Gerry Travers (Chairman 1979-1982)

Some 40 years ago I finished my three-year tenure as chairman celebrating the Bury Society’s 10th anniversary: now here we are looking forward to its 50th year existence; a quite remarkable achievement. So much has happened in this time: here are a few recaps.

There was a turbulent planning development decision affecting the town namely the battle of Brentgovel Street as to whether the street should be two-way and the demolition of the former Odeon cinema the “Dorchester” of Bury as well as the White Lion area. Cornhill Walk was subsequently built and rapidly fell out of favour architecturally and business wise and now the ensuing new plans by developers have been thrown out, perhaps good design and common sense will prevail.

One of the last requests I received as chairman was to visit Dr Alison Rae at the behest of her lawyer Ted Ashton. The question she put to me was did I consider the Society a worthy institution to include in her will? Of course, but it would have to wait a few years to become reality then a surprise of over £80,000 was forthcoming. I still have a relevant part copy of her will, so I know the Society has strictly adhered to it. A list of places was drawn up to include the Unitarian Meeting House, St Johns School, Quaker House and the Tin tabernacle (former Railway Mission). Trees and seating areas followed all in all wisely administered by a small committee.

Forty years ago saw the beginning of a birth of a village: the Moreton Hall development. Although an area divorced from the town it progressively had an impact on it. It is interesting to note that the owner of Moreton Hall, Lady Miriam Hubbard, objected to the use of her house name for the future housing estate, a plea the council ignored. Its growth at present expands exponentially.

The Unitarian Meeting House had in 1988 a generous grant from English Heritage for the outside fabric and in the internal fabric was altered; the Society making a generous grant. This year-long work I photographed and have deposited with the Records Office.

The Cattle Market redevelopment was under discussion and the Royal Fine Arts Commission stated that it should the subject for an architectural competition. Even at the talking stage the construction of a six-storey car park fronting Parkway, a massive building so close to the town seemed to indicate the Cattle Market area would follow.

Whether the Arc complex should have materialised will be a talking point for many years to come. Has it endangered the historic core shops and what of the future of Debenhams and the loss making Apex (£700,000 a year)? With so few jealously guarded green central areas was it right to use concrete and tarmac destroying hydrology and ecology? I consider it necessary to make every effort to have a town of a true mixed community who can maintain what’s left of a unique and historic fabric and keep a town centre with a full range of life. We have seen some of the biggest changes in recent years, the Arc, Tayfen area and Boby sites. Construction of flats galore now threaten many parts of the town without thought to parking or servicing. There is, however, hope that the Leg of Mutton field will stay just that and the Great Sextons Meadow (Butts) thanks to generous new owners, will remain a nature preserve and flood plain. A town centre market area which gives a distinct flavour and bustle is so important to keep the town alive. What better place to meet chat and socialise?

The Abbey Gardens throughout has always proved to a paradise on our doorstep. Well cared for and enjoyed by countless generations, it now has a “Friends Group” On the 10th anniversary I said there is great civic pride in Bury and now 40 years on I stand firmly by this comment and I hope you agree. Visitors enjoy the town’s history and what it has to offer, those who live here must consider it a privilege which must not to be thrown away. Of course, some changes are good others not so, but thankfully it is still a charming town of which I am proud. Long live the Bury Society.

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