Exploring the Historic Street Names of Manchester

Manchester, a city steeped in modern history - industrial and artistic alike - which is palpable even in the names given to its streets.

Many a time have we all passed by Tib Street in the Northern Quarter, Museum Street and Afflecks without even so much as a second glance, let alone engaging in the origins and etymology. So I’ve gone and had a look for you to save you the time…

Anita Street
Arguably one the most iconic street names in Manchester, Anita Street, formerly known as ‘Sanitary Street’, was the very first of its kind. Highlighting both the poverty and the prevailing conditions of the Industrial Revolution, the street was the first in Manchester that quite literally saved workers in the fatal housing crisis of the 19th Century, providing them with a running toilet and sink.

Still a preserved row of terraced houses amongst the ever-growing rise of apartments in Ancoats, Anita Street is still a sought after place to live in the area.

 

Tib Street
All too many times has this writer frequented the hubbub of varying bars and cafes along Tib Street, yet never thought to question its heritage. Like many of the patrons after a few too many on a Saturday night, Tib Street is named after one of Manchester’s ‘lost’ rivers.

A stream connecting to the River Medlock that ran through to Castlefield from Miles Platting in the 1700’s came past what is now Oldham Road. The pathway running beside it, that is our beloved Tib Street. Due to frequent flooding, the path had to be ‘culverted’ – meaning the stream now runs completely underground.

Coronation Street
Okay so it’s not actually a real street but there is a nice little story behind the naming of the UK’s most famous telly street and so I thought I’d let you know.

The story in the show is that the street was built in 1902 and named in honour of the coronation of King Edward VII, but anyone who has watched The Road To Coronation Street or is old enough, will know that it was actually originally called Florizel Street.

Creator Tony Warren penned the first scripts in 1960, with the titular street being named after a picture Tony owned showing Prince Florizel hacking his way through the forest to reach Sleeping Beauty. Unfortunately, most people didn’t particularly like the name and there are a few different accounts of why it was changed.

One such account was that street legend William Roach had trouble remembering how to pronounce the street properly, and in a show that was initially broadcast live – proved to be a bit of a problem! Another account is that Granada co-founder Cecil Bernstein requested the change – likely because he hated it – but the best possible reason has to be Tony’s own. He claimed that Agnes, the tea lady in the studios said that it sounded like a brand of disinfectant.

Whatever the reason, the show’s street name was changed, and indeed so was television history.

 

Museum Street
If you make your way down to this otherwise overlooked street between Manchester Central and Peter Street, you definitely won’t be met with anything similar to Museum Isle in Berlin. In fact, there isn’t really anything there except a Pizza Express and the abandoned Coliseum/MTwo nightclub. How it gets it’s interesting name certainly doesn’t atone to the seemingly empty street you’d find there today.

A textile manufacturer in the 1800’s called John Leigh Phillips was a collector of natural history artefacts. Following his death, the collection was taken by a group that would later become the Manchester Natural History Society in 1821.

The society made their home in Peter Street in 1835 and showcased Phillips’ assembly as an addition to a collection by the Manchester Geological Society. So, Museum Street now remains a tribute to Phillips and the society, despite there being no museum having been there at any point.

 

Balloon Street
When Oxford-born James Sadler put a hot air balloon in the Manchester sky in 1785, it was probably the first time Mancunians had seen such a delightful sight. I imagine they didn’t describe it as delightful at the time and were most likely terrified by such a thing as a massive balloon floating over their heads, but it was such a fascinating sight that a street was named after the event. Not least because Sadler was the second person ever in the country to ascend a balloon, with the flight taking place over a garden of what was then Long Millgate, now Balloon Street.

 

Lever Street
Not just home of the Finest office – the origins are yet to be thoroughly explored and confirmed, however here are a few curious theories behind Lever Street.

One theory is that it is named after Harold Lever, Baron Lever of Manchester, whom died in 1995. That would make sense, wouldn’t it? Same name etc. but it appears that the ancestries of the name come far before that. In 1797, the street was already called Lever’s Row. So poor Harold doesn’t actually get a look in.

It looks more likely that Ashton Lever, son of Sir James Darcy Lever, is the reason behind the name. He was a businessman from Middleton that owned parts of the city centre including the areas moulded together by Piccadilly Gardens, Great Ancoats Street, Market Street and of course, Lever Street. His fame came moreso from his collection of natural history specimens (sensing a theme here?), one of the largest private collections in the country at the time.

 

Afflecks
Obviously not a street name, but it’s so fascinating that the story needs telling. In the heart of the Northern Quarter, the building was originally named after the department store Affleck and Brown (now the name of a bar on Hilton Street) after James Brown and Robert Affleck in the 1860’s. Known as the ‘Harrods of the North’, the business started with drapery but began to decline during the Second World War due to the opening of mega store Debenhams, just round the corner in the 1950’s.

When re-opened in 1981, its punk and co-op mantra attracted attention globally and we have the beloved Afflecks we know today.

 

John Dalton Street
Be honest, who else has walked past John Dalton Street near Spinningfields and not really questioned the name? Perhaps a little ignorant when you eventually do your research, because he put Manchester on the modern map.

His 19th Century findings helped to mould and shape what we know about anatomy, the weather and he revolutionised industry – so he’s quite important.

Dalton’s Atomic Theory is pretty much regarded as one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in history and definitely put Manchester on the map in terms of science. I could gush about him for pages, but it’s best you talk to the real expert, Ed Glinert, who hosts a ‘John Dalton’s Manchester’ walk and immerse yourself in everything possible from the true pioneer.

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