Abandoned stations, vast housing blocks and the birth of a city centre monster - a pictorial snapshot of Greater Manchester in the seventies

THE seventies was the decade of confusion, of a loss of direction, of new music and the arrival of a vast city centre monster. It’s ten years of a puzzle wrapped up in a riddle, of oil crises, three day weeks, power cuts, of macro-economic changes that revealed just how far British global influence had slipped from the heady days of Empire and industrial hegemony. It also revealed just how far other British cities had slipped behind their capital city.

During the 1970s, the City Council lost most of its remaining key responsibilities. After WWII cities such as Manchester lost power over local gas and electrical supply – thus much of their income. The NHS did for its responsibility over local hospitals, while during the 70s all control of local transport was finally taken and Manchester’s famous red buses became grotesque pop orange and brown under a broader transport authority.

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Manchester’s famous red buses became grotesque pop orange and brown (London Road, 1975)

In 1974, Greater Manchester County was created from south-east Lancashire and north east Cheshire. Thus the city of Manchester lost power over its police force and fire services. With the creation of the North West Water Authority it also lost its management of water and sewage services. Even the airport was taken out of Manchester’s hands to be shared by the new Greater Manchester authority.

These seemed like logical steps at the time, rationalising multifarious authorities under single control. In hindsight, much of the well-intentioned measures diminished the big cities and emphasised the capital’s brutal dominance. 

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The airport was taken out of Manchester’s hands

Meanwhile, the Arndale Centre arrived, a fat jaundice-coloured mother hen squatting upon a network of fascinating, if at that time rundown, streets. As The Guardian commented at the time, the building was so aggressive it was hard to know whether to 'shop in it or lay siege to it'. 

Today those little streets might have been a fascinating array of small businesses and bars, another Northern Quarter, while Oldham Street, instead of being effectively closed down by the Arndale for twenty five years, might have remained a key retail street. Who knows?

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View along Market Street during construction of the Arndale Centre

It was during the 70s that the M62 motorway was completed, but also when Manchester Ship Canal began a steep decline at its headwaters in Salford and Trafford as container traffic began to make it unviable. 

Slum clearance was declared over, only for the buildings which had replaced the slums to start rapidly crumbling in turn. Hulme Crescents, constructed in 1972, was the largest public housing development in Europe, and probably its worst.

The slum clearances officially being over didn't stop needless demolition of classic Manchester buildings, such as the opulent Oxford pub (pictured below) opposite the Palace Theatre, which became a car park until the early 2000s. 

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The opulent Oxford Pub was demolished and later became a car park

Manchester United, meanwhile, dropped from being European Champions into the old 2nd Division (now the Championship) for a season. City drifted unspectacularly.

Music offered distraction. 

The club scene in Manchester in the early 70s was dominated by places such as Rotters, Fagins, Stringfellows, Placemate 7s, and (for those of a little more Bohemian character) Pips, under the Corn Exchange. Manchester bands and acts such as 10cc, ELkie Brooks, Sweet Sensation and Sad Cafe hit the charts, while ex-pat Manc boys The Bee Gees boosted chest hair, big hair, medallions and discooooooooo. Northern Soul became an established phenomenon.

Don't forget to read: This is Manchester: 90 photos from the 1960s

But something else was bubbling under, and in a dark, smoke-blackened, declining city a new idea of music was forming with a whole scene and its own magazine, New Manchester Review. In 1976, the Buzzcocks hosted the Sex Pistols in the Lesser Free Trade Hall - the legendary year zero for a significant musical movement. Two years later, the mercurial but brilliant Tony Wilson started Factory Records with Alan Erasmus. The band Joy Division, signed to Factory, became the totemic Manchester sound of the time.

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A campaign began to save Liverpool Road Depot - the oldest passenger railway station in the world

Along with the growth of the music scene there was the beginnings of a turn around in the appreciation of the significant role Manchester had played in the creation of the modern world. 

When British Rail announced the closure of the Liverpool Road Depot, a campaign began to save the oldest passenger railway station in the world, part of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway from 1830. This would, in the 80s, form the site for the Museum of Science and Industry. Castlefield began to be generally recognised as a place of immense industrial and historical importance.

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher became the nation’s polarising Conservative Prime Minister, and as the 70s, the decade of confusion, came to an end, the nation and the city were set for the 80s, and another period of uncertainty, retrenchment, creativity and evolution.

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View along Hulme Walk in 1972, showing lift tower and walkways linking Charles Barry Crescent, Robert Adam Crescent and Hawksmoor Close.
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The elevated section of the Mancunian Way, crossing Oxford Road. Taken from the Cavendish School at All Saints, c. 1970.
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Peter House on Oxford Street/St Peter's Square in 1972
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View from Hulme Walk footbridge looking south along Princess Road, 1972
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View across Oxford Road at All Saints, looking east from the Chatham Building, November 1970.
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Advertisement by a Graphic Design student displayed in the degree show at Manchester Polytechnic's Faculty of Art and Design in 1978.
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George Best's 'Edwardia' boutique on Motor Street, about 1972.
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Model wearing clothes designed by a student at Manchester Polytechnic Faculty of Art and Design's fashion show, 1979
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Manchester Central Station from Windmill Street, around 1975.
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View of St Ann's Square, from the church towards St Mary's Gate in 1976.
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View north along Deansgate in June 1976.
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Northcliffe House at the junction of Deansgate and Hardman Street, around 1971.
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The Midland Bank building from Spring Gardens, around 1971.
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View north along Oxford Road, towards St Peter's Square in 1976.
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The Arndale Centre from Cateaton Street, around 1979.
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Exterior of the former Bridgewater Theatre, a small Victorian music hall that occupied a site between Cambridge Street and Cowcill Street c.1973
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The vault in the Lloyds Arms pub on Higher Ormond Street, All Saints, Manchester, around 1974.
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The Tatler cinema on the corner of Whitworth Street and Oxford Road Station Approach in 1974 - later became part of the Cornerhouse arts venue
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The Studio 1 to 5 cinema on Oxford Road in September 1972
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Display of posters and reproduction paintings outside the Old Curiosity Shop on Chapel Street, Salford, September 1973.
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Mural depicting Alvin Stardust on the gable-end of terraced houses in Heywood, in the early 1970s.
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The Victorian buildings of the University of Manchester on Oxford Road, looking north towards the city centre. Photographed in September 1971.
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The White Horse pub on Hulme Walk, Hulme, around 1972
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The On the Eighth Day shop at 111 Oxford Road, photographed around 1973.
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Withy Grove, Manchester, looking towards Shude Hill, around 1972.
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The work of a Manchester Polytechnic fashion student modelled at the Fashion Show in the Undercroft Gallery, June 1976.
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The Cavendish Hotel on Cavendish Street, All Saints, around 1972.
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The Grosvenor Picture Palace at All Saints photographed when occupied by the Star Bingo and Social Club, circa 1971. The building is now The Footage pub.
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St Andrew's Chambers and Bridgewater Buildings on Lloyd Street, on the south side of Albert Square, photographed around 1970.
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The west front of St George's church on Chester Road, Hulme, around 1970
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Grosvenor Square (All Saints Park), looking east towards Oxford Road, about 1970.
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The Eagle pub on Hulme Walk, Hulme, around 1972
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Interior of the Manchester Arndale Centre in 1979
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View of the Liverpool Road railway station site in Manchester, shortly after its closure in 1975.
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View along Hulme Walk towards All Saints, with Royce Road in the foreground and Ribchester Walk beyond
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Williams and Glyn's Bank, Market Place, Middleton, early 1970s. Designed by Edgar Wood for the Manchester and Salford Bank and built in 1892.
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The Merseyway shopping precinct, Stockport, 1973
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The Forum at Wythenshawe civic centre in 1975
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The Hotel Piccadilly from Piccadilly Gardens in 1972
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View across the northern part of Hulme from the top of the Chatham Building in November 1970
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Model displaying student work at the dress show at Manchester Polytechnic's Faculty of Art and Design in 1975.
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The BBC's Broadcasting House at Piccadilly, Manchester, photographed about 1970.
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Shudehill near the junction with Nicholas Croft, around 1972.
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The Oxford cinema (also called the New Oxford) on Oxford Street, formerly The Picture House, in September 1972.
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Hulme Walk footbridge, 1972
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The Manchester Ear Hospital on Lower Ormond Street, photographed in 1972-3, shortly before being transferrred to Manchester Royal Infirmary
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Boarded-up shops (once Georgian houses) on the west side of Oxford Road at All Saints, Manchester, 1976
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The Cooper House block of flats under construction, 1973
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Loxford Tower, shortly after completion in 1974. This was the first newly-constructed building for Manchester Polytechnic and occupied part of the site of the new MMU Business School.
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View along HIgher Chatham Street showing the Cavendish Street Chapel and School, which were demolished in 1974 to make way for the Cavendish Building.
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View north along Oxford Road at All Saints, looking towards Manchester City Centre, 1976.
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View along Market Street (looking west towards Cross Street), during construction of the Arndale Centre, 1972-79.
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View along London Road and Piccadilly Station Approach, 1976
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The CIS Building on Miller Street in 1970
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Deans Court and Cumberland House (the offices of the Manchester Education Committee) on Crown Square, 1976
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Deck access flats and maisonettes built using the Bison wall frame system, on Coverdale Crescent, Ardwick, 1970. Known locally as 'Fort Ardwick'.
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Pedestrian ramp to the access decks of Charles Barry Crescent, with children's play area beneath.
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View along Market Street towards St Mary's Gate and Deansgate in 1975, during construction of the Arndale Centre (right).
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View of Highland House on Victoria Bridge Street, designed by Leach Rhodes Walker and built in 1966. In the foreground is the Grosvenor Hotel at the northern end of Deansgate, demolished c. 1970.
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View of Mosley Street at its junction with York Street in 1972, showing shops in the podium element of the Piccadilly Plaza development.
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The University of Manchester's Whitworth Park student residences in 1976
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Entrance Hall of the CIS Building in 1970
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View up Oxford Road towards the city centre from the tower of the University of Manchester's Mathematics Building in 1972
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View across Oxford Road to the Royal Northern College of Music in 1976
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View along London Road looking towards Piccadilly in 1975
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Post-graduate sculpture students take part in a performance entitled 'Murphy' in the gallery of Manchester Polytechnic's Faculty of Art and Design in March 1971.
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View along Brazennose Street from Deansgate to Albert Square, 1972.
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View along George Street from Oxford Street towards Piccadilly in 1972
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View north along High Street from the junction with Church Street in March 1970.
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Liverpool Road at the junction with Water Street, around 1975.
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A well used Manchester dartboard in the vault of the Lloyds Arms on Higher Ormond Street around 1974.
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The Church Inn on Cambridge Street, All Saints, around 1972.
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Manchester Polytechnic's theatre school adjoining the Righton Building on Cavendish Street c.1973
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View north towards Manchester city centre from the Chatham tower in March 1979.
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Grosvenor Square (All Saints Park), looking north towards the Cavendish School (the site of the current All Saints Building), about 1970.
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The Gaumont Cinema on Oxford Street in September 1972.
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The Odeon cinema on Oxford Street, photographed September 1972
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Mural depicting pansies on the gable-end wall of terraced houses in Rochdale. Painted by Walter Kershaw in the early 1970s.
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The Memorial Hall, on the south west corner of Albert Square. Designed by Thomas Worthington and built in 1863-66. This photo was taken, around 1970
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The Oxford Road entrance to the quadrangle at the University of Manchester, around 1970.
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An aircraft on the apron beside one of the passenger piers at Ringway (Manchester) Airport in 1971.
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View of Wakefield Street towards Oxford Road Station and The Salisbury pub, around 1974.
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The Golden Eagle pub on Hulme Walk, Hulme, photographed a few years before its closure in 1976
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Interior of the Manchester Arndale Centre in 1979
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The Oxford public house on Oxford Street, around 1973.
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View of the Liverpool Road railway station site in Manchester, shortly after its closure in 1975.

Don't forget to check out This is Manchester 1960s. The 1980s edition will follow soon...

Images from the Visual Resources Collection at Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections. All rights reserved.