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Feature

Remembering Manchester’s lost underground market that now lies empty beneath the city

Do you have memories of shopping in the underground Market Centre?

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Manchester's Finest Group & Urban Sherman / YouTube

Manchester used to have an underground market that now lies abandoned beneath the city centre.

If you walk along Market Street, you’re walking above what used to be the Market Centre – an underground shopping area filled with stalls and units selling music, clothes and a variety of other essential and non-essential items.

The underground Market Centre opened in 1972 and was a busy and bustling shopping emporium, much like the Arndale and Market Street both are today.

Manchester’s Finest Group

Punks would shop there for outfits, music fans could browse through the vinyl record shops and buy tickets to gigs at Piccadilly Box Office. It even had a Stolen from Ivor – which was the first place in Manchester to sell the jeans brand Levi’s, and where many would flock to get their hands on a pair of 501s.

Fashion addicts could hit up shops including Roxy, Oasis and Justins as well as a number of other boutique stalls, including the leather shop, for cool jackets.

DJs could sift through the collections at Underground Records Import and fans could shop at iconic music stalls including Collectors Records, Yvonne’s Record Stall, and the Spinn Inn Disc Centre.

Manchester’s Finest Group
Manchester’s Finest Group

The Market Centre was the place to be throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s until it closed down in 1989.

The entrance to it was located on Brown Street, with two other entrances on Norfolk Street and Spring Gardens. It had escalators going down under the pavement that led to this total treasure trove.

If you head to the Tesco on Market Street and go down to the lower level, you’re actually in what used to be part of the underground market.

But now it has fallen into disrepair, with the odd urban explorer who has dared to delve into the depth of the city to see what remains of this now eerie, decaying ghost market.

Urban Sherman / YouTube
Urban Sherman / YouTube

One explorer, known as Urban Sherman on YouTube, went down to have a look at what’s left of these once bustling underground stalls. Finding a way into where the old main entrance was located, down by the side of Tesco behind the food trailer, he climbs in and lands on the old steps with tiled walls.

As torches light up the dark depths of the city, we can see wires hanging, rubble strewn across the floor, graffiti on walls and one rusty sign that reads: “factory prices.”

It appears a wall of breeze blocks has been put up to block off any entry along the halls of the former market with the rest of it inaccessible, only to live on in the memories of those who once shopped there, and in old archived photographs.

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Feature

The legendary nightclubs that Mancunians would most like to bring back

Remember any of these?

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Google Maps & Fifth Avenue / Facebook

We asked our readers which nightclubs that no longer exist they would choose to bring back – and we got some great answers.

If you could choose just one, which would it be?

Here’s a list of former nightclubs that people would love to see return, as chosen by Proper Manchester readers.

Peter Forster / Facebook

The Boardwalk

The Boardwalk was a nightclub based on Little Peter Street in Manchester which was open from 1986 to 1999. It was a multi-floor nightclub, gig venue and rehearsal complex all in one.

It’s where Oasis played their first ever gig in 1992 and saw many notable bands that were a part of the Madchester music scene, including the likes of Inspiral Carpets, Doves, Happy Mondays, James and more. These days, it’s used as an office space.

There’s a blue plaque bolted to the wall which reads: “Remember me. I was something once.” It has a yellow smiley face in a nod to the Madchester acid house era.

Sophie C. / Yelp

Club Phoenix

Located on University Precinct, on Oxford Road, this sweatbox of a student dive would have music blaring on different nights, playing everything from indie bangers to dance classics and everything in between.

It was a scream club filled with young students looking for cheap drinks and cheap thrills too. There were plenty of messy drunken shenanigans. Being close to the Academy, it would be a great place for the young ‘uns to go for pre-gig bevvies.

blueskies /MDMarchive

The New Continental Club

The New Continental Club was on Harter Street, Manchester and opened in 1967. It was affectionately known as The Conti. It closed in 2001 and became The Tube nightclub, which has also since closed.

Many nurses and frontline emergency services workers frequented The Conti and many say they experienced some of the best nights out of their lives. 

The narrow staircase would lead down to the basement club, food would be served through a hatch and the queues to the toilets could be as long as your arm – they were pretty minging too.

Google Maps

Discotheque Royales

Built in 1845, the building was originally made to be an amphitheatre. But in 1921 it was changed into a cinema after facing stiff competition from the Palace Theatre and Opera House.

After being used as a bingo hall, the historic landmark then became one of Manchester’s most iconic nightclubs known by most as ‘Royales’, since 1989. In later years it went on to become Infinity and M-Two but Royales was legendary throughout the ‘90s.

Inside, it had many levels and a huge dance floor that was meant to look like it was lit up under a huge chandelier. With long draped velvet curtains, lights and reflective mirrors everywhere, it was party central.

DJ Brutus Gold held Love Train nights there until the show moved to the Ritz in 2000.

Fifth Avenue / Facebook

Fifth Avenue

This club started out as Legend, which became known as Manchester’s ‘other club’ during the ‘80s and the height of the Hacienda era, and saw top DJs who also played nights at Wigan Pier.

When it became Fifth Ave it was transformed into an indie music haven. As revellers walked down into the dingy basement and the whiff of cheap bleach in the air would hit them in the face, some of the best tunes from Manchester bands would be blasting, as partygoers walked straight across the sticky floor to the bar where they’d order a drink served in a plastic cup.

Club-goers soon got to know that if you went up to request a song from the DJ, it wouldn’t get played. In later years, it became known simply as Fifth, after owners tried a bit of a refresh.

But as the pandemic hit, the club sat empty and shuttered, and sadly never to return as it closed for good in 2021.

BhamUrbanNewsUK & BBC / Youtube

Twisted Wheel Club

It quickly became a Manchester institution after opening in the ‘60s, attracting mods across the North looking for somewhere to dance all night to rhythm and blues.

Before Twisted Wheel, clubs would play mainstream popular music. This Manchester establishment was groundbreaking and paved the way for how nightclubs would play different music genres to suit various tastes in the future.

Twisted Wheel, based on Swan Street, was a legendary haven for Northern Soul enthusiasts. It closed for a while in 1971, being renamed Placemate 7, then Follies. The club closed for good in 2021.

Thunderdome / YouTube

Thunderdome

If the Hacienda was too pretentious for you, or you got turned away at the door, there was another legendary Madchester club playing all the great acid house music buzzing dancers wanted to rave the night away to – it was called the Thunderdome.

Located at 255 Oldham Road, this club was all about the music. It was edgier, full of all walks of life and was even home to some of Manchester’s criminal underworld. Many fondly referred to it as the ‘Dome.

Initially, although it felt a bit dangerous, nobody wanted any trouble, they just wanted to get off their trolley and enjoy the music. But over the years there were police raids and even helicopters circling the club as well as undercover officers wearing yellow smiley face T-shirts mingling in amongst the hooligans, gang members and just generally dodgy people.

Unfortunately, its rough reputation has stuck with it to this day, while the Hacienda is remembered most as the epicentre of the Madchester acid house scene. The Thunderdome was demolished in 2010 but its legend lives on in the memories of retired ravers and on tribute Facebook groups.

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Feature

Travel back in time through Manchester in the ‘90s with these 30 photos

Fashion shows, bombings, Maine Road, buses, cars, the Metrolink and the Hacienda…

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Len Grant & Patrick Harrison

Here’s 30 nostalgic photographs of what Manchester looked like in the 1990s.

The city centre has changed a lot over the decades, which probably comes as no surprise with the amount of construction going on – it’s changing by the day.

But as the years go by and buildings you once knew are torn down and replaced with new apartments or office blocks, it’s left to your grainy memory of how places used to look and the times you may have once had there.

Cavendish building 1990. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

The nineties was a great era for music in Manchester and saw the birth of bands including Oasis, The Doves and Take That. It was the decade of hope after the recession of the 1980s, but there were ups and downs also.

On April 1st 1990 prisoners in Strangeways (now HMP Manchester) took control of its chapel, and quickly spread throughout most of the prison to begin a riot which lasted 25 days.

Hundreds of inmates got up onto the roof, with the incident claiming the life of one prisoner and injuring 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners. 

The riot was followed by similar disturbances at other prisons across the country and sparked a conversation about reform for prison conditions.

Granada Studios Tour 1990. Credit: Robert Lindsell / Wikimedia

The decade was also blighted by the IRA bomb of 1996. The Provisional Irish Republican Army detonated a 1,500-kilogram lorry bomb on Corporation Street on June 15th. 

It was the biggest bomb detonated in Great Britain since the Second World War, injuring 212 innocent people and causing £700 million worth of damage to the city centre.

The event kick-started the regeneration and modernisation of the city which has evolved into the Manchester we know and love today.

After IRA bomb 1996. Credit: Len Grant

The city already began planning on improvements as part of its campaign to hold the 2000 Olympics and Paralympics. However, the bid was ultimately unsuccessful and Manchester was beaten to it by Sydney, with Beijing coming in as runner-up.

But Manchester did go on to hold the 2002 Commonwealth Games, with The Commonwealth Games Stadium becoming the new home of Manchester City after the club vacated Maine Road – which was then demolished and turned into new homes.

The Hacienda, which opened in 1982, became the nightclub at the forefront of the acid house scene. The club was owned by record label Factory Records and was famous for playing a major part in the Madchester movement.

Hacienda 1990. Credit: Patrick Harrison
Robin Webster Rochdale canal 1990. Credit: Robin Webster

Unfortunately, the club gained a reputation for drug use and after enjoying its heyday throughout the best part of the ‘90s, it fell victim to crime issues and financial troubles which eventually led to its closure in 1997.

The club was subsequently demolished and replaced by apartments.

The newly built Trafford Centre opened in 1998, the year after the film Titanic was released, which its themed food court paid homage to. Since then, Trafford Park has transformed from the derelict marshlands it once was and into a centre of retail, leisure and entertainment.

The Kippax Stand at Maine Road (1990s). Credit: Steve Garry / Flickr
Blue Moon Chippy (1990s). Credit: Richard Cooke / Wikimedia

Manchester United were the most successful football team of the city during this era, and the club won numerous domestic and international titles under manager Alex Ferguson.

David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Paul Scholes were just some of the players who played for United during the club’s golden era – playing in the newly formed Premier League, which was founded in 1992.

For the first time in English football history the Reds secured the Treble in 1999 – the League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Meanwhile, the Blue side of Manchester – Man City – went through many ups and downs. In 1998 City were relegated to the third tier of the English Football League. The club regained promotion to the top tier in 2001-02 and have remain in the Premier League since.

Dantzic Street 1993. Credit: Neil Clifton / Wikimedia
Granada Studios 1990. Credit: Graham Hogg / Wikimedia

Manchester was once home to the iconic Strangeways Boddingtons Brewery, which owned pubs throughout the North West. 

The brand was best known for its ‘Boddies’ – a straw-golden, hoppy bitter which was one of the first beers to be packaged in cans containing a widget, giving it a creamy draught-style head.

In the 1990s, the beer was promoted as The Cream of Manchester in a popular advertising campaign credited with raising Manchester’s profile. Model and actress Melanie Sykes was the Boddington’s girl star of the ads, which saw her take a swig of a pint and say ‘by ‘eck’, with a creamy moustache.

The brewery shut down in February 2005 and its workers clocked off their final ever shift, never to return, following its 227-year history.

Man Airport 1998. Credit: Simon Butler/ Flickr
Manchester Airport 1994. Credit: Simon Butler / Flickr
MMU student fashion show 1990. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
Inside the Arndale shopping centre 1993. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
First Greater Manchester bus. Credit: Darren Hall / Wikimedia 1997
Trinity Bridge 1995. Credit: Sludge G / Flickr
MMU student fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU student fashion show 1993. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
Piccadilly 1998. Credit: Matt Taylor / Flickr
Piccadilly 1992. Credit: Ben Brooksbank / Geograph
Bloom Street 1992. Credit: Chris Allen / Geograph
Hulme Crescents early 1990s (demolished in 1992). Credit: Nuala / Flickr
MMU student fashion show 1991. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU student fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
Rovers Return 1991. Credit: Neil Kennedy / Geograph
GMEX and car park 1990. Credit: Dr Neil Clifton /Geograph
Maxwell House 1991. Credit: Manchester City Council
Balloon Street 1991. Credit: Dr Neil Clifton / Geograph
MMU degree display 1993. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections
MMU fashion show 1992. Credit: The Manchester School of Art slide library at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections

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Feature

Man who worked draining Manchester’s canals reveals grimmest things he found

Inflatable penises, designer handbags, guns, dead bodies and a pet puppy

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Mike Sheldon / Facebook

We spoke with a man who worked draining our city’s canals, as he shared some interesting photos and stories about his work.

Mike Sheldon lives in East Manchester and is retired now, but he used to work for British Waterways where he said he had the time of his life – and would even call it the best job he has ever had.

“There was something to do every day,” he told Proper Manchester.

He worked for the company for 15 years, where he maintained the canals along with his brother Shaun.

Mike Sheldon / Facebook

As you can expect, Mike and Shaun discovered many strange and unusual things lurking at the bottom of our inner city canals, including some pretty grim and sad discoveries

Shaun sadly passed away from throat cancer five years ago, as Mike spoke of the great fun they had working together maintaining the canals and how he misses their time together.

Here’s what he said…

About the work he carried out, Mike explained: “It was just general maintenance. Everything really; painting, replacing lock gates, anything and everything.”

Mike Sheldon / Facebook

He continued: “When we would work, especially Deansgate Locks and Canal Street, we’d find all sorts like handbags, designer bags, keys, bank cards, phones, driving licences, laptops – you name it we found it.”

When Mike and Shaun would drain the canals, a lot of the time they would often find tables and chairs and ‘all sorts of scrap’. 

“I think at the end of the night, after a few drinks, customers would think ‘what can I throw over these fences?’ And they’d be throwing over tables and chairs,” he said.

Mike Sheldon / Facebook
Mike Sheldon / Facebook

In one picture (at the top of the page) the pair set up a table and tea party scene out of some of their finds, as they waded through the murky silt and laughed at the assortment of items they would come across.

About the photograph, Mike went on: “That is a picture of my brother who was working with me. 

“We put it on Facebook because we thought it was quite funny but [work] called us in the office to say they didn’t want it on there, they didn’t want anyone to see it. 

“But it was a bit too late by then because everyone would have already seen it.”

Mike Sheldon / Facebook
Mike Sheldon / Facebook

Other things the brothers would find were designer handbags, jewellery and even engagement rings, as Mike joked about couples having a row.

But t
he brothers also sometimes stumbled across guns that had been slung into the canals.

“We’d hand them in at the police station,” Mike said. “But we didn’t like going because whenever we handed one in we felt like they’d treat us like a criminal.”

One time, the pair even came across an inflatable penis, which they tied to their boat and got many laughs and cheers from revellers outside the rows of bars as they passed by.

As Mike puts it, ‘we found a massive big cock and balls’ – they also found plenty of other funny phallic objects and adult toys over the years too.

Mike Sheldon / Facebook
Mike Sheldon / Facebook

But the worst discoveries the brothers made while draining the canals were dead bodies. Mike said he discovered a few bodies lying at the bottom of the water in the 15 years he worked maintaining the waterways.

Mike said: “There was a thing about a pusher; someone pushing people into the canals, but I think it’s all rubbish.” 

He said he thinks a number of people fall in the canals in central Manchester because they are lined with bars where lots of people will have been on a night out and drinking, then hanging around outside or using the canal paths to walk home.

Mike Sheldon / Facebook

“Sometimes people were captured on CCTV walking along and stumbling,” he added, saying that all the bodies were identified ‘straight away’. 

“There was one lad from Newcastle and he was only young, god bless. I think it was the coldest day I ever worked and we were working alongside police divers.

“I had to drain it [the canal] for them because it was too cold for them to dive in that. I drained it down so far for them and they were linking each other as they walked through the sludge.”

Mike Sheldon / Facebook

Mike and Shaun each took something home from their time cleaning up our waterways. Mike found a Casio watch that he kept, as he said: “I mean, I’ve got a watch –  which was still working when I found it after being under the water.

“I love it, it still works now. It’s a Casio and one of the best watches I’ve ever had.
I’ve only had to take it to replace a battery. When the guy replaced it he said ‘it’s soaking wet’.

“I said, ‘believe it or not, I got this out of a canal’ and he just couldn’t believe it.”

Meanwhile, Shaun found a puppy which he brought home and named Willow. “We drained a lock and there was a puppy dog in a bag, but it was alive. Someone had thrown it in. We pulled it out and my brother kept that dog.”

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