THE‭ ‬1930s - Wythenshawe Begins Anew

In‭ ‬1931,‭ ‬after two bills in Parliament,‭ ‬ten years of struggle and some hard cash,‭ ‬Wythenshawe,‭ ‬including Northenden,‭ ‬was taken from Cheshire and placed in Lancashire.‭ ‬Manchester's‭ ‬142‭ ‬houses in Northenden would pay their rates as well as their rent to the city from‭ ‬1‭ ‬April.‭ ‬The Cheshire landowners could now resume their landowning and Manchester the preparation of its garden city.

New difficulties loomed ahead,‭ ‬however.‭ ‬A change of Whitehall policy crippled the initial building programme,‭ ‬but the city,‭ ‬veteran of battles with the Tattons in‭ ‬1926‭ ‬and with Cheshire in‭ ‬1931,‭ ‬altered its tactics.‭ ‬In the next eight years a massive building operation went ahead.‭ 

With the fields,‭ ‬Manchester inherited a number of historically interesting buildings and sites.‭ ‬Wythenshawe Hall and Park were now owned and used by common citizens.‭ ‬Baguley Hall was owned by the City of Manchester but used by Direct Works as a depot and was in a sorry state.‭ ‬Sharston Hall,‭ ‬the mansion of David Quircano Henriques,‭ ‬would soon be let out as flats.‭ ‬Sharston Mount was let by Manchester to the Southern family,‭ ‬tenants for over seventy years.‭ ‬Interesting farm buildings listed by the Civic Advisory Committee in‭ ‬1932‭ ‬included Knob Hall,‭ ‬Newall Green,‭ ‬Moss Nook‭ ('‬refused admission‭ ‬.‭ ‬.‭ ‬.‭ ‬little of value‭')‬,‭ ‬Chamber Hall and Peel Hall‭ ('‬sound,‭ ‬fine stone bridge‭')‬.‭ ‬Sharston Hall Farm had losses in the Irish Republican Army fires of‭ ‬1932.

The largest and most historically interesting prize inherited by Manchester was Northenden itself.‭ ‬A cluster of complementary gems rather than one sparkling jewel,‭ ‬the village was not a fossil but a community keen to preserve its past and yet serve the present.‭ ‬The older village centre,‭ ‬near the church,‭ ‬was now partnered by the area near,‭ ‬the Church-Rooms at the top of Kenworthy Lane,‭ ‬with its‭ ‬142‭ ‬new houses.

Northenden was now important as the middle-level shopping centre for Wythenshawe.‭ ‬There were‭ ‬97‭ ‬shops,‭ ‬three dentists,‭ ‬a lawyer,‭ ‬an estate agent,‭ ‬two music teachers,‭ ‬an optician,‭ ‬two doctors and two undertakers.‭ '‬Northenden was like Dodge City with traders nailing up the gaudiest signs to catch the passing traffic.‭'

The building of the Forum Cinema in‭ ‬1934‭ ‬consummated Northenden's role as the temporary heart of Wythenshawe.‭ ‬The first lessee was E.‭ ‬M.‭ ‬Burns of Cheadle,‭ ‬but the A.B.C.‭ ‬chain bought the lease in‭ ‬1936.‭ ‬Thus Northenden had the only two cinemas in Wythenshawe,‭ ‬the Coronation and the Forum.

Most of the private development of houses in the‭ ‬1930s,‭ ‬almost all with the city as ground landlord,‭ ‬took place in Northenden and Northen Etchells.‭ ‬Most private house building in Northenden was on the Roundwood Estate,‭ ‬the vacant space between the Parkway and the village.‭ ‬By‭ ‬1934‭ ‬a half-dozen larger houses had appeared in Gibwood Road near the Parkway,‭ ‬and about a hundred semi-detached houses had ventured down Corda Avenue,‭ ‬Roundwood,‭ ‬Norleigh and Penarth Roads.‭ ‬Soon Dronfield,‭ ‬Kenmore and Shawdene Roads would be added.‭ ‬These houses‭ (‬some let at first by the corporation at‭ ‬£1‭ ‬a week‭) ‬were created from a few basic patterns.‭ ‬Few had garages and many corners were cut,‭ ‬quite literally,‭ ‬but the estate was noted for the beauty of its cherry-blossom lined roads.

South of Northenden,‭ ‬Wythenshawe Garden City began to grow at last.‭ ‬Manchester now controlled Wythenshawe and owned most of it,‭ ‬but new problems appeared.‭ ‬One difficulty centred on the land Manchester controlled but did not own.‭ ‬Local landowners,‭ ‬market gardeners and small farmers continued to resent the invaders,‭ ‬and at a public meeting in January‭ ‬1931‭ ‬they expressed their concerted will to resist more purchases of land‭ — ‬except at the right price.‭ ‬The‭ '‬right price‭' ‬rose to over‭ ‬£80‭ ‬per acre as Manchester attempted to buy by compulsory purchase the‭ ‬1,307‭ ‬acres,‭ ‬valued by some at‭ ‬£250,384.

To borrow the necessary money‭ '‬The City of Manchester Purchase of Land at Wythenshawe Scheme‭ ‬1931‭' ‬had been submitted to the Minister of Health,‭ ‬who in‭ ‬1926‭ ‬had actually encouraged Manchester to buy more land.‭ ‬By‭ ‬1931,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬a financial crisis had hit the country and in August a National Government was formed.‭ ‬The aim now was to concentrate on building‭ '‬houses within the means of the poorer members of the working classes‭' — ‬poorer-quality council homes.‭ ‬A report in November‭ ‬1932‭ ‬urged that the normal provision of working-class houses should be by private enterprise.

The city decided to buy some‭ ‬129‭ ‬acres for immediate use.‭ ‬But,‭ ‬linked with a demand for compulsory pasteurisation of the city's milk,‭ ‬it met combined opposition in December‭ ‬1932.‭ ‬Councillor Harold White,‭ ‬at Crumpsall Constitutional club,‭ ‬described Wythenshawe as a white elephant and the bill for compulsory purchase as a‭ '‬Russian method of business without Russian honesty‭'‬.‭ 

As a result of a poll,‭ ‬compulsory purchase was withdrawn‭; ‬building slowed to a crawl but it never stopped completely.‭ ‬The Housing Committee thought to erect‭ ‬75‭ ‬houses for sale in Wythenshawe,‭ ‬but the Housebuilders‭' ‬Association,‭ ‬Mrs.‭ ‬Simon and Alderman Jackson combined to prevent this.‭ ‬Four Housing Acts in five years,‭ ‬beginning in‭ ‬1931,‭ ‬contributed to stop-go working and it was not until‭ ‬1936‭ ‬that full steam ahead could be ordered.

By April‭ ‬1932,‭ ‬when the committee noted that the ground rents for the first‭ ‬5,000‭ ‬houses would be‭ ‬£48‭ ‬per acre,‭ ‬684‭ ‬houses were being erected north of Wythenshawe Park‭ (‬Rackhouse‭) ‬and‭ ‬1,764‭ ‬houses south of Altrincham Road.‭ ‬In Northenden the Piper Hill and Yew Tree area houses‭ (‬behind Kenworthy Lane‭) ‬were already completed,‭ ‬along with six shops of the new,‭ ‬now the old,‭ ‬parade at Moor End.‭ ‬Two months later the road names of Orton,‭ ‬Newhall,‭ ‬Nan Nook‭ (‬subsequently changed to Lawton Moor‭)‬,‭ ‬Lycett,‭ ‬Carloon,‭ ‬Daine,‭ ‬Pingot and Rackhouse were approved.‭ 

The first roads and sewers were completed for the Rackhouse and Lawton Moor,‭ ‬Royal Oak,‭ ‬Benchill and Sharston areas and the first‭ ‬400‭ ‬houses were finished by December‭ ‬1932.The number of completed houses rose to‭ ‬3,363‭ ‬by‭ ‬1934,‭ ‬when Royal Oak was almost finished as the first full estate.‭ ‬From a population of‭ ‬5,551‭ ‬in‭ ‬1921,‭ ‬Wythenshawe now had grown to‭ ‬27,847.

WYTHENSHAWE IN THE‭ ‬1940s‭ & ‬50s

It is on record that an African bishop,‭ ‬touring Wythenshawe in the‭ ‬1960s,‭ ‬exclaimed in bewilderment,‭ '‬Houses,‭ ‬houses,‭ ‬and yet more houses‭!' ‬The same words had been the cry of the planners following the Second World War,‭ ‬but by the end of‭ ‬1964‭ ‬the original goal of homes for a population of‭ ‬100,000‭ ‬people had been reached.

South of Northenden in the new Wythenshawe many smaller cottages,‭ ‬farms,‭ ‬market gardens and smithies surrendered to the builders,‭ ‬especially if the price was right.‭ ‬Some in better condition were renovated,‭ ‬notably in Gatley,‭ ‬and a few continued as before.‭ ‬The farms of Baguley Hall and Floats Hall disappeared with little ceremony.‭ ‬Mayer's farm at Peel Hall remained for the time being and more than once did‭ '‬Peel Hall School sports have to wait till the cows agreed to leave‭'‬.

Wythenshawe's urgent need for its forty thousand people in‭ ‬1939‭ ‬had been civic amenities.‭ ‬It was urgent in‭ ‬1945.‭ ‬Twenty years later the need was desperate.‭ ‬Without civic pride Wythenshawe‭ '‬could become another dreary new suburb full of impersonal estates‭'‬.‭ ‬Barry Parker's concepts of‭ ‬1927‭ ‬still held,‭ ‬but the Nicholas Plan of‭ ‬1945‭ ‬for Manchester as a whole and the‭ ‬1946‭ ‬Act's insistence on houses dominated.‭ ‬Each government boasted that it had built more houses than ever.

The Wythenshawe Committee still ruled as war ended,‭ ‬though in a few years it dissolved into a standing committee and finally vanished as part of the general Estates Committee.‭ ‬But in‭ ‬1945,‭ ‬with the Civic Centre pushed further into the future,‭ ‬a few prefabs,‭ ‬very few bricks and fewer bricklayers,‭ ‬the Wythenshawe Committee resumed its building programme with zeal.

Immediate needs were satisfied by prefabricated houses,‭ ‬mainly at Royal Oak and in Wythenshawe Park.‭ ‬The agreement made with the Tattons when the land was sold,‭ ‬that the park should forever be retained in its original form,‭ ‬was broken as prefabs replaced trees in the south-west corner.

There were a number of estates to be completed in Wythenshawe but forward planning meant that the committee had immediately to set about the purchase of land for the South-Eastern Neighbourhood Units of Moss Nook and Woodhouse Park.‭ ‬In June‭ ‬1946‭ ‬the committee resolved to buy‭ ‬493‭ ‬acres for building as follows:

Houses‭ ‬-‭ ‬2,968
Cottage-flats and flats‭ ‬-‭ ‬550
Single/Aged Person and misc.‭ – ‬358
Total‭ ‬-‭ ‬3,876

The number of units to the acre would be‭ ‬13,‭ ‬one outside Barry Parker's standard,‭ ‬and in July of that year,‭ ‬at a cost of‭ ‬£493,000,‭ ‬the layout of the two units was approved.

In‭ ‬1953‭ ‬a leaflet,‭ ‬entitled Wythenshawe,‭ ‬Plan and Reality,‭ ‬was published about the new town.‭ ‬After a brief history of the area it went on to explain that Wythenshawe would not be a dormitory suburb or a satellite town,‭ ‬but that it‭ '‬will come near to being a true New Town,‭ ‬many of its people being able to find employment in its three industrial areas,‭ ‬its shops,‭ ‬offices and market gardens‭'‬.

Building went ahead in Baguley Hall and in the Crossacres regions and spread south and east to embrace the areas of Woodhouse Park,‭ ‬Moss Nook,‭ ‬Northern Moor and Brooklands.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1946‭ ‬about nineteen hundred houses and flats were commenced,‭ ‬and over the next twenty years this rate was maintained.‭ 

Pockets of land,‭ ‬especially around the proposed civic centre,‭ ‬were left vacant,‭ ‬apparently because the city was unsure of how to use them.‭ ‬Conversely,‭ ‬pockets of virgin land in the Rackhouse,‭ ‬Sale Road,‭ ‬Benchill,‭ ‬Newall Green and Royal Oak area were filled.‭ ‬In‭ ‬1957‭ ‬the first post-war council houses to be built in Northenden appeared in the Royle Green area,‭ ‬which was called‭ '‬Little Hulme‭'‬,‭ ‬although quite a few of the new families there came from Woodhouse Park after the Viscount air crash.‭ 

From the outset flats in Wythenshawe were kept to two or three storeys,‭ ‬but the walk-up areas were increasingly vandalised.‭ ‬By the‭ ‬1960s Woodhouse Park could boast Manchester's first nine-storey flats,‭ ‬the Kingsgate,‭ ‬costing a basic‭ ‬£135,000.‭ ‬High-rise problems there would be,‭ ‬but for a while the sky-flats were still a novelty.

The problem of car parking caused friction until‭ ‬1961,‭ ‬when the council at last allowed cars to be parked in gardens.‭ ‬The restrictions on the decoration of council houses sometimes brought gestures of defiance and retaliation.

The Brooklands estate,‭ ‬commenced in‭ ‬1952‭ ‬at Ferndown Road,‭ ‬was built on land given in‭ ‬1926‭ ‬by Ernest Simon,‭ ‬and housed a population of‭ ‬4,800‭ ‬in an area of‭ ‬330‭ ‬acres.‭ ‬An early householder,‭ ‬Les Sutton,‭ ‬recalled in‭ ‬1973‭ ‬that something of the rural atmosphere remained.‭ ‬In the Baguley stream‭ '‬fair sized specimen of catfish are said to bask there still in the truce of school hours.‭ ‬Along the banks there were voles and in the fields crows,‭ ‬gulls and even herons‭'‬.

Neighbourhood shopping parades,‭ ‬it had been intended,‭ ‬should be built to keep pace with the erection of houses.‭ ‬In practice the need to agree tenancies and the policy of delaying openings until all the shops in a parade were taken,‭ ‬brought long delays.‭ ‬Newly-arrived housewives often had to exist for months by journeying for bread and butter items to established parades,‭ ‬to Northenden or by catching the unco-ordinated visits of the vans,‭ ‬and fish and meat carts‭; '‬when you heard the horn or the bell,‭ ‬or sometimes they just shouted,‭ ‬you had to drop everything and run down to queue‭'‬.‭ ‬Some shops were‭ '‬ramshackle wooden ones they put us off with for years‭'‬.

Parades usually consisted of a butcher,‭ ‬a baker,‭ ‬a general grocer,‭ ‬a greengrocer,‭ ‬a clothier/‭ ‬haberdasher,‭ ‬a hardware dealer,‭ ‬a stationer or newsagent/post-office,‭ ‬a chemist and,‭ ‬often at the end of the row,‭ ‬a fish and chip shop.‭ ‬Added to the pre-war shops at Sale Circle and Sharston,‭ ‬and the prefabricated ones at Crossacres,‭ ‬were new parades built at Baguley Precinct,‭ ‬Blackcarr Road,‭ ‬Bowland Road,‭ ‬Button Lane,‭ ‬Cornishway,‭ ‬Gladesdale Road,‭ ‬Greenbrow'Road,‭ ‬Hall Lane,‭ ‬Haveley Circle,‭ ‬Lomond Road,‭ ‬Ministerley Parade,‭ ‬Newall Green,‭ ‬Portway and Wendover Road.

With Northenden's larger shops three dusty miles north of Woodhouse Park,‭ ‬there were demands for civic-centre shopping.‭ ‬But it was not until‭ ‬1962‭ ‬that building began.‭ ‬Woolworths,‭ ‬Boots,‭ ‬Coop,‭ ‬Tesco and local chain stores took leases.‭ ‬In spite of its austere bleak early form and the spate of plate-glass window breakages,‭ ‬trade flourished.‭ ‬But by‭ ‬1964‭ ‬the Wythenshawe Express asked,‭ '‬Are there too many shops in Wythenshawe‭?'‬.‭ 

At the Town Hall in Manchester,‭ ‬in March‭ ‬1946‭ ‬while a civic film of the city councillors in debate was being made,‭ ‬the chamber was invaded by a placard-waving deputation with a ten-thousand signature petition for better amenities for Wythenshawe.‭ ‬One poster read‭ '‬End Monopoly‭'‬,‭ ‬and another respectfully asserted‭ '‬Sir,‭ ‬Wythenshawe Needs a Post-Office‭'‬.‭ ‬At the core of the invasion was the Wythenshawe Community Council‭ (‬W.C.C.‭) ‬and its vociferous chairman,‭ ‬Harry Lloyd.‭ ‬The W.C.C.‭ ‬had grown out of the Rackhouse,‭ ‬Royal Oak and Benchill Community Associations,‭ ‬which dated back to‭ ‬1934.‭ ‬The first meeting of the W.C.C.,‭ ‬in‭ ‬1943‭ ‬after national affiliation,‭ ‬had been addressed by Alderman W.‭ ‬T.‭ ‬Jackson,‭ ‬two years before his death.‭ ‬From time to time the W.C.C.‭ ‬confronted the Wythenshawe Committee,‭ ‬which listened politely.

Six of the Wythenshawe Committee lived in Wythenshawe,‭ ‬two in council houses.‭ ‬Elected from the Wythenshawe wards were Elizabeth Yarwood,‭ ‬Walter Frost and Councillor Cave.‭ ‬The chairman,‭ ‬Councillor Bentley,‭ ‬lived in Northenden.‭ ‬Petitions,‭ ‬deputations,‭ ‬protests,‭ ‬demands for home rule and for a Civic Centre to provide a heart for the new area punctuated their routine.

The first M.P.‭ ‬for Wythenshawe,‭ ‬for‭ ‬14‭ ‬years from‭ ‬1950,‭ ‬was Eveline Hill,‭ ‬a Conservative.‭ ‬As Wythenshawe grew the Labour vote increased and in‭ ‬1964‭ ‬the first M.P.‭ ‬of the completed venture was Alf Morris,‭ ‬who was Minister for the Disabled until‭ ‬1979.

‭'‬Autonomy for Wythenshawe‭' ‬was the cry of Harry Lloyd,‭ ‬chairman of the Wythenshawe Federal Council from the mid-1950s.‭ ‬The Wythenshawe Recorder echoed his cry.‭ ‬It began by referring to Wythenshawe as‭ '‬Our New Town‭'‬,‭ ‬but in time it was less confident and asked‭ '‬Only a Suburb‭?' ‬Comparisons were frequently made with much smaller towns that had their own councils and often a mayor.‭ ‬The Civic Centre remained a mirage and the City of Manchester made it clear that an independent council was out of the question.