The Ladysmith Centre? If you haven't been to Ashton for a few years you might wonder what it is. It started life in the 60s and was commonly known as "The Precinct". At the time, it was Ashton's stride into the future with a traffic-free shopping area. Mind you - Ashton already had a much earlier traffic-free shopping street in the form of The Avenue, between the Market Hall and Stamford Street!
These days much of the town centre is traffic-free, but when the Precinct opened, cars and buses were still going along Warrington Street, past the Post Office and the Market to the Prince of Orange pub. There was even a car parking area along the side of the market (opposite where Marks and Spencer now is). So the Precinct would probably have been a welcome refuge from the motor car for Ashton's shoppers.
It was less welcome for some of Ashton's traders, though, and was blamed for the decline in Stamford Street as a shopping area. But this is not entirely fair - if Ashton had not "moved with the times", some shoppers would have gone elsewhere. Oldham and Stockport had also opened traffic-free shopping precincts. Also, stores like Woolworths were finding their Stamford Street premises too small for their needs and might have pulled out of the town if there had not been new space available for them.
With the arrival of the adjoining "Arcades" shopping mall in the 90s, the Precinct was re-invented as the "Ladysmith Centre", with a major facelift giving it a modern look, helping it to keep up with its new neighbour. The photos show that it is still popular with shoppers today.
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