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Feature

The incredible history of Withy Grove Stores round the back of the Printworks

It looks like it’s always closed…

Jamie Roberts

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Surrounded by chicken shops and takeaways sits an oddity in modern Manchester, the Withy Grove Stores.

At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s abandoned, a relic from the 1980s that time and gentrification forgot, confusingly located round the back of the Printworks.

In fact, the safe and office supply store is very much still active, although you can’t just walk in off the street and have a browse – the whole thing raises so many questions, like who owns it? Why hasn’t it been bought and turned into a chicken shop? Is it being used as a front?



Well, the guys over at Manchester’s Finest had a bit of a dig around into the history of the building, and we now have some answers to your questions.

They spoke to a safe and office interior company called Withy Grove Office Interiors, who explained that the company began on Withy Grove in Manchester all the way back in 1850.

However, the history goes even further back, when the Richmond Safe Company was set up by John R Solomon back in 1799, supplying iron-branded and ironclad strongboxes for ships.

The Richmond Safe Company continued to operate until around 1840, at which point they located to offices on Withy Grove and renamed themselves Withy Grove Stores. From here the company expanded, eventually running three sites in the North of England – Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds (the company still operates from Leeds now).


For over 130 years the shop on Withy Grove flogged safes and furniture, impervious to the rapid change and development around it – the Withy Grove Printing House, which printed the Daily Mirror among other titles, closed down in 1985, while the Arndale popped up over the road in the late 1970s.

During the 1980s, it appears the Solomon brothers all fell out over something and each site was broken up and given to one of them to look after. The Leeds site was sold off to private owners by Casper Solomon, but the Manchester location is still very much owned by a Solomon to this day.

A quick check on Companies House shows the Directors of the company are Brian Solomon and Anthony Solomon, and both still own and run the Withy Grove Stores on Withy Grove. Financial statements show the company ran at a substantial loss in both 2018 and 2019, which isn’t really surprising.


So what do they do there and why is it never open? Manchester’s Finest rang up the store’s phone number – found on their still active website – and this is what happened: “The phone was answered by a lovely woman, and we were told that the shop is indeed open and she proceeded to bang out some rather erratic opening times for the week ahead.”

So there you go, if you are in the market for a safe or office chair, give them a ring and grab yourself a retro little number.

A thread on Reddit this week also delved into the mystery of Withy Grove Stores, and some people revealed their own experiences with the shop, including actually buying stuff from it.

A user called MR_EXCELLENT wrote: “I rang Mr.Solomon myself a few years ago to ask if I could rent a bit of space in the building, he declined stating he gets dozens of calls every week asking him to ‘sell up’. He told me his dad built the building and he’ll never sell, I told him how much I like the building and how much I’d hate to see a big company ruin it, he told me he thought it would make an excellent Italian restaurant. Good chat! He seemed to be happy to talk to someone who appreciated the building but he could have just been too polite to tell me to fuck off.”

Redditor asidonhopo added: “I went in about 8 years ago or so. Wanted a nice comfy computer chair and it looked like they had some interesting old school office stuff in there, so I rang and the lady said she’d be around that Saturday and to knock on. Her dad used to own the place apparently, she was dead happy for me to just root around through all the old stuff and chat away.”

Pedro-a-go-go actually bought something from there: “I’ve bought stuff i there before, admittedly about 15 years ago. Needed a load of office ‘in trays’ for work. There was a lot of standing about as the bloke was dealing with someone buying a safe, and couldn’t work out how it to change the combination on the safe he was demonstrating. He ended up snapping a teaspoon and jamming it in the lock to try to get it to change. The person didn’t buy the safe. Also office in trays are REALLY expensive….”

And so did Redditor scottynoble: “I bought a safe from there in 2008. Still have it. Friend who recently passed away was a big deal at printworks recommended the place and got me a discount. Was like stepping into 1971, lovely people.”

Feature

Some people are convinced the Trafford Centre has thousands of body bags hidden beneath it

Have you heard this one?

Alex Watson

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There were reports a few years back that the Trafford Centre is not only home to designer shops and water features but also thousands body bags in the basement.

As a kid, the Trafford Centre was almost on par with Disneyland. Not only did it feel like the size of a small country, but it was also so decadent there was even a ship in it.

Looking back I think this is mostly just my childhood imagination running wild and creating a fantasy dreamland in the Trafford Centre. Going now is actually pretty stressful and that roundabout induces panic attacks.

Way back in 2002, when I was a bright-eyed and blissfully ignorant 6-year-old, a rumour circulated that the government had bought 5,000 body bags in case of a ‘terrorist chemical attack’, according to The Telegraph.

Credit: Mike Peel

This article reported that the body bags would be stored at ‘16 locations’, meaning they could be ‘distributed within minutes of a terrorist attack’.

The orders of the equipment reportedly came after the Home Office received a warning about ‘dirty’ bombs or poison gas that would cause large numbers of casualties in British cities. The alert was retracted to avoid fears and widespread public panic.

Apparently the army have dropped off 400 body bags at the Trafford Centre…

Posted by Jay Smith on Tuesday, 17 November 2015

According to Philip Ward, the managing director of the country’s leading manufacturer of emergency and rescue equipment at the time, Ferno UK, orders were for ‘huge’ quantities and were increasing by the day. The first big contract was in excess of £50 million worth of gear.

These reports were completely unrelated to the Trafford Centre at the time, but could offer us an explanation as to how this urban myth was created.

The report called for 16 unnamed locations which would house the 5,000 body bags.

Credit: Jonathan Palombo

Now, shopping centres are considered a prime target for terrorism. The 1996 IRA bomb occurred on a busy Saturday afternoon in Manchester’s main shopping area.

Across the world there have been numerous occurrences similar to the Manchester IRA bomb. There was the Omagh car bombing in 1998 which tragically killed 29 people and left 220 people with serious injuries.

A terror incident in Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi killed 67 and wounded 175 in 2013. While a non-terror related event killed 10 people and injured 36 in a shopping mall in Munich in July 2016.

Credit: Jonathan Hutchins

So there is a significant threat to shopping centres for whatever reason that may be. Perhaps it’s a hatred of Western capitalism, something that is significantly highlighted by shopping centres, or just because they’re almost guaranteed to be full of people.

The Trafford Centre isn’t the only shopping centre that has been rumoured to house hundreds of body bags beneath shoppers feet.

In the early nineties, rumours spread that management at Meadowhall in Sheffield kept a stash of them in case of an ‘IRA outrage in the centre’. There have also been near-identical claims in Cribbs Causeway and Bluewater.

So is it true, does the Trafford Centre really store something between 400 – 5,000 body bags in the basement?

Credit: TOOEDDD

Well, like most other shopping centres, The Trafford Centre has widely denied these reports on Twitter and Facebook, stating that they simply have ‘no truth to them’ and are an ‘urban myth’.

There’s also the small problem of not a single photo or video surfacing of them. With the number of workers in The Trafford Centre who bob down into the basement, from cleaners to caretakers to retail assistants, surely someone would’ve seen something and snapped a picture?

Despite this, the rumours must have started from something… 

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Feature

It’s three years since the Manchester Arena bombing and the city will never forget

Today is the third anniversary.

Alex Watson

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Manchester City Council

Today, Friday May 22nd 2020, marks three years since the disastrous Manchester Arena bombing at an Ariana Grande concert. 

In 2017, the pop star had just finished playing to a crowd of adoring and particularly young fans, when a terrorist detonated a homemade explosive device in the waiting area of the arena. The bomb tragically took the lives of 22 innocent people. 

This year Manchester will be paying tribute and gathering in remembrance virtually, to commemorate the third anniversary a bit differently with an online service.

Credit: David Dixon

The Manchester Cathedral will be hosting a live broadcast on Facebook and those watching are encouraged to light a candle in remembrance to those who lost their lives.

The Cathedral bells will ring out at 10:31pm, the time the bomb was detonated, with it tolling 22 times – once for each victim. This will also be aired on BBC Radio Manchester.

The virtual ceremonies mark a poignant moment for our city. We stood solid in the immediate aftermath, covered the city in The 22 Bee Project, created the Tree of Hope Trail, stood silent in the Great Manchester Run, projected song lyrics on pavements, hosted the One Love concert as an act of solidarity, and showed the world that ‘This Is The Place’.  

Credit: YouTube

Manchester remembers the 22 victims of the Manchester Arena attack: Georgina Callander, Saffie Rose Roussos, John Atkinson, Megan Hurley, Olivia Campbell-Hardy, Alison Howe, Lisa Lees, Angelika Klis, Marcin Klis, Martyn Hett, Kelly Brewster, Jane Tweddle, Nell Jones, Michelle Kiss, Sorrell Leczkowski, Liam Curry, Chloe Rutherford, Elaine McIver, Wendy Fawell, Eilidh MacLeod, Courtney Boyle and Philip Tron. 

The youngest of the victims was 8-year old Saffie Rose Roussos, whose mum and sister were also taken to hospital on the night of the attack. Her funeral was the last of the victims, and hundreds of mourners attended to celebrate the life of a ‘little girl with a beautiful smile’. 

Nell Jones, 14, has been remembered for her kindness. Shortly after the tragic event her fellow students designed a community space in her name. It was filled with pebbles, each painted with a heartfelt and touching tribute to Nell.

Martyn Hett, a PR manager and social media star, was also tragically killed in the attack. He was widely recognised for his quirky humour and infectious sense of joy. 

Kelly Brewster, 32, was tragically killed as she threw herself in front of the bomb to shield her sister, Claire Booth, and her daughter Hollie. They survived the injuries but Kelly lost her life in a selfless act of compassion. 

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14, from Leeds dreamt of being an architect to ‘build her mum a house’, but her dreams were robbed as she tragically lost her life in the incident. Her mother and grandmother survived the explosion and remember their ‘clever, talented, creative girl’. 

A Police Officer of 19 years, Elaine, 43, lost her life while waiting in the foyer with her partner, Paul. Paul left the explosion with serious injuries while Elaine tragically lost her life. She is remembered for her ‘kindness, love’ and ‘huge heart’. 

Many other parents and family were waiting to pick up their children after the concert, including Alison, Lisa, Angelika, Marcin, Jane, Michelle, Courtney and Philip. 

Ariana Grande released a message of solidarity to her fans and the victims of the attack this week on the approach to the anniversary saying: “I want to take a moment to acknowledge and send my love to everyone that is feeling the sadness and tremendous heaviness of the anniversary coming up this week. 

“Not a day goes by that doesn’t affect u and all us still. I will be thinking of u all week and weekend. My heart, my thoughts, prayers are with u always.” 

Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were otherwise affected on that tragic day – we will never forget.

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Feature

The truth behind claims NASA has discovered a parallel universe next to ours

The real story…

Alex Watson

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A recent report from New Scientist states that ‘strange particles’ found in an experiment in Antarctica could be evidence of a reality ‘where everything is upside down’.

I took a deep dive to find out whether we really should believe everything we see on the internet. Short answer is no. 

The plausibility of the statement has been amplified for ‘sensational reasons’ according to particle physicist Peter Gorham from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa.

What has essentially happened is a report has explained that scientists have concluded a rare event from very rare particles that defy our current understanding of physics.

We currently do not have the knowledge of parallel universes to determine definitively whether this new research is indeed a parallel universe.

There is also, according to Forbes, zero evidence to support the Daily Stars report of a ‘parallel universe, right next to ours, where all the rules of physics seem to be operating in reverse’.

Credit: Jeremy Thomas / Unsplash

Many articles have surfaced, mostly quoting each other, referring to a pay-walled post from New Scientist on April 8 that says ‘we may have spotted a parallel universe going backwards in time’ in its headline.

The article gathers a collection of information from three different scientific papers that essentially all point towards us needing to potentially consider alternative explanations behind the science.

So what is the experiment that has caused everyone to go cuckoo?

ANITA-IV. Credit: Drummermean / Wikipedia

This is where it gets really science-y. The original research paper from the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA), found ‘upward pointing cosmic ray-like-events’ from its balloon-based experiment.

ANITA is a stratospheric balloon-based experiment that has a radio antennae pointed back at Earth that detects radio waves emitted by very high-energy and very rare neutrinos as they strike an atom of ice.

These ‘new’ headlines are reporting on an experiment from 2016 whereby ANITA detected some signals that were best described as ‘anomalous’ that, according to New Scientist, ‘seemed impossible’.

The article went on to state: “Explaining this signal requires the existence of a topsy-turvy universe created in the same big bang as our own and existing in parallel with it. In this mirror world, positive is negative, left is right and time runs backwards.”

There were three main hypotheses for the detections: astrophysical explanation, systematic error or physics beyond the Standard Model.

IceCube. Credit: Amble / Wikipedia

Scientists at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory tried to search for the source of those signals, ruling out ANITA’s Standard Model explanation of the anomalous neutrino events in January 2020.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is in the South Pole and is made-up of 5,160 optical detectors buried in the ice that detect neutrinos passing through, reacting with hydrogen or oxygen atoms in the ice.

Essentially, Icecube and ANITA are detecting similar things, however IceCube is a remarkable tool to follow up ANITA. For each anomalous event ANITA detects, IceCube should detect many, many more.

In this instance, IceCube did not. The idea that these events recorded by ANITA came from some intense point source should be ruled out as the chances of ANITA seeing an event and IceCube not are very slim.

Credit: Jay Ruzesky / Unsplash

The paper concluded that: “An astrophysical explanation of these anomalous events under standard model assumptions is severely constrained regardless of source spectrum.”

This translates to us lot who are definitely not physicists as: ‘we don’t know where these signals come from’. It does not translate to: ‘they come from a parallel universe’.

A mathematician has explained the science behind this experiment in a nicely condensed Twitter thread that you can read here.

The reports of a parallel universe comes from a paper that reads: “In this scenario, the universe before the Big Bang and the universe after the Big Bang is reinterpreted as a universe/anti-universe pair that is created from nothing.”

Forbes reports the only real conclusion from this experiment is that the ‘Standard Model concerning neutrinos—fundamental particles—doesn’t explain the detection of a rare kind of event by ANITA.’

Credit: Alarn Light / Flickr

A scientist who specialises in Neutrinos and dark matter who works on IceCube Neutrino Observatory responded to the tabloid news reports of a parallel universe, clearing up that their words have been twisted in a list of tweets.

Safa writes: “NASA has discovered that y’all should not be getting your news from the new york post”.

He also states in a tweet that: “ANITA’s events are definitely interesting, but we’re a long ways away from even claiming there’s any new physics, let alone an entire universe.”

The release regarding the research paper mentions that ‘other explanations for the anomalous signals – possibly involved exotic physics – need to be considered.’

One of the leads from the paper, who has been investigating these detections for the last two years, took to Twitter to further clarify a few things. You can read the full thread here.

Credit: Long Ma / Unsplash

Essentially, Alex Pizzuto states that ANITA detected strange signals that are ‘hard (but not impossible) to remedy with our current models of physics’.

He also goes onto explain that although scientists have to come up with ways of modifying our understanding of physics, that may ‘require bizarre beyond the standard model ideas’, that there are also some ‘COMPLETELY non-exotic explanations as well’ such as astrophysics.

So while the experiments could be due to physics beyond our current understanding, a lead from the paper, Safa explained that: “it looks like we’ll have to wait for the next generation of experiments, which will increase exposure and sensitivity, to get a clear understanding of this anomaly.”

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