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.

Piccadilly  Then Piccadilly Now


Three different types of transport are pictured alongside each other in our image of Piccadilly in 1915.

First in line and partly obscured, is a trolley-bus. It was, quite simply, a double-decker run on electricity through trolley poles.

An environmental dream, the trolley-bus was quiet, fume-free and more flexible in traffic than a tram. It could also accelerate like a sports car and stop on a sixpence!

Side by side are two horse-drawn wagons and a driverless car, a tell-tale sign of the transport revolution to come.

Oldham Street is on the left of the image – and you can just make out the old BBC building among a smattering of offices boasting grand architecture.

The white buildings on the right are still there as is nearby Clayton House.

Today, the thoroughfare once cluttered by traffic has more open spaces for pedestrians, but the
shape of the surrounding area looks very much the same.

After years of decline, regeneration has thrown up some eye-catching residential and leisure conversions.

For many years, Piccadilly has been the central hub of the city’s public transport system. Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria railway stations are close by.

Albert Square  Then Albert Square Now

Albert Square

Here’s Albert Square, where Mancunians have traditionally congregated to mark major events.

New Year’s Eve parties, football homecomings, street festivals and demonstrations have all taken place in the square.

In 1894, the decorations were out for a flying visit from Queen Victoria. She stopped off on the way to open the Manchester Ship Canal and a huge crowd gathered to welcome her.

The Albert memorial, unveiled in 1867, dominates the square. It was built in memory of Queen Victoria’s Consort who died in 1861.

Clearing the site for the new memorial began in 1864. More than 100 buildings were demolished, including a coffee-roasting works, the Engraver’s Arms pub, a smithy and a coal yard.

At the time it was constructed, the surrounding land was undeveloped – the magnificent town
hall was not built until 1877.

The design of the new Town Hall, to replace the old building in King Street, was decided by an architectural competition. The winner was Sir Alfred Waterhouse, whose Gothic blueprint included a building with a high bell tower.

Central Library Then Central Library  Now

Central Library

Our photos contrast the fading glory of the Victorian age with an abiding monument to Manchester – the city’s Central Library.

The cobbled streets and bowler-hatted gentlemen of 1897 may have disappeared, but time has failed to dim the grandeur of the classical library building in our photo from 2018.

Since it opened in 1934, the library has been a focus of municipal activity and stands as an impressive entrance to the city.

The massive town hall facing Albert Square may be one of the city’s most notable Victorian buildings, but looking up Mount Street, the partial image of the library jutting out on the right only tells part of the story.

Walk round the other side of the circular building and the distinctive style can be seen in its full glory. The entrance’s unmistakable five-bay portico Corinthian columns make the building instantly recognisable.

Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald laid the foundation stone for the library in 1930 and it was opened by King George V in July, 1934. It was then the country’s largest public library and remains one of the busiest, visited by more than a million people every year.

Piccadilly Gardens Then Piccadilly Gardens Now

Piccadilly Gardens

Here’s Piccadilly Gardens in 1890. The area was full of the hustle and bustle of life at the heart of Victorian Manchester.

The photograph was taken from the top of Market Street looking towards Portland Street. To the right is the Manchester Infirmary, demolished in 1910 after the hospital was rebuilt on Oxford Road.

On the left of the Victorian scene are horse-drawn passenger trams, forerunners to today’s Metrolink system.

The infirmary was built in 1755 on the street called Lever’s Row which continued south-east as Piccadilly.

Next to the infirmary was a lunatic asylum. A remnant of the infirmary’s basement survived as a sunken garden.

Four statues stand on what was the infirmary’s esplanade. They depict Queen Victoria, Sir Robert Peel, James Watt and the Duke of Wellington.

The green space was transformed in 2002 with a water feature and concrete pavilion designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando.

The bus station was opened on the site of the demolished infirmary in 1931. It was extended in 1932 to 1933 and ran the full length of Parker Street by 1935.

Today the area remains as busy as ever and the modern tram rails can clearly be seen.

Oldham St Then Oldham St Now

Oldham Street

This is Oldham Street in 1900. There’s a real hustle and bustle about the place as people flock to its shops and stores.

Pedestrians avoid the trams as they carefully make their way over the tracks and cobbles in the middle of the busy thoroughfare.

Oldham Street was in its heyday in the early 1900s and was part of Manchester’s commercial heartland. It was later the home to retail giants Marks and Spencer and C&A in the city.

But, over the years, the street fell into decline and became a run-down area.

The opening of the Arndale Centre in the late 1970s accelerated its demise. Many businesses moved away and ‘to let’ signs became common.

Now Oldham Street has been rejuvenated and is the home to alternative music and fashion stores. New apartments and businesses have been created alongside the traditional chip shops and pubs of old Manchester.

The street is now at the heart of the Northern Quarter, which stretches from Piccadilly to Great Ancoats, and has benefited from millions of pounds of investment.

Oldham Street has a unique place in cinema history as Julie Christie was filmed walking down it in the classic kitchen-sink drama Billy Liar in 1963.

Manchester’s Anglican Cathedral Then Manchester’s Anglican Cathedral  Now

Manchester Anglican Cathedral

This is Manchester’s Anglican Cathedral and Cateaton Street in 1880. The photograph has been shot from Deansgate.

The trams and horse-drawn carriages may have disappeared, but the cathedral stands as a haven of worship through the centuries.

The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George, to give it its full name, has survived conflict and destruction over the years. It took a direct hit during World War II and was badly damaged by IRA bombers in December 1992.

The Regimental Chapel was destroyed in the 1940 Manchester blitz, which also damaged a huge stained-glass window.

In 1992, an IRA bomb on Cateaton Street smashed the face of the cathedral clock and its stained-glass windows. The blast injured 58 people. Hundreds more who had moved out of Deansgate later sheltered in the cathedral.

Original building work on the cathedral started in 1422, a year after Henry V granted a licence to Thomas de la Ware to found a collegiate church.

The old St Mary’s Church, dating from Saxon times, was rebuilt on a grander scale to create the widest church nave in England.

The cathedral was extensively refurbished, both inside and out, during the 19th century.

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