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

It looks like it’s always closed…

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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

UK’s ‘most dangerous prisoner’ begged for a pet in prison and promised ‘not to eat it’

Officers decided that Maudsley was not to be trusted with any animals…

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List25 / YouTube & Unsplash

The UK’s ‘most dangerous prisoner’ reportedly begged for a pet to keep him company in his underground solitary confinement with the promise to ‘not eat it’. 

However, this man isn’t any ordinary prisoner; as a result of his heinous crimes, serial killer Robert Maudsley has spent the last four decades of his life alone in a solitary glass cell. He was just twenty-one years old when he committed his first murder – however, his final three murders were carried out behind bars.

Maudsley’s first victim was alleged child abuser John Farrel, who had paid Maudsley for his ‘services’ as a rent boy. However, Maudsley killed him when he allegedly showed him images of children he’d abused.

Gangland & Prison Related / YouTube

Once sentenced and sent to Broadmoor Hospital, however, he went on to torture and kill a convicted peadophile with another inmate, allegedly using a sharpened spoon to consume his brains, a brutality that earned him the nickname ‘Hannibal the Cannibal.’

From there, he was moved to the maximum security Wakefield Prison in Yorkshire where two more murders took place in one spree – first he strangled and stabbed forty-six-year-old Salney Darwood before creeping into the cell of Bill Roberts, fifty-six, who had sexually abused a seven-year-old girl.

It was at this point where staff decided that Maudsley was too dangerous to be around other inmates, and thus his life in solitary confinement began.

In 1983, a special two-unit cell was constructed for Maudsley – measuring just 5.5m by 4.5m and containing bullet-proof windows. According to the Guardian, inside the cell there’s just a bed, table and chair, along with a toilet and sink that are bolted to the floor.

Anders Hanson / Unsplash

The publication also reported that the serial killer spends twenty-three hours a day in confinement, is escorted to the yard by six prison officers at a time, and isn’t allowed any contact with other prisoners… Or animals, for that matter.

In 2000, Maudsley allegedly wrote to the prison system back to ask for a pet to keep him company in his cell. His letter read: “As a consequence of my current treatment and confinement, I feel that all I have to look forward to is indeed psychological breakdown, mental illness and probable suicide.

“Why can’t I have a budgie instead of flies, cockroaches and spiders which I currently have. I promise to love it and not eat it?

“Why can’t I have a television in my cell to see the world and learn? Why can’t I have any music tapes and listen to beautiful classical music?”

His requests were denied.

He also filed an application for suicide by a cyanide capsule – however, this was also denied. His applications for classical music and a television were also rejected.

In 2010, Maudsley reportedly asked officials to let him play board games with prison officials, claiming it would help ease some of the gloominess and monotony of life in solitary confinement – due to his crimes, however, officials remain reluctant to grant him any benefits.

The prisoner remains in this confinement to this very day, with no glimmer of any normality on the horizon – but should this case have been treated any differently?

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Feature

Six-year-old Man United fan to walk from Stockton Heath to Old Trafford to raise money for school

Harvey Goodman will be walking the fifteen miles from Stockton Heath to his favourite football ground to raise funds for his school

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A six-year-old Manchester United fan is set to embark upon a massive fifteen-mile charity walk from Stockton Heath to Old Trafford to fund a new playground for his school.

Harvey Goodman will be going the extra mile to make a difference for Stockton Heath Primary School, which has been in desperate need of a new playground for quite some time, despite various fundraising efforts.

The Year 1 pupil hopes that by combining two of his favourite things – school and Manchester United – he will help to raise the funds needed to give the school and its pupils the playground and green space they deserve.

Harvey’s mum Naiomi said her son’s determination to train and practice for the walk, which will take place on January 29th, has been ‘fantastic’, noting how he is ‘really looking forward to it.’

Naiomi Goodman

Naiomi Goodman

She told Proper Manchester: “We’re blown away by the amount of support we’ve had from friends, family, locals and avid Manchester United fans. We have hit the halfway target within a matter of weeks, it’s incredible to think so many people are supporting him with his walk.

“This walk is a huge challenge for anyone, never mind a six-year-old boy, but the determination he has is incredible to see. I know he will do a fantastic job on the day. We are so proud of him.”

And when Harvey mentioned his idea to the school’s head teacher Dan Harding, who’s also a Manchester United fan, he offered to accompany him on his walk, as did his class teacher Mrs. Realff. 

Mr. Harding described Harvey’s efforts as ‘truly outstanding’, saying in a statement: “Harvey is a School Councillor and has really enjoyed learning about our plans to redevelop the EYFS and Forest School outdoor areas.

Naiomi Goodman

Naiomi Goodman

“He knows that a huge amount of money needs raising for our plans to become a reality. Being an avid Manchester United fan like Harvey, I am delighted to be taking part in the walk myself and will support Harvey all the way to Old Trafford.

“To think a child of this age can be so generous, selfless and thoughtful for the benefit of his peers and the wider school community is truly humbling and I am so proud of him for even suggesting this challenge, never mind undertaking it.”

Naiomi has organised for friends and family to surprise Harvey on one of the stops along the route, as well as at the finish line at Hotel Football, who she hopes can get behind the charity walk.

At the time of writing, Harvey’s JustGiving fundraiser has reached £1,920 out of it’s £3,000 target. For more information on his walk and to donate to the cause yourself, click here.

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Feature

People are sharing the craziest things to have kicked off in their local Facebook groups

Ah, the weird and wonderful world of Facebook community groups…

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Solen Feyissa & Super Straho / Unsplash

If there’s one true blessing Facebook has bestowed upon the human race in its nearly two decade-long run, it’s undisputedly the humble local community group.

Every area has one; a private Facebook group in which people can partake in discussions and share any local news and events with their neighbours and wider community.

Yet while these groups tend to consist mainly of missing cat appeals, bad parking and people asking for DIY advice, they can be the perfect spot to sit back, relax, and scroll through page upon page of neighbourly drama and shenanigans.

So, when one Reddit user decided to share the craziest thing to ever ‘kick off’ in his local Facebook group, he was inundated with thousands of hilarious (yet somewhat bizarre) tales from within the dark depths of these private groups.

The initial question read, ‘What’s the craziest thing that’s kicked off on your local Facebook group?’, and told the tale of an Amazon delivery, a suspicious bloke lurking on a porch, and a forgotten collection deal between two neighbours.  

The post quickly grew in popularity and gained hundreds of stories from other local page members from all across the UK, ranging from arguments over murderous swans, dog muck drama and people getting off the bus too early.

Highlights include the story of a woman posting in their local group to share that her car had been stolen, in which she began the process of hunting down what happened to the car, and the requisite ‘what is the world coming to when you can’t park your car any where. Wouldn’t have happened back in my day’.

The post concluded: “A couple of days later, she posts that her car has been found – someone had found it slightly further up the road than where she was looking, and it was exactly where she’d parked it. She’d gone in one entrance to the park, and walked out of another a little bit further along the road.” Awkward.

Another response involved the nationally hated issue of owners not picking up after their dogs; this Reddit user recalled the time incriminating Ring doorbell footage showing a pair of dog owners in the act was shared into their Facebook group.

@mtimber71 / Unsplash

However, the whole group became divided over the footage, with some residents feeling ‘unsafe’ being videoed all the time and branding the owner of the Ring doorbell as ‘perverts’, while others were quite rightly sickened by the dog muck. 

Pure drama and ‘brilliant entertainment’. 

Another post read: “Woman posted in absolute rage saying someone had just tried to abduct her dog. The story goes that a van (which she had detail of) had followed her up and down the road. Eventually they rolled down the window and thrown some drug laden food to her dog – she evidently then ran home terrified and posted all over Facebook.

“Not long after there was a post from the owner of the van, a local tradesman, explaining not only was the reason they were driving up and down because they’d been given a wrong address and couldn’t find it; but the ‘drugged food’ was actually just a pepperami his passengers had thrown at each other and accidentally chucked it out the window.” Whoops…

David Dixon / Wikimedia Commons

The Reddit thread included stories of majorly paranoid neighbours, too; one woman explained that a photo of her husband on his commute home had been posted into her local group after he was seen repeatedly getting off the bus too early.

She wrote: “Same thing happened to my husband! ‘Suspicious guy gets off the bus at the same stop but walks in the direction the bus is going past other stops. Maybe casing out houses!’ With a photo of him for good measure.

“Truth is the bus gets too crowded after that stop so he gets off and walks the last 15 minutes home.”

One post read: “Someone put some litter off the street into a neighbours bin that neighbour kicked off and put a chicken carcass down the drain of the person who put the litter in her bin. Completely denied it but was caught doing it on cctv!”

Sandy Ravaloniaina / Unsplash

Another memorable entry comes courtesy of swan shenanigans, with a member of the community page allegedly appealing for help with splitting up two swans attempting to ‘murder’ another swan.

The post reads: “Got an argumentative one brewing at the moment. Local park has a lake with swans on it. Someone asked this morning if there was anyone who could help a swan that was being ‘murdered’ by 2 other swans, as she’d tried to split them up but the murderers were relentless. Half the replies are saying well done on helping the other half saying to leave alone as its nature. It’s all getting a bit nasty.”

A classic ‘suspicious man in a van’ post told an unfortunate tale of mistaken identity: “Our new build estate has a WhatsApp group, and was in uproar one day with images of a suspicious van driving slowly around the estate and some guy getting out and going up to different houses.

“It was the milkman.”

There were also plenty of lockdown dramas, with many saying their local community pages ramped up the mayhem while Covid was at its peak. 

One person recalled one of her neighbour’s somewhat irrational fear of the virus after she reported a runner coughing outside of her house, writing: “Lockdown was a ‘brilliant’ time on the local pages. We had a woman complaining because a runner had coughed outside her window. Full description of the runner and their clothing included.”

For more local community group mayhem, visit the full Reddit thread here.

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