Rochdale town centre in 2016 after the River Roch was opened up following many years of it being underground.
Rochdale is famous for Gracie Fields, Lisa Stansfield and of course the Rochdale Pioneers who founded the first viable Co-Op. But there are others too who you may not know originated from or lived in the town such as:-
Colin Baker – actor known for playing Doctor Who on television
John Bright – radical; Liberal statesman
Don Estelle – Crumpsall-born actor and singer who lived for much of his life in Rochdale
Anna Friel – stage and screen actress
Sajid Javid – Politician and former Minister for the present Conservative Government
Bill Oddie – naturalist, comedian, musician and actor
Nigel Collison – my childhood chum – his Dad (Alan) was a Police Inspector
The Town is also famous for it’s wonderful cathedral-like Town Hall, which I have blogged about before – see link below:-
And a previous posting about the Rochdale Pioneers:-
So if you’re still with me and have clicked on the links above you’ll be up to speed.
Having lived in the Town 1964 to 1968 (between the ages of 6 and 10) and been back on the odd occasion since I thought that like Bill Bryson (In his book Notes from a Small Island – he didn’t visit Rochdale I might add) I would like to do a proper valedictory tour of Rochdale as it is now or at least to compare the bits of it that I remember with the Town of today.
Here’s a video, which is kinder to the Town than many commentaries about it these days often are:-
So I planned to set off for Rochdale with daughter Jen in tow as she is both interested in my childhood and, because she’s a museum curator, she wanted to see Dippy the dinosaur which is presently spending a few months on display in Number One Riverside as a visitor from London’s Natural History Museum. So you could and probably would say, if you were were my daughter or one of my so called mates, one old dinosaur was going to see another.
But then our health crisis intervened so the rest of this posting relies on my memory:-
We arrived in Rochdale to find it raining. It rains a lot in Rochdale as the clouds empty out as they pass over the Pennine Range that the Town nestles below. Oddly though my childhood memories are of many sunny school holiday days playing out with my childhood chum Nigel Collison. My bad weather memories are of early morning smogs walking to school with a fluorescent bib over my coat so that I and all the other kids weren’t run over by the few cars around in the mid 1960’s. If memory serves the 1956 Clean Air Act (amended by the 1968 Act) was being implemented in the Town whilst we lived there so smogs, I guess, are now a thing of the past. I recall some real pea-soupers when you could hardly see your hand in front of your face but off I toddled to Lower Place Primary School each day on my own or with other kids.
Anyway what were Jen and I to look at? Where I lived, my old school, where my Dad worked, where my Mum was a rent collector, nearby Hollingworth Lake (where Nigel, my childhood friend, and I disappeared to one day whilst the Moors Murders were still far too fresh in the memory [of adults] and the Police were out looking for us!) and of course Dippy the dinosaur. Another visit (for me) to the Rochdale Pioneers Museum and a ride on a Metrolink Tram would mean a full day in my former stamping ground.
We lived on Weston Avenue and here’s a couple of photos of me with Dad & Mum outside the house:-
The house was and indeed still is on a junction with Buersil Avenue and back in the day there was a corner shop opposite our house run by the wonderfully named Mr. Bracegirdle, a rotund chap if memory serves. On the diagonal corner was a butchers shop, both are now long gone and have been converted into housing.
Dad worked at Thomas Cooks in the Town’s Drake Street where he was the manager. Mum at some point got a job collecting rent for Rochdale Council on the Kirkholt Estate with her friend Joyce Collison. They had leather satchels which held the rent books and the money and they went door to door collecting in cash. I think they then got the bus to Rochdale Town Hall to pay in the cash they’d collected. Can you imagine that form of rent/money collection today!
I, as mentioned above, was attending Lower Place Primary School which still stands on Kingsway. I have few memories of it although I did get my one and only gold star of my schooling days there for drawing a picture of Cutty Sark. I also went on a trip to London, by train from Manchester, with a couple of teachers and another child to pick up a prize for the School associated with something called Feed The or Their Minds. I wonder what that was all about?
I don’t recall knowing much if anything about the Moors Murders as a child but inadvertently Nigel and I created a big panic on a sunny school holiday outing when we took off for much of the day on our bikes to nearby Hollingworth Lake. I guess we were gone for some hours and the police were called to look for us because of parental concerns for our safety. By gum we were for it when we returned without a care in the world!
I suppose with hindsight my memories of Rochdale are actually of a small part of it i.e the area where we lived and I went to school, walking or taking the bus along Oldham Road into the town centre and endless hours playing on a big field behind Nigel’s house off Buersil Avenue. The field was owned by a Mrs Kay who in 1960’s parlance was an invalid. She lived next door to Nigel’s family and I recall we did some shopping for her at times and she gave us a sixpence each. The field now has a housing estate on it.
The challenge for Jen and I now is to make the planned valedictory tour when lock-down has safely ended and Dad and Jen can go back to having a day out 2 or 3 times each year. Here’s hoping…… although dear readers I must warn you as you’ll end up with a further Rochdale blog posting to follow up this one!