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Mapping Manchester exhibition

100-year-old maps on display at John Rylands Library prove that binge drinking pre-dated Deansgate Locks

Published on June 30th 2009.


Mapping Manchester exhibition

The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library is displaying a unique collection of Manchester maps in a new exhibition.

“This fascinating map published in the Manchester Guardian was purposefully designed to show that the biggest drinkers lived in Manchester’s poorest areas – just like today.”

Mapping Manchester – Cartographic Stories of the City shows material from the University of Manchester, Manchester City Library and Archives, Chetham's Library and the Manchester Geographical Society.

The 80 maps featured in the exhibition have been unseen in public for up to 200 years.

Many modern issues have a strange pre-echo in the maps: an isochron map produced by Manchester council shows how long it took to commute to the city centre in 1914 and was used in an attempt to show the need for trams and traffic policemen. Which sounds oddly like last year's failed TIF campaign.

One of the exhibition's curators, Chris Perkins, a geography lecturer at the University of Manchester said: “The congestion of 1914 shown in the map bears a strong similarity to the traffic hotspots of today. It’s amazing that it took up to 50 minutes to get to places as far out as Stockport and Timperley – a similar figure to now.”

An 1889 map of licensed alcohol sellers was produced by the United Kingdom Alliance, a temperance society. Dr Martin Dodge, also a curator and University of Manchester geography lecturer, likened the binge drinking hotspots of today to the areas of drunkenness highlighted in the map. He commented:

“This fascinating map published in the Manchester Guardian was purposefully designed to show that the biggest drinkers lived in Manchester’s poorest areas – just like today. It certainly provoked a strong response from correspondents to the Guardian who were outraged by the ‘low morals’ of working people.”

A 1945 map shows how Manchester could have been radically different had the council of the day had their way and implemented a plan to create a modernist utopia of straight roads, wide boulevards, roundabouts and civic buildings. This would have involved covering over parts of the Irwell, bulldozing Victoria Station and building a boulevard between the Town Hall and Deansgate.

Fortunately, this soulless vision was never realised due to the post-war lack of funds. Chris Perkins commented: “Manchester would have probably looked more like inner city Birmingham than the winding medieval streets we know today.”

Mapping Manchester – Cartographic Stories of the City, Historic Reading Room, John Rylands Library, Deansgate, free, until Sunday 17 January 2010, library.manchester

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Kev PJune 30th 2009.

Fascinating! I must get myself down to see this!

espionagemanchester.comJune 30th 2009.

This looks fantastic. They should sell reprints of this kind of thing. I'd better set aside a day to visit the exhibition!

AnonymousJune 30th 2009.

But there is the boulevard between the Town Hall and Deansgate exists and until the so call Spingingfields was build it was a sort of ceremonial way between the Town Hall and the Law Courts. I fail to recognise Manchester's medieval streets today Manchester's streets are usually described as canyons at the bottom of which wandered the common folk as Lowry painted them. Spingingfields manges a modernist version of the oppression by capital of the people. Just try the cafes and catch the dirge.

AnonymousJune 30th 2009.

But there is the boulevard between the Town Hall and Deansgate exists and until the so call Spingingfields was build it was a sort of ceremonial way between the Town Hall and the Law Courts. I fail to recognise Manchester's medieval streets today Manchester's streets are usually described as canyons at the bottom of which wandered the common folk as Lowry painted them. Spingingfields manges a modernist version of the oppression by capital of the people. Just try the cafes and catch the dirge.

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