Inside the abandoned Stockport ‘village’ that’s been hidden for years

Hidden beyond a row of shops near the center of Stockport lies a secret village that has been abandoned and closed to the public for more than 15 years. Once home to a gym, corner shops and a historic cafe, Stockport Village is soon to be demolished for good.

Once a popular spot, Stockport Village now lies derelict and forgotten. But the small shopping precinct remains a time capsule of its heyday – with many well-preserved shop fronts.

Urban explorer Exploring With Lewis, who asked not to use his real name, visited Stockport Village recently – sharing his exploration with more than 4,000 followers online. “I never knew this place even existed at first,” Lewis told the MEN “My friend told me about it and I was intrigued. When you go into abandoned places, you expect a shell but going into Stockport Village was just mind-blowing. It was crazy, it was like time had stood still.”

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One of the shops in the village was reputedly the UK’s first ever cannabis cafe, and a mural describing Stockport as ‘Skunkport’ remains in place. The Dutch Experience cafe was opened in September 2001 by the ‘Medical Marijuana Cooperative’.

Stockport Village has been abandoned for 15 years

On the day the shop opened, police raided the premises and shut it down. But over the next few years, it continued to be a popular haunt for people – often attracting more than a hundred people inside at any given time.

It closed its doors for good shortly after another raid in 2007 and now lies in disarray. “I never knew Stockport was home to the UK’s first cannabis cafe,” explorer Lewis now says. “It’s pretty wild that this place existed back then and is still here today, hidden away.”

‘Welcome to Skunkport’

Another shop in the village precinct has remnants of what it used to be. While the shopfront is now boarded up, the signs indicate it was once home to the Outline fitness gym. Billboards promising a selection of facilities including circuit weights, sun beds and sauna baths, are still on show.

According to building documents, the health club once stretched 16,000 sq feet across four floors. It’s not clear when the gym shut its doors, but the gym building was set alight in 2009. Unoccupied at the time, police believed the fire had been started deliberately by youths. Fire officers declared the building to be ‘in a massive state of disrepair’.

Stockport Village has been abandoned for nearly 25 years.
The former Outline fitness gym

Other shops to take up space at Stockport Village included a bridal shop and a gift shop. Explorer Lewis expects the precinct will not remain in place for much longer now.

Planning documents show that Eamar Developments has submitted proposals to convert the premises and additional space surrounding it into a scheme of ten commercial units plus 52 apartments. The proposals were granted in April 2021, which would include demolition of the buildings.

“It’s a shame but sometimes these buildings get in such a state of disrepair that there’s no other option,” Lewis said. “That’s why I like to do what I do, because I’m about documenting these locations that not many people get to see for themselves.”

Stockport Village has been abandoned for nearly 25 years.
Stockport Village

Speaking about his exploring hobby, Lewis says: “I’m not about breaking into places. I try to be as respectful as I can – I am there to explore. I will never force my way into a building, if I can’t get in then I will just move on.

“As explorers, we do tend to get a bit of a bad rep sometimes. People will often say we’re trespassing, but I would say that what we’re doing is a civil matter, I don’t damage anything, I take pictures to document it and that’s it.”

Did you ever visit Stockport Village? Share your memories with us in the comments below.

Lewis has more than 4,000 followers on his Facebook page.
Lewis has more than 4,000 followers on his Facebook page

But, the nature of the hobby understandably comes with its own set of risks. Injuries, encounters with police and takedown requests, Lewis says, are all just part of the process.

“We will often get police asking us to move on or take pictures down, and we’ll do it no problem,” he explains. “We do take risks but we don’t break in or trash anything.

“The biggest injury I’ve ever had is when I fractured my big toe and I wasn’t even exploring a building. We had just come out of an abandoned mansion in Macclesfield, and I was too busy looking at my phone and fell right into a pothole outside of it.

Stockport Village has been abandoned for nearly 25 years.
‘The abandoned village’

“But, I’m an explorer after all. I just picked myself up and continued on. I’ve seen some really beautiful places because of this – some real time capsules of places that I would never have known existed otherwise.

“I’ve tended to stay in and around Stockport when I can but there’s not that many abandoned places left in Stockport now. It feels like everything is being turned into flats.

“It looks like I may need to start venturing outside of Stockport now and see what’s out there further afield for me to discover.”

You can follow Exploring With Lewis on Facebook here.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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