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Altrincham, Cheshire, England


The Old Market Place, September 2018
September 2018, in part

Altrincham, Cheshire


To learn more about Altrincham, why not join the ALTRINCHAM HISTORY SOCIETY? Details here.

Location and Approaches

Altrincham lies some eight miles south of Manchester. By public transport, the town can be reached by hourly (2018) train from Stockport or Chester or by Metrolink tram from Manchester, including Piccadilly Station. Buses (Arriva service 263) from Piccadilly bus station) run to Altrincham from Manchester. By car, the town is reached from the south by the A556, then A56, after leaving the M6 or M56. The A56 approaches Altrincham along Dunham Road which passes through the Old Market Place but skirts the modern centre of the town, which lies to the east. To reach the town centre turn right down Regent Road or turn right onto the A560 then immediately right again onto Barrington Road which runs into Stamford New Road, which is the main road through the town centre and passes the railway/Metrolink station. From the north (Manchester or the M60), follow the signposts on the A56. The town is generally flat but its southern fringes around Bowdon lie on the Altrincham ridge, which largely comprises glacial gravels and rises to 200ft above sea-level. This elevation is clearly visible as the town is approached from the south, up the A556 from the M6 or M56 junctions.

Historical Outline


Although it was not named in the Domesday Book, a number of neighbouring areas, such as Dunham were. At this time Alfward had an estate embracing modern day Dunham, Ashley and Baguley. In Norman times the area came under Hamo of Masci, whose base was initially a wooden castle at Dunham. By 1286 the fifth Hamo, still based at Dunham Castle, was assisting Edward I against the Scots. It was Hamo who obtained for Altrincham its charter as a borough in 1290 and this charter was renewed in 1319. The last of the line of Hamos died in 1342 and the Black Death decimated the area in 1348. In 1494 the ruins of the castle at Dunham were acquired by Robert Booth, whose family was subsequently ruined in the Civil War (c.1640). By 1750 the estate had passed to the Stamford family.

There are relatively few historical remains evident in the town today. The oldest surviving part of the town is that around the Old Market Place and Church Street (on the A56). It was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie's troops were allegedly billeted in 1745. A number of Georgian buildings also survive in this area on High Street.

Above, left: High Street (2018); right, Cunliffe Brooks Bank building, (2018)

Altrincham's fortunes improved with the arrival of the famous Bridgewater Canal, constructed in the 1760s and this can be seen most conveniently from the A56 at Broadheath Bridge. In the latter part of the 18th century the town had a cotton and worsted trade but it was the opening of the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway (MSJA) in 1849 which really prompted the town's growth. Also in 1849 the first Town Hall was established adjacent to the Unicorn Hotel. Altrincham endured epidemics of typhoid and cholera in the 19th century but in the latter part of the century many prosperous Manchester businessmen took up residence, particularly in Bowdon, at the southern edge of Altrincham. From here they commuted to Manchester by train. The existing town hall buildings were erected in 1900 and in 1937 Altrincham became a Municipal Borough. In the 1890s the Broadheath area started to become heavily industrialised.From the 1970s Altrincham's industrial base declined and the area is now predominantly residential and commercial in nature.

The town became part of Trafford Metropolitan Borough in 1974 having, till then, been part of the County of Cheshire. Indeed, postally, the town's address is still "Altrincham, Cheshire". The more northerly part of the town includes the formerly industrial area of Broadheath, which lies to the west of the A56 on the Bridgewater Canal. To the east lies the more residential area of Timperley. The Broadheath area developed boomed in the early 20th century as a major industrial complex, with factories of such firms as Linotype George Richards, and Budenberg Gauges. Today, most of the town's heavy industry has disappeared and much of Broadheath is now a retail park, housing Homebase, B+Q, Aldi and other national stores.

The railway links which prompted the town's growth in the 19th century have sadly declined, with Altrincham now served only by an hourly service to Chester and Manchester (via Stockport) and no other direct railway connection. Other railway lines, through the former stations at West Timperley and Broadheath, have been closed to passengers for years and the latter line was irrevocably severed in the late 1990s to facilitate the building of the new Altrincham Retail Park.

However, on a more positive note, the MSJA electric train service has been replaced by Metrolink trams which link the town, via Sale, Stretford and Old Trafford to Manchester and Bury. But perennial underfunding means that Metrolink is overcrowded, expensive and has poor-quality track work, especially on the stretch between Dane Road and Stretford. Also, more than 20 years after its inception, Metrolink has no published timetable beyond one stating times of the first and last trams of the day.

Above, left: Altrincham Station Clock, built 1880, seen here in 2018. Right: Altrincham Market Hall, in 2018

The town centre was redeveloped in the 1970s and its shopping centre now lies along the pedestrianised George Street and the parallel Stamford New Road/Railway Street, which lead southwards to The Downs, Hale and Bowdon. The town's old market hall survives as does the covered market itself, which is sited between Market Street and Greenwood Street. But the impact of the massive Trafford Centre just a few miles away hit the town's retail trade hard. In an attempt to reinvigorate the retail trade, part of the 1970s shopping centre in George Street was rebuilt in 2006/7 to 2011 and a new Vue cinema opened in the town in January 2007.

Having been identified as one of the country's towns with the most empty shops, Altrincham in recent years has been on the up, with the revitalisation of the Market Hall leading the way. Altrincham is now a local centre for good food and drink, particualry in and around the Market and adjacent streets such as Greenwood Street and Shaw's Road.

Altrincham is probably best known nationally today for its successful non-league football team. Altrincham Football Club, which plays on Moss Lane, has knocked out more League teams (17) from the FA Cup than any other current non-league club and in the 1980s was the country's leading non-league team. The town also had a celebrated ice hockey team, the Altrincham Aces, who played at the Altrincham Ice Rink in Broadheath. This was closed some years ago but a new Silver Blades rink was opened in 2007 behind Altrincham station. This is the home to the successful Manchester Storm ice-hockey club.

A controversial Altair development is set to go ahead on the exisiting Thomas Street car park adjacent to the rear of Altrincham Interchange. This will include a large apartment block as well as commercial developments.

Above, two "sculptures" installed in Altrincham. Left, the Altrincham 1290 structure in the middle of Stamford New Road, near the Station Clock, commemorating the town's market founded in 1290. Right, seen at night, the 2018 structure called "Eudaemonium" (an invented word) which is sited outside the new Library site (formerly the junction of Potts Street with Market Street).

Some Famous Altrinchamians

Helen Allingham (1848-1926)
Helen was the first woman artist ever elected to the Royal Water-Colour Society. She lived in Market Street from 1849 until the early 1860s, where a wall plaque commemorates her.

George Faulkner Armitage (1849-1937) Armitage was the son of a Manchester mill owner, brought up in Bowdon, who lived and operated a furnishing studio from Stamford House, his now demolished home on Church Street, Altrincham. His furniture achieved national renown.

Sir Michael Bishop (1941-)
Bowdon-born Sir Michael is the man who built up British Midland Airways into the major UK-airline bmi, before selling his 50% stake in the company to Germany's Lufthansa for 318 million in October, 2008. He started his airline career in 1965 as a holiday-relief baggage handler at Manchester Airport before working for local company Mercury Airlines. Mercury became part of the British Midland in 1963 and Sir Michael worked his way up through the airline's management until he obtained private funding in 1978 to buy into the company.

Frank Crossley (1839-97)
Crossley buses and lorries were a common site on British roads for many years. Frank Crossley, an Ulsterman, who set up Crossley Motors in 1910, lived at 3 Grosvenor Road, Altrincham. He married at St. Margaret's Church. He devoted his latter life to missionary work and left 600,000 in his will.

Ronald Gow (1897-1993)
A plaque on the side of Barclay's Bank on Stamford New Road/Goose Green records the residence there of dramatist Ronald Gow. A schoolmaster at Altrincham Grammar School from 1923, Gow was an early film-maker, before having plays performed at Altrincham's Garrick theatre. He left Altrincham in the 1930s and married actress Wendy Hiller. Ronald dramatised Walter Greenwood's "Love on the Dole".

Hans Richter (1843-1916)
The Austro-Hungarian-born conductor of the Halle Orchestra (1899-1911), Hans Richter, lived at The Firs, Bowdon from 1901-11.

Bill Speakman V.C. (1927-2018)
One of Altrincham's most famous residents of recent times was Bill Speakman, who won the V.C. in 1951 during the Korean War. Bill was honoured in May 2003 when Altrincham's Woodlands Parkway bridge was named after him. Bill has spent the last 40 years in South Africa but lived at 27 Moss Lane at the time of his war exploits and returned to the town for the bridge naming ceremony.

Alison Uttley (1884-1972)
After obtaining a Physics degree at the University of Manchester in 1906, Alice Taylor (as she was born) married and moved to Bowdon in 1924. She went on to write the "Little Grey Rabbit" books, whilst living in Bowdon where there is a plaque to her at 13 Higher Downs, her home from 1924-38. She then moved to Buckinghamshire.

The Changing Face of Altrincham

Altrincham Interchange

Above, left: Altrincham Interchange and clock c.2003. Right: Altrincham Interchange and clock, January 2017. The bridge across Stamford New Road has disappeared and the bus interchange has been redeveloped since the earlier image was taken.

Goose Green Bridge View

Above left, the view north from Goose Green Bridge in 1971 and, right, the same view in 2018. In 1971 the electric train sidings were here. These have now been replaced by apartments and car parking, whilst foliage has grown aplenty.

Stamford Street

Above left, from left to right we see nos.15 and 17 Stamford Street and the Volunteer public house (no.19) in 1969 before demolition. To the right of The Volunteer is a short tunnel under a first-floor building. Only the tunnel remains as shown in the modern image on the right. Where the three buildings stood in the 1969 image is now Tabley Court office complex.

Moss Lane Bridge

Above, the view from the junction of Oakfield Road and Moss Lane, looking west. In the 1984 view the road joining Moss Lane at an angle was Denmark Street which has lost the half of its former length from the Denmark Street bridge over the railway, courtesy of the Tesco supermarket development. The remaining part runs from Lloyd Street to the Tesco walkway which links to Moss Lane. Likewise the Bridge Inn, seen on the earlier image has been demolished pending the long delayed Altair development on the adjacent area behind the railway station.

Altrincham Hospital


Before development.

Jan. 2017, from Regent Road.

Restored frontage, Sep. 2018.

From Regent Road, Sep. 2018.

The new Altrincham Hospital, Railway Street

The former Altrincham General Hospital site, on the site bordered by Greenwood Street, Regent Road and Market Street, is shown above as it was after demolition in 2017. The old hospital has since been replaced by a new building on Railway Street whilst its original site is being replaced by a new Health & Well-Being Centre, which incorporates the restored outer walls of the original 19th-century hospital. The bottom picture shows the new hospital on Railway Street.


Images of Altrincham


Above, in September 2018, L to R: (1) The Downs from Railway Street. (2) The Downs. (3) Norman's Place/Regent Road junction.



Above: (1) The plaque on Altrincham Market Hall which, as the sign (right, seen in 2017) indicates, has been transformed into a popular eating and drinking venue whilst the market itself has diversified.

Above left: Altrincham Post Office (2003) now the Post Rooms; right: Altrincham Town Hall, built in 1900, seen here in 2018.


Above left: Altrincham Unitarian Church and, right, St Margaret's Church, both seen here in 2014.


Above: 2018 found two more of the locality's churches having ceased to be places of worship. Left, Trinity Church on Delamer Road has been converted into "9 unique residences" according to the sign outside (2018) whilst, right, St John's Church has a "Sale Agreed" sign outside.


Above: A much earlier change of use for a church building in Altrincham transformed the Primitive Methodist chapel into the successful Little Theatre.


Selective Bibliography


  • Bamford, Frank, Broadheath, 1885-1985: a century of industry. Altrincham: Frank Bamford, 1995. 137p. (ISBN 0-9517225-2-2)
  • Bamford, Frank, The making of Altrincham, 1850-1991: from market to megastore? Altrincham: Frank Bamford, 1991. 123p. (ISBN 0-9517225-1-4)
  • Bamford, Frank, Mansions and men of Dunham Massey: from errant earl to Red Dean. Altrincham: Frank Bamford, 1991. 99p. (ISBN 0-9517225-0-6)
  • Bayliss, Don, Altrincham: a history. Altrincham: Willow Publishing, 1992. 170p. (ISBN 0-946361-33-9)
    An excellent, illustrated history of the town.
  • Bayliss, Hilda, Altrincham: a pictorial history. Chichester: Phillimore, 1996. (ISBN 1-86077-036-7)
  • Birchall, Stephen, Dissent in Altrincham: religion, politics and a touch of scandal, 1870-1905. Milton Keynes: Author House, 2010. 493pp. The history of Altrincham Baptist Church is the central theme but also contains a lot of more general detail on Altrincham life and an excellent guided walk to Victorian Hale and Altrincham.
  • Bowdon History Society. Bowdon and Dunham Massey. (Images of England). Stroud: Tempus, 1999. 128p. (ISBN 0-7524-1528-X)
    A photo-book of Bowdon and Dunham Massey.
  • Brady, Sheila, Chapel Street: 'The bravest little street in England'. Stroud: The History Press, 2017. 256pp. Concentrates on the war diaries and histories of the military units in which Chapel Street residents served
  • Cliff, Karen, The bravest little street in England. Stroud, Amberley, 2018. 160pp. Excellent book about Chapel Street and its residents who volunteered to serve in the military in World War I.
  • Dixon, Frank, The Manchester, South Junction & Altrincham Railway. (Oakwood Library of Railway History, 34) Second, enlarged edition. Headington, Oxford: The Oakwood Press, 1994. 165p. (ISBN 0-85361-454-7)
  • Fitzpatrick Gillian, Altrincham past & present. Altrincham: Willow Publishing, 1990. 56pp.
  • Hudson, John, Altrincham. (Britain in Old Photographs). Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing, 1995. 125p. (ISBN 0-7509-0640-5).
  • Ingham, Alfred A history of Altrincham and Bowdon, with an account of the barony and House of Dunham. Altrincham: Mackie, Brewtnall and Co, 1897. 195pp.
  • Knight, N.R., Altrincham to Manchester, before Metrolink. (Scenes from the Past 36, pt.1). Romiley, Stockport: Foxline Publishing, 1999. 96p. (ISBN 1-870119-60-6)
  • Littler, Joyce: The Protector of Dunham Massey: Dunham Massey Estate in the 18th century. A study of the management carried out by George Booth, 2nd. Earl of Warrington.Altrincham: Joyce Littler, 1993.
  • Morrison, Basil D., Looking back at Altrincham, including parts of Bowdon, Broadheath, Hale & Timperley. Altrincham: Willow Publishing, 1980. 48p. (ISBN 0-9506043-5-6)
    A book of photographs, with an informative accompanying text.
  • Nickson, C. Bygone Altrincham: traditions and history. 1935. Also, Manchester: E.J.Morten, 1971 reprint of the 1935 edition. 328pp
  • Rendell, Douglas, Photographers in the Altrincham area. Compiled by D. Rendell. 2006. (ISB 0-951256-02-5)
  • Southern, Pat, Altrincham: an illustrated history. Derby: Breedon Books, 2002. Reissued in different format as The story of Altrincham, Stroud: Amberley, 2008. 160pp. A superb collection of photos from the Trafford Library archives.
  • Trafford Leisure Services. Altrincham town trail. Stretford: Trafford Leisure Services, c.1980. 15p.

    Selective Links

    General

  • Altrincham History Society

    Accommodation

  • Accommodation list.
  • Bowdon Hotel.
  • Cresta Court Hotel.

    Churches

  • Altrincham Baptist Church.
  • Altrincham Methodist Church.
  • Altrincham Unitarian Church.
  • St George's
  • St Vincent's RC Church.
  • Christ Church & Holy Cross, Timperley.

    Leisure/Entertainment

  • Altrincham Library.
  • Altrincham Garrick Theatre.

    Sport

  • Altrincham Athletics Club.
  • Altrincham Football Club Official Web Site.
  • Alty Files- unofficial site and historical archive of the official site.
  • Altrincham FC Fans' Forum.
  • Altrincham Ice Rink, Planet Ice.
  • Altrincham Kersal rugby club.

    General

  • Altrincham & Sale Chamber of Commerce
  • Altrincham Unlimited formerly the Town Centre Partnership.

    Societies

  • Altrincham Electric Railway Preservation Society.
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