Stockport and Bury: Pt 2 – Bury, Greater Manchester

We moved back into Manchester City Centre, and changed trams after coming back from Piccadilly Station, to head towards the town of Bury…


Status: Bury District, Greater Manchester (Historically Lancashire), Town, England

Date: 19/05/2014

Travel: Metrolink (Piccadilly – Piccadilly Gardens), Metrolink (Market Street – Bury)

Eating & Sleeping: N/A

Attractions: Bury Town Hall, East Lancashire Railway , Tourist Information, Bury Castle Ruins, Castle Armoury, Robert Peel Statue, Parish Church, St Marie’s, Fusilier Museum, Museum & Art Gallery, Transport Museum, Kay Gardens etc


We left the Tram Stop, which is underneath the bus station, making the two stations a combined interchange. As soon as we walked into Bury Town Centre, just over the road from the station, we found the Kay Gardens, with the intricate curling hedges which I rather liked. In the centre of the gardens is a memorial to John Kay himself. Mr Kay was born in 1704, in the nearby village of Walmersley. His main claim to fame is that he was the inventor of the Flying Shuttle, a key component of the Weaving Machine that allowed larger fabrics to be used and it allowed the looms to become automatic. It’s quite complicated to explain, but this is what it looks like and most of you should have seen one of these at some point. He passed away in sometime around 1779, and the memorial was erected in his honour in 1908. It’s a great tribute to a man who was overlooked until recently.

Bury 2

Opposite the gardens is the Mill Gate Shopping Centre, which takes up a large section of Bury’s town centre. It opened in the 1990’s, replacing a concrete precinct that had been built to replace the original shopping area.

Its a very modern looking building, and no where near as drab as some other shopping centres we have seen, so it doesn’t affect the landscape too much. Around the back of the building is the famous Bury Market. There has been a market here since at least 1444, and the new hall was built in the 1990’s on the site of the National Westminster Bank building. The Market is open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Bury 3

We kept moving through the town, and past the end of the Shopping Centre, we found a large square with ornate buildings on all sides. Of course the stand out feature was Bury Parish Church, of Saint Mary the Virgin, and it’s position up a slight incline makes it the highest building in Bury.

Strangely, the oldest part of the building is the spire, which was built in 1842. The main church was then designed later by Joseph Stretch Crowther (1820 – 1893, English Architect) with the nave rising higher than the base of the spire. The two parts of the church were then joined together using something called a Narthex, which is like the entrance area. You can see this really well on the picture, as the Spire/Tower is standalone, with a small porch then behind it leading to the main section of the church itself. The Narthex now contains a cafe and a shop.

Inside the Church is incredible, and one of the most detailed parish Churches we have visited in a long time. Inside are a variety of flags, including Regimental ones as the Church was the Garrison Church for the Lancashire Fusiliers. The Fusiliers were formed in 1688, and merged with other regiments to create the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers in 1968. One of the most famous members was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892 – 1973, Author who wrote The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings). Outside the Church is a large War Memorial, which commemorates the World Wars.

Bury 4

The rest of the square is made up of a statue of another famous son of the area, Sir Robert Peel (1788 – 1850) who was born in nearby Ramsbottom. He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, between 1834 – 1835, and 1841 – 1846. He was responsible for the modern police force, and the formation of the Conservative Party.

The statue was erected in 1851, and the 3.5 metre high statue was cast in bronze by Edward Hodges Bailey (1788 – 1867, English Sculptor from Bristol, who also created the Nelson Statue at the top of Nelsons Column in London).

Behind Sir Robert is “The Robert Peel” a local pub now part of J D Wetherspoon, housed in an old stone building which also hides a small road which leads to one of Bury’s little secrets that we only discovered when we arrived…

Bury 5

The Bury Castle Armoury was built in 1863, on the site of Bury Castle, which dates back to the 13th Century. The remains of the Castle are visible in the trench in front of the Armoury. Aside from being used for meetings, the Armoury is also used for conferences, functions, wedding receptions etc and is capable of holding up to 800 people.

The Castle was actually an old manor house, built by Sir Thomas Pilkington in 1469, who was the lord of the local Manors of Bury and Pilkington. Permission was given by the reigning monarch, Edward VI (1442 – 1483) and at the time there were few other buildings around so it was a good defence, watching the nearby River Irwell. This was one of the earliest buildings in Bury, which actually comes from an old word for Castle. The earliest settlers here are thought to be the Romans, who also founded Manchester (Mamucium) and Ribchester (Bremetennacum).

Sir Thomas was a traitor however and supported the House of York in the Wars of the Roses, rather than the House of Lancaster, so Henry VII (1457 – 1509) had the building destroyed, and took all of Thomas’s lands. There were extensive ruins, however these were looted and the stone used to create new buildings. It was in 1973 that more ruins were discovered, so the council decided to restore them and they have been visible for all to see since 2000.

Bury 6

We moved back towards the Church, where we had spotted an interesting building during our earlier exploration. It is part of the “Union Buildings” and was built in 1874, in a Neo-Medieval style.

Moving past here to the right you would enter the pedestrianised shopping area of the town.

Our next stop was somewhere I haven’t been for around 15 years, by going down the road on the left of the Robert Peel. This is the East Lancashire Railway, that my parents brought me too as a child.

The actual line itself, which ran regular passenger trains, opened in 1846, and was closed in the 1980’s. It was reopened in 1987 as a heritage railway, running between Bury and Ramsbottom. It has been extended a number of times, from the 1991 extension to Rawtenstall from Ramsbottom, to the 2003 change to have the line terminate at Heywood, the line running beyond Bury.

All but two of the original stations have reopened, and the Bury station is called Bury Bolton Street, the original main station for Bury. Aside from the ELR, there is no passenger train station in the town, however the Manchester Metrolink has assumed some of these functions running into Central Manchester. Bolton Street opened in 1846, as simply Bury. When the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway took over the original East Lancashire Railway, they renamed it Bury Bolton Street, in 1866.

Steam trains run up an down the line, running a total of 12 miles, from Heywood, through Bury and on to Rawtenstall. A new station front was built here in 1952 as the old burnt down after World War II. If your interested in the line you can visit their website here. Just over the road from the station is the Bury Transport Museum, and the station also has a gift shop.

Bury 7

We left the station, and started walking back round to the Metrolink station, going around the back of the town centre. On the way we passed numerous interesting buildings, starting with the Old Bank Building. This classical building was opened in 1868 by Blackwell & Son & Booth.

It is one over a few banks in the town, as opposite it on the same street is the Grade II Union Bank of Manchester building from 1904. Both of these buildings are located on Silver Street, which runs past the Fusilier Museum, and meets up with Manchester Road to run down to the Town Hall.

Bury 8

This is the Fusiliers Museum in question, just down the road from the two Bank buildings. I like the Land Rover outside being used as a large flower pot, and the numberplate reads “Bury in Bloom”.

The Museum also includes the local Tourist Information Office (which celebrates Bury’s long standing Lancashire history), along with various galleries about the history of the Fusiliers and Bury itself. The Museum occupies the former School of Art & Crafts building. It is only this end of the building that is the new modern section, as shown on the picture, as the front is the Grade II listed school section, which was built in 1893. The museum was opened by the Duke of Kent, Prince Edward, in 2009.

It’s a fascinating look into the old weapons, medals and honours they once used, and it’s only a few minutes walk from the other main attractions in Bury. You can find more information on their website here.

Bury 9

We kept moving down the street, to where it becomes Manchester Road. There are at least 7 Grade II listed buildings on this road. At the back of the picture, directly opposite the Fusiliers Museum is the Bury Art Gallery and Museum, which contains a number of exhibits about the town, and a variety of galleries. One of the most famous collections is called the Wrigley Collection, which has over 200 oil paintings, prints and ceramics by Thomas Wrigley (1808 – 1880) the noted Victorian Paper Manufacturer.

The second building along is the Bury Textile Hall, built sometime before 1895. There was once a turreted roof above the main entrance, however this is no longer present. I love the twin columns above the main entrance, and this road is surely one of the most impressive in Bury for it’s architecture.

Bury 10

Further down we passed another of Bury’s impressive churches. St Marie’s was founded in 1842. The congregation itself was founded around 1825 when a room was bought on Clerke Street for mass to be done, by Reverend Michael Trappes as before 1825 Bury was run by a priest from nearby Rochdale. Bury’s population was growing so having it’s own church was a real bonus.

The tower is a masterpiece, and there are stone statues outside of the main entrance at street level. It is the cherry on top for a street (together with Silver Street) that contains some of the finest buildings in this area of Lancashire, outside of Manchester.

Bury 11

We kept going to the end of the road, and looked across the A58 main road. Bury Town Hall stared back at us, in all it’s glory.

The original Town Hall is located in the town centre, on Market Street. The fine “Derby Hall” as it has become known was built in the 1840’s, by the then Earl of Derby (13th) Edward Smith-Stanley (1775 – 1851) and designed by Sydney Smirke (1798 – 1877, who also designed the circular reading room in the British Museum). When the Derby estate was sold, Bury Council bought the building, however since 1979 it has been run as a theatre by a charity called Bury Metropolitan Arts Association.

The current Town Hall was built later, although I am unable to find a date so far but it was built before the 1950’s at least. It’s a beautiful construction, and runs for almost a whole block. Past the end of it, is an ornate Clock Tower, designed by Maxwell and Tuke.

Bury 12

Our last stop was the Old Picture House, sat opposite the combined Bus & Metrolink interchange station. Now a pub, it was historically an old cinema, which began life in 1911 when an old Baptist Chapel was converted into a cinema. This was demolished and replaced with the current building in 1922.

It’s a stunning building, and whilst sadly main others around the country have been demolished, this one was saved and although it is now just a pub, you can still admire the architecture.

This was the end to our trip to Bury, which we wanted to visit as Gemma’s Dad, and Grandparents grew up in the area, and our next stop would be to track down where her Grandparents got married, in the town of Radcliffe, on the line back into Manchester…

Bury is a beautiful town, with history going back centuries. The quality of the architecture, buildings and landscapes is second to none, and I proud to call it a Lancashire town. Transport wise you can take a historic trip along to Rawtenstall and Ramsbottom on the East Lancashire Railway, or get a bus into Manchester City Centre. The tram network has a terminus here and runs through to Manchester where you can change for Eccles, Rochdale, Salford, Ashton-under-Lyne and many more.

Bury is a great place to visit, and it’s only around 10-15 minutes out of Manchester, so if you’re in the area it would be a good addition to any trip.


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