Tracking changes in cities is something I’m very interested in. I did the ‘now’ photos for the book Manchester Then and Now. I’ve also done Liverpool Then and Now, and Glasgow Then and now as well as Birmingham Then and Now.
My AVZINE channel is a direct successor to my old Eyewitness website (1997-2005) and recycles many of the photos I took for the website, giving them, I’m glad to say, a new lease of life. So please click the ‘play’ button to watch the video. Some of the images from the video will be added here.
Jutland Street, not far from Piccadilly station, is Manchester’s steepest street.
Captured in November 1996 on black and white film, the rain, the grey tones, and the setts, are typical of how Manchester used to be. Fast forward to 2015. The setts are still there, but apartments have appeared. By 2021, the trees and the double yellow lines are doing well, but further up, a sinkhole has appeared. And what’s that dark building at the top? We’ll find out later. We’ll switch views between before and after and after.
Fog over the Rochdale Canal on Whitworth Street West made it look more like 1896 than 1996. In 2000, Deansgate Locks arrived with new bars, boardwalks and bridges above the water. Welcome to new millennium Manchester.
The rooftop view in 1998 from Chorlton Street car park almost unchanged since Victorian times, apart from an aerial. In 2015, the Civil Justice Centre and the refurbished office building 80 Mosley Street rise above the roofline.
The Whitworth Art Gallery was refurbished and extended, but the frontage is unchanged. The slight colour difference is due to the use of different cameras. Behind the façade, there’s a great mix of old and new. But at the front, the designers followed the golden rule: No modern elements visible on classic buildings façades.
Piccadilly Station was rebuilt in 1960 and again 40 years later. A new entrance transformed the station in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2002
Manchester and Boddingtons were celebrated in TV adverts starring Melanie Sykes. The brewery was taken over and production in Manchester ended. At the moment the site is a car park but it is set to become a campus of the Manchester College.
In 1997 I photographed the Shambles in its former location for Eyewitness in Manchester. In 1999, the pubs were moved to a new site next to the Corn Exchange and the Cathedral. Was it right to reinvent the past?
The home of the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, 84 Plymouth Grove, stood empty for some time and in the end, it was refurbished and re-opened in 2014 as Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. The downstairs rooms were restored to look as they did in the mid-19th century. Upstairs, there are meeting rooms fit for the 21st. “Old façades always look better than modern ones.” Discuss…
On Whitworth Street, next to Piccadilly station, the Twisted Wheel and other clubs were located in these red brick buildings. Reminiscent of Greenwich Village, or Amsterdam, full of character, but in need of a little TLC, and so it was decided that they should be demolished to make way for a new hotel. So what’s better? Quirky crazy nightclubs or plush new hotels? The decision is yours!
For 40 years, the Central Library was smoke-blackened. It was first cleaned in the 1970s. Today the Portland stone looks pristine, well, almost pristine. After a four-year renovation, it re-opened in 2014 The interior was transformed into an dazzling mix of old and new. But on the exterior, in Library Walk, a modern glass link building caused controversy. Despite the Save Library Walk campaign, followed by a public inquiry, it was approved and opened in 2015. A mistake?
I photographed St Peter’s Square after the Central Library was cleaned, but before the changes of the following decade.
The Cenotaph was moved, the tramlines and the glass link buiding were added. The Cenotaph was moved from the middle of St Peter’s Square to the end of the square. Also on St Peters Square, Century House built in the early 1930s. Elegant and classic, one of a dwindling number of inter-war façades in Manchester and so it was demolished to make way for Number Two St Peter’s Square. Elegantly crafted Manchester contemporary, or boxy East Berlin neo- Brutalist? You decide.
In late 1996 I took a dusk panorama of St Peter’s Square on colour film. The library, the town hall extension, the Cenotaph and Century House give the square an inter-war feel.
Elisabeth House dates from the sixties, the tram stop, 1992.After renovation, the square looks different, more open with more trams, a square of two halves, two eras. On the left, the 1930s and in the right, what shall we call this decade? The two thousand and teens.
At the bottom of Deansgate stood part of a railway viaduct. In its place arose the tallest building to appear in Manchester for over 40 years, the Beetham Tower, but now the Beetham has been overtaken by Deansgate Gardens on the right.
The Hacienda night club opened in 1982 and closed for good in 1997. Passing by on a sunny day in 1998, I took a panorama on colour film that’s been reproduced in books. I’d heard it would be converted into apartments, a great way to preserve an iconic building, and so it was demolished and a new residential block was, built, named controversially The Hacienda, and in 2021 the Hacienda is being restored… the new one!
Hacienda co-founder Tony Wilson said: ‘Let them tear it down’ but many disagree.
In 2000, on Ducie Street, near Jutland St, by Piccadilly Station, I photographed a scene of urban decay: a drained canal, derelict mills. But change would soon happen, part-funded by the EU’s Regional Development Fund. But that support was taken for granted or ignored and now it’s gone. By 2015, we can see the fruits of regeneration.
To conclude, here’s a piece to camera I did in 2018, but never used. “A new building is under construction on the Piccadilly Basin site. It’s just behind me and it’s quite well advanced and will be finished soon. So I hope you found that selection of before and after locations interesting. Please like, make a comment, subscribe to the channel and I’ll see you in the next video.”
And the new arrival? It’s the upmarket Dakota Hotel. Manchester has journeyed a long way. But whatever happens, we must never forget where we came from and how we got here. And we must never repeat the mistakes of the past.