Stalybridge was in Cheshire before the local government reorganisation of 1974 but is now in Tameside, Greater Manchester. It was a cotton town and its town centre is a mixture of 19th century buildings and some typical 1960s redevelopment. However, it has a few fine buildings including its library and the Market Hall together with an elaborate war memorial. In recent years, the canal has been opened up again; it passes through the town centre and creates an eye-catching feature.
|Church, market and library seen from across the canal, 2006|
|Central Hall, 2015|
|View towards town centre||Victoria Market|
|"It's a long way to Tipperary"||South side of Library|
|Part of the War Memorial, 2015||Portico of the former Town Hall|
|Former School, Waterloo Road||The Boys' Entrance to the School|
Holy Trinity in Trinity Street was built between 1851 and 1852 by E. H. Shellard of Manchester in the Perpendicular style. It is in the Diocese of Chester. A partition has been inserted at the west end to make a meeting room which serves also as a cafe. St. George's in on the Lancashire side of the river Tame, which marks the county boundary. The Victoria Market was designed by the Borough Surveyor, Amos Lee and built in 1866. In front of the Market is a sculpture showing Jack Judge, accompanied by a soldier of the Great War. It was unveiled in December 2005 by Councillor Frank Robinson. Jack Judge (1872-1938) was the author of the popular song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". He was an entertainer from Oldbury near Birmingham and in January 1912 he was performing at the Grand Theatre in Stalybridge. He wrote the song to win a bet that he could not write a song and perform it the next night. The song was subsequently adopted by the 7th Battalion of the Connaught Rangers and became a favourite throughout the British Army.
Next to the Victoria Hall is the library and post office, built in 1901 and designed by J. Medland Taylor. Until recently the library had a very fine set of volumes of the major historical societies of Lancashire and Cheshire such as the Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. These have now been sent to Ashton-under-Lyne library, which has a new extension for local history studies but too little space to display these volumes - very sad!
Stalybridge has 18 Blue Plaques, and two are on the library. One commemorates Sergeant William Booth (1893-1958) who was born in the town and served in the Manchester Regiment in the First World War. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Italian Silver Medal for Military Valour. The second plaque commemorates The Rt. Hon. John Frederick Cheetham (1835-1916). In 1897, he donated the money for the construction of the Library now known as the Astley Cheetham Public Library and Art Gallery. He bequeathed his house and art collection to the town and although the house has not survived the grounds form Cheetham Park.
Past the library one crosses the bridge over the river and comes to the War Memorial on the left hand side. I show part of one of the sculptures atop the left hand side of the arc listing the names of the fallen. The main part of the memorial was in shade at the time of my visit. Further along on the right hand side are the remains of the Town Hall, built in 1831-2, formerly of three storeys with a pediment and one storey portico. It also has two blue plaques, one commemorating the first general strike or plug riots of 1842 which originated in this area. It spread to involve almost half a million workers protesting at wage reductions. The "plug" was a reference to the threat or practice of removing plugs to drain steam engine boilers. The second plaque on the Town Hall, is to a local reformer, Joseph Rayner Stephens, (1805-1879) who worked as the champion for local working people. He was arrested for speaking to a meeting of the Chartist Movement in 1838 and imprisoned for 18 months. Later he founded the Ashton Chronicle and opened a People's School for the poor of Stalybridge.
The red-brick school in Stamford Street, with separate entrances for boys and girls was built in 1909/10 and designed by George Rowbottom. The boys end now houses offices for the police. The name "Stamford Street" together with street names in nearby Ashton-under-Line like Warrington Street are a reminder that the Earls of Stamford and Warrington at Dunham Massey held land in this area.
On revisiting Stalybridge in 2015 I was disappointed to see how many shops were boarded up.
The following list of Blue Plaques in Stalybridge can be found on the Thameside site where there are links to photographs of each plaque and a description of the event or person commemorated.
Sergeant William Booth, Stalybridge Library
John Bradbury, Stalybridge Country Park
John Buckley VC, Travellers Call Public House, Stalybridge
John Frederick Cheetham, Stalybridge Library
General Strike, Stalybridge Town Hall Frontage, Waterloo Road
Samuel Laycock, Hob Hill Mews, Stalybridge
Gibbon Mitchell, Malakoff Street, Stalybridge
Robert and Margaret Platt, Woodlands, Mottram Road, Stalybridge
Beatrix Potter, Gorse Hall Estate, Stalybridge
The Q Inn, Market Street, Stalybridge
The Rifleman Inn, Astley Street, Stalybridge
Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux, Castle Hall Close
Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar, Stalybridge Station
Stalybridge Station Clock, National Railway Museum, York
Joseph Rayner Stephens, Stalybridge Town Hall Frontage, Waterloo Road
Ada Jane Summers, Stalybridge Police Station
Jethro Tinker, Stalybridge Country Park
Fred Wood, Stalybridge Station
The Buildings of England: Cheshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard, first edition 1971, Yale University Press edition in 2003.