Manchester 2011

Saturday June 18th 2011

We got up this morning to find a dry and sunny day awaiting us. Last-minute packing and chores done, we caught a 476 bus to Euston station where we arrived with enough time in hand to consume our usual breakfast (porridge, croissants and coffee) before boarding our train on platform 6. Our reserved seats are at the end of a carriage. This has the advantage of easy access and exit, and enables us to keep an eye on our luggage, but the disadvantage that the seat has no window, meaning that we have to peer between heads and over seat backs to see outside.

Manchester Piccadilly
Manchester Piccadilly
We arrived at this station and also departed from it on some of our trips

As we run north, the clouds gather and by the time we reach Stoke-on-Trent, it is raining determinedly. We are also behind schedule having earlier been diverted onto the slow track for a while because of line problems. Fortunately, this is not a courier run but a holiday so delays, though a nuisance, can be taken calmly.

The train did not manage to make up its delay and we drew into Manchester Piccadilly station around 11:25. By now, we were glad to see, the sky had cleared and the sun was shining between clouds.

A figure reclines...
A figure reclines…
…atop a building in Manchester

Because we had luggage and were uncertain of the direction to take for the hotel, we treated ourselves to a cab. In the advertisement, the hotel, the Holiday Inn, claimed to be in a central location though the address, 888 Oldham Road, did give us pause for thought. As the cab proceeded, it became clear that the hotel was further out from centre than we had been led to believe. That is quite an important consideration if, like us, you do not have a car but are obliged to use public transport.

The Holiday Inn
The Holiday Inn
The hotel is not “central” as its publicity claims

As hotel rooms go, this one is satisfactory, though the mood at reception was perfunctory and not particularly welcoming. The layout is obviously designed for people with cars: the entrance is around the corner from the main road and you have to walk across the car park to reach the main entrance. Because of its bleak setting in an apparently deserted industrial zone and the tall iron railings around the perimeter, we refer to it as Stalag Grimshaw, after the name of the nearby Grimshaw Lane bus stop.

Spot the fake tree
Spot the fake tree
A metal tree stands in Piccadilly Gardens

We got settled in, made tea and had a little rest. The makings of tea and coffee are provided but we always bring our own, so I was able to enjoy a mug of good strong Russian Caravan! From the stop near the hotel, there is a bus roughly every 10 minutes which takes us into town. Depending on exactly where you want to go, the journey is about 5 to 10 minutes. Though it is a nuisance having to take the bus each time (and again on our return), we have endured worse on other occasions.

River Irwell
River Irwell
A view from the Albert Bridge

We reached town at about 1:15 and looked around for lunch. We plumped for PizzaExpress which currently has a lunchtime offer of two courses for £10. The waiter was everything that the hotel reception was not – welcoming, friendly and helpful. Other people we have met have also been cheerful and amiable so let’s hope that is a trend set to continue.

After lunch we did as we usually do and went for an exploratory ramble, seeing what there was to see. We had been to Manchester before so some things were familiar to us and some were new. Manchester, like several other cities we know and appreciate, runs a free bus service in the central area. In fact, Manchester does better than most by providing not one, but three free routes. These buses offer a good way to explore the centre.

Whigs and Tories
Whigs and Tories
Politics and the people at the People’s History Museum

Our ride took us near the People’s History Museum so we went in and visited it. The theme of the museum is the struggle to achieve civil rights and decent living standards for the mass of the population against the jealous retention of wealth and power by a corrupt minority. This was rather appropriate for me as I am currently reading Emmeline Pankhurst‘s account of her struggle for women’s suffrage, My Own Story, which is closely interlinked with the theme of the museum.

Banner of the Suffrage Atelier
Banner of the Suffrage Atelier
The Atelier, founded by artists in London, ran from 1909 to 1914

We asked whether we could take photos are were told that we could as long as we signed a disclaimer saying we would not sell, or make copies for sale, of any photos. We then asked if the photos could be posted on my blog. I was asked write on the form, under "Purpose" that the photos were for my blog. However, the assistant also said I should be careful because some items on display were covered by copyright. That was hardly helpful as there is no way for me to know which are so covered and which are not. All I can do is post and hope that my usual copyright notice covers all eventualities.

The Co-operative Society
The Co-operative Society
A display celebrating the foundation of the Co-operative Society

The message that I draw from the museum – and from Emmeline Pankhurst’s book – is that we are extremely fortunate to be living in the aftermath of those struggles and to be enjoying the life that those campaigners fought for, often bitterly, and at great cost to themselves. There is, however, a darker message that we ignore at our peril, namely that these gains are by no means irreversible – take a look around the world and see many cases of their being undone – and that corruption and selfishness are still rife in the corridors of power. In the spurious name of "security", government has already undone many of our hard won freedoms and will continue to do so unless we stand firm against this.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs
The Tolpuddle Martyrs
Is there a lesson here for us today?

After the museum, we returned to the centre, stopping occasionally for tea or coffee, until we felt it was time to return to the hotel. We then had a decision to make: should we have supper now and then go back to the hotel; or go to the hotel now and come out again later? I was not hungry but neither did I fancy coming out again later. What should we do?

SilverTiger at work
SilverTiger at work
Photo by Tigger

Tigger then pulled the rabbit of lateral thinking from the hat: we went into a small supermarket and bought food to take back to the hotel. Problem solved!

Now all I have to do is upload and catalogue my photos, put on charge our menagerie of electronic devices, and then I can relax and look forward to further adventures tomorrow.

Lion face decorations
Lion face decorations

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Sunday June 19th 2011

The hotel room turned out to be very warm, too warm. We fiddled with the air conditioning but it was still too warm. We ended up sleeping on top of the bed clothes. I had strange dreams about people and talking cats.

A face looks down at passers-by
A face looks down at passers-by
Luxuriant decoration with dramatic faces are features of Manchester’s
classic buildings

Many hotels these days give you a choice of room with or without breakfast. As the cost of breakfast is usually excessive and emphasises non-vegetarian items such as bacon and sausage, we take just the room and make our own arrangements for breakfast. Even going to a cafe is generally cheaper than the hotel breakfast. On this trip, we are experimenting with making our own breakfast of tea and instant porridge (bought from Marks & Spencer) before leaving for the day. That way, we save both time and money.

A dull Sunday in Manchester
A dull Sunday in Manchester
A day to be prepared for all eventualities

The sky is cloudy today and because of the heat in the room, even with the window open, it is hard to determine how warm or cold it is outside. There is also a possibility of rain, to judge by the dark clouds, so we had better go prepared for all eventualities. Once in the street, we found it was chilly and with a damp feeling in the air. A bus came and deposited us at Piccadilly Gardens. From there we walked to the station.

Waiting for the train
Waiting for the train
A view from the platform, Manchester Piccadilly

Here, we enquired the prices of various rail tickets. It’s often advantageous to buy a rover ticket that gives us 3 or 4 days unlimited travel during the week but for today, as we are unsure how often we will take the train, we contented ourselves with day returns, our destination being another great city – Liverpool. We would have had to wait nearly an hour for a direct train but we discovered we could take the Stockport train, leaving in a few minutes, and change at Oxford Road. This we did, and soon found ourselves on the second train, trundling through green countryside under a cloud-covered sky.

Ken Dodd OBE Bessie Braddock MP
Local heroes
At Liverpool Lime Street station stand Ken Dodd OBE and Bessie Braddock MP, sculpted by Tom Murphy

By the time we reached Liverpool, the weather was clearing. This was a relief, as it is no fun trying to explore a city in the rain.

A busker
A busker
Street musicians prefer fine weather too

It was probably also a relief to the buskers, like the one above, who, unlike Gene Kelly, do not enjoy singing in the rain.

The World Museum
The World Museum
Liverpool has many such splendid buildings

As we usually do, we set out to wander and explore and take photos. Liverpool is a very rewarding city in which to do that as there are many beautiful and interesting sights to enjoy at every turn.

Church Street
Church Street
A pleasant pedestrian precinct in which to go shopping

We have been to Liverpool before but it is too big for anyone to get to know it in a few hours, so there are always new discoveries to be made.

Radio City mast
Radio City
Because of its huge size, the mast of Liverpool’s Radio City seems to follow you around

We decided on this visit, however, to venture outside Liverpool itself and to visit Port Sunlight in the Wirral. This is a beautiful and fascinating place to explore.

A leafy street
A leafy street in Port Sunlight

We caught a bus to go there, and the trip started with a ride through the tunnel under the Mersey, rather like going through the Blackwall Tunnel in London but a lot longer.

Red-roofed houses

Black-roofed houses
Housing styles are varied in Port Sunlight

Port Sunlight was founded from 1888 by William Hesketh Lever in association with his brother James as a site for the manufacture of his soap and for the model village constructed to house his workers.

The Lady Lever Art Gallery
The Lady Lever Art Gallery
Our first glimpse of the gallery which enchants with the beauty of the building as much as with the beauty and
interest of the contents

The story of how William, a successful travelling salesman for his father’s wholesale grocery business, became an even more successful soap manufacturer and philanthropist is too long to be told here but there are many good biographies and other sources of information.

Main gallery
Main gallery
The exhibition space is light and airy and contains an immense range of art works and other objects

The living conditions of the workers were far in advance of what was normal in the country in general at that time – the village even acquired its own cottage hospital. William and his wife mixed with the inhabitants, organizing and taking part in many of the community’s celebrations and events. Elizabeth Lever would often deliver birthday presents to village children in person.

Early 19th century Italian chair
Early 19th century Italian chair
Part of a set of settee and chairs

William became a baronet in 1911 and his wife then became Lady Lever. In 1917, he became Baron Leverhulme, the name combining his own with that of his wife, Elizabeth Ellen Hulme, who had been his childhood sweetheart and whom he loved deeply.

Androcles and the lion
Androcles and the lion
You will not be surprised that this marble of Androcles removing the thorn from the lion’s paw is one of my
favourite exhibits

Sadly, Elizabeth died in 1913, a devastating blow for William. He created the gallery in her honour in 1922, naming it the Lady Lever Gallery, as that had been her title when she died.

Midsummer Morn, Bushy Park
Midsummer Morn, Bushy Park
Painted by George Dunlop Leslie in 1905, this picture shows the Diana Fountain

The Gallery abounds with exquisite paintings by famous and important artists. Unfortunately, the light which make the place so agreeable also cause reflections on the glass covering the pictures, making it impossible to get a good photo. I have chosen this one as an example because we recently visited the very spot from which is was painted (see Chestnut Sunday in Bushy Park).

Caracalla
Caracalla
Bust of the Italian school, 18th century

This bust of Roman emperor Caracalla (ruled 209-17), fratricide and general bad egg, exudes personality and an aura of evil power. A striking piece of work  but not one for the living room.

Glass dome
Glass dome
One of the domes that cast their magical light on the exhibits

The gallery building is an object of beauty and worth visiting for its own sake. The visitor should appreciate it along with the works that are exhibited within it. This dome is one of the elegant features that attract admiration.

Specimen cabinet, c 1830
Specimen cabinet, c 1830
An English cabinet made of many different woods, possibly for a collector of botanical specimens

As you can see, photography is allowed in the gallery, the only exception being the special visiting exhibitions which are not owned by the gallery itself.

Oliver Cromwell Charles I
Joined in enmity
Neighbouring busts of Cromwell and Charles I

Outside the gallery are more works to admire but these are of a more monumental nature, as we shall see.

The Leverhulme Memorial Figures beside the memorial
The Leverhulme Memorial
A lively group of figures stands at its base

William, Lord Leverhulme, died of pneumonia in 1925. The Leverhulme Memorial, designed by Sir William Reid Dick, was unveiled in his honour in 1930. The figure at the top represents Inspiration and those at the base, Industry, Education, Charity and Art. It is an elegant and fitting tribute to a man who was in many ways ahead of his time and, I might add, ahead of ours.

Port Sunlight War Memorial
Port Sunlight War Memorial
Port Sunlight suffered from the First World War as did the rest
of the country

The First World War brought suffering and loss to Port Sunlight with over 500 dead, without counting injuries and broken health and damage to property. Destroyed houses were rebuilt according to their original plan and the War Memorial, designed by Sir William Goscombe John, a friend of William Lever, was unveiled in 1921. It impresses with its size (it is 38 ft tall and 80 ft wide) but also with the remarkable bronze sculptures depicting wartime scenes.

Woman and children Navy scene
Scenes from the memorial
Here are just two scenes but all are admirable for their liveliness and
accuracy of depiction

The war memorial offers a panorama of the violence and suffering of war, both on the battlefield and on the home front. The long list of names on the roll of honour is eloquent testimony to the losses sustained by this community.

The Girls' Club (1913)
The Girls’ Club (1913)
Many buildings have changed their usage in the course of time and this one is the museum and visitor centre today

There were many more buildings that would have been worth seeing and describing if we had had time. All were beautifully designed and show, I think, the mood of optimism in which they were built. Even though the houses today can be bought on the market, something of the original community spirit still survives. We could have spent much more time here but now had to return to Liverpool.

Liverpool Cathedral
Liverpool Cathedral
This is the Anglican cathedral started in 1904

Back in Liverpool, Tigger wanted to see the Cathedral, so we found a bus that would take us there. The original design was by Giles Glbert Scott, though it was changed somewhat during the building. The foundation stone was laid in 1904 but the job was completed only some decades later. A modern building, to my eyes it looks more like a factory or a power station, though I know it has its admirers.

Cathedral graveyard
Cathedral graveyard
The graveyard lies at the bottom of a hollow, almost a well

Beside the cathedral is a strange sunken graveyard. I don’t think burials take place there nowadays but it must has been a trial carrying the coffin down to the bottom of the hollow.

A Case History
A Case History
That is what this accretion of pretend luggage is called

We now set out on foot, seeing what there was to be seen, and along the way we passed this heap of pretend luggage, consisting of trunks and suitcases modelled in cement or something similar. The title of the work is “A Case History”, obviously a rather feeble pun. The author is John King who has provided a map showing that certain cases and trunks “belong” to certain famous people. Whether there is some deep meaning in this or whether it is simply an attempt to attract celebrity backing, I do not know.

Philharmonic Dining Rooms
Philharmonic Dining Rooms
A splendid looking pub and dining place once frequented by the famous

A little further on, we came upon the Philharmonic Dining Rooms with an ornate gilded gate. Unfortunately, it was closed so we couldn’t look to see whether it was as interesting inside.

The Catholic Cathedral
The Catholic Cathedral
Officially, it is known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, but it also has a more popular nickname

Thus we found ourselves in the vicinity of this rather individualistic building. It is known as the Catholic Cathedral or the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ and the King. In Liverpool, well known buildings and monuments tend to acquire vernacular names as well. In line with that, this ecclesiastical construct is known to many as “Paddy’s Wigwam”. The reader can no doubt work out why.

Gate to China Town
Gate to China Town
This spectacular Chinese gate indicates the entry to China Town

We tried to get a bus back to the centre but, for some reason, all the bus stops along the road we were on were closed, so we ended up walking a very long way. Our reward was to encounter this splendid Chinese gate, indicating that we had arrived at China Town.

Chinese lions guard the gate
Chinese lions guard the gate
There was also a pair of Chinese lions on either side of the main road

The street names were printed in both English and Chinese characters. I wondered whether the names were the same in both languages or whether the Chinese have different names. Without an interpreter, I have no way of knowing.

Lamp dragon
Lamp dragon
The street lamps are decorated with dragons

We unfortunately didn’t have time to explore China Town but we did now manage to hail a bus and it took us to the station where we caught a train back to Manchester.

The Palace Tower
The Palace Tower
The tower of the Palace Hotel is a famous
landmark

Now, just because we were back in Manchester, it was evening, we were tired and were on our way back to the hotel, there was no reason not to go on looking around and capturing any sights worthy of attention! Among those we caught were the Palace Hotel.

Palace Hotel
Palace Hotel
The elegantly colourful entrance to the Palace Hotel

As well as a tall tower, visible from a distance and lit this evening by the setting sun, the Palace Hotel possesses this elegant and colourful entrance, reminiscent of a Moorish palace. There are many such gems waiting to be discovered in this city.

The Lass o' Gowrie
The Lass o’ Gowrie
A well known pub in “Little Ireland”

My last shot of the day was this romantic (code for “underlit”!) view of a well known Manchester pub called the Lass o’ Gowrie. Built sometime in the 19th century (I haven’t managed to discover exactly when) in a quarter of the city known as “Little Ireland” because of the number of Irish immigrants who settled there, it was named after Lady Carolina Nairne. Why was a pub in an Irish district named after a Scottish titled lady? A sketch of an answer may be found here.

Our next and final stop was our overly warm hotel room where we made tea, sorted our photos, mulled over the day, and rested ready for more adventures on the morrow!

Copyright © 2012 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Monday June 20th 2011

Today the sun is shining and it could turn out to be a scorcher. We caught the bus to town where we arrived around 9:30.

Morning in Piccadilly Gardens
Morning in Piccadilly Gardens
Today may turn out to be a scorcher

Tigger wanted to go to Bury as that is where here grandfather came from. The best way to go there was by tram so we bought day tickets, as these will allow unlimited tram travel throughout the day. We have been on trams in other cities but this will be our first experience of Manchester’s variant. Trams have the advantage that they came move slowly through the town like buses and travel at speed like trains in the suburbs. As cities expand and acquire satellites or connect with neighbouring towns, this seems an ideal transport system.

Riding the tram
Riding the tram
Here we are approaching one of the small out-of-town tram stations

We managed to occupy front seats and thus see the track ahead and the driver’s actions – all interesting and instructive. As we left the centre of Manchester, the tram tracks ran along with the railway lines but then diverted onto a dedicated path where stops were spaced out and the tram ran at speed.

The tram arrives at Bury
The tram arrives at Bury
Bury is the terminus and from here the tram returns to Manchester

The tram network seems to me very efficient and a speedy way to travel. Like the London Underground, having dedicated tracks means that, unlike buses, trams have no traffic to contend with, at least when away from the town centre.

The Art Picture House
The Art Picture House
Built in 1923, it is today a pub

Leaving the tram at Bury, almost the first building we saw was the Art Picture House, once a cinema and now a pub. The interior retains much of the luxurious – not to say luxuriant – decor of the cinema, though the circle and the boxes today accommodate spotlights, not spectators.

The proscenium arch
The proscenium arch
Among the pub clutter the proscenium still stands

To their credit, Wetherspoons have preserved much of the original fabric and decor. Despite the inevitable clutter of tables, chairs and other furnishings, the proscenium arch still stands, resplendent in bright paint and gilt work.

Boxes with chandeliers
Boxes with chandeliers
No longer used to seat cinema-goers

The boxes with their splendid chandeliers are no longer used for seating. They hold an array of lamps and projectors which illuminate the old cinema to best advantage.

The circle
The circle
The circle is also dark and empty

Similarly, the circle, its front decorated with gilded garlands and cherubs, is dark and empty.

The toilets
The toilets
Modern but with gilding around the mirrors

An effort has been made even in the toilets (usually not the most enjoyable part of a British pub) which though modern, have gilding around the mirrors reflecting that in the theatre. (Ignore the plastic bin!)

East Lancashire Railway station
East Lancashire Railway station
Now run by volunteers

As we explored, we caught sight of an advertisement for the East Lancashire Railway and transport museum. We sought out their premises, the old Bury Bolton Street station, thinking we might visit the museum and even ride the steam train. No chance. Both the railway and the museum are closed on Monday and Tuesday, a pattern that we find often repeated in these parts. To be fair, I imagine that running an organization with volunteers does mean that you cannot always run a full-time programme.

This is not (really) a castle
This is not (really) a castle
A Victorian folly on the site of the original fortified manor house

As we went about, we caught glimpses of what looked like a castle and so, fresh from our disappointment with the East Lancashire Railway, we went to take a look at the castle. Unfortunately, it is not a real castle but a Victorian and Edwardian mock-up on the site of the original fortified manor house built by Sir Thomas Pilkington in 1469. Sir Thomas backed the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses (i.e. he supported the Yorkist cause) and in punishment lost his house in 1489. Thereafter it fell into ruin and was pillaged for building materials. A drill hall was built on the site and this mock castle added in the Victorian era.

Local hero
Local hero
Sir Robert Peel 1788-1850) was born here

Sir Robert Peel, famous for creating the first police force, was born in Bury and is commemorated in this monument. He was also active in politics during a fairly turbulent period and if that sort of thing interests you, you will find details here.

John Kay Memorial
John Kay Memorial
Memorializes the inventor of the flying shuttle and provides a
meeting point for Bury’s youth

Though not born in Bury itself (he was a son of Walmsley, a little to the north), John Kay has achieve a place of honour in the town. This striking monument, by the sculptor John Cassidy (1860-1939), was erected in 1908.

John Kay panel Power loom panel
Two of the memorial’s panels
One shows John Kay himself and the other the power loom

John Kay (1704- c. 1779) took out a patent in 1733 for what became known as the fly-shuttle or flying shuttle for use with weaving frames. Hitherto, working the shuttle had required two weavers who tossed it back and forth between them. The new device required only one worker.

John Kay did not invent the power loom – this was patented in 1785 by Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823) – but it is claimed that the John Kay’s shuttle was one of the technologies that helped Cartright create that machine. A panel to the power loom thus appears on the memorial.

Drinking fountain 1907
Drinking fountain 1907
“The gift of John Barlow J.P. of Wellfield”

Having had lunch in a cafe in a street picturesquely named The Rock, we decided it was time to move on. We felt that Tigger’s grandfather who had left Bury to fight in the First World War and had spent the rest of his life in the south of England, would recognize little or nothing of his town in modern Bury.

This is not a car crash...
This is not a car crash…
…but one of a set of imaginative public garden flower beds

Not that Bury was devoid of interest, as I hope the foregoing demonstrates. As well as historical traces and memorabilia there were imaginative ideas such as the council flower beds of which the above is an example.

Altrincham Clock Tower
Altrincham Clock Tower
An understated but elegant design

We took the tram back to Manchester and sought caffeine-based comfort in Caffè Nero, where we hatched a plan to go to Altrincham. Why? Well, for one thing, we had never been there…

"Historic" Market Quarter
“Historic” Market Quarter
History? Where?

The clock tower (built in 1880 and now listed) was an early promise but what we found was a town, like so many, that are pleasant enough if you are satisfied with shopping “precincts” dominated by the usual suspects and buildings that are brick boxes devoid of character and in which the label “historic” is affixed to areas from which all traces of history have been carefully expunged.

Shopping precinct
Shopping precinct
Devoid of character and dominated by the usual suspects

The highlight of the visit was the discovery of the County Galleries, an art shop run by an amiable gentleman in what was once the premises of the County Bank.

Gallery interior
Gallery interior
Once the public area of a bank

As an ex-employee of the same he was able to give us some interesting details of the bank’s history and he kindly allowed us to take photos of the interior even though we made no purchases. Such people are a pleasure to meet and add greatly to the enjoyment of our explorations.

Round window
Glazed door Portal
Round window and two doors
An inner beautifully glazed door and the street portal

The original bank counter which originally ran down the middle of the room has been taken apart, moved to the back and reassembled.

"Two Geese"
“Two Geese”
A sculpture by Sean Crampton

This sculpture of two geese stands in the middle of Goose Green, to which we made a brief foray before taking the tram once more. (We were determined to get the most from our tickets!)

Altrincham did possess some interesting old buildings whose size and design suggest that there was once commerce and plenty of money here. To judge from boarded up premises, though, it is no longer as affluent as it once was. Somehow, the town as a whole failed to impress me.

The Eccles Cross
The Eccles Cross
Named after the actual Eccles Cross, a religious symbol

This is where we arrived, at Eccles. There is, or rather was, an actual cross dating from Anglo-Saxon times which was destroyed, as rumour has it, by a lorry.

The Eccles Cross
The Eccles Cross
Today’s cross includes a drinking fountain

Site of the Eccles cake shop

Today’s cross is a curious artifact which incorporates a (non-functioning) drinking fountain. I don’t know the origins and age of this cross.

The town of Eccles became famous for the cake named after it which was first made by James Birch in 1793. Since then “Eccles cakes” are made all over the world but true enthusiasts of course only accept those made here as the genuine article. Sadly, James’s shop no longer exists and even the position of the blue plaque is approximate.

St Mary's Parish Church
St Mary’s
The parish church of Eccles

The church incorporates parts of an original Norman forerunner. It has a rather nice clock though I find the church as a whole has a rather brooding look.

Sundial
Sundial
An unusual form of sundial

In the churchyard is this unusual urn-shaped sundial. I don’t know it’s history and, as you can perhaps see, it’s broken.

Aboard the tram
Aboard the tram
The trams are walk-through like oversized London bendy buses

Time was getting on and even though we hadn’t explored Eccles completely we felt it was time to take the tram back to Manchester.

The Midland Hotel
The Midland Hotel
A hotel in the grand style

Back in Manchester, we walked from the station, looking for somewhere to have supper. Along the way, we could not help admiring the wonderful buildings that are to be seen there, such as the Midland Hotel, built between 1898 and 1903.

107 years old...
107 years old…
…and the tiles glisten like new

The intricately patterned glazed tile work is magnificent and has withstood the ravages of over a century of Manchester weather with barely a mark. The building, by Charles Trubshaw, is of course listed.

Celebrating the arts
Celebrating the arts
This panel is in honour of architecture, appropriately enough

There is a set of panels celebrating the arts of which the above, honouring architecture under the names of Palladio and Wren, is one. All in all, it is a building that deserves to be counted among the jewels of Manchester.

From huge to tiny
From huge to tiny…
Mr Thomas’s Chop House

At the other end of the scale is the tiny (at least, tiny in comparison to the surrounding buildings) Mr Thomas’s Chop House, an elaborately styled late Victorian pub. You cannot walk through this city without being struck at every moment by some intriguing sight.

For supper, we were lazy and went to Frankie & Bennie’s which, if the food isn’t all that good, were at least giving a 25% reduction for Monday. It was now raining but we bravely went to Tesco to replenish our stock of breakfast instant porridge before finding our way to Oldham Road and catching the bus back to the hotel.

Bury War Memorial
Bury War Memorial
Bronze panel

Our "tram day" had been a busy one and we had kept moving, travelling over the greater part of the tram network. The service is impressive and an encouragement to other cities thinking of bringing back the tram in a new incarnation. All of the towns visited had something to offer and made the day a full but interesting one.

Mythical beasts
Mythical beasts
Decorative tiles, Midland Hotel, Manchester

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Tuesday June 21st 2011

At first the sky was a uniform grey with no gaps or features. Later the cloud cover became more dramatic with storm clouds gathering – not exactly what you want on a holiday, especially when you have travel in mind. We caught the bus into town and there boarded the 182 for Rochdale. We subsequently discovered that this bus followed Oldham Road and passed our hotel, so we could have caught in there.

Toad Lane Conservation Area
Toad Lane Conservation Area
But there is more to it than trees and plants

Rochdale is a ancient town, appearing in Domesday Book as Recedham Manor. The modern name drives from the river Roch which, in the central area, has been paved over. Known for woollen cloth and later for the manufacture of textiles by steam power, Rochdale is nevertheless not an obvious place to visit but for one thing.

Toad Lane
Toad Lane
A very short road

This one thing was what we had come to see and our information was that it was to be found in the picturesquely named Toad Lane. Thither we went to find a very short road, occupied by a pub (one end of which seems to be disguised as an antiques shop) and a building covered by scaffolding. Where was our goal?

It looks like an antiques shop
It looks like an antiques shop…
…but is really part of the pub

Rochdale is famous for the Rochdale Pioneers and has set up a museum in their honour. It was the Rochdale Pioneers Museum that we had come to see but, unfortunately, it was closed and undergoing refurbishment. We had had a wasted journey, it seemed.

The Market
The Market
We had a look at Rochdale’s market

Returning to the town centre, we discovered the Town Hall. This, and a few of the surrounding buildings together constitute what seems to be the best part of Rochdale. The rest of it is, to be frank, pretty dreary, a modern urban wasteland. It has to be admitted, though, that disappointment and the dull weather had a depressive effect on my mood.

Rochdale Town Hall
Rochdale Town Hall
The tower has been rebuilt

Rochdale Town Hall is impressive. It’s also difficult to photograph because of its size and because the dark stonework is not shown to best advantage on a dull day like today. Designed by William Henry Crossland in Gothic Revival style, it was opened in 1871. It is today a Grade I listed building and generally considered an architectural treasure.

The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
The original was destroyed by fire

In 1883, the original clock tower, 240 ft high and including a wooden spire with a statue of St George and the Dragon, was destroyed by fire. Alfred Waterhouse was commissioned to design a replacement which, built in stone, was erected in 1888. It is “only” 191 ft high but that is dizzying enough when you try to photograph it from near the base.

Portico with heraldic lions Heraldic lion
Portico with heraldic lions
I liked these bold golden lions with their heraldic shields

There were many details to interest us on the outside and this encouraged us to go inside to ask whether we could take a look.

Doorway
Doorway
A piece of top quality design

We were received kindly and asked if we would like to take a tour. We naturally said yes and waited while the receptionist phoned to arrange it.

Stairwell
Stairwell
A magnificent staircase

This provided the opportunity to take a couple of photographs (see above) while our informant was on the phone. The upshot was that we were asked to come back later as the guide was not available just then.

The Roch
The Roch
Just before it is driven underground (not “bridged” as a nearby plaque claims)

Nearby is Touchstones, which combines the roles of art gallery, museum, tourist information centre and local studies centre. We thought we would go there while waiting for a guide to the town hall to be available. (In the event we became so engrossed that we did not return to the town hall.)

Touchstones Frieze detail
Touchstones
A multi-purpose facility

The museum contains sections on the history and life of Rochdale including of course, the Rochdale Pioneers. The textile industry is remembered and recalled by a power loom.

Power loom Mill hands
Power loom and textile workers
Beside the loom, a period photo offers an intriguing look into past lives

As you would expect, space is devoted to local girl Gracie Fields who, from humble origins in Rochdale, took the world by storm as singer, actress and comedienne.

Gracie
Gracie
Some of the items of memorabilia

Upstairs, past a pair of fetchingly painted sheep…

An illustrated sheep
An illustrated sheep
One of a pair, right there, on the stair…

…and some rather pretty windows…

Stained glass widows
Stained glass widows
reflecting themes of arts and sciences

…we reached the art gallery.

The art gallery
The art gallery
This contains a broad selection of works

This contains a broad selection of genres and works, mostly modern, some bought and others commissioned.

Untitled
Untitled
Water colour on paper by Abdus Shakoor

The art gallery also has a rather fine stained glass dome.

Stained glass dome
Stained glass dome
Touchstones art gallery

As we were on the point of leaving, Tigger spotted that there was a film about to start so we went to see it. A certain amount of time was wasted while the presenters, members of the Pioneers Museum, tried to get the equipment working. Once they had succeeded, there were two films – archive footage – one about the co-operative movement in Scotland and one specifically about the Rochdale Pioneers. After the showing, there was also a kind of lecture and discussion session which lengthened the proceedings so that by the time we emerged we had spent two hours there. I would happily have done with less for though the films were perhaps "interesting" from a historical and social point of view, they were not very good films and I am not convinced they gave a particularly accurate account of the events they claimed to portray.

A sunny evening
A sunny evening…
…but with threatening clouds on the horizon

Out in the street once more, we found that by watching the film, we had at least sat out the rain and that it was now a sunny evening, albeit with threatening clouds on the horizon.

Packer Spout
Packer Spout
No ordinary fountain

Nearby, in a pleasantly landscaped public garden we saw what could have been thought was just a common or garden decorative fountain. In fact, it is a little more interesting than that. I think I can do no better than reproduce the explanation given on a board close by.

   Before the Industrial Revolution, water for industrial and domestic use was taken from the River Roch, wells and springs.
   A new idea came about when a small reservoir (little more than a pond) was constructed by Messrs Ralph and Samuel Taylor and John Clegg in 1760 near the bottom of the Parish Church steps. It was the towns [sic] first organised water supply and named Packer Spout.
– ‘Packer’ because it was a watering supply for pack horses and ‘Spout’ being the Anglo Saxon for ‘to pour forth and spew’.

The Entertainer
The Entertainer
The (silent) entertainer at the Regal Moon

As we had not had lunch, now seemed as good a time as any to combine lunch and dinner in one. On the advice of a local inhabitant, we went to a Wetherspoons pub, called The Regal Moon, which was once the Regal Cinema, and had a reasonable meal. Around 7 pm we walked to the bus station where after a few minutes we were lucky enough to find a number 24 going back to Manchester and we climbed gratefully aboard.

When trams ran in Rochdale
When trams ran in Rochdale
Pictured in tiles in an underpass

We did find a few treasures in Rochdale, such as the town hall and a few other quality buildings in the same area, while the Touchstones Museum and Gallery was certainly worth a visit. Had we had time to explore more widely, for all I know we might have found others. Perhaps once the Pioneers Museum is up and running again we will be tempted back but I think it unlikely.

A kingly face
A kingly face…
…looks down from his corner on the Town Hall

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Wednesday June 22nd 2011

We are having a day in town today. After breakfasting in the hotel room we went out to look for our first destination of the day, the Transport Museum. We walked down from the hotel to Queen’s Road and caught a bus which we thought would take us there.

Waiting for the bus
Waiting for the bus
A dull day and a desolate spot (note the abandoned shoes)

As you can see from the photo it was a rather dull day and the setting rather desolate. The presence of two unmatched abandoned shoes seemed to emphasise the mood somehow. In the event, the bus didn’t go where we thought and we ended up going into town and starting again from there.

First glimpse
First glimpse
The museum is packed with vehicles

As is usual with this sort of enterprise, there is never enough space, and the Manchester Transport Museum has had to pack its exhibits in tightly. They have tried to allow maximum access to the vehicles and have done quite well in this respect but the crowding makes it difficult to get good photos of individual exhibits. I do not blame the museum for this in the least as they have done the best possible with the available space.

Horse bus
Horse bus
This horse bus was in service between 1890 and 1914

As the above vehicle demonstrates, the exhibits, no matter what the age, have all been carefully restored and maintained. Some are too fragile to allow public access but others can be explored at will.

Open top bus
Open top bus
One of the vehicles that can be explored

This Leyland Titan belonged to Stockport Corporation between 1969 and 1981. It was later converted to an open top and used for promotional purposes including a trip to Monaco in support of Manchester’s failed bid to host the 2000 Olympics.

Roof-top panorama
Roof-top panorama
A view of the museum from the open-topped Titan

Looking across the roofs of buses from the open top of the Titan shows how tightly packed the museum is. It is to their credit that they have managed to accumulate such a range of vehicles of different ages.

Leyland Tiger 1930 Leyland Tiger badge
1930-vintage Leyland Tiger
My attention was attracted to the artistic rendering of a tiger’s head on the bonnet badge

Though we are not “anoraks”, we nevertheless found things to interest us here and admired the work that had gone into restoring these vehicles and in  providing useful information on them for visitors.

Chassis used for instruction
Chassis used for instruction
The chassis was retained from a Manchester Corporation Leyland Tiger TD3 withdrawn in 1951

“Anoraks” would no doubt have been interested in this bus chassis given to the Hyde Road training school for demonstration purposes.

Tram prototype
Tram prototype
Factory prototype of a modern Manchester tram

The above is a prototype of one of the models of Manchester trams still running today. It was interesting to compare it with the actual trams. You can sit in the driving seat but of course there are no controls! (Disappointing, that!)

Museum cafe
Museum cafe
Small but clean and well stocked

There is a cafe which somewhat resembles a bus depot canteen (which is quite appropriate, really) and a museum shop. The latter is well stocked with relevant books and scale models of various sizes without any sign of the rubbishy goods that so often appear in other museum shops.

The bare-foot conductress
The bare-foot conductress
Did she lose her shoes in Queen’s Road?

Generally speaking, the museum was well presented and the facilities (e.g. the toilets) though basic, were well maintained and spotlessly clean. The staff were all of mature age and I am guessing they are retired persons having an interest in transport or, like the gentleman we spoke to in the shop, ex-transport personnel. The contribution provided by their knowledge and experience adds greatly to the value of the exhibition.

The atmosphere was relaxed and informal, admission free, and photography was allowed, as you can see. Anal-retentive directors of museums and the National Trust might like to reflect on this.

Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Social reformer and founder of New Lanark

After the Transport Museum, we went to the city centre where I found myself face to face with this statue of Robert Owen. We visited New Lanark, the community that Owen based on his cotton mills, during our visit to Glasgow in 2008 (see Glasgow 2008, the entry for August 28th). For more information on this remarkable man and his achievements see here and plentiful other sources on the Web.

Co-operative Wholesale Society
Co-operative Wholesale Society
This building stands in Balloon Street where Robert Owen’s
statue is found

It is no coincidence that the statue stands in Balloon Street which is largely occupied by massive buildings belonging to the Co-operative Wholesale Society, the famous CWS. Indeed, the statue was unveiled in 1994 by the President of the 1994 Co-op Congress. This ties in neatly with our pilgrimage yesterday to Rochdale in search of the Rochdale Pioneers.

Thomas Munshull's house Dedicatory text
Thomas Myshull’s House
Philanthropy, apothecary style

Not very far away is another example of philanthropy and social-mindedness, the house left by Thomas Mynshull (1613-1698), apothecary, for the training of poor boys to give them a chance of making their way in life. It is a shame that so few  industrialists have seen the light lit for them by people like Robert Owen and followed the path that it illuminated.

Library entrance
Library entrance
This anodyne front hides a secret

The next place we visited was that shown above. You may wonder why I would show you a piece indifferent modern architecture. That is because it conceals a surprise. The sign tells us that this is the John Rylands Library, now of Manchester University. The entrance leads you into a library shop and cafe. The wonder starts when you go through a doorway into the older part. I might just add that the public is admitted and photography is allowed.

John Rylands' statue
John Rylands’ statue
He surveys the library but it was not built in his lifetime

Here is a sample of what you see: a most remarkable Victorian Gothic building, designed and executed in exquisite detail, in remembrance of the man whose statue seems to survey the scene, John Rylands.

Enriqueta Ryland
Enriqueta Augustina Rylands
Wife of John and the creator of this cathedral of learning

Nearby stands the statue of John’s wife Enriqueta, looking as formidable as she no doubt was in life. She bought what must have been an expensive plot of land in the Deansgate area of the city in 1889 and commissioned the architect Basil Champneys. There were a number of planning problems to solve but the library opened on January 1st 1900, surely a symbolic date.

Ground floor
Ground floor
The resemblance to a cathedral is not accidental

If this long hall reminds you of a cathedral with reading rooms leading off it like chapels, then I think it is not an accident. Ecclesiastical buildings where borne very much in mind at the design stage. Fortunately, there is a lack of religious symbolism.

Doorways
Doorways
Everything, whether stone or wood, is decorated with fine carving

My photos cannot do justice to the building and what is not clear is the vast size of it: it extends over six floors including the basement. Space and lighting are cleverly used to make large or small rooms with light for reading or darkness to preserve old manuscripts. It was one of the first public buildings to be lit by electricity and possessed its own generators.

Cloister
Cloister
You can almost imagine cowled monks walking here

The scale is huge too. Everywhere you look there are vistas – corridors, monumental staircases, vaulted ceilings of immense height.

Ceiling
Ceiling
Ceilings are decorated as luxuriantly as the other surfaces

While feasting on the walls and horizontal vistas, the eye is also drawn upwards to admire the ceilings with their tracery of beams and intricate carved figures.

Low-light room
Low-light room
One of the exhibitions where valuable historic documents are protected from daylight

The building has been extended and the new parts are of modern design – it would have been impossible to continue the Victorian Gothic. Their design is functional and the quality extremely good but my eye, at least, was always drawn back to the Victorian original.

Stained glass window Mythical ceiling beast
Two decorative details
A stained glass floral window and a mythical ceiling beast

The foregoing does not of course exhaust the wonders of the John Rylands Library. It would take many visits to catalogue it all photographically and even to gain a familiarity with its layout. I think anyone who studies here will carry its imprint with them for a lifetime.

Bella Italia
Bella Italia
A stop-off for dinner

After a further stroll around the city, we stopped off for dinner at a branch of Bella Italia and discussed what to do next. Should we go back to the hotel or…?

The bus had carried us through Chadderton at one point and we had seen the town hall. It looked worth a closer look and so we decided to visit it before going back to the hotel.

Chadderton Town Hall
Chadderton Town Hall
Quite a pretty building, especially in the evening sunlight

Despite its small size and age (the foundation stone was laid in 1912) there is an elegance about Chadderton Town hall, from its pillared entrance to the well proportioned dome topped by a clock. I know next to nothing about Chadderton but the quality of its town hall suggests an interesting history. Another time, perhaps.

We have had a good day, what with the Transport Museum and the splendours of the John Rylands Library. Chadderton Town Hall was a pleasing discovery too.

Model horse bus, Manchester Transport Museum
Model horse bus, Manchester Transport Museum

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Thursday June 23rd 2011

We had been planning a trip to Morecambe Bay but had been waiting for good weather. As we have only two full days left – today and tomorrow – we thought we had better go today. Unfortunately, the day has started with rain and wind. Nothing daunted, though, we set off for the station and bought train tickets for Lancaster. From here we will take a bus the rest of the way. The train is bound for Edinburgh and has insufficient capacity for the number of passengers. All seats are taken and people are left standing.

Lancaster Station Plaque to Joseph Locke
Lancaster Station
A plaque commemorates Joseph Locke, builder of the Lancaster and
Carlyle Railway

We left the crowded train at Lancaster’s handsome stone-built station. Inside the station this plaque commemorates Joseph Locke, the Victorian engineer who, along with Brunel and Stephenson transformed the face of England.

Quaker Meeting House
Quaker Meeting House
The garden is open to the public and the house dates from 1708

We walked down from the station into town looking for the bus station. On the way we passed the rather fine old Quaker Meeting House. This building dates from 1708 but Quakers have been on the site since 1677.

Storey Creative Industries Centre
Storey Creative Industries Centre
Originally called the Storey Institute and presented to the town
by Thomas Storey

Further down is this large building which bears an inscription in honour of Queen Victoria and dating the foundation of what was originally The Storey Institute to 1887. Thomas Storey was an oil cloth manufacturer and gave the institute to the city as a cultural and educational centre.

Main staircase
Main staircase
looking up the stairwell to the glass skylight

The building was recently refurbished and renamed and I think the original philanthropic aim has now been lost and that the new name – Storey Creative Industries Centre – is really just a pseudonym for an office block, the claim being that the firms that occupy the site are all “creative” in some way. Would Thomas Storey have approved?

Stained glass windows
Stained glass windows
Note the names of the famous in the lower part of each window

The building has some beautiful features, such as these stained glass windows, but only part of it is now open to the public so there is probably much more that is worth seeing but is hidden.

Public library
Public library
One of the beautiful building we saw in Lancaster

We have been to Lancaster before but only to pass through on the way to somewhere else. There is a castle on the hill and we saw one or two fine buildings but as we were on the way to Morecambe we left all that for now and hurried on to our intended destination.

Walking down to the town
Walking down to the town
We were looking for the bus station to continue our journey

We found the bus station all right but discovering the right bus to take was altogether more difficult. There was no information office and all the bus drivers we asked gave contradictory answers. One driver said he definitely did not go to Morecambe and yet we saw him and his bus there later… What is the matter with these people? We at last found a driver a little saner than the rest and he took us to Morecambe.

Morecambe Bay
Morecambe Bay
The breathtaking view across Morecambe bay

The first view of Morecambe Bay is breathtaking. The weather had turned to thick clouds and intermittent showers with bright intervals in between. A brooding sky actually made the Bay look more dramatic. The tide was right out, leaving miles of sand which can be treacherous if you do not know your way. When the tide comes in, the scene is quite different.

John Eric Batholomew
John Eric Batholomew
Yes, all right, it’s Eric Morecambe

You can’t talk about Morecambe Bay without mentioning the famous comedian who took its name for his stage moniker, so let’s mention him and have done with it. Not that I have anything against Eric and if you are all that interested, you can always look him up in the usual place.

The King's Arms
The King’s Arms
Morecambe was once a popular seaside resort

Morecambe is quite a small resort and perhaps the conditions today were not the best in which to see it. It lacks the glamour and raucousness of other seaside resorts and there is a rather run-down feeling to the place, though one sees that efforts are being made to improve it.

Bronze gulls
Bronze gulls
I rather like these gulls even if it needed their webbed feet to convince me that they were gulls, not pigeons

Most of what a visitor would want to see is concentrated along the seafront, which is where we spent most of our time.

Morecambe Clock Tower
Morecambe Clock Tower
Built in 1905 and recently refurbished

Dodging the showers, we walked along the seafront, where we admired the clock tower which has the unusual feature of seats on the four sides with their respective four canopies. Not as elaborate as some of the Victorian Jubilee clocks we have seen, this one has a quiet elegance and dignity and is a listed building.

The Victoria Pavilion
The Victoria Pavilion
Built in 1897 as an extension to the Winter Gardens

A striking red building on the seafront, this structure was built in 1897 and called the Victoria Pavilion. It was an extension to the Winter Gardens, since demolished. Today, it is itself popularly known as the Winter Gardens.

The Midland Hotel
The Midland Hotel
One of the jewels of Morecambe Bay

Further along the seafront we came this remarkable structure, the Art Deco Midland Hotel. It was built in 1933 on the site of a previous hotel of the same name. It became renowned and was visited by film stars and other famous people.

Main entrance
Main entrance
A rather understated front door

Morecambe Bay and with it the hotel, fell out of favour and the Midland was requisitioned by the Navy in 1939. After the war and for some years, the Midland was left in a somewhat indeterminate state and, according to some, was virtually derelict.

Main staircase

Triton
Main staircase
“And hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn”

The staircase, topped by this colourful panel representing Triton and Nereids, with a line from Wordsworth’s sonnet The World is too much with us, is not just a means to reach the upper floors but is a feature in its own right.

Hotel reception
Hotel reception
Light and dark colours combined with eye-catching carpet design

The reception area is spacious and airy – it opens through large glass doors onto the terrace – and light and dark colours are combined to pleasant effect.

Art Deco rug
Art Deco rug
The carpets have been recreated from original Art Deco designs

The carpets with their bright, bold designs, recreated from original Art Deco designs, add a note of brightness and colour.

Amazing chandelier
Amazing chandelier
This huge lighting fixture dominates the Rotunda Bar

We had lunch in the Rotunda Bar which, as its name suggests, is circular in shape. This makes it a little difficult to get served when a lot of people are clamouring for drinks or food but otherwise works quite well. It is dominated by the huge mauve-glass chandelier. I only wish I could have seen it lit up in the evening when it would, no doubt, come into its own.

The toilets
The toilets
Both men and women wash their hands or sit and wait here

One of the most startling features of the hotel is the basement toilets. There are two staircases leading to them with icons indicating Ladies and Gents, respectively. However, both staircases lead to the same place, pictured above. Calm beige walls set off the bright green floor and the cream-white armchairs and washbasins.

Passage to the cubicles
Passage to the cubicles
Looking back towards the washing and seating area

A narrow passage leads to the cubicles. At the end of it, discreet signs indicate that ladies turn right and gents turn left. I actually missed those signs and went to the ladies’ cubicles. Fortunately, I was alone so there were no embarrassing encounters. This demonstrates, though, that the segregation of men and women is minimal and maintained in a gentle manner.

Much more could be said about this remarkable piece of Art Deco architecture and decor – everywhere you look there are details to enchant – and to fully describe it would require a book, not just part of a blog post. All I can say is that if ever you are in or near Morecambe, do not miss the opportunity of visiting the Midland Hotel.

Morecambe's Old Station
Morecambe’s Old Station
Trains no longer reach here and other sorts of entertainment are provided

After lunch at the Midland, we went across to see Morecambe’s old railway station. Once upon a time, visitors to the town would have arrived at this pretty building which has been replaced by a typically squalid suburban shed-u-like station away from the centre.

Tiled walls
Tiled walls
Remains of the originally tiling of the old station building

The building is now used as a “venue” for entertainments (there seemed to be a tea dance in progress while we were there) and also incorporates the tourist information office. It is now called “The Platform”, which is hardly the most imaginative name they could have thought up, despite the implied pun.

Cormorants
Cormorants
Sculptures of cormorants decorate a seafront walk

But not all is doom and gloom. I did see signs of a will to improve the seaside environment with gardens and art works, some of it very tastefully done. I was also pleasantly intrigued by the numbers of bird sculptures here, there and everywhere.

More cormorants
More cormorants
This time on a road roundabout

I think that anyone who shows so much enthusiasm for such improbable but wonderful birds as cormorants can’t be all bad. Be you town planner or artist (or a little of both), more power to your elbow in endeavouring to build on Morecambe’s natural charms and secure its future.

Seahorse
Seahorse
Mosaic from the Midland Hotel

Had the weather been brighter we might have stayed longer but grey skies and rain showers persuaded us to start the return journey. We caught one of those buses whose drivers had sworn that they did not go to Morecambe, and travelled back to Lancaster.

Cobbled street
Cobbled street
Back in Lancaster, the sun came out

Ironically, once we were back in Lancaster, the sun came out and it became a perfect day for exploring. We set out to have a look around Lancaster to see what there was to see.

Memorial drinking fountain
Memorial drinking fountain
In memory of the town’s benefactor, Thomas Johnson

It turns out that there is quite a lot to see in Lancaster, quite apart from the Storey Institute mentioned earlier. Perhaps we should plan to “do” the town properly one of these days. If philanthropists and benefactors are in short supply, the gratitude of those they help is often in still shorter supply, so it is always pleasant to find citizens honouring one who has provided generously for them.

Thomas Johnson
Thomas Johnson
Memorialized by a grateful town

This drinking fountain was erected in 1895 by public subscription in honour of Thomas Johnson (1818-92), a solicitor, “to perpetuate the memory of his earnest and untiring labours for the welfare of the youth of Lancaster”. I have not so far found any other information about Thomas, so for now this fountain seems to be his most enduring memorial.

Victoria monument
Victoria monument
Donated by Lord Ashton in 1906

On seeing this grand monument to Queen Victoria, you might reasonably think that it was intended to celebrate one that monarch’s jubilees but in fact, it was built 5 years after her death. I might add as an aside, that I had some difficulty photographing it as a crowd of street drinkers had gathered near its base and I needed to be discreet about where I pointed my camera.

Victorian notables meet allegorical figures
Victorian notables meet allegorical figures
The elaborate design comprises four panels and corner groups

By Herbert Hampton, this elaborate memorial has four bronze panels on the four sides showing in relief the Great and Good of the Victorian era. Their names are engraved vertically above each figure. There are also four corner groups, allegorical representations of abstract concepts, Wisdom, Truth, Liberty and Justice. One of the corner groups, Truth, holding a book and attended by putti, is shown below.

Truth
Truth
She holds a book in her hand

This elaborate piece was presented by Lord Ashton. As James Williamson, he had developed his father’s business of producing coated fabrics to a large-scale industry and become known as "the Lino King". As a young man, he had been apprenticed to a man named Hutton. William Storey was also apprenticed to Hutton and later even worked for Williamson for a while. However, Storey soon went off to found his own business and both men became bitter rivals.

Penny Street
Penny Street
Probably named after William Penny, sometime Mayor and provider of
the almshouses

Fascinating – but not always happy – as the story of Lord Ashton may be (and you will find an account here) we needed to move on. We went along Penny Street and found – guess what? – yes, some actual pennies.

Pennies in Penny Street
Pennies in Penny Street
Note too, how the bollard imitates a weight from a merchant’s weighing scales

There are pennies glued to the pavement but I think this may be a kind of visual joke since the Penny who gave his name to the street was a philanthropist and not a coin.

Penny's Almshouses
Penny’s Almshouses
We were invited in to take a look by one of the residents

Built in 1720 under a bequest in the will of William Penny who had served as Mayor of Lancaster, they provided accommodation for 12 “poor men”. It’s good to think that people are still today enjoying these homes.

The Castle
The Castle
Castles are supposed to keep people out but that concept can be inverted (see text)

I mentioned above that Lancaster has a castle. Before leaving the town, we made a dash up the hill to see it. As we approached, we could see that it was in a good state of repair and wondered whether it could be visited. Something about the stout door rang a bell in my memory and I went to look at the blue and white board beside it.

Prison door
Prison door
Lancaster Castle has been used as
a prison

This notice board informed me that this was “Her Majesty’s Prison Lancaster Castle”. I decided thereupon that I had better not to be obvious about taking photographs in case I provoked the suspicions of the guardians within. I need not have worried.

A view from Castle Hill
A view from Castle Hill
The Ashton Memorial can be seen atop a distant hill

Lancaster prison had been closed three months before, though the castle is still not open to the public. It is hoped that it will be opened in the not too distant future.

We returned down the hill back to the station and thence back to Manchester. We asked someone for a good Indian restaurant and received instructions on how to reach the best one in Manchester. We walked and walked. Then walked some more. But we never found the restaurant. In despair we made do with a pasta restaurant called Dough which turned out to be quite good.

The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
Once the commodities exchange, now accommodates offices
and the Royal Exchange Theatre

It had been a busy day with a lot of travelling and walking. The weather had not always co-operated but had not seriously hampered us, though I am sure Morecambe is more enjoyable in sunshine. Perhaps we will manage to visit it again in more propitious conditions.

Stained glass window
Stained glass window
Storey Institute

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Friday June 24th 2011

For once the day has started sunny. We could have done with this yesterday for our visit to the seaside at Morecambe but the important thing is to make the most of it on our last full day. We plan to go to Halifax today.

Window cleaners Hanging like spiders
Window cleaners
Dangling like big spiders from a thread

A week’s bus rover ticket provides unlimited travel in the Manchester area while a Plus Bus ticket, added to a train ticket to Halifax, provides unlimited bus travel in the Halifax area. As the two regions covered respectively by these two tickets overlap, we can return from Halifax by bus, saving the cost of the return rail fare.

A quiet read beside the fountain
A quiet read beside the fountain
Peaceful spots can sometimes be found even in the city

We set out by bus and on foot to Manchester Piccadilly station and bought rail and Plus Bus tickets to Halifax. The clerk then told us that we had to depart from Manchester Victoria station, not Piccadilly. We set out on foot again and eventually reached Victoria.

Once a bookstall
Once a bookstall
We like this old bookstall at Manchester Victoria, though it is now an
information centre

We found the platform, showed our tickets and were allowed past the barrier. We assumed that the train in the platform was ours. It was about to leave so we ran and asked the guard, who had already blown his whistle, whether we could board. “Yes, but hurry up,” said he.

Aboard the train
Aboard the train
But is it the right one?

But then the men at the barrier, who had seen our tickets and knew our destination, called out to the guard: we were on the wrong train! Fortunately, the train had not started to move so we left a little sheepishly by the guard’s door. Our Halifax train arrived some minutes later and, having carefully checked that this was our train, we boarded.

Halifax Station
Halifax Station
The rather charming view from the platforms

The train was the right one and we arrived in Halifax without more ado. Halifax and the area of West Yorkshire in which it resides is deep in history. From the 15th century, the town became rich on the wool trade and this has left a legacy of fine buildings to be admired.

Flour Mill
Flour Mill
Part of the co-operative movement

Next to the station is a large stone-built flour mill, bearing the proud inscription “HALIFAX FLOUR SOCIETY LIMITED 1879”. This was one of the many cooperative societies for which the area is famous. In turn, it can be related to our abortive visit to Rochdale to see the museum of the Rochdale Pioneers. (See my account of Manchester 2011 – Day 4.)

Victorian Station
Old Station
This is the Victorian station building opened in 1855

Right next to the station stands its predecessor, a Victorian building designed by Thomas Butterworth and opened in 1855. Though it no longer serves its original purpose, it survives as a Grade II listed building and currently houses the Eureka! Nursery, part of the Eureka! National Children’s Museum.

Decorated lintel
Decorated lintel
Is this an imaginary face of a portrait from life?

We set off on foot for the town centre, not neglecting to notice interesting and pretty details as we went, such as this face with its floral decoration above a door.

Approaching the Piece Hall
Approaching the Piece Hall
The 18th century cloth market

Our first visit was to the Piece Hall, also known as the Manufacturers’ Hall. When you approach, it looks almost like a gate in the town wall but the reality is quite different.

The courtyard
The courtyard
The enclosed space is surprisingly large and has a pronounced slope

Because the gate is relatively small, the size of the courtyard is apt to come as a surprise. So too does the fact that it has a noticeable slope as a result of which the hall comprises two storeys along three sizes but three storeys on the fourth side.

Galleries
Galleries
There are three storeys on the fourth side

The Piece Hall was opened in 1799, on New Year’s Day. It was to be a market for the sale of pieces of woven woollen cloth. Occupants of the 315 rooms (poorer merchants shared rooms) paid money that contributed to the building costs. Today, some of the rooms are occupied by small shops and businesses and there is also an art gallery and a visitor centre.

Top gallery
Top gallery
A striking view of the pillared gallery

We explored some of the galleries and found a variety of trades in operation but many of the rooms were silent and empty.

A view from above
A view from above
This view from the upper gallery gives an impression of the huge size of
the courtyard

The courtyard is large enough for all sorts of activities to take place within it and there is a regular programme of events.

Decorative gateArms of motto
Decorative gate
Heraldic device with Latin motto

A pair of highly decorative gates carries panels with an heraldic device composed of items from the town’s coat of arms. The lamb and flag is a commonly used religious symbol, almost a cliché, and the chequerboard pattern comes from arms of the Norman landowner Earl de Warren. In the centre is a head with closed eyes. This refers to a local legend that began in the Middle Ages and said that the head of St John the Baptist was buried in Halifax.

The Latin motto, Nisi Dominus custodierit civitatem, is part of a line from Psalm 27 and means “Unless the lord guards the city…”. Make of it what you will.

Westgate arcade
Westgate arcade
Shops and cafes under glass

From the Piece Hall we passed through the modern Westgate Arcade to another old venue, this one dating from late Victorian times.

Borough Market, Halifax
Borough Market, Halifax
A lively market with a wide range of goods on sale

I speak of Borough Market, Halifax. I love markets and this is a good one. All over the country, markets are struggling, but this one seems to be thriving, perhaps because of the range or goods on sale and their quality. You could do all your household shopping here and then stop for a cuppa.

Fruit and veg
Fruit and veg
Plenty of scope for a shopping trip

Here, you can do your shopping…

Explore the aisles
Exploring the aisles
There’s plenty to tempt you

… prospect for bargains…

Market clock
Market clock
Keeping time since the 1890s

… keep an eye on the time…

Ah! The coffee shop...
Ah! The coffee shop…
A welcome sight to hungry explorers

and have lunch! By the time we reached the Coffee Shop we were ready for lunch and a good one it was too.

Union Cross Hotel
Union Cross Hotel
A small gem between two larger buildings

Everywhere you look in Halifax, there are grand large buildings, small pretty ones – like the Union Cross Hotel that looks quite comfortable between its bigger neighbours – and contrasts between the different styles and periods. A local saw us taking photographs and chatted with us. It was good to see how enthusiastic he was about his town.

Town hall
Town hall
Halifax comes within the Borough
of Calderdale

This remarkable pile (listed, of course) is the town hall. There is an interesting tale behind its design. As is usual, a competition for designs was advertised and three were proposed. Sir Charles Barry, who designed the Houses of Parliament, was appointed to judge the designs. He didn’t like any of them and so the Council asked him to produce his own design. He did so, and his design was accepted. Sadly, Barry died in 1860, a year before the foundation stone was laid. The new town hall opened in 1863.

Do justly
Do Justly
One of the moral injunctions on the porch

The town hall has a small porch and on the three sides are injunctions for moral dealings. The one above is “Do Justly” and the others are “Act Wisely” and “Love Mercy”.

Door arch
Door arch
Symbolic decoration of the White Swan

We decided to take a bus ride and see some other towns. Our first point of arrival was Hebden Bridge. This is a pretty town and deservedly popular with visitors and ramblers. It owes its name to the fact that the first settlement was at the bridge over the River Hebden. Later, water power made it an ideal place to set up weaving mills and it became a centre of production for the cloth trade.

The canal
The canal
The Rochdale Canal passes through the town

The old town hall (which no longer serves as such but is now “community owned”) stands beside St George’s Bridge which crosses the Hebden.

Old Town Hall
Old Town Hall
Standing at one end of St George’s Bridge

There is a 1920s picture house, still operating as a cinema,

The Picture House
The Picture House
First opened its doors to the public in 1921

and also a modern work, a Millennium Clock.

Millennium Clock
Millennium Clock
Financed by public subscription

My favourite moment was when we found a picturesque place beside the River Hebden (which meets the River Calder further down) and sat for a while, watching people and, especially, birds.

Beside the river
Beside the river
A pleasant spot and a favourite with many

There were pigeons and doves and ducks…

Pigeons, doves and ducks
Pigeons, doves and ducks
Obviously used to receiving hand-outs from people

yes, lots of pigeons doves and ducks, all ready to take whatever was on offer!

Dining companions
Dining companions
Polite at first…
(Photo by Tigger)

Winging it
Winging it
…then forgetting their manners!

Not that I minded their lack of table manners, of course. I love to interact with birds in this way.

White dove
White dove
A little shy and nervous

If I had a favourite it would be the white dove. She was rather shy and reserved and didn’t join in the hurly-burly but I made sure she got her fair share.

St George's Square
St George’s Square
One of the many pleasant spots in Hebden Bridge

We could have spent more time in Hebden Bridge – and I certainly recommend a visit – but Tigger had that glint in her eye which meant she had somewhere else in mind to go. So we caught the bus…

Todmorden viaduct
Todmorden viaduct
Like Halifax and Hebden Bridge, Todmorden lies within the Borough of
Calderdale

and arrived at the bus station in Todmorden. However, I only had time to get a picture of the little war memorial, commemorating the dead of both World Wars, before rushing on.

War Memorial
War Memorial
Remembering the dead of both World Wars

Where we we off to in such a hurry? Why, to Portsmouth! Not Portsmouth on the south coast but Portsmouth in Lancashire. Did you know there was such a place? Well, you do now!

Portsmouth
Portsmouth (Lancs)
Nothing much to see

When we reached Portsmouth, there wasn’t much to see, though the surrounding green countryside had its own beauty. So why had we come? Tigger had been here on a previous trip with family and, as you may recall, grew up around the other Portsmouth, the one of Navy fame. She was drawn to it by the name.

Bus stop
Bus stop
We waited here for quite some time

I think the greater part of our time in Portsmouth was spent waiting at the bus stop for a bus back to Todmorden. It wasn’t a short wait and I began to wonder whether the buses were actually running but at last one arrived.

Town Hall
Town Hall
Not looking its best because of scaffolding

To finish off our trip, we made a quick tour of the town. The classical-style town hall (completed 1875, architect John Gibson) is certainly a striking sight.

Town Hall sculptures
Town Hall sculptures
In need of cleaning and some TLC

The sculptures no doubt have a symbolic meaning though I don’t know what it is. They are too high up to be seen clearly and need a good clean. It looks as though time has not been kind to them either and that they probably need restoration as well.

Town Hall rear
Town Hall rear
An unusual rounded shape

The rear of the town hall takes an unusual but visually pleasing rounded shape. I don’t know whether this was part of the original inspiration or whether it was brought about by space considerations but it works quite well, I think.

The Rochdale Canal
The Rochdale Canal
Figures of fish decorate the towpath

The Rochdale Canal comes to Todmorden from Hebden Bridge. Note the artistic renderings of fishes on the wall. I am not sure that these are all freshwater fish but that hardly matters.

Todmorden Industrial & Co-operative Society
Todmorden Industrial & Co-operative Society
This fine old shop front is yet another reminder of the
co-operative philosophy that flourished in the region

Though the day had started sunny, conditions had deteriorated during our outing. We felt that we had had our money’s worth out of our train and bust tickets and so undertook the journey back to Manchester, this time via Rochdale, where we changed buses.

It now began to rain hard and after our experience of yesterday evening, we didn’t fancy another long trek looking for dinner, especially in the rain. We debated whether to try the Indian restaurant in Chadderton, where the bus would pass, but that would mean waiting at the bus stop in the rain for a bus back to the hotel. In the end, we played our joker and had a meal in the hotel restaurant. The food was reasonable if somewhat overpriced – but that’s only to be expected.

Not counting Rochdale, which we barely touched on the return journey, we had visited four towns, Halifax, Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and little Portsmouth. Not bad going for the last day of our holiday. In no sense did we exhaust these places, however, and it is on the cards that we might return to them another time and make further discoveries.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

Saturday June 25th 2011

Today we return to London but as we deliberately bought train tickets for this afternoon, we have the morning free. The idea is to take our luggage into town with us and leave it at the station while we spend our remaining hours in last-minute explorations. It is another grey damp day with the threat of rain – weather we have had throughout our stay – but as we are about to depart, it hardly matters.

We have saved money on breakfast by having this – instant porridge and tea – in the hotel room before setting out. This has worked quite well but today we feel justified in spoiling ourselves just a little. We therefore went to a Wetherspoons pub and had breakfast there.

After breakfast, the first job was to go to the station and deposit our bags at the left luggage office. We were lucky to be served straightaway but the process took longer than we expected. This was because, before they would accept our bags, we had to answer a series of verbal security questions and then sign a docket setting out the conditions. While I understand that the world has become sensitized to the possibility of terrorist attack, I couldn’t help feeling that the process was exaggerated and absurd.

The verbal questions were obviously plagiarized from the script used by airline check-in clerks. For example, we were asked “Did you pack your bags yourself?”, “Could anyone have had access to your bags?”, “Has anyone asked you to carry anything for them in your bags?”, and so on. Not content with the inquisition and our signature on the docket, the clerk then put our bags through the X-ray machine which was exactly like those used at airports. I did suffer a moment’s anxiety at this because my laptop computer, with all the photos I have taken this week stored on it, was in my bag. I irrationally wondered whether they would be damaged. Maybe this was a throw-back to the days of film photography when there were many claims that the X-ray machine caused clouding to film.

Having at last completed all necessary formalities in connection with the temporary storage of our bags, we set out to fill in the remaining time left to us. Originally, we had thought of going out of town but in view of the weather, and concerned that if there were a breakdown or a hold-up somewhere along the line we might miss our train, we decided to pay a visit to the Manchester Art Gallery. Route 3 of the Metrolink (free bus) service took us there. Entry to the gallery is free and, after our experience at Left Luggage, it was nice not to be questioned and have our handbags searched.

The gallery has a pleasant little cafe so we went there first for refreshments. Then, on starting our visit in earnest, we enquired about photography. Yes, we could take photos, they said, but we would first have to sign a paper and then wear a stick-on label to show we had done so. When we signed, we found that the conditions specified that any photos we took would be for our own use and may not be reproduced by any media whatsoever. You know my opinion of this and how I deprecate this unnecessary restrictive behaviour. Taking a few photos and posting them on a blog cannot possibly harm the interests of the museum or the gallery and it might in fact do some good by attracting people to visit the institution in question.

The gallery itself is beautiful and worth seeing, and contains some very wonderful works of art. It is a pity that I cannot show you any pictures of them.

Sitting in the balcony bar
Sitting in the balcony bar

After we had finished at the art gallery, we caught the Metrolink back to the station. We were quite early but didn’t feel we had time to go somewhere else so we reclaimed our bags and went up to the Balcony Bar where we waited until it was time board our train.

Thus ends our week in and around Manchester. Some people seemed surprised that we would choose Manchester as a holiday location but I hope I have shown that there is much of interest in the city itself and that it serves as a good centre for exploring the region because, from Manchester, a number of other interesting places lie within easy reach of bus and train.

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

2 Responses to Manchester 2011

  1. Hayley says:

    I’m glad you spotted the little men on the rooftop in Manchester, I write about them recently here if you’d like to know more (though they’re quite the mystery!) http://hayleyflynn.tumblr.com/post/4965672483/skyliner-3

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