Who remembers Pyramid Park, Bury’s homage to The Valley of the Kings?
1970 was a far from joyous year for some of British Rail’s passengers. The last of The Reshaping of British Railways closures were under way. In Greater Manchester and Derbyshire, on the 04 January, this affected the service from Manchester Piccadilly to Hayfield. Passenger services between Hadfield and Penistone – on the Woodhead line – ceased operation.
In the spring of 1970, SELNEC launched the Trans-Lancs Express bus route from Bolton to Stockport. Between Bolton and Rochdale it followed the railway line via Radcliffe and Heywood. This closed later that year and led to the introduction of additional part route journeys along the Trans-Lancs Express.
Taking up a sizeable chunk of the closed line was the area around Bury Knowsley Street station. To the north-east of the station were sidings and goods sheds. Also a cattle pen which was close to the town’s abattoir, and the market ground.
Besides the closure of the line, Bury was in transition during the 1970s. New bypasses were built to keep through traffic away from the town centre. A pedestrian precinct was built, forming the basis of today’s shopping centre. A new market hall was built with its stalls being well placed for motorists as well as pedestrians and bus passengers. The old market hall and its stalls were cleared for Bury Interchange which opened in March 1980.
South of its southern bypass, the Angouleme Way, was an attractive new open space. Also known as Townside Field, it was better known as Pyramid Park.
The rise and fall of Pyramid Park
Pyramid Park was consistent with the early to mid 1970s trend of creating linear parks. Instead of trains, dog walkers, cyclists, and runners take over. As well as offering a scenic route, a good place for exercise.
Pyramid Park is bordered by the East Lancashire Railway’s line to Heywood and Rawtenstall. On another side, the adjacent Metrolink line to Bury Interchange. In its fully realised form in the early 1980s it had four pyramids and an irregular polygonal lake. Access was available from Frank Street, Knowsley Street (via a ‘S’ shaped path and tunnel underneath the railway line), and a subway from Bury Interchange.
At its easterly part, prefabricated local authority housing was added – with a courtyard style setting known as Townside Row. There’s a mixture of bungalows and low rise deck access flats, though on a more human scale than mid to late 1960s developments. In later times, more social housing was added with Town Fields Close to the west of Townside Row.
In the middle of its ornamental lake was a statue of Nimrod, on a triangular plinth. From the window of a passing 400 bus its pyramid hills made for a unique yet tidy landscape.
Being on the southern fringes of Bury town centre, Pyramid Park is in plum territory for office and residential developments. With property prices rising and Bury’s role as a Greater Manchester wide retail and business destination in ascendency, an offer too good to refuse.
In 2001, like the 400 bus route, the future of Pyramid Park was in limbo. From that year onward, there was plans for apartments, hotels, and offices. In a 2003 report by URBED entitled Bury But Better, it bemoaned:
“[the lack of] attractive public access from Market Street to the park meaning that all access
must either be taken from the housing on Town Field Close or under an intimidating underpass beneath the Metrolink lines.”
This is where the lack of sensitive development around its boundaries and clear entrances are sorely missed. Had the prefabricated housing on Townside Row not been built Pyramid Park may have attracted more footfall. The report continues by saying:
“As a result the area is underused and negleted [sic]. It is understood that the Council have the site earmarked for future development.”
This had been mentioned as far back as 2001 in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. In their 07 March 2001 article, it stated that the park could be turned into “houses, offices, or even an ice rink”.
Something else had got in the way: newts. In the Bury Times, an article from the 13 September 2007, the artificial liner in the pond gave way. This led to Bury Council finding a new home for the amphibians. Did that scupper the park’s development? Bury But Better showed plans for the pond’s retention but no more pyramids.
Come 2010, part of their plans to build on Pyramid Park had been completed. Today’s visitors to Bury are greeted with the sight of a Primary Care Centre and a Premier Inn. Next to the mixed use development, southwards is a Q Park multi-storey car park. These are situated on the corner of Knowsley Street and Angouleme Way.
Pyramid Park in its original form is set to be one of Bury’s shortest lived open spaces. Since the opening of the Premier Inn complex, the tunnel leading to Pyramid Park has been bricked up. The tunnel from Bury Interchange no longer leads to the said open space.
In the last week, plans have been rubber stamped for the continued expansion of Bury College. To the Market Street end of the park will be a new Health and Sciences Centre. It aims to be a centre of excellence for the STEM subjects.
Any expansion of Further Education institutions is a welcome step. Pyramid Park had the potential to be a good town centre park; though public transport access is excellent, its approaches to the park didn’t help matters. A ‘Green Tunnel’ over the railway with space extending to Knowsley Street would have helped matters. Pedestrian access could have been gained from street level instead of through a foot tunnel underneath the railway.
Before I go…
Do you remember Pyramid Park? Did you wonder why there was grass pyramids beside the Bury line? Feel free to comment, maybe with a few anecdotes about its happier times.
S.V., 15 May 2018.