Sunday, 18 April 2010

Manchester....the belly and guts of the Nation

I might not go as far as Orwell but if you are exiled from your homeland there are worse places to end up (fucking London, the regional economy masquerading as a national economy for 1)

The planning for a new Town Hall began in 1863. After an investigation of suitable sites, including Piccadilly, the site chosen for the new town hall was an oddly shaped triangle facing onto Albert Square. The choice of location was influenced by a desire to provide a central, accessible, but relatively quiet site in a respectable district, close to Manchester's banks and municipal offices, next to a large open area, suitable for the display of a fine building.

A competition was held to design the Town Hall. Of the 137 entries in open competition for the design, Waterhouse's design was chosen, mainly for his ingenious planning, and he was appointed as architect on 1 April 1868. The foundation stone of the new Town Hall was laid on 26 October 1868 by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Robert Neill. Construction took nine years, used fourteen million bricks, and cost £775,000 (£53.5 million as of 2010). The Town Hall was opened by Lord Mayor Abel Heywood, who had championed the project, on 13 September 1877, after Queen Victoria's refusal to attend the opening.

The building exemplifies the Victorian Gothic revival style of architecture, using themes and elements from 13th-century Early English Gothic architecture. The choice was influenced by the wish for a spiritual acknowledgement of Manchester's late medieval heritage in the textile trade of the Hanseatic league and also an affirmation of modernity, the fashionable neo-Gothic style being preferred over the classical architecture favoured in neighbouring Liverpool. The exterior, faced with hard sandstone quarried near Bradford, Yorkshire, known as "Spinkwell stone",  is decorated with sculptures of important figures in Manchester's history. The interior is faced with multi-coloured terracotta by Gibbs and Canning Limited. The painted ceilings were provided by Best & Lea of Manchester, who had also provided the ceilings in the Natural History Museum, London, also designed by Alfred Waterhouse.

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