Welcome to Then and Now, where each week we compare images of Manchester streets, landmarks, buildings and events from bygone days with today.

Our main image this week shows Speakers’ Corner in front of the Central Library in April 1977. Judging by the placards, the European Community was a hot topic then just as it is now!

One of Manchester’s most distinctive landmarks, the library has dominated the west side of St Peter’s Square since its opening by King George V on July 17th 1934.

The building’s distinctive classical portico and circular design echoes the Pantheon in Rome. Its foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald on May 6th 1930.

At the time of its opening, the Central Library was the largest local authority library in the country.

Speakers corner at St Peters Square in Central Manchester 1977
Protesters at the Conservative Party Conference. Picture taken 4th October 2021
The library has been a place of inspiration for famous Mancunians down the years. Novelist Anthony Burgess visited regularly during his school days, and noted folk singer and playwright Ewan MacColl educated himself there.

St Peter’s Square, bounded by Princess Street to the north and Peter Street to the south, is also home to the Manchester Cenotaph, the Town Hall extension and, most recently, the Emmeline Pankhurst statue.
St Peter’s Church, from which the square takes its name, was demolished in 1907. A stone cross, built in 1908, commemorates its former site.

Our modern image, from October 2021, proves the spirit of protest and debate is still alive in the square.

It shows a protester, armed with a megaphone, outside the Midland Hotel at the time of the Conservative party conference.