Castles in the Sky: Lost Architectural Projects of the Tameside Area

A potted look at lost Tameside’s construction projects missing in time

There are several reasons as to why many people choose to set up home in the Tameside area. One selling point is its proximity to the Peak District as well as Manchester city centre. By car it takes just as long to get to Buxton as it does to get to the intu Trafford Centre. Another factor may be house prices in comparison with other parts of Greater Manchester.

Like many parts of the UK it has the odd insensitive development. Among some architectural gems, some nondescript buildings. The Tameside area was shaped by the Industrial Revolution – by its mills, viaducts, and canals. Its post-industrial identity is shaped by the Metrolink line to Piccadilly, the sprawling Ashton Moss development, and IKEA.

For the purpose of this post, we shall be looking at the developments which never came to fruition. Some that were aborted well before any spadework took place.

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway’s Trans-Pennine extension, Stalybridge

Since the 1840s, the railways have formed an important part of Tameside’s transport network. Apart from under nationalised hands, Stalybridge station has been served by more than one company or franchisee. At present, Transpennine Express and Northern. After 1923’s grouping, the LNER and LMS took turns to manage the joint station. Before then it was the preserve of the L&YR, GCR, and the LNWR companies.

At one time, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway had its own station in Stalybridge, a terminus a few yards from the LNWR’s buildings. There were plans to extend the line onto the LNWR’s line to Huddersfield. According to the proposals, the bridge needed a 42′ span and a height of 18′. Its proposed gradient of 1:83 upwards, then 1:300 down and 1:125 upwards (to the present Huddersfield line) would have been a real test for the rolling stock of that era.

What might have raised a few eyebrows at the time was one clause in the commencement bill: to raise the Ashton and Stalybridge Branch by eight feet and eight inches. Which would have engulfed the L&YR’s station building. Today, six trains an hour pass through Stalybridge station’s former LNWR line; two of which stop and continue to Hull or Leeds. Northern’s trains use a recently constructed bay platform, close to the site of the double bay platforms and the former L&YR station.

A hexagonal tower block in Stalybridge?

Years before Summers Quay turned a few heads among Bridgeites, late 1960s redevelopment of Stalybridge could have seen an equally controversial structure. Alongside incumbent deck access flats, there were plans for a hexagonal tower block. Some 15 storeys tall or thereabouts, the tower block would have been located on a triangular plot between Grosvenor Street, Leech Street, and the newly extended High Street.

Its only older sibling would be Point Royal, built in 1964 for the new town of Bracknell. Instead, a less ambitious scheme with eight maisonettes were erected. In the end, Stalybridge’s ‘threepenny bit’ became the Stalybridge Methodist Church. A fine building which demonstrates a human side to late 1960s modernist architecture.

Ashton’s lost cinemas

When you think of lost cinemas in Ashton-under-Lyne, the long demolished Roxy and the Star spring to mind. Had plans to open two new cinemas in the 1930s come to fruition, the Pavilion might have stayed open a little longer. The health centre wouldn’t have been located off Albion Way and Penny Meadow for a start.

As stated in Philip Martin Williams’ excellent Flickering Memories book, there was plans to add another screen next to the Pavilion Cinema. This may have been used for newsreel or lesser known features. Instead it became a Pickfords depot before becoming Blasters’ DIY store. Had the Pavilion not closed in 1966 they could have downsized to the smaller cinema. Or the smaller cinema could have taken the early 1970s route of showing ‘Adult Art Films’.

Had plans to open a cinema on the site of Crickets Lane Clinic gone ahead, the history of Tameside’s cinemas could have taken another turn. In 1938, there were plans for a 2,000 seat purpose-built cinema. It probably would have been a white Art Deco style structure handy for the 11 back to The Albion Hotel. Instead the plans were snubbed by the Municipal Borough of Ashton-under-Lyne, who said there was too many cinemas in Ashton.

What if they said otherwise? Chance are the cinema might have been taken over by a bigger group in the 1950s. Perhaps ahead of the Majestic/Gaumont on Old Street.

The Football Hall of Fame, Hyde

Back in 1986 there was a real buzz over plans to build a leisure pool in Hyde. One with a waterslide and a wave machine. Besides the pool which opened in 1988, there was two other features of Tameside MBC’s plans. One, which proved to be fruitful, was a new-look Ewen Fields. Hyde United, who were skint at the time, couldn’t afford to replace their mainly wooden stand. In came a 420 seat stand with executive facilities, plus a refreshment point and toilets underneath. Another part of the plan was an all-weather pitch, and the ground’s use for both the brassic NPL side and an American Football team. Also a change of name to The Tameside Stadium.

Less well known were the plans for a Football Hall of Fame museum. With Tameside staking a claim as the birthplace of three World Cup winners (Jimmy Armfield, Sir Geoff Hurst, and Alan Ball), Hyde itself had two other claims. One was the infamous 26-0 F.A. Cup thrashing by Preston North End. Another other claim to fame was BBC Sport’s wordsmith of a commentator. The now-disgraced Stuart Hall is a Hydonian. With its place in footballing history (and a possible celebrity to cut the ribbon), it seemed like an open goal for Tameside?

Instead, the plans didn’t come to fruition. The Hall Of Fame attraction would have celebrated Tameside’s proud sporting heritage. Besides football there would have been space for the Hyde Seals swimming team. Ron Hill might have been the subject of an exhibition. Had The Hall of Fame gone beyond concept stage, Ashton-under-Lyne born (Italian World Cup winner) Perrotta would have been celebrated in 2006. Instead, Tameside’s three footballing graces (Hurst, Armfield, Perrotta) are immortalised in statue form. They look out towards the present-day Tameside Stadium – Curzon Ashton’s home in Crowhill.

Kingswater, Denton/Audenshaw

Halfway through 1990, there was one issue that dominated the local press: Kingswater. With North West Water in its newly privatised form, it was looking at ways to rationalise its real estate portfolio. One example was the area between Audenshaw and Gorton Upper reservoirs. Kingswater would have been a business park with executive housing and commercial development. In other words, a recipe for congestion and pollution.

Kingswater was also green belt land. It would have degraded the approach from Audenshaw and Denton into Manchester City Council boundaries. Its spine road, based on King’s Road would have been a rat run if the M60 came to grief.

After a ten-year campaign led by Andrew Bennett MP, North West Water – later United Utilities’ plans – were dropped. This contributed to the creation of the Petersfield development in Ashton-under-Lyne and better use of existing industrial units. On the site of North West Water’s depot (inherited from Manchester Corporation Water Works), low density housing was added. You could also say the end of Kingswater led to the development of Ashton Moss.

One More Thing…

Can you think of any more plans that have fallen by the wayside? Do you recall any other grandiose plans that have been snubbed, altered, or forgotten in the mists of time? We particularly welcome any details of plans that had been suggested before Tameside MBC’s formation in 1974.

S.V., 28 May 2018.

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