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 a new area of the 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.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.

 
 
 
 

Brexit is an opportunity for cities to take back control

Leeds Town Hall. Image: Getty.

The Labour leader of Leeds City Council on the future of Britain’s cities.

As the negotiations about the shape of the UK’s exit from the EU continue, Britain’s most economically powerful cities outside London are arguing that the UK can be made stronger for Brexit – by allowing cities to “take back control” of service provision though new powers and freedoms

Core Cites UK, the representative voice of the cities at the centre of the ten largest economic areas outside London, has just launched an updated version of our green paper, ‘Invest Reform Trust’. The document calls for radical but deliverable proposals to allow cities to prepare for Brexit by boosting their productivity, and helping to rebalance the economy by supporting inclusive economic growth across the UK.

Despite representing areas responsible for a quarter of the UK’s economy and nearly a third of exports, city leaders have played little part in the development of the government’s approach to Brexit. Cities want a dialogue with the government on their Brexit plans and a new settlement which sees power passing from central government to local communities.

To help us deliver a Brexit that works for the UK’s cities, we are opening a dialogue with the EU Commission’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier to share our views of the Brexit process and what our cities want to achieve.

Most of the changes the Core Cities want to see can already be delivered by the UK. To address the fact that the productivity of UK cities lags behind competitors, we need to think differently and begin to address the structural problems in our economy before Brexit.

International evidence shows that cities which have the most control over taxes raised in their area tend to be the most productive.  The UK is significantly out of step with international competitors in the power given to cities and we are one of the most centralised countries in the world.  


Boosting the productivity of the UK’s Core Cities to the UK national average would increase the country’s national income by £70-£90bn a year. This would be a critical boost to the UK’s post-Brexit economic success.

Our green paper is clear that one-size fits all policy solutions simply can’t deal with the complexities of 21st century Britain. We need a place-based approach that looks at challenges and solutions in a different way, focused on the particular needs of local communities and local economies.

For example, our Core Cities face levels of unemployment higher than the national average, but also face shortages of skilled workers.  We need a more localised approach to skills, education and employment support with greater involvement from local democratic and business leaderships to deliver the skills to support growth in each area.

The UK will only make a success of Brexit if we are able to increase our international trade. Evidence shows city to city networks play an important role in boosting international trade.  The green paper calls for a new partnership with the Department of International trade to develop an Urban Trade programme across the UK’s cities and give cities more of a role in international trade missions.

To deliver economic growth that includes all areas of the UK, we also need to invest in our infrastructure. Not just our physical infrastructure of roads, rail telecommunications and so forth, but also our health, education and care infrastructure, ensuring that we are able to unlock the potential of our core assets, our people.

Whether you think that Brexit is a positive or a negative thing for the UK, it is clear that the process will be a challenging one.  Cities have a key role to play in delivering a good Brexit: one that sees local communities empowered and economic prosperity across all areas of the UK.

Cllr Judith Blake is leader of Leeds City Council.