Manchester’s Lost District: Life before the Arndale Centre

Local writer, Keith Warrender is the author of several books about Cheshire and Manchester and he has just produced ‘Manchester’s Lost District: Life before the Arndale’. It may seem that the Arndale Centre has been dominating the centre of Manchester forever. In fact, the shopping centre was built in the 1970s to replacing a warren of streets, squares and courts, remnants of a much older street network largely unchanged since the 1700s.

Manchester’s ‘Lost District’ was a vibrant business and entertainment area with a mixture of textile warehouses, tailors’ workshops, ancient pubs, music venues, night clubs and coffee bars and the book includes many amazing pictures of the area. Keith took many of these photographs himself in the 50s and 60s before these streets were swept away including one of this second hand book shop in Marsden Square. Marsden Square, described in 1951 as a ‘Georgian backwater’ may have provided Charles Dickens with the inspiration for a London street in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’.



The books also contains much older photographs that Keith has sourced. A photograph from the 19th century shows a real Rover’s Return pub which was housed in the medieval timber framed Withingreave Hall on Shude Hill. Keith has included many fascinating pictures of prints and maps dating back to the pre-industrial Manchester of the early 17th century. Including this photograph from the 19th century showing a real Rover’s Return pub which was housed in the medieval timber framed Withingreave Hall on Shude Hill.


Keith has an encyclopaedic knowledge of old Manchester and recounts a wealth of fascinating stories about the area and its inhabitants. This was the location of the largely forgotten Shudehill Food Riot in 1757. It was also here, at 29 Market Street, that the Manchester Guardian, now The Guardian, was established in 1821. Its first editors, John Edward Taylor and Jeremiah Garnett set up the paper to promote liberal ideas in response to the Peterloo massacre in 1819.

Pubs were a big feature of the area and they were always an important part of the community as places for leisure but also places for debate about the working conditions of children, rights for women and for changing the governance of Manchester from a feudal system to a corporation. In 1784, the Lower Swan pub was the place to see the Irish giant Patrick O Brien who stood at 8 foot 1 inch tall. Sadly in 1760, the Swan with Two Necks on Swan Court was advertising for sale “ a black boy 12 years of age, with a good character, has had measles and small pox’.

The book is a must for anyone interested in the history of Manchester and would – dare we say it? – make an excellent Christmas present.

‘Manchester’s Lost District: Life Before the Arndale’ retails at £16.95. Manchester’s Lost District’ is on sale at Abacus bookshop in Altrincham, Waterstones and at the National Trust Shop at Dunham Massey Hall. It also available from various online sites or can be ordered directly from Willow Publishing, 36 Moss Lane, Timperley, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA15 6SZ


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.