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.

oxford-rd-then oxford-rd-now

Oxford Road

Here’s Oxford Road, already busy in our original image dating from the early 20th century.

Much has changed, but the massive clock tower still watches over the hundreds of people who pour into the city every day.

The trams that trundled along Oxford Road have been replaced by cars and buses, but the 217ft clock tower on the former Refuge building still looms in the background.

People crossing the road had to keep a wary eye on passing trams and the odd motorbike.

Today pedestrians have to avoid the hundreds of buses which leave the city via Oxford Road.

The former Refuge building was constructed in three phases. The first part was designed by Alfred Waterhouse in 1891, the second constructed by his son Paul and the final section added in the

The Grade II listed building was home to staff from the Refuge Assurance Company before they vacated the site in the late 1980s to move to Wilmslow.

It remained empty until a £4m refurbishment transformed it into the Palace Hotel in the 1990s.

The Palace Hotel was renamed the Principal Manchester after undergoing another £25 million refurbishment in 2016.

Stockport rd Then stockport rd Now

Stockport Road

Our photograph dates from 1924, when power lines and tracks carrying trams to and from the city centre ran along Stockport Road in Longsight.

Today the road is one of the busiest in Manchester. But the Number 37 trams, which once ran along the route to Stockport, had no difficulties with traffic congestion.

Manchester Corporation had gradually electrified its trams and there were more than 200 miles of tram tracks. Then, in 1930, Manchester became the first city to start replacing its trams with motor buses.

All the trams had gone by 1949 and none were seen here until Metrolink in 1992.

Today’s scenes show just how much people have come to rely on their cars. The junction with Slade Lane is busy throughout the day.

In the old photograph a large billboard can be seen advertising a night out at the nearby Ardwick Empire, which was situated on the corner of Stockport Road and Hyde Road.

Opened in July 1904 with a variety show by the Fred Karno Company, the Empire was designed by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham.

It operated part time as a cinema in the early 1930s, but was refurbished and renamed the New Manchester Hippodrome in 1935.

piccadilly Then piccadilly Now

Market Street Smog

Believe it or not, this 1938 photograph of Market Street and its junction with Piccadilly Gardens was actually taken at the middle of the day!

Scenes like this were common in city centres like Manchester in the mid-1930s as the atmosphere became thick with poisonous choking fumes from home fires and factories.

Smog – smoke and fog – brought city centres to a halt, disrupting traffic, but more dangerously causing dramatic rises in death rates.

As our image shows, the sky was so black the street lights were illuminated and cars and vans were running on full headlights.

What a difference from today’s pictures where the skies are clear, buildings are clean, and trees are growing in the pedestrianised square.

Manchester was a leader in pollution control initiatives. The National Smoke Abatement Society was formed in Manchester in 1928. In 1934, a secretary of the society first proposed the idea of ‘smokeless zones’.

The final turning point was the Great London Smog of December 1952. It lasted five days and caused an estimated 4,000 extra deaths. The result was the Clean Air Act of 1956.

Manchester and Salford had the first smokeless zones in the country in the early 1950s.

chets Then chets Now

Chetham’s School Of Music

Medieval Chetham’s School forms our main image this week. The photograph, from 1900, was shot from the cathedral across Fennel Street.

The mullioned stone frontage of the school is overshadowed by buildings, now largely demolished, dating from the mid to late 1800s.

The hansom cabs, drawn up on the cobbles, evoke the turn-of-the-century atmosphere.

Chetham’s Hospital and Library was described by Leland in 1538 as a ‘fair builded college’. It was about 100 years old when he put quill to paper.

It is probably the oldest continuously inhabited place in Manchester, possibly dating back to Saxon

The internationally renowned musical education institution was originally a baronial manor house, converted to a college and later dissolved with the monasteries in Tudor times.

It was refounded in 1651, thanks to the legacy of Manchester merchant Humphrey Chetham, as a free public library and free school for 40 poor boys.

Specialising in music since the 1950s, the school now caters for almost 300 students, aged between eight and 18, selected by audition for their musical excellence.

The modern photograph from the present day see the school obscured by trees of the park – the green open space now known as the city’s Millennium Quarter.

Withington Then Withington Now


This image from 1912 shows the domineering Victorian façade of Oak Bank Building on Wilmslow Road.

The imposing corner building is still in place, but the businesses plying their trade have changed dramatically since the start of the 20th century.

Grocers, watchmakers and milliners have given way to takeaways, restaurants and estate agents on this busy south Manchester street.

Back in 1912, the stretch of the road running between Davenport Avenue and Queen Street West in Withington was home to tailors, hairdressers, greengrocers and confectioners.

Now the shops include Indian and Chinese takeaways, estate agents and a pub. Out of shot is the Withington Library which caters for readers and researchers six days a week.

The north side of Davenport Avenue was originally parkland, bounded by Rippingham Road and Moorfield Street.

The original tall chimney stacks have lost some of their stature today as the rigours of wind and rain forced owners to partially demolish and reseal the brickwork.

The tramlines running from the centre of Manchester through Withington are unmistakable, as are the horse-powered trams. The first of these were introduced towards the end of the 19th century.

By the 1930s, Manchester trams were carrying more than 300 million passengers a year. The last of the old breed of trams made its final journey in 1949.

City Art Gallery  Then City Art Gallery Now

City Art Gallery

Dating from 1905, our image this week shows a policeman on duty in the middle of the road as the hustle and bustle of city life goes on around him.

Trams, the main form of transport at the turn of the 19th century, line up behind him.

Dominating the view is the impressive City Art Gallery on the corner of the junction with Princess Street.

The building was designed by Charles Barry, who was also responsible for the Houses of Parliament, and constructed between 1827 and 1835.

It was built to house the Royal Manchester Institution, which sought the “promotion of Literature, Science and the Arts.’’

The institution regularly held art exhibitions and collected works of art from the 1820s until 1882.

However, dwindling funds led to the Manchester Corporation taking possession of the building in
1883 and running it as the City Art Gallery.

The building was handed over on the condition that £2,000 per year would be spent on art for the next two decades.

The Art Gallery Committee needed little encouragement. By the end of the 19th century, they had built up an impressive collection of fine art thanks to gifts and bequests from city industrialists.

The gallery was attacked by three suffragettes in April 1913 and two paintings by Millais and one by George Frederick Watts were damaged.

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