I’m sure many people have seen the derelict Hotspur Press building on Gloucester Street from the train as they travel through Manchester (or perhaps on their way to the Anthony Burgess Foundation, just around the corner) and wondered if there’s any connection with DC Thomson’s long-running, now defunct adventure comic title.
(First published between 1933 to 1959, Hotspur was a boys’ story paper, relaunched as a comic in 1959, initially called the New Hotspur. It ceased publication in January 1981).
After snapping this photograph of the former cotton warehouse built in the 1880s earlier this week after a meeting about, well, comics, I threw the question out on social media, but it seems, sadly, there is no comic connection. Former DC Thomson editor Calum Laird was the first to note Hotspur Press was owned by the Percy Brothers, and suggested that the connection is with historic figure Harry Hotspur, a suggestion supported by artist Pete Sully in a post that includes a quick sketch of the iconic building back in 2016.
Harry Hotspur was a medieval knight and member of the Percy family, Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland. Apparently, this is why Tottenham Hotspur are so named, too – they were originally Hotspur FC, and the Percy family owned land in the Tottenham area (think Northumberland Park).
Despite the lack of a connection with Hotspur comic, that didn’t stop a few comic-connected folk enthusing about the building, including Simon Grennan, author of the recently-published A Theory of Narrative Drawing. “It’s one of the oldest industrial buildings still standing in Manchester,” he enthused. “The interior is marvellous.”
That’s a claim born out by the photographs of The Derelict Explorer, posted here on Facebook, but sadly the building’s in a pretty poor state after years of neglect.
Not unexpected redevelopment plans have been gaining a lot of attention in Manchester, given it’s one of the city’s most distinctive industrial relics. The latest plans include retaining the façade retention and a new-build mixed-use tower, designed by architect Hodder + Partners for developer Elmloch, following two public consultations earlier this year.
“After the initial consultation, we got a first-hand account of the historical and cultural significance of the Hotspur Press to the Manchester public,” Nick Lake, fund manager on behalf of Elmloch, told Place North West, which suggests redevelopment could start next year. “We listened to attendees and carefully considered their comments to re-evaluate our ambitious plans for the site.”
The building’s name may not have been a comic title’s inspiration that we know of, but it was the inspiration for Manchester band The Hotspur Press, so that’s something learned from this meander, at least! (And it gave me a chance to plug Simon’s book…)