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Report - Victoria Arches - Manchester - April 2011

Discussion in 'Underground Sites' started by Horus, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. Horus

    Horus Butt Wipe
    Regular User

    Oct 8, 2010
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    Victoria Arches

    The quest of Solomon

    Horus, Alley ,Cronic


    The Victoria Arches were a series of arches built in the embankment of the River Irwell in Manchester. They served as business premises, landing stages for Steam packet riverboats, and also as World War II air-raid shelters. They were accessed from wooden staircases which descended from Victoria Street.

    Regular flooding of the river resulted in the closure of the steam-packet services in the early 20th century, and the arches were used for general storage. In World War II the arches were converted for use as air raid shelters. The arches are now bricked up and inaccessible; the staircases were removed in the latter part of the 20th century.


    Sailings to Pomona Gardens were very popular with courting couples, who liked to watch the Eel-catchers, admire views of Trafford Park Woodlands, and gaze at the peaceful farms and orchards. But the increasing smells from the river stopped it all.

    In 1838 the city authorities completed construction of a new embankment along the River Irwell, to support a new road. The arches were built at the same time, and created new industrial space.

    In 1852 the life-boat Challenger was built and launched from the Arches.

    In the Victorian era passenger trips along the river Irwell were very popular although it was becoming increasingly polluted. In 1860 the Irwell was described as "almost proverbial for the foulness of its waters; receiving the refuse of cotton factories, coal mines, print works, bleach works, dye works, chemical works, paper works, almost every kind of industry." The Rivers Pollution Prevention Act 1876 was designed to solve this problem, but it was largely ineffective. It did however lay the groundwork for the more draconian legislation which followed.

    World War II

    During World War II the stages and tunnels surrounding them were converted into air-raid shelters. The conversion, which included additional brick blast walls, took three months at a cost of £10,150 and provided shelter for 1,619 people. The cobbled surfaces shown in some of the pictures on the Manchester City Council website show the same network of tunnels before their conversion to air raid shelters. The land covered by the arches included a street, which led at the west end to a wooden bridge over the River Irk. The old road was covered over in an improvement scheme, which began in 1833.

    The steps and landing stages have remained closed to the public for many years. In 1935 less elaborate steps were in place, some of which remained until 1971. In photographs taken in 1972, the arches are barred, and some are covered with metal grilles. As of 2009, none of the steps remain, and the original Victorian railings along the embankment have been replaced with a stone wall and new railings.



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