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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…

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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

Artist creates haunting post-apocalyptic images of Manchester

This is so spooky…

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James Chadderton Art

We’ve probably never been as close to an actual ‘apocalypse’ than this shoddy year…

James Chadderton is a British mixed-media artist who works consistently on creating apocalyptic landscapes.

They often show nightmare-inducing scenes of cityscapes that blend the line between reality and fiction.

James takes inspiration from dystopian films and video games, drawing the viewer into a crazy alternative reality. 

James Chadderton Art
James Chadderton Art

Using famous Manchester landmark he turns the urban landscapes into haunting post-apocalyptic scenes. 

Not only does it give us an insight into what the world might look like after an apocalypse, it gives you the chance to let your imagination run wild and wonder how and why. 

James’ portfolio includes work for Manchester legend Peter Hook, who he designed the cover of his EP 1101/2011 for. He’s also even worked with EA on the Battlefield franchise. 

His work has been displayed up and down the country but now you can have it in your very own home. 

James Chadderton Art
James Chadderton Art

He’s also done images of London, Liverpool and even the iconic Blackpool tower. 

You can see more images here and even buy one for your house! 

 

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Feature

What the stars of legendary ’90s show Gladiators are up to these days

Including prison, drugs and religion.

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gldiatorstv/Instagram

It’s been 20 years since the hit ’90s show Gladiators graced our screens for the last time, but where are all the muscly stars now?

The fun-filled show was packed with dramatic battles, HUUUUGE muscles and too-tight lycra.

Let’s begin with Michael Ahearne, aka Warrior, who started life as a junior England rugby player before joining the hit show and earning up to £100,000 a year. 

In 1998 Ahearne was sent to prison for perverting the course of justice in a famous firearms case involved Phillip Glennon Jnr, an associate of former international cocaine baron Curtis ‘Cocky’ Warren. He was found guilty, and Ahearne served six months of his 15-month sentence.

Then in 2018, he was subject to a police raid of his home in the Wirral where officers uncovered a stash of anabolic steroids. He was arrested on suspicion of possessing Class C drugs with intent to supply but wasn’t charged in the end – however, Ahearne was charged for possessing CS spray and received a six month sentence suspended for 12 months.

Sharron Davies, otherwise known as Amazon, was a successful swimmer before the show, even winning a silver medal at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. She’s now a TV presenter.  

Mike Van Wijk, aka Wolf, was one of the most popular Gladiators, starring on the show for seven years in which time he became the main villain.

He’s now 67 and in the ‘best shape of his life’ with arms bigger than my head – he lives in New Zealand and owns his own business called Wolf’s Gym. This year, he announced on Lorraine that he’s begging producers to bring the show back. 

Diane Youdale, or Jet on the show, bowed out of the programme after four seasons due to a neck injury. She’s now a psychotherapist and pilates instructor. 

James ‘Hunter’ Crossley started on the show when he was just 19, and ended up secretly dating the show’s presenter Ulrika Jonsson between 1996 and 1997. Since Gladiators ended he spent years pursuing an acting career, but has consistently kept up with fitness. He’s now a personal trainer. 

Kim Betts, aka Lightning, was one of the toughest Gladiators. After bowing out of the Gladiator ring she took to property development and also has her own beauty parlour. She has maintained her physique and regularly posts gym photos on social media. 

Michael Wilson, known as Cobra, struggled with drink while on the show and by his own admission was sometimes ‘bleeding drunk’ while on the show. He admitted last year to press that he ‘didn’t take it too seriously’, adding: “There were end of show parties, when we had international Gladiators come over, we would be up all night boozing.”

Now, he is a motivational speaker attending schools and clubs up and down the country. He suffered with pneumonia last year and became seriously ill, blaming the tough workouts on the show for it. 

Jefferson ‘Shadow’ Kin found himself at the centre of a drug scandal in 1995. At the time he said: “There is no excuse for cheating. I was mixing with drugs before Gladiators and when I was tested during the show there were no traces of cocaine but they found steroids.”

He spent the best part of 20 years battling with drug addiction. He got clean and now works in a rehabilitation centre helping others with drug issues. 

Mark Smith, aka Rhino’, has made multiple TV appearances including a stint on EastEnders and in shows such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

Warren Furman, known as Ace, became most well-known for his two-year engagement to Katie Price – who was then known as Jordan – before they broke up in 1999. However, he turned his back on show business, found god and now lives in York with his wife and two kids. 

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Feature

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

This is ICONIC!

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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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