There are only a couple of scraps of green land in the city centre because, historically, Manchester was devoted to commerce and space was too precious to waste on frivolities such as grass. The City Council owns very little land itself – this patch was inherited when St. John’s Church was demolished in 1931 – so this small garden is highly valued by the office workers who bring their lunch here in fine weather.
Now that winter is about to begin, the flowers are finished, the plants don’t look at their best and it’s not so conducive to lingering. Nevertheless, I always make a point of walking through to watch squirrels gathering their stashes, admire the colourful autumn leaves and check on the progress of the wild meadow-grass corner. Also, in the back of my mind, is the fear that if we don’t use it, we might lose it: never turn your back on property developers!
And there is history here, as you might expect. The remains of 22,000 people are buried hereabouts and one of them, in particular, is famous. You may not have heard of him but if you look around you will see the headstone of one William Marsden, originator of the Saturday half-day holiday. Well, it had to have started somewhere – and it turns out it was Manchester.