Manchester History In Vintage Film & Old Photos

Categorised as Greater Manchester
Manchester History Images & old photos of Manchester

Watch Manchester’s local history come to life with short vintage films and videos made from the compilation of old photos of this historic city in North West England.

At the start of the 1800s, Manchester was a modestly sized market town despite having doubled in size over the previous 50 years. By 1871, the population stood at 371,000 people, and the prosperous families had long established themselves in outlying areas, away from the overcrowded slums and industry of the city centre.

Today the city boasts a population of more than 550,000 residents, and Manchester is now the UK’s 9th largest city. The population for the Greater Manchester area, which includes the city and several nearby towns, is estimated to be more than 2.8 million people.

Vintage Film & Old Photos of Manchester

Early photographs of Manchester

Step back to Manchester’s famous landmarks in the olden days with this collection of old photos from the Keasbury-Gordon Photograph Archive.

Early photographs of Manchester: Magic Lantern World

The Keasbury-Gordon Photograph Archive is a family business which owns more than 18,000 historical photographs, spanning the 1870s to the 1930s, maps from the 1840-60s, and chromolithographs. You can order quality printed posters of their images online, arriving at your home a few days later.

In this short video, a range of their Manchester photos are displayed in a fascinating slide show. In addition, each image has been labelled with the location.

It’s a great way to see what some of Manchester’s most famous streets and landmarks looked like when horses and carts outnumbered the rare motor vehicles, and smart ladies walked through the market in long skirts.

In this video you get to step back in time to see Manchester’s Central Station, Deansgate, The Market Place, Market Street, Moseley Street and the Art Gallery, The Old Shambles, Trafford Bar in Old Trafford, Oxford Street, the Palace Theatre, Piccadilly, Smithfield Market, St Anne’s Square, and Ye Olde Seven Stars Pub.

Police Take A Prisoner To Strangeways (1910-1920)

KM Prison Manchester has a distinct entrance building so it’s instantly recognisable as the police arrive with their horse drawn custody vehicle.

Manchester Police (1910-1920): British Pathé

This is a short film lasting less than two minutes. But it’s a fascinating glimpse back to a world of policemen transporting suspects in their locked carriages, pulled by horses.

A Man Is Arrested

The opening scene shows a number of people being rough with a suspect. It’s unfortunate that the room was so dark, which limits how much you can see of the suspect or the men manhandling him. There seem to be two men wearing bowler hats.

Next, we see a police officer on the back of the prisoner transport carriage. He’s sporting a large satchel slung over his shoulders. But the distinctive hat and dark clothing are clear forerunners to the police uniforms we remember from the 1970s and 80s.

Presumably the suspect who appeared in the first scene is now in the carriage.

A large crowd of men has gathered at the gates. Is there news about the suspect, or are they aware there is a filmmaker in town? They initially all keep staring down the alley towards the camera as the carriage leaves the gates, but then they do turn to watch the carriage head down the street

Arrival At Strangeways

The streets seem to be gloomy. Perhaps it’s the effect of coal fires in homes and industrial buildings, or maybe just a drizzly day.

HM Prison Manchester, built in 1868 to an Alfred Waterhouse design and still in operation as a high-security men’s prison even today, is commonly known as Strangeways. Costing £170,000 to build and with an initial capacity of 1,000 inmates, the prison had a distinctive entrance building which appears in this film. 

When the prisoner transport arrives at the prison, two sets of doors are opened. The first is the outer wooden door, quickly followed by the interior metal gates.

The officers move quickly to close both sets of gates before the prisoner transport carriage stops to release its human cargo.

“England’s Oldest Man” In Manchester (1937)

Quite what inspired Michael Moore’s claim to be England’s oldest man is anyone’s guess, but the decision to press ahead with the clearly fake news story is even more extraordinary. To be fair to everyone involved, life expectancy for UK males in 1930 was just over 58 years.

Who Was Michael Moore?

According to the news reel recorded in Manchester in 1937, Michael Moore was England’s oldest man.

“He’s still able to look after himself – and cook his own meals”

Narrator talking about Michael Moore, “Manchester”, 1937, British Pathé

He claimed to be 123 years old and the son of a soldier who fought at the Battle of Waterloo. That decisive engagement, which ended Napoleon Bonaparte’s military campaign across Europe and ultimately his position as Emperor of the French, occurred in June 1815.

The footage shows Michael Moore walking along a street of terraced houses, supported by a walking stick and with a slight limp. But he also seems to have a steady balance and decent pace.

Mr. Moore is then shown lighting a pipe and looking at the camera. Meanwhile the narrator tells us he’s still able to look after himself. Clearly, an elderly man cooking his own meals is clearly a point of note.

How Did He Become England’s Oldest Man?

The narrator never explains why Michael Moore remains silent on the question of how he’s got to such a great age.

He may never have been asked. There may have been sound recording problems, he might have been deaf or had problems speaking properly.

Perhaps he just had little idea of what to say in an age where ordinary people rarely spoke to filmmakers.

And you’ll notice we aren’t told anything else about him, either. Was he born in Manchester? Where had he worked? Ironically these are the things we would be more interested in today than a less than credible age.

Was He Really England’s Oldest Man?

In 2020, the oldest verified man ever recorded was Jiroemon Kimura (1897–2013) of Japan, who lived from 1897 to 2013. He died when he was 116 years and 54 days old

Robert Weighton became the oldest living man in February 2020. A resident of Alton in Hampshire, England, widower Robert still lived independently in his own flat at the age of 111 years, 343 days.

Does Michael Moore look old enough to be 123? He lived at a time when running water, indoor toilets and comprehensive medical care was the preserve of the rich. Domestic coal fires and large scale heavy industry made city air thick with pollutants. Meanwhile, many homes in the terraces suffered from damp.

His story hasn’t survived into the modern age except for this film clip. Furthermore, the verified oldest man in the world ever recorded was 7 years short of Michael Moore’s claim of 123 years. The age claim was clearly not widely accepted or backed up by evidence.

However, it still makes a good story. Plus, it was a chance to capture one of Manchester’s elderly working class folk on film in an age when they were largely ignored as individuals.

The Newly Opened Mancunian Way In 1967

Shortly after the Prime Minister Harold Wilson opened the elevated motorway in 1967, this footage was recorded.

Manchester Motorway (1967): British Pathé

The Mancunian Way

The Mancunian Way is a two mile elevated motorway in Manchester, which forms a major part of the Manchester-Salford Inner Ring Road and runs south of the city centre. Construction for the “highway in the sky” cost £5.5m, and the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, attended the official opening on 5 May 1967.

In the 1970s the Mancunian Way received motorway status. As a result, it  is officially made up of the A57(M) and A635(M) motorways, although the road signs only refer to the A57 (M).

The 1967 Video 

There are some funny aspects of this short film which remind us how long ago 1967 really was.

For example, the police car rushing past with its flashing blue light on the roof looks rather extraordinary compared to the shape of cars today. The nearby workmen at the pile of building materials in the road have managed to put some cones out to seal off one lane, but there are no warning signs or traffic lights present. Never mind any safety equipment for the workmen – they don’t even seem to have gloves!

The railings next to the pile of building material are damaged. They look like someone drove into them.

“Mancunian Way Closed 2.30 to 3.30” announces a sign.

The roads look eerily quiet compared to traffic density on today’s motorways. Even then, we see some bad driving, with one van veering in and out of lanes with no indication and not enough distance from other vehicles.

Just over two minutes in, two older men stand at the side of the flyover. It’s unclear why they are standing chatting in such a dangerous place. Perhaps they are workmen visually assessing the condition of something? 

This footage leaves you with the strong sense of an urban landscape torn asunder for the benefit of a huge and dominating road. It’s also an amazing record of how the road and its backdrop first looked when it was opened. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Wondering what Manchester is famous for?

Manchester is famous for the textile industry which brought much wealth to the city, the leading suffragette women of the Edwardian age, and the 1990s music scene at the heart of BritPop. Today, it’s known for its universities, nearby BBC studios, and trendy social spots.What accent is spoken in Manchester?

The majority of the population of Manchester and North West England speak in an accent and dialect known as Mancunian (or Manc). Because of the 90s Britpop movement and permanent BBC northern base in nearby Salford, Mancunian accent is more frequently heard on national TV than other northern accents.What food is Manchester famous for?

Manchester is famous for a wide range of dishes including the dark sausage known as Black Pudding, Eccles cake named after the nearby town, and the sweet baked treat Manchester Tart. Also, popular soft drink Vimto was invested in Manchester in 1908.

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