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Home > Walks > Region > North West England > Manchester Victorian Return to Walks

Slums, squalor and salvation

tooltipDiscovering Britain walk

Discover how religious organisations helped the poor in Victorian Manchester

greater london greater london

1840. Manchester is booming. Its cotton industry is world famous. But life expectancy is just 26.

The story of Victorian Manchester is usually one which celebrates industrial expansion, technological advancements and economic growth. But there was another side.

For ordinary people who worked in the mills and factories, life was hard, poverty was widespread and life expectancy was very short.

Discover another side of 19th century Manchester: squalid slums, widespread disease, chronic health conditions, child labour and illiteracy, drinking and prostitution.

In those days, the state did not provide any financial or material support to the poor. But many religious people were moved by the appalling living conditions of the working classes and decided to do something about it.


Find out about the institutions whose welfare services made the difference between life and death for the urban poor.


Walk Info


3 miles

A largely flat route around the city centre and its fringes

tooltipA largely flat route around the city centre and its fringes

Suitable for:
An entirely step-free route

tooltipAn entirely step-free route

North West England
Towns & Cities
Historic landscapes People in the landscape Built landscapes
Manchester Victoria railway station
Manchester Cathedral
Getting there:

tooltipEasily accessible from M6 and M62

tooltipNearest stations Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly

tooltipWell served by long distance coaches and local bus services

Manchester Victorian

Terraced housing in Crown Lane (1899)
© Manchester Libraries

Manchester Victorian

Charter Street Ragged School (est. 1866)
Rory Walsh © RGS-IBG Discovering Britain

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Route map

Select pins on the map to find out more about each point of interest on the walk

Walk kit

Choose between an audio or written guide: download and enjoy!


Written guide
A flat route mostly on urban streets

tooltipHelp with downloading - Double-click the icon to download this PDF file. You can save it to your computer or open it now. The file is designed as a booklet. To print it choose ‘Booklet Printing’ from your printer options.

Audio guide
A flat route mostly on urban streets

tooltipHelp with downloading - Double-click the icon to download this ZIP file of the audio commentary (mp3 files) and accompanying booklet (PDF) which contains maps and directions. You can save the audio files to your computer then add them to your mp3 device. This will vary for each device but you can use any supplied software (such as iTunes, Windows Media Player) or drag and drop the files. The PDF is designed as a booklet. To print it choose ‘Booklet Printing’ from your printer options.

A flat route mostly on urban streets

tooltipHelp with downloading - Double click to download this GPX file and load it on to your GPS device.

Photo Gallery

Find out what you might see on the walk - click on an image to view full size

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Find out what other people said about this walk

A very interesting walk. We have lived in the Manchester area for over 20 years and this walk led us to parts we had never visited. It was very informative and also kept our two teenage sons entertained. Allow half a day, especially if you stop for refreshments along the way.

Diane Taylor, Manchester

What a fantastic walk for a Sunday morning before the crowds arrive in town. Places I'd passed a thousand times but never appreciated before brought to life. The fact that homeless people waiting to be fed were still congregated outside the Ragged School near Angel Fields more than a century later was poignant too in these times of austerity and cuts to the welfare state. I'd recommend the walk to anyone with half an interest in Manchester's past - brilliant.

Steve Entwistle, Manchester

I'm myself an inner city Mancunian who nevertheless found the walk and points of interest a complete revelation - in spite of being born and brought up less than 2 miles away. I've since shared the walk with family and friends - thank you!

Sheila Kearney , Manchester

Send your review


Find out more about the walk story and places of interest along the route

External links open in a new window

Angel Meadow: 'Hell upon Earth'

Read a BBC article about Angel Meadow in the Victorian era

The Booth Centre

Find out more about this organisation's work with homeless people in Manchester

Digging up Manchester's 'Hell'

Read a BBC article about an archaeological dig at Angel Meadow

Hope UK

Read more of the history of The Band of Hope and the organisation's work with young people today

Manchester Cathedral

The website of the cathedral

Manchester Quakers

Website of the Quaker community in Manchester and Warrington area

Methodist Central Halls: Public Sacred Space

Website about Methodist Central Halls across Britain

Onward Buildings

History plus exterior and interior pictures of this Band of Hope building on Deansgate

Radisson Edwardian Manchester

Find out about the history of the Free Trade Hall which is now a hotel

Unearthing Manchester's Victorian slums

Read a Guardian article from 2009 about an archaeological dig unearthing evidence from the Victorian era

What happened to the Methodist central halls?

BBC article including rarely-seen pictures from inside the Albert Hall in Manchester

Y Club

Website of the Manchester YMCA

Recommended place to stay - YHA



Find out more about this organisation's work with the homeless and vulnerable

Cross Street Chapel

Find out more about the history of this church

Friends of Angel Meadow

Visit the website of the group of volunteers preserving Angel Meadow

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life

Tate Britain exhibition on L. S. Lowry including his scenes of industrial Manchester

Manchester City Mission

Find out more about this organisation's projects including the night shelter and drop-in centre

Methodist Records

Find out about the history of the Methodists in Manchester and search the records

Methodist collections

Details of the archival material held in the University of Manchester Library

The Peterloo Massacre

Details about the massacre and a campaign for a fitting memorial

St Michael’s Flags and Angel Meadow – Then and Now

A detailed history of Angel Meadow

discoveringbritain/more info documents/Manchester - St Michael's Flags and Angel Meadow.pdf

Victorian Manchester

Website covering areas such as work, health and housing

Wood Street Mission

Find out about the current work of this organisation

Getting there by train

TransPennine Express


The RGS-IBG would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance in producing this Discovering Britain walk


Angela Connelly for creating the walk


Jenny Lunn for editing the walk materials


Rory Walsh for taking photographs


Caroline Millar for editing the audio commentary


Alex Ricketts for additional assistance with compiling walk resources


Manchester Libraries for kind permission to use archive images


The Lowry Estate for permission to reproduce Lowry paintings


Wood Street Mission for kind permission to use archive images

thank you
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