29th October 2020

Call to share your Town Hall memories at it turns 140

A call for people’s memories of Manchester Town Hall has been issued on the 140th anniversary of its official opening.

The Grade I-listed masterpiece, considered one of the nation’s finest examples of Victorian architecture, has stood at the heart of the city’s life since it was opened amid great ceremony on 13 September 1877.

But while still structurally sound, the years have taken their toll on many parts of the building and the Council has agreed a major programme of works – the Our Town Hall project – to safeguard this Manchester icon for future generations. The work will mean the building needs to close from January next year until 2024.

Albert Square – which was created before the Town Hall and has hosted a huge range of events from celebrations and civic occasions to vigils and protests – will also be improved but works will be carefully scheduled to minimise disruption. The Square will remain open when the Town Hall closes.

You can find out more about the project, and the fascinating history of the Town Hall, in a new short film launched today at www.manchester.gov.uk/ourtownhall

But as well as playing a major part in the story of the modern city, the Town Hall and Albert Square have been the stage for many personal stories and it is these that the project team are now keen to capture.

Whether it is getting married in the Town Hall, a chance encounter with a VIP, attending a memorable event in the building or square, you or a relative once worked there or another anecdote, you could be part of that story. The Council is inviting anyone with stories or photos to share to contact them via its Facebook or Twitter (@ManCityCouncil) accounts or by email to ourtownhall@manchester.gov.uk – photos can also be shared viaflickr.com/groups/ourtownhall

Councillor Bernard Priest, Deputy Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “When our Victorian predecessors commissioned this building they wanted something special, an announcement of Manchester’s arrival on the world stage, and they got it.

“Our Town Hall endures as a symbol of Manchester’s confidence and ambition. It is in that spirit that we have determined that the building cannot be allowed to slide into decay and disuse but we must protect it, improve public access and bring it up to modern safety and energy efficiency standards. That is a huge undertaking but I can think of no more fitting way to mark the building’s 140th anniversary.

“We know that the Town Hall and Albert Square have been the stage for many notable events and we’re sure there are a lot of people out there with their own personal memories of them. We’re inviting people to get in touch, to help us tell the human stories around this remarkable place, and we look forward to hearing from people and sharing some of the most interesting recollections.”

Notes to Editors

The Town Hall was officially opened by then Mayor of Manchester Abel Heywood who, the Manchester Evening News of 14 September 1877 reports, was presented with an ornate golden key.

Around 50,000 people took part in a mile-long ‘procession of the trades’ to celebrate the opening of the Town Hall.  Streets throughout the city centre were decorated with banners and flags representing the many different professions of the city, with 69 trade societies taking part, from the bakers and tailors to the chimney sweeps and the tin makers – who were accompanied by a mounted knight in full armour.

Queen Victoria was invited to attend the opening but declined, allegedly because of the radical politics of many on the Council, a fact lamented by the Bishop of Manchester.

In other opening speeches, famous radical John Bright approvingly described the building as a “municipal palace

The objectives guiding the Our Town Hall project are:

Secure the long-term future of Manchester Town Hall, its civic role and external setting

Retain and enhance as a functioning and efficient town hall

Restore and celebrate this significant heritage asset for Manchester

Enhance the use of building as a visitor destination and increase access for Mancunians

Transform users’ and visitor’s experiences

Reduce carbon footprint and energy costs

Maximise commercial opportunities and offset costs to the public purse

Deliver economic and social value for Manchester 

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