Picture This: A Walk Through the Centre of Heywood in February 1981

A lot of great photographs from personal collections have been posted on the 'Remembering Heywood' Facebook page, but one particular set that stands out was a series of photos taken around the town centre in the middle of a cold and grey day in February 1981.

It was a pretty cold and grey time all round. There was a recession on, Margaret Thatcher was a deeply unpopular prime minister, and most people still thought the Falkland Islands were somewhere off the coast of Scotland. Locally, the Labour MP Joel Barnett was into his 17th year representing the old seat of 'Heywood and Royton'.

This was just a couple of months after John Lennon had been shot dead, and during that time his re-released music had topped the chart non-stop, a run that ended when 'Woman' was knocked off the top spot in February by Joe Dolce's 'Shaddap You Face'. That's how music was then. You were just as likely to see Shakin' Stevens or Julio Iglesias at the top of the charts as you were the Human League, the Specials or Smokey Robinson (see all the 1981 number one's here). This diversity could be seen in the fashion, and while most young people just wore 'regular' clothes, others were New Romantics, punks, mods, rockabillies, casuals, skinheads or headbangers. Bands like Adam and the Ants or Tenpole Tudor did their own fancy dress thing.

There were still only three channels on TV, but lucky kids could always play with the new Atari they got for Christmas. A brand new show called 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' started that month, joining a range of classic comedies on at the time. The only regular football on TV was the highlights on Match of the Day, showing Aston Villa and Ipswich Town engage in a two-horse race for what was still the First Division.

One bright person had the foresight to take a walk through town that month and snap these photos of what were, back then, just everyday places. Some of those photos are reproduced here, going in sequence from Hind Hill Street to Longford Street. Sadly, most of these buildings have since vanished into history. A lot can change in 30 years.

Market Hall
These markets would have to be one of the most popular and sadly missed places in all of Heywood, judging by the hundreds of comments made about photos of them on the 'Remembering Heywood' page. Unlike individual schools, streets and workplaces, this was a real community hub that just about everybody in town used to visit in the days when shopping habits were different and supermarkets and shopping centres were a rarity. This market hall opened in 1926, replacing the older ones on the site of the current Memorial Gardens. The building has long since gone, making way for new housing.

Heywood Market Hall, Hind Hill Street, 1981. (M. Cain)

Wharf Mill
A very familiar sight for former Heywood Grammar/Siddal Moor schoolkids. As the sign says, this was originally the Stanley Mill, a weaving and spinning establishment, but by the 1970s it was known as Wharf Mill and was operating as a furniture and carpets store, complete with cafe. In the mid-1970s the 'Big Dee' supermarket opened in the downstairs level, but by the time this photo was taken Big Dee had moved to their new premises which is now home to the Heywood Magic Market. Every building in this picture is now gone, except for the New Jerusalem Church that opened in 1914 on the far corner of Pine Street.

Wharf Mill, Pine Street, 1981. (M. Cain)

Heywood Grammar/Siddal Moor
This was another building that brought back a lot of memories, both good and bad, for a lot of people. There had been a school on this site since 1894, when the Heywood Technical School opened. That first building was replaced in 1912 by this one, initially known as the Heywood Day Secondary School and then Heywood Grammar which stood here until 1968 before becoming Junior High, with a new Senior High opening on Newhouse Road. Those schools were later named Siddal Moor. This fine old building had closed as a school by 1981 and was promptly neglected to the point where it was demolished to make for the 'Phoenix Centre'. Another sad loss.

Siddal Moor lower school, Hind Hill Street, 1981. (M. Cain)

Police Station
Let's just say that different people on 'Remembering Heywood' had different levels of experience with this building. The police station and courts opened in 1936 and closed quite recently, but at least this is still standing as 'The Old Police Station' (TOPS) business centre.

Police station, 22 Hind Hill Street, 1981. (M. Cain)

Water Board offices
Another survivor from the days when Heywood ran it's own affairs. The Water Board Offices, next to the Post Office on Hind Hill Street, is one of those buildings that most people don't pay much attention to as they walk past it. The Heywood and Middleton Joint Water Board was formed in 1898, and merged with other water boards to become the West Pennine Water Board in 1967, and then the North West Water Authority in 1973. The water supply from nearby reservoirs used to be controlled and monitored from this place, which has changed surprisingly little since 1981.

Water Board Offices, Hind Hill Street, 1981. (M. Cain)

Town centre
The clock says 12:25 and there are only two people and four cars in this familiar scene, with St Luke's making an imposing backdrop as seen from Market Street. How many times has this scene been photographed over the years? The Co-op electrics shop is to the right of this picture, and Tinkerware would have been to the left.

Market Street, Heywood town centre, 1981. (M. Cain)

Municipal Buildings
Another empty road, this time in front of the Municipal Buildings. This was taken seven years after Heywood had been incorporated into Rochdale, and despite the coat of arms still being proudly displayed the former town hall was starting to look a bit shabby. In earlier years the walls were painted white, as can be seen in this 1953 photo. This building opened in 1850 as the Mechanic's Institute, and Heywood Council took over the place in 1884. The space in front of the Municipal Buildings was used for public meeting points, such as for scout and guide events, or St George's Day, with speakers appearing on the balcony above the door. The buildings was demolished in the 1980s and replaced with a new doctor's clinic.

The old concrete bus shelters in the foreground could get quite crowded in wet weather and smelled like wet coats and cigarette butts.

Municipal Buildings, Longford Street, 1981. (M. Cain)
Trades Hall
The Trades Hall on Longford Street was another fine building that is no longer standing. Trades Halls were used as meeting and organising places by early trade unions and the labour movement and could be found in towns across England, Scotland and Australia. One of the finest examples is the Manchester Free Trade Hall. This was another reminder of a time when Heywood was a prosperous enough town to have need of a place like this. The old Drill Hall used to be to the right here.

Trades Hall, Longford Street, 1981. (M. Cain)

Longford Street
This photo might not be from the same day as the rest here, but is from the same time period. This is the Longford streetscape, from the Trades Hall, past the Municipal Buildings to the United Services Club on the corner of Dawson Street. Times Mill can be seen in the background. The former Services Club building is the only one left standing out of all these. Which just goes to show, you might get some strange looks taking photos of everyday buildings and streets around town, but everything changes and in 30 years time those photos could be more important than you think.

Longford Street, 1981. (M. Cain)
(A big thanks to Michael Cain for his kind permission to reproduce these photos here.)

8 comments:

  1. amazing brings back so many memories thank you

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  2. It brought back a lot for me too. I was about 15 when these were taken and they really took me back.

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  3. As it says at the end, these were all originally from Michael Cain (on Remembering Heywood) and used here with his permission.

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  4. thanks the pics are great.

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  5. Can't believe Longford Street used to look like that, don't understand why the buildings were allowed to be knocked down, its such a shame. Rachel B

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  6. Great job the hole site is very intresting who would have thought you could link Iron man with Heywood.Well done Chris Dawson.M.Cain

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  7. Lovely walk reminding me of my home town been away 20 years

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    Replies
    1. Yes, me too. I find these photos here very evocative.

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