Robinsons Brewery Visitors Centre
Take a tour around Stockport’s famous brewery, learn how the magic happens and explore the flavours...Robinsons Brewery Visitors Centre
Stockport’s a town whose history, like that of much of the Manchester area, is deeply tied up with the Industrial Revolution. Water power and spinning machines combined to make it a powerhouse of commerce for a brief 200 years: then the World Wars came and stopped the party in its tracks.
Fortunately for a now burgeoning tourist industry, many of Stockport’s beautiful old buildings survived the attentions of the German bombers: equally fortunately for the increasing numbers of new residents in the area, who are moving out of the big smoke to find an easier way of life in repurposed mills and factories, now designer flats.
Visit Stockport for its history and surrounding countryside, and you’ll find some of the best preserved and important relics of the time when all of Manchester resounded to the sounds of steam engines and working mills. Come here to live, and you’ll fall in love with its green spaces.Read more
by Tom Heynes
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Originally a market town in its own right, Stockport retains much of its village feel – despite the sprawl that connects it to Manchester proper.
The M60 ring motorway doesn’t quite mark the boundary between the rural charm of Stockport’s surroundings and the urban urgency of the city, but it does enough to keep both traveller and suburban dweller happy. Bordered by stunning country villages – including the uniquely preserved Styal, home to one of the biggest and best mills in the UK – and a short drive from the grandeur of the Peak District, Stockport is still essentially a leafy location.
Local residents have played an impressive part in regenerating Stockport, after its fall from industrial grace in the middle of the 20th century. It was locals who saved the Market Square’s much loved Staircase House, and it will be locals who drive future plans for the area. Already, the ex-industrial spaces around the town, which bristle with iconic red brick mills and factories, are being swept up in the shiny wave of reform: ending the reputation given to the place by philosopher Friedrich Engels, who commented that it was the dustiest and smokiest place in what was then Cheshire and Lancashire.
Thanks to the local brewery, which has survived for more than 170 years in all economic conditions, Stockport is heaving with fine pubs and bars. It’s mainly a traditional northern town as far as drinking is concerned (hence the success of the brewery), and many of the most noteworthy establishments within town limits are favoured by CAMRA enthusiasts. At the same time as the brewery was being founded, many of Stockport’s most visible landmarks were laid down: as a big player in the Industrial Revolution, the town is as well stocked with Victoriana as it is with pubs. The viaduct, which comprises more than 11 million bricks, is top of the list.
Now, Stockport is firmly associated with its massive neighbour: at a mere seven miles from the heart of the city, it’s officially part of Greater Manchester. The town isn’t interested in becoming just another bus stop, though. Its personality is its own, and its future lies firmly in its hands.
Stockport is only seven miles away from Manchester International Airport.
Its huge railway station is on the route between Cornwall and Scotland; and also from London to Birmingham and Manchester.
Stockport’s location near Manchester means that it is accessed via the M60. It’s also linked to the A6.
The town has an excellent local bus network, which includes buses to both Manchester and the Peak District
The town centre is compact, pleasant and easily walkable. The visitor will find plenty of places of interest in and around the town itself, including an extraordinary underground network of air raid shelters (see below) and one of the oldest town houses in Britain: the Staircase House, so named for its Jacobean staircase. The Staircase House has been almost completely restored thanks to the hard work and dedication of local pressure groups, which prevented it from being demolished towards the end of the 20th century.
There are plenty of green spaces in Stockport town centre, all of which provide wonderful places to walk and relax. Woodbank Memorial Park, St Thomas Recreation Ground and Hollywood Park are all within easy walking distance of the train station, which is situated to the west of the centre. Stockport Cemetery, Cale Green Park and Priory Park are also worth a visit.
The River Goyt, which runs around the edge of Vernon Park and the Woodbank Memorial Park, provides splendid waterside routes for runners, walkers and cyclists.
Some of Stockport’s biggest tourist draws, including Quarry Bank Mill at Styal, are in surrounding villages. They can be accessed by bus, or in a car. The roads in the area become extremely busy at rush hour times, with commuters leaving central Manchester for the suburbs and villages.
Stockport’s early history is little known – the town may or may not have existed around the time of the Domesday Book, in which it is not mentioned.
It’s possible that Stockport was then a marketplace rather than a town, connected to an existing estate. Buildings from the 16th century survive in the town centre, notably the Three Shires building, which is now a restaurant.
The 18th Century
The early 18th century catapulted Stockport from market village to fully fledged textile town. John Lombe, who had reportedly stolen the designs to the hydro-powered machines that wove textiles in Italy (for which he was poisoned not long after), produced his own versions in Derby, and when the patent expired Stockport’s silk mills were built. For a brief period (less than 40 years), Stockport was a booming textile industry town: shortly after, a bust in the industry caused by foreign import gave indications of what was to come. The town went through periods of fat and lean for several decades, until the late 18th century when more powerful mills enabled huge quantities of cotton to be processed.
Stockport had another arrow in its quiver, however: hat making. At the beginning of the 19th century, Stockport hatters had earned a nationwide reputation, and industrialisation of the skill enabled their businesses to grow rapidly.
The war years dented the hatting industry irreparably – first with a lack of international trade and then thanks to the depression of the 1930s. Now Stockport mills and factories survive as tourist attractions, some of which are extremely well preserved. Relics of the Second World War in the town centre (a system of underground air raid shelters) are also on the must-see list.
Stockport’s enviable list of beautiful buildings is beginning to attract new residents to the area, looking for a desirable alternative to living in central Manchester.
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