Iron Works Revealed

Posted by editor on June 1, 2010 under Environment

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

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.”

On Track

Posted by editor on April 23, 2010 under Business, training and employment

After the Commonwealth Games of 2002 it will arguably be the single most important factor in east Manchester’s economic revival. But, for the time being, it’s all roadworks and dumper trucks. Len Grant sets off to take a look at the progress of Metrolink.

Clutching their red hard hats, two young men are waiting on Ashton New Road, as their bus negotiates the temporary traffic lights.
“Will you be using the Metrolink when it’s finished?” I ask.
“Does it go near college?” asks one, the distinctive hard hats being tell-tale signs that these lads are on a construction course at The Manchester College.
“Not this line, no.”
“Then I won’t,” he says.
“I’m from Newton Heath,” says his mate, “so they’ll be no good for me.” I put his right about the Oldham line and his local stop at Central Park. He’s almost impressed.

Today I am on a journey of discovery. Lately I’ve been diverted and (very briefly) delayed driving around east Manchester as work on the new Metrolink track continues. So this afternoon I’ve parked my car near Clayton Hall and, with camera and tape recorder in hand, decide to follow the track into the city centre.

I’m near Gate 69 as an old black and white photograph comes to mind. It’s a picture I’ve seen of this part of Clayton taken maybe a century ago with trams making their way to and from Ashton. History now repeats itself although, for the time being, this line will only reach Droylsden.

Alongside the fencing I attempt to engage a construction manager in conversation. “It’s more complicated that I’d imagined,” I say after I’ve told him I’m taking images on behalf of the local regeneration company. “You’ve got all the drainage and other utilities to think about,” he says. “It’s not just a case of laying the track.” I’m very unfair to this man, putting him on the spot for an impromptu interview. “I’ve got to get on,” he says, taking the card I offer him. “I’ll get our PR people to call you.”

The line sweeps behind the Little Gem Hand Car Wash and appears to hit a brick wall, literally. Maybe this is one of the sites yet to be compulsory purchased. Staff from the nearby MOT garage have already relocated to Clayton Bridge, says a sign.

Now at Gate 61 (how did I miss 68-62?) I can see there is much activity around the Ashton Canal. A new bridge is being built to take the trams over the canal before they cross the main road. There’ll be a stop between here and Asda called Sportcity: Velodrome. Outside the superstore I stop Mark and Joanne who are happy to talk into my tape recorder. Read more of this article »

On Show

Posted by editor on October 21, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

Black Looks banner

Pupils from Wright Robinson College show off their work inspired by Black Looks artist, Colin Yates. Their banner is displayed outside the Sportcity Visitor Centre on Ashton New Road.

Len Grant reports back from two exhibitions in east Manchester

Although it’s been on tour for ten years, this is the first appearance of the Black Looks exhibition in Manchester. And very welcome it is too. The 25 drawings, paintings and prints by artist Colin Yates, trace the contribution of Black and Asian professional footballers in Britain for more than a century.

Colin was motivated to produce his work whilst playing amateur football: ‘…I was witness to a series of racist incidents involving my Black and Asian teammates,’ says the exhibition introduction. ‘As a response to these verbal and physical attacks I decided to create an anti-racist football exhibition.’

Colin Yates' Black looks exhibition at Sportcity until the 26th

Colin Yates' 'Black Looks' exhibition at Sportcity until the 26th

Colin accompanies the exhibition as it visits new cities, leading workshops with local schoolchildren as part of his continuing artistic response to racism in football. This week and last, he’s been motivating Wright Robinson High School students to create their own artwork based on the issues raised by the exhibition. Colin has worked with over 200 schools and community groups, educating through his art.

But what of the work? It’s powerful and full-on. Appropriately, Colin’s portrait of City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips kicks off the exhibition. It’s a beautifully-crafted copy of a photograph of W-P playing in a ‘friendly’ against Spain in Madrid. Behind him are Spanish fans, some on their feet, and you can almost see the verbal abuse hurled from the stand. The winger commented later, “That’s why I support the ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign. It’s been going for 10 years but there is still a need for it, because you still hear the chants.”

Shaun Wright-Phillips on the receiving end of racist chants in Madrid

Portrait of Shaun Wright-Phillips in Madrid

Colin’s exhibition also charts the rise of Black footballers in the British game. One piece, Black Explosion 1970-80, features 11 footballers including, Garth Crooks, Laurie Cunningham, Clyde Best MBE, Cyrille Regis MBE, and Viv Anderson MBE who, in 1979, was the very first Black footballer to play for England in a full international match.

Anderson’s achievement is further profiled in a poster-style piece with solid reads, blues, greens and yellows and the word LANDMARK below his portrait. Obama got a poster in the same style in the run-up to the presidential elections last year.

Other notable pieces works include a ‘neon’ Stan Collymore, a controversial figure who Colin says ‘joined the list of great footballing underachievers.’

The exhibition runs until Monday 26th October at the Sportcity Visitor Centre, Ashton New Road, near its junction with Alan Turing Way. Call 0161 227 3151 for opening times.

The second exhibition has sadly come and gone. Only staged for one day in the studio at The Angels Centre in Gorton, it was Peter Koudellas’ debut show. Twenty or so black and white prints were testament to Peter’s diverse artistic talent. As a member of the Gorton Visual Arts group, 52 year-old Peter, who has learning disabilities, has documented scenes from his travels around the country.

Peter's debut solo show at The Angels in Gorton

Peter's debut solo show at The Angels in Gorton

“He’s only been taking pictures for about 18 months,” explains his mother, Marie. “He takes photographs wherever he goes, he always has his camera with him.”

Peter is particularly keen on public art and has documented sculptures in Yorkshire, artwork at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, the Eric Morecombe figure on the Flyde coast and, nearer to home, Colin Spofforth’s The Runner at the City of Manchester Stadium. Not to upset any footballing rivalries his exhibition also included the Best, Law and Charlton tribute at Old Trafford!

As part of the Gorton Visual Arts group, Peter has also contributed to the Belle Vue mosaic at Gorton Market and to the group’s many artistic endeavours. Artist Ian McKay, who inspires and co-ordinates the local amateur artists, says of Peter, “His application of paint is fantastic. He’s already where many professional painters would love to be.”

The Sportcity Slosh

Posted by editor on October 13, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

It’s October, and once again the Manchester Food and Drink Festival is in full swing. And, once gain, east Manchester gets stuck in as if the festival was designed just for them! Len Grant reports from Sportcity.

Sportcity_sloshThis month there are dozens of festival events from food tasting to cookery competitions and food-inspired poetry. For East I take a trip to a tea dance at the City of Manchester Stadium and a community allotment in Gorton, (more of that soon).

Tea dances are always good fun to photograph. Everyone’s in a good mood and up for a laugh. Alan, the DJ, is warming up his audience as I arrive and, as this is a regular monthly event, he knows many of the punters by name. “Come on, Cyril, this is your favourite,” he says from behind his deck. “Table five, do you fancy a slosh?”

Beswick resident, Mary Bailey never misses a session. “I like a bit of Nat King Cole,” she says. “Oh, and we do like a bit of disco,” chips in her friend, Joan from Audenshaw.

Once they’ve bought their ticket it’s free tea and – usually – biscuits. But today, maybe because of the festival, it’s scones with cream and jam. I guess they all work it off before the end of the afternoon.

Harry : "I've had these dancing shoes for years."

Harry : "I've had these dancing shoes for years."

Another of Mary’s friends, 82 year-old Harry Leigh, was born and brought up around here. “Our terraced house would have been somewhere on this Sportcity site,” he says. “It was a dirty industrial area in those days and things were hard, but we got by.” Harry slips on his treasured dancing shoes as I quiz him about his younger days.

“Oh yes, there were plenty of places to dance. We’d go down to Belle Vue, or the Lido on Ashton Old Road, or the Apollo on Ardwick Green,” he recalls.

Dorothy and Ada: "We used to dance all over east Manchester.'

Dorothy and Ada: "We used to dance all over east Manchester."

Over on table seven, I hear more reminiscences from Dorothy Longmire and Ada Wakefield. “You’d buy a ticket from the Co-op for a shilling,” they say, “and that’d get you in the dance on the Saturday night.”

“We’d go all over,” remembers Dorothy, distracted by a change of line-up on the stage, “the Conservative Club on Pinmill Brow near town, or Ardwick Lads Club. We’ve always enjoyed dancing… Oh, look, it’s Carl on now.”

Carl 'has a way with him'

Carl 'has a way with him'

Alan is taking a break as singer Carl Bennett takes to the microphone. “Carl’s lovely,” says Dorothy, “he’s the best singer we have.”  Ada agrees, “He’s brilliant. He’s got a way with him.” Sure enough, Carl does have a way with him. Permanently smiling, he belts out the classics with an infectious enthusiasm that’s difficult to ignore. Soon I’m tripping around the dance floor taking pictures with a little swagger, wondering if anyone would notice if I put my camera down and joined in.

I have to leave sooner than I’d like but first have a quick chat to Deborah and Sophie, the City in the Community organisers who’ve been running the dance for the past two years. “We advertise in the match day programme,” explains Deborah, “and visit care homes and community groups to tell them what we do. It’s becoming ever so popular.”

But what has been special about today, for the food and drink festival? “We’ve given everyone recipe cards for healthy meal suggestions,” says Sophie,  “and this month’s picture quiz features celebrity chefs. We’ve also got outreach workers here from the NHS and the ‘Getting Manchester Moving’ campaign.”

“But what about you two?” I ask, cheekily. “Do you ever get up for a bop?” Deborah and Sophie are emphatic in their joint response, “Oh no! We just observe.”

I can’t believe they haven’t succumbed to Carl’s crooning before now!

The next tea dances at the City of Manchester Stadium are 12th November and 3rd December. Call Sophie or Deborah on 0161 438 7711 or 438 7834 to book tickets.