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FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The city’s hidden burial sites

Dozens of ancient burial grounds lay beneath Manchester…

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phill.d / Flickr & Google Maps

It’s no secret that below the surface of the hustle and bustle of Manchester, there lurks a number of ancient burial sites.

Over the years, dozens of cemeteries were built across the city, with thousands upon thousands of bodies being buried, either in grand ceremonies or in archaic public graves. 

And while Manchester has been gradually built and developed above these cemeteries, their legacy remains way below the surface, unbeknown to the vast majority of the public. 

Here’s some of the most prolific burial sites the city has hidden beneath its surface…

St. Augustine’s Catholic Burial Ground, 1820 – 1854

Manchester Archives

While the St. Augustine’s Catholic Burial Ground was demolished over a hundred years ago, its remains continue to lurk beneath a part of Manchester University’s campus on Granby Row.

The burial ground at St Augustine’s officially opened in 1820 and was situated on Granby Row so that access could also be gained via pump Street. However, just a few years after its opening, the site attracted unwanted criminal activity, with William Harrison and William Johnson breaking in and stealing a body from one of the freshly interred graves in 1824.

In 1854, the burial ground became too full’and was considered a risk to human health, resulting in it permanently closing – that same year, excavations for a new schoolrooms took place, resulting in diggers accidentally spearing a buried body with their spades. 

The church of St Augustine’s remained in use until 1908 and a year later the church and the burial ground were sold to the Manchester Corporation. 

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Ardwick Cemetery, 1838 – 1950

Where the Nichols Community Football Centre now stands was the eerie Ardwick Cemetery, located just off of Hyde Road. 

The cemetery was first opened on March 11th 1838, with its first body being that of seventy-eight-year old Johanna Naylor. She was buried in public grave 1286 which, over the next eighteen months, another seventy-five coffins would join her.

By the end of the century, Ardwick Cemetery became the final resting place for some of the towns most influential and notable residents, including the chemist and physicist John Dalton, who apparently had one of the ‘grandest funerals’ the town had witnessed.

In 1950, the Ardwick Cemetery was officially closed for further burials, with an estimated 80,000 people having been interred over the years. Today, all that remains of the cemetery is the former stone gate posts that still mark the entrance of the football centre.

The New Burial Ground, 1789 – 1815

David Dixon / Geograph

Unbeknown to many of the Green Quarter’s residents, the popular Angel Meadow park sits upon an ancient cemetery known as the All Saints Burial Ground.

The cemetery first opened for burials on July 24th 1789 and is believed to have been made up of public graves – graves that would have contained several coffins of people that could not afford their own grave.

All Saints Burial Ground was deemed as full by 1815, with an estimated 30,000 – 40,000 bodies being buried there at one time. During the 1860s, the land was flattened and covered in flagstones, with it later being re-named St. Michael’s flags. 

And in the 1890s, the site and its many bodies was grassed over and converted into a public park, which it remains as to this very day. 

All Saints Burial Ground, 1820 – 1881

Manchester Archives

All Saints Park, just down Oxford Road past the Palace Theatre, sits upon the old All Saints Burial Ground, which welcomed its first body on April 19th 1820.

This burial site was one of the busiest in Manchester, with the number of bodies admitted becoming a real concern to the local residents. According to the archives, locals were worried that waste matter from the freshly buried corpses was seeping into the water supply and contaminating those living in the town… Makes your own worries seem insignificant, doesn’t it?

In 1856, the cemetery was partly closed under direction of the new Burial Acts, meaning no new graves were allowed to be dug. However, this closure did not satisfy the local residents, who complained to the Manchester Guardian that graves were remaining open for weeks, thus damaging the health of those that lived in the area.

Eventually, the grounds were sold to the council and in 1935, the All Saints playground officially opened. After the Blitz, it was transformed into the park it is today.

New Jerusalem Church, 1793 – 1854

Google Maps

Down what is now one of the more elusive ends of Manchester’s city centre once stood the New Jerusalem Church, which housed a seizable cemetery.

The burial ground ran along the side of the Church and, while it is unclear exactly how many burials were there, in 1854 it was closed and the Peter Street School was built on top of the land – now that’s what you call a haunted school.

In 1901 the building was obtained by the Manchester Corporation and the building was demolished. The Corporation then began an excavation process began to remove some of the bodies that still lay under the school.

After this process has finished the Methodist Mission built a new building called the Albert Hall, which still stands today.

Walkers Croft Burial Ground, 1815 – 1848

Google Maps

Hidden beneath the hustle and bustle of Manchester’s Victoria Train Station was once the Walkers Croft Burial Ground, an area notorious for body snatchers.

The first burial took place in 1815, with it being primarily reserved for pauper and public grave burials. However, much like other burial sites of its time, during the 1820s Walkers Croft Burial Ground came under attack from body snatchers, who were operating across a number graveyards across the town.

The burial site became the centre of a public scandal a decade later when a young cholera victim named John Brogan arrived for burial without his head, which had sickeningly been replaced with a brick.

The final burial at the site took place in 1848 and ground was sold to make way for the railway. Many of the bodies remained, with remains been found as recently as 2010.

Rusholme Road Cemetery, 1821 – 1954

Gerald England / Flickr

The Dissenters’ cemetery on Rusholme Road opened on May 16th 1821, and proved to be extremely popular amongst Manchester’s middle and upper classes, attracting some high-profile burials such as that of John Edward Taylor, the founder of the Manchester Guardian.

However, in 1837 the cemetery came under strain thanks to the severe influenza outbreak, which affected nearly every family in the town. On the worst day of the influenza outbreak, the number of burials in the cemetery reportedly reached thirty-six.

In 1954, the cemetery came under control of the Manchester Corporation, who informed relatives of the deceased that if they did not claim any of their memorials or headstones, the bodies would be removed and disposed of. As you can see, the 1950s were a grim time to be alive.

However, the bodies of those buried at the Rusholme Road Cemetery – which is estimated to be over 66,000 – remain peacefully undisturbed under the park.

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Feature

Did you know the NHS was born in Manchester 74 years ago today?

Happy birthday to the NHS!

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University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences / Wikimedia Commons & Peter McDermott / Flickr

Today, as our treasured National Health Service marks its 74th anniversary, we’re taking a look back on its extensive history and the substantial role Manchester played in its creation. 

Life before the NHS was a bleak one; before 1900, healthcare was typically provided by charities, poor law (the local welfare committees who operated workhouses) and a criminally unregulated private sector.

Others, including many in the lower middle class, struggled to afford treatment, relying on hospital casualty departments, kind-hearted doctors or dubious folk remedies – as a result of these archaic conditions, women frequently died during childbirth and the life expectancy for men was just forty-eight.

But in 1911, that was all set to change.

Science Museum Group / Wikimedia Commons

The National Insurance Act of 1911, something that many regard as the original groundworks for the NHS, was introduced and, for the first time, provided access to general practitioners for manual labourers and lower paid non-manual workers earning under a certain income. 

However, this groundbreaking new system wasn’t without its flaws – fees for GPs were increasing for the middle class and wealthy who were outside the system, and the wives and children of National Insurance members were excluded, as was hospital treatment, meaning that many had to pay further fees or rely on older workers’ society insurance schemes or free, less reliable clinics for mothers and children.

Something needed to change.

Nearly two decades later, the Local Government Act 1929 gave authorities the power to transform Poor Law institutions and develop them into the modern hospitals we know today. And, fast forwarding another two decades and another world war, Aneurin Bevan was appointed as the minister of health and thus, the wheels for the UK’s first National Health Service were set in motion.

Bradford Timeline / Flickr

On July 5th 1948, after years of hard work from various medical and political figures who felt the current healthcare system was insufficient and needed to be revolutionised, the first NHS hospital offering free healthcare for all, regardless of class, was launched at Park Hospital Manchester – known today as Trafford General Hospital.

On that historic day, Bevan arrived to inaugurate the NHS by symbolically receiving the keys from Lancashire County Council. Nurses formed a ‘guard of honour’ outside the hospital to meet him and, from that day forward, the healthcare of the nation changed forever.

In the early days, there were of course some teething problems – not long after its launch, expenditure was already exceeding previous expectations and charges were considered for prescriptions to meet the rising costs. However, by the time the 1960s rolled around, these early adjustments were altered and it was considered to be a strong period of growth for the NHS, characterised by new developments in the availability of drugs.

Since its birth here in Manchester, our NHS has gone through many changes, improvements, updates and modernisation processes, with no one back in 1948 ever fathoming the way in which the service has developed, pioneered and expanded from Manchester across the entire country.

Nicolas J Leclercq / Unsplash

However, there’s still room for improvement.

Today, the NHS continues to face a national crisis – the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the impact that years of underfunding has had upon our health care service and the long-serving staff members and medical professionals that continue to hold it together.

In October 2020, it was revealed by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) that as many NHS nurses died from Covid than were killed during the entirety of the First World War.

But regardless of the hurdles thrown in its path, the NHS continues to valiantly serve the British public – the idea of a National Health Service once upon a time would have been unheard of, yet today we cannot imagine a life without it.

Happy 74th birthday to our wonderful NHS!

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Feature

FORGOTTEN MANCHESTER: The rise and fall of Tommy Ducks

From coffins as tables and knickers stapled to ceiling, there wasn’t a lot that didn’t happen at Tommy Ducks…

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Salford_66 / Flickr

Out of all of Manchester’s weird and wonderful institutions, the legacy of Tommy Ducks remains today as one of the all-time greats.

 But what exactly happened to this infamous boozer?

Tommy Ducks stood proudly down what is now Lower Mosely Street, and is known to have roots dating all the way back to the 1800s. 

While it is widely believed that it was originally named The Prince’s Tavern, the pub underwent a name change at some point in the 1870s after its egotistical landlord Thomas Duckworth wanted to name it after himself. 

Manchester Libraries

But rumour has it that the painter-decorator hired to replace the pub’s sign either ran out of paint and supplies or found he didn’t have enough room to fit in the full name, so improvised and come up with the name Tommy Ducks, instead.

Of course, there’s no solid evidence for this mishap actually happening, but it is certainly one of the more believable rumours about the pub’s namesake.

Anyway, the pub settled with its abbreviated name and went on to quietly serve the good people of Manchester throughout the 1900s.

But then the 1970’s arrived, and Tommy Ducks started to gain a different kind of reputation, with it quickly becoming one of the most sought after boozers in the city – quite the accomplishment considering it was stood in the middle of a recently-demolished estate.

Rose McGivern / Facebook

One of the pubs more popular legacies is its makeshift tables – for reasons unbeknown to most Mancunians today, someone had the bright idea of using glass-topped coffins as tables, one of which was kidnapped by a rival pub for a while.

One of the coffins even featured a skeleton, which many people were adamant was a real one.

Tommy Ducks was also renown for having ladies knickers and bras stapled to the ceiling above the bar, with female punters allegedly been invited to remove their undies upon arrival (yes, before their first drink!).

The pub played home to these kind of shenanigans for the next couple of decades and, by the 1990s, it was one of the last standing buildings in the area, which lay in ruin following a mass demolishment.

Andrew Simpson

However, in 1993 the pub’s temporary preservation order – arranged by punters and supporters back in the 1970s – expired, plunging its future into uncertainty and doubt.

Greenalls Brewery, which ran the pub, was also coming under increasing pressure by fat cat developers to sell up and shut shop.

Tragially, the temporary preservation order expired on a Friday, meaning that the council offices were closed for the weekend. And because the order couldn’t be renewed until Monday morning, demolition began in the early hours of Saturday.

While Greenalls was eventually fined £150,000 for their act of destruction, it was still too late – Tommy Ducks and its abundance of coffins and bras was gone forever.

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Feature

It’s 26 years since the devastating IRA bomb and the people of Manchester are still waiting for justice

Why was no one ever arrested for the attack on our city?

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Manchester Fire / Flickr

Twenty-six years ago on this date, Manchester fell victim to one of the biggest bombs ever exploded in the United Kingdom. 

It was a beautiful, unusually sunny morning in Manchester on June 15th, 1996 – England were about to take on Scotland in Euro ‘96, football fans were swarming the city centre for the next day’s Russia v Germany fixture at nearby Old Trafford, and the Arndale Shopping Centre – built just twenty years prior – was heaving with weekend shoppers. 

However, the festivities of the warm summer’s day were all set to change when a security guard on the other side of the city received an anonymous tip off. 

Sometime after 9:38am, Gary Hall – a security guard at ITV’s Granada Studios – took a phone call from a man with a ‘very calm’ Irish voice, as per The BBC.

The anonymous man went on to inform Gary that he had planted a bomb in the city centre and it would be exploding in one hour. Following the phone call, the police were immediately notified and they sprung to action locating the bomb and evacuating 80,000 people from the area. 

However, this proved to be quite the task. At first, people were not keen to go; it was the 1990s and Mancunians had become seasoned to bomb scares.

One hairdresser allegedly refused to let his clients leave because they still had chemicals in their hair, arguing it would be ‘too dangerous.’ Alternatively, a group of workmen wanted to stay put because they were on weekend rates.

Slowly, though, the severity of the situation began to sink in, and authorities were able to successfully evacuate the centre, with some people screaming and running for their lives. 

Amid the chaos, police spotted a stationary white lorry parked on double yellows outside of Marks & Spencer with wires running from its dashboard. A bomb squad was swiftly dispatched from Liverpool; however, their attempt to dismantle the device using a remote-controlled robot failed.

At precisely 11:17am, the 3,300lb device exploded.

Smoke mushroomed above the city as the explosion shattered glass windows and rained building debris onto the people below. In the aftermath, emergency services scrambled to deal with the injured civilians – around 220 of them, to be precise – and fire crews searched shops and offices for casualties.

Yet despite the horror and the devastation, not a single person was killed in the explosion.

Nevertheless, Manchester’s city centre lay in ruins. Historic landmarks such as Manchester Cathedral and the Royal Exchange Theatre needed what has been estimated to be billions of pounds worth of repairs and renovations and, most gravely, hundreds of people were left with life-changing injuries, both physically and mentally. 

And yet, over a quarter of a century on from the devastating attack, the people of Manchester are still waiting for justice.

Quite remarkably, an arrest for whoever was responsible for the bomb was never made – it is widely believed that, while both Greater Manchester Police and Special Branch investigations identified the prime suspect, he was never actually arrested because of fears it could derail ongoing peace negotiations in Northern Ireland.

Graham Stringer, who led the council between 1984 and 1996 and who is today MP for the city’s Blackley and Broughton constituency, told The Independent: “I am sure the security services know who did this and I think it got caught up in the peace process.

“It’s appalling. In a democratic society, for someone to blow up the centre of a major city and injure hundreds of people, and then get away with it? It is wrong.”

In a 2006 review, GMP said there was no longer any ‘realistic possibility’ of a prosecution. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole said: “The Manchester bomb affected many people which is why the case has remained open and has been kept under constant review. As the 20th anniversary of the incident approaches, it is now the right time for another assessment of the case in order to identify and explore any possible potential investigative opportunities.

“If new information comes to light it would be considered, and I would urge anyone with information relevant to the investigation to get in touch with police.”

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