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ST MICHAEL’S – When will the council stop the rot?

Here is the piece I’ve written for the Manchester Evening News about the history of the site around Bootle Street due to be demolished so that Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville can erect two nasty noxious overgrown buildings that will ruin part of Manchester.


If the highly-controversial St Michael’s development around Bootle Street near Manchester Town Hall goes ahead it will eradicate in one blow a huge slice of little-known but fascinating Manchester history.

The proposed towers will require the demolition of three buildings: the former Bootle Street police station, the Ralph Abercrombie pub next door and the Reform Synagogue on Jackson’s Row. Think of all the villains that have passed through Bootle Street. But think also of the innocent.

In January 1967 a then little-known Jimi Hendrix was roughed up by officers outside Bootle Street police station. He had been rounded up, along with other revellers, at the Twisted Wheel Club near Piccadilly Station, having just played a gig at New Century Hall, as part of a random trawl to catch drug-takers. It must have been the only night in his life as a rock star that Hendrix was clean.

Because the Ralph Abercrombie pub was next door the police station it was for decades a copper’s pub. Of all the far-fetched, hard-to-believe copper’s tales that have emanated from well-oiled sessions inside the one that stands out is how in 1986 a nameless Special Branch officer dropped a tab of acid into deputy chief constable John Stalker’s pint in a desperate bid to discredit him during the controversy about his inquiry into Ulster violence. According to the story the officer dropped it into the wrong pint. It is not known what happened to the unlucky copper.

The pub is well known as being the only building left in the vicinity of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre when a dozen or so people were killed and hundreds injured fleeing from the militia during a demonstration called to bring the vote to the people of Manchester. Less well known is the story that TV executives from Granada holding a party here in the autumn of 1960 took a voted on what should be the name of their new drama of working class life. Two of three who took part plumped for “Jubilee Street”. The other for “Coronation Street”.

The pub features a number of pictures of Man Utd stars. Apt given it was here a few years ago that Wayne Rooney karaoke’d with Ed Sheeran after the latter’s gig at the arena. And ironic given that the property moguls who wish to demolish the place are fronted by Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, ex-Man Utd. But that’s nothing compared to the football connections of the potentially doomed synagogue behind the pub.

In January 1958 one of the synagogue directors, Willie Satinoff, a clothing company owner, invited his good friend, Matt Busby, manager of Manchester United, to give a talk. The subject Matt chose was “Football, Flying and the Modern Age.” A month later Busby was lucky to survive the Munich Air Disaster which killed a number of the United players – and Satinoff, the only fan on board. I wonder if Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville are aware of this.