VIDEO: THE 50 years that have elapsed since the designation of Warrington as a “New Town” in 1969 must be among the most momentous in the town’s long history.
It was a period that saw the construction of Thelwall Viaduct, the birth of whole new communities such as Birchwood and Westbrook, the enlargement of the old Town Council under the 1974 re-organisation of local government, the construction of new out-of-town shopping centres and housing areas, two new bus stations, three new bridges over the Mersey and much, much more.
At the same time, the Burtonwood Air Base – once the biggest military establishment in Europe – disappeared, along with numerous historic buildings, Woolworth’s and many old family firms which did much to give the town its character.
The story is told in an important new book by Janice Hayes, heritage manager at Warrington Museum and author of numerous books on the town’s history, which marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the New Town.
She launched her book to coincide with the launch of the eagerly awaited Eric Tucker exhibition. Perhaps the most interesting illustrations in the book are the paintings of Warrington’s own Lowry, who depicted the town accurately and affectionately.
Superbly researched, the 96-page book is packed with photographs of the changing face of Warrington which will bring back many memories for older residents who will doubtless wonder how it would look today if it had not been for the New Town Development Corporation.
Certainly, some of the early artists’ impressions of how the New Town would look when it was completed suggest that perhaps all did not go to plan. But at least things are a little better than in 1961 when a journalist visiting the town wrote: “The first impressions of Warrington come through the nose. Within a minute of leaving Bank Quay Station, I found myself coughing savagely – as the smoke crept down my tongue towards the lungs.”
Perhaps the most interesting illustrations in the book are the paintings of Warrington’s own Lowry, Eric Tucker, who depicted the town accurately and affectionately.
His 1995 study of Lower Buttermarket Street shows his characters from the 1950s wandering like ghosts past Yates Wine Lodge, perhaps looking for the Odeon Cinema which had stood there previously.
While the book chronicles many of the changes for the better, it also draws attention to the still inadequate highways and the almost daily gridlock that occurs when an accident on any of the motorways diverts traffic into the town.