Having spent the first forty years of my life in Bolton, it will always hold a special place in my heart. All my memories are there. I was born and brought up there, both Jellybeans were born in Bolton and spent most of their childhoods there.
Bolton has changed a lot in the twelve years since we emigrated south to the warmer climes of Hampshire. I remember the town centre mainly, through the rose tinted glasses of my teenage years. We have visited the town over the years on many occasions, with trips mainly being taken up with visiting family and friends, we have probably only ventured into the centre once or twice since we moved.
Our caravan was snuggled up in the Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, Burrs Country Park in Bury for this year’s annual pilgrimage. Being here for just short of two weeks we decided to take a mooch down memory lane as well as visiting the rellies.
Just ten miles out of Manchester, an old cotton mill town, Bolton has some magnificent architecture that the teenage me just took for granted.
Armed with my Clippercard, I’d stand at the bus stop in all weathers, dolled up to the nines with my pocket money and any left over dinner money buried deeply in my bag. The Town Hall complete with steps and two majestic lions form the centre of the Town Hall Square. As very young children our Grandad told us that late at night as Bolton sleeps, the lions get up and prowl the town, keeping it safe for everyone. If only it were true. Many a Saturday afternoon spent meeting friends by the fountains, long since removed, sitting on the Town Hall steps discussing the latest fashions, boys, music, our favourite incense and joss sticks, whilst stinking to high heaven of Patchouli Oil.
Behind the Town Hall is ‘Le Mans Crescent’, named after the twin town, another architectural delight, complete with original cobbles. Used in filming on countless occasions for period dramas, including the more recently Peaky Blinders. Home to the magistrates court which now sadly appears up for sale, the library, aquarium and museum where on cold, wet Saturday afternoon, we would gather in the cafe sharing a hot chocolate.
Back in the day Bolton was home to three major record shops where we would congregate to see what was being played and which single was going to be lucky enough to be worthy of our weekly pocket money. Derek Guests, Tracks and a little bit later HMV came to town. Tracks was my choice of record shop in which to be seen. I was known to buy my singles in the Co-op though, they were 10p cheaper, then transfer them to a Tracks bag to appear ‘cool.’ The only evidence of any of my record shops now is HMV, standing cold, dark, empty and unloved.
McDonalds. Where it all began. Without this special building my life would’ve been written completely differently. One day, maybe one day, we’ll be allowed a little look around out the back in the kitchen and staff areas, just to reminisce.
Walking away from McDonalds, Fred Dibnah, steeplejack,stands tall and proud, with a cheeky grin on his face. One of Bolton’s national treasures. Behind him a great glass encased steam engine, a reminder of the town’s history and roots.
The Market Hall, once a thriving place of retail, hustle and bustle seemed to have had the energy, the history and maybe even the soul sucked out of it the last time we were here around six years or more ago. Today, we are pleasantly surprised, a buzz seems to have returned and retail outlets that had stood empty on our previous visit now stand proud adorned with Christmas decorations with their doors open welcoming people. It’s had some major work done over the last few years. The Vaults are now exposed. Once a basement in the bowels of the building where stall holders probably stored excess stock, has been overhauled and had it’s original brick arches revealed and is now the home to restaurants and cafes with a crazy golf, soft play and cinema thrown in for good measure. All around good old Bolton quotes decorate the building, “Dost tha want summat t’eyt?” “Tha can get sum reet good grub in ‘ere.” Love a bit of good old Lancy Twang.
The old Arndale Centre remains pretty much the same, the budgies in a huge central cage went years ago, as did the shops of my youth, Chelsea Girl, C&A and an open fronted newsagents where I’d pick up my Record Mirror. With more up to date shops and very little in the way of seating, the 15 year old me can still relate to the building.
Time to go back. We’ve walked my Mum’s little legs off. We’ve not spent much, a couple of cakes to have with a cup of strong builders tea later and a whist pie for The Boss to munch on as he traipses round behind us.
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