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The ultimate blue plaque tour around campus

I love that The University of Manchester has such a rich history. Don’t judge me: I am a self-declared nerd. In this blog, I’ll be showing you how you can look at the University through a different lens – by getting outside and searching for all the blue plaques across campus.

So, what is a blue plaque?

A blue plaque is an outdoor sign that is placed in a building to commemorate an important historical event (for example, if somebody famous lived/worked there, or if the building served as a meeting place for an important cause). The “official” scheme is run by the English Heritage charity and operates in the Greater London Area. In Manchester, the initiative is managed by the Manchester Art Gallery and there are currently 228 blue plaques installed in the Greater Manchester area, according to the Open Plaques initiative. 

The ultimate blue plaque tour around campus

I decided to walk around campus photographing every blue plaque that is within walking distance of Brunswick Park. I started from  All Saints Park, and then I wandered down Oxford Road until I reached Whitworth Hall accommodation. You can follow the same route using the map provided below.

Here are pictures of each plaque and a brief description of the person or event they commemorate:

Where: Oxford Road with Grosvenor Street corner

Who: Thomas Wright

Why it matters: Wright was known as the Prisoners’ Friend. He was born in Manchester, lived on Sidney Street and dedicated his life to the relief of human suffering and, in particular, to the poor and needy of the city. I think this plaque is my favourite of the tour because I admire people who help others.

Where: All Saints Park

Who: Robert Angus Smith

Why it matters: Grosvenor Square was the site of Smith’s laboratory Royal Society of Chemistry. He was the first person to coin the term ‘acid rain’. Note: this plaque is hexagonal because it is managed by the Royal Society of Chemistry.

 

Where: Boundary St West and Higher Chatham St Corner

Who: Charlotte Brontë

Why it matters: It was here in this house, just 2 blocks away from the AMBS, that Charlotte began to write her first successful novel “Jane Eyre”. Charlotte was the sister of Emily Brontë, also a famous writer and author of “Wuthering Heights”

 

Where: Bridgeford Street

Who: Sir Frederic Williams and Tom Kilburn

Why it matters: In the laboratory behind this wall, the world’s first stored program computer was run on 21st June 1948 (how cool is that?!). Fredric Williams and Tom Kilburn were professors at The University of Manchester.

 

Where: Oxford Road, near the Museum Entrance

Who: Ernest Lord Rutherford

Why it matters: Rutherford was professor of physics at The University of Manchester. He was a pioneer in Nuclear Physics and the first person to split the atom. He won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1908.

 

 

Where: Coupland Street

Who: Alison Utley 

Why it matters: Utley studied Physics at the University and then became a famous Children’s author. Her most famous work was the series  “Little Grey Rabbit”.

 

 

Where: Coupland Street

Who: Ernest Lord Rutherford

Why it matters: Mr. Rutherford has not only one, but two plaques on campus. This one talks about his leadership in the laboratory that pioneered the field of nuclear physics.

 

 

Where: Coupland Street

Who: Alan Turing

Why it matters: Turing is known as the father of computer science. During the war, he worked on breaking enemy codes in Bletchley Park. He lived the last years of his life in Manchester, where he was a professor at the University.

 

Where: Coupland Street

Who: Sir Lawrence Bragg

Why it matters: Bragg was a professor of physics at the University and invented the field of x-ray crystallography to determine the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal.

 

 

Where: Coupland Street

Who: Peter Mark Roget

Why it matters: Physician and compiler of the Thesaurus Co-founder of Manchester’s Medical School.

 

 

Where: Old Quad, Beyer Building

Who: Marie Stopes

Why it matters: Palaeobotanist and pioneer of family planning, she was a lecturer at The University of Manchester.

 

 

Where: Old Quad, Owens Building

Who: Ellen Wilkinson

Why it matters: Labour politician and first female Minister of Education. She studied History at The University of Manchester.

 

 

Where: Samuel Alexander Building

Who: Anthony Burgess

Why it matters: Writer and composer that studied his BA in English at The University of Manchester. His most famous book is “A Clockwork Orange”, which was later adapted by Stanley Kubrick as one of the most important films of all times.

 

Where: Dover Street Building

Who: Sir Frank Worrell

Why it matters: Originally from Barbados, Worrell was an International Cricketer that studied BA in business administration at The University of Manchester.

 

 

Where: Nelson Street (Manchester Royal Infirmary)

Who: Emmeline Pankhurst, Christabel Pankhurst and Sylvia Pankhurst

Why it matters: Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, founders of the suffragette movement, lived here at the turn of the 20th century.

 

 

Where: Whitworth Hall accommodation

Who: Friedrich Engels

Why it matters: Engels was a social philosopher and writer who lived at No. 6 Thorncliffe Grove which once stood on this site. Engels would collaborate closely with Karl Marx and his ideas would contribute to the birth of the Marxist movement.

 

I hope that you have enjoyed my blue plaques walking tour.. I think it is nice to learn about the University’s history and to have some good stories to talk about when you go back home. Sometimes studying and everyday tasks withdraw us from knowing these things – , it is good to look up and see what others have done in the same buildings we study in. Who knows – maybe one day your name will be placed in a blue plaque here too…