St Philips Church is perhaps the architectural highlight of the city of Salford, its beautiful bell tower beckoning you in off the road to take a closer look. The building is unassuming yet classical and unlike any other church in the region.
The church was designed by Sir Robert Smirke in 1825 in a Greek revival style unique to the area, and taken from a design Smirke had done previously for St Mary’s Church in London.
Inside the church you’ll find a Renn and Boston organ, a rare example of British 19th century organ making with most having been destroyed or altered. Made in 1829, the organ has been restored twice, and now includes pipes taken from a dismantled organ from New Jerusalem Church on Peter Street, Manchester. It is regarded as the finest surviving example of Renn’s work.
There’s also something waiting to surprise you beneath the church, for down below is a crypt.
The crypt houses around 8 bodies though could hold many more. Three aisles run beneath
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.
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.
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).
I was delighted to spot a little man, decked out in Alpine clothes and straw hat, catching some sunshine on the roof of 79 Piccadilly. Just around the corner, leaning on the balustrade, I discovered he had an identical friend. It was surprising to find that there’s no real information online about the figures and so I considered taking the story in another direction; talking about the O.K Cafe that also occupies the building downstairs and the history behind the name.
Historically the Okasional Cafes were squats, social centres for anarchists and environmental activists and in recent times a demonstration in the benefits of non-profit community spaces. In fact if you’re reading this at the time of publishing then you can go and check out the Castlefield OK Cafe right now. It seems to make a lot of sense to use an otherwise empty space for a community project, but I don’t know enough about the economy or politics to go into that and the mystery of the little men was too intriguing to leave alone.
Built in 1877, the original architects of the building were Clegg and Knowles. The duo were prolific architects who specialised in grand warehouses, the likes of which were admired by tourists who would travel to Manchester during the industrial revolution to marvel at the ornate and unusually tall warehouses of Manchester (the warehouses and mills were built upwards to offset the expensive land rent. As an indication of the success and growth of the period this was during a time in which Manchester’s population trebled in the space of 39 years. During the same time period London’s population had only doubled).
After the completion of The Atheneum, considered one of the most inspirational buildings in Manchester’s architectural history, the general building trend of the time followed suit and ‘palazzo’, an elegant Italian Renaissance style build, was born. So why then is 79 Piccadilly so different from the norm?
If you look up to the roof of what was Piccadilly 21 nightclub you might find yourself dazzled by the light. Up there is a giant disco ball. It’s mounted on a strange metal plinth that holds the surrounding spotlights steady and looks like a space age egg about to hatch.
Thanks to Ian Pattinson for the image
You might also notice that of the six floors, only one storey is currently in use. The site is solely occupied by Nobels Arcade and the upper floors are as good as obsolete.
But this is an important site on the Manchester skyline with historical significance that shouldn’t be forgotten. It was here, that in 1979, a fire broke out which changed the entire UK fire regulations. The Woolworth’s store that occupied the site, at the time the largest Woolworths in Europe, spanned the entire six floors and two basement levels and one afternoon a fault in the electrical components led to a fire in the second floor furnishing department. The location and incident made the news again in 2012 as the subject of the 2012 Turner Prize by Elizabeth Price - The Woolworths Choir of 1979.
Staggeringly, this incident was Manchester’s worst fire disaster since World War II. Nine shoppers and one member of staff died. The staff member was killed whilst trying to find a regular, particularly eccentric, customer who was always to be found in the cafe on the top floor and horrifically, three of the bodies discovered were just six feet from the exit.
image m61706 thanks to Manchester Libraries
In contrast to the office girls trapped behind metals bars on the top floor, desperate to escape and the three people who found themselves stranded on the window ledge in search of rescue, many customers actually refused to vacate at the sound of the alarms and even stood their ground when the smoke was visible. Public behaviour in times of emergencies has been closely studied as a consequence.
Until the incident, it’s hard to believe now, the polyurethane foam furniture fillings weren’t considered to have been hazardous but it was these fillings that led to the severity and speed of the blaze. The inadequacies of the safety measures in place led to a change in UK law with new furniture materials being developed and, once it emerged that none of the emergency calls that day came from within the store, the requirement of stores to train their staff on what to do in the event of a fire.
The event also led to sprinkler installation in large retail stores becoming standard but even 32 years later this is a moot point. The notion that sprinklers could have prevented the fatalities is not likely to have been the case; conventional sprinklers of the time, because of the ferocity of the fire, wouldn’t have responded until it was too late. In fact, in rather macabre irony, Manchester city centre right up until 2009 was reliant on Victorian water pipes (installed in 1880s) that made the water pressure so low at times that even modern sprinkler systems were of little to no use.
Edit: since writing this article Nobel’s arcade are due to be evicted from the premises to make way for a Travel Lodge, Nando’s and Waitrose. At least the upper floors will be put to use. Further info here
Read More Skyliner