Artisan founder Carol Ainscow dies aged 55

Simon Donohue

Carol Ainscow, the property developer credited with making Manchester's Gay Village fashionable, died on Thursday morning only a month after learning she had a brain tumour. She was 55.

Her Manto bar sparked a new era for Canal Street when it opened in the late 1980s, helping make it a destination for visitors from across the world. She followed it up by acquiring Tony Wilson's Paradise Factory nightclub from the receivers of Factory Records.

The former teacher went on to help kick-start Manchester's loft living boom through the development of the 40-apartment Sackville Street scheme.

Her Artisan Property Group breathed new life into buildings including Manchester's iconic Express Building in Ancoats, which became part of the Express Networks complex. Artisan also worked in Liverpool at the Kings Dock development.

Cllr Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Carol was a true Manchester entrepreneur and someone who made a significant contribution to the regeneration of the city. Her loss is shocking and saddening."

Tom Bloxham, chairman of Urban Splash, the property developer which emerged alongside Carol Ainscow's activities in Manchester, said: "I am so sad to hear of Carol Ainscow's death.

"She was a fellow developer, bar owner, entrepreneur, Red and true pioneer. R.I.P. Carol."

Former business partner Peter Dalton, who opened Manto with Ainscow, said that she had helped to make Manchester a better place.

Ainscow was 22 when she did her first property deal on a large Victorian rental house in Bolton. She bought it for £35,000 and transformed it into a £400,000 nursing home within a year.

By the age of 24, she had properties containing 75 bedrooms and generating £1.2m a year.

Artisan Property Group had struggled in recent years as a result of the decline in the property sector. Artisan Holdings was wound up last year.

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Today is a sad day… I have known Carol for 4 years and was fortunate to work with her on hotel and serviced apartment projects in Liverpool and Manchester. Carol will be missed by many and Manchester has lost a visionary developer. RIP Carol.

By Lee Syrett

I was shocked and saddened to hear about Carol. I had the pleasure of working for Carol when she opened a young disabled unit for adults. I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed my time working for Carol in a much needed service. It was very much "one big family" R.I.P Carol. Thinking of Carol’s family too.

By Donna Fox

I have been a contractor to the Artisan group for many years and was there right at the beginning in the eighties. Carol was a pioneer of city centre living and will be greatly missed.

By William Ainsworth

A sad loss , i met carol a few years ago and saw her regularly for a while , she was one of those mystery people , shy, brilliant, kind, tough when needed,attractive, modest, . She gave me the inspiration to set up my own business ,of which i did well.I often thought of her and remembered her business advice….. you are missed by many , RIP good lady xxx

By vil