If you had stood in the area of Piccadilly Gardens at the beginning of the eighteenth century and looked out towards the direction of Ancoats, you would have seen green meadows and a plain black and white building with two rooms at the front, Lever Hall, the estate of Sir Ashton Lever whose death in 1788 saw the beginning of the transformation of the area.
It had been planned as a residential development attracting the more respectable of the town, bought by William Stevenson who created a grid layout of streets which still remains today.But as Manchester industrialised, the grid like streets soon found themselves hemmed in by the mills and warehouses.
Surrounded now by railway termini, London Road, Victoria and Oldham Road goods station, it was an ideal location for the growing city's markets. The future Smithfield market site was drained in 1820 and the potato and meat market, greengrocers and flour and meal markets were opened, quickly growing with fruit and veg soon added.It became the largest covered market in the UK.
As the Victorian middle class expanded, Oldham Street became the city’s new shopping mecca,and empires of retail were also built along the street and the surrounding area such as I G and J Cooper, one of Manchester’s finest drapery establishments and Brown and Afflecks, Tib Street became the centre of the Pet Industry of the North West while in later years come Woolworth’s and Boots, Marks and Spencer, C&A and Debenhams but the redevelopment of Market Street and the Arndale Centre quickly sounded the death knell of the street.
The markets would move away in the second half of the 20th century leaving much of the area desolate.
Efforts to protect and regenerate the area began in the early 1990’s as Manchester sought a new identity for itself and its eclectic mix of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and independent traders stands as a testament to Manchester’s urban regeneration.