Sunday, 24 February 2008

'New' East Manchester.

The 'Chips' Building taking shape. There will be great roof gardens, I am told.
A sales gimmick, pay no attention.
A Hacienda style development. In East Manchester. Obviously.

Public sculpture for the new residents, a fence to keep the old ones out.

Can you see what it is yet?

The blue fence demarcates the line between the new and the old developments.

Ancoats Hospital, soon to be apartments. So long, Nye Bevan.

St Norbert on the front of the Basilica has lost his monstrance.

The house of God, the gate of Heaven.

From the side.

The old Priory.

New Islington. Coming soon, just make sure you are on the right side of the fence when the gates are put on!

Some time ago I posted a post concerning the fates of those two great beacons of the Faith in East Manchester, St Benedict's Ardwick and the Gorton Monastery. I was reminded that, of course, I had neglected to mention possibly the most famous of the huge old Churches of the East, the Basilica of Corpus Christi, run by the Norbertine Canons and raised to the status of a Basilica by a long dead Pope. Corpus Christi stood in the centre of row upon row of back to back terraces, containing alomst every working class Irishman, woman and child in the city. The Basilica towered over the area and was full, and loved. Of course, the slums were demolished, because they were decrepit and flats and new communities built which did not foster cohesion between peoples and did not, moreover, make visiting the people of God easy. You try standing outside a tower block ringing the buzzer trying to explain that you are from the Church through a crackly intercom to someone you cannot see and who has a thin grasp of the English Language anyway. I have.

So the attendance dwindled and it seems that the building was not conserved with any skill, so became damp and hidden problems slowly but inexorably developed. When I attended Mass there some four years ago, there were less than thirty communicants in this vast Church. Now, as you can see, it is boarded up, facing, if we are honest, rack, ruin and eventual demolition. Who would want to buy a building of that size in that area? The Priests have moved to another Church in Manchester, though, but still seek a permanent home.

The area is now, we are told, being developed. Again. The canals are being widened and communities built around them with trendy bars and other trendy things, whatever they are now. Goat burger bars and wheatgrass shebeens I should wonder. So far, a lot of buildings have been demolished, notably the old and notorious Cardroom estate, home of naughtiness since the 1960's. A few buildings have been built and it is an extremely ambitious plan, which does seem to be taking shape. I wonder what the people living on the border will make of it? Or will a great wall be built around the new development? Or will they stick out like these new hacienda style houses pictured above, which look so incongrous as to be comical? And where will the new people go to Church? I hope it is a success, I really do, but I have great doubts, as I have doubts about the direction that the Roman Catholic Church seems to be taking at the moment. What happens to a communities faith when the Church abandons them?