The New Taj Mahal Restaurant in 1959
The making of 'Curry Mile'
Wilmslow Road in Rusholme has been known as Manchester's 'Curry Mile' since the 80s, but it's been the home of South Asian cuisine for much longer.
The New Taj Mahal Restaurant, nestled between a tea shop and laundrette, was photographed, 40 years ago, on Wilmslow Road. It is the oldest image of a curry house recorded on this street in the Manchester archives.
The stylish Indian restaurant Shere Khan is now said to occupy this historic site, as within two decades of the picture being taken, The New Taj Mahal had disappeared.
In the late 50s and 60s, cafés along this corridor became meeting places for the huge number of men from the Asian subcontinent, who had been recruited to work in the textile mills and factories of Greater Manchester.
At the time, Asian workers had become commonplace in the mills. In her research for her project 'Writing British Asian Cities', historian Irna Qureshi spoke to some of the first migrants, who recollected that more than 95 percent of the workforce at the time was made up of Asians.
One worker told of how people were enticed to come to Britain when the recruiters "went round the villages banging drums, telling everyone how great it was to come here".
The approach worked well and Rusholme became one of the main areas for the new immigrants, with The Curry Mile as a focal point.
'Totally and utterly changed'
Abdul Akhtar, co-owner of Sanam, one of the oldest surviving curry houses, says that even in the late 60s, the area was still made up of "traditional English shops" like banks, hairdressers, jewellers and pubs.
Rusholme in 1959
"When my father set up the restaurant in 1968, there were very few Asians and only one other Indian restaurant, Gulam Sweet Centre - but that’s gone now. In a short space of time, the area totally and utterly changed. There were an increasing number of Indian restaurants, as the success of one business attracted others."
Abdul adds that by the late 70s, the predominantly Pakistani community had settled down and was expanding – which, in turn, fuelled the expansion of The Curry Mile.
In Irna Quershi's report, one local resident talks about how the population of the area changed completely within a couple of decades of the initial migrants' arrival.
He said that in the 70s, out of 70 or 80 houses on a Rusholme street, there were about four that were home to Asian families, but by the mid 80s, "there were only two or three non-Asians living there".
"So in the space of about 15 years, it became obvious everywhere you went, Asians were moving in either from abroad or from other areas like Bradford or Derby."
By the mid 80s, the nickname of the 'Curry Mile' had stuck to Wilmslow Road's Rusholme corridor.
In January 2008, Manchester City Council officially put signs up bearing that title, and even though there’s been a recent influx of Middle Eastern and Turkish cuisine, South Asian food is still served in 13 of the 30 council-listed restaurants and Wilmslow Road remains the home of Mancunian curry.
last updated: 12/05/2009 at 17:04