Overview: Manchester’s architecture is steeped in history with a rich diversity of influences, beginning with ancient Roman. The city still... more »
Manchester’s architecture is steeped in history with a rich diversity of influences, beginning with ancient Roman. The city still... more » boasts many buildings representing its past scattered throughout the city, often alongside modern architectural designs. Manchester architecture includes Victorian, neo-gothic, art deco, baroque, neoclassical and deconstructivist building.
While many of these architectural wonders continue to serve their original purpose, such as the Manchester Cathedral, others have been re-purposed, still maintaining the integrity of its original design. This half-day tour includes a highlights of Manchester’s architecture within the City Centre.
Take a break anytime as these attractions are located near multiple restaurants, pubs and coffee shops. less «
These five architectural attractions are located within Manchester's City Centre, easily walkable. Each stop on this tour offers tips ... more »on using Manchester public transportation.
What to wear: You're in England, so be sure to bring jackets and umbrellas! less «
Chetham’s School of Music and Library is one of the U.K.’s oldest surviving public libraries, established in 1653 by the will of Humphrey Chetham, a wealthy Manchester textile merchant, banker and landowner.
However, the sandstone building is actually 200 years older, built in 1421 as a college for priests. Today, it is one of the most complete ... Moremedieval complexes still standing in northwest England. Built in red sandstone, it originally formed dormitories and quarters for cathedral clergy. Grouped around a central courtyard with a defensive gate entrance, this was typical of a medieval-style building
Located at the confluence of the rivers Irwell and Irk, the site is a point of strategic defense and has been occupied since Roman times. In 1421, Thomas de la Warre, Lord of Manchester and rector of the parish, re-founded the church as a college. The medieval site was quite impressive for its building of Collyhurst-quarried sandstone, barged to the site via the river. The religious compound included a large hall; warden’s private lodging for Warre and accommodations for each of the priest “fellows.” Everything they’d require was contained within the gates – a bakery, brewery and stables. At the time, other than the church, it was the largest building in medieval Manchester.
In 1547, Henry VII closed and dissolved these monasteries after the reformation and the complex became the home of the Earl of Derby. Although the college was brought back to life in 1557, time and exchange of ownership resulted in dilapidated buildings. Chetham is credited with saving the medieval buildings from demolition.
Originally, “Chets” was opened as a hospital for the poor and a benevolent school providing free education to about 40 boys from poor families. From its inception, Chets also included a free library; today, that collection comprises more than 100,000 books, many rare, and more than half printed before 1850. Collections include 16th- and 17th-century printed works, periodicals and journals, local history sources, broadsides and ephemera.
When the library was first begun, the acquired books were protected from the dampness of the first floor by being chained to the “presses” (bookcases). Also 24 carved oak stools were fashioned to provide seats for readers, which are still in use.
Today Chetham’s is also a school for musically gifted protégés, maintaining Chetham’s charge to not exclude those without the financial means. Schedule your visit on a Wednesday to enjoy lunchtime concerts in the Baronial Hall. Concerts would be perfectly combined with a guided tour of the school and library – by appointment only.
After more than 350 years, Chetham’s continues as a free public library, and its entire collection is designated as internationally important. The library is open to the public. However, please note, public tours of the library are by appointment only, and portions of the medieval building are not viewable by the public.
Monday-Friday, 9am-12.30pm and 1.30-4.30pm
How To Get There
Take the FREE Manchester City Centre Metroshuttle to Victoria Station
A medieval church on Victoria Street and today’s seat of the Bishop of Manchester, Manchester Cathedral’s formal name is The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George in Manchester. It boasts the widest nave of any church in England.
The Manchester Cathedral is the third built on this site since the 8th century. Evidence... More of an early Saxon church in Manchester is supported by the discovery of an Angel Stone, dated around 700, and embedded in the wall of the original South Porch of the Cathedral in the 19th century.
In 1086, William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book mentioned a Parish Church, believed to be this one, located at the corner of St Mary’s Gate and Exchange Street. The site was deserted by 1215, when Lord of the Manor and 5th Baron of Manchester, Robert Greslet, built the current church, located adjacent to his manor house, which is now Chetham’s Library.
In the mid-1400s, the church was elevated from a parish to a collegiate church with the addition of the college. The ancient church was then upgraded into a cathedral in 1847.
Manchester Cathedral has had its share of tribulations. Its structures have been knocked down and rebuilt several times. Henry VII’s men confiscated its treasures. Attacked during the English Civil War and bombing by the Nazis in 1940 lead to a 20 year restoration, which suffered more damage when windows were blown out by an IRA bomb in 1996. Through it all, the Manchester Cathedral still stands.
Following post-restoration and extension in the Victorian period, and then repairs after bombing in the 20th century, the Manchester Cathedral’s main body is in the Perpendicular Gothic style. While James Stanley was warden (1485-1506), he commissioned the late medieval wooden furnishings, including the pulpit, choir stalls and the nave roof supported by angles with gilded instruments. It is one of Manchester’s Grade I listed buildings.
The visitor center includes interactive displays covering the history of the Manchester Cathedral and medieval Manchester. A basement café offers historic surroundings in which to dine and drink.
Admission is free, although donations are welcome. Photography for personal use is permitted.
Monday - Friday 8.30am - 6.30pm
Saturday 8.30am - 5pm
Sunday 8.30am - 7pm
Monday - Friday 8.30am - 5.30pm
Saturday 8.30am - 5pm
Sunday 8.30am - 5.30pm
Accessibility: Currently, no disabled access is available to the Regiment Chapel, and parts of the Quire are only reachable by foot. All other areas are accessible.
How to Get There: Located adjacent to Chetham’sLess
The University of Manchester Library, formerly known as the John Rylands University Library, was founded by Enriqueta Rylands as a memorial to her late husband, Manchester’s first multimillionaire. In 1889, the £500,000 Gothic building was designed by architect Basil Champneys, opening to the public on January 1, 1900.
In 1972, the library... More became part of the University of Manchester. Now it is the third largest academic library in the U.K. One of only five National Research Libraries, it is considered one of the best in the country, with more than 4 million printed books and manuscripts, more than 41,000 electronic journals and 500,000 electronic books, and several hundred databases.
Expense wasn’t spared to create this magnificent example of Gothic architecture. Materials used included Cumbrian sandstone, Polish oak from Gdansk, white molded plasterwork and art nouveau-style bronze casting of fittings, radiator grills and other metallic work. It was also the first Manchester building lit by electricity, powered by an onsite generator, and re-wired in the 1990s. The original building also contained a sophisticated air-filtering system to reduce pollution.
The first example of the Gothic era is above the front door of Deansgate for the coat of arms of St. Helens, the birthplace of John Rylands, and the combined Rylands and Tennant (Mrs. Rylands) families set with John Rylands’ monogram.
A group of statues, by famous sculptor John Cassidy (1860-1939), entitled “Theology,” dominate the original Entrance Hall with its numerous pillars and vaulting. Walk into the Historic Reading Room, which was intentionally built 30 feet above street level to minimize the sounds of horse-drawn traffic on the cobblestones of Victorian Deansgate.
The Reading room is bookended by Cassidy’s marble statues of John and Enriqueta Rylands with alcoves on each side for quiet study rooms. Be sure to look up 40 feet to the vaulted ceilings and also take in the stained glass Theology window.
Years of painstaking preservation and repairs to its buildings, fittings and furnishings have earned the John Rylands University Library a Grade 1 listed status. A new entrance wing on the Spinningfield side added reader and visitor facilities, the Conservation Studio, and a reading room for works of great rarity.
Sunday - Monday Noon - 5pm
Tuesday – Saturday 10am - 5pm
Getting There: Take the Free Metroshuttle to Spinningfields.Less
Completed in 2006, the Beetham Tower in Manchester is considered a symbol of the new, post-industrial Manchester, designed by architect Ian Simpson. The £150 million, mixed use development is located in Manchester City Centre at the junction of Deansgate.
Manchester’s highest building and U.K.’s tallest outside of London, Beetham can be... More seen from 10 surrounding counties. The 47-story Beetham Tower stands at 168.87 meters (554 feet), yet it is also one of the thinnest skyscrapers in the world (ratio 10:1). Floors 25 to 47 are residential apartments, including the top floor penthouse. The 47th floor duplex penthouse has views that stretch to the Welsh Mountains, Liverpool and the Blackpool Tower and might be worth the reported £3 million paid by the architect.
Floors 1-22 are occupied by the Hilton Manchester Deansgate with the Cloud 23 bar located on the 23rd floor. While you probably aren’t going to experience the view from the penthouse suite, you can see just how high the Beetham Tower is at the Cloud 23 bar, where a 4 meter (13 feet) cantilevered overhang with two glass windows in its floor offers a dizzying view of the ground below. Floor-to-ceiling windows also offer a view of Manchester's skyline.
The façade on the south side of the building features a blade structure, doubling as a lightning rod. Unfortunately, the blade is the cause of a noise disturbance probe into Beetham Tower as on particularly windy days, the tower emits an intermittent hum, created by wind passing over the glass fins that can be heard as far away as Hulme (14.48 kilometers/8 miles).
How to Get Here: Located in Manchester City Centre, Beetham Tower is near the Deansgate station and .12 miles from John Rylands Library.
TIP: The Hilton Manchester Deansgate is also a convenient stop for a coffee or smoothie at the Podium Restaurant, or take the elevator to Cloud 23 on the 23rd floor for the view and a cocktail.Less
Dominating Albert Square on an asymmetrical triangular site, the Victorian-era, neo-Gothic Manchester Town Hall first became a town hall upon its completion in 1877. Designed by architect Alfred Waterhouse, its initial cost is estimated to range from £775,000 - £1 million. More than 50 years later, in 1938, the building was expanded... More with the addition of the detached Town Hall Extension, connected by two covered bridges over Lloyd Street. Manchester Town Hall is an architecturally acclaimed as a neo-Gothic masterpiece, and the building received Grade I status in 1952.
Today the building is still home to a handful of governmental offices as well as the Manchester City Council headquarters. You might experience several moments of déjà vu as Manchester Town Hall has been featured in numerous television and films, including all interior shots of the Iron Lady (2011) and the filming of Sherlock Holmes.
Time your visit well and you’ll be greeted by the distinctive chiming of Great Abel, the bell in the clock tower reaching 87 meters high (285 feet). At the front entrance, say hello to a statue of Roman Governor Agricola, founder of the original fort of Mamucium, the beginning of Manchester. More busts and statues honoring influential Manchester figures fill the Sculpture Hall and guard the entrance to Manchester Town Hall.
The exterior of the building is constructed of “Spinkwell stone,” Yorkshire-quarried sandstone believed to reduce soot-gathering. However, the exterior was blackened by the late 1890s, although the stonework was successfully cleaned and restored to its original appearance in the late 1960s.
The interior is a stunning example of that Gothic revival style of architecture, with its stone vaulted ceilings and tall arched windows. Rather than darkly stained glass windows, lightly tinted glazing and skylights were used to take advantage of the daylight. Public corridors are lined with terracotta rather than plaster, tiled dados and washable floors.
A pair of grand staircases links the Albert Square main entrance to the first floor and the main part of the building, the Great Hall. Amidst the grand statues are the famous 12 Manchester murals, painted by Ford Madox Brown, mentor to the Pre-Raphaelites. The Great Hall has been described as the “most magnificent Gothic apartment in Europe.” Those staircases link the main entrance to the outside landing, which has a glazed skylight inscribed with long list of names of public officials dating from 1838.
Open weekdays and some Saturdays
One-hours tours cost £7.50
Please note: Town Hall is a working building and some state rooms may not be available due to meetings and event.
How to Get There: Take the free Manchester Metroshuttle to Albert’s Square.
Take some time at the Manchester Visitor Information Centre, an extension of the Town Hall, near Lloyd Street (tram stop: St Peter's Square).