taking the conclusion of the previous entry in the corner of angel meadow / st. michael’s flags, it would appear that this part of town was receiving a less than positive review from this writers. however, events have transpired which have convinced me to reassess this analysis. i now find myself living in one of the ‘new developments’ which the re-designed ‘flags’ serves. having done some research into the history of the area, i am now moved to admire the way in which this space has been redeveloped to suit the needs of a modern city, whilst also retaining a rightly reverential sense of the past.
angel meadow is an area which has gone through fluctuating patterns of residents, and fortunes. the river irk valley had been home to the city’s upwardly mobile middle classes up until the onset of the industrial revolution, which saw the river itself become a magnet for industrialisation. as such, the rich moved to ardwick, whilst ancoats and angel meadow became the home of the working men, and to the disease and squalor which went hand in hand with their plight. angel meadow became known as ‘little ireland’ due to huge proportion of residents with irish origins, 44% in the 1851 census.
the parkland now known as ‘angel meadow and st. michael’s flags’ previously served a very different purpose to the green flag recognized space which it now is. st michael’s flags was in fact manchester’s ‘new burial ground’, opened in 1787 as a response to the cholera epidemic which had gripped the city, but more specifically the densely populated working class areas such as angel meadow. this communal pit saw over 40,000 internments by the time it was sealed in 1816. the bodies were deposited into this ‘grave’ which in effect was a whole in the ground, covered by wooden planks which were locked down during the night. hardly a solution which would lessen the demand for burial, given that this festering mass of cadavers surely furthered the spread of cholera throughout this area, given the proximity of the flags’ to both the residential areas and indeed the factories themselves.
the ‘new’ angel meadow/st michael’s flags (nb – the flags themselves were removed at some stage, now replaced by this green area) has once more become an area central to the locally housed community, only now it is a space for reflection, relaxation and recreation. the legacy of the local area is preserved, even promoted with the inclusion of historical information at various junctures across the park. if anything, these snippets of information are probably the closest the new residents of the area will come to realising the importance of this communal area. the work of the friends of angel meadow must be commended, as they seek to preserve the hugely interesting if somewhat lamentable history of the flags. rather than the new city casting off angel meadow, it has found a new way of honouring it’s memory – suitable for the needs of the new residents.