The Forgotten Sights of Manchester

“Manchester has everything but a beach” – Ian Brown of the Stone Roses

Now, in a time where the variety of transport is broader than it has ever been before, it is only predictable that more people travel to more places more often. There has never been more culture, history, art and opportunity available to experience around the world. Manchester at the heart of the United Kingdom explores some of the most expressive events, scenes, and sights. Legendary filmmakers, artists, writers, musicians, scientists, and architects have erupted from the Victorian city. Momentous pieces of art rummage in the galleries of visually-writhing structures. Some of the most attractive events not only in the UK but the world take places with festivals, concerts, gatherings occurring every year observing tourists from all over the world.

These are only some of the reasons we can see Manchester’s tourism has grown by twenty percent over the last decade. Some of the reasons why Manchester has been ranked as the second best city in the United Kingdom in numerous polls for around fifteen years. Some of the reasons why Manchester is considered more cultured than Edinburgh, Liverpool and even London. Yet often it is the case that when the most marvellous scenes of Manchester are missed, as people scurry towards the more popular places, the mass pleasers. But the most beautiful events and places reside in the corners of the city where their subtlety adds to their magnificence. But where are these places and what are these places?

Mohammad Osman, a former tourism student at the Tourism and Development of Pakistan University (TDPU) says this is not uncommon. “Often many times, in different cities, when people come from other countries, they stick to what they have heard and what they have found in magazines or popular culture,” he says, “for this reason mainly, they tend not to go to these less popular places. They are also less appealing to young people than clubs with flashing lights and loud music and drinks. They want to go to these places when they leave a country. Similarity, local residents will stick to something they know, something familiar, somewhere they have been to and they know of instead of exploring some place they don’t know.”

At the height of tourist season, you can notice the Museum of Science and Industry swarmed with crowds with its twelve galleries centred around a historical map dating Roman times and the industrial revolution, transport such as cars, railway locomotives, and aircraft, Manchester’s sewage and sanitation, textiles, communication, computing and more. Many are also familiar with the John Rylands Library, a late-Victorian neo-Gothic structure built in 1900. The libraries are condensed with medieval illuminated manuscripts. The library has more than 250,000 printed volumes and over one million manuscripts and archival items. Old Trafford is a football stadium, also very popular in Manchester. The Stadium is the home of Manchester United and the second largest football stadium in the United Kingdom, and the ninth largest in Europe with a capacity of 75,635. The stadium has hosted the FAP cup final semi-finals, England fixtures, matches at the 1966 World Cup and Euro 96 and the 2003 Champions League Final.

The Royal Exchange Theatre performs on average 350 times a year out of its nine professional theatre productions. The company performs a diverse programme including classics, revivals, contemporary drama and new plays. The Royal Exchange also hosts visiting theatre companies in the Studio such as folk, jazz and rock concerts; and discussions, recitals and literary festivals.  Manchester City Art Gallery is houses many works of local and international significance and has a collection of more than 25,000 objects  including ceramics, glass, enamels, furniture, metalwork, arms and armor, wallpapers, doll houses and related items.   Another popular place is Manchester Museum which displays extensive works of archaeology, anthropology and natural history to a total of about 4.5 million items from every continent. It is the UK’s largest university museum. It functions as a major attraction and as a resource for academic study.


The Museum of Science and Industry

These are some of the most popular places in Manchester visited by millions of people. In the corners however there is a wide array of places hidden by the sun. One is the Astley Cheetam Art Gallery in the Stalybridge museum. Bequeathed in 1932, the museum is visited by less than three visitors a week, due to its limited opening hours introduced under spending cuts. It holds some of the most fascinating regional collections with a vastly impressive array of paintings and art works. It contains works by Harry Rutherford, who is known as one of the most important painters of the ‘Northern School’ movement which was led by LS Lowry. Most of the paintings depict the streets and pavements surrounding the Astley Cheetam Gallery. The collections also contain Italian Paintings from the 14th and 15th centuries, such as Burne-Jones and David Cox. The gallery hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions by regional artists alongside collection exhibitions. One admirable category is of the Early European paintings specially the rare altar piece by the Master of the Straus Madonna.

Another one of the least visited tourist attractions in Manchester is the Ellenroad Engine House in Rochdale.  The Ellenroad trust was established in 1985 to ensure the preservation of the Ellenroad Engines and the Ellenroad House. The boiler house and engines were refurbished as a steam museum. It is now a National Historic Monument. It boasts the world’s largest working steam engine, the Victoria and Albert. It also hosts events such as an Annual Classic Car Rally, Rochdale Photographic Society’s Exhibition of Prints, an Exhibition by the Rochdale Society of Model and Experimental Engineers and Christmas Fair with stalls from local craft businesses. It also holds a Ellenroad Great Steam Experience, an event in which visitors are given the opportunity to run each of the great engines there. Unfortunately, the House is open only twelve days a year, limiting it to just 3000 visitors a year. The Engine House also has no outside funding and staffed entirely by volunteers. Bolton also has a steam Museum, which contains Britain’s largest collection of working steam mill engines. However it also is visited but around 3000 people annually. These places are no doubt historical places coated with interest for enthusiasts in engines, history and simple tourists even however are overlooked by larger venues.

Also, The Police Museum in Manchester’s Northern Quarter holds some fascinating historical and archival exhibits as well as the history of policing in Greater Manchester and as a community resource.  Converted in 1981, the museum is a labyrinth of alleyways and slums, a disturbing gangland lit by street lamps where police offers encounter obscure corrupt characters of the street. It also contains modern galleries displaying uniform, equipment, and vehicles of police officers post-1950s. The Crime Room invests visitors in forensic science and imitation. An audio-visual gallery emerges viewers into reels focused on footage from on-site archives. The Museum also hosts events such as Crime and Punishment Day which explores the vindications of justice through time from historical background to modern subjects and the court system’s altering methods as well as tributes to World War One. The museum also offers a virtual tour to the Magistrates Court from 1895 with gleaming wood panels and tarnished glass and the Charge Office, the first port of call for anyone arrested. The Museum encourages private tours and educational visits. The Museum is unfortunately also not a very popular place with just 8,701 visitors.



Astley Cheetham Art Gallery and Library

However it’s not just the venues with historical and cultural context in them that have been forgotten but several hidden gems in Manchester remain to be brilliantly unnoticed. One is the No Such Thing event at Kabana Café. A Salford based theatre company which co-ordinates a free monthly event..The event requires people to with strangers in exchange for curry instead of coins a reverse play on the old saying that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”. The topics can range from current issues to personal interests to whatever anyone would like to talk about. It offers a fantastic opportunity to meet new people as well as a free meal. Another place is St. Ann’s Church. This is a neo-classical structure great for some silence and calm. The St. Ann’s Church still has a burnt-out inflammable bomb that fell onto the roof during air raids during the World War Two. The church was renovated in 2011. The church has an active organ schedule including weekly lunchtime organ recitals and monthly professional concerts and regular concerts by RNCM students.

Ancoats Canal, behind the dull residential blocks on Chapeltown Street is a beautifully peaceful and calming by-water walk-way. Canal boats, fisherman, and ducks are visible in the spring. It is great for a tranquil area great for picnics, reading, exercise, and resting. There is even a Ancoats Canal Project ongoing attempting to hold monthly events to clean up the canal, educate others of its history and enjoy the beauty of the place. It is one of the more passive spots of Manchester.  Sackville Gardens is a small land of grass which is great for outdoor setting. It also has a bronze statue of the legendary scientist, Alan Turing, on a bench. Another peaceful green area is the park in Castlefield with Roman ruins and amphitheatre. it is a fascinating place to explore and roam and quite popular among locals who are aware of the area. The amphitheatre hosts outdoor music and arts events in summer. A famous story is when in the 1990s a crowd gathered outside the amphitheatre to hear the results of whether it would hold the Olympics. The live results came and they lost the bid nevertheless the crowd, disappointed, broke into an impulsive rendition of Always Look On The Bright Side of Life.


The public art trail in the Northern Quarter is often gone unseen by tourists however more appreciated by local residents.  Starting from Tib Street, one can notice the remnants of Lemn Sissay’s now faded Tib Street poem. On the corner of the car park behind Afflecks, the Tib Street horn, a giant musical instrument curled around of the remains of a hat factory is visible. You can also notice the Big Boys’ Toy, a 12 meter-high art piece stuffed with 78 broken fluorescent lights on top of the Tib Street car park. From there, one can also notice leftovers of Majolica pottery and an electricity sub-station with ever-changing graffiti. The Curry Mile on Rusholme is popular for its variety of exotic foods and delicacies; however something visually pleasing is the bright lights overhead. It is a fascinating spectacle with the charcoal grills twirling in the heat of summer, with the shisha bar strip crowd till morning. The bright horizons of curry houses and foreign foods are illustratively interesting as appetizing as the food in the shops inside.

Furthermore, there are smaller places with a hearty cult interest, for science, art and film lovers. One is the Godlee Observatory on the roof of the Sackville building which was gifted to the city in 1903. It is maintained by one of the UK’s oldest astronomical societies, Manchester Astronomical Society.  They are an organization encouraging amateur and popular astronomy alike. They conduct meetings at the Observatory every Thursday with an open membership for anyone with an interest in the science. For readers, the Portico Library is an elite site with private membership. The library is heavy with a descriptive past. It has a incredible collection of 19th century books. It is also popular for its gloomy interior and neo-classical roman architecture. It is designed in the Greek revival style by Thomas Harrison. The gallery is open daily for non-members between 12pm and 2:30pm.  Cinephiles may know that Manchester Metropolitan University contains an incredible archive of various genres of film. The primary aim of the archive is to preserve films of Manchester from documentaries, fiction, propaganda, fiction, cinema newsreels, education and travel films to even regional television programmes.


St. Ann’s Square

Why these places have been undervalued is due to several reasons. In an enormous plethora of venues and historical date, some are bound to be left behind. But what’s important is now to revive these places and rediscover them in the midst of an ever-increasing cultural and historically interested world.  Mohammad Osman agrees with this. “There is an epidemic of following the what is familiar and the only cure for this is awareness. Awareness and blind exploration is very important in this day and age.”


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