This week, I will be writing about Market Street, in the heart of Manchester City Centre. This is part of a series of blogs I am posting about Manchester’s streets. Market Street, although historical, is particularly interesting. Historically, the market has always existed by ancient custom, possibly dating from the year 923AD. The street started its early life known as ‘Aldport’  which is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘old market’.  Originally, the market opened weekly on a site of land which is now between what we know as St.Mary’s Gate and Cateaton Street. By 1282AD Aldport (old market) was overgrown with woodland where huntsmen stalked their prey.

This shows how rural the city was and how much it has changed. The earliest image we can find about Market Street dates from 1823, In this image below, we see a stagecoach known as the “Red Rover”. The picture shows family run businesses such as W.H Jones Printing Office and D.Cackson Carvers, butchers.

Market Street 1823

To give you a sense of the history which Market Street has, below we see an image dating from 1953. We can see shoppers, commuters and cars.

Market Street

Market Street, a street where buses could once stop has changed a great deal. The street was pedestrianised in 1981, as part of the Manchester Arndale development. The street has changed to accommodate the needs of the consumer, the public and also business, so that it is a safe environment. The street now allows the public to roam free, no vehicles, just fellow shoppers. Market Street houses 34 shops. The image below shows Market Street (Ordnance Survey) from 1969, the map shows how Market Street was once a road and would not have had its current ‘Foodcourt’.

Market Street- 1969
In comparison, this is what the mouth of the street looks like today. I took this image toward the bottom of Piccadilly Gardens.

Market Street- Entrance
And also, I think it would be fair to say, it has changed from its former glory. Below, we can see an image dating to 1962, it shows some of the old shops, and old cars.

Market Street- 1962

Although I feel that Market Street has changed, I think the changes have been made for the safety of the public. Below, we see an image of Market Street’s traffic (1953), the scene looks busy with cars dodging collisions and the public really cramped on two pavements. I feel that the nature of business on Market Street has changed massively, we now see rather big shops, which often take up the space that would have housed three separate shops. I feel that Manchester’s Market Street has lost the value of family run businesses.

Market Street Traffic, 1953

In summary, the street has had some great history, always being used as a market for over a thousand years. The street has changed, but I think we still have a lot more to see. Please keep an eye out for my next blog.

This blog post was written for Archives+ by one of our volunteers as part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project.
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