Tuesday 25 November 2014

Walking around Manchester

We spent three very enjoyable days in Manchester last week. It was our first time in the city and it was a place I'd always wanted to visit. My first real knowledge of Manchester came through the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell who described the appalling conditions of the working class when the city was a prosperous industrial town, a prosperity that was built on the hard labour of working people. Her novels depict working class life and the people involved in textile manufacturing. She described the awful working conditions, the unsafe machinery in the mills, the extremely low wages paid for hard work, the poor living conditions - all heralding a new form of urban existence and a new structure of social relations. She showed the contrast between the lives of the working people and those of the wealthy manufacturers. During that time Friedrich Engels did the same, but the solutions he proposed were totally different.
All the wealth that was created primarily by cotton led to a boom in related industries including banking and industrial engineering to service the textile mills. The whole of the landscape of the area changed. Further wealth was generated through the transatlantic slave trade and is reflected in the grand buildings especially in and around Mosley Street, Piccadilly and Portland Street. Some of this wealth benefited the public, as philanthropists donated money and artworks to local cultural institutions such as Manchester Art Gallery, and the Whitworth Art Gallery.

Our hotel was in Piccadilly Gardens, and this was the view from the hotel bar where we stopped for a drink during our first night.


Most cities have big wheels nowadays, but they're still a lot of fun


Close to the Piccadilly area this gorgeous Art Deco building, the Rylands building, dominates.  Grade II listed, it was originally built as a warehouse by the Rylands textile company and was designed by Fairhursts architects.

It's clad in Portland stone and features a decorative corner tower and eclectic 'zig zag' window lintels. The area was known for its markets and textile warehouses.
Another wonderful building in the same area is the one that houses Primark today. It was built in 1877, designed by architects Horton and Bridgford and was built in a French Renaissance style with a grand corner tower which has now been removed.


We ate in Chinatown during our first evening

and the Chinese Arch looked as good in daylight.

 We liked the decoration on this building in the Northern Quarter

and we could not work out what this contraption was which was just in front of it - a remnant of Manchester's industrial past maybe?
Facing onto St Peter's Square is the Midland hotel which was designed by Charles Trubshaw in an Edwardian Baroque style, and was built to serve Manchester Central railway station. It's a Grande II listed building.

The hotel had a 1,000-seat purpose-built theatre where opera and drama performances were staged, and a roof terrace where a string quartet performed. It was allegedly coveted by Adolf Hitler as a possible Nazi headquarters in Britain.

Manchester has some wonderful buildings


and we thoroughly enjoyed walking around.

This is part of the City Council building.

It was a sunny day and that helped enormously

the buildings seemed to glow. 

Through doing this blog I've realised that I have a penchant for corner buildings

as I seem to keep photographing them

We found another gorgeous Art Deco building on Deansgate, designed by J.S. Beaumont in 1939.

Here's another one, in a completely different style


I could not find any information on this one, but liked the form and the combination of pink and gold 

and I loved this one, but again, could not find out anything about it

We thought these two timber-clad buildings were extraordinary. 

The pub was packed during the day

and at night too.

Reminiscent of the Giant's Causeway? We thought so. The water

was 'fed' from here

The Urbis in Cathedral Gardens. Wow! Definitely my favourite building in the centre of the city. A pity about all the writing on the façade - it spoils its clean lines.

Designed by Ian Simpson Architects, it was completed in 2002.


The exterior consists of approximately 2,200 glass panes arranged in horizontal strips. The building has six storeys and a distinctive sloping form.

The entrance

Another interesting water feature in the same area

Art Nouveau on Bridge Street

Manchester Art Gallery on Princess Street.


  1. Looks like you had great weather for your trip to Manchester. It's a place I know in patches over many years. I certainly remember the House of Fraser art deco building - I knew it as Kendal Milne when we used to come clothes shopping in 1970/71 - we were living in St Helens then and I was teaching in Liverpool. I remember bringing my brother once to their 'eat as much as you like' buffet for lunch!!!
    Subsequent visits have mostly been to the Whitworth, and a memorable weekend in Salford Quays.

    I thought that perhaps you might be interested in this article, although you probably did not go into the post office: http://www.theskyliner.org/spring-gardens-murals/

    1. We were very lucky with the weather Olga, as rain had been predicted. We stayed for two nights, so, not very long at all, and there's was lots more we would have wanted to see. Had I known about the murals at the Post Office we would have certainly gone, as they look very lovely. The Whitworth was unfortunately closed and will be so until the new year. Salford Quays was the highlight of the visit, the Imperial War Museum in particular as I am a great fan of Libeskind's work. All in all we had a lovely time.

  2. When I first saw your photo eight down of the contraption you could not recognise I immediately thought of a saxophone. So, I decided to do some googling and it is indeed mostly a saxophone: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3053313
    and also a dragon. It is called the Tib Street Horn.
    I must thank you for thus leading me to find the BBC Art Walks site: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcone/modernmasters/art-walks/

    1. It's so obvious that it's a saxophone now that you've mentioned it Olga - I don't know how Ken and I could have missed that. And had I said that it was on Tib Street, that might have made your research easier. The Northern Quarter is meant to be very nice with lots of cultural events and venues, but we did not have time to visit properly, not beyond Tib Street. We obviously need to go back. And, I must say, I am impressed with your thirst for research - it's something I have noticed before. And you're right, the BBC site looks very good indeed.

  3. Remind me to tell you some time of the first meeting between Peter and my parents at the black and white Oyster Bar and the sea food salad! Happy memories of many happy years in Manchester. The Library Theatre is still one of my favourite buildings.

    1. Avril, the Oyster Bar looks an intriguing building - as if it's been plonked there in the middle of all those tall buildings. I must listen to that story. Glad Manchester has so many happy memories for you. As for the Library, it's a lovely building, I agree. We could not go in the theatre itself as there was a performance when we were there.