In 1775, the Lord of the Manor, George Warren, levelled the site and planned to build a muslin factory although the plan failed, and the site was used for many years to store market goods and ales for the local inns. The market place site has also served as a place for public executions, the pillory and stocks, and was a place of public proclamation. It was here that local history maintains that the last wife to be sold in England was purchased.
Merseyway Shopping Precinct, Stockport’s celebrated railway viaduct and the Market Hall with St Mary’s Church in the background.
The Stockport Museum contains many local artefacts and objects of local significance, including the unique “Scold’s Bridle” – a crude metal cage with mouthpiece which enclosed the head , fitted on gossiping and nagging wives!! Offenders were chained up on public display in the Market Place. Also on display local geology and archaeology exhibits, and its award winning “On One Round Hill” Exhibition depicting the town from Stone Age to the Present. The Castle Yard witnessed Stockport’s first balloon ascent in 1827, and by 1841 the building was taken down and served as a cattle market for many years. Overlooking the Market Place stands St. Mary’s Parish Church. Its chancel dates from the 14th century, but earlier churches stood on this site, the earliest known being in 1150 AD. The nave and tower had to be rebuilt in 1813, reputedly after prolonged and overzealous bell-ringing to celebrate Lord Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar had weakened the structure! Stockport became a Borough in 1835.
Stockport Market Hall
By the middle of the 19th century, the present iron and steel market hall was erected, and has been a place of trade ever since, people travelling in from many miles around. The Building has been recently renovated and restored at a cost of �500,000. Stockport has a long history of industry – from the 16th century cultivation of hemp and rope manufacture. By the 18th century it boasted one of the country’s first mechanised silk mills. But perhaps Stockport’s best known industry was in the manufacture of hats, a trade which still survives today. Stockport has an excellent shopping centre.
Merseyway Shopping Precinct
The Merseyway Shopping Precinct is a large area which was built on massive supporting stilts directly over the River Mersey, which still runs below ground down to Liverpool some 40 miles away. The precinct has all the major department stores and banking facilities, with ample side street and rooftop parking. Alternatively, one may stroll along the old streets of the original town, such as Underbank (pictured bottom right), with its steep warren-like cobblestoned alleys up to the market place above, and Great Underbank, with its old buildings like Underbank Hall. Now serving as a branch of NatWest Bank, it was originally built in the late 15th century and is an excellent example of a half-timbered building (see picture on previous page).
Stockport is one of the most distinctive boroughs in Greater Manchester. It has many well known landmarks like the huge brick railway viaduct, built in 1840, which dominates the western approaches to the town, and featured as a background to many of the paintings of L.S.Lowry. Beneath it runs the town bypass, and the M60 Orbital Motorway on its way to Tameside, Sheffield and east Manchester. Built in the 19th century to carry the main line from Manchester to Birmingham and London, it consists of 27 arches, contains over 11 million bricks and spans one-third of a mile. It is illuminated at night and makes an impressive approach to the town centre. Stockport is nowadays a pleasant de-industrialised borough, (unlike the description by Frederick Engels in 1844 when he called the town “one of the dustiest, smokiest holes” ), and areas like Cheadle, Hazel Grove, Heaton Moor, Marple and Bramhall are popular and much sought after residential areas. The red sandstone cliffs dominate the landscape to the town’s northern edge. These 250 million year old edifices provided the town with air raid shelters during World War II, and tours of the shelters are operated to this day, showing the preserved 1938 shelters with beds and warden’s quarters.
Stockport Tunnel Shelter Tours
These are available by advance booking (Telephone: 0161-474 4460). These cliffs, and the sluices which were cut into them, provided water for the introduction of steam power in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Stockport Town Hall
The Town Hall was the pride of local burghers when it was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1908. Built in white limestone with its distinctive tiered clock tower, it was (and still is) fondly known as “the wedding cake”. It was designed by Brummel Thomas, who had earlier designed a town hall for the city of Belfast. The interior is richly decorated with marble and has grand wrought iron balustraded double staircases. Besides council chambers, offices and a mayoral suite, there is a great hall, known as The Ballroom, which hosts public functions and is also available for hire for private parties and functions, as well as being used for its regular midweek Tea Dances.
Mersey Square, Stockport
Mersey Square, the visitor’s first view of the town centre, also covers the Mersey (hence its name), and dates back to medieval times, when bear-baiting was held in the “Bear Pit” – the site still remains in a vestigial state, but is now a small public garden. The square also housed the Old Fire Station, demolished in the 1960s, a fate shared by many old buildings during that pre-conservation era, to make way for the Merseyway shopping development.