My Hometown – Blackley


Let me introduce you to my hometown – Blackley. It’s a small area of Manchester around 3 miles north from the city centre. There are about 11,000 people living in Blackley and there are two main roads running through it; Victoria Avenue, running roughly east-west from Heaton Park, and Rochdale Road which runs roughly north from the city centre towards Rochdale.  I was born here and I grew up here, attending 2 primary schools and a secondary school in the area, and now as a married woman with children of my own I live here still.

Blackley is a lovely little hamlet that still has very rural atmosphere despite it being part of Greater Manchester. We have all the usual sort of amenities – schools, churches, library, a golf club, police and fire station, doctors surgeries, parks etc but unusually for a suburban area it has its own cricket team and a brass band (Blackley Band…visit their website here). I was a member of Blackley Band from being a beginner at the age of 7 until after I got married. I am still in contact with them regularly and my daughter plays cornet with them.  They had their bandroom on Crab Lane (near to my first primary school) but due to vandalism and general thuggery they were forced to move out about 5 years ago and now have their base in the Community Centre on Victoria Avenue.

I first went to Crab Lane Primary but was taken out of there just before I was 5 to go to Bowker Vale because of difficulties with my class teacher at the time. I went to Plant Hill High School when I was 11 and pretty much enjoyed my time there right through. I had some fantastic teachers – not necessarily good at what they taught but good at teaching me to THINK.  My school had a long-running feud with the catholic school up the road, Our Lady’s High School, and it wasn’t unknown for gangs to organise fights at lunchtime and after school several times a week. It got so bad that the schools got together to change the start and end time of the school day so that we wouldn’t meet in the streets. Terrible when you think about it now!

Victoria Avenue, Blackley

I have loved living in Blackley all my life. It’s so green! Everywhere you look there are trees and grass verges, open spaces, parks and flowers. It is beautiful all year round and I love it here. The people are friendly too and even now, 40 years on, it only takes a few minutes of walking up the main road to spot someone familiar from my childhood. I spent a lot of my time playing out – on my bike, playing football, climbing trees, exploring Heaton Park, playing hide and seek or ralivo, exploring the disused mill site (now a Sainsbury’s) and finding ways to cross the River Irk without getting wet…not always successfully. I had many happy scrapes in and around Blackley and have got oodles of scars and odd bumps from playing where I shouldn’t have been (like the sewage pipes over the river, frozen ponds and building sites when the workmen weren’t watching…)

Let me tell you a little bit about the history of Blackley itself. The name “Blackley” comes from the Anglo-Saxon for “clearing in a wood” and as I described above, it is still very much a rural hamlet. Hints at its rural and farming past are found in some  street names; we have French Barn Lane, Plant Hill Road, Cooper Lane, Acre Top Road, Hill Lane amongst others. In the 12th century the area was a deer park and was used by nobility for hunting. Later the land was parcelled off and was then owned by a string of aristocratic and noble families, including the Byron family of whom Lord Byron the poet is probably the most famous.

Amongst the families who have owned Blackley between them were the Egertons and the Booths. The Booth family built a hall on what is now Charlestown Road and their land became what is now known as Boggart Hole Clough – a parkland area that borders Blackley, Moston and Harpurhey. There is a story about why it is called by that name, and I will be writing about that in another post. The hall was pulled down at the end of the 19th century after a period of disuse, and the land came to be used as an infirmary and later again as a leading children’s hospital. Unfortunately, due to changes and cuts in the NHS Booth Hall Hospital was fighting for its own survival since the 1990s and it closed a couple of years ago. For more on its history click here. Blackley Band visited Booth Hall Hospital every Christmas Day morning (10am sharp!) to play carols for the children and staff on the wards and in A&E. I loved this part of playing with the band and played with them every Christmas even when I was no longer a member. One particular Christmas morning we met up with Take That who were broadcasting live from the hospital. Away from the cameras we went with them round a couple of wards and one of my outstanding memories is accompanying them whilst they sang Away In A Manger.

Earl of Wilton crest
Victoria Ave Bridge Sign

The Egerton family owned the land that is now Heaton Park (again, I will be writing about this later on) and the Earls of Wilton lived in Heaton Hall. If you can’t wait for my article, click here for more information.

Lion at Heaton Hall
Heaton Hall Lion

Blackley is blessed with a huge number of pubs, many of which I have visited whilst carolling with the band and for my own pleasure. There are several that have “lion” in their title – The White Lion, The Lion and Lamb, Ye Golden Lion, The Red Lion, The New White Lion – and legend has it that there are so many with this in their title in such a small area because it was where the last lion in England was killed. I prefer my own notion that it is because the Egerton family had lions as part of their crest and public houses were named in their honour.  This is a picture of Ye Golden Lion in Blackley village to show you its name, its sign and the road that it is on the corner of…Lion Street.

Ye Golden Lion Pub

The smallest pub is The Millstone and the largest was the Clough Hotel (until it burned down a couple of years ago).

There are more pubs than churches in Blackley (which is probably typical of England as a whole!) but I will mention some of the main churches in the area. I am a member of St Paul’s, but I was married at St Andrew’s (I lived in that parish at the time) and I was confirmed at St Peter’s. There has been a church or chapel on the site of St Peter’s since the 1100’s in one form or another. The current building was built in the mid 1800’s and is a glorious example of architecture and history. There is a big catholic church at Plant Hill called St Clare’s and I’ve attended a couple of weddings and a funeral there.  I told you we were a close community! There are quite a few smaller chapels dotted around the area too so as you see we can cater for any “flavour” of Christianity you care for.

St Peter's Church

We may be a small place, but we can boast a couple of famous people who hail from round here. Bernard Hill the actor was born in Blackley, Mike Harding the comedian/singer/presenter was born and brought up locally too. Most people will have heard of Bernard Manning and his “world famous” Embassy Club; he was born on the other side of the Clough and lived with his mum on Lewis Avenue for most of his life. Roger Byrne, captain of Manchester United who died in the Munich air disaster in 1958, had his funeral and was cremated in Blackley. Further back in history (1555 to be precise) John Bradford, a son of Blackley, was executed and made a martyr for his Protestant religious beliefs.

It is also said that the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin passed through the area and there are two pieces of “evidence” to support the claim; first of all there is a plaque on the side of the White Lion pub attesting that he slept there and secondly the Flying Horse pub on Crab Lane is said to be named in his “honour”. Personally I would seriously doubt it because the pub really is not that old, only a hundred years or so and Dick Turpin hails from 200 years before then and the road where the pub is forms part of the main coaching route that was used between Manchester and Rochdale before the wider Rochdale Road was built much later. Most coaching inns were called something relevant at the time, and it wouldn’t have been unusual for that particular pub to have seen horses “fly” past it all day. It makes a good story though doesn’t it!

The Flying Horse Inn

A good story that I know to be true is that the dye works in Blackley village (which became the UK headquarters for ICI) caused the sheets at the local hospital to become coloured blue when the wind was in a certain direction….in the days well before health and safety!! (The local hospital was Crumpsall Hospital which was originally the local workhouse. I will be writing about that another time).

There’s more I could tell you about Blackley but I’m going to save it for later articles. I hope you have enjoyed my little introduction to my home town and my pictures to illustrate certain parts of it. Why not tell me about your own hometown? Link back to me when you have done your post. I’d love to hear from you.

334 thoughts on “My Hometown – Blackley

      1. Steven

        Born & Bred in Blackley .
        I used to have a few beers in the old house at home & the fox great pubs .
        Heaton park was great when the fair came . Rochdale road we had the farmyard pub & crab lane had a little chippy called Irenes . And a pub which was the first to have a alligator in anybody know the name of the pub ?

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  1. vic odell

    Hi, Just found your site by accident, I was born in Crumpsall hospital in 1951 & went to Crumpsall lane junior school I then went to plant hill school. used to get the No 26 bus to Blackley village then walk up oakworth st and French barn lane past the pigs but only after buying sweeties at a tiny shop in the village, after school I worked at ICI for 18 years and have great memories of Blackley
    My father had a workshop in what was an old butchers shop on market st he was a plumber
    most of my childhood friends lived in Blackley Does any one remember me I live in Scotland now

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    1. Neil Edwards

      Hi Vic
      I remember you well, and I remember your dad and his workshop. I am 3 yrs younger than you so you already made me feel better LOL. My name is Neil Edwards and I lived on French Barn Lane, No 3 near the St Peters church. I went to Pike fold school and then Plant hill school. I loved living in Blackley but it breaks my heart to see it now. All the shops have gone so god knows where all the new residents get their daily bits and Bobs from. I was in Blackley about 4 month ago and made the mistake of walking in the church yard. What a mess!! The grave yard was so overgrown I couldn`t even walk round. My great friend from being a tiny kid was Paul Hodgkinson who had Lion Fold Farm. It is now all houses and no sign of the community we once knew.
      It wasn`t all bad, because I stood at the front door of the church and memories came flooding back of my first love. Angela Spencer. Maybe that was the biggest mistake of my life letting her get away. I should have tied the rope better. LOL.
      Anyway Vic, I hope your doing well and fighting off the scourge of old age and I hope to hear from you soon
      All the best Neil

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      1. Mike Blackburne

        Hey Neil-do you remember me Mike Blackburne known as Blacky living on Hill Lane back in the 70’s as part of the Blackley village gang. I once fought
        your mate Paul hodgkinson for a long time in the grounds of st peters
        church- he could fight like a world champion with both his head and fists lol.
        Here’s my email if you want to talk more neil- Mike mikejulialee@aol.com

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      2. Michael Blackburne

        Hey Neil-I wonder how many of the 70’s Blackley gang are still alive? is your friend Paul hodgkinson still alive? I would love to get in contact with you to see what you know and remember. I was known as Blackie back then and after some gang in fighting and big trouble with the moston gang from Glad rags disco-I left the gang and lost contact due to meeting my present wife of many years. I remember meeting Angela the girl you really liked back then at
        Plant hill high school or somewhere- as I recall you giving me the nod that it was her. Here’s my email Neil and I hope you pick up on it so we can share what we remember of Blackley together. -Mike- Blackie Blackburne formerly of 45 hill lane opposite the 70’s farm where I played sometimes.mikejulialee@aol.com

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  2. Susan Coorey nee Lowe

    Hi, really enjoyed reading everyone’s stories! I was born in Crumpsall Hospital in October 1953 and lived in Carley Grove off Bank House Lane and went to Crab Lane CP School. I recently took my grandchildren back to see where I lived and took a long walk up the Farm Hill then down to what we called the New Shops near the old Pike Fold Pub then up to the Pleasent Inn and then down Crab Lane to the Duke of Wellington. We called in for a drink and to look at the war memorial on the wall which has my uncle Harry Lowes name on. Then we walked through the crematorium and cemetery to Victoria Ave and past Chisholmes (shudder, he took out 10 of my teeth in one sitting when I was 10!) Dr Jelenowicz and up to Tweedle Hill shops. Funny how everything seems smaller when you go back. Must be because I was shorter looking up at everything. I wondered how my many school friends had got on in life. If anyone remembers me please get in touch. I was Susan Lowe and my dad was Billy Lowe (a great friend of Charlie Warren)mam was called Mabel. I moved to Cheshire for much of my adult life but have lived in many places, just returning from Hamburg to settle in Hartford Cheshire. I feel another trip to my hometown coming very soon.

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    1. I had my wedding recently at the pike fold went to crab lane school and plant hill .lived on verity walk off chapel lane .the head master at crab lane was mr Griffith .i beleave his daughter Sarah has not long died .move to blackley when I was 7 lived there till I got married

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      1. Lesley Rea

        Did you know the Rea family on Ongar Walk? I knew a Pat McDermott but I think tha she lived on Bodney Walk. Eddy Rea

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    2. Paul Bassman

      I am still after many years trying to find out what happened to Hilary Benson who went to Plant Hill Secondary school 1955 to 1959 anyone? Paul Bassman. Thank You.

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      1. Paul Bassman

        I finally found out Hilary Benson went to live in the Chanel Islands, but not her address, so wont be able to get in touch alas. If anyone knows of a way of looking up the residents of the Chanel Islands, I would appreciate it. Thank You. At least I know now. Paul

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  3. I lived in verity walk off chapel lane. Went to crab lane school and plant Hill .went to st ANdrews church and Sunday school .my wedding reception was at the pike fold pub .

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  4. Jennie jones


    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.jsMy name is Jen I was born in 1979 at 79 Crab Lane then lived in the Flying Horse from being 3 I think! My memories were my neighbour Gladys Taylor and Bill Taylor whom I adored. I also remember the little garages opposite 79 crab lane and a couple called Marjory and I can’t remember having a bright red shiny car that they kept in the garage! I remember Irene’s chippy and the fancy car they had too! I used to play in the orchard on montegal street and pick blackberries. I spent weekends at the cricket club with my step dad Keith and remember riding on the back of the lawnmower he used to ride around on the pitch! I remember Bramhalls the bakery and him always having his cat sat in the window next to the bread and the corner shop run by the Hickmans. I loved growing up on that lane I knew everyone and felt so safe. I remember Martins fruit shop and I used to sit on the wall outside eating his apples and he told me not to eat the pips or else I would grow and apple tree in my belly!! I spent most of my childhood playing on crab lane and have so many wonderful memories! Thanks Pam for this wonderful Blog! X

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    1. Ian Mannion

      Great write up. My Grandfather Fred Craighill Was always sitting in that grocery playingn the harmonica when I would walk home from school. Crab lane was an adventure to grow up on. So many great memories as a child. Thanks.

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    2. Steven

      Hi Jenny
      Your step dad was a great landlord & run a good pub the flying horse was a legend .
      Kieth was a tall chap with reddish hair if my memory serves me well . Did you go in the chip shop on crab lane . There was a old guy called syd fielding that was always in the flying horse & Trevor Graham’. Memory lane

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      1. John Flynn

        Very interesting to read about Keith Warren, landlord of the Flying Horse in the 70s. I played cricket at Higher Blackley Cricket Club from aged 13 in 1972 to 1977 when I left the area and we often had to get the clubhouse key from the Fly’s bar. Keith was a player, he played on the weekends in the league team and it was a high standard of league cricket.
        Let me list some names from the junior teams in the summer evenings when the ground was buzzing with a watching crowd : Mark and Anthony Hilton, Tim Healey, Dave Spooner, Tim Walsh, Mark Beswick, Jim Clark and more. Many of us juniors lived in Middleton and were recruited by ‘Sam’ Coyne, a PE teacher at Cardinal Langley school. I shall always be grateful for the older players at the club who organised nets on Sundays and transport to away matches (Mike Elt, Mike Andrews, Dave Fox, Pete Hunt, Arnold Pope etc.). It was all laid on for us juniors, so thank you! Difficult to forget Arnold driving 4 of us to Brooksbottom one evening on the back of his milk float open truck along the M62 to Whitefield …… did that really happen legally?!?
        As we got older most juniors played for the weekend adult league teams against the industrial teams of the S. Lancs. League, and it was good cricket. Lots of rivalries sprung up; ICI Blackley, Ferranti, Fieldhouse in Rochdale (I remember Peter Lever the England bowler playing one day at Crab Lane for Fieldhouse).
        Blackley’s ground looks the same now on Street View as in 1975. A small ground, there was a lot of 6 hitting, and the big attraction to watch was when National Dock Labour Board played at Crab Lane. They were probably first generation West Indians who worked at Salford Docks, and some of them hit big and long out of the ground into Crab Lane and Tweedle Hill Road, and brought a crowd of excited spectators with them. Great fun.
        In 1982, my final year living in Middleton before going off working in London, Bedford, Hull and Lincoln, I remember the club’s players included Alan Tomlinson and Pete Foy. I stopped playing cricket in Lincoln in 2015. Very fond memories of a strong HBCC, and I wonder which of us is still playing !

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      2. Neil Edwards

        Hi Steven
        I lived next door to the Walton family, all 22 of them, I more or less grew up with them. The girls were all lovely looking from Shirley down to the twins. I knocked about with Martin, so you can imagine the trouble we got into, LOL. Wendy was my age. The Father worked for British rail and he worked every hour god sent. I remember poor little Richard, losing his life to cancer at such a young age. A cracking little kid that could climb any tree on earth.

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  5. David W Pearse

    100 years ago this week my mother Joan Tomkins was born. She was the 14th child of Thomas & Susannah Tomkins who had a grocery shop on Rochdale Road
    The family were great suppporters of St Peters throughout much of the 20th Century. She married Jack Pearse originally of Hertford Road Blackley, before moving to Alkrington when they were married
    Jack worked all his life at ICI where he was The Finance Director. He was also Church Warden at St Peters for many years. I am hoping to travel back to Blackley this Sunday to the St Peter’s morning service
    If there’s anybody there who remembers my parents, please let me know
    David Pearse

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    1. kenneth hibbert

      David my name is Ken Hibbert . Do you by any chance have a relation called Elaine Tomkins who lived in Middleton and then moved to Rochdale. Best regards Ken.

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      1. David Pearse

        Cant think of one, but a lot of the Tomkins family did move from Blackley to Middleton, (us included) There were also so many Tomkins (my mum was the 14th! that I still haven’t met them all!)

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      2. kenneth hibbert

        Thank you for your reply . If you hear of anyone who has news of Elaine I would be very grateful. Thank you again. Best regards Ken .

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  6. David Pearse

    Many thanks to all the congregation at St Peter’s Blackley for making Lynn and myself so welcome last Sunday at Morning Service. It was wonderful to return to this beautiful old church after so many years and to chat about the old days with the amazing Keith Ingham who was still working his socks off for the Church, just as he was, 60 years ago!! In those days, Sunday for me was 8.00 Communion where I was an Altar Boy for Revs Neville Cryer and Harold Tate then back for 10.30 Mattins and 6.30 Evensong where I was a choirboy. (I showed my wife my name D.Pearse. carved into the choir stall front left, in 1957. Got an absolute b****king from the Rector and The Churchwarden for that, -he was also my father – Jack Pearse!). In between 2.30 was Sunday School on School Lane, where my Aunt Marion (Moll) Tomkins was The Headmistress and then down to the little sweet shop at the bottom of the Lane where, if I was lucky, I would spend some of the money earned for singing in the Choir the previous day if there had been a wedding. 2/6 (12 1/2 p.now) Also very interesting to meet Mrs Fitton ( I didn’t catch her Christian Name) who lived in Blackley Village until emigrating to Brisbane in the 1980s) and who, like me, was revisiting old haunts. Thanks also to Mrs Gillian Hamer for arranging the flowers on the Altar in memory of my Mum and to Dorothy, who shared her memories of my father who she worked alongside at ICI. A most uplifting sermon was preached by the New Curate whose energy and enthusiasm will I am sure be a wonderful asset to the church and local community. Once again, our very best wishes to everybody at St Peters.

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  7. Sheila Barlow

    My brother and his wife Hartley and Linda Downs ran the Old House at Home in the village for 40 yrs until it went out of business. They then moved to the flats opposite Blackley Golf Club. Sadly Hartley passed away on the 11th May 2018. However Linda still lives there. Helped out behind the bar on several occasions and attendEd many of their infamous parties. Good times and they were very well regarded in Blackley as was shown by the attendance of so many people at H’s funeral. X

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  8. Stephen Flynn

    I was a regular in the white lion for many years and the reason there is a plaque of dick Turpin on the wall is because he was a relief land lord for a while. His wife was called val and I went to his wedding in town and he had his reception in the press club on queens street of deansgate

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  9. Neil Edwards

    I moved to French Barn Lane in 1960 at the age of 5yrs. I went to Pike fold school and then Plant hill school. I lived next to St peters church so spent all my child hood playing there. The curate was `Dave the Rave` and he was great, liked to drink in the Red Lion with the students but never forgot the kids. I met my first love in the church yard, a beautiful girl called Angela Spencer, her granddad owned the little toffee shop facing the White Lion. My heart is thumping just thinking of her. I went to the village recently and they have demolished all the shops and built houses. Where do they get the bread and milk?

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  10. Paul

    My wife and some of her family lived and worked in Blackley in the 70’s. She is trying to remember the name of a really famous bakers shop on Viccy Ave opposite St Clare’s

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  11. Ian Ball

    Does anyone remember the little farmyard near Bowker Vale station bridge on Middleton road we used to buy eggs there in the 1950s

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  12. Jackie Clayton

    Fascinating! I was born on Grant st Blackley in 1951. Sadly don’t know number. Went to Blackley convent at 4yrs old then moved out of area. Don’t suppose anyone will remember my family but… live in hope. My parents Richard+Sheila Foale. My Grandma Alice Ibbotson . She lived on Bossall Ave. Any memories would be appreciated. Jackie Clayton nee Foale

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  13. Raymund

    My family moved to Plant Hill Road in 1945 shortly after I was born. I was fourth in a family of 5 children. The children, of course, in time moved away but my parents lived there until their deaths in the 1980’s. I remember particularly playing in the street without ever being bothered by traffic!

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  14. Raymund

    I am unsure why I posted here earlier but having done so it would fascinating if anybody from the 1950’s remembered my family (Band) from Plant Hill Road / Saint Clare’s school and church.

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  15. Mike Blackburne-known as Blackie back then

    Hi Pat-I knew Neil Edwards back in the 70’s when I lived on hill lane behind Blackley villlage and I would like to talk to neil again-you can pass on my email to him if you can please its good to talk-Mike

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  16. Donald Bastow

    Only just found your lovely site. Born at Plant Hill nursing home on Vicky Avee, 4th July1933, went to the old Crab Lane school Lived at 36 Beardwood Road till 1939 then moved to 9 Westway off Heaton Park rd .Worked at ICI Blackley Works (Commercial Dept.) 1956 – 64. Married in 1956 and we had a flat at 46 Delauneys Rd,. Anybody heard of the CAT STEPS, My Father worked at Connolleys Backley Ltd fpr 38 years and used to walk down them from Chapel Lane to the factory every day…I never actually saw them !

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    1. Michael Blackburne

      Donald- The cat steps were situated at the side of the old Millstone pub-across the blackley new road from the bottom of chapel lane-from the bottom of those steps the entrance to connolly’s cables would be just on the right a short distance.The link of the steps is below donald-the only one I could find of the steps as also in my memory. Mike

      https://whatpub.com/pubs/MAN/9753/millstone-blackley

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  17. Anthony Goodchild

    Nobody has mentioned Rhodes woods yet my name is Tony goodchild born in Crumpsall Hospital 1946 lived on Crossdale road went to Crosslee primary and Moss House school left Blackley in the seventies we all had a fantastic youth in Blackley .

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    1. Don Bastow

      I am trying to trace whether the CATSTEPS are still visible along a path which runs from the top of CHAPEL and runs down to Blackley New Road near Connolly’s (Blackley) works, where my Father worked in the 1940/50’s.
      Don Bastow

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