A secret underground world.
Beneath the bustling city streets of Manchester lies a hidden landscape of long abandoned tunnels and caverns. Inside Out gained exclusive access to these secret places and met up with some of the people fascinated by this subterranean world.
While many of us are familiar with the Manchester skyline towering above the streets, far fewer people are aware of the city’s foundations running deep beneath our feet.
But two centuries of development has left a legacy of underground tunnels, sewers, canals, and cellars.
These rarely visited spaces have been unchanged for decades and offer a window into the city’s past.
Keith's first trip into the Victoria arches.
Local author Keith Warrender has long been intrigued by urban legends about underground Manchester.
After several years of research he’s uncovered evidence of dozens of places - from nuclear-proof corridors under Piccadilly to a shooting gallery below Market Street.
But he’d never had chance to visit one of the city’s most extensive tunnel networks – the Victoria Arches - until Inside Out got involved.
A forgotten world
The arches were created over a century ago when the steeply sloping ground in front of the cathedral was levelled off to support a road.
For years they housed cellars and small businesses but today the entrance is a closely guarded secret.
During the Second World War they were used as air raid shelters and a sign on the wall from the 1940s warns that gambling and insobriety won’t be tolerated.
Later still they were used as public toilets – today the cubicles are still standing, a sign on one reading "Convenience closed for repairs".
Further rooms lie down a broken staircase, the ceilings heavy with stalactites.
For Keith it’s been worth the wait:
"I've wanted to come down here for a long time.
"I think it's an amazing place - the sheer scale of the arches, the fascinating notices and other remnants from the last war, and imagining what it was like for all the people who sheltered down here."
Someone else who has been exploring underneath the city is Andrew Brooks, who’s been photographing these hidden places for an exhibition at Urbis.
One of Andrew's atmospheric photos
Inside Out caught up with him in the long abandoned Manchester and Salford Junction Canal below Deansgate.
The canal was dug to link the Rochdale canal with the river Irwell in the 1830s and later divided up into over a dozen chambers.
Today several of the rooms remain under several feet of water.
Andrew says capturing the atmosphere is not easy in the pitch darkness:
"I set the camera to take shots at regular intervals and then walk around with a flash gun to light the shot.
"I'll take about 250 pictures and then overlap them using digital technology.
"I really wanted to capture the atmosphere of being down here - the moisture on the walls and the grime."
Keith Warrender believes that these tunnels should one day be opened up as tourist attractions.
Until then Andrew’s photographs give a glimpse into this secret world beneath our feet.
last updated: 06/03/2009 at 14:17