Archive for April, 2008
While Liam has been learning about psychogeography, I have been avidly reading local history. Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of Manchester quotes:
“…the age of ruins is past. Have you seen Manchester? Manchester is as great a human exploit as Athens.”
Benjamin Disraeli, 1844 in Conningsby
Jen visited me a while ago and we went with Liam to see the William Blake exhibition at the Whitworth Gallery which was good. Liam liked it in a history of publishing way. I liked knowing Blake couldn’t draw Tigers all that well. Looked a bit cuddly cat to me. Anyway, Blake. Jerusalem. Respect is due.
We came out with some hours of daylight to spare on a sunny day and decided to do an impromptu zedding. It was, with hindsight, a zedding that would have benefited from some research first.
Our target was Victoria Park based on a throwaway comment of Bazza’s en route to Didsbury.
To the left, behind the shops, Victoria Park is located. This legendary Victorian suburb, once the most exclusive address in Manchester, had its own gates and police force. Enough large houses remains to give an impression of what it must once have been like.
This caught my imagination, I wanted to get an impression of what it must once have been like. I love getting an impression of what things must once have been like. But I felt let down, sure there were some big nice houses, some of em even had crenalations, but I wasn’t getting exclusive Victorian suburb as we wandered.
It started out well enough with the sign for the Cravings Cafe at the Ante-Natal Clinic. We didn’t see the menu but we think they are setting themselves up for a fall there. What’s going to happen when someone wants a picked coal sandwich, eh?
We saw this sign and found it very funny. We had visions of a clinic for people to go when their Manchester Lifestyle had got too much for them, When you can no longer see through your Manchester hair, when you are exhausted by being too cool, when you’ve danced on canal street a little too long.
But no, it does cosmetic surgery, nice house tho:
Then we came across the religious movement of the acronym. What could UCKG stand for? I did my trespassing to get the blue plaque: “Edgar Wood 1860-1936 Artist Architect designed this former church of Christ Scientist”. Not much of a clue? What was it now? I opened the door and peeped in but then Jen and Liam started flapping and shrieking nervously at me so I retreated before I could disappear into a cult or was arrested or whatever was worrying them. It looked sort of average low church protestant inside.
Later we googled. They say on their website that they are “a down-to-earth Christian church that believes anyone’s life can be changed for the better” and in case you were wondering UCKG stands for Universal Church of the Kingdom of God. They have a 24 hour helpline. Which is good, I guess, if you need help with stuff in the middle of the night – how to make a cheese sauce, maybe? Their website has series of testimonials from people who joined and became more successful, respectable, richer, thinner, better qualified. I feel a certain amount of tension here between being a a good liberal hippie who believes in freedom of religion and everyone’s right to have an opinion and the Christian who hates to see Jesus Hi-jacked. When I’m Queen of the World, anyone who calls themselves Christian and then says stuff like ‘join our religion and your life will be easier‘ will have to go and sit on the naughty chair till they’ve read the gospels and can convince me they know what they are talking about. Sound harsh to you? well don’t vote for me in the Queen of the World election.
What is cool about this building is that it appears in my recently purchased architectural guide to Manchester. (Oh yes. We are getting serious about this now. I bring you research. It’s not just wandering around looking at the bunnies here)
My book says Persver described it as
“one of the most original buildings of that time in England or indeed anywhere . . . the only religious building in Lancashire that would be indispensable in a survey of 20th century church design in all England. It is a pioneer work, internationally speaking, of an Expressionism halfway between Gaudi and Germany about 1920, and it stands entirely on its own in England.”
You know who else is great? Ford Madox Brown is great. I love the Pre-raphaelites. I saw his Coat of Many Colours in the Walker in Liverpool recently where I learned that the Pre-raphaelites were pioneers at painting biblical scenes that looked like they were in Palestine. I need to go and look at the Manchester Murals in the town hall. Anyway, He lived here. Which I guess is why there’s a Wetherspoons named after him on the Oxford Road. So did Charles Halle of the Halle Orchestra.
In addition to the church of the acronym, we found lots of Christian dwellings. It seems that the Christian denominations were keen to have their own halls of residence for some reason. Liam was given a tract in the street, he took it because you should be open to letting things happen to you when you’re zedding. It only encouraged him to give his heart to Jesus in a old fashioned evangelical way by praying the prayer on the back, no websites, no 24 hour helplines, disappointing really. This is a church, I don’t know anything about it but I liked the vapour trail in the sky behind it and I want to reinforce my point about the abundance of Christians. I did not know enough to photograph the church built especially for the people who lived in the private suburb.
You may remember the sign for Methodist Int. We looked at a lot of things and wondered if they were Methodist Int. We didn’t find it which is a shame because then I could have linked to this wonderful article about it from The British Architect 1881 which gives me an impression of what it must have been like.
Location: Victoria Park
Date zedded: 3 March 3008
A to Z: page 109 G3, H3
Getting there: buses from Picadilly gardens past the university
Squares this expedition: 2
Running total: 29
With some hours to spare before sunset on a Sunday afternoon, I persuaded Liam (who had been running) to do a Little Walk with Bazza. Not a full Zedding, just a little walk with our oracle. We headed off to the Medieval Quarter (OK, the bit round the Cathedral) to our target square of D4 to look for a boggart dog bridge (honestly, a boggart dog bridge).
We saw Robert Owen who Liam thinks is “a man in a sinister cloak with a small child under it”. I think this is unfairly maligning one of the founders of socialism. I’m sure he was our sort of person. He does look a wee bit sinister here tho:
We were in the square near the cathedral which is pretty and has fountains. It also has the Urbis which has Zedding-related interesting stuff in it:
We found this message from the zedding gods, who were about to smile on us:
We heard some music. And one of the guiding principles of zedding is that one should be easily distracted. We followed our ears to a small gathering of tents in the square with a sign that said, bewilderingly enough, ‘National Swimming Championships’. We would like to point out for readers who don’t know Manchester that there was no apparent pool in the vicinity.
There was however a tent selling beer, a tent selling food and a tent for face painting. Also a stage with some lively rhythm-and-blues music and lifeguards. Just remember, kids – no venturing out into urban squares without a lifeguard. One saw my camera and was eager to pose with his horn for me.
We thought about asking about the swimming. But we didn’t.
We headed for Victoria station, where one gets trains to places like Wigan and Rainhill. When I do this I get very upset about the state it has been allowed to get in. It has some absolutely gorgeous features put in by madly hubristic Victorians who thought the age of steam would never wane. Then some nasty corporate taste vandals have plastered their nasty plastic nastiness on top of the marble and mosaic. Elsewhere Victoria has been allowed to get shabby and neglected, she has been allowed to rummage around in the bargain bin at the charity shop adorning herself in the worst the 1980’s had to offer and wearing it on top of her pearls.
(I feel quite strongly about this.) I would love for someone to do to Victoria what they have done to Moor Street in Birmingham.
The MEN arena has lots of steps, I like the patterns:
Opposite is Chetham school of Music which is 400 years older than the MEN arena and nicer looking. Marx and Engels used to chat there. It has gargoyles but once again it’s surprising just how wriggly they can be, won’t stay still to be photographed.
There was a gateway to hell. It is at the end of an old croft, which is a place Bazza tells us Tenterhooks were used in days of old. This probably now belongs to Northern Rail. If you are listening, Northern Rail, we would like some more info.
We walked along the side of the river, which has long been our desire. I was complaining that the river wasn’t utilised as a tourist attraction, the reasons why may be painfully obvious from the photos. We debated titles for these photos. Liam likes “Urban Swan” as a name for a trendy clothing boutique but I don’t think “Swan in Filth” would get so much custom. Dirty creature.
We got confused about the boggart dog bridge and strayed into a car park which was sort of on a bridge and turned out to be the site of another railway station, ‘once connected to Victoria by the longest railway platform in europe’, fact fans. Bazza thinks this site should be redeveloped but that it would ‘need an arresting building to set it off’. You cannot argue with the man.
The cathedral is pretty. And we like the centuries of architecture that contrast with one another. The cathedral itself, the lovely dome of the corn exchange, the brutalist Arndale, the flimsy wheel. The portaloo.
Finally the boggart dog bridge. I have no pictures of the bridge itself as it was a bit unspectacular really, and I was distracted by this bit of pretty.
The story goes that it is a bridge on top of an old bridge, old, old. And that this part of Manchester was haunted by a boggart dog which was caught and placed under the bridge. Bazza says this is a folk memory of a building sacrifice. We’re just delighted to find another boggart.
And a building that was once known as one of the ugliest buildings in manchester, although it may be in Salford.
Location: Manchester Medieval Quarter
A to Z: page 5 (large-scale city centre insert) or page 94 square D3, page 95 square E3
Getting there: Victoria station, Victoria tram, or short walk from my house
Running total: 27