The Roman General Julius Agricola founded ‘Mamucium’ in 79AD; the name means ‘breast shaped hill’, as this was what Agricola discovered in Castlefield, where the original settlement was based. Now, the fort that was built here – protected by the Rivers Irwell and Medlock – only survives in ruins, and the amphitheatre is a modern one, built to host occasional outdoor gigs. Canals are a key feature in the area; Castlefield was the terminus of the Bridgewater Canal, the world’s first industrial canal, the success of which inspired ‘canal mania’ in Britain. The real draw in the area, however, is ambitious cultural complex HOME (with its innovative cross-arts programming), the Museum of Science and Industry (housed in the magnificent buildings of the world’s first passenger railway), the small but influential Castlefield Gallery and the restaurants and bars that face out onto the canals.
Once a hub of industrial activity, Castlefield is now one of the city’s most tranquil spots. That’s thanks, in part, to its designation in 1982 as the UK’s first Urban Heritage Park, which safeguarded canals and cobbles and created a largely traffic-free haven. Its moored-up, flower-decked canal boats are evidence of the slower pace of life here.