Altrincham - on a mission to transform
PUBLISHED: 22:18 08 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:36 20 February 2013
Altrincham has a task force with the mission of transforming the town into one of the best places to live in the UK <br/>WORDS BY MIKE SMITH <br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COCKS
Did you know?
Altrincham is an ancient and historic market town dating back to 1290.
Three times a week the traditional market is held and it seems it will always be a feature of local shopping.
The oldest surviving part of Altrincham is around Old Market Place and Church Street, on the A56, dating back to the 1700s.
Altrincham borders beautiful Dunham Massey Country Park. Here youll find one of the North- Wests greatest plantsmans gardens, surrounded by acres of deer park.
Altrinchams ancient St James Fair, or Samjam, was held until 1895. Fair days had their own court of Pye Powder from the French for dusty feet, presided over by the mayor and held to settle disputes arising from the days dealings.
The name Altrincham first appeared as Aldringeham meaning home of Aldheres people.
Altrincham has had many incarnations over the centuries, both in the spelling of its name and in its prime function as a town.
According to the local history society, the spelling went through 13 different versions before the present name evolved from Altringham.
Since its beginnings as a Saxon village, the town has been a medieval market town, a coaching halt, a market-gardening centre, a canal town
and a manufacturing centre.
The popular perception of Altrinchams current incarnation is that it is an affluent commuter town with some very desirable properties. Although this description reflects a major aspect of the towns character,
Altrincham is much more than this, and Altrincham Forward, a Trafford ouncil supported task force of business people and community groups, would like it to be very much more than this.
Their mission is to make Altrincham one of the countrys prime locations
for living, shopping, working and leisure.
Before investigating the likelihood of this vision becoming reality, I asked
one couple who have lived in the area for 55 years to tell me about life in todays town. Retired dentist Bob Peers and his wife Mary spoke of the sense of history, still in evidence in the old market area.
They talked about Altrinchams great range of bars and restaurants, particular picking out Francs, where you can always rely on good food, and they told me how much they enjoyed the plays staged by the Garrick Players and the Club Theatre.
Singling out Altrinchams superb transport connections, Bob said: The
Metro is an excellent link into Manchester, the M6 is ten minutes away and the airport is 12 minutes away and we dont even get disturbed by aircraft noise, because the flight paths dont cross over here. With tongue in cheek, he added: Altrincham is a great place to get away from.
Together with the effects of the recession, it is this ease of access to
Manchester and to out-of-town shopping malls which has contributed to the closure of several local retail outlets in recent times.
Altrincham Forwards members are determined to reverse this trend and they have reason to be optimistic in the light of recent developments, which include the current renovation of Grafton Mall, where a former office block has already been converted into a Travelodge,and the completion of the Stamford Quarter, which is full of new stores with spectacular all-glass faades and spacious interiors.
National chains lured into this brand-new development include Waterstones, Costa, H & M, River Island, Boots, Wilkinsons, New Look
and the countrys first in-town branch of Desire by Debenhams. At the time of writing, the most recent occupants were Barclays Bank, which had relocated from Stamford New Road.
With its spacious, comfy reception area, huge photographs of Premier League footballers and screen-less serving counters, the new branch offers a friendly approach to banking.
Manager Scott Melville said: When we first moved here, some of our regular customers mistakenly thought wed changed our staff, because they now have much more personal contact with members of the counter team who used to be hidden behind screens. As well as getting to know individual accountholders better, it is important for banks to help new and existing business as much as possible. For example, we recently held
a beer-tasting evening for our customers at the newly-opened Brew House.
One new business that has achieved instant success is the Altrincham branch of H Samuels, which opened as an eightweek trial pop-up shop two years ago and has now won an award as Best Role Model in all the companys 340 stores.
Manager Adii Roberts, who has received his own award as Best Newcomer of the Year, attributes the shops success to great staff who get to know customers well and keep them happy by offering them what they want.
The accent on personal service is also the hallmark of the Laundry Fashion Shop on Stamford New Road, opened in April 2011 by Laura Warburton, a member of the Warburton bread family. When I called in her fashion outlet, Laura told me: I managed a boutique in Stockton Heath for four years, but I always dreamt of having my own fashion shop.
I like to think of my boutique as a dressing-up box that every big girl should play in. My staff The Launderettes have become friends with lots of the customers, who come back time and again because we put in new stock every week.
If managers of other new business follow the examples set by Scott, Adii and Laura, Altrinchams shopping and business area will have a bright future. A voluntary group that is building for the future is the Garrick Players, whose plays are so admired by Bob and Mary Peers. The amateur company runs a thriving Garrick Academy of Performing Arts (GAPA) for young people in three different age groups.
In fact, the preparation of Altrinchams young people for the future is probably better than anywhere else in the country, because there is an enormous concentration of excellent schools, both state and private. The Navigation Primary School was recently named Get Set School of the Month by Lord Coe in recognition of their innovative inclusion of the 2012 Olympics into both curricular and extra-curricular activities.
As well as having a visit from Wenlock, the Olympic mascot, the school played host to Auvita Rapilla, Secretary General of the Olympic Committee of Papua New Guinea, where the school has two link-schools.
On the evidence I have gathered in businesses, voluntary organisations and schools, the Altrincham Forward group can indeed look forward to their town becoming one of the countrys prime locations for living, shopping, working and leisure.