Progress Report

Posted by editor on September 5, 2010 under Business, training and employment, Education and health, Housing

A few years back it felt like Manchester city centre was changing exponentially, writes Len Grant.  Certainly I’d come across parts of town that had been totally transformed since my last visit. New buildings, and sometimes whole districts, were springing up almost overnight.

Now, it seems, its the turn of east Manchester. There are neighbourhoods I haven’t visited for several weeks that are now almost unrecognisable. New public buildings are preparing to open; construction sites are crawling with yellow-vested works and dumper trucks; there’s a buzz about the place which seems at odds with economic forecasts.

For this ‘back to school’ progress report, I’ve included some highlights from a whistle-stop photographic tour of east Manchester.

This is the East Manchester Academy, whose progress East has been following for the past 18 months. On Monday it opens its doors to 203 Year 7 pupils, the first cohort of a long-awaited secondary school for the area. The Academy’s Principal, Guy Hutchence, calls them the ‘pioneers’, the ones who will set the standard for the years to come. Check out East next week where we will feature the historic first day of the Academy. Beswick Library shares the same building and opens to the public a week later on the 13th.

Over in Miles Platting this is the brand new Park View Community School which moves from its Victorian building on Nelson Street to its new home on Varley Street.

Up Oldham Road the Greater Manchester Police 240,000 sq ft Force Headquarters is nearing completion at Central Park. The steel frame in the background is the £35 million Divisional Headquarters which, when complete in 2011, will house those officers currently stationed in Beswick at Grey Mare Lane.

Across east Manchester the most visible construction activity is the laying of the Metrolink tracks that will take trams from the city centre to Droylsden. This Phase 3 extension work sees trams running along the main roads, as well as through new tunnels and across new bridges, taking in New Islington, Holt Town and Sportcity.

Here’s the beginnings of the £24 million BMX Centre, part of the National Cycling Centre. Built right alongside the Manchester Velodrome, it will eventually seat 2000 spectators and become the home of the British Cycling Federation.

Some of the biggest changes in east Manchester are currently happening in Openshaw. Morrisons will be the cornerstone in a £40 million retail development including other stores, offices, a car park for nearly 700 cars and a new piece of public art. This week hundreds of local people are being interviewed for positions at the store.

Further down Ashton Old Road, yet another housing development is progressing to fulfill the ambition of more new homes in east Manchester. This is The Key, a development of houses and apartments for sale or shared ownership. Visit

Have You Seen Openshaw?

Posted by editor on February 12, 2010 under Community, Housing

Len Grant sees a massive change in Higher Openshaw as major development plans finally get underway.

It feels like Openshaw has turned a corner. There’s no doubt this east Manchester neighbourhood is very much in transition and there is still lots to do but, walking the streets recently, there’s now a new momentum.

The new town centre rising behind the purple hoardings

The new town centre rising behind the purple hoardings

The most obvious change is on the high street: demolition contractors and construction contractors are practically falling over each other! No sooner has something been knocked down than there’s a new structure in its place.

The derelict shops on Ashton Old Road have now gone, a swathe of rough ground in their place. Signs above the purple hoardings announce a new town centre is on its way and beyond, the yellow steel framework of Morrisons supermarket has shot from the ground.

The Albion pub and shops on their way down

The Albion pub and shops on their way down

The BarbersFurther down the road and opposite the New Roundhouse and the state-of-the-art health centre more shop fronts are coming down as part of the Toxteth Street development. There’s now more comings and goings around the new houses and apartments than around the boarded-up terraced streets which, I’ve read, have recently provided the backdrop to an East is East sequel.

I first photographed Openshaw’s high street six years ago when most of the shops and restaurants were either struggling to stay afloat or had already gone out of business.

Awaiting development way back in 2004

Awaiting development way back in 2004

There was a hair and beauty shop offering unlimited tanning sessions, ‘Only £10 for 2 weeks’; there were taxi firms asking for owners drivers; and – with their rusting shutters closed for the final time – there was the Tuck In Cafe, A + B Dry Cleaners, a Chinese take-away, the Al-Hambra Restaurant, amongst others.

But it wasn’t always like this. I know from listening to older residents that the high street was the main shopping street for hundreds of local residents and that on Saturdays you’d barely walk between the butcher’s and the greengrocer’s before you met another neighbour and stopped for another chat.

New homes for old in the Toxteth Street area

New homes for old in the Toxteth Street area

Shopping, of course, is different now. You’re more likely to meet your neighbour or old friend in the car park of one of the major supermarkets. And so Openshaw is changing, offering    something new for existing residents and becoming an attractive proposition to newcomers looking to move in. I look forward to photographing its revival in the months ahead.

Farewell Crossleys

Posted by editor on January 6, 2010 under Business, training and employment

As the Rolls-Royce site on Pottery Lane faces the demolition gang, Len Grant nips in to chat with the one of the last employees about the site’s historic past.

Last Man Standing: David Hibbert was one of the last Rolls-Royce employees to leave Crossley Works

Last Man Standing: David Hibbert was one of the last Rolls-Royce employees to leave Crossley Works

When David Hibbert first joined Crossley Premier Engines in 1968 he was expecting to working as a fitter or an engineer. His career path changed after he returned from a stint at the local college. “As apprentices, we’d all done 40 weeks next door at Openshaw Technical College [now the Manchester College] before reporting back to the factory to be assigned our jobs. Some of the lads were taken to the shop floor but I was sent to the drawing office and started work as a junior draughtsman. There was no explanation, I was just told to get on with it.”

These were turbulent times for the engine manufacturers who – as Crossley Brothers – had built a new factory at Pottery Lane in 1882 after outgrowing their Manchester city centre premises. At the turn of the century business was booming. Francis and William Crossley at first made gas-fuelled engines, and then diesel and petrol engines. The potential for motor car engines was not lost on the two brothers – indeed Henry Ford visited Openshaw to see how they did it – and a new factory was established in Gorton in 1906 from which another branch of company history unfolded under Crossley Motors.

Industrial engines, for railways and shipping, continued to be designed and manufactured at Pottery Lane. In the early 1960s the company took out the licence to build a French engine called the Pielstick and, although they were selling well, the company went into liquidation and was bought out. Almost as soon as David had picked up his pencil and slide rule, the company became part of the Amalgamated Power Engineering Group and the sign on the side of the factory changed again to APE-Crossley Ltd.

In later years Rolls-Royce at Crossley Works became a spares and serice centre

In later years Rolls-Royce at Crossley Works became a spares and serice centre

“The shipbuilding industry was shrinking at that time and although we still supplied some engines to the Ministry of Defence – our engines still power HMS Ocean – we switched to producing engines for industrial power generation mainly in developing countries like Sudan, Fiji and Bermuda.”

Rolls-Royce took over the business in 1988 and continued Pielstick production for another eight years. “Understandably Rolls-Royce were more interested in producing their own world-beating engine rather than someone else’s under licence,” recalls David. “At their Bedford base they designed the Allen 5000 and tested it here for 1,000 hours. All was well until it went into the field and then problems occurred. By the time design changes were made the project had to be scrapped because it had been tarnished with a bad reputation.

“Over the last decade or so, Crossley Works has become a spares and service centre for the Pielstick product,” continues David. “We’ve had numerous redundancies over the last 25 years and it’s been sad to see the business slowly shrinking. We stopped operations all together in February and since then what’s left of the business has been transferred to Rolls-Royce in Scotland.”

At the end of 2009, David and a few colleagues were packing up, ready to leave Crossley Works – the last employees after 127 years – and make way for demolition workers preparing the site for future redevelopment.

Below is slideshow of historical and contemporary images of Crossley Works. It’s automatic: no need to click.

It’s Not Round!

Posted by editor on November 24, 2009 under Business, training and employment, Community, Education and health

Bang in the middle of Openshaw, the New Roundhouse is hard to miss. Len Grant meets Maria Gardiner of Manchester Settlement to find out what goes on inside and asks why this very angular building is so-called.

Manchester Settlement's £2.2 million New Roundhouse

Len: So, tell me about the name?

Maria: The Manchester Settlement is part of the national Settlement Movement which began in the late 1800s when university cities, like Manchester, sent out their professors to help in the poorer districts. It those days, before the NHS, it was a case of distributing medicines and helping the sick and infirm. IN those days Manchester Settlement was based on Every Street, Ancoats in a disused circular chapel, known as the Round House, so we’ve kept that connection with our past.

The original Round House on Every Street in Ancoats

The original Round House on Every Street in Ancoats

Len: And what happens now in the New Roundhouse?

Maria: We run education programmes for young people under 16 who, for any number of reasons, aren’t able to fulfil their full potential at mainstream secondary schools. They may be facing challenging circumstances at home or have other issues which mean that the local high school isn’t the best place for them to learn effectively. We have support workers who help our students with other aspects of their often chaotic lifestyles and keep them focused. Our education programmes are registered with OFSTED.

Len: But does it work?

Maria: One young man who had an attendance record of less than 25% at high school in September has now got an attendance record with us of over 95%. So, what we does, works. We’ve got dedicated staff  who give our young people the chance to develop emotionally as well as academically.

Maria: "It's heart-breaking to see some children written-off at 13 or 14."

Maria: "It's heart-breaking to see some children written-off at 13 or 14."

Len: Who else is here in the Roundhouse?

Maria: The building is owned by the Manchester Settlement but Manchester College and Mosscare Housing are also here. As well as being tenants they’re also partners in a broader support framework. So in this one building our young people get educational support from us, housing support from Mosscare and training from The Manchester College.

Len: Tell me about some of the other opportunities here.

Maira: “This downstairs space is open to all residents for any number of different activities.”

Maira: “This downstairs space is open to all residents for any number of different activities.” Photo: Daniel Hopkinson

Maria: We’ve got a book club running now, and a chess club. There are adult literacy courses, playschemes and computer courses. We plan to turn the New Roundhouse into a learning hub for the whole community, adults as well as young people.

Len: What do you personally get out of your work?

Maria: I’ve a genuine desire to help young people. I was lucky, I had a happy childhood but it’s heart-breaking to see some children written-off at 13 or 14 for no fault of their own.

I’m a qualified accountant by trade. I have worked for a couple of charities and used to work in the motor industry before the Settlement. I joined at a very turbulent time for the organisation: the director at the time eventually left and it looked as if we would close. I was determined not to let a charity over 100 years old fold, so I started writing funding bids and won Lottery funding, money from Children in Need, corporate funds, and managed to keep going. Four years later here we are in this £2.2 million building.

Outside inside: the New Roundhouse has potential for different community events.

Outside inside: the New Roundhouse has plenty of adaptable space. Photo: Daniel Hopkinson

But there’s still a connection with our past, with Manchester University. We’ve set up the East Manchester Legal Advice Clinic here where residents can get advice from solicitors and lawyers from the university. Law undergraduates and postgraduates sit in on the sessions as part of their training.

Manchester Settlement is on 0161 614 8448 and

Archive image courtesy of Manchester Local Image Collection.