Sadly in early August of 2012, Manchester lost yet another link to its almost forgotten past.
Little so far is known about this building on Princess Street.
However, what we can ascertain was that it was certainly one of the oldest buildings if not the oldest in this part of Manchester and possibly a rare example of 18th/19th century business premises, with its own overhanging privy seen still insitu which at some point would have emptied its contents straight into the River Medlock below.
In the early 1800s, toilets were usually nothing more than communal cesspits, shared by dozens of families and frequently became blocked with waste. Sometimes they overflowed into wells, infecting drinking water in the process. This persisted until the first Public Health Act 1848 was created to improve sanitary conditions across England and Wales and to ensure that all new houses had drains and lavatories. This was administered by a single local body or Local Board of Health, who also oversaw water supply, sewage, refuse collection and street cleaning.
So the building looks more likely that it was indeed business premises.
The building or buildings may have been one of the very first to have replaced some of the more distinguished houses vacated by the middle classes as they were largely displaced in the early 1800s as the Industrial Revolution further tighten its grip with the growing need for business space as well as for workers housing as the population swelled and grew at an unprecedented rate.
By the 1800s many of the middle classes moved to more wealthy and leafy suburbs like Ardwick Green in search of fresh air, which was becoming an increasingly luxury and rare resource.
In the 1850s, the sheer stench emanating from the build up of fecal matter in areas like this gave rise to the miasma theory; the belief that poisonous gases caused illness. In particular it was believed that the main scourge of the Victorians, cholera was caused by breathing in such “poisonous” gas. A theory that had been popularised during the Black Death in the 14th century and largely prevailed until physician John Snow’s investigations into the Broad Street (Soho, London) cholera outbreak in 1854, when he proved by mapping the cases of cholera throughout the area that it was indeed water and not gases that were the infections vector.
The building stood next to Fac 251 club (118 Princess Street)
Thank you to D. Easton, E. Glinet, J. Nightingale, J. Pickstone for their invaluable help in writing this post.
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