Welcome to Then and Now, where each week we compare images of Manchester streets, landmarks and buildings from bygone days with how they look now.
This is a scene from Portland Street in 1955. The photographer is looking towards Piccadilly with Watts Warehouse, now the Britannia Hotel, behind the row of buses.
The impressive building was constructed in 1856 as a textile warehouse for the drapery business of S & J Watts. At the time, it was the largest single-occupancy textile warehouse in Manchester. The sandstone warehouse was built by local architects Travis and Mangnall at a cost of £100,000. It is designed in the form of a Venetian palazzo.
Each of the five storeys is decorated in a different style – Italian Renaissance, Elizabethan, French Renaissance, Flemish and Gothic. The Grade II listed building was derelict for years after World War II, but was reopened as a hotel in May 1982.
There is a memorial in the entrance to the Watts’ employees who lost their lives in the First World War. The company of S & J Watts was founded in a small weaver’s cottage in Didsbury by successful cotton trader James Watts. He went on to become Mayor of Manchester and was a leading industrialist of the time. Politicians, churchmen and society figures were all entertained at his Cheadle home, Abney Hall.
Prince Albert stayed with Watts when he came to Manchester to open the Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857.
Here we feature a scene from what was once described as Manchester’s pet shop paradise – Tib Street in the Northern Quarter. It was said you could buy anything from a goldfish to a monkey from the street’s numerous pet shops which were always buzzing with activity. Two pet emporiums can be glimpsed in our original image along with the well-known White Seal Café. Walter Smith’s pet shop was the last to close down in 2013.
The tower of the New St. Paul’s Church on Oldham Road rises up in the centre of the original photo. Built between 1876 and 1878 to a design by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, the church was demolished in the 1960s.
Tib Street’s origins date from the 1780s. It was the central trading district of Victorian Manchester and the city’s main shopping district in the late 1940s and 1950s. The street is now a vibrant mix of shops, businesses, bars and restaurants. It’s also the home of the Manchester Fashion Market which sells work by the city’s up-and-coming designers.
If any of the photographs in the Then and Now series bring back any memories for you, please share them with iNostalgia on our website inostalgia.co.uk or our Facebook pages. We’d be delighted to hear from you.
We are standing in King Street, looking down towards Cross Street, with Cheapside crossing over in the immediate foreground. And what’s that classically-porticoed building on the right-hand side in front of us? That’s Manchester Town Hall, no less.
Before the present town hall was built in 1877, the city’s hub was on this site. Built in 1825, it was for some years the home of Mr Hallé’s Classical Chamber Concerts, a series which in its time was the entertainment of choice for Manchester’s social elite, attracting novelist Mrs Gaskell and her husband, the minister of next-door Cross Street Chapel, among others.
The old town hall became a library, and the site today is occupied by a building erected for Lloyd’s Bank. But little of the remaining vista has changed. The columns of the old town hall façade were re-erected in Heaton Park in 1912. (Photo from: Computerised Image Collection. Manchester Archive & Local Studies Unit, Central Library.)
One hundred and five years ago, this busy part of Oxford Road, Manchester was known as All Saints – as it is today. Then, of course, the cobbled road was full of horse-drawn wagons and trams, one of which was making its way to Withington, judging by the picture.
The area to the left of the picture was Grosvenor Square, with the classical portico of Chorlton-on- Medlock town hall in Cavendish Street – now part of Manchester Metropolitan University, as is the building alongside it, the Manchester College of Art, where L S Lowry was a student. Picture courtesy of Computerised Image Collection, Manchester Archive, Local Studies Unit, Central Library.
Here is one of Manchester’s most famous streets before it achieved its iconic status. Canal Street – in 1963, then a nondescript back street alongside the Rochdale Canal. Canal Street today, one of the most vibrant entertainment areas in Manchester – albeit at night – and the heart of the city’s Gay Village.
Not much has physically changed in the 40-odd years between the two pictures. Industry and businesses have moved out of the buildings and bars, clubs and restaurants have moved in, but the street scene remains largely the same. However, note that the tarmac in 1963 has now been ripped up to expose the cobbles which the city father of the 1960s obviously thought were rather old-fashioned.
This area of London Road, in city centre Manchester, has undergone plenty of changes since the photo was taken in 1914. However, as one of the main thoroughfares out of town, it has always been a busy place. Today, of course, the trams that made their way into Piccadilly have been replaced by Metrolink trams, and the horse and cart that can be seen trotting above wouldn’t stand a chance against the buses and cars of Manchester in 2006.
It’s interesting to see that the building just behind the traffic policeman’s head is still standing; today it houses the Rossetti Hotel. The companion building to its right has long gone, replaced by a modern and architecturally inferior row of shops that lead to Piccadilly Station approach. Photo from Computerised Image Collection. Manchester Archive & Local Studies Unit, Central Library.
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