Lancashire At War.co.uk

Exploring the hidden history of War sites in Lancashire

Drinkwater Park & Philips Park, Prestwich - WW2 & Cold War stories

Philips Park:

Little is known about Philips Park and Drinkwater Park during WW2. But what we do know we have put on this page.

In the early years of the Second World War a Barrage Balloon crew was stationed at The Park, lodging in the stables until their huts were built. Miss Philips wrote “No joke to have to feed ten hungry lads and their leader. They used to call me Granny, but I didn’t mind.”

( Reference: 'The Philips Family Of The Park, Prestwich' -

The stables block is now sadly derelict. The precise site of the barrage balloon is unknown.

 

BELOW LEFT & BELOW RIGHT: Across from the Stables in the field wheer the play area once was sits this unusual concrete object. Is it from WW2 and if so, what is it?

Drinkwater Park:

According to several sources, Drinkwater Park suffered badly due to the pollution of the nearby industry, primarily the Magnesium Elektron Works at Clifton.

 

"The atmospheric pollution that ravaged much of the park during World War II had abated: “Atmospheric pollution is so severe that no one species of tree is immune… Oak, Beech, Ash and some Horse Chestnuts in the Garden have been killed outright. Even common ivy appeared to be damaged by this pollution which emanates from nearby factories just to the west of the park.” (Joint Committee Minutes Book, May, 1948)." - from 'The Philips Family Of The Park, Prestwich'

 

The photo, RIGHT, from 'Prestwich In Old Postcards -  Volume 2' shows the dead and dying trees, although the photo is undated. A photograph of the Prestwich Autumn Horse Show in September 1946, from almost the exact same spot with even more dead trees evident can be seen in 'Britain in old Photographs - Prestwich' by Helen Callaghan.

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ABOVE: Irwell House courtesy of Wikipedia,

ABOVE RIGHT: The footings of Irwell House today.

RIGHT: - Irwell House in 1967, from Helen Callaghan's book of old photographs of Prestwich.

 

'Pestwich in old postcards' by H.B. Wilkinson and I. Pringle states: "In April 1958, the house was set on fire in a civil defense exercise. The roof collapsed and the fine architectural stonework and beautiful plaster decorations of the Georgian mansion were allowed to rot until nothing remained of the grandeur of Irwell House and its park".

Today its footings have been exposed so that visitors can see where it once stood.

 

The question, however, remains - what was this Civil Defense exercise? 1958 was during the Cold War, though, hardly at its peak. It seems we were still preparing to put out buildings on fire rather than worry about newer, more destructive, weapons. It would be interesting to know who these Civil Defense volunteers were.

 

You can read more about Irwell House and other local landmarks on this excellent page about Prestwich http://www.prestwich.eu.pn/history/index.php

 

 

BELOW: A Small Arms Store in Drinkwater Park. Probably for Home Guard use. The blast wall in front of the entrance is the main clue to its original purpose.

ABOVE: A Small Arms Store in Drinkwater Park. Note the blast wall infront of the entrance. Probably used by the Home Guard.

Jon Bleasdale, contacted us to tell us about some recently uncovered anti tank obstacles that had appeared in the park after some work on the drains in Carr Clough. See photos ABOVE and BELOW. Many thanks for contacting us, Jon.

Jon Bleasdale has created a Google Map of local World War Two events and sites.  YOU CAN VIEW IT HERE.

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Jon, also told us that his Grandfather was on firewatching duty on the roof of Irwell House (BELOW) during WW2. He was in a reserved occupation and did firewatching duty in the evening. He once saw a German bomber come down Prestwich Clough. Our Dad always told us they flew down the valley near here coming from Manchester. Coincidently, our Grandfather was also in a reserved occupation and was in Prestwich Home Guard - perhaps the two knew each other?

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This pillbox (BELOW) is not in either park. But it is linked to Drinkwater Park as it guards the entrance to The Magnesium Elektron factory - which caused all the pollution to the adjacent Drinkwater Park during the war. According to Wikipedia: "During World War II, the company made an important contribution to the nation's war effort producing thousands of tons of magnesium metal alloys for the aircraft industry." It is an unusual pillbox design and is hidden fro view if you were coming up to the factory (see BELOW RIGHT).

The other local park in the area, Heaton Park, has a much more involved World War One, World War Two and Cold War history - SEE MORE HERE.