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Hulme and the Nightmare Scenario

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The Roving Reader Files

 

We all have our dreams. But what if they turn into nightmares?

Take the Hugh Wilson and Lewis Womersley firm of chartered architects and town planners. In the 1960s they dreamt of solving the problems of twentieth-century living by providing quality design and housing to a level reached in the eighteenth century for Bloomsbury and Bath. By using similar shapes and proportions, large scale building groups and open spaces, plus skilful landscaping and extensive tree planting, they hoped to make their dream reality. Where? Don’t laugh when I tell you. Hulme in Manchester.

Yes, Hulme was to be the setting for pioneering brave new town planning. The slums were to be cleared and in their place would arise beauty. There was just one problem. The designers’ dream became the Hulme residents’ nightmare scenario. Leafing through the Centre’s Hulme Study Collection, I came across Wilson and Womersley’s hopeful musings on the cover of Manchester City Council’s Survey Report  Hulme. A Position Statement September, 1987.

Photograph of an archive box containing Hulme reportsClose up of Hulme report, with a statement architecturally comparing Hulme with Georgian London and Bath

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If These Walls Could Talk…

It’s our last week here in the University of Manchester’s Sackville St Building. The shelves are emptying, boxes are filling and we’re all overcome with bittersweet emotions; the excitement about our future in Manchester Central Library mixed with the melancholy of leaving somewhere we’ve called home for the past few years. I get terribly sentimental about buildings I’ve inhabited – it’s as if I leave a little bit of myself behind every time I move on somewhere new.

But if these walls could talk they’d have more interesting things to talk about than my short stay here.