Northern Quarter (Manchester)
The Northern Quarter (N4 or NQ) is an area of
A centre of
Although the town of Manchester existed from medieval times (and had previously been the site of a Roman settlement), the area now designated as the Northern Quarter was not fully developed until the late 18th century.
The area now between Shudehill and Victoria Station was first built upon in the 14th century, as the village of Manchester expanded as a local centre for the wool trade. The expansion of the area was gradual up to the mid-18th century, when Manchester markedly increased in size and significance with the onset of the
In the early 18th century, Oldham Street was apparently "an ill-kept muddy lane, held in place on one of its sides by wild hedgerows". The first town directory of Manchester, published in 1772, lists a number of buildings on Tib Street and Oldham Street. By the time of a map by William Green in 1794, the whole of the Northern Quarter is shown as a developed urban district.
It might be supposed that Oldham Street is so named because it links to Oldham Road but this is not the case as Oldham Street predates Oldham Road which was named Newton Lane in the 18th century. Oldham Street is probably so named because one of its first buildings was the house of Adam Oldham, a wealthy feltmaker and associate of
John Wesley opened two
Manchester's first cotton mill was opened by
By the 1840s, the Northern Quarter was at the centre of one of the most significant economic changes in history, with the Industrial Revolution at full pace and Manchester taking its place as the world capital of the textile industry. In common with the town as a whole, the area became characterised by both wealth and poverty.
The area around Withy Grove and Shudehill is described by
The area around Oldham Street seems to have been more affluent, with warehouses and shops, many of whose merchants lived within their shop premises. This is described by
One Oldham Street shopowner mentioned by a number of writers is
Enterprise continued to be the focus of the area through the Victorian age. James Middleton notes that at this time "business was conducted on the old-fashioned lines by people who had been in the street for a long time". Middleton also describes Tib Street as "a perfectly adorable street, where natural history was taught by living examples...birds, dogs, rabbits, poultry displayed in the windows or outside the shops", a tradition which continued for at least a hundred years, having only recently died out with the closing of the last surviving pet shops.
Throughout the Victorian era, Stevenson Square and parts of Oldham Street were known for frequent political speeches and public debates. Haslam notes that a debate in the 1830s between one Dr Grinrod, a
The development of
Youth culture was the next development in the area that might be recognised today. A street dancing culture emerged in the early part of the 20th century, with "dozens of young people performing polkas, waltzes and schottisches to music provided by Italian organ-grinders".
The cotton trade reached its peak in 1912, when 8 billion square yards (6,700 km2) of fabric were manufactured and sold from Manchester. Following the
In the 1970s and 1980s the Smithfield Gardens housing estate was constructed to the east of Tib Street and the south of Foundry Lane. The estate consists of two-storey maisonettes in three-storey blocks - the middle storey is divided and provides the upper floor for the lower maisonette and the lower floor for the upper maisonette. This was the first modern residential development in the Northern Quarter.
Between the Second World War and the 1990s, the Northern Quarter was not considered to be a residential area, but since then, some of the old industrial and warehouse buildings in the area were converted into flats, as part of a wider trend for living in city centres. Although no official figures are kept (the Northern Quarter is not recognised for administrative purposes), it might be estimated that a little over 500 people now live in the area, which is split between the city centre and Ancoats and Clayton wards.
Over time, certain types of business were attracted to the area, which offered low rents and an alternative feel to the typical British high street. This became the main strength of the Northern Quarter — today it is known for hip, independent stores, cafes and bars, and for offering a distinct alternative to the shopping experiences to be found elsewhere in Manchester city centre.
For Dave Haslam, the Northern Quarter became the last refuge of the Manchester music scene in the 1990s: "A community, of sorts, had developed around music-makers wedded to experimentalism, from