Like giant mole hills, mounds of earth have recently appeared on the site adjacent to the City of Manchester Stadium. Len Grant dons hard hat to investigate east Manchester’s industrial past revealed by a team of archaeologists.
Old and new: Bradford Iron Wroks revealed in the shadow of the City of Manchester Stadium
It’s the site once earmarked for the ‘super casino’ but not so many decades ago it had been the epicentre of east Manchester’s industrial past. Bradford Colliery’s two shafts, each 18 feet wide and a mile deep, satisfied the local industry’s veracious appetite for coal and had done for more than 100 years.
Over the last few weeks archaeologists have been exploring the surrounding area prior to its preparation by New East Manchester for future development.
“We knew there was a medieval timber-framed, moated hall not far from here in the 13th century,” explains Ian Miller of Oxford Archaeology North. “Some evidence of that was found in 2002 whilst digging the tunnel wall for the Metrolink to travel under Alan Turing Way, but we’ve not been able to find anything new on that site.”
Early maps from 1761 show the remains of a moat and the beginning of coal excavation: shallow pits where miners would have recovered coal very close to the surface.
“By the 1840s,” continues Ian, “there were the beginnings of some major development here. Bradford Colliery had been established, a canal arm from the nearby Ashton Canal had been progressively extended towards the two pit heads, local streets had been laid out and houses built.
“But, by 1893, this whole place had exploded into a major industrial powerhouse, centred on Bradford Colliery. Unlike other areas of the first industrial city that peaked during the 1880s and 90s, this small area of east Manchester just continued to grow exponentially.”
Adjacent to Alan Turing Way, the archaeological team has uncovered the remains of what would have been boiler, fan and engine houses for the colliery. Steel-reinforced concrete foundations from a 1950s redevelopment of the colliery sit amongst Victorian brick remnants. A search for the actual mine shafts has not been a priority as these were capped with huge inverted concrete conical ‘plugs’ in the late 1960s when the colliery eventually closed.
Alongside Alan Turing Way: the colliery buildings
Victorian brick remains and more recent concrete foundations
1950s reinforced concrete atop of brick remains
“We have also uncovered,” explains Ian, “the intact remains of the nearby Bradford Iron Works, which contains some early examples of modern furnace technology.”
"The Iron Works were right here next to Forge Lane"
In the shadow of the City of Manchester Stadium the excavations clearly reveal a series of boilers each connected to two steam hammers used to pound the molten iron. The hammers themselves were invented and produced locally at Patricroft, but it is the system of brick-lined flues which indicate the experimental re-use of exhaust fumes.
“Red hot exhaust gases from the foundry’s furnace were sent down a brick-lined flue,” explains Ian’s colleague Graham Mottershead.
“Once the bricks were white hot the air flow was reversed and cold air was drawn in and rapidly heated by the hot bricks. Alternately switching the flow meant the whole boiler system was much more efficient.”
"The bricks were laid out in such a way as to maximise their surface area and take up as much heat as possible from the exhaust fumes."
These early innovations at Bradford were adapted and improved until, by the 1920s, foundries and other steam-powered processes were 80-90% more efficient.
“There was huge innovation on this site,” says Ian, “ideas were being tried and tested on an astonishing scale. Being able to see the tangible remains really brings home the incredible industrial heritage we’re celebrating in this area.”
An exhibition of wallpaper? It’s another project from the prolific Gorton Visual Arts group. Len Grant visits Hope Mill in Ancoats to take a look.
“Have you done all this Grandma?” Two year-old Sophie Ledward, admires the handiwork of GVA member, Rita Oakley.
Our ’Ouse is inspired by the exposed wallpaper revealed in the once private interiors of half-demolished houses scattered around east Manchester. “It was the condemned terraced houses of Beswick that first gave me the idea,” says the group’s lead artist, Ian McKay. “Those exposed living rooms and bedrooms signify the area’s transformation and I thought it would be good way to record people’s memories of the past.”
Each member of the group has chosen images, or drawn their own pictures of treasured childhood memories. Family pets, long-demolished cinemas, gas lamps, cups cakes, clogs and even the pit heads at Bradford Colliery have all been featured in this day-long exhibition.
The accompanying text by each of the artists, all Gorton residents, offers another strand of reminiscence. Noreen West recalls, “…clogs that mother had bought with the Divi she had saved from the Co-op. They were green, that’s my favourite colour, and they laced up at the front.”
Margaret Greenhalgh remembers her father, an engineer, taking the whole family to visit the pit in 1941. “He made sure his four girls were aware of Manchester’s vast, diverse industry: something to be proud of.”
Elsewhere Freda Wallwork writes about her inspiration for her ‘vanilla slice’ wallpaper: “I worked at Sharples Brothers as an apprentice confectioner in the 1950s… We had a small kitchen for our lunch breaks, very like the one in the underwear factory in Coronation Street. We were a very happy, but busy, group of friends.”
As part of this 13-week project the group were invited by the Whitworth Art Gallery to view their current wallpaper exhibition and were able to ask questions of the gallery curators. Back at their base at the Angels in Gorton the group set to work creating their individual designs using traditional woodcut printing processes.
Without pausing for breath Gorton Visual Arts is now working a mosaic about the Beyer Peacock railway engine works in Gorton. “The factory was at the bottom of our street,” recalls the group’s oldest member, “and every day I’d watch as thousands of men streamed into work. Until we started on this new project, I never had a clue what went on behind those high walls.”
Wallpaper exhibition at Whitworth Art Gallery
Few in east Manchester will have missed the Gorton 100 celebrations last year when the whole community came together for a series of events to mark Gorton becoming a part of the City of Manchester…
… or, as Gortonians say, the City of Manchester becoming part of Gorton! Now there is a new book that records the 12 months of passion and pride as well as some of the achievements of the last 100 years.
Out on the 27th March: the Gorton 100 celebration book
The book – Gorton 100: Best Viewed from Within – is an 80-page pictorial account of the area’s historical features such as Belle Vue, Crossley Motors and Beyer Peacock as well as capturing the people of Gorton at play during the centenary celebrations.
Some highlights include images of the K1 steam engine, the first Beyer-Garratt produced by Bayer Peacock, being transported from the Museum of Science and Industry to its birthplace in Gorton… and then cheered by former employees of the engine works. Brilliant.
Childhood recollections have also been recorded. This is from Maria Koudellas as she recalls her wartime evacuation to Macclesfield. “A hot meal waited for us and for afters was the most delicious creamy rice pudding I have ever tasted. ‘Made from a beaten fresh egg,’ said Mrs Johnson. Then it was bath and bed, what bliss. Coming from a small two-up, two-down in West Gorton, no bathroom, two boys and two girls sleeping in the same bedroom, I thought I was in heaven.”
The book will be launched on 27th March at Gorton Market from 12-2pm with a host of free entertainment including Manchester’s own exciting, colourful band of drummers and dancers, Bloco Novo, the multi-skilled street entertainers, Curious Eyebrow, and the foot-stomping sounds of Dr Butler’s Hatstand Medicine Band.
Also available, at £5, by calling Gorton 100 committee member Rose Cusack on 0161 231 3532.
The book, and many of the events, was made possible by generous funding from many organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, New East Manchester and Manchester City Football Club.
And here’s a ‘shout-out’ for anyone who lives, works, studies (or just visits) Gorton…
The ‘Gorton Heart’ Facebook group is at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=170456026552&ref=ts and is for all to share local and family history; highlight educational achievements and opportunities; showcase Gorton arts – from Gorton Visual Arts and Gorton Voice to music, dance and literature. Find out what’s on at the cinema or when the local pub quiz nights or karaoke evenings are taking place and explore local opportunities for training and personal development.
The Facebook group is an opportunity to promote any local event to the whole community.
Len Grant accepts an invitation to take a tour around Clayton Hall.
Clayton Hall: once home to the Byron family and the Chetham brothers
East Manchester continues to amaze me. The diversity of what goes on here and the commitment of local people is astonishing. This last week I found myself taking photographs in Clayton Hall, the 16th century ‘moated’ hall concealed in the middle of the unassuming Clayton Park. Each of four rooms are now decked out in the late Victorian style to give visitors a real taste of history in east Manchester’s most notable historic building.
Come and see the sunken cold store, dining room, kitchen and outside wash house
Yes, I’ve seen this sort of thing before in National Trust properties and in museums run by local councils. But here in Clayton – with the trams lines being re-laid outside on Ashton New Road – this piece of historical restoration has not been put on by a team of full-time curators but by local volunteers from the Friends of Clayton Park.
Over the last couple of years these dedicated volunteers have sympathetically renovated four previously empty rooms into what is now a cultural high spot and an invaluable learning resource for local schools.
Small grants have paid for some of the items – the kitchen range was bought from ebay – but others have been donated by friends and relatives and, since the displays have been open to the public, from visitors supportive of the Friends’ work.
Experience a Victorian kitchen: no fridge or microwave here!
The Grade 2 listed hall is open to the public every third Saturday of the month between 1–4pm (so that’s this Saturday, 20th March) and children are particularly welcome. There’s an ID quiz so youngsters can identify items in each room and plenty of hands-on activities from helping out in the kitchen to ‘ironing’ clothes in the wash house.
As a backdrop to the National Curriculum the Friends are keen to encourage more schools to book visits and use the hall as a teaching resource.
To contact the Friends email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring Manchester Leisure on 0161 231 3090.
The Friends of Clayton Park website