London Road, Central Manchester. Designed and built by Woodhouse, Willoughby & Langham from 1904-1906 this fine Grade II listed building was headquarters of the Manchester City Fire Brigade for the first half of the 20th century. It also housed a police station and a coroner’s court, the latter still being in operation.
This exuberant buff, terracotta and red brick building occupies a triangular plot and is located opposite Piccadilly Railway Station. The central courtyard includes a series of balconies, whose tenements were once home to 40 firemen, and a training tower. By any measure it was a well equipped and sumptuous complex, with its own library, stables, bank and gymnasium. A fine baroque building, which presently is under utilised and awaiting a major cleaning and refurbishment. It was in continued occupation until the late 1980s, but its future is presently unknown, despite several plans to convert the building to another function, including one abortive plan to make it into a hotel.
Victoria Rail Station
Station Approach, (off Corporation Street), Manchester City Centre. Originally a small single storey single platform building designed by George Stephenson and completed in 1844 on Hunts Bank to serve the Manchester & Leeds trans-Pennine railway. By this time there were six railway connecting Manchester to the cities of London, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Bury and Bolton – Victoria Station had come to dominate the Long Millgate area and was one of the biggest passenger stations in Britain. It was enlarged by William Dawes, who is responsible for most of the remaining facade, in 1909.
The present Edwardian building has a 160 yard facade, which still carries an iron and glass canopy bearing the names of the original destinations which it served. These canopies served as covered waiting porch for taxi cabs until they were severely damaged in the 1996 IRA bomb blast – they have now been completely restored to their former glory. The cast iron train sheds behind the facade run back for some 700 yards. Initially the station was approached by a wooden footbridge over the River Irk which has subsequently disappeared beneath culverting alongside the Cathedral, where it makes its way unobtrusively into the River Irwell. Nowadays, largely serving destinations north and east of Manchester, it is the main terminus for the adjacent Manchester Evening News Arena, which was effectively joined onto the original station between 1992 and 1996 to designs by Ellerbe Beckett. Here it forms a major interface where the Metrolink train joins the streets of Manchester as an urban tramway. Also a major rail-bus interchange, the station is linked directly to Piccadilly Station by Metrolink.
Liverpool Road Station
Liverpool Road Station ranks as one of, if not the most important railway stations in Britain. Manchester can be said to have been the place where the Railway Age began.
It was the service established between Liverpool and Manchester which first demonstrated the feasibility of rail as a viable public transport system. Opened to the public in 1830, it marked the terminus of the newly created line which ran from Liverpool to Manchester, and it is now part of the Museum of Science and Industry.
The station building and the warehouse opposite date from the earliest days of railway history. It was to this station that the Rainhill Trials to choose a locomotive to pull passenger coaches between Liverpool and Manchester arrived. George Stephenson’s ubiquitous “Rocket” being the winner. The rail link, together with the canal system, was instrumental in the growth of Manchester’s industrial base in the 19th century.
Oxford Road Station
Designed by British Rail Regional Architect, W R Headley in 1960 and now a Grade II Listed building of architectural merit.
A striking and somewhat surprising frontage cunningly devised to fit on an otherwise awkward triangular site, the structure is described as 3 conoid (cone-shaped) shells made of wood, glued and nailed together. This wooden building was actually based on concrete forms. Restored in 1998. The present building replaced an earlier Victorian station which had been built by the Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway Company in 1849 on a viaduct running across Oxford Road over an area known then as “Little Ireland”.
Central Station (Manchester Central)
Formerly G-MEX, the Greater Manchester Exhibition Centre, Manchester M2 3GX. Tel: 0161-834 2700
Resurrected after lying derelict for many years, the old Central Station which originally connected by rail the City of Manchester to Liverpool was closed in the late 1960s. In its new form – the Greater Manchester Exhibition Centre (GMEX) was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in 1986, having cost more than �20 million in converting it to one of England’s finest exhibition centres.
Manchester Central as it is today.
At over 10,000 square metres it is also one of the country’s largest, the whole space being open without interior supporting pillars, its vast vaulted roof held up by sheer engineering ingenuity and simple geometry. The hall can seat over 9000 people. There are an additional 2,250 square metres of surrounding land adjacent to the main hall for temporary buildings and exhibitions, with onsite parking for over 1,500 cars. Regular exhibitions are held there – everything from Aquatic to Computer Fairs, Caravans and Home Exhibitions.
The Derelict Central Station before restoration – Photo of 1968 by the author
It also frequently hosts musical and performance events, having already added Luciano Pavarotti, Simply Red and a Torville & Dean Ice Spectacular to its repertoire. The conversion of the old Central Station into its present form is typical of the kind of urban renewal and inner city transformations which the City of Manchester Council and the Central Manchester Development Corporation have undertaken over the past decade, much to their credit and to the approval of the citizens of Manchester. This is a major stopping off point for Metrolink Trams, not only for GMEX itself, but for Castlefield.