The Golden Cluster – an Edgar Wood Legacy

Painting by the late Colin Gilbert
St. Leonard’s Church, Jubilee Library and Ye Olde Boar’s Head by the late artist Colin Gilbert

The Arts & Crafts Church is a part of Middleton’s Golden Cluster – a place with five centuries of heritage which would have looked very different today had it not been for Edgar Wood.

Edgar Wood spent his life reshaping Middleton along arts and crafts lines. He designed over sixty buildings in the town and vicinity. His father and brother were local statesmen and he had considerable influence.

Nevertheless, Edgar Wood’s designs were controversial and he had vocal critics. He therefore kept a very low profile on publicly funded projects. The idiosyncratic Jubilee Library of 1889 is straight from his arts and crafts copybook, but was fronted by a Bury architect, Laurence Booth. Likewise, Edgar Wood restored St. Leonard’s Parish Church in 1905 under the name of the architect, G. F. Bodley.  Even his role as designer of Long Street Methodist Church was kept a close secret until the very last moment.  A little later, Ye Olde Boar’s Head P.H. was to be demolished to make way for a new Town Hall and Edgar Wood worked quietly behind the scenes in Middleton and London to stop it.

Ye Olde Boar's Head and Jubilee Library
Ye Olde Boar’s Head and Jubilee Library

The Middleton’s Golden Cluster is thus Edgar Wood’s legacy. His arts & crafts buildings like Redcroft & Fencegate, 36 Mellalieu Street and 51-53 Rochdale Road and garden suburb layouts mean that Middleton centre is an attractive leafy place. In 1905, Edgar Wood redesigned Jubilee Park, laying out paths and Rhododendron beds and creating a setting for his Jubilee Drinking Fountain and staircase (1905).

Edgar Wood is closely associated with three three ancient buildings in the Golden Cluster, St. Leonard’s ChurchYe Olde Boar’s Head P.H. and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School – respectively the oldest church, pub and school in the Greater Manchester region.

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