Welcome to Then and Now, where each week we compare images of Manchester streets, landmarks and buildings from bygone days with how they look now.

piccadilly rocket then piccadilly rocket now

Piccadilly Rocket

Here’s a sinister reminder of World War II displayed in Piccadilly at the height of the Cold War in December 1951.

Civil Defence units brought the Nazi V2 rocket to Manchester as part of a recruitment drive as fears over communist Russia were mounting.

The Unites States was in the grip of its Second Red Scare. In February 1950, Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin produced a list of more than 200 State Department employees he claimed were communists or communist sympathisers.

This heralded in seven years of political repression, purges and hysteria in all aspects of US life. People lost their jobs on the flimsiest of evidence.

Crowded Piccadilly is more peaceful now. There are more open spaces for pedestrians even though the overall shape of the area remains the same.

New green space was created when Piccadilly Gardens was extensively revamped in 2002. Fountains and a pavilion designed by noted Japanese architect Tadao Ando were installed.

The redesign was part of the build-up to the successful staging the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

oldham st then oldham st-now

Oldham Street

This is Oldham Street in 1900. There’s a real hustle and bustle about the place as people flock to its shops and stores.

Pedestrians avoid the trams as they carefully make their way over the tracks and cobbles in the middle of the busy thoroughfare.

Oldham Street was in its heyday in the early 1900s and was part of Manchester’s commercial heartland. It was later the home to retail giants Marks and Spencer and C&A in the city.

But, over the years, the street fell into decline and became a run-down area.

The opening of the Arndale Centre in the late 1970s accelerated its demise. Many businesses moved away and ‘to let’ signs became common.

Now Oldham Street has been rejuvenated and is the home to alternative music and fashion stores. New apartments and businesses have been created alongside the traditional chip shops and pubs of old Manchester.

The street is now at the heart of the Northern Quarter, which stretches from Piccadilly to Great Ancoats, and has benefited from millions of pounds of investment.

Oldham Street has a unique place in cinema history as Julie Christie was filmed walking down it in the classic kitchen-sink drama Billy Liar in 1963.

Albert Square then Albert square-now

Albert Square

Here’s Albert Square in September 1958. Cars and buses make their way through the open space as pigeons gather round the Albert Memorial and statues of Sir John Bright and Sir Oliver Heywood.

As well as the bus shelters, the scene is dominated by the imposing Albert Memorial itself, which was unveiled in 1867.

The Grade I listed monument, commemorating Queen Victoria’s consort who died in 1861, was designed in the medieval Gothic style by architect Thomas Worthington.

Sculptor Matthew Noble was commissioned by Manchester’s mayor Thomas Goadsby to create the statue of Prince Albert – and the designs were personally approved by Queen Victoria.

The area occupied by the square was once derelict land bordering on dense housing near the River Tib and Town Yard.

Clearance work on the site started in 1864. Eventually, more than 100 buildings were demolished, including the Engraver’s Arms pub and a coffee-roasting works. A smithy and coal yard also disappeared.

The magnificent new Town Hall, which replaced the old building in King Street, was built in 1877.

The immediate vicinity around Albert Square became a conservation area in April 1972. The newly created Lincoln Square was also included in 1981.

ancoats-hospital-then ancoats-hospital-now

Ancoats Hospital

We take a look at the former Ancoats Hospital building on Great Ancoats Street, photographed in October 1975.

The handsome Victorian structure was still very much in use as a hospital at the time, providing much needed relief for Manchester Royal Infirmary.

Now the building is barely recognisable, covered in scaffolding after the campaign to reopen it as a community centre has finally been conceded. Special thanks to Nicola Mazzuia for taking the ‘now’ photograph.

The dispensary has now been handed back to Manchester City Council to be developed as affordable housing. It has been promised that many of the structure’s original features will be retained.

The imposing Gothic-style building was opened in August 1828 as the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary – a voluntary hospital funded by middle-class benefactors living in the area.

From 1875, its official name was Ancoats Hospital and Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary, which is still inscribed over the main door.

The hospital had a history of innovation. It housed Manchester’s first X-ray department from 1907.
In 1914, renowned orthopaedic surgeon Harry Platt opened the world’s first fracture clinic there.
The dispensary was mentioned in Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life and the artist L.S. Lowry painted a picture of the outpatients’ waiting hall in 1952.

The hospital was closed in 1989 after plans to turn it into a specialist orthopaedics unit were shelved.

More than £770,000 of Heritage Lottery funding was secured by the Ancoats Dispensary Group to reopen the building as a community centre with offices in June 2014. But a second round of funding was not awarded and the former hospital was handed back to the council.

eastwood-then eastwood-now

St Peter’s Square

Here’s St Peter’s Square on a sunny day in June 1967.

The man trying to overshadow the war memorial obelisk, since moved to another part of the square, is 6ft 3ins American actor Clint Eastwood.

The veteran of many Spaghetti Westerns, as well as the Dirty Harry detective movies, was in Manchester to promote his latest film.

He’s towering over little Antony Rixon, aged just 18 months, whose mother may well have been a fan. Other people in the square are also stealing a glance at the visiting star.

The square has undergone many changes since Eastwood’s arrival. The Central Library and Library Walk link were extensively restored from 2010 to 2017 and the Cenotaph war memorial has been relocated to the rear of the Town Hall.

A new extended tram stop was created and two office blocks were built to the south of the square.

The history of the square includes the August 1819 Peterloo Massacre, when 15 people were killed and 400 injured in a protest about poor working and living conditions.

Local magistrates ordered mounted cavalry to disperse the crowd, which included textile workers who had walked long distances from surrounding mill towns.

deansgate-then deansgate-now


This is Deansgate in 1895 at its junction with John Dalton Street and Bridge Street. The building on the right of the photograph has since been replaced with a bank.

There is little change to the front of most of the buildings – but the amount of traffic using the main road through Manchester city centre is certainly different.

More than 100 years ago, cyclists and pedestrians were able to amble casually along Deansgate. But that has changed as commuters and shoppers flock into the city.

At night Deansgate remains just as busy as people enjoy its restaurants and bars.

Historians are unclear about the origins of the name Deansgate. It may have a connection with the deanery of the village church near Parsonage Gardens.

Alternatively, it could date from when the Danes seized Manchester in 870 AD.

By the 1840s, Deansgate was a prosperous road with shops and fine houses fronting it. But it was
a different story behind the façade as visitors took their lives in their own hands with criminals
lying in wait.

When social writer Frederick Engels toured these streets he was warned to take a guide with him.

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