Mill Gate Shopping Centre: 25 Years Old

On Saturday 29th July, The Mill Gate will be celebrating its 25th birthday. There’ll be all sorts of activities going on over at the shopping centre itself but we thought we’d have a mini-celebration by sharing some images of how the area used to look – from cobbled streets, to paved-over precincts to shiny tiled floors. Let’s take a look:

Everyone loves a cobbled street, so here is the entrance to Princess Street with the Royal Cinema to the right and the Queens Hotel on the left. c1960s.

Princess Street, Bury

Image taken from Bury Photographic Society Collection/Courtesy of Thomas Birtwhistle

And from the same perspective a few decades later.

Princess Parade

Image taken from Bury Photographic Society Collection. c2000

Before the Mill Gate Shopping Centre was constructed, the main shopping area in Bury was dominated by The Precinct. This consisted of a network of pedestrianised shopping areas with predominately two-storey grey concrete units. An early 1990s’ report made by the Council described it as ‘an unattractive, austere environment which has undoubtedly discouraged shoppers and additional investment’.

Bury Precinct

The Precinct outside Boots Store c1970s
© Graham Cooper

How to entice shoppers? Well for a start Bury needed to attract more quality retailers such as BHS, C&A and W.H. Smiths – if anyone from Bury wanted to visit these stores they would have to nip over to Manchester or Bolton. As the central retail area of Bury had a low vacancy rate it was obvious that the Precinct’s shopping floor area had to be extended to accommodate more units. And if Bolton and Manchester had their beautifully covered areas such as Crompton Place and The Arndale Centre then Bury should have them too!

Union Square c1960s

Union Square c1960s
Image taken from Bury Photographic Society Collection/Courtesy of Thomas Birtwhistle

Union Arcade

Union Arcade c2000
Image taken from Bury Photographic Society Collection

Work on the £6 million redevelopment for Bury Town Centre began in May 1991 and Buryites eagerly awaited their glazed-over bright and airy shopping mall which was fully completed just over a year later.

Mill Gate opening 1992

Official Opening of the Mill Gate’s Information Centre by Inspector Mill Gate and his dog, Millie


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3 Responses to Mill Gate Shopping Centre: 25 Years Old

  1. I find this interesting. Around here, (Philadelphia, Delaware and Lehigh valley areas) we had some pedestrian-izing or enclosure of city streets, in the 70’s and 80’s, now undone and returned to the old way, as they turned out not to work well. My feeling is people now value the small shopping street experience ( as long as there is parking!). It’s interesting to me to see these photos and think about it in terms of my own home town.

    • buryculture says:

      Hello Claudia, We are quite lucky here in Bury – as well as the Mill Gate we have another (recently constructed) pedestrianised shopping area called the Rock and we also have an indoor and outdoor market. I agree that people appreciate the smaller shopping experience and if that’s what they want they can hop on a steam train to nearby Ramsbottom and browse the lovely specialist shops there. We get a lot of rain here in the NW of England so most of the bigger towns and cities do have a covered shopping malls. Sounds like you enjoy some lovely, authentic shopping experiences over in your area. Thanks for reading!

      • I find it interesting to see how different factors affect how different localities handle everyday life, and this shopping post reminded me to think about how things surrounding this topic have changed here where I live (I have been in this same suburb for 25 years and Phila. for 40). Which of course leads me to think about how things have changed and how they may still evolve! I enjoy your posts for the comparison of past and present – and they have prompted me to learn more about your area of the world. Kind of funny, since I found you by happenstance, but that is one reason I love being in this blog world. Thanks for your work.

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