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Manchester Prisons & Police Courts

Strangeways Prison, Manchester

Southall Street, Manchester
M3. Telephone: 0161-834 8626.

Despite prison riots in the early 1990s, which virtually destroyed
most of the original prison building, and the subsequent new building
which has taken place around it, Strangeways Prison, designed by Alfred
, still stands starkly against the skyline of the north
of the city centre.

Strangeways Prison, ManchesterStrangeways Prison ManchesterArchitect Alfred Waterhouse
StrangewaysPrison and Alfred Waterhouse

Waterhouse began designing in 1861 after making
several visits to Reading and Holloway Prisons. Some input into the
concept of its radial plan was made by Joshua Jebb, the Surveyor General
of Prisons, who had designed a similar plan for Pentonville Prison
in the 1840s. It was completed in 1869 at a cost of £170,000.
The gaol was built on the site of the original Strangeways Park and
Gardens, and intended to house 1000 prisoners in its dense brick walls
with stone cladding and dominant watchtower which has served as a
local landmark for many years.
The tower is like a medieval Italian campanile (bell tower), complete
with machicolations, standing in phallic splendour above the Strangeways
district, and offering distant views all over the city. It has become
so identified with the district that the very word “Strangeways” has
come to mean ‘prison’ in the public consciousness. In an attempt to
change public perceptions, no doubt, it is nowadays simply known as
“Her Majesty’s Prison, Manchester”.
It was here that the suffragette Christabel
was incarcerated for seven days in October 1906. The
building is the archetypal Victorian prison, and Waterhouse, (who
was also architect for the Town Hall
in Albert Square) employed his favourite Venetian Gothic style in
its creation, though today only the two gatehouse entrances and the
watchtower can be easily seen behind the new security parapets. Their
steep spires and the combination of red brick and buff stone have
become synonymous with public and corporation building of the period,
and were most popular over a century ago, as can also be witnesses
in Worthington’s Police Courts in Minshull Street (below).

The City Police Courts, Manchester

Minshull Street, Manchester.
Designed and built by the architect Thomas
, the Police Courts in Minshull Street were originally
known as The City Police and Sessions Courts, and still remain one
of his most impressive buildings. Worthington was, also responsible
for the Albert Monument in Albert Square facing the Town Hall.
Although Worthington had failed to win the design for the Town Hall,
he was successful against tough competition for the commission of
the Police Courts, which were completed in 1871.

Minshull Street Police CourtsPolice Courts, Minshull Street, Manchester

Worthington had just returned from one of his many
visits to Italy, and created this bright red building in the style
of those he had seen and sketched in Florence. The tower is especially
imposing, standing as it does like the bell-tower of some great Italian
cathedral. Worthington intended the red brick to stand out brightly
against the otherwise drab and sooty buildings of industrial Manchester.
Now that much of the surrounding dereliction has been cleared to make
way for the Metrolink Rapid
Transit Trams
, its original splendour has been revealed again,
and it is a major feature of the cityscape to visitors arriving at
Piccadilly Rail Station
It also commands an imposing view over the near subterranean Rochdale
which runs along its southern walls. The building has recently
undergone complete restoration, cleaning and refurbishment.


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© John Moss, Papillon Graphics AD 2013 Manchester, United Kingdom – all rights reserved.
This page last updated 22 Nov 11.