Following on from last month’s Lost Precinct feature
Owing to recent responses from our A to Z of Defunct Retailers, it was suggested that a localised version of The Lost Precinct post should be written.
Your wish is my command.
For the purpose of this follow-up post – and future posts within this thread, I will focus on a particular town on a street-by-street basis, with emphasis on main shopping streets. Given the greater local interest (and the fact I’ve spent goodness knows how many man hours there), I shall start off with Ashton-under-Lyne.
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As detailed elsewhere in cyberspace (and of course in a ‘Down Our Street’ feature on this blog), Stamford Street was Ashton’s main shopping street prior to the opening of Metrolands’ shopping precinct in 1967. Most of the shops on Stamford Street moved to the precinct with existing retailers later falling into decline, thanks to Park Parade cutting Stamford Street into four parts.
Today, charity shops and a branch of Cash Converters dominate Stamford Street Central with the western part the car park for Tameside and Glossop NHS Foundation Trust’s offices. The easterly part, cut off by the BT roundabout has no shops up to the college. Cockbrook has suffered as a local neighbourhood centre with reduced variety of shops and the loss of its Post Office.
As Stamford Street leads into Stalybridge (for the purpose of this post), Stamford Street’s entry will go up to the Ashton boundary which is Stamford Park.
VuData: occupied two units on Stamford Street. Its first one was opposite Egret Mill and a single storey building. The second one was next to Blues’ nightclub and traded till 1996.
Antique shop (name unknown): on the western part of Stamford Street was an antique shop opposite Cordon Bleu. I remember passing it once in 1988 and seeing a Wurlitzer juke box in the window.
The Mighty Mouthful: a sandwich shop opposite Corden Bleu. I had a meat and potato from there once which was truly appalling, so I neatly disposed of it nearby.
Cordon Bleu: a freezer centre on the corner of Cavendish Street. Closed circa 1985 and remained empty till recent demolition for NHS offices’ car park.
Sewing Machine shop (again, name unknown): this shop remained on Stamford Street up to its demolition in 2005/06. It offered a variety of reconditioned sewing machines and parts.
Ashton-under-Lyne Cooperative Society ‘Arcadia’ department store: once the flagship store of Stamford Street with food hall, home furnishings and clothing. Had upstairs and car parking on extension roof of 1960s construction. Showroom windows bricked up in style akin to retail park architecture in 1990, possibly contributing to its demise in 1993. Stood empty till demolition along with Spread Eagle pub in 1999 with Lidl store opening on the site in autumn 2000.
National Westminster Bank: there was two sites on Stamford Street. One, a former private house, is in use as The Church of Nazerene. The second was inherited from the Manchester and Salford County Bank next to Clarence Arcade. Second base in use as retail bank till around 2000 along with then second branch on Warrington Street/Old Street before becoming a business centre. Had outdoor ATM facilities till 2009. Now closed.
Kenworthy’s Jewellers: their advertising posters dotted many a part of Ashton and Stalybridge with one seen by Alma Bridge till the late 1990s. Shop located next to Conservative Club (later Yuppies and Sparx nightclubs) dominated by giant ring shop sign.
Littlewoods: Ashton’s branch of Littlewoods was in use till around the 1970s when some branches became Hitchens stores, selling ex-catalogue stock and end-of-line products. The Littlewoods name was revived when some Hitchens stores were known as ‘Littlewoods Discount’ stores. Cash Converters have occupied the unit since 2010. I once saw Nightshade from Gladiators in there back in 1993, as she was doing a pantomime at Tameside Hippodrome.
Comet: the Hull based electrical store chain had a unit on the corner of Stamford Street and Delamere Street within the Clarence Arcade building. They left the centre of Ashton for Snipe Retail Park in 1994.
Rejects Direct: During the late 1990s, the Rejects Direct chain had a handful of units which traded in end of line furniture. This was taken over by Walmsley’s Suite Superstore in 2004, who occupied the unit till 2010. It was also Ashton’s first Montague Burton store prior to moving to a purpose built unit on Old Square.
Potters’ Wheel: their last shop was opposite Clarence Arcade next to Barclays Bank. A more recent closure, Potters Wheel had a corner unit on the same block as the Pitt and Nelson prior to moving around 1997.
F.W. Woolworth: Ashton’s main Woolworth store was situated on Stamford Street prior to the opening of a purpose built unit on the corner of Mercian Way/Warrington Street. After a variety of uses, it was Ashton’s first Cash Converters unit in 1994. A fire in 2008 saw Cash Converters absent from Stamford Street till its 2010 move to the former Littlewoods unit. The ground floor is in use as the charity shop for the Wooden Canal Boat Society.
John Collier: Montague Burton’s rival – known at one time as The Fifty Shilling Tailor had a corner unit on Stamford Street/Warrington Street. John Collier’s closed in 1985 with some stores becoming Fosters branches.
Montague Burton: during the 1930s, Montague Burton’s company opened a wealth of purpose built shops, with the aim of attracting refined clientele. One characteristic of Burton’s stores was the use of first floors as billiard halls and social clubs. Burton’s Old Square unit (also handy for The Feathers and Yates’ Wine Lodge at the time) was in use till the late 1960s. Today, the first floor unit houses Club Denial with the ground floor unit subdivided, including a motorcycle showroom.
The Lamplighter Tearooms: opposite The Stamford pub (or Loose Moose), it was neatly placed for St Michael’s Square and Manchester bound buses.
Lloyd’s Bank: almost on the corner of Stamford Arcade, it remained in use as a bank prior to TSB’s acquisition of Lloyd’s Bank in 1998. Later became a fun pub known as ‘The Beach’.
George Hirst: an independently owned gentleman’s outfitters, it was situated on the eastern side of Stamford Street near the Albion United Reformed Church. Closed in 2001, it remains empty.
Powrie’s Cameras: on Stamford Square, it was ideally placed for photography students at the Ashton College of Technology.
Ashton-under-Lyne Cooperative Society [Stamford Square]: prior to around the early 1980s, this was another ACS branch. It later became Paul Dean’s Bookmakers before being acquired by Coral. One reminder of the unit’s previous ownership is the neighbouring Cooperative Funeralcare branch.
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Lynne’s Larder: a sandwich shop and café opposite the former baths [Hugh Mason House]. Demolished along with Ashton Models and Roberts Alternative Place for the St Petersfield development.
A Sir Roberts’ Alternative Place: opened in 1976, it remains Tameside’s oldest alternative therapies clinic, albeit on Oldham Road. Its previous unit was located near The Witchwood and The Red Lion pubs.
Ashton Models: a most imposing unit which sold almost every model railway item or Airfix kit you could think of. I used to love the place for its wealth of models in the window and Hornby OO gauge stuff. It was opposite the former Cockshoots garage which was a branch of Barden Mill in 1996 before demolition.
The Model Shop: whereas the bigger Ashton Models majored in Airfix kits and bigger motorised models, the smaller model shop was better for model buses and books. It also had an excellent transport section with many a good local bus and rail book. The author of this blog purchased his copy of Greater Manchester Buses by Stewart J. Brown from there in 1999!
Blasters: before B&Q, most Tameside, Oldham and Rochdale DIY fanatics would consider Blasters as their first port of call. It occupied a former removal van depot. Closure in 1994 saw the Old Street unit become a ladies only gymnasium and fitness centre.
The Reporter Office: after moving from its bigger premises on Warrington Street, the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter moved to Old Street, in one of the then new shopping precinct units. They stayed there till around 2008. Today, the unit is in use as a school uniform shop.
Bellybusters: in the early 1990s, this cheap and cheerful sandwich shop was popular with local taxi drivers and locals alike. Closed around 1997.
Mr. Freeze: independent freezer centre, opened in 1995 and closing the following year. Later became Step in Sports and remains in use as a sportswear shop, albeit under a different name.
Spencers: sadly, the Ashton-under-Lyne of 2017 has no specialist bookshop to its name. Spencers was a brilliant place if you wanted art materials and a book from the same place. Books were downstairs with art materials upstairs.
Ethel Austin: moved into its unit in 1994, around the same time when Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre moved from Old Street/Warrington Street. Closed in 2010, became a branch of Pound Empire before closure in early 2012. It is now occupied by Fulton’s freezer centre, which made the short hop across the road from Ladysmith Shopping Centre.
Nurseryland: once Ashton’s answer to Mothercare taking a unit opposite Cantors. It was extended by means of a portable building, similar to a school canteen. Closed in 1987, it became another unit for It’s Incredible before becoming Just Wot U Need in 1990, again using the extension. It is now an amusement arcade with the extension latterly in use as The Curiosity Corner discount shop.
Cantors: on the corner of Warrington Street, this was a furniture store with good windows for browsing in. Cantors were taken over by Harveys in 1996 with the Ashton store moving to – you’ve guessed it – Snipe Retail Park. In 1998, it became a Superpound Pound Shop before they moved to a Ladysmith Shopping Centre on Staveleigh Way. Since 2009, it became a branch of the posh Harrington and Hallworth Jewellers.
Pinkerton’s Shopping Arcade: opened in 1986 under this guise, it comprised of smaller shops in a standard shop unit with leanings towards collectable items. One unit, Ace Computers, had a wealth of Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum games and peripherals. Outside their unit would often be three arcade machines, reconditioned for further use. The owner, an artist, would sometimes sell examples of her artwork. Today, Pinkertons’ unit is now a discount furniture store. The artist continues to paint and exhibits her works under the name of ‘Lizzie van Dottie‘.
Farmhouse Café: upstairs from Pinkerton’s was the excellent Farmhouse Café, which was open till 1996. Food was often freshly made with generous portions. They also did – in my honest opinion – the second best chocolate milk shake in Ashton.
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Brooke Bond and Company: Ashton-under-Lyne is the birthplace of Brooke Bond’s enterprise, with their original shop occupying what is now Molly Malones’ bar.
Soundsearch Records: a fine independent record shop with a good range of music from indie to easy listening. Some of this fellow’s record collection came from there. Soundsearch, losing out to the multiple chains, closed in December 2002.
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Famous Army Stores: close to the Koffee Pot (today’s Sorrento’s Café) was the Famous Army Stores. An over-ambitious expansion programme saw the chain’s collapse in the early noughties with the Ashton store among many affected. It was at one time Burrow Brothers’ Tea Blenders’ shop, as detailed by the sign on the corner of Market Avenue/Wellington Street.
Jerry’s bookshop (I’ve forgotten the name by the way – help is most appreciated!): Jerry’s bookshop and newsagents had a good selection of local books with the former stored in the basement and newspapers at street level. Today, this unit is occupied by JRS Models, who also have a further stall on Ashton’s open market.
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It’s Incredible: a walk around shop, which opened in 1986, it offered discounted fancy goods. It is now a branch of The Money Shop.
Ashton-under-Lyne Crown Post Office: in spite of a spirited campaign and petitions, the Post Office moved from their purpose built surroundings to the WHSmith store in 2006. It was one of six Post Offices to move to WHSmith stores along with Slough’s and Hammersmith’s branches. Nearer home, Altrincham’s, Stretford’s and Chorlton-cum-Hardy’s branches would suffer a similar fate. A Coral Bookmakers and two other units including an Age UK shop occupy what was at one time a proud Ashton landmark.
DER: part of Radio Rentals chain, circa 1968. Closed around 1997 following integration of Radio Rentals/Granada businesses.
Shoe Sellers: short lived discount footwear shop with unboxed shoes tied to wooden rails. Now Shoe Zone.
Abbey National Building Society: unit opened early 1970s after revamp of George and Dragon site. Following merger with National and Provincial, Abbey National concentrated Ashton’s operations in N&Ps site in Ladysmith Shopping Centre.
Allsports: had ground floor unit next to stairs for David and Chohan’s upstairs unit, side of Thomas Cook. At one time, the chain had two Ashton branches including its then new branch in the Arcades Shopping Centre in 1995. Both branches gone with latter now The Body Shop.
David and Chohan: upstairs, David and Chohan was a local stockist of affordable male and female fashions, also close to Top Shop/Top Man. Later became Music Zone Trade Direct in 2000 prior to that unit’s closure in 2007 and move to Ladysmith Shopping Centre.
Cooper’s Supermarket: local chain, taken over by Fine Fare. Became a Shoppers’ Paradise store in early 1980s before closing and becoming Tameside’s first McDonalds franchise.
Snow City: occupied one of a handful of units in the then new Tameside MBC Council Offices, overlooking the bus station. Shop moved from indoor market food hall. Snow City chain taken over by Heron in 1999. Heron store moved to Ladysmith Shopping Centre eleven years later.
The Fullmonte: dual floored discount store with overzealous security personnel. Food and fancy goods were stored on the ground floor with clothes upstairs. Did a roaring trade in imitation England shell suits in 1990 with badly drawn variation of Umbro logos on sleeves.
The Wooden Spoon: opposite the bus station prior to moving in the 1980s to the bus station itself, the original branch occupied a former Co-op store. They moved to a unit besides the Manchester stands of Ashton bus station in the late 1970s. Demolished for The Arcades: Gabbotts Farm’s shop on site.
Crazy George’s: the first of what would become in future years a handful of Extortionate Credit Purveyors (including cheque cashing places and the like). Crazy George’s had a unit on Warrington Street in the Arcades Shopping Centre since 1995, before becoming a Bright House store. They later moved to the former Mothercare unit in Ladysmith Shopping Centre.
Wyldes Pet Shop: one of two shops next to the Prince of Orange, seen on many a 1970s bus station photograph. Demolished to make way for approach to The Arcades Shopping Centre’s car park and side pedestrian entrance for bus station.
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TESCO: the Home and Wear store was based there till 1984, before becoming an Iceland. It used to be quite convenient for the taxis if you were carrying frozen food or fresh produce from the market with you.
Beaverbrook’s Jewellers: closed in 2010. Now a women’s outfitters’ shop.
Silvio’s café and bakery: later became Three Cooks before closing in 2005. Empty till 2009 when it reopened as a café with adjoining bookmakers. By 2014, the bookmakers closed, becoming an extension of Newton’s amusement arcade.
Kwik Save: opening as Shop Rite, it became a Kwik Save in 1972, with separate counters for alcohol [Liquorsave] clothing, flowers and butchers in addition to its checkouts. It became a Somerfield in 2001, much to the disdain of regular shoppers. This proved to be short lived, with B&M Bargains taking over as the current tenants.
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Burgess and Dyson: Ashton’s main art shop offered a wide variety of materials over two floors. The ground floor was split level by one step where the back room had sketch pads. The front room had pens, paints and the like, with the upstairs room being a mini art gallery. Today, it is occupied by Taylor and Wood Estate Agents.
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Ladysmith Shopping Centre:
Given its 50 year history, the Ladysmith Shopping Centre now deserves an entry. A more extensive article on the shopping centre is also available for your perusal.
Radio Rentals: later became Cash Generator. As a branch of the Bolton-based retail chain, it closed in late 2016. At one point, its DVD shelves had twelve copies of the remake of Oceans Eleven.
Music and Video Club [MVC]: the 1998 refurbishment saw the eradication of smaller units and its second storey. Underneath the office block, the main entrance was relocated allowing more retail space. One beneficiary of this was MVC. Offering Woolworths and Andy’s Records some competition, it had a good console games section and offered discounts for holders of their discount card.
In December 2005, MVC went bust and were taken by Music Zone in 2007. They too went bust a year after with some former stores taken over by Fopp – who too went bust – and were taken over by HMV. Ashton’s store later became now a branch of M&Co. After their liquidation left the unit vacant, Specsavers moved in during 2014.
John’s Super Store: another discount store with overzealous security personnel, next door to Wimpy. New units leased by Bon Marche and Heron now take their place.
North West Gas showrooms: in use as a gas showrooms till 1996. Became First Stop Stationery, 2000 – 2001, before becoming a Poundworld.
Mothercare: now Bright House, your flexible extortionate payment rates store. Tameside’s Mothercare is now at Crown Point North, Denton.
Visionhire/Granada: closed in 2000, now Greenhalgh’s bakery.
TESCO: the food section of TESCO was situated on Staveleigh Way whereas the Home and Wear store was on Bow Street. It was converted to the Victor Value discount store format in 1985 (the name revived after TESCO’s 1971 acquisition and integration) before these were sold to Kwik Save. From 1989, it remained a Kwik Save store till 2007 before becoming Home Bargains.
Timpsons: shoe shop later became Discount Shoe Zone in 2007, closing two years after with Shoe Zone moving to Warrington Street. Became a Pao Pao coffee shop prior to its closure in March 2012. The neighbouring key cutting and heel bar shop remains open. It is now the Bake & Take cafeteria.
Rumbelows: closed 1996, now Holland and Barrett.
Koffee Pot: once situated on first floor unit above Rumbelows, they relocated to a new unit in 1994, hitherto occupied by the Lancastrian Tandoori. Closed 2007: first floor unit now in use by Costa Coffee.
Cardshops: ground floor unit, now absorbed by Boots as part of 1998 remodelling.
Currys: moved to Snipe Retail Park, 1994. Later became a Textiles Direct shop before becoming a discount card shop. It is now a branch of CeX, a purveyor of secondhand DVDs, CDs, and electronic gadgets.
NORWEB [the North Western Electricity Board]: moved to the precinct in 1967 from showroom in Ashton Indoor Market. Former showroom became market’s food hall. Precinct’s showroom moved to Snipe Retail Park in 1996, following decision to go out of town and sell stores to Scottish Power. Internaçionale took over unit in 1997 and remain there today.
Granada: occupied by Santander prior to December 2016 (hitherto Abbey National and National and Provincial’s unit). Empty at present though awaiting future tenants.
Computerbase: first floor unit above Cardshops.
Fentons: long gone outfitters’ store vacant for, seemingly, the most part of the 1980s and some part of the 1990s.
Cameo Cosmetics: offered posh cosmetics till the mid point of the noughties. Sign on back tradepersons’ exit still present.
B Records: another first floor unit, opened in 1986 for a brief period. Now part of first floor JD Sports store and lift to car park.
The Sound House: another long gone independent record shop, opened in the late 1980s though had more staying power than B Records. Now an amusement arcade.
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Any More Honourable Mentions?
This is probably a small number of Ashton shops which have disappeared over the last thirty years. Feel free to add to the list or elaborate on the above shops mentioned herein. Most of which have been based on my personal recollections and over thirty years of wandering around, or being chauffeured around in my pushchair throughout Ashton-under-Lyne’s town centre.
S.V., 11 June 2012.
Updated on the 16 March 2017.