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'.

The music charts were very diverse. 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'. Shakin' Stevens, Julio Iglesias, Human League, the Specials and Smokey Robinson all topped the charts that year (see all the 1981 number one's here). Fashions spanned a wide range of groups, including New Romantics, punks, mods, rockabillies, casuals, skinheads or headbangers.

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 known as the First Division.

Somebody had the foresight to take a walk through town that month and snap these photographs 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.

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 social media. 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 market on the site of the current Memorial Gardens. This 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 schoolchildren. 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 Pine Street building in this picture is now gone, except for the New Jerusalem Church that opened in 1914 on the far corner of the 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 renamed 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
Different people 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 its 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 the 'Tinkerware' shop 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 town 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 a few decades 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.)


Anonymous said…
amazing brings back so many memories thank you
Chris Dawson said…
It brought back a lot for me too. I was about 15 when these were taken and they really took me back.
Chris Dawson said…
As it says at the end, these were all originally from Michael Cain (on Remembering Heywood) and used here with his permission.
Anonymous said…
thanks the pics are great.
Anonymous said…
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
Anonymous said…
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
Unknown said…
Lovely walk reminding me of my home town been away 20 years
Chris Dawson said…
Yes, me too. I find these photos here very evocative.
Unknown said…
My father owned Bells Stall on old Heywood market for years. I worked there with him. I've been looking for photographs...I know there was one of him with about ten of the staff who worked for him. I'd love to try and find it......Lawrence Bell

Unknown said…
The 2 girls in the first picture are me and my friend Melanie Ashton (I'm on the right in the light blue parka). The street is Starkey Street; I lived at 65 (the end house on queens park road) and Mel lived opposite in the shop (which has since been converted to a house). We are stood where 3 newish build houses now stand. My name is Susan Graves and I'd have been 8 years old here.
Unknown said…
I remember working at Big Dee as a teeenager.
Also J W & R Healey in my early twenties (although
there's not a photo of that mill) it is yet another mill
that is no longer standing.
I haven't been back to Heywood now for many years
and I'm thankful for the internet which allows us
to remain in touch and to dip back into our pasts.
Thank you to Michael Cain - who I think I might have known as a teenager.

Barbara Wilders
Laura G. said…
I am in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA.
My close friend, George Spencer, born 4.12.1946 in Heywood, Lancashire, is here in Colorado Springs and wants to return to Heywood.
His parents names were Thomas Spencer and Frances (Wylie) Spencer. George Spencer's sisters names are Sheila, Mary, and Pat.

I believe his father (Thomas Spencer) was born in 1919 and baptized at St. Joseph in that year.

I'm searching for anyone who might know descendants of Thomas and Frances (Wylie) Spencer.

Thank you.

Laura Gregory
Phone in US: 321-745-5466.
Unknown said…
Laura - the best place to enquire would be Facebook. REMEMBERING HEYWOOD is just one FB group you might find useful. Good luck