The Guardian Building in the heart of
Manchester - A Secret Cold War tunnel system
The Guardian Building and tunnels, Manchester was a closely guarded secret until recent years. We had heard rumours of it some time ago, but put these down to conspiracy theorists......
However, it is real and it is still closely guarded due to its current usage - BT uses it to run important cables around the city and beyond, and these communication networks therefore have to be kept secure.
Its entrance is between George Street and St James Street in the heart of Manchester, just next to St Peter's Square a stonesthrow from the Central Library and Manchester Town Hall. I always wondered why they built it in this particular place - now I have a new clue (see further down the page).
For more information on it, the best place is Underground Manchester (p48 - 53) and Below Manchester (p214 - 251), both by Keith Warrender. This is where I have gained the following information:
"Guardian was part of a chain of underground workings with London (Kingsway) and Birmingham (Anchor). The system connected with a transatlantic cable to the USA via the repeater station at Oban, Scotland and with mainland Europe under the channel at St Margaret's Bay, Kent. Their purpose was to preserve national telephone communications in the event of an enemy attack, even if the buildings were flattened."
"Guardian's central complex lay between Dickenson Street and York Street with a tunnel to Dial House, Salford, under the River Irwell, and two exit tunnels at Lockton Close, Ardwick and Islington Street Salford."
Both of these exit tunnel buildings have now been demolished, but there are photos of them in Keith's books along with lots of photos of the tunnels themselves.
Ironically, while the tunnel was still being built, the Soviet Union developed a bomb that would have destroyed it via a direct hit - so it was in a way obsolete before it was even completed.
There are many conspiracy theories about the tunnels, but it seems they were not underground bunkers for the chosen few in case of WW3, just communication networks in case the worst happened. However, the full extent of the tunnels is not known, and there are rumours of tunnels up to Piccadilly Gardens and far beyond....
So why did they build it there?
One clue may be the part map below of where bombs dropped in Manchester during World War Two. As you can see, East of the Central Library, a bomb dropped precisely where the Guardian tunnel entrance now stands.
Above: The Guardian Building from George Street. Below: from St James St.
Below: Someone has left the door open at No.55!
More Cold war sites on Lancashire At War: