Friday, 28 February 2014

Heaton Mersey memories, changes at Abney, and a 'new' cottage in Style village

Last Wednesday, 26th February 2014, Malc and I took the little bikes on a local foray. We rode up to Parrs Wood for a close look at the new Manchester Metro tram terminus there (East Didsbury) which we'd glimpsed from Ivan's car on the way home from Gorton Monastery last Friday.

Please click on any picture for a larger image (note: some pictures will not enlarge as the originals are small format).

East Didsbury Metrolink tram station. Hidden by the trees in the distance is the bridge where Parrs Wood Lane crossed the railway. On the other side of this bridge, on the site of Heaton Mersey Station, a housing estate has been built on the former track bed so East Didsbury is the end of the line now.

The Midland Railway main line from Manchester to Derby and on to London ran out of Manchester Central station. At Throstle's Nest Junction it left the CLC lines to route across the South Manchester area via Chorton, Didsbury, Heaton Mersey, Cheadle Heath and then on to the lovely scenery of the Peak District through Chapel-En-Le-Frith, Peak Forest, Miller's Dale, Monsall Dale, and Matlock, the route of the futuristic Midland Pullman, the luxury blue diesel Pullman train that ran in the 1960s.

Midland Pullman near Chapel-En-Le-Frith in the Peak District

The initial part of that route is now part of the Manchester Metrolink tram system, using the track bed of the former railway (which closed in the 1960s) and terminating at East Didsbury.

East Didsbury Metro station is located on the triangle of land between Kingsway and Parrs Wood Lane. The site is between the former railway stations of Didsbury and Heaton Mersey. The track bed beyond the Parrs Wood Lane over bridge is built on, so the railway beyond East Didsbury is lost. This is because the Manchester / Stockport boundary is here; Manchester planners were far-seeing enough to preserve the railway track bed. Stockport planners allowed it to be built on, a pretty visionless act considering the tiny amount of land the track bed yields to the developer.

Jubilee class 45629 'Straits Settlements' approaching the site of East Didsbury Metro station back when there was a real railway running though here. Sandhurst Road bridge is in the background (picture by Tom Lewis courtesy Manchester Loco Society).

 The railways of the area as they used to be. The site of East Didsbury Metro station is between Didsbury and Heaton Mersey stations on this map

Railways around Heaton Mersey today

Heaton Mersey station just before the line closed; it's now the site of houses and industrial units. Parrs Wood Lane bridge can be seen in the background. The odd looking footbridge carried a public right of way from Station Road (off the picture to the right) down to the River Mersey.

Heaton Mersey Station, showing Station Road before it was extended to the right when the industrial estate was built on the former track bed. The village boasted two bleach works; note the upper one to the top right of the map.

After Malcolm and I had had a good look around East Didsbury Metro Station, we rode across to the Heaton Mersey Industrial Estate to have a look at my former workplace, Battersea House. On the way we passed the site of Heaton Mersey Station (now built on) and the remains of the Vale Road rail over bridge. This bridge can be seen on the left side of the 1950s picture of the Bleach Works (below).Vale Road ran directly down from Heaton Mersey village to the works. Later, when the industrial estate was built, Station Road, which was parallel to Vale Road and ran directly down from the village to the station, was extended to the east to serve the industrial units. It joined Vale Road as the major road (so Vale Road effectively ran into it from the left) before turning right as Vale Road, under the bridge. Battersea House, as part of the industrial estate, was built on the corner of that road and the new Battersea Road, between the rail bridge (by then demolished) and the Bleach Works. The eastern brick abutment of this bridge still exists on Vale Road. From this it can be seen that this bridge was actually two parallel bridges, the northern one carrying the two tracks of the link from Heaton Mersey to the CLC Skelton Junction to Stockport Tiviot Dale line, and the southern one the two tracks of the Midland main line from Heaton Mersey to Cheadle Heath.

A 1950s aerial view of the Mersey Valley at Heaton Mersey showing the lower Bleach Works in rural surroundings. The weir in the river, and also the mill tail race, can be clearly seen showing that water power was once important here, but the magnificent chimney shows that steam was in use as well, probably at a later date. Note the rail bridge to the left of the picture, over Vale Road. The industrial estate now occupies the site of the works and the land to the left of it this side of Vale Road, up to and including the former railway line. Heaton Mersey Station was just off the picture, to the left, and Heaton Mersey Locomotive Depot just off the picture to the right.

Battersea House on the industrial estate, formerly the premises of software house Systems Programming Ltd (SPL). I joined SPL from Digital Equipment (DEC) in 1982 (having joined DEC from Burroughs) in a change of career from hardware support to project management, and it was a great place to work. Back then the bleach works was still in place, as was the further of the two railway bridges (below). In the late 1980s SPL moved from here to Haw Bank House, Cheadle.

Rail bridges over the Mersey at Heaton Mersey. The further one is the CLC line from Skelton Junction to Stockport Tiviot Dale, the nearer the Midland main line between Heaton Mersey station and Cheadle Heath station. The bleach works chimney can be seen in the background.

Haw Bank House on Cheadle High Street, opposite the George & Dragon. SPL (later Systems Designers Ltd when they took over SPL) was based here in the late 1980s after moving from Heaton Mersey, before moving again to nearby Abney Court and Abney Hall. There used to be a branch of Wienholts (click here for more info), the Adlerley Edge baker, just across the road next to the George & Dragon; very handy at lunchtime!

We then rode on to the site of Cheadle CLC Railway Station, now 'The Station Tavern', before entering Abney Park to have a look at The Court and The Hall. 

Former Cheadle CLC station, now 'The Station Tavern' on a freight-only singled rail line. Cheadle's other station, which closed in the early 1900s because of competition from the tram service, was in the village behind Haw Bank House, on the former London and North Western railway line. That line is also singled  today, but carries passenger as well as freight traffic. 

Abney Hall, Cheadle, where I had an office for many years. SPL had been taken over by Systems Designers, then SD took over Scicon (the IT arm of BP) to become SD Scicon. SD Scicon was taken over by giant US IT Services company EDS (Electronic Data Systems) so I finished my career an EDS employee. Since I retired in 2008, EDS has become part of Hewlett Packard. 

Rear view of Abney Hall. The Hall was formerly the home of Sir James Watts, Manchester textile magnate. In 1959 it became Cheadle Town Hall before later being converted for office use.

Abney Hall interior, designed by A.W.N. Pugin who also had a hand in the design of Gorton Monastery, which we visited a week ago.

Abney Hall is presently unoccupied since EDS moved out of both Abney Hall and Abney Court on being taken over by Hewlett Packard just after I retired in 2008. My employer before SPL was DEC, and they were also taken over by HP having first succumbed to Compaq (who'd have thought it!). In the strange unpredictable way of the IT world, the Cheadle-based EDS staff were relocated by HP to an ex-DEC building at Birchwood, near Warrington. If I had still been an EDS employee at that time I'd have ended up based in a building I left 26 years before!

But the big surprise was Abney Court.... it was gone! This imposing, modern building has been demolished by owners Bruntwood Estates, and a new building is under construction on the site within the former walled garden of Abney Hall. The new Abney Court is to be a care home! 

In the walled garden of Abney Hall SD Scicon commissioned this building to be constructed, Abney Court. I remember a muddy site visit here during the build in the late 1980s, and later I had an office in Abney Court in the early 1990s before moving across the drive to Abney Hall. I was amazed to discover that this young, high quality building has been demolished!

Rear view of the Abney Court I remember, showing the wall of the former walled garden within which 'The Court' was built. 

Artists impression of the new Abney Court, a care home. It doesn't seem to sit so well within the former walled garden as did the Abney Court I saw being built in the late 1980s. Note the wall and its ventilation tower at the south western corner, built to provide heat from the Hall to the hollow garden walls. There is a tunnel under the drive between this tower and Abney Hall cellar to allow warm air from a long-gone furnace in the Hall to reach the tower. The site today is blighted by the non-stop roar of traffic on the adjacent M60 motorway. Perhaps that won't be much of a problem for those future Abney Court care home residents who are hard of hearing!

Friday 28th February 2014

Last year Channel Four screened a period drama called 'The Mill', based on real life events and people at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, where I am a National Trust volunteer. A new series of the drama is currently being filmed at the Mill, and part of the plot takes place in adjacent Styal Village, built by Samuel Gregg to house his mill workers. The film company have built a replica cottage in the village, and very real it looks - except from the back. I went there this morning and took these pictures.

The replica cottage looks just just like the surrounding genuine ones in Styal Village

A notice on the barriers around the set give some information about the cottage

A side view, showing genuine village cottages in the background

The rear view gives the game away - the 'cottage' is merely a prop built out of wood by the film company


1 comment:

  1. My wife and I held our wedding reception at Abney Hal in April 1975