The demon Crowley, living on Earth was as long as it existed, has long been weaving plots to aid Hell in the coming Armageddon. Though, of course, it doesn't seem that good an idea when it starts, both Crowley and Aziraphale worked in their respective fields to aid their factions:

It meant that Crowley had been allowed to develop Manchester, while Aziraphale had a free hand in the whole of Shropshire.

Manchester seems to be a particularly devilish idea of Crowley's, since he's very proud of it:

Fourteenth-century minds, the lot of them. Spending years picking away at one soul. Admittedly it was craftsmanship, but you had to think differently these days. Not big, but wide. With five billion people in the world you couldn't pick the buggers off one by one any more; you had to spread your effort. But demons like Ligur and Hastur wouldn't understand. They'd never have thought up Welsh-language television, for example. Or value-added tax. Or Manchester.

He'd been particularly pleased with Manchester.

What is so evil about Manchester, in real life or in the novel, that Pratchett and Gaiman made it Crowley's magnum opus?

  • 1
    Sounds like a typical thing in British humour: picking a random city/location and taking the mick out of it for no particular reason. (See also: "Belgium" being the rudest word in the universe in H2G2.) I'm not sure exactly why this is considered funny, or why it's so prevailing in British humour, but will post an answer if I come up with something.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 22:57
  • @Randal'Thor I would probably add something about how there's some sort of snobbery towards Manchester from the rest of England (I don't know English culture well enough to write a good answer, or else I would do so myself). But other than that, yep, that's the answer. (And jokes like these are one of the reason why I tend to dislike Pratchett's writing; they're just not creative or original or funny).
    – user111
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 1:32
  • I don't think Manchester is particularly looked down upon by the rest of England. By Londoners, maybe, or at least those who see everyone else in England as "country bumpkins".
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 1:33

3 Answers 3


Often with a Pratchett joke, if I don't 'get it', it is worth asking myself what Pratchett knew that I didn't, and the text often gives me a clue where to start looking. And the same applies here, though I don't know which text is Pratchett and which Gaiman.

Fourteenth-century minds, the lot of them. Spending years picking away at one soul. Admittedly it was craftsmanship, but you had to think differently these days.

P/G point us at a time period and associated quality and tell us that the mindset is out of date.
If craftsmanship is dated, what replaces it? Mass industrial production. And where was one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution? Manchester.

Friedrich Engels was the son of a German manufacturer and worked as his agent in their factory in Manchester. Here he developed his strong social conscience from his real experience of the city. This resulted in his work The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844, in which he writes:

Such is the Old Town of Manchester, and on re-reading my description, I am forced to admit that instead of being exaggerated, it is far from black enough to convey a true impression of the filth, ruin, and uninhabitableness, the defiance of all considerations of cleanliness, ventilation, and health which characterise the construction of this single district, containing at least twenty to thirty thousand inhabitants. And such a district exists in the heart of the second city of England, the first manufacturing city of the world. If any one wishes to see in how little space a human being can move, how little air - and such air! - he can breathe, how little of civilisation he may share and yet live, it is only necessary to travel hither. True, this is the Old Town, and the people of Manchester emphasise the fact whenever any one mentions to them the frightful condition of this Hell upon Earth; but what does that prove? Everything which here arouses horror and indignation is of recent origin, belongs to the industrial epoch.

I think the fact of Manchester's history is enough to explain Crowley's satisfaction with it, but the highlighted quote underlines the connection that P/G may have been making. Pratchett's later works Dodger, Snuff and Raising Steam all have strong themes of social justice and reinforce the idea that he would be familiar with Engels' work.

A couple of potentially corroborative details:

  • One of the worst areas was called 'Angel Meadow';

  • Engels translated to English is 'angels';

  • Crowley and Aziraphale are, of course, angels.

All of which leads me to conclude that this mordant reference isn't really a 'joke'.

  • That's an awesome answer. Interesting to see Pratchett and Gaiman referring to such old issues as well. Too bad the Annotated Pratchett File doesn't list this one, though :) Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 11:54
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    @Gallifreyan My recollection of my time on the alt.fan and alt.books boards was that the APF was a labour of love that sometimes overwhelmed its voluntary custodians. I know that several suggestions i made didn't make it in. Of course, they may just not have agreed with me!
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 12:46
  • One of the links was to mobile Wikipedia, and the other was a redirect through Google. I simply cut out the middle man, so to speak :D Sorry if I broke any of the edits you were doing at the time. Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 19:48
  • 2
    Well, I'll be the first to admit that I can be wrong sometimes. Nice answer.
    – user111
    Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 3:00
  • 4
    An interesting note to complement this answer: the Industrial Revolution was literally symbolised by "satanic mills" in the poetry of William Blake.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 17:53

As somebody who lives in Britain, we tend to just take the piss out of other people's towns, as a sort of joke. Manchester doesn't really have much there apart from architecture and it's football teams, but it was well known as being the first industrial city for a while, which would tie in with the quote of Hell being 14th century mind's, which was when the industrial revolution came about in Britain.

It is important to note though that Crowley isn't just a 'typical' demon. He makes things to annoy and inconvenience humans, such as taking down the phone lines in London for the evening, or creating the M25 for the sole purpose of it creating traffic. Therefore, Manchester can be taken with the same mindset - Crowley created it for the sole purpose of annoying humans.


According to Wikipedia:

During the 1980s, with the demise of many traditional industries under the radical economic restructuring often known as Thatcherism, the city and region experienced some decline. The revival started towards the end of the decade, catalysed, not only by wider growing prosperity in the UK but by the creative music industry. New institutions such as Factory Records and Fac 51 Hacienda earned the city the sobriquet Madchester.

Good Omens was published in 1990. Depending on their tastes, therefore, this could be a reference to Manchester’s “decline” in this period, or to the rave scene referred to as Madchester.

  • That's a very interesting explanation, I wasn't aware of this. Thank you for the answer! Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 18:15

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