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FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The Blackpool Tower is actually from Manchester

I mean, all the best things come from Manchester…

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I hate to break it to you, Blackpudlians, but your iconic Blackpool Tower actually reigns from Manchester.

Well, Newton Heath, to be precise.

Now, this will hurt the feelings of many proud Blackpool residents because let’s face it, the Blackpool Tower – which stands at 518 feet tall, making it the 125th tallest free-standing tower in the world – is easily the most famous monument the town has to offer.

So, why exactly did it come from Manchester?

aboutmanchester.co.uk

Well, the Blackpool Tower Company was actually founded by (brace yourselves) London-based Standard Contract & Debenture Corporation in 1890; they bought an aquarium on Central Promenade with the intention of building a replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Two Lancashire architects, James Maxwell and Charles Tuke, were then put to the task of designing the tower and overseeing the laying of its foundation stone.

Newton Heath-based company Heenan & Froude were then put in charge of supplying the materials and actually putting the tower together – the company began its life as the Newton Heath Iron Works in 1884; a partnership between Mr Hammersley Heenan, an engineer with the East India Railway and the Public Works Department and Richard Hurrell Froude, English engineer, hydrodynamicist and naval architect famous for being the first man to formulate reliable laws for the resistance that water offers to ships.

theblackpooltower.com

Anyway, the company was truly put to the test when they were appointed as structural engineers for the Blackpool Tower construction in 1892, supplying and constructing the main tower, the electric lighting and the steel front pieces for the aquariums in Manchester before transporting it to Blackpool.

It was truly a sight to behold – never before had such an architectural challenge been attempted in the town – when it was built, over 10,000 lightbulbs were used to illuminate the tower (though these have been swapped today with 25,000 eco-friendly LED lights).  2,493 tons of steel and ninety-three tons of cast iron were also used, as were 985 tons of steel and 259 tons of cast iron for the base of the tower.

On the tower’s opening day in 1894, it was the tallest building in Britain at the time and the second tallest in the whole world. Over 3,000 guests were able to enjoy the the first of many lift rides to the top of the tower – an estimated 70,000 more people from not only Blackpool but the whole country swarmed the town to catch a glimpse of the seaside town’s new addition.

At the time of its opening, tourists paid sixpence for admission, sixpence more for a ride in the lifts to the top, and a further sixpence for the circus – ah, those were the days.

@Nathanemmison / Flickr

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing – the tower wasn’t painted properly during its first thirty years and became corroded, leading to council discussions about demolishing it. Thankfully, the tower was never brought down and, instead, the corroded steelwork was replaced and renewed between 1920 and 1924.

Following this new lease of life, Blackpool Tower enjoyed a number of monumental occasions – such as being painted silver in 1977 as part of Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, having a giant model of King Kong placed on the side in 1984 and even hosting a cage-suspended wedding in 1985.

Yep, the Blackpool Tower truly has seen it all.

And as for Heenan and Froude? Well, by the end of the the First World War, they had been bought up by a Company in Worcester. Their name continued for some time but, by the mid 1930’s, they were no longer in Manchester.

Since the grand opening all those decades ago, the Blackpool Tower has become a staple part of the famous seaside town, and has enjoyed a rich and eventful history – though let’s always remember that it’s Manc born and Manc made – maybe we should rename it the Manchester Tower?

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GHOST STORIES: The third most haunted place in the UK is a pub near Manchester

This would be one scary pint…

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The Bate Hall – a pub less than an hour away from Manchester – has been crowned the third most haunted place in the whole of the UK.

The landlords say The Bate Hall is overrun with ghosts, including a spirit called Richard who has even threatened to kill the landlord.

There’s also a screaming woman, and a young boy who plays hide and seek with his young daughter.

The title has been given to the pub by paranormal website Higgypop, in their list of ‘Top 100 Haunted Locations in the UK’. The list is measured on the longevity of haunting, the number of reports, type of activity and the credibility of the witnesses.

higgypop.com

Higgypop states: “The paranormal activity in the pub includes staff being touched by unseen hands, glasses flying off of shelves and dark shadowy figures are seen around the building.

“According to the owner, her daughter plays hide and seek with the ghost of the young boy called Billy.

“The ghost of a grey lady has been seen in the inn walking the staircase. She’s thought to be the spirit of a woman who was hanged in the stairwell for being a witch.

“A poltergeist is said to throw objects around. On the abandoned upper floor, strange markings are said to appear on the walls before vanishing again.”

Ian/Flickr

The pub has a rich history which dates all the way back to 1525, and even Oliver Cromwell has stayed as a guest.

Since taking over the pub in 2014, Sean and his wife Georgia called Wythenshawe Paranormal Investigation to take a look after one too many ghostly apparitions.

Sean said: “I’ve been told by the Wythenshawe Paranormal Investigation team that there are at least 14 spirits upstairs.

“There’s one ghost called Richard who wants to kill me – I know because he told me. He said ‘kill you’.

“I’m used to ghosts, but the scariest thing is speaking to them through the investigators’ machines. I was shocked to hear so many voices.”

The Bate Hall at Macclesfield/Facebook

The scariest thing of all happened in 2017 when Sean caught the ‘pure evil, woman-hating demon’ on video!

The Facebook Live sees Sean taunting and swearing at the spirit during a scary vigil at the pub led by medium James Higgins.

The Facebook Live, which has been viewed over 21,000 times, is dramatically cut by James who stopped recording for ‘safety’ reasons.

Sean claims the historic pub has 21 different ghosts who live there due to its location where laylines cross and the towns gallows were.

Will you be heading here for a pint with a ghost?! Let us know…

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FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The mysterious underground tunnels and passageways below the city centre

There’s more to Manchester than meets the eye…

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Keith Warrender & True British Metal / Flickr

It’s no secret that, below the surface of the hustle and bustle of the city, Manchester houses a number of underground tunnels, passageways and deserted bomb shelters. 

For decades now, rumours and speculation surrounding this mysterious underground world have been rife, with many even venturing into the depths themselves.

There’s even an interactive ‘Hidden Manchester Map‘ – created by Mark Crossfield – which allows you to browse through the catalogue of tunnels and passageways hidden beneath the surface; if that won’t sort you out for those 2am internet binges, I don’t know what will.

Anyway, the map has opened my mind to a whole new underground world, so I thought I’d share it with you lovely lot…

Below and Beyond

The Deansgate Tunnel

The eerie Deansgate Tunnel was discovered all the way back in 1911 when a row of houses were demolished on Cumberland Street (where the elusive Spinningfields neighbourhood now stands).

The tunnel was supposedly big enough to fit a horse and cart through, and featured a massive arched roof and exposed brick walls – evidently, it wouldn’t look out of place in the Northern Quarter property market today.

It remains unknown as to who actually built the tunnel, which runs right down the length of the Cathedral to Pomona at the Ship Canal, with some believing it could date all the way back to Roman times. 

University of Manchester

Piccadilly to Victoria Underground Railway 

Disclaimer: There aren’t any actual tunnels from this… But there very nearly was. That’s close enough, isn’t it?

Anyway, over forty years ago, ambitious plans for an underground railway system not unlike London’s was well underway for Manchester; in fact, there have been at least six attempts to build a fully-functioning rail network beneath the surface.

However, despite the projects being far along with their developments, each attempt failed miserably, including a proposed line that would run from Victoria, underneath the Royal Exchange, under the Central Library, down Princess Street and finally onto Piccadilly.

The whole idea of an underground link was eventually shelved in the late 70’s, with four projects being eventually passed and transformed to above-surface roads, known today as Mancunian Way and the ‘Guardian’ a network of tunnels through the city to Salford.

The Manchester Cave

Nestled beneath the buildings along the River Irwell just a stone’s throw from Parsonage Gardens there lays the ‘Manchester Cave’, a mysterious and somewhat daunting underground abys. 

There’s not a great deal known about this so-called ‘cave’, though going by the YouTube video of some daredevil climbing down into it, it looks like the remains of an old underground construction site. 

Both unsafe and unnerving but, still, it made the Hidden Manchester Map so that’s all that counts.

Keith Warrender

Guardian Underground Telephone Exchange

The Guardian Underground telephone exchange was built way back when in 1954 as a result of ongoing fears regarding the Cold War nuclear destruction (we have it easy these days, don’t we?), intended to act as a safe communications network that could link with similar ones in Birmingham and London.

The GUTE is located a whopping 112ft below the city and, at one point, even managed to have it’s own supply of drinking water, as well as a number of bunkers to house people in the event of a nuclear war breakout.

The GUTE was never used (down to the lack of nuclear attacks, probably), but the tunnels still remain to this very day and are actually used by broadband companies like BT and Nynex. 

True British Metal / Flickr

Cathedral Tunnels

According to the Hidden Manchester Map, there are plenty of rumours regarding some undiscovered tunnels beneath the Manchester Cathedral that lead to a number of locations across the city and its outskirts.

A number of the passageways allegedly connect the Cathedral to pubs (God wouldn’t have approved of that) and, according to Keith Warrender’s Underground Manchester, a heavy door was discovered in the tunnel leading to the Castle & Falcon Pub in 1975 which contained a pile of skeletons and a passage which led to the cathedral.

Who else is going to have nightmares tonight?

Make sure to check out the Hidden Manchester Map for yourself here – it’s well worth an hour’s scrolling time out of your day, I promise.

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Feature

Artist creates incredible micro sculpture of Tyson Fury on top of a nail

Dr. Willard Wigan used a nylon cable tie, gold with a broken tip of diamond and his own eyelash as a paintbrush to create the sculpture

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@gypsyking101 / Instagram & Paul Ward Photography

A talented micro artist has created a minuscule sculpture of Tyson Fury in a ‘smallest biggest tribute’ to the boxer following his historic heavyweight championship victory over the weekend.

Dr. Willard Wigan MBE, sixty-four, has produced an impressive catalogue of miniature sculptures throughout his life – we’re talking fourteen camels fitting inside the eye of a needle, kind of miniature –  and considers himself to be ‘officially the greatest micro artist of all time’.

Willard prides himself on making the ‘most wondrous’ microscopic art in history and holds down an impressive fan base which includes Her Majesty the Queen, who invited him to Buckingham Palace after he sculpted her her very own miniature crown. 

But where did this unusual passion for miniature sculpting come from? 

Fundação Dionísio Pinheiro e Alice Cardoso Pinheiro / Facebook


Paul Ward Photography

Willard, who was diagnosed with autism later in life, was excluded from his classes as a result of his learning differences and, after constant humiliation from both his teachers and his peers, closed himself off, fully immersing himself in the world of sculpting.

His first sculpting masterpiece came after an experience with an ants nest in his back garden; using just his dad’s razor blade, a five-year-old Willard sculpted, built and constructed a whole miniature village – complete with tables, chairs and a fully-functioning playground – for ants using only twigs.

Recalling the moment his talent was discovered, Willard told Proper Manchester: “When my mum saw what I’d created, she brought it all into the house and said to me ‘If you make them smaller, your name is going to get bigger.’

“From there, my journey to create the smallest sculptures in the world began and I became possessed with it. My mum kept telling me I was the best, and that encouragement made me truly believe it.”

Paul Ward Photography


Paul Ward Photography

And fast forwarding nearly six decades, Willard has dedicated his entire life to the art of micro sculpting, creating an array of sculptures such as a tiny Mona Lisa and a minuscule London Bridge, some of which have sold for up to £200K.

And most recently, the artist decided to use his talent to pay tribute to a very new victory; Tyson Fury’s Heavyweight Championship victory last weekend. 

A huge boxing fan himself, Willard has long regarded the Wythenshawe-born Tyson to not only be the greatest boxer of all time, but a mental health advocate, an inspiration and a philosopher in his own right. He said: “He’s an example at what can be achieved when you’re going through a dark tunnel. He inspires people to believe in themselves. He’s not just a boxer, he’s a philosopher as well.”

He also sees similarities between himself and the boxer, noting that he and Tyson are both the best at what they do, and both have inspiring stories to tell.

Paul Ward Photography

Using a nylon cable tie, gold with a broken tip of diamond and his own eyelash as a paintbrush, Willard worked on the sculpture – which features a set of green boxing gloves and black shorts emblazoned with ‘Gypsy King’ – for four weeks in his Birmingham workshop.

He eventually titled the piece ‘Hard as Nails’, noting that not only is Tyson hard as nails, but he has ‘nailed mental health, he nailed Deontay Wilder, and he’s also nailing the World Heavyweight Championship, and he will keep that nailed down’.

‘Hard as Nails’ is now on display at the Birmingham Contemporary Art Gallery, though you can view more of Willard’s pieces over on his website.

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