Walking Through Time

Golden Square shopping centre’s extension was completed in 2007, giving a new look to the town centre. But how much of the old town centre do you remember? Take a stroll with Peter Spilsbury as he shows you some of the glory days! The text is based on Peter’s notes. We’ll start with three photos from the fifties and sixties.

The photo above, taken in 1959, overlooks Marshall Gardens at Bridge Foot. In this scene we have Gartlands Garage, and the Wimpy, along with a Lancashire United bus, a Leigh bus and Johnny Lee’s pawn shop. You may also notice the Crosville Bus Stand opposite Gartlands. The Academy building on the left was literally moved north a few metres on rollers in the 1980s to make way for a new road scheme alongside. The building was eventually demolished and rebuilt in the style of today. Nowadays the Warrington Guardian newspaper offices are based there. Read more about the Academy in Tour 2. The chimney in the background belongs to Cockhedge Mill, now the site of Cockhedge Shopping Park.

A view of Warrington Bridge at Bridge Foot in the late 1960s. The suds on the water were often blamed on Crosfields chemical works but are in fact caused by the weir half a mile away. The water flows towards Crosfields further up the river. The bridge was opened in 1915. Behind it is the Ritz (ABC) cinema which nowadays is hanging on in there as Mr Smith’s nightclub, but for how much longer? A pressure group is trying to save it. On the left is Gartons works. The joke going round in my schooldays was that GARTONS spelt backwards is SNOTRAG!

This photo was taken in the early 1960s. It’s the old fire station on Queen Street, now the location of Golden Square shopping centre. The Cheshire Fire Brigade are now based at Winwick Road, with four more stations in Birchwood, Lymm, Stockton Heath and Penketh.

Addition from Gordon: According to Cheshire Fire Service website, 1791 was this year was Warrington Fire Brigade formed and, like many others, made a charge for attending fires outside their area. Appliances were based around the town at this time, at the market and at the old bridewell (the old police station).

< The Parish Church of St Elphin in the early 1970s. This view is seen from Fennel Street before College Close was built. In the distance is Rylands Wire factory on Church Street, now long gone.

A view of Bold Street taken on 18 March 1973, looking towards Golborne Street. On the left is the Methodist Church, built in 1850, replacing the previous building on Bank Street which stood until 1848. A new church building now stands on the spot, opened in 1975. In the distance you can see a green hut. In those days you could park in Golborne Street and that was the attendant’s hut.

Market Gate viewed from Buttermarket Street on 4 November 1973. The town clock dominates the sky on top of Holy Trinity Church. Hepworths on the left is no longer here. Their subtitle, just visible, reads “hand cut tailoring”. It occupied the spot of the famous Boots Corner. Sankey Street in the centre was made into a one way street, so my bus to Dallam was diverted left at the lights, right into Rylands Street and Palmyra Square South, right again into Winmarleigh Street and then left onto Sankey Street to continue its journey. The traffic lights replaced the original roundabout.

A close-up view of Sankey Street by Market Gate, also taken on 4 November 1973. Shops featured here include Jonathan Silver’s (behind the truck), Percival Pearse Ltd and Coates Army & Navy Stores. I was always amused by that as a youngster – a clothing shop run by a firm called Coates, but of course it was spelt different.

Addition from Gordon: Holy Trinity Church started out as Trinity Chapel in 1708 and was a chapel of ease to the Parish Church of St Elphin on Church Street.

The Russians are coming! Well, maybe not, but this striking image from 23 April 1978 shows the promotional artistry of Greenall’s Vladivar Vodka at Market Gate. And as Peter says, they wouldn’t let them decorate Fairclough’s Mill (The Big Pink Eye on the My Warrington page), but Greenall’s managed it here!

A fire engine joins the queue of traffic along the narrow street on 4 November 1973. It is difficult to imagine this being a two-way street but that’s what drivers had to negotiate in the early days. The bus company even purchased special narrow buses in 1965 to cope with two-way traffic on the road. I like how the Cooperative shop sign is completely visible through the open section of the truck in the distance.

Two more views from 4 November 1973. Marks & Spencer’s store was built with a glass ‘false front’ with the main building behind. This was done to enable a quick conversion if the street was made wider, which never happened. NatWest and Barclays are still going strong, but Woolworth’s is no more. The company went into liquidation in January 2009. A new store, Asco, took the place of Woolworth’s later in 2009, but that has now gone, too. Another shop that is still with us: JE White Ltd sports shop, who now trade from the market on Bank Street. Can you recognise yourself in the shots? Maybe the fashions of the day will stop you admitting to it!

Here we see the start of the future – or at least the future as it was on 22 January 1978. It shows the shortest street in Warrington at the time – Castle Street. In the foreground Sankey Street is being demolished to make way for the new Golden Square shopping centre.

Here we see the entrance to the old meat market on 4 November 1973 at the top of Corporation Street. The building dates from 1856 but was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the new shopping centre. Today, the narrow passageway opposite Topshop/Topman is roughly on the site of Corporation Street. The Rover car parked outside the Blackburne Arms Inn was made in 1969. And is that the market cart I see from Warrington Market.

Following on from this, Anne Myles writes: I wonder if anyone remembers my grandfather’s, later my father’s, butchers shop in Corporation St [green and white striped canopy in photo above], demolished in the Sankey St widening? The street ran from opposite Holy Trinity Church to the steps of the old meat market. The shop was well known for it’s sausages.

My father had a large plaster pig, which stood on it’s hind legs, holding a tray of sausages. Around the edge of it’s hat ran the words “Tunstall’s sausages are delicious”. My father sold the business in 1962, to move to the new shops on Bruch Heath Gardens. It became Yates Greer’s, famous for its delicatessen.

During the war years, the American Red Cross was across the road, and one day they came into the shop and asked my father for a piece of steak, needed urgently. Against the rationing laws, my father found them a piece. He was not at all pleased when he learned they needed it to put on a visiting American boxer’s eye, when he was giving the American troops a boxing exhibition!

Round the corner we walk onto Market Place, also on 4 November 1973. The post box on the left stands outside the old Town Hall building, which served as the library reading rooms for a period. Next along there is Cut Price Carey’s (The Money Saver). Warrington Stationers and Rattigan’s stationers are two more of the shops in this scene. At the far end beyond Mill Street is the Barley Mow.

Horsemarket Street, viewed from Market Gate (above, left) on 23 August 1978 and from Town Hill on 22 October 1978 (above, right). Like the rest of town centre in those days there was no pedestrianization of the streets, so shoppers had to look out for passing traffic. Not much traffic here though. Mind you, in those days we had half-day closing (23 August was a Wednesday and 22 October was a Sunday when the world shut down for the Sabbath).

Addition from Gordon: Forget your 6 hours opening on a Sunday for shops above a certain size and all day opening for the rest!

In the picture, above left, is Williams & Glyn’s Bank on the corner of Town Hill which used to be The Griffin Hotel.

Familiar names like Burtons and H. Samuel are on the right side. On the opposite side of the street (above, right) we see Slater’s clothing shop on the corner of Lyme Street, who are closing down to move to St Helens. Johnsons the Cleaners, Greggs bakery, Timpson’s shoes shop and another branch of Rattigans stationers reside along the rest of the row, but not for much longer, as this section was to be demolished to make way for Golden Square.

For those of you following my images of Golden Square redevelopment, you might think I have forgotten to include this image from a year ago. But in fact, this is the building of the ORIGINAL Golden Square shopping centre, taken on 27 July 1979! This is the big pit. Not many know of the huge cavern beneath the Mall and Square. In the background can be seen Jackson the Tailor, Etam fashion store, Woolworth’s, NatWest, Barclays and the Co-op on Sankey Street.

This is Scotland Road photographed on 13 August 1976. On the right of the scene we can see the Tudor bingo club. This used to be the Regent cinema, known locally as the Blood Tub because of the macabre plays that were put on there when it was a theatre. The Theatre Tavern is the pub on the corner (now the Prince of Wales). A crane on the Golden Square building site can be seen on the left.

This view shows how Golborne Street and Queen Street changed forever during the 1970s. The roads were combined into what was then called the Inner Circulatory Ring Road, renamed as Golborne Street. In the distance you can see Cockhedge Mill, where Cockhedge Shopping Park is nowadays, whilst the building of Golden Square shopping centre develops on the right. This section will include British Home Stores. The photograph was taken on 8 January 1976.

A familiar scene to cinema goers – The Odeon on Buttermarket Street, taken on 25 September 1994. Next to it is a small branch of Greggs bakery on the corner of Scotland Road, with the monstrosity called New Town House in the distance where the Britannia Hotel once stood. The Odeon was demolished to be replaced by Yates Wine Lodge (now The Looking Glass owned by J D Wetherspoon) and Norton Barrie clothing shop. All the other buildings along the row were left intact; just the businesses changed.