News that Gisborne Yard is set to become a small housing development – outline planning permission has been given by Borough Council planners – has reminded older readers of the constant shift in Whaley Bridge’s working history.
The narrow site, jammed between Old Road and the main road and railway line, has been a working place for hundreds over the years. It was a short cut for pedestrians from the centre of Whaley to Horwich End, by way of a historic bridge, now in-filled. It was the route of the first railway from Whaley Bridge, the historic Cromford and High Peak, and it was the site of Gisborne Colliery, one of the several which provided a dangerous living for some men in Whaley Bridge.
William (Bill) Bates, 65, and his twin sons William and Sebastian are the owners of Gisborne Yard. Outline planning permission has stipulated that work on the site must begin within three years. Affordable houses are visualised in the plans. The Bates familiy involvement began 12 years ago, when the site was developed for selling coal, logs and builders’ material. Before then, the family haulage business with eight vehicles was run from the yard next to Whaley Bridge railway station. It is now the Sidings, a development of luxury houses.
Civil engineers Z W Wade were perhaps the biggest employer at Gisborne Yard in the 60s and 70s, a hive of activity with heavy equipment parked at the site. Scores of people made their living at Gisborne Yard or the company’s two other local sites. Norah Shirt was the tea lady, selling her Twix and Penguins (one senior employee would not have Penguins, claiming they were not covered with ‘real chocolate.’) Norah is now 90, but can remember when there were only three cars in Whaley Bridge! She and Robert were married at St James’, Taxal in 1946 – that’s 67 years ago.
Wades built the row of houses, Caldene Terrace, as homes for some of its workers. Just along from the houses is an empty plot of land, site of the former colliery.
Bill Bates remembers his mother making Saturday journeys from the family home on The Bings to Horwich, to buy the Sunday roast. At that time, the tunnel which originally carried the Cromford and High Peak trains to the goods yard near Cromford Court, was open to public use. Whaley Bridge Town Council hopes the filled in bridge can one day be reopened, although that sounds a very expensive project.
Bill has heard that during the war trains stopped at Gisborne Yard to offload timber, needed for the war effort.
A year ago, Bill’s company rented out part of the yard to a group of mechanics that assembles stock cars or banger racing cars. This area is between a high barred gateway and the boarded up tunnel.