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Forgotten Manchester: The lost street and flats on top of the Arndale Centre

The somewhat unknown story of Cromford Court…

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MMU Visual Resources Centre

While Manchester’s famed Arndale Centre is known these days for its abundance of shops and  mind-bogglingly confusing lay out (or is that just me?), it was once known as home to a number of residents living on its roof.

Yep, when the Arndale opened in 1975, it did so with a number of three-storey apartment blocks, collectively containing sixty individual studios, two bedroom and three bedroom flats hidden away up on the roof. The complex even had communal gardens with trees and hedges, something known at the time as an ‘oasis in the city.’

Now, it’s no secret that city centre living can come with many flaws – tiny studios, nightmare landlords, sky high rent, you get my gist. But have you ever fathomed living directly on top of town’s busiest shopping centre? This was actually a reality for many city-centre dwellers back in the 1980s, a time when only 1,000 people lived in the centre, a stark comparison to todays estimate of 60,000. 

MMU Visual Resources Centre

Cromford Court, known to tenants as ‘the podium’, was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on July 20th, 1981, and was named in tribute to the area that existed prior to the shopping centre which housed it above the city.

One person who can offer a rare insight into life aloft the Arndale is former Hacienda DJ Graeme Park, who previously recalled: “Not long after I started DJing at The Hacienda, Mike Pickering moved to one of the flats above the Arndale Centre in Manchester. 

“In 1988, I’d roll up to Mike’s every Friday and park my car in the Arndale’s multi story car park and get the lift from the street up to the roof.

“It was weird, because you’d expect a great view, but the flats weren’t as high up as people thought.  You could see some of the city and look down at people on the street whilst walking from the lift to Mike’s flat but once inside you couldn’t see anything but the lift.”

Guinness Northern Counties

He went on to describe the rooms in the property, recalling how the flat itself was ‘very dark downstairs but bright upstairs.’ On one occasion, Park got stuck in the lift between floors, so would frequent the ‘foul smelling stairs’ when he visited instead.

However, life for Cromford Court tenants changed forever on Saturday June 15th, 1996 – an IRA bomb was detonated from a vehicle just yards away on Corporation Street. A surveyor for Manchester City Council, Mr. Larmett, and his colleagues were assessing the damage when they heard there may be someone still in the flats.

Mr. Larmett said, as per the BBC: “Effectively, the Arndale had been cordoned off, so we met police at the entrance and picked our way up to the flats. Sure enough, there was an older chap still living in his flat.

MMU Visual Resources Centre

“He said that he had had a spot of flu and had gone to bed, ill. He’d been a rear gunner in a Lancaster in the war, which was much more dangerous than the situation he was in now and said he was buggered if he was going to let a small bomb affect him.”

Thankfully, no one was killed in the explosion, but it did signal the end of an era for the Arndale’s rooftop dwellers. 

While the flats remained unscathed, the bomb triggered a new renovation vision for the Arndale and, for all the ideals the rooftop location presented, it certainly had its downfalls – the financial handling of the company was peculiar and often unfair, the area was lively and thus the go-to spot for parties which, although not a problem in itself, left the area open to crime.

Seven years later in 2003, Cromford Court was demolished and the residents relocated to various locations across the city. 

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Street photographer creates incredible Mini Manchester and Blackpool nostalgia photo series

The photography series aims to encapsulate significant parts of Manchester’s history

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@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

Whether it be retro beer cans or vintage match boxes, there isn’t much that Gisela Szlatoszlavek will limit herself to to capture the spirit of the city.

While Gisela works full time as a teaching assistant, she is also a keen street photographer with a passion for documenting gentrified areas of Manchester, with her even having published That Golden Mile, a sell-out book on Blackpool street photography.

And it was a combination of these two professions that sparked the idea for her ‘Little’ series, with Gisela finding inspiration during a photography lesson.

Talking on the birth of the miniature series, which sees her create scenes using tiny models, Gisela told Proper Manchester: “The pupils were working with small figurines around the classroom, and it made me think of how well that would work out in the street. 

@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

“I started with Blackpool, and thinking of places that make the town iconic and recognisable… like the sunburned men wearing vests and local mums pushing prams.”

And being a local lass herself – she hails from Oldham – Gisela knew that Manchester and its vast history would provide the perfect backdrop for her new series.

She explained: “Everything I’ve done up to now is a nod to something special about the city, such as the Haçienda, the Manchester bee, Manchester United, and Manchester City.”

And despite the series only being a couple of months old, Gisela has countless instalments of a variety of different themes under her belt, all of which give an insight into life in both Blackpool and Manchester.

@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

Her photographs range from trips to the football, chippy teas and seaside fun in Blackpool, and even trips to the iconic Haçienda nightclub – complete with a pair of maracas, of course.

And fans of Gisela’s work will notice a recurring retro theme, which in itself is a nod to her own passion for the 1980s: “That era was fantastic, I wish I could have taken these photos back then.

“So I wanted to try and create a lot of my series around that time period.”

A lot of the props used in the series are genuine vintage too, including retro beer cans found on eBay, cassette tapes and even match boxes from the era.

Putting together these images is no walk in the park, however, with some taking Gisela several weeks to complete from start to finish. 

@giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

Every aspect of the photo – from the initial idea to the construction itself – is a painstaking process, with Gisela often spending hours at a time scouring through Google Street View to establish which spots will work the best, whether it be the aesthetics, the lighting or just for the finer details to add to the final image.

Gisela then buys the figurines online, and spends even more time hand painting them to adapt them to different scenes – for some photos, she’s even gone to the effort of making miniature outfits using a magnifying glass.

And actually taking the photos is no easier, mainly thanks to members of the public and busy traffic, which Manchester’s city centre in particular has an abundance of.

She explained: “Unsurprisingly, Market Street is definitely the hardest location to work, thanks to the volume of people and things going on in the background. @giselaszlatoszlavek / Instagram

“Because I have to be as low to the ground as possible, I do get members of the public coming up to me and asking what I’m doing and checking that I’m okay… Some people even think I’ve collapsed in the street!

“But most people are lovely, and are just curious and want to know what I’m doing.” 

While the Little Manchester and Little Blackpool series remains as a side project for Gisela at the moment, she aims to one day collaborate with other artists, and eventually take on paid commissions. 

This is only the beginning for Gisela’s Little series, so make sure to follow her official Instagram page to stay updated with her latest work.

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Londoner shares his list of ‘observations’ about Manchester after spending four days here

City centre traffic, dog poo bags littering canals and Mancunian women dressing like Wim Hoff were all big talking points…

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Mylo Kaye / Unsplash

Whenever someone from the south is brave enough to venture up North, they’re usually met with a bit of a culture shock.

And this week, one Londoner fared no differently.

Taking to Reddit, the anonymous man explained that he had spent four days in Manchester and, while he described the city as ‘glorious’ and said he couldn’t wait to visit again soon, he was left with a few observations and questions.

He began by noting how ‘very small’ the city is – though he did point out that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because he was able to ‘walk everywhere’.

Fran Serra / Unsplash

Beats getting the tube, doesn’t it?

However, he then pointed out how nobody moves out of the way while walking in different directions in the street (presumably Market Street…), saying it made him feel like he was ‘in the Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony video’.

Other observations included a ‘disproportionate number of great restaurants’ and a lot of ‘beautiful buildings that seem to be falling apart’.

And, in one perception that may surprise many, he gushed at how ‘very quiet’ Manchester’s city centre roads are, mainly thanks to the ‘revolutionary lack of traffic’.

@mangopearuk / Unsplash

He also questioned if all Mancunian women are avid followers of Wim Hoff, a Dutch motivational speaker famed for his love of running through snow and ice wearing next to nothing.

With this, he admitted that their ‘ability to sport such minimal attire in such minimal temperatures was humbling’.

And staying on the topic of Mancunian clothing, the Redditor pondered what the obsession is with suit style jackets for women, while also pointing out the ‘lack of effort from their male counterparts’.

He added: “Tight Jeans, a branded white tee and some Yeezy’s seem the standard uniform.”

Chris Curry / Unsplash

However, not all of his observations were so light hearted, with him noting a blatant difference in Manchester’s racial diversity compared to that in the capital.

He wrote: “It’s very white. Having grown up in London I am used to seeing a fairly even spread of brown people. For such a metropolitan city this was the biggest surprise for me.

“I only had one instance of racial abuse. This is something that I don’t get in London.”

And he rounded up his observations with a question that many Mancunians will have asked themselves over the years: “Why are there loads of dog poo bags scattered along the canal toe paths? [sic]”

You can read the full post here.

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MANCHESTER’S MOST HAUNTED: The haunting of the Town Hall

More than just council officials lurk the Town Hall’s corridors…

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Steve & Michael D Beckwith / Flickr

Manchester has had its fair share of ghostly happenings over the decades, what with its dark and grizzly industrial past.

There’s the poltergeist of Westhoughton, a ghostly Black Shuck dog lurking within Manchester Cathedral and the sinister Grey Lady of Cheetham’s School of Music.

But did you know that the city’s Town Hall has its own sinister story?

Completed in 1877, the Grade I listed building is home not only to Manchester City Council, but apparently a few ghostly residents, too.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

There have been countless reports of ghost sightings within the walls of this historic building over the years, with the spirits of deceased councillors allegedly roaming the many halls and corridors.

But the most frequently seen ghost is that of a Victorian police officer who is said to have died in the late 1800s.

Rumour has it that despite his death hundreds of years ago, this ghostly bobby continues to patrol the halls of the building, scaring off countless visitors and ghost hunters in the process. 

Ian Waring, a member of the Tameside-based paranormal investigations group Shadow Seekers, claims to have seen the spirit in the flesh in what he called an ‘incredibly strange and bizarre’ encounter.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

It happened during one of his guided tours of the building, where he takes on the ghost hunting persona ‘Flecky Bennet’.

Ian told Mancunian Matters at the time: “I took this big gentleman around the first part of the tour in the town hall, and then he disappeared.

“He was stood in the middle of the group, but no-one saw him disappear and there was nowhere he could have gone, it was a big open area.

“The next day I explained to the town hall what had happened and they said he sounded like a police officer who died in the late 1800s.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

“I looked up a photograph of him and it was definitely the man who was on the tour. It was incredibly bizarre, really strange.”

But people had been experiencing this ghostly copper decades prior – around twenty years ago, an unsuspecting electrician had been working late at night in the upper reaches of the building when he felt an eerie ‘disturbance’. 

When he looked around, he found a Victorian-looking gentleman staring at him and silently smiling. 

The electrician fled the scene and reported what he had seen to his foreman, who of course didn’t believe his tale. At this, the foreman instructed the terrified man to return to upper reaches to collect his tools, which he refused to do.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

Eventually, the foreman went to collect the tools himself but, minutes later, returned with a look of sheer terror, having clearly experienced a firm telling off by the officer himself.

Other myths in the building include a spirit that hates the sound of whistling – anyone found to be making the noise is plunged into darkness with a few slamming doors for good measure.

Some members of staff also claim that the late Mayor of Manchester Abel Heywood haunts the the clock mechanism room, which seems appropriate considering he gave his name to the hour bell in the clock tower. 

But fast forwarding to today, the Manchester Town Hall is still undergoing its extensive £328m renovation, which poises the question as to whether its ghostly inhabitants will still be there upon completion. 

Though there will be only one way to find out…

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