Connect with us
https://propermanchester.com.temp.link/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/secret-suppers-advert.jpg

Feature

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

It looks like it’s always closed…

Avatar photo

Published

on

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

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

Avatar photo

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Feature

Chester Zoo has a paid apprenticeship scheme that doesn’t require qualifications

We spoke to Rachel McCann, who is helping Chester Zoo with its mission to save Eastern black rhinos from extinction

Avatar photo

Published

on

When news first arose of Chester Zoo’s apprenticeship scheme earlier this year, many people couldn’t help but ponder the possibility of a swift career change.

For the first time, the UK’s leading conservation zoo was giving people the chance to embark upon a career in conservation without the need for any qualifications.

The scheme opened up opportunities in a variety of roles, including zookeepers, aquarists and horticulturalists, as well as positions in animal and plant logistics.

But a role at Chester Zoo isn’t for the faint of heart, which is something rhino keeper Rachel McCann can most certainly vouch for.

Rachel joined the zoo’s team three years ago as a giraffe keeper, but was later transferred to the rhino team thanks to her specific skill set and past experience.

Manchester’s Finest Group

Yet while many might assume her day consists mainly of spending quality time with Chester Zoo’s eight Eastern black rhino inhabitants – Kitani, Malindi, Ema-elsa, Kasulu, Ike, Jumaane, Zuri and Gabe – Rachel actually plays a huge part in the conservation and repopulation of this critically endangered species.

Thanks to human conflict, poaching threats and habitat destruction, there are only 5,000 Eastern black rhinos left in the wild and a mere ninety in zoos around the world – something Chester Zoo is working tirelessly to change.

Rachel told Proper Manchester that her role as a keeper takes a predominant focus on reintroducing black rhinos back into the wild and boosting birth numbers among the animals not only at Chester, but at a variety of zoos across Europe and in the wild in Africa.

And this all starts in one place; the faeces.

Several times a week, Rachel is tasked with collecting faecal samples from the female rhinos, which are then sent off to the zoo’s on-site conservation lab for testing and analysis.

Manchester’s Finest Group

Thanks to these samples, the zoo’s conservation team are able to track the rhino’s ovulation cycles and determine when to pair them with males to breed. 

Rachel explained: “Through this testing, we’re able to see which pairs work best for breeding going off their cycles, their weight and their personalities. The rhinos are now matched up going by the best genetic compatibility. 

“This research is also applied to how we can help rhinos out in the wild – any of our research, for that matter, can be applied for helping wild animals too.”

And a higher number of births at the zoo equates for a better chance of the black rhinos’ population being increased out in the wild, which is part of Chester Zoo’s mission to prevent extinction.

However, the process of reintroducing rhinos back into the wild is a lengthy one. Rachel explained: “The main bulk of the reintroduction process is reducing human contact, because we don’t want them approaching people once they’re back in the wild.

Manchester’s Finest Group

“Keeper contact is gradually fazed out, so they don’t see us hardly ever, whether it be putting food out or tidying up the paddock. Once they’re ready, they’ll be released into a secured area with zero human contact.

“They are then released into protected areas with rangers on duty for their safety. Without all of that, we wouldn’t be able to save the species.”

And Chester Zoo’s conservation work isn’t just restricted to breeding; the zoo has a dedicated team out in Kenya that educates local communities about the animals in a bid to allow them to co-exist peacefully, ultimately reducing conflict.

Rachel said: “We fund rangers out in Africa to protect wild black rhinos and also work with local communities and schools to reduce wildlife conflict.

“Poaching is their biggest threat alongside habitat loss, so it’s important when working with communities to reduce this conflict. Local people struggle because rhinos destroy their crops, so it’s about finding solutions for them to coexist and live alongside each other.”

Manchester’s Finest Group

Though Rachel’s responsibilities don’t end there, as the role of zoo keeper certainly isn’t without its graft – and many cups of tea, something she says is ‘definitely the most important part of the day’.

Her day typically begins at 8am, where she begins the laborious jobs of cleaning up the paddocks, tidying up any left over food and droppings from the previous day and replenishing the rhino’s food and water.

Keepers also use this time in the mornings to give the animals a quick once-over to ensure they’re of good health. This can involve checking their eyes, ears and even the insides of their mouths for any sign of infection or decay.

A zoo keeper’s afternoon tends to consist of a lot of prep for the following day. Rachel explained: “We have really busy days, so prepping the day before helps a lot so we can make the most of our time.

“We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed! We sometimes switch up the feeding times to reduce the rhinos anticipating us coming. Switching up the routine keeps them on their toes.

Manchester’s Finest Group

“They’re very smart and switched on, so it’s good to give them a challenge and ensure their days are different. We don’t want their days to be too repetitive. 

“We give out our last feeds during the afternoons and carry out the final checks. And then, we go home, go to bed and start it all again the next day.”

Yet while the role may be laborious, challenging, and even testing at times, Rachel wouldn’t change any of it.

She said: “I love working with the rhinos, they’re magnificent but have a soft and sensitive side too. That makes working with them every day very different, no day is the same.

“They’re always getting up to mischief.

Manchester’s Finest Group

“My favourite part of the job though is getting to work with such a rare species every single day. While it is sad to see how endangered their species are, for me it’s actually a motivation each day to get out of bed and come to work to help get them back into the wild. 

“The rhinos at Chester Zoo are ambassadors for their species, they show the public and visitors how amazing they are and why we should be saving them.”

For more information on Chester Zoo’s family of black rhinos and what they’re doing to save the species, visit the official website here.

Continue Reading

Feature

Here’s what happened to the infamous Kersal Massive after their early viral fame

The ringleader of the notorious rap trio was tracked down a few years ago…

Avatar photo

Published

on

YouTube

Back in the early days of the internet, before the birth of TikTok and when YouTube reigned supreme, an unassuming rapping trio from Manchester were catapulted to viral stardom.

C-Mac, Little F*****g Kevin and Ginger Joe, all from Salford, made up the Kersal Massive, a rap trio that would go on to become instant internet stars thanks to their rap song about day-to-day life in Manchester.

Instead of using their music to address social inequality or political issues, the Kersal Massive instead opted to rap about life in Manchester, grand theft auto and using their day saver bus passes. 

Their rap song was actually an entry for a contest to win a Kano-themed BMX, hosted by former record label 679 Recordings. Shockingly, the Kersal Massive didn’t win, but the video wound up on the internet, where they found online fame instead.

The video was one of the first viral sensations to ever grace the internet, and today has over 1.8m views on YouTube alone. 

For years people have been trying to decipher the meaning behind the song, with one YouTuber optimistically commenting: “By referring to a ‘day saver’, Little Kev highlights the struggle of the working class, while at the same time bringing up questions about religion and culture with the following ‘laid low, did a grand theft auto’ line, and how the incarceration of the young in today’s western world is affecting our society.

“Such a lyrical genius. A poet in his own right.”

Another commented: “It has been said Ginger Joe now travels the globe giving lectures on philosophy and ethics… and is also a UN spokesman answering questions on the [meaning of] being human.” 

Someone even went to the bother of creating a lyric page to search for any hidden meanings or political agendas behind the track – unsurprisingly, none were found. 

Despite their initial success and claims of having ‘all the money ’cause we know how to rap’, however, the Kersal Massive only ever released the one song, and were as quick to slip out of the spotlight as they were to enter it. 

This has caused many people to wonder what exactly happened to the Kersal Massive over the years, and what the rapping trio are up to these days. 

Well, The Tab claimed to have tracked down the infamous ringleader of the Kersal Massive, C-Mac, back in 2016.

They said at the time that C-Mac – real name Callum – still lived in Salford and was working for a law firm in Manchester.

He told the publication of the video: “It was uploaded to the internet over ten years ago. It was done as a joke and then it just went viral. I don’t actually know who uploaded it to YouTube, it wasn’t me.”

Then, Callum went on to break the hearts of Kersal Massive fans far and wide by adding: “I am not in touch with the other two lads anymore.”

While the beloved Ginger Joe is yet to be identified or tracked down, many social media users believed a man on the run from GMP for a series of gun-related offences was in fact a grown-up Little F*****g Kev… though this was never proven. 

Continue Reading

Receive our latest news, events & unique stories

Privacy and data policy

We may earn a commission when you use one of our links to make a purchase

Copyright © 2022 Manchester's Finest Group