Urban Renewal and the Southward Movement

In the late 1950s the City Corporation embarked on a large-scale clearance programme, perhaps the most extensive in Europe; the whole area, which at the time constituted the main Asian residential cluster — i.e. Hulme, Greenheys, Chorlton-on-Medlock and, later, parts of Moss Side and Rusholme — was cleared during the following ten years. This precipitated a gradual fan movement southwards as one area after another was demolished.

Migrants began buying small family houses south of the area of initial settlement, and West Longsight in particular gradually became the heart of the immigrant residential enclave. Longsight, one of the main bases of my fieldwork, is an area of three-bedroomed, terraced or semidetached houses. Most Pakistanis live in the central part of the area where there are no gardens and little greenery to alleviate the drabness of the surroundings; nevertheless, most of the housing in the neighbourhood is in reasonable condition and surrounding it are leafy streets with bigger houses. Neighbouring Victoria Park has also remained an important immigrant centre. Its houses are in better condition than those of other early immigrant areas, and it has been designated as a conservation area by the City Council.

The urban renewal scheme proved extremely advantageous for many of the migrants who had purchased their own houses early on. Most migrants seemed to feel that the corporation compensated them very adequately, and the money they received was used by most to invest in better quality, more expensive housing, often with the additional help of a private, building society or Council mortgage. The renewal scheme happened to coincide with the time when many migrants began bringing their families to Britain, so they bought small, three-bedroomed terraced or semi-detached houses in place of the large Victorian houses preferred for house letting. Since house prices in Manchester began to rise dramatically towards the end of 1970, and doubled in 1971 and then again in 1972, many migrants saw a more valuable property than they had originally owned multiply in value within a short time. For a large number of migrants house ownership proved to be an extremely profitable investment; on the whole, the houses they own today are in fair or good condition, making it worthwhile to invest further in home improvements. Many are in attractive, tree-lined neighbourhoods, and some have gardens. The houses have continued to maintain their relative value on the local market, and those which have been extensively improved have increased in value.[1]

The movement into Longsight demonstrates clearly the gradual move

Map 1.6 Percentage of Asians out of Total Asian Population in Three Boroughs (Manchester City, Stockport and Trafford) (Based on 1981 Census) southwards. Thus, the number of Asian migrants living in the western part of this neighbourhood, immediately south of Victoria Park (in electoral areas 27 and 28 of the Longsight constituency) increased dramatically during the 1960s. In 1963 there were only three Asian ratepaying households in the area[2] as compared with two hundred listed on the electoral roll in 1976-77. The numbers have continued to increase in the ensuing period, as indicated by the 1981 census. This probably stems primarily from the growth and maturation of families, as young Asian couples purchase cheap housing within the residential enclave, nearby their families. Paralleling the dramatic increase in the number of households in Longsight is a general rise in the number of Asian households throughout the city and its suburbs (cf. Map 1.6).

As many researchers in Britain have found, concentrations of immigrants tend to occur in specific streets and localities within a neighbourhood, rather than uniformly throughout it. This is probably due primarily to migrant preference for certain types of housing; once housing changes hands, it is rarely sold back to members of the previous residential group. The desire to live close to friends and relatives is an additional factor, often cited by migrants. Hence, between 1969 and 1975 the number of Asian households with voters listed on the Long- sight electoral role increased by one third in the whole area. In eleven of the twenty-six roads, however, the total more than doubled: from 53 households enumerated in 1969, to 125 in 1975 (for a discussion of the maps and figures cf. Appendix 1).[3] By the 1970s, West Longsight and Victoria Park formed a major centre of Pakistani residence. Even so, Asians were distributed unevenly within this area. In 1975-76 they formed, according to the, electoral roll, about 20 per cent of the 'total adult population, or 16 per cent of the total households. In 1981, according to the census, the Asian households constituted between 35-40 per cent of the total households in the area (cf. Map 1.4). This figure does not include Chinese and Caribbean families, whose numbers in Longsight had also increased dramatically.

'Twilight zones' of deteriorating properties turned into lodging houses were no longer prominent in south Manchester in the late 1970s, mainly because most slum areas had been cleared, and with few new immigrants there was less demand for rooms in lodging houses. The city, moreover, has never had a restrictive policy regarding lodging areas, as appears to have been the case in Birmingham (cf. Rex and Moore 1967). Much of the student lodging was, in fact, located in middle-class areas of the city such as Didsbury and Chorlton-cum- Hardy, as well as in less affluent suburbs such as Fallowfield and Whalley Range. Immigrant lodging, too, appears to have been widely scattered.

The urban renewal scheme precipitated the displacement and outward movement of the immigrant population. The ethnic residential enclave remains an area of high Asian concentration (cf. Maps 1.3, 1.4 and 1.6). It is a narrow strip of housing (about a hundred yards wide), stretching about a mile in length, and very much hidden from the public eye. On one side it is cut off by shops along a main thoroughfare. On the other side it is flanked by council housing occupied primarily by members of the wider society. A myriad of ethnic groups intermingle within this area, alongside the more elderly population of the indigenous society, university students and other temporary residents (cf. Map 1.4). Hence Longsight, like Victoria Park, has now become a multi-ethnic area. In Victoria Park, Irish, Poles, Ukrainians, Jews, Italians, Chinese and West Indians reside alongside the different Asian groups, living evidence of the successive migrations to the city.

A ghetto is not necessarily a slum. The concept of a slum evokes a picture of urban decay and social malaise, stemming from multi-occupation, non-ownership, and extreme poverty.[4] Longsight, the Pakistani residential enclave, is by contrast an orderly neighbourhood of proud house owners, who spend a great deal of money and effort on maintaining their homes, and have extensive sociability with their neighbours. Moreover, viewed in terms of a conjunction of size and level of concentration, the ghetto in Manchester differs from the vast black ghettos of American cities. Nor does it encapsulate certain key communal activites: shopping, commerce and worship almost all take place, as we shall see, either at, or beyond, its boundaries.

  • [1] The drop in the value of the pound in the 1980s meant, however, that local houseshave halved their value on the international market. Whereas in the mid-1970s, during mymain fieldwork period, a ?10,000 terrace house was equivalent to a miraba (square) of land inPakistan, this was no longer the case. Land in Pakistan has, moreover, multiplied in valuefollowing migration to the Middle East (cf. Ballard 1987).
  • [2] In 1969 most men had British citizenship and were likely to appear on electoralroles, but some bias is possible in these figures. The 1981 census figures are, perhaps,more accurate.
  • [3] Other works on immigrants and residence in Manchester include Novikowski andWard (1978), Mason (on Cheetham Hill, 1980), Fenton (1977), Flett (1977), Flett andPeaford (1977), and Lomas and Monck (1975). The latter three works make no distinctionbetween West Indian and Asian immigrants, and this results in a misleading picture ofAsian housing, a fact clearly demonstrated by Fenton in particular.
  • [4] We need to guard against this misguided and misleading view of the ghetto as a slum.Thus one social geographer has argued recently that 'Social pathology causes the ghettojust-as the ghetto is a factor in social pathology' (Times Higher Educational Supplement, 22February 1985: 13).
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