On Wilmslow Road, Fallowfield, only a couple of buildings truly stand out. While the Tower may sway in the wind, The Toast Rack certainly captures more attention.

For Matthew Holmes, The Derelict Explorer, the building needed to be investigated.

Hollings Campus - or Toast Rack building, so named because of the encompassing arches of its distinctive look, has been a part of South Manchester’s skyline since 1960.

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Designed by Leonard Cecil Howitt, the toast rack building was originally built for the Domestic Trades College before becoming part of Manchester Polytechnic, now Manchester Metropolitan University.

The building has been grade II listed since 1998, and has been up for development since being decommissioned by Manchester Metropolitan University in 2013.

This year, on a warm, sunny day in June, Matthew was granted permission to explore the Toast Rack and photograph the crumbs that remain.

Beams of light warm up the abandoned corridors giving the building an eerie yet alive feeling
Beams of light warm up the abandoned corridors

His photographs have gained him a following on social media where fans of the work reminisce and discuss memories of the featured building’s heyday.

Talking about why he explores derelict buildings, Matthew said:

“For me it’s the history of it, it’s the building itself that’s important.

“So if I can highlight and show the building off in the best manner I can, then more people can reminisce.

“It can connect to more people and I think, especially in a time when so many people have memory loss and Alzheimer's and problems like that, if I can just bring back a memory to one of those individuals then I’ve done my job really.”

Despite normally focusing on buildings that are pre-World War II, Matthew was drawn to the Toast Rack building because of its iconic shape.

He said: “It was a bit of a weird one really, because normally I’d go for pre-Second World War, you know going backwards from the 1940s in terms of the building age and architecture and design.

“But there was just something about the Toast Rack that stood out. It was a very unique design, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

A derelict lab, reflecting the iconic arches
A derelict lab, reflecting the iconic arches

Matthew says that the response and memories that people have of the buildings he pictures are the driving force behind his explorations.

“It’s a large part of why I explore," he said. "It’s one thing going to the building and experiencing it, but it’s another thing to hear [people’s] experiences because that tells the story.

“I do so much research, it takes around a week and a half probably to research the history on each building so that when I am stood there inside, I know, or I have an idea of what this room might have been or what the usage of the building was.

“It just brings me that little bit closer, so that when I then upload the explore and people tell me their stories, their families’ stories, maybe that their grandparents work there, or they went there as a child at some stage, that just fills the story of that building in a tiny bit more.

“It brings it all together. That’s the biggest buzz that I get from exploring.”

One commenter on Facebook said: “Wonderful building. Fantastic memories of doing my catering courses there.”

Another said: “I studied Hotel and Catering Management here. We were the HotCats. It is such an iconic building.

“The egg yolk housed the training, and we would serve meals to members of the public who got a great deal.

“Great memories. It’s such a shame it’s no longer in use. Thank heavens for listing," they said, adding, “I left in 1990. The lab kitchens were so flooded with natural light. A great space to work in.”

The iconic arches, ready to keep your toast buttery
The iconic arches of the Toast Rack Building

The Poached Egg section of the toast rack was once the library of Hollings Campus, and then the kitchens and canteen.

It now houses The Gym Fallowfield and was opened in March 2018.

Matthew found a very different feeling walking around the Toast Rack than he has in other abandoned buildings he has explored.

“The windows there are floor to ceiling in the majority of the rooms and it was just such a warm notion walking through it. It was such a calming, nice, lovely explore," he said.

“But with the Toast Rack, it was just, the sun was just beaming through the window on every single floor and that was the one thing I remember coming away, thinking that was one of the nicest explores I’ve done because there was just so much warmth within the building.

"It felt like it was still open in a way."

Matthew's favourite photograph from this collection is one of an empty lecture theatre.

An empty lecture lecture where many learnt their trades
An empty lecture lecture where many learnt their trades

“The 10 or so rows of empty chairs in a lecture room, you know to me I don’t just see empty seats, I see the seats that people sat in and people learnt their trade and they learnt what they were studying.

“Although it’s collecting dust, it’s a very echoing room that once was full of noise and people and a teacher giving a lecture and all of those happy times and emotions that we all take away from university and take away from college and school.

“A lot of people experienced it in that one room and you know, today it’s just completely empty - lifeless.”

The Toast Rack, and the attached buildings, are due to be turned into housing, with the potential of shops included in the proposed development.

The rest of Matthew’s photos of the Toast Rack, and other iconic buildings, are available to view on his Facebook page: The Derelict Explorer.

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