Welcome To Around Manchester - Chapter Summary

Welcome to Around Manchester. It was an impossible task to know where to start this book for which I began researching in 2012. Should it have been at Castlefield where Manchester’s History began, the old warehouses of Portland St which drove the commerce behind the cotton trade, maybe the Midland Hotel, where Rolls and Royce met nearly one hundred year after the events of Peterloo, or the Cathedral which has in one form or another loomed over the City for a millennia.

Or maybe the tower blocks of Pendleton, symbols in their time of the wiping away of nineteenth century urban decay, or Hulme, a symbol of twentieth century dreams shattered and then revived, or the Trafford Centre, that mammon of twenty first century consumerism.

In the end, and I hope you will understand it starts in an unfashionable part of East Manchester, once the powerhouse of industry but struggling to come to terms with its role in a post industrial landscape, yet within touching distance of the new City.

The first draft of this book was nearly half the size again of the final version, so regrettably the whole story can’t be told and not everywhere can be covered, so please the author for that.

I hope that you will enjoy Around Manchester.

Chapter Summary

Manchester has many shrines to the beginning of the industrial age. Cotton, steam, water, rail, mills, warehouses, science.  But here on the Heath encapsulates what happened in the space of maybe no more than fifty years. A revolution that led to us losing our pastoral mode, a people once content to eke out a simple living from the land, and replace it with a kind of urban dystopia, where  we  are at one  with  bricks, mortar and asphalt. Here at Newton a small rural village was transformed, first by a canal and then a railroad, into an industrial powerhouse, the workshop of the world, its population crammed into back to back houses, its chimneys belching out soot. It would produce iron that would travel around the world, machinery that would fight in two world wars, and a football team that would lead the way in twenty-first century global entertainment. Then, when the country had had enough of industry, it would be spat out the other side, its community shattered, regenerated, forgotten, except for the occasional high profile project and mountain of statistics.


IMG_7411Gossypium, the cotton genus, belongs in the world of botanics to the tribe Gossypieae part of the mallow family. Its flowers are creamy-white which later turn a deep pink and fall off, leaving seed pods called ‘cotton bolls’.  Inside the bolls are seeds surrounded by fibres which are spun into thread for cloth and still today in the age of synthetic fibres, accounts for forty per cent of the world’s textiles. There are thought to be over fifty species of the plant, only four of which have been domesticated and cultivated, two in the New World and two in South East Asia where it is believed that civilisations in the Indus valley were skilled in spinning, weaving and dyeing cotton over 5,000 years  ago.


The fine to medium grained sedimentary sandstone rock dates from the early Permian age and was laid down around 280 million years ago, as Manchester lay in the low altitude desert belts just north of the equator. The sands of the desert were blown into dune formations and laid low until Mancunians needed rocks to build their town.



The town of Manchester was well known for its Jacobite sympathies, indeed back in 1715, it had rallied behind the Stuart claim to the Hanoverian throne and public feeling for the cause was probably greater than in any other town, with its clergy almost unanimously in favour of the Stuarts.



On the 31st  December 1968, five hundred thousand pounds of spinning yarn was sold by the Royton Elk Mill to the Manchester Co Olivo and Bakirgian, as four hundred traders, the largest gathering for some years, gathered in the Exchange Building at the corner of St Ann’s.  Amid handshakes and the muted strains of Auld Lang Syne the Cotton Exchange traded for the last time. Look up today and the trading board, under which hundreds of suited gents would gather, is still frozen in time, the details of that New Year’s Eve etched in the memory of those who visit for a different purpose today, and to remind them of a cotton past.

The third Duke of Bridgewater, Francis, was born in 1736 and came from a long and noble background who could trace their lineage back to the time of the Norman conquest, being given land around Worsley and Little Hulton by the Conqueror.

“A roman catholic” said his great nephew, the First Earl of Ellesmere, “might have built a monastery tenanted a cell and died a saint”. Instead we have to thank him and his religion for concocting a way to get  his estate’s coal to its market at a reasonable cost as well as for having sought out  James Brindley, a poor lad born near Buxton in Derbyshire who had risen from being a millwright’s apprentice to Master millwright, then a consulting engineer advising on using mill wheels for the pumping and draining of mines.

Roman Manchester was built where the major Roman East West axis; which began in Chester and crossed the Pennines to York, intersected with the North South route which ultimately ended in Carlisle. The East West Road remains, its legacy Deansgate, the City’s most ancient thoroughfare, connecting the Roman Fort at Castlefield with the crossing of the Irk at Hanging Ditch and linking Manchester to the crossing of the Pennines.


Thomas Kendal, James Milne and Adam Faulkner were three young employees of the original store and would found the Emporium whilst William IV was still on the throne after Watts decided to leave the retail trade and re-concentrate on the wholesale market. Kendal hailed from Westmorland and it is said that he met Watts whilst returning home from London to the Lakes for convalescence, passing through Manchester on the way.

Born at Parr near St Helen’s in 1801, John Ryland’s father in 1819 opened a  shop where his sons would assist and at the same time learn to weave.  The youngest son showed entrepreneurial spirit at a young age, buying trinkets with his pocket money at an auction, selling them at a profit and investing the money in warp and weft, having it woven by his old nurse and selling the cloth at a handsome profit.

East Manchester is one of the worst places in the country for gambling. One hundred and eighty-two betting shops cover the Manchester Central Parliamentary constituency with one hundred and ninety million pounds gambled in 2012. The fixed odds machine, once the addict is trapped in the shop, is the worst exponent and targets the constituencies with the highest unemployment. The local MP is outraged when she sees the figures

P. Frankenstein & Sons was founded in 1854 as a textile company which began to specialise in working with rubberised fabrics and during the war produced specialised safety flying and survival equipment. As the space age and the jet age began, it manufactured a prototype flying suit circulating liquid through pipes incorporated within clothing which was used by NASA in trials to develop the Apollo spacesuit. Another Manchester company, Baxter, Woodhouse and Taylor, developed the seals adopted for use in the same spacesuit. A small part of Newton Heath was to land on the moon and later on the big screen when the 1968 cult film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ featured the iconic yellow spacesuits made by the firm at their Victoria Rubber Works factory.

Manchester’s bid for the Olympics was seen at the time as being simply ludicrous.  This was to be the Millennium Games which would eventually end up on the other side of the world in Sydney. It  had bid  for the previous games in 1996 and finished second to last, eliminated after the second round of voting, with only Belgrade; soon to be plunged into the Balkan wars, finishing below it.


Towards  the end  of  the  eighteenth  century, Cheshire doctor John Haygarth wrote to his colleagues in Manchester telling them of the remarkable success he was having in treating cases of fever where patients were housed in well ventilated wards with plenty of space between the beds. His ideas were taken up by a Dr John Ferriar, a physician at the Manchester Infirmary and who was at the time dealing with some of the worst living conditions that  Manchester was ever to see.
Seven  years  before  the  events  of  Peterloo,  there are even more gruesome scenes in Middleton, a small village on the road to Rochdale, where Daniel Burton & Sons which utilised mechanised steam looms lies. Emanuel Burton had been warned trouble was brewing and had armed around forty to fifty of his employees, drilling them in the use of firearms for weeks.

Ancoats has become famous as an example of all that was wrong with rapid industrialisation. It grew on land owned by the Leigh family, spreading out from the edge of Oldham Street but built on a Georgian grid street plan which can still be seen today. That it grew so quickly was the result of two phenomena that were linked to Manchester’s expansion, the need for suitable sites for textile mills freed of having to be near sources of water being now driven by steam and a demand for housing for the people that worked in these factories.

Abraham’s statue, sculpted from bronze by George Grey Barnard in 1914, was intended to stand outside the Houses of Parliament, a tribute from the United States marking 100 years of peace between the two countries since the British had set fire to the White House in a war which inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. The American sculptors depiction of what was described as a vigorous pose was far too controversial for London’s tastes, a more statesmanlike image would appear after the war and the statue without a home came to Manchester which appealed to its civil war connections.

A coffee bar along this street was the birthplace of what was back in 1963 an obscure venue that would quickly develop a reputation as one of the country’s finest venues for listening to imported soul, Rhythm and Blues and Ska music. The Twisted Wheel club would soon move to a converted warehouse along Whitworth Street where a London journalist Dave Godin would invent the term Northern Soul to describe a distinctive brand of music that couldn’t be found anywhere in his native city.

The statue arrived first in Platt Fields Park, (a copy still stands in Lytle Park, Cincinnati, Ohio) unveiled in 1919 and described as a symbol of the City’s unashamed liberal values despite the fact that the cotton industry was far from unanimous in its support for the Northern armies with workers in the Lancashire towns facing starvation and destitution

To an outsider, it is difficult to understand why at its geographic centre we have two cities. They lie side by side, separated by a river, they share a history and have grown and developed almost in parallel, yet the river and a quirk of history have created a barrier, some will argue that has led to one side suffering whilst the other has prospered.

The heart of Salford is Chapel Street and the area is steeped in history. The river forded by the Romans, the stone bridge first mentioned in 1368 when Thomas De Bothe built his first chapel, leaving the sum of thirty pounds for masses to be sung daily for his soul.

Higher up Greengate was Birtles Square, described as “a narrow gut which terminated on the banks of the Irwell and was occupied by people sunk in drink, dirt and degradation”. From the square you could see three pawnshops and eight drink shops.

Humphrey Booth a rich fustian merchant and landowner, was descended from the builder of the church on the bridge, Thomas De Bothe. Tragically he wouldn’t see his chapel, Trinity dedicated.

Bexley Square, once the headquarters of Salford’s Council, now a leafy shaded area along with the cafe, a pub, the New Oxford serving Paulette’s famous Irish stew, and a Doctor’s surgery. In 1931 this tranquil spot was a battle ground, a meeting of the impoverished of Salford and the authorities.

Lark Hill Mansion was built in 1792 and owned by a Manchester merchant by the name of Garrett, president of the Chamber of Commerce and the Salford Royal Dispensary as well as supporter of Chartism and Free Trade, who would sell his house and the seven acres of land to Salford’s park committee.

‘Love on the Dole’ had made Greenwood’s reputation in 1933 and established the infamy of Ellor Street’s clogged rows of back to back’s, pawnshops, gas lights and debt ridden people.

Welcome to New Islington, its name bringing connotations of New Labour fiefdom, with deals in restaurants over Polenta and Victorian grand houses and fuchsias dangling from hanging baskets. One wag referred to it as Manchester Labour’s Vietnam.  This is the domain of Urban Splash, the baby of Tom Bloxham MBE, charged with transforming a decayed urban landscape into a millennium dream via the architect Will  Alsop’s vision that he sketched whilst downing a glass of wine.

Ancoats Dispensary’s importance to the area was underlined by this story from 1936:

She was a poor woman who wore a black shawl across her greying hair, by the hand she held a little girl between the ages of four and five who occasionally looked up with an air of innocent inquiry. The child had been brought for an X-ray “The fee will be ten shillings, can you afford to pay?” “Ten shillings,” the women looked as if the sum was a small fortune to her and smiled wearily as she shook her head. “Can you pay anything, even a shilling?” asked the Doctor. “Not today but I will try and find it later,” she replied, looking with a fond glance at the child. “Very well then, take this,” replied the Doctor, handing her a piece of paper, “and pay what you can.”

The Cardroom Estate was commonly known as a sink estate, people with track records of anti-social behaviour were moved there and began to take the area down with them. It  became an “estate where people lock themselves in after dark, where the nearest shop was a fifteen minute walk away, where the open spaces belonged to the joy rider.

Hulme was a cultivated district, its name originating from the Norse Holme meaning an islet and low lying piece of ground next to a river. Hulme lay on one side of the mosses, Rusholme was probably the rush meadow or island, Levenshulme came from Leofwine’s meadow and Davyhulme likewise was Daegfinn’s meadow. In Mary Barton, pleasant walks to Chorlton were described, whilst people “flocked to Hulme Hall Gardens at the weekend carrying back with them large bunches of flowers or would sail down the canal to Lymm or to Liverpool and Warrington on the Irwell or on the Countess of Ellesmere which would take them to Pomona or Ben Lang’s Gardens”.

Hulme must hold some sort of record as the only place to have been regenerated three times in less than seventy years. In September of 1913, a deputation of Hulme’s rate payers descended on the office of the deputy Mayor of Manchester, Sir Charles Behran.

They were carrying a petition which set forth the urgent need for public bath houses and wash houses, playgrounds and open spaces for the overcrowded population of the district. Six thousand four hundred people had signed it and it detailed some eye watering facts. Sixty-three thousand people lived in an area of four hundred and seventy-seven acres, an eleventh of the whole population of the City of Manchester living in one forty-fifth of its area. It was much, they said, like having ninety thousand people living in Heaton Park.
Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce would meet in the newly opened Midland Hotel in 1903. Both men had arrived at that meeting from very different backgrounds.

In the early hours of the morning of 8th July 1981, a small group of young men left the Nile Club in Manchester, then the City’s leading black nightclub. As they walked along Princess Road, they were challenged by two white men who shouted out that “there could never be a riot in Manchester”.

Anthony  Burgess had moved to Moss  Side when he was seven years old having come from Miles Platting where his step mother ran the Golden Eagle pub, keeping order with the aid of two service revolvers. A loner and outsider, his mother and sister had died when he was young. His ability to read in the lower middle class area meant he was sought after to read the captions at the cinema.

In true Hulme fashion, the demolition of the Crescents was filmed, commemorating the final flattening with Hulme Demolition Sound System and the amazing night-time performance given by theatre group Dogs of Heaven, when cars were pushed off the top of one of the floodlit Crescents. In some ways the idealism of this short period has overshadowed the enormous crime of the Crescents ever being built in the first place. Whilst the architect committed suicide, nobody ever paid the price at the Council.

Prisoners housed in the D wing of Belle Vue Prison had the advantage of listening to the music and the fireworks emanating from Jennison’s Belle Vue Menagerie which adjoined the walls. It was thought to be housing its inmates in extravagant luxury, box shaped cells lit by gas burners suspended over bare wood tables and each cell containing a three legged stool a triangular corner cupboard and a thin hammock strung between two staples hammered into the stone walls.Though there was little chance to escape. Besides the wall the gaol was prominent for miles around surrounded by fields and well guarded by wardens. It closed in 1888 and was soon demolished, but the story of the area would continue with the zoological gardens next door, founded by John Jennisons in 1829 first establishing his gardens on the outskirts of Stockport.

On Saturdays outside Primark in Market Street, they wait until the doors are swung open, humanity crammed into tight bunches, some say, that to enter its doors you see the whole of the City laid before you. “They came rushing along with bold fearless faces and loud laughs and jests when she finds the masses” writes Elizabeth Gaskell in  North  and South, or maybe the words of Engels apply, who wondered how the whole crazy fabric still hung together.

It was once going to be the greatest shopping arcade in Europe, the masterplan of Sir Robert Matthews, the pinnacle of the redevelopment of the Hanky Park area where Sally Hardcastle, Walter Greenwood’s heroine in ‘Love on the Dole’, was schooled and would, if still alive, be thrilled no doubt that the 1930’s grim soot-shrouded back-to-back houses were being demolished and replaced at their centre with Salford’s space age warning shot across the Irwell that Manchester would have a shopping rival.

“The flat iron market sensibly combine iron with business, for situated in close proximity to the stores was a pleasure ground where the youth of the district disgorged itself in roundabouts at shooting galleries and turning boards. Numbers crowded around the fruit and ice cream stores and mixed their refreshments in that delightfully irresponsible way that only boyhood with impunity can … Not a few were sneaking surreptitious peeps and the inside of the canvas, a board palace of the only genuine phantasmagoria where one obtained legitimate entrance for one penny.”

During the Second World War, as Britain fought for survival against the Nazi threat, there were some attempts to change the name of Manchester’s Mosley Street to Churchill Street. The City no longer wanted to be associated with the grandson of its last Lord of the Manor who was currently interned as leader of the country’s Fascist Party, although a former Lord Mayor pointed out that it was named after Nicholas Mosley, “Just because there is one black sheep in the family there is no need to disgrace the name of one of Manchester’s most eminent citizens”

Mosley Street, stretching from Piccadilly Gardens to St Peter’s, began to be laid out around 1750 and for a time became one of the town’s most elegant streets. At the turn of the nineteenth century the architect Thomas Harrison would choose the street to design his incarnation of the Temple of Athena Polias in Priene which had been reproduced in drawings thirty years earlier by the society of Dilettanti. The building of the Portico would mark the town’s resurgence as a centre of architectural splendour and many architects would flock to the town to hone their skills.

Turn left out of Victoria Station across Long Millgate where the busy road crosses the railway tracks. Below, a final view of the Irk as it turns abruptly left, tumbles over a weir and under Victoria Station, its last journey in the sunlight from the hills behind Royton. Its name believed to derive from  ‘Iwrck’ or ‘OrIrke’ which comes from Roebuck; named for its fleetness, was once indeed a swift flowing river gushing through meadows of grass.

By all accounts a visit to Queen’s Park was a memorable experience. Sculptures filled the entrance hall, where boys would scamper under the turnstiles to avoid paying the penny entrance fee and reproductions of classic art as well as George Tinworth’s ‘The Sons of Cydippe’ were on display.

Charles Kenworthy called the ‘Bard of Manchester’ lived  just off Livesey Street and wrote on an occasional basis, often eulogies for people or places, which beside Collyhurst Hall would include odes to Hulme Hall and Strangeways Hall to the embellishment of the Theatre Royal and the opening of the Manchester Athenaeum.

An advert  appeared in the Manchester Guardian in the late summer of 1828 for Robert Tinker’s Vauxhall Gardens. “On Thursday evening, 11th  September, a grand gala will take place which will be brilliantly illuminated with upwards of six thousand lamps, tastefully displayed in numerous devices, festooned and interspersed with transparencies, patriotic, humorous and incidental”. The evening’s festivities would be accompanied by “miscellaneous songs, and glees to be had.

In the summer of 2012, a programme appeared on BBC Three, entitled ‘People Like Us’. In the spirit of current popularity, it was a fly-on-the-wall programme propagating the ordinary characters of a Manchester suburb, including the nine piece Wakefield family, with twenty year old market trader and part time Gigolo Jamie, who tells the camera that he met his on–off girlfriend Lucy three years ago after walking into a room, seeing her boobs and thinking, “you’ll do”.

Barbara Minshull, widow of Thomas, a noted apothecary, first met Roger Aytoun watching the races on Kersal Moor and their liaison would be one of Manchester’s first sex scandals.

Ben Brierley was a Lancashire lad who understood perfectly the idiosyncrasies of the local dialect and whose writing was imbued with the sentiments and characteristics of the working people.

A plaque  just  off the Oldham Road in Hollinwood marks the birthplace of this famous company. “Sebastian Zianti de Ferranti, 1864–1930 pioneer of electrical engineering founded his Hollinwood factory here in 1897”.

Once, a statue of Robert Owen would greet you at the bottom of Balloon Street. Owen, born in Newton Powys in 1771, was a pioneer of modern British socialism and provided a source of inspiration to the Cooperative Movement.

In the shadow of the new Co-op building lie fifty gravestones sheltered from the piercing rays of the sun by the leaves of Elder, Birch and Oak, some more easy to read than others, with time as with many gravestones wearing away the memories

The River Irk continues north, where its valley was once the domain of bleachers, calico printers and engravers. Later chemical manufacturers would move in. This is Lower Crumpsall, once described as being the ‘Under Milk Wood of North Manchester’. One writer would describe it as “a unique community, never absorbed into the brickwork of central Manchester, nestled in the valley flanked on one side by the Irk and the other with smelly industry”.

The village of Crumpsall is first mentioned in 1291 when certain parts of its lands were classified and valued. From a roll dated 1472 we find its lands owned by Lord de la Warre and later owned by the Earl of Leicester who sold them to Earl Grey de Wilton, a  member of the family  who would later sell nearby Heaton Park to Manchester.  Crumpsall’s fame though is associated with being the birthplace of Hugh Oldham and Humphrey Chetham.

Heaton Park had been the seat of the Earls of Wilton since the title had been created in  1801. The Hall had been built by Sir Thomas Egerton in 1772, the grounds having been part of the Egerton Estate completed eight years later. It was built from designs prepared by the architect Wyatt, set in grounds covering six hundred and seventy-four acres, all surrounded by a wall four miles  long, and erected by the second Earl of Wilton in an early example of a public works scheme, designed to help the “distressed people of Manchester”.

On a June day in Manchester in 1996, the Provisional IRA would give their reply to the worldwide pressure for a mounting ceasefire with the detonation of a thousand pounds of semtex at 11.20am. Many would have died had a warning not been phoned through to the studios of Granada TV an hour and a half earlier, which led to the clearing of the area. Even so, the power of the blast would still shower the streets up to a half a mile away with glass and leave over two hundred injured.

The most famous public house back in eighteenth century Manchester was surely that of John Shaw, where today Marks & Spencer’s display window stands on New Cathedral Street. His famous Punch House beverage was served in small open bowls which came in two sizes, the shilling or six penny bowl, known as the P or Q. He would march into the room at eight shouting “eight o’clock gentlemen eight o’clock” and his customers could be seen leaving the premises much as a congregation would leave a church.

The Market Street we see today with its wide, well paved, well lit and well maintained appearance is a million miles away from its life at the end of Georgian Manchester. Then it was a tortuous, narrow, badly paved, muddy, and badly lit place with overhanging buildings.

The Arndale Centre, to some a shopping paradise, to others an architectural monstrosity, imposed on what was left of the City Centre’s history. In one sense it was an historic moment and would point the way to the future, a combination of private and public sector finance, almost twenty years ahead of its time after the cost rocketed from eleven and a half million to thirty million pounds in just five years.

Manchester had a late start to any concept of planning. Its emancipation from Feudalism came only in 1845 when it bought the rights to the town from the Mosleys. Its rapid growth had been based on a distinct lack of planning and a laissez-faire approach, where the house was hardly ever a home and workers slept in relays, crowded from roof to cellar whilst resting from their work in the mills.

Rowland Nicholas, an elusive figure is credited with Manchester’s Post War plan. Appointed Manchester’s city surveyor in 1940,he saw the opportunities in housing that devastation by the Luftwaffe could bring. Along with Noel Hill, they were both not great fans of Manchester’s Gothic Town Hall and said that if it was hit by the Germans, it was unlikely that it would be rebuilt in its present form.

“We used to walk the Mancunian Way, we used to swagger, we used to sway, up until the lights took us away. do you know what you meant to me? We used to think we were the bomb, then someone left a real one. we stayed indoors as the rain come, back then it made no sense to me, I’m missing you face, your beautiful face, it’s funny that they gave us the keys to the City, but they don’t fit anything, but I’m coming away.”

Following the IRA bomb of 1996, twenty seven bids were submitted for the right to redesign Manchester, whittled down to five and the winner announced on Bonfire Night 1996 backed by the American design corporation EDAW and included Manchester based Ian Simpson Architects.

The old village of Cheetham was situated at the bottom of the hill, its ending ‘ham’ could well have signified it being an early Anglian colony (ceddeham or cedde being the Saxon word for a home). Quite literally it is the home by the  wood, its lands held by Sir Geoffrey Cheetham’s  family from the time of Henry III.

In 1894 Michael Marks had been in Britain for twelve years. The Jewish Polish immigrant was thirty-one and had worked his way up from being an itinerant peddler to having a stall on Leeds market, but in 1894 he would make a fundamental decision and decide to open a store in Manchester, selecting a location on Derby Street in Cheetham Hill.

In 1904, Dr Chaim Weizmann took up a post at the University of Manchester, met at a fog-laden Victoria Station on his arrival in the City by the poet Massel who would put him up for the night.  From the 1880s more aspiring immigrants sought out High Town, an area bounded by Cheetham Hill  Road, Marlborough Road, Elizabeth and Heywood Street. Within High Town was Sycamore Street, the setting for ‘Magnolia Street’, based on Louis Golding’s experience of fear of Jewish invasions of the middle class suburbs of Manchester in an area divided by religious differences. The street was unique in that on one side of the street lived Jews and on the other Gentiles.

In the reign of King Stephen, land close to the Irwell, now modern day Kersal was given for use by the Cluniac Monastery of Lenton in Nottinghamshire to be used as a hermitage. Only one monk, it appears, used it at first but that solitary person, dependant on La Charité-sur-Loire Church in France, appeared to be so successful that the Rector Of Manchester Albert De Neville would use all his powers to prevent its influence spreading further.

The Hermitage would remain in use until 1535 when the reformation led to its dissolution. The Estate was split into three, the land that contained the Hermitage falling into the hands of Ralph Kenyon whose family would remain its owners for nearly one hundred years before passing to Edward Byrom.  Salford would like to claim that ‘Christians Awake’  was  written on their side of the river, but given that Byrom spent most of his time in Manchester, it is thought unlikely.

At the beginning of November 1958 a group of builders, architects and a few local dignitaries gathered on the roof of a block of concrete flats, the first of eleven to be built on the nineteen acre site close to the River Irwell.

Less than thirty years later they would be blown up in a world record demolition watched by a crowd of nearly forty thousand people; from the place where the racecourse once stood, in just six seconds using six thousand planned explosions.

Drifting glaciers melted and left behind two hundred feet of sand and gravel, Salford’s mountain Kersal Moor, almost touching the clouds, raising what was once moorland, now undulating scrubland above the rest of the district. 

Kersal Moor’s most crowded day though would be in 1838, when placards were placed on the walls of every town and village around Manchester for ten miles and invitations given to all the trades to attend a meeting. The posters would say: “in favour of universal suffrage, annual parliaments, vote by ballot, wages for members of Parliament and no property qualification for voting”.

Richard Buxton would meet John Horsefield on Kersal Moor, the former having spent his life in a grimy street in Ancoats; a maker of children’s leather shoes, he had taught himself to read at sixteen and despite his location acquired an extensive knowledge of botany.  

Sebastian Pether would paint his famous view of a Pre-Industrial Manchester from its summit and thirty years later Queen Victoria would commission the same view from William Wyld.

In the late 19th Century Manchester and Salford looked to the Lake District to get their fresh water and as Thirlmere became a reality, a poem was written in memorium


Farewell the dear irrecoverable shore

Dark firs and blue bell copse and shallowing bight

Stern raven crag is cheated of its height

Gone is the bridge the Romans crossed of yore

The stately wain with Benjamin before

The packhorse stream now fades from fancys sight

The names have lost its guardians right

Where poets met for tryst they meet no more

Yet have we compensations for the wound

The wound too deep for any time to heal

Clear on the mounded water’s ampler breast

Helvellyn stands more gloriously confest

And peace secure can walk the mountain ground

Love consecrates to serve the common weal


Closer to home another area of Manchester would succumb to the need for fresh water
The original heart of the village of Audenshaw was by all accounts a pleasant rural area; Butterworth would describe it as a very populous village with the population of around fifteen hundred, now buried deep under water.

Ship Canal

Manchester was enthused and when the Bill to construct the Ship canal was passed in Parliament, a huge banner appeared in a shop in Patricroft with a black border, and skull and crossbones with the inscription ‘Goodbye to Liverpool,’ the inhabitants sung and danced in the streets into the early hours and an Ox was roasted.

Media City and Salford Quays

When Peel Holdings took over the Ship Canal in 1984, they considered filling it in, only to be told that the plan would put at peril the entire watershed system of the North West of England. The controversy over the Canal and the docks could in itself fill a separate book, the redevelopment of the Quays into “Greater Manchester’s unique waterfront destination, situated just 15 minutes by tram from Manchester City Centre” is held up by the politicians as maybe the country’s greatest success in regeneration. “It is Britain’s hottest short-break destination and packs everything you can  do in a big city into one spectacular square mile. Shopping, Sport, Art, Drama, History and truly world-class architecture”. For others a disaster with the irony that, as Cyril Woods writes in his book The Big Ditch, the docks have gone full circle in that the former site of the Manchester racecourse is now once again the primary area for leisure.

The Tib

Manchester has never been kind to its rivers.  The River Tib was one of the first to disappear.  Alive with trout, rising in Miles Platting, flowing down to New Cross along Tib Street, under Market Street tram stop and along West  Mosley and Chepstow Streets before making its way to the Medlock.  Its flooding may have turned the tide of the civil war in Manchester, but by the late 1700s Mancunians decided that they had had enough of it and began to cover it up, with the only glimpses we get today being when excavation works have accidentally uncovered it.


The Irwell

When Queen Victoria came to Salford in the 1880s it was reported that forty gallons of scent were poured into the water so as not to offend the royal nose.  By the end of the nineteenth century, the city had had enough and wanted it covered. One writer would say that it had turned from a “Giddy River” into a  “Veritable  Styx”:

Mr Mark Addy, was born on the banks of the river in April 1838 and was brought up in one of the “Stage Buildings” overlooking the river. He was a strong swimmer, learning at the Old Greengate Swimming Baths and occasionally trying his skills in the turbid stream as well as being a capital oarsman. He is remembered for rescuing fifty or more people from the river.

First trains arrive in Manchester

“It rises in height from the rain swelling it like a sponge, and sinks again in dry weather; and if a boring instrument is put into it, it sinks immediately by its own weight. The making of an embankment out of this pulpy wet moss is no very easy task. Who but Mr. Stephenson would have thought of entering into Chat Moss,  carrying  it  out  almost  like wet dung? It is ignorance almost inconceivable. It is perfect madness.”


Two East Manchester villages become the centre of a new industry

In Gorton and Openshaw, two small villages to the East of Manchester, the railway arrived in 1840 approaching from the southeast passing between the two villages, before abruptly terminating two miles short of Manchester.

Richard Peacock, already employed at the time by the Great Western Railway, met with Charles Frederick Beyer, born in Saxony, and the son of handloom weavers who came to Manchester in 1834. Between 1854 and 1868 Beyer, Peacock & Co. built eight hundred and forty-four locomotives, of which four hundred and seventy-six were exported.


Victoria Station

The Railway from Manchester to Leeds opened in 1841 with a depot off Oldham Road, outside of the centre of the town serving as its terminus. Travellers from Liverpool were fed up with having to tramp two miles across the city to get to Leeds. Victoria Station was the result, but at first the companies couldn’t agree how to connect. The owners of the Manchester to Liverpool line threatened to build a tunnel through the town. In retaliation the Yorkshire people then threatened to build a dock right next to the Cathedral transferring all of their freight to the river. That was the proposal that broke the camel’s back and Hunts Bank came into being, with a line from Ordsall Lane connecting the three.


A Grand Hotel

Central Station closed its doors in 1970, what was once a fine example of Victorian architecture became an eyesore for nearly twenty years before being turned into ten thousand square metres of exhibition centre. Its remaining legacy is the Midland Hotel, built at the turn of the twentieth century as purveyors of the Midland line could not face the walk along Mosley Street to find a hotel in Piccadilly.

In the entrance lobby to Manchester’s Town Hall the statues to John Dalton and James Joule sit facing each other. Dalton, the grandfather of the city’s science, his statue by Chantry, which gives him an expression of intensity and calm thought. He was, as Manchester started to industrialise, at the centre of bringing together a community of intellectuals under the umbrella of the Literary and  Philosophical Society. Across the aisle is his  pupil and devotee, Joule, a man who people thought an amateur, but who worked to the highest standard and whose research in an era when it was thought speed was unlimited laid down the ground rules for its parameters.

When President Truman announced in August 1945 that American forces had dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Manchester glowed as it celebrated its part in what was then considered a new triumph for the world.

At the end of the House of Lords session at the end of October 2013, peers passed a third reading of a private member’s bill calling for Bletchley Park codebreaker Alan Turing to be posthumously pardoned. Mr Turing, a British mathematician and pioneer of computer  science, was convicted of gross indecency (as it was then called) under anti-homosexuality laws in 1952 and would commit suicide by poison two years later.

Andre Geim’s technical madlab would see the discovery of a new substance, one atom thick stronger than diamond but stretching like rubber and able to conduct electrons a million times better than copper, the result of an experiment where graphite from a pencil was stripped away layer by layer using sticky tape.

Valette arrived in Britain in 1904, enrolling in Birkbeck College in London but would come to Manchester a year later in pursuit of the beauty of the modern. Born in Saint-Étienne, France in 1876, the city had many similarities with Victorian Manchester, a growing centre of industry, it had the blackened look with buildings covered in soot which Valette would use in his later works.

Statues adorn Manchester’s Town Hall, St. George, the patron saint of England, the Roman Governor Julius Agricola, founder of the town, Edward the Saxon who fortified it, Henry the Third and Queen Elizabeth who granted charters, Thomas De Gresley, Lord of the Manor when the Borough was first freed, Thomas De La Warre, founder of the Collegiate Church, John Bradford, Charles Worsley, Humphrey Chetham and Henry, fourth Earl and first Duke of Lancaster, in full armour and bearing his sword and shield as if ready for action.

“midst splendour and palaces that we may roam be it  ever remembered … there is no place quite like Albert Square. Let those who see the wonders of foreign cities extol foreign beauties, the sooty homeliness of Albert Square is ever satisfying to the soul of a true born Mancunian.”

Joshua Renshaw would paint Trafford Park in 1895 and it would be the one of the last captured views before it changed so dramatically. The park, partly girdled by rows of trees and avenues of lime and sycamore, under the beech trees deer lie in small herds and there are open stretches of grass rolling into the distance.

The De Trafford’s decided to leave when their lands were effectively surrounded by canals;  the ship canal which they had fought against being the final nail in the coffin and decided this was the time to leave after nearly nine hundred years. They offered the park to Manchester City  Council at a reasonable price to be a  Mancunian amenity but whilst the Council deliberated, an enthusiastic and successful businessman called Ernest Terah Hooley stepped in and bought the land for three hundred and sixty thousand pounds.

George Westinghouse was born in 1846 and fought in the American Civil War and at the age of twenty-three he had patented the Westinghouse railway air brake. He was extremely interested in electricity and AC machines and already had five factories in America when he arrived in Britain in the 1890s, opening a small factory in London. He was intrigued by the concept of Trafford Park and decided to invest there.

In Dumplington stands the Trafford Centre. The largest shopping centre in the North West, three miles of granite and marble boulevards, its central dome  reminiscent of  St Paul’s Cathedral, heaven to some, hell to others.

Stretford was known to the locals as Porkhampton or Black Pudding Junction and its origins date from it being a settlement on the Roman Road from Manchester towards Chester as it crossed the River Mersey, mentioned in documents as far back as 1322.

A stones throw from today’s Theatre of  Dreams once stood Manchester’s very own Botanical Gardens, established on the Stretford Road on a site chosen with great care away from the smoke of the City. John Dalton gave the committee forty years of wind records which showed that the wind blew from Manchester only ten per cent of the time. They opened in 1831, a procession moving along the Stretford Road headed by the council of the gardens and a moving flower show.

Journalist and publisher Joseph Aston was to describe Ardwick as “one of the best built and most pleasant suburbs in the Kingdom to which its elegant houses its expanded greens and its lake in the centre all contribute”. The cotton magnates would recognise this, building their fine houses on all sides of what was once countryside, the nearest building being Ancoats Hall, whilst the Corn Brook stream ran through open fields lined with trees.

Ardwick Green had been dedicated to public use going back centuries by the Lords of the Manor. Even before the fine houses had gone up, it had been an escape from the bustling town of Manchester, famous for its beer and alehouses.

The red brick chapel of St Thomas’ was consecrated in 1741, the second oldest parish church, second to St Anne’s in Oldham, and in his history of Manchester churches Hadfield describes it as “a model of a Grecian temple, its galleries and ceilings supported by fluted columns and shafts of the Doric kind”.

Walk along the Hyde Road towards the corner of Devonshire Street and the splendid building that was formerly the Nicholl’s Hospital stands proud. Lit by fluorescent pink light during the hours of darkness, it was erected in 1881 as a monument to the son of Benjamin Nicholls, former Mayor of Manchester.

Ellen Wilkinson, the first female Minister for Education in Attlee’s 1945 Labour government, had been a former pupil of Ardwick Higher Grade school, brought up in Chorlton on Medlock a fiery redhead, the colour inherited from her maternal Grandmother, once long enough that she could sit on it. She would attend the university, become involved in the Suffragette Society and Trade Unionism and was an MP for Middlesbrough East and later for Jarrow, from where she would march to London in 1936.


“Owd lungsee” as it was pronounced into the twentieth century, the origin of its name said by legend to date from 1745 when a commander of the Young Pretender’s Troops said it is a ‘long sight’ to Manchester.

Longsight village annual wakes began on the last Sunday of June and revolved around the front of the Church Inn where a platform was erected over the horse trough.  There a dozen boys with hands tied behind their backs ate a plate of boiling porridge, the winner who consumed it first was awarded a prize. There were sack races and a greased pole to be climbed with the winner given a leg of mutton.

One of Longsights most famous inhabitants was the social reformer Sir Edwin Chadwick. Born in January 1800, he would become known as the father of English sanitation and was appointed Sanitary Commissioner of London in 1848, he became very influential in  the city’s approach towards cholera, believing that filth in rivers was less dangerous than filth in sewers

Elizabeth Gaskell produced eight novels, several more novelettes, a biography of Charlotte Bronte and numerous articles for the principle periodicals of the time and much of that work came from No. 84 Plymouth Grove; built in the 1830s she would move to the Italianate double-fronted stucco house in 1850. Her delight when she moved to Plymouth Grove was to behold, writing to her friend Eliza Fox she said:

“We’ve got a house. Yes! We really have. And if I had neither conscience nor prudence I should be delighted, for it certainly is a beauty. You must come and see us in it, dearest Tottie and make me see ‘the wrong the better cause’ and that it is right to spend so much ourselves on so purely a selfish thing as a house is, while so many are wanting.”

The St Joseph’s Little Sisters Of The Poor began their work in Manchester in 1862 caring for the old, later moving to a new home on Plymouth Grove West.  It was founded on the gesture of Saint  Jeanne Jugan after giving up her bed to a blind old lady in the winter of 1839.

The Stockport Road continues south towards Levenshulme, a village that grew as the railways encroached where once its rough messy moorland was cut through by the turnpike road filled with the sounds of slow moving pack horses that would carry woven goods to Manchester. Soon, members of the community would begin spinning and weaving, washing the cloth in Cringle Brook. Two hundred and eight inhabitants in 1774, six hundred and twenty-eight in 1801, and over a thousand by 1839 when the railway first arrived and five and a half thousand by 1891.

The ghost of William Houldsworth looms over Reddish, his mill dominates the town and the streets,  pubs, church and a working man’s club all hail to his legacy. In the centre of the modern town is a Square with a monument and a bust of the Baronet “In grateful remembrance of the bountiful gifts whereby he adorned their village and manifested his concern for their spiritual, physical and mental well being”.

The Mersey and its valley formed the boundary between the Norsemen and the Saxons and the Nico Ditch constructed to its north could have served as a forward defensive post. Popular tradition has it that the men of Manchester dug it in one night, six feet per man, which would have meant a population of forty thousand, to defend the town from the rampaging Vikings.

Curry Mile was recognised in 2008 when Manchester City Council officially put signs up bearing that title, and even though there’s been a recent influx of Middle Eastern and Turkish cuisine, South Asian food is still served in thirteen of the thirty council-listed restaurants and Wilmslow Road remains the home of Mancunian curry.

The oldest guild in Manchester of which any record has survived was a religious one called The Guild of the Blessed Mary, its foundation date is unknown but it probably dates back to the fourteenth century and gave its name to land in Rusholme which in the time of Henry III was called “gylde housys” and “geldehustide”.

It is the Worsley family who are probably more associated with the area including Charles, who was commanded by Oliver Cromwell to wait outside Parliament with a band of three hundred men whilst his master dissolved Parliament. His instructions were that when his master stamped his foot, he was to enter with his men, whereupon Charles was supposed to have been given the famous command “take away that bauble” meaning the mace. Cromwell rewarded him for his gallantry, nominated in 1654 as Manchester’s first MP and afterwards, as parliament was abolished, he became viceroy of Lancashire, Cheshire and Staffordshire.

Rusholmites have always been proud of their independence since the days of Charles Worsley, none more so than William Royle, the man who is credited with saving Platt Fields Park from being consumed by the continued expansion of Manchester, its picturesque woodland and bright green fields are the first thing that Mancunians see as they escape south from the centre.

Chorlton Cum Hardy

Residents claim the history of Chorlton goes back to the 5th century when the river banks were clothed with trees and the district went by the name of Arden or great wood

Sir Tarquin The Lord of Manchester went in 471 went from his castle at Castlefield to have warlike argument with the villagers of ‘cheorlton’

The Guardian article about Chorlton quoted the newsagent C W Etchells in Beech Road; the trendiest road in the village, which allegedly “sells more Guardians than any shop outside London”. Though, the writer adds “I reckon Hebden Bridge’d give it a run for its papers, it’s genuinely all cooperative grocers, Bush-baiters and lesbian single mums galore. Magnificent! Close to the countryside and the city.”

Eighteenth century historian of Manchester Whitaker surmised that the name Barlow marked the locality as a favoured haunt of the wild boar, when as with many parts of Manchester this was woodland, the literal translation of Barlow meaning boar ground. The family’s long association with the district can be traced back to around the time of Edward I.

“Where  is  Hardy  then?”  asked  a  journalist  from  the  Evening  Chronicle in the 1930s, jumping on the tram from Manchester and getting blank looks.  A petrol company even used the name in a series of advertisements which were based on comic place names in the country, the ad featuring a beshawled crone apparently carrying home the supper beer from a sordid looking ale house.

In 1959 as he reached the age of eighty, Ernest Darwin Simon, ennobled as Lord Simon of Wythenshawe after his greatest legacy, was presented with the Freedom of Manchester. Some regard him as one of the twentieth century’s greatest statesmen.

New suburbs Wythenshawe

“Twenty-five thousand houses, one hundred thousand people, built on lands that were farms and flower gardens. Where fields of wheat gave an air of peace and calm. Old ladies selling fresh flowers by the roadside. It is difficult to believe now but a visitor to Manchester who entered via Baguley would say that no city in the country could have a more beautiful entrance gate.”

What did the Manchester pioneers intend? They drove out of the City into peaceful Cheshire lanes and in their minds eye arose the wonder of a garden city, cosy houses and green lawns, and tree-lined avenues. “Wythenshawe”, wrote one commentator, “is magnificent, it has brought to many thousands of people a new hope of life as it can put colour into pale cheeks and spring into faltering  steps.  For that alone, no one could be grudging in praise, but one could be healthy and miserable, the novelty of green fields and watching the lark in the back garden soon passes,  for happiness is built on much  wider things”.


Whilst Wythenshawe was growing, another area beyond the confines of the City’s boundary, four hundred and fifty acres situated to the East between Hyde and Mottram, was identified as suitable for building around four thousand houses. The site at the time was mainly used for grazing cattle and poultry feeding but in 1957 the scheme was approved and work began three years later.

Manchester Airport

Manchester is already well-established as the global gateway for the North – Airport City will not only enhance this status, but also further the City’s ambition to become a major European and global business city, by bringing a world-class commercial product that is sustainable and innovative to the UK for the first time” says the Airport City Director.

In 1903 a book by Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of Tomorrow  proposed a new social vision of the ideal garden suburb where the ordinary wage earner could afford to rent a well designed house with a garden. The only cure, he felt, for the muddle left behind by the Industrial  Revolution was the decentralisation of factories and the housing of the workers in carefully planned zones around them.



The foundations of the community of Burnage were first recorded around 1300 when it was written that John de Longford and William de Norrys had “villains and workers who lived in  ‘Bronage’”.  Its origins probably lay in the fact that it was a settlement on the salt road which linked Cheshire to Stockport and Manchester.



The village of Withington was incorporated into Manchester in 1904, the origin of its name is uncertain maybe from withes or willows so it could be that the area was a settlement in a wet marshy area covered in willow trees

The manor of Withington covered a large area by the thirteenth century including Burnage, Chorlton, Rusholme, Fallowfield, Moss Side and Levenshulme as well as Denton and Haughton.


Curing Cancer

Marie Curie had discovered radium in 1898, shattering then what was the theory of the permanence of the element for radium was in a perpetual state of change, constantly giving off minute particles before finally becoming stable as lead, a process she had identified as taking thousands of years.

The medical profession had discovered that when applied to actively dividing cells, their malign rate growth was adversely affected. Radium was not easy to acquire as then it came from the Belgian Congo, its mining involved the crushing and complete chemical extraction of forty tonnes of ore to produce one gram of it.

When it arrived in the UK it was stored two hundred and eighty feet below the Derbyshire Peak District under a pile of lead blocks. The Holt Radium Institute had been set up in 1914 and the two were merged together in the 1930s, the architects Harry S  Fairhurst and Son designing the plans for a new state-of-the-art building on Wilmslow Road.  By now Manchester was leading the way in the treatment of cancer, the area had seen a constant increase in cancers, a phenomena put down to cotton workers exposed to the oil of machines.



If it could be argued that one village in South Manchester has retained its village status, then surely it is Didsbury

Fletcher Moss had lived at the Old Parsonage. That he was an eccentric there is no doubt, he would regale over one hundred guests annually at his “at home” events where he would tell of the folklore, old customs and tales of the area. Before his guests arrived he would count the pastries and would make the servants bring him the bad ones before they threw them away.

Didsbury Towers consisted of Twelve towers, fifty-two rooms and three hundred and sixty-five acres set off the Wimslow Road, designed by Thomas Worthington and built in the style of a French Chateau. There was a competition amongst the builders to see who could create the ugliest looking Gargoyle on the building. It was, says Pevsner, one of the grandest of Manchester mansions.

It is said that wherever you walk in the centre of the City of Manchester you are walking on the graves of your ancestors.

Southern Cemetery

Opened  in 1879, the land purchased by the City Corporation, Southern Cemetery was originally designed for fifty-four thousand with the internment of all denominations, each section with an elegantly designed chapel. So popular did it become that tram lines were soon diverted to its main gates and in 1926 it was extended by a further ninety acres of land adjoining it and almost doubling its size. It is now the largest in Britain, the second largest in Europe and is the last resting place of many of Manchester’s icons, John Rylands, L.S. Lowry, Sir Matt Busby, Anthony H  Wilson, John Henry Davis, Daniel Adamson and Jerome Caminada among them.

St John’s Church

The site of St John’s Church near to Deansgate is now a quiet garden, demolished between the wars but a memorial now stands on the site of the altar, its gravestones placed down into the earth, the last resting place of John Owens founder of the college which bears his name and William Marsden who brought the Saturday half-holiday to Manchester.


Upper Brook St

A little way down Upper Brook Street lies the crumbling ruin of Charles Barry’s Gothic Chapel which  is believed  to have been an early collaboration between Barry and A  W  N  Pugin before they worked together on the Palace of Westminster. It lies on land bought by the Council and there were great plans for redevelopment in the 1970s. One hundred and seventy years old in 2006 it was partly demolished for health and safety reasons, losing its roof.


St Philip’s Cemetery

In St Philips in the shadow of the Etihad Stadium, lie the heroes of war including Private George Stringer from  Newton Heath, awarded the Victoria Cross after his battalion came under attack in Mesopotamia, invested by George V at Buckingham Palace in 1917, then returning to Manchester where he worked for the Post Office.


Weaste Cemetery

Across the other side of the conurbation lies Weaste Cemetery, Salford’s first municipal one. It once boasted four chapels and a glazed summerhouse and since it opened in 1857 over three hundred and thirty thousand interments have taken place there. They are the famous, the heroic and the pioneers of Manchester and Salford and their stories are those of the area from its industrial age.



The red sandstone of Eccles Church stands part hidden behind the rather insalubrious shopping centre at the end of the Metrolink line where a church has stood since the time of the Normans. Once this church controlled a parish equal in area to and, as important if not more so than Manchester.