of it, but I must have been doing that thing where I look like I know what’s going on, because people kept asking me what was being done to a structure I’d only just (re)discovered.

Nearer to Lancaster there’s a really big weir across the river. I found an interesting looking, but inaccessible, little footbridge near it.

Mysterious footbridge Mysterious footbridge Mysterious footbridge

I crossed back over the river on the Millennium Bridge. The light was against me and I didn’t get a picture of the whole of the structure.

Millennium Bridge Millennium Bridge

Then it was into Lancaster centre to get a coffee and take a few pictures before catching a train back to Manchester.

Lancaster architectural details Lancaster architectural details Lancaster architectural details Lancaster architectural details Lancaster architectural details Bashful Alley Morris Marina GT Lancaster architectural details Trojan rocking horse Lancaster architectural details Lancaster architectural details Lancaster railway station detail

Piccadilly Skyline

Disco Ball

I went into town last Sunday to get pictures of the Chinese New Year celebrations. None of the pictures I took were all that good. However, wandering back to Piccadilly Gardens, I looked up and spotted the disco ball atop 21 Piccadilly. Then I looked all around and decided to take a wander and get pictures of the skyline around the Gardens.

skyline Tower turret

water tower

I wonder if that water tower is still in use?

IMG_3906 1904 Clayton House
Gardens Hotel

Long, long ago, when I was living in Surrey but occasionally visiting the Manchester office, I think the Gardens Hotel was one of the places I got to stay.

Thistle Ramada Primark & Debenhams Starbucks & Sachas

Mystery door

That structure on the roof with the open door intrigues me. The building on the right houses a branch of NatWest. Just saying.

A little wander along the Manchester Ship Canal 3

For several years I’ve been saying I wanted to cycle the length of the Manchester Ship Canal, starting or ending in Port Sunlight. This year I need to stop saying it and actually do it. On Saturday I did a test ride along a bit of the canal.

For the ride proper I intend to catch a train to or from Port Sunlight so that I’m only riding one way. For Saturday’s partial ride there was to be no train intervention. I set myself a basic target- reaching a landmark I had identified on Google Maps or doing 15 miles from home base- at which point I would turn around and come back.

I had to ride out to the Trafford Centre then the Barton road bridge, where I would join the canal. One of the wonders of Google Maps is the satellite view, which let me get an idea of the lay of the land along the canal’s banks. This led me to the North shore being a better bet for access to land close to the water. I’m easily distracted, though, and stopped off in Stretford to get a couple of photos.

Unhappy boat deco frontage

Love that Deco frontage. I’ve taken a few photos over the years of the curved frontage of the bingo hall just around the corner, but only just noticed this. An architectural wander of Stretford is in order, I think.

I resisted photo ops the rest of the way to Barton, crossed the bridge, headed down side roads and gingerly made my way past a gaggle of geese and swans (swans are huge, and I still have a little bit of fear of them left over from the time one attacked me when I was about seven) and found myself on Langland Drive.

Langland Drive Short track

The GPS on my phone went a little mad on Langland Drive and put me in a lot of places other than where I actually was. There’s a lot of work going on on the wasteland west of the motorway, but no indication yet of what’s going to be there. After a while I reached a lock complex, which was closed to the public. The road curved away from the canal so I started following paths through the undergrowth and trees. This was almost too much for my tourer, a cyclocross bike might have been better suited, a mountain bike would have had no problems but would also have been overkill. Just beyond the locks, on the other side of the canal, was a loading dock of some sort.

Mystery Dock

A little further on was a spur off the canal, with a scrap yard and this precarious piece of parking on one side of it.


There are still reminders of whatever used to be here, in amongst the trees.


I could have joined the road soon after this, but I stubbornly stuck to the path through the trees until I reached Irlam Locks.

Irlam Locks Irlam Locks02

Pride comes before a flat, and my front tyre punctured a little way on from the locks. I’m surprised that I only picked up the one thorn considering the number of brambles draped across the path. For some reason, my phone’s GPS could work out where I was to within 7 metres whilst I fixed the tyre. To make things worse, the puncture had happened within sight of my target.

Ghost Train Old Railway bridge Under the bridge The other side of the bridge

(Not the locomotive- satellite view’s not that good- the bridge.)

My landmark, the first option for turning back, was thirteen and a half miles into my ride. I didn’t feel like retracing my route, so I carried on, knowing there’s a road bridge over the canal a couple of miles further on. I headed back toward the Trafford Centre on the South side of the canal where, as I’d thought, it was harder to get close to the water’s edge. However, I did find this redundant level crossing on the road to Flixton.

End of the line

The brief period when I could get close to the water did give me a different view of the mysterious dock from earlier and the locks just upstream from it.

Mystery Dock 2 Mystery Dock 3 Locks Locks 2

Then it was on to the Trafford Centre for doughnuts (to undo all the good that 30 miles of cycling had done) and a poor coffee before finishing the trip.

Next time I think I shall carry on along the canal to the end. I doubt I can make it all the way along the northern shore, and if I do I may then have to backtrack several miles until I can get across to the side with railway stations on it. I think I’ll wait until it’s a lot warmer.

An architecture wander around the fringes of Manchester city centre, and Captain America in the Northern Quarter

On the edges of Manchester city centre

I went for a wander a few streets over from the main drags today, starting at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, and found some very interesting stuff. Some of the potential locations made me want to write another film script, just so we could film in them.

I ended up in the Northern Quarter and got a few shots of fake shop fronts being put up on Dale Street to turn it into a little bit of 1940s New York.

Captain America set building on Dale Street

There are a load of pictures on Flickr.

A short architectural wander down Palatine Road

Calderbank Chambers

A very short wander, because I only went to get pictures of one building. Calderbank Chambers is one of those places I must have passed hundreds of times over the years, but it’s well worth stopping for a closer look, if only for the ornate main entrance. Someone started with the cherubs and the leaves and just couldn’t stop. And then there’s the turret/spire butting out from one corner, perfect for looking down on the oiks as they walk past on the way to the Jobcentre.

Calderbank Chambers Calderbank Chambers Calderbank Chambers

An architectural wander near the Irwell

Architecture near the Irwell

Whilst wandering around looking for places to leave G.I.s this afternoon I decided to explore around a short stretch of the Irwell. I even did a little bit of timid urban exploration, nosing around open doors and going into places I probably wasn’t allowed. All good clean fun.

I need to explore more of Salford. The bit just across the river that I explored today was an interesting mix of glass and steel new builds and faded and crumbling old red brick, often pushed right up against one another.

On a side note, my camera has some issue with red in RAW format (or .CR2, as this is a Canon). Does anyone know anything about this? Is there a flaw/eccentricity in the sensor of the Canon G11? The onboard JPEG processing deals with it, putting the red back when it’s needed, but I’m not always so good at that when I “develop” it in Photoshop Elements.

The Irwell wander photos can be found here.

An architectural bike ride to the east of Manchester

Grey horse

I haven’t been on one of my bike wanders for a very long time. So last Friday I set out with the intention of getting lost. I got on to Lapwing Lane and headed east until I ended up somewhere I’d never been before. Then I carried on into the unknown. The first little bit of the unknown was between Burnage and Heaton Chapel, then it was vaguely familiar all the way to Reddish.

Butchers Crest

I entered terra nova properly in Reddish Vale, before crossing the M60 by footbridge.


After a detour through an industrial estate I found myself at Arden Hall, which I have passed previously

Armitage Shanks

Heading the wrong way I found an advertising hoarding which was the equivalent of the hall. The bus shelter also contained this noticeboard for Romiley Forum-

Romiley forum

Back on track I headed down a dead end lane- because I always take those as challenges- and found the perfect tinker’s doer-upper. I think it’s an old works building of some form. If you look in the middle window on the first floor you can see a shelving arrangement which looks like it was for some form of filing.

Derelict Outbuildings

The dead end lane turned into a path which eventually took me to Bredbury. From there I followed the canal for several miles, getting in some birdwatching and a bit of off roading in Gower Hey Wood.

Heron under the bridge Heron Jump spot in the woods

Eventually I found a major road and turned west, heading back to the pub just in time to meet everyone and rehydrate with blackcurrant and soda. Four hours of riding and I ended up two miles from home in the beer garden of Hardy’s Well. It was worth it. I filled in a few gaps in the parts of Greater Manchester I’ve visited and discovered that I can’t always rely on my phone’s mapping programs to tell me where I am. Both the Ovi Maps software my Nokia X6 shipped with and the Google Maps which I installed flaked out when I got outside the M60. Which is odd because I’m certain I’ve had Google Maps tell me quite accurately where I was in Cumbria, which has to be less well equipped with transmitters than the eastern fringes of Stockport.

Here are the rest of the photos from the “Getting lost east of Manchester” photoset.

Cortina Collapsing barn Moores' Hat Factory Minor pickup

An architecture wander down Back Piccadilly

Back Piccadilly is a short, narrow, slightly threatening looking street connecting some of the streets heading east from Piccadilly Gardens. Apart from using it as a shortcut you don’t often think about it.

I only popped into Back Piccadilly to take pictures of Mother Macs.

Back Piccadilly- Mother Macs

It’s one of those pubs you never go in, and don’t know anyone who ever has. Despite being so central it might as well be in another town. (Now that I’ve said that I’m going to have to go in aren’t I?)

Back Piccadilly

Across from Mother Macs is Ed’s Cafe Bar. I’ve never been in there either, and I’m not sure whether it’s still open.

Back Piccadilly

Moving along, there are some impressive rear doors to some of the shops on Piccadilly. Though they don’t look like they’re used much nowadays.

Back Piccadilly

Behind one of these doors and down in a basement there used to be a comic shop (we’re talking 15 to 20 years ago mind). I sold my whole comics collection to the guy who ran it. We all make mistakes.

Back Piccadilly

Sprinkler alarm.

Back Piccadilly

I wasn’t expecting much of interest down the last stretch of Back Piccadilly, which has fairly recent buildings on one side and Sacha’s hotel on the other. Then I looked at the detailing on Sacha’s.

There are more photos in the Back Piccadilly set on Flickr.

Underground Manchester- under Great Northern and G-Mex

Underground Manchester

On Sunday a few of us went on an organised tour of old canal tunnels and air raid shelters under the Great Northern warehouse and G-Mex (now Manchester Central, back to the original station’s name). It was a short but fascinating glimpse of a piece of industrial history.

Experimenting with longer exposures gave a few good results.

Underground Manchester

Underground Manchester

Relying on the flash gave far grainier pictures, but some shots I didn’t have the time to set up a long exposure.

Underground Manchester

There are more pictures in my Underground Manchester set on Flickr, and Ickle has a few as well.

I believe this is the Irwell end of the canal we were exploring.

Dead end lock

After the tour I tried a few long shots of the Central Library.

Manchester Cenral Library