WALK – MONSALL, NORTH MANCHESTER 13th October 2009
The first of two easy short urban walks I took today, the second being the walk through Cheetham Hill.
The Monsall journey began on the edge of Newton Heath at the corner of Oldham Road and Thorp Road. Being close to home, this brought back many nostalgic memories. A row of shops occupies a space once dominated by a single furniture store, Walters. The furniture there was nothing special. The delight of Walter’s was his window display in which he wrote weekly jokes and wry aphorisms, attracting drivers and pedestrians to detour past the shop specially to see his latest quips. One I remember ran simply, ‘While you’re reading this, the lights have changed.’ Sadly, his readers rarely went in to buy a chair or table and Walter closed up, with his last message thanking everyone for their support over the years. Even the local press marked his shop’s passing in the mid 1970’s as the end of an era.
Walk up towards Lightbowne & Moston past Sharp’s electronics, a leading Japanese computer makers, and cross over the railway bridge, from which you can see the expanse of the Newton Heath train meantime & repair depots, where trains throughout the region are looked after. To your left an isolated fragment of cycle lane runs close to a modern and dull housing estate, which was the site of one of North Manchester’s most notorious murders. In the mid 70’s a barmaid, Wanda Skala, from the nearby Lightbowne pub, was walking home when she was attacked and raped, and murdered brutally, with a large paving slab. Her broken body was dumped in the foundations of the estate tat was still being built, and found a day later by workmen on the site.
Police questioned my Father as he had worked at the same pub as the victim, and knew her. He was quickly dismissed as a suspect, and police took saliva tests off thousands of men in Moston & Monsall – one proved to be a match – a man called Trevor Hardy.
Moving up to the crossroads with its unnessesary roundabout, I stood at the junction of four North Manchester districts, Moston, Newton Heath, Blackley & Monsall.
Turning right onto Northampton Road, I was now in Monsall itself, and walking by what used to be the huge playing fields of my High School, Moston Brook. Now, the school is gone and it’s all fields. The Church Lane valley of the Moston Brook has been drained. At one time the muddy patches could trap unwary travellers who had to be rescued by the fire department. The field has now been rendered flat, safe and boring.
The school is no more, nor is its neighbouring Blood Bank and the famous Monsall Hospital, a specialist centre for the treatment of contagious diseases. The fields do have a few buildings on them, the Fujiama Japanese firm have offices here, and seem strangely detached from their friends at Sharps. A college building is also here, but again, cut off from much of the region. It had been hoped to turn Monsall into a massive arts, business and cultural centre but few businesses or education bodies showed interest. There had been plans to bring a Metrolink route to the area, and a massive station exists for it – a tram station with no tracks or passengers – the ultimate in expensive white elephants.
Northampton Road used to be dead straight, and some said it was exactly one mile long. Cars used to speed along it regularly and some friends were killed outside my school because of that in 1978. Now the road curves wildly and few buildings to give you any bearings. Monsall is largely a ghost town.
Getting up onto Monsall Road, where the mighty Wilson’s Brewery stood, filling the air with the aroma of hops for miles around, you now see only the bottling banks for imported lagers. There is talk of a local microbrewery opening up there, so the beer may well flow in Monsall again soon. I hope so.
A great deal of wasteland follows – good housing territory that no one seems to want. Monsall is the Manchester that time wants to forget and bury, which is a pity. The area reeks of potential and nostalgia. There is housing on the Queen’s roadside, with boards up to screen out the sight of the wasteland on which the kids can at least play football.
Going down Queen’s Road to Queen’s Park, and Rochdale Road, the Monsall jaunt ends where a previous walk (THE RIVER IRK) also ended.
See other walks at WALKS
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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