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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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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).

Manchester’s Finest Group

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.

Manchester’s Finest Group

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.”

Manchester’s Finest Group

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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The best winter walks near Manchester

Something to blow away those cobwebs…

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@lhphotographic / Instagram & PixelPlan

Christmas is for spending time with loved ones, giving gifts and, most importantly, eating copious amounts of food and drinking an unholy amount.

Most Mancunians will have completely smashed the latter so, today, could possibly be feeling a little worse for wear.

But luckily for them, Manchester is within close proximity to a number of beautiful nature spots and walking trails, all of which are ideal for blowing away the cobwebs and shifting some of the calories gained from all those roast potatoes. 

Here are some of our favourite spots…

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Snake Pass

The crossing between Glossop and Sheffield across the Peaks is mostly open moorland but, on one side of Snake Road, walkers will find stunning pine forest that makes for the perfect winter stroll.

The Snake Wood Circular is an extremely picturesque walk ideal for all the family, and boasts a magical river, moss-lined undergrowth and creeks with forty-foot high pines. 

This trail is pet friendly, and offers the perfect opportunity to escape from the city and reconnect with nature – though it is worth noting it will be closed in the event of icy weather. 

More information here.

National Trust

Lyme Park

Found in the south of Disley in the Peak District is Lyme Park, a sprawling 1,400 acre National Trust estate boasting stunning landscapes and an abundance of wildlife. 

The estate – once home to the Legh family – offers a number of fantastic walks at the Rose Garden, Ravine Garden or the reflecting lake, where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation.

Guests can even head inside the historic mansion to step back in time to the Regency era. 

More information here.

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Ladybower Reservoir 

The large Y-shaped body of water with giant ‘plugholes’ that most Mancunians will recognise is the Ladybower Reservoir, and it makes for the most scenic of winter walks.

Around an hour’s drive from Manchester city centre, it was built due to the large demand for water from nearby industrial towns and was officially opened by King George VI on September 24th 1945.

The reservoir itself is nestled within some stunning countryside, and the breathtaking views of water, woodland and moorland have long been a big draw for outdoor-enthusiasts – you’ll find loads of circular walking and cycling routes in the area, plus viewpoints.

More information here.

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Lud’s Church

Located near Buxton, Lud’s Church is a deep chasm full of history, myths and lots of greenery, with stone steps leading into another world.

The eighteen-metre deep chasm was created by a huge landslip, and has consequently been covered in moss and other plant-life over the years. It’s only 100-metres long, but you walkers can spend days taking in the outstanding natural wonders in all its nooks and crannies.

Lud’s Church became a secret worship place for people who faced persecution in the 15th Century. It was used as a church by the ‘Lollards’, followers of the reformer and ‘heretic’ John Wycliffe.

More information here.

May be an image of nature and waterfall

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Lancashire’s Japanese Lake

Tucked away around halfway up Rivington Pike is one of Britain’s lost gardens, according to Countryfile in 2014.

The Japanese Lake is part of the Rivington Terraced Gardens, and was built by the founder of the former Lever Brothers company – now known as Unilever – Lord Leverhulme, inspired by one of his many trips to Japan.

More information here.

@highheelsandhay / Instagram

Thor’s Cave 

Thor’s Cave, also known as Thor’s House Cavern and Thyrsis’s Cave, is a gigantic natural cavern found in the Manifold Valley of the White Peak in Staffordshire, and it offers some dazzling views.

The cave entrance comprises a huge symmetrical arch 7.5 metres wide and 10 metres high, and can be seen from the valley bottom around 80 metres below.

Walkers can reach the cave via an easy stepped path from the Manifold Way, with a 7.5km circular walk from Wetton village taking them along the River Manifold before passing by Thor’s Cave and other caverns.

More information here.

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The Manchester charity pairing young people with the elderly to combat loneliness at Christmas

Manchester Cares is doubling down its efforts to prevent loneliness among communities over the festive period

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For most, Christmas is a time for family and friends, but for others it is instead a time of isolation and loneliness. 

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, around 45% of adults in the UK experience some form of loneliness, a feeling that intensifies over the festive period.  

So this is why local charity Manchester Cares is doubling down on its efforts to combat the issue of loneliness among communities across Manchester this Christmas.

Founded five years ago, Manchester Cares brings younger and older generations together through group activities and one-on-one friendships, giving them the opportunity to build genuine and meaningful connections. 

Manchester Cares

Manchester Cares hosts and organises a whole variety of Social Clubs for its community members to enjoy together, including pub quizzes, wine tasting, documentary clubs and even trips to Manchester Art Gallery.

All free for those wanting to join them in their mission of bringing younger and older people together to build community and connection across our wonderful city. 

The charity relies heavily on the help of its members and volunteers to keep loneliness and isolation at bay. But as the cost-of-living crisis plunges the UK further into a loneliness epidemic, Manchester Cares needs your help more than ever before. 

Manchester Cares’ Head of Programmes Vicky Harrold says the charity will be organising and hosting a whole array of neighbour meet-ups and activity sessions for those struggling with both loneliness and financial pressures this Christmas.

Manchester Cares

Vicky told Proper Manchester: This Christmas we will be continuing to do what we do best, curate spaces that bring younger and older people together to share time, stories, and laughter. We want to be the place that provides emotional respite to all the challenging things that are happening in the world right now.”

Vicky also said that the charity will also be extending the length of its clubs this winter in order for neighbours to have somewhere warm to spend their time at no extra cost.

She added: “We’ll be offering food and refreshments along with festive films, parties, wreath making and most importantly the opportunity to have a chat with someone you wouldn’t ordinarily meet.” 

Manchester Cares

In addition to the Festive Clubs, Manchester Cares members will also be paying visits to anyone who they think will be spending the Christmas period alone in the week leading up to the big day.

Vicky explained: “Initially, we would give out little gifts, but we now recognise that it’s sharing time that means the most.

But Manchester Cares recognises that community and connection don’t just matter at Christmas; they matter all year round.

That’s why the charity is always welcoming new members to join its community network in its fight against loneliness in Manchester, regardless of the time of year.

Manchester Cares

People are now being urged to sign up through the Manchester Cares website and come along to one of its general inductions. Vicky stressed that there’s no expectation for anyone to get involved, and that it’s simply an opportunity to hear a bit more about what Manchester Cares does and how people can get involved.

Offering a final bit of advice for anyone struggling with any of these issues, Vicky said: “Try stepping away from social media and investing that time into creating meaningful interactions every day.

“This can be anything from making that call to a friend you’ve been meaning to for a while, to saying hello to the bus driver on your way to work.

“And if you’re lucky enough to still have older family members, we really encourage you to go and chat to them, pick up the phone or have a brew – we hear the best stories every day just from starting that conversation.

Manchester Cares

“And finally, there are so many amazing charities like ours doing such great work- volunteering your time can be such a fun and rewarding way to meet new people.

“We’ve seen over our first five years, sharing time is the best gift you can ever give.”

From November 29th to December 6th 2022, Manchester Cares is taking part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge to help bring our neighbours together to stay warm, active and connected. Donations made during that week are doubled, meaning your gift will make twice the difference this winter. Find out how you can support here. 

Manchester Cares is always on the look out for new volunteers, community members and neighbours to join them in their fight against loneliness. 

People can join the community, or can alternatively make a referral for anyone over 65 they think will benefit from the clubs and programmes. 

All of this can be done via the Manchester Cares website.

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