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Feature

How the Trafford Centre became one of Manchester’s most iconic landmarks

How it became our favourite place…

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Seth Whales

The Trafford Centre has been a landmark in Manchester for 22 years now, full of nostalgia for most of us, and the luxury of a ‘big day out’ to the land with fountains and a weird giant indoor ship.

With the recent sad news that the company who own the centre, Intu, has gone into administration, threatening the future of the Trafford Centre, we thought we’d take a look back at how it became the famous domed palace we all know and love.

Let’s kick it off with the initial building work, way back when Trafford Park was a huge industrial estate.

It might shock you to know, but a lot of people were against the idea of a whopping American-style capitalism-eat-your-heart-out mall in their beloved borough of Trafford.

Actually, maybe it won’t come as a shock to you…

The Trafford Centre, Manchester

Anyway, the proposals for the Trafford Centre flitted around for nine years amid concerns regarding traffic and what it would mean to the retail hub in the city centre.

By 1993 the Trafford Centre got the green light and was given full planning permission, but even that recieved a backlash that ended up in the high court. Eventually, in 1995, the House of Lords gave the go-ahead.

Construction took just 27 months and cost a whopping £600 million, and like any bit of building work it was over budget – only by a mere £350 million though.

Right, let’s move onto the design of the thing. It’s unforgettable, what with its giant blue domes that make you wonder whether it’s some sort of holy place of worship.

It’s pretty evident to see the Trafford Centre was designed with opulence in mind, the central dome is claimed to be bigger than St Paul’s Cathedral and cost a whopping £5 million to construct – and serves no real purpose but design.

Trafford centre

The palm trees on Peel Avenue are imported all the way from California, and The Great Hall is even home to the world’s largest chandelier, made from Chinese crystal and weighing a huge five and a half tonnes. That chandelier even has a staircase inside. 

The largest food court in Europe, The Orient, has a colour changing ceiling that you’ll find will be pink at dawn, blue in the afternoon, red and purple at dusk and features twinkling stars at night – just to really trick you into staying in the Trafford Centre all day.

The toilets are even grand, winning ‘Loo of the Year’ – a national award – for 17 years in a row. 

Of course, it wouldn’t be the Trafford Centre without some (read: a lot) of marble. Imported from across the globe, the Trafford Centre houses 45,000 square metres of marble and granite flooring that in 1996 was worth around £5.8 million.

The marble floors and 3.5 miles of brass found on the handrails and other detailing are cleaned and polished every single night.

intu Trafford Centre

The design was a collaboration between Chapman Taylor, an architectural practice, and Manchester-based Leach Rhodes Walker. In total, 24 architects worked on the project full time, monitoring the construction and interior design. That is after they produced over 3,000 separate shop drawings.

The Trafford Centre was even built equipped with an additional fourth floor during construction to make it ‘future proof’.

The whole building is stuffed full of little nods to important figures and places. The ship in The Orient nods to the Manchester Ship Canal and the industrial revolution, and in the window panes and interior cornices you’ll find the Lancashire Rose.

You’ll also find portraits of the owners along the walls and even the Mercedes that belonged to the mother of the Peel Holdings’ chairman.

FerdyMayne1/Twitter

In the early naughties, there were a lot of rumours that the Trafford Centre was home to thousands of body bags in its basement. Have a see for yourself here – we’ll let you come to your own conclusions about that one!

In 2013, Trafford Centre got its very own Sea Life Centre aquarium, adding to the cinema, Laser Quest, mini-golf, dodgems, bowling alleys and even the adjacent Chill Factore and indoor skydiving centre making it once and for all, a one-stop-shop for everything.

Since 2018, the Trafford Centre’s Barton Square has been getting a multi-million-pound redevelopment. Inside the square is a new dome, constructed of over 1,800 pieces of glass and weighing an impressive 250 tonnes. It also features 22 bees as a tribute to the 22 lives lost in the Manchester Arena Bomb.

There are also 33 detailed Roman murals and around the square are gold-leaf embellished columns, pilasters and the Grecian key cornices.

You’ll also find 43 bronze busts, 120 marble statues and most importantly a brand spanking (and massive) Primark store.

intu Trafford Centre

So what’s next for the place that welcomes over 30 million visitors in a (normal) year?

Well, things look set for a period of uncertainty due to majority shareowner Intu’s file for administration.

Some rumours are suggesting that the Peel Group will buy back it’s ownership of the Trafford Centre. It has been confirmed that TraffordCity and City Gateway developments are still going ahead, which also includes the brand new one of a kind Therme wellbeing spa!

Feature

Take a look inside the creepy abandoned Belle Vue Showcase cinema

Who else has great memories of this place?

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Mark Gardener

The Belle Vue Showcase cinema was somewhat of an iconic venue in Manchester, however, it is set to be demolished and replaced. 

The news came late last year that the cinema would be demolished to make way for a new secondary school.

The school, ran by the Co-op, is planning on having its first year sevens students in by September, although they’ll be placed in temporary buildings.

Sir Robert McAlpine / Space Architects

The new Co-Op Academy Belle Vue school is set to be finished in 2023, and a first glimpse of what it will look like has now been released. 

Newly released documents show a modern L-shaped building, which will be split into three different ‘zones’, including a two-storey sports block – complete with a sports hall, auditorium, and drama studio.

Mark Gardener
Mark Gardener

The iconic cinema first opened its doors in 1989 boasting a huge 14 screens in the entertainment complex.

Closing its doors back in March 2020, the cinema had been left abandoned all last year and started to look seriously creepy. 

Mark Gardener
Mark Gardener

The timeline for demolition hasn’t been given yet, and parents had to have applied for their child’s place in the new school by November 2nd last year – in case you were wanting to. 

Once the grounds of Belle Vue zoo and amusement park, the area will definitely have some stories to tell.

Mark Gardener
Mark Gardener

The Belle Vue Showcase cinema was one of the first multi-screen complexes to open up, bringing American films, no queues and car parks to fit a 1,000 cars – it was unlike anything that had ever been seen before when it first opened back in 1989.

Back in February last year when rumours began to circulate the cinema would be closing, Mark Barlow, general manager at Showcase Cinemas UK, said: “As the leader in UK cinema innovation, Showcase Cinemas remains committed to operating a cinema in Manchester and as such are in active discussions about future opportunities for a new, state-of-art cinema in the city.”

If you’re going to miss this iconic venue, the company are said to be looking into a new unnamed location for another cinema. They added that they ‘remain fully committed to the city’. 

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Feature

The 12 retro chocolate bars that need to be brought back immediately

Nostalgia guaranteed…

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Sadly many of the chocolate bars we were once delighted to see in our lunchbox no longer exist, snatched from us way before their time.

And I’m not the only one upset. Hundreds of petitions have been set up to bring back some retro classics and a handful have even been successful.

Last year, Cadbury announced it’s bringing back the Marble bar (only in Australia, unfortunately), proving that nagging works.

We’re still upset about a few other discontinued chocolate treats though…

White Maltesers

These delicious honeycomb and white chocolate balls were last tasted in 2014 and Mars have confirmed they have no intention of bringing them back. It’s a crime against humanity.

Poundland does its own version if you can’t go another minute with eating one. Sure, it’s not the original but they are almost as good.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Dream

This white chocolate revelation from Cadbury was taken from us too soon. It first graced the shelves back in 2002 and fizzled away just a few short years after.

You can still get the original in Australia and New Zealand and import it over if you’re that dedicated to the cause. Personally, I’d like to see this in corner shops all around the UK.

Credit: Galaxy

Galaxy Truffles

There was nothing quite like the feeling of dunking your hand in a box of Celebrations and pulling out a Galaxy Truffle.

That feeling was pure happiness and frankly, we all need it back. They’ve released some sort of knock-off Nigel version but I’m not buying it. We want the originals.

Credit: Cadbury

Time Out

It wasn’t until I started researching this that I discovered Time Out bars had sneakily been taken off our shelves and replaced with a single wafer version called Time Out Wafer.

Clever but you’re not fooling me with this smaller alternative.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Snaps

Two words we didn’t know we needed putting together; chocolate and crisps. Essentially these bad boys were chocolate Pringles and how iconic were they?

We lost these to the discontinued pile back in 2010 and things haven’t been the same since.

Credit: Mars

Mars Delight

The Mars Delight led a short life, just 4 small years. In part due to the fact that it was one of the most calorific bars ever made and it was released just when we were all getting fit – unfortunate timing.

6,423 signed a petition to bring these back in 2016 but there was no luck.

Credit: Cadbury

Flake Snow

She is beauty, she is grace! Another bad decision from Cadbury was to remove the Flake Snow from our lives.

Nothing beats the promo of this either, a sponsored photoshoot at Anthea Turner’s wedding?! ICONIC.

Credit: Fox’s

Echo

Fox’s Echo bars were classic lunch box biscuits. They were discontinued and replaced with an inferior bar that we won’t even give any limelight.

Absolutely partial to a mint one but nothing could beat that mix of white and milk chocolate that would just melt in your mouth.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Marble

Cadbury Marble is only back in Australia so it is definitely going in the list of things we need back in the UK.

Marble is quite possibly one of the most missed creations of Cadbury, complete with swirls of milk chocolate, white chocolate and hazelnut praline. Dribbling already. 

Credit: Cadbury

Wispa Mint

These rivalled Aero Mint (easily) but unfortunately never proved popular enough, being taken from our shelves back in 2003. Something about that velvety chocolate though… 

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Taz

The best thing you could get with the spare change you’d find down the sofa was a Cadbury Taz or a Freddo. The Taz has been replaced with a caramel Freddo instead, and I’m sorry but it’s just not the same.

Credit: Cadbury

Cadbury Spira

This is like an ’80s version of a Twirl. Because I was born in 1996 I can’t comment on this bad boy, but I’ve heard good things and there is a petition to bring it back so they must’ve been popular enough to create an army of fans.  

Have we missed any? Let us know in the Facebook comments…

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Feature

There’s an abandoned bar hidden underneath Manchester’s Victoria Station

Would you dare explore underneath Victoria Station?

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Finest Media & 28dayslater.co.uk

The Urban Collective search cities and urban landscapes for hidden, unexplored derelict sites, filming the process so we get to see. 

Recently, The Urban Collective headed underneath Manchester’s Victoria Station to see the inner workings beneath the station.

Manchester’s Victoria Train Station opened all the way back in 1844, and was designed to help connect Leeds with the port city of Liverpool via train. 

The initial building was designed by the ‘Father of Railways’, George Stephenson, who was heavily involved in the UK’s early rail networks. 

Finest Media
Finest Media

The original building was a long, single-storey structure that you can still see just next to the large Arena steps. 

By the early 1900s, the station had 17 platforms and a huge façade, designed by William Dawes, which still exists today.

The Urban Collective headed underneath the station via the old station offices in the main building, and descended into the now derelict B.R.S.A club.

Finest Media

28dayslater.co.uk

The club was an underground bar owned by the British Railway Staff Association, and operated as a typical working men’s club during the ’70s and ’80s.

It’s tucked away below the station and the street itself, with punters heading down for a pint near the top station entrance. 

28dayslater.co.uk
28dayslater.co.uk

You could also get in via the glass building over the road, which later became a barbers.

The bar, topped with glass, as well as wooden floors and other original features are still intact. There’s even a creepy cellar full of crates and thousands of discarded lager bottles.

Old posters are still on the walls, plus there’s even electricity still supplied which makes the fan above the dance floor occasionally spin. 

Members nicknamed their fave spot ‘The Vic Bars’, and train staff regularly attended day and night to see organists and cabaret acts throughout the week. 

28dayslater.co.uk

The club was eventually closed in 1992 and has remained derelict and forgotten ever since. 

However, the club unit is now under offer as a potential new club, pub or retail unit, despite the considerable amount of work that needs to be undertaken. 

You can check out The Urban Collective on YouTube here.

 

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