The Tame Street Institution - Ancoats

The Manchester Union Workhouse was built in 1792 beside New Bridge Street on a site occupied today by the MEN Arena and indoor parking lot.  It was large enough to accommodate over 1600 inmates.  In 1855 it was replaced by a new workhouse erected in Crumpsall and parts of the New Bridge Site were sold to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway for the expansion of Victoria Station.  These large institutions weren't the only ones in the city aimed at responding to the Poor Law. 

Others were much smaller including one that once sat on Tame Street in Ancoats (indicated by the red arrow on the map below).

According to the Local History Archive at Manchester Central Library, Tame Street was responsible for male vagrants.  They have a residents register for 1896 but it is their view that no other records of the institution have survived. 

Apparently between 1884 and 1886 The Chorlton Board of Guardians (with its headquarters in the rather grand Ormond Building in Grosvenor Square, across from All Saints Church, shown above), chaired by John Milson Rhodes, a Didsbury Doctor, established three institutions:  One on Tame street in Ancoats for "tramps & casuals"; the Styal Cottage Homes for Children; and the Langho Colony, near Blackburn, for "Sane Epileptics".  The Tame Street Institution was established in a former cotton mill.  Apparently it suffered a fire and had to be rebuilt in 1900.

The map below from 1851 shows the mill in question.  The map is shown here with the permission of Chetham's Library.

I don't have a photograph of the building but the aerial photograph below, dated 1953, almost includes it.  The Institution was located just beyond the edge of the image.  It gives you a good sense of the nature of the area around it.


Some 56 years after the Tame Street Institution was established it was brought back into service as accommodation for some of the people evacuated from Guernsey and brought to the Manchester area.  Some 1200 Guernsey residents arrive at Stockport Station  between June and August in 1940, just prior to the German invasion of the island in September of that year.  Some of them were offered temporary accommodation at Tame Street.

At a time when children in Manchester schools were being evacuated from the city, these people were being sent to three areas that had been designated as 'neutral areas' in Northern England - factory towns in Lancashire, Cheshire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, where accommodation had previously been earmarked for refugees expected from Belgium.  To give you a flavour of the mood in Manchester at that time here is a copy of a letter sent to Manchester Schools in May of 1940.

Those Guernsey evacuees who came to the Manchester area arrived a matter of months before the Blitz of Christmas 1940.  One of them was Shiela Whipp and below is her account of that journey and what she saw when se arrived at Tame Street.

"My name is Sheila Whipp, and in June 1940 I was just 7. I was playing on the lawn of a neighbour’s house and there seemed to be a gathering of Mums and they seemed to be talking about something really serious, and it sounded as though we would be all going away. I asked my mother and she told me in simple terms that we were probably going to have to go to England on a boat. That was as much as she said at the time. People didn’t tell you much in those days when you were a child.

We arrived in Weymouth and it was a horrible cattle boat we were on, old and smelly, and very, very packed out - then we arrived in this cinema and it was absolutely packed and we were waiting, waiting, waiting and of course we all had to have a medical and that took ages and whilst it was happening, I remember it sticks in my mind. There was a great big howl that went up because some child had charged down between the seats and had landed head first into the orchestra pit.

I don’t know if anybody ever chose where we were going. I don’t think they did really. We were put on the train to Manchester, other trains were going else where but that’s where we were and I’d never been on a train. It was all fairly exciting but again it was packed out and by now it was dark on the trains and we didn’t see very much out of the train. I just remember we stopped somewhere, and there were people there ready with drinks and they said ‘open the windows’ and were passing drinks through like ovaltine, horlicks, soup and a sandwich or two packed up. I just remember that.

We went to this great big institution – Tame Street in Manchester - where there were great dormitories and beds. I remember there were names on the beds as though people had been recently using them, but they had been moved out for some reason. The children and the mums had to sleep in one dormitory and men in another and I remember it was awfully stark and not very pleasant really. I thought 'oh gosh I hope we’re not going to stay here for the rest of our time, this is no treat'.

But unhappily we didn’t stay with my mother - she was offered a post at the Guernsey evacuee children's home at Danesmoor in Bury, and she was permitted to take my youngest brother Michael who was 2 1⁄2 something like that. Around 500 of the Channel Island evacuees had already arrived in Bury.

My brother and I then had to stay with my grandmother, but we were frightfully overcrowded. They had a house, and a family, it was only a 3 bedroom house. It was tolerated for a while, then it became impossible really. My Gran in her wisdom found places for us, billets for us, but it wasn’t a very happy experience when we were billeted out, separated from each other, from my mother and from my grandparents. We were on our own really. Mum was busy at Danesmoor, so we only saw her once a week because she only got half a day off a week.

I lived with about five or six different families. One of them was a Guernsey family, and that was the most difficult family of all because she was a widow and she already had four or five children. She hadn’t got room for me. I don’t know why, whether she was pressed to take me or what. But she was a very strict person and it was a very strict regime there. No I wasn’t terribly happy there. The best one was the Preston family and I was there the longest, probably for 18 months or so I think, and it was really really nice - they were very kind people."

Schools for Guernsey children were set up in a variety of places outside the centre of Manchester including : Cheadle Hulme Parish Hall; Hollymount Convent in Tottington, Bury; St Peters Church Hall, Hazel Grove; and others in Altrincham, Alderley Edge, Marple, Rochdale and Oldham. 

You can find out much more about the Guernsey Evacuees by visiting the Guernsey Evacuees Oral History site created by Gilian Mawson.


The Tame Street Institution is no longer with us.  Tame Steeet itself still exists in Ancoats but it is much shorter than it used to be because apartment blocks have been built across it.  The images below show the area today as seen from Great Ancoats Street and Every Street.

Tame Street once ran out to Great Ancoats Street at a point roughly between the two buildings shown below.