I’ve lived in Whalley Range for a few years now “oh, it’s safe round here, this street is a good, safe street” assured the cab drivers when I first moved in, unknowing, quite innocently, about the history of the area.
Rows of terrace houses line the streets but further on on the border of Moss Side and Whalley Range the houses get bigger and further apart. A mysterious abandoned house sits on the edge of Alexander Park. The roof is burnt out, and trees now reside in its brickwork. I walk past occasionally wondering what happened. The internet has its theories about the origins of this mansion, but its history still remains quiet.
Grade II list space Alexander Park, on the borders of Chorlton, Whalley Range and Moss Side is a Victorian paradise. Alexander Park is a stroller’s delight, designed in 1868, built to “deter the working men of Manchester from the alehouses during their day off”. It houses tortoise who shouldn’t be there. On sunny days you can see them baking in the sun on rocks in the middle of the lake, with their faces towards the sunlight. I’m sure sure how they got there, I think they’re eating their way through the eco-system.
Alexander Park is a stroller’s delight, designed in 1868, built to “deter the working men of Manchester from the alehouses during their day off”
Alexander Park is now home to the carnival, a celebration of Caribbean culture in South Manchester. As you stroll in and out of the stalls, you’re hit with a wall of sweet and spicy smells – jerk chicken, rice and peas, sweet sugar cane, hot sauce. Underground grime, intertwines with reggae, intertwines with rnb, an eclectic mix of cultures from first, second, third, forth generation migrants. In the early 70s, a group of mostly St Kits & Nevis and Trinidadian Eastern Caribbean immigrants took to the street to have an impromtu Carnival in the streets, and has been tradition ever since, in the streets of Manchester. (Carnival in 1977 pictured below). The park remains largely quite silent throughout the year, except on sunny days, where you cannot see the grass for picnic blankets, warm white wine being sipped from plastic cups and duck chasing children.
Whalley Range has a radical history, and home to liberated, enfranchised Victorian women. Our sister district Moss Side, was home to leader of the suffragettes, Emmeline Pankhurst. Her voice echoes in the streets she grew up in, and sweeps deeply through the heart of Manchester and the liberation of woman and the working class. In a modest building on Nelson Street, the Pankhurst Centre is a museum and community centre, running workshops by women, for women in the echoes of Pankhurt’s legacy.
I keep a small amount of pride kept within the backs of my eyes, which glows every time I saw a small low res picture of her tacked on the wall of Moss Side Library’s staff room. It reminded me of how powerful this place once was. The area has always been turbulent, home to many classes, races, diversity of thought in such a small area. Revolution, protest, unrest. My house now sites on the grounds that Manley Hall (pictured below) once stood, a grand house fit for a rich textile merchant, sold off in the early 1900s. It presence is very much flattered by the terrace houses that now stand on top of the land, the grand house now just evident in old photographs of the area.
I keep a small amount of pride kept within the backs of my eyes, which glowed every time I saw a small low res picture of her tacked on the wall of Moss Side Powerhouse’s staff room.
The streets of Whalley Range are a bit quieter now. Whalley Range has mellowed, and now bordering one of the most rapidly increasing house prices in the country, it is presented as smaller version of Chorlton. It has seen wealth and poverty, a Victorian upper class hub, a cluster of bedsits in the 90s, a rise in bohemian popularity. But, it is still very much a mix of culture, race and class, crammed into in a small suburb in Manchester. My two years in this house has let me discover the rich history of this place, such rich, wonderful history.