For those who don’t know Ancoats, it was the world’s first industrial suburb in the world’s first industrial city that is both an icon of capitalism and communism.
Quick history lesson: Before the advent of steam power, industry based itself where water power was most reliable, ie at the head of river valleys.
Steam engines changed all that and factories could be sited close to their market. Ancoats was a collection of fields used for grazing to feed Manchester to the west, but when the owner heard that Lord Bridgewater was planning to construct a canal to transport his coal to the city, he divided the fields into gridiron plots to be sold to factory developers.
Ancoats became the industrial heart of the city, but the living conditions of the workers were appalling, as revealed by Friedrich Engels in his book, The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.
History lesson over. Ancoats ceased to be an industrial powerhouse many years ago, but reminders live on in the many mills, schools, pubs and other buildings now used as places to live and work.
And that’s why we found ourselves there yesterday, meeting someone with an office at an Urban Splash mill redevelopment.
When our business concluded, we drove down to a row of attractive three-storey houses at the bottom of George Leigh Street, before it joins Great Ancoats Street. They appear to have become desirable residences for the new city dwellers and that’s where I came across the sculpted figures above.
I snapped the photo quickly with my iPad, but didn’t dawdle long enough to find out what it is made of, or what book is that the couple are so intent on reading.
I can read some of it: ‘God walks and his smile brings release.’
There is nothing else for it, I must make the return trip to find out more.