Manchester 2011 – Day 5

We are having a day in town today. After breakfasting in the hotel room we went out to look for our first destination of the day, the Transport Museum. We walked down from the hotel to Queen’s Road and caught a bus which we thought would take us there.

Waiting for the bus
Waiting for the bus
A dull day and a desolate spot (note the abandoned shoes)

As you can see from the photo it was a rather dull day and the setting rather desolate. The presence of two unmatched abandoned shoes seemed to emphasise the mood somehow. In the event, the bus didn’t go where we thought and we ended up going into town and starting again from there.

First glimpse
First glimpse
The museum is packed with vehicles

As is usual with this sort of enterprise, there is never enough space, and the Manchester Transport Museum has had to pack its exhibits in tightly. They have tried to allow maximum access to the vehicles and have done quite well in this respect but the crowding makes it difficult to get good photos of individual exhibits. I do not blame the museum for this in the least as they have done the best possible with the available space.

Horse bus
Horse bus
This horse bus was in service between 1890 and 1914

As the above vehicle demonstrates, the exhibits, no matter what the age, have all been carefully restored and maintained. Some are too fragile to allow public access but others can be explored at will.

Open top bus
Open top bus
One of the vehicles that can be explored

This Leyland Titan belonged to Stockport Corporation between 1969 and 1981. It was later converted to an open top and used for promotional purposes including a trip to Monaco in support of Manchester’s failed bid to host the 2000 Olympics.

Roof-top panorama
Roof-top panorama
A view of the museum from the open-topped Titan

Looking across the roofs of buses from the open top of the Titan shows how tightly packed the museum is. It is to their credit that they have managed to accumulate such a range of vehicles of different ages.

Leyland Tiger 1930 Leyland Tiger badge
1930-vintage Leyland Tiger
My attention was attracted to the artistic rendering of a tiger’s head on the bonnet badge

Though we are not “anoraks”, we nevertheless found things to interest us here and admired the work that had gone into restoring these vehicles and in  providing useful information on them for visitors.

Chassis used for instruction
Chassis used for instruction
The chassis was retained from a Manchester Corporation Leyland Tiger TD3 withdrawn in 1951

“Anoraks” would no doubt have been interested in this bus chassis given to the Hyde Road training school for demonstration purposes.

Tram prototype
Tram prototype
Factory prototype of a modern Manchester tram

The above is a prototype of one of the models of Manchester trams still running today. It was interesting to compare it with the actual trams. You can sit in the driving seat but of course there are no controls! (Disappointing, that!)

Museum cafe
Museum cafe
Small but clean and well stocked

There is a cafe which somewhat resembles a bus depot canteen (which is quite appropriate, really) and a museum shop. The latter is well stocked with relevant books and scale models of various sizes without any sign of the rubbishy goods that so often appear in other museum shops.

The bare-foot conductress
The bare-foot conductress
Did she lose her shoes in Queen’s Road?

Generally speaking, the museum was well presented and the facilities (e.g. the toilets) though basic, were well maintained and spotlessly clean. The staff were all of mature age and I am guessing they are retired persons having an interest in transport or, like the gentleman we spoke to in the shop, ex-transport personnel. The contribution provided by their knowledge and experience adds greatly to the value of the exhibition.

The atmosphere was relaxed and informal, admission free, and photography was allowed, as you can see. Anal-retentive directors of museums and the National Trust might like to reflect on this.

Robert Owen
Robert Owen
Social reformer and founder of New Lanark

After the Transport Museum, we went to the city centre where I found myself face to face with this statue of Robert Owen. We visited New Lanark, the community that Owen based on his cotton mills, during our visit to Glasgow in 2008 (see Glasgow 2008, the entry for August 28th). For more information on this remarkable man and his achievements see here and plentiful other sources on the Web.

Co-operative Wholesale Society
Co-operative Wholesale Society
This building stands in Balloon Street where Robert Owen’s
statue is found

It is no coincidence that the statue stands in Balloon Street which is largely occupied by massive buildings belonging to the Co-operative Wholesale Society, the famous CWS. Indeed, the statue was unveiled in 1994 by the President of the 1994 Co-op Congress. This ties in neatly with our pilgrimage yesterday to Rochdale in search of the Rochdale Pioneers.

Thomas Munshull's house Dedicatory text
Thomas Myshull’s House
Philanthropy, apothecary style

Not very far away is another example of philanthropy and social-mindedness, the house left by Thomas Mynshull (1613-1698), apothecary, for the training of poor boys to give them a chance of making their way in life. It is a shame that so few  industrialists have seen the light lit for them by people like Robert Owen and followed the path that it illuminated.

Library entrance
Library entrance
This anodyne front hides a secret

The next place we visited was that shown above. You may wonder why I would show you a piece indifferent modern architecture. That is because it conceals a surprise. The sign tells us that this is the John Rylands Library, now of Manchester University. The entrance leads you into a library shop and cafe. The wonder starts when you go through a doorway into the older part. I might just add that the public is admitted and photography is allowed.

John Rylands' statue
John Rylands’ statue
He surveys the library but it was not built in his lifetime

Here is a sample of what you see: a most remarkable Victorian Gothic building, designed and executed in exquisite detail, in remembrance of the man whose statue seems to survey the scene, John Rylands.

Enriqueta Ryland
Enriqueta Augustina Rylands
Wife of John and the creator of this cathedral of learning

Nearby stands the statue of John’s wife Enriqueta, looking as formidable as she no doubt was in life. She bought what must have been an expensive plot of land in the Deansgate area of the city in 1889 and commissioned the architect Basil Champneys. There were a number of planning problems to solve but the library opened on January 1st 1900, surely a symbolic date.

Ground floor
Ground floor
The resemblance to a cathedral is not accidental

If this long hall reminds you of a cathedral with reading rooms leading off it like chapels, then I think it is not an accident. Ecclesiastical buildings where borne very much in mind at the design stage. Fortunately, there is a lack of religious symbolism.

Doorways
Doorways
Everything, whether stone or wood, is decorated with fine carving

My photos cannot do justice to the building and what is not clear is the vast size of it: it extends over six floors including the basement. Space and lighting are cleverly used to make large or small rooms with light for reading or darkness to preserve old manuscripts. It was one of the first public buildings to be lit by electricity and possessed its own generators.

Cloister
Cloister
You can almost imagine cowled monks walking here

The scale is huge too. Everywhere you look there are vistas – corridors, monumental staircases, vaulted ceilings of immense height.

Ceiling
Ceiling
Ceilings are decorated as luxuriantly as the other surfaces

While feasting on the walls and horizontal vistas, the eye is also drawn upwards to admire the ceilings with their tracery of beams and intricate carved figures.

Low-light room
Low-light room
One of the exhibitions where valuable historic documents are protected from daylight

The building has been extended and the new parts are of modern design – it would have been impossible to continue the Victorian Gothic. Their design is functional and the quality extremely good but my eye, at least, was always drawn back to the Victorian original.

Stained glass window Mythical ceiling beast
Two decorative details
A stained glass floral window and a mythical ceiling beast

The foregoing does not of course exhaust the wonders of the John Rylands Library. It would take many visits to catalogue it all photographically and even to gain a familiarity with its layout. I think anyone who studies here will carry its imprint with them for a lifetime.

Bella Italia
Bella Italia
A stop-off for dinner

After a further stroll around the city, we stopped off for dinner at a branch of Bella Italia and discussed what to do next. Should we go back to the hotel or…?

The bus had carried us through Chadderton at one point and we had seen the town hall. It looked worth a closer look and so we decided to visit it before going back to the hotel.

Chadderton Town Hall
Chadderton Town Hall
Quite a pretty building, especially in the evening sunlight

Despite its small size and age (the foundation stone was laid in 1912) there is an elegance about Chadderton Town hall, from its pillared entrance to the well proportioned dome topped by a clock. I know next to nothing about Chadderton but the quality of its town hall suggests an interesting history. Another time, perhaps.

We have had a good day, what with the Transport Museum and the splendours of the John Rylands Library. Chadderton Town Hall was a pleasing discovery too.

Model horse bus, Manchester Transport Museum
Model horse bus, Manchester Transport Museum

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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3 Responses to Manchester 2011 – Day 5

  1. holker says:

    Great pictures like them alot

  2. JustJ says:

    Really enjoyed reading of your visit to John Rylands, it’s a fabulous library and building, I’ve been lucky to visit behind the scenes in the basements and up on the top floors too. It’s just a fabulous building! Thanks so much for posting all the great photos and writing.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Yes, John Rylands is a fabulous place. Some people find it over-the-top but I like luxuriant design and decoration when it is classy as in this case.

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