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Feature

Is Manchester’s infamous ‘Canal Pusher’ real?

It’s been disputed…

Alex Watson

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Smabs Sputzer / Flickr

The Canal Pusher is easily one of the most famous characters from modern Manchester folklore.

In the past decade, an estimated 77 bodies have tragically been pulled out of Manchester’s canal and waterway network. Most of them are young men.

Many publications around the country eagerly jumped on the idea that Manchester is home to a serial killer, donned ‘The Canal Pusher’. The stories spread across the world, despite continued denial from the Greater Manchester Police.

Credit: Alarn Burnett / Flickr

So, why do people think The Canal Pusher is real?

It boils down to the connection between The Pusher and the definition of a serial killer.

Serial killers murder simply to murder without empathy or feeling and there is usually some sort of sexual gratification involved.

In the instance of a serial killer, victims are usually murdered in the same manner and have something in common which is usually to do with their appearance or gender.

Many but not all of The Pusher’s potential victims were young men. Of the 77 cases, only 12 were deemed to be in mysterious circumstances. In the majority of the victims, there were no signs of struggle or any evidence of suspicious injuries including sexual assault.

Credit: Patrick Robert Doyle / Unsplash

There are of course anomalies, such as Tony Scanlon who was found in the Ashton Canal in March 2007 with “cuts and bruises to his head”.

So, if all of these deaths are victims of The Pusher, why aren’t they all the exact same? Potentially, the person could be a ‘Thrill Killer’. Whereby they seek for the ‘adrenaline rush’ of killing, the attack is usually not prolonged and there is no aspect.

In these instances, the victims are usually strangers and the killer becomes more successful as they refine their murder methods.

But even serial killers make mistakes.

Credit: Kris Davis / Flickr

Which brings us to our next problem with The Canal Pusher theory, not one single person has survived and managed to tell the tale. Almost all serial killers mess up at least once. Mistakes are human nature so it’s unreasonable to assume the Pusher hasn’t made even one tiny error.

Of course, there is one report of the Canal Pusher. A cyclist on the towpath was violently thrown into the canal one night in April 2018. He gave a very vague description of The Pusher: a white male aged between 20-40, average height and wearing a black jacket.

Police pretty quickly dismissed this claim as completely unrelated to the other deaths as there was no evidence to suggest any link.

Credit: Paul Morgan / Flickr

Along with a lack of survivors, there’s also a lack of evidence to support the theory of The Canal Pusher. Manchester is littered with CCTV so unless this person has an invisibility cloak it would be near-impossible to operate almost 100 crimes without ever being caught, seen or so much as even arousing suspicion at any of the events.

What’s actually happening then?

In the most part, it’s believed these deaths are a long string of tragic accidents, which are typically put down to too much alcohol or drug use.

Such tragic deaths are pretty common in any other city where there is a large waterway. In the same time period, Amsterdam saw 88 drownings. Meanwhile, in London around 250 people a year are pulled out of the Thames.

Credit: Hugo Karpinski / Flickr

It goes without saying that there are many bars along the canal in Manchester so these accidents are quite likely given the intoxication levels about on a weekend – pre-lockdown, of course.

The fact that almost all the victims are men speaks volume too – with many men looking to the canal as the perfect opportunity to relieve your bladder when you’re drunk.

So with little to no evidence to support the theory, the more obvious conclusion is to say that The Canal Pusher is simply just an urban legend.

Credit: Salim Virji / Flickr

But while there’s likely no serial killer stalking the canals of Manchester, you should still be careful on the waterways, as those tiles can easily become slippery in this rainy city.

And don’t ever think about going down there after a few drinks, no matter how good of a swimmer you are – stay safe out there everyone.

Feature

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

How it became our favourite place…

Alex Watson

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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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Feature

The rise and fall of Boddingtons, a proper Manchester institution

Where did it all go wrong?

Proper Manchester

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Literature & Libation

Boddingtons went from a roaring success to almost impossible to find, so what happened?!

Boddington’s became known as The Cream of Manchester in the 1980s, but to understand how it became such a huge part of the city’s history we need to go back to a time when people drank beer instead of water.

Hundreds of years ago, water was a huge cause of serious sickness and unfortunately a lot of death. And as communities and civilisations grew the water got dirtier and even deadlier as sewers flooded into open water sources.

This is where beer came in, fermented and brewed making it healthier than water to drink. It was much thicker and a lot weaker than we know it to be now. But even back then you would regularly find the whole family chugging a few glasses at the dinner table, even the kids.

Keith Williamson/Wikimedia

Mostly, beer was brewed within households. But as families got bigger and the need for space over a spot for brewing became more important.

Monasteries and schools started to lead the way for larger scale brewing operations. Manchester Grammar School used their ‘free’ workers to create beer under the guise of education and by the mid-1700s the school had a huge monopoly on the grinding of grain in the city.

As workplaces grew in the city, the desire for a nice place for a swift pint after work became huge. Hundreds of small brewers began setting up shop, including Strangeways Brewery.

In 1831, Strangeways Brewery employed John Boddington as a clerk. From a poor, large family down South, his family got wind of the job opportunities in prosperous Manchester and quickly followed suit chasing that northern dream.

In Memoriam: rattypete/Flickr

Surprisingly, it wasn’t John who set up Boddington’s as we know it. It was actually his brother, Henry.

John pursued a career in Corn & Provisions, emigrating to America and dying penniless over there 20 years later.

Henry on the other hand, got a job at his brother’s old workplace and quickly made a name for himself, becoming a partner in the firm just 10 years later. He borrowed some money and became the sole owner in 1877.

By this point, they were the biggest brewery in Manchester, with their output growing from a mere 10,000 to 100,000 barrels a year.

Dunk/Flickr

Henry, as you can imagine, died a very rich man in 1886. His fortune equates to around £19.2 million in today’s monetary terms. His son William Slater took over, made the company public, doubled its value and so Boddingtons Breweries Ltd. was born.

By the turn of the century, Boddingtons were the 12th largest tied estate in the UK, owning over 200 public houses across the country.

But then there was the English Beer Scandal in 1900.

Over 6,000 people were poisoned and 70 people died from arsenic in the beer of many of the city’s breweries. While the illness was prevalent across the Midlands and North West England, Manchester was the most heavily affected by it.

It turns out hundreds of Boddingtons’ barrels were poisonous due to the sugar in the fermentation process – the beer market by then was very competitive, and high-quality barley malt was replaced with low quality in efforts to reduce costs.

Mikey/Flickr

This meant the barley was supplemented with sugar, a sugar that was made by heating starch with acid to form glucose. The acid was unpurified sulphuric acid used by Bostock & Co. which contained arsenic.

The poison remained in the sugar, and then subsequently poisoned the beer and thousands of people.

There was a significant decline in the birth rate in 1901 in Manchester, Salford and Liverpool, with an investigation later concluding that the arsenic epidemic was to blame.

A subsequent investigation into the mass poisoning later revealed that arsenic had been present in beer for decades – unknowingly poisoning thousands.

However, Boddingtons managed to get over this blunder and actually continued to be prosperous for the next century.

Keough/Flickr

In World War II Boddingtons’ brewery was smashed to bits by the Luftwaffe in the Manchester Blitz, and they were forced to close for several months.

As a result, the the brewery was modernised and improved, becoming the first in Europe to install stainless steel brewing vats and getting all of the best mod-cons of the age.

During this time the Boddington family were selling shares and by 1930 only owned around 40% of the business. Then in 1961, Whitbread bought a 13% stake in the company.

In 1969, an attempted hostile takeover of the company took place, with Allied Breweries trying to force out the family and strip away its independence.

Whitbread actually raised the Boddington family’s stake to 23%, and by 1971 Allied Breweries had sold their 35% stake – leaving the family with 10% and Whitbread with 25% of it.

CrossingTheLineDVD/Youtube

The ’80s saw huge growth for Boddingtons Bitter. The brand expanded outside of Manchester for the first time and people became enamoured with the cheap and distinct beer.

By 1986 they had 580 tied pubs and were producing over 500,000 barrels a year (while only maintaining a 50% capacity at the brewery). Finally, though, Boddingtons was sold to Whitbread for £50.7 million in 1989.

It was during the Whitbread era that Boddingtons became an international brand and a household name.

Much of the success of the brand is attributed to one of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time, ‘The Cream of Manchester’.

The style, swagger and colours highlighted perfectly the iconic taste of Boddingtons, and helped put Manchester on the map.

After the ’90s soaring success came the ‘fall’ of Boddingtons. It moved away from Manchester, the taste changed and the sales reflected that.

By this point the company had been acquired by Belgian brewer Interbrew, who are now known as InBev. By 2004 production had moved to South Wales and Lancashire.

The brewery had a huge send off in 2006 hosting the first ever Warehouse Project before the building was knocked down completely, and replaced by a car park – which it remains to this day.

The beer, however, remains the sixth best-selling bitter in the UK despite its sales falling by three quarters and it disappearing from the taps of many pubs.

If you do fancy a pint of it though, you can grab a draught pint at The Bay Horse in the Northern Quarter. And good news folks, it’ll be set to open its doors very soon now Boris has given the green light!

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Feature

Stunning rooftop photos show what Manchester looked like before the Arndale

Who remembers town looking like this?

Alex Watson

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Manchester History / Facebook

A series of freshly released photos show what the city looked like in the early ’70s, before the Arndale was built. 

Dave Williams shared the amazing pictures, which he took of the city back in the early 1970s, in the Facebook group Manchester History.

The images have been very well received, with plenty of comments commending them – and it’s easy to see why, as they give a fascinating insight into what the city used to be like.

Many people have expressed admiration for a look back at the city they remember growing up in! 

Manchester History/Facebook

The images were shared in the Manchester History group, and are mostly taken from the roof of what was then called Highland House in Salford, opposite Manchester Cathedral, where Dave used to work. This is now the North Tower and is a residential building. 

The cityscape looks a lot different without the iconic Arndale towering over the centre, and many people noticed the ‘gaps’ ahead of making space for the Arndale.

More of Dave’s pictures are below:

Manchester History/Facebook
Manchester History/Facebook
Manchester History/Facebook
Manchester History/Facebook
Manchester History/Facebook
Manchester History/Facebook

For more about the history of the Arndale, you can see how much it has changed over the years in these amazing pictures here

Do you have any old pictures of the city? Share them with us in the Facebook comments, we’d love to see them! 

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