Context 151 - September 2017

12 C O N T E X T 1 5 1 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 7 THURSDAY 22 JUNE Thursday tours Castlefield: archaeology, built heritage and new development Led by Norman Redhead, Greater Manchester Archaeology Advisory Service at the Centre for Applied Archaeology, University of Salford Although covering a relatively short distance, the walk explored almost 2,000 years of local history, from the Roman origins of Manchester via the city’s rich industrial past, most vividly represented by the abundant railway and canal heritage still extant, to the contemporary challenges of rapid development in the early 21st century. Indeed, the palimpsest character of the Castlefield area was evident not only in the narrating of its multi- layered history, but also in the visual drama created by the impressive entanglement of railway bridges and viaducts spanning the canal system. These prominent engineering structures marked the transition on the tour from the site of the archaeological excavations of the Roman-era settlement, interpreted by information panels and modern reconstructions of features from the Roman fort and associated civilian settlement, to the historic warehouses and other converted buildings and spaces comprising the nearby canal basin. In addition to discussing the key features of the built environment and illuminating the wider his- torical context, Redhead pinpointed the sites where new developments are either under construction or proposed in what clearly remains an urban landscape in a state of flux. Particularly interesting considerations on the walk, given the recent attention on tall buildings across the UK, and the ever-present views of the land- mark BeethamTower, were the proposed locations and potential visual impact of a pipeline of new residential towers near Castlefield. It was evident that the fortunes of the area had changed markedly over the last decades.This included its post-industrial transformation into a mixed-use area with residential, recreational and entertainment functions prevalent, including the reuse of older buildings, conservation of historic canal features, and interspersion of new low- and medium-rise housing and office developments. However, the character of the area is arguably undergoing its most dramatic period of change since the era of its rapid industrialisation, with the threat- ened high-rise skyline potentially introducing another revolutionary dimension (for good or ill) to the multi- layered history of the place. Andrew McClelland Roads, canals and railways, and the evolution of Manchester’s Whitworth Street Conservation Area Led by John Whyard, Manchester City Council, with Katie Wray There would seem to be no better place than Manchester to visualise and understand the theme of the IHBC conference, as the infrastructure of transport is woven into the fabric of the city. This was brought out expertly in the tour of the Whitworth Street Conservation Area. The tour began by following the Rochdale Canal into and through the centre of the city. What was interesting to me, even having lived in Manchester, is quite how central the canal network is to the city, not just historically but also physically, and in particular how directly the canal connects one side of the city to the other. The tour showed how the transport network developed historically, and the impetus this had in the Norman Redhead with delegates unpicking the entanglement of railway bridges and viaducts (Photo: Andrew McClelland)

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