Guided Tour of Manchester’s northern Quarter and Annie Augusta Denton

My great great aunt, Annie Augusta denton was born on August 40, 1874. I wonder if that’s why she was given the middle name of Augusta – a rather unusual name and not one that I’ve found previously in the Denton family tree. Her parents were Samuel Denton, the organist and professor of music, and Johanna Nash Denton. They lived in Stroud Gloucestershire until sometime between 1877 and 1880 when the family moved to the Manchester area and settled in Broughton, Salford. When the 1901  census was taken on April 1 Annie was living at 3 Hyde Road, south Manchester who h was a residence for shop girls who worked at Affleck and Brown and large department store, housed in an imposing building in the Northern quarter of Manchester. 

A couple of days ago I saw that a guided tour of the Northern quarter was being run by Jonathan Schofield, THE guide to Manchester, who has been a tour guide in the city since 1996. The tour included a back-stage tour of Affleck and Brown building which is now an emporium of private shops, and we would be able able to down into the bowels of the store by way of the haunted staircase! And see what had once been the flat on the top floor.

About 20 people showed ups for the tour and we wandered round the northern quarter – the artsy district of the city. Vimto was invented here by a man trying to keep people from the demon alcohol. It gets its name from a corruption of Gin and Tonic – and it’s also an anagram of vomit! We began the tour in Stevenson square which acted as speakers’ corner in the early days and Mrs Pankhurst spoke there. There are still a few weavers’ cottages in the area, recognizable by the narrow windows on the upper story but most of them were pulled down during the industrial revolution when the area saw the building of many warehouses for the cotton industry. It was also the venue of many markets. The imposing facade of the fish market remains and after the tour I visited the current craft market. A few Georgian houses remain, with their imposing porticos, and they are now used as designer studios and professional offices. I also learned that Forsyth’s Music store is the oldest family owned shop in the city, and Wayne Rooney’s wife purchased a grand piano there for 90,000 pounds because, every though she doesn’t play, she thought it would look nice in a corner of the house. 

Then to Affleck and Brown. That company bought out Lomas and in fact it was the Lomas building which gave us the behind the scenes tour. Hilary Mantel, whose autobiography I recently read, describes the building in ‘Flud.’ When I told one of the guides in the building about my connection  to it he wanted details of how to find the census online so that he can have it printed and mounted for display. The place is huge. Three storeys and a veritable warren. Brightly colored stone stairwells lead to shops varying from tattoo parlors to vintage clothing stores. Lady Gaga purchased a dress from one of the stores when she was in town to give a concert. Many of the interior walls are adorned with painting which appear to be a cross between frescoes and graffiti. There was even an American snack shop where I saw for the first time in England Arizona ice tea for sale. It was a pity it’s too heavy to carry home. After the tour I had a bagel in the top floor cafe with spectacular views over the city. As I came out a group of guys asked me to take photos of them outside the. building. It was a stag party. It had turned into a lovely sunny day, even though rain had been forecast, and for a while I toyed with the idea of taking a ride on a canal boat,  but couldn’t find a suitable one that didn’t need to be booked in advance, so I headed off back to Hebden Bridge where it started to rain just as I got off the train – and it bucketed down for an hour, then cleared into a lovely sunny evening.