New Islington – a broken dream?

We were really grateful to discover what seemed a fairly secure, overnight mooring eleven locks out of Manchester. We knew the journey to Hebden Bridge entailed over 80 locks, and was likely to be quite an interesting one.

The New Islington Canal Basin wasn’t even marked on our 2009 Nicholson’s Waterways Guide, so we’re grateful to Michelle and Jim for telling us about it.

We’d read about the imposing Cotton Mill buildings, and the workers cottages that lay behind their facade. So we decided to take a stroll and check them out. Our near neighbour attempted to put us off, telling us the area was rather ‘dodgy’, but we’ve encountered far worse places in our time.

We got to know said neighbour quite well the following day, when we shared a large number of locks and rather too many unpleasant experiences. He openly admitted to being a ‘miserable git’ bless him. Don’t worry Patrick, we know you’ve really got a wicked sense of humour now!

The basin itself looks like it could’ve and should’ve been an amazing area. Sadly the photographs of the vision are far from the current reality.

“Setting out to become Manchester’s ‘favourite neighbourhood, but better’, seven years on and much of the development still remains a half-demolished, half-developed former council estate with withered metal fencing loosely guarding empty and desolate plains.”

How New Islington was 'supposed' to look

How New Islington was ‘supposed’ to look (photo from

You can see the remnants of the dream, but the reality is one of abandonment and you can’t help but sympathise with those boaters and land dwellers who moved in here with the promise and expectation of the picture above.

Barry’s managed to work his photographic magic to capture a glimpse of attractiveness in the area, despite the apparent abandonment – see what you think …


This loving couple sit outside on of the workers cottages behind the mill


Chatting with one of the inhabitants, telling her what adorable cottages they are, and we discover they’re mostly council owned and rented, with a few bought on the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme


‘Anita Street’. We’d been reliably informed by Jim that this was previously called ‘Sanitary Street’, but it wasn’t seen as suitable so a few letters were dropped …




A bit spooky aye? It’s actually the side of a building, with a colourful photo pasted on – fancy leaving this dreadful door spoiling the scene, and states ‘Dangerous building, Keep Out’!


Walking along the Ashton Canal


Barry adores this building – so colourful and unusual


Chips is three staggered blocks, housing nine floors of 142 apartments – some cheap and cheerful and others more expensively priced “… a concrete frame clad with colourful composite panels declaring the glory of canals and rivers: Mersey, Ashton, Rochdale


Back to the canal basin – and there’s a few boats permanently moored here despite the bad press the area has received


Resting on the concrete chairs – remarkably comfortable!


The disused cotton mill in the background, and one of the mini-canal channels (see photo above for the artist’s impression)


Spaghetti Western type facades are lined up on houses not far away – quite surreal and puzzling – designed by FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste), who state “The design accomodates reduction of primary energy, CO2 emissions and water consumption, Green specification of materials and reduction of construction waste, design for life-cycle adaptability to the Lifetime Homes principles and has an EcoHomes Excellent Rating.”

As all the media surrounding this ambitious project suggest, it’ll be a long while before the anticipated results materialise – if ever. Such a shame, it feels like a dream that went sour and has turned into a nightmare.

But thank you for being a place we could moor overnight – we never felt in the least threatened or unsafe, despite the scaremongering stories.

And boy were we thankful the following day for a good night’s sleep!

4 thoughts on “New Islington – a broken dream?

    • They do look lovely don’t they? However, if you saw their surroundings you may no the so keen! Barry’s photography shows New Islington in a bit of a skewed way – only the ‘good’ bits!

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