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Hidden Gems of Manchester

This Tour, May 2019: Wed 1 May 2019.
Art Gallery, Mosley Street, 11am.
Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

This is a remarkable tour of city sights and sites you always wanted to see but maybe never managed to.

We go to as many of the following that we can manage: the interior of the Freemasons Hall, designed like the Baths of Caracalla in Rome), the Portico Library, a plush suite at the Radisson (maybe the very one Gordon Brown stayed in!), the Hidden Gem church (of course) and the marble bank vaults on King Street. Then there’s the glimpse of the places you can’t go to … yet (we’re working on them).

It’s the Manchester you never thought you’d see!

Masonic Hall



Start: 01/05/2019 10:00 am
End: 01/05/2019 1:15 pm
Venue: Art Gallery
Google Map
Mosley Street, Manchester, Select a State:, United Kingdom, M1


Jewish Manchester – the Strictly Kosher tours

Jewish Manchester (City Centre Trail):
* Thu 2 May 2019.
* Meet 12 noon by the Malmaison Hotel, 3 Piccadilly.
* Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

The Old Jewish Ghetto (Cheetham Hill Trail):
* Thu 2 May 2019.
* Meet 3pm at Victoria Station wallmap.
* Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

City Centre trail: Please book here with eventbrite and stop kvetching.
Cheetham Hill trail. Please book here with eventbrite and show some derech eretz.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to be Jewish!

So where do we go then? Who’s the gossip about? On the Jewish Manchester tours we hear about the three most famous Jews ever to come to Manchester:
* Nathan Mayer Rothschild, founder of the banking dynasty, soon to become the most powerful figure in the West, a “true Lord of Europe”, as Lord Byron described him in Don Juan
Karl Marx, founder of communism, who researched at Chetham’s Library. Oh, hold on; he was not really Jewish.
* And Robert Maxwell, the corrupt newspaper boss.

We explore the darkest corners of Strangeways (the area, not the prison, you schmerel) in search of signs of the old Jewish ghetto. We check into the Midland Hotel to hear some ferkakte stories about Chopin, the Schwabes and the Sieffs. We even head into St Ann’s Church (you want to know why we’re encountering the opposition? Come on the walk already!). Then there’s Jackson’s Row synagogue (before Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville demolish it) and the Town Hall (to meet the man who allowed the Jews back into England). And him below: NOT the first ever Jewish prime minister.


Start: 02/05/2019
End: 02/05/2019
Venue: Part 1 Malmaison. Part 2 Victoria station wallmap
Manchester, United Kingdom
Cost: 1,000 shekels


Angel Meadow Pub Tour

* Pub Tour in May: Friday 3 May 2019, 6pm.
* Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.
* All walks meet at:
Victoria Station wallmap.

Angel Meadow. Never was a name more inappropriate. This is what made Manchester THE shock city.

Victorian hell-hole, cholera-infested ghetto and industrial shanty town.

Journalist Angus Bethune Reach called Angel Meadow: “the lowest, most filthy, most unhealthy, and most wicked locality in Manchester…full of cellars and inhabited by prostitutes, their bullies, thieves, cadgers, vagrants and tramps.”

Was he writing this yesterday? No, thankfully. He was writing in the 19th century when Angel Meadow was one of a number of notorious Manchester slums; probably the worst.

This is what proto-communist Friedrich Engels had to say about the locale in 1844. “The landlords are not ashamed to let dwellings like the six or seven cellars on the quay directly below Scotland Bridge, the floors of which stand at least two feet below the low water level of the Irk … utterly uninhabitable, [it] stands deprived of all fittings for doors and windows, a case by no means rare in this region, when an open ground-floor is used as a privy by the whole neighbourhood for want of other facilities. . . .”

So this is more than a walk through an obscure part of central Manchester; it’s a trip to other worlds: Scotland and Gibraltar! Believe it. The road that connects Red Bank to the bottom of the steps leading down to the Irk from Cheetham Hill Road railway bridge is called Scotland. A hundred yards on, at the end of Millow Street, stood “Gibraltar”. This was once described by the social commentator James Phillips Kay as the haunt of the “lowest” of the population. “The stranger, if he dare venture to explore its intricacies and recesses is sure to be watched with suspicion, on every side is heard the sound of the axe or knife…”

Okay, both those revered social commentators were writing many years ago, but go there now and it’s pretty grim, which is why we guide you around these atmospheric areas, converting the squalor and sordidness into scintillating stories. And we’ve not even entered Angel Meadow proper yet.

Have things improved? Yes, with much thanks to the Friends of Angel Meadow. When we’ve finished with all the terrible tales we deserve an ale or two at the Marble pub with its gorgeous tiles, magnificent ales and friendly atmosphere.


Angel Meadow 3

Angel Meadow 4

Start: 03/05/2019 6:00 pm
End: 03/05/2019 7:30 pm
Venue: Victoria Station wallmap
Google Map
Victoria Station Approach, Manchester, United Kingdom, M3 1PB
Cost: around £10


Ted Hughes Country (Manchester Literature Festival Fringe)






Next tour: Ted Hughes country
Sat 4 May 2019.
Meet: Mytholmroyd station, 12 noon.
Booking: Please book here through eventbrite.
Trains: We know what you’re thinking…what if there’s a bloody train strike? Well, fingers crossed. Many customers drive and from Manchester one can still get to Mytholmroyd easily via Todmorden from where there’s a good bus service.

Ed Glinert, a Penguin Classics editor, leads this guided tour recalling the poetry of the remarkable, elemental, visceral 1980s/1990s poet laureate at his West Yorkshire haunts.

Before you read on, here’s a great review from a previous customer:

“Thank you so very much Ed for a fabulous walk today. I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect and have returned to my Premier buzzing. Unexpectedly very moved to see Plath’s grave at the end….very beautifully adorned with cornflowers, peonies and white bluebells, in such an amazing village as Heptonstall.

I do thank you for your input and knowledge-much appreciated. This was my sixth sponsored walk, the next being Haworth tomorrow and Monday; thereafter Oxford and Edinburgh. Will definitely look up the programme and maybe touch base with you again sometime.
Blessings and regards,
Carole L”


The tour starts at Mytholmroyd station so that we can visit Ted’s birthplace, and the sights and sites of his childhood. After a half an hour or so in Mytholmroyd we head along the Rochdale Canal to Hebden Bridge and the Stubbing Wharf pub, commemorated (and condemned) in verse.

After a quick break for liquid reinforcement we’re off into the hills to find Lumb Bank, home of the Arvon Centre, an 18th Century mill-owner’s property where Ted lived.

At that stage we’ll be in the absolute middle of nowhere but we need to get to Heptonstall to see Sylvia Plath’s grave. There are two routes. One is mundane by narrow road. The other is a precarious cliff-top trek from which we can see at the bottom the skeletons of previous fellow walkers who didn’t make it.

Only joking!

Heptonstall is an extraordinary adjacent hilltop village trapped in time. About 1718. Ruined by getting electricity yesterday. Here are the graves of the notorious coin clippers and the feted Sylvia Plath whom Hughes drove to suicide.

Heptonstall• We also run a “Yorkshire of Yore” coach tour, during which we visit Haworth, Holmfirth, Halifax (the glorious Piece Hall), Heptonstall and of course Hebden Bridge.

Start: 04/05/2019 12:00 pm
End: 04/05/2019 3:30 pm
Venue: Mytholmroyd Station
Google Map
B6138, Mytholmroyd, United Kingdom, HX7 5EA
Cost: £12.50


Sylvia Pankhurst Birthday Memorial Walk – Votes for (All) Women!

* Next tour: Sunday 5 May 2019.
* Meet: St Ann’s Church.
* Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

She was Britain’s greatest female political activist. She led the campaign for women to have the vote on the same terms of men. She was a gifted artist and an evocative writer, and she came from Manchester (well, Old Trafford, near enough).

She was Sylvia Pankhurst.

When a group of women sold out the Suffragette campaign in 1914, taking money from the once-hated Liberal government in exchange for supporting the pointless Great War, she redoubled the push for parliamentary representation for women and the drive for peace. She became involved in the international women’s peace movement, bringing warring nations together at an international conference in The Hague in 1915 to protest against the World War.

When the sell-outs who had accepted the sop from the government were given the vote in 1918, which meant that only some women were now enfranchised, Sylvia resolutely continued the fight to get women treated the same as men. When that victory was won she led the drive against a new menace – fascism – ignored by the establishment, Labour, Conservative and Liberal, in the 1920s. She was imprisoned for her beliefs more than any other woman in British political history.

Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst was on Drayton Terrace, Old Trafford, on 5 May 1882. Her father, Richard, was a committed socialist and a strong advocate of women’s suffrage who was the main figure responsible for the drafting of the women’s property bill passed by Parliament in 1870 that allowed married women to own property in their own right.

In 1903 she helped found the Women’s Social and Political Union. She won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art.

She was a leader and a legend. This is what George Bernard Shaw wrote of her. “Like Joan of Arc she lectured, talked, won and over-ruled statesmen and prelates. She pooh-poohed the plans of generals leading their troops to victory. She had unbounded and quite unconcealed contempt for official opinion, judgement and authority. Even Lenin lauded her, explaining in 1920 how “Comrade Sylvia Pankhurst represents the interests of hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people that are oppressed by the British and other capitalists. This is why she is subjected to a white terror….has been deprived of liberty…”

This is a walk in Sylvia Pankhurst’s memory on her birthday anniversary. We start from St Ann’s Church in Manchester city centre and head to the shop where the family sold draperies, the art gallery where she was inspired (and where suffragettes attacked the paintings) and then south to the art school where she studied, the school where she was educated and the house where she lived and formed the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Start: 05/05/2019 11:00 am
End: 05/05/2019 1:30 pm
Venue: St Ann's Church
Google Map
St Ann Street, Manchester, United Kingdom, M2 7LF
Cost: £10.50


Karl Marx 201st Birthday Commemorations

Next tour: Sunday 5 May 2019, 3pm.
Meet: Friedrich Engels statue, HOME arts centre.
Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

Join us to follow in the Manchester footsteps of Karl Marx, the man who created a political philosophy that dominated half the world during the 20th century on his 200th birthday, 5 May 2018.

Hugely entertaining, informative and intriguing, this tour has been devised by Ed Glinert, author of Penguin’s The Manchester Compendium and many other tomes published by the cream of British publishers, who has been hacking away at the coal-face of local politics for 35 years, including a stint at the heart of one of the most sinister Trotskyite cells Hulme ever witnessed.

What do we hear about? If you want to blame any one place for the creation of communism, blame Manchester. It was here, in the middle years of the 19th century, that the movement’s two founding figures, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, arrived from Germany, Engels conducting much research into local poverty and social conditions, fuelling their original take on how society could be reorganised along class lines. Their work resulted in some of the most influential political books ever written, including Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England. 

Then there was the later and better-known Manifesto of the Communist Party, which WASN’T written in Manchester (take note Creative (sic) Tourist, Manchester Evening News and HOME entertainments centre).

How strange that must have seemed when published in 1848. No such body as the Communist Party then existed, nor, as Francis Wheen explained in his 1999 biography of Marx, was the work really a manifesto. As a piece of literature the Manifesto is clumsy and pedestrian. Its famous early line – “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” – pales alongside its precursor, Rousseau’s great epithet from the Social Contract: “Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains”.

But as a piece of political propaganda its resonance has been phenomenal. Only one other book – the Bible – and that is of unsure translation – has had such an impact on humanity. The Manifesto of the Communist Party is the most influential book that ever arose from debates held by heavily-bearded German visitors in sawdusty pubs, the cornerstone of a philosophy that powered the Soviet Union, China, Mongolia, North Korea and a much of east Europe for the latter half of the 20th century, and still propels much political thought worldwide.

Friedrich Engels came to Manchester in December 1842 to work at the headquarters of the family firm of Ermen & Engels in Weaste. His father sent the young firebrand to Manchester to rid him of his radical views; so he hoped. It didn’t work. If anything, Friedrich became even more devout. By day he worked as a cotton merchant. By night he scoured the slum streets of Irish Town (now Angel Meadow) rooting out instances of injury, injustice and inequality.

These were brilliantly outlined in The Condition of the Working Class in England, published in 1844 (which no one could have read in English until the end of the century as it was available only in German). Now it’s our most potent set of descriptions of down and out Manchester at the height of the industrial revolution.

Here’s an example of Engels on the slums off Oxford Street: “In a rather deep hole, in a curve of the Medlock and surrounded on all four sides by tall factories and high embankments, covered with buildings, stand two groups of about 200 cottages, built chiefly back to back, in which live about 4,000 human beings, most of them Irish. The cottages are old, dirty, and of the smallest sort, the streets uneven, fallen into ruts and in part without drains or pavement; masses of refuse, offal, and sickening filth lie among standing pools in all directions…The race that lives in these ruinous cottages, behind broken windows, mended with oilskin, sprung doors, and rotten door-posts, or in dark, wet cellars, in measureless filth and stench must surely have reached the lowest stage of humanity.”

Engels stayed in Manchester on and off for almost 30 years. Marx came to visit him a number of times, lodging at 70 Great Ducie Street near Strangeways prison, a house since demolished. Engels had various Manchester addresses over the years. In the 1860s he lived at 6 Thorncliffe Grove, 25 Dover St, and 58 Dover Street – all in Chorlton-on-Medlock, all long demolished. He left no easily retraceable trail as he was wary of the German authorities, through the British secret service, catching up with him. Indeed on 11 March 1933, the 50th anniversary of Karl Marx’s death, the Manchester Guardian sought help in tracking down Engels’s Manchester movements. “The 50th anniversary of the death of Karl Marx is a reminder that through his great friend, collaborator and benefactor, Friedrich Engels, Marx had the closest of links with Manchester. Oddly enough neither the directories of the time nor the accessible biographies tell us where Engels lived…here is a problem for some local historian.”

Letters from helpful local historians soon flooded in, but the best research was conducted by Ruth and Eddie Frow, founders of the Working Class Movement Library that can now be found on Salford Crescent, in the 1960s. The Frows pieced together almost every aspect of Engels (and Marx’s) life in Manchester. It’s thanks to them that modern-day scholars and guides know so much, as you can find out on our walks.

Start: 05/05/2019 3:00 pm
End: 05/05/2019 3:00 pm
Venue: Engels Statue
Google Map
HOME arts centre, Manchester, United Kingdom, M15 4FN
Cost: £10.50 in capitalist money


Exploring the Northern Quarter

This tour, Bank Holiday Monday, 6 May 2019
* Meet Queen Victoria Statue, Piccadilly Gardens, 11am.
* Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

Boho Manchester, cool Manchester, modish Manchester, funky but chic Manchester.

It’s the Northern Quarter. A land of crumbling cotton factories, sky-scraping fire-escapes, Bohemian bars, downhome hidden spaces, cult markets, chic galleries and cardamom-scented, sizzingly-cheap curry cafes; a style haven shaped in marble, steel and beechwood, with streets named in Mediterranean tiles and pavements slabbed in mosaic.

There’s even a great history of political turmoil, a stretch of the last remaining back-to-back houses in the area, a number of Life on Mars locations, and Mick Hucknall’s favourite curry cafe.

* It’s old Manchester renewed and new Manchester refreshed. It’s good. It’s modern.

Start: 06/05/2019 11:00 am
End: 06/05/2019 12:45 pm
Venue: Queen Victoria Statue
Google Map
Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, United Kingdom, M1 1RG
Cost: around £10


Ancoats: World Heritage Site?

Ancoats Historical Tour
May 2019:
Mon 6 May, 2pm.
Meet: Band on the Wall, Swan Street.
Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

We explore the backstreets and forgotten corners of the world’s first industrial community, converted from market gardens and fields with frightening ferocity into a land of mills blackened with soot at the end of the 18th century, colonised by Italians fleeing il risorgimento to bring ice cream to the begrimed city in the 19th century, abandoned by the council with forcible depopulating in the 20th century and now being imaginatively revived as essential 21st century Manchester.

Ancoats mills


Industry began in Ancoats, a factory hoot from Manchester city centre. In 1700 it was a semi-rural enclave by the river Medlock, with Ancoats Hall home to the lords of the Manchester manor. By 1800 this was a teeming, squalid suburb, blackened with soot, the smell of belching smoke hanging in the air.

The conditions were shocking: the noise of thundering machinery, suffocating air, high accident rates and notorious employment practices at the expense of an emaciated, underpaid workforce slave-driven for unsustainably long hours amidst disease, darkness, damp and desperate heat, living in dingy streets of tiny workers’ houses, jerry-built two-up two down brick boxes standing back-to-back so that as many properties as possible could be squeezed into the smallest of spaces.

Child labour was rife.

As one Ancoats mill owner explained to the early 19th century poet laureate Robert Southey, when he visited Manchester in 1808, “You see these children, sir. By the time they are seven or eight years old they are bringing in the money. They come at five in the morning, they leave at six and another set relieves them for the night; the wheels never stand still.”

This was never a pleasant area, yet some of the mid 19th century buildings, such as the Ice Palace, which we will visit on the walk, were exquisitely detailed with Italianate effects, perfect for the large influx of Italian immigrants, while the earlier mill buildings by the Rochdale Canal, though functional and formal, were palaces of Mammon, monuments to mercantilism, magnificent in their might and mass.

Later experiments in social planning saw some wonderful additions to the locale: the vast Victoria Square, Manchester’s oldest surviving municipal estate, is still an astonishing site. Even more striking is the jazzy Daily Express building on Great Ancoats Street, its gorgeous curves of glass and vitrolite the perfect coating for what was then a quality mass market newspaper owned by the formidable Lord Beaverbrook.

The late 20th century saw Ancoats die. The mills shut, the workshops wound down, the canal almost dried up. Now it’s all cleaned up. The mills are modern workshops; the factories smart apartments, while new developments such as the much lauded New Islington project with its funkily named Chips Building and Dutch-styled houses are attracting investment…slowly.

Start: 06/05/2019 2:00 pm
End: 06/05/2019 4:00 pm
Venue: Band on the Wall
Google Map
Swan Street, Manchester, United Kingdom
Cost: around £10


Secret Salford


Next tour: Thu 9 May 2019.
Meet: Victoria Station wallmap, 2pm.

Old Salford (tyre2)

“Dirty old town” sang the man. He was relaxing in between shows at Hyndman Hall on Liverpool Street, looked out the window at the old gas works and was suitably inspired to write the song of the same name, covered perfunctorily by Rod Stewart and memorably by the Pogues. His name was Jimmy Miller, but you’ll know him better as Ewan MacColl.

He was there at the dramatic demonstration outside the old Town Hall on Bexley Square in 1931 when the crowd chanted: “Down down down with the National Starvation Government!” and things got rather heated.

We’ll probably hear a bit more about that and about Hobson’s Choice and the vegetarian church, the Flat Iron Market, the Working Class Library, J. P. Joule, the Catholic cathedral, Exchange Station, the elegant Crescent, the flood-happy river Irwell, Greengate, the Real Tennis court, oh and of course L. S. Lowry.

Start: 09/05/2019 2:00 pm
End: 09/05/2019 4:00 pm
Venue: Victoria Station wallmap
Google Map
Victoria Station Approach, Manchester, United Kingdom, M3 1PB
Cost: Around £10


The Secret History of Manchester

This tour. Meet at the tfgm office, Piccadilly Gardens:

Thu 9 May 2019, 6pm.
Booking: Please book here with eventbrite.

Here’s something you didn’t know (we hope). During the Second World War the Government requisitioned a well-known building in Manchester city centre to be a secret regional HQ, to take over the running of not just Manchester but the entire North-West should Nazi invasion look imminent.

It was kitted out with the most sophisticated communications equipment, food and beds. Winston Churchill, prime minister, even kipped there one night to show how safe it was. But of course it was never needed. Where is it? Ah…

This is a trip into the deepest historical secrets of Manchester. Sites, streets, spaces that you’ve walked past a thousand times will never look the same again. The tour is conducted by Ed Glinert who knows Manchester better than anyone and knows the things that nobody else (apart from the people who told him) knows.

You think you know Manchester? Well, no one knows it like Ed Glinert, who has spent 40 years unturning every last (Gothic) stone in the city, uncovering layer upon layer of other histories, lesser-known stories, the secret side of the city to create the ultimate “believe it or not”.

On this we hear about:
* The atomic bunker under Piccadilly Gardens.
* Racist GIs during the Second World War and the drama they caused.
* The planned demolition of the Town Hall.
* L. S. Lowry, the secret sadist.
* The attack on the paintings at the Art Gallery.
* The pillar box that didn’t survive the 1996 IRA bomb…

It’s the Manchester that nobody knows.


Girl with Bow c1973

IRA Bomb 1

Start: 09/05/2019 6:00 pm
End: 09/05/2019 7:45 pm
Venue: TfGM office
Google Map
Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, United Kingdom, M1 1RG
Cost: around £10
iCal Import