Roman times to 21st Century

From a Roman camp to a medieval village to the world's first industrial city to the Commonwealth Games venue for the 17th games, 2002.

Roman times to 21st Century

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by davidx on July 30, 2002

First I must mention an absolutely terrific website which will help you plan your own activities if your ideas differ from mine. is probably the very best website on a city that I know.

Go to the excellent museum and railway and canal remains at Castlefield and while there take in the Roman Fort.

At present [end July 2002] none of the websites seem up to date on the Rochdale Canal, as the restoration is now complete. Follow the whole length to Sowerby Bridge from Castlefield.

Back in Manchester centre see the Cathedral area which is the only area of Manchester itself to give any notion of the middle ages though Ordsall Hall in Salford, over 600 years old, is very close to the centre of Manchester.

Manchester's greatness starts with the Industrial Revolution and I shall do pages on aspects of the 18th and 19th century buildings, canals and railways which can be seen today. These obviously include the Town Hall.

The Law Courts are typical of the mid 29th Century and the Bridgewater Hall marks a splendid late century achievement.${QuickSuggestions} So to the 21st century with a few places already to be seen. The 17th Commonwealth Games have generated some excellent sporting facilities of which the athletics stadium will probably take first place. Then there is the futuristic building housing the Urbis Museum of City Life. Now a very small cheat as we cross the boundary into Salford to visit the Northern part of the Imperial War Museum and last but not least the fabulous Lowry Centre.${BestWay} The late 20th century trams provide quick links with parts of the city and its surroundings. Otherwise there is a complicated bus network with very good [fortunately] information posts scattered around the centre. Train services would appear good from the timetables though users of Arriva and of Virgin Rail do not always find their experiences confirm this.

Imperial War Museum - 21st century

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 22, 2002

This museum, or rather more technically it is a branch of the Imperial War Museum, opened in 2002.

The best way to reach it is over the footbridge from the Lowry centre, access to which is described on its own page. The architect responsible for the design is Daniel Libeskind who has been associated internationally with some of the most exciting of recent projects. The idea of the exterior is a shattered world and three shards being put together. Whatever it is , it is an exciting use of modern materials and you would learn more about it by going to than I could hope to describe.

Entry is through the highest shard where there is a lift up to a viewing gallery. Un fortunately this was not functioning when I visited so this is still a treat in store. I have little doubt that it gives a magnificent view.

The main exhibitions could be said to be an anti-war museum, the only type which I could ever really commend. It is geared entirely to the 20th century and concentrates on the effects of war. Much is in darkness for about 15 minutes in each hour when the big picture is being shown. There are three which are shown in rotation so that it would take 2¼ hours to see all of them even if you arrived for the start of one! As we arrived a film on 'Why war?' was just finishing.

The whole is divided into a number of parts representing the different phases of the 20th century; 1st world war, inter-war years, 2nd world war, cold war and the end of the century.

Then there are a number of themes illustrated such as Women and war, Science and war and Legacy of war. There is nothing about the glory of war!

Entry is free.

Imperial War Museum North
Salford Quays
Manchester, England, M17 1TZ
0161 836 4000

Lowry Centre - 21st century

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 21, 2002

Getting there: there is a tram from Piccadilli Station in Manchester to Eccles at frequent intervals. The nearest station is Harbour City but, unless the weather is really foul, it is far nicer to walk from Salford Quays Station beside the water. I shall put a photo taken en route with the War Museum page as this is just across a rather splendid footbridge from the Lowry.

Actually I am not quite sure now whether the Lowry opened at the very end of the 20th century but it was certainly erected with the most modern ideas for the 21st century. In addition to the spacious galleries which will exhibit both the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, there are two theatres, a restaurant, a snack bar and a drinks bar.

I have only experienced the galleries so far and it was a great experience. The exhibition, called 'A City's Pride', which is on now [21 August 2002 until 22 September 2002] is a spectacular collection of much of Lowry's work including many sketches which will not be on permanent display. Anyone who can get there before 22 September is strongly advised not to miss it but there can be little doubt that the permanent collection will be pretty impressive.

The centre itself is a striking edifice with an interior the size of five football pitches. It is a startling display of stainless steel and glass. However, although it may be ultracritical, I found two things about it disappointing. If there is any air conditioning it was not working very well on a very hot day and the atmosphere was pretty stifling. The other thing was the lack of any notices in languages other than English. The Miró Fondación in Barcelona is quite a bit older and not only is far more multilingual with its notices but it supplies headphones with a fair choice of languages which will plug it at various points so that the visitor can get an interesting commentary in her/his own language on what s/he is actually looking at. I had hoped that we were catching up a bit here!

In spite of these reservations I have to give it the highest recommendation. There is no charge for admission as such but they ask for donations of £3 per person or £5 for families when you get your free admission tickets.

The Lowry
Pier 8
Manchester, England, 50 3
0870 787 5780

Paupers Graveyard

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on July 31, 2002

Some words are used far too much in IGOUGO descriptions and I am as guilty as anyone: scenic, picturesque, beautiful, magic, magnificent, wonderful, marvellous - all almost lose their meaning through overuse, though I do not know how to avoid it when describing so many places to which the words apply.

However I can promise that none of the above words will be found again here and they would be grotesquely inappropriate to describe this place. It is the very absence of all these attributes that gives the site its poignancy - and it certainly is extremely moving to most who find it.

Basically what you see is a space, laid with huge flagstones without a pretence of any ornamentation.

This was the final resting place of many who contributed to the development of Manchester or who worked in its great industries. They were bundled with the minimum of ceremony into mass graves with no memorial stone carrying their names. You may even have trouble finding it although on the map it is near where Angel Street meets Dantzig Street. I shall try to go there again, in which case I shall give more precise information on its location.

I give it a high commendation because it provides a context for admiring some of the major sights of the industrial revolution and the 19th century. Manchester's industrial might was not achieved without significant human cost.

Paupers Graveyard
near Victoria Station
Manchester, England

Canals 1 - The South Pennine Ring

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 2, 2002

I am not a narrow boat person myself - no particular reason because I have seen many of the scenic stretches on foot and I love the canals - and some websites have not been kept up to date [2 August 2002]. I believe that the following route is possible but you do need to check first if you are planning to do it. Contact me if this is a problem. I am starting at Manchester with the description and going clockwise but, as it is a ring, it can be started anywhere and done in either direction.

Get on the Rochdale canal and follow it all the way to its terminus at Sowerby Bridge near Halifax in Yorkshire. [My South Pennines Journal under Yorkshire has a page on some of the most scenic parts.] At Sowerby Bridge you can join the Calder and Hebble Navigation and go by the short Huddersfield Broad Canal to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

This is the bit I am least certain about.

There is some fine stuff here, both through Huddersfield itself, still very like a 19th century town in many respects although its University is very much a 20th century creation, and through Britain's longest canal tunnel at Stanedge. Its vital statistics are 3¼ miles long, 638 feet underground and 645 feet above sea level. Follow the canal to Ashton-under-Lyne where it terminates and joins the Ashton Canal. This is only about 6 miles long but it goes down 18 locks to get to the Rochdale Canal in central Manchester.

Two of the canals followed here; the Huddersfield Narrow and the Rochdale have only been restored this century, the latter in July 2002 indeed. The restoration project was thought by many to be quite beyond the bounds of possibility.

Pennine Moonraker Canal Cruises
High Street
Oldham, England, OL3 6HS
+44 161 652 6331

21st century history - Sports City

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 1, 2002

I think this may be some sort of record for contemporary history. This is a splendid building which was only completed in 2002 and started the first phase of its existence on 25 July 2002. This phase ended at about 2145 on 31 July 2002 and so it can already be called [1 August 2002] that place that USED TO BE the athletics stadium for the XVII Commonwealth Games, 2002. This weekend will see the end of the next stage which will feature the seven -a-side rugby and the closing ceremony of the same games and its future will be as the home of Manchester City Football Club.

Time and time again athletes paid tribute to the excellent stadium and the terrific atmosphere. The tickets for the final night of the athletics could have been sold at least three times over and I felt very privileged to be there with two sons and my granddaughter.

The whole period of the athletics had been terrific and as the last night crowd we had something to keep up to - and by all accounts we did. What a fabulous spirit! and what tremendous organisation! and with all respect to Man. City, what a shame that Manchester is not retaining the track and keeping this fabulous stadium.

The building is huge and my camera was tiny but I am putting in some photos as a tribute to this small piece of 21st Century history.

21st century history - Sports City
East side
Manchester, England

Roman Castlefield

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by davidx on August 5, 2002

I put this in for the sake of completeness and it it is worth seeing it if you go to see the other sights at Castlefield, as you certainly should. However I could not claim that it is one of the principal Roman remains in Britain.

The area is known to have been fortified early in the existence of Roman Britain by Agricola. This, however was a wooden building and the present building was probably the fouth fort to be built on the site, or rather a partial reconstuction from the ruins. Not only was it a good defensive site against tribal uprisings but it lay about half way between the important Roman towns at Chester and York.

If you disregard the fact that it is a reconstruction, the area as it appears now is quite educational, showing the foundations of some civil buildings as well as reconstructions of ahospital, soldiers quarters and the commander's house.

Castlefield Gallery
5 Campfield Avenue Arcade
Manchester, England, M3 4FN
+44 161 832 8034

Museum of Science and Technology

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 5, 2002

This is something quite special. It used to cost quite a bit but is now free, except for special exhibitions. Liverpool Road Station will be treated on the Railways page. The museum comprises several buildings, of which only the aircraft museum has a separate entrance. I have never been in this part yet but I am told it is first class.

The main part has numerous sections, the numbers not representing any order of preference.
1.]The Power Hall shows road and railway engines.
2.] The Gas Gallery shows not only early gas lighting but quite a number of early household devises which include a hair-dryer!
3.] The Electricity Gallery ahows major developments in the 20th century and illustrates the interiors of 1930s and 1950s houses. It is easy to forget the rate of change! The top floor deals with current problems including cases for and against nuclear energy.
4. The Underground Manchester section is one which I find particularly instructive and children love it if only because it IS underground. This is concerned with the construction of sewers and the provision of clean water and shows how some of the health risks of the 19th century were overcome.
5.]Fibres, fabrics and fashion has to be here of course and this presents textile history and its importance to manchester as you would expect, except that it covers present textile technology as well.
6.] The Futures Gallery deals with communication and predictably concentrates on the growth of IT.
7.] I have not seen the new Xperiment area but I hear that it is outstanding, allowing hands-on experiences for all ages with even a Discovery Den for the under 5s.
8.] Lastly there are sections on photography and on measuring instruments.

A great emphasis is placed throughout on child friendliness and on enabling the disadvantage to take full advantage. The museum and the general tidying up of Castlefield are credits to late 20th century Manchester.

Museum of Science & Industry
Liverpool Road Castlefield
Manchester, England, M3 4FP
+44 161 832 2244

15th Century - Ordsall Hall

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 4, 2002

I sometimes wonder who goes here. I taught for 20 years in Manchester and I met innumerable people who had never heard of it. I left in 1984 but I guess the situation is very much the same now. yet Ordsall Hall is no distance from the end of Manchester's Deansgate and it is a really lovely building over 600 years old. It has been a museum owned by Salford since 1972.

It is a large building, part of which is brick but the half-timbered black and white section is quite supurb. The Great Hall is a most impressive room with some furniture and portraits to match. The so-called Star Chamber [named after stars on the ceiling and unconnected with the Court of this name] is the oldest room in the building and would have been used by the Lord of the Manor and his family.

However I think to many the most interesting part of all is the kitchen with its mutitude of pots, china and tools.

Ordsall Hall deserves to be much better known.

Ordsall Hall
Taylorson Street
Manchester, England

18th Century - Quarry Bank Mill

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 6, 2002

This mill, built as a water powered mill in the 1780s, is now owned by the National Trust and it costs £5 [adults] for the mill or £6.50 for the mill, apprentice house and garden - free to NT members. This sounds pricey but it is quite different from anything else in the area and well worth the money. There are good facilities for wheelchair access except for the top floors but the large uneven stones outside make it hard work for the pusher.

Samuel Greg, who founded the mill in 1784, believed that most of the evils affecting mill workers at the time were caused by the congestion and iflth of towns and therefore built his mill in the country with a village [Styal] for the workers nearby and a house for the young apprentices [young meaning YOUNG] near the mill. While grossly overcrowded by modern standards the adults' houses were ahead of their time in such things as toilet facilities. of course location in the country had certain benefits but mill workers still had to work long hours for very little and it was the owning family that became very rich from their efforts.

The key historical changes were the introduction of a steam engine in 1810 and its replacement by a more advanced machine in 1836. The mill still contains the huge water wheel and a collection of steam engines and these can be seen working. [See the mill's website for details of times etc.].

There are also examples of old textile machinery working, including cotton spinning mules. Everything is carefully arranged for the maximum educational effect and much stress is placed on the social conditions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

We did not attempt to go to the Apprentice House on our only visit so far as we had a friend in a wheelchair with us but we shall certainly go again as we have had very positive reports about it. This was possibly one of the better ways of leaving an orphanage and there were many orphaned or abandoned children.

The estate setting is beautiful and it is hard to believe that the airport is so close - except for the noise!

Quarry Bank Mill amd Styal Estate
Quarry Bank Road
Styal, Wilmslow, SK9 4LA
+44 1625 527468

Canals 2 - Centre and around

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 6, 2002

The oldest canal in the area and the first in the industrial revolution period [Exeter Ship Canal is much earlier] was the Bridgewater, named after the Duke [not the place in Somerset].

The canal was constructed in the 18th Century to carry coal from the Duke's mines in Worsley into Manchester. It now has three junctions with other canals, the main branch linking with the Trent and Mersey at its southern terminus near the M56 at Preston Brook and with the Rochdale at the Castleford basin. Then there is another branch which avoids Manchester to run to Leigh where it links with the Leeds-Liverpool. This branch is where the Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Manchester Ship Canal is located.

The mile of the Rochdale Canal from Castlefield to where the Ashton Canal leaves it was the only stretch of the Rochdale navigable in Manchester for many years and was only kept open at one stage by some canal buffs getting a contract for a bit of factory waste disposal [It could not be closed while used for commercial purposes!] Th stretch was vital for the Cheshire Ring, which I have only seen on the parts common to the South Pennine Ring [see other page] and at Marple.

The Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal provides some pretty stretches but as yet is nowhere near fully restored and only really of interest to enthusiasts or walkers.

Lastly we come to the once mighty Manchester Ship Canal which carried massive ships through fields and urban areas into Salford Docks. It now runs between the Lowry Centre and the Imperial War Museum. The canal is still completely navigable and is in considerable use. Mersey Ferries run occcasional trips [expensive but worth it for practical industrial archeology nearly all the way] and their timetable for this year can be found on this site. You can also find a fine account of the trip with pictures on this site.

various - Castlefield at the hub.
Manchester, England

19th Century 2 - Railways

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by davidx on August 7, 2002

There were four major railway stations in Manchester when I first knew it. Of these Exchange, which was adjacent to Victoria and shared with it the world's longest platform, has gone practically without a trace; Central has become the G-mex Centre, seen recently by many as the site for the Commonwealth Games boxing and judo; Victoria has become quite minor and Piccadilli is left as the major station.

However on this page there are only two stations covered and one has not been in commercial use for many a long year - this is Liverpool Road.

It was only in the last part of the 20th century that Liverpool Road Station came to resemble more than an old dump, when it became the hub of the Museum of Science and Technology and of the very much face-lifted Castlefield region. Yet this station is overwhelmingly important in railway history. It was opened for public use in 1830 for the then new line from Manchester to Liverpool which was probably the first commercially viable steam railway. The engineer was the great George Stephenson whose famous 'Rocket' was chosen in the Rainhill Trials to pull the train. The inaugural run saw a government minister step out to his death - accident rather than suicide! The other station worth seing, even if you are not using it, is Victoria. It is now shared between trains - which have run here since well back in the 19th century - and trams to Bury, Altrincham and Piccadilli Station which are a feature of the late 20th. First built in 1844, it approximated to its full size by the 1880s but its striking façade was added in the first years of the 20th Century. This was most impressive and carried names of places served on an iron and glass structure which was severely damaged by the IRA bomb in 1996. This also destroyed the whole area around the station. Fortunately you could now not tell that the façade was damaged and the surrounding area, which was grim before the bomb and devastated after it, is now most impressive. The mid 19th century station opens out to the late 20th century Mark's and Spencer and the 21st century Urbis museum [which will have a page here shortly once I have been to it.]


Manchester, England

20th Century - Bridgewater Hall et al.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by davidx on August 6, 2002

At the end of the 20th Century, the Free Trade Hall, long the principal venue for classical music in the city, was replaced by the newly built Bridgewater Hall. It is a first class buiding for the purpose in all respects. The auditorium will seat 2,400 people in great comfort and the seats are precisely angled so that all point directly at the centre of the orchestra. The air conditioning system runs under the seats. Built in a busy traffic area, it is secured against vibration by being built on 270 huge springs. The acoustics are stunningly good.

This is the home of the famous Hallé Orchestra and also of the BBC Philharmonic And the Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Camerata.

This is not, however, the only venue for Classical Music in Manchester. The Royal Northern College of Music has a full programme of Chamber Music with famous ensembles visiting as well as some fine productions of their own.

Finally there is the Opera House in Quay Street, once closed as uneconomic, which now seems to enjoy success as the venue not only for opera but for musicals and dance performances.

The Bridgewater Hall Gift Shop
The Bridgewater Hall
Manchester, England, M2 3WS
+44 161 907 9000

19th Century - 1. Town Hall

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by davidx on August 4, 2002

By 1887, when the Town Hall was completed, Manchester's first industrial period was over. Whereas much textile production was now more focused in surrounding towns, Manchester had developed considerably in manfacture of machinery and as a commercial centre for the textile industry.

In 1853 Manchester acquired city status and there was much pride in the construction of a Town Hall to match the achievements of the city. The design of the present building was successful in beating off masses of competition.

I will admit that I see a major distinction between restoration of a building in its original style and erecting a new building in an old style with the word neo stuck in front. Hence neo-Gothic on the whole fails to grab me but, if you find it legitimate, you will certainly love this building which is spectacular enough for anybody. At 280 feet high the belltower dominates the largely open square in something like the manner of a cathedral tower.

Inside it is sometimes difficult to remember that the building is not original Gothic with its hammebeam ceilings and vaulted corridors but whereas in earlier centuries the corridors were necessarily dark and light was one of the key aims of building, htese are deliberately darker than necessary.

However this is carping and the Great Hall, with its Rre-Raphelite murals, designed to resemble a 13th century Flemish weaving hall is fine enough to stifle any carping from me. The mosaic floors are also of a very, very high standard.

It is not only possible to see this building but even to see it FREE with guided tours from Monday to Friday. It is a good idea to phone and check however because occasionally a tour is cancelled.

Manchester Town Hall
Albert Square
Manchester, England, M60 2LA
+44 161 234 5000

15th Century - Manchester Cathedral

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by davidx on August 4, 2002

Manchester Cathedral only actually acquired this title in the 19th Century but that was simply the renaming of an existing building which started as a Collegiate Church in the 15th Century.

It is virtually certain that there was a church on the site previously and it seems likely that it was connected to the old fort at Castlefield about 1 mile away. Much of the early history of the church is closely connected with that of the country. Its dedication to St Mary, St George and St Denys sounds reminiscent of Agincourt - but why St Denys when the French were defeated there? presumably because Henries V and VI claimed to be heirs to the throne of France.

Later battles contributed to the building. The well-known change of sides by Lord Stanley at Bosworth in 1487 which was instrumental in securing the victory of Henry VII and the victory of the English over the Scots at Flodden in 1513 both were responsible for extensions. None the less there was much feeling in favour of replacing what had been a splendid church by a prurpose built cathedral. Fortunately this was resisted and the building is still there. It has some interesting features of its own. During the Tudor period it lost, regained and lost again its collegiate status as power changed to Protestants, Catholics and Protestants again. In the course of this the nave was significantly widened to take in the space previously occupied by chantry chapels. As a result it still has the widest nave in England.

Another interesting feature is an ancient stone, known as the Angel Stone that probably dates from a predecessor church. Lastly the renovated modern windows should be mentioned with their excellent conveyance of light combined with beautiful glazing.

Manchester Cathedral
Victoria Street
Manchester, England, M3 1SX
+44 161 833 2220

Castlefield - summary.

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by davidx on August 7, 2002

I have referred to Castlefield in several different pages but any one of them may not be sufficient to tempt you there. This would be a shame as when the features are added together they make for a pretty strong appeal and they are all close together.

There is actually a Visitors's Centre geared to the Heritage Area as a whole but it is scacely necessary. The area is well arranged with waterside walks and plenty of possible places to eat your own food as well as ready access to a variety of cafes and bars.

The main features are 1.] The reconstructed Roman fort; 2.] the Canal basin wher the bridgewater and the Rochdale meet and 3.] The Museum for Scence and Industry with the histric Liverpool Road Station at its heart.

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