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Time out: Brows on a cloudy day

by
15 February 2011

by Margaret Duggan

Where?

Stockport is within Greater Man­chester, but borders Cheshire and Derbyshire. The A6 runs right through the town, which is easily accessible by bus and train.

Why?

Nostalgia — and industrial heritage. Explore the steep cobbled streets and brows (pronounced “brews”) of central Stockport. The brows would be an apt setting for a Hovis adver­tisement, and are often used as film locations. To get the full flavour, go on a damp day when the 19th-century mills and factory chimneys can be seen against a background of low cloud and distant hills.

What to see

The magnificent Victorian ironwork of the 27-arch railway viaduct looks just as good, of course, when the sun comes out. When it was built in 1839, it was one of the largest free-standing brick structures in the world.

On a Tuesday, Friday, or Saturday, Stockport market draws shoppers and browsers from a wide area. It was granted its charter in 1260, and, reputedly, the last wife-sale in Eng­land took place there. Many of its stalls are still housed in the Grade II listed iron-and-glass Market Hall, built in 1861. At the popular cheese stall you can sample the sharp Lan­cashire cheese before you buy.

One of the market’s most famous tenants was Ephraim Marks, whose brother Michael, founder of Marks & Spencer, ran a penny bazaar in the town in the 1890s. Once a month there are stalls selling vintage clothes.

Near the market is the Staircase House, so-called because it has a rare Jacobean staircase — one of only three surviving in England. Just as rare is the Hat Works. The town once had a thriving hat industry, and this museum is home to a recreated work­shop with 20 restored Victorian machines and a collection of 400 hats. There you can learn why people were said to be “as mad as a hatter”.

In the centre of the town stands a statue of Richard Cobden, a founder member of the Anti-Corn Law League and MP for Stockport from 1841 to 1847.

The banks of the River Mersey are perfect for a stroll on a fine day. The Art Deco Plaza Cinema, much loved by locals, has been re­stored, and now includes a theatre.

Worth a look

St Mary’s is a Grade I listed church with a chancel dating from 1334. The nave and 125-feet-high tower were rebuilt in 1814 after the tower cracked as a result of prolonged bell-ringing to celebrate Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Where to eat

The Arden Arms. Its unpreposses­sing position in Millgate notwith­standing, this 19th-century gastro-pub has real fires, real ales (from local breweries), real food, and a reputa­tion to travel for. Tiamo’s, at 1 Great Underbank, is a popular continental-style café. The Staircase House has an associated café, Blackshaw’s, and also houses the Tourist Information Centre.

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