Juxtaposing The Old, New And Re-Purposed In Manchester’s Northern Quarter


It’s hard to believe it’s a year since we were up in Manchester. Lovely niece Sarah had bought tickets for the Buena Vista Social Club’s Adios Tour. We went up by train. Astonishingly there is a direct service from rural Church Stretton to Manchester Piccadilly. The venue was The Bridgewater Hall. It was a great night out: Omara Portuondo, still singing at 85, gave us her all. But it was a little sad too, with film tributes on screen, commemorating past members of this life-affirming ensemble; it left one with a bit of a hum-ho feeling.

And the antidote to such feelings is a trip round the city’s Northern Quarter.

Early on the following Monday morning we set off there. It was once the heart of Victorian Manchester’s cotton trade (there are family connections here: my Hickling grandfather and great grandfather were cotton merchants), now it is a hive  of quirky, alternative, creative, innovative, vintage, left-leaning city living. As in the first photo, there is a lot of what architectural conservationists (if they were feeling generous) might call ‘adaptive re-use’.



There is still much recycling to do and the place is not pretty. The streets display layers of multi-period dilapidation from the nineteenth century onwards. But there is a vibe here, in the same way there is a vibe in London’s Camden Market. People are doing interesting and creative things. There are independent boutiques and craft-beer bars. If you are into vintage then there are many shopping opportunities, and most especially at Affleck’s Palace emporium:






If you are a maker then Fred Aldous provides a whole department store of art and craft materials to keep your fingers busy.  And if you want to see what local artists and designers are up to, then the Manchester Craft & Design Centre, located in a former Victorian fish and poultry market, showcases their work:





But my favourite piece of juxtaposing is the new development that allowed the survival of the facade of the old wholesale fish market. Aesthetically some might say it’s uneasy union of old and new. But I like it. Mostly because someone had the wit to think it possible. If you look inside the entrance you can see the apartment block has a courtyard garden that has retained the original cast iron columns of the market hall:




And finally, after all the hiking around, what is most needed is a nice cup of tea with some of the finest cakes on offer. In fact they cater for all tastes and food requirements at the Teacup Kitchen.



Thursday’s Special: Juxtaposition

43 thoughts on “Juxtaposing The Old, New And Re-Purposed In Manchester’s Northern Quarter

  1. Love your post Tish! Those photos are stunning. Manchester was our nearest big city when I was growing up, though I remember it being dilapidated, grimy back then. When we lived there for a while over a decade ago, the city was on the rise, regenerating into somewhere fashionable, somewhere pretty cool to be honest.
    And Affleck’s Palace was legendary even back when I was teenager! I remember wandering up and down the narrow stairways, buying Doc Martens and just marvelling at the other customers. Thanks for the post and the pics – brought back some happy memories

    1. So glad to bring back happy memories, Lynn. I’m a country soul through and through, but every now and then it’s good to have some urban buzz, and Manchester seems to have everything these day.

  2. I am very happy with the captures :), but first of all I must say that conservatives might call it whatever they want, but I love it. I am not sure what the structure in the first image was priorly used for, but it looks wonderful juxtaposed against nondescript modern architecture. I love the market as well with the iron cast columns, and your shot with skewed chairs/view is brilliant. You’ve made me a happy spectator. 😀

    1. Happy that you’re happy, Paula. I’m not sure what the structure in the first shot was either, but I’m imagining that it’s a fragment of some once imposing Victorian/Edwardian business premises that stood on that site. Manchester is full of such buildings, remnants of its great industrial past, when it was pretty much hub of the universe. How things change!

  3. What a wonderful and color filled post, love seeing new places I have not seen in England! All the building were great, loved the bright blue planters, and poles, though I would not have chosen bright shocking hot pink for a building. 🙂 Great post and pictures Tish!

  4. Shabbiness worthy of Sue herself, Tish, but you’ve pretty well sold me on Manchester. I’ve only driven through in a coach (on my way to meet Gilly in Birmingham 🙂 ) and it did look a bit unappealing. No judging a book by its cover. I, too, love the lopsided pic, and that tea shop looks the business!

    1. Definitely a day or two’s worth of visiting to be done in Manchester. There are some great galleries for starters not too far from Piccadilly. And if you want to stay we spent the night at The Palace Hotel – an astonishing place – worth checking into for the original architecture and fixtures – it was once a monumentally huge Edwardian insurance company building, and they’ve not changed it much. It’s not too expensive either.

  5. Not my usual thing, but I really like that sculpture? in the first shot and I love the fish market mash-up. Sounds as though you had a grand time being country mouse in the city for a bit. 🙂


    1. It was a good little safari. I’m thinking now we need to go again. Alternatively the train from our local station that goes to Manchester one way, goes to Cardiff the other – another interesting city.

  6. Last time I was in Manchester I got lost trying to find a friend’s place and ended up in Moss Side.
    Er … That was, how shall we say … interesting. Not the most salubrious part of the city!
    Might be different these days?

    Saw the Rolling Stones at the Kings Hall many moons ago. Bunked school and got detention for my trouble! ( worth every single piece of extra homework )

    Still have a few friends living there.
    Of course, it goes without saying, I hate their footy teams. 😉

    1. I think Manchester would be a very easy place to get lost in , and Moss Side does not come with a good reputation. It was possibly? more respectable when my grandmother and siblings lived there in the 1900s, but then you never do know.

      1. Good to get the groan out of the way fairly early on in the day I feel. How are things with you today, Ark. Tis v. gloomy here, and chilly round the peripheries. I just repotted some sunflowers and now they are sulking.

  7. Such a colourful post Tish. I have been to Manchester a few times as I used to attend exam meetings there, but never saw this part. Some nice Victorian buildings though and to be honest whenever I was there it was usually raining.

    1. Yep. It doesn’t have a good record on the rain front. And there are indeed some fantastic buildings there, especially around the university, and what was UMIST etc

  8. Sigh! My idea of heaven. I used to go to Manchester for work in the early 90s and never really enjoyed it the way I did Birmingham. Great post Tish, perfect for the theme! And I do love that first shot of the very steampunk sculpture(?)

    1. There’s all kinds of crazy funny art about the place. Most uplifting. Manchester can feel a bit overbearing otherwise. The Victorian architecture can seem so big and stalwart and pillar of the community-ish – at least to this country bumpkin.

      1. Love it! I really like the way community and street art can totally change the character of a place. Such a relief from bronze statues of “worthies”.

  9. What I love most about this post are your photos, especially the mannequin in the red dress, the restaurant interior on a slant, and the bright blue columns and plant pots – great composition. Oh and the teacup kitchen because I read it has clotted cream and scones so I immediately wanted to be there 🙂

    1. That café is amazing. If you pop in for morning coffee, you want to stay for lunch, and then dinner. And then probably breakfast 🙂 And thank you Alison for your very nice comments about the photos.

  10. Am I odd to remark how much I really, really like that dress on that mannequin? You don’t have to answer, I shouldn’t have to ask. Cheers to you and yours, happy spring. Bill

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.