Before we move on in the photobook to the third bridge, the Mersey Gateway, It may help to put them in the context of at least one of the towns that they link. I took most of my photos from the Widnes side, so I’ll start there and return to Runcorn later.
The photos above and below of the town are ones that I took from the pedestrian footpath of the Silver Jubilee bridge. In the background of the images, you can see the Mersey Gateway and the former Fidlers Ferry power station.
The photo below shows one of the West-Bank locks where goods used to the Sankey Canal at Widnes to be transported along the Mersey to end users nationally and internationally. Only one of those two locks remains operational.
When you see that Widnes, on the banks of an important river, has three great bridges, you could be forgiven for imagining that it is a substantial city. Well, it was important, in its day, as the birthplace of the chemicals industry in Great Britain, but now it’s just a post-industrial town between Warrington and Speke, Liverpool. It’s nearest inland neighbour is St Helens and the Sankey canal from St Helens to Widnes via Warrington terminates at a lock into the Mersey at Spike Island. More will be said about that in the next-but-one post.
The industrial past of the town was dominated by chemical manufacturers of products such as borax, soda ash, saltcake and bleaching powder. Other industries including iron and copper works added to the demand for labour and housing. Even in my younger days, foul smells from the town’s chemical works travelled as far as St Helens.
The town has changed a lot since it lost its major industry.
Widnes Library and St Paul’s Church, seen above at the edge of a major roundabout, on Victoria Road, were once at the hub of the old town.
Widnes Road, now pedestrianised, remains a key part of the local shopping scene, though it is now sandwiched between other shopping sections of the town.
Widnes Shopping Park, offers free car-parking for 4 hours with a huge parking area on two levels, and this, and some major department stores, are big draws to shoppers from some neighbouring towns who offer no free parking.
The neighbouring Green Oaks Shopping Centre, though parking here is now pay-and-display, still hosts some big-name shops and some of the smartphone, jewellery and perfume outlets.
Moving down-market, literally, next door to the Green Oaks centre is the covered market.
Inside the covered market are small independent businesses offering a range of services from sewing repairs and hardware to fresh fish and butchers’ stalls.
Even further down-market, next door to the covered market, seen above and below on a Wednesday, when, from 10am, there is a flea-market where second-hand goods may be bought and sold.
So, Widnes isn’t a rival to Liverpool or London, but it is still a lively and welcoming town. In my next post about Widnes, I’ll show some images of its Victoria Park and Butterfly House.