Report - - The Little Italian Church, Manchester - February 2012 | Other Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - The Little Italian Church, Manchester - February 2012


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St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church, Ancoats - February 2012

Visited solo

I've wanted to do this for near on a year. I'm sure half of Manchester's exploring community are aware of this, as i've asked everyone about it and suggested it to many - with very little fanfare. In the end, after having my bike stolen one night in the city centre, I decided to go alone and compensate my loss with the good man. The next day, my boss's cousin was randomly in work, a massive cycling enthusiast he was keen to help aid my plight, on his way to a night class 5 minutes from my house, he dropped off a spare for me... our Lord works in mysterious ways.

To my knowledge, it is only Gone and Rookie who have even bothered to give it a look. This for me is a surprise because having seen that it was possible from Gone's report (I think I was a mere 28dl lurker back then) I have become fascinated by Manchester's Italian invasion and the impact they had on Ancoats - and how this is all largely a hidden history now...

The tale starts in Italy in the 1800s...

The 19th century was a time of great change for Italy as the modern world emerged. The melee of the Italian unification movement eventually accomplished something in the amalgamation of many different states into the modern nation of Italy, but inevitably, during the unrest there was a mass exodus of immigrants that found their way onto ships to the more “forward-thinkingâ€￾ nations who catalysed the intellectual conflicts in the first place.

Travelling from the rural villages of their native regions of Italy (particularly southern Italy, Lazio and Campagna) some settled in the Ancoats area of Manchester and, over the next hundred years, they created what became known as Manchester's "Ancoats Little Italy" – even pioneering the British ice cream industry along the way! This was the industrial part of Manchester, and its mills provided a very different landscape to the hills and mountains to which they were accustomed.

Around the mills were the rows of mill workers' houses, where the Italians made their homes. When the Italians arrived in Manchester, many of the streets and homes of Ancoats were over a century old. However these houses had separate kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms and an outside privvy - true luxury to the newly arrived immigrants.

The Italian colony grew, and began to outnumber the English and Irish families in the parish of St Michael’s.


St Michael's Mission was founded in 1864 and the church was built as a chapel of ease to aid St Patrick's church by the Rev. Canon Cantwell. St. Michael's was always the principal parish for the Italian community in Ancoats.











On the 23rd November 2003 a parish circular was distributed amongst the parishioners of St.Michael's RC Church stating that after 145 years the Church would be closed on 3rd January 2004 by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford, Bishop Terence Brain.

The parishioners immediately grouped together and wrote to the Bishop requesting a meeting to discuss the closure. The Bishop replied that their comments had been noted, but despite further requests for meetings no further dialogue was forthcoming. This resulted in a feeling among a group of parishioners that they were being ignored by the diocese, and so the 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' was formed.


The main reason for closure of the Church given by the Bishop was the falling attendance rate at the Church, in part caused by the decline of the residential community in the Ancoats area. Currently the area is undergoing major redevelopment after its industrial decline, and since being declared a 'World Heritage Site' land and property prices around Ancoats have soared. The church has now been de-consecrated, stripped and is in the process of being sold off. The 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' believed it could have still been used as a place of worship for the Catholic community, whilst combining it for broader uses such as a social centre and centre of Ancoats heritage. This would have encompassed the three main groups who formed the Ancoats community, English, Irish and Italian.


St. Michael's was the venue for the annual Italian 'Madonna del Rosario Procession' which started back in 1890 and has continued every year (war years excepted) to the present day.
The 2004 'Madonna del Rosario Procession' was held on Sunday 11th July. Despite the fact that St. Michael's had been closed to worship, close to 1,000 people gathered as tradition outside its doors to begin the annual walk of their Roman Catholic faith through the streets of Manchester. The Manchester Italian Association had requested an open air Mass be held outside the Church, but this was declined by the bishop who offered Mass at an alternative venue away from the Procession. However a sympathetic priest from outside the area volunteered on the day, and Holy Mass was heard by the faithful, a miracle in itself after the Bishop's refusal.


Much of the information in this report has been lifted from the following sites:

Also, he probably doesn't remember because I asked him about it so long ago, but still...

Thanks to Gone,

:Not Worthy