Posts tagged ‘church’
On the first Sunday in October the Manchester Zedders were pleased to join the LRM for a loiter around Didsbury. We had already zedded the gates to hell so no new squares for us, but it was nice to do it as a group.
Fletcher Moss and his haunted house were already known to us, his house had apparently had quite a reputation before he took it on. Servants refused to live in it because of noises in the night. We had heard that this was later shown to be caused by tightrope-walking rats pitter-pattering along the cords for the servants’ bells, but according to Alan, facilitator of this month’s wander, the skeptical Mr Moss found no logical explanation for the strange goings on in the haunted parsonage and concluded that his dog Gomer was freaked out by a spirit.
Alan had some info on the church nearby. In the 12th century it was recorded as having “antiquity beyond memory”. The very phrase just thrills me. Say it out loud to yourself, savour it, whisper “antiquity beyond memory”. I love it. We have good reason to think that a church this old was probably Christianising some ancient holy site. Did the ghost of some spirit, no longer given homage, return to bother poor Gomer? We will never know.
We took a look around the parsonage gardens, we found this stone.
Perhaps another clue about our mill by the Mersey. We told other loiterers about our quest to find a mill which had disapeared from the A to Z between 1997 and 2005.
The parsonage gardens had a lot of yew trees, as is right and proper for a holy site with antiquity beyond memory. As we wandered, the fallen berries mixed with fallen needles to create a substance a bit like…well… jam. It stuck to the sole of our boots in a layer an inch thick and was difficult to remove. Jam Jam Jam. Walking on Jam is a weird sensation and I was glad to scrape the stuff off me and move on into Fletcher Moss Gardens, where we were looking for mushrooms and berries. In France, so I’m told, if you pick mushrooms in the wild you can go to a pharmacy and the pharmacist is required by law to tell you which are edible and which are not. We love that they take their food that seriously, it tells you something about the priorities of a nation. The Germans, bless em, have laws about beer that are older than their country. Anyone want to tell us about any endearing British laws?
it had some lovely detail
Very nice. I like this because of how different it is to other memorial benches. It is a collection of someone’s favorite things, an attempt to hint at a person’s personality and in so doing keep their memory alive in those it delights.
I have a fear of having a memorial bench dedicated to me, and then the inevitable dereliction of my bench as I am forgotten. Liam is going to endeavour to prevent any bench dedications, should he survive me. This will not help, of course, if we are both killed in some horrific zedding-related accident. What disturbs me about some memorials is that they seem to underline the reality that the person has faded from memory. As a student, I lived in William Thompson Halls of Residence and the only time I paused to wonder who Willy Tom had been, was to reflect on the irony that no one seemed to know. No benches please. Not even lovely ones.
It may also be worthy of mention that the café in Fletcher Moss Gardens was once home to the headquarters of the Plumage League. “What was the Plumage league?” we hear you cry. Founded by women in 1889, it campaigned against the slaughter of birds for feathers to be used in the millinery trade. At the time, nearby Stockport was the hat-making centre of the known world, so it is fitting that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds should be able to trace its origins here. Plumage League tho, a better name I think than RSBP.
Having worked up a thirst, we headed to The Didsbury for refreshments.
We decided to spend our Sunday afternoon zedding. We had an invitation to go look at a brand new baby so we packed our knitted booties and fairtrade babygro, and like the guardian reading lefties we are, set off to walk there – thereby eschewing public transport and nasty cars. A pleasant stroll through some parks and… Gunchester!!! …Britain’s bronx!! The urban no go area that is Moss side!!!
Um.. sorry.. I don’t what came over me there. I seemed to think I was writing copy for a tabloid newspaper. A similar madness recently possessed Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, MP for… um I don’t know…somewhere leafy down south…
“Liam…could you google for me where the nice man comes from?”
“Epsom, Surrey” I’m blogging this in real time, Liam is reading me stuff about how many posh schools there are there. So to be fair, poor Chris must have felt uneasy coming this far north at all. For those of you not keeping track of Manchester news. The zedders were amused that Mr Grayling had recently suggested that there was an “urban war” going on in Moss side. It is “The world of the drama series The Wire”. This excited Liam, Liam loves The Wire, and now it is on his very own doorstep.
I haven’t got into The Wire, “What is about Liam?”
It’s set among gangland violence in Baltimore, a city with a murder rate the same as that of Manchester.. and Glasgow …and Liverpool… and Sheffield… and Epsom added together.
“What else happens Liam?”
“Sometimes opportunistic politicians exploit disadvantaged communities for political gain”
Nothing like Moss side then. Let’s go take a look…
There was an interesting religion sandwich on the A to Z: Church – Temple – Church. There was a Gurdwara, between a Polish church and an nice red brick church, a smiling family in pretty clothes were going to worship there.
we saw some pretty stuff outside a mosque.
Hare Krishnas later in Whalley range as well. Seventh Day adventists and then we saw the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. Aim: Love one another. Nothing to argue about there.
We are all in favour of people having the religious freedom to love one another. “I’m gonna find them on the ninterweb when we get home” said I. Liam said that he didnt think they looked like they would be keyed in to the the web 2.0 generation. But no, The brotherhood of the cross and star are sooo on the internet. You can go read about how His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu has been revealed (to himself) to be the reincarnation of Jesus. But you probably don’t want to.*
Liam wanted to show me these historic houses as he knew I’d like them, I do like them and can’t find out what they were. If you goggle the street name you can find lots of opportunities to help the police with their enquiries. What can I say to you? It felt like a nice stroll out on a Sunday afternoon, at no point did I feel like I would end up helping the police with their enquires.
Then we went into the grid of smart little terraces. They were the next model up in terraced houses from the one I grew up in. They had pretty tiles in their porches. Historically Moss side was a bit more well to do than more working class Hulme. The first Afro Caribbean immigrants to the city settled here. We were looking for Steve street, because we thought that was quite a funny name for a street. We couldn’t find it tho, a friendly man asked us if we needed directions, which we politely declined, I just couldn’t face explaining. Liam says he remembers noticing how ethnically diverse the area was. People of all colours were out on the streets, unlike similar areas of Birmingham where sometimes I notice that I am the only white person in the street. Interestingly, when I first moved from Birmingham to Manchester I remember noticing how the people in the city centre were mainly white, which gave me a sense of unease for a while, like a significant proportion of the population had just disappeared.
So we saw some boys on bicycles, according to myth, they should be drug running. If it was The Wire, Liam knowledgablely informs me, they would be called hoppers. They could of course, have just been boys on bicycles. They didn’t do anything to suggest they weren’t. We did however, find evidence of a crime problem in Moss side:
We can’t wait for the episode of The Wire about that.
We wandered, admiring the hanging baskets, we saw this:
“I like the way that the streets around here smell of hops”. And it does, Ms Finch is quite right. This is another story-fragment the city has given us. This and no more, we don’t know who Ms Finch is or why her delight in the smell of hops has been immortalised in street art. I love that it has tho. I hope she is a Moss side local.
We saw an ice cream van but it was too fast for us. Having heard the chimes, like Pavlovs dogs, we went into a shop a bought ice cream and sat on a grass verge to eat it. Liam’s ice cream fell off its stick which isn’t very interesting for you but upset him at the time.
Before we leave Moss side, I guess this is the place to say it, what we saw was that people cared enough about their houses to put hanging baskets outside, that they were willing to give directions to lost looking strangers, that ice cream was for sale and two Guardian readers can wander around taking photos without fearing for their lives. We don’t mean to be glib about the drug and gun problems which must have destroyed the lives of so many mothers’ sons; each one is a tragedy. What we do want to illustrate is that sometimes fear is much worse than the thing you fear. The people of Moss side have had to put up with being their area being talked about all over the national media as a scary place to be, yet they have been growing flowers and buying ice cream and falling in love and having babies and doing all the beautiful ordinary things of life. I went to Moss side. I saw flowers.
We walked through Alexandra Park. Its park keeper’s cottage is all boarded up, it must have been a nice house once when this gnarly tree was young.
The peaceful air was punctuated by the loud crack… of leather on willow. Yep. It is Sunday afternoon and the young men of Moss side are playing cricket. Just like they do in Epsom, eh Chris?
We saw a group of young men further up the path and, I’m ashamed to say, I put my camera in my bag out of sight as we passed them. As we walked by they showed no interest in us and carried on talking about the smell of their own farts.
Then we passed into a magical autumnal glade were golden leaves floated slowly to the ground. On that side of the park there is a wonderful promenade for the folks of Whalley Range to come out of their lovely villas and to march up and down seeing and being seen.
We saw a church that had been converted into flats and had it’s steeple truncated. Liam reckoned that looking at the cars he probably couldn’t afford the flats. He is looking to move if anyone wants to offer him a nice one bed flat with character in a nice area. Extra points if it has a spiral staircase or is in a converted church. Or a balcony, he says, but actually he is picky about balconies, he likes to be able to see how they are held up, sturdy buttresses only please.
Next door was Mayfield Mansions, which I had insisted we see because it was named the Mansions. It looked like the place Poirot lives, maybe he did, it had seen better days.
And there was St Bedes, which was gloriously excessive. It is a Catholic independent school, with some uncared for statues adorning the porch. There were carvings of things you might want to grow up to do like wearing a silly wig, or bad tights, or writing with a quill or unloading ships. There was a latin inscription that Liam attempted to translate, but some of it had fallen off, I didn’t even try, I went to a comprehensive. Doctor Who went to school here, or Colin Baker did. There were some very scary stone men watching us, I think they thought we were up to no good.
Just round the corner, where we were looking for a place to sneak into the school grounds, a sad looking little boy approached us and politely enquired where he might find a park near there. We were delighted to direct him back to Alexandra Park. We hope it cheered him up.
Then we headed to Trafford to see the baby. On the way we saw another even more truncated stepple. We didn’t get a photo but I swear we saw a sign saying “Spire hospital” obviously in great demand locally, maybe that is where the steeples have gone.
We saw a nice sunflower
And Lowry’s birthplace. Strange that Lowry, who was born in Trafford and lived and painted in Salford is synonymous with Manchester in the mind of the rest of the world.
We passed through another park, where we paused to write down a list of things we had seen on our travels on the back of a train ticket in case we forgot them. As we did this some boys of about 10 passed us talking about explosives. We did not report them to the department of homeland security, sorry. If there is a major terrorist incident in suburban Trafford next week you can blame us. We are not the sort of people who check our neighbour’s bins.
The list contains:
- shrieking public toilet
- mime getting someone to take his photo on a mobile phone
- whining dog on bus with very prominent testicles
- woman with purple dreadlocks on a bike
- dog crossing a road on his own
- tutankhamun doorknocker
- boys talking about their farts
Date zedded: 13 September
A to Z: Page 109 and 108 F3 E3 D3 E4 D4 C4 B4 B3 A3
Target square: G6
Getting there: Once again, one of the multitude of 42, 142 or 143 buses down the Oxford Road.
Squares this expedition: 9
Running total: 135
We have had a correction sent in by an eagle eyed reader of our facebook feed:
One minor correction: as I read their website (this reader did want to!), His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu was revealed as the reincarnated Jesus not by himself, but by the Brotherhood’s founder, his confusingly named father, Leader Olumba Olumba Obu, Supreme Holy Father, sole spiritual Head of the universe, and perhaps (it is both hinted and denied) none other than God the Father physically manifest on the earth plane since 1918. (And as further evidence of their web-savviness, the Brotherhood turn out to even have a facebook page!)
So, our apologies to the brotherhood. It was revealed to his Dad that he was the reincarnation of Jesus. My misunderstanding was clearly silly. Thank you Robert.
Marie has long harboured a rather unusual desire to visit Eccles. A group rather charmingly called Freccles have erected a sign at Eccles station saying ‘Discover Eccles past, present and future’. This goads and challenges her every time she goes through on the train. I think she was spurred on further by the discovery that Dr Christopher Eccleston himself unveiled the sign.
So. We set off to discover Eccles in all three tenses. After a false start due to all the trams being cancelled for a month, we grudgingly got the bus. We were expecting Eccles to be the kind of place you should get to by tram. Freccles, of course, would tell us we should have got the train.
The first thing that struck us as we got off the bus was the ubiquitous smell of baking bread. Assiduous Googling has failed to uncover any explanation for why Eccles smells of yeast, so it must remain a mystery. Unless someone wants to tell us – answers on a postcard please.
Despite the enticing smell and the lovely invitation from Freccles, Eccles past, present and future was playing a bit hard to get. Nothing grabbed us immediately as we wandered around the shops.
We saw a cross with a plaque and hoped it might have some historical interest. But the plaque had been written by someone with a greater concern for pinpoint geographical accuracy than local history or folklore:
Well, that’s good to know. Just a shame we hadn’t brought a compass, or we could have gone and looked at the spot where the cross used to be but now wasn’t.
Shortly after the cross, we were distracted by a loud and insistent quacking. Many people would have ignored this, but we pursued it to its source. Which turned out to be a CCTV camera. We tried to video this so that we could demonstrate the quacking to you, but it didn’t work so you’ll have to take our word for it. Quacking. We can only assume it was unhappy about something, but we couldn’t work out what, so we left it to its quacking and pressed on.
Being a little unsure what delights Eccles would have to offer us, we had assembled a shopping list of sites to visit, including a couple of requests. We like requests, and we haven’t had a proper one since Liz and page 39, so this was very exciting. If you have a curiosity in your district and no one else cares, and if you can find us, maybe you could invite us to come and look at it then burble whimsically about it.
Number one request came from Marie’s friend Julie from Knit Club. (Knit Club rule no 1: We do not talk about Knit Club. Or I don’t, anyway.) Julie passes two things every day on her way to work which appear to be giant sandcastles. She wished an explanation.
It took us some time to find them, but zedders cannot be foiled so easily. Here they are:
Some mild trespassing into a church car park established that these are not, in fact, huge sandcastles. No, they are a grotto to the Virgin Mary in a priest’s garden!
I’m not sure whether or not this is stranger than the giant sandcastles theory. We were particularly fascinated by the weird white figure or object at Mary’s feet. From this distance, it looked vaguely like a piglet. Clearly some obscure bit of church lore neither of us had come across before. I should note at this point that I restrained Marie from scaling the spiky fence to get a better photo. I’m getting better at trespassing, but raiding priests’ gardens in broad daylight is still a step too far for me.
On the way to our second request, we were distracted by some local points of interest:
Request number two also came from Knit Club. The knitter in question wanted to know why a large, and apparently historically significant, piece of machinery was displayed on the edge of a lorry park up a side street in suburban Eccles.
Well, we found the machine, and it is impressive:
Post-zedding research established that it’s actually an example of the world’s first ever steam hammer, invented by Mr James Nasmyth.
Mr Nasmyth was challenged, a bit like us. Some people are challenged to find sandcastles, some people are challenged to invent big hammers that power Industrial Revolutions. We all have our contributions to make.
He invented his hammer so that they could forge the bits to make the SS Great Britain in the 1830s and 40s. Apparently, none of the existing hammers could lift up high enough to bash what needed bashing. Enter Mr Nasmyth. And for his pains, he now has several streets named after him in Eccles, and his machine displayed on the edge of a lorry park.
Well done, Mr Nasmyth!
Our final destination was also somewhat industrial. We had to walk down a canal to get there, which turned out to be the prettiest bit of Eccles so far:
We walked past a lot of men and boys fishing on the towpath. This prompted some discussion about hobbies. I have a friend who goes scuba-diving, and I always tell him I don’t like hobbies where the phrase ‘You might die’ must be used when describing them. I have now added a second undesirable hobby-phrase: ‘You have to carry a box of maggots’.
Zedding. You probably won’t die, and it doesn’t involve any maggots.
After the canal, we struck off the beaten track in search of our destination. We saw these mysterious runes on the stones of a bridge:
I reckon Dwarves built it.
Then we got lost in what appeared to be a mangrove swamp. A mangrove swamp full of shopping trolleys, with a man drinking super-strength lager in a little grotto at the end. Perhaps he was a lager pixie.
Eventually, we got sight of our target: the cheese bridge. Otherwise known as the Barton Swing Aqueduct. This was designed by James Brindley, beloved of Birmngham. (I was very disappointed to learn on researching this blog that Mr Brindley wasn’t a Brummie at all.) When a Parliamentary Committee asked James some awkward questions about his plans for how two canals would cross over, he didn’t hesitate. He just called for a cheese and built a working model there and then.
It’s very clever. It closes in all the water with doors at each end, then swivels the big box of water around to make room for tall ships to go past. It is, however, not used very much now, and very very difficult to get to.
We got a nice glimpse of it from the road bridge further down the road – and also of the M60 crossing the Ship Canal in the other direction.
We then had to scramble up a dirty alleyway to a derelict house, into a dead end, and round a corner, before finally emerging near the bridge.
Someone had obviously thought it would be nice to put a pretty pagoda and a picnic spot by this marvel of engineering. But that’s all gone the way of so many well-intentioned regeneration projects, and become a place for teenagers to drink cheap cider and break glass stuff:
The bridge was still there, though – complete with cranes to lower its special doors into place – and we even saw a barge go over it:
While scrabbling around the scary alleys, we’d bumped into a man who turned out to be, not a murderous drug addict, but a bridge enthusiast with a very posh camera. So we got to share this sight with someone else. It doesn’t seem to be a sight many people are bothered with any more. Poor James and his cheese.
On the way back, we nearly got the chance to trespass into this impressive tower:
A workman left the gate open, but we chickened out of going in because he might have shouted at us. Shame on us!
So we made our way back to the shops, and went in search of a baker that would sell us Eccles cake, because it would seem wrong not to eat some as long as we were here.
During our search, we found a shop that sold a range of astonishingly tacky Catholic iconography – and cookers and fans:
It may not be clear from the scale of the photo, but those are the Biggest Rosaries In The World. They’re probably only ever bought by giant mutant nuns.
We also found a battered old mural. It’s called ‘Eccles Wakes!’ but I think it may have gone back to sleep:
Alas, we had left it too late to buy Eccles cakes from the baker, and they’d sold out. So we went to Morrisons and bought them there instead. Doesn’t feel quite the same somehow. We brought them home and ate them while writing this. I can report that an Eccles cake is very like a pasty filled with Christmas pudding. Genius.
Location: Eccles past, present and future (but mainly present)
Date zedded: 4 August 2009
A to Z: Page 91 squares H3, H4, G3, G4, F3, F4. E4, E3, E5, F5
Target square: F5
Getting there: There should be a tram but there wasn’t. We caught the number 33 bus from Piccadilly Gardens instead. Or you could go via Eccles railway station and look at Christopher Eccleston’s lovely mural. Freccles would like that.
Squares this expedition: 10
Running total: 121
It being a lovely day, we both thought that it would be nice to do a zedding. I thought our public deserved an extra installment as you are always so appreciative.
We headed out to Purcell Street, it being one of the selection of options we have lined up for ourselves. We picked this because of the random connection with Liam’s name rather than because of any charm inherent in the location itself so we didn’t know how this expedition would turn out
There is a moment in every zedding when you know you’ve started. It comes not when you set out, or when you arrive, but when you know. This time it was a bit of graffiti which called to Liam from across the road. “Big ideas need big spaces” We approve of ideas. And spaces for them to happen in. We found our bus eventually, and the nice bus driver was very helpful as we thrust our A to Z under his nose and said “We want to go here” He said he could take us near there and that was good enough for us.
Following advice from the mother of zedding, who has been providing zedding guidelines to students and corrupting their minds, we were alert on the bus to the messages which were present on the route, chief of which was that without facebook on your mobile you would be missing out on life to a damaging degree. Also, it’s good to raise your heart rate (with a car), it’s all good (chips), It all adds up (units of alcohol). And the slightly more positive, “Ideas that make your garden grow” – more growing ideas.
We were headed first to Gorton Monastery as it is described in a book of mine as “The Taj Mahal of Manchester”. And if you are on page 110 anyway then it sounds like a must see. Along with the railway depot and the biggest car auction site in Europe (lucky us, we also have the biggest Next in the world).
The bus dropped us in a suitable spot so we could approach the Taj Mahal via a little park. The park was a bit run-down and disappointing, but did contain some neglected roses which were so gorgeous it was like they were showing off. While I was appreciating them, Liam found an impressively eroded stone which told us that this was Gorton Open Space, opened by the mayor and an entire committee of aldermen in 1893.
There were also some goalposts that, in our sporting ignorance as the nerdy kids who always got picked last for teams, we thought were for footballing gnomes. It turns out they’re for five-a-side football
But that paled into insignificance beside the Taj Mahal: Gorton Monastery looks like someone got hold of a church and held it by the roots of its hair until it stretched very tall and thin indeed. Lots of buttresses like Pugin was afraid that his church would fall down after standing on its tippy toes and streeeeeetching reeeally tall. Zedding fans will be pleased to hear that there were gargoyles, no photos tho.
There was someone photographing it when we got there. I want flickr badges. I want to be able to spot fellow flickrers. I was too british to ask him tho, but because I heard the tell tale whir of film I surmised he knew what he was doing. Once he moved I went and stood where he was and got what would have been a nice angle but with the back of a sign in. On my own initiative, I got a better shot. Have I told you about my developing hatred of lampposts? I hate em. I hate the blighters, they wander into shots. After taking pics of the outside, we crossed the road and went trespassing.
Gorton Monastery has been restored from the ruins it was allowed to fall into when abandoned by the Franciscans in 1989. When we arrived, there were event men sitting on boxes and getting things out of vans. So I followed them inside while Liam trailed along slightly reluctantly. They were setting up for some sort of banquet for Barclays. Yup Barclays. The Bank. It seems the church is now a conference venue and you can tuck into your sushi by the light of gothic candles in front of the glittering altar. They don’t seem to mind you wandering in and taking pics tho.
Outside there is a lovely little courtyard which Liam was happy to venture into. I left him there having seen signs for the loo. After using the facilities, I had a little explore. I opened the door to a lovely dining room. and another lovely conference room off that which had pictures of the ruined monastery ready to to be hung. I snapped these quickly as I knew Liam would be fretting outside. He thinks I’m going to go with him to the Loiterers Resistance Movement but he needs to practise his trespassing first.
Outside there was this sculpture to Mother Teresa and Interfaith niceness. And a sign pointing to ‘The Angels’. We found some boards explaining what the angels were so we didn’t go find them. As well as soulless corporate bashes, the Monastery Trust are setting up a local community centre called The Angels. I like to think of this as quite Robin Hood of them, taking Barclay’s money and putting it into Gorton. Which is nice and more encouraging than the last encounter we had with urban development.
For those of you with a little extra cash lying around, you can adopt an angel for £50, restore a stone carving for £20 or sponsor a saint for £5000. Yup, I said Sponsor a Saint. The saints disappeared from the church during the derelict years, turned up at auction as garden furniture and are currently being looked after by Manchester City Council.
We went off through the barren wastes of industry, risking our lives to cross the urban streams of HGVs. At one point Liam veered off course yelling “stairs to nowhere! stairs to nowhere!” There were indeed stairs to nowhere. Here he is at the summit of them, nowhere, pointing out where once playground furniture stood. Here I am, twirling in memory of a roundabout.
We passed the beautiful Beswick Cooperative Society building, founded in 1912. It was pretty cool.
Carrying on down the street we found a pub which had found a creative solution to the problem of outdoor smokers needing shelter from the Manchester climate, by acquiring some trolley parks. We think the Post Office should watch out in case they decide they need two cylindrical red ashtrays.
Having plucked Purcell Street from obscurity, not far from obscurity but still, we are pleased to report that it is pleasing in its own right. It is part of a Home Zone where the streets have been redesigned so cars can park outside but children can play in safety. And it has pretty patterns in the road with some interesting white balls.
We spied a park and I wanted a closer look at the willow tunnel. Liam made me squeal like a girl by running into shot as I was taking a picture in it. We passed a nice manor house which I didn’t want to trespass in to photograph as there were girls on bicycles in the grounds (I have my limits).
I was all zedded out with achy feet and a plan had been hatched to visit an eating and drinking establishment with a roof terrace. On the way however, we passed the inviting grounds of Manchester Grammar School, it being 7pm it was fairly quiet and good trespassing practice for Liam. He was shocked I walked on the grass to get the owls tho. MGS (as its old boys must affectionately call it) has its own cricket pavilion, with the flip floppy numbers like all is well in England. And lots of posh looking stuff. I found a stick which some small boy must have spent ages stripping of bark to make smooth – it’s mine now.
Location: West Gorton, Longsight & Fallowfield
Date zedded: 10 June 2008
A to Z: page 110 squares D2, D1, C1, B1, B2, C2, C3, C4, C5, B5, A5
Getting there: Bus from city centre stop Eo, Picadilly
Squares this expedition: 11
Running total: 46
Marie’s historical research has brought up loads of stuff about Ancoats. This is an area on the outskirts of the city centre which has seen heavy industry, slums, run-down estates and now a big regeneration project. It was apparently ‘the world’s first industrial suburb’. So we thought we’d go take a look.
It being the Mayday bank holiday, though, we first had to go marching with trade unionists and socialists and anarchists (and anyone else who wanted to join in). We were making known our displeasure that destitute people who come to the UK fleeing war and persecution are being expected to find the money from God-knows-where to pay for essential services from our glorious NHS.
Overheard on the march: an anarchist explaining why the communists were a bit too scary for him.
Having done our liberal do-gooding bit, we headed for Ancoats via lunch in the Northern Quarter. We had a debate over zedding philosophy – Marie had a list of historical sites to visit, but I wanted to go to Cardroom Estate in the middle and go down all the little streets called things like ‘Spinning Jenny Walk’ and ‘Bobbin Walk’ and ‘Yarn Walk’. Eventually we set off, and we knew we’d started zedding when we saw a car with antlers:
It seemed to have something to do with a film crew, so watch out for a car with antlers coming to a TV screen near you.
On Great Ancoats Street, there’s a big shiny futuristic building which used to be the offices of the Daily Express.
Marie, who has now become a walking history textbook, explained that despite appearances, it was actually built in the 1930s. If you get up close, you can see the old-school concrete and rivets. There’s an even older building opposite, which you can see in the reflection. This one used to house a night shelter for women needing ‘further care and discipline’, and rooms for servants who wished to avoid ‘the moral peril of the lodging house’. I’ve obviously been staying in the wrong lodging houses.
And some new flats were wrapped up waiting for yuppies to open them up and live in them:
Manchester has a good surplus of identical-looking flats, though, so unless the credit crisis ends soon, we think it may be a while before these ones get unwrapped. Nextdoor we saw what’s happened to a lot of the businesses and homes that used to be around here:
This comprehensive list of dangers has been stuck on all the derelict buildings in Ancoats as far as we could see. Bit of overkill – can they really all have asbestos, weak roofs and the rest?
We liked this example of a business that is new to Ancoats, though. It’s bye bye butty shops, hello flower arrangements carved from fruit :
And further down was this, apparently the ‘classic view’ into Ancoats:
A fine old mill has been turned into flats:
Before being renamed Royal Mills, Marie tells us, these were McConnel and Kennedy Mills. They were an important scene in the account of the Plug Strikes of 1842, protesting against pay cuts and in support of the Chartists. It ended up with 10,000 people on the streets, the Riot Act was read, and they brought in ‘six-pounder field pieces’ to pacify the crowd. Apparently the military presence was ‘restrained’ because they didn’t want a repeat of Peterloo. We wonder what would have been regarded as unrestrained… A bit different from our friendly anarchists of the morning, who were at no point chased down the Oxford Road by dragoons.
The street outside was being carefully recobbled, no doubt to retain the Northern ambience of the area for the new inhabitants. (Presumably this notion of Northernness wouldn’t include the traditions of dissent and organised resistance, which don’t sell flats so well.)
We were very excited to discover, opposite, a small porthole in a brick wall. We’d set out hoping to see some bits of an installation called The Peeps which is scattered across Ancoats. Spaces have been walled up and lit, with peepholes to look through. We’d found our first one, and it was pleasingly mysterious for what was essentially a brick cubicle with weeds growing in it:
Thanks to the artist Dan Dubowitz, who deserves a mention just for his marvellous name. Unfortunately we didn’t find any more of them, though.
There we were, spiritually engaging with the area, enjoying a playful public work of art which could have been designed for zedders, reflecting on history. We were rudely awakened on the other side of the canal:
It may be relevant that this was just down the canal from Canal Street, whose signs are often defaced in a similar manner…
Further on, past a charming retail park (‘The biggest toy superstore in the world’, allegedly), we passed an eighteenth-century lock-keeper’s cottage surrounded by building sites and scaffolding. This seemed to sum up the feel of a lot of the area for us:
Wonder what they’ll catch?
We don’t know what this building was, but it made Marie the history nerd unhappy:
We turned left at the big pencil
and saw some of the bits which haven’t been turned into flats yet:
Further on, a strange road crossed a barren wasteland. It had no clear markings and felt kind of like a pedestrian precinct, resulting in some hairy moments when we forgot we were standing in the middle of a road. It also had some interesting arty lampposts marked ‘New Islington’ (the rebranded Ancoats). The designer had taken to the extreme his attempt to blend in with the surroundings, so they were rusty and depressing. There was also the remains of a hospital which made Marie sadder. (Fortunately, it’s going to be restored. And turned into flats.)
The only signs of humanity were a man drinking Lucozade on a bench, and this forlorn remnant:
On the other side of the road should have been the Cardroom estate. But it wasn’t:
The redevelopers beat us to it. And they must have done it very recently, because that wasteland appears in my 2007 A to Z as a warren of little streets:
I’d heard through work that a lot of the redevelopment in Ancoats was done without consulting local people, tearing down good houses to make way for designer flats that locals won’t be able to afford. Looking at this space where a community used to be, that was easy to believe.
Opposite the desert (an estate agent might say that they benefited from expansive views) were some houses made of giant jigsaw bits:
We rejoined the canal here, and noted the spiral ramp for towhorses at the bridge. Very historical but doesn’t look so dramatic in a photo:
Then there were more mills and warehouses. Most, surprise surprise, becoming designer flats. The old Sankey’s Soap Factory is now a nightclub, though (we detected it because of the loud music and the big bus outside). Marie wishes it to be known that the sign on the tower is the original one from the 1920s, restored.
Opposite was a nice piece of graffiti (probably not from the 1920s):
In the midst of all the building sites stands an old church of the ugly-huge-Victorian-brick variety. Marie was very keen to visit, as she’s seen slides of it being lovingly restored – it’s going to be a community centre or arts space or something, which will be a nice change. But it’s presently completely inaccessible, all the surrounding roads sealed off. Creepy.
The streets were still eerily deserted, but we spotted some little bits of interest:
Then we came upon Victoria Square, a great big nineteenth-century block of flats which was intended to house people after slum clearances. It didn’t work though, because the slum dwellers couldn’t afford the rent and had to move elsewhere. It also can’t have helped that, according to our friend Bazza, the architect ‘must have thought he was designing for an alien race – wooden skirting boards were not provided, since these might have been ripped out and burned!’
Sounds familiar. It appears that city developers learn very slowly…
Opposite Victoria Square were some smart terraces, also originally intended for working-class people but priced out of their reach. Apparently, these were originally named after the wonderful technical advances they contained. But in the 1960s, ‘Sanitary Street’ was not regarded as such an attractive name, and some letters were removed to make it ‘Anita Street’. It’s interesting that today, people are achieving the opposite effect by removing letters just down the road.
Further down, we passed another derelict church – but this one clearly has its defenders:
Researching afterwards, we found that Manchester’s Italian community have been fighting to keep the church open for years, but the Bishop’s having none of it. Marie was very upset to read the story of an ice-cream lady whose dying wish to have her funeral at the church was refused: poor Auntie Vicky. Marie feels solidarity for ice-cream people.
Date zedded: 5 May 2008
A to Z: page 95 squares F3, G3, G4, H4, F4, H3
Getting there: Walk from city centre
Squares this expedition: 6
Running total: 35
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
This is a slightly different zedding – we’re not sure what purists would make of it – because we went to see some sights that we’d both wanted to see for a while, and which might even be described as ‘attractions’. By some people.
Anyway. I wanted to see the John Rylands Library, Marie wanted to see a church called the Hidden Gem (largely because, well, it was hidden), and I fancied walking by the river Irwell.
So we headed for Deansgate. We found that the people who hid the Hidden Gem had obviously missed out on one or two lessons in How Not To Be Seen:
However, they started trying harder after that. We had to go up a secret passage:
It was marked only as:
Anyone know what a private posting station is? Prize for the best answer.
The passage was named after some scientist or engineer whose name escapes us both now. But in his honour, the pipes in the passage were arranged into decorative patterns:
Eventually we emerged by the Hidden Gem. Marie’s research informs us that it was the first purpose-built Catholic church in any English city since the Reformation. It’s not very fancy on the outside:
This is because ‘Bells, steeples, and any other ornate “popeish” touches were banned until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, which restored people’s rights to worship as they chose.’ And their right to have popeish frills too. Nowadays, it’s also dwarfed by office blocks on all sides, which were apparently built on top of the graveyard.
By contrast, inside, one is confronted by a glorious eyeache-inducing riot of popery. Gold and icons and candles and everything, it made me quite nostalgic. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside so you’ll have to take our word for it, or look at the photo someone else took here.
The threshold between austere-lack-of-steeples and riot-of-popery was marked by writing on the ground:
And also by a sign warning you not to give money to beggars because they clutter the place up, or words to that effect. Nice.
So, next on the list was the library. Much more our sort of cathedral. It has its own share of frills, which originally drew me to it. In fact, it looks like a high-church Hogwarts. There were more gargoyles – this could become a zedding theme for us – but it was dark and the little beggars won’t stay still so we could only get blurry photos of them. Marie is too proud to post such blurry photos so you’ll have to go and see for yourself.
The library was exciting in a way that we expect most people won’t understand at all. It is beautiful. We got lost in great long corridors with stone arches. There were quiet rooms with balconies, bookcases up to the ceiling, and leatherbound books in cages. Marie says that all places books are kept should look like cathedrals.
There was also an interactive display about design and book production. A whole room to appeal to the font nerd inside me that I’m normally not allowed to let out. (Except when I’m going to see 2-hour films about Helvetica, like I did last week, but that’s another story.) There was a great long video interview with Stephen Raw, the man who did the lettering on the maps in Lord of the Rings. That was very very exciting for some reason, even though we’d both met him in person before. Speaking about his work on Middle Earth, he said something that should have resonance for Zedders everywhere:
‘Maps hold it all together in a way thousands of words can’t. At a glance.’
Either that, or it’s an indictment of this rambling blog. Anyway, we liked it.
All in all, a book-lover’s wet dream. We didn’t get to explore it all because it was about to close, so we’ll be going back in there to find the cathedralesque reading room that we understand is in there somewhere in the labyrinthine maze of corridors.
Near some old handpresses and lead type (which also had me wiping drool form the floor), we found something almost as good. Specially signposted ‘Historic Toilets’. They weren’t kidding. Marie crept past the sign expressly forbidding photography in the toilets (cos it’s only polite) and documented these archaic bits of plumbing:
In between the Ladies and the Gents, where boys lurk if they’re waiting for someone to finish taking photographs in the Ladies, was an imposing but rather baffling statue:
We had a long conversation in front of it, trying to piece together what was going on. Is it classical? Biblical? Is he Joseph of Arimathea? Why does she want that football? What’s that chalice for? It took Google, later on, to clear things up. Apparently, that’s ‘Theology instructing the Arts and the Sciences’. Still no wiser about the football though.
Having been booted out by some polite library guards, we went in search of a river. Manchester doesn’t make much of its river, using it mainly as a way to have a clear border with Salford. Which is a bit of a shame, because it’s a nice enough river. We found it in the end. I wanted to walk along the path on the bank. But it was getting dark, and when we started down the steps form the road, we heard someone or something scuttling in the bushes. One of the main attractions of zedding being the lack of personal danger (as sports go, it’s pretty low risk – the worst we’ve faced so far is getting lost in some woods 200 yards from a housing estate), we retreated.
So we headed into Salford instead, where there was a big imposing office complex which looked like it might have access to the waterfront. I was wondering if we could find a way in past the security guards, but Marie just marched in bold as brass, looking as if she belonged there, and we had no trouble. A useful life lesson from Doctor Who. Although I always thought I’d be the Doctor, not the assistant trailing along behind looking confused.
It was a funny old office complex. It was landscaped using Astroturf and gravel.
There were strange statues of gambolling imps, which seemed to be there mainly to mock the sterile and tedious existence of the poor office drones we saw escaping as fast as they could:
Another statue seemed to depict an office worker who’d been driven mad by all the Astroturf:
The buildings had radically inappropriate names, also no doubt intended to subtly mock the inmates and drive them to despair:
Unsurprisingly, the place turned out to be a dead end, with no way out except back past the security guards. So we left and searched for another way out of Salford. As, no doubt, many have before us.
Eventually, we found a bridge. One of those Millennium Bridges that everyone decided they needed to have after London built one. It was very pretty in the moonlight:
Then we gathered provisions and went home. A short but fruitful zedding.
Location: Central Manchester and Salford
A to Z: page 5 (large-scale city centre insert) or page 94, squares D4 and C4
Getting there: It’s within walking distance from all major stations and bus or Metro stops in Manchester city centre and Salford
Running total: 13 squares