Barton arcade was one of the first buildings to be built on the newly widened Deansgate in 1871 after all the buildings on the east side of the road were demolished in 1869. It is a grade 2 listed historic building and was built by Corbett, Raby & Sawyer. There exists a large undercroft underneath the arcade which may well predate it, and there is evidence of this space linking up with other spaces or tunnels. This was the location of the Haunted Underworld tour, and is now being converted into a restaurant establishment, so you should be able to have a nosey yourselves when it opens. See some photos below from Flickr user TVurbex.
Castle and Falcon Pub 📍
Rumoured that there was a passage from the cellar to the Cathedral.
Chetham's Well 📍
Reported in the City News, 1915 that a passageway was discovered around 1842 between here and the Cathedral.
Cross Street Chapel 📍
Numerous burials were made at this location. In 2015 tram line excavations required the burials on this site to be moved. Around 120 bodies were expected to be found, but after seven months (four longer than the three months allocated) 270—more than double the number of bodies were exhumed and relocated to Southern Cemetery.
Under 22 Old Millgate a vaulted 'crypt' 30 feet below street level, accessed through the cellar. An advert appeared in the Manchester Guardian in 1903 offering the chance to view the crypt. See Manchester Underground (Warrender, 2007:90). The space was below property owned by W. G. Ponter at 20–22 Old Millgate although it is described as Watson’s shop in this image in the Manchester archives.
The 1928 Midland / HSBC on King Street designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens has an underground vault. The building is currently Jamie Oliver’s Italian and the vault was preserved as a basement dining room. The toilets downstairs (featuring authentic Thomas Crapper toilets) were the safety deposit box inspection rooms for customers. There was quite a haul of valuables removed before Jamie Oliver moved in, including Joy Division master tapes and a gun.
Lewis's Basement Canal 📍
There was a recreation of a Venetian scene in the basement on gondola on a 2ft deep ‘canal’. Manchester Underground (Keith Warrender, 2007:61).
As a point of interest the fifth floor still has a grand ballroom. To read more see Skyliner’s post on Lewis’s.
Mancunian Way Hole 📍
Speculation that the cause of the hole was a previously unknown Victorian culvert in the Manchester Evening News. The possibility of the culvert supplying a pond in Ardwick Green is discussed on Groundsure
Market Place 📍
Mitre Hotel 📍
Has a tunnel underneath at the original street level, where the pub used to sit (Underground Manchester - Keith Warrender, 2007).
Moston Cottage 📍
A tunnel is remembered to exist in this area, beneath Moston Cottage (built 1713), and accessed through other properties. Rumoured to extend to the Cathedral and used as transport for catholics during persecution.
An old forum post suggests there were an old set of public toilets closed off during the sixties.
Old Guardian newspaper building 📍
On this site the Manchester Guardian was printed.
Original Arndale Streets 📍
Read more about what was cleared to make way for the Arndale on Wikipedia.
Palace Hotel 📍
Basement and sub basement contain extensive entertainment facilities once used as a shelter.
Piccadilly Gents Toilets 📍
Approximate location of the old public toilets and hairdresser apparently still present (albeit hidden) in Piccadilly Station. You used to have to go down steps which have apparently simply been covered over.
You can see the entrance at the back of this image from Manchester Libraries collection.
Rover's Return 📍
Source of a rumoured tunnel to the Cathedral
Started in 1788, consecreted in 1794 and demolished in 1907, James Wyatt’s St Peter’s Church had 46 vaults underneath it packed with coffins. These were sealed and preserved when the church was demolished and lay undisturbed with a 1908 stone cross by Temple Moore marking the location, later joined by a stone cenotaph designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924. One famous resident of the crypt is Hugh Hornby Birley, who was reputed to have led the Yeomanry in their charge as part of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819.
Thatched House Pub 📍
Rough vicinity of the Thatched House Pub, demolished in 1972. There were apparently sandstone dunnels in the vaults which headed in the direction of the Cathedral and Spring Gardens (Warrender 2007:69).
The Fountain 📍
Spring near the corner of King Street and Spring Gardens. See Underground Manchester (Warrender, 2007:76).
A cobbled underground service road built in 1921 and written about in 1962 in the Manchester Evening Chronicle (Underground Manchester - Keith Warrender, 1962:66). It is accessed on Old Bank Street from a vehicle elevator, and contains a turntable to allow vehicles to be turned around.
There used to be a fairly large underground market with a main entrance on Market Street selling music, clothes and other items. It was open in the 1970s and 1980 and perhaps even the early 1990s.
Underground Street 📍
Location very vague. Sources: Ojay: Undercroft, Manchester
Well under the old Theatre Royal 📍
Site of Manchester’s first theatre where a well was discovered under the stage. See Manchester Undergound (Warrender, 2007:76). From A Well In Old Manchester (Baker, 1959).
Between the 1930s and 1960s Manchester had an underground sauna and heated swimming pool run by the Gaskell family, under the Imperial Buildings on Oxford Road.
Bank Chambers was used to store gold bullion by the Bank of England between 1971 and into the 1990s. It now forms a data centre complex 25ft below ground in the former vault.
The Wishing Well was a restaurant in which a shaft was discovered in the basement (which was then used a wishing well decoration). The shaft was deeper than expected, as discovered when it was explored before the building was demolished as part of the Arndale plans.
Sunlight House Basement Swimming Pool 📍
Sunlight House built in 1932 was the tallest commercial building in Manchester, and considered a skyscraper of its time. But in its basement Joseph Sunlight had a swimming pool installed, which exists to this day; it is now part of Bannatyne’s Manchester health club. You can see the swimming pool on their website (direct link).
From Piccadilly Gardens steps lead down to a set of rooms housing machinery, electrical equipment, 14 pumps and holding tanks which power the fountains above installed in 2002.
Cellar in St Mary’s Gate 📍
A cellar with passages leading underneath St Mary’s Gate can be seen in a photo from the Manchester Archives, along with the corresponding view from the street. Perhaps this is associated with the Deansgate tunnel?
A well was discovered here while extensions to the Manchester College of Technology (now the University of Manchester’s Sackville Street building) were being built.
Dale Street Canal Store 📍
A correspondent writes:
There is a doorway at canal level under the road bridge which access a number of subterranean rooms. During the late 70’s/early 80’s they were in use by the Rochdale Canal Society as a store and i remember attending some sort of Christmas “rave” party in there which was organised by the RCS. At about 1am the plods turned up, amused because they couldn’t understand why they were hearing punk music blaring out of the tarmac of Dale St. I have little recollection of how big the areas are down there, but it must have been quite a size to hold a party in.
In 1983 an 1824 15 foot 10 inch waterwheel was discovered in an underground chamber beneath Dale Warehouse (now Carver’s Warehouse). Used until the late 1880s it powered hoists to lift goods from the Rochdale Canal into nearby warehouses, and a 70 foot tunnel housed a shaft which transferred the power to the now demolished 1922 warehouse directly to the south.
This is the site of an old cave known as Woden’s Den. Destroyed by James Hall who bought the land in 1808 to discourage visitors, the site was variously believed to be a temple to Odin, a quarry and a Christian hermitage.
Albert Square Public Toilets 📍
As late as 1985 (and apparently 1986) there were public toilets in Albert Square, between the statues of Oliver Heywood and William Ewart Gladstone. You can see the toilets in Albert Square, Public toilets and Albert Square, from Town Hall Side, both from the Local Image Collection.
Winning the award for the best use of a former public toilet, The Temple (of Convenience) now uses the space previously occupied by Great Bridgewater Street Public Toilets. You can see the entrance in 1965 in Great Bridgewater Street, Looking to Oxford Street from the Local Image Collection.
Although intriguing this is just an electrical sub station, although apparently it used to be some underground public toilets.
Stevenson Square Public Toilets 📍
Stevenson Square’s underground public toilets have now been turned into an art project. I believe the entrance can be seen in Stevenson Square, Manchester from Oldham Street from the Local Image Collection. The toilets are mentioned by the requester of an FOI request into historic public toilets of Manchester.
Plaza Steps 📍
Manchester Cave 📍
This is a curious little void underneath buildings on the bank of the River Irwell, in the vicinity of the Parsonage Gardens. You can see a video of an explorer completing the short scramble to it’s entrance and taking a look inside on YouTube.
Known as the ‘rat run’ tunnels, this labyrinth of underground passageways and rooms is formed from a Grade II-listed colonnaded railway viaduct (circa 1870) with some parts stretching into the cellars of the Bonded Warehouse (circa 1867). The viaduct itself is supported by a series of cast-iron columns on stone bases.
In April 2016 a correspondent took a photo of a wall at this point which has been put in place to block something off, but with a small opening left for ventilation purposes (shown in the top left of the photo, near the graffiti which has been pixelated for decency). They later examined an old photo from 1892 of the bridge, which show that there were voids left under the road at this point. A 1973 photo from the other side does not show any similar openings, so it appears these were either bricked up or the voids were enclosed (as suggested by their darkness in the older photo). Whether the voids still exist or have been filled in is not clear, but it is interesting to think that they might be there just beneath the road surface. The walkway this photo was taken from is now fenced off, so it is not possible to investigate further.
Here there is a mysterious bricked up doorway and two grilles leading to a space with white ceramic tiles (as reported on Reddit). Next to the bricked up doorway is the Barton Memorial Arch, marking the location of James Brindley’s original Barton Aqueduct. One of the grilles, the arch and the memorial plaque can be seen here. If you have any more information about what might be behind the door, then get in touch!