Angel Meadow Area
In 1282 there was a water-driven cotton mill by the banks of the River Irk owned by the feudal barons of Manchester.
Around the 14th century, Manchester received an influx of Flemish weavers, sometimes credited as the foundation of the region's textile industry. Manchester became an important centre for the manufacture and trade of woollens & linen.
In 1745 Elizabeth Byrom (1722-1801), a Jacobite sympathiser and the daughter of poet and diarist John Byrom, recorded how Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army camped by the River Irk. Three hundred local men joined the cause as the Manchester Regiment but would later meet their demise at the Battle of Culloden.The area is still know as Scotland Bridge.
Author Dean Kirby believes the "meadows" around the area were owned by the Angel Pub in the centre of the city.
Another author, William Kenneth Jones presents a view of what Angel Meadow looked like prior to the Industrial Revolution in Manchester, located as it was by the picturesque River Irk Valley.
In 1780, Richard Arkwright began construction of Manchester's first cotton mill next to Angel Meadow which revolutionised the industry and made Manchester at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution saw significant migration to the city and housing the new worker put the city under great strain. Numerous social commentators wrote about Manchester including Alexis de Tocquville and Friedrich Engels. Commentators of the time remarked:
"The lowest, most filthy, most unhealthy, and most wicked locality in Manchester is called Angel Meadow. It lies off the Oldham Road, is full of cellars and is inhabited by prostitutes, their bullies, thieves, cadgers, vagrants, tramps, and, in the very
worst sites of filth, and darkness."
"There were two distinct classes of people living in this overcrowded hell hole. There were old established trustworthy families who were regarded as the salt of the parish. Then there were the drunken migrant settlers of the industrial revolution, dreaming of work in the big city of Manchester, but left brawling, fighting, drinking and indulging in 'unrestrained licentious womanising' in the grinding poverty of the slum trap zone. Mercle pulled no punches in comparing the meadow to "a Serborian bog in sore need of draining'. "
"The real Angel Meadow was in one of the most notoriously squalid districts; there is a certain black irony to its name….'Anyone who knows Manchester', he says, 'can infer the adjoining districts from the appearance of the thoroughfare, but one is seldom in a position to catch from the street a glimpse of the real labouring districts'"
The 1881 census showed 1,091 inhabited dwellings (91 uninhabited with 1,023 of them having less than five rooms that were all unsanitary and infested with vermin. There were among these 180 lodging houses registered under the Sanitary Department and 77 registered under the Police Department.
The death rate of Angel Meadow, based upon calculations for the year 1888-89-90 was 50.9 per thousand per annum. The average for all England during the same period was less that 19.
The railways were also to make heavy demands in Collyhurst, soaring brick viaducts were slung across the Irk Valley adding gloominess and more pollution to the trapped atmosphere below. In 1844, the Oldham Road terminus of Manchester-Leeds Railway was abandoned and the line extended through Collyhurst to a new link station at Hunts Bank - the first Victoria Station - Angel Meadow must has been transformed from a pleasant suburb to a sordid, blackened squalidness.
On top of the railways were the obnoxious smells from the Irk and Irwell and the Gould street gas works. "The mixture was ladled further by aromas from the tannery, the dyeworks, the iron foundry, the brewery, the tripe works and rotting vegetation from the Smithfield market, all added together with the neighborhood's fried fish and bad sanitation smells, one would agree that the cauldron of Angel Meadow was indeed a potent brew."
After the cemetery closed in 1854, it became a playground around the now-demolished church.
A written record is provided by the Rev JR Mercer who in a talk to the Manchester Statistical Society on April 28 1897, said "Angel Meadow contains about 33 acres [13 hectares] which supports 7,000 people… and is on par with the metropolitan slums of …Soho, Whitechapel and Bethnal Green. " It was once a wealthy district with Georgian houses and porticos nestling amidst beautiful scenery." (and trout streams)
"Lastly we have to think of the children of the slums. Their case is one of the saddest with which we have to cope. Who shall describe the lot of the children! Neglected from birth, thrown on their own devices while still infants, initiated early into the worst secrets of vice and crime, insufficiently warmed, clothed, fed, what chance have they?"
Housing in the Area
Quotes on Housing in Angel Meadow:
"The south bank of the Irk was very steep and between fifteen and thirty feet high. On this declivitous hillside there are planted three rows of houses, of which the lowest rise directly out of the river, while the front walls of the highest stand on the crest of the hill in Long Millgate.
The houses of the poor… are too generally built back to back, having therefore only one outlet, no yard, no privy and no receptable of refuse. Consequently the narrow, unpaved streets, in which mud and water stagnate, become the common receptacles of offal and ordure. Often low, damp, ill ventilated cellars exist beneath the houses…….The streets, in the district are generally unsewered and the drainage is consequently superficial."
A doctors visit in 1844 recorded:
"Anne Hannah, aged 8 - No. 23, Back Irk Street. E. Father a weaver. C. A very fine girl. N.S not subject to disordered bowels. E.C had supped on porridge and buttermilk. L.C.F &c house furnitureless, dirty, containing six children and two adults, just opposite the house the common sewer discharges its contents which runs down the street for several hundreds yards into the river, gas and ammonia works a little higher up.
…..room fronted the river, ground floor, the contents of a convenience on an adjoining eminence flowed past one wall of the room and the stench was intolerable, four inhabitants, very filthy."
In 1998 the CWS Tobacco Factory Warehouse conversions started the ball rolling of regenerating in the area as a desirable residential neighbourhood and the park is being returned as an "angelic" space once more.
Gould Street Gasworks
The gasworks on Gould St played an important role in improving the lighting and security of the city and powering Manchester.
Author William Kenneth Jones presents a history of the site.
In 2016 the British Gas headquarters buildings were demolished in anticipation of new residential development on the site.