The recent fire at the Halfway House and its subsequent demolition prompts me to post some pictures that I took in 2016, which was my latest, probably last, visit to Openshaw.
I had attended a school reunion in Manchester, stayed a few days in the centre, and thought I’d like to see what Openshaw had become. I was prepared for change, as I knew that a lot of the old housing stock, including my parents’ house on Cornwall St, had gone, and I knew that Gorton Tank was now Smithfield market, but I wasn’t prepared for the massive scale of the changes.
I meandered up from Mill St to about where the Alhambra used to be. Most of the pubs, which I remembered being on almost every corner, have disappeared. The Lord Wolsey is now the Queen Anne, and the Lord Raglan is still open and trading. I think they are the only two pubs left. Almost opposite is Lime Square, a new shopping centre with a showpiece sculpture of a dropforge, a reminder of B&S Massey, just down the road from there.
The canal has been filled in and replaced with a footpath but the old pipe that ran alongside the road over the canal remains.
Some of the original house remain, Lees and Louisa streets, and there were some new modern houses.
But the overwhelming feeling was that Openshaw had become a rundown mess. Lots of boarded up windows, and a few buildings standing out amongst the ruins of the old. I know that there are housing developments away from the Old Road, but staying on the road, it looks an area in decay. Compared to the 1950s it is a hollowed out remains of a place, a community destroyed and dispersed.
I know that the housing needed replacing, but instead of wholesale destruction and in making no effort to keep communities together, a strong community was destroyed. And times change, economies fluctuate, and the heavy engineering that Openshaw relied on was in serious decline, so major change was necessary, but I would hope that if there was a need to make the same kind of changes today, that they would be done in a more sympathetic way. Or have we learned nothing?
I’m not sure that going back was a good idea, maybe keeping the old Openshaw in memory would have been a better thing to do.
There are pictures in a subfile of the Gallery.