Thank God for common sense!

English Heritage has announced that the dingy red-brick terrace in the TV soap opera Coronation Street has failed to meet the historical and architectural criteria to become a listed building. What will they say in the Rover’s Return?

Despite folklore and its apparent grip on the nation’s imagination, the actual bricks and mortar of “Corrie” are relatively new. Despite many alterations over the years, including replacing the fibreglass chimneys with brick to meet the demands of high-definition TV, the Street only dates to 1982. English Heritage’s ruling says, “Most of the houses do not have interiors and therefore exist as façades, and most of those have been altered. The set as it stands today is an active reminder of the long-running television programme, rather than a survival of an earlier era of television productions.”

First broadcast on 9 December 1960, from the start Coronation Street was filmed in Manchester at the Granada Studios. Production will switch to a new set at Media City in Trafford in 2013. Granada Television originally commissioned only 13 episodes and some inside the company doubted the show would last its planned production run. But viewers were immediately drawn to a serial that portrayed “ordinary” people whose Northern English dialect and pronunciation were heard on British television for the first time.

Between 1960 and 1968 street scenes were filmed in front of a studio set, with the house fronts reduced in scale to 3/4 and constructed from wood. In 1968 Granada built an outside set which was not all that different from the interior version previously used, with the wooden façades from the studio simply being erected on the new site. In the 1970s these were replaced with brick façades, and back yards added. In 1982 a permanent full-street set was built in the Granada back-lot built from reclaimed Salford bricks. This is what English Heritage was asked to list.

Coronation Street is set in Weatherfield, a fictional town in Greater Manchester based on Salford. As of September 2003, the City of Salford had 6 Grade I, 14 Grade II*, and 253 Grade II listed buildings. The Grade I listed buildings are the Church of St Augustine, the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, St Mark’s Church, Ordsall Hall, Wardley Hall, and a bridge over the River Irwell. How “Corrie” thought it could compete with these is anybody’s guess.

The oldest surviving parts of Ordsall Hall (left) were built in the 15th century and the most important period of its history was when it was the family seat of the Radclyffe family, who inhabited it for over 300 years. The Hall was the setting for William Harrison Ainsworth’s 1842 novel Guy Fawkes, written around the plausible although unsubstantiated local story that the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was planned here.

Ordsall Hall was bought by Salford City Council in 1959 and opened to the public in 1972. The Dutch humanist Erasmus stayed there in 1499 and described it thus: “… the floors are made of clay and are covered with layers of rushes, constantly replenished, so that the bottom layer remains for 20 years harbouring spittle, the urine of dogs and men, the dregs of beer, the remains of fish and other nameless filth.” Sounds less like one of the Stately Homes of England and more like the Rover’s Return…

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