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Visiting Manchester Town Hall, Manchester, England: Gothic Revival splendour by Alfred Waterhouse, dating from 1877

Updated on May 7, 2012
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall | Source
Alfred Waterhouse, R.A.,(1830-1905)
Alfred Waterhouse, R.A.,(1830-1905) | Source
Map location of Greater Manchester
Map location of Greater Manchester | Source

A Victorian masterpiece

This imposing building was built between 1868 and 1877. By convention, it is known as Manchester Town Hall, although before the building's inception Manchester, England, had already achieved city status. The name 'Manchester Town Hall', has, however, stuck, for this ceremonial home of Manchester City Council.

Some features and history

The building has the definite 'feel' of a Medieval Cathedral: this is not surprising, since the Architect, Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905)(1) executed the structure in Gothic Revival style, in which he was particularly a specialist, and which drew significant inspiration from Medieval forms. A profusion of pinnacles and window and door arching, to be seen in the building, are thus in keeping with this Gothic Revival influence. Its main material was Sprinkwell sandstone, chosen in the belief that it would be resistant to the damp climate of Manchester; however, by the 1890s, the stonework had already been blackened by pollution, although, fortuitously, serious damage did not materialize. Particular emphasis was paid upon window surfaces, with a view to letting plenty of natural light into the interior of the building, given the poor light conditions which often materialize from Manchester's dull weather.

The clock tower of the Town Hall is among its most conspicuous and striking features. 87 metres tall, it contains a 23 bell carillon. One almost gets the sense of a great Medieval cathedral tower, pointing to the skies. The clock face has an inscription from Psalm 90: Teach us to number our days .

The Great Hall of Manchester Town Hall has a hammerbeam roof and a set of murals by Ford Maddox Brown, which depict the history of Manchester and demonstrate the city's commercial importance. An organ with 5000 pipes is housed in the Great Hall.

An interesting anecdote has survived regarding the opening of Manchester Town Hall in 1877. Queen Victoria was invited to attend, but the invitation was issued without due regard to the likelihood of it being accepted: the Queen was found to be otherwise engaged. Thus, the ceremony on September 13 of that year was presided over instead by Mayor Abel Heywood.

The Town Hall is situated facing Albert Square, in Downtown Manchester.

May 5, 2012


(1) Among other buildings for which the prolific Alfred Waterhouse was responsible are: the Natural History Museum, London, the Main Quadrangle of Manchester University (formerly Owen's College); Liverpool University, and many others.

Also worth seeing

In Manchester itself, included among numerous fine buildings are: Manchester University's Whitworth Hall, Oxford Road, Manchester; the neo-Classical Manchester Central Library, Manchester Cathedral, and many others.

At Salford (distance: 2.6 kilometres), the Peel Building of Salford University is a striking, Victorian brick structure.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Manchester Airport (England) , where car hire is available; there is direct rail access from Manchester Airport to Manchester Piccadilly railroad station in Downtown Manchester . Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

For your visit, these items may be of interest


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