As much as we like to look to the future here at Secret Manchester, we’re also very proud of our past, whether it be our industrial successes and infrastructure, iconic music scene or incredible people the city has created. There are also places in Manchester that are no longer functioning as they used to, or even fully demolished – so we thought we’d have a look at places you’ll remember if you’re a true Manc.
Sankeys Soap factory has had many lives, from its original use producing soap, to the present day housing offices and flats. But its heyday, and what most will remember it for, saw the factory transformed into a raver’s paradise. Back in the 90s Sankeys was often the only reason for Mancs to venture into Ancoats. Before being transformed into the well looked-after, upmarket hub that it is today, Ancoats was pretty derelict, full of run-down mills that nobody wanted to take on.
But Sankeys, really was the start of reimagining these once thriving brick buildings that Manchester has in buckets, and from there was born events such as the Warehouse Project which is only growing today. Sankeys had its issues and was forever opening and closing, but when it was open it was incredible and hosted some of the best DJs in the world. Unfortunately it closed its doors for good in 2017, after many attempts at a revival, but inspired so much more in the city. We have a lot to thank Sankeys for, and even if you didn’t frequent it in the 90s, you’ll at least know of it if you’re a true Manc.
2. The Haçienda
Sticking with the huge topic of music, The Haçienda is of course the OG when it comes to quintessential Manchester music and the acid house scene. Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, New Order – you name it, they either partied there or played there. Of course, The Haçienda was a Tony Wilson invention and had a run of extremely successful, wild years before going into voluntary liquidation in 1997, but captured the imaginations and creativity of the most famous bands not only in Manchester but the country.
We essentially have The Haçienda to thank for Oasis, The Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and so many more, and it quite rightly holds its place in the memory of so many Mancs and music fans alike. It was, rather depressingly, knocked down in 2002 and transformed into a block of flats and ground floor estate agents – but if we’re taking anything positive away it’s that the building was named The Haçienda Apartments and the original circle shape of the yacht warehouse building was emulated in honour of its predecessor. You’ll surely remember the original if you’re a true Manc.
3. The Free Trade Hall
OK, this one may be a tad unfair because the most iconic performance to happen at the Lesser Free Trade Hall (smaller hall upstairs) was in 1976, but it was only actually renovated into the current Edwardian Hotel in 1997. That said performance was of course the seminal Sex Pistols concert that so many claimed to have been at, although only 50 actually were, and which featured so heavily in Manchester legend Tony Wilson‘s inspirations and career.
The hall was also graced by The Rolling Stones in its time, and was home to the Hallé Orchestra until its move to the Bridgewater Hall. The Free Trade Hall hasn’t changed much on the outside, and of course still has the grand façade with pillars and the inscription at the top, so it’s fairly easy to still recognise it on Peter Street, but the inside is unrecognisable. True Mancs will likely reminisce about times they had there, or could’ve had there, on every stroll past.
4. Sound Control
This one’s close to the hearts of many Manc music fans, because Sound Control officially closed for demolition in 2017, only 8 years after opening as a venue in 2009. The three-floor venue was created within the skeleton of the older cult music shop, and hosted incredible musicians over the years including Tame Impala, Scissor Sisters and Wu-Tang Clan.
There was palpable devastation when the venue announced it was to be demolished and replaced with a 32-floor Unite Students accommodation block, and Mancs will recall the years of work happening just down the side of Oxford Road station. Sound Control was beloved, but alas, had to be taken away from us – so we welcome in those who want to provide a similar experience, but it’ll probably never be the same.
5. The huge Market Street Paperchase
Any Manc shoppers will remember the huge Paperchase shop at the bottom of Market Street, and the devastation they felt when it suddenly closed down. It was perfect for all our crafting, gifting and arty needs, and had really become a staple we could rely on. OK, it’s not the end of the world since there was a smaller one put in both the Arndale itself and the Next on the opposite side, but it just isn’t the same, and with all Paperchase stores closing down, we know we’re not the only ones. In its place is the new END store, which definitely fits well, what with the higher-end shops being a stone’s throw away, but it just seems to be a sign of the times. Certain Mancs, including us, just miss it.
6. ‘Everything is Connected’ sign on Mayfield Depot
The Warehouse Project has become a Manchester institution since its inception, having moved from venue to venue, landing now on Depot Mayfield. The former train depot just across from Manchester Piccadilly is the perfect location for WHP in many ways, and now houses Escape To Freight Island and Backyard Cinema, which is fantastic for the area and its regeneration efforts. But the sign on the corner of the depot reading ‘Everything is Connected‘ that can be seen from the infamous platforms 13 and 14 at Piccadilly called the depot home before the club event.
Mancs have been able to spot this beacon of light since 2017 and is an art installation by acclaimed contemporary British artist Peter Liversidge. It was brought to Manchester to kickstart the Mayfield redevelopment way before the work actually started, signaling the connection between the old and new Mayfield. Eagle-eyed Mancs will have unknowingly known about the transformation before things were moved forward rapidly for its opening in 2019, and can be proud of being part of the calm before the storm.
7. Antwerp Mansion
This one’s for the uni kids of Manchester – we’re talking the fever dream that was Antwerp Mansion. Now, you may never have thought that a random dilapidated house in Rusholme would be the biggest, most popular location for students pretty much all week every week, but you’d be wrong. Back in the day (‘the day’ being around 2010-2018) club night events would be put on left, right and centre, with a makeshift bar cobbled together both upstairs and downstairs, giving the feel of an elevated, ticketed house party.
It was definitely grubby, with no locks on toilet doors – in fact not many toilet doors in the first place – and no attention paid to the décor, but no one cared. Clubbing at Antwerp Mansion was really the height of student life in Manchester – it was grim, with warm beer and no rules, which was perfect for the South Manchester dwellers when all they wanted to do was party. The house actually had a salacious past as a private members’ club in the 1920s, but eventually met its maker in 2018 when the council forced them to shut down after discrepancies over planning permission. Antwerp Mansion tried to continue with different opening hours, but now just exists as AMP, a club event popping up at different venues. RIP from the students of yore.
8. The Northern Quarter Jimmy’s location
We’re so lucky to have a rock ‘n’ roll bar like Jimmy’s in Manchester, but we must say, we miss where it used to be. Many fans were devastated when contracts forced the original Northern Quarter location to shut, and although we were promised just as funky an offering elsewhere, the wait was excrutiating. On Newton Street, it was so easy for Mancs to stroll in for a few as they were passing, or stay all night, with the best rock tunes and often live bands in the venue below.
It retains the same cool, casual feel in the newer Ancoats spot, and in many ways it’s like nothing has changed, but there’s no venue in the new spot, and it’s obviously further out of the way. Of course, it’s worth the journey to Ancoats, but many don’t know that, and true Mancs will remember the charm of entering the half-under-stairs doorway and stepping into another world.
9. Affleck’s Palace
You might be thinking, “hang on, it’s still there”, and you’re right – but Affleck’s Palace formally changed its name to Afflecks in 2008, although many still call it the former. With its name went the original format of the emporium, which was to allow local independent traders to inhabit the building in their own plot for lower rent than average. When couple James and Elaine Walsh opened Affleck’s Palace in 1982, they offered a safe environment for entrepreneurs to start out with affordable rent and no long-term contracts. Unit holders operated under a licence agreement which allowed them to pay for space on a week by week basis.
Now, Afflecks feels much the same to the customer, but it was taken over by property developer Bruntwood with a view to keep the integrity of the market. It still houses alternative clothing shops, record shops and retro game shops, but many Mancs may remember a time when it was truly local and true to the Walshs’ vision.
10. How Piccadilly Gardens used to look
Piccadilly Gardens is far from the prettiest place in town, often being the home of markets, high footfall and loungers in the summer. The place is generally just the groundwork for something else, nothing special, just the former site of Manchester Royal Infirmary. But Mancs will remember there was a bit more going on back in the day, depending on your age. Going back to pre-2001, the beautiful 1930s landscaped gardens still remained, but were slowly becoming an eyesore, subsequently being filled in to make way for the flat planes we see today.
The One Piccadilly Gardens high rise took up around 11% of Piccadilly Gardens, making it that much smaller, and the infamous concrete wall was built. True Mancs may remember even further back, but we’d say if you remember the wall that was compared to the Berlin Wall (maybe a bit dramatic), you probably pass the test, because now just a few bits remain.