‘Don’t let the symbol of West Didsbury die’: Campaign to save Lapwing Lane shopping arcade still £11,000 short

By Ana Hine

The campaign to save Didsbury’s Edwardian arcade is still £11,000 short of cash needed – as the historical shopping strip’s centenary draws to a close.

Despite financial support from Manchester City Council and the Heritage Lottery fund, as well as from an overwhelming generous public, the Friends of Lapwing Lane Arcade (FOLLA) group are still short of their target.

Councillor David Ellison said that bringing the arcade back to its former glory will have a regenerating effect on the shops along the veranda.

“As a local Didsbury councillor and as an architect I know how important it is to the area. It is a symbol of West Didsbury,” added the Labour member for Didsbury West.

“This type of cast iron canopy is increasingly rare and now needs expensive preservation work to be saved for the future, otherwise it faced being removed.”

The arcade, which lies on Lapwing Lane opposite the new West Didsbury metro stop, is not listed but does sit in a conservation area.

The council gave to the campaign to save the arcade £16,000, while the Heritage Lottery Fund grant came to  £25,000.

Raynes Architecture, has been working with FOLLA to design a sympathetic restoration for the Lapwing Lane Canopy, including a new glazed roof.

Lisa Raynes, director of the architectural firm, explained that some of the cast iron brackets have decayed and the aim is to replace them in the same pattern as the originals.

This is one of the reasons the restoration project is proving so expensive.

“Money is always a factor, but the canopy has undergone a series of cheap repairs leading to the loss of two bays and broken drainage,” said Ms Raynes.

“It is imperative that works are undertaken soon, before the canopy perishes.”

For Richard Byrne, who lives on Palatine Road in West Didsbury, the Lapwing Lane arcade may not be architecturally significant, but it’s important.

He said: “What can badly muck up neighbourhoods is not necessarily the loss of the major things, but losing far too many of the fairly minor ones.”

Mike Bath, who started the FOLLA campaign, says the arcade of shops used to be called ‘The Verandah’ by residents. He believes it is the last remaining Edwardian arcade in Didsbury and possibly the last in Manchester.

“The shops on the arcade have a particularly strong identity with local people,” said the 66-year-old, who is now the secretary and treasurer of the group.

“Many have shared stories with us of how they were taken to The Verandah as children in the 1930s 1940s and 1950s when it was quite a smart little parade of boutique-like shops.”

Didsbury resident Kati Woodroffe said: “When I moved to live on Lapwing Lane in August 1978 I remember Arthur Russell the rather grumpy fruiterer.”

She added: “And Christy’s the bakers, who baked on the premises with lovely smells coming from the shop.”

Victor Cotton, who also lives in the town, said: “I remember going early in the morning before the shop was open and knocking on the bakery door to buy bread and cakes still warm from the oven.”

Christy’s Confectioners and Bakers opened in 1929 and Russell’s Fruiterer in 1932. Both closed in the early nineties.

FOLLA launched in April 2012 and currently has 765 members. They are running a ‘Pay for a Pane’ scheme to raise money for the new glass canopy, which will require a large number of new panes.

Sponsors get to inscribe a commemorative plaque, which will be erected on the side wall of the end shop unit. Costing a minimum of £100, many have paid a lot more with £17,000 raised so far.

While the group does not own the arcade they have signed a licence agreement with each currently trading shop owner so that the group can restore and maintain the canopy over the next 25 years.

Mr Bath said: “Unless the local community had stepped in nothing would have been done and within a few years the fabric would have become unsafe and would have had to be demolished by the council.”

To take part in the Pay for a Pane scheme or for any other enquires regarding the restoration of Lapwing Lane Arcade contact Mike Bath at [email protected]

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles