A Tale of Two Cities - Manchester and London Victorian Gothic Splendour

A proud City commissioned this building – Manchester Town Hall, designed by Alfred Waterhouse and completed in 1877.

Manchester Town Hall, fronted by Albert Square

The civic authority, Manchester Corporation, asked for a building that was “equal, if not superior, to any similar building in the country at any cost which may be reasonably required.” I like the note of prudence at the end.

To show off a building of this scale, you need decent open space in front of it, and this is provided by Albert Square - see photo.

The Town Hall is dominated by an 85 metre high bell tower, with a clock bell weighing over 8 tons, named Great Abel after the Lord Mayor who commissioned the project, Abel Heywood.

Manchester Town Hall Interior

The Neo Gothic style continues in the interior, with rib vaulted ceilings that could pass for a 13th century English cathedral.

Already mentioned is the address of Albert Square, and admiring the building is the Prince himself.

Albert Memorial, Albert Square

The Memorial, looking silhouettish in my photo, gives the immediate impression of a mini version of the better known memorial facing London’s Albert Hall. Sculpted by Matthew Noble and installed fairly soon after the death of Queen Victoria’s consort, as a tribute from the people of Manchester, it was of course in place some time before the Town Hall itself was constructed (there was a previous Town Hall, but in a different location in the City).

Alfred Waterhouse won the open design competition from a total entry of 137 proposals.

London architectural connection? Well, think Natural History Museum in South Kensington and
The Prudential Assurance HQ in Holborn Bars, both designed by Waterhouse, and with the internal square of the latter today bearing his name.

And back to the North West of England. Waterhouse was a local lad made good, being born to Quaker Liverpool parents and doing his articles (professional training) in Manchester.

Finally the City of Manchester mirrors London in its cultural diversity, so here is an example from the current Irish Festival:

Victorian Neo Gothic and memorabilia from Dublin. Whatever!