diamond geezer

 Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Gadabout: BURY

Bury lies eight miles north of Manchester, squished along the Irwell valley between Bolton and Rochdale. Another former mill town, it's also indirectly responsible for the Metropolitan Police, the Conservative Party and the repeal of the Corn Laws. I was in town on Saturday afternoon, and explored three Bury icons...
[11 photos]

Bury Market

Bury boasts the north of England's largest market, indeed it's often been voted Britain's best. Bury Market's so good that 1500 coachloads of shoppers turn up every year (perhaps lured in by the offer of £5 Coach Driver Meal Vouchers and a dedicated Coach Driver's Rest Room). In common with many northern towns there's a large market hall, this one 60-stalls strong beneath a 'bird-wing' roof, ideal for giftware, fresh vegetables and getting your nails done. Another 300 stalls fill the sinuous blocks of the Open Market, technically not open but very-much shielded from the weather, where Julie's Hats sells dowdy headgear opposite the plastic tablecloths of the Fresh Bites Cafe. You could easily wander for much longer round here.

But I judged Bury Market's pride and joy to be the Fish and Meat Hall. This oval centrepiece is topped by two layers of curving webbed canopy, but the full airy design only hits you when you walk inside... and the whiff of fish and meat too. Each of the stalls has a large sloping display in front, ideal for laying out lush seafood or blood red mince. This is the place to come for Bury's most famous delicacy, black pudding, available here in more sizes and flavours than carnivores generally require. I ummed and ahhed over buying Best Mate a Chilli Black Pudding, unconvinced I could get it home in heatwave conditions without spoiling, finally deciding at the end of my visit hell why not, only to discover that at half past four all the produce is packed away and the slabs get sluiced down, so all I ended up with was wet feet.

Bury Cultural Quarter

According to the town council's official tourist website, "the Bury Cultural Quarter boasts many of the most fascinating museums in the UK." I'd beg to differ. That said I didn't make it past the lobby of the Fusilier Museum, "the one stop shop for all things Fusilier in the North West", so maybe that's where I slipped up. I did explore Bury Art Museum & Sculpture Centre opposite, inside what Pevsner described as "probably the best building in Bury." I liked the art, a thoughtful collection spanning mixed ages and genres, sparsely hung. The museum chunk in the basement was very brief, unwisely implying Bury doesn't have much history. Alas I didn't find any of the sculpture section, even though I walked round twice, so I guess I must've missed a badly labelled door somewhere.

What I did find easily, because it's housed in an enormous shed, is Bury Transport Museum. Stored inside this former goods depot is a horseshoe of old vehicles, notably local buses and a horse tram, but also delivery vans and motorbikes. Step inside the Yelloway Mobile Museum (I couldn't, it was locked) to discover more about a century of coach travel. Look in on the model railway layout (it wasn't running), or admire the wall liberally smothered in old railway station signs. I particularly liked the niche history of Metrolink, and a splendid wooden departures board which once graced the ticket hall at (oddly enough) Harpenden station.

The Cultural Quarter also contains the original market square, where the place of honour is reserved for a statue of Sir Robert Peel. This 19th century Tory Prime Minister was born and educated in the town, although never represented it, gaining his first parliamentary seat courtesy of a rotten borough in Galway. A quote from his resignation speech graces the back of the plinth, and his waistcoat is done up the wrong way round at the front. Close by is Bury Castle (Bury originally means castle), although all that can be seen today are a few buttresses in a bit of moat, the remainder having been razed after the Wars of the Roses. To summarise, some interesting museums, but by no means the most fascinating in the UK.

East Lancashire Railway

If Bury Transport Museum piqued your interest, the ELR will seal the deal. British Rail pulled out of Bury in 1991, and today it's linked to Manchester only by tram. The former station at Bury (Bolton Street) is now the hub of the East Lancashire Railway, a proper 12 mile heritage line you could spend a day on. I turned up just in time to see the last train steam off to the last station, which wasn't worth a £15 day ticket, but pootling around the period platforms was free, and the Trackside bar was very much open. I psyched myself up to order the craft beer with a French name in an acceptable Lancastrian accent, but unexpectedly it was off, so I pointed at a stout instead.

If you have the time, what's great about the ELR is that it actually goes somewhere worth going to, so I'm told, specifically Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. Ramsbottom is overshadowed by the Peel Monument on Holcombe Hill, and every September hosts the annual Black Pudding Throwing World Championships, because of course they exist. Rawtenstall has The Whittaker museum and a dry ski slope, plus a Lidl beside the bus station, and no doubt lots of other interesting things if only I'd gone there. It pays to explore and travel when the opportunity arises, even across Wigan, Bolton and Bury.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream