Hulme Crescents – 1978

Uploaded to YouTube by 'Fastforward' Oct 8, 2008.

A en edited documentary on The Crescents from 1978.

A piece on The Crescents taken from Wikipedia:

At the end of World War II, the United Kingdom had a need for quality housing, with a rapidly increasing "baby boomer" population increasingly becoming unhappy with the prewar and wartime "austerity" of their lives, and indeed, their living space.

By the start of the 1960s England had begun to remove many of the 19th century slums and consequently, most of the slum areas of Hulme were demolished. The modernist and brutalist architectural style of the period, as well as practicalities of speed and cost of construction dictated high rise "modular" living in tower blocks and "cities in the sky" consisting of deck-access flats and terraces.

In Hulme, a new and (at the time) innovative design for deck access and tower living was attempted. This consisted of curved rows of low-rise flats with deck access far above the streets, known as the "Crescents" (which were, with unintentional irony, architecturally based on terraced housing in Bath). In this arrangement, motor vehicles remained on ground level with pedestrians on concrete walkways overhead, above the smoke and fumes of the street. People living in these new flats were rehoused from decaying Victorian slums which lacked electricity, running water, bathrooms or indoor toilets, and were mostly overcrowded.

High-density housing was balanced with large green spaces and trees below, and the pedestrian had priority on the ground over cars. The 1960s redevelopment of Hulme split the area's new council housing into a number of sections. Hulme 2 was the area between Jackson Crescent and Royce Road. Hulme 3 was between Princess Road and Boundary Road based along the pedestrianised Epping Walk, Hulme 4 was between Princess Road and Royce Road and Hulme 5 - the "Crescents" themselves were between Royce Road and Rolls Crescent. The names of the "Crescents" harked back to the Georgian era, being named after architects of that time: Robert Adam Crescent, Charles Barry Crescent, William Kent Crescent and John Nash Crescent, together with Hawksmoor Close (a small straight block of similar design attached to Charles Barry Crescent). At the time, the "Crescents" won several design awards, and introduced technologies such as underfloor heating to the masses. They were also popular because they were some of the first council homes in Manchester to have central heating. The development even had some notable first occupants, such as Nico and Alain Delon.

However, what eventually turned out be recognised as poor design, workmanship, and maintenance meant that the crescents introduced their own problems. Design flaws and unreliable 'system build' construction methods, as well as the 1970s oil crisis meant that heating the poorly insulated homes became too expensive for their low income residents, and the crescents soon became notorious for being cold, damp and riddled with cockroaches and other vermin. Crime and drug abuse became significant problems in Hulme, as police did not patrol the long, often dark decks, due to the fact that they were not officially considered streets. The decks made muggings and burglary relatively easy, as any crime could be carried out in almost total privacy, with no hope for quick assistance from police below.

The crescents became troublesome very shortly after their construction—within a decade, they were declared 'unfit for purpose', and several plans were drawn up that suggested various differing types of renovation and renewal for the blocks, including splitting the buildings into smaller, more manageable structures by removing sections. In the 1980s and 1990s many of these vacant deck-access flats were squatted and the area acquired a 'Bohemian' reputation for its many punks, artists and musicians.

During the late 1980s Viraj Mendis, an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka, sought the right of sanctuary in the Church of the Ascension in Hulme. He was an active supporter of Sri Lanka Tamils and claimed danger of death if he was sent back to Sri Lanka. He stayed in the church for two years until the church was raided by police on 18 January 1989.