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Feature

Manchester’s Primark building has an incredible secret history behind it

If only these walls could talk…

Alex Watson

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Gerald England / Geograph

Before Primark became the shining beacon of cheap, it was Lewis’s – and until around 10 years ago my mum still called it that.

It’s like how House of Fraser is still called Kendals or Starbursts called Opal Fruits, and I’m ‘just supposed to know’ what the heck she is on about.

The first Lewis’s to open outside of Liverpool – where it originated – selling men’s and boy’s clothing, was the Manchester branch, which opened its doors way back in 1877.

The company was known for its large, elaborate corporate events and they spent a huge amount on promotions, sales and definitely Christmas.

Lewis’s bought Selfridges in 1951, which was struggling back then. It became a part of the US retail giant Sears, and opened Miss Selfrige in 1996. From then, Lewis’s pretty much went downhill and ended up in the high street graveyard alongside C&A, Woolworths and most recently BHS.

KEN232G Greater Manchester PTE 6392 Mosley Street

One of the original entrance ways to the store, which was long and curved, can still be seen today if you notice the glass-covered walkways that extend from Burger King to Caffè Nero.

This sort of explains how you can go into Primark from the bus station and end up on Market Street, wondering what magic happened in between the aisles and aisles of cheap clothing that made you teleport to another street.

Lewis's Arcade
testchamber.net

As a kid this was as mind bending as cinema complexes are to this day. I just don’t understand how they all fit ok?!

Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered why Caffè Nero looks like it’s just been plonked between two buildings, it’s because it was. Around the back of the coffee shop is the original glass walkway in all its glory.

Another impressive feat of the Primark building that it owes to Mr Lewis, is the massive dome on the top. It’s a huge and incredible bit of architecture that is pretty well hidden.

On the fifth floor of the building you’ll find what was once the grand ballroom, complete with a sprung dance floor and the concave side of that dome roof.

goneeightyfive.com

The ballroom was home to massive staff parties, summer balls and Christmas get-togethers, as well as being used as an exhibition hall for whatever was going on at the time.

Quite literally everything happened in this ballroom from football player autograph signings to dance contests.

It’s pretty much been left for decades now – mostly asbestos is to blame, and the fact that despite Strictly’s efforts no one ballroom dances anymore.

If you scuttle down the stairs to the basement of Primark, and I don’t mean the kid’s section, there’s a whole other floor below that.

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The sub-basement floor, believe it or not, was once flooded as part of an elaborate effort to create a Venice-themed area complete with gondolas.

The story goes that the basement was flooded (probably still is now) and the good folk of Manchester were charged for a thrilling and yet simultaneously incredibly slow ride on a gondola. It didn’t stick around for too long as you can imagine.

In 1975, this basement became the location of an IRA bombing that targeted key points of Manchester and the rest of the UK in a vicious 3-week campaign.

In total, 19 people were injured by this, and the basement was boarded up and has been forgotten about ever since. You actually can’t find any pictures of it, it lives only in the memories of a very small population of Manchester.

Google Maps

Or at least you’d think it was boarded up.

At some point in the ’70s, Peter Stringfellow opened up Millionaire Club – a disco venue that was popular amongst all flare-wearing, flop-haired Mancs.

The club was located in the basement and pretty swiftly got a risqué reputation, from topless staff to regular strippers, as well as one bloke who robbed a Fiesta and tried to ram it through the entrance after being refused entry.

So next time you head to Primark to get some one quid knickers, think about all the tales that will be lurking in those walls, from gondola rides to nightclubs, ballrooms – and I can only imagine many ghosts…

Feature

Inside the Wigan home ‘frozen in the 1970s’ that’s on the market for the first time ever

This is ICONIC!

Alex Watson

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Regan and Hallworth

If you love the ’70s you’ll love this house that is going on the market for the first time, which will transport you to the decade of platforms, flares and shag pile carpet. 

The family home in Wigan is thought to be going on the market for the first time ever, but inside is a ’70s lover’s dream.

Throughout the entire house is décor from the decade, including a retro orange sofa, plenty of frosted glass and shag carpets of course. 

It’s three bedroom and is tucked away in Parbold on Croasdale Drive.

Regan and Hallworth
Regan and Hallworth

Estate Agent Regan and Hallworth say that ‘despite requiring extensive modernisation’ the house ‘has an undeniably timeless appeal’.

You’ll also find teak wood storage units in just about every room, and plenty of earth-toned accessories throughout. 

Regan and Hallworth

There’s a huge copper fire place in the living room complimented by dark brown walls and a patterned ceiling. 

The kitchen is covered with white cabinets with a wood trim, an unusual corner sink situation, plus a fitted microwave on the lower half of the cabinets. 

Regan and Hallworth
Regan and Hallworth

The bathroom is covered in dark marble tiles and a frosted window above the bath, complimented by gold furnishing and trims on both the toilet and sink – plus a gold shower! 

For all the quirky features the house is actually surprisingly minimalist, it’s bright and has a big open plan living room. 

Regan and Hallworth

It’s also been designed with an upside-down layout meaning the bedrooms are on the ground floor while the living room is on the second floor, taking advantage of the views over the trees. 

The house is located on a leafy lane and features a glass-front, extensive driveway space with a double garage and plenty of greenery to enjoy from your orange sofa.

Regan and Hallworth
Regan and Hallworth

Regan and Hallworth add: “We don’t believe that ‘Beech Hill’ has ever been on the open market before and offers an incredibly rare opportunity for a wide range of buyers to purchase a home of true distinction with tons of potential without having to pay the huge premium you normally expect to pay to live in one of West Lancashire’s most sought after locations.

“Available with the added benefit of no upward chain, early viewing is highly recommended.”

Offers are in excess of £400,000. Find out more info here

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Feature

A look back at Manchester’s greatest nightclubs and venues

How many have you been to?

Proper Manchester

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21 Piccadilly Friends And Clubbers / Facebook

Over the years numerous iconic nightclubs, bars and pubs have disappeared from Manchester. Some of these venues have been legendary, others, well, were just a bit dodgy.

Either way, if you visited one it will have left a lasting impression – whether this is positive or negative is another question entirely.

With that in mind, what better time to take a little trip down memory lane and remember some of the forgotten clubs of our city. Enjoy…

Piccadilly 21s

Piccadilly 21s was a ‘90s party paradise located in Piccadilly Gardens. It had a reputation for being very loud, very messy and very sticky, with cheap drinks to boot – there were even chandeliers in the bogs.

Unfortunately it also had a reputation for being rough as owt, after it managed to attract gang members and other unsavoury clientele in the late ‘80s and 90s, and it eventually shut down in 2004.

These days it’s a Premier Inn and a Nando’s – so the floors are probably just as sticky to be fair.

Manchester Past

Rotters

Besides having a name which would prove a branding nightmare for modern PR-led venues, Rotters boasted some of the best parties in the city, after it took over the site from Romanoff’s.

Located at the top of Oxford Road, in the ‘70s and ‘80s Rotters was a hugely popular nightclub, especi

It was housed inside the old Gaumont Cinema, and sadly the whole building was demolished in 1990 and replaced by an NCP car park.

Pips

Pips, located behind the cathedral, was a popular nightclub in the ‘70s, and was frequented by local musical celebs like Joy Division, Ian Brown, Morrissey and Johnny Marr.

It boasted four different rooms playing a variety of music, including a Punk room, Soul room and the infamous Roxy room with a huge Brian Ferry painting on the wall.

Pips closed in the early ‘80s before becoming a club called Konspiracy – which closed not long after.

Manchester Libraries

The Plaza

The Plaza was one of the city’s most popular venues to dance to the likes of Sinatra and Elvis in the ‘60s, and was located on Oxford Street.

Owned by Jimmy Savile, the disgraced DJ pioneered lunchtime disco sessions for the city’s young workers, where you could grab a quick lunch and soft drink while having a dance.

It later turned into Tiffany’s in the ‘70s, complete with fake palm trees and loads of disco balls, before finally becoming Tropicana, which closed in the late ‘80s. It’s now a Pizza Express.

The Hacienda

We couldn’t do a list of iconic Mancunian nightclubs and not include what is arguably one of the most famous venues in the world.

Founded by Tony Wilson in 1982, the Hacienda managed to define a whole era in the city, putting ‘Madchester’ on the map. Acid House and rave culture was born here – as were New Order and the Happy Mondays.

The club closed in 1997 and was demolished 18 months later, with a block of nondescript red brick flats now on the site – called The Hacienda Apartments.

Mikey / Flickr

Jilly’s Rockworld

Jilly’s was a Manchester institution. Originally called Fagin’s, it opened in 1970 on Oxford Road before being renamed Jilly’s in 1983, eventually adding Rockworld to the end.

The alternative club was always packed full with a cross section of people with a passion for guitar music, including punks, skaters, goths, metalheads, and indie kids.

Underneath was another club called the Musicbox – previously Rafters – but sadly both venues shut their doors back in 2010.

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Feature

There’s a hidden tranquil waterfall located in the hills above Rochdale

This looks so peaceful!

Alex Watson

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@thesijones / Instagram & @lockdownwalks / Facebook

If you’re after some tranquillity in your life (let’s face it – we all are), this is the perfect escape and it’s not too far away from Manchester. 

Tucked away in the hills above Norden in Rochdale is a beautiful waterfall surrounded by luscious woodland, and its the perfect weekend walk.

Naden Valley is home to four huge reservoirs Naden Higher, Naden Middle, Naden Lower and Greenbooth, which all offer perfect exploring options and ample walking opportunities.  

lockdownwalks/Facebook

From the top of the valley you’ll find stunning views of Manchester city centre’s skyline towering over the hills in the distance. 

The trickling waterfall is in the southwestern corner of Greenbooth reservoir, and is actually heading towards the United Utilities-owned reservoir after running through a housing estate. 

There are clear circular footpaths around each reservoir that are perfect for a gentle stroll and are mostly accessible. 

There are several flights of stairs to reach the waterfall which is slightly off path and requires a bit of careful exploring. 

If waterfalls are your thing, you could also head to Rivington Pike’s forgotten Japanese Gardens just outside of Chorley. 

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