J.G. Lynde was the Borough Surveyor and designed several police stations in Manchester in the 1800’s. These were usually in a Gothic style but Ancoats, a notoriously lawless area, required something more akin to a fortress. The result is a unique and forceful monumental design. To the street, a high windowless façade has a giant blind arcade topped by a pediment, all in stone. The rest is brick.
Within the courtyard is a tall channelled chimney. Mounted police were stationed here and the complex included stables, which can still be seen in the b/w pictures showing the damaged gates to the Ambulance House, facing Bennett Street. The building has long since been disused and since these pictures were taken the building has been badly damaged internally by fire in 2002.As a result of the fire which ripped through the building, scaffolding was erected sometime in 2004 and a number of the larger stones were subsequently lowered to ground level.
The plight of the Goulden Street Police and Fire Station has sadly been representative of the way the history of Manchester has been eroded over the past 30 years and in particular within the last 15 years in the aftermath of the 1996 IRA bomb attack, in which an unprecedented wave of development and change has swept through the inner city.
Urban renaissance and redevelopment has since come to the forefront, with new flats and apartments bringing essential living space to fill the ever-increasing demand for city centre living, irrespective of the saturation factor reached many years ago. New bars, new shops, new spaces, new galleries and new ideas have helped re-brand and give light to once over-shadowed Victorian streets.
It is a new era for Manchester and it’s citizen’s and even in the wake of a recession and the crippling centralization of Government, the future can be one of optimism and fruitfulness. But in the apparent haste for change, what will the price be for our historic built heritage and identity of Manchester.
In the increasing pace of our global city, we must not forget what it was that made us unique. The very life-blood, the beating heart of the City – the people and the buildings that embody our spirit (Arndale Centre aside!) It is the people of this City that as made it great. Historically, it was through sweat, toil and the free thinking spiritness that made Manchester what it is today. And there is no better place to see our cities achievements than in our glorious architectural heritage, for which Goulden Street Police and Fire Station is a fine testament and integral part.
Whilst redevelopment has been been a great thing for Manchester, there have been consequences along the way, most notably the historic Victorian gardens in Piccadilly, for which we saw beautiful mature trees, lowered terraces to take you away from the hussle and pollution of the street level and historical statues for yet another faceless monstrosity, more bland concrete edifices and the ever present noise and air pollution, to mention but a few.
Everyone knows we cannot “save” everything, but we must strive to save those things that are unique to us and those things that mark us out from the ever-increasing bland, homogenized cities of the world, which our city has to some degree become. History and progress can and should coexist.
Preservation of Manchester’s historic communities must prevail if we are to prevent our City from becoming a soulless urban centralized monstrosity. True revitalization of poor or crime-ridden areas must involve sensitive restoration of historical building as well as working with current residents and supporting the arts and businesses of those communities.
The Goulden Street Fire and Police Station is a truly unique building worthy of preservation and restoration. We must show the visitors to our great city from where we came and the endeavors and sacrifices the people have made on our behalf. Don’t let another part of our social history slip into oblivion. History is made by everyone, and must be written by everyone…
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