Our last stop of the day was the town of Stretford, home to Old Trafford, and one of the most impressive Town Halls in the district…
Status: Trafford District, Greater Manchester (Historically Lancashire), Town, England
Travel: Metrolink (Altrincham – Stretford)
Eating & Sleeping: N/A
Attractions: Trafford Town Hall, Old Trafford (Football), Old Trafford (Emirates), The Quays, Stretford Public Hall, St Anne’s Church, Bridgewater Canal, Imperial War Museum North, Silent Cargoes Sculpture etc
Arriving by Metrolink, there are a number of stops in the town, including a few at Old Trafford. We stopped in the centre of the town, next to the Bridgewater Canal once more, which runs though to Manchester City Centre. We had had a pleasant walk along the banks of the Canal at our previous stop, the town of Sale just South of Stretford, and you can find out more about the Canal in my Sale post here.
A number of icons were visible from our start position, from St Anne’s Church on the left, round to Old Trafford Stadium, the home of Manchester United Football Club, in the distance on the right. We embarked on an epic walk through the town, that would take us past these landmarks and many more, round to our final destination at Salford Quays.
We crossed the Canal and began our four mile walk through Stretford. Whilst the town itself is quite large, it is mainly a dormitory town for workers commuting into nearby Manchester, however the recent redevelopments down by the Quays have turned Stretford into a big tourist attraction, along with the draws of the Stadiums.
In the area of the town we started in, we were surrounded mainly by housing, as well as the Stretford Mall Shopping Centre. Just down the road from the Shopping Centre, along our walking route, we came across the Public Hall, a fine Victorian Building from 1878. Designed by N. Lofthouse, it was built by John Rylands, and was the site of the towns first Public Library in 1883, with the building being bought by the local council in 1908 upon the death of John’s widow. The building has changed so many times since 1908, having a number of different functions.
Public Baths were added at the back of the building, with an entrance at the rear. By 1940 a new Library was opened on King Street, so the building was no longer needed for this function. 9 years later, in 1949, it became the Stretford Civic Theatre, and remained as the theatre until the 1990’s, when it became disused. The Baths had been demolished in 1977 when the new leisure centre opened in the town, and eventually the Hall was turned into offices for Trafford District Council, and remains so to this day.
It’s a stunning building, and you would be forgiven for thinking it was the main Town Hall for Stretford, and it is certainly fit to be. Incredibly, there is an even more impressive building near Old Trafford that is the actual Town Hall, but more on that later.
Our next stop was St Anne’s Church, which we spotted earlier across the Bridgewater Canal. St Anne’s is wonderfully designed, and the main body of the church, whilst being the typical size of a local Church, feels much grander than many others, with the tower turning it into an almost Gothic construction.
St Anne’s was built between 1862 and 1863, as the local Roman Catholic Church in the town. The Congregation itself existed from 1859, when a small Chapel was set up, as a Chapel of Ease for All Saint’s Church. When St Anne’s was built, it became the main local Church and took over from the Chapel. The Chapel itself then became a Chapel of Ease for St Francis’s Church in Gorton, in nearby Manchester. The design of the main Gorton Monastery Church has a very similar design to St Anne’s, with the main body closely replicated.
In the 1890’s St Anne’s benefited from an extensive refurbishment, carried out by Hardman & Co from Birmingham, a company founded in 1838 and well known for their impressive Stained Glass work. St Anne’s was another local building that suffered during World War II, with Manchester being extensively bombed local areas were also hit, with the church being damaged by incendiary bombs. It soon recovered, and in the following decades it was modernised ready for the new century. It sits on the main road running through Stretford towards the Old Traffords and the Quays, and commands a view overlooking the main thoroughfare into Manchester.
After a general walk in the direction of the Old Trafford’s, we arrived at the first of the two, Old Trafford Cricket Ground, known as the Emirates Stadium. Whilst it has been repeatedly modernised and upgraded, the main frame of the building is the same one that was built and opened back in 1857, to house the Manchester Cricket Club. Lancaster County Cricket Club (Lancashire Lightning) moved into the Stadium in 1864, and has played here ever since. The main pavilion, a large three-tiered Victorian building from 1895 was hit by a bomb during World War II, and completely destroyed. It was later rebuilt, and will soon house Members only when the Media/Players move into a new stand.
County Cricket in England still follows the traditional counties, hence why Lancashire Cricket Club is in Stretford (a proud part of traditional/historic Lancashire). This is reflected in other clubs, the most notable being Middlesex Cricket Club, a county that still exists traditionally, but was abolished administratively years ago. Other major teams include those that represent the counties of Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Leicestershire, Somerset and Yorkshire, amongst many others.
This is the main entrance to the Stadium, but if you move down a side road you get a better view into the main playing area of the Stadium.
This is the view I was talking about, where you can see into the pitch area better, with the towering floodlights rising high above the crowds for matches playing on into the night. It is arguably one of the most famous Cricket Grounds in England, along with “The Oval” in Lambeth, London, which not only hosts Surrey County Cricket Club (parts of London were once part of surrounding counties including Middlesex and Surrey) as well as international matches, Football and Rugby.
Directly across from Old Trafford is one of the most impressive non-sporting buildings in the town, and borough as a whole. Trafford Town Hall opened as Stretford Town Hall in 1933, two years after construction began in 1931.
The design was put forwards by Bradshaw Gass & Hope (Architects from Bolton, founded in 1862 by Jonas James Bradshaw) and built by a construction firm called Edwin Marshall & Sons. It remained the Council Seat until 1974, when local Government in England was rearranged and Stretford Borough became part of the new district of Trafford, with Stretford being adopted as the districts main town. The Town Hall was then renamed Trafford Town Hall, which it remains today.
I love the design and it looks both modern and rustic at the same time, with an impressive Clock Tower being one of the standard features of this part of the town.
Moving down the side of the building, a small, neat garden greeted us. If you look at the left hand side of the building, you can see the modern offices that were added in the last few years, opening in 2013.
One interesting addition to the building is actually underneath it, as in the 1980’s a 10,000 square metre Nuclear Shelter was constructed, although it closed in 2011. Also, in 1983 an extension was added, which enclosed a square in the centre of the building. This extension was then knocked down in 2011 to allow for the new offices to be built, so the Town Hall has often been the centre of construction projects.
The garden itself is quite pleasant, and we stopped for a rest on one of the benches, before we pushed on towards Old Trafford Football Ground.
Between the Town Hall and the second Old Trafford, we passed a small square which contains a large metal sculpture in the centre. Off to the right is a semi-circular steel bench, with a number of plaques set into it. Each plaque commemorates a “Memorable Ashes Moment” at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, with some of the highlights including:
“1961. Brian Statham took 5-53, the best ‘Ashes’ bowling at Old Trafford by a Lancashire player, with the overall attendance of 120,417 (the highest in the ground’s history).”
“1981. Ian Botham hit a magnificent 118, as England beat Australia by 103 runs on their way to winning the ‘Ashes’.”
“1993. Australia’s Shane Warne bowled his first ball in the ‘Ashes’ match and produced “the ball of the century” to dismiss Mike Gatting.”
There have been many memorable moments at Old Trafford, with England and Australia having been competing for the Ashes since 1882.
We soon reached the second Old Trafford Ground, the home of internationally renowned team, Manchester United. Old Trafford is the second largest football Stadium in the UK after Wembley in London (home to the English National Team) and the ninth largest in Europe.
Old Trafford was designed by an architect from Scotland, called Archibald Leith (1865 – 1939) and was built in 1909 after the previous homes of United, North Road and Bank Street were deemed unfit for a club that had won both the the First Division and the FA Cup. During this time United was called Newton Heath, not adopting the named Manchester United until 1902.
When it was opened, the Stadium only housed 10,000 spectators, which was increased steadily over the years, from 56,385 in 1985, through to 75,731 today. Like Old Trafford Cricket Ground, the Stadium sustained bomb damage during the War, when a bomb dropped on December 22nd 1940 caused major damage. Matches soon resumed, but just a few months later, on 11th March 1941, most of the building was destroyed by another raid. As a consequence, United shared Maine Road, the home of Manchester City 1923 – 2003, until Old Trafford was rebuilt and ready for play to resume in 1949 after a grant from the War Damage Commission (set up in 1941 to give compensation for land and buildings damaged by the war). The first game at the new stadium was against Bolton Wanderers, with United claiming a 3-0 victory.
A number of statues grace the exterior of the building, mostly located around the East Stand, where the United Shop is located. The first is a set of three together, which depict “The United Trinity” of George Best (1946 – 2005), Denis Law (Born 1940) and Bobby Charlton (Born 1937).
“The United Trinity” is stood looking towards the Stadium, where another famous United Legend, Sir Matt Busby (1909 – 1994) stands looking back at them. Sir Matt is the 2nd most successful manager of the club, after Sir Alex Ferguson who recently vacated the position, and who also has his own statue, located around the other side of the Stadium near the United Museum.
Moving on from Old Trafford, our last stop of the day was to Salford Quays, of which Stretford is a constituent part. The Quays is a new, modern development on the site of the Manchester Docks, at the end of the Manchester Ship Canal which runs into Manchester from Liverpool and the River Mersey.
The Docks closed in 1982, after nearly 90 years of service, having been opened in 1894 by Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901). They soon grew to be the third busiest port in Britain. After their closure, Salford City Council purchased large parts of the area and started rebuilding from 1985, and over the next 30 years created one of the most successful regeneration projects in the country, Salford Quays.
From this side of the Quays, you can see the vast expanse of the Quays, along with the various residential buildings around the outside. If you look carefully at the above panoramic, you will spot Manchester City Centre, with the Beetham Tower rising above the other buildings. The Clock Tower of Manchester City Hall is also visible, along with the other major office blocks in the city.
The Quays are an incredible place, as we know well from having previously explored the Salford side. As we moved further along the Quays, many other wonders awaited us.
Along the waterfront was a large amount of what initially looked like Dock equipment and Cargo, but on closure inspection is actually revealed to be an art installation called “Silent Cargoes” which was installed in 1996, to show how the area has changed over the last 100 years. I really like it, it’s not the usual random shapes associated with modern art, it’s meaningful and reflects the industrial heritage of the town, and it’s importance to the rest of the country.
For more information on the Salford area of the Quays, see my Salford post here, with highlights including the Lowry Museum, dedicated to Laurence Stephen Lowry (1887 – 1976, famous English Painter from Stretford) and showcasing many of his best works, as well as the Lowry Shopping Centre, and various new flats around the edge of the Quays. Also, on the right at the end is MediaCityUK, which is now home to various BBC and ITV shows. The set of Coronation Street used to be located in Manchester City Centre, but was rebuilt here, and the new studios are down on the left just pass the white suspension bridge.
Before you reach that, you will pass the Imperial War Museum North, the large grey building on the left at the front of the picture. It has various exhibitions about World War I and II, with a particular emphasis on the D-Day landings, the 70th anniversary of which is being held on 6th June at various sites in the UK and France. The Museum is one of a number in the UK, with others in London, Duxford and Churchills War Rooms, also in London.
Stretford is a lovely town, and home to some of the most famous sports centres in the North, along with a portion of Salford Quays, which is a truly beautiful place to explore. There are a number of tram stops in the area, at Salford Quays, Anchorage Quay, MediaCityUK, and near the Trafford Stadiums. These enable easy access to Manchester City Centre where you can change for Rochdale, Oldham, Bury and Ashton-under-Lyne, as well as mainline services to London, Scotland and most other major destinations in the country as well as local places in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Yorkshire and many more.
We had a great time on our latest exploration of Greater Manchester, and it was really interesting to visit the two Old Trafford’s, having been so close to them many times. If you get to visit the Quay’s take some time out to explore Stretford, as it will really add to your experience.