Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The story that never was ....... a road, a disused railway station and lots of water

So, there Peter was, taking pictures down by the old station which continues to live in Chorlton folklore as the place where Muddy Waters, Cousin Joe Pleasant, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee performed on May 7 1964.

This was the Blues and Gospel train at Chorltonville which of course was really Wilbraham Road station which had once been Alexandra Park.

The station had opened as Alexandra Park on September 1 1891 and its name was changed to Wilbraham Road eight months later to avoid confusion with a London station with a similar name.

“The station was situated on the MSLR’ Fallowfield Loop line, a 7 mile double track route that linked the Midland Railway’s Manchester South District Line from a point just to the south of Chorlton-cum-Hardy to the MSL main line between Manchester and Sheffield at Fairfield. The reason for the line was to give the MLSR access to Manchester Central Station.”*

During the Great War it was where aircraft parts were unloaded to be reassembled at Alexandra Park Aerodrome.**

And that marks the station off as both a place in our history and of course the station many get wrong.

Ask most people about Granada’s Blues show on that rainy May evening and they will tell you it was at Chorlton Railway Station which would have been difficult given that trains still ran from Central through Chorlton and on to Stockport and Derbyshire.

Not so Wilbraham Road which closed for passenger traffic in 1958 and there I suspect is why history has forgotten the place.

None of which is actually the story I had intended to write.

That, concerned the road and railings that Peter came across while down at the old station.

Our following conversation ranged over a bundle of possibilities.  I favoured a possible road link with the aerodrome which was built at the end of the Great War on Hough End. Aircraft parts came in bits by train and were reassembled at the aerodrome.

But while it was on the south side of the railway track its direction seemed wrong.

Equally intriguing were the line of iron railings which once must have marked the boundary of the railway line and could go back to 1880 when the line was opened.

Peter pondered on why they had not been lost to war salvage, but this may have been because of the need to maintain that demarcation between railway and non railway land.  Or perhaps they just date from after the war.

There is a similar little stretch on St Werburgh's Road, running north from the metro entrance.

Sadly I doubt we will ever get to the bottom of the railings but at least we have an explanation for the road, which according to the 1934 OS map is not a road but a covering for the Thirlmere Aqueduct which was built between 1894 and 1925 and brings water from the Thirlmere Reservoir into the city.

So the story didn’t quite turn out the way I thought.

Location; Wilbraham Road Railway Station

Pictures; lost railway scenes, 2018 from the collection of Peter Topping

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