Meet Your Meat
Manchester is gritty not pretty and all the better for it. The monumentality of its Victorian built heritage is so overwhelming it swallows up the odd ugly 20th century infill. The city’s simplistic branding works well, from Chinatown (red balloons in the sky) to the Northern Quarter (grey bollards on the ground). First year 1990s town planning degree buzzwords are at play: legibility and permeability. Another thing the city does well is subtle restoration – respecting the patina of age.
The best example of this less is more approach to conservation is Mackie Mayor in the Northern Quarter. Built in 1858, this neoclassical stone meat market hall was once at the heart of Smithfield Market. It’s now the last surviving fully intact building from that era. After decades lying empty, Muse Developments have restored it as the centrepiece of their Smithfield regeneration project. It is named after Ivie Mackie, Mayor of Manchester, who opened the market in 1858.
The cavernous indoor space with its roof lanterns has been retained with bars and food outlets along the outer walls encircling the central dining spaces. On a cold Saturday afternoon the place is teeming. Towards evening, local girls pour in unselfconsciously wearing large hair curlers in their hair. The manicured Mancunians take their nightlife seriously. Some guys are in football tops while others have opted for the boho look. In a way nothing has changed since Mayor Mackie opened Mackie Mayor all those centuries ago. It’s still a meat market.