On Top of the World

On Top of the World features images of the town centre taken from the air.

This view, taken from the south-west, shows the industrial area of Crosfields on the banks of the River Mersey by the edge of town centre. Joseph Crosfield set up his chemical works in 1814.

Bank Quay railway station, on the right, opened in 1837. The station originally stood a quarter of a mile north, just south of Liverpool Road.

National Carriers became part of British Road Services (BRS) in 1955 and was taken over by Lynx Express in 1997. The company is now owned by UPS (United Parcel Services of North America inc.), who took it over in 2005.

The building is no longer here and the site is the location of Aldi and Iceland supermarkets, the Jehovah’s Witness meeting place and an office building on Crosfield Street. And just in case you didn’t know, the street is named in memory of Joseph Crosfield.

Sankey Green is in the top-left of the photo with the former Fairclough’s Flour Mill below it by the river (the Big Pink Eye as it is called today).

In the top-centre of the photo on Milner Street is the Whitecross Company Ltd, wire rope manufacturers. Selco builders Warehouse is on the site today.

From the east we see on the centre-right the construction of Golden Square shopping centre, which began in stages in 1973 and was completed in 1983. The name Golden Square comes from an ancient street name in the same area, roughly along the line of the entrance to the shopping centre from Market Gate by the ‘Skittles’. The Queen visited Golden Square in 1979 to unveil a plaque for the opening of the shopping centre and Prince Charles and Princess Diana visited in 1984 to unveil the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sculpture. In the bottom-left area we see the pyramid-shaped roof of Warrington Market.

The market relocated from Golden Square when the shopping centre was built. The foundation stone for the market was unveiled in 1972 and the market itself opened in 1974. The large area of waste land to the south of the market is where Time Square was built. It was demolished in 2015 and redeveloped into a modern shopping and leisure complex featuring a Cineworld cinema and new market building.

At the bottom-right of the photo is New Town House, voted the ugliest building in the town by Warrington Guardian readers some years ago. It is scheduled for demolition in 2022.

The car park to its right is where Cockhedge Shopping Park was to be built in 1984. It was called Cockhedge Shopping Centre when it opened and the main store, Asda, began trading on 23 October 1984.

The two green areas in the view are Queens Gardens in the centre and Bank Park with the Town Hall at the top-right. Queens Gardens received a makeover in 2004 and Bank Park was upgraded in 2014. The layout of the paths matches how it looked a hundred years earlier and became an open space for leisure, recreation and entertainment.

Legh Street baths can be seen between Bank Park and Golden Square. It was demolished in 2011 to make way for a health centre.

The Odeon cinema can be seen by New Town House – on the site now is The Looking Glass pub owned by Wetherspoons, having previously been Yates’s Wine Lodge, built in 1994. The Looking Glass name is dedicated to Lewis Carroll who was born in Daresbury, just outside Warrington.

Notice also in these photos that the streets around Market Gate by Golden Square are still used by vehicles – pedestrianisation didn’t happen until the late 1990s.

The large block on the left of the photo is BT telephone exchange, or the General Post Office (GPO) before privatisation – yes, the post office and telephone company were one business until 1969 when the GPO was abolished and the assets were transferred to The Post Office. Then in 1980 the telephone and mail sections were split in readiness for privatisation of the telephone business in 1984. Royal Mail was privatised in 2013.

In this view from the south we can see Armitage and Rigby’s Cockhedge Mill in the top-right beyond New Town House. Cockhedge Mill was the largest cotton mill in the town and combined spinning, calico weaving and dying.

One of the founders of the company was Mr John Rigby. The buildings were commenced in late 1831 by a Mr Green and changed hands a few times before Armitage and Rigby Ltd became the owners in 1888. A large fire on 18 June 1872 caused a rebuild.

At the time of the fire, it was a five-storey building employing 900 persons. The report in the Illustrated London News said there were 14,000 throstle spindles and 21,000 mule spindles. The steam engine and 6,000 spindles were saved, but 420 people lost their jobs. You can see a photo of the image from the Illustrated London News on the Memory Lane page.

The railway line at the top of the photo is the former Cheshire Lines Committee line running into Warrington Central from 1873.

The views above and below are taken from the north. The River Mersey flows under the Warrington and Altrincham Junction Railway line, which began in 1853.

Next to the river and railway is Gartons seed works. John Garton and his two brothers, Robert and Thomas, were in business with their father, Peter, in Golborne and Newton-le-Willows as corn and agricultural merchants. As a young man, John Garton (1863–1922), was the first to understand that whilst some agricultural plants were self-pollinating, others were cross-pollinating.

He began experimenting with the artificial cross pollination firstly with cereal plants, then herbage species and root crops.

Robert and John Garton made a commercial start as R. & J. Garton and launched their first variety, ‘Abundance’ oat, in 1892. Gartons Limited was launched as a public company in 1898. Read more in Wikipedia.

The area of waste land in the top of the photo is Arpley Meadows, which was partly occupied by Thames Board Mills and is now the location of Centre Park business hub.

The photo above shows a bit more of the south of the town, particularly the start of Wilderspool Causeway, the southern gateway to the modern town, at its junction with Chester Road by Brian Bevan Island (the roundabout closest to the top-left of the photo).

Originally the route of the Mersey was on a line between Wilderspool Causeway and Chester Road and is remembered today by River Road, which is the road behind the buildings on the west side of

Wilderspool Causeway. It is believed the original route north-south through the town went along a line by the west side of the site of the Parish Church via Latchford near the former Black Bear pub, and was east of the current A49 through Orford and Winwick.

The Cheshire Lines Committee railway line is in the bottom-right of the photo. The line is still in use today and Northern Trains and East Midlands Railway operate the services.

The only additional comment to make on the photo above, which includes many of the landmarks already mentioned, is the location of Bewsey Street (to the north of Golden Square shopping centre towards the top-centre of the photo close to Winwick Street).

I mention Bewsey Street because it leads to Bewsey Road, and beyond that Lodge Lane, the route the Boteler family would probably have taken to their family home of Bewsey Old Hall.

In those 13th to 17th century Boteler family days there were just fields all the way from town centre (which was on Church Street by the Parish Church) to Bewsey. Sir Thomas Ireland was owner of the building when he was knighted at the hall by King James I in 1617.

Bewsey Old Hall has now been converted into apartments by Urban Splash. The name Bewsey comes from ‘beau see’ meaning ‘beautiful site’.

The next set were taken by me from the top of the Big Wheel, constructed on the Town Hall lawn for the Christmas season 2007 (1 December 2007 until 5 January 2008). At 35 metres high, it is one of Europe’s largest Ferris wheels.

A special promotion from Warrington Borough Transport allowed visitors to ride the wheel for half price. Relive the experience, with a bit of town history thrown in for your reading pleasure! Warrington beat Bradford in a bid to host the wheel. I own the copyright for these.

The aerial shots were all taken on Wednesday, 5 December 2007, and are featured here as a circular journey round the town centre.

The Big Wheel had been open for 5 days when I had my ride. The owners of the wheel were kind enough to stop the ride to allow me to take my photos from the top. I am most grateful to them.

Bank Hall dates from 1750 in the reign of King George II, and was once the home of the Patten family. It became the Town Hall in 1872 when the council bought it for £9,000 and the grounds became Bank Park, costing £13,000.

This is a view north over the Town Hall and shows the Halliwell Jones Stadium, the home of the Warrington Wolves Super League rugby team since 2004. The black spire is part of the former St Anne’s Church, which is now the North West Face rock climbing venue. On a clear day you can see Winter Hill from this point, from which TV and Radio signals are received in our area.

Golden Square shopping centre was built in the three stages between 1973 and 1983. In 2007 a brand new extension opened, including a 3-storey Debenhams department store. Also seen here with the tall chimney and sloping roof sections are the former Victorian swimming baths, which have been vacant since 2003. In 2008 it was announced that the council plan to replace the building with a health centre.

The building behind the vehicles on the left is Garven Place medical centre. It is named after the Garven family, who occupied the 3-storey house seen on the right behind the waste bins. In the distance is the Parish Church of St Elphin, featuring a 281-foot spire – the 3rd-tallest in England. The white tower to the right of it contains the town clock at the top of Holy Trinity church. The clock was originally in the court house in the old Golden Square.

In the foreground by the white van is Bank House on Sankey Street, the former office for Golden Gates Housing, the company that managed the housing stock on behalf of the Borough Council until it became a housing trust in its own right and is now part of Torus. Originally two houses, it was the former home of William Allcard, engineer on the Grand Junction Railway which ran into Bank Quay. He had a workshop where the car park is now. The small white building opposite Bank House with the triangular roof is the former Cameo/Picturedrome cinema.

A close-up view showing the town clock and the former Garnett’s Cabinet Works behind Holy Trinity Church. Garnett’s showroom eventually became the home of Woolworth’s until the company closed down.

Winmarleigh Street is on the right of this view looking over the former post office on the corner. Half-way down the street is The Pyramid Arts Centre, opened in 2001, with the vacant Borough Treasurers building to its left and the Parr Hall further left. The orangey/red building is the former Post Office on Springfield St. The sorting office was behind it: the large apartment block on the extreme left is called Knightsbridge Court and beyond that is the BT telephone exchange.

This is the former site of the Warrington Guardian newspaper, established by Bolton-born Alexander Mackie in 1853. The old post office on the corner was changed into Life Time in 2013, a venue for people over 50 to develop new skills and meet new people. It was previously used as Connexions, an advice centre for young people until that closed on 31 March 2012. The old newspaper office and print works are now The Gateway, a community base housing the Citizens Advice Bureau, Age Concern and Warrington Housing Association. The building was used by Martin Dawes Communications after the Warrington Guardian moved out in the early 1990s.

The Warrington Guardian offices were built on a field where Warrington Zingari, now Warrington Wolves, played their matches in the early days. The club’s headquarters were the White Hart Hotel further along Sankey Street. Sankey Street itself is said to have come into existence because the Patten family allowed the common people to cross their land at this point. Originally their land went right down to the River Mersey a quarter of a mile a way.

The Town Hall Gates or Golden Gates were presented to the town by Frederick Monks when he saw them in a foundry in Shropshire in 1895. They have been painted gold since the 1980s. We have them because Queen Victoria rejected them when Cromwell’s statue stood behind them. We also have the statue, at Bridge Foot.

Part of industrial Warrington can be seen here. Bank Quay railway station, seen here in front of Crosfields, was the terminus of the Grand Junction Railway, although the original station building was 300 metres to the north. It now forms part of the West Coast Main Line, and a facelift was announced in 2007, which began in 2008. The Patten Arms Hotel stands opposite the railway station.

A panoramic view of Bank Quay industrial area. Joseph Crosfield (born 1792, died 1844) set up his soap and chemical manufacturing business at Bank Quay in 1814. The Joseph Crosfield & Sons company later became part of Lever Brothers (now Unilever) in 1911. Crosfield Street approaching from the north (right on this photo) is named  after him. The original Bank Quay railway station was on the site of the Aldi supermarket car park seen immediately beyond Bank Park on the extreme right of this photo alongside Liverpool Road. Just visible in the mist is Fiddler’s Ferry Power Station. In the foreground is Priestley House (renamed Bank Quay House in 2008), the former base of Warrington Social Services and youth employment centre, from where I was directed to my first job at Lowes bookshop further along Sankey Street behind my photo viewpoint (now closed down). Next to it in the centre, foreground, is Warrington Baptist church, formerly Salem Baptist Church, which moved from Golborne Street in the 1960s. The general view looks out towards Runcorn, Widnes and Liverpool.

A view to the west and north west of town looking over Bank Park. The area of green beyond the council truck was the location of a religious tent crusade in the summer of 1980 by Sussex-based preacher Dick Saunders “Way To Life” ministry, with Crosfields Street alongside. A band stand stood on this spot in the early part of the 20th century. The white buildings are on the former site of the Whitecross Wire Works, one of the biggest employers in the town, from which “The Wire” nickname of the Warrington rugby league team originated. The main Royal Mail sorting office is based in the area now, having moved from Springfield Street. Warrington Hospital is just visible to the right of the green building in the centre. On the left is Unilever, with Sacred Heart Church just visible across the road from the factory, with “The Green” (Sankey Green) beyond. The Aldi supermarket at the southern end of Crosfield Street is the second such building on the site – the first Aldi burned down in 2003. Iceland frozen food store is to the right, a company who once featured Warrington-born singer Kerry Katona in their adverts. The site was once the home of National Carriers, with direct links to the railway.

The wheel took five days to assemble.

To book the Big Wheel for your own town, check out the company website
www.jandekoningfunfairs.co.uk or give them on a call on +44(0)1706 829018.