A Past of the M60 Special on the things we used to love doing in our borough back in the ’80s

42 years. 42 years ago at this time of writing was 1980. Thanks to Xanadu and Olivia Newton-John, ELO got its first and only Number One single in the UK. The 343 was extended north of Top Mossley to Oldham, taking over the 416 route. Tameside’s top football club was Mossley AFC, when Messrs Skeete, Moore and Smith made mincemeat of opposing defences. Back then, they went to Wembley and lost 2 – 1 to Dagenham in the F.A. Trophy Final.

As for computer games, you were lucky to play on Dad’s Pong clone, or the Space Invaders machine down your local chippy. You could stock up on frozen food at Polar Pantry, do a big shop at Fine Fare or take a 236 to Dinting Railway Centre.

42 years on, a lot of things have changed in our borough, better or worse. You could take a tram to Eccles via Piccadilly Gardens, though you can’t get a bus to Didsbury nowadays. A trip to McDonalds was seen as a treat – a marker of middle class wealth by some households back in ’85.

For the next few minutes, just sit back and relax. Don your leg warmers, get that SaverSeven out of the drawer and set your clock to 1980.

1. Go roller skating in Wheels

For many young people in Tameside, Wheels was the place to be for roller disco. Before its 1980s guise, it was the Birdcage and the Palais de Dance (or Ashton Palais if you prefer). In the early 1960s, it was seen in the film adaptation of Billy Liar. By the end of the decade, Wheels was demolished and replaced by a rather futuristic looking car repair shop. As Atomic night club, Jason Donovan did a twenty-minute long gig where he was booed off stage. After being a restaurant, the site was demolished and remains vacant.

2. Have a burger at Wimpy

If you wanted a burger in Tameside, you had very few choices in the 1980s. You could go to Chris’ Café for example and have a burger in an oven bottom muffin bun. You could go to an out-of-town burger bar like Wyn’s in Hooley Hill (next to The Sun Inn). Before McDonalds arrived in October 1984, Wimpy was the place to be in Ashton-under-Lyne.

Situated in what’s now the Ladysmith Shopping Centre, it offered all the usual Wimpy meals like Spicy Beanburgers in a wheatmeal bun, Bender Meals, fish burgers, and its International Grill. Till its closure in 1997, it offered waiter service. There was seating upstairs, which was popular for children’s parties.

3. Have a night out in Blues

In 1981. The Gaslight Rooms changed its name to Blues. It became Ashton’s first LGBTIQ friendly nightclub and bar. Situated on Stamford Street Central, it was handy for The Spread Eagle, Hudsons and the former Conservative Club which became Yuppies. In the 1990s, part of Blues became Pinkies bar.

Blues closed its doors for the last time in 2006. At the end of each night, they signed off with Louise Tucker’s 1983 chart single Midnight Blue.

4. Party at Shades

Equally popular with Tameside revellers was Shades in Stalybridge. It was close to the main shopping centre off Grosvenor Street with a second entrance by Armentieres Square. The night club occupied part of the former Stalybridge Industrial Cooperative Society’s department store. It had mirrored walls and attracted live artistes from the ’60s and ’70s. After closing in the 1990s, it lay derelict till its demolition. The Summers Quay housing development stands in its place.

5. Stay at The York House Hotel

Before The Village opened in Hyde, hotel accommodation in the borough was sparse. Back in the 1980s, you could stay at The York House Hotel on Richmond Street. It was the last word in luxury, situated in a large Victorian house. After closing in the early noughties, it was demolished with new build housing in its place.

6. Ride on the Sunflower

Back in the 1980s, you could have spent a nice couple of hours by Stamford Park boating lake. In your toddling years, you could have mithered your mum to go on the Smurf Dodgems (which you could ride by putting a 10p piece into a slot). You could fish on the back lake or row on the front lake. There was also a nice café by the lake.

If you fancied a boat trip, there was always The Sunflower. Each day, it gave passengers a circular trip around the boating lake. By the 1990s, The Sunflower’s successor was Stamford Belle.

7. Watch a raft race on the Ashton Canal

If you fancied floating down the river in a dugout canoe, navigating the River Tame was impossible. Apart from its weirs, you had the soap bubbles to contend with in the 1980s.

For local charities, the Ashton Canal used to have its own boat race. Instead of Oxford v. Cambridge/Manchester v. Salford/Stalybridge v. Hyde, this was a raft race from Portland Basin to The Boundary pub in Guide Bridge. Local pubs used to build and race their own rafts. This usually took place on May Day Bank Holiday Monday with the route thronged with spectators. It was a real hoot.

8. Go to the Ashton Canal Festival

By the 1980s, Huddersfield Narrow Canal Society’s Ashton Canal Festival assumed a regular place in the calendar. The festival used to take place on Portland Basin falling on the second weekend in July.

From Friday to Sunday, narrowboats lined the Peak Forest Canal up to Plantation Farm swing bridge. Between the River Tame and the Peak Forest Canal, there was several stalls – some of which selling traditional handicrafts. The busiest tent was always the local CAMRA beer tent. This had live music as well as real ale. Along the Ashton Canal there was boat trips.

As the Huddersfield Narrow Canal Society’s original premise was fulfilled in 2001 (the canal’s reopening), the Ashton Canal Festival ceased shortly afterwards in 2010. This clip below gives you a flavour of how things were in 1994.

9. Learn about computers at Ryecroft Hall

For many people today, Ryecroft Hall is a wedding venue. Before Tameside MBC was formed, it was the Town Hall for Audenshaw Urban District Council. In the 1980s, it was home to the Business and Technology Centre – one of Tameside MBC’s vocational education facilities. Back in 1982 – when the Government’s Youth Training Scheme was launched – it was where you learned to use early computers in an office environment. Instead of iOS or Windows 11, it would have been CP/M and Wordstar.

In the early 1990s, the Business and Technology Centre’s computers moved to Heginbottom Mill, where Tameside MBC’s YTS programme was based. In April 1996, as Tameside Training, the Council’s Youth Training programme was transferred to Tameside College.

10. Go to a disco at George Lawton Hall

For over 60 years, the people of Mossley have benefited from the George Lawton Hall for many uses. As well as being a fine theatrical venue, it is hired out for private functions. In 2012, the town’s library moved there.

Back in the 1980s, it held midweek discos. Aimed at teenagers, it was safer than going to a ‘grown-up’ night club. Dancers had their own encapsulated membership card to gain entry. Each disco finished at a nice enough time for the last 343s and 344s (which were done and dusted by 11pm instead of 6pm nowadays).

For most of the 1980s, one of my aunties and some of my cousins lived in Top Mossley. When the youngest one went to George Lawton Hall, he was followed by his dog to the disco – from the top end of Waterton Lane. It also showed off its dance steps!

For the sheer hell of it, this tune might take you back:

11. See a gig at the Metro Cinema

In the middle of 1981, Ashton-under-Lyne’s ODEON closed its doors. It reopened as the Metro Cinema on the 6th November 1981 with Escape from New York. As well as being Ashton’s sole surviving cinema, it hosted rock concerts. Acts included Twisted Sister, Fat Larry’s Band, The Boomtown Rats, and Bryan Adams.

Sadly, the Metro Cinema closed in 2003 – the same year as its sister cinema, the Palace in Stalybridge. Slotworld Amusements used part of the building till 2008. It has been empty for nearly 15 years at this time of writing.

12. Watch Sooty and Matthew Corbett on stage

If you like going to the theatre, the 1980s was a great decade for Tameside’s little theatres and professional theatres. Well into its imperial phase of municipal ownership that decade was Tameside Theatre. Apart from traditional pantomimes, it did a good line in children’s productions.

Back then, Thames Television’s The Sooty Show and Rainbow were massive on screen as well as on stage. At Tameside Theatre, you could see stage versions of The Sooty Show and Rainbow on a weekday afternoon. With the Sooty shows, Matthew Corbett would take Sooty and friends out on the road. There would be more audience participation than on a TV show.

Well beyond the 1980s, children’s entertainment was a staple of Tameside Theatre’s programme. As Tameside Hippodrome, this included the team from The Singing Kettle – who are more popular in Scotland than in England. To date, the group has outlived Tameside Hippodrome by 14 years and are still touring.

Here’s The Singing Kettle group with one of their bangers. It’s that classic tune You Cannae Shove Your Granny Off A Bus.

13. Take part in the Whit Walks on Whit Friday

Up until the late 1980s, Tamesiders could walk or watch the Whit Walks on Whit Friday. Slowly but surely throughout the decade, the walks shifted to Whit Sunday in all parts of the borough besides Mossley and at two churches in Dukinfield.

In the early 1980s, Dukinfield’s churches shifted the walks from Friday to Sunday. Ashton-under-Lyne’s walks used to take place on a different Sunday to Whit Sunday.

Stalybridge’s Whit Walks were held on Whit Friday till 1988. From Dukinfield, you could watch the St. John’s Walks (with Alban and Tame Valley Missions following them) on Lodge Lane before making your way down to Stalybridge. Back then you could walk down Cheetham Hill Road or catch a 220, 388 or 389 down to Trinity Street.

The best vantage point for the Stalybridge Whit Walks was Market Street. The narrowness of Market Street was good for listening to brass bands due to the reverb you got off the shop buildings. Most popular of all was The Talbot Hotel: its forecourt was advantageous for watching the bands and having a few pints of Tetley or Carlsberg. Before doing it all again at SIDS in front of Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

Today, Mossley is the last bastion of Tameside’s Whit Friday walks. This year, the last bastion of any Whit Walks in the borough. Outside of Mossley, the other towns that make up the Tameside area didn’t host this year’s walks on Whit Sunday. This due to various costs making it unsustainable for churches and brass bands.

14. Visit the Hyde Super Market

If you went to Hyde in the 1970s and 1980s, no trip was ever the same without popping into the Super Market. Formerly the Hippodrome cinema (and known affectionately as Stannies – probably to this day by some Hydonians), it had two floors of food and non-food stalls. The ground floor had food counters including a fishmongers and butchers. There was a florist under the main staircase. On the opposite side to the staircase was a clothing stall and two arcade machines (by the early 1990s, one of them was Shinobi).

The most exciting part of the Super Market was its first floor. There you had the handicraft stalls, an underwear stall, and a sweet stall with pick and mix toffees. That was next to the record stall which had a good collection of chart singles and albums (and a few rarities). At the front end of the first floor was the bingo stall. This was similar to the bingo stalls you see in Blackpool amusement arcades.

The best part of the Super Market was its café. This was right at the back of the first floor, selling good honest food at popular prices. If you wanted the cottage pie with garden peas and gravy, you were in for a treat (that for me was their house speciality). It more or less had its own lift from ground level, which meant you could go to the Super Market from its side entrance and take the lift to the café. In 1990, it was extended further back into the Super Market.

By 2009, the Super Market ceased to be. Quality Save took on the building, moving from a smaller unit in the Clarendon Mall shopping centre. Public access is only available at street level.

15. Watch at trotting event at Moorside Stadium

Apart from football, what other sports are associated with the Tameside area? If this was a Pointless round, cricket might be 45 with rugby union amassing 34. Running could be 31, thanks to the Tour of Tameside and the late great Ron Hill. Darts could be 20, thanks to the late great John Gwynne.

If your answer was Trotting, that would be a Pointless Answer – especially among people under 30 years old. Up until the late 1980s, Droylsden had a trotting stadium called the Moorside Stadium. In a trotting race, people would bet on the outcome of horses on an oval track. A bit like greyhound racing in that respect, albeit with bijou carts and their riders. An Amish version of speedway if you prefer.

Before becoming a trotting stadium, it was a speedway track from 1927 to 1929. In fact, the UK’s first purpose built speedway venue. By the 1980s, Moorside Stadium was better known for its bar, Carriages. It offered banqueting facilities and slap-up meals.

By the end of the decade, its fate was sealed when Roland Bardsley turned the site into an housing estate. Just to give you a flavour of what you have missed, here’s a clip from 1983.

“Could it be it was all so simple then…?”

Is there room for another fifteen things you can’t do in Tameside in 2022 that you could do in the ’80s? Feel free to comment. If you have any memories of the fifteen things you could do back in ’85 or thereabouts, feel free to share them.

S.V., 14 July 2022.

2 thoughts on “Fifteen Things You Could Do in 1980s Tameside That You Can’t Do Today

  1. As a teenager in the 80’s living on Wakefield Road in Stalybridge, we all used to go to Stamford Park and mess about in the ‘pool”.
    We also used to go to the town hall discos in Stalybridge and Ashton.
    How times have changed. There is nothing for the teens to do any more.

    Like

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