I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Published March 8th 2019
Pic 'n' Mix of Manchester’s past lives
If you look up as you walk around the city centre, you will probably collide with someone staring at their phone or rushing to the station.
But, if you do risk raising your eyes there are many clues available as to the former lives of what are now hotels, bars and shops.
Joshua Hoyle and Sons Ltd
Photo by N Chadwick of Joshua Hoyle Building.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joshua_Hoyle_Building,_Manchester.jpg
As you leave Piccadilly Station and walk down Piccadilly Approach to your left is terracotta-style building (old, by Manchester standards). An electric sign says 'Chez Mal' but the engraved name higher up says Joshua Hoyle and Sons Ltd.
It is a reminder that the Malmaison hotel, which opened in 2001, took over a property which was built to be a warehouse, in 1904.
Joshua Hoyle & Sons Ltd were cotton spinners and manufacturers. Warehouses were needed to store the vast amount of textiles at the pulsating heart of Manchester's Cottonopolis explosion in the nineteenth century.
When the textiles boom subsided, the warehouses tended to go into hibernation. In the 1970s part of the Joshua Hoyles' warehouse was used as a Doll's Hospital - where childhood toy-companions were repaired and restored to 'former health'.
Archives of Joshua Hoyle & Sons Ltd, including pattern books, are held by Bury Art Gallery, Library and Museum.
Former Woolworths, Piccadilly Gardens
Image taken a few days after the fire at Woolworths, 1979. By David Dixon, CC BY-SA 2.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51787086
On the other side of Piccadilly Gardens, there is - not so much a name but - a symbol behind the door. At the back of what is now Morrisons, Piccadilly, there is a carved-stone lion head with a W underneath.
What remains of Woolworths: Back Piccadilly, Manchester
Frank Winfield Woolworth (1852 –1919) founded Woolworths, with its first store in 1878, in Utica, New York. Manchester was part of the second wave of UK openings (after Liverpool and Preston in 1909). F. W. Woolworth took over what was the Albion Hotel Piccadilly site in 1926/7.
One of the aims of Frank Winfield Woolworth's five-and-dime (or 3d. and 6d. [threepenny and sixpenny]) stores was to give shoppers time to browse in store. This more leisurely style of consumerism was an emerging concept at the time.
In 1979, ten people died and 47 were hurt, after a damaged electrical cable ignited. Artist Elizabeth Price won the Turner Prize (2012) for her video installation, The Woolworths Choir of 1979.
The tragedy also contributed to the 1988, The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations. The use of polyurethane foam had produced large amounts of thick toxic smoke, which caused breathing problems and obscured emergency exits.
The Woolworths Group plc was wound-up in 2008, and the name vanished from the British High Street. But the lion's heads - a symbol, which showed pride in 'Woolies' - have obviously not been so easy to erase.
If you walk down Oxford Road, you will pass, on your left, a stately red brick building, with Corinthian columns, called Churchgate and Lee House. You could rent office space there for about £15.00/sq. ft. pa. It is opposite what is currently Patisserie Valerie.
It's easy to miss the name inscribed above the doorway. It refers to Tootal Broadhurst, Lee & Co – a textile spinning and manufacturing company.
The Historic England website describes the building as "Baroque style" with "wrought-iron gates in Art Nouveau style."
It dates from 1896 and was designed and constructed by J. Gibbons Sankey (b. Salford 1860) as another Cottonopolis warehouse.
The double-barrelled name, Tootal Broadhurst Lee was a result of the marriage between Sarah Tootal and Daniel Broadhurst in 1811. Their son - Henry Tootal Broadhurst (1822-1896) established a business partnership in Manchester in 1842 with Edward Tootal and Henry Lee.
In 1991, the Tootal Group plc was acquired by Coats Viyella. But you can still get Tootal ties online.
Venture out of the city centre, down Bridge Street, and you will see Salford and Manchester Street Children Mission inscribed above what is now a spa (offering 'Aroma Bust Massages', amongst other treatments).
This Victorian charity was popularly known as Wood Street Mission. It was a 'rescue society' with the aim of providing 'spiritual and practical support' for poor children in the slum areas of central Manchester and Salford
The Mission was founded in 1869. The Wood-Street site was acquired in 1873. Accommodation was provided there for homeless boys and later girls. Free dinners, clothing and shoes were also provided for the children and their families.
Alfred Alsop was the human founding-stone of the charity. He reportedly began street preaching at the age of 16 and published books under the pseudonym of A Delver. With titles such as Down in the Slums (1885).
Edward Tootal Broadhurst was one of the charity's supporters (see Alan Kidd's, Manchester a History: Carnegie, 2006).
The charity survives to this day as Wood Street Mission. Its website states: "we no longer have a religious mission but remain dedicated to improving the lives and life chances of children living in poverty in Manchester and Salford."
The Gas Lamp pub is in the basement of the building. On its walls are archive black and white photos of the Mission.
Father Christmas visits Wood Street ca. 1930 By Wood Street Mission - Wood Street Mission, Public Domain,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6607425
Visitors to the Northern Quarter can stay at Hatters Hostel. It is the building on the corner of Hilton Street and Newton Street, with a giant mural of a blue tit on one side.
In the Manchester Pevsner City Guide, Clare Hartwell notes: "no. 50 Newton Street was originally built . . ....for a hat manufacturer by C. Clegg & Son, 1907 It was designed to maximise light with three-story glazed arcades on the three exposed sides."
The Historic England website refers to Newton Buildings, at 50, Newton Street, as a "Hat manufacturers' premises. C.1900", in the "Free baroque style" and with "wide rectangular windows . . . filled by original glazed screens"
The Hatters Hostel website simply describes the building as a "former bowler hat factory."