Punks, Records & a Stolen From Ivor: What Happened to the Underground Market?

Next time you're downstairs in Tesco on Market Street - you're IN history...

By Ben Brown | 23 March 2021

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With around 100 market stalls and shops, the Underground Market that used to be on Market Street was certainly nothing to be scoffed at. This subterranean Aladdin’s Cave was a shopper’s paradise for more than 15 years from the day it opened back in the Seventies.

The whole thing lasted until 1989 when it was bricked up and, years later, half of it turned into the bottom floor of Tesco Metro – the place most city centre dwellers pick up their frozen chips, tins of Spaghetti Hoops and bog roll.

Post-WW2 in Manchester saw some massive changes within the city centre, with a whole host of developments and ‘improvements’ taking place after the Luftwaffe bombed things to shit in the 40s, and the council decided that the old city slums probably wouldn’t be able to stand on their own for much longer.

In 1972 a shiny new beacon of the future arrived, slap-bang in the centre of town – a vomit-yellow tiled monstrosity called The Arndale Centre.

Pretty much ridiculed straight away by most, not only did the Arndale look horrible from the outside, it was also terribly designed on the inside, with corridors that often ended up nowhere, meaning you had to re-trace your steps and walk past the same shops over and over again.

The arrival of the Arndale Centre though shifted attention towards Market Street at the city’s main shopping district – and it quickly became even busier than it ever had been, with a long line of shops and boutiques vying for space and the attention of shoppers.

Opening up around the same time, again right in the middle of Market Street, was a true shopper’s paradise, and one that is still fondly remembered today – the Manchester Underground Market.

As my mum always tells me – it was great in there, as you descended the escalators down to find a wealth of independent shops and stalls pretty much selling everything you could ever imagine.

It was pretty well known for it’s small, dedicated clothing shops selling punk gear, a couple of great record shops and even a Stolen from Ivor – the jewel in the crown of any decent shopping area.

It was a true independent haven, with one of the city’s best punk shops down there – Roxy – and it was a favoured place in which to buy yourself a nice new leather jacket and a pair of flairs. You’d also easily find yourself thousands of to peruse from the record shops, including loads of special bootlegs and imports – meaning the market was a MUST VISIT every Saturday for anyone under the age of 25.

It was the kind of place that you don’t see very much at all anymore – somewhere that’s truly independent and a true gem in the city. There is of course still Afflecks over on Oldham Street, but that’s probably the last remaining indoor shopping market of any note in the city – it’s just something that doesn’t exist anymore.

However, by the end of its life around the late 80’s, many of the stalls had closed, with many of the operators moving out to other premises elsewhere in the city centre (usually the Northern Quarter) or out into the ‘burbs, usually where the rents were much cheaper.

A couple of years back The Derelict Explorer managed to get down into the abandoned Underground Market and took plenty of photos of the old original features and what it looks like now. There’s not much left down there, but it’s certainly interesting to have a look at this window into the city’s past….