Category: Manchester


Some rather wonderful pictures courtesy of Manchester Libraries came my way. I never realised that the Midland Hotel had had a roof garden where the visitors to the hotel could take tea while listening to an orchestra with a view across the city’s roof tops. Judging by the women’s clothes, these pictures must have been taken in the early part of the last century, probably pre World War 1. You can see the Town Hall tower a couple of hundred metres away on Albert Square. And I think the ‘fogginess’ of the pictures is due to early photography technology and not the Manchester weather. It all looks very ‘Downton Abbey.’

Presumably the space is still up there and there will still be access. I think the Midland is missing a trick here. Afternoon tea or a cocktail on the roof of the Midland on a warm summer afternoon or evening will go down a treat….

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Apart from one walk at some point after Boxing Day, I’ve barely been out of the house since the weekend before Christmas. And I quite like my new life of sloth. But I did make the effort yesterday to drive across the border into Yorkshire and visit some friends who have just bought a house in Sowerby Bridge. I say ‘just’ but they moved in September and have been asking me to come ever since. In the local Yorkshire accent it’s pronounced Sorby Bridge. It’s a little market town in the Calder Valley up in the hills that separate Manchester from Leeds. It used to be an industrial town when the woollen industry dominated the area around Leeds rather like the cotton industry dominated Manchester. But both industries have gone and Sowerby Bridge fell on hard times. But it’s on the up again as its rundown woollen mills and well built, Victorian houses have found favour with commuters into Leeds and Manchester who fancy living up in the hills but still have access to the big cities. Winters can be nasty up there though and I drove up some steep roads that I wouldn’t like to try in ice and snow.

On the way back I took a few pictures. In Ripponden, another pleasant, former industrial town higher up the Calder Valley I took a picture of this restaurant, the much lauded, El Gato Negro (The Black Cat). It’s a Spanish tapas restaurant that opened up there about 10 years ago. It has a great reputation and has been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand (a kind of precursor to the much desired Michelin star). Foodies from Manchester have been making the trek out to Ripponden to sample it’s delights for years now. Sadly the restaurant closed its doors before Christmas. Not because it has failed but because it’s moving to new premises just off King Street in central Manchester. It will open early in 2015. Sad for Ripponden but good for Manchester. I felt sorry that the little town has lost one of its great attractions. In the UK we get annoyed that London gets a lot of the good things that go on but, it has to be said, Manchester does have a similar thing going on, sucking in talent and investment away from other areas.

The yellow bicycle tells me that the Tour de France passed this way last summer when Le Grand Depart took place in Yorkshire. There were still lots of these bicycles about.

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Higher up the valley was the little village of Rishworth. I stopped by Rishworth School, a prestigious public school in the village where the well to do and the pushy like to send their children to be assured of a good education. In the UK ‘public’ schools are no such thing, they are private and you can pay an awful amount of money to get your little darling to go there.

But it wasn’t the school that interested me, it was the poppies on the lawn outside. We are in the process of commemorating World War 1. The poppies that grew on the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium are a symbol of this. Each of these poppies commemorates one man from Rishworth who died in the war. There were hundreds and given that Rishworth would have been a tiny place a hundred years ago, these poppies represent a considerable percentage of the male population of this part of the valley. It was sobering to stand there and think about it. The field of poppies reminded me of the ceramic poppies that have been set up in the moat of the Tower of London. Over 900,000, one for each person from the UK and it’s empire who died.

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Just before the road joined the M62 motorway I stopped and took these pictures of the desolate moors that characterise the Pennine Hills between Manchester and Leeds. I find this part of the north forbidding and am always happy when the road dips over the crest of the hills and I can see Manchester spread out below me. Where the lorries are marks the route of the M62 as it links the two cities.

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Happy New Year to all my readers. Wishing you a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2015.

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We had a quiet night in with some food and a bottle of wine (well three actually). I was sound asleep by midnight and not even the fireworks woke me up. Manchester was dry and cold so a perfect night for a New Year celebration. The fireworks went off around the Manchester Wheel in Piccadilly Gardens. I heard a rumour that one of the city councillors promised us a firework display to rival Sydney. I think he must have meant Sydney Littleton down our street who bought some rather large rockets. I don’t think he could possibly have meant the Australian city. They put on a great display but London beat them again. I think Boris watches Sydney then rushes out to buy extra rockets.

These pictures were taken by the helicopter cops again, @NPAS_Barton, last night. Many thanks to them.

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They also took this picture of the ice rink in Spinningfields. While our fireworks may not rival Sydney or London, our ice rink does a passable and classy imitation of the one in the Rockefeller Centre in New York.

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If you missed the London fireworks (like me) last night, here they are. As the first song says ‘There’s no place like London’….

Some more aerial shots of the city that have been doing the rounds. The first lot are from the Greater Manchester Police helicopter (@NPAS_Barton). Many thanks to them. This first one is of a vital junction on the motorway system. The M602 comes in from the right of the picture from the city centre and leaves as the M62 towards Warrington and Liverpool on the left. The M60 Manchester orbital motorway curves through Worsley at the top of the picture and leaves towards Barton Bridge and the Trafford Centre in the bottom right hand corner. It must have been taken very late at night as there is hardly any traffic on it. When I pass through in one of the rush hours it is bumper to bumper.

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We have had some misty days of late. This one is of the city centre from the west. Spinningfields is at the bottom and you can see the Town Hall in the centre lit for Christmas. To its right is Central Library and No 1 St. Peter’s Square. On the left of and slightly above the Town Hall you can see the Manchester Wheel in Piccadilly Gardens. To its right a bright flash of red marks the warning light on top of Exchange Tower, needed on a night like this.

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Here, we are over Manchester City’s football stadium. Something is going on there and there is a bright yellow patch of light in the centre of the stadium. Above and to the right is are patches of bright green and blue light seen through the mist. These are some of the pitches on Manchester City’s new training facility that has just opened. The bright blue is the artificial grass, all weather pitch done out in city’s colours.

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The Trafford Centre just before Christmas with not one parking space free.

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Looking down on the warren of streets that make up Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Piccadilly gardens are in the top left hand corner of the picture. I really like this part of the city.

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A misty morning looking south along the M60. Barton Bridge rises out of the mist o the right. The angular structure to the left is the Chill Factor E, Manchester’s indoor skiing experience. Carry on to the left and you can see the central dome and the campanile of the Trafford Centre.  

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This picture comes from a TWITTER guy, @Mr_Deansgate. Many thanks! I think he must have an apartment in the Great Northern Tower from this view. The city streets are foggy but the Hilton Tower has its head in sunshine.

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Thanks to the guys of Blue Watch from Broughton Fire Dept. for this picture. Some of them are in the picture. A great view of the city centre form the Co-Op HQ building on the left to the Hilton Tower on the right and everything in between. You can see the CIS Tower, Exchange Tower, the stumpy yellow Arndale Tower, the Town Hall, No 1 Deansgate. Look carefully and you can find URBIS and Manchester Arena and the astonishingly rude chimney of Strangeways Prison. Looks even ruder when smoke comes out of it and a great name for a prison.

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I caught the tram into the city a couple of days ago, getting off at St. Peter’s Square. It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde space in the city at the moment. One side is all serene with classy paving and trees setting off the grand buildings on the north side of the square. While the south side is still a mess of mismatched surfaces and construction. It won’t be finished until 2017 I hear.

At the moment they are doing stuff to the old site of the Cenotaph. The Cenotaph was erected on the site of St. Peter’s Church which was torn down to create the square when the population of the city centre fell as it was given over to business and retail and the church was redundant. This is what the church looked like.

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The new tram route through the square will be going across where the church used to be so they are making the area safe for the weight of the trams. We wouldn’t want one collapsing into a cellar or the crypt. To do so they have revealed what’s left of the church which I find interesting. You can see some of the interior walls and, in one picture, some of the soot blackened exterior walls of the church. Once it’s all been made safe it will disappear again for future Mancunians to discover. The archaeologists are in there at the moment having a poke about and seeing what they can find.

I have been told that the crypt is still occupied by the remains of Victorian Mancunians who were interred here. As far as I know, they aren’t going to remove them and bury them in a quieter place and will have the trams rolling over them for as long as trams will run in the city. But just round the corner on Cross Street, they are moving all the remains of the people buried in the Cross Street Chapel churchyard which is now under Cross Street. Possibly because these bodies are in the crypt and those were buried directly in the earth?

Interesting pictures though…

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These four buildings, including beautiful Century House sadly, are disappearing behind tarpaulins. In the new year they will be demolished to make way for a new office block, No 2 St. Peter’s Square.

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Here’s a reminder of what is going to be built…

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On Tuesday evening we went into the city to see ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at the Royal Exchange Theatre. This theatre has gained a reputation for doing something somewhat off the wall for its Christmas treat to the city and ‘Little Shop…’ is in that vein. While the pantomime of ‘Snow White’, with Priscilla Presley as the Evil Queen at the Opera House and with ‘Shrek’ at the Palace packing them in with traditional Christmas fare, the Royal Exchange likes to do something different. But more of that in a later post.

I went in early to do the last of my Christmas shopping. I needed a few bits from the Christmas Markets and knew exactly what I wanted and where it was. I know, I’m so organised it’s irritating. The markets were busy but not over crowded like at the weekends so there was a pleasant buzz but you could see stuff and enjoy being there. They close this weekend which is sad but they have been, yet again, enormously successful both as an event and financially. 350,000 people went to them last weekend. I wasn’t one of them. And they have made the top 10 Christmas markets in the world list alongside cities like Vienna, Munich and Copenhagen. Well done us!

I had a quick wander around Harvey Nichols to pick up the last of my shopping and then had an hour or so before I was meeting friends to go to the theatre. I decided on a wander around Spinningfields. It was busy with people out enjoying the bars and restaurants and the general buzz of the city. The huge tee-pee had returned to The Oast House in Crown Square and there seemed to be some corporate event going on in it. People were sat out under the patio heaters enjoying mulled wine. One corner of the beer garden is covered by a huge tarpaulin marquee in case of inclement weather. It has been known to rain in Manchester after all. The huge support had been decorated by this flight of fibre-optic reindeer that changed colours. Lots of people were having selfies taken with them as a backdrop.

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And, while it is blatantly commercial, I did like the Pringle Christmas tree in Crown Square. They are encouraging you to take a selfie and post it to their website. Behind it is the judicial grandeur of the Crown Courts, the most important court building in the city. The frivolous Christmas tree looked at odds with the backdrop. I imagined some wise, but ancient, out of touch judge asking ‘What is a pringle?’ In his world it will be a golf sweater.

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I then went to have a look at the ice rink in Hardman Square. It’s a very popular part of Manchester’s winter and, viewed from the other side and looking towards the glass, corporate towers of Spinningfields, it looks a little like New York. But looking this way you see a rather sombre, grey, deserted, 1960s office block. It’s surrounded by fences at the moment. It’s going to be demolished in the new year and a huge new skyscraper will be built on the site completing the redevelopment of this part of the city and adding to the ‘Christmas in New York’ feel.

In the top picture you can see the Opera House on the left all lit up as Priscilla Presley and the rest of the cast get ready for the night’s performance. In the distance the Hilton Tower looms…

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Dogs enjoy Christmas as well it seems. Yesterday I went to Betty & Butch, Chorlton’s dog life style store. It was having an event to raise some money for the a charity in the Sale area of the city that looks after abandoned animals. Dogs brought their people to the store so that the dogs could meet with Santa Paws, have a few moments with the great man and pass over their Christmas wish list. They came away with a pre-Christmas present and the money they paid for the privilege was given to the charity. I know they did it last weekend but I’m not sure if its happening next weekend as well. If you want your dog to meet Santa Paws, it will be best to check their website before you go. It was very busy on Saturday with a lot of excited, very well behaved dogs waiting their turn to meet Santa Paws.

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The Launderette is a restaurant on Beech Road in Chorlton. It used to be just that, a place where people could take their laundry to be washed in a machine they could hire for a time. Hard to believe that people who lived around, now, affluent Beech Road, wouldn’t have had their own utility room to do their washing. But Beech Road hasn’t always been as wealthy as it is now and, in the past, even the rich didn’t do their washing at home. Effective machines hadn’t become widely available and the rich would send their washing to a laundry. In Manchester, it was done by Chinese immigrants in the basements of buildings in what is now China Town. Once washing machines became more widespread in the 1950s, the China Town laundries closed and were converted into the restaurants we enjoy. A fate that has overtaken the one on Beech Road as well. Where people used to do their washing, the trendy, Chorlton hipsters now enjoy some fine dining.

I saw this ‘A’ board outside. I couldn’t agree more….

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Thanks again to @NPAS_Barton for this wonderful picture of Salford Quays (above) at night. We’re looking east towards the city centre where all the lights seem to concentrate. At the bottom of the picture you can see the towers of Media City. Two illuminated footbridges cross the Manchester Ship Canal from the Salford bank to the Trafford Bank. On the right bank you can just see the distinctive shape of the Imperial War Museum North and The Lowry is just to the left of the further footbridge. The street lights pick out the shapes of the old docks where the ships used to moor. They are now lined with expensive houses, apartments and offices. In the dark on the right Manchester United’s  Old Trafford stadium is located.

This next picture, in daylight, looks west over Salford Quays. The River Irwell empties into the Manchester Ship Canal here. You can clearly see Manchester United’s stadium on the left. At the bottom is a complicated road junction which I have to negotiate a lot. If you know how it operates it’s fine but it does tend to confuse visitors to the city who are prone to change lane at the last minute when they realise they are going in the wrong direction. Trafford Road crosses the canal and heads to Salford passing the World Trade Centre buildings as it does so. Click both pictures to enlarge them and see more details.

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I had a wander down to the area around Victoria Station to see how things are developing. It’s been a bit of a rundown area for years now, less than 5 minutes walk from Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. The station itself is coming along nicely. All the struts for the new roof have been put in place by Christmas, as promised, and the glazing is going in now. It’s all looking splendid.

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It’s not just the station that’s getting a makeover. The entire area is on the up. I’m stood in the gardens of the Cathedral here and looking across the River Irwell to the Salford bank. Four apartment blocks are rising quickly up against the skyline. They are dramatically going to change the view and improve the rundown Greengate area of the city. Greengate is the medieval centre of Salford. They’d be amazed if they could see what was happening to their little settlement.

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A reminder of what’s going up on the Greengate site…

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Between the apartment blocks and the river they have just begun to build some new office blocks on the plateau that used to house Exchange Station. They are keeping the red sandstone of the railway arches as part of the development.

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Here’s what the offices will look like…

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There’s one site in the area that remains stubbornly undeveloped. It’s right outside the station and makes a terrible first impression to anyone arriving in the city at Victoria. It could be, potentially, wonderful. The site contains a pretty little Victorian building called City Buildings and is the oldest purpose built office building in the city. In its day it was Spinningfields. But it’s fallen on hard times and is empty and propped up by scaffolding. The plans are that it will be converted into the entrance and public rooms of a Hotel Indigo. The bedrooms will be in a circular tower on vacant land behind the City Buildings. This is what it should look like. In fact their website says it will be open in 2015. They’ll have to get their skates on if they are going to meet any date in 2015.

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On the site of where the tower will be is this little run down post office building. It’s been deserted for years and the buddleia has taken hold in a big way. In the rich soil of our garden it doesn’t do well but seems to be thriving growing out of walls of this building. In summer, when it flowers, you can smell honey in the air and it becomes a little nature reserve attracting, on a warm day, butterflies in their hundreds. I’ll be sad to see the butterflies be evicted but I’d like this hotel built. It would be cool to find a corner for the butterflies though. One reason the hotel hasn’t started could be that, with all the work at Victoria and with the building of the new tram line going past the site, there isn’t enough room to fit this building site in at the moment.

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Someone doesn’t agree with the building coming down. This was on the door of the post office.

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