Greater Manchester has some lovely place names, so here are 17 of them

This remains a terrible map, but come on, those stop names are lovely. Image: TfGM.

Something I realised pottering round Manchester yesterday: it’s an absolutely brilliant city for place names. And nobody outside knows this.

The tube map’s status as a sort of universal symbol of London means that everybody – or at least, everybody minded to care – is familiar with some of London’s more evocative district names (Shepherd’s Bush, Elephant & Castle and so on). In Manchester, though, the Metrolink is smaller, and its map more obscure.

As a result, there are all these wonderful area names – names which speak of industrial heritage, Pennine valleys and windswept Lancashire Moors – which, odds are, non-locals have never heard of. And that’s a shame, because they generally do a far better job of articulating the texture and personality of an unfamiliar city than, say, “the Metropolitan Borough of Tameside” does.

And so, since we’re trying to be less London-centric around here, and since frankly I bang on about the tube map quite enough as it is, here are 17 of them.


Abraham Moss

A tram stop in Cheetham Hill, about two miles north of the city centre. I was going to make a joke that this sounds less a place than a Dickens character, but on googling, it turns out that there’s a reason for this: the stop is literally named after a person not an area.

Abraham Moss was Lord Mayor of Manchester from 1953-4. He was also president of Board of Deputies of British Jews for barely a week in 1964, before dying of a heart attack at the age of 65. He’s commemorated in the name of a school and community centre, from which the tram stop took their name.

The stop opened in 2010, replacing the nearby Woodlands Road, which was very venerable (it used to be a railway station) but had a boring name. Abraham Moss is definitely better, isn’t it?

Besses o’ th’ Barn

If you’re wondering how it was I convinced myself a city could genuinely have an area called Abraham Moss, consider this. Besses o’ the’ Barn is another tram stop, further up the same line; and that one really is named for its location, an area of Whitefield.

Why it’s called that is a bit of a mystery. According to the BBC’s 1986 Domesday Reloaded project:

 The most reasonable sounding tale is of a local pub which looked like a barn and was run by a lady called Bess. The local invitation to a drink would be, “let’s go see Bessie at th’ barn”. Later, as houses were built around, the name came to mean the whole village, not just the pub.

Btu there’s another theory that it involves highwayman Dick Turpin and his horse Black Bess. Of course there is.

Blackrod

An ancient village between Bolton and Wigan, which now gives its name to a local railway station.

Blackrod was once a mining village, but its name dates back way before that, to at least the 12th century. The “rod” might refer to the Holy Rood, another name for the cross; or it might just mean “clearing”. The black bit seems to mean black, though.

Either way, the name has nothing to do with the Black Rod who ponces around Parliament in a silly uniform.

Chorlton-cum-hardy

A former village in the south-western suburbs. Actually, two former villages: the name literally means “Chorlton with Hardy”, and seems to represent the fact that, as the area’s population grew during the 18th century, they grew into each other.

The joint name was embraced by some Victorian estate agents to distinguish the area from Chorlton-on-medlock, two and a half miles to the east. But whoever decides on Metrolink station names decided to undo all that good work, and just named the local tram stop “Chorlton”. Great work, guys.

Fallowfield

Another southern suburb, which doesn’t get its own station (it closed in 1958). Today it’s the big student area, home to the University of Manchester’s Fallowfield Campus, and a bunch of rented housing.

The abandoned Fallowfield line. It's now a cycle path. Image: Cnbrb/Wikimedia Commons.

Why it’s called Fallowfield is a matter on which the internet is strangely silent. But the name brings to mind half-remembered primary school lessons about crop rotation, so I like it anyway.

Flowery Field

An area of Hyde, in Tameside, to the east of the conurbation. Once again, I can’t work out how it ended up with that name.

But come on: from Manchester Piccadilly, you can get trains to Glossop via Flowery Field. It’s like a bloody P. G. Wodehouse novel up there.

Hag Fold

This one’s rather less picture-esque. It sounds like something from the Brothers Grimm, or possibly an unfortunate skin disease.

At any rate, it’s the name of an estate in Atherton, out in Wigan, which has had its own station since 1987. It’s 13 miles out of Manchester Victoria, which surprised me, because in London-terms (sorry) that’s enough to get you out to zone 6, and there’s still another five miles to Wigan.

On looking at the map, it turns out that there are parts of Wigan literally 20 miles from central Manchester. I’m pretty sure there’s nowhere in Greater London that’s 20 miles from Charing Cross. Turns out, Greater Manchester is big.

Okay, enough of that, let’s get back to the names.

Hall i’ th’ Wood

Another railway station name, this one named for a wooden Tudor manor house in Bolton. Like Besses o’ th’ Barn, the name, and its tendency to drop letters, represents the local dialect.

I don’t have much to say about Hall i’ th’ Wood, but here’s a picture of it. Wood not included:

Note the stone extension built in the 17th century. Image: Alexander P Kapp/Wikimedia Commons.

Little Lever

Another ancient village in Bolton. The Lever part seems to have come from the Old English Laefre, which means “place where rushes grow”; the little started out as Parua, from the Latin Parva.

There’s a Great Lever as well. Bolton is well-supplied with Levers of various sizes and qualities.

Longsight

An inner city area in the City of Manchester itself, about three miles south of the central business district. No tram; no railway station since 1958. Rubbish.

Anyway, the name: according to the Manchester History website, there’s a story about Bonnie Prince Charlie standing around during his rebellion and describing the view towards the city as a “Long sight”. The problem is, the area seems to have been called Longsight before Prince Charlie ever Bonnied, so that’s probably wrong. It may have come from Long-shut, meaning a shallow depression.

That’s a bit dull, though: the idea it just happened to be a good viewpoint is far more evocative, and why I like it.

Miles Platting

It was walking through Miles Platting yesterday that made me decide to write this rather long, rambling Manchester gazetteer. I’m not even sure why: I just think it’s a lovely name, sounding simultaneously like an ancient, rural village, and yet so distinctively Manchester.

A disused mill at Miles Platting (well, it's luxury flats now, to be fair). It was probably at roughly this point on the Rochdale Canal I decided to write this ridiculous article. Image: Mikey from Wythenshawe/Flickr/creative commons.

Anyway, it’s a largely derelict factory district, about a mile and a half north east of the city centre. The name may be a corruption of “mills on a platt”, meaning some mills on a high piece of ground. Then again, it may not.

Patricroft

An area of Eccles, in the city of Salford, to the west of Manchester proper. Its name might come from “pear tree croft”; then again it might come from “Patrick’s croft”.

Either way, it’s a nice name, which can today be found attached to a station on the Liverpool to Manchester line.

Pomona

The only tram stop, best I can tell, named for a Roman deity: Pomona was the Roman goddess of orchard fruit, and probably also a wood nymph.

Anyway, she gave her name to the Pomona Gardens, which were demolished to build the Pomona docks. These have now largely been filled in, but are commemorated in the name of a tram stop on the Eccles line in the City of Salford.

Shadowmoss

A relatively little used stop on Metrolink to the south of Manchester, just one stop before the Manchester Airport. (In London terms, this is Hatton Cross.)

It seems to be named for Shadowmoss Road, besides which it sits, and how that got its name is not clear. I’ve included it in here, though, because it sounds like one of the villages the Fellowship of the Ring pass through on their journey to Mordor.

Talking of which:

Simister

A village in Prestwich, in the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, a few miles north of Manchester city centre. As Simister Island, it gives its name to a big motorway junction, where the M60, M62 and M66 meet.

Not that picture-esque as islands go. Image: Google.

I’ve got nothing on the name. But it’s like “sinister” only with an “m”. Maybe the M stands for motorway?

No. No, obviously it doesn’t. Cool name, though.

Spinningfields

An area on the western side of the city centre. It was consciously re-developed as new central business district in the wake of the 1996 Manchester bombing; the name stems from that of a small street to the west of Deansgate.

Given Manchester’s industrial history as the place where Spinning Jennys turned cotton into yarn for the garment industry, the name probably comes from that. But I’m sort of guessing.

Summerseat

A village in the Ramsbottom area, in the northern borough of Bury. Home to another disused railways station, though that at least this one gets to be a stop on the East Lancashire Heritage Railway.

As to the name... oh, who knows. The internet is silent. But it’s lovely, isn’t it? It sounds like one of those places in Game of Thrones where everything is all happy right up until the point when they find themselves besieged by rival armies, and then get unexpectedly smashed to bits by an invading army of ice zombies. I don’t even care what it means, it’s just so nice.

Greater Manchester is a great place for names, and more people should know about it, that’s really all I’m saying here. I don’t think that’s the strongest argument for extending the Metrolink and improving its map. But it’s a good one, all the same.

I hope Andy Burnham’s reading this.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason.

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Which pairs of capital cities are the closest together?

Vienna, which is quite close to Bratislava, but not quite close enough. Image: Thomas Ledl

It doesn't take long to get from Paris to Brussels. An hour and a half on a comfortable Thalys train will get you there. 

Which raises an intriguing question, if you like that sort of thing: wich capital cities of neighbouring countries are the closest together? And which are the furthest away? 

There are some that one might think would be quite close, which are actually much further part. 

Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital, sits on one side of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, while Montevideo, Uruguay's capital lies on the other side. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

But at 207km apart, they're not really that close at all. 

Similarly, Singapore – capital of, er, Singapore – always sticks in the mind as 'that bit on the end of the Malaysian sticky-out bit'. But it's actually pretty far away from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital. A whole 319km away, in fact:

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Thinking of 'countries that cause problems by being close together', you inevitably think of South Korea and North Korea. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

And while Pyongyang in the North and Seoul in the South are pretty close together, 181km just isn't going to cut it. 

Time to do some Seoul-searching to find the real answer here.

(Sorry.)

(Okay, not that sorry.)

Another place where countries being close together tends to cause problems is the Middle East. Damascus, the capital of Syria, really isn't that far from Beirut, in Lebanon. Just 76km:

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Seeing as Lebanon is currently host to millions of refugees fleeing the horrors of Syria's never-ending civil war and the atrocities of Daesh, or Isis, this is presumably something that authorities in Beirut have given a certain amount of thought to.

Most of the time, finding nearby capitals is a game of searching out which bits of the world have lots of small countries, and then rooting around. So you'd think Central America would be ripe for close-together capital fun. 

And yet the best option is Guatemala and El Salvador – where the imaginatively named Guatemala City is a whole 179km away from the also imaginatively named San Salvador.  

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Another obvious place with lots of small-ish countries is Europe – the site of the pair of capitals that drove me to write this nonsense in the first place. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

And in fairness, Vienna and Bratislava do make a pretty good showing of it. Austria's capital sits on the Danube; drift downstream, and you swiftly get to Slovakia's capital. As the crow flies, it's 56km – though as the man swims, it's a little longer. 

There are more surprising entries – particularly if you're willing to bend the rules a little bit. Bahrain and Qatar aren't really adjacent in the traditional sense, as they have no land border, but let's just go with it. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Manama, Bahrain's capital, is 140km away from Doha, the centre of the world's thriving local connecting-flight-industry which moonlights as Qatar's capital. 

Sticking with the maritime theme, Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago is 152km from St George's, Grenada. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Good, but not good enough. 

Castries, the capital of the Carribbean country of St Lucia, is 102km north of Kingstown, the capital of St Vincent and the Grenadines. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Better, but still not good enough. 

Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts and Nevis, inches ahead at 100km away from St John's, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda.

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

But, enough teasing: it's time to get down to the big beasts.

If you ask Google Maps to tell you the distance between the capital of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it comes up with a rather suspect 20km. 

 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

A short distance, but considering the only thing separating the two is the River Congo, something's up: Google places the centre of Brazzaville a little north of where it should be, and the centre of Kinshasa many many miles south of where it should be, in some sort of suburb.


So, in true CityMetric style, we turn to train stations. 

Though such transport hubs may not always perfectly mark the centre of a city – just ask London Oxford Airport or London Paddington – in this case it seems about right. 

Kinshasa's main train station is helpfully called 'Gare Centrale', and is almost slap-bang in the middle of the area Google marks as 'Centre Ville'. On the other side of the river, 'Gare de Brazzaville' is in the middle of lots of densely-packed buildings, and is right next to a Basilica, which is always a good sign. 

 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

And when marking that distance, you get a more realistic 4.8km. If you want to be really keen, the ferry between them travels 3.99km, and the closest point I could find between actual buildings was 1.74km, though admittedly that's in a more suburban area. 

Pretty close, though. 

But! I can hear the inevitable cries clamouring for an end to this. So, time to give the people what they want. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

If you ask Google Maps to tell you how far away the Holy See, capital of the Vatican, is from Rome, capital of Rome, it says 3.5km. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

If you set the centre of Rome to be the Palatine Hill, the ancient marking point for roads leading out of Rome, that narrows to 2.6km.

 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Fiddle a bit and put the centre of the Vatican as, well, the middle bit of the roughly-circular Vatican, that opens up a smidge to 2.75km.

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

Mark the centre of point of the Vatican as the approximate location of St Peter's Tomb within St Peter's Basilica, which is after all the main reason the Vatican is a thing and not just a quirky suburb of Rome, and 2.67km is your answer. 

Though obviously in practice Rome and the Vatican are as far away as one single step over the railings at the entrance of St Peter's Square, which fairly blatantly makes them the closest capital cities in the world. 

But that would have been a very boring thing to come out and say at the start. 

Oh, and if you hadn't worked it out already, the longest distance between a capital city and the capital of a country it shares a land border with is 6,395km. 

Click to expand: Image: Google Maps

I know it's tough for you, Vladimir and Kim. Long-distance relationships are a real struggle sometimes.

I can't make a pun work on either Moscow or Pyongyang here, but readers' submissions more than welcome. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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