Railways became an fundamental means of transport following the Industrial Revolution and played a major role in the expanding British Empire. Victorian pioneers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel were instrumental in ensuring their development and before long, railways began to connect distant corners of the world.
This was the golden age of British steam, when powerful railway companies competed – often literally side by side – for passengers, prestige and dominance. Some went for speed, others for opulence, and grand stations that exuded the spirit and power of the railways sprang up in cities along each competing route, physical reminders of Victorian ego and ingenuity.
Britain’s Victorian cities often had multiple stations belonging to different railway companies. But the nationalisation of rail in the 1940s and “Beeching” cuts of the 1960s rendered numerous stations surplus to requirements. Of those that ceased to operate, many were demolished while others were simply abandoned. Manchester Mayfield Station is one such example.
Manchester Mayfield was built in 1910 by the London & North Western Railway. It closed in 1960 and remained derelict for a decade. It subsequently enjoyed a spell as a Royal Mail parcel depot but later returned to dereliction, and was damaged by fire in 2005. Mayfield is now a crumbling reminder of its former glory, its track beds consumed by weeds. (The image above shows Mayfield Station in use during 1959, while the ornate tiling is similar to the deserted Victoria Baths, also in Manchester.)
In 1999, Manchester Mayfield briefly came back to life – or not, depending on how you look at it – to serve as a stand-in for Sheffield Railway Station in the television drama The Last Train. On the show, survivors of a meteor strike explored a post-apocalyptic Sheffield inhabited only by a pack of rabid dogs. We just hope Mayfield station’s brief small-screen fame isn’t the last we see of it. For more information and additional pictures, check out Subterranea Britannica and 28DL.
GMEX (Manchester Central)
Manchester has an inspired precedent for adapting abandoned railway stations to the needs of the modern city – bring on Manchester Central.
Once the north western terminus of the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, in 1986 it was converted into the GMEX, an exhibition and conference centre (now once again called Manchester Central in honour of its railway history).