This City Wall 2005

[This is one of series of blogs to promote my campaign to produce a 30-year retrospective book.]

‘The first two cities on earth to be connected by passenger railway service were Manchester and Liverpool. A thankless act,’ wrote Phil Griffin for our collaboration to mark Architecture Week, 2005.

‘However it has been spun out and replicated across the world, the viaduct that springs from London Road towards Edge Hill and Lime Street is of the first order. The enormous brick arches that stomped on Little Ireland and marched through Knott Mill and Cornbrook to Pomona signal modern globalisation.

This City Wall attempts to rout out a familiar structure that the city may just have grown to hold in contempt. We do not argue its grace or beauty, but we loudly celebrate its place.’

Encouraged by Phil, I photographed 176 railway arches, running from Piccadilly to Pomona, which made up the inner city viaduct that he compared to the Roman walls of York and Chester. The images were displayed as a 44-metre exhibition running the length of Platform 12 at Manchester Piccadilly. It was only supposed to be up for six weeks, it stayed for over a year.

“The first arches would have been built in the 1840s,” I said to the Manchester Evening News journalist, “at a time when the Town Hall had not even been built.

“They would have been some of the tallest structures in Manchester and people would’ve come from all over to see them. There were no planning regulations in those days and the arches would have been built right through residential terraced areas.”