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 Albert Square carpeted by overnight snow in December 1955. Lights are twinkling on the Christmas tree while shop fronts are illuminated by a neon glow.

The year 1955 proved to be one of the coldest of the 20th century as the North West was in the grip of a big freeze. Blizzards left Blackpool engulfed by snowdrifts more than five feet deep.

In our photo, snow and ice lay on the square’s centre-piece, the Albert memorial. Unveiled in 1867, it was built in memory of Queen Victoria’s Consort Prince Albert who died in 1861.

The surrounding land was undeveloped at the time as the imposing Town Hall was not built until 1877.

Albert Square, Manchester
The design of the new Town Hall – a replacement for the old building in King Street – was decided by an architectural competition which attracted no less than 137 entries. It was eventually won by Sir Alfred Waterhouse.

One of the most influential figures of the Victorian Gothic Revival, Waterhouse was also responsible for Manchester Assize Buildings and Strangeways Prison as well as the Natural History Museum in London.

The foundation stone for the Town Hall was laid in October 1868. Construction work lasted for nine years, using more than 14 million bricks.

Queen Victoria refused to attend the official opening in September 1877 so the duty fell to the mayor, Abel Heywood, who had been at the forefront of the project from the start.