Hidden Manchester

Posted: May 21, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Today, I have another guest post on my blog, as promised some days ago. The topic is wonderful when it comes to crossover between the theme I tend to have when I get guests here: locations, and also the fact that this particular location happens to be my base of operations at the moment.

Readers: I would like to proudly introduce Vicky Hartley, and the Sticky Sounds zine. There is also of course a Sticky Sounds blog, as regular readers may know.

I will be back soon with details of my upcoming activities, but for now, take it away, Vicky!


“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


I was not born a native of Manchester, my family are from Liverpool and I was born in Plymouth on the South West coast of Devon. I moved to Manchester about thirteen years ago, at the age of 21, following my then boyfriend to the city. He later left but I stayed.

It may not be the city of my birth but is now my hometown, a fact that will remain true in the future, wherever I may come to live.


I feel a connection with Manchester, with its history, its canals, its backstreets, its beautiful red bricks, even with its rain. My favourite location is not simply the city itself, but the side of it that lies secret and is hidden to most residents, the side of the city that can be found in its underground tunnels, in its abandoned buildings, in its old mills and waterways. I spend much of my time seeking out and photographing these places in the hope that I might communicate this passion with others.

The history of this beautiful city lies all around us, like the rings of a tree, all you have to do is look for it.


“Very soon these same deserted sidewalks would be thronged with people. The city would go about its business in ignorance: never knowing what it was built upon, or what it owed its life to.” – Clive Barker, Midnight Meat Train

At the heart of every city is a monster that feeds on blood, and of no city is this more true than Manchester. Once known as “Cottonopolis” and the Warehouse City, Manchester led the world in industrialisation.


“What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow.”

The Industrial Revolution brought great wealth to the city, but hand in hand with this came unparalleled poverty and squalor for a large part of the population. These people were nothing more than cattle for the greater good. A new underclass destined to live in a new kind of hell. The fires of this hell burned and smouldered in the red bricks as smoke billowed constantly from the dark satanic mills. The unbroken, monotonous rumbling of the looms filled the air and mingled with the heat of the steam. The city was a giant machine and its inhabitants reduced to units of labour, small expendable parts of the whole. Not so much a city as an assault on the senses. Overcrowding was chronic with whole families living in single rooms, and little or no sewage works for most of the nineteenth century. The only refuge that most of the poor would ever know from the hardships of their everyday life was found in alcohol. Their anger often expressed itself through violent crime, from domestic violence between husband and with to the youth gangs, or ‘scuttlers’ who ran amok on Manchester’s streets. When you look at these past extremes of the city it raises the question ‘what does it mean to have a life?’ These people remain in Manchester today, in its red bricks and the canals that run like veins through the city. As do all inhabitants who come afterwards, we are all Manchester, all serving the beast.


It’s called ‘urban exploring,’ when we go crawling or climbing into these old abandoned spaces, forgotten by people but not by nature. Old buildings that lie frozen at a point in time, and walking in these corridors it can feel as though the same thing has happened to you. Removed from the rest of the world and the reality of your life outside those damp and decaying walls, silence there becomes something that you can feel.


As we pass through rooms filled with remnants of the buildings former life it is as though we walk a path between the living and the dead. An abandoned building stands as an unintended mausoleum to a past world, until the present returns once more to sweep it all away.

“I find beauty in decay. I like to see nature conquering what man has left. I believe that old buildings have a soul, and when I photograph these places I try to capture a piece of that soul.”



Volume 5 of Sticky Sounds Zine is back from the printers and ready to post out. It includes an interview with R.A. Smith and a feature on urban legends, amongst other things. Should you like to request a copy then please get in touch: www.facebook.com/stickysoundszine


  1. stickypunk says:

    Reblogged this on Sticky Sounds and commented:
    Guest blog post I wrote for urban fantasy author R.A. Smith, who I also interviewed for the latest issue of Sticky Sounds.

  2. Great post – so many stories if you look hard enough. And even a typewriter to tell them with?! Convinced that when you miss a city (like I miss Manchester) it goes beyond the postcard images and into dream-like realms like this.

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s