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The Good, The Standard and the Ugly: The Square with No Name

Jonathan Schofield finds a titleless public space in the city and wonders whether we should name it

Written by . Published on October 24th 2014.

The Good, The Standard and the Ugly: The Square with No Name

Category: Good

The Square With No Name?

Right you are. Where is ‘The Square with No Name’?
Don’t know. You can’t find it on any map.

Ha, ha, indeed
It’s where Bridge Street, King Street West and St Mary's Parsonage come together under the Inland Revenue Building and just next to the Masonic Hall. The fourth side of the square is Motor Street and is about twenty metres long.

Masonic Hall? Was the square created by men with one trouser leg rolled up and careers in the Police?
No, I guess it was created by men with clip-boards in the Planning Department. By accident – I reckon. This is all guesswork as I can’t find any mention of the square in Central Library. Then again not having a name makes it a bit difficult to look up.

When was the Square with No Name created?
Sometime in the fifties. It’s probably a shaven off remnant of the Manchester Plan of 1945. There was WWII bomb damage in this area but it doesn’t seem to have affected the site of the future Square with No Name.

What was the Manchester Plan of 1945?
It was a wholescale re-imagining of the city centre and suburbs: tatty Victorian buildings would go (just a few would be spared – although not the Town Hall), replaced by boulevards and sleek modern buildings. Manchester would bow down to the Age of the Car.

Even the Town Hall might have gone?
Yes. Let me explain. Broken as a superpower Britain found it hard to face its past. A dirty, bombed, Manchester being the first urban centre of the Industrial Revolution was one of the worst for avoiding a glance in the mirror. It was probably too painful, the future was clearly going to be more uncertain with less global punch.

Better then to wipe all that away, get rid of the old stuff, with its dodgy politics and Imperialism. Make a fresh start.

There is something superb about the optimism of the Manchester Plan but if carried through we would have been left with a Stalinist city centre like Nova Huta close to Cracow. In fact it’s only superb because it failed, the vision is thrilling, the reality, apart from one or two ideas, would have been horrific. Instead of the glorious mess of Manchester architecture we would have been left with a regimented and uniform streetscene.

Nova Huta - grimly uniform

Nova Huta - grimly uniform

What’s this got to do with the Square with No Name again?
The area here was supposed to be completely cleared. Salford Central Station just over the river from the Square with No Name was going to be a massive transport interchange. The area would have been filled with new buildings leading down to the River Irwell which was to be culvetted and made to disappear under a dual carriageway. The river was still smelly with industry so it seemed like a grand idea – hide it rather than clean it. On the illustration below, Bridge Street is on the extreme left, with the Irwell carriageway curving round the lower middle foreground. You can spot buildings which would have been 'spared' such as John Rylands Library and Sunlight House. Anyway back to the Square with No Name: it may have had a title at one time.

The 1945 Plan

The 1945 Plan

What was that?
Albert Place. This was the last part of Bridge Street before the bridge to Salford which is called Albert Bridge. But that doesn’t seem to have matched the site of the Square With No Name exactly. In one of the old photographs you can see some of the businesses and buildings that disappeared post-war: Grundy’s Rubber Products, The Old Curiosity Shop, a School of Antiques. Odd sounding business that last one. A famous shop did open here in the sixties when the Square with No Name was in existence. That was Edwardia.

And why was Edwardia famous?
It was bi-partisan, it crossed the dividing line, it was the clothes emporium of two football fops: Mike Summerbee of Manchester City and George Best of Manchester United. You can see it pictured here, with Regina, the womenswear bit. Edwardia is now Starbucks, with Mojo above. Bestie probably would have preferred the club round the corner where the Liars Club is than sitting around with a tall mocha and extra cream. There have been nick-names for the area.



Go on?
With the down draught produced by the splendid Albert Bridge House by EH Banks from 1959, it was christened ‘Windy Corner’. Duncan Measor in his classic gazetteer of the late eighties, Twin Cities, described the place as the ‘great skirt-lifter, hat-remover and umbrella-destroyer’. During the 'swinging sixties' the wider area was known as 'the Village'. A tad different in character from today's more famous Village though.

Should the Square With No Name be named?
Maybe. We could have a competition to give the place a proper title. Since it’s so close to the the People’s History Museum, we could mark Manchester's radical movements. Radical Square anyone? Union Square? Liberty Square?

The Square With No Name

The Square With No Name

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50 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

RobAugust 12th 2009.

Why not call it 'George Best Square' and allow Manchester's street drinkers to gather there in the great man's name?

CasAugust 12th 2009.

We call it Mojo square

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

It' the Freemasons Hall incidentally at 38 Bridge Street. I'm popping in to see it room hire arrangements

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

Extortion Square, after all is is next to the biggest extortion experts in the land.

Michael WestAugust 12th 2009.

How about Parsonage Square? We've got Parsonage Gardens nearby.

Jonathan Schofield - editorAugust 12th 2009.

Just William, there was much of merit in the 1945 Plan but there was also much to terrify. It is beautifully presented and it is impressive, the best of it being the plan for a concert hall/cultural centre in All Saints. But it would have - in the city centre at least, it was more humane in the suburbs - have destroyed far more than it would have created. It was also responsible for the way the University became isolated behind big, very strange, non-parks, literally turned into an ivory tower. This was because it was filled with that notion of cities being separated into tidy areas of clearly defined function. All the cities I've enjoyed best have been a bedlam of function and activity. The Manchester Plan would have given us Haussman-like boulevards and worse it would have tried to force the city to match notions on paper: real cities break out in odd ways, are uncontrollable. Even when they are dreamt up concepts such as Washington they develop in different ways than envisaged. The whole Plan whilst being admirable and thoughtful, has a whiff of the arrogance of the Modernists, a sort of Spock-like coldness. It seems to say: "We know best and you should follow what we say because it would be illogical to do otherwise." The money was never there to realise the Plan of course, so in a way we can't tell can we...but if you look at cities which went further than Manchester they can make you shudder? Having said that it is a very important document.

tomegranateAugust 12th 2009.

I love how this article spirals off from being about some random open area of town that I've never given any thought to, nor even considered as a 'square', to give a brilliant overview of the 1945 plan and some much-needed insight into the what state of the city was aftet the war, and how the public and planners saw it at that time, that led to such bonkers rebuilding concepts.Great stuff Jonathon!

suburbanmerlinAugust 12th 2009.

Wilson Square for me!

Good idea but BurtAugust 12th 2009.

If it was called that Burt, then it isn't on the maps and it isn't signed as such in the square.

LizAugust 12th 2009.

George Best Square?Mike Summerbee Square?

Anthony HAugust 12th 2009.

Call it Wilson square in memory of the good man. He had a lot of wind and would probably approve of the music coming out of Mojo.

jarvissaAugust 12th 2009.

Circle Square !

Burt CodeineAugust 12th 2009.

I always thought it was called Motor Street Square...which is very rock n roll (Mojo overlooking helps). A Chinese Whisper than I took to be gospel.

AnnaAugust 12th 2009.

If it's going to be named, use one of the old names - Albert Place, Windy Corner or Village Place - keep reference to the previous use of the area. Or refer to the clearance plan. Generic names such as Liberty Square are just dull.

vicarinatutuAugust 12th 2009.

hmmmmm, you really haven't got anything to do have you Schofield.

just williamAugust 12th 2009.

It obviously has no name because it is part of Manchester's "Masonic Quarter" with the Hall and the Blackfriars Bridge etc.

Mr NottyAugust 12th 2009.

Noticed on recent trip to Paris that les francais rename their streets at the drop of a hat after recent presidents....how about Blair Square !

that's an ideaAugust 12th 2009.

has anyone published a book on the 1945 scheme? Unless I'm getting my wires crossed, I believe several UK cities had similar bulldozing-into-the-future schemes developed, though none of them happened (unless this is when Glasgow got a motorway through it?). If there isn't a book, perhaps there could be one..?

Joe Stalin was fabAugust 12th 2009.

I like that picture from the 1945 plan. I like Nova Huta. Is there still time to instigate the plan?

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

Windy Corner II = the junction of Liverpool Road & Deansgate by the Hilton.

Jonathan Schofield - editorAugust 12th 2009.

Vicarinatutu each to their own eh? Funnily enough anything we do on architecture or city planning gets thousands of reads. People are interested in their city and the way its developed and developing. Food, drink, buildings, news, satire....we're a broad church dear Reverend. Pray where you will. You're always welcome.

OzzydogAugust 12th 2009.

What about Irwell Square or Place?It is geographically correct and not too fancy or twee.

a.dentAugust 12th 2009.

Ozzydog, there's already an Irwell Place in the area. Agree with Michael West's suggestion,Parsonage Sq, or as it adjacent to Albert Bridge House, the area could be called..ALBERT PLACE.

ZoeAugust 12th 2009.

What about Curiosity Square - it's mentioned in the article as being one of the old shops there abouts and it's certainly causing a lot of curiosity amongst the Confidential readers ....

just williamAugust 12th 2009.

I dont think you have actually read the 1945 Manchester Plan. There are 6 copies in the reference library. Written by Sharp and the 6 other guys who weren't fit enough to go to war.Hand drawn maps.Beautiful illustrations.Picked out by the great "urbanist",Mumford for being"organic";not adopting the Haussman inspired wholesale demolition used to create grand gestures like the Champs Elysee.The opposite of everything you say. Dont believe me?- go to the library and read it.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

Wilson Square would be good. But wouldn't it be more fitting to incorporate a Wilson Square in the (presumably) to-be-redeveloped site that the BBC on Oxford Road will leave behind after the relocation?

Peter WAugust 12th 2009.

In my youth, some not inconsiderable time ago we referred to it as "The Village", the main attraction being "Blinkers" disco - a wonderful night out, frequented by George Best and others including musicians and radio DJs of the day. Still got the membership card! Sad?

antoAugust 12th 2009.

Heard a romour that the Freemasons is up for sale, and someone had applied to drop it and build apartments. Its been put on hold 'cos of the credit crunch, but i guess wil be back on the cards when things pick up. An impressive building on the inside, Portland stone on the outside, bloody scandalous!

trinityboyAugust 12th 2009.

Extortion experts? Oh it's easy to mock the good men and women of HMRC but when you want money for a school or a hospital...sorry, you mean Starbucks don't you? Good point.Pigeon Square.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

Vicar, i dont agree. I think this is a great article - intersting and well researched. Sometimes I lose faith in this site, especially when it bangs on about chorlton and its media types , independant bars etc. This article reminds me of why i come back to the site.

AnonymousAugust 12th 2009.

Windy Corner II = the junction of Liverpool Road & Deansgate by the Hilton.

LizAugust 12th 2009.

George Best Square?Mike Summerbee Square?

tblzebraSeptember 14th 2013.

This video shows the opening credits of The Lovers! 1973 film and has great shots of this no-name-square. youtu.be/VWsezDqn2lk… Searching for this, I just discovered Sarah Lancashire's dad co-wrote the series with Jack Rosenthal, for Granada.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldSeptember 15th 2013.

Fantastic Tblzebra - funny

tblzebraSeptember 15th 2013.

Knew you'd like it JS. "There's a discotheque in Albert Square!" Was there really?

Stephen LakeSeptember 15th 2013.

Great piece JS. I've always wondered if it had a name. Wilson square maybe maybe a 20th Century Manchester inventor?.....in keeping with Whitworth et al?...

Manc GuySeptember 15th 2013.

Great find on the video. There's plenty of photos online of Best stood outside his Edwardia shop and it had a few shop front designs over the years by looking at them. I went to a basement club in the early eighties called Berlin. It was a punk/indie club. It was under what is now a salon on the corner of the alleyway. Interesting to see the traffic flow on King Street West goes in the opposite direction. There's no way buses could go down there now. Not only would the customers that frequent the eateries along there be appalled at the sight of public transport whilst eating, but the buses wouldn't be able to get past the 'poor disabled folk' that park their high end cars and SUV's along it whilst shopping in Kendals.

1 Response: Reply To This...
paulsouthernSeptember 17th 2013.

I DJ'd at Berlin in early/mid eighties for a few years. It was a great club.

CurtaintwitcherSeptember 17th 2013.

Why not call the Square with No Name "The Square with No Name"? It worked for "The Street with No Name" in Levenshulme.

Twizzer88September 19th 2013.

How about Pankhurst Square, seen as its right next to the People's History Museum?

AnonymousSeptember 20th 2013.

How about calling it 'ATOS square', due to its proximity to Albert Bridge House? Alternatively, following the precedent set by the new Cornerhouse/Library Theatre venue it could be just called 'Square', 'Place' or even 'Pigeon'.

melodySeptember 25th 2013.

I think George best square is the best idea seeing has he once had a shop there. There aren't any man city players that people outside of Manchester have heard of...

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2013.

Pierre Square, after the world famous hairdresser who has had a soon there on the square for years. And it rhymes... Bonus.

AnonymousSeptember 25th 2013.

Salon. Pierre hair Salon. In Pierre Square. I've had a sherry...

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 24th 2014.

Pierre, or Alexandre Square!

Dom77October 24th 2013.

I've often felt that this was a very odd space that would have benefited from being built on - restoring the original street plan albeit pedestrianised along Motor Street. Just one of several examples of parts of Manchester City Centre where streets have been rationalised either through WWII bomb damage or subsequent development that result in rather predictable way-finding and less character.

AnonymousJanuary 10th 2014.

When I walk through is FULL of litter...Is a mess. Call it sh1t Sq...

AnonymousOctober 24th 2014.

Schofield Square or maybe Benefits Square due to the proximately of Albert Bridge House. Morrissey Square or Smiths Square would be better than Wilson Square or maybe Circle Square just to be confusing. Alternatively, rather than Pankhurst Square, why not name it after Pankhurst's probableous relative Hilary Spankhurst, pioneer of S & M?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldNovember 6th 2014.

Schofield Square is a fine idea.

ChrismorleyNovember 8th 2014.

"There was WWII bomb damage in this area but it doesn’t seem to have affected the site of the future Square with No Name." This is completely wrong. During the Manchester Blitz city council map records of bomb damage show it was hit by 4 high explosive bombs and one firebomb, and the entire area was demolished. Here's the 25" to 1 mile map showing the devastation, created by Manchester City Council City Architect's Department (Building Surveyor's Division) in 1940-41: enriqueta.man.ac.uk/…/maps2~1~1~351132~123655:Manchester-bomb-damage… The original map is at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate, reference GB127.MISC/…/1…

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