In this article I present the script of my video published on the 29th of March 2021. Please click on ‘play’ above to view the video. You can comment either below the video or at the bottom of this page. Many thanks for reading!
Hello and welcome to my AVZINE channel, my name’s Aidan O’Rourke. Are we still a German city? Do we still know that we’re a German city? Who was it that said those words, referring to Manchester?
It was Tony Wilson who interviewed me and two other guests on Radio Manchester in 2007. We’re going to hear an excerpt from that interview, in which Tony talks about his own German ancestry. Yes, in Manchester there is a strong German influence but that influence has been hidden due to ignorance and prejudice. Ignorance and prejudice are rooted in the minds of certain Westminster politicians, who in my opinion are not fit to be in public office.
This video and the accompanying article on my aidan.co.uk site, are an attempt to inform and educate people by telling a forgotten story about the history and identity of Manchester. This is a new version edited from an older video, now with text on screen for educational and disability reasons. The video is in English, I’ve pronounced the German names German-style. We’ll start with an amazing aerial view I took in 2006 from a balloon over North Manchester
Manchester, a city in North West England – a British city with international and European influences, a city where migration has played a key role. The German influence in Manchester is significant but often hidden.
The name Albert is famous all over the UK. Streets, buildings and monuments are named after him. But how many people know where he came from? Prince Albert of Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha was born in 1819. He married Queen Victoria and became Prince Consort. Sadly he died in 1861 at the age of 42. His birthplace, Schloss Rosenau, now situated in Bayern, Bavaria near the former East German border, is open to the public and I intend to visit.
Round the corner from Albert Square you’ll find Alberts Schloss a self-proclaimed palace of Bavarian and Bohemian-inspired food and drink. It’s on the ground floor of the Albert Hall on Peter Street. Opposite Alberts Schloss is the Free Trade Hall, former home of the Hallé Orchestra founded by Sir Charles Hallé.
Karl Halle was born in the town of Hagen, now in the federal state of Nordrhein-Westfal en. He came to England and changed his name to Hallé with an accent on the e so people wouldn’t call him Mr ‘Hall’. He founded the Hallé Orchestra in 1858 and brought many German musicians over from Germany. He had a distinguished career. His gravestone is in Weaste Cemetery, Salford.
In the nineteenth century, immigrants came from Germany to Manchester. Friedrich Engels was born in Barmen, Wuppertal in 1820. He came to Manchester to work in the family textile business. He studied the English working class and wrote ‘die Lage der Arbeitenden Klasse in England’ – ‘The condition of the working class in England’.
And now we’ll listen to the late Tony Wilson on Radio Manchester in May 2007, telling me and two other guests about the German influence in Manchester
TONY WILSON: … whose family is here because my grandfather left southern Germany in the late 19th century and the fact that Manchester was the great German city. The Halle orchestra was founded by the Germans in this town, and in fact, it was much to my shock when I did a documentary about 20 years ago when I discovered that you would only hear German spoken in the cocktail bar at the Halle. You wouldn’t hear English spoken. Are we still a German city? Do we still know that we’re a German city? …
AIDAN: As far as evidence of a German presence in Manchester from the 19th century (is concerned), I see very little but as I was showing…
TONY: Except, except in Stuart Maconie’s book, when he talks about Manchester, this is the book I’m raving about at the moment, he says this is the city that changed the world because this was the city where Engels was working and Marx came to meet him and sat in that little corner booth of Chetham’s library and wrote the Communist Manifesto.
AIDAN: Yeah, that’s true but in terms of walking around the city there’s not very much…
TONY: You wouldn’t know it…
AIDAN: …but Dantzic Street over nearer the Co-op area, that’s one interesting German city or ex-German city and when I was showing the photographer Erasmus Schröter her around yesterday, I gave him a guided tour of Manchester and we went past Radium Street in Ancoats and Radium Street used to be called German Street and they changed the name after or during the First World War to Radium Street. he found that quite funny.
TONY: Did you know this was it this was a German city or used to be? Don’t embarrassed
ADELE LOCK: No no, not at all…
TONY: Listen I come from the German diaspora, but I had no idea about it until I was about 35 years old.
In 2017 a statue of Friedrich Engels was brought from Ukraine to Manchester. It stands in front of Manchester’s HOME arts centre. In the 19th century, German-speaking immigrants came to Manchester. Many went on to generate huge wealth and helped to make Manchester the city it is today.
Hans Renold was born in 1852 in Aarau, west of Zürich in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. He came to Manchester and founded Renold Chain. The Renold Building in Manchester University is named after his son Sir Charles Renold. Renold is a worldwide company and its head office is near Manchester Airport.
Siemens is a German company that is a major player in the UK. You’ll find the Siemens name in many places, including the doors of these trains.
Simon is a name familiar to people from Manchester. Henry Simon and Simon Carves are prominent local companies. In Wythenshawe you’ll find Simonsway and in Manchester city centre, Shena Simon Campus of the Manchester College. So where does the name come from? It doesn’t sound very German Gustav Heinrich Victor Amandus Simon was born in 1835 in the Prussian town of Brieg, now Brzeg in Poland. He moved to Manchester, changed his hame to Henry Simon and founded Simon Carves and Simon Engineering. He revolutionised the British flour industry.
His son Ernest Simon, 1st Baron Simon of Wythenshawe was a politician and former Lord Mayor of Manchester. His wife Lady Simon was a politician, feminist and educationalist. He bought Wythenshawe Hall and donated it to the city in 1926. On the estate a new town was built, named Wythenshawe. With its wide roads and yellow trams I think it looks like Germany. I think the Simonsway sign should have information about Ernest Simon. I made a version in Photoshop.
Only a short distance away in West Didsbury are Marie Louise Gardens, given to the city by Mrs Silkenstadt, the widow of a wealthy German merchant, in memory of her daughter. The gardens have a special atmosphere, like other parts of West Didsbury. Here, many German musicians, industrialists and scientists made their homes in the nineteenth century. The name Palatine Road recalls Rhineland-Pfalz, although that’s not the origin of the name.
The River Irwell has a Germanic name. In German ‘irre’ means ‘crazy’, or meandering. ‘Welle’ means ‘wave’ or ‘water’ so the ‘irre Welle’ the ‘crazy wave’ might be the origin of Irwell, though it’s not certain.
Anglo-Saxon migrants brought their Germanic language to England from around the 5th century onwards and it eventually became the language I’m speaking now, English.
If you’re interested in learning German, go to www.aidan.co.uk/german
There is a large German community living in the Manchester area today and many attend the Martin-Luther-Kirche in Stretford. In Stockport on the A6, there is an intriguing sign on a row of cottages. Germans Buildings Where does the name come from? I would love to know. In the Edgeley district of Stockport, there are streets named after European capitals including Berlin and Vienna.
In central Manchester there is an area called Brunswick – the anglicised name for the German city of Braunschweig in North Germany. Brunswick Street runs from Ardwick to Manchester University where it was turned into a park. So where does the name come from? Caroline of Brunswick was Queen Caroline, Queen of Great Britain, Ireland and Hanover from 1820 to 1821. She has a remarkable story I intend to return to.
On Brunswick Street, now Brunswick Park on the Manchester University campus, there is the Simon building, named after Henry Simon and the Schuster Building, named after Arthur Schuster, a physicist of German origin. He was born in Frankfurt in 1851 and became professor of Applied Physics at Manchester University. Another German physicist was Hans Geiger, born in Neustadt an der Haardt in 1882. He worked with Ernest Rutherford and gave his name to the Geiger Counter. He is not to be confused with the Austrian Kurt Geiger who founded the shop of the same name in London in 1963.
Other German-sounding high street names are Deichmann, the biggest shoe retailer in Europe, founded by Heinrich Deichmann and based in Essen. schuh is a British company founded in 1981 in Scotland. They chose the German spelling, I wonder why?. And remember, when you shop at Spar, they are telling you to save. Spar was founded in the Netherlands and the word ‘spar’ in Dutch or ‘spar’ in German means ‘save’.
Not far from Piccadilly Station is Elbe Street next to Raven Street. Elbe Street is named after the wide, magnificent River Elbe, onee of the great rivers of Europe, which flows through Dresden and Hamburg. Elbe Street in Manchester is neither wide nor magnificent. The origin of the name is a mystery I would love to solve.
The German influence is mostly invisible and is often even hushed up. Dantzic Street crosses Hanover Street. The House of Hanover produced five of Britain’s monarchs, from George the 1st to Queen Victoria. At the end of Hanover Street is Victoria Station, where you’ll find a large nineteenth-century map of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway. In the far top right are the names of German cities on the other side of the North Sea – Which was once called the German Ocean – Stettin, now Szczecin in Poland, Hamburg and Bremen. In those days you could travel by train to Goole or Hull and by ship direct to Germany. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many Jewish people came from Germany and central Europe to Manchester via this route. They brought their customs, German-sounding names and Yiddish language, which is closely related to German. You can find out more about the Jewish-German heritage at the Manchester Jewish Museum.
And at Manchester’s other mainline railway station, Piccadilly, there are multilingual signs. The one in German says: Willkommen bei Metrolink – welcome to Metrolink. From here it’s just a short tram ride to the Christmas markets, held in November and December.
At the Christmas Markets, you can enjoy food and drink from Germany. There’s plenty of Weihnachtsstimmung – Christmas atmosphere. The Christmas Markets are on St Peter’s Square and on Albert Square, where we began.
And there are more influences. Take a look at the article on my aidan.co.uk site.
And if you’re learning German or would like to, go to www.aidan.co.uk/german. And if you’re learning English, this video should be useful. There’s a PDF with script, side-by-side translation and follow up assignments. And don’t forget to like and subscribe.
Vielen Dank und auf Wiedersehen in Manchester!