Newton Heath Shed

If you took a bus or train to Newton Heath in the 1960s, your approaching stop would be signalled by a familiar landmark, visible from a good mile away: the huge concrete coaling tower at the railway sheds. Opened in 1876, this was by far the largest depot on the old Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, stretching between Thorp Road and Dean Lane and lying between the lines to Rochdale and Oldham.Newton Heath locomotive depot in 1967, from the Thorp Road end, with the coal tower dominating the scene. St.Mary’s Road school can just be seen in the right background

The carriage works on North Road had opened the previous year, and in the 1890s extensive carriage sheds and sidings were added on the opposite side of the Rochdale line, completing a huge complex. Many of the houses off Lightbowne Road were built originally for railway workers.

The shed had 24 lines (‘roads’) inside, four of which formed a repair shop, nicknamed ‘the parlour’ by shed staff. At its peak, it accommodated over 200 engines. The coaling tower was added by the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1935, the shed roof also being replaced. The north end of the yard was extended across Dean Lane, which originally ran beside the Railway Hotel and beneath Newton Heath station, and a new, larger, turntable added.The south-facing end of the buildings in July 1966; the half-width steam shed (left), with the diesel shed and refurbished repair shop on the right. The south-end turntable is in the foreground

Entrance to the station was diverted via paths running from St.Mary’s Road near the ‘hooped’ bridge and, to preserve the right of way towards Kenyon Lane, access was granted along the platform, over the footbridge and down steps near the signal-box, on to the continuation of Dean Lane (since filled in).A view towards Manchester from the footbridge at the original (1853) Newton Heath station on 30 March 1967. The steam shed is on the left, with the coaling tower in the distance, the carriage works beyond and the sidings to the right of the signal box. Today, only the tracks in the foreground remain – all else has gone. [Photo: S.P.Wilson]

By 1961, half the shed had been rebuilt to accommodate diesel units and the ‘parlour’ re-tracked, but there were still 140 steam and diesel locos based here for the many services, principally to the north, west and east of the country, as well as local trips. Besides the ‘home’ fleet, many engines from other areas often called in for servicing.

Like many others, I was a frequent visitor in the shed’s latter years, and it became a place to meet friends and observe the constant movement of locomotives in and around the yards, and trains passing on the adjacent lines. Even on winter nights, coal braziers, lit to keep the water columns from freezing, provided welcome warmth for huddled ‘spotters’ comparing notes.

The railway staff were generally very friendly and, if you showed a genuine interest, were only too happy to explain the workings of the equipment and engines (and, with luck, might let you drive one up to the turntable!). Close to the north-end turntable was another landmark: St.Mary’s Road School. Opened in 1869 as Newton Heath Wesleyan School, it became a Board school in 1903 and closed in 1968.A ‘Black 5’ loco backs off the north-end turntable in August 1967, with the school on the far side of St.Mary’s Road. How many lessons were disregarded, through gazing out of the windows? [Photo: S.P.Wilson]

The station was closed in December 1966 but not demolished until March 1968; the shed closed to steam on 30 June 1968, regular steam working in Britain ceasing altogether in August. For a while, a handful of withdrawn steamers languished, their fires dropped forever, awaiting a tow to a scrapyard: the last four went in October. However, on 8 September, the old shed dispatched one last steam visitor: no.73050 from Patricroft, which had been bought for £3,000 for preservation, and had come to Newton Heath for a final ‘fettling’ before making its way to the Nene Valley Railway at Peterborough. It is still running.8 September 1968 and the shed hosts its last steam visitor, hissing at the diesels lurking within

The steam buildings were demolished in March-April 1969 and the coaling tower in July; having defiantly withstood an attempt with gelignite, it leaned at a crazy angle for several weeks before finally succumbing. In 1971 the diesel shed was extended and a washing facility erected on the coal tower site, leaving the refurbished ‘parlour’ as the only part surviving from steam days.

Today the depot still services diesel units (rather fewer since Metrolink took over some local services), but is much reduced from its former busy, if sooty, glory.

Who put the ‘New’ in New Moston?

In two words: Elijah Dixon.

The Manchester Bridgewater Freehold Land Society was formed in 1850 by Elijah and his colleagues, with the aim of allowing ordinary workers a chance to acquire land, for housing or allotments, away from the smoke and pollution of overcrowded industrial Manchester.

Despite the parliamentary Reform Act of 1832, most ordinary workers (and all women) were denied the vote unless they owned land, so having your name on one of the society’s plots also gave you this right.

In March 1851, six holdings covering 57 acres at the “top end of Moston”, farmed by tenants of the Hilton family, of the medieval Great Nuthurst Hall, were purchased for £2,900 by the society, the aim being to divide the land into 230 plots. A plot could be bought through a loan, paid off by a subscription of a few pence or shillings a week. Land schemes such as this were early versions of what became building societies.The top end of Moston in 1848, showing the original area purchased by the Society shaded pink. Moston Brook is highlighted in green.

A further £5,000 was invested by the society in laying out new streets to serve the plots. An access road was formed from Hale Lane in Failsworth to replace a footpath, known as Morris Lane, across the Moston Brook, which formed the boundary (and still does). Morris Lane ran into Moston Lane (now ‘East’). The new road, connecting with Oldham Road, gave an easier route to Manchester, Oldham or beyond.

The brook was culverted and the hollow filled in to permit a road wide, level and firm enough to take carts and carriages into the estate at ‘New Moston’. The name chosen reflected Robert Owen’s model housing schemes such as New Lanark and New Harmony.

The access road was opened in 1853 and was soon followed by the laying-out of five streets: Dixon, Ricketts, Potts, Jones and Frost Streets. These were later renamed Belgrave, Parkfield, Northfield, Eastwood and – combined with the existing Scholes Lane, past Pitt’s Farm – Hawthorn Roads respectively.

By 1854, houses had begun to be built, some of the earliest surviving ones being Rose and Moss Cottages, Ivy Cottage and by 1863, a pair of cottages on Dixon Street, one of which was used as a beerhouse. By 1871 this was already named the New Moston Inn; in the twentieth century the two cottages were rebuilt and merged together as one.The New Moston Inn, originally two cottages dating from 1863 or earlier, seen here in 1905.

Around 1870, Elijah Dixon himself moved to a house on Ricketts St (Vine House) from Newton Heath, where he had lived for many years, next to his match works and timber yard. He died at Vine House in 1876, but his daughter and grand-daughter continued the line right up to 1940.

There was little change after Elijah’s death, until Moston and New Moston became part of Manchester in 1890. Many little-used plots began to be sold to developers, and the next twenty years or so saw a massive expansion of housing, both within the original area, with the addition of side-streets and avenues, and beyond, as neighbouring farms were gradually sold off.

Schools were built on what had been Brown’s Farm, Slater Fold Farm gave way to Nuthurst Road, the park and the avenues around Hazeldene Road, and Crimbles Farm, the last to go, enabled further expansion along Moston Lane, extending right up to the Chadderton boundary.

From the 1920s onwards, the building of Broadway spurred further expansion, such as the estates around West Avenue and Chatwood Road: New Moston is now much bigger than the original “top end of Moston”.

Elijah Dixon’s story, of lifelong social justice campaigning and his parallel industrial success, has just been published by Pen and Sword Books of Barnsley (details on the link below):-

The authors will be giving a talk to the Newton Heath History Society on Tuesday, 24 July 2018 at 1:30pm, at the Heathfield Resource Centre, off Mitchell St, Newton Heath.


Mrs Mazza

Visits to the Lightbowne area of Moston in the late 1950s were a delight. My maternal grandad, a retired railway goods guard, lived on Hanson Road and one of his brothers on Hugo Street. Two more brothers were in Blackley and Collyhurst, with a sister in Harpurhey, but another brother lived on Attleboro Road, before moving to Eccles, and my mum’s sister was at Adrian Street: quite a little clan!The author, aged about four, in the back yard of 5 Hanson Road, Moston.

Every couple of weeks or so, we would stroll down Nuthurst Road, St Marys Road and Jackson Street (now Joyce Street) to perform our family “state visit” to Hanson Road, often spending an hour or two at other addresses, depending who was in.

My grandparents were the sort of people who always had time for the kids, and their house, though a humble two-up, two-down terrace, with donkey-stoned front step and a small back yard, was always spotless and full of interesting bits and bobs. First World War brass shell-cases, polished up as bright as gold, small but colourful flower-beds and hanging baskets, home-made rag rugs in front of the coal-fired iron range, and a lean-to kitchen that always smelled of Fairy household soap.

There was also a harmonium in the parlour but, as was still common in those days, we rarely went in there – that was for special occasions, like weddings and funerals! And, of course, children never went upstairs without being invited: Edwardian protocol was still very much in vogue.

The loo, if you needed it, was in a brick lean-to in the yard, kept brightly whitewashed. Once, my grandad took me upstairs for the view out of the front bedroom window, which overlooked Lightbowne carriage sidings and the engine sheds at Newton Heath.

If the adults had some serious chatting to do, I would occasionally be left to my own devices. My two sisters were usually there, too, but one was only a toddler and the other old enough to join in the adult conversations, so both tended to stay in the house. I would drift off, exploring the myriad back entries (no-one called them alleys, then) or kicking a ball around with local kids.

As I got a little older, I would sometimes be trusted with a message for one of the other nearby kinfolk, or sent on an errand to one of the shops that almost every street corner had.Mum crossing Egbert Street near Langworthy Road in 1940. Mrs Mazza’s was the shop on the left.

There was a cluster of shops along Egbert Street, not far away, the most memorable of which was Mrs Mazza’s ice-cream parlour, at number 33.  She would sell you a cone or wafer, of course, but her speciality was catering for parties or tea-time treats. You could take a baking-bowl and ask for, say, two dozen scoops, with or without raspberry sauce, to be dished out back at the house. It was proper iced cream, too, made on the premises and with a consistency like compacted snow, unlike some of the slithery synthetic stuff available nowadays.

Over the years, I have frequently been surprised at how many people still remember this shop – you inspired a generation, Mrs Mazza!

Sadly, my gran passed away in 1967 and, shortly afterwards, grandad elected to move to a retirement home in Eccles, close to his youngest brother. Not long afterwards, the southern end of Hanson Road, including grandad’s house, was demolished, along with part of Hugo Street and the whole of the carriage sidings site. Further house clearances continued into the 1990s (when the last shops on Egbert Street went) and only a few terraces at the northern end now remain.

The general layout and names of the streets have survived, however, with modern housing at the southernmost end. Alas, this new development incorporates no shops at all…

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