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WE ARE ON HYDE ROAD West Gorton, standing at the corner of Grey Street. The bridge carries the main Manchester to London railway line. This is a concrete bridge added in 1960 when the line was electrified. This former industrial area now contains many grassy spaces where factory and commercial buildings once stood. You can take a bus into Manchester city centre from this stop.

Question: What is the name/number of this road? - Clue: This road runs all the way from Liverpool through St Helens, Warrington, Irlam and Manchester to Sheffield and eventually Lincoln.

EWM says: I used to have my VW Beetle repaired at Volksworld, a small privately-owned garage on the left. Both Volksworld and the building which housed it have disappeared.

(This picture first appeared in 1997 and has been rescanned and presented at larger size)

WE ARE AT THE END OF the platforms at Piccadilly Station looking straight down the line towards Ardwick. The zoom lens compresses the overhead gantries and tracks into a complex pattern. About half a mile is telescoped into this picture. On the left is a DMU (diesel multiple unit) possibly on its way from Marple or Rose Hill. At the end of this line is London Euston Station. Currently the journey takes two and a half hours or longer. Train operator Virgin intended to use tilting trains running on high speed track, with journey times of well under two hours. Unfortunately plans to upgrade the track for high speed use had to be abandoned. The tilting trains will still run but on older tracks, such as the ones seen here, and so won't be able to reach their top speed.

Question: How far is Manchester from London (in miles or kilometres) and how long does the journey take?

EWM says: Typical of the way railways in Britain are run!

THIS IS THE VIEW from the bottom of Manchester Piccadilly Station Approach, looking west at a pink dusk sky. The skyline is mostly horizontal to the left - the Palace Hotel, former Refuge Assurance building can just be seen on the left - then it rises up to the right, tracing the outline of buildings closer to us. Portland Tower (former Scottish Widows Fund building) is just visible in the upper right, sandwiched between a chimney stack and a clock tower.

Question: Do you know the building that the chimney and clock tower belong to?

THIS IS POLLARD STREET ANCOATS at dusk. The building on the left is a warehouse which in 2001 is being converted into apartments by property developers Artisan.

Question: Which private company operates the bus which we can see blurred on the left?

EWM says: When I took this photo I was attracted by the futuristic advert for the Californian computer set in a traditionally gloomy and industrial Manchester setting!

A NARROW BACK STREET in the centre of Manchester captures something of the the city's original character, now mostly obscured or swept away by contemporary development. This is an area of offices and commercial premises. Water towers like the one which juts up into the night sky were a common feature of the roofscape of old Manchester - most have disappeared.

This street is just half a minute's walk from Piccadilly, which after the 2001 makeover is just about as remote as you can get from the spirit of old Manchester, as seen in this photograph.

Question: In which city centre district will you find this street? In the Village? In the Northern Quarter? In the financial district behind the former Lewis's? Across the Irwell in Salford?

EWM says: Dark gloomy back streets of cities can have a great atmosphere at night. This one reminded me of David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust' album cover photo, taken in 1971 on Haddon St, off Regent St London. The designers added colour to a black and white photo. I've done the same here - move the mouse over the picture to see the colour version. I think the black and white version looks sober and traditional, but the colourised version looks rather 'camp' and false. Perhaps this would make a good album cover for a contemporary Manchester band!

WE ARE ON GREAT ANCOATS STREET, looking towards Swan St and Oldham Road. It's night and the lights of a bus heading towards us are blurred. The headlamps light up the street markings - double yellow lines and the words 'Ring Road'. In the centre of the picture we see the CIS building, its service tower illuminated by purple floodlighting. On the left, on the corner of Lever St is the pub 'Land o' Cakes'. Next to it, on the other side of Lever Street is an office building which displays the Bruntwood logo at the top. This office building has a special significance for Manchester in 2002. Any idea of what it is?

THIS IS THE NORTHERN QUARTER BEACON, which stands on top of the NCP car park on Dale Street, not far from Piccadilly. The beacon features neon lights which go on and off - Using a gif file I've created an animated photograph which simulates the play of lights. In fact, the sequence of lights going on and off is more complex than this.

The beacon is one of a series of outdoor works of art created especially for the Northern Quarter.

Question: What is the name of the street which crosses Dale Street directly below the beacon. Clue: It may be the name of a lost Manchester river

  OK, let's head down to Albert Square now and have a look at the European Christmas Markets

THIS IS THE ALBERT SQUARE European market, brought to us by Manchester City Council. There are stalls selling all kinds of food, drink and Christmas products, including Christmas trees. All the traders have come to Manchester from mainland Europe, including France, Germany and the Netherlands.

At the other end of the square we can see the cone-shaped Manchester City Council Christmas tree, and looming up behind the Victorian facades, the curved outline of the Bank of England extension, one of the higher buildings in Manchester city centre.

Question: In what decade was Albert Square created?

WE ARE STANDING in front of the former HMSO bookshop, now The Stationery Office, on Albert Square. In front of us is the cone-shaped Manchester City Council Christmas tree. The tree is a highly contemporary, low maintenance model which can be erected and dismantled in a few hours. It has thousands of tiny lights, but no branches and no star or fairy at the top.

Question: What is the name of the street in front of us?

EWM asks: Is the council's Christmas tree a cheap and tacky cost-cutting gimmick that's about as Christmassy as dunce's cap or is it a stylish and contemporary civic statement of minimalist festive design (Try saying that after six glasses of mulled wine!)

KING STREET is especially attractive at Christmas. All the shops have Christmas displays, and the festive decorations are attractive. Here the Christmas lights appear to have developed a fault!

King Street was pedestrianised in the 1970's. The attractive stonework was added as part of the council-sponsored upgrading of the street in the late 1990's. Virgin Records have recently moved into the shop on the right.

Question: The building whose entrance we can see on the far right of the picture wasn't always a shop. What was it previously?

EWM says: I should know, my friend from Xaverian College John Cochrane used to work there.

ST ANN'S SQUARE is a place that's ideal for Christmas, with its attractive church, historic facades and enclosed area, like a European market square.

The Christmas markets, brought to Manchester by the local council only in the last couple of years, revive the origins of this bit of Manchester as a place where markets were once held. In the middle ages the area now known as St Ann's Square was called Acre's Field. It was renamed St Ann's Square after St Ann's Church was completed in 1712. (See the excellent: 'Origins of street names in the city centre of Manchester', by L.D. Bradshaw)

It's interesting to note that St Ann's church was originally built with a tower which had a domed cupola. This was removed as it proved structurally unsound. A later steeple was also taken down, leaving the square-topped outline we see today.

What did they sell at the Acresfield Market in the Middle Ages? Cattle, horses and pigs? Cloth and other types of textile? Vegetables? Gramophone records?!

THAT'S ALL FROM THIS meander through Manchester and a few of its surrounding districts at dusk. I would love, in the future, for you to be able to meander wherever you want, choosing your direction of progress, and drawing from a collection of photographs covering the whole of the local area in depth. For the time being, however, I hope this representative sample, based very much on the areas familiar to me personally, will suffice.

'Origins of street names in the city centre of Manchester', was complied by by L.D. Bradshaw, and is published by Neil Richardson, 88 Ringley Road, Stoneclough Road, Radcliffe, Manchester, M26 9ET. The page with information about Stockport Infirmary is here. See also Hennigan's Sports Bar and Mayne buses.

To all EWM readers all over the world, I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year!

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