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.
You’ll see all of this history written into Castlefield as you walk through the area, but more obvious will be the vibrant cultural offer here. A major player is the ambitious cultural complex of HOME, whose innovative cross-arts programming rivals that of any in the city. The Museum of Science and Industry (housed in the magnificent buildings of the world’s first passenger railway) is another big draw, as is the small but influential Castlefield Gallery.
But for all the cultural activity, the area is actually a pretty tranquil one. 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 zone. Its moored-up, flower-decked canal boats are evidence of the slower pace of life here — relatively speaking of course… we’re not the Cotswolds.
But yes, it’s probably the most charming area in central Manchester, and one that’s full of things to do. Here are nine (yes, nine seems like a nice round number) suggestions, taking in both culture and food and drink.