What lies beneath

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Spent a great day today talking to staff at the Co-operative and NOMA about what lies beneath 1 Angel Square and signing copies of my book in the atrium. The award-winning building, off Miller Street, is one of the greenest and most sustainable in Europe. Few people know that it stands on the site of The Rest  – the biggest lodging house in Victorian Manchester.

The Rest stood in an old mill in Factory Yard and had beds for up to 600 lodgers. It was a place where “vice, honesty and poverty rubbed shoulders,” as a journalist from the Manchester Courier found out. He entered the house with a bodyguard of two stalwart detectives who fortified themselves with a “worthy disinfectant” – a plentiful supply of tobacco.

Inside, the found a great quadrangle with a concrete floor surrounded by wooden benches. Suddenly, a man sleeping off a drinking session on a bench rolled over and fell face first on the floor. A merchant and a lawyer, who was wearing a grubby collar, laid the man on the bench. His face, which had been resting in a pool of blood, was “frightfully gashed”.

The journalist wrote: “The lawyer and the merchant, having flung him back on his wooden bench, walked away, not heeding the wound and he still slept in blissful ignorance of his injury. Nobody cared. Most of the inmates went on playing dominoes, and all were completely indifferent. It was sickening.”

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