Wednesday, 29 February 2012

One giant leap for Man(chester)kind...

Leap Day deserves a special post so I have decided on one of my favourite Mancunian interiors, The Royal Exchange Theatre.

The Royal Exchange was a cotton exchange with its current (and third) reincarnation on this site completed in the 1870s. It suffered bomb damage in both World War II and 1996. Trading ceased in 1968, in 1973 a theatre company moved in and by 1976 a theatre in the round had landed in the centre of the grand hall.

The clash of 19th century opulence and 20th century theatre venue, studio, gallery, craft centre and restaurants somehow works.  The theatre part has always reminded me of a giant version of the Apollo pods which landed on the moon. You can see the theatre/pod partially to the bottom right of this photo. I'll post other photos to do the pod and the rest of the building justice another time.

I fondly remember coming here on my first ever trip to Manchester in 1984 (an ominous literary year...). I was here for the weekend from London and, after an all night film show at the Uni, queued for cheap banquette tickets at about 8 a.m. The play I got to see that evening was Tom Stoppard's Jumpers with Julie Walters and Tom Courtenay, if memory serves me right...(Yes, it does, I just checked).

Linked to the Weekly Top Shot blog.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mcr Histories Festival

The Manchester Histories Festival is on this week. It's a celebration of Greater Manchester’s "unique history and heritage" - an odd statement in my view as surely every city's history and heritage is unique?

That aside, this year's mouth watering programme includes talks, walks, exhibitions, performance and archaeology.  A few gems I'm looking forward to are Scott of the Antarctic and Manchester; Slavery and Abolition; Frances Lockett- Britain's first queen of cotton; food heritage; music fanzines; Egyptology in Manchester, Communism in Manchester and much more:

A photo of mine is being used to promote the New Manchester Walks' tours of the Town Hall. It is ringed to the right above (thanks Tim!) and appears in the thousands of festival brochures printed. I first posted it here last September. The photo is also in use at New Manchester Walks  and Quay Tickets.
The use of my photo on the festival website I gave free of charge, as I am a passionate believer of the Histories Festival itself.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Happy Mondays: Delamere Forest foray

The Forestry Commission describe Delamere Forest as having "over 950 hectares of mixed deciduous and evergreen forest, open grassland and wetlands. It is the largest wooded area in Cheshire and lies within the Mersey Forest. Blakemere Moss is an excellent habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and is particularly popular with ornithologists".

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Hilton Hotel: a humdrum conundrum

The Beetham Tower, Manchester; the first 22 floors are a Hilton Hotel, floor 23 is the Cloud 23 bar, and floors 24 to 47 contain 219 private apartments and 16 penthouses.

But I relate to the dilemma posed by Irma Kurtz in her 1994 book The Great American Bus Ride:

“When I was young and learning to survive on the roads of Europe, Hilton was anathema to me and other wanderers of my ilk. Hilton was the home away from home for all bourgeois American tourists. Hiltonites were be-cameraed and wore Bermuda shorts...[but] was it such a big deal nearly 40 years on to spend one lousy night, the first of my entire life, in a Hilton Hotel?”
Linked to the Weekly Top Shot blog.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Weekend Reflections: The mysterious W.B. Tyler...

This is 2 Charter Road in Altrincham. The previous shop sign has fallen off or been removed. This has revealed the wonderful wooden signage of a bygone era, I would guess the 1950s.

I couldn't find anything out about W.B.Tyler or what the premises were used for but the Altrincham local history society have shed a little light on it. David Miller tells me that a bomb dropped on Charter Road on 22 December 1940 and made a big crater with considerable damage to property including this one. He has put me on to Trafford Local Studies and I will see what I can discover in their 1942 street directory... 

Update 20 March 2012: David tells me that "the present occupiers of the shop say it was a butchers before them, probably Tylers". As a vegetarian I am very saddened.
The blue tinted window does however, reflect a good example of local terraced housing, a vintage lamp, a tree near the entrance to Stamford Park and a myriad of telegraph wires. Have a look at some other Weekend Reflections.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Metrolink millions

Late afternoon, just before the start of the commuter rush hour on the ever expanding Metrolink tram network.

Evidently it carries about 20 million passengers a year- which is one of those uses of statistics I always find slightly odd. It means that there are 20 million individual journeys rather than there being 20 million different people who use it annually.

Millions of pounds are being invested in several new lines. Overall it's a good, cleanish and fast system, although often overcrowded and fares aren't cheap- they increased again last month, unlike most of us poor passengers' wages...

Linked to Friday's fences at:

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Winter waterway

There are miles and miles of pretty stretches along the Trent and Mersey canal. It sometimes looks more like a river than a canal and is attractive even when cloaked in winter colours. 

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The pancake stakes

Shrove Tuesday saw some traditional pancake tossing and consumption all across Manchester. The On The Eighth Day cafe was offering vegan versions as well as the usual kind. At home we settled for a large batch, courtesy of Susie, with some of us sticking to lemon and sugar as a filling, whilst others boldly experimented with banana, strawberries, nutella and vanilla ice cream...

Photo by Holly Sutton-Brand

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Cheshire Cheese - oldest in England

The Cheshire Cheese pub at Wheelock in Cheshire.
There are many pubs of this name in the county and, indeed, throughout the country. I like the way the lamp fitting also has the pub's name engraved on it.
Cheshire cheese is the oldest cheese in England. Dense and crumbly it is produced in Cheshire and four neighbouring counties: two in Wales (Denbighshire and Flintshire) and two in England (Shropshire and Staffordshire). It is first mentioned by Thomas Muffet in his book on nutition for the layperson, Health's Improvement, written circa 1580.

Wheelock village was named after the River Wheelock which runs through it, and comes from an old Welsh source meaning "winding river". The first recorded name for the village was Hoileck/Hoiloch in the Domesday Book. By 1396 the name had evolved to Quelock then in 1382 to Whelock. Two years later, it was Welock and by 1390 the name Wheelock was settled upon.

See also the Signs, Signs blog.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Kings of King Street: Jamie vs Rio

These grand buildings at the top end of King Street were built by Manchester wealth of the 19th and 20th centuries. Two of them are former banks which now house restaurants owned by two of today's wealthy celebrities. On the left we have Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italian and in the turreted building on the middle right we have footballer Rio Ferdinand's Italian, Rosso.

The white building was formerly the Midland Bank (where I banked in splendour for many years!), built in the 1930s to an Edwin Lutyens design. Original features have been retained, including marble clad columns, intricate mahogany wall panellings and a number of historic art deco features. Thе vaults аnԁ safety deposit boxes hаνе bееn also incorporated іntο thе design.

Jamie says of his restaurant which opens today: “I hope thаt whеn Manchester see thе restaurant thеу feel wе′ve looked аftеr thеіr building sensitively. [I hope] thаt thеу Ɩіkе іt, іt’s got energy, gorgеουѕ food, fаntаѕtіс ingredients, cooked bу community people аnԁ really accessible. I јυѕt hope thеу delight іn іt and wе really wіƖƖ look аftеr thеm, аnd whаt саn thеу expect? EхсеƖƖеnt food, ехсеƖƖеnt drink, ехсеƖƖеnt atmosphere, fοr sure.”

Photos of the inside at Manchester Confidential.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Station buffet hits the buffers

The station buffet and cafe at Altrincham station was given an overhaul in 2010 and looked promising when it reopened as Hamilton's Express. With a modern appearance it somehow still retained the feel and structure of previous cafes here. Sadly Hamilton's failed to take off so the station buffet is closed once more...

My apologies for not commenting on anyone's photos this past week. I am just back from a week on Fuerteventura, so will try to catch up with everyone over the coming evenings...

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Sky bridge

Trinity Bridge separates Manchester from Salford. I posted another angle of it last May.
My imagination may be running away with me but it looks like the bridge's "needle" has just popped a cloud, sending its contents puffing outwards.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Coffee break in the new office

Coffee shops often double up as a temporary office space these days, as shown by the businessmen hard at work in this branch of an ubiquitous coffee shop chain.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Stepping out in Styal

A winter walk to Styal and Quarry Bank Mill.

Along the River Bollin's banks, the crunch of foot on frost,
sun streams westward, water too, roots are making tracks.
Devil's Bridge, Giant's Castle, cottages' thatch, 
ancient mill still threatening yet nature meets its match.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Street Art: Tram & train

Crashing through the wall come an early Manchester Metrolink tram and what I think is a New York subway train. I discovered this art hidden away while on a walk around the southern gateway, near the Bridgewater canal and St George's Island.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Heart of glass

Three pairs of hearts painted on the windows of an otherwise unloved and derelict building at Cornbrook, waiting to be bought and renovated. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, 13 February 2012

1873 fish market

There are lots of these lovely sculptures at the top of the walls around what was the fish market and which now conceal the courtyard of a modern apartment block. It was opened 139 years ago tomorrow!

It's in the Northern Quarter and here is a fascinating 20 minute documentary on the area's chequered history and how it developed into the vibrant and creative area it is today.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Today Manchester, tomorrow Le Monde

On those rare occasions I see someone British and cultured enough to be reading a quality foreign newspaper, my heart skips a beat... He could of course be a Frenchman but, even then, seeing a centre left newspaper reader makes my day.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Street Art: Magic mushrooms

 A crop of magical looking mushrooms on New Wakefield Street. To me they look like the edible species, Suillus spraguei, although I wouldn't be surprised if they are meant to represent one of the more common hallucinogenic species, the Fly Agaric.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Daffodils grow in the snow

Some daffodil shoots shivering in sub-zero temperatures this week. Will they be able to recover and bloom in about six weeks time as usual? Thankfully it seems that most daffodils are fairly hardy and will tolerate a certain amount of frost and freezing, and snow can act as an insulator.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Books for the discerning: Tintin, Wainwright, Jamie Oliver

"Books for the discerning" is the wonderful byline here at Bookline on Shaws Road in Altrincham. Sadly it's about to close down, but this is due to retirement rather than recession. They have long stocked a good selection of new and, even better, second hand books.

Jamie Oliver takes centre stage and his new Italian restaurant opens in Manchester on 20th February. The Wainwright Letters are a collection of 35 years of replies to letters sent to Alfred Wainwright, the famous Lake District walker and writer. Herge's Tintin has had a new lease of life since the release of a film last year (and the Wii game too!). The window display is completed with books on three popular subjects: horse racing, bird watching and gardening.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Wind and Wuthering, Fog and February

This foggy scene taken on Sunday reminds me of the album cover for Wind and Wuthering by Genesis (see below). The band played Manchester Free Trade Hall on the Wind and Wuthering tour for two dates in January 1977.

The album's title derives from two pieces: The "Wind" comes from a Manhattan Chinese restaurant, the title given to a piece that became part of Eleventh Earl of Mar; the "Wuthering" alludes to Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Two other titles on the album are from the last sentence in that novel, namely Unquiet slumbers for the sleepers and In that quiet earth.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Charles Dickens' 1812 overture

Today is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth. He was a frequent visitor to Manchester as Cotton Times- Understanding the Industrial Revolution reports:

"...[Charles Dickens regularly took] the platform at Athenaeum meetings alongside reformers and notables such as Disraeli. He reputedly based the character of the crippled Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol on the son of a friend who owned an Ardwick cotton mill, while the Grant Brothers, William and Daniel, the Ramsbottom industrialists, were the prototypes for the Cheeryble brothers in Nicholas Nickleby.

However, for all his reforming zeal and social conscience, Dickens produced only one work which reflected directly on the Industrial Revolution. His Hard Times (1854) was set in a mythical Coketown, identified variously with Manchester and Preston, and although not one of his better-known works, is worth reading for its descriptions of working-class life."

See also the Weekly Top Shot meme.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Castle pretender

A new block of student accommodation is making a welcome addition to the Manchester skyline, although I doubt it can be as ornate as the brown Refuge Assurance building. And despite its name of Student Castle, I think the Refuge (now the Palace Hotel) and the white Excalibur Buildings will always be more castle-like.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Frosty morn at Ramsdell Hall

Ramsdell Hall at Odd Rode in Cheshire was completed in 1760. It was built for the Lowndes family and it's thought that William Baker designed and oversaw the building. Baker was the architect who designed Baker Street in London, home to Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Simple pleasures

Simple on Tib Street is somewhere that doesn't live up to its name, but in a good way. Hearty food, modern decor and a touch of glamour due to a couple of chandeliers. 

I think it's a good place to meet for lunch or dinner. Or, indeed, for a coffee or hot chocolate which is what I did on Thursday with Miriam, who writes the eclectic and fabulous Little Bones blog. A lovely woman, Miriam is a well travelled teacher and writer, who also scribes an annual column about the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I was honoured to be the latest subject in her entertaining handbag feature.
About the handbag series.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Captain America faces the music

Once upon a time it looks like music lessons were given in this building on Dale Street.  "Classical, Church, Jazz, Swing" suggest late 1940s to me. Any ideas?   A typically imposing Mancunian warehouse  (for cotton and textile, late 19th/ early 20th centuries)) is reflected in the window.

Bearing in mind that Dale Street doubled as 1940's Brooklyn for the filming of Captain America in late 2010, I wonder if this sign is actually a leftover from the shoot. I took the photo below of some dog eared posters on China Lane, which definitely are. Either way, a great blog documenting how this part of Manchester was transformed into Brooklyn is at:

See more reflections at the Weekend Reflections blog: and signs at the Signs, Signs blog:

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Silhouettes' pirouette

The retail and leisure units here at 40 Spring Gardens lay empty, and the developer is trying to find businesses to move in. The posters suggests that spring and love are in the air, but we all know the landlords and letting agents are only after your money, not your love...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Theme Day: Animals

Daisy the Labrador is 9 years old today, born 01/02/03, so it seems only right she should feature in the City Daily Photo February theme day of Animals.  Her ancestral home of Labrador in Canada has snowy conditions at present, even if Manchester doesn't.

After two extreme winters in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 this winter's snow has mainly stayed in the hills, not down in the Manchester basin and Cheshire plain. We may get a taste of real winter yet. It was 4°C overnight, and is not expected to get much above freezing during the day. It’s forecast to be  6°C tonight and snow for the weekend but I have my doubts as to how accurate this is...

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants in the theme day posts.

Photo of Tim and Daisy taken by Holly in 2010.

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