My final tour of the Manchester Curious was of Piccadilly Basin, the old industrial area between the Ashton and Rochdale Canals north east of the city centre. Once part of the Victorian industrial powerhouse, the area had fallen on hard times. It was a rundown and, potentially, dangerous part of the city to visit. And I think I’d stay off the quiet canal side paths after dark still. But, like the rest of city centre Manchester, it’s had something of a renaissance over the past few years. The old warehouse buildings have been restored and turned into apartments over looking the water. New blocks have been built on wasteland and more are planned. Businesses have moved into the area. The canals have been cleaned and are back in use for leisure. To the east is Piccadilly Station and the site of the HS2 train station that will link the city to the high speed European rail system. When built it’ll be breakfast in Manchester, in Paris for lunch and Barcelona for dinner.
We started our tour at Carver’s Warehouse on Dale Street. It’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest warehouse in the city. And, in a city of red brick warehouses, it looks a bit out of place. Simple in design, it was built by a Yorkshire company who brought the stone over from that county. It looks more like an industrial building in Leeds or Bradford than the ones we are used to this side of the Pennines. Behind it is a surface car park that used to be a canal basin that was linked by canal to the company’s Yorkshire operations in Leeds. On the car park side you can see two curved entrances, now glazed, where the canal boats would come into the building to be unloaded. The canal system went into decline almost as it was being finished off as the coming of the trains stole a lot of its business, moving goods around the country more quickly than the canals could hope to do. The old warehouse has been restored and a new wing built on Dale Street connected to the old by a glass atrium. The old building is as it was when it was built (except with super-fast broadband) and is linked by walkways to the new services in the new wing.
Our tour group studying Carver’s Warehouse. The white building is an Art Deco warehouse built in the 1930s and was one of the last cotton warehouses to be built in the city. It’s been restored and is now apartments.
Touring the canal basins. This is the 1836 warehouse and is more typical of the kind of warehouses that line the Manchester canals. You can see the curved openings where the canal boats emptied their loads. It is now an apartment block. There’s a new apartment block on the left and the site on the right is being built on by Ian Simpson, the architect who designed the Hilton Tower. It will be more homes. I think the basin needs boats. Some people live on boats in other places and it would be cool if they could do that here as well.
These people weren’t part of our group but I got chatting to them. Their canal boat was in one of the locks waiting for the water level to rise. They were from Leeds. They had taken their boat, on canals, all the way from Leeds to Oxford and then from that famous, university city up to Manchester. From here they are travelling back to Leeds over the Pennines. The canals and their boats have found a new life as a leisure resource.
Here we are on the other side of Great Ancoat’s Street in the world’s first industrial suburb of Ancoats. We’re by the Royal Mills. These are some grand, late Victorian cotton warehouses that replaced some much older ones. If Victorian entrepreneurs had been able to foresee the tourist industry of the 21st century they might have left the original ones in place. It was here that workers were first brought together in one building anywhere in the world to make things, in this case, cotton cloth. It was here that the modern manufacturing world was born. The replacement buildings are fine and have been turned into apartments. It’s rapidly becoming one of the trendiest places in the city to live.
Where people once worked long hours in noisy, dangerous conditions, modern Mancunians enjoy a coffee in the early Autumn sun, costing about the same as a Victorian worker would earn in a day. The past would be an interesting place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.
The bell that was in this aperture would summon workers to the mill. Once in, doors were locked so the workers could be monitored.
Meeting another of our tours around Ancoats. It was a busy weekend.
I like the combination of the old and the new in Manchester and was pleased with this picture of Royal Mills and the new apartment block next door.
This is Cutting Room Square. The church is St. Peter’s which was built by Italian immigrants in Victorian times in a style that wouldn’t look out of place in a quiet part of Rome, Florence or Venice. It was abandoned by the Italians as they prospered and moved to better parts of the city. It’s now called Halle St. Peter’s and is used by the Halle Orchestra as a rehearsal space and a performance space. An international competition has been set up to design an extension to the church to expand its facilities. The buildings around the square have converted into business units, coffee shops, restaurants and apartments.
We ended up in the middle of New Islington where we have been on the Tom Bloxham/Jonathan Schofield tour of that area on Friday.