There was once a Scottish man who marched into Manchester in a uniform – he wasn’t in the army, he just thought he looked pretty sexy in a uniform – married a widowed landowner 40 years older than him and along the way got himself the nickname Spanking Roger.
That was Roger Aytoun who, with his wife Barbara Minshull, owned a lot of the land that Kampus now sits on. He had the mildly bad habit of squandering all his wife’s wealth on wine, women and recruitment. He roamed the streets of Manchester recruiting sparring partners to his personal regiment by brawling in pubs. If the fight was won, the loser had to join his regiment, gaining Aytoun his nickname of ‘Spanking Roger’. He didn’t lose often (until he drank and gambled his wealth away and scurried back north).
Hilarious (or tragic) as all that is, it’s part of our history. Walk around the city and you’ll walk down Aytoun Street or Minshull Street, so we didn’t want to lose those bits of the past when we set about creating Manchester’s newest neighbourhood.
Once home to some of Manchester’s dirtiest and darkest slums, the area was transformed during the commercial boom of the Victorian era. The echoes of its industrial past can still be seen in the two listed Victorian warehouses, Minto & Turner and Minshull House, built in the 1870s to store and pack cotton. They’re being converted into loft apartments, leaving lots of that great brickwork and timber exposed, an enduring legacy of the cottonopolis and Manchester’s reinvention.
And then there’s the 1960s tower block. Plenty of people have asked us why we didn’t just bulldoze it. But we love the brutalist architecture which is part of Manchester’s story – and buildings like this will be the listed buildings of the future. Imagine if, after the war, the city had demolished our iconic Town Hall like it had planned? Or what if we got rid of all our historic mills? It would be unthinkable.
If we erased our 60s history, we’d lose our most recent stories. We’d lose part of the connection with Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), which was based there. We’d lose Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving to a Pict. The actual animals would probably be fine, but we’d lose the connection with Pink Floyd, who had a song with that name on their wildly experimental album Ummagumma, which was partly recorded in that same MMU building.
But that doesn’t mean we’re overcome with nostalgia. Kampus is here to be new – to introduce new things to Manchester, to introduce lush greenery and more open spaces where people can come and chill out. We want to fill our spaces with up-and-coming brands that are growing locally. We want to create a new community. And we don’t have to compromise. At Kampus, you’ll be able to grab a pint with your mates and rest easy knowing that, once, a guy wandered these same streets, trying to look fit in a uniform – and his name was Spanking Roger.