‘If they were in London they would cost a fortune’: The prettiest terraces in Hulme across the way from a hidden mansion

Just off Chester Road, overlooked by the tower cranes and skyscrapers of Manchester’s never-ending building boom, there’s a little corner of the city that’s steeped in history.

St George’s in Hulme is home to the remains of an army barracks with a tragic link to Peterloo and a row of terraced houses that must rank among the prettiest in Manchester.

Pooley’s Buildings, an elegant but neglected Georgian townhouse, is the only surviving part of the barracks.

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It’s thought to have been built – as a pair of properties – around 1820 by wealthy mill owner John Pooley, when Hulme was still a fairly rural area on the outskirts of the rapidly growing city centre.

Initially split into six dwellings, the houses were set in two large gardens which ran down to the Corn Brook, with Corn Brook Park directly behind.

Opposite stood Hulme Barracks, the base at various times of the 15th Hussars, the 11th Hussars and the 2nd Heavy Dragoons among others, and at some point Pooley’s Buildings was incorporated into the complex and used as the officers’ mess and quartermaster’s house.

The year before Pooley’s Buildings was constructed the 15th Hussars were involved in one of the darkest days in Manchester’s history.

On August 16, 1819 the cavalrymen charged reform campaigners in St Peter’s Field, in what became known as the Peterloo Massacre.

Pooley’s Buildings, once the officers mess for the barracks, has now been converted into flats

Eighteen people were killed and around 700 injured in an atrocity that eventually paved the way for democratic reform in parliament.

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Historian and author Andrew Simpson has written extensively about Pooley’s Buildings in his blog Chorlton History.

He said: “It’s a very intriguing building and a very nice looking building.

“I was drawn to it because of its location. The casual visitor to Princess Street might think there is nothing much here.

Pooley’s Buildings pictured during demolition of the barracks in 1915

“But walk past the modern housing, and there at the bottom facing St George’s Park is Pooley’s Buildings.

“They still have an elegance about them which is nothing to how they would have appeared when new.”

The buildings stopped being a cavalry barracks in 1895 and were used by infantry battalions before being sold to the Manchester Corporation in 1914.

The corporation demolished the majority of the site but kept one half of Pooley’s Buildings, which was then used as a bowling green clubhouse before being handed over to the St George’s Community Association for use as a community centre.

Part of the barracks once stood on this football field

At some point it reverted back to its original use and housing became once more.

Today Pooley’s Buildings, which have been Grade II-listed since 1978, have been split into rented flats – and it’s fair to say it’s seen better days.

An ugly, black steel fence surrounds the building, outside the bins are overflowing, a broken window has been patched up with a piece of cardboard and the front door is wedged open by a football.

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Wayne Bailey grew up in Hulme and now lives in Pooley’s Buildings

Wayne Bailey, 60, has lived in a studio flat there for the last 12 years and says inside some of historic features such as sash windows and ornate coving have been retained.

He said: “I’ve lived in Hulme all my life. I used to play in the park as a kid.

“Then this was the park warden’s house and before that it was used for the officers at the barracks.

“When I was a kid I never thought I’d end up living here.

“It’s part of the history of the area, but it’s falling apart. It needs some work doing.”

St George’s Avenue

A stone’s throw away, across a playground and football pitch where the barracks once stood, is St George’s Avenue, a row of terrace houses which might rival Ancoat’s Anita Street for charm.

Built around the turn of the 20th Century by Manchester corporation, St George’s Avenue, and the adjacent Barrack Street, were originally used as accommodation for the soldiers and officers from the barracks.

Today they’re among the few surviving homes from that era left in the area.

St George’s Avenue pictured in 1916

Sylvia Lane grew up on nearby Lordsmead Street and has lived on St George’s Avenue for the last 22 years.

She said: “This row used to be where the officers lived and across was where the soldiers lived.

“These houses have still got a little office which is apparently where the officers used to do their work.

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“They dug the park up a few years ago and you could see the old kitchens from the barracks.

“They left it like that for a few months so you could have looked round.”

Sylvia says the area has changed dramatically in the last 10 years.

But she says St George’s Avenue, now a mixture of housing association tenants and private home owners, is still a desirable place to live.

She said: “It used to be hard to get on here. No-one ever left. There was a points system and you had to get enough points to qualify.

“People do come and say it’s lovely here.

“The other day a delivery man came and he said ‘Ooh love, if you had these houses in London they’d cost a fortune’.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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