Manchester's Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants are going to be part of Manchester Histories Festival's Heritage Window Project from the 3-12th June, when they will be telling the histories of the site where their business now stands. They have put together this fascinating blog on what they have learnt and giving a taster of what their Heritage Window will feature:
the 12th century descendants of Norman Barons, the Gresle family would look out
from their fortified manor house with a glass of mead, local beer, cider or
highly prized wine from the motherland and toast the prosperous market town
developing across the Hanging Ditch.
This formed the defensive watercourse (possibly built by
the Romans) which included the Rivers Irk and Irwell connected
by the Hanging Bridge.
There are several theories over the name which
may derive from the Old English hen, meaning wild birds and the Welsh gan,
meaning between two hills. A
textile and tannery industry proliferated here and fabric was hung along the
embankment to dry.Another more
macabre suggestion was that regular public hangings took place outside the manor
walls for those who fell foul of the Barons.
The current bridge probably dates when Thomas de la Warre was granted a licence from the Pope to establish a
collegiate church to St Mary, St Denys and St George in 1421
having inherited the land through marriage. A landing stage had been
constructed on the Irwell nearby for traders bringing their wares to the Corn
& Produce Exchange outside the manor walls. Old Hanging Ditch: Its Trades, Its Traders & Its Renaissance BY H. B. WILKINSON (1910)
describes how “alongside of this quay the sailing ships were moored which brought the butter and cheese from Holland, and the Cheshire cheese from Chester in the days before steamships were known.”
the late 1700’s much of the “old medieval housing, taverns & alehouses” in
the area were wiped away as Manchester grew from small market town to the world’s first industrial
city, creating pressure on land, and the ditch itself was built over having become
a putrid dumping ground for waste.
An iron foundry complete with
tall chimney stood next to the church and whilst a typically Mancunian architectural
juxtaposition of elegant building and pragmatic economic want the chimney is
believed to have taken the full force of a catastrophic lighting strike which
demolished all but its base yet protected the church spire.
By 1840 the base of the old
chimney had been retained and several buildings constructed around it including
Slack & Brownlow Aquariums and Water
a number of residential properties. The adjoining building was said to have
been the medieval home of apothecary Thomas Mynshull who had died here in 1689 (according
to the legend carved on the stone window bay of the existing the Grade II
Listed Mynshull House built in 1890).
As the middle classes grew so did changes in trade in the city, with
a more commercial and consumerist economy of showrooms for local manufacturers,
accountancy & legal services as well as food & drink establishments
catering for those now arriving at Victoria and Exchange Railway Stations. Trams
and buses ran along Deansgate and a steam package landing quay was located by
Victoria Bridge where tickets could be purchased for passage, first to
Liverpool and then, to the New World.
A statue of Oliver Cromwell
proclaimed Manchester’s independence of ideas and commercial activity
From the MCC Local Image
collection we can record a variety of business which occupied 42-44 Victoria
Bridge in the 19th Century.
Ironmongers retained a presence
with the John Roaf Buss & Sons Ltdshowroom offering “cutlery, electroplating”
and specializing in corkscrews!
German photographer Franz Baum (1849-1923)
was a Member of The Royal Photographic Society.
Noblett's Confectioners were named after original
founders of Everton Mints in Liverpool.
C Garnett Confectionery & Chocolates- included “Tea and Luncheon
Storrie Dentistry took one of the upper floors- presumably profiting
from the sweet delights sold below.
Ltd Cabinet & Furniture showcased products made in their factory at the
other end of Deansgate near Knott Mill.
Roscoe Phrenology “felt ones bumps” in a branch of medicine which
exploited the numerous ailments of Victorian society.
Themans & Co sold Tobacco and
Dr Fraser Watson provided
1900 the buildings forming 42-44 Victoria St were demolished, revealing the
Hanging Bridge for the first time in over a century. It became a tourist
attraction before being covered over again. Its replacement was built for the
Britannic Assurance Company Ltd with both Theman’s Cigars and C Garnett confectioners
returning at street level during the first half of the 20th Century
as Manchester fought a losing battle against its industrial decline.
Miraculously the building came away unscathed from the Manchester Blitz
of Christmas 1940 which did so much damage to this quarter of Manchester
including the neighbouring buildings of the Deansgate Hotel, Chetham’s Hospital,
Victoria Buildings and the Cathedral itself.
A brief post-war hustle and bustle returned- as depicted in LS Lowry’s Exchange
Station (1960) painting- before the closure of the station in 1969 together
with land clearances left the area almost on the edge city and trade dwindled.
The famous Oliver Cromwell statue was moved to Wythenshawe Park as
political sentiments changed.
A gentleman’s hairdresser would occupy the old Theman’s & Co
Cigar & Tobacco unit in the 1960s but chocolates and confectionery were
still sold and a Butcher’s Shop took a slice of the Mynshull House ground
the early 1990s it was mainly offices including Liefman, Rose & Co
Solicitors which occupied the upper floors, with a newsagent the only retail
use. A company providing dental repairs linked back a century to Mr Storrie’s
attempts at addressing the damage done by Noblett’s Confectioners and C Garnett’s
Following the IRA Bombing in 1996 the regeneration of Manchester
gathered a pace with Harvey Nicholls and Exchange Square bringing life back to
the area and by the turn of the millennium the Hanging Bridge had been revealed
once more and is now incorporated into Manchester Cathedral Visitors Centre.
2007, the site including the adjoining Mynshull House was acquired by Nikkal Property
Development & Investment. They transformed the buildings into offices
whilst restoring a residential use with apartments above and created a retail
unit which became the Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants, designed by local architect Roger Stephenson OBE.
Manchester is a city in perennial flux as the waters of economics
and architecture flow through it.
Today Exchange Station and Greengate are being reborn with offices
and apartments and the Medieval Quarter is finally being celebrated once more
with development plans for both the Cathedral and Chetham’s School at its
heart; so why not pop along to the Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants
and we’ll raise a toast to the independence of Mancunian trade with a glass of fine
wine, beer, cider... or even mead!
A display showcasing the history
of 42-44 Victoria Bridge will be created for Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants as
part of Manchester Histories Festival 2016 Heritage Window Project between 3-12
Manchester Histories wants businesses across Greater Manchester to get creative and create displays of anything from objects, photographs, plans, and maps, to the stories of their employees and customers, and showcase their links in the City region. Find out more here. If you want your window to be included in the Heritage Window project and Manchester Histories Festival and included on the website and the social media campaign, email email@example.com or call 0161 306 1982 by 5pm on Friday 29 April to register your interest.
Images courtesy: Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council images.manchester.gov.uk and Hanging Ditch Wine Merchants.