The area of Gorton in the east of Manchester was once a crowded area that slowly declined in to a slum area that was eventually razed and rebuilt. Much of the housing stock is still small and terraced as before and now sits alongside a mixture of waste ground and mills long closed and converted into industrial units.
However, arriving or departing by train, one’s eye is drawn to a spectacular building that dominates the area around it, marking Gorton’s location as clear as anything.
This is Gorton monastery.
The building is Grade II listed now and home to a wealth of stories surrounding its sacred geometry. Nowadays it is deconsecrated and houses corporate events, which pay for its upkeep and maintenance.
The monastery was designed by EW Pugin, who has many similar soaring edifices to his name. It was built by friars of the Franciscan Order between 1863 and 1872. The Franciscan community was established to serve the growing immigrant catholic population flooding in to Manchester during the industrial revolution and operated as the spiritual and social heart of the community, providing schooling, a church hall and a base for sports clubs, bands, choirs and youth clubs.
Although not strictly a monastery, residents saw the friars in their brown robes as monks and the association has endured to this day.
Eventually though, congregations dwindled and the Franciscans could no longer afford the upkeep and abandoned the building in 1989. Somewhat predictably, the building was then vandalised and many items of value were stolen before the local community formed the Monastery Watch group to protect and preserve the building. This group of volunteers has worked tirelessly to maintain the remaining fabric of the building and operate open days on most Sundays between 12-4pm. If you’re local, get down there and attend one of the guided tours, its fascinating and for a very worthwhile cause.
After ten years hard work, the monastery now has a secure future, and the only remaining area of restoration is the angels, which were removed from the tops of the internal pillars. Money is still required to complete this work.