Thursday, 19 January 2017

Before the Beetham Tower ...... one of those lost Manchester scenes

Trafford Street and Deansgate, March 2003
We are on Deansgate, looking towards Trafford Street and this is one of those lost scenes of Manchester.

It is one I have been familiar with for over thirty years.

To our right is the Deansgate pub and directly ahead is the great curved roof of what was Central Station and is now the exhibition centre.

And just to the left of where we are standing ran the viaduct that carried trains into the Great Northern Warehouse.

All that is now left of the viaduct is the eastern end by Bridgwater Street.

The other end was only demolished relatively recently along with the buildings directly opposite us.

All went between 2004 and 2006 when the Beetham Tower was built.

Now the Tower comes in for quite a lot of criticism mainly I suspect because of the way it dominates this corner of the city.

And there is no escaping its presence.  Many of the views which were once familiar are now blocked by the tower and the glass box that stands beside it.

Trafford Street and Deansgate, May 2002
That said the buildings it replaced were not really much to write home about and once the ambulance depot moved out the site was pretty dismal.

But I have to say I can’t quite make up my mind about the Beetham Tower.

I am not against modern architecture partly because if history teaches you anything it is that some of our best loved buildings were once regarded as blots on the landscape but its sheer size does seem out of keeping with its surroundings.

Worse still, friends I talk to share with me that feeling that  the Tower makes you feel insignificant, something that even the CIS building and Sunlight House do not.

Both were built at a time when Manchester was embracing the new architecture of the mid 20th century and while they were hailed as new and exciting they fitted into the city landscape.

So I am left pondering on what we have lost and looking at these two pictures which were taken just a year apart.

The first was shot in the May of 2002 and the second in the March of the following year.

Trafford Street circa 1900
Unknown to me just a few months later in July 2003 the decision was taken to build the Tower and work began a year later.

Now hindsight is a wonderful gift and had I known of the plans back then I think I would have spent more time capturing the site before it disappeared.

Of course much of what it looked like soon after the viaduct had been built and the Great Northern Warehouse was open for business vanished a long time ago.

The great brick viaduct having crossed Deansgate carried on over Trafford Street, Crown Street and Bridgewater Street, delivering four railway lines into the warehouse.

Below in the arches were the stables of the railway company, a reminder that while the goods came in to the city by train it was horse drawn wagons that distributed them across Manchester.

I will I think g searching for some old photographs of the area.

That said they may be someone out there who did.

If so I would love to see the pictures.

Location; Manchester

Pictures; corner of Trafford Street and Deansgate, 2002-3, from the collection of Andrew Simpson, detail of Trafford Street area, from Goad's Fire Insurance Maps of manchester , 1900, Digital Asscoiation, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

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