Macclesfield pins its future on leisure regeneration scheme
PUBLISHED: 13:44 27 July 2015 | UPDATED: 22:04 23 October 2015
Silk has defined Macclesfield. Locals are keen to retain its heritage while regenerating for the future, writes Rebekka O'Grady
Macclesfield is a town that is constantly evolving. From finding its fortune in silk to becoming home to one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca, the town is now moving forward to secure a new leisure-led scheme to spearhead the regeneration of the town centre.
Two potential sites identified by the council are the Duke Street car park and the Churchill Way car park. This new development follows the ending of the Silk Street development agreement with Wilson Bowden.
‘This is a watershed moment for the realisation of a leisure regeneration scheme for Macclesfield town centre and signals a new era,’ said leader of Cheshire East Council, Councillor Michael Jones. ‘As the development agreement with Wilson Bowden has terminated, the council can now actively test the market for interest from other potential developers, who may wish to invest in the town centre utilising some of the land, which has for many years been earmarked for the Silk Street scheme.’
The councillor said they believe there is a strong market interest in this project, which will be central to delivering a town centre that the people of Macclesfield deserve. The council has also committed £1,000,000 in capital funding to support projects to refurbish and revitalise the town centre.
‘This council is about actions, not just words – and we are proceeding with real purpose to unlock and realise the great potential of Macclesfield.’
It’s not only the council wanting to unlock what Macclesfield has to offer: two local businesses are keen to revive the town’s famous silk connections. John Douglas Menswear, located in the late-16th century building on Chestergate, have teamed up with Bollington silk mill R A Smart, to produce a heritage range of silk ties, scarves and handkerchiefs.
‘Ron has been a customer here for years. We were having a casual conversation about the type of ties I sold in the shop and he realised we don’t stock Macclesfield silk,’ explained David Johnson, who owns the menswear store with his brother, Richard. The original John Douglas was their father. On his death he left the shop to the brothers. ‘It was embarrassing to think we didn’t have Macclesfield silk, especially as we have been established in the town since 1964. It then all started from there.’
After viewing some of the classic Macclesfield designs from Ron’s own archive and in Macclesfield museum for inspiration, David and Ron decided to go into business under the name John Douglas Silks.
The heritage range incorporates elements of those classic designs but are brought up-to-date with vivid patterns and colours. ‘Ron made us 50 ties and they flew out,’ said David, who is selling the ties from £36, scarves are priced up to £60 and handkerchiefs range from £15 to £25. ‘The ties we had available here beforehand were popular but the designs were the same. Men are now reading into heritage, they like things with a history or if a story has a chance to come through.’
The partnership between John Douglas Menswear and R A Smart, which is one of only two silk mills still active in the Macclesfield borough, means that the high street store is the first in decades to stock exclusively designed Macclesfield silk in the town.
‘The next collection is going to be really colourful,’ continued David. ‘We’re hoping to also be able to stock the range in heritage or visitors centres around the country, so that others can buy into the town’s heritage.
‘We just wanted to bring something that a part of Macclesfield’s history into the mainstream. There’s no age in style.’