Manchester Insurance & Commercial Buildings

Insurance & Commercial Buildings in Manchester

With the establishment of the Bank of Manchester in
1829, modern commerce had arrived. This was quickly followed by the
Manchester & Liverpool District Bank in 1834 and the Manchester
& Salford bank in 1836. Capital was flowing into the city. By 1850
many believed Manchester to be the wealthiest city in the world. In
1845 the Manchester & Salford Branch of the Bank of England was
established in King Street and in 1861 building began on the new premises
on the corner of York Street, where the building still stands. The growth
of banking marked Manchester’s growing importance as a commercial centre.
Soon other commercial institutions followed – insurance, solicitors,
head offices and branch offices, stock exchanges and venture capital.
What follows is representative of these institutions, but by no means
all of them.

St Andrew's Chambers, ManchesterThe Tootal Building, Oxford Street, ManchesterManchester Ship Canal House, King Street, ManchesterThe Refuge Assurance Building, Oxford Street, Manchester - now the Palace HotelShip Canal House - sculpture of Atlas
St Andrews Chambers, Mount Street/Corner
of Albert Square; The Tootal Building,Oxford Street; Ship Canal House,
King Street;
The Refuge Assurance BuildingTower, Oxford Road; Bronze figure of Atlas
,Ship Canal House
Prudential Assurance Buildings, King Street, ManchesterSt James's House, Oxford Street, ManchesterPrince's Building, Oxford Street, Manchester city centreThe Refuge
Prince’s Building, Oxford Street; Prudential Assurance Buildings, King
Street; St James’ House Oxford Street; Balcony detail,
Refuge Building in Oxford Road.

The Major Commercial Buildings in Manchester

Albert Chambers
Designed by Clegg & Knowles in 1868 for the Manchester Corporation
Gas Works Head Offices, this fine building joins many others proudly
in Albert Square and the surrounding streets. The erection of Manchester
Town Hall
had moved the central emphasis of the town from the Cathedral
area, and many commercial businesses sought to build their corporate
flagship offices here – a sort of status symbol. Albert Chambers, built
next door to the Memorial Hall, is no exception. Its Venetian Gothic,
(reflecting Alfred Waterhouse’s
nearby Town Hall style), and clad entirely in Darley Dale Stone. (See
Also: “Who Built Manchester?”).

St Andrew’s Chambers
Set on the corner of Mount Street with Albert Square is St Andrew’s
Chambers, designed by George Tunstall Redmayne, a pupil of Waterhouse,
in 1872. Clad in Darley Dale stone, reflecting the style and detailing
of the Town Hall, with its finials and turrets, and recommended in a
contemporary edition of The Builder as one of the finest buildings
in Manchester. (See Also: “Who
Built Manchester?”

Queen’s Chambers
On the corner of Deansgate and John Dalton Street is Pennington &
Bridgen’s Queen’s Chambers. Originally built in 1876 as government offices,
it has lately been through several (unsuccessful) reinventions, including
becoming a short-lived wine bar at one stage. A Victorian gothic building
with a pointed arched corner entrance with elegant wrought ironwork.
Its roof is steeply pitched in true gothic style with tall chimneys
and castellations topping the window bays.
(See Also: “Who Built

Prudential Assurance Building
Numbers 76-80 King Street are the Prudential Assurances Building. Designed
by Alfred Waterhouse in 1881 in red terra cotta, brickwork and sandstone,
this was one of many buildings which Waterhouse designed for the Prudential.
A striking and severe building, its rounded arched windows are more
Norman than the fashionable gothic style of the period.

The CWS Building
The Co-operative Wholesale Society had bought land in Trafford
in 1903 and opened a bacon factory and flour mill at Trafford
Wharf and in 1905 it moved its Head Offices into Manchester City Centre.
The CWS Building was designed by F E L Harris, and is probably the largest
and most imposing building on Corporation Street. Alongside it and slightly
to the rear is the CIS Tower, the Co-operative Insurances Services building
constructed in the 1960s.

Northern Rock Insurance Building
Designed in 1895 by Charles Heathcote for the Northern Rock Building
Society in a style described as “Flemish Renaissance” this
building is located at 64 Cross Street. Heathcote (1850-1938) was one
of Manchester’s most productive and prolific architects, who, after
several apprenticeships with other renowned architectural firms, had
set up on his own in the city in 1873. His inner city buildings display
a wide variety of styles – all of which are thought to be fine examples
of Victorian architecture. (See Also: “Who
Built Manchester?”

Prince’s Building
The Prince’s Building in Oxford Street is one of the city’s few Art
Nouveau buildings, though only the facade survives, the remainder of
the building having been torn out and rebuilt as luxury apartments in
the mid-1990s. It was originally designed by I R E Birkett in 1903 at
the height of the continental Art Nouveau period, though the style failed
to catch on in Britain. Its front is decorated by large terra cotta
panelled window surrounds and its tall chimneys are very distinctive.
(See Also: “Who Built

The Refuge Assurance Building
The Refuge, (now the Meridien Palace Hotel)
is one of Manchester’s most distinctive and iconic landmarks on the
southern approach to the city. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse
and completed by his son, Paul, between 1891 and 1910, and dominates
the corner of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street. Its red bricks were
specially commissioned to complement and match the terra cotta surface
decorations. It is a tall building of three storeys with long high windows,
a corner turreted gable entrance and a dominating 220 feet high “campanile”
clock tower. Below the tower is a covered entrance, the porte
, displaying ornate wrought iron and bronze work.
Waterhouse had designed the original corner block, and it was Paul Waterhouse
who designed and completed the second phase. The Refuge, (as locals
still call it) is a Grade II Listed Building of special architectural
importance. (See Also: “Who
Built Manchester?”

The Tootal Building
Joseph Gibbons Sankey designed this building for Tootal, Broadhurst,
Lee & Company in 1898. It stands four storeys high, dominating the
west side of Oxford Street with its red brick and banded fawn-coloured
terra cotta. The ground floor and basement are rusticated. At either
end of the frontage are lantern topped gable turrets. This was the home
of Tootal Ties for many years. It has seven central bays separated by
Corinthian columns. On its southern side it backs onto the Rochdale
Canal flight of locks, hidden from the throng of passers-by above by
a high parapetted bridge.

St James’s Building
St James’s Building in Oxford Street, opposite the Tootal Building,
was built by Clegg, Fryer & Penman for the Calico Printers’ Association
in 1912. Built in the so-called “baroque” style it is an enormous
seven storey building (it contains 1000 rooms) it is clad in Portland
stone, with 27 bays opening directly onto Oxford Street. It has an equally
huge central Gable entrance with rising classical orders, broken pediment
and topped by an octagonal lantern.
(See Also: “Who Built

Blackfriars House
Built by Harry Fairhurst in 1923 for the Bleachers’ Association, Blackfriars
House is a tall slender building on a narrow plot bordering the River
Irwell. It is built in Portland stone, (in need of some cleaning) and
is somewhat of a mixture of styles and courses. (See Also: “Who
Built Manchester?”

Arkwright House
Also built by Fairhurst, Arkwright House is in Parsonage Gardens, just
behind Kendals department store on Deansgate. It was commissioned in
1927 by the English Sewing Cotton Company. Adjacent to Parsonage Gardens,
and currently undergoing life as a restaurant/wine bar, it has seven
bays facing the gardens set in a rusticated ground floor level. Tall
square windows rise continuously over three floors above, with another
two rows of smaller square windows set in the superstructure above the
cornice. The front with its main entrance is recessed and flanked by
two giant Corinthian pilasters. It has also been a Ministry of Transport
Vehicle Licensing Office in an earlier incarnation.

Ship Canal House
Another Fairhurst building, set in King Street and built between 1924-26.
This building was commissioned by the Manchester
Ship Canal
Company and stands seven storeys high above a rusticated
ground floor. The sixth story has an inset row of classical Corinthian
columns which span two floors. At the time, Ship Canal House was the
tallest building in King Street, and had trouble conforming to an Act
of Parliament controlling the height of buildings and their proximity
to others, so the top floor had to be set back some 15 feet to accommodate
this law. The whole building is in reinforced concrete on a steel frame,
and clad in Portland stone. A statue of the god Neptune stands on the
top parapet, and over the bronze doors of the front entrance is a sculpture
of Atlas holding up the world.

Sources: See Bibliography
– Books about Manchester

See Also

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This page last updated 26 Jan 13.