A-Z of Stockport by Robert Nicholls
I was delighted when I was asked to write a book about Stockport. Although I am not a ‘born and bred Stopfordian’, I have spent several decades of my life living there, and my children were brought up there.
Writing a book about Stockport presents challenges. When I was first embarking on this project, a retired academic friend rather disparagingly asked me how I was going to make the book interesting? The comment was made on the assumption that Stockport was a town with little interest.
This task has not been difficult for me, and I hope that those who read this book will come to the same conclusion.
Stockport is a town with a long history, stretching back to the Middle Ages, but whose identity has in more recent times become entwined through urban growth with its larger neighbour, Manchester, only seven miles away, town centre to city centre.
This makes for a town of contrasts, a place with several identities. Is it a town that is effectively now a suburb of its near and larger neighbour, or is it a place with its own quite separate identity? Or does it have both elements, enabling its inhabitants tochoose which parts of that identity they prefer?
Geographically, there is a relatively flat west, now mainly covered with housing, and a hilly eastern fringe, with its mixture of farms and extended villages that have their origins in the decades of the Industrial Revolution, and which today make for an interesting townscape and provide historical interest.
All is divided by the westerly-flowing River Mersey, arising in the town centre at the confluence of the rivers Goyt and Etherow. The rivers also provide the historical boundary between Lancashire and Cheshire. And yes, Stockport, in both its pre and post 1974 local authority forms, was partly in Lancashire, although few realise this. The majority however is in Cheshire.
Buildings and locations of historical and local interest exist all over the town. In the north is the 19th century village of Reddish, with its housing, still existing mills, and a Waterhouse-designed church. The town centre around the market is very attractive, and merits greater visitor interest. There are several notable churches and good museums reflecting matters from the town’s past, including hat-making, the Air Raid Shelters and Bramhall Hall. They tend to be small in nature, but Stockport does them well; the town wisely lets its larger neighbour provide the larger attractions. And then, as an exception to this rule, there is a great stately home of Lyme Hall and Park, just outside the present-day borough boundaries but sufficiently connected with the town to merit inclusion in this book, and one of the National Trust’s most visited properties.
The eastern fringes of the borough provide lots of visual and historic interest, with the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals stretching through Romiley, Marple and High Lane, the attractive village of Compstall and the Etherow and Chadkirk Country Parks.
Stockport has produced many notable inhabitants. Many have become figures of national importance. From the past we have one of the ‘Cockleshell Heroes’, the man who helped discover the Northwest Passage, the pioneer of the first stored-programme computer, a noted mountaineer, several suffragettes, and the first successful British tennis player, whose name lives on in a well-known brand of sportswear.
Because of the proximity of television stations in nearby Manchester, and the music industry in that city, Stockport’s contribution to the worlds of media, performance, and music, could well be greater that other towns of similar size. Joan Bakewell, Michelle Keegan, Claire Foy, Mike Yarwood, David Dickinson, to name but a few.
I hope that readers of this book will enjoy discovering about Stockport and the personalities it has produced, as I have in putting the book together. It’s a place that, lying in the shadow of its better-known neighbour, deserves greater recognition.
Robert Nicholls's new book A-Z of Stockport is available for purchase now.