Victoria Arches, Manchester. URBEX

Manchester’s Victoria Arches, or Cathedral Steps is a legendary Urban Exploring location and I have wanted to get into here for a while now. We got lucky in the connections we had through friends and were not disappointed by what we found.

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Visited by: Nic, Shorty, Lee, Ojay

History:

The history of the arches is vast and fascinating. Dating back to the 1838 when the Arches were constructed at a cost of between £60,000 and £100,000.

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First advertised in October 1839, the arched vaults under Victoria were offered as being suitable for wine merchants, printers and machine makers. Since 1840 they have been home to a number of tenants, including Robert Armstrong – Civil Engineer one of the earliest tenants manufacturing Scott’s patent boiler cleaners. The electricity department where tests and investigations were made on electrical equipment until 1909. It then became home for a transformer station that was used between 1936 and 1957.

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Also, in 1907 Thomas Cook & Son setup shop in the premises built onto the Arches by Victoria Bridge. Cook’s had expanded by 1921 and were also renting space at the Southern end of the Arches for offices and storage until 1932.

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It’s landing stages were also home to the Irwell Excursion which ran from 1895 until around 1901. The Irwell Steam Ferries would run in half hour intervals between 10:30am and 5:30pm to Manchester Docks, via Albert Bridge. There was also a cruise along the newly opened Manchester Ship Canal through Irlam, Lymm, Runcorn and Frodsham to Eastham and special Bank Holiday sailings to Liverpool and New Brighton.

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During the War the Arches were converted and used as an Air-raid shelter, new entrances were installed along with flooring, seating and lighting. The shelter could hold up to 1030 people for 6 hours in unventilated conditions or as many as 5600 in an emergency if ventilated.

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The entrances were from Victoria Bridge by a wooden stairway; Victoria Street junction with Fennel St by a flight of steps formed under the pavement (Now Sealed over) and from the Cathedral approach by means of a wooden stairway from the existing conveniences.

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The Visit:

After a while discussing this with Lee we finally got the chance to go down in the the famous Victoria Arches. In all honestly we had done relatively little Urbexing before this and I am aware of how lucky we have got here. It usually takes people a lot of time and negotiating to get someone to show you the way in, but Lee is an old friend and has connections.

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I know Ojay said he get pestered a lot by people on the message boards and facebook about coming down here too. But coming down here was just more than I ever imagined, it’s hard to remember where you actually are, it’s just crazy to think this is below Manchester and people walk past and never even think twice.

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The history of the place is also fascinating as we were discussing as we walked around. It has such an important part in the history of Manchester and yet it is forgotten below our feet. In a way though that is what makes this place what it is and why it feels so special.

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I also had a chance to really work on my photography down here too and take some tips off Ojay. Shooting in the pitch black in something I am quite used to and it’s amazing how light the place looks in photographs, but in reality there is no light down here apart from that of your torch!

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There is so much to see down here, features, textures, sign and of course the famous toilets. We also found bones down here I was told belong to childhood Cholera victims of the 1800’s, a little bit spooky! From certain points it is also possible to get right below a street level grid and hear people talking as they walk past!

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I look forward to returning with improved photography skills and also for many more explorations.