Blank Street – Ancoats

As with all things material and corporeal there was time when you simply didn’t exist.

1860 adjacent to Woodward Street and the Rochdale Canal, a simple agglomeration of loose limbed industrial buildings and such – yet to be christened Blank.

adjective

  1.  Unrelieved by decorative or other features; bare, empty, or plain a blank wall.
  2. Showing a lack of comprehension or reaction – we were met by blank looks – synonyms: expressionless, empty, vacant, deadpan, wooden, stony, impassive, inanimate, vacuous, glazed, fixed, lifeless, uninterested, emotionless, unresponsive, inscrutable.

noun

  1. A space left to be filled in a document – leave blanks to type in the appropriate names – synonyms: space, gap, blank space, empty space.
  2. A cartridge containing gunpowder but no bullet, used for training or as a signal.

verb

  1. Make (something) blank or empty – electronic countermeasures blanked out the radar signals.
  2.  Informal North American defeat (a sports team) without allowing them to score – Baltimore blanked Toronto in a 7–0 victory.

Though contradictorily I have found reference to a bankrupt foundry in the London Gazette 1857.

You appear again during the Manchester Blitz.

By 1960 you are on the map and the area is on the up and up.

Though I have to ask the question of the namers of streets – why so Blank, an off day at the office – we have whole blocks named for poets, painters, and far flung places, so why so Blank?

Hadn’t they heard of nominative determinism – born to be Blank.

Whilst in search of a Brown Cow I found a photograph on the Local Image Collection of 60’s maisonettes in the area alongside Woodward Street.

This Municipal Modernist development seems to have been short-lived and subject to yet more demolition in the area, to be replaced by late 70’s terraced housing.

Blank Street inexplicably became Fulmer Drive.

Which in turn had been tinned up and demolished around 2008.

How did that happen – seemingly viable homes previously changing hands for £100,000 deemed surplus to requirements – land banking, ahead of an as yet unseen masterplan?

Your life was short and sharp – shaped by economic shifts, world war and the local authorities ephemeral housing policies. There is little evidence of your existence, photographic or otherwise, so I want to set the record straight – draw a blank.

Here you are as of July 2019 – tarmac intact, drains fully functioning, pavements paved, awaiting orders. A circuitous run of grassy ridges resembling the remains of some Roman or Iron Age fortification.

Where do we go from here?

Woodward Court Woodward Street – Ancoats Manchester

“What’s going on?”

As Marvin Gaye so succinctly asked.

Why is there just one remaining tower block dancing unclad around Ancoats?

Let’s go back in time and see if we can find out – it seems that back in 1807 there wasn’t a Woodward Street to be found, the ever expanding industrial might of Manchester had not yet reached these particular green fields of Ancoats.

By 1824 it shows a fresh face to the world christened Woodworth Street, sparsely dotted with new development.

Almost fully formed in 1836 and renamed as Woodward Street, the area begins to accumulate the familiar domestic and industrial clutter of a burgeoning Victorian City.

By 1860 the street is fully formed and open for business.

Workers finding homes in austere and functional brick back to backs, typical of the period’s housing.

Fast forward to the early Sixties and the street is showing signs of age – the century old industries are already in decline, steady jobs, mills and factories gone west and east, well-worn housing looking terminally tired and in need of a little care and attention.

But wait what’s this coming around the bend?

The first wave of urban regeneration, post war optimism incarnate, a bright new shiny future – out with the old and in with the new, as Municipal Modernism stamps its big broad architectural feet all over Woodward Street.

Archival photographs from Manchester Local Image Collection

Our story is far from over, this optimism is short-lived the homes, houses and industry are swept away yet again, replaced with two story modern terraced housing and an all too obvious absence of regular employment – yet the tower blocks prevailed.

Former streets were over written and remain as poignant vestigial marks in the landscape.

Grand plans are made for their revival.

Paul Daly

Though their future was built on more than somewhat shifting and uncertain sands.

A tower block has been left lying empty for a whopping 18 years. The 13-storey building at Saltford Court in Ancoats has been unoccupied since Manchester council closed it in the 1990s. It was bought by top developers Urban Splash six years ago but residents have now hit out about it still being empty. Neighbours of Saltford Court say it has become an ‘eyesore’ and magnet for vermin since the firm bought it.

Manchester Evening News 2012

A large group of blocks stood tinned up and unloved, yet owned, for a number of years, victims one supposes of land-bankers, developers speculating on an even better return, as the warm waves of gentrification washed slowly over them, from nearby New Islington.

All but one was refurbished, clad and re-let.

Woodward Court was spared – set aside for the homeless.

A period piece surrounded by Post Modern and Revivalist pretenders.

Why not go take a look.

Central Retail Park – Great Ancoats Street Manchester

Way back when, when the city was a maverick mixed up maze of citizens, industry, pubs, shops and places of worship the world looked a lot like this.

Local Image Collection

However the process of clearance and redevelopment radically changed and reduced the population and appearance of Great Ancoats Street and its environs.

The back to backs aren’t coming back and their occupants shifted from pillar to post along with the businesses that served them. Following years of decline Manchester takes a long hard look at itself and decides to modernise.

In 1989 an out of town inner ring road shopping centre in the architectural style de jour is built – the anonymous industrial retail hangar appears.

2018 and the nexus of the city has shifted yet again – Ancoats is designated as the hippest place on earth and has no time for an outmoded shopping experience.

All these developers have a certain sensitivity towards this history of the area without neglecting modern tastes. 

So the Central Retail park awaits its fate.

There was to have been another retail complex.

Henderson Global Investors, on behalf of its flagships £1 billion Retail Warehouse Fund, has received detailed planning permission for a food store led regeneration at Central Retail Park, Manchester, investing £40 million in the scheme.

Though nothing lasts forever and the scheme came to nothing.

The latest proposal according to Place North West is for housing – with the attendant heated debate regarding affordable homes.

Of the 61 big residential developments granted planning permission by Manchester city council’s planning committee in 2016 and 2017, not one of the 14,667 planned flats or housesmet the government’s definition of affordable, being neither for social rent nor offered at 80% of the market rate.

Demolition of the former retail units would enable the development of the site by Manchester Life, the city’s joint venture with Abu Dhabi United Group. Previous site owner TH Real Estate, was unable to deliver the project, finally sold the Central Park site to the city council in November 2017.

The long awaited development of the site on Manchester’s inner ring road has edged closer, with site notices posted declaring that demolition is to start on 20 August.

As of last week the lone security guard at home in his brick cabin informs me that demolition has been delayed by the discovery of asbestos on the site.

Watch this forlorn windswept wet space.

The Bank Of England – Manchester

Standing stately on the corner of Carruthers and Pollard Street, safe as houses.

As safe as the houses that are no longer there, along with the other public houses, along with the jobs, along with the punters – all long gone, it’s a long story.

Look out!

Mind that tram, full of the boys and girls in blue, off to shriek at a Sheikh’s shrine.

The Bank of England was one of Ancoats’ first beerhouses, licensed from 1830 and ten years later it was fully licensed with attached brewhouse.  The brewery did well, in fact it had another tied house, the Kings Arms near Miles Platting station nearby.  The brewery was sold off in the 1860s but continued as a separate business for a few years.

Pubs of Manchester

Bank of Enland 30s

Ancoats, the core of the first industrial city, a dense cornucopia of homes, mills and cholera – its citizens said to find respite from disease, through the consumption of locally brewed beer.

Once home to a plethora of pubs, now something of a dull desert for the thirsty worker, though workers, thirsty or otherwise are something of a rarity in the area.

One worker went missing, some twenty years ago Martin Joyce was last seen on the site, the pub grounds were excavated – nothing was found.

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Manchester Evening News

When last open it was far from loved and found little favour amongst the fickle footy fans.

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To the north a tidal wave of merchant bankers, to the east redundant industry.

The Bank of England has gone west.

So clean the mills and factories 

And give me council houses too

And work that isn’t turning tricks

Like building homes and making bricks.

Danny Moran

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