Tales from Manchester’s underworld

When you visit another city you pack as much as you can in to the time you have. If you’re like me you’ll seek out adventures off the beaten tourist track.

So why not apply the same sense of discovery to where you live? Manchester is home to hidden gems and mysterious corners that are just waiting to be explored.

Take a walk with Jonathan Schofield to experience the city in a manner that’s far from ordinary. He’s a local historian, known for a host of weird and wonderful walking tours. Radicals, Pioneers and Rabbit Holes was a hit at this year’s International Festival.

We wanted to check this guy out for ourselves so we signed up to tour the Haunted Underworld. As the only underground tour in Manchester while health and safety issues are resolved in the tunnels, I was intrigued by the opportunity to explore the city’s hidden depths.

We met on a Saturday afternoon by the war memorial in St Ann’s Square and soon found ourselves amongst the crowded graves of St Ann’s churchyard. At the centre of the city, in the shadows of its once tallest tower, we were told the tales of those who lie beneath those ancient stones.

Rooftops of Manchester

Then it was time to venture underground. The cellars of Barton Arcade provide a haunting backdrop for the tragic story of Madam Malibran, the opera singer whose music you can still hear if you listen carefully. Unexplained sounds penetrated the darkness as we learned the fate of residents, who haven’t quite left the city behind.

The tour was conducted in almost complete darkness, which heightened the atmosphere. You could almost feel the ghosts as you stepped gingerly through the underground chambers, or maybe it was cobwebs?

The stories were captivating but I’d hoped to see more of the chambers and caverns that lie beneath the streets. 

We emerged in to daylight and climbed to the top of the beautiful Barton Arcade. From the roof terrace we were treated to Mary Poppins views amongst the chimney pots. 

Rooftops of Manchester

Time for one final ghost story before laying the demons to rest and rejoining the hustle and bustle of a typical Manchester Saturday.

For more information about Jonathan Schofield’s tours, and for bookings, visit his website.

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