by John Moss
Industries & Warehouses
King Cotton &
On visiting Manchester
in 1825, the German architect Karl Schinkel wrote of his visit that
"the enormous factory buildings are seven to eight storeys high...where
three years ago there were only meadows". He went on to say that the
buildings were so black that they looked as if they had stood already
for a hundred years. King cotton, textiles, spinning, weaving and dyeing
were the staple commercial enterprise of Manchester and the host of
small mill towns that surrounded it. The city became known locally as
the infrastructure of a well connected canal system, the coming of the
railways, and later, the Manchester Ship Canal,
Manchester was ideally placed to receive incoming raw materials, had
the large workforce required to process them, and the means of distribution
for finished goods. It was, in many ways, the warehouse of the western
So the city
built warehouses - many of them - fine and architecturally elegant pioneering
buildings which often belied their purpose. They were also structurally
advanced, being the first large scale commercial use of cast iron frameworks
- then a revolutionary new material whose integrity was largely untried.
Thankfully, due to the enduring quality of the building method, many
still survive intact today -some have found new functions, as in the
originally Watts Warehouse, now the Britannia Hotel.
Left to Right: Watts Warehouse; The Great Northern Railway's Goods Warehouse;
Built in Manchester's Portland Street, just off Piccadilly Gardens
in 1851-56 for S&J Watts by the architects Travis and Magnell, this
spectacular building housed the largest wholesale drapery business in
the city, and is regarded by many authorities as the queen of Manchester's
warehouses.From the start it was regarded as an ambitious and showy
structure, eminently suited to its owner, a self-made businessman and
entrepreneur. The building is constructed using classical devices, each
storey in a different style - Italian Renaissance, Elizabethan, French
Renaissance and Flemish, and each corner is topped by a large tower
with Gothic Rose Windows. It typifies the confidence of its owner and
the civic pride which men such as he had for the city of Manchester.
He numbered the rich and famous among his friends - politicians and
churchmen all dined regularly at his home in Cheadle, and Prince Albert
chose to stay with him when he visited Manchester to open the Art Treasures
Exhibition in 1857. The
building narrowly avoided demolition in 1972, and now thrives as the
THE GREAT NORTHERN
RAILWAY COMPANY'S GOODS WAREHOUSE
Still rising high above the streets of Manchester, this fine large
warehouse in Watson Street still boldly proclaims its lineage in large
white letters under its cornice. Built in 1898, quite late in commercial
terms, it was to be the forerunner of modern freight transportation
systems, in that it provided an interchange between rail, canal and
road networks in Manchester. A tunnel ran beneath to connect it directly
to the Manchester & Salford Canal Junction. Trains arrived directly
from the Central Station (now the GMEX Centre) alongside on a specially
constructed iron viaduct into its huge marshalling yards, and goods
were raised and lowered using hydraulic power. The building acted until
recent years as a car park for visitors to the GMEX Centre, but is now
under considerable refurbishment and development with fully restored
fabric and shopping and leisure facilities being created out of virtually
derelict spaces. Good to see such a fine old building coming back into
its former glory. The new public square created in front of the warehouse
offers several cafés and bars as well as meeting and performance
spaces. The whole row of frontage shops in Deansgate have also been
vacated and restored so as to reflect their original cohesive and uncluttered
architectural styling, as well as allowing visual access to the warehouse
behind, obscured as it was for decades by a virtual 'shanty town' of
shop frontages and signage.
WAREHOUSE, PICCADILLY, MANCHESTER
Railway Station was originally called London Road Station, and was opened
by the Manchester & Birmingham Railway Company in 1842. Later its use
was shared by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, and
the two companies jointly built the new station in 1865. The
MS&LR erected four large warehouses nearby for goods storage, of which
only this one survives. It stands seven storeys high in brick, with
large stone cornerstones (quoins). Internally it has a skeleton of massive
cast iron columns with wrought iron box girders and brick arched floors,
all designed to minimise the risk of fire. It was originally joined
by the Ashton Canal, but this has long since been filled in to provide
access to the building which for many years has been used as a car park.
The whole building is currently being lovingly restored to be commercially
viable once more as a luxury and executive apartment block.
In the mid-19th century, Portland Street was devoted almost entirely
to warehouses. Many stood until the Second World War when they suffered
fatal damage through bombing. Fortunately, a few remain. Many, like
the Portland Street Warehouse, were built in the very highest architectural
styles. This one, on the lines of a great Italian Renaissance palazzo,
with a simple elegance and monumental strength which exudes security
and confidence. Its grand central staircase leads up to the storage
floors, for, while buying was actually done at the Royal Exchange, goods
would be inspected in the warehouse prior to delivery. The
basement house a steam engine and boilers which powered the hoists to
raise goods up and down the building. Loading and unloading was never
done on the street side - this always presented a dignified Victorian
elegance. The rear of the warehouse is the hoist loft (or hovel), where
work was actually carried out. In 1871, the periodical The Manchester
Civic, describing the architecture of Manchester commented on its
warehouses : "...the high quality of the town's architecture is mainly
derived from these buildings".
rebuilt in 1987, this warehouse had been demolished in 1960. First built
in the early 1770s, as a terminus to the Bridgewater
Canal along which coal had been transported from Worsley, the warehouse
overhung the canal so that narrowboats could moor in below and goods
could be raised by winch the 20 feet up to the warehouse above.
The reconstructed front shows two docks- one, the entrance to James
Brindley's original tunnel by which coal was offloaded, and the
other constructed much later in about 1807.
THE MIDDLE WAREHOUSE,
south side of the Castlefield Basin lies this large 5 storey brick built
warehouse constructed between 1828-3, still has two large arched openways
to allow boats direct access at water level. It was substantially restored
in the late 1980s, when it was converted into luxury flats and offices.
It can be accessed from the canal basin through a wooden lift bridge
which owes more to nostalgia than practicability.
entirely in brick in 1825, this is the oldest surviving warehouse at
Castlefield, though it stood dangerously derelict and decaying for many
years until it was restored between 1995-97 by Ian Simpson Architects.
Standing 3 storeys high at street level and four at water level with
2 arched water entrances for boats. Later glass stair units were subsequently
placed at either end of the warehouse. Some of the interior work has
been preserved in the renovation, including the wooden king posts and
some of the original hoisting gear.
See Also: Castlefield
Manchester Inner City Warehouses
NUMBERS 3, 5,
7 & 9 PORTLAND STREET
three are now the Thistle Hotel, (formerly known as the Portland Hotel)
and No. 9 are offices, of which only the facades survive on all, these
buildings were designed by Edward Walters between 1851 and 1858 - (Walters
was responsible for at least 10 major warehouses in Manchester city
centre, the Free Trade Hall in St Peter's
Street). This row of fine buildings has distinguished ground floor rustication
with arcading (a wall of arches - now glazed). As a point of interest,
No.1 Portland Street was formerly the Queens Hotel, replaced by a modern
steel and glass structure by Charles, White & Hood in 1974.
NUMBER 101 PRINCESS
Princess Hotel, this building was formerly known as the Pickles Building,
standing on the corner of Portland Street, and was designed by Clegg
& Knowles between 1858 and 1863. Built in a so-called "continental
gothic" or palazzo style, popular at that time due in large part
to its introduction by Alfred Waterhouse.
Its exterior carries fine gothic stone carvings (oak leaves and quatrefoils),
though it lost the elegant tall chimneys some years ago. Clegg was to
go on to design many of the warehouses on Princess Street.
NUMBER 83 PRINCESS
JOSHUA HOYLE'S WAREHOUSE,
of George Street). Thought by many to be the earliest warehouse to be
built in Manchester city centre, No. 83 was built by Travis & Mangnell
around 1847. Described in a contemporary edition of The Builder,
as "the best warehouse in Manchester".
Malmaison Hotel, but originally designed by Charles Heathcote in Piccadilly-London
Road for Joshua Hoyle in 1904, this is a steel framed building, elegantly
clad in brick, terra cotta and distinctive green ceramics. It stood idle
and decaying for several decades before its modern conversion to a hotel
by Darby Associates in 1998.
37 Peter Street, opposite the Free Trade hall, built for Clegg &
Knowles by the Ralli Brothers in 1868. Its ground floor is rusticated
stone forming a series of circular headed openings, and the building
was much criticised in The Builder in that year as having little
and built by Speakman & Charlesworth in 1874, this warehouse, now
known as Chepstow House, is situated in Chepstow Street and is a fine
clean cut three storey brick building with stone banding with a frontage
of some 300 feet. It has a magnificent 10 foot wide grand staircase
and wide corridors. Recently converted into 76 luxury flats.
of Portland and Princess Streets). Large building by Pennington &
Bridgen in 1887. Built in red brick with stone string courses.
corner of Portland Street and Oxford Street this plain brick building
with stone detailing was designed by P Nunn in about 1860 for Louis
Behrens & Sons. It is of four storeys with 23 bays running along
Portland Street. The ground floor level is entirely stone clad.
DALE STREET WAREHOUSE
designed by William Crosley in 1906, this is the earliest surviving
warehouse in the city, it shows the early use of cast iron columns supporting
wooden floors throughout.
Bibliography - Books about Manchester