Loved and Lost on Melbourne Street, Market Street and Grosvenor Street
Many Moons ago (well, last May to be precise), East of the M60 did an A-Z of defunct retailers in the form of an article entitled The Lost Precinct. This was followed up by a Nikolas Pevsner style guide detailing lost shops in Ashton-under-Lyne.
Following on from this is a similar feature, focused on Stalybridge’s lost shops. We start our journey through time at Market Street, peed off that our train was a Pacer or Sprinter instead of a more charming Class 111 Calder Valley DMU. We might even call in for a pint at a dearly departed local.
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Prior to 1997, Market Street between the War Memorial and the White House was also a main thoroughfare for Stalybridge’s local bus routes. As a shopping street, it rivalled Melbourne Street and Grosvenor Street in importance and commanded a mix of chain stores and independent shops.
The Rose and Crown: before becoming Bar Liquid, the Rose and Crown was a John Smith’s house before being sold to Vaux Breweries. On the Sunderland brewery’s demise, their pubs were sold to Swallow Inns who in turn sold out to Pubmaster. Along with Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar, it was known for its folk nights.
Banks’ TV and Radio: in the 1970s and 1980s, Banks’ TV and Radio was a small regional chain in the Granada TV and Radio Rentals vein. Stalybridge’s branch was opposite the Palace Cinema. It is now occupied by Baja’s Balti Bar.
Geldholme Chemist: opposite the bus station, this became Szoda bar. It is now known as Back To The ’80s which (would you believe) is a 1980s themed bar.
Jack Sprat: English chippy next to chemist. Now Saleems’ takeaway selling kebabs, burgers, pizzas and curries. Was prior to becoming Jack Sprat’s chippy known as the ‘Chop Suey House’.
Richard Boyes, Printers: former Robinson’s pub prior to becoming printers’ shop. Lain empty for several years before renovation into flats with two shop units, housing Tame Computers and The Crusty Cob.
The Beehive: children’s outfitters’ shop and supplier of school uniforms to many a primary and secondary school in and around Stalybridge. The creator of East of the M60 got his first school blazer and All Saints R.C. High School badge from there in August 1990!
George Dean: George Dean and Co.’s second shop was formerly the Manchester and Salford County Bank, and during the late 1990s, retained its original stained glass windows and mosaic floors. It has lain empty for several years and has been the subject of possible conversions into bar/restaurant space. Thankfully, the stained glass windows remain intact and – as far as we know – its original interior remains undisturbed.
Citizens’ Advice Bureau: till the start of the 1990s, the double unit housed Stalybridge’s CAB unit. It was also Stalybridge’s first Labour Exchange before moving to more commodious premises in the 1930s on Waterloo Road (now today’s JobCentrePlus).
The Talbot: spacious Tetley’s house popular with live musicians and bikers. It was also a fantastic vantage point for watching the Whit Walks and Stalybridge Carnival. After being empty for a couple of years, it was engulfed by an extension of The Central Hall, home to the Cosmo Bingo Club since 1980.
William Hill, Bookmakers: before moving to bigger premises on Melbourne Street, their original branch was opposite SunSpot tanning shop. Before assuming its present guise as Havana’s, it was the Network S Youth Drop-In Centre.
Boot’s The Chemist: Jesse Boot’s Stalybridge branch was on the corner of Market Street and Melbourne Street. After closing in the mid 1970s, it has been a bicycle shop and a mortgage shop. Today, it is the SunSpot tanning shop.
Darryl Bates Hairdressers: at the top end of the market, Darryl Bates’ salon occupied today’s Lions Bar. After leaving Stalybridge, they moved to a unit in The Arcades, Ashton-under-Lyne opposite the Council Offices.
The Bulls Head: till the late 1980s, The Bulls Head was a Wilsons pub before becoming Gruber Garratt’s Solicitors.
Martin’s Bank: before acquisition by Barclays in 1965, Martin’s Bank was a go-ahead retail banking business based in Manchester. Stalybridge’s branch was on the corner of Waterloo Road opposite the War Memorial and Town Hall. Following Barclays’ integration of Martin’s Bank branches in 1970, it closed with accounts moving to the present Melbourne Street branch.
Brocklehurst’s Newsagents: a traditional newsagent, closed 1999. Also quoted in GM Buses’ timetables as an outlet for their Busabout season tickets. Now the Capelli E Moda beauty salon.
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Recent development work has seen Melbourne Street become the town’s main shopping street at the expense of Grosvenor and Market Streets. In recent history, much the town’s chain stores were situated there, along with both gas and electricity showrooms.
The Commercial: along with The Talbot adjacent, The Commercial gained a reputation for live music. Under Vaux Breweries’ ownership, it was renamed The Riverside, a name it kept till being renamed as H2O Bar. Today, it remains the H2O Bar, albeit possibly one with damp thanks to the pub being vacant for the best part of five years.
George Dean: over two floors, their unit occupied the former Burgon’s shop on the Cheshire side of the River Tame. Recent years saw them concentrate on using the first floor with the ground floor becoming a new branch of Lloyd’s Chemist.
Rediffusion: on the side of some flats on Stanley Square are cabinets with ‘Rediffusion’ on the front. Before multi-channel TV became popular, BET owned Rediffusion offered a cable TV service using a relay system and a wall mounted switch. Stalybridge’s branch is occupied by an extension of the Yorkshire Building Society.
Civic: an electrical retailer in the Currys/Dixons mould, their showroom was later occupied by The Fireplace Centre. This has now been split into two smaller units. They came to prominence in the 1970s with an advertising campaign featuring Harry Worth.
North West Gas showrooms: directly opposite was the town’s gas showrooms. After the privatisation of British Gas in 1986, they elected to concentrate on bigger town centres, rebranding themselves as The Energy Centre. William Hill took over their unit and remain its occupants.
NORWEB: an early 1970s addition; following their move from Thorn House on Waterloo Road, the North Western Electricity Board’s showrooms moved to new premises next to the Trustees’ Savings Bank. It had three floors with customer accounts settled at basement level. The first floor became an antiques shop with the ground floor having been Quality Save since 1999.
The Gift Centre/Bottom Dollar: no Child of the 1980s’ trip to Stalybridge was complete without a trip to Bottom Dollar. Occupying The Emporium building and a neighbouring unit, it was a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of goodies at low prices, from stationery to deodorant. During the mid-1980s, they expanded into the cellar with access from Armentieres Square and a café. Today, another discount shop – in the spirit of Bottom Dollar – occupies the ground floor along with a branch of David Pluck’s bookmakers, as part of a mixed use development on the site.
Today, Bottom Dollar may be gone, but they moved to Market Street and set up shop as the Yu And Me discount store in 2010.
Sportcare and Fitness/Sports Feet/P&C Sports: opposite The Emporium building on 39A was a split level sports shop. Before being known as P&C Sports, it was part of a small regional chain, dropping the Sportcare and Fitness moniker for Sports Feet. Besides selling all the usual sports equipment and replica shirts, it also supplied schools’ sports kits.
Greenwoods: gents’ outfitters chain, now without a presence in the Tameside area.
Melia’s Farm Foods: Close by was Melia’s delicatessen which also had a great line in bacon muffins.
L and A Smithies’ Newsagents: sadly missed, Leslie and Audrey Smithies not only kept a good newsagents with an excellent range of transport magazines. They were very much part of Stalybridge with Les’ interests in photography, railways and all things Stalybridge Celtic. Les always had an answer for anything to do with The Mighty ‘Bridge and his newsagents was also a booking point for the Supporters’ Association’s away coach trips. Today, it is now the Five A Day greengrocers.
SupaSnaps: now the Age UK charity shop, it was a minilab for the film processing company with many a 35mm, 110 or 126 film brought in to their premises. Other previous uses included a Coal Board showroom.
The Walk Around Shop: on 19, Melbourne Street, another gift shop and the town’s Casio watch dealer.
Roy’s: gentleman’s outfitters with emphasis on Wrangler jeans.
Shoefayre: Stalybridge’s last shoe shop and non-pharmaceutical outpost of the Cooperative Wholesale Society closing in 2008. Shortly after closure it became a booking office and waiting area for Bridge Cars, later Phone A Car. It has recently changed use again.
Dewhurst’s the Butchers: as recently as 25 years ago, the chain store butcher was as much a part of our High Street along with chain store bakeries. Stalybridge’s branch closed during the 1990s and subsequently became, in 1999, The Meat Emporium. The latter business was owned by an ex-employee of Kwik Save’s butchery concession [Colemans] after that store’s conversion into the Somerfield format in May 1999.
Burney’s bakery: at one time, there was two chain store bakeries in Stalybridge. Burneys was next door to Greggs. After a brief foray under their parent company’s Hampsons livery, it closed in 2009, missing conversion to their Sayers brand, or as Pound Bakery the year after.
Walter Wilkinson: a local favourite, Walter Wilkinson’s sausages were the last name in flavour among Stalybridge folk. Closed in 2011, it was empty till 2016 when the British Red Cross charity shop took on the unit.
Ask 38: fashion boutique on two floors. Ladbrokes’ bookmakers occupies the unit along with Marvics’ and Bowdens’ shops on Grosvenor Street. In 2016, the unit changed hands again and became a British Red Cross charity shop.
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Redevelopment of Stalybridge town centre in 1968 saw the addition of concrete units on the site of Stalybridge’s first Q-Inn. The junction of Grosvenor Street and Melbourne Street was also a junction with Back Grosvenor Street, which forms part of today’s Armentieres Square.
The occupation of Stalybridge’s rear market ground by Cheshire Constabulary’s new police station meant the movement of some stalls to Grosvenor Street. These were flanked by an L-shaped block of low rise deck-access flats with retail space on the ground floor. In the late 1970s, most of Grosvenor Street, along with the top end of Melbourne Street was pedestrianised.
Pat’s Plaice: English chippy, closest to sheltered accommodation nearest Caroline Street.
International Foods: a dependable source for Polish food and other continental delights.
Stop and Save: a walk-around shop, similar to Bottom Dollar though smaller. One of two units occupied by the New Charter Housing Trust’s Stalybridge office along with…
Polar Pantry: a freezer centre offering a range of cheap frozen food, aimed at low-income families. Became Snow City’s Stalybridge branch till 1999. Closure came shortly after Snow City’s acquisition by Heron Foods, Kingston-upon-Hull.
DHSS/DSS Job Centre: right opposite the last two shops was Stalybridge’s Job Centre, prior to its move to Waterloo Road in 1996.
F.W. Woolworth: a purpose built unit dating from 1904, Stalybridge’s branch of Woolworths closed in 1973. Shortly after, it became the town’s first Kwik Save store before moving to ‘out-of-town’ premises on nearby Leech Street in 1994. Ethel Austin took over till its demise in 2009 – 2010. It is now occupied by a craft shop.
Maypole Dairy: one of Stalybridge’s first modern self-service supermarkets was a purpose built unit for the Maypole Dairy, opening in 1968. The unit has seen a fair amount of changes in its time, starting with its transition to becoming a branch of Liptons. In 1986, Liptons became Lo-Cost, later becoming Lloyd’s Supersave and Savers. It is now a branch of Superdrug.
Golden Gander: poultry products shop. Later became D&A Discounts, a short lived bargain basement food store. Then the Town Shopper’s double unit. It is now a T-Shirt printing shop.
Scallywags: children’s outfitters. Now part of an expanded branch of Joe Coral, bookmakers, hitherto a branch of Paul Dean’s bookmakers.
Owl’s Hoot Café: popular café among 1980s shoppers. Also featured prominently on the late Sid Waddell’s football themed serial Jossy’s Giants.
Spencers’ Bookshop: Stalybridge’s branch of the Ashtonian bookshop and art shop, closest to Trinity Street. Later became Stalybridge Bookshop before closing at the start of the noughties.
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Cooperative Society Stores
The Cooperative Movement had a substantial presence in Stalybridge till the end of the 1970s. Shop units at the end of Grosvenor Street nearest Trinity Street formed part of the Co-op’s presence in the town. Besides town centre shops, this included branches on Grey Street, Huddersfield Road/Mottram Road junction and Market Street.
Its main store straddled Grosvenor Street and Back Grosvenor Street. One floor housed a gymnastics school. At the latter street, most of the units were damaged by fire, with the exception of one section which became The Millpond pub. Units were subdivided into smaller shops with, at today’s Armentieres Square end at one time:
- Shirley’s Shoes;
- Bride to Be;
- The Casablanca Gymnasium;
- The Cotton Club;
- Shades Discotheque.
Shades was accessible from Grosvenor Street with a grass verge at its entrance. It was popular among 20 – 30 somethings in the early to mid 1980s. In the 1990s, The Cotton Club and Innocence were popular venues for persons in their late teens.
After fire damaged the Armentieres Square end of the store, the units were derelict for over a year and demolished. In its place, and under construction (in 2017) is a mixed-use retail and housing development by New Charter Housing Trust. This has attracted controversy over its architectural style and its height – seven storeys at its highest point, closest to TESCO.
At the Grosvenor Street end (which also included Spencers at one time), most of the ground floor level is taken up by Lounge.
Younger Stalybridge folk may remember the town’s last Co-op store on Grosvenor Street. Modernised in the mid-1960s, the food hall was on the ground floor with electrical goods upstairs. Following the closure of NORWEB, an electricity payment kiosk was installed on the left hand side of the entrance for a year. After the Co-op’s closure in 2002, it became Tameside’s third J.D. Wetherspoon public house the following year, known as The Society Rooms.
And of course, some nitpicker would safely say the Co-op’s last non-pharmaceutical shop in Stalybridge was Shoe Fayre, which closed in 2008.
Today, the Cooperative’s presence in Stalybridge is much reduced. Like none whatsoever. The Cooperative chemists on Market Street, Grosvenor Street and Huddersfield Road- alongside many others in the UK – were sold to Well in 2015. They were a newly created company owned by the Bestway Cash and Carry group. The nearest Cooperative convenience stores are in Hurst (King’s Road) and Dukinfield (opposite The Forester public house).
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For the average Stalybridge citizen, Trinity Street only meant one thing: Victoria Market. The main market hall closed on New Year’s Eve in 1999, whereas in recent history, its Fish Market opposite has been converted to small shop units. Before late 1960s redevelopment of Grosvenor Street and Melbourne Street, and late 1970s pedestrianisation, outdoor stalls were situated on the market ground behind the market hall, overlooking the River Tame. It was, prior to the opening of SIDS (Stalybridge Indoor Sports), a regular venue for its Whit Friday Brass Band Contests.
Some traders moved to units opposite Victoria Market. In 2000, it was proposed that a private contractor would take over the retail hall. As this didn’t come to fruition, it became Stalybridge Civic Hall, with some facilities moved from the former school and community centre on Waterloo Road. The area designated for retail space became exhibition space, and has played host to antiques fairs and craft markets.
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From Portland Place to Quality Save, Corporation Street also had the town’s public baths as well as access to indoor and outdoor markets. Further down, past Trinity Street, the street has significant historical importance: the very place where Jack Judge performed ‘It’s A Long Way to Tipperary’.
Tipperary Café: opposite the side of the Fish Market was the theatre where Jack Judge performed ‘It’s A Long Way to Tipperary’. Most of the theatre, apart from its façade was demolished. The far right hand side unit of the four was the Tipperary Café, popular among Stalybridge diners in the 1990s.
Hardcastles: if you wanted toys or buggies, Hardcastles was the last word. Whereas the first floor had nursery equipment, the ground floor’s toy section was always a joy to visit: its main strengths were board games, cuddly toys and model kits. Since closing in 2009, it has been a taxi booking office and has since become a beauty salon.
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As you would expect, this list is far from complete…
I have focused on Stalybridge’s main shopping streets, so feel free to add our list of lost shops, or recall any memories of shopping in Stalybridge. More lost shoe shops or amusing anecdotes? Other streets in Stalybridge with good shops from the past? Do your worst, comment freely and articulately.
S.V., 07 January 2013.
Updated on the 17 March 2017.