Manchester, Salford and Peterloo

Ø July 6 Manchester (Saturday)

[Note: additional photos in a Google Album can be found here.]

Awake before 8, I discovered the window had not latched, and I hadn’t been disturbed through the night. Peering out the window at solid gray skies, not many were out so I couldn’t tell if the slicker was appropriate. Getting ready, finishing packing, I headed to reception and then onto the street in my yellow jacket. Avoiding the longer route by surface streets, I walked through the bus depot and got to the Sheffield station in 10 minutes.

Service to #Manchester was frequent, so I caught the second of two available trains which made “milk run” stops. Folks were laden with backpacks, wearing hiking boots, and seemed excited to get out in the drizzle to hike through nature. I noted a spectacular gorge near New Mill which I want to return to and photograph. After perhaps 40 minutes, I was at Manchester Piccadilly. Twenty minutes more, I’d walked along Canal Street and the Rochdale Canal to Le Ville Hotel.

As it was probably about 11am, the room wasn’t available, so I left my bag and headed north on Princess Street. After a few blocks, looking down the side street, I located Chinatown. Less than a half dozen blocks later, the Manchester Town Hall was on the left. Folks were setting up for the Manchester International Festival (MIF) in front of the north entrance to town hall, so I noted it for later. At that corner the street name changed, to John Dalton, and then 4 blocks later to Bridge, with the direction shifting towards west. Crossing the River Irwell, I continued and walked under the railroad tracks at Salford Central station.

#Salford, a city district in Manchester contained my goal. Turning west onto Chapel Street, I was soon standing in front of the Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist. A light gray stone Gothic Revival structure with a single central spire and bell tower, the nave-sanctuary axis ran north-south. The cathedral, school and office buildings occupy the southern half of a large block, with an open green to the west. Arriving an hour after the scheduled Saturday morning Mass, the sacrament was being exhibited. Silencing my camera, I moved slowly about the church interior.

Salford Cathedral, rear, over fence to cathedral green

Not being able to walk the center aisle, I did visit the 4 smaller chapels and see the old high altar against the north wall. The icon-framed wooden panels of the chapel on the east transept were my favorite, but I did also see the World War I chapel to the west of the sanctuary, and St Joseph’s to the east. The cathedra, a bowed chair placed in a stone framing, was to the east of the central altar at the crossing. Leaving the interior, I walked west to visit the church yard. I took an alley to continue my walk around the property, finding the office locked in the rear. A parishioner on her way to midday Mass invited me to stay, but I was ready to move on.

Back under the railroad bridge, I kept noticing a number of modern building with protrusions, usually of glass and steel. At the river I took a diversion to walk along the bank before turning south into wide pedestrian plazas between office buildings. The areas were mixed use, so flats with well-tended garden boxes looked out over grass lawns. The sun was gradually trying to break through the cloud cover, and the precipitation had stopped.

When I reached the John Rylands Library, I opted to enter and investigate. My schedule for Sunday included a service at the cathedral remembering the victim of the Peterloo Massacre, and the library had an exhibit detailing its history. Besides being an active library, it is historic public library and now part of the University of Manchester. Red-tinted stone inside and out, this Gothic building is a delight to explore. Many of the books are in glass-faced cabinets, and the card catalog has been preserved. Reading tables are available (as is WiFi) which I took advantage of to update my journal and get off my feet. The woodwork is splendid. And the carved stone bosses in the ceiling arches captured my attention.

The #PeterlooMassacre was intended to be a non-violent gathering in Peter’s Field in Manchester 150 years ago. Protesting lack of representation in Parliament, common people came out to listen to speakers. The City fathers, fearful of a confrontation, actually instigate one by bringing in armed soldiers and cavalry, causing death and injury to the families who had come out. [On my flight back to the States, I watched a docudrama movie about the incident.]

Exiting, the sun was out and the sky was slowly getting more and more blue. I continued my focus on the upper parts of buildings, checking out ornamentation. Drifting about on the streets, I gradually moved east and wound up at the Manchester Cathedral. The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George has a stone plaza to the north and south, with the Cathedral Gardens off its northeast corner. With a clock- and bell-tower, it claims the space well.

Historically a collegiate church, it has five aisles, making the nave the widest of English cathedrals. Guilds and wealthy families had established private chapels along the outside walls, which were removed with the Reformation. With the Industrial Revolution, Manchester was a textile manufacturing hub, and in 1847 the church became a cathedral. With this elevation of status, extensive renovations were made, giving the architectural feel to the Victorian English Decorative/Parallel Gothic style. As an industrial center, Manchester saw extensive damage during the blitz. Most of the windows are modern.

The tower stands at the center of the west face, in the center over the main entrance. More than double the height of the already tall central nave aisle, the interior ceiling sports fan arches, and the west St Mary Window highlights the outer wall. Initiated in 1971, the five windows of the west end were designed and reglazed: all look stunning, accomplishing the purpose of limiting the glare of the afternoon and evening sun.


Memorial Chapel altar and "flaming" stained-glass window

At the other end of the nave, a new large chrome-piped organ is mounted over the screen into the quire. At the base of the nave columns supporting the arches are numerous mythological creatures. On the north side of the quire is the Regimental Chapel, honoring military dead, with the lists in glass-topped cases along the outside wall. The stained glass on the east wall of the chapel is primarily red transparent glass, and the foliage outside, when moved by winds, give the impression of a roaring fire.

Inside the quire, the organ pipes have a golden sheen. The cathedra is carved dark wood, with a tall back, but not topped with a spire as many I’d seen. Above the stalls is an intricately carved screen, while the seats boast a clever collection of fantasy in the misericords. The ceiling is wooden tiling with squared arches supporting stenciled panels.


Leaving by the south porch, this grassy area felt like a cloister without the enclosing walls. The greensward continued to the north side, with the National Football Museum along the west end. I even crossed the River Irwell to see about photo ops. Then heading back towards the hotel, I came to the corner where the MIF was now underway. In full swing, although no events were actually scheduled, access was free and masses of folks were checking out the food and beverage vendors, listening to free live music, and being seen. Hoping to find a seat (and perhaps a drink), I climbed the raised platform directly in front of the town hall building.


Arriving at the hotel after the 2pm checking time, I was sent down a flight of stairs to room 4. A good-sized space, the bath had been nicely upgraded, and there was plenty of floor space. I schmoozed a bit with the receptionist, a Scotswoman, and shared the big book with her for a bit. Returning to my room, the card key didn’t work (the one I’d used had been left to activate the electricity, and I was charging my camera and phone.) Straightening that out, I headed out looking for a watering hole. At a corner bar I decided to try cider, sitting outside near the canal. Three visibly drunken women came by, but fortunately kept walking.

Too chilly now for just a shirt, I returned to the room and grabbed my jacket. Crossing the canal, in the general direction of the Piccadilly station, I explored the university area. Over closer to the station, I popped into the Bull’s Head for a pint, getting a Lancaster Bomber, a brown ale. As it was Saturday evening, the kitchen was closed, so I left and continued my dinner search. Crossing back over the canal, back into the heart of the gay district, the streets throbbed with activity: crowds, cigarettes, blasting music. Skirting all that activity, I headed into Chinatown, figuring I should be able to get decent ethnic food.

Pin Wei was downstairs from street level, a fairly large space, with quite a few large round tables occupied by groups of Chinese – a good sign in my book. The décor was fairly modern, with a clean stone wall and no decorations. The industrial ceiling (exposed) was battleship gray. Not the most efficient or effective wait staff, I placed an order for steamed pork buns, seafood hot-and-sour soup, and Gong Bao diced chicken with peanuts and chilli. Beer choices were limited, so I had a bottle of Beck’s Vier. Buns were delayed, so the soup arrived first: nicely spicy, good amount of seafood, tasty. The dumplings arrived: hot, delicious. One more Beck’s, my last as I had reached my quota, committing to lots of water for the rest of the evening. The main was delayed, so I ran upstairs to use the loo. Returning, two younger Asian men had arrived, and were trying to signal the waitstaff – I was amused at their frustration. White rice arrived with the chicken, which was spicy and great. The lemongrass was tender (unusual) and there was a spice I couldn’t identify. I was very pleased with my meal.

Back to the room, I moved pictures to the cloud and pulled a few down to upload to Facebook. Internet activity was light, so I just relaxed. Getting cleaned up before bedtime, I set the alarm for 9.

Ø July 7 Manchester (Sunday)

Up at 8:30, the alarm went off while I was I the shower. The Choral Eucharist service at the cathedral was set for 10:30, so I moved through the city streets slowly. The organ was having a problem, so musically accompaniment was with a piano. The bishop was in attendance, as new staff were being welcomed. After the service, I joined the congregants for tea and biscuits and spoke with the Dean before my guide Janet appeared. My notes indicate that we did a “sacrilegious” tour around the precincts. By that I take it we focused more on the pagan elements: green men, grotesques, fantasy beasts. And there was an explanation of why so many windows were new: there had been an IRA bombing in the 90’s, resulting in a lot of damage. My £1 photo permit from the afternoon before was still good, but I did make a donation for the “free” tour.


By 2pm, the new organ was functioning, the choirs of men and girls were seated, and the Epiphany Classical Music Ensemble were in position. An ecumenical memorial service remembering the Peterloo Massacre had drawn a crowd filling the nave. An Indian choir provided music before the service began, and we all rose as ministers and city officials processed. Many beliefs participated, with readings and music from different cultures, all fit within the outlines of an Anglican service. Our final hymn, after Bishop David gave a blessing, was the National Anthem, “God Save the Queen”. A Bach Toccata and Fugue allowed the active participants and dignitaries to process to the sides of the nave. Tea and refreshments were served after the postlude music from the organ.

Out about 4, skipping the moment of reflection in front of the city library, I focused my picture taking on the details of the outside of the cathedral. Looking for a free loo, I headed into the mall and met success. Returning to the cathedral green, I sat and journaled for a bit before re-entering the cathedral for Evensong. Per my notes, simply superb. Organist had the instrument going at full throttle, the Cathedral Voluntary Choir had two dozen voices raised in praise. A full formal evensong, the choir delighted with all by singing an introit, preces, psalm, Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, and an anthem, leading us in three hymns. Preaching a sermon on how music connects us to God, Archdeacon David Sharples gave a strong nod to Mozart.

Leaving the cathedral on a high, I slowly wended my way down Market Street to Piccadilly Gardens and back into Boys Town. I discovered that many of the gay bars don’t offer much variety in their ales. At The Goose I tried their eponymous ale, but food wasn’t an option – maybe too late for Sunday roasts? I contemplated Chinese again, but dreaded another restless sleep due to chemical additives. After I sent my last weekly missive (a day late) telling all to check my Facebook posts to ensure I was alive, and trying to upload a few pictures to Facebook (which didn’t want to happen over the EE mobile network), I fled the bar as The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men” had the entire bar singing along at full voice.

Out onto the street again, I began my search for dinner. Most of what was open were pubs, or places that had closed their kitchen. Relenting on the Chinese option, I entered the Red Chilli Restaurant. Drinking (piss) Stella Artois, I ordered the celery and peanut salad and Beijing minced pork with shredded cucumber and noodles. Not in Chinatown, it was a fairly healthy meal, as there was very little pork. I headed back to the room, sent those pictures to Facebook. My usual nighttime routine, I did most of my packing and went to bed.

Google album of pictures in Manchester July 6-7

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