Alternate Title: ‘Cry, Little Cistern (from The Lost Bogs official soundtrack album)’
East of the M60 is privy to doing the odd unusual post. Though we have touched upon canine actors in Soapland and ticket machines, we can assure you that our latest one isn’t in this category. But it can be. Similarly, it isn’t.
At one time, Britain’s public toilets were a sign of pride. Like our railways, pubs, cricketing and footballing sides, engineering and invention. In the same way Bobby Charlton’s substitution put English international football into a 45 year wilderness, we let most of these go to pot. Most of it, perhaps, a causal effect of spending cuts – hence the lack of playing fields, pub closures and as to why it is sometimes faster to walk from Marple to Stockport.
The same is true of the public toilet. Till at least the late 1980s to early 1990s, the smallest of towns would have a public bog or three. They were usually near important bus stops. Some form the part of a village square or market ground. Generally, they were placed in areas of high pedestrian traffic.
Thanks to public sector cutbacks and security concerns, they are a dying breed. Of what remains of our once extensive flush of lavatories, are owned by Parish Councils, private cleaning contractors and community groups. Oh, and local authorities, though often only in their main town centre. Hence the average ‘Bridgeite having to go for a Bruce Lee in Tesco. And my surprise at seeing an open toilet block in Marple.
“Listen to the wind blow…”
Stand by for our random selection of closed conveniences, past privies and lost lavatories. Please wash your hands before reading this post on your PC, tablet or smartphone. Thank you very much.
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- Ashton Old Road, near railway viaduct: If you’re familiar with the 219 service from Manchester to Ashton-under-Lyne, you would notice a brick built Edwardian toilet opposite a number of shops, formerly a Cooperative Store. It is near the former Seven Stars public house. Though closed in the mid-1990s, the overhead sodium lamp remained in working order well after closure.
- Ashton Old Road, next to ‘The Best Hand Car Wash’: next to a former railway bridge, its site is marked by a fence.
- St. Michael’s Square: underground toilets which, at one time, was handy for the 11 to Park Road or The Albion Hotel in Dukinfield. Filled in around the 1970s.
- Ashton Town Hall: a recent lost bog, courtesy of the ConDems’ spending cuts, it occupied the ground floor of the town hall extension. Opened, presumably in the 1980s, they were handy when Ashton Indoor Market used to close on Tuesdays. By the 28 November 2008, they were upstaged by new refurbished facilities in the renovated indoor market.
- Mount Road/Hyde Road junction: toilet block of 1980s construction, presumably as a replacement for facilities at the bus turnaround backing onto Kirkmanshulme Lane greyhound stadium. Closed around the noughties.
- Hyde Road: building still in situ, closed around the early 1990s. Privies close to bridge over the former Stockport branch of the Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne Canal.
- Albert Street: on my visit in 2002, they were well and truly stuck in the Edwardian age with cisterns and urinals of similar vintage. They were handy for shoppers and traders using the open market opposite. Now converted into offices.
- Market Street: close to The Beehive public house, handy for shoppers and market traders. As with Denton, both the market ground and the toilets disappeared around the same time.
- Dukinfield Park: brick built toilets at opposite sides of the park. The gents’ toilets were near to Pickford Lane, whereas the ladies’ toilets backed onto a wall facing King Street, behind the former clinic.
- Park Road: a brick built Ladies and Gents privy opposite the former lodge of Tameside Mill, it backs onto the northern embankment of Dukinfield Cemetery. Site remains with entrances blocked up.
- Oxford Street, near Albion Hotel public house: part of a brick built bus shelter for the Albion Hotel’s Hyde bound services, it was handy for the 10 and 11 services, and the Oxford Cinema. Brick shelter demolished in 1970s, replaced by bog standard Queensbury shelter. Second shelter replaced predecessor in early 1990s prior to demolition in 2002. Bus stop has since moved 50 yards east to a windier position.
- Birch Lane, in front of Dukinfield Town Social Club: male and female convenience handy for Blocksages Playing Fields and the 343 or 344 up to Mossley. Demolished mid-1980s.
- Arundel Street: stone built gents’ urinal in use till the early noughties. Convenient for the nearby North Road cricket ground, Glossop North End’s first home? I wonder.
- Manchester Road/Chew Valley Road junction: combined toilet and bus shelter designed for walkers, and passengers boarding the 180 to Manchester city centre. Closed in 2009, building has been up for sale, still vacant.
- Ashton Road/Park Lane junction: placed primarily for drivers and passengers wishing to board the 9 or 409 bus into Oldham, Ashton-under-Lyne or Rochdale. Also close to Pelham Street bus turnaround used for part-route journeys from Summit to Hathershaw. Demolished in the early 1990s, site marked by trees.
- Bus Station (Mark I): before the opening of the M67 motorway, the first version of Hyde bus station had toilets at the Market Street end of the terminus.
- Town Hall: recently closed, the toilets at the back of Hyde Town Hall included a bigger facility open limited hours with two 24 hour self-contained toilets including a sink and paper towels. They face what is now Asda’s car park.
- Bengal Street: a rather imposing block, presumably of 1950s origin with commodious toilets for each sex, and disabled facilities in each of them. Recently closed with extension to Leigh Church of England Infants School’s playground on its site.
Manchester City Centre:
- Piccadilly Gardens: a rather rustic building, later replaced by ranch style 1980s brick block nearby. Demolished in 2002 as part of the gardens’ refurbishment. Its site sees occasional street market stalls and odd queues for the occasional fairground ride.
- Stevenson Square: probably the second most famous set of closed underground bogs in Manchester, closing in the 1980s. Its otherwise dull brick walls are adorned with street art which makes for a welcome splash of colour.
- Great Bridgewater Street: Manchester most famous former subterranean loos. Since the late 1980s, they became The Temple of Convenience (now known officially as “The Temple”) bar. There is still a bog though, a unisex one.
- The Pissotiere, Charles Street: just off the Lass O’Gowrie, on the banks of the River Medlock was Manchester’s oldest public toilet!
- St. Ann’s Square: nearest to Starbucks Coffee, McDonalds and Annie’s Restaurant (Fiz off Corrie’s establishment by the way!) is a former underground toilet, surrounded by benches on its perimeter. It has in the last 40 years seen continued use as a substation.
- Market Place, Upper Mossley: building of fairly recent (1960s) construction closed in 2013. Demolished the following year with mural moved elsewhere.
- Mumps Bridge: truly awful specimens of 1970s origin, formerly opposite the B&Q Supercentre. Demolished to make way for the Metrolink line through Oldham town centre. Surpassed in their awfulness by the ones on…
- Town Square Bus Station: next to the Saver Sales office, opened in 1981 as part of its narrow and dingy concourse. Closed 2001 when bus station moved to Cheapside, with superior replacements opposite the 84 bus’ Manchester stand.
- Ogden Lane: next to Openshaw Market, a fairly modern (1960s) block. Probably closed in the mid-1990s.
- Stamford Park, Stamford Street: closed 1990s, they were near the Stamford Street and Mellor Street entrance. Toilets still remain, partially buried with entrances blocked by stone wall.
- Armentieres Square: another, albeit high profile victim of the ConDems’ spending cuts. Closing in May 2013, they were opened in the early 1980s, backing onto the former façade of the Grand Theatre. The excellent Florence and Amelias shop stands on its site. The lavatories were probably built as a replacement for the…
- Victoria Market toilets, a set of underground Ladies and Gents toilets accessed from the wings of Victoria Market’s forecourt.
- Cheetham’s Park: close to Astley Street entrance of the park, closed around 2011. Part of a stone building shared with the park’s maintenance department.
- Stalybridge Bus Station: part of brick building which included passenger information and crew relief facilities in 1961 – 2000 version of bus station. Access was gained via a side entrance facing Cosmo Bingo Hall. Closed around 1984 – 85 when Greater Manchester Transport began selling ClipperCards at Stalybridge railway station, and Peak Wayfarers at nearby Post Office. Building remained empty till demolition in 1999. Extension of Cosmo Bingo Hall now on site.
- Huddersfield Road, Millbrook: on the right hand side of the bridge over Swine Brook, was a stone built privy opposite the long closed Commercial public house. Site marked by stone fence of recent construction.
- Culand Street: gents’ toilets, just off Hyde Road. Probably closed in late-1980s to early-1990s.
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Spend a penny or cross your legs?
If you wish to elaborate on the current selection, or add some more to the list, feel free to do so. If you’ve had the fortune/misfortune to clean or frequent them, give us a tinkle. Should you continue your hunt for lost toilets, any copy of The A-Z street atlas from 1992 or earlier could be a useful ally (they are denoted with a white “T” inside a black equilateral triangle).
S.V., 28 January 2015.