Over the past year, I have taken a particular interest in the North Manchester slums as my own family lived there until the end of WW2. They survived on what little money my Great Grandfather and his eldest sons could bring home from their work at London Road Station (now known as Piccadilly Station). But who were those residing in these slums?
The history of the Jewish community in Manchester can be traced back to the 1780s, when a man named Jacob Nathan became the first known Jewish resident in the city. At this time, there were no synagogues in Manchester, but since the 1740s, groups of Jewish people who were travelling through the city would all come together to pray in a mysteriously named Synagogue Alley which appeared on a map of Manchester in 1741. In 1796, the first permanent synagogue in the city was opened inside a warehouse on Garden Street within the city centre.
After 22 months of enquiries a plaque was erected in December of 2021, officially recognised Ancoats as ‘Little Italy’, a “community integral to Manchester’s economic and cultural heritage since the late Nineteenth Century”. Manchester’s Italian community is described by Third generation Anglo-Italian Anthony Rea, as having provided an “exemplar for immigrant behaviour,” having “brought such character to this grim part of Manchester” with their “music, food and customs bringing so much colour to this area”.
In 1990, the inmates of Strangeways prison began the longest riot in British penal history. Once revered as a “last bastion of discipline,” the prison stood as the largest penitentiary in England, holding around 900 men at full capacity. By 1990, a peak of over 1,600 prisoners had been confined within its walls, becoming a ‘human warehouse’ with a dangerous guard-to-prisoner ratio. It was the perfect environment for revolt to fester, with cries for justice from disenfranchised men being inevitably ignored. Inmates began to talk of revolt, one specifically, Paul Taylor, who became the ring-leader of such discussions. Taylor was confined in an attempt to silence his protest but paradoxically, it was there he met Alan Lord, the second ring-leader of the riot, and the two began to plan their systemic overthrow.