#613 – Manchester – A Strange Survivor From The Past

Much of Manchester’s industrial past is exactly that – in the past. For better or worse, there is less and less evidence that it was a major industrial city and the skyline is now one of shimmering glass towers. I did think that the only remaining chimney was at Bloom Street power station, itself now reduced to a substation, but my curiosity was piqued a few years ago when I saw a picture posted online somewhere of a tall, narrow building, replete with chimney, by one of the cities canals. I recognised the backdrop and quickly figured out it was at Castlefield which meant that I passed it every time I caught the train to Oxford Road or Picadilly. Not sure how I’d missed it!

I went for a quick look on a visit to Manchester, there’s not much to see and nothing online about what it was, but a quick check if it’s location on an old OS map suggested it was some kind of timber yard. As to why it’s so high I’ve no idea – maybe it was to tranship goods to the railway line?

However, I found this photo on Flickr taken in 1989, which not only shows it’s proximity to the railway line, but the signs say the business is Southern and Darwent, who appear to be a timber merchant. So I entered that business name into Google and found that not only do they still exist (albeit subsumed into Travis Perkins), but an old invoice of theirs was for sale on EBay. The typically elaborate letterhead stated that they were ‘Packing Case Makers and Timber Merchants’ and were at Collier Street Saw Mills, Knot Mill, Manchester. Interestingly it also says that they were ‘Makers of all descriptions of portable buildings, greenhouses, bungalows loose boxes, etc.’ which is a rather diverse product range.

My second wander down the canal was on an even sunnier day and as I was using a camera with a zoom lens (I only had a prime on my first visit) allowed me to juxtaposition it better in the frame with the Beetham Tower behind, and emphasise the new with the old.

Another photo of the place on Flickr before the Beetham, not entirely sure when it was taken, I’m unclear as to whether the 95 in the title was the year or the sequence. Either way the condition of the place was very poor compared to the other one taken in 1989.

A photo I found on a Facebook group from the 1970’s. Everything on the left has been cleared (apart from a small office / house that is hidden in this view but is now an art gallery), but the large warehouses on the right have been renovated and are now offices.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Roz says:

    How fascinating. What a pity they pulled it all down. When was that, given that you visited before the demolition?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andy says:

      On reflection I think the text below the last paragraph is maybe a bit confusing – everything except the tall tower like building in my own photographs has been cleared away. That still stands unless it’s been brought down in the last 6 months!


      1. Roz says:

        Hi Andy

        When you say the tall tower like building do you mean the modern one (Beecham Tower) or the old one? I looked on GoogleMaps and couldn’t see the old building, only the modern one and the converted warehouses into des res housing!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Andy says:

        The old brick one. If you look for ‘Saul Hay Gallery’ on Google Maps, it’s just to the east of that near where the railway bridge crosses the canal. Coordinates are (53.4746793, -2.2538448)


      3. Roz says:

        Ahh! There it is. Found it now thanks. The apartments I was looking at must be a couple of streets away I think. Also had lost my 3D capability on GoogleMaps. Have now watched a video and found how to get it back!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I just went to Google Maps and I realized that I have been just about 60 meters away from it when I visited the Castlefield Urban Heritage Park. I wonder if I have seen a glimpse of it or if it has been surrounded by other structures, so I have missed that. Probably as I am sure I would have tried to make photos of it. I was wondering in the area photographing and missing that! Stupid me. It was very interesting to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andy says:

      I must have been past it on the train hundreds of times and never noticed it! It’s odd because in some respects it blends into the landscape of old warehouses, but on the other hand it’s sat on its own completely isolated on the side of the canal. You only really see it if you’re walking on the canal.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was more or less photographing the railway related things. … I was living nearby (the youth hostel), so I was just walking around and not particularly looking for anything special. So yes, it seems then that you would miss it easily.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s