Manchester Blitz, Then and Now.

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Manchester Blitz, Then and Now

Have been wanting to identify the location of the burning building in this photo (taken 22 / 23 December 1940) for over 2 years but have only been able to now that period annotated maps have been found which show precisely where the bombs fell in Manchester during the war.

The building was in the western corner of Piccadilly between what is now Primark and what is still the bus stops. Nothing has been built on the spot since, but that entire side of Piccadilly was destroyed during the Blitz, hence part of the confusion; an entire block has disappeared.

The maps also show which buildings were destroyed with dates neatly penned in. Even the types of bombs that fell are identified. They were discovered during renovation work at the Town Hall and have since been made available to the public.

The blue circle shows where the HE bomb fell on 23/12/40. The red buildings are those destroyed. Some were demolished by the army to block the streets and prevent fire spreading to other warehouses.

The reason it remained hard to identify was because film and photos taken of Piccadilly shortly after the Christmas Blitz don’t show the burned out shell of this warehouse at all. That may have been because, as the maps reveal, a high explosive bomb fell here soon after this photo was taken which probably brought the remains crashing down.

There were two consecutive air raids that Christmas, one on the night of 22/23 and then on the night of 23/24 December. In his book “Luftwaffe Over Manchester”, Peter Smith notes that on 22nd a bomb fell here in Parker Street killing all six of the fire crew attending. The contemporary map however shows that the only bomb to fall in Parker Street was the one above, and that on the 23rd. It is easy for dates to get mixed up given the raids went on through the night and into the next morning, but I think the bomb Smith refers to was the one that fell here?

NOW; Where this burning building was on Googlemaps.

The only bit of information in the old photo still visible today is the chimney on the roof at top right corner, above what is now Burger King.

Photo from wikipedia commons

39 comments on “Manchester Blitz, Then and Now.
  1. salfordlad1 says:

    Fantastic work again..Just where my last 5 or so people shots were taken..

  2. mick cooke says:

    brilliant work ian

  3. crusader752 says:

    Time warping stuff. Great detail and fascinating to boot – keep it up Ian 😉

  4. nondesigner59 says:

    Excellent work and fabulous info, as ever.. Well done.

  5. stiemer says:

    Very clever, looks great, very interesting

  6. Highy says:

    Splendid stuff mate, lot of work gone into that and it shows. Particularly like the way you blended the edges of the images with the light trail and the kerb.
    Very good indeedy.

  7. And who am i says:

    Great information Ian. Well done.

  8. And who am i says:

    Great information Ian. Well done.

  9. gastephen says:

    another cool montage Ian

  10. rob of rochdale says:

    Superb stuff Ian. I really do like the way you present these shots. Top work matey!

  11. *Psycho Delia* says:

    Brilliant work Ian.

  12. Gizzardtreedude says:

    Oh wow, great detective work. Glad that you were finally able to resolve this mystery and with only a very sliver of roof evidence too. You are so talented at putting these images together.
    I agree, top job Mister!

  13. fleabo says:

    this series of pictures is excellent.

  14. rob the tog says:

    Good bit of detective work and nice bit of photoshop, superb photo 🙂

  15. amyrey says:

    Clever, you are….

  16. Richard Tierney says:

    Excellent job Ian.. I was stood on the spot of your photoa few weeks ago and looked around Piccadilly Gardens thinking back… … I remember seeing the wartime pics of the buildings burning and thinking what it would have been like on the night. I did not know that a fire crew had been killed by the H.E. bomb that fell. These really were brave lads. The German bomb aimers would home in on an illuminated area already alight and the fire crew knowing this, stood their ground and carried on….

    Superb research and edited package as always Ian.

  17. Steph C Kay says:

    Oh I am so loving this series of how you are marrying the past and present – it is just fantastic Ian!!!! Can’t wait for your next one :-))))

  18. Dalesman2012 says:

    I agree with every single comment above.
    = I am currently doing a "Then and Now" for relatives in America and Your kind of approach has certainly set me thinking as these kind of Photographs certainly convey the "Then and Now" aspect to very great effect !!!
    = The Approach that I am using is to put the various shots at "Wibsey" near Bradford in West Yorkshire into a "Disolve Slide-Show" which will take the "American Viewer’s" (who have never seen the place of their English Origins) to both the present and the past in a form which they can understand as their comprehension of anything United Kingdom is way off the mark to say the least !!!
    = By the way Thanks for the e-mail – and thank You for Your Concern’s = All is currently stable = However there wil be NO return to "Flickr" as I shall depart completely when My subscription runs out on the 4th.May = In the meantime I will continue to place a Star or on very special work place a comment occasionaly until that time.
    = By the way We are not snowed-up in Luddenden – and in fact have no more than a light covering which came a couple of days ago – it is now very dull with a few very fine flurries that is all – However the Easterly wind dose have quite a biting edge to it – and at the current time of 15.21 it would appear that all roads are open and that Transport is running normaly – including the Bus Services up to Midgley and Norton Tower which are above the 1,000 feet mark.

  19. pasujoba says:

    Very good Ian , a terrific bit of research . I see you got out with Al too , made it up onto a hil , looks like a fine bit of winter weather 🙂

  20. cgullz says:

    superb blending of the two .. like a split in time. great work, and not just saying that, cos it’s great for showing that what was then is in fact still now. if you know what i mean.

  21. bill_fawcett says:

    Brilliant work Ian!

  22. janano2010 says:

    How amazing. Great research and you are obviously very talented.

  23. Ian D B says:

    [] Many thanks Richard. It can be difficult too do that, trying to imagine the Blitz when stood among all that new building with grimy buses pulling in and out, illuminated adverts scrolling up and down on adshels etc.
    Yes, fire crews were incredibly brave. As I looked at the young people there now, milling around and sending text messages, I wondered how they and I would behave if we faced the same threat again?
    [] [] Thanks gents!
    [] You are too kind. It’s something I like doing and when the bits all come together it is like completing a jigsaw.
    [] Lol, thanks Steph. I have another one lined up, won’t be as colourful as this one, but an interesting scene (interesting to me anyway!)
    [] Thanks Ang. I know what you mean. ; )
    [] Hi Dalesman, thanks again for your comments and the update on your situation. I am sure you will be missed after May. I was late joining the party and never got to see your stuff.
    : (
    Anyway that idea of a merging slide show sounds excellent. I can picture how it would look. Old to new or new to old, I wonder? Drop me a line if ever you need any tips on creating photo composites like the one above. I have not used any method, just trial and error so there may be better and easier ways of doing it but it seems to work. I will send you my e-mail address via Flickrmail.

  24. Hotpix [LRPS] Hanx for 1.5M Views says:

    Wow, brilliant idea of how to show that.
    Those blitz maps are a great find for everyone interested in the city.


  25. Dalesman2012 says:

    Thanks Ian.
    = All recieved and stored away.
    = Regretably there will always be those who "Came-Late" to My Photographic Work and missed whatever it was rather a lot of People seemed to see in it ??? !!!
    = However it was the Medical Profession who was looking for Cause and Effect and it would seem that it was too much "Flickr-Work" which was causing the sudden Heart Instability – Three and a quarter Years ago I had emergency Major Heart Surgery and was brought back from the Dead.
    = There is regular monitoring so if something crops up then it has to be addressed with all speed – as it is unlikely that I would Survive anything further.
    = However having said that for the past three Years I have done nearly everything that I used to do prior to the "Event" (Massive Heart Attack off the top of the Scale) and apart from not being permitted to Fly anymore Lead a pretty good (if managed) Life !!!
    = Walking miles is the good bit of the Equation !!!

  26. Benoit Foisy says:

    I’ve told you before and will tell again: you brilliant work should be used in schools for geography, history.

  27. bazylek100 says:

    Very well done combination from your ‘then and now’ series. Very dramatic.
    The red tones in the present-day part of the collage blend very well with the war photo. The modern street looks like lit by flames of the burning building. Striking effect. Infernal, I’d say.

  28. stopherjones says:

    Cracking work Ian, glad you were able to get the info and put this together. The people just stood around with no idea of the events of the past adds to the poignancy and makes for quite a surreal image

  29. southseadave says:

    Good work again Ian.

  30. Normanbongo says:


  31. Jogon says:

    Really good – brings history to life

  32. Julian Jordon says:

    I came across this by accident, via the Abbeyhills doodlebug page. My mum was in the manchester blitz with her boyfriend. They were in the Palace Theatre watching a show when the raid started. The cast carried on with the show to keep people indoors rather than wandering around in the rain of shrapnel. Mum told me of shopfronts blown out, red hot shrapnel falling, etc. They walked towards The Shambles where the pub landlord had opened up to give tea and coffee to ARPs fire service etc. Mum and Arthur were ushered into an air raid shelter near the Cathedral but had to be dug out as a bomb hit nearby.
    When they finally found a bus that was going to Oldham she was late for work, but still went in. She worked at Cossors on war work. All I can remember for now. Thanks for the site. fascinating and vital we hand it on to following generations.

    • Ian D B says:

      Thanks for adding your mum’s memories of the Manchester blitz Julian. I have a photo somewhere of the Shambles with the Cathedral in the background after an air raid. I tried to do a then and now composite from the photographer’s position at what is now Marks and Spencers but the whole Shambles has been moved about and changed so much it was not possible. Agree re; recording these accounts, very difficult to imagine the hardship people went through.

  33. Alastair Mellor says:

    Do you have a copy of the booklet “Our Blitz – Red sky over Manchester”? Amongst stories of the blitz it details all the air raids on Manchester from July 29 1940 through to July 27 1942.
    I have a copy that was sent to my Father during the Normandy campaign along with his letters telling my mother not to worry about the V1 as they’d never reach Manchester. He arrived home just in time for the V1 attack Christmas 44, a fact that he always found amusing.

    • Ian D B says:

      Hi Alistair, I used to have a copy, borrowed it off someone who later reminded me that I still had it so had to give it back! Which was only right of course, it was an original copy from 1942 with the red cover, same as you have I imagine? I liked the photo in there of Old Trafford after it was hit.

      The source I used for bombing raids on Manchester is Peter smith’s ‘Luftwaffe over Manchester’ which is excellent. Great story re; your dad’s confidence about the V1.

  34. Hello Ian

    I’m an old man now at 92 and have had two books published. I was 10 during the Christmas Blitz. one of the poems is written about both 22. 23Dec. nights, one other poem Holocaust has been used by Rochdale in their remembering annual. all this you can find is on your tube computer. All the books are as well.

    The books are supposing a life nine decades’

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