|Looking across to the site of the MRI sometime after 1911|
Of course before 1914 there were no gardens just the site of the Royal Infirmary which when it was demolished left a debate on what to do with the site.
It took a few years before the Corporation decided that this was a perfect place for a park in one of the busiest parts of the city.
This much I knew but what I didn’t know was that in the June of 1917 according to the Manchester Evening News the Red Cross “found a practical use for the old Infirmary site in Piccadilly ....[turning] it into a miniature sector of the Western Front.
|Manchester Evening News, June 1917|
With infinite labour the trench diggers who were the convalescent soldiers from Heaton Park, have passed right through the heavy masonry and substantial brickwork of the old Infirmary foundations.”
There is no record of what the "convalescent soldiers from Heaton Park" thought of the task and I have yet to dig deeper to discover what the public made of the “miniature sector of the Western Front” in the heart of the city.
But once they had explored the trenches they could go on to visit the adjoining museum which “was wonderfully interesting.”
All of which just begs the question of why the display was produced.
Given that it had been produced by the Special Effects Committee of the East Lancashire branch of the Red Cross I suspect that along with its propaganda value it was linked to the organisation’s campaign for volunteers and funds.
I do know that Heaton Park had had its on set of trenches which were open to the public and no doubt so did other parts of the country.
Pictures; the site of the Infirmary, date unknown from the collection of Rita Bishop and Trenches in Piccadilly ............ a New Use for the Old Infirmary Site June 1917, the Manchester Evening News from Sally Dervan