For a short stretch of the city centre it’s possible to bypass the crowds and the traffic and to walk across several pedestrian areas and finally down a series of alleyways. In fact you can walk almost traffic-free from Victoria station all the way to Lloyd Street, and in doing so you might spot some rather unusual artwork.
To walk this route you begin at Cathedral Gardens, down Cathedral Street and New Cathedral Street then cut through St Ann’s Square. At the heart of St Ann’s Square stands the only surviving 18th century church in the city (celebrating 300 years in 2012), the tower of which is said to mark the geographical centre of the old city and the surveyor’s benchmark can be seen carved into the stone by the tower door.
The connecting road from the church to Deansgate was once known as Toll Lane as this is where the lord of the manor would collect tolls for the animals on their way to fair after they had gathered here and been pelted with acorns by the locals!
From the back of the church the route through the city continues in a relatively straight line from here. First you cut through St Ann’s Passage, built as a temporary home for the Corn Exchange and then you meet with King Street. In 1976 King Street became the first city centre street to be pedestrianised and it’s here that you find yourself opposite Boardman’s Entry.
photos by Andrew Brooks
These days a modern urban environment often makes it difficult to realise the origins of a town, of how it was formed, why its location was vital to its survival or even to properly step back and see the lie of the land. Stockport thrived because of the standstone cliffs it was formed around and there’s plenty of evidence of this all around you to this day.
At one particular location on the edge of town there’s a sandstone cliff face and if you’d peered through the trees here until very recently you’d have also noticed there was once a door.
That was until now - the doorway has been sealed up and what lies behind it is documented here for the very last time. This is Dodge Hill.
There are two things of interest on this aerial shot of Ship Canal House on King Street. The first is one you can see quite clearly from street level if you crook your neck enough, and it’s a rather grand sculpture of Neptune.
Neptune, being the god of water and sea, is clearly a symbolic choice for the premises but it’s also a practical one. Neptune’s three-pronged fork that he holds domineeringly above the street below is a rather fanciful disguise for the building’s lightning conductor. If lightning ever strikes the building it should hit the rod and be conducted to the ground through a wire rather than passing through the interior and risking fire.
The figure and sea-horses that surround it was said to be ‘the finest group of sculpture to be seen in Manchester’ and was designed by H R Bond with work carried out by Earp, Hobbs and Miller
Regardless of the craftmanship behind this lovely sculpture, it’s not actually Neptune that interests me, rather it’s what’s set back from the main street, just above the upper levels and visible on the aerial shot - there once was a little house.
with photos by Andrew Brooks
If you’d ever looked closely enough at the shrubbery around Talbot Road you may just have uncovered an emergency entrance to Trafford Town Hall’s cold war bunker.
The entrance, pictured above, led to a series of rooms and passageways with concrete walls and steel doors but is now just an open space devoid of any fixtures or fittings and, at the time of our visit, flooded.
In November 1980, Manchester City council declared the city a nuclear free zone, and when this bunker was proposed a few years later, despite Trafford itself not being part of the zone, the anti-war feeling amongst the community led to opposition from the residents of Trafford borough.
What on the face of things is a small commercial site on Deansgate, you’ll find a beautiful building complete with wrought iron balcony and decked out inside with personalised bottle green ceramics. Look above Topkapi and the model shop on the corner of Bootle Street and Deansgate and not only will you spot the golden sign bearing the name ‘Onward Building’ but below a tiny, ornate white balcony and above the entrance are the words ‘Band of Hope’ inscribed on a keystone above the face of a cherub.
The site of The Onward Building was previously Number 1 Court and just next-door, 201 Deansgate, had been the site of a Quaker burial ground.
With photos by Andrew Brooks
Although you’d never know it from the rather dowdy, reclad exterior, inside this Hulme building you can time travel.
On October 10th 1901, exactly 110 years prior to our visit, the Hulme Hippodrome as it is now known opened its doors as a spectacular melodrama venue.
Originally named the Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall (which explains the neighbouring pub; the Junction Hotel, which has an unexplained missing third floor as illustrated in the video below),
What we now know as the premises of Primark was originally built to house a Lewis’s Department store. By virtue of housing such a spectacular venture the building has some wonderful features that you wouldn’t expect to find when you’re fighting through the crowds on a sticky Saturday.
What’s hidden on the rooftop isn’t actually visible from the street but you can see on the Google image below there’s a large glass dome, an ornate feature that is no longer in view whilst in the building but once was an integral part of the magic of the Lewis’s store.
On the corner of Market and Moseley Street this particular branch opened in 1877 and closed as a Lewis’s in 2001 (though Lewis’s had actually gone into adminstration ten years prior to this). The building is by architects Horton and Bridgford and was built in a French renaissance style with a grand corner tower (now removed).
The shop applied for an extension in 1915, buying up the Royal Buildings (the site of the Royal Hotel, where the football league was founded in 1888) and with the expansion two back streets were absorbed into the buildings and covered over by a glass archway. This was the Lewis Arcade and is briefly featured in the film ‘Hell Is a City’.
Great Abel - the bell of Manchester Town Hall’s clock tower.
Autumn in Manchester is one of my favourite times of the year for one reason only and that is the calendar of events. The Science Festival, Literature Festival, Food and Drink Festival, Comedy Festival, the Manchester Weekender and preceeding all of those, there’s the nationwide, National Heritage Open Days. And it’s that particular event which leads me the Town Hall.
There are 14 million bricks in the Town Hall and delicate images of cotton flowers and bees are set into the mosaic floors to signify the origins of our wealth and the industrious nature of our people. In the Great Hall there’s the famous Ford Madox Brown’s Manchester mural complete with a depiction of a tee-total Bridgewater glugging wine and the dark, gothic courtyard has been the set of many a London street, most recently in Sherlock Holmes and The Crimson Petal and the White. But of all the wonders of the building there is one we don’t even see from street level.
The Godlee Observatory makes up part of the Sackville Building of UMIST on Sackville Street. It’s quite a large spectacle to overlook yet so many people are unaware of this treasure in the centre of the city.
The Sackville building itself is one of imense beauty, with fine details like intricate glass etchings of the building itself carved into the grand doorways.
The building is by Spalding and Cross and was completed in 1902 with further extensions beginning in 1927 by Bradshaw, Gass and Hope. The interior of the building mirrors the splendour outside and there are a series of outdoor sculputures in the grounds reflecting the scientific theme of the site, notably a sculpture of Archimedes arising from his bath beneath the viaduct archway.
The site is divided from the more recent UMIST buildings by
This time what we see when we look up isn’t so much an architectural quirk, nor is it an example of street art but it’s the ghost of an idea that was never executed.
At various points along Oxford Road, the education mile, you can find recesses at first floor level that were intended, one day, to be the connecting points of pedestrian walkways. Pedestrians were to be put up in the air with a system of interconnecting overhead walkways linking the main buildings with their entrances at first floor level. Oxford Road, effectively, was a road atop a set of concrete stilts.
Wilson & Wormersley’s Oxford Road plans, 1960s
The image below is part of the MMU at the corner of Oxford Road and Cavendish. What was once intended to be a walkway
On John Street in the Northern Quarter, and around the corner on Tib Street, you may have spotted these ornamental birds and their neighbouring ceramic parrots. There’s no shortage of street art to be found in this area yet it’s surprising how few people know the motivation behind each installment.
As Manchester moved into the Victorian Era this particular area transformed from a poorly maintained, muddy lane that was characterised by poverty to a much more amiable community. The cotton trade had brought some riches to the area and the radical, publisher and eventual major of Manchester, Abel Heywood, had brought education and free speech. The residents of Tib Street began to shape the trading community and, once where pigs roamed the lanes raiding side streets for discarded offal, there stood a thriving hub of enterprise. In true Victorian fashion, the shops pulled a crowd because they provided entertainment for the consumer and the speciality of Tib Street became a form of natural history.
Almost every shop featured live animals on display inside the window or tethered outside in the street and often the shops would remain open well into the night pulling a larger crowd still as food prices dropped as the clocks approached midnight. At one point it’s believed that almost 20,000 people descended on the area in a single evening to take in the sights and pick up a bargain.
Began in 1907 and completed in 1912 by A.H Stott & Sons, this is Stockport’s Pear Mill. The mill is Grade II listed and was one of the last cotton spinning mills to be built and to go into production. It ceased operation as a textile mill in March 1978.
Although an usual feature to gaze upon now, the pear that nestles on the water tower wasn’t particularly out of character at the time. These Edwardian mills were often adorned flaboyantly and during the design of the twenty-four A.H Stott & Sons mills, meticulous attention was cast upon the water towers and parapet of the main mill block. A signature style of the architects’ was the use of horizontal bands of yellow bricks above the windows, Accrington brick and terracotta ornamentation.
This behemoth of a pear isn’t the only fruit you’ll find up on the roof,
Thanks to Sam Newiss for the image.
This old building on Thomas Street, sometimes known as the Binks Building, is on one of the busiest corners of Manchester when it comes to nightlife. The current tenant is Odd Bar and the neighbours are a collection of bars, restaurants, secret cocktail lounges and traditional boozers. But as well as all this the area is steeped in history, art and culture and the view from Binks Building is one of the loveliest in all of Manchester; the walls and gates of Speakman, Son & Hickson’s Wholesale Fish Market.
The market entrance is, for want of a better word, entrancing but look up just a little and you might be surprised to find this pottery pineapple settled on the highest ledge of the Binks Building. The exotic finial perches on the crow-stepped gables and it isn’t as rare as you might imagine to find this particular fruit incorporated into the design of a building. In terms of carvings and architectural adornment, the pineapple, was most prevalent from around the mid 1700s to the back end of the 1800s (until the influence of Egypt and Greece set in).