Tuesday, 29 June 2010
The sad state of Stalybridge Town Centre
In 1844, the industrialist and pseudo philosopher Friedrich Engels said of Stalybridge “A hundred paces farther and Stalybridge shows itself in the valley, in sharp contrast with the beautiful country seats, in sharp contrast even with the modest cottages of Ashton! Stalybridge lies in a narrow, crooked ravine, much narrower even than the valley at Stockport, and both sides of this ravine are occupied by an irregular group of cottages, houses, and mills. On entering, the very first cottages are narrow, smoke-begrimed, old and ruinous; and as the first houses, so the whole town. A few streets lie in the narrow valley bottom, most of them run criss-cross, pell-mell, up hill and down, and in nearly all the houses, by reason of this sloping situation, the ground-floor is half-buried in the earth; and what multitudes of courts, back lanes, and remote nooks arise out of this confused way of building may be seen from the hills, whence one has the town, here and there, in a bird's-eye view almost at one's feet. Add to this the shocking filth, and the repulsive effect of Stalybridge, in spite of its pretty surroundings, may be readily imagined.”
If a time traveller from the mid nineteenth century who was familiar with Engels’s description of Stalybridge turned up in the said town yesterday afternoon, they would have found the lot of the working class had improved considerably. Also, they would have been pleased to note that the “shocking filth” was nowhere to be found. But what would they have made of the semi-derelict state of the town centre?
The decline of Stalybridge is sad to see. It is difficult to identify the exact reason but I would hazard a guess at Tesco being partly responsible because their enormous product line surely replicated what was being sold by the traditional town centre shops before they were squeezed out by the corporate giant.
The credit crunch will undoubtedly have had an impact on town centre businesses too. But what other reasons are behind the tragic decline of this once bustling town centre? Ashton, Hyde and Denton appear to be thriving despite the current economic conditions but poor old Stalybridge and to a lesser extent Droylsden seem to be sinking fast. It would be nice to think these small town centres had a bright future but sadly all I can see is doom and gloom and that is a real pity because some of the shops still open are first class establishments run by proud people who deserve better than to be left trading in something akin to a virtual ghost town.
The photographs of Stalybridge centre were taken at 2pm on a weekday afternoon - not at 7am or 7pm as they may appear to have been taken judging by the closed shops and lack of people.