11. The Wind of Change

Taking nostalgic walks around the town I have seen the immense change that has taken place since the days of my boyhood.

One of my favourite walks as a boy was to the Docks, via Waterloo Bridge and Percival Lane. I took this walk recently and walked over Waterloo Bridge but found I could not turn into Percival Lane due to the new roadways. I noticed that the old Seamen's Mission in Station Road had gone. To reach Percival Lane I had to detour under tunnels and bridges and observed that all the locks down to the Docks had been filled in. reaching the Docks I was amazed at the change that had taken place. Gone were all the hydraulic cranes and gantries which used to offload the ships; the dockers using large picks, shovels, and forks to handle the cargoes of china clay, china stone, flintstones, etc. and load the narrow boats with large wheelbarrows containing five or six cwt. The dockers in those days used to soak their hands in their own urine to keep them hard. Today it is all done mechanically with huge loughing cranes, fork lift trucks and containers. The cargoes have changed too. I couldn't see any material that once came through the docks for the Potteries, years ago. Today the dockers task is a lot easier and safer than in the old days. I wonder what would be the outcome if they had to endure the conditions of the old time dockers.

Making my way to Weston Point Docks I noticed that the old canal which linked the Bridgewater Canal and the Docks to Weston Point Docks and the Weaver Navigation Canal was mostly filled in and the power station nearby demolished. Reaching Weston Point Docks I saw that the same changes had taken place and the dock area extended; the old Weaver Hotel replaced with warehouses and the old school demolished. The ships in the Docks were mostly foreign but very modern; the crew's quarters equal to any three star hotel.

Most of the small houses in Post Office Lane and South Parade have gone, also those in Lydiate Lane by the Castner Kellner Works, The development which has taken place is enormous. The huge I.C.I. complex now takes up most of the area from Weston Point to the Marsh Locks. The motorways that have been built to link up with the high level bridge and the large viaduct over the Weaver and the M56 resembles Spaghetti Junction.

Another walk I used to enjoy was on the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal from Delph Bridge to Astmoor. All the tanneries and works which once surrounded this stretch of canal have gone. The green fields which stretched from Bate's Bridge to Astmoor Bridge, down to the Ship Canal, is now an industrial estate with many large and small factories. Leaving the towpath at the turnover bridge, this is one of many on the canal where the towpath changes from one side to the other; these were designed to enable the horse to cross over without releasing the tow rope; I made my way through the lane to Halton Castle. The view from this fine advantage point is vastly different from my early days. All the agricultural land as far as the eye can see is now built up with the huge shopping city complex dominating the scene.

The ruins of the old castle have been preserved without too much vandalism. I trust the present generation will help to preserve some of the historic landmarks which old Runcornians were so proud of.

The changes which have taken place in the centre of the old town are mostly for the better. All the slum dwellings which once surrounded Church Street have gone. King Street, Cooper Street, Fryer Street, Brunswick Street, Granville Street, Loch Street and Princess Street now house modern shops, market, high rise flats and car parks. A remarkable change when disease was rife in these areas. The skyline is vastly different from when it was dominated by the Transporter Bridge, St. Paul's church and the factory chimneys. This is all replaced by the high level bridge, high rise flats and underpasses, and flyovers of the new motorway system.

Changes have to take place to keep up with the modern times, but whatever change takes place it can never destroy the past heritage we enjoyed in our boyhood and early years.

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