Bringing Life Back to the Underbanks
n exciting five year Townscape Heritage project is now in full swing. Rediscovering the Underbanks aims to bring buildings back into life and to reconnect people with the area by raising awareness of its stories and unique heritage.
The project is led by Stockport Council with a number of partners including heritage groups and local businesses. After strong national competition the Council was successful in securing a £1.8m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards the project. Some twenty buildings are targeted for repair and improvement which, along with public realm works, will make a real difference to the area. Works can include new shopfronts. These buildings are all historic with their own individual stories to tell. The Council has kick started this change with the renovation of the White Lion. This will be the first building to be transformed this year bringing people and new uses into the area. Rediscovering the Underbanks will host a programme of events to raise awareness and increase the knowledge and appreciation of its unique history. It will provide heritage skills training and community activities designed to bring people into the area. These events will be made available to local people, building owners and local construction professionals. Check out the website for information on upcoming events and activities and stories of the area.
Why is the Underbanks special? It is a Conservation Area packed with notable buildings (see map) and noted for its dramatic historic townscape of changing levels and memorable views, characterised by a dense concentration of nineteenth century traditional buildings, steps, brows and bridges. Businesses are already recognising the potential of the area, especially with the Market Place being only a stone’s throw away. New openings include Laco, SK1 Records, Rare Mags, Tramp, Hillgate Cakery and a host more. All these are specialist independents. Historical Underbanks By the 17th century Stockport had become a centre of small domestic industries such as spinning, weaving, leather working, button making and hatting. Retail shops, stocking non-perishable goods and luxury items, grew in number while the market continued to thrive. It was famous for its local cheeses and cloth. During the 18th century, the town’s many inns remained a central part of its social life and economy with thirty-one inns recorded in the township in the
mid-1750s. The principle hostelry at this time was the White Lion Hotel on Great Underbank, which was Stockport’s main coaching inn and the venue for the Court Leet banquets. Winter’s Clock A key project is the restoration of Winters. ‘Winter’s’ is a local landmark which is renowned for its famous automaton clock feature, which includes three figures – a guardsman, sailor, and father time, clock and three bells. In its heyday the building was a jewellers acquired by Jacob Winter in 1890, a clock repairer who had moved into the area from London. The building was well located at the time to capitalise from passing trade along the Old Road to London. A Market Town Stockport was granted its Market Charter in 1260 and developed through the medieval period as a prosperous market town. The Market Place was served by a network of roads which converged on the Market Place, connecting to a nearby bridging point over the river Mersey, one of only three along the entire length of the Mersey in the medieval period. A factor which must have contributed to the commercial success of the town. Find out more about Stockport’s historic Underbank area: www.rediscoveringtheunderbanks.co.uk xw
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