Okay. I’ll be honest with you. St Paul’s Cathedral it is not. And, frankly, it’s somewhat unlikely that anyone has ever stood back from the old bus garage in Ditherington and sighed in quiet admiration or said to their companion: “Wow! Just look at that. Isn’t it lovely?” writes Phil Gillam.
Unlike old railway stations, bus depots are rarely – if ever – beautiful.
And the Ditherington depot is no exception to this rule.
Not even old Reg Varney and his chums from the seventies sitcom, On The Buses, would have found much to cheer about, I wouldn’t have thought, faced with the prospect of a working day based here. But I could be wrong. Perhaps many a bus driver out there actually has a soft spot for the place.
I don’t suppose it was ever attractive, but the bright turquoise paint of Arriva replacing the pillarbox red of Midland Red upon the large garage doors really hasn’t done it any favours.
But quite apart from that, it’s seen a lot of service over the years. And, hey – it’s a garage, for heaven’s sake. What do you expect? But the fact that its days are numbered has got me thinking. Will anyone shed a tear over its demise?
My first real contact with the place was when, at the age of 10, I went there one Sunday morning with my dad and my little brother. Our purpose?
Bus spotting. No, really. You heard me.
I know. I know. I know.
There are plenty of people out there who find the idea of trainspotting difficult to grasp, but bus-spotting!
You might say it was a poor man’s trainspotting.
To spot buses you didn’t have to purchase a platform ticket. In fact, in most cases, you only really had to step outside your front door and you’d spot a bus!
Bus spotting can hardly be viewed as a glamorous past-time, but it kept us occupied for a while during the long summer holidays.
However, the novelty did wear off pretty quickly. When you’ve seen one S12 drive up North Street, you’ve more or less seen them all.
Gosh. There’s a thought, by the way. When did the last bus drive up North Street? (Someone out there will tell me, no doubt).
Here’s the thing though.
The Ditherington depot was opened by the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Ltd (BMMO – Midland Red) in November 1920.
Doesn’t the fact that it is over 90 years old coupled with the fact that it has had an important role to play in the life over Shrewsbury for generations make this a building of historical importance?
According to MidlandRed.net, the building was turned over to the war effort in 1940 for the production of aircraft components.
By 1974 it had an allocation of 68 vehicles and employed 198 staff.
The place clearly has a story to tell.
The fate of the Ditherington depot has of course been decided because a shiny new £2.5m depot has been opened in Harlescott so Arriva buses have no further use for the old place, and because the original base has been purchased by Shropshire Council (for £2.3m) so that the site can be cleared as part of the redevelopment of the Flax Mill Maltings complex.
And, to be fair, a globally-important 1796 building which is seen as the great-grand-daddy of all skyscrapers will always beat at 1920s bus depot.
There again, history is history.
Now, to be honest, I am sort of playing devil’s advocate here because even I know that you can’t keep every building just because it’s kind of old and has a bit of a history. You might say any building more than 10 years old is kind of old and has a bit of a history.
But it is intriguing how some buildings immediately inspire affection (devotion even), such as Besford House in Belle Vue about which I have written a good deal over recent weeks (and which now appears to have been saved from the bulldozers, thank goodness) while other structures generate little or nothing in the way of support.
For instance, I know a great many people who think the 1960s market hall in the town centre is a carbuncle and should never have been built in the first place. Many folk will tell you we should have kept the Victorian market hall which would have become a real asset in such an historic town.
But others maintain the sixties building has itself become iconic and must now be protected.
It’s quite a tricky argument to get involved in. I wonder what dear old Reg Varney would have made of it.