analepsis (a london photographer, explorer and regular compadre) once noted, that if a 50mil lens is assumed to be roughly equivalent to the average persons field of view, then an explorers must be about a 28. I believe this to be true, as if the citizens of Manchester were truly appreciating the glorious buildings towering above them, we’d have totally been caught by now.
Manc from the Ramada roof
With all these recent excursions afar, I’ve been neglecting my roots somewhat. Despite the great city of Manchester being pretty much ‘done’ (with a couple of notable exceptions) a few years ago by a handful of outrageously dedicated individuals, there is always plenty to keep the imaginative busy.
Manchester is home to some of the most impressive buildings in the north, rivalled only maybe by Liverpool. While they might not share the iconic grandeur like some of their scouse counterparts, the subtle attention to detail on the structures built on the back of the 19th century cotton money is astounding. Even with the 90s splurge of glass and steel (along with the carpet bomb of Private ‘public’ space that has come with it), the capital of the North still retains so much of its former glory which goes largely ignored by the pedestrians that frequent it’s streets.
It’s been said that the Victorian architecture of Manchester owes more to Venice than any other city, a comparison that doesn’t seem so outlandish when you begin to think about it. Those lofty domes and ornate carvings that adorn the facades of so many of these buildings were built at the behest of all the globe trotting mill owners, returning from their travels with grand ideas of how their latest constructions should be set to impress their competition, clients and workforce.
It wasn’t just the commercial buildings that had such treatment. One of the key beneficiaries of this lavish indulgence was the London Road fire station, a magnificent specimen that sits in-between some new-build student flats and Piccadilly Rail station opposite.
As well as the horse drawn fire carriages it was built for in 1906, it was also home to a bank, an ambulance depot, a police station and a coroners court. Tragically, its been sat empty since the mid-eighties and was supposed to be hotelamalised by Britannia Hotels who were going to renovate the whole thing until 2008 happened and it all went to fuck. Its now used as a massive wall paper and chair storage unit for the hotel chain, who keep promising Manchester City Council (who tried to forcibly purchase it off them again this year) that they’re going to actually crack on and do something with it. As well as its use for Britannia, it’s also a bit of an icon for those of us who enjoy going where were not supposed to, and it was to my delight, that with the sun shining and the weather sweet, me, morse, gone and tweek found ourselves stood inside the upper most dome of this legendary structure looking down on the streets below on all the people that don’t look up.
A little while later, we thought it fitting to let the rest of the family in to share the joy. 10 deep ldn road?
Build in the same era as the fire station, Lancaster House is a peach of a rooftop that’s been evading conquer for ages. It’s star attraction is its large ornate tower on the top corner of the building, which is now home to a man and his lovely wife.
The St James building is a building that doesn’t get so much attention, but one I rather liked when I used to work in the centre of town. The hordes of polyester suited office workers huddling round the outside for their lunchtime fag break always used to make me smile when I nipped past them to pick up one of the mega sandwiches on offer from the New York Deli next door, throwing me back to my late teens when I was saving up for traveling and putting in the hours as a temp in similar gruesome situations.
Getting atop of this plum wasn’t so difficult, the sun beating down on its white stone tower and ramparts waving a sweet start to the summer.
Done to death but truly one of my favorite buildings in Manchester. Built in 1891-1895 for the Refuge Assurance Company and extended with its huge clock tower 20 years later, the Palace Hotel is a proper Manchester landmark. It’s not just me that loves it either… If I thought our 10 strong take over of London road was bad, we had at least double the number up there the night we went up.
Another one of Manchester’s notable architectural landmarks, is it’s central library at St. Peters Square. It was built between 1930-1934 and is currently undergoing a refit to get it ready for the ensuring decades. On one of the colder nights of the year, I left my intended business (and long suffering girlfriend) for the night (sinking ales and going to a shit nightclub) and opted to climb some buildings instead.
Once on top, the next priority was getting inside, and after a bit of climbing, managed to make it down into the central hall. The library has been closed for as long as I can remember it, so finally seeing the inside of it was pretty satisfying.
Delving deeper underground, we moved on through some old cable tunnels and popped up in the town hall extension, making a beeline to the roof.
Works underneath the library..
As previously noted, Manchester has had its fair share of ‘regeneration’ thrown at it since that devastation intervention in 1994, and as part of this continuing building boom Elocin Property decided to name their latest offering to the city after the dude with the hat from U2. ‘The Edge’ apartments are nothing too remarkable in themselves, but the views from the roof are among my favourite in Manchester. You get a really good cross section of the landmark buildings, and its not too high as to throw everything out of scale.
Great place to chill, sip a few beers and watch the world go by.