Bricks of Chocolate

It must be a long time since standing on C. C. WINCE BROOK BRIDGE at the bottom of Manchester New Road near the junction with Oldham Road. I knew it was called that because those words were carved into the coping stones. There used to be distinctive shaped bricks in it too. A good reminder (to me at any rate) of the blocks of Milk Tray, when Cadbury’s used to make them in a bar.

Writing about that reminds me of other sweets that I now associate with that part of Middleton. Including Cadbury’s Twenties which boxes you could buy in milk or plain chocolate. A similar type of thing was a box of Terry’s Neapolitans. Twenties and Neapolitans only appeared at Christmas. Terry’s had flavours too – coffee and orange.

Of course, we walked everywhere and shoes came from Fletchers on Long Street, the last shop immediately before the steep hill up to the Parish Church. Other times shoes came from Timpsons or the Co-op, also on Long Street. Shoe repairs were carried out at the Co-op or by Mr Diggle, who had a tiny shop on Rochdale Road, at the junction with Spring Gardens.

There was another shoe shop and repairers on Oldham Road, right opposite Hilton Fold Lane. Sometimes, the proprietor, a very elderly man was to be seen standing on his front step in the early evening. Christmas saw him displaying slippers in his window.

For very young children’s shoes, there was Percival’s, on Market Place. He had a great big tin of Dolly Mixtures on his counter. Given that the top of the sweets was always flat, I’m wondering now if any infant hand ever got any…

Also on Market Place was Broadbents, which was I think, two shops, both double fronted. One sold ladies’ clothing and the other, gentlemens’ and boys’ wear. I think they sold school uniforms too. I remember my grandmother bought some vests there once. Next door to Broadbents was Peter Pell, a gentleman’s tailor who also sold suits “off the peg” as they were then described, meaning, “ready to wear without alterations.”

At the corner of Corporation Street was a chemist’s shop, who also was an agent for Ilford films and had a strange metal advertisement hanging over the door, in the shape and colours (orange and cream) of a box of Ilford film. Funnily enough, of all the slides out of my father’s collection, the Ilford ones have retained their colours better than all the others, including Agfa and Kodak. Strange.

Next door to the chemist was “Home Decor”. This was a high-class outlet and had some striking examples of modern furnishings and art, lighting and some furniture too. We had a lamp from there.

Further still in Market Place was Warners who sold fashionable clothes and work clothes; then there was a pub in green tiles, a bicycle repair shop, and right at the end, at the corner of Townley Street was a sweetshop and toyshop.

On the other side of Market Place, starting with the building that faced the bottom of Townley Street, was Providence – the school and then the Chapel. These were Congregational denomination, or English Presbyterians. They amalgamated in the 1970s and became part of the United Reformed Church. In Middleton, both buildings were just called “Providence.” The school was demolished and the chapel eventually fell down (or was it pushed?).

Then going back towards Market Place gardens, there was BISCO (buiding and industry supplies company?), and then there was Chadderton’s tools and ironmongery. Then there was a building set right back against the retaining wall to the cemetery. That had been a clothing factory in the 1960s for a time.

Then there were other shops in a row, including a mens clothing shop and Roberts, Middleton’s stationers. Roberts was full of paper, lined and plain; typing paper; cash books; ledgers; rules; ink; pens; nibs; biros; coloured pencils; but it was a dark shop and as such, it seemed to typify the town, especially as it appeared to a child. Almost everywhere there was a distinct lack of fun. Middleton was quite a serious place. No wonder I saw chocolate in the bricks.


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