Last week I wrote about 11 architectural gems in Manchester city centre and so today I thought I would write about some of the great buildings that have been lost in the city. Some have been lost to neglect and some have been lost to acts of war. Here are 5 lost buildings of Manchester:
1. Assize Courts
Assize Courts was a building that as the name suggests was a court of law. The building was designed by Alfred Waterhouse who went on to design Manchester Town Hall. He won a competition to design Assize Courts which also included Strangeways Prison. Construction of Assize Courts began in 1859 and was completed by 1864. At the time of its completion the building was the tallest in Manchester before the town hall took the crown in 1877. The building was severely damaged by German bombs during WWII. The building subsequently fell into disrepair and the building was demolished in 1957 after assize courts were abolished in the UK. In some circles the building is regarded as one of Britain’s lost buildings.
2. The Hippodrome
The Hippodrome was an early 20th century theatre built on Oxford Road. It was purpose built and was designed by the theatre designer of his day Frank Matcham. The theatre was a grand building and was a great success. However in 1930s cinema was on the rise and the building was demolished to make way for the Gaumont Cinema which was built in 1935. This cinema was in operation until it closed in 1974. The building was then vacant until it was demolished in 1990. The site of the former Hippodrome and cinema buildings is today occupied by an NCP car park.
3. Victoria Building
The Victoria Building was a grand Victorian era building built on a triangular plot of land at the bottom of Deansgate near the Cathedral and Exchange Station. The building was built in 1876 and was home to businesses, bars and restaurants. The building met its unplanned end on 22nd December 1940 when it was destroyed by a German air raid. The building was subsequently demolished and the site lay as on open public space for many years. Today it is the site of Number One Deansgate and Harvey Nichols.
4. Manchester Exchange Railway Station
Exchange Station was one of Manchester’s four railway stations, along with Victoria, Piccadilly and Central. It was a passenger railway station from 1884 to 1969. At one point in time the station had a platform that ran and joined Platform 11 of Victoria Station making it Europe’s longest railway platform at 2,238 ft long. The station was severely damaged in the same air-raids that demolished the Victoria building, the roof of the station was badly damaged and was only ever partially replaced. The building would not be re-opened for passengers until 13th January 1941.
The future of the station was decided with the release of the Beeching Report in the 1960s which was the plan to scale back Britain’s railway infrastructure. This led to a decrease in demand at all four of the train stations in Manchester. On 5th May 1969 Exchange Station and Central Station closed to passenger services (Central Station is still standing as G-Mex). The station was eventually demolished and the site is now used as a car park.
5. Longridge House
Longridge House was not really a grand old building and some would perhaps question why it is on the list. It was opened in 1959 and was of the Brutalist school of architecture that some love but most hate. The building was the HQ of British Engine Insurance which was owned by Royal & Sun Alliance. The lifespan of the building was cut short when it was virtually destroyed on Saturday 15th June 1996 when the IRA detonated the largest bomb to explode in Great Britain during peacetime. The building was damaged beyond repair and was demolished shortly after. The site of the bomb blast was completely regenerated and today the Selfridges building stands on the spot of Longridge House.
There are other buildings that have been lost over the years and I will cover this topic again in the future. Just have a think tomorrow morning when you’re parking your car that you’re parking on a site that was no doubt once a grand building.