Back in 2004, in a report to the Deputy Prime Minister, the neighbourhood of Harpurhey was named as the most deprived area of England.
Until the mid 19th century, it was no more than a rural village, first mentioned in 1327, then becoming a centre for the bleaching and dyeing industry.
It suffered more than many areas in the post industrial climate of the late 20th century and recently as part of a reality television show found itself pictured in a very bad light.
The name Harpurhey could well derive from William Harpour granted lands by John La Warre, the Lord of Manchester in the fourteenth century.
Until the early nineteenth century it was a village of cottages lining the road between Manchester and Middleton to Rochdale but in 1812 the industrialist Andrew family bought land in the village and began to set up their dyeing trade business. Robert Andrew’s Mill just off the Rochdale Road would produce the notorious Turkey Red Dyes. His brother Thomas set up a print works on the banks of the River Irk and soon the area would become filled with industry with all other available land used for back to back workers housing.
“Even youth could tell its tales of fields that have been blotted out, of rows and houses where once cricket and football were played, of thickly populated colonies where orchards were robbed and butterflies chased- the builder, jerry and otherwise had barely defaced one well remembered spot ‘ere he had swooped down on another”
Harpurhey would also be the location for Manchester’s first General Cemetery, opened in 1837, it was the first in Manchester to provide burial space on a substantial scale, covering an area of twelve acres on the banks of the River Irk. Now overgrown it is only used occasionally while Queen’s Park opened as a public park in 1846 using the grounds of Hendham Hall formerly belonging to the Andrews family.
Post war regeneration saw the houses pulled down to be replaced by high rise tower blocks and whole areas of Harpurhey simply disappeared, then the 1970’s and 80’s saw urban decay set in.
Today there are signs of a new beginning. North Manchester Sixth Form College now occupies part of the site that was once the focal point for the town, its’ wash house and baths which were shut during a routine inspection in 2001, while across the road, the Factory Youth Zone provides a unique safe place for young people aged 8 – 18, in a ward where it is still estimated that 56 per cent of children are living in poverty.