A Drift Around Manchester (Contd. 3)

3. “Walk north until you find something forgotten. Or until you’re at ease.”

This final navigational prompt saw us walk along the Salford side of the River Irwell. Here I actually want to explore two opposing terms, ‘something forgotten’ and ‘something remembered’. The former put us both ‘at ease’ as the prompt suggested, whilst the latter did the opposite; putting us ‘ill at ease’.

We decided to continue walking north up along the River Irwell and along a rather hidden walkway underneath the Trinity Way, the walls of which were clad with some beautiful green and white tiles. We then saw an uncharacteristically green segment of land nestled in between the river, Trinity Way and a row of houses. We were rather surprised, so hopped over a small bank and surveyed the area wondering as to it’s life story.

Only now, thanks to the same 1940 Bomb Map am I able to find out how it came to be: it was previously the site of Greengate Cotton Mill. Two years ago, with the help of the Environment Agency a set of stones carved with the name of the Mill were recovered from the River Irwell and placed on the riverbank. In the video above one of the individuals connected to the project says they are unsure of the exact location of the Mill because of the lack of historical maps of the area. Community website SalfordOnline followed the story at the time, and I’m unsure as to whether they know the 1940 Bomb Map clearly shows Greengate Mills in the patch of grass just downstream from where the stones were discovered. The maps themselves (they were stitched together) were only recently re-discovered and covered in the local press. At the time we were blissfully unaware of the history of this patch of land – and until recently it’s remarkable life story had remained forgotten.

Greengate 1940 2013

After walking back over the river towards Cheetham Hill we couldn’t ignore the lure of heading towards Strangeways – that iconic Victorian-era prison. Holding both Category A and local remand prisoners, HM Prison Manchester is an imposing structure. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse in a style not too dissimilar from his other major city projects; Manchester Town Hall and St. Mary‘s Hospital, it is a well-known feature of the North Manchester skyline.

What is intriguing is that, like many sensitive Government sites, prisons have historically been excluded from publicly available maps. The Ordnance Survey, for example, have typically labelled Ministry of Defence sites as “Government Offices” (see: http://www.secret-bases.co.uk/secret.htm) and rather than depicting accurate outlines of buildings, they have only marked perimeter fences and boundary lines. Thanks to hi-res satellite imagery, it’s rather more difficult to keep out prying eyes – but there are still techniques used by mappers to hide spatial detail. Outdated and blurred imagery being the most obvious. Chris Perkins and Martin Dodge’s (2009) Geoforum paper (open access) is a fantastic read into this tension between cartography and counter-cartography.

StrangewaysStrangeways provokes a distinct feeling of unease when approaching, especially when one walks along Sherborne Street between the two sides of the prison. Tall, flat walls along each side. A steep incline towards Exchange Street. Lone CCTV cameras the only thing visible over either boundary. There is little chance of escape for the incarcerated inside, and slim opportunity for those to break-in from outside.

So as a closing comment on this final uneasy stage of a drift across North Manchester I’ll finish with a series of maps of Strangeways through the years – spatial depictions of this curious Panopticon revealed to those outside through the power of the map.

Strangeways 1845 2013 2

A Drift Around Manchester (Contd. 2)

2. “Walk in a direction you fancy and look for some kind of interruption. Record it.”

This second command took us North along Deansgate and  up towards Victoria Bridge. If you follow the red line drawn by our GPS tracker on Google Maps you might think we’ve made an error – taking the GPS route as the truth and ignoring our own recollection of the route. Instead of going along Victoria Bridge downstream, or the Cathedral Approach upstream, the line crosses the River Irwell in between. But as OpenStreetMap shows, we did in fact walk over the new pedestrian bridge on the so-called Greengate Embankment. This is the area I’ve blogged about previously in relation to Pontevedra. The bridge is part of a large swathe of pedestrian-only land traversing the Manchester-Salford boundary, stretching from Manchester Cathedral to a riverside path upstream.

There is a couple of points I want to make about this area, then in reference to the notion of ‘interruption’. Firstly, that both adjacent bridges were existing and irreconcilable ‘interruptions’ to the pedestrianized future of the Greengate project. Victoria Bridge allows automobile traffic to flow onto Deansgate and in the opposite direction onto Chapel Street and thus couldn’t be pedestrianized itself. Cathedral Approach on the other hand provides access to a privately-run car park for city commuters on the old Exchange Station site. It too couldn’t be utilized without some difficulty. Hence the absurdity of constructing a third bridge over the River Irwell in less than a 100m stretch to combat these obstinate architectural interruptions.

Secondly, and following on from this, that soon-to-be Greengate Square is currently, and ironically considering it’s rebirth into a pedestrianized area, an expanse of more car parks. Back in 1940 it comprised Greengate Rubber Works, a timber yard, leather works and rows of terraced houses (see below). Now it is covered by 4 different parking areas ran by 4 separate operations. It couldn’t be less of a contrast. In the 73 intervening years Greengate has turned from a manufacturing hub of factories and adjacent dwellings into a pure space of rentier capitalism for automobile service workers in the city. The interruption in this instance, of course, was WWII. A temporal rather than a spatial interruption in the development of the Manchester-Salford boundary.

The 1940 Bomb Map from which I’ve taken the below image doesn’t include damage to buildings in Salford as it was produced by the Manchester Corporation. However, it is relatively easy to deduce that many of the operations in the Greengate area were destroyed, or at least damaged beyond repair in the German bombing raids of December 1940. This is because Exchange Station was extensively damaged in the same raids, as were a multitude of buildings just within the boundary line, as is visible on the 1940 Bomb Map in both the red shading and annotations. In short, the Germans knew the area was a key manufacturing hub of the city. The Greengate area is only just recovering from this aerial intervention – linking Manchester back to Salford by way of a pedestrianized expanse.

Greengate 1940
Taken from Manchester City Council Bomb Damage Map 1940-41

4 Car Park Signs

A Drift Around Manchester (Contd.)

_DSC0658There are few better ways to explore a city than on foot, and Manchester is no different. The previous post has a collection of photos taken by myself and friend, photographer and graphic designer Mike Hodson along a 5 mile exploration across North and East Manchester. The map shows the route we took and where the photos were taken. Although it might seem like a carefully calculated journey, taking in iconic institutions like Strangeways and historic areas such as Angel Meadows, we actually had no discernible plan. Navigational decisions were taken using the delightfully simple Dérive App as well as our own knowledge of the area. Three particular commands really shaped our exploration, so let me talk about them now in three consecutive posts.

1. “Walk for a block or so and contemplate the weather. Document it.” 

At this point we’d made our way along the busiest shopping street in the city, Market Street, and  reached the top of Deansgate. The instruction we’d received was to walk for a block, contemplate the weather, and document it by any possible means. Our discussion actually began with critiquing the use of the term ‘block’ – one we thought was a distinctly un-Debordian way of conceiving the city.

‘Blocks’ were the very unit Guy Debord and other Situationists sought to challenge. They saw the urban grid system as a disempowering  form designed to order and regulate the new postmodern city. The enchanting Continental cities of Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam were losing their very souls to the city block, campus architecture and holistic design. Old, bustling, meandering and working streets wiped off the map for wider, streamlined and deserted expanses. The old Halle aux Vins in Paris replaced by University of Paris Faculty of Sciences in 1971. The bombastic Centre Georges Pompidou seemingly dropped from space into the Beaubourg in the same year. Thus, a particularly ironic term to use on a psychogeographical walk – one adhering to the same ‘Cartesian excess’ that Sadler (1999: 62) mentions in reference to the Paris of the 1960s and 70s.

Nevertheless, we translated block into our own terminology and stopped at the foot of Blackfriars Street. The sky was patchy. The weather was mild. A grey and blue backdrop. The two photos below were taken from a rather awkward and inaccessible space between a monstrous multi-story car park and the River Irwell. The only way to get down from the street is via the building’s staircase (left). For those with a sense of adventure, try descending the overgrown brick wall wedged up against Blackfriars Bridge (right).   

Blackfriars Bridge

A scan of a slide taken by Margaret Newbold. Courtesy of Chetham's Library.
A scan of a slide taken by Margaret Newbold. Courtesy of Chetham’s Library. ~1970