The New Road (1)

A street that nobody lived on: Fitton Street. It ran from Manchester New Road on to Jackie Booth’s field. There were no houses there when I was little. But the sign was still there. Middleton style – black writing on white background. Sometimes I still see them. Mostly not.  The 122 had its own bus stop near there as well. If I find a picture of it I will post it. But I think there were houses there at one time.

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The Commercial (hotel) stood at the bottom of Oldham Road. It was on the Middleton side of the Oldham Road/Manchester New Road junction. This was a wide junction. Eventually a refuge was put there. There was a bus stop outside The Commercial. The front door had a huge stone step outside.

A little way back down Manchester New Road towards Middleton was Smith Street. Nowadays, it is hard to imagine it because the area has been raised and levelled. (It must be somewhere under that roundabout at the bottom of Manchester New Road. In the 1960s, cars used to fly down Smith Street (quite a steep hill) and then climb up the other side to reach Oldham Road again.  It cut quite a big corner off. There was a patch of granite setts or cobbles at the Manchester New Road end. Even now, I can hear the tyres of the speeding cars flapping on those cobbles.

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We called them cobbles but they were really setts. Granite setts. Cobbles were strictly speaking large rounded stones got out of brooks and river beds. Real cobbles were instantly recognisable. There was a patch of real cobbles next to the Hare and Hounds I think. I might be wrong but it is a long time since I was there.

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There was a shop on Manchester New Road whose window was always a delight. The shop was called “Roylance” and it was just before Mill Street and the Lever’s Arms. The Lever’s Arms was a very neat and tidy building of very good proportions. In particular, the windows were very smart. In its commanding position the Lever’s Arms presented an interesting facade of regency or classical symmetry. It contrasted well with the Electricity Showrooms in the “Moderne Style”. The neon sign on the Electricity Showrooms showed it off well at night.

If you wanted to go to cut through from Manchester New Road to Manchester Old Road you could. That would save you having to walk down Middleton to Mill Street and then out again on the Old Road. There was a little bridge that went over the Irk at the bottom of Leater Street. The bridge was through a little door in the wall at the bottom of that street. Then, when you had crossed the river, you could reach the shops on Manchester Old Road – or the Doctors. Dr Linton had his surgery on Manchester Old Road at number 53. The bridge over the Irk was up some steps and then there was a huge slab of flag rock that formed the bridge itself. It had iron railings and the rail on the top was shiny and smooth no doubt from the many hands that had gone across there. I still hear the fair on there in my imagination.

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One of the things that you never hear about now is the dusty windows. Some of those properties that had the dusty windows were unoccupied. Some may have still been inhabited. The level of dust on the windows was such that nobody could see out of them. You certainly could not see in. Windows such as these could be found on the row of houses below the Drill Hall on Manchester New Road; some of the properties on other streets were probably unoccupied for years.

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