At Your Convenience

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By Helen Morgan

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First Published 21/9/2021
Last Updated 11/1/2022

 

How hard can it be to spend a penny?  Helen explains how Heald Green's public toilets were built,
and became Heald Green Glass and the rest of "Glass Court", behind the shopping parades.

 

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Fig. 1 Entrance to Glass Court 2021
Garages were originally on the far left;
the toilets on the right  (now the barber's)

© Helen Morgan
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The idea of public toilets behind the shops was first discussed in 1963. The Urban District Council asked for permission from the landowner, Harry Heywood, to build them behind the parade of shops that had now been built   . Permission was refused and so by March 1964 the council were looking into compulsory purchase of the land for a public convenience and for car parking facilities for the new shops   . Negotiations had made little progress by June. However the compulsory purchase order had made the landowner come back to the negotiating table and talks resumed   . These must have stalled, as by September 1965 the compulsory purchase order was again requested for land, just for the toilets this time   . What the Ratepayers called “long and protracted” negotiations with H. Heywood (Builders) Ltd. had finally broken down and a new site was being considered.

There was a lot of red tape to follow. Once a site had been found, the Council would then have to approach the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for approval. The local council were well aware of the need for the public toilets in our area. The problem was the funds needed to be agreed by the Ministry, who themselves were facing budget constraints. It was becoming clear that this was going to take a while!   

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At the Ratepayers' A.G.M. in February 1967 it was noted that there was difficulty obtaining a new suitable site   . Time moved on and by June 1968 the council were still looking for  somewhere off Finney Lane   . Then, at long last, the building of public conveniences was approved behind the shops from 198-216 Finney Lane. It was now the Autumn of 1968  .

Building began in early 1969 and it was hoped that it would be finished soon   . By the summer of 1970 it was announced that they would open shortly   . They must have opened soon after, as by the Autumn the Parks Department was hoping to clear the ground around them   .

Unbelievably and sadly, over the winter months of early 1971 the toilets were vandalised, and considerable damage was done. Once repaired and to combat further destruction it was proposed that the toilets would close daily at 6.30pm, re-open at 8.30am and remain closed on a Sunday   . The toilets would remain there until finally closing around 1995.

 

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Fig. 2 The garages before Heald Green Glass transformed them in 1985
© Heald Green Glass
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Matt McCann, owner of Heald Green Glass, bought all the garages off Harry Heywood in 1985. To begin with the company used them all, after a full renovation. Around 1996, the toilet building was also bought by him from the Council, having been closed for at least 6 months prior to that. They used the toilet block originally for storage, and still do with some of it. Opposite Heald Green Glass' sales office has been a taxi firm, a shop selling unusual knick-knacks, and a shoe repair/key-cutting shop. It is currently a barbers   .
 

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Fig. 3 Creating the units 1987/88
© Heald Green Glass
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Fig. 4 Matt hard at work 1987/88
© Heald Green Glass
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Fig. 5 First offices complete 1987/88
© Heald Green Glass
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Heald Green Pet Supplies/Dog Groomers was next to Heald Green Glass, along with a shop selling curtains and fabrics. When I first moved to Heald Green in 2012 the building that is [now] the barbers was... selling wind chimes, tie dye stuff and other knick-knacks…"
- Laura Paulson, 2021

“...I remember that, she sold home-made jewellery and painted stones etc. A lovely shop."
- Diane Elkington 2021

The barber's was the public toilets and all the buildings on the left were originally garages. If you go in Heald Green Glass they have old photos on the wall [Ed: you can view all the photos from the wall here]. I have The Salon in the unit at the back of the courtyard."
- Fiona Lynch 2021

When Matt retired, his son Wayne took over the business. The other garages and the old toilet block are rented out to small businesses. In this area, now known as Glass Court, there has been a pet supply shop, dog groomers, charity shop to weigh in old clothes and a curtain and fabric shop. Today the other units are rented out for ladies' hairdressing at The Salon and as a beauty salon at House of Hatti.
 

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Fig. 6 Fiona Lynch and Allan Smith ouside The Salon 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Fig. 8 House of Hatti 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Fig. 7 Fiona and Allan in The Salon 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Fig. 9 Barber Shop 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Fig. 10 Glass Court in 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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Fig. 11 Matt (left), Wayne (centre) and the rest of the Heald Green Glass Team 2021
© Colin Barnsley
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