Hall & Albert Square from the South. Aerial
Photograph Image Courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk © 2005
in 1887, this most impressive neo-Gothic building cost a million pounds
and is acknowledged as a masterpiece in its own right. It rises as
a Victorian edifice - a monument to the civic pride of the city fathers,
reaching 286 feet above Albert Square below.
by Alfred Waterhouse, a leading
contemporary architect, it was fitted masterfully onto an awkward
triangular space - although not unanimously liked as the best looking
design, it proved the most practical of the 136 other designs entered.
Manchester had achieved city status in 1853, and was keen to show
off its civic dignity. Inside it is lavishly and richly decorated,
with mosaic floors bearing the "bees", symbols of Manchester's industry,
and has wall murals by Ford Madox
Town Hall from Albert Square; one of three great staircases; vaulted
ceilings in the entrance hall
Bottom: The Great Hall and one of Ford Madox Brown's murals; the architect
see more of the Ford Madox-Brown Murals CLICK
the front main entrance, a statue of the Roman Governor, Agricola,
surveys the square. He had founded the original fort of Mamuciam,
from which the city began, and is thus honoured by a statue over the
main front entrance to the Town Hall. The building dominates Albert
Square, with its monument to Queen Victoria's consort, and statues
of some of Manchester's great men.
The square has now been largely pedestrianised and regularly serves
as a venue for local events, celebrations, street fairs, Christmas
funfairs, etc - much in the way medieval market squares might have
done in years gone by. Guided Tours of the Town Hall are available
by prior arrangement - sadly they are no longer free. Tours can be
arranged through the Manchester Visitor Centre in person or by telephone.
Manchester Town Hall & Town Hall Extension seen from the West.
Courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk © 2005.
One of the highlights
of the tour is the Great Hall with its 12 large murals by Ford Madox
Brown, the celebrated Pre-Raphaelite painter. (To see more of the
murals in larger versions - CLICK
HERE). Also see the tile mosaic work, the vaulted
corridors and the three stone spiral staircases.
The Town Hall demonstrates Waterhouse's genius in not only exterior
detailing, but internal style and decor. The Great Hall, designed
in the fashion of a Flemish weaving hall, many believe to be the
masterpiece of the building, with its famous murals.
The Manchester Busy Bee, floor mosaic - symbol of
is the elegant and dignified entrance hall, with its numerous busts
and statues of city fathers and benefactors, as well as the highly
coloured figure of the Duke of Lancaster in Roman costume.
The visitor is guided up to the first floor by one of the three
great spiral staircases, (bottom centre), included as if to accentuate
the triangular plan of the building, and reminiscent of some great
Gothic cathedral. Internally, a distinct sense of medievalism prevails,
with hammerbeam ceilings, vaulted dark corridors lit by a large
number of pointed Gothic windows, and the evocative cloister-like
atmosphere which all these help create.
The Thirteenth Century medieval Gothic styling of the Town Hall
is bold and freely used maintaining a storytelling ethos which gradually
unfolds the city's history. Externally, the building is decorated
with carved images representing important figures in the city's
The style was growing in popularity in the mid-nineteenth century,
as the Neo (new) Gothic style was considered a true English style
and therefore most suitable for civic buildings. The style is instantly
heralded by the 280 feet high bell tower, which would not shame
any great cathedral in its size and imposing style. Internal detailing
reveals the same love of Gothic detail - in the mosaic tiled floors,
the clustered columns and finely carved pillar capitals.
Inside the Gothic corridors of power
The Great Hall
itself is dominated by Brown's murals, which depict key events in
the development of the City of Manchester, from the building of
the first fort by Agricola, up to the later experiments in Science
by John Dalton. It is well worth taking one of the guided tours
so that none of the wealth of detail is missed.