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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!

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Meet the legendary Pret barista from Piccadilly Station who recently went viral

‘It was just crazy, mind-blowing.’

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Manchester's Finest Group

A barista who works at Pret a Manger in Piccadilly train station has spoken about a tweet that went viral about him. 

The tweet was written by Nathan Bryon, who celebrated Morgan’s quick coffee making skills calling him an ‘MVP’ (most valuable player) and a ‘don’ on his Twitter page.

Nathan, 31, is an actor from Shepherd’s Bush who you may know him from the hit TV series Benidorm.

Morgan Bishop, 23, has worked at the coffee shop for three years after previously working as a chef. Used to working under pressure, he said he ‘thrives’ off the busy peak times early in the morning as people are commuting for work.

He said he first heard about the tweet when a friend messaged him to let him know. Morgan told us: “My friend said, ‘oh Morgan, I think this is about you,’ so I looked and I didn’t think it was going to do anything, but then people kept messaging me and putting up really nice comments.

“It was just crazy, mind-blowing. It’s really, really sweet to see posts and comments from strangers that are all about positive vibes. People have been saying things like I’ve got high energy when I serve them and stuff. I’m very grateful.

“I do briefly remember serving Nathan. Normally I remember peoples’ drinks but I don’t really remember his drink. I remember he was a really nice guy, really cool and dressed well. 

“I remember complimenting him on certain things, and then I think he turned around and said ‘thank you’ again before walking away. I didn’t expect him to put something up which was really cool. It’s really nice for people to see that you work hard or try hard.”

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Followers commenting on Nathan’s post immediately knew who the barista was and quickly commented to share if they too had been served by Morgan.

Grace Dent said: “I met him today!!! He was lovely.”

Claire Heavy added: “His name’s Morgan and he is a LEGEND. Makes my day every day.” Andy C wrote: “Served me on Saturday. Well fast.”

Morgan, who’s originally from Shrewsbury, went on to say that he’d love to have a coffee shop of his own in Manchester one day, and that he loves the city, adding: “It makes me want a coffee shop of my own. I love it here.”

When we posted the tweet on our Facebook, even Morgan’s mum got involved, writing: “Two things I love about this. 1. Morgan Bishop is my son (proud mummy right here) and 2. How lovely and kind the comments are. This is why we can’t get Morgan to move back home and why he loves Manchester so much “.

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The market traders facing closure after 53 years thanks to developers

The future is uncertain for three longstanding city centre market traders.

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In the row of units that extends around the corner to High Street by the Arndale, where Cafe Metro now stands empty, three market stall traders remain.

On the corner of a small stretch of Church Street, nestled between the edge of the city’s cool and quirky Northern Quarter and the trusty Arndale Shopping Centre, are the last few remaining outdoor market stalls.

It’s a funny little area that holds some remnants of the old Manchester, and it’s not pretentious in the slightest. Graffiti is scribbled across any spare patch of wall, post box and phone booth — no solid space gets away with it.

There are just three stalls remaining in the run-down plot, which sits beneath a tall concrete brutalist tower that used to hold a dental practice. 

Around the corner on the same development, the once bustling Cafe Metro — a much-loved coffee shop that served hot cuppas to Mancunians for more than four decades — now stands derelict and shuttered.

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“It’s a sign of the times,” says McCall’s grocery owner Mark McCall, a 59-year-old from Cheetham Hill who’s been trading in the city for 25 years. Mark is very hands-on and always appears busy. He’s either taking deliveries, disposing of boxes, taking calls or serving his customers. 

McCalls is a family-run greengrocers that provides shoppers with a variety of fresh produce sourced from other parts of the world. The McCall family have been trading for 122 years and customers young and old visit this stall to shop in a more personal way.

Asked why customers enjoy the experience of shopping from his stall, Mark replied: “In supermarkets, you don’t get the same value as you do in market stalls, you don’t get the same service, and you don’t get the same bargains.

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“We’re the last place where you can get a variety of produce, we’ve got Jamaican produce, and as you can see, the quality is a lot better. We get a lot of young ones coming in now, and they do enjoy being able to pick one or two things instead of a packet of things. 

“They’ve got their iPhones and they find a recipe on them and then come and pick the things they need for it from here.”

But in this city of constant construction, with skyscrapers cropping up here, there and just about everywhere, it will come as no surprise that potential developers have swooped in and want to potentially transform the empty tower block into apartments — meaning the row of stalls that skirt its base may have to go.

It has recently been announced that MRP, the developing arm of Irish firm McAleer & Rushe, have now bought the plot at 20-26 Hight Street from previous company CEG. It has been passed from one developer to another since 2019 with nothing coming to fruition so far.

Mark said: “Manchester city centre, as you know, is under development and we’re under threat at the moment because the building behind us, the old dentist hospital, has been sold to turn into flats. To develop that site, they actually need the land where we’re situated. We’re still under negotiations with them about the future, and what the future holds, we don’t know.”

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On the changing face of the city centre, Mark added: “For me, myself, personally, all the city centre is becoming plastic. If we go, all we need is another McDonalds or Starbucks. 

“We’re doing okay, but we’re surrounded by supermarkets, we’ve got Tescos, we’ve got Co-op, we’ve got Aldi, we’ve got Morrisons. This is the last bit of character left in Manchester city centre.

“If you could show me somewhere else in the centre that’s not been redeveloped, I’ll give you a million pounds. Show me a piece of land that’s left — there is none. The city has changed massively. I’m a bit old fashioned, I preferred it the way it was.

“I’ve built this up over 25 years and the lad next door to me has been here all together 53 years. I’ve done this since I was 14 years of age so I don’t know what else I would do.”

The ‘lad next door’ being Eddie Hopkinson, the 78-year-old owner of Manchester Bookbuyers. Eddie has a great sense of humour and his regulars pop-in to browse his hand-selected book collection and say ‘hello’ — as I witnessed on my visit.

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About whether he thinks the city has a future for market traders, Eddie said: “Well electricity has gone up. My last bill was £49, this bill was £185. Electricity is needed to keep these things running,” he said gesturing across to the Arndale’s indoor food markets, making a point about running costs not being sustainable in the long run.

He joked: “I’ve been here for 53 years, it could have been worse, I could have had to work for a living. Well, I got sacked from a job and I had the chance to start a business so that’s how I got into this.”

Eddie told me that he doesn’t read books and has probably read ‘about six in my life’, but he hand picks them himself from people with unwanted books, and tries to find interesting ones for his customers. He adds:“I keep getting feedback from the customers saying that they don’t want to see us go, but on the other hand, I can’t go on forever.

“You’ve only got to walk around and see the massive developments taking place and it’s mainly apartments. The commercial enterprises obviously think there’s a demand for them but personally, I don’t think there is a demand for all of them.”

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On how he feels about the direction the city is taking and the sudden appearance of multiple apartment blocks to fill with young professionals and city dwellers, he shrugs and says: “I’ve got no choice.” 

“Hobson’s Choice!”, chirps a regular, standing nearby and listening to our conversation. He laughs as he makes a joke with reference to a film set in Salford in the Victorian era, a romantic comedy about a family boot making business. He asks Eddie: “Are you alright, young man?”

I suppose you can’t always take life too seriously and times are always changing, regardless of whether or not we want them to. Eddie continues: “I guess I’ll have to like it or lump it.”

Another customer comes along with a hard-back book and asks him how much. Eddie looks at the book and says: “It’s an expensive book. Well it was when it was made, it was £54,” pointing to the old price label. “I’ll give it you for 20,” and the customer accepts.

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In a third stall Emmy, 30, works at McCall’s Organics. They stock sustainable and organically sourced goods — great for the eco-minded and hipster types that frequent the area. She’s been working here for two years and has lived in Manchester for 10. Emmy seems quite positive, with a sunny outlook and a warm smile to go with. 

She believes that if they have to move out of their Church Street premises, then there will always be another opportunity to do something similar elsewhere. “There’s always hope,” she says.

Manchester City Council have asked the developers to support the stall-owners to continue to trade, or to be compensated. Though the land that is up for development isn’t owned by the Council, it said: “The Northern Quarter is a special part of Manchester’s city centre, and part of its appeal is its mix of independent businesses. The site on Church Street is owned by a private developer.

“The Council is currently working with the new owners of the Church Street site to bring forward development. The Council has been clear throughout – both with the former owners and the current – that their proposals must include provision for the market traders to either support them to continue trading at the site, find a suitable alternative site close by or should any traders wish to cease operating come to an adequate compensation agreement. 

“We will continue to work with the developer in the coming months to ensure an acceptable resolution for the trading businesses.”

McAleer & Rushe have been contacted by Proper Manchester for comment.

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Thousands of teachers take to the streets of Manchester in mass strike action

‘We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.’

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Manchester's Finest Group

Thousands of teachers gathered on a blustery, grey-skied and rainy afternoon in Manchester city centre to march through the streets as part of a national day of mass scale strikes across the country.

Dubbed ‘Walk-out Wednesday’, February 1st has seen huge disruption to services all over the UK as workers take ‘last resort’ action over pay, conditions and budgets.

The National Education Union (NEU) is one of seven unions on strike today. Around 500,000 workers are expected to walk out, including university staff who are members of the University and College union (UCU), such as those at the University of Manchester. Also on strike are rail workers and border control.

Many classrooms across the region are closed for the day while NEU members strike, with some year groups told to stay at home. Students with upcoming exams and vulnerable children have been prioritised for a limited place inside their school today, following guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).

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The NEU says today’s action follows a series of real-terms pay cuts over the past decade, while this year’s pay rise offer of 5% falls well below inflation.  The union insists that pay and conditions are seeing significant numbers of teachers quit the profession.

Talks took place earlier this week between the NEU and the DfE in an attempt to avert today’s strike action but proved unsuccessful, as the union claim education secretary Gillian Keegan had ‘squandered’ the opportunity. The DfE says today’s strike action is ‘highly damaging to children’s education’ especially following the pandemic.

Still going ahead, crowds flocked to a very wet St Peter’s Square, with the meet-up time of 12.30pm. In typical teacher fashion, the city centre was already bustling with those working in education, as they showed up early to ensure a prompt start and express their passion for their jobs, their rights, and the rights of their pupils.

Also with them were union representatives, some children and general supporters of their cause. Horns were sounding, drums were banging and cheers could be heard just about everywhere. In contrast to the miserable weather, many teaching staff wore bright colours including knitted hats and bold coats, and were seemingly cheerful. Upon speaking to them, it became clear that they’d had enough and that it was time to take a stand.

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Amongst the noise and sea of people, Cath D, a primary school teacher spoke about why she felt she had to take strike action, saying: “I really did not want to be here today, I really wanted to be in my classroom having a normal day with my kids. But, things have become so difficult recently. It’s not just that we want more money, education is under-funded massively.”

Cath attended the rally with a group of teachers from her school based in Salford. She went on to describe how school funding cuts had affected the classroom: “The poor children. I’ve literally seen children fighting over pencils, can you believe that in 2023? 

“I wish I could say ‘here’s 100 pencils, it doesn’t matter’, but this is where we are at the moment. We are doing this for us; our wages have come down in real terms over the years, but I’ll leave all the statistics for the unions.”

On why changes were also necessary for children in education, she said: “For some children, school is the one constant that they have in their life and we’ve got to come in refreshed and remunerated. For some children, we’re the one constant that they have, and we need to be there for them.”

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After speakers talked to the crowds and people cheered in agreement, they started off on their march around the city. Among the marchers, a retired GMB union member stomped the streets in solidarity, he said: “We support the TA’s, the kitchen staff and all the support staff, managers and office workers around Tameside.

“We’re here to show we support the lowering of the pensionable age and to pay workers a proper wage that they need.”

Three English teachers from a school in Cheetham Hill spoke about the reasons they took strike action today, as one said: “It feels like the last resort, where we’ve had to come together and join all these people to make a point that we’ve been trying to for years and years, but no one’s listening.”

Another said: “Our children will not get the results that they need and deserve and want, if we have to put up with these conditions.” The third added: “It’s not just about our salaries, it’s all of the funding and resources that have been cut too.”

A Greater Manchester teacher for children with English as their second language, called Ali, said: “I’m striking because of the unacceptable situation that teachers and the education system are being put under.

“We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.

“What we need are more teachers and better pay. And, we can do that if we tax the people with more money, rather than what this government has been doing, which is tax rates for the rich and spending money in very unwise and corrupt ways.”

Despite what workers and unions are asking, the Education minister Gillian Keegan told the BBC that the government would not budge, and that giving in to demands for large wage increases would only fuel inflation.

“What we cannot do is give inflation-busting pay rises to one part of the workforce and make inflation worse for everybody. That’s not an economically sensible thing to do,” she said.

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