Posts tagged ‘zedding’
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
Our target for this zedding was Marie Street, not as far as I am aware, named in my honour. I had also noticed that near Marie Street there is Inghamwood Close – probably not named in honour of our friend Wood Ingham – and Symon Street – probably not named in honour of my old colleague Symon with a y. But it is enough for us that they are there, so we headed off to page 82.
After failing to work how to catch a bus to Marie Street at Shudehill bus station, we wandered through the warehouses of Strangeways and Cheetham Hill. We stoped to take photos of the prison because I have heard you can be arrested for that and forced to delete them. No one stopped us but it appealed to the trespasser in me.
We found a Eastern European shop. The man who owned the building challenged us as to why were taking pictures of it, ironic when I’d gotten away with it at the prison. The shop, is apparently named “Homeland” in Russian which struck me as bad marketing, I was under the impression that the most of Eastern Europe hated the Russians like the Scots hate the English? Our Lithuanian consultant, however, says the word will understood by Slovaks, Poles, Czechs, etc, etc and maybe we don’t care about the Russian name if they sell our food.
Liam interrupts to add: We also saw the sign below, prohibiting the use of ladders. We were a little puzzled by this, but shortly afterwards we found the reason. An intimidating young hoodie was propped up against a ladder further down the road, drinking beer. We got the impression he might have given us a go on his ladder for a fiver, or maybe the first one would be free… Cheetham Hill has obviously decided to deal with its gangs and ladders problem by instituting a zero-tolerance policy.
Marie again: Nearer to our target we found an interesting wall. And here is the magic of zedding. The wall was there all the time, being interesting and charming and we would never have seen it had we not taken into our heads to go and look and Marie Street. The wall told stories, embedded in its bricks were stories. The first told of the Lancashire custom of Whit walks, and local memories of participating in them. The second told of the Manchester Salford wall, built so the well-to-do property owners of Manchester would not be able to see the terraced housing put up by local pawnbroker on the Salford side. A woman remembered her husband writing their initials on the wall when they were teenagers, and them remaining there till the wall was destroyed in the Blitz (Nice to know Manchester had a Berlin wall before that monstrosity in Piccadilly Gardens). Other panel told of cabbage island; which used to be on a lake nearby and was the site of some man’s cabbage patch, lit by candle light when people skated on the frozen pond. And yet another told of Broughton Zoo where there was a polar bear who climbed up a pole. In the middle of Salford, a polar bear! One thing I love about the wall is that, the with exception of the existence of Broughton zoo, these stories appear not to be googleable, they are real and local memories which are tied to their sense of place. I’m almost sorry to release them into the wild.
Marie Street was not as good as Purcell Street. Symon and Inghamwood were also unspectacular.
We were then off to Castle Hill Viewpoint which I had spotted on page 81 square G3. I wanted to walk past the cluster of synagogues on Northumberland Avenue. As we did so Liam asked “So what do we expect to see from Castle Hill Viewpoint?”
“Castles, duh!” honestly some people, I didn’t expect to see elephants did I?
“Ah yes, how silly of me”
The synagogues themselves did not capture our attention. I was pleased to to see a little boy walking along a wall, tallit hanging out of his waistcoat, one little hand holding on his kippah, the other refusing dad’s hand but but keeping it out close just in case. Looking like he had arrived from another time, another age, but at the same time looking like little boys who have always liked to walk on walls.
Up the road we found ourselves descending into a country park. This is Weird for Liam who is used to having to leave Birmingham and go up to the Lickey hills in order to see grass and trees and Birmingham itself like a great beast at the bottom of the hill. Here, a few miles from the city centre, there are hidden pockets of the countryside.
Sorry to report, that after wandering up and down we saw no sign of either Castle Hill Viewpoint or any Castles. We did find a bit of hill, which may or may not have been Castle Hill Viewpoint, but did have a rope swing so we had a go.
As to the Castle Mystery, a crenelated house was built in the loop of the river (maybe in square F5) in 1826. and later demolished to make way for a racecourse.
Liam interrupts to add: In my book, Jabez Clegg spends a day at the races at that very racecourse. Which was very exciting for me.
Location: Cheetham Hill, Strangeways, Hightown, Higher Broughton, Kersal Dale
Date zedded: 12 May 2009
A to Z: page 94 squares E2, E1, D1; page 82 squares C6, B5, A4, B4; page 81 squares H4, H3, G3, G4, F4, G5
Getting there: Bus down Cheetham Hill from Victoria station (we think)
Squares this expedition: 13
Running total: 96
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
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