Ardwick Heritage Trail

About Ardwick

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pankhurst centre manchesterArdwick is a district of Manchester located in the North West of England approximately one mile southeast of Manchester City Centre.

The village of Ardwick can be traced back to 1282, when it was known as Atherdwic. An old Roman road ran through the settlement, providing a link between Manchester and Stockport. From mediaeval times Ardwick was an independent township in the ancient parish of Manchester within the Salford hundred of Lancashire. It became part of the Borough of Manchester on the borough’s creation in 1838. Historically the boundary between Ardwick and Manchester was the River Medlock.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, Ardwick remained a small village in open countryside. The principal residents were the Birch family, one of whom was a Major General when Oliver Cromwell (briefly) instituted direct military rule.

Grand terraces of regency houses (some of which still survive) were fronted by Ardwick Green, a private park for the residents, containing a pond. Similar housing developments to those around the Green took place along Higher Ardwick and the area known as the Polygon.

Elizabeth Gaskell's house at 84 Plymouth Grove

Early inhabitants included members of the family of Sir Robert Peel. Charles Dickens drew many of his characters from life, and was a frequent visitor to Manchester. It is said that Dickens based the character of the crippled Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol on the invalid son of a friend who owned a cotton mill in Ardwick.

Ardwick Cemetery was established in the 1830s as a prestigious place for fashionable burials. John Dalton, the chemist and physicist best known for his advocacy of atomic theory, is amongst those buried there. The cemetery has since been converted into a school playing field.

Industrial revolution
By the early 19th century Ardwick had grown from being a village into a pleasant and wealthy suburb of Manchester. However by the end of the century it had become heavily industrialised and was characterised by factories, railways and rows of back-to-back terraced houses.

Ardwick Station is situated at a junction where the Manchester and Birmingham Railway (later the London and North Western Railway) diverged from the line to Sheffield that became the Great Central Railway. Nicholls Hospital, a fine neo-gothic building, was constructed on Hyde Road in the last quarter of the 19th century. It has since served as Manchester School For Girls and is now a Sixth Form Centre for The Manchester College.

When its industries later fell into decline then so did Ardwick itself, becoming one of the city’s most deprived areas. Substantial development has taken place more recently in Ardwick to reverse this decline.

Ardwick Today
Ardwick Green park has recently been refurbished, and though the pond is no more, it still contains an interesting glacial erratic in the form of a boulder. There is also a cenotaph commemorating the ‘Eighth Ardwicks’, once a Territorial Army unit of the Manchester Regiment, whose former drill hall is still nearby. It was the old Volunteer Barracks, a fine Victorian castellated structure bearing the old volunteer motto “Defence Not Defiance”. It is still in military use today.

The Manchester Apollo, a 1930s Art Deco structure, is one of Ardwick’s most famous landmarks, playing host to national and international performing artists. Numerous other centres of cultural, historic and architectural significance remain in Ardwick today, and can be explored through the routes of the heritage trail and within this site.

St Mary's Hospital Oxford Road old photo

Planning for the Future
In order to re-create attractive neighbourhoods in Ardwick, efforts are being made to address the impact of both its industrial past and the wider re-development of the 1970s.

Manchester City Council has produced a Local Plan for the Ardwick area. This seeks to put in place a comprehensive and holistic strategy for regenerating the area. For more information about the Local Plan, the Central Manchester Strategic Regeneration Framework and the regeneration of Ardwick please click here.

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