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Monday, 14 January 2008

Ladysmith Centre


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.

7 comments:

  1. Martin, this is one of the pictures that needs some absorbing for an ex-pat! I could have it incorrect, but somewhere along the way and over the last decade, was the entrance into the "Ladysmith Centre" christened 'The Avenue'? Sometime back on a trip, I was looking for the Avenue where Boots used to have it's chemist on the corner opposite Grafton House where you crossed a zebra crossing looked after by a Beacon!. Of course it looked very derelect and lonely. When I asked a passerby about the Avenue, I was directed to the 'New Avenue'. I found the place and was very impressed with all the shops along both sides. I seem to remember a sweet shop, a bread shop, shoe shop, cards etc I am almost sure that a Burtons shop seemed to take a turn to the left and maybe I had to go upstairs? Boots Chemists looked as though it was doing very lucrative business. I have to say, it was a pleasure going into all the new shops. Anyway, from looking at your most recent photographs and the sign over the entrance "Ladysmith Centre", it looks like Ashton has picked up and is looking on the bright side. Probably will have a nice future with it's new shopping area. I do remember the buses and traffic still using the road (Warrington St)? along with the car park across the road fron 'The New Ave."Also the line of Black Cabs that seemed to line up there. I am sure that you are beginning to enjoy the new Ashton. There were a lot of old places needing replacement. Thanks again for the photographs. M

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  2. I dont think the lady with the white hair appreciates what a great blog this is Martin, she seems to be poking her tongue out at you.

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  3. I don't suppose the lady with the white hair knew that people around the world would be seeing the photo!

    I have now realised that what I have always called "The Avenue" is really called "Market Avenue". I'll put up some photos of it in a day or so.

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  4. It's some years since I was in Ashton and its fascinating to see and read about the changes. I remember the Precinct and in fact worked in the Tax Office which was over some of the shops. By the time I left Ashton the Precinct was looking very dowdy and it's really good to see how alive and bright it looks.

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  5. Jean and I were ther last month and have to say what an improvement this has all become.
    As someone who remembers the Reporter office being roughly where M&S is it's nice to see the place finally coming together. When the precinct was built it was the latest fashion the 60's had in terms of architecture but after a decade or so was beginning to look very dated. Thankfully everything looks fresh and new again.

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  6. I can remember the Precinct being built in the 60s. I was never a fan-hated all that grey concrete and mourned the passing of Stamford St and the Market Avenue (which was always called the Avenue for short). It ran from Bow Street opposite the Market Ground (Allen Shaw's grocer's was on the corner) crossed Old Street and continued through to Stamford St. Good shops like Burgess and Dyson's book shop, Lumbs for bags and umbrellas and the wonderful smell of roasting coffee.

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