If one area sums up the diversity of Manchester it is Gorton. Centre for heavy industry from the mid 19th century and the home of Beyer Peacock which manufactured) locomotives that would be sent around the world.
It was also the location for the City’s playground Belle Vue and Pugin’s monastery for St Francis built in the 1870’s and now re-galvanised, as well as the place where Myra Hindley and Ian Brady worked as nondescript office workers.
Today the heavy industry has gone, though its scars remain.
First mentioned in 1282, its name may well derive from the Gore, or Dirty Brook. It originally covered four areas, the village itself, Abbey Hey, Gorton Brook and Longsight and was surveyed again in 1323 when it was noted that there was a mill on the Gore Brook.
Its original church dates back at least 1562 and possibly earlier while its first school opened in 1703.
The industrial Revolution changed the village forever with the Ashton Canal and later the railways the area became an ideal location for manufacturing and not least the enterprise set up by Charles Frederick Beyer and Richard Peacock producing some of the most innovative railway locomotives in the World.
Others came, Gorton Mills which employed over 1,800 people at the end of the nineteenth century and Crossley who made trucks and buses.
The rapid expansion would bring its own social problems in the twentieth century, the two up two down cottages were marked for ‘slum clearance’ in the 1960’s as industry was crumbling away and many of the population were moved to the new towns of Wythenshawe and Hattersley.
The Regeneration was not to everyone’s liking
“Whole streets and homes were wiped away as part of so called slum clearance and sturdy brick houses set in traditional road patterns were replaced by glorified rabbit hutches located in cul-de-sacs, the main road was cleared of shops which were replaced by grass verges.” Ed Glinert Writer and Manchester Tourist Guide
Today like many areas of East Manchester, Gorton is struggling to come to terms with a post industrial landscape
The Church and Monastery of St Francis was built between 1866 and 1872 by Edward Pugin. The church was the tallest single storey building in Manchester, and was built largely by volunteer labour from within the local community. It’s construction was a sign of a revitalised Roman Catholicism that was then sweeping through the country.
The Monastery would run for the nearly one hundred years as a social and religious hub of the local community, but by the early 1970s the terraced housing in the area began to be demolished and the community relocated. In 1991 the complex was sold to a developer who went bankrupt before starting to convert the church into luxury flats. The buildings were seriously vandalised whilst in the hands of the receiver, and anything of value stolen.
In 1997 it was placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites, that same year The Monastery of St. Francis & Gorton Trust was formed which would eventually raise over £6.5m from among others the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the Architectural Heritage Fund, North West Development Agency and the European Regional Development Fund.