New Town Hall
Planning for the new town hall began in 1863. Manchester Corporation demanded it be, ‘equal if not superior, to any similar building in the country at any cost which may be reasonably required’. The choice of location was influenced by a desire to provide a central, accessible, but relatively quiet site in a respectable district, close to Manchester’s banks and municipal offices, next to a large open area, suitable for the display of a fine building. After investigating suitable sites, includingPiccadilly, an oddly shaped plot facing Albert Square was chosen. The Albert Square frontage measures 323 feet (98 m), Lloyd Street is 350 feet (107 m), Princess Street the longest at 383 feet (117 m) and Cooper Street measures 94 feet (29 m). On this tight site, the corporation built a grand hall, a suite of reception rooms, quarters for the lord mayor, offices and a council chamber.
The second stage of a competition to design the town hall which attracted 137 entries was judged byThomas Leverton Donaldson, a classicist, and gothicist George Edmund Street. The eight finalists were Waterhouse, William Lee, Speakman & Charlesworth, Cuthbert Brodrick, Thomas Worthington, John Oldrid Scott, Thomas Henry Wyatt and Edward Salomons. In terms of design and aesthetics, Waterhouse’s proposal was placed fourth behind those of Speakman & Charlesworth, Oldrid Scott and Worthington but his design was considered much superior for its architectural quality, layout and use of light and he was appointed architect on 1 April 1868.
The foundation stone was laid on 26 October 1868 by the mayor, Robert Neill. Construction took nine years and used 14 million bricks. Estimates for the cost of construction vary from £775,000 to around £1,000,000 translating to between £54 and £71 million in 2010. When Queen Victoria refused to attend, Manchester Town Hall was opened by the mayor, Abel Heywood, who had championed the project on 13 September 1877.
The Great Flood of 1872
The River Medlock rises in the hills above Oldham and empties into the River Irwell in central Manchester
The Medlock has reportedly burst its banks and flooded areas of the city on a fairly regular basis. However it was on 13th July 1872, after two days of torrential rain which takes its place most notably in the history books, as this account from a Manchester newspaper, written at the time, describes:
“It was about half past twelve when the floods came … the banks of the Medlock were overflowed to such an alarming extent and the first intimation of the flood was the sweeping away of a footbridge near to Philips Park … It must have been very strongly fixed, for it not only bore the rush of the flood for a considerable time, but it resisted it to such an extent that the water backed up for a considerable distance. The flood increased in depth and power, and at a length swept in a fierce torrent over a large portion of ground apportioned to the Roman Catholics at the Bradford Cemetery carrying away not only tombstones but actually washing out of their graves, a large number of dead bodies. Indeed from the first indication of danger, so far as works on the banks of the Medlock were concerned, dead bodies were observed floating down the river, and those watching could easily see that the bodies had been disinterred out of the Bradford cemetery. It is impossible to calculate how many had been swept out of their final resting place but the number is not short of fifty.” (source:Manchester Courier, 15 July 1872)
So, no great shakes for soggy electrical cables and knocked down gazebos, but interesting that this most remarkable of events took place in early July, just when we all least expect it. There really is nothing new under the sun, or a grey cloudy Mancunian sky!
The full version of this article can be found at http://www.medlockvalley.org.uk/Sites/MedlockValley/Objects/PDFs/The_Great_Flood.pdf
Most of the buildings from the industrial era have been lost to gentrification, development and demolition, but where they remain they provide evocative indicators of the way social identities were played out. Domestic housing was usually cramped, damp and with few, if any, creature comforts. As a result, many people socialised in communal buildings and in public spaces. This was often done via the demarcation of clear – and often clearly labelled – social spaces such as markets and licensed premises. The Angel Inn, on the edges of Manchester’s thriving Northern Quarter, is a perfect example. Although much altered and rebuilt since the Angel Inn of the eighteenth century, this is the site of the pub that is mentioned in the 1859 version of ‘The Soldiers Farewell to Manchester’, the first broadside in the Manchester Ballad collection. Today, the Angel Inn stands in the middle of the area dominated by the new ‘Noma’ development by the Co-operative group, with apartments and plush office blocks now surrounding the pub.
There is now over 400 people registered for Sunday, so down to the last few places. The day basically repeats itself so if you want to read the displays without music (and get some lunch) come down around 2pm and if you stay until 6.30pm isn you should see everything. If you want to have supper and stay into the night, come down sometime around 6pm – the displays will still be up but perhaps not so easy to read!
Weather is still looking good, so we expect it will be busy so if you still have not registered please click on the link below.
There will be merch for sale, so if you want to pick up a copy of the CD sampler, Jennifer Reid’s book or a T-shirt please bring cash as cards will be difficult to process. We will be doing a bundle of all three items for £20 to give you a bit of a guide.
Parking is available in several car parks in the streets on the opposite side of Rochdale Rd, between Swan Street and Thompson Street. Again, there is a map on the registration page if you click the link.
Any other queries, please message and we will try and get back before Sunday. See you all then!
New Cross was a centre of production for penny broadsides in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, with several printers based around Swan Street. Some of the building around Chadderton Street and Cable Street date from this time, but none of the printers businesses survive. However, ask most Mancunians aged under 60 where the area of New Cross is, and the only reaction you are likely to get is a blank stare.
Until the 1960’s, the area around the junction of Tib Street, Swan Street and Oldham Street was a well known, and quite distinct, district of Manchester called New Cross. The original Victorian trams stopped here on the way out of the city centre towards Oldham, and the name would have been as familiar s Ancoats, Beswick or Ardwick. Historic maps of the area show that Swan Street was originally named New Cross Street, and that there was a physical cross, perhaps even an old market cross – although this is unclear – located in the centre of the junction opposite the Frog and Bucket and the Historic Crown and Kettle pub. The records show that there was a pub on the corner as early as 1734.
The New Cross name is perhaps best associated nowadays with the shop on Tib Street that sells ex-army gear, a ‘destination shop’ for several generations of Mancunians looking to buy their first pair of docs, or maybe some waterproof clothing for a festival. There is also the nearby New Cross Dental Surgery, and it is often the case that when place names that have otherwise fallen out of use, they live on in the names of nearby buildings or businesses.
Although the area is currently overshadowed by its better known neighbours Ancoats, Shudehill and Collyhurst, New Cross may yet see a revival, both as an area of commerce and as a name. Manchester City Council has announced plans to develop the area north of Swan Street, between Rochdale Road and Oldham Street, referring to it as the ‘final piece of the jigsaw’ in the redevelopment of the city centre ( M.E.N. 2015)
The Angel Pub, where we perform on 5th July and which also features in the song ‘A soldiers Farewell to Manchester’ (one of the better known of the Manchester Broadsides), sits on the boundary of a neighbourhood Angel Meadows. Now thoroughly re-developed, many of the buildings and streets still retain titles reminiscent of its less than illustrious past. In fact this is the part of town that Marx and Engels would walk into from Ancoats and Swan Street where they reportedly sat in the pubs looking over at the poor souls working the gravel pits on the edge of Angel Meadows. In fact Freidrich Engels described this residential neighbourhood as a ‘Hell on Earth’ and we can only imagine how horrific it would have been to live there.
However, three hundred years ago, Angel Meadow was a heavenly landscape with views over fields and hills. Indeed, the name conjures an image of some pastoral idyll.
By the mid-19th century however, thanks to Manchester’s new industrial age, it had become one of the city’s worst slums.
Angus Reach, a London-based journalist, visited Angel Meadow in 1849.
“The lowest, most filthy, most unhealthy and most wicked locality in Manchester is called, singularly enough, ‘Angel-meadow.’ It is full of cellars and inhabited by prostitutes, their bullies, thieves, cadgers, vagrants, tramps and, in the very worst sties of filth and darkness, by those unhappy wretches the ‘low Irish.’
Such is the Old Town of Manchester.. and the frightful condition of this Hell upon Earth. Everything here arouses horror and indignation.
Friedrich Engels, writing in The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1844
Bounded by Rochdale Road, Miller Street, Cheetham Hill Road, and Gould Street, Angel Meadow covered 33 acres on the edge of the city centre.
Its population of 20,000 to 30,000 was made up predominantly of destitute Irish who had fled the Great Famine to find work in industrial Manchester and now lived in squalid conditions in cellars beneath lodging houses.
Recalling one particular cellar he visited, Reach wrote:
“The place was dark, except for the glare of a small fire. You could not stand without stooping in the room which might be about twelve feet by eight. There were at least a dozen men, women and children on stools, or squatted on the stone floor, round the fire and the heat and smells were oppressive… the inmates slept huddled on the stones, or on masses of rags, shavings and straw which were littered about. There was nothing like a bedstead in the place.”
BBC news website
Quotes courtesy of The Gangs of Manchester by Andrew Davies and The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels (1844).
Heaven knows I’m miserable now : Mancunian Social Identity portrayed in the arts.
The paintings of LS Lowry are perhaps one of the best known examples of art reflecting northern life in the dying days of heavy industry. Lowry painted what he saw first hand, often producing subdued images of “faceless figures, over-sized factories, underfed bodies and drab housing” (Winterson 2013) that evoke the poverty and deprivation common across Salford and Manchester.
Seen through the eyes of twenty first century Britain, the protagonists in these artistic depictions live in a different world, and yet they are often walking the same streets, using the same buildings and doing the same jobs. Recent excavations in the city centre have revealed remains of the conditions Lowry depicted. Sites at Birley Fields, Angel Meadow, Danzig Street and Salford
Crescent have all revealed the remains of the slum housing that blighted the lives of workers during the industrial revolution.
It is well known that the works of Marx and Engels are rooted in the conditions they observed whilst living in the Angel Meadow area of Manchester, and Engels despaired at the slum housing and harsh conditions endured by Mancunians when he wonders how “such a district exists in the heart of the second city of England, the first manufacturing city in the world.”(Engels 1846: 65).
Most of the buildings from this era have been lost to gentrification, development and demolition, but where they remain they provide evocative indicators of the way social identities were played out. In public spaces, this was via the demarcation of clear – and often clearly labelled – social spaces such as markets and licensed premises.
The Angel Inn, on the edges of Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter, is a perfect example. Although much altered and rebuilt since the Angel Inn of the eighteenth century, this is the site of the pub that is mentioned in the 1859 version of ‘The Soldiers Farewell to Manchester’, the first broadside in the Manchester Ballad collection. Today, the Angel Inn stands in the middle of the area dominated by the new ‘Noma’ development by the Co-operative group, with apartments and plush office blocks now surrounding the pub.
When the Angel Inn was opening, it appears that Swindels Printers were commissioned to print a partially re-written version of a much older song as a form of advertising for the opening (Reid 15).
The message within the ballad is clear – The Angel Inn is the place to meet the prettiest girls in Manchester. The rest of the song is a variant on a common theme, with a girl vowing to wait in chastity for the return of her true love.