Aside from the details of the many wonderful buildings in Manchester I find myself looking at street names and musing on their origins, for this can also tell you much about the history of a place. Running off the part of Deansgate where I’m often based when working there are two streets called Camp Street and Artillery Street for example. Back in the 18th Century this area consisted of open fields and during the last Jacobite rebellion Bonnie Prince Charlie stationed his guns here. Until discovering this I had no idea that he’d spent time in the city! Running perpendicular to the two streets is another, named after on of the city’s famous sons. Lower Byrom Street (and the nearby Byrom Street) commemorate John Byrom, a poet, possible spy, and inventor of a type of shorthand who lived here during the same period. His most famous work is perhaps the hymn Christians Awake, which was always one of my favourites to blast out at Christmas.
At the other end of Deansgate can be found two churches, and in the 18th Century it was customary for Byrom and other Mancunians to workshop at both, attending morning prayers at one and evensong at the other. The first of these that I’ll write about is St Ann’s which was consecrated in 1712.
When originally constructed the church stood in a cornfield, but that cornfield has now become an open square populated by banks and designer boutiques. All the same, it’s location added to its appeal, or rather it did when I first encountered the building, but on returning with my camera a week later the Manchester Christmas markets had taken root, restricting the angles available to me and ruining the ambience.
The church has an unusual patchwork appearance arising from the stone used in the original construction. The local red sandstone proved so soft that the three centuries of subsequent weathering have taken their toll. Much of the original masonry has since been replaced and using different quarries on different occasions. Nevertheless it has a fine Georgian appearance hence its Grade I listing.
The interior by contrast felt like a disappointment, though this was offset in a couple of ways. The first an art exhibition; portraits of refugee women combining painting and photography techniques. Sadly the church website provided no details of the artist responsible. The second treat for the eye were the windows; technically painted, rather than stained glass, but striking all the same. Oddly many were not designed for the church, which initially had plain glass, but during a 19th century refurbishment new windows were installed, including a number reclaimed from other churches. Chief among them is a single window by William Peckitt, a leading craftsman of the Georgian era.
The church was named after its patron Lady Ann Bland, a member of the Mosely family, Lords of the Manchester Manor. The Mosely name is also reflected in a Manchester street name, showing the respect that the family garnered over generations. That respect was largely destroyed in the 1930’s. Oswald Mosley was a supporter of Hitler and Mussolini and founded the British Union of Fascists. Many cities in the world have renamed themselves or their thoroughfares to erase an embarrassing history; Manchester have chosen the preserve the memory of those who came before Oswald.