Hidden Manchester Map

Tunnels, rivers, mines & subterranean spaces of Hidden Manchester

> Crypt under W G Ponter 📍

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 finding was so notable that it was even memorialised on Royal Doulton stoneware jars! A map of the area surveyed 1888–1889 can be found in from in ‘Ordnance Survey large scale (1:500) sheets of the City of Manchester’ sheet 20 and sheet 24.

In 1903 the Manchester Guardian printed a description of the ‘crypt’, as documented in Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, which reads:

A visit was paid to “The Old Crypt,” under Mr. Ponter’s premises, 20, Old Millgate, Manchester. The following description is taken from the Manchester Guardian, December 12th, 1903: A problem of interest to antiquaries is set by the discovery under some business premises in Market Place of a cellar of curious construction. It is a vault about six yards square and is a fine example of groining in brickwork. There is a short stone pillar in the centre and from it rise the arches in the usual formation. There are also arches round the walls. The workmanship is excellent, and it is fresh and well preserved. There is no certainty as to the original purpose of the cellar. Its appearance strongly suggests a crypt, but there is very little to support the theory that the place was ever a crypt. From the evidence of the brickwork it seems unlikely that it is older than the beginning of the eighteenth century. In 1730 or thereabouts a common standard in the size of bricks was adopted. The bricks used in the construction of the cellar are of varying size, and they are for the most part smaller than those used after the middle of the eighteenth century. Underground rooms arched in a similar manner only without the groining, have been unearthed in several places in the immediate neighbourhood of the centre of the city. This is certainly one of the best constructed, and the excellent groining marks it out among finds of the same nature. It is interesting to remember that it was close to this spot, if not upon it, that the house stood of John Byrom, the eighteenth-century Manchester poet. The site of Byrom’s house is accurately known, but it has not yet been ascertained whether the chamber is beneath it. Assuming that it is, the most reasonable theory would seem to be that the place was originally built as the wine cellar of Byrom’s house, though this is, of course, no more than a tentative suggestion. If this is the truth the builders must have taken more trouble than is usual in the construction of wine cellars.

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