Whatever happened to the Arndale underground market? This urban explorer has just found out

Many people have happy memories of the Arndale Underground Market, a shopper’s paradise beneath the city centre’s streets back in the 1970s and 80s.

The market, which opened in 1972 and closed in 1989, once boasted 100 market stalls and shops and had separate entrances on Brown Street (near Tesco), Spring Gardens and Norfolk Street.

With the 40th anniversary of the Manchester Arndale Centre celebrated last month, many of our readers shared their special memories of both the shopping mall and the underground market.

But for all those asking what happened to it, wonder no more, because an urban explorer has finally found what is left of the market hall after a two year search for an entrance.

The Derelict Explorer

Posting on his Facebook page, Exploring Abandoned Buildings with the Derelict Explorer,  he revealed a series of photos to his followers after he finally found a way in to what is left of the market after lifting grids for over two years.

Matt, 25, from Flixton, says his mission is to document the history of derelict buildings before they are completely lost from public view.  And the 40th anniversary of the Arndale refocused his quest to find the market.

He said: “I knew they existed, but I have been trying to find the way in over the last two years, going through every grid around the area. I knew it had been sealed over with concrete, so I knew the only access was through grids.

The Derelict Explorer

“I finally came across it two weeks ago. It was right above where the main steps led down to the original market so I knew it was the right place.

“I felt elation more than anything. I dropped in through this grid. There was a big drop. You have quite a speechless moment. I don’t remember what I said but it was just relief that I’d found them [the steps]. I remember looking at my feet and thought of the hundreds of thousands of people who walked down these steps in the past, and they’ve been frozen for 20-30 odd years in time.  I was walking around and it was a very surreal moment.”

While the steps remain, and original 1970s tiling, the access to what was the main market hall has been blocked with concrete at the side next to where Tesco now stands.

The Derelict Explorer

In the past, Matt has tried to access it from the opposite side, where Boots is, but that is completely blocked, too.

But he’s still delighted he was able to document a little bit of what is left of the underground markets.

The Derelict Explorer

“The main reason I do it is for the people,” he said. “On the Facebook page people share their memories of the building and I get more enjoyment out of that.

“I’d already been planning a good year and a half to find the market, but with all the interest in the 40th anniversary of the Arndale, it spurred me on as I could see the public generating a massive want to see what they look like today.  There were a lot of questions about whether they still exist. So it was great to show this.”

The Derelict Explorer

Matt says urban exploring is legal thanks to a loophole in the law which means as long as there is an open access to a property it’s “not a criminal matter”. In fact, when he was accessing the underground market , two policemen were keen to join him in his exploration but were called to another job.

He has accessed a number of derelict properties in recent years, including the London Road Fire Station, WWII air raid shelters, Victoria Arches, and Mayfield Depot before it was reclaimed to take photos which he shares on his Facebook page.

“The main aim is to document the history,” says Matt. “There are so many buildings being knocked down it’s important that they’re shown before they are lost forever. Most people have memories of these places, but it’s good to actually bring it back to the people in this way.”

Find Matt on Facebook at Exploring Abandoned Buildings with the Derelict Explorer


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