I’ve found some old photographs of Manchester and thought it would be fun to see how much the city had changed over the years. I’ve slotted a couple of them in some posts recently. Here’s one of Corporation Street in the late 1950s. Some work seems to be being done on the street. We are looking north along along Corporation Street towards where Exchange Square will be. The buildings in the far distance are, mostly, still there but the foreground is virtually unrecognisable today. The wavy canopy is around the building that housed the, then, new Marks & Spencer’s store. All the buildings on the right disappeared in the late 1960s when the massive Arndale Centre was built. Sefton’s was an old Manchester bar that was rebuilt into the Arndale Centre but I don’t suppose it looked much like it did in this picture. Back then people seemed quite indifferent to our heritage.
This is what Corporation Street looks like today. It was the epicentre of the 1996 IRA bomb which was driven into the city centre in a van and parked just on the left. The bomb did massive damage but no one died. Terrorists were honourable in those days I suppose. They told the police to clear people away. Marks & Spencer’s was destroyed being replaced by the building on the left which houses the new M&S and Selfridges today. The Arndale Centre was severely damaged. Some was restored while part of it was rebuilt. Sefton’s disappeared completely. The skybridge links the Arndale to M&S and Selfridges. Corporation Street is now tree lined and has just had a refurb itself with the new tram line running down it. When they were digging it up they found the Edwardian tracks of the tram system they had then.
The only common thing in both pictures is the red post box. It’s the most famous post box in the city. After the bomb of 1996, it was the only thing that, defiantly, was left standing almost unscratched. And the mail inside was in such a good condition that it could be delivered only a couple of days late.
Here’s Stevenson Square looking very gaunt in very late Victorian times.
Here it is today. It still looks gaunt but is now surrounded by trendy bars, cafés and restaurants and is one of the coolest places in the N4. It still has an edge to it which goes well with the cocktails, designer coffees and Roman pizza slices that we like to enjoy here.
A picture of Piccadilly Gardens in the early 1940s. Queen Victoria is over on the right. You can see the sunken gardens but the street level gardens are full of shelters where people could hide in Nazi air raids. Would they have withstood a direct hit? I think not. Lewis’s department store is in the distance. That was still there until the late 1990s, sadly now gone.
Here is the view now. Queen Victoria is still there but the gardens have changed beyond recognition. They are about to have yet another upgrade as well. The old gardens were loved but what is there today is avoided by many. And they have taken another plunge into decline and infamy this week as they have made the national news due to the number of people using the drug, Spice, in the gardens which turns people into zombies. Over the warm weekend there was almost a queue of police cars and ambulances carting victims of this drug off to hospital while the rest of us have to wind our way across the gardens avoiding the comatose bodies. It’s on the main route into the city centre from Piccadilly Station and isn’t a great first impression. Lewis’s is now cheap and cheerful clothes provider, PRIMARK.
In the 1930s, there was a range of Victorian cotton warehouses. They were destroyed in the Christmas Blitz of 1940. Once the ruins had been dealt with they used the area for water reservoirs that the fire service could use in any future air raids. You can see the bus station where the tram station is today with the gardens beyond.
After the war the area became a surface car park and in the 1960s the Piccadilly Plaza was built. Here it is today. It’s had a makeover restoring it to what it looked like in the 1960s. Some people hate it but it is a landmark building in the city and I think the skyline would be poorer without it. I did wonder about the concrete patterning on the side of City Tower. It’s a representation of the circuit boards in old transistor radio sets. Back in the 1960s it was cutting edge technology. The reservoirs sit where the tower is today. So much as the city changed here that I couldn’t get anywhere near the point where the old picture was taken from. Apologies.