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.

Manchester Opera House then Manchester Opera House now

Manchester Opera House

Manchester’s Opera House has welcomed a rich variety of stars to the city since its grand opening in 1912.

Vivien Leigh, Sir Laurence Olivier, Noel Coward, Dame Maggie Smith, Paul Nicholas, Bonnie Langford and Lynn Redgrave are just some of the household names who’ve appeared there.

The Quay Street building certainly holds a special place in the memory of Mancunians along with another familiar landmark – its sister venue the Palace Theatre.

The Opera House actually started life as the New Theatre but was quickly renamed the New Queen’s Theatre in 1915. It became the Opera House in 1920.

Built of stuccoed brick with a slate roof, the theatre’s classical façade with its fluted Ionic columns has changed little over the years.

The horse-drawn chariot in the central relief under the semi-circular arch is as clear in Nicola Mazzuia’s modern image as it was in the 1970s original.

The Opera House, which has a seating capacity of 1,920, was a bingo hall for five years from 1979 to 1984 until it was bought by the Palace Trust.

Since then it has hosted major productions ranging from The Phantom of the Opera and Ghost the Musical to the Gorillaz’ ground-breaking show Demon Days Live.

st Peters sq then st Peters sq now

St Peter’s Square

This is the west side of St Peter’s Square and the Central Library – one of Manchester’s most distinctive landmarks for more than half a century.

The circular building, which resembles the Pantheon in Rome with its domed design and portico, was officially opened by King George V on July 17th 1934.
St Peter’s Square, bounded by Princess Street to the north and Peter Street to the south, is home to the Manchester Cenotaph, the Town Hall extension and, most recently, the Emmeline Pankhurst statue.
A prominent addition since the original image was shot in the early 1970s is the Metrolink tram stop. There are a few more trees in Nicola Mazzuia’s 2019 photo too!
The Manchester Cenotaph has been relocated from its original position to the north-east end of the square, opposite the Cooper Street entrance to the Town Hall.

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the Cenotaph was inaugurated in 1924 and has been the scene of Remembrance Day services ever since.

St Peter’s Church, from which the square takes its name, was demolished in 1907. It was consecrated in 1794 and was designed in the neoclassical style by architect James Wyatt. A stone cross, built in 1908, commemorates the site of the former church.

Rochdale Canal at Ancoats Then Rochdale Canal at Ancoats Then

Rochdale Canal at Ancoats

This is the Rochdale Canal at Ancoats in June 1971. The water level is so low that children could paddle in it in relative safety.

Today’s scene, taken from exactly the same angle by photographer Nicola Mazzuia, tells a different story. Water in the canal is back to its normal level, the saplings of 1971 are now fully grown trees and new buildings have sprung up on left bank.

The Rochdale Canal, runs for 32 miles from the Castlefield Basin in Manchester across the Pennines to Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire.

It links the Bridgewater Canal in Manchester with the Calder and Hebble Navigation in Yorkshire.

When it was officially opened in 1804, the Rochdale Canal had 92 locks. After years of restoration, locks three and four were replaced with the Tuel Lane deep lock, reducing the number to 92.

As it was 14ft wide, the Rochdale Canal became more popular than traditional waterways like the Huddersfield Narrow Canal as a route between Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The canal carried 539,081 tons of cargo a year from 1830 to 1832. Major items transported included wool, cotton, coal, limestone, timber and salt.

On July 1st 2002, the Rochdale Canal was once again opened for navigation along its entire length.

Jacksons row then jacksons row  now

Jackson’s Row

Here we have Coronation Street star Anne Reid’s wedding to television producer Peter Eckersley in Jackson’s Row.

The couple had just been married at Manchester Register Office and were happy to pose for press photographers.

Reid had only recently left the popular Granada TV soap after playing Valerie Barlow for a decade from August 1961 to January 1971.

She later went on to appear as Jean in the sitcom Dinnerladies and was nominated for a BAFTA award for her portrayal of Celia Dawson in Last Tango in Halifax from 2012 to 2016.

The imposing buildings of Jackson’s Row remain mainly unchanged in Nicola Mazzuia’s 2019 photo, although redevelopment has taken place on the left of the street.

The headquarters of Manchester Fire Brigade were built in Jackson Row in 1866. The previous fire brigade building in Clarence Street was demolished to make way for the new Town Hall.

The fire brigade moved again in 1906 when the new headquarters building on London Road was opened.

Jackson’s Row fire station and the warehouse building on Southmill Street were then replaced by the new police headquarters, whose foundation stone was laid in 1934.

new Bailey bridge then new Bailey bridge now

New Bailey Bridge

Here are crews competing in the annual Two Cities Boat Race between Manchester and Salford universities.

The date is 1974 and the setting is the New Bailey Bridge or Albert Bridge spanning the River Irwell.

Photographer Nicola Mazzuia has captured precisely the same angle and perspective in his modern-day photograph taken a few weeks ago.

The Two Cities Boat Race, established to boost local charities, was first rowed on the Irwell in 1972. Many Victorian buildings are still standing along the route, although substantial development has taken place on both river banks.

The original two-arched New Bailey Bridge, linking Salford and Manchester, was built between 1783 and 1785. An inspection in 1843 revealed it was in such a poor state that it needed to be demolished.

The new bridge, designed by engineer George W. Buck, was opened in August 1844. Consisting of a single arch spanning 106ft of water, the stone structure cost £9,000 to build.

Four cast-iron lampposts lit the bridge which rose to a height of 30ft above the river bed at its centre. At the apex of the arch, and still in place, was the three-ton keystone.

After an elaborate opening ceremony, attended by the mayors of both cities, the first vehicle to cross the renamed Albert Bridge was a donkey cart from Manchester!

beech mount then beech mount now

Beech Mount

This shows the massive hole that unexpectedly opened up on the A464 at Harpurhey on a quiet Sunday in January 1969.

Fortunately, few cars were on the busy Manchester to Rochdale road when the 40ft stretch of tarmac caved in so no-one was hurt.

Engineers were quickly on the scene of the subsidence which may have been caused by heavy rain.

The buildings in the middle ground have changed little in the past 50 years, but the trees and bushes to the left have grown considerably.

As a refuge to the traffic on the A464, Harpurhey boasts one of Britain’s first municipal parks. Designed by Joshua Major in 1845, Queen’s Park was laid out around the original Hendham Hall.

The park once featured a labyrinth and extensive greenhouses. Today it’s an important venue for community events.

The MANCAT sixth form college and community library now occupies the site of the former Edwardian swimming baths on Rochdale Road.

Comedian Bernard Manning bought his World Famous Embassy Club on Rochdale Road in 1959. It was formerly the Harpurhey Temperance Billiard Hall.

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