By some referred to as the holy grail of Manchester, the cathedral steps are a set of arches underneath the Manchester city centre next to the river Irwell. The rather difficult access (including the battle with local pigeons) means that they are still in a very good condition.
I first visited this place a number of months ago together with Appo, you can see the pictures from that visit here. Back then I only owned a compact camera with a maximum exposure time of 30 seconds when set to "starry sky". So when I heard that Jimmy hadn't been down there yet and really wanted to pay the arches a visit, it was the perfect excuse to go back and take some more pics.
The arches were constructed in 1838 when a new embankment along the Irwell was build for a new road. The gained underground space was initially used by various industrial companies.
In the 1890s the Manchester ship canal company was trying to encourage passenger traffic on its waterways. 2 Landing stages were built which can be seen in the picture to the right taken from the Manchester Library.
Steamers were taking up to 1000 passengers around the Manchester docks whilst being entertained by musicians. Especially during the holiday periods these tours were very successful, with more than 200 000 passengers in the first half of 1897experiencing the boat ride.
Repeated flooding of the Irwell resulted in damage to the wooden staircases which led to the closure of the arches in 1906.
Public toilets, which could be accessed through stairs on street level next to the cathedral form part of the underground network. Whilst the female toilets have been removed, the gents are still standing. They were closed to the public in 1967, marking the final closure of the arches to the public.
During World War II the stages and tunnels surrounding them were converted into air-raid shelters. The conversion, which included additional brick blast walls, took three months at a cost of £10,150 and provided shelter for 1,619 people.