Mapping experts have identified a curious cluster of seven roads around Swan Street in Manchester which are all perfectly aligned with the midwinter sun, just like the prehistoric monument at Stonehenge. Sun-worshippers hoping to mark the Winter Solstice on Sunday could avoid a trip to Stonehenge – and celebrate on the back streets of Manchester’s Northern Quarter instead.
Mapping experts have identified a curious cluster of seven roads around Swan Street which are all perfectly aligned with the midwinter sun, just like the prehistoric stone monument in Wiltshire more than 200 miles away. It means that the roads all point directly in the direction of the sunrise on the shortest day of the year on 21st December.
The streets in question are already steeped in history as they stand in the cradle of the industrial revolution, but their alignment with the midwinter Solstice was not known by local historians until now. It is not clear if planners deliberately laid out the roads in the area to line up with the Solstice or if the alignment is a coincidence.
As well as Swan Street – which is home to legendary music venue Band On The Wall – the other roads in alignment are Cable Street, Addington Street, Marshall Street and Bendix Street which all lie in a grid to the north. They are joined by Cotton Street and Gun Street which run alongside Great Ancoats Street.
The seven roads are among a number of other routes around Greater Manchester identified as lining up with the Winter Solstice on a plan created by mapping expert Dimi Sztanko. However, the roads adjacent to the Northern Quarter are unusual because there are so many of them clustered together in the same line. Dimi has identified streets in cities around the world which align with the winter and summer solstice using the OpenStreetMap project in which volunteers post the co-ordinates of streets online and make them freely available. Since publishing his maps online, he has been sent pictures of the rising and setting sun by people living on the streets in question. “I was really surprised that so many people picked it up”, he said.
“The main purpose of this project was to encourage people learning more about the history of their local area.”
Dimi said he believed the fact that the roads near the Northern Quarter are all aligned to the rising midwinter sun could be an accident because of the circular centre of Manchester.
Tour guide Elizabeth Sibbering, who takes tours around Ancoats and New Cross, said the area had been covered in farmland until the late 1770s when farmers sold off land to builders. “I hadn’t heard this link to the Solstice before but I think it is likely to be a random coincidence”, she said. “The streets are in a gridiron pattern because they were sold as parcels of land. It’s something I would need to look into further, to see how the fields were laid out before the roads were built.”
London-based Dimi, who works in IT, added that he thought a section of Claremont Road at the edge of Alexandra Park in Whalley Range, is more likely to have been designed to line up with the midwinter sunrise. He added: “Alexandra Park was designed in 1868, and I believe there is a better probability its northern part is aligned in the direction of solstice intentionally. It looks like its northern entrance is a good place to meet the sunrise on Sunday.”
However, it is not only correlated to Manchester – click
here to see the full solstice map of Leeds.