WALK – CHEETHAM HILL, NORTH MANCHESTER 13th October 2009
2cd of my two urban expeditions on this day, the earlier one being a walk through MONSALL.
Its main road, called not surprisingly, Cheetham Hill Road, dominates Cheetham Hill. It runs from Manchester to Prestwich, and the easiest way to walk it is to start at one end and simply keep going to the other.
I chose to walk back from the far end, so I took the famous 135 Bendy Bus to the Prestwich end, getting off near Heaton Park, site of a previous walk.
The Road seems quite unexceptional, with hundreds of small electrical goods shops and delicatessens. It felt like a market with the stalls encased in four walls and given roofs. The people seemed busy but unhurried. The town seems functional rather than aesthetic.
Being predominantly Muslim, the street and its side roads have few pubs. The Robin Hood inn is now a restaurant, but keeps its pagan looking bar sign going. The Empress goes further, being a pub sign without a pub, as it now stands over a café and a shop. Victoria, the Empress Of India no longer has even a bar to her name.
Further up the road Bhatti Fabrics have taken over a pub and kept the pub sign frame, but stripped it of all identity. They don’t even use it for their own logo.
The Temple Cinema, one of the best of Manchester’s fleapits, is now a community centre.
St. Luke’s Church an 1839 grade 2 listed building is closed and shrouded in scaffolding, with signs warning the curious to stay out of the grounds due to a Japanese Knotweed Infestation the restorers are struggling to eradicate.
I then came to The Fort, a true abomination and the one part of my journey that was essential. I had been tipped off to there being possible work here, and headed there intent to pick up application forms, though the advice proved to be misleading. I expected The Fort to be a shopping mall like the Arndale Centre, but it is a wide spread trading park, similar to ones in Ancoats & Royton. It was impossible to find a single point which would say who was hiring and who wasn’t. I would later find out that my advisor, my Mum, had simply sent me to try on spec . I tried a few stores and then gave up – I found the complex too depressing. There was no telling the Fort for a street or as a Mall. It was also far to open plan to deserve the name Fort.
Moving on, I passed Queen’s Road, the other end to where the Park was which I walked on an earlier journey (see THE RIVER IRK ) . Queen’s Road has the lovely Jewish Museum at its Cheetham Hill Rd end, providing an archive and educational resources on Manchester’s rich Jewish history, and containing a magnificent synagogue.
Nearby is the Transport Museum with a collection of buses and trams from Manchester’s past and the Irish World Heritage Centre, a community and entertainment centre for Manchester’s proud and thriving Irish community.
St. Chad’s Roman Catholic Church has some very curious looking gargoyles on its outer walls, and there is then Cheetham Hill Road’s one and only thriving pub, The Derby Brewery Arms. Close by, the skyline of side streets are dominated by the sinister shadow of the lookout tower of Strangeways Prison. I remember my Dad telling me this was the hanging tower, where the dropped victims would plummet 300 feet in the darkness with the rope only breaking their necks when they were inches from the bottom. It was nonsense but it gave me many childhood nightmares. The tower merely lets guards see all round the large prison from a high vantage point.
Soon after this the road leads right casually into the city centre, with journey’s end being Manchester’s Victoria Station. Though seemingly ordinary Cheetham Hill has a rich history & hundreds of stories to tell.
See other walks at WALKS
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