A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by a national media company who asked me: Is Stockport a destination for tourists? Yes, I believe it is and it will definitely be attracting visitors for a long time in the future, largely thanks to its rich heritage, fascinating culture and an enthusiastic body of Stopfordians who are intent on building a town with a vibrant and exciting future.
The new leisure area opening at Redrock is now home to the 10 screen Light Cinema, a range of popular, high street restaurants and shortly to arrive will be independent retailers, all set to invigorate the town’s night time economy and attract new visitors.
Just under a year ago, Holiday Inn Express and Travel Lodge opened the first two new town centre hotels in Stockport which have proved so popular that they are running at full capacity most nights, more proof that visitor numbers are increasing and demand is high.
Perhaps demand is high due to Stockport’s rich architectural and historic legacy. Stockport houses over 500 listed buildings and 37 conservation areas. At the very core is the Grade 1 listed St Mary’s parish church in the Market Place, dating in parts from the 14th Century; the Market Place houses the magnificent Market Hall. In the historic Underbanks, several buildings date from Shakespeare’s era including Underbank ?Hall, now a branch of NatWest Bank. A Heritage Trail provides a fascinating insight into the past.
Stockport’s Business Improvement District, Totally Stockport, has proved that if you provide excellent events, people will come! Totally Stockport’s Big Day Out introduced a Makers Market to the town which attracted hundreds of lapsed shoppers. It proved to be so successful, it will be a monthly fixture from January 2018.
Brewing a future
The Unicorn Brewery established in the mid 19th Century is still run by the fifth and sixth generations of the award winning Robinson family who demonstrated their commitment to Stockport and invested £millions in both the brewery and the new Visitor Centre. This is a must-see attraction for lovers of ale; a chance to see how modern technology is being used to produce the brewery’s more traditional ales as well as the hugely successful new Trooper brand developed with Iron Maiden and selling across the world!
The Air Raid Shelters were tunneled for more than a mile into the famous Stockport ‘red rock’. More than 6,000 people regularly took shelter in what is now a tourist attraction and learning experience, with worldwide acclaim and a stream of visitors astounded at the labyrinth of benches and bunk beds, and the infamous 16-seat toilets.
Home of the Hatters!
The UK’s only Hat museum dedicated solely to the hatting industry is based in the restored Grade ll listed Wellington Mill at the heart of the town alongside the River Mersey. Stockport’s thriving hatting industry spanned 400 years, employed 10,000 people and exported six million hats a year. Live demonstrations of working machinery combine with an extensive collection of hats.
On stage at the Plaza
The splendid Art Deco Plaza, a “super cinema” and variety theatre built in 1932 has been saved and restored as the last venue of its kind still operating in its original format.
Staircase House is set in the heart of Stockport’s historic market place a Grade ll listed medieval town house dating back to around 1460, possibly originally the home of the Mayor of Stockport, William Dodge, in 1483, whose family helped found Dodge City, USA. The Jacobean cage newel staircase of 1618 is one of only three surviving examples in Britain.
Stockport combines an interesting mix of old and new to attract visitors of all ages. The past is set in ironstone and red rock but the future holds more exciting opportunities to create more memories.
Share your thoughts on the changing face of Stockport – Helen White
Author: Helen White, Co-founder of Marketing Stockport