Manchester Town Hall

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Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall from Lloyd St.jpg
General information
Type Town hall
Architectural style Gothic Revival / High Victorian Gothic
Location Manchester, England
AddressTown Hall
Albert Square
Manchester
M2 5DB
Construction started1868
Completed1877
Inaugurated13 September 1877 [1]
Cost£775,000 [2] – £1,000,000 [3] (£70,320,000 to 90,730,000 as of 2019 [4] )
Owner Manchester City Council
HeightClock tower – 280 feet (85 m)
Technical details
Floor count6
Design and construction
Architect Alfred Waterhouse

Manchester Town Hall is a Victorian, Neo-gothic municipal building in Manchester, England. It is the ceremonial headquarters of Manchester City Council and houses a number of local government departments. The building faces Albert Square to the north and St Peter's Square to the south, with Manchester Cenotaph facing its southern entrance.

Victorian era Period of British history encompassing Queen Victorias reign

In the history of the United Kingdom, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria's reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian period, and its later half overlaps with the first part of the Belle Époque era of Continental Europe. In terms of moral sensibilities and political reforms, this period began with the passage of the Reform Act 1832. There was a strong religious drive for higher moral standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodist, and the Evangelical wing of the established Church of England. Britain's relations with the other Great Powers were driven by the colonial antagonism of the Great Game with Russia, climaxing during the Crimean War; a Pax Britannica of international free trade was maintained by the country's naval and industrial supremacy. Britain embarked on global imperial expansion, particularly in Asia and Africa, which made the British Empire the largest empire in history. National self-confidence peaked.

Gothic Revival architecture Architectural movement

Gothic Revival is an architectural movement popular in the Western world that began in the late 1740s in England. Its momentum grew in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time. Gothic Revival draws features from the original Gothic style, including decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood moulds and label stops.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. With a population of 545,500 (2017) it is the sixth largest city in the United Kingdom. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council.

Contents

Designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse, the town hall was completed in 1877. The building contains offices and grand ceremonial rooms such as the Great Hall which is decorated with Ford Madox Brown's imposing Manchester Murals illustrating the history of the city. The entrance and Sculpture Hall contain busts and statues of influential figures including Dalton, Joule and Barbirolli. The exterior is dominated by the clock tower which rises to 280 feet (85 m) and houses Great Abel, the clock bell.

Alfred Waterhouse British architect

Alfred Waterhouse was an English architect, particularly associated with the Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. He is perhaps best known for his design for Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London, although he also built a wide variety of other buildings throughout the country. Financially speaking, Waterhouse was probably the most successful of all Victorian architects. Though expert within Neo-Gothic, Renaissance revival and Romanesque revival styles, Waterhouse never limited himself to a single architectural style.

Ford Madox Brown 19th-century English painter

Ford Madox Brown was a French-born British painter of moral and historical subjects, notable for his distinctively graphic and often Hogarthian version of the Pre-Raphaelite style. Arguably, his most notable painting was Work (1852–1865). Brown spent the latter years of his life painting the twelve works known as The Manchester Murals, depicting Mancunian history, for Manchester Town Hall.

<i>The Manchester Murals</i>

The Manchester Murals are a series of twelve paintings by Ford Madox Brown in the Great Hall of Manchester Town Hall and are based on the history of Manchester. Following the success of Brown's painting Work he was commissioned to paint six murals for its Great Hall. Another six murals were to be completed by Frederic Shields who later withdrew, leaving Brown to complete all twelve works. The murals were begun in 1879, towards the end of Brown's career, but were not completed until 1893, the year he died. During this period he moved from London to Manchester with his family, first living in Crumpsall and then Victoria Park.

In 1938, a detached Town Hall Extension was completed and is connected by two covered bridges over Lloyd Street. The town hall was designated as a Grade I listed building on 25 February 1952.

Manchester Town Hall Extension

Manchester Town Hall Extension was built between 1934 and 1938 to provide additional accommodation for local government services. It was built between St Peter's Square and Lloyd Street in Manchester city centre, England. English Heritage designated it a grade II* listed building on 3 October 1974. Its eclectic style was designed to be a link between the ornate Gothic Revival Manchester Town Hall and the Classical architecture of the Central Library.

Listed building Protected historic structure in the United Kingdom

A listed building, or listed structure, is one that has been placed on one of the four statutory lists maintained by Historic England in England, Historic Environment Scotland in Scotland, Cadw in Wales, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.

History

Old Town Hall

The original Manchester Town Hall Manchester Old Town Hall.JPG
The original Manchester Town Hall

Manchester's original civic administration was housed in the Police Office in King Street. It was replaced by the first Town Hall, to accommodate the growing local government and its civic assembly rooms. The Town Hall, also located in King Street at the corner of Cross Street, was designed by Francis Goodwin and constructed during 1822–25, much of it by David Bellhouse. The building was designed with a screen of Ionic columns across a recessed centre, in a classicising manner strongly influenced by John Soane. The building was 134 feet (41 m) long and 76 feet (23 m) deep, the ground floor housed committee rooms and offices for the Chief Constable, Surveyor, Treasurer, other officers and clerks. The first floor held the Assembly Rooms. The building and land cost £39,587. [5]

King Street, Manchester road in Manchester city center, England

King Street is one of the most important thoroughfares of Manchester city centre, England. Formerly the centre of the north-west banking industry it has become progressively dominated by expensive shops.

Francis Goodwin was an English architect.

David Bellhouse (1764–1840) was an English builder who did much to shape Victorian-era Manchester, both physically and socially.

As the size and wealth of the city grew, largely as a result of the textile industry, its administration outstripped the existing facilities, and a new building was proposed. The King Street building was subsequently occupied by a lending library and then Lloyds Bank. The facade was removed to Heaton Park in 1912, when a bank, 53 King Street was erected on the site. [6]

Heaton Park municipal park in Manchester, England

Heaton Park is a municipal park in Manchester, England, covering an area of over 600 acres (242.8 ha). The park includes the grounds of a Grade I listed, neoclassical 18th century country house, Heaton Hall. The hall, remodelled by James Wyatt in 1772, is now only open to the public on an occasional basis as a museum and events venue.

53 King Street Edwardian Baroque bank on King Street in Manchester, England

53 King Street is an Edwardian Baroque bank on King Street in Manchester, England. Designed by architect Charles Heathcote, it opened in 1913 and was granted Grade II listed building status in 1974. It used to house a branch of Lloyds TSB. In 2009, the building was sold for £6 million. The building stands on the site of the old Manchester Town Hall.

New town hall

Detail of facades by Alfred Waterhouse Manchester Town Hall working drawings.jpg
Detail of façades by Alfred Waterhouse
Cross section drawing by Waterhouse Manchester Town Hall Cross Section Drawing.jpg
Cross section drawing by Waterhouse

Planning for the new town hall began in 1863. Manchester Corporation demanded it be, 'equal if not superior, to any similar building in the country at any cost which may be reasonably required'. [7] The choice of location was influenced by a desire to provide a central, accessible, but relatively quiet site in a respectable district, close to Manchester's banks and municipal offices, next to a large open area, suitable for the display of a fine building. [8] After investigating suitable sites, including Piccadilly, an oddly shaped plot facing Albert Square was chosen. [9] The Albert Square frontage measures 323 feet (98 m), Lloyd Street is 350 feet (107 m), Princess Street the longest at 383 feet (117 m) and Cooper Street measures 94 feet (29 m). On this tight site, the corporation built a grand hall, a suite of reception rooms, quarters for the lord mayor, offices and a council chamber. [1]

Piccadilly Gardens

Piccadilly Gardens is a green space in Manchester city centre, England, between Market Street and the edge of the Northern Quarter. Piccadilly runs eastwards from the junction of Market Street with Mosley Street to the junction of London Road with Ducie Street; to the south are the gardens and paved areas. The area was reconfigured in 2002 with a water feature and concrete pavilion by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

Albert Square, Manchester public square in Manchester, England

Albert Square is a public square in the centre of Manchester, England. It is dominated by its largest building, the Grade I listed Manchester Town Hall, a Victorian Gothic building by Alfred Waterhouse. Other smaller buildings from the same period surround it, many of which are listed.

The second stage of a competition to design the town hall which attracted 137 entries was judged by Thomas Leverton Donaldson, a classicist, and gothicist George Edmund Street. The eight finalists were Waterhouse, William Lee, Speakman & Charlesworth, Cuthbert Brodrick, Thomas Worthington, John Oldrid Scott, Thomas Henry Wyatt and Edward Salomons. [10] In terms of design and aesthetics, Waterhouse's proposal was placed fourth behind those of Speakman & Charlesworth, Oldrid Scott and Worthington [11] but his design was considered much superior for its architectural quality, layout and use of light and he was appointed architect on 1 April 1868. [12]

The foundation stone was laid on 26 October 1868 by the Mayor, Robert Neill. Construction took nine years and used 14 million bricks. [13] Estimates for the cost of construction vary from £775,000 [2] to around £1,000,000 [3] translating to between £70,320,000 and £90,730,000 in 2019 [4] . When Queen Victoria refused to attend, Manchester Town Hall was opened on 13 September 1877 by the mayor, Abel Heywood, who had championed the project. [14]

Town Hall Extension

The Town Hall Extension to the west of the Town Hall, designed by E. Vincent Harris and completed in 1934. Town Hall Extension Manchester.jpg
The Town Hall Extension to the west of the Town Hall, designed by E. Vincent Harris and completed in 1934.

In 1927, a competition to design the Town Hall Extension was won by Emanuel Vincent Harris, the architect who also won a competition to design the city's Central Library. [15] Work began on the extension in 1934 and was completed by 1938. Charles Herbert Reilly, a contemporary architecture critic, thought the extension was 'dull' and 'drab' [16] while Nikolaus Pevsner considered it was Harris's best work. It is linked to the town hall by glazed pedestrian bridges at first-floor level.

21st-century refurbishment

By late 2014, the Town Hall was being described as "being in urgent need of essential repair" and modernisation. [17] In a 2014 report, Manchester City Council highlighted the need to replace the building's heating and electrical systems, refurbish windows and high-level stonework and repair parts of the roofing. The cost of this work, including work on improving the adjoining square, are estimated to £2.2million. [18]

Architecture

The town hall in the early 20th century, its stonework blackened by air pollution. Manchester Town Hall late 19th Century.jpg
The town hall in the early 20th century, its stonework blackened by air pollution.

The rapid growth and accompanying pollution in Victorian cities caused great problems for architects including denial of light, overcrowding, awkward sites, noise, accessibility and visibility of buildings, and air pollution. Provision for "the sufficiency of window light supplied throughout the building" was addressed by the use of architectural devices: suspended first floor rooms, made possible by the use of iron-framed construction, skylights, extra windows and dormers, "borrowed lights" for interior spaces and glazed white bricks in conjunction with mosaic marble paving in areas where the light was "less strong". [8] [19] Clear glass was used in important rooms, with light-coloured tints for coloured glazing, as "the sky of Manchester does not favour the employment of deeply stained glass." [20]

The building exemplifies the Victorian Gothic revival style of architecture, using themes and elements from 13th-century Early English Gothic architecture. Gothic features most prominent in the Manchester Town Hall are low rib vault ceilings and tall arched windows. The choice of the Gothic was influenced by the wish for a spiritual acknowledgement of Manchester's late medieval heritage in the textile trade of the Hanseatic league and an affirmation of modernity in the fashionable neo-Gothic style favoured over the Neoclassical architecture of Liverpool. [21]

Despite its medieval styling, the building was designed to support the practical technologies of the 19th century. It had gas lighting, and a warm-air heating system, which provided fresh air drawn through ornamental stone air inlets below the windows and admitted behind the hot water pipes and 'coils' into the rooms. Warmed, fresh air was fed into the stairwells and through hollow shafts within the spiral staircases to ventilate the corridors. [8] Pipes supplying gas for lighting were ingeniously concealed underneath the banister rails of the spiral staircases. [1] Waterhouse designed the building structure to be fireproof, using a combination of concrete and wrought-iron beams. [22]

Exterior

The east facade from Mosley Street with Lutyen's relocated Cenotaph in the foreground. Manchester Cenotaph with Town Hall.jpg
The east façade from Mosley Street with Lutyen's relocated Cenotaph in the foreground.

In mid-19th-century Manchester, many important Georgian buildings were blackened by atmospheric pollution. By the 1870s the local soft red Collyhurst sandstone was deemed to be unsuitable for public buildings, and tough Pennine sandstones were preferred. [20] The architectural competition entries were judged in part on their suitability for the "climate of the district", and sample stone types were investigated. [23] Waterhouse believed it was a matter of great difficulty to find a stone "proof against the evil influences of the peculiar climate of Manchester" but decided that Yorkshire-quarried Spinkwell stone would resist "the deleterious influences of Manchester atmosphere". [8] The interior decoration was chosen with a view to providing permanent colour and cleanable surfaces. Public corridors were faced with terracotta rather than plaster, and extensive use was made of stone vaulted ceilings, tiled dados and washable mosaic floors. [24]

Waterhouse's design used a Gothic style with limited carved decoration and a uniform colour, a departure from the high Victorian heaviness and colour used in contemporary Ruskinian Gothic buildings, and was criticised by some Manchester inhabitants for not being Gothic enough. The decision to spend large amounts of money on a building "when most of its architectural effect would be lost because ruined by soot and made nearly invisible by smoke" was criticised. [25] Waterhouse avoided using a polychrome scheme as seen in High Victorian Gothic buildings such as St Pancras railway station believing it to be impractical as Manchester's industrial atmosphere would quickly ruin the effect and decided a uniform stone exterior was the better solution. [26] Statues of notable figures in the city's history decorate its exterior, that of Agricola, founder of the Roman fort is over the main door and over its gable is a statue of St George. Statues of Thomas Grelley, first lord of the manor, Humphrey Chetham and Thomas de la Warre are among six at the corner of Albert Square and Princess Street. [27] Waterhouse's design proved successful and although its exterior was blackened by the late 1890s, the stonework was in a suitable condition to be cleaned and restored to its original appearance in the late 1960s.

Clock tower

View across the rooftops by night, from the North-west Manchester Town Hall by night from Renaissance Hotel.JPG
View across the rooftops by night, from the North-west

The 280 feet (85 m) tall bell tower, the sixth tallest building in Manchester, houses a carillon of 23 bells: 12 are hung for full circle change ringing and were manufactured by John Taylor Bellfounders. [28] The clock bell, Great Abel, named after Abel Heywood, weighs 8 tons 2.5 cwt. Its clock, made by Gillett and Bland (predecessor of Gillett and Johnston), was originally wound using hydraulic power supplied by Manchester Hydraulic Power. [29] The clock bell first rang on New Year's Day 1879, but cracked, [30] [31] was replaced in 1882, and then recast with all the bells in 1937. [32] Its clock face bears the inscription Teach us to number our Days, from Psalm 90:12. The clock bell is inscribed with the initials AH for Abel Heywood and the line Ring out the false, ring in the true from Tennyson's "Ring Out, Wild Bells". [33]

As of 2017, Change-Ringing is not currently permitted on the bells, due to the necessity of a restoration to the building. [34]

Interior

Waterhouse's plan for the town hall bridged the gap between office and ceremonial requirements and maximised space on its triangular site. [35] His design for a six-storey building filled the asymmetrical site. [36] Set around its perimeter is a cloister of corridors linking offices and everyday workings. Its grandiose, ceremonial features are centrally located. By the main entrance on Albert Square are two grand staircases leading to the landing outside its Great Hall. The stairs have low risers allowing access for women in Victorian dress. The walls of the staircases have tall, arched windows admitting daylight. [37] Three spiral staircases accessing the first floor from entrances on Princess Street, Lloyd Street and Cooper Street are constructed in English, Scottish and Irish granite. [38]

Sculpture Hall

The ground-floor Sculpture Hall contains statues and busts of people who made significant contributions to Manchester, the Anti-Corn Law campaigners, Richard Cobden and John Bright, [39] and scientists John Dalton and James Joule among many others. [40] The room measures 53 feet by 33 feet and has a groin vaulted ceiling, constructed out of Bath stone. [41] The Sculpture Hall Café is now located here. [42]

Great Hall

The landing has a glazed skylight on which the names of mayors, lord mayors and chairs of the council since Manchester received its Charter of Corporation in 1838 are inscribed on glass panes. [43] The landing has a mosaic floor with a pattern of bees and cotton flowers, both symbols of Manchester. Influential Victorian critic John Ruskin described the Great Hall as "The most truly magnificent Gothic apartment in Europe." [44]

The rectangular hall measures 100 feet (30 m) by 50 feet (15 m). Natural light permeates from seven high windows on either side of the hall from the courtyards outside. It has a wagon roof, [45] its ceiling divided into panels bearing the arms of countries and towns with which Manchester traded at the zenith of its mercantile power. The Manchester Murals by Ford Madox Brown, a sequence of 12 paintings depicting the history of Manchester decorate its walls. [46] They are not true frescoes but use the Gambier Parry process. [47]

The organ installed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll in 1877 stands 16 feet (5 m) tall and had more than 5,000 pipes, five manuals and 65 speaking stops. Cavaillé-Coll cleaned it and added the solo organ in 1893. In 1912, T.C. Lewis of Brixton rebuilt it and added the echo division. Jardine of Manchester's minor rebuild in 1970 added the mobile five-manual console. [48]

Reception

The town hall is a Grade I listed building, [49] One of fifteen Grade I listed buildings in Manchester, it is regarded as one of the finest interpretations of Gothic revival architecture in the world. [50]

F. A. Bruton wrote that "The Town Hall ... is best viewed when the Square is empty and silent, as, for example, on Saturday afternoon or Sunday, and it is then that we may realise what a splendid "ruin" it will make, to excite the wonder of the South Sea Islander of the future." [51]

Dan Cruickshank described it as "... arguably the greatest Gothic Revival public building anywhere in the world. It remains a glorious confection – functionally organised yet rich in inventive Gothic detail wrought out of beautiful and expensive materials." [52] James Stevens Curl described it as "a High-Victorian Gothic secular masterpiece that combines eclectic elements to form a style that can only be Victorian". [53] It was voted Greater Manchester's favourite building by readers of the Manchester Evening News in 2012 [54] and in the same year featured in a series of Royal Mail stamps commemorating British landmarks. [55]

Current use

Council meetings are no longer regularly held in the town hall, but in the Town Hall Extension. [56] The hall now has a number of other uses. It is licensed for weddings and civil partnerships and is available to hire for conferences and other events. [57] [58] Tours of the clock tower are available through external tour companies at a cost. [59]

As the town hall bears some resemblance to the Palace of Westminster, it has been used as a location for television and films. The 2003 BBC series State of Play was filmed here [60] as were the films Ali G Indahouse in 2001, Sherlock Holmes in 2008, [61] The Iron Lady in 2011, [62] and Victor Frankenstein in 2014. [63] The 2018 BBC One series A Very English Scandal also used the town hall as a stand-in for the interiors of the Palace of Westminster. [64]

In 2014, a 24-hour police station reopened in the town hall, after having been closed in 1937. Unlike the original, the new station does not include custody cells, but officers are able to conduct interviews there. Chief Superintendent Nick Adderley described the location as "perfectly placed in the hub of the city" and suitable to "serve the needs of the public 24 hours a day." [65]

Overnight on 23 June and into Friday 24 June 2016 the venue was used to announce the official result of the EU Referendum by the chair of the Electoral Commission acting as Chief Counting Officer (CSO) Jenny Watson.

See also

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References

Notes

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Bibliography

Coordinates: 53°28′45″N2°14′39″W / 53.47917°N 2.24417°W / 53.47917; -2.24417