Manchester is an infinite delight for those who love lots of diversity and don’t particularly like having to travel extensively to find it. The city center dates back to AD 79 when Agricola constructed and made base camp of what they referred to as “Mancunium” and also “Mamuciam” (which means breast-shaped hill). However, after the Norman conquest the name deviated, more than likely, to Mameceaster, the Anglo-Saxon word.
It probably always had ties to nearby coastal Liverpool and Manchester became important around the time that Richard Arkright’s steam-powered machines took over the process of cotton manufacturing. After the first railroad linked Liverpool to Manchester in 1830 the Ship Canal was opened in 1894 bringing the cargo vessels thirty-six miles further inland. As a result the wealth brought forth several civic buildings which are a large part of its architectural heritage today. Among the 19th century restorations are the wonderful trolley system, the neo-Gothic Cathedral, the John Rylands Library (which is part of the university), the majestic Town Hall, the Royal Exchange which is now a theater and restaurant and the Free Trade Hall where all the Hallé concerts are held.
Manchester has a great club scene with a smattering of ethnic restaurants and is a culture and entertainment center. It wasn’t always such a vibrant, youth-oriented city. During the height of its industry era it became the slum capital of England and the overcrowded slums of the mill workers made it a blight. This, of course, created social dissent and many reforms came out of the squalor- one being the Factory Act in 1815. The Manchester Guardian was the champion of causes starting in 1821 and was largely instrumental in clearing the slums by the mid-twentieth century and gave way to the restoration you can now enjoy.
While staying in Manchester you may want to take in Whitworth Art Gallery which is also connected to the University of Manchester on Oxford Road. Check out the Salford Quays to see the Ship Canal, the modern G-Mex center, and do not miss Castlefield Heritage Park which has the Museum of Science and Industry, Granada Studios (most famous for being the set of Coronation Street TV series) and the restored Roman Fort ruins near the Bridgewater Canal.
Manchester Cathedral, which sits beautifully in the center of the old city center, contains a wealth of beautiful carvings in the interior and boasts the widest medieval nave in Britain. Tours are available for this prime example of neo-Gothic architecture. Call 0161-833-2220. Other architectural and historical buildings worth taking in are the Manchester Law Library and the Jewish Museum. The Law Library on Kennedy Street was built in the Venetian Gothic style back in 1885 by Thomas Hartas. The stained glass windows are a bold and beautiful feature by Evans of Birmingham. See www.manchester-law-library.co.uk The Jewish Museum at 190 Cheetham Hill Road is located in the Moorish-style synagogue which was completed in 1874, it became the official museum in 1884 and a first floor display charts the history of the local Jewish community. It won the Sandford Award in 1998 for education and outreach. For further details see www.manchesterjewishmuseum.com For lovers of art, Portico Library on 57 Mosley Street will offer Victorian and new and established artists’ work- local, national and international. For arrangements contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
Further afield, Greater Manchester is bordered by West and South Yorkshire and Derbyshire on the east, Cheshire on the south, Merseyside on the west and Lancashire on the north. Alkrington Hall and Tonge Hall in Middleton (just north of Manchester City) offer widely contrasting architecture. Tonge Hall is a timber-framed structure which was constructed circa 1580 and has undergone 18th and 19th century alterations. The interior features 16th century carpentry with distinctive quatrefoil panels made during the later alterations. Alkrington Hall was built in 1735 under the direction of Giacomo Leoni in the Classical style for Darcy Lever. More recently it was divided into four dwellings but alterations were few leaving the original interior as it was constructed for Mr. Lever. Contact Mr. Pickup at 0161 643 7713
Just west of Middleton, at Prestwich, Heaton Hall sits in 650 glorious acres of parkland. This 18th century house remodeled by James Wyatt in 1772 is magnificently adorned with scrolling plasterwork on the walls and ceilings and furnished with paintings and furniture of that era. Wyatt furniture from Hevingham Hall in Suffolk is featured. The Pompeiian Cupola Room which is featured prominently on the fascia of the exterior is fabulous inside, as is the Music Room, which boasts a chamber organ built-in by Samuel Green. Mr. Wyatt was commissioned by Thomas Egerton, 7th Baronet and then first Earl of Wilton to create a neo-Classical style which was quite popular at the time. The plasterwork was executed by Joseph Rose II of York, the mahogany door and furniture came from Gillow of Lancaster and Biagio Rebecca furnished the paintings and furnishings. Lewis Wyatt, the second Earl of Wilton also added rooms and remodeled the library.
Heaton became the centre of the current social scene, of the time, and paid host to famous visitors among them were Disraeli, the Duke of Wellington and Tom Thumb. Then there were the Heaton Park Races, from the time period of 1827 to 1839 on the site of the present lake.
In 1902 Manchester purchased the park and all the buildings to use for recreational facilities and some years later Heaton Hall finally became a branch of Manchester City Galleries which provided additional space for its growing collections. Call 0161 773 1231 or 0161 234 1456
If you head far north in the county toward the border at Bolton, three structures will keep you well occupied. These are Smithills, Hallíth’ Wood, and Turton Tower, the latter being a late medieval stone tower house. Turton Tower underwent alterations in the 16th and early 19th century including timber-framed additions. It’s worth a look from the outside and inside because they’ve made many of the rooms into period features depicting the 16th, 17th, 19th and even 20th century. Under Lancashire County Museum’s Service you may contact Mr. Robinson-Dowland for more info at 01204 8522038 www.cottontown.org/page.cfm?pageid=1442&language=eng
Smithills Hall is among the oldest halls for the Lancashire area and lays claim to haunting- being that of George Marsh- but it has the distinction of being a beautiful example of Elizabethan Tudor style and parts of it still date back to the 14th century. It is set in 2,000 acres of parkland which includes an animal park along with other family attractions. It was built mainly on the Ainsworth fortune who were cotton bleaching industrialists and their local Ainsworth Bleach Works were once visited by Prince Albert in 1851. http://www.m61meetings.com/smithills-hall.php and
Heading back south and further south than Manchester City proper, Bramall Hall in Bramhall (the latter spelling is correct- long story!) seats itself on 62 acres of landscaped parkland. It has been described by experts as “one of the best timber mansions in England.” Its oldest parts date from the 14th century but the estate dates back to circa 1070 A.D. when William the Conqueror subdued the Northwest region dividing the land between his men. “Bramale” came into the possession of Hamo de Masci (Massey), the first baron of Dunham Massey. In earlier Saxon times it was part of a larger estate involving the neighboring mansions Brun and Hacum. It passed through several hands of the Bramale family for centuries until the Davenports who retained the estate for five centuries. It stood empty for six years, late in the 19th century until it was acquired by Charles Neville, a local calico printer , in 1883. Neville, along with architect George Armitage refurbished and altered the interior making it more habitable. Today it is a superb example of a black and white timber-framed manor house, and the Tudor rooms display various Victorian additions. Most of the house is open to view and a fifteen minute video about the house is offered along with guided tours. Contact: Ruth Maddocks 0161 485 3708 There was also a book written about it by E. Barbara Dean.
I found a great page for all you soccer/football fans on Manchester C.F.C. and Manchester United. This link has expired but you can Google it yourself and find out new info!
I’ll have more on that soon when I will bring you information on several marvelous hotels you might want to consider staying in during your footloose meanderings in Manchester. I chose them for ambience and comfort.
That’s what’s next! You’ll just have to come back to see!
Until then, The Castle Lady sends you the warmest regards and kisses ever!