Glimpse history through old images of Manchester, England, UK.
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.
Old Photos 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.
Who Was Michael Moore?
According to the news reel recorded in Manchester in 1937, Michael Moore was England’s oldest man.
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.
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.
“He’s still able to look after himself – and cook his own meals” says the narrator.
“England’s Oldest Man” In Manchester (1937) – British Pathe on YouTube
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.
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.
Mancunian Way 1967
Shortly after the Prime Minister Harold Wilson opened the elevated motorway in 1967, footage of the new road system was recorded.
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.
More Lancashire pages
Greater Manchester Local History Resources