Townships: Manchester (part 1 of 2)

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.

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'Townships: Manchester (part 1 of 2)', in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (London, 1911) pp. 222-230. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

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Mamucium, Mancunium, Anton. Itin.; Mameceaster, Manigeceaster, A. S. Chron. 923; Mamecestre, Dom. Bk.; this and Mamcestre were the usual spellings till about 1450, when Manchester appears. (fn. 1)

The township of Manchester, bounded on three sides—north, west, and south—mainly by the Irk, Irwell, and Medlock, has an area of 1,646 acres, including 27 acres of inland water. Formerly another small brook ran westward to join the Irwell to the south of the church; (fn. 2) and two others, the Tib (fn. 3) and Shooter, (fn. 4) flowed south-west, the former through the centre and the latter to the east, to join the Medlock; (fn. 5) but all have long been covered over. The physical features have been greatly obscured by the buildings which cover the surface, which is in general level, though rising steeply from the Irwell. The portion of the town between Shooter's Brook and the Medlock is called Ancoats. The north-east corner of the township, on the bank of the Irk, is Collyhurst; half-way between this and the cathedral lies Newtown. The population in 1901 numbered 132, 316.

In the north-west corner, at the junction of the Irk and the Irwell, stands Chetham's Hospital and Library, with Hunt's Bank to the west. The church, now the cathedral, stands in its cemetery, immediately to the south, the western tower overlooking the Irwell. At its south-west corner lies Victoria Bridge, representing the ancient bridge over the river to Salford. In the open space stands the Cromwell statue, erected in 1875. From the same point start Deansgate, leading south to Alport and Campfield near the Medlock, which river Deansgate crosses at Knott Bridge; and Victoria Street, a new thoroughfare, leading south-east to the Market Place. On the south side of the Market Place another main street of the city runs west to Blackfriars Bridge over the Irwell—being there called St. Mary's Gate and Blackfriars Street—and east and south-east towards Stockport—being called in turn Market Street, Piccadilly, and London Road. The Exchange Building stands in Market Street over against the old Market Place. From its west end may be seen St. Ann's Square, with the church to the south and a statue of Cobden in the centre; its east end stands in Cross Street, which leads past the old Nonconformist chapel and the Free Library to Albert Square, dominated by the new Town Hall. In the square are statues of Prince Albert, Bishop Fraser, W. E. Gladstone, John Bright, and Oliver Heywood. Piccadilly has the site of the infirmary on its southern side; in front are statues of Queen Victoria, Watt, Dalton, Wellington, and Peel.

From the infirmary Mosley Street, in which is the Art Gallery, runs south-west to St. Peter's Square, a little south of the Town Hall, and continues as Lower Mosley Street till it crosses the Medlock into Hulme at Gaythorn. From St. Peter's Square, Peter Street, in which is the Free Trade Hall, goes west to Deansgate; and Oxford Street, another great thoroughfare, goes south-east into Chorlton. Opposite the infirmary Oldham Street and Oldham Road (fn. 6) lead north-east towards Oldham.

In 1666 there were as many as 1,368 hearths liable to the tax; the largest dwelling was that of Mrs. Ruth Greene, which had eighteen hearths; the warden's house had fourteen. (fn. 7)

A great improvement in the appearance of the town was made in 1833 by the opening out of Hunt's Bank. (fn. 8) Some of the older streets remain comparatively unchanged. Cateaton Street and Todd Street lead from Victoria Bridge east and north to a bridge across the Irk near Victoria Station, encompassing the plot of land on which stand the cathedral and Chetham's Hospital. Between these buildings Fennel Street goes eastward and is continued as Withy Grove, Shude Hill, and Rochdale Road, which leads north through Collyhurst. The wide straight way called Corporation Street, formed about 1850, goes north from Market Street in continuation of Cross Street, to the former Ducie Bridge over the Irk, and thence continues as Cheetham Hill Road.

There are a large number of bridges over the rivers; (fn. 9) the Irk at Hunt's Bank has been covered over by the railway station.

Two of the principal railway stations (fn. 10) —Exchange and Victoria, first opened in 1844—are just outside the township, in Salford and Cheetham. The London and North Western Company has London Road Station in Ancoats, opened in 1840, the terminus of the line from Euston; (fn. 11) from this a branch line, made in 1849, runs near the southern boundary, crossing the windings of the Medlock and having stations at Oxford Street (named Oxford Road) and Knott Mill; it forms part of the separate Manchester and Altrincham Railway, but has a branch joining the line from Manchester to Liverpool at Ordsall Lane in Salford. The line just mentioned, the pioneer railway opened in 1830, originally had its terminus at Campfield; the station is used for goods traffic, and connected with Ordsall Lane. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company has two lines—to Leeds and to Rochdale— passing through the northern part of the township, with what is now a branch line to Oldham Road goods station; this station, opened in 1839, was the original terminus of the Manchester and Leeds Railway, (fn. 12) one of the principal constituents of the present company's system. The Great Central Company, originally the Manchester and Sheffield Railway, has, since its partial opening in 1841, had a share of London Road Station; the Midland Company has a goods station close by, named Ancoats, opened in 1870. The Great Northern has a goods station at Alport, close by the Central Station, which was opened in 1877 as the terminus of the railway of the Cheshire Lines Committee of the three companies last named; from it lines run to Liverpool and to Stockport.

The Bridgewater Canal has a wharf at Castlefield on the north bank of the Medlock. At the same point begins the Rochdale Canal, which proceeds east and north-east through the township. The Manchester, Ashton, and Stockport Canal begins near London Road Station and goes through Ancoats.

The Corporation Electric Tramways run through most of the principal streets, and on the west side are supplemented by the Salford tramways.

The open spaces in Manchester proper are comparatively few and small, with the exception of Queen's Park in Collyhurst. This was formerly known as the Hendham Hall Estate, (fn. 13) and was acquired by the Corporation in 1845. Adjoining is a cemetery, opened in 1837. Near the Irwell is the old St. Mary's Churchyard, called the Parsonage, and there are recreation grounds at Newtown, Collyhurst, Oldham Road, and Holt Town in Ancoats.

Chetham's Hospital, originally the college of Thomas La Warre, stands north of the cathedral on the site of the old hall of the lords of Manchester, at the north-west corner of the inclosure within which the ancient town was contained, and at the junction of the rivers Irk and Irwell. The situation was originally a strongly defensive one, the plateau upon which the buildings stood being upwards of 40 ft. above the ordinary levels of the rivers. Of the baron's hall, the predecessor of the present building, nothing is known, and attempts to prove that parts of the existing structure are earlier than the foundation of the college in 1422 have not been successful, though it is quite possible that some of the old stone and timber may have been used in the new 15thcentury building. The hospital as it now stands is, roughly speaking, [L]-shaped in plan, the longer arm facing north to the River Irk with a frontage of about 250ft. (fn. 14) The shorter west wing consists of a rectangular block of buildings erected round a small cloistered quadrangle with a frontage to the Irwell on the west side of about 105 ft. The living-rooms were arranged on the north, west, and south sides of the quadrangle, with dormitories over, and the great hall and warden's rooms occupied the east side. The long northern range of buildings contained the kitchen and offices, together with the guest-house, and has a short wing at the end running south-east, with a gatehouse to Long Millgate. The change in the surroundings of the hospital in recent years has been so great that it is now difficult to realize its original aspect, though the structure itself, apart from restoration, has undergone less change than might have been expected. Formerly standing high above the river bank, it presented a very picturesque appearance when approached from the north-west, but the growth of Manchester has surrounded it with tall buildings, altered the configuration of the ground around it by the making of new streets, and robbed it of all its external picturesqueness by the covering over of one river and the hiding of the other. The original character of the site is now no longer discernible, though some idea of the ancient appearance of the north side of the building may yet be gained from the narrow street on that side called Walkers Croft, which preserves in some measure the line of the path on the north side of the Irk. The buildings, which are of two stories, with walls of dressed red sandstone about 3 ft. thick, and roofs covered with stone slates, when seen from the playground on the south side have a low and rather undistinguished appearance, the line of the roofs being unbroken, and the walling having assumed the black hue so characteristic of Manchester. On this side the height of the walls to the eaves is only about 20 ft., but on the north the wall is 35 ft. high, the cellar being well lighted by windows towards the river. Apart from its greater height, however, the north front is architecturally more interesting from the fact of its being well broken up by projecting chimneys (fn. 15) and garderobes, and by a raised platform at the north-west corner with a flight of stairs descending to the river.

The plan of the building would possibly be determined in some measure by that of the formerlyexisting baron's hall, the line of which would most likely be fixed by the course of the two rivers. The northern range of buildings follows exactly the course of the Irk, lying rather north-west and south-east and not parallel with the church, which is set accurately east and west. The position of the main building round the quadrangle being once decided on, the length of the north wing would seem to have been determined by the gatehouse, which position was fixed by the street to which it opened—Long Millgate, then the principal thoroughfare from Manchester to the north. In the many changes which have taken place in recent years this street has lost its former importance, and the gatehouse, now overshadowed on both sides by the modern grammar-school buildings, is almost forgotten, the approach to the hospital being always from the south across the playground. Originally approached from the east, the chief entrance to the building proper was by the porch in the angle at the junction of the north and west wings; the door by which visitors now enter the library, if then in existence, being of minor importance.

The architectural evidence is not of itself sufficient to determine precisely the dates of the erection of the different parts of the building, but it is safe to say there is nothing earlier than 1422. How much was completed before the death of Thomas de la Warre in 1426, however (at which time he is recorded to have spent £3,000 on the buildings), it is impossible to say. It is likely that building operations were in progress for many years after this date, probably throughout the second quarter of the 15th century, and that one part was finished before another was begun, thus accounting for what are undoubtedly additions to the original building, but additions which appear to have been carried out within a comparatively short time of the foundation. Unfortunately many of the documents relating to the early history of the college perished in the Fire of London, and the feoffees' minute-book does not contain any records of alterations of importance during the earlier occupancy of the college as a hospital, though it is clear that considerable reconstruction must have then taken place.

After the dissolution of the collegiate body in 1547 the buildings were used by several members of the family of the Earl of Derby, into whose hands they passed, as a temporary residence, and that work was done at that time is evidenced by the presence of the Stanley badges in different parts; but after the sequestration of the Derby estates the buildings were allowed to fall into a dilapidated state, and were probably in a more or less ruinous condition when taken over by Humphrey Chetham's executors in 1654. The restoration at that time, however, besides putting the place in repair, involved considerable alterations in adapting the old college to its new use as a hospital and library. The chief of these changes—the staircase in the north-east of the quadrangle and the conversion of the dormitories into a library—are clearly evident. The gateway in Long Millgate was rebuilt in 1816, and in recent years (1883–95) the buildings have been thoroughly restored.

The work done between these latter dates included the restoration of the dining-hall, reading-room, library, kitchen, dormitories, cloister, stairs, house, governor's room, the rebuilding of the ingle-nook in the hall. The cost was borne by Oliver and Charles James Heywood.

The chief feature of the building is the quadrangle round which the fellows' rooms and the great hall are grouped, which measures 40 ft. in length from north to south. Its width is 20ft., but was probably in the first instance more, a good many changes having apparently taken place on the east side where the hall is situated. The cloisters themselves have been thought to be an addition, the supposition, however, being chiefly based on a portion of what appears to be an older plinth at the north-east corner, now partly hidden by the 17th-century staircase, which is of different height, and chamfered instead of being moulded. This plinth, but hollow-chamfered, recurs at the south-east corner at the end of the south wall, and is returned as far as the present east wall of the quadrangle, supporting the theory that the stone stairs from the hall to the reading-room are part of the first building. The difficulties of assigning dates to the various parts of the building round the quadrangle, however, are great, and it is, perhaps, safest to assume that the work was more or less continuous, but that changes were made from time to time in the originally-planned arrangement. It is unreasonable to suppose that the doors to the living-rooms were meant to open straight on to the quadrangle, and unless we assume some such proposition the cloister on the north, west, and south sides must have been part of the original intention. The rooms are 16 ft. square, with windows facing outwards, and each with a separate door to the cloister. Those on the north, three in number, are now used as offices or servants' rooms in connexion with the hospital, while the three rooms on the west are in use for various purposes connected with the library. The room in the south-west corner has been altered by the erection in part of it of a new staircase to the library over, this staircase being that used by visitors to the reading-room. The larger room on the south side is now divided into two, one of which is called the teachers' and the other the muniment room. The cloister walk is 6ft. 6 in. wide with stone-flagged floor and oak ceiling, and has an upper walk giving access in a similar way to that below to the separate dormitories. If the cloister had been an afterthought, as is sometimes stated, this would mean that the dormitories could have had no separate entrances; and though this in itself is not unlikely, it at the same time makes the upper doorways of the rooms to be of later date than the wall, of which there is no evidence. It seems reasonable to believe, therefore, that the upper cloister, like the one below, was part of the original plan. On the west side the cloister consists of six bays, each with a three-light window under a plain four-centred arch without a label, the lights having cinquefoiled heads. The windows are separated by buttresses of two stages running up to within 3 ft. of the eaves, and in the upper story there is a window of two trefoiled lights in each alternate bay. The south side of the cloister consists of three similar bays, but on the north the introduction of the staircase has reduced the number to two, the destroyed bay being probably that in which the entrance to the quadrangle was situated. The present entrance is by a modern doorway cut through the second window from the south on the west side. The east side is occupied by the projecting inglenook and recess of the great hall with the staircase adjoining, leading over the cloister walls to the warden's rooms. There seem to have been a good many alterations on this side of the court from time to time, and the ingle-nook has been entirely rebuilt in recent years; but it is not at all certain that the west wall of the hall originally ran right through and that the staircase is a later addition, although the manner in which the buttress of the cloister finishes against it suggests an alteration of some sort. The staircase, however, and the room over it, belong to the days of the college, though they may be considerably later than 1422. The quadrangle with its cobble-stone pavement and old well-head, though small, is a very charming feature of the building, its walls not having been so thoroughly restored as those of other parts, though some portions of the stonework of the windows have been renewed. Some of the old wooden lattices with which the windows were once filled are yet in existence.

The great hall, which is paved with stone flags, is 43 ft. 6 in. long by 24 ft. wide, 22 ft. in height from the floor to the wall-plate, and about 35 ft. to the ridge. The roof is open-timbered and divided into three bays by two principals, between which are solid framed spars, and the walls are of dressed stone their entire height. The screens are at the north end, entered through the porch on the east, with the usual two doorways and buttery and pantry on the north, and at the south end is the dais with a fine panelled and battlemented canopy over. The oak screen is simple in detail, and only 7 ft. in height, of contemporary date with the hall, but with a later embattled cresting. It is a very good early example, consisting of two speres set against the walls, and a movable middle length. There are no remains of a gallery over it, and in the first instance it probably had none. The room is lit by three two-light mullioned and transomed windows on the east side, and has a small dole-window at the end of the high table on the same side. The opposite wall is almost wholly occupied by the ingle-nook, about 11ft. wide and 12 ft. deep, forming an irregular octagon, curiously twisted to the south, possibly to allow room for the former doorway at the north-east of the quadrangle. The fireplace was originally on the west side, but in the recent rebuilding it has been changed to the north, and the roof of the ingle vaulted in stone. The ingle-nook recess has a deep stone lintel 5 ft. 10 in. high, over which is a relieving arch, and is lit by two small windows to the quadrangle. Above on either side is a two-light pointed window with cinquefoiled heads and wide splays placed high in the west wall, and immediately adjoining it on the south close to the dais is the bay window, 7 ft. wide and 6 ft. deep, forming a kind of alcove between the ingle and the adjoining stone staircase and the warden's room. This staircase leads immediately from the west end of the high table, and is carried on a stone vault over the east end of the south cloister; it has already been mentioned.

South of the great hall, and originally gained from it by a door from the dais, is a room now called the Audit or Feoffees' Room, originally, perhaps, a kind of great chamber or minor hall, or more likely the common room. It is 23 ft. by 24 ft. and 12 ft. high, and has a square bay window on the east side 5 ft. 6 in. wide by 6 ft. deep. The ceiling is crossed each way by two well-moulded beams with carved bosses at the intersections, forming nine panels, having diagonal mouldings, and apparently of 15th-century date. The walls are panelled in oak, 8 ft. high, above which is a deep floriated 17th-century plaster frieze, and the room contains a good deal of interesting furniture.

The arrangement of the kitchen and offices at the north end of the hall follows no accepted type of plan, though the pantry and buttery, opening immediately from the screens, are in their usual place. The exigencies of the site, however, and the determining factors already alluded to, are presumably responsible for the disposition of the kitchen and other offices, which lie almost detached in the north range of buildings with no other way of communication to the hall than through the porch. The position of the kitchen, if it is the original one, and there seems to be no other part of the building where it could have been situated, is certainly unusual, but there is scarcely sufficient warrant to allow of the suggestion sometimes put forward, that it formed an older great hall, or that it was ever put to any other use than at present. It is 29 ft. long by 17 ft. wide, with walls of stone, and is open to the roof, with a wide open fireplace on the north side (now fitted with modern appliances) and lighted by two tiers of windows on the south. High up in the west wall is a hole, apparently for inspection, opening into a room on the upper floor, now the house-governor's bedroom, while at the opposite end in the south-east corner is a series of arches forming the covering to a narrow staircase now blocked up, but which formed the only access to a cellar, and to a small room on the same level as the kitchen beyond it eastward. On the floor of the cellar east of the kitchen is a stone with the outline of a snake cut on it, in memory of an encounter with a formidable serpent, related in the novel, The Manchester Man, the scene of which is laid here. Between the pantry and the kitchen a door leads from the porch by a broad flight of stone steps to the cellars, which, as before stated, owing to the fall of the ground are amply lighted along the north side, and whose ceilings are supported by massive oak beams. Beyond the kitchen eastward is a passage through the building, the width of which is here only 23 ft., to a raised platform on the north side, which now forms an approach to a modern addition originally a schoolroom, but now a workshop and gymnasium. The platform, however, which is about 15 ft. above the ground on the north side, appears to belong to the ancient building, and had a flight of steps leading from it down to the river. Beyond this to the east were apparently the hospitium, bakehouse, and wayfarers' and servants' dormitories, rooms now used on the ground floor for various school purposes, and above as the boys' dormitories. The roofs of these latter rooms, which extend the whole length of the eastern range, from the kitchen and the gatehouse, are fine and massive, the arrangement at the skew angle on the north-east being very well contrived by means of an angle principal. Adjoining the gatehouse on the ground floor on the north side is a small porter'sroom with a narrow slit window facing the street. The room over the gatehouse, now approached by a later flight of outside steps as well as from the dormitory, may have served as a hospital, but it has been suggested that it may have been a chapel, and the angle at which the room is built being about east and west, lends some likelihood to the supposition.

Before the erection of the staircase in the northeast corner of the quadrangle, the way to the dormitories in the upper floor seems to have been by stairs at the opposite or north-west corner, in the space now forming the west end of the long corridor which runs along the whole length of the main building through the hall screens and the north cloister. The framing of the ceiling beams at this point indicates such an arrangement, and beyond the staircase at the end of the passage a door led on to a garden or small court where the fish-pond was formerly situated. The 17th-century staircase, erected after the building had been acquired by Humphrey Chetham's executors, is a handsome piece of Jacobean work with flat pierced balusters against the walls, lit by windows to the quadrangle, and with one of the upper windows of the great hall on its east side. The upper rooms on the north side of the cloister and hall are now occupied by the house-governor and librarian, the house-governor's room being a charming apartment with two windows facing north and an open timbered roof lately laid bare. From the bedroom beyond a door gives access to a small room over a porch, and on the north side is an old garderobe projection. There is another in front of the librarian's rooms, and at the extreme north-west angle of the building opening from the corner room (now part of the library) is an external door with pointed head leading on to a platform raised some 25 ft. above the river bank, forming the roof of a small north-west wing from which on the ground floor a flight of steps led down to the lake. The dormitories, which originally were separate rooms with divisions stopping short of the roof, which was continuous and open, are now thrown into two long rooms facing respectively west and south, forming the library proper. This consists of a series of reading recesses or compartments formed by the bookcases standing at right angles to the external walls, and entered from a corridor on the inside by latticed doors. The bookcases originally stood only about 7 ft. high, or the height of the doors, but were raised in the 18th century. The series of wide square-headed three-light windows which light the library recesses are of late date, but the original open timber roof, similar to that of the hall, remains. At the north end of the west library corridor there is a piece of late 14th-century glass representing St. Martin of Tours and the beggar, in a frame in front of the window, together with a 17th-century fragment, the subject of which is Eutychus falling from the window. The south wing of the library is sometimes styled the chapel of St. Mary, but there seems to be no reason to suppose that it was ever so used in college times, and if a chapel was ever situated there it must have been during the Derby occupancy, or afterwards, when the buildings were put to various uses, including those of a Presbyterian and Independent meeting-house. The east end of the room, however, shows a portion of a 17th-century altar-rail and a bracket in the wall above, which, if they belong to the building at all, would seem to indicate the latter part of the Derby residence. The upper cloister is now used on the west and south side for storing books, and the north side forms a corridor. At the east end of the south cloister is a doorway opening on to the landing at the top of the stone steps from the great hall to the warden's room (now the reading-room of the library), which is situated immediately over the audit-room. There is also a later door to this room from the end of the library corridor adjoining, by which it is now usually entered. The room is the same shape as that below, with a similar square bay window on the east side, but has an open timbered roof of framed spars divided into two bays by a single central principal. During the Derby occupancy the spars were plastered over and a plain elliptical-shaped ceiling inserted, closely following the line of the spandrel over the fireplace at the north end of the room, which is of slightly later date, having been erected in honour of Humphrey Chetham by his executors, probably in the early years of the reign of Charles II. The wall plate, which is about 10 ft. high, is moulded and of oak, and apparently of the time of la Warre's foundation, but it is ornamented with the Derby badge of an eagle's claw and with portcullises, and the panelling which goes all round the room to the wall-plate is of 17th-century date. Over the mantelpiece is a portrait of Humphrey Chetham, and in the plaster spandrel above are displayed his arms with helm and mantling. The bay window has an elaborately vaulted plaster ceiling, with bosses ornamented with the Derby badges, but apparently of comparatively modern date, and the room contains a good deal of 17th-century furniture, and makes, perhaps, the most charming apartment in the whole building. In the bay is a table at which Harrison Ainsworth is said to have written several of his novels; (fn. 16) the connexion with Sir Walter Raleigh which is claimed for it must unfortunately be ruled out. A tall clock case with a barometer dated 1695, and given by an old scholar of the hospital, Nicholas Clegg, is a more genuine relic. In the north-west corner a door in the wainscot leads by a second outer door of two thicknesses (2¼ in.), under a four-centred stone arch, through a passage in the thickness of the wall to a small room, about 12 ft. long by 5 ft. wide, built over the stair and bay window of the hall with a range of windows on the west side to the quadrangle. The opposite or east side seems to have been originally open to the hall, a heavy oak beam, with wall posts and curved brackets, being still in position, the posts cut away about 4 ft. from the floor, probably giving the height of a rail or balustrade. At a later time the opening has been filled in with a narrow stone wall pierced by two quatrefoil openings, but what purpose the gallery or room originally served is not at all clear, and the date of the stone filling is equally a matter of conjecture, but it seems most likely that it was in the first instance a gallery open to the hall and was later turned into a private room, at which time, perhaps, the range of windows to the quadrangle assumed their present aspect. These windows, so noticeable a feature from the outside, preclude the idea that the room was intended as a hiding-place.

Poets' Corner

In 1878 a new school building was erected on the west side of the open space (playground), south of the hospital buildings, from the design of Mr. Alfred Waterhouse.

The original foundation was for forty boys, but as the endowment became more productive the number was gradually increased till 100 was reached. Lately, however, in consequence of the decline in the value of land and the increased cost of education the foundation boys have numbered only seventy-five.

The growth of the town has caused the destruction of nearly all the old gabled timber-and-plaster houses which were characteristic of Manchester streets at the beginning of the 19th century. Up to 1822, when the first widening took place, Market Street was chiefly composed of houses of this description, erected mostly in the 17th century, with here and there a later 18th-century brick building. One or two of such timber houses still remain, however, notably that in Long Millgate, formerly the Sun Inn, but now known as 'Poets' Corner,' which bears outside the date 1647 and the initials WAF; and the Seven Stars Inn, Withy Grove, which preserves its old timber gable to the street. Further up, in Shudehill, the Rover's Return Inn (fn. 17) also retains an old gable, but the front has been modernized by the insertion of a large bay window on both floors. In the Market Place, at the corner of the Shambles, is a picturesque old timber house with a gable on each elevation, now completely overshadowed by adjoining buildings.

The Seven Stars Inn

A fair number of good 18th-century brick houses yet remain, more especially in the district between Deansgate and the River Irwell, (fn. 18) many of them in the vicinity of St. John's Church being little altered and still used as residences, but in other parts less removed from the business centre of the town they have been turned into offices or even common lodging-houses. These houses, plain in detail but of good proportion, generally have well-designed doorways, and often contain fittings belonging to better days.

Of the many handsome buildings which Manchester possesses the majority are either civic or commercial, but as a rule they are seen to less advantage than in most towns of similar size owing in a large measure to a certain lack of plan in the city itself, which is very wanting in wide and open spaces. (fn. 19) The atmosphere of the city, also, which turns all stone black in the course of a few years, is antagonistic to architectural work of the best kind.

The older public buildings of modern Manchester belong to the classic style, and are exemplified in the old Town Hall in King Street, now the Free Reference Library (F. Goodwin, architect, 1825), a characteristic specimen of the Greek Ionic of the period; the Royal Institution, now the City Art Gallery, in Mosley Street (Sir Charles Barry, architect, 1823), a fine design in which the same order is used, but with more refinement; the Athenaeum (Sir Charles Barry, architect, 1838) in Princess Street, a broad, simple and refined building now grievously damaged by the addition of a high attic with slate roof; and the Bank of England in King Street (C. R. Cockerell, architect, 1846), a heavy specimen of mixed Greek and Roman Doric.

To this period also belonged the old Royal Infirmary in Piccadilly (R. Lane, architect), in which the Ionic order was used in the portico. (fn. 20) The building occupied the finest site in Manchester, and despite its lack of architectural distinction, had a certain monumental quality that gave scale and dignity to the open space in which it stood. It was pulled down in 1910.

A new infirmary is now completed in Oxford Road (Chorlton township).

The Free Trade Hall in Peter Street (E. Walters, architect, 1856) is a good example of Renaissance design, now much spoiled by the addition of a glass veranda in front of the open arcade on the ground floor. The front consists of two well-marked stories about 70 ft. high with a heavy cornice, and the interior contains a great hall which has seats for 3,236 persons.

In later years a Gothic tradition was set up by the erection in Strangeways (in Cheetham township) of the new Assize Courts (A. Waterhouse, architect, 1864), a fine building of its kind, standing back from the road on an uncontracted site of which full advantage was taken. The elevation is rather florid, with little of the restraint of the architect's later work, but much of the best work is in the interior, not only in the matter of planning, which is admirable, but of general design and ornamental detail. The City Court House, in Minshull Street (T. Worthington, architect, 1871), is a brick building of a pronouncedly Italian Gothic style, set in a region of tall warehouses at the junction of two narrow streets, but saved from insignificance by the fine tower which rises from the pavement at the outer angle.

The Town Hall (A. Waterhouse, architect, 1868– 77), in Albert Square, described as 'one of the very few really satisfactory buildings of modern times,' (fn. 21) is purely Gothic in style, but less elaborate and far more dignified than the Assize Courts, being based rather upon early English and French precedents than upon those of Italy. The ashlar facing is of brown sandstone, now black, but in remarkably good condition after thirty-five years' exposure, disposed in blocks varying in size but regularly laid in courses of deep and very narrow stones alternately. The chief external feature of the building is the clock tower, which is carried up over the principal entrance facing Albert Square, and is 280 ft. in height. The plan is an irregular triangle, all three sides facing important thoroughfares, with a truncated angle or short front opposite to the state entrance. The building is widely known and generally admired as a masterly feat of planning, the offices and rooms being arranged round three internal courts, and corridors running in unbroken lines round the building on every floor following the inner sides of the main triangle. The great hall, which occupies the centre of the block on the first floor level, is 100 ft. long by 50 ft. wide, with a hammer-beam roof 58 ft. high, and the lower part of the walls is enriched by a series of twelve paintings by Ford Madox Brown, illustrating events in local history, each painting occupying the width of one bay beneath the windows. (fn. 22)

Albert Square, which is somewhat narrow for its length, shows the Gothic influence in buildings on its south side and in the canopy for the Albert Statue, but it is otherwise architecturally uninteresting. The Royal Exchange (Mills and Murgatroyd, architects, 1871) indicates a return to the classic tradition, the Corinthian order being used, but it is a building without particular distinction, and is set too near to the pavement on every side to be effectively seen, and has no direct line of approach to its main entrance. The dome, its chief constructional and architectural feature when seen at a distance, is effectually and deliberately concealed by a high blank upper story.

The John Rylands Library, built in memory of her husband by Mrs. Rylands (Basil Champneys, architect, 1890–99), is a fine structure in the Gothic style, built in red sandstone with a boldly original exterior to Deansgate, set back at a peculiar angle to the building line of the street. The library proper is placed on the upper floor, and on the ground floor the whole of the front part of the building is taken up with a spacious vaulted vestibule, and a wide staircase. The library consists of a centre corridor, 125 ft. long and 20 ft. wide, terminating in an apse, and has a groined stone roof 44 ft. high. It is divided into eight bays used as reading recesses, and each with a bay window, and a gallery runs completely round the central space, giving access to other book recesses above. The fittings throughout are of the most lavish character, and the interior is decorated with a series of portrait statues ranged in niches along the gallery front, as well as with carving and stained glass. The library contains over 80,000 volumes, including the famous Althorp Library purchased from Earl Spencer in 1892, and additions are being constantly made. It is particularly rich in early printed books and in Bibles.

The older warehouses were plain structures built in brick, but about the middle of last century a number of such buildings, which, in addition to being ordinary warehouses, were also the head offices of the firm, were erected in the centre of the town, possessing no little architectural merit. Many streets are composed almost entirely of these buildings, which, being constructed of stone, are now black, but their large scale and long frontages give them great dignity, Portland Street in this respect offering a very fine vista of unbroken line. The later warehouse buildings are chiefly constructed in brick and terra cotta, and steel construction has now largely superseded the older methods.

In addition to these and a number of churches and schools, there are many important and useful structures. The Corporation provides libraries, technical schools, markets, and other public buildings. There is a Central Post Office off Market Street; the Inland Revenue Office is in Deansgate. Besides the infirmary there are numerous hospitals and charitable institutions. (fn. 23) The Nonconformists' Memorial Hall in Albert Square, intended to commemorate the steadfastness of various ministers ejected from benefices in 1662, and the Young Men's Christian Association building in Peter Street—about to be rebuilt—may also be mentioned. There are many theatres and music halls.

The woollen and cloth trades and the manufacture of smallwares appear to have been the original staple business of the town. There were also collieries at Ancoats and Collyhurst. (fn. 24) An iron foundry was established in the 18th century. (fn. 25) The first calico printer occurs in 1763. (fn. 26) A sugar refinery existed in 1758. (fn. 27) There was a silk weaver in the town in 1637. (fn. 28) A tobacco-pipe maker in Todd Lane was in 1785 ordered to remove his works, as being a nuisance. (fn. 29) Manchester is the centre of the cotton manufacture, with its immense number of factories, bleach and dye works, and calico-printing works; smallwares continue to be an important part of the trade of the district, while iron foundries, engine and machine and tool-making works are numerous and important. Some of these factories and works are within the township of Manchester itself along the rivers and canals and in Ancoats, but the distinguishing feature is the large number of great warehouses for the exhibition and storing of the manifold products of the district.


The history of the barony of Manchester from its foundation in the early part of the 12th century until its gradual dissolution in the 17th has been related in detail in an earlier portion of the present work. (fn. 30)


  • 1. On the ancient name see Engl. Hist. Rev. xv, 495.
  • 2. See a former note on Hanging Bridge.
  • 3. An official description of the course of this concealed stream is given in Manch. Guardian N. and Q. no. 413; roughly its course is parallel to Mosley Street on the east side. It joins the Medlock to the west of the Gaythorn Gasworks. It was covered over in 1783.
  • 4. This brook forms part of the boundary between Newton and Ancoats; then flows south-west, crossing London Road at the junction of Store Street, and joining the Medlock near the west end of Granby Row.
  • 5. The bed of the Medlock is stated to be 14 ft. higher than its old level; Manch. Guard. N. and Q. no. 527.
  • 6. At the entrance of Oldham Road (formerly Newton Lane) stood New Cross, taken down in 1821. Suicides used to be buried there; ibid. no. 1051.
  • 7. a Subsidy R. 250/9. Among the larger houses—some of them being inns—were those of Jonas Ridge fifteen hearths, Philip Stampe thirteen, Mrs. Mary Halliwell and John Lightbowne twelve each, Edward Mosley, Mrs. Isabel Mosley, John Holbrook, George Venables, Samuel Dickenson, and Nicholas Mosley, ten each; there were also five houses of nine hearths, seven of eight, nine of seven, twenty-four of six, thirty-four of five, fifty-eight of four, and seventy-five of three.
  • 8. b Before the change the Irk 'was crossed by a narrow bridge, leading to a street sufficiently wide for only two carts to pass, having tall grimy buildings at the left or College side, and a series of cottages and workshops at the right, with here and there an opening by means of which a glimpse of the Irwell could be obtained. The buildings along the river were continued, and piled step above step from the stream to the churchyard above, and reached quite to the then existing Old Bridge. At the north-west corner of the present churchyard, or a little north of it, a flight of steps gave access to a flagged pathway leading round the churchyard, a portion of which still [1865] exists on the east and south sides; and foot passengers from Broughton could reach the Exchange by this path, either by way of Hanging Ditch and the narrow confined lane called Smithy Door, or by Churchgates, Short Millgate, and the Market Place, both these routes being almost completely blocked up on market days. Carts and coaches from Broughton had then to turn abruptly to the left at the upper end of Hunt's Bank, and to proceed by way of Fennel Street and Long Millgate to the market place, following a narrow and tortuous course throughout the whole distance'; Reilly, Manch. 346. In 1869 the corporation obtained an Act authorizing the alteration of Deansgate; this has accordingly been widened and made straight, and the old Smithy Door destroyed, bringing Victoria Street to its present condition.
  • 9. See p. 182 above.
  • 10. a An account of the Manch. Railways by W. Harrison, reprinted from the City News, 1882, has been made use of in the text.
  • 11. It was known as Bank Top Station. From 1837 Manchester passengers had been able to go to London by way of Warrington and Birmingham.
  • 12. a Opened as far as Littleborough in 1839, and to Leeds in 1841; the Oldham Road Station was superseded by Victoria.
  • 13. For the builder of Hendham Hall (William Dinwiddie, 1789), see Lancs. and Ches. Antiq. Notes, i, 24.
  • 14. a Another description with plan may be seen in Pal. Note Bk. iii, 160.
  • 15. b The great kitchen chimney was entirely rebuilt in 1902.
  • 16. c Ainsworth lived and worked in London after 1824.
  • 17. The 'Rover's Return' is said to have formed a portion either of Withingreave Hall or of one of its outbuildings.
  • 18. a There are also some good houses of this description in Marsden Square, Cannon Street, and vicinity, now turned into offices and business premises, and outside the township in Ardwick Square.
  • 19. Piccadilly is an exception, but no adequate architectural advantage has as yet been taken of it. Albert Square, a new creation to show off the Town Hall, is not large enough for the purpose for which it was designed.
  • 20. a The original Infirmary building was erected in 1755, and consisted of a central block flanked by two small wings. After several additions and extensions a new front was added in 1832. The dome was a later addition, in 1853.
  • 21. The Builder, 7 Nov. 1896, 'The Architecture of our large Provincial Towns; Manchester.' The writer further states, 'In after years it will probably be accounted one of the most excellent works which the 19th century has bequeathed to its successors.'
  • 22. a W. E. A. Axon, Archit. Descr. of the Town Hall, 1878.
  • 23. See the list given in the general account of Manchester.
  • 24. Manch. Guardian N. and Q. no. 173, 217.
  • 25. Procter, Manch. Streets, 44; the proprietor, John Fletcher, died in 1785.
  • 26. William Jordan; see Pal. Note Bk. iv, 140.
  • 27. Manch. Constables' Accts. iii, 92.
  • 28. Manch. Ct. Leet Rec. iii, 260.
  • 29. Ibid. viii, 247.
  • 30. V.C.H. Lancs. i, 326–34. The court leet records show that as late as 1734 the constables of townships within the ancient barony were summoned to attend at Manchester, but they paid no attention to the summons; Manch. Ct. Leet Rec. vii, 25, 27. The practice of summoning the constables appears to have begun about 1625 (ibid. iii, 99), perhaps in consequence of the claims of the Salford Court for the attendance of the constables of Manchester; ibid. iv, 126, and a note below.