Katherine Street, Ashton-under-Lyne:
- Distance: 1 mile;
- Start: Moss Lane/William Street junction;
- Finish: Beaufort Road/Mossley Road junction (or the Beau Geste public house);
- Buses: any bus to Ashton-under-Lyne or (Penny Meadow) Mossley, Stalybridge, Saddleworth;
- Trains: Ashton-under-Lyne railway station.
For our sixth Down Our Street feature, we look at a street which is in two parts. It is split by a shopping centre, goes along the open market ground, and finishes near Tameside College’s Ashton Centre. Just to confuse things a little, it originally finished at Beaufort Road, and finishes at a crossing between the Arcades and Ladysmith shopping centres. The section between the open market and Beaufort Road no longer bears its original name.
The street in question is Katherine Street, a street which is split in two and known as Penny Meadow from the open market junction. For the purpose of this article, the distance refers to the complete mileage from Beaufort Road to Moss Lane/William Street.
Katherine Street is named after the wife of George Henry Grey, the Seventh Earl of Stamford. His wife, whom George married on the 29 August 1855, was a circus bareback rider. A sizeable number of Ashton-under-Lyne’s streets are named after the Earl of Stamford’s family. Katherine Street is the second street of their legacy covered in East of the M60.
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Along Katherine Street:
i. Moss Lane to the Open Market:
Today, Katherine Street, Moss Lane and William Street is dominated by Thornway Drive and Firbank Close. Prior to moving to Crowhill, Thornway Drive and Firbank Close was Curzon Ashton’s old ground, National Park. Now in its fiftieth year, Curzon Ashton was formed as a merger of Curzon Road and Ashton Amateurs footballing sides. National Park was originally home to Ashton National FC, the National Gas Engine Company’s works team.
As well as Curzon Ashton, National Park was also a temporary home for Caernarfon Town and (for three games) Hyde United. It was also a home for Dukinfield Town FC whilst they were a Lancashire Combination team.
The first quarter mile is dominated by late 19th century and early 20th century terraced housing stock. Nearest to Mowbray Street was the Ashton-under-Lyne Cooperative Society’s base in the West End of the town. On the north side was their No. 12 store with a factory opposite. As we get towards the junction of Margaret Street, we see a newer addition: the Masjid Hamza Mosque. Also known as, or co-located the Madrassa Arabia Taleemul Qur’an and Mosque, Masjid-e-Hamza, Madrassa Arbia Taleem-ul-Quran and Mosque, MATQ Mosque, it has space for 1,300 male worshippers.
Directly ahead is the Richmond Park estate. The name is so-called owing to the part of Ashton (Richmond Hill) which also includes Richmond Street. The tower blocks and maisonettes were built in 1965, using the BISON prefabricated building system. Along with the West End estate, they are now owned by Ashton Pioneer Homes, an arms length management organisation formed in 1999, taking over operations hitherto carried out by Tameside MBC’s housing department. On Richmond Park, a shopping centre was built in the dead centre of the development at a raised level. Shops were accessed by means of a ramp on Katherine Street, including a Post Office. Two public houses were purpose built, only one of which surviving, as The Guzzlin’ Goose.
Shortly after Ashton Pioneer Homes’ takeover, Richmond Park was refurbished with domed roofs on the five storey maisonette blocks. Fencing was added, along with a new housing office on one of the tower blocks by Margaret Street.
On the left hand side, the housing stock is older with a row of terraced houses from Wilkinson Street to Welbeck Street North. On the corner of the latter street is the Welbeck Hotel. Further down, we see a more recent block of low rise flats. Again, part of Ashton Pioneer Homes’ housing stock, this replaced a row of terraced houses. Till recently, the Richmond Park sub-Post Office moved to a newsagent on the block, after moving from the shopping arcade which served the estate. By 2010, the sub-Post Office and newsagent closed, damaged by fire. It was next door to a former chapel, now Food World Cash and Carry.
Once past the Richmond Park estate, we see Goldgem Enterprises’ business. In the 1980s, this used to be Grahams’ garage, a Vauxhall dealers. Goldgem also had offices opposite the former dealers, which are known today as ‘Katherine Cavendish House’, in reference to its location.
Prior to 2008, it was formerly The Buck and Hawthorn public house. It was a multi-roomed tied house owned by Frederic Robinson’s brewery, Stockport. As well as the public bar, it had a separate lounge (nearest Cavendish Street/Katherine Street junction), and a further three rooms. The smallest of the rooms would hold enough for 12 persons (well, 12 people at least 5’11″ tall with 38″ waist to be honest). A room at the back, behind the smallest and second smallest Snugs accommodated the pool table.
As we move towards the centre of Ashton-under-Lyne, we see MIND’s Topaz Café on the left hand side. Opening in early 2009, it includes training rooms and internet access as well as locally sourced vegetarian cuisine. Straight ahead is a former social club and Indian Restaurant, which is now a nursery. Opposite is The Queen Inn, which has in recent years seen closure and changes in management. At one time, it was a Marstons tied house. Today, it thrives as a LGBT friendly bar.
After crossing Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyne’s swimming baths is on our left hand side. Opened by Sports Minister Denis Howell in 1975 to replace Hugh Mason House, it is on the site of the Theatre and Concert Inn. The former pub was reputed to be a future town hall for Ashton. With the Arcades and Ladysmith shopping centres in full view, we also see Age UK’s Tameside offices on the right hand side. It sees regular use as a community facility with regular events including The Gateway Club’s Thursday meeting. It was formerly a branch office for the National Union of Public Employees, and fulfilled that function till the late 1990s after NUPE’s absorption into the Unison trade union.
Left hand side on the corner of Gas Street, is the Beau Geste. Built in 1967 as a Bents Gartside pub, it replaced an earlier facility lost to today’s Ladysmith Shopping Centre. Prior to the Arcades’ opening, it was next to the Ashton Hotel, a Threlfalls-Chesters/Whitbread house, built for similar reasons. Today, Poundland stands on the site. At that point, Katherine Street ceases to be negotiable, blocked by four units belonging to the Arcades. Therefore, we would need to walk along Mercian Way [Ladysmith Shopping Centre] and along the left hand side of the open market to stay on route.
Till the early 1990s, it was possible to cut through Woolworth’s back entrance, or the side entrance to Ashton bus station. Therefore, the present day Katherine Street ends outside Betfred (or Costa Coffee if you prefer).
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ii. Open Market to Mossley Road (Penny Meadow):
Prior to 1967, Katherine Street also took us towards the open market. The present day branches of the Cheshire Building Society and Cooperative Bank was formerly Ashton-under-Lyne’s waterworks’ offices. We then pass the Wilkinson store underneath Tameside MBC’s Council Offices. TAC opened in 1981 and, from the start, included a cluster of small shops and a supermarket (Presto).
Next up is Ashton-under-Lyne town hall. Prior to 2010, its more westerly block included the Waterworks and Setantii museums. The first floor still houses The Museum of the Manchesters, whereas the ground floor used to be toilets till 2008 (when they moved to the market hall). Before moving to Manchester Road, the ground floor used to be home to its police station.
Further on, the Market Hall is in full view to the right. On the left hand side, the short stay car park and loading area used to be Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation’s transport office. Flanked by a few stands, this was the one time terminus of the 9 bus route to Rochdale (today’s 409 service operated by First Greater Manchester). A year after its purpose built bus station opened, its offices were demolished. As well as being a main staging point (even today), it marks the start of Penny Meadow.
Penny Meadow was bestowed its present name in 1962. The name came from Reverend John Penny, an 18th century parish priest from St. Michael’s Parish Church. Following the pedestrianisation of Market Street, it became a main thoroughfare for the town’s buses and remains so today.
On the left hand side is The Ash Tree. Previously, it was the Queens’ Picture Palace then the Ritz, before becoming a social club and a showroom. Till 1988, it was the Harbenware showroom. That year saw its refurbishment into the Main Street shopping centre, a venture which lasted till 1994 before becoming J.D. Wetherspoon’s first Tameside house.
On the right hand side is one of Ashton’s oldest pubs, The Bowling Green. It remains popular, even with ‘Spoons in its shadow. Slightly uphill, independent shops and takeaways dominate Penny Meadow. Most prominent is Lovlee’s Continental Foods, a convenience store with a delightfully 1970s Skol/Long Life sign in immaculate condition. One cannot afford to miss the store’s booze offers or the gloriously 1970s Westminster font.
Directly ahead is the Albion Way bypass, which gets its name from the former Robinson’s pub and the former Albion School adjacent. Opening in February 2012, it caused a stir when Penny Meadow shopkeepers claimed an 80% drop in trade. Also known as the Ashton Northern Bypass, it links up with the BT roundabout via Crickets Lane North (formerly Arlington Way).
On the right hand side, you cannot miss the Albion Schools building. A fine piece of Italianette architecture, it opened in 1862 and was at one time the largest school in England. It had eleven classrooms and an assembly hall, with space for 1,000 pupils. After closure in 1926, it has seen usage as a Social Security office, and a carpet shop. Today, it is home to Armstrong Office Supplies’ showroom.
In its last few yards, we meet up with Whiteacre Road and Crickets Lane. Crickets Lane was the first home of Dennis’ Coaches, before moving to Charles Street, Dukinfield and its acquisition by Stagecoach Manchester. Today, a couple of advertising hoardings marks the site of their former garage.
Shortly afterwards, Penny Meadow (or Katherine Street if you prefer) finishes at the junction of Mossley Road and Beaufort Road. If you take a short walk up Mossley Road, you will see the former Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation garage. Now subdivided into industrial units, it was home to Ashton’s trams, trolleybuses and motor buses. Under SELNEC, it was one of two garages in their Ashton and Stalybridge district. By 1974, under Greater Manchester Transport’s Tameside district, it would close along with Tame Street (Stalybridge) with buses moving to Whitelands Garage in 1977.
S.V., 14 February 2013.