The Council and democracy History of Manchester Town Hall

A few facts

  • The Town Hall bells were cast by John Taylor & Co, a renowned firm responsible for most of the UK's heaviest bells, including the one hung at St Paul's Cathedral.  Experts consider the Town Hall's bells to be among the very best sets of English-hung bells in the world. 
  • The great hour bell in the Clock Tower, which weighs more than eight tons, is known as Great Abel, in honour of mayor Abel Heywood. 
  • Architect Alfred Waterhouse won the competition to design the Town Hall with a little help from his friend, the author Elizabeth Gaskell - who asked the celebrated art critic John Ruskin to recommend Waterhouse to the council. 
  • After its grand opening, the Town Hall was highly praised by critics and Waterhouse received the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture the following year.
  • The Town Hall is a Grade I listed building – meaning that it is considered to be of exceptional architectural interest and national importance.  Only 2.5 per cent of England's listed buildings are classified as Grade I.
  • Lord Mayors often lived in the Town Hall apartment until 1984, when mayor Kenneth Strath decided to do away with the tradition. Prime Ministers including Churchill and Lloyd George were guests here, and during the Second World War, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester stayed for three nights - but had to spend part of one of them in the Town Hall's air-raid shelter.
  • Plans to demolish the Town Hall were floated in the 1940s, as planners felt that the 'sooty' building was no longer 'fit for purpose'.  They proposed replacing it with a new Town Hall in the Art Deco style.  Fortunately, the idea was eventually scrapped.
  • Albert Square and the Town Hall were joined together by a 1985 scheme to redirect traffic away from itself and to pedestrianise the area around the Albert Memorial.
  • Before he became a celebrated architect, Lord Norman Foster worked in the City Treasurer's office at the Town Hall.  In 1983, Foster praised the building as 'splendid... I have strong recollections not only of its internal spaces and its presence on Albert Square, but also its detail, the handrails, the light fittings...  A building designed, through and through'.
  • Manchester Evening News readers chose the Town Hall as their favourite building in Greater Manchester in 2012. Around 1,000 voters awarded the Town Hall an average rating of 9/10.
  • The Town Hall was included in the Royal Mail's Great British Buildings series of stamps in 2012.

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