An urban explorer has shared pictures inside Chorlton’s derelict swimming pool, giving an exclusive look behind the doors of the long-abandoned leisure centre that was once home to a community of good-natured squatters.
The south Manchester leisure centre shut its doors in 2015 and, squatters aside, has stood empty since – despite a last-ditched attempt by campaigners to keep it open as a not-for-profit.
The first group of occupiers moved in in 2017, and – armed with brushes and a spot of plumbing know-how – quickly got to work draining and refilling the neglected pool and reviving the sauna so that it could be enjoyed once again by the local community.
Sadly, despite the group’s good intentions, bailiffs were hot on their heels, and soon the collective of 28 people, two dogs and several puppies known as ‘We R’ found themselves evicted and sent out onto the streets in minus-4 temperatures.
A council spokesperson said at the time: “Squatters had broken into the former Chorlton Leisure Centre building and the City Council has obtained a court order to take back control of the site to ensure that it can be repurposed in a way that would benefit the wider community. This happened this morning and the building has now been secured.
“The former leisure centre is currently one of three Chorlton sites subject to a major consultation to encourage local people to have their say about how the sites could be used in a way that would benefit the wider community.”
Over the years that followed, the building would be occupied several times more with its friendly squatters fixing leaks and even making plans to build a swimming pool before ultimately being kicked out for good in 2019.
Now, new images taken by urban explorer Kyle Urbex show how the group’s time here changed the building’s appearance forever.
Photographs taken inside the old Chorlton baths show walls covered in artwork and graffiti instructing visitors to pick up their litter and ‘protect trans youth’, old gymnasium equipment rearranged to look like a sort of childlike den or fortress, and even a worn-in, comfy-looking leather couch still bearing the imprints of its last occupant.
Elsewhere, Kyle’s pictures give a glimpse into the lifestyle of the squatters – with more graffiti advertising invites to workshops and even a dedicated busker performing area marked outside the gymnasium.
Eerily, it can be seen in the pictures that some of the electricity supply for the old baths is still hooked up with intermittent lighting throughout.
For Kyle, who explores and photographs abandoned buildings across the north west, getting inside and photographing the baths was a real achievement as it has never been done before.
And now, with new plans recently confirmed to transform the derelict leisure centre into affordable housing for the over 55s, it is likely that all this will soon be erased forever.
First look inside Gail’s on King Street as it opens in Manchester
This week, the famous London bakery Gail’s opens its first ever cafe in Manchester city centre.
The build-up has been substantial, with the team first launching in the neighbouring towns of Wilmslow and Altrincham before venturing into the heart of the city.
Newly arrived on King Street, the brand new cafe spans two floors, with extensive seating beneath its bakery and more stretching out into the street with a sun trap al fresco terrace that opens daily from 11am.
Due to open tomorrow, we popped down ahead of the opening for a sneak peek to see what the team has in store for Manchester.
The new cafe’s exterior is covered in handpainted murals by local artist Amy Coney, created as part of the city’s recent flower festival, whilst inside it’s all warm, burnished wood and sage-coloured coffee appliances.
A huge bakery counter overflowing with warm quiches, croissants, cakes and other bakes is the first thing to greet you, flanked by a wall stacked floor-to-ceiling with loaves of bread – all freshly baked this morning.
Loaf choices include classic white and brown sourdough, Gail’s ‘wasteless’ loaves (made using a specially-created recipe designed to incorporate unsold bread crumbs), alongside seeded varieties, baguettes and batons.
As for coffee, this is specially roasted for Gail’s cafes and changes four times a year with the seasons.
Must-tries include Gail’s famous cinnamon buns, still-warm cheese and ham croissants, chocolate chip cookies, and – given the weather we’re having this week – iced coffees, all day long preferably please.
As part of the new opening, the team has commissioned a beautiful floral mural to be painted in its windows by local artist Amy Coney.
Gail’s will also be working with local restaurant-backed charity Eat Well MCR to help provide nutritious meals to local people in need as it looks to establish itself in Manchester.
Featured image – The Manc Eats
The unique artworks hidden around Manchester’s ginnels and backstreets
Manchester is home to so much beautiful art, from the masterpieces hanging in its impressive galleries to the statues and murals that line its streets.
Wander around its back alleys long enough, though, and soon you’ll discover that what’s on the official tourist trail only scratches the surface.
Beyond the main thoroughfare, there’s more to seek out – with pieces of art sequestered on hidden backstreets, down city centre ginnels, and even up high on the top of buildings and – sometimes – carparks.
Keep reading for a true local’s guide to the hidden unique artworks you won’t find on the official maps.
Sound Bites on Oldham Street
Created by Manchester-based artist Tim Rushton, it’s highly likely you’ve walked over this piece on a Northern Quarter pavement without noticing it’s there.
Comprised of 20 cast iron triangles, it is essentially Manchester’s very own Hollywood Walk of Fame – set into the pavement outside Fig and Sparrow.
Commemorating the greats of Manchester’s music industry, it honours the likes of Oasis, the Twisted Wheel Club, and The Hacienda.
The brainchild of anonymous French artist Invader, these alien artworks can be found dotted in various locations around the city.
Known locations include Salmon Street, Dantzic Street, Canal Street, Newton Street, and Bunsen Street – but there could be many more.
Invader calls themself a UFA, an ‘Unidentified Free Artist’. Invader explores international densely populated urban areas and “invades” them. Displaying 20 to 50 pieces per city, Invader sometimes returns several times deploying different “invasion waves”.
The Ancoats Peeps
More urban myth than reality nowadays, a few of the Ancoats peeps remain in the area but sadly most have disappeared.
Initially designed to preserve a glimpse of history into the area’s days as a leading powerhouse of industry, unfortunately, many have been swallowed up in to new build apartment complexes.
That said, if you look really hard you can still discover a few – with maps online to guide you.
Spring Gardens Post Office Murals
The mystery of the Spring Garden Murals is one that has puzzled many art lovers.
Brutally bold murals sit above the counters of Spring Gardens Post Office but are often unnoticed by busy Mancs panic-mailing their Christmas presents or scribbling away in birthday cards.
It seems strange they are so overlooked, as it’s hard not to notice them once you know they are there. Even stranger, however, is that no one knows who made them to this day.
Apparently, they were a gift from Manchester University when the Post Office opened in 1969, but some are not convinced.
There is no credit from an institution, student, or artist – and they sit unclaimed and unnoticed.
Can you solve the mystery?
Perched Exotic Birds
The Northern Quarter is bustling with art and colour, its streets are literally paved with art. So is the sky.
Roosting above John Street, watching the shoppers go by, is Guy Holder’s sculpture ‘Perched Exotic Birds.’
The Brighton-based artist sculpted a cluster of ornamental birds and parrots to sit on old fire escapes and window ledges above the streets of the Northern Quarter.
At first glance they look like your standard street pigeon, however, closer inspection shows they are brass and have a much more interesting story.
Moving into the Victorian Era, Tib Street residents shaped the trading community by featuring live animals in their muddy markets – at one point it’s believed 20,000 people descended on the area in one evening to enjoy the sights.
The idea behind Holder’s birds is that although the markets are gone, the birds are not – they escaped capture and fled to the surrounding streets. Today they live freely and forever above our heads.
You wouldn’t know they were there unless you were told. Now we’ve told you – you won’t unsee them.
Manchester is one of the chosen ones, and we feel honoured.
This ginnel just off King Street, adorned with plasterwork umbrellas, is dedicated to famous Mancunian John Dalton – also known as the father of meteorology.
There used to be four metal umbrella tops hanging overhead too, but these have since been removed.
Nearby, you’ll also find Dalton Entry and Mulberry Passage – also dedicated to the meteorologist.
Big Boys Toy
A 12-meter-high art installation on the top of a Northern Quarter car park? We have so many questions.
Located in an NCP car park, Peter Freeman’s installation often goes unnoticed, but its purpose is important to our city.
Originally installed as part of the Northern Quarter Street Festival in 1998, Freeman wanted to reflect the vibrancy of the regenerated part of town so when night falls the beacon lights up in brilliant neon lights.
Sadly, for five years, the lights were switched off due to a dispute between CityCo and the NCP on how the installations would be powered and paid for.
Thankfully they sorted out their differences last summer, and now between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am you can’t miss the beacon as it lights up the Northern Quarter.