Connecting London Road Station with Oxford Road, Whitworth Street, named after Joseph Whitworth was first laid down in 1899 and it would mark stage two of Manchester’s warehouse building project.
With the opening of the Ship Canal earlier that decade, the required warehouse was now much bigger than those of the early and mid nineteenth century, owned now by multiple companies who would store the goods prior to dispatch
Big grandiose buildings attracted big grandiose architects who would leave their mark on this road built originally as part of a planned ring road connecting London Road and Oxford Road stations following the course of the elevated Altrincham Railway.
The biggest of these was Harry S. Fairhurst who would establish his reputation with in the design of both India and Lancaster House.
Almost as quickly as they came into use, the cotton trade would decline and by the late twentieth century the buildings were in rapid decline.
Recognising the legacy of the area, the street was placed at the heart of the area of the Central Manchester Development Corporation and the buildings have slowly come back into use.
English heritage can sing only the praises of the street , a clear example they say in a report “
“of the way in which commercial interest and investment requires support and public funding to catalyse action. For many years the high quality listed buildings had proved an unattractive proposition to investors, the advent of a focussed and dedicated approach underpinned with the judicious use of public funds ultimately released the potential of the buildings and the area.”
A walk down Whitworth Street
At the junction of London Road stands the terracotta building that was the former fire brigade headquarters, George William Parker’s most magnificent,well appointed fire station described once as the finest in the world.
On the corner of Whitworth Street and Sackville Street stands the buildings that once formed part of Manchester’s College of Technology. Its founding goes back to the 1890’s when the Manchester Corporation took advantage of the acts of 1889 and 1890 which gave grants for the promotion of technical education, taking over the Technical School in 1894.
The building stands on the site of Joseph Whitworth’s engineering works, it was designed by the London architects Spalding and Cross, on the recommendation of Alfred Waterhouse, built in the French Renaissance style and boasting the finest Edwardian brickwork in the region, it was opened by the Prime Minister Arthur Balfour in 1902.
It also houses the Godlee Observatory.
Across the street is the Sheena Simon Campus of Manchester College. Built in 1897 as the The Central High School and opened by the Duke of Devonshire, the building was turned into a hospital providing care for soldiers wounded in the First World War. Known as The Second Western General Hospital, it was the largest military hospital in Manchester at the time with a capacity of over 16,000 beds.
It returned to use as a college in 1920, it was renamed the Central High School for Girls in 1960, although it was an all-girls school from 1954, eventually becoming the Shena Simon College in 1982.
On the North Side of the Junction with Princess Street, work is beginning on a new complex. A previous scheme fell victim to the recession and was abandoned in 2008, the foundations of the three building blocks and four-level basement car park were constructed.
Now planning permission is being sought for two buildings with a mix of approximately 240 high quality one, two and three bedroom apartments, and a four star hotel.
There will be ground floor retail and restaurant units with flexible leasing structure that will showcase some of the City’s finest and most vibrant artisans and a landscaped public square for local people to meet and relax.
The scheme retains the 300 space basement car park for use by residents and parking opportunities for surrounding neighbours.
Cross the Junction with Princess Street and the warehouses line up for you
Lancaster House was a packing and shipping warehouse, designed by Harry S. Fairhurst and built between 1905 and 1910 for Lloyd’s Packing Warehouses Limited, which had, by merger, become the dominant commercial packing company in early-twentieth-century Manchester. It was built with granite at the base and Accrington bricks and terracotta above.
But would be most recognised by its most distinctive corner tower with a cupola. It was Fairhurst’s gift to the family that he had recently married into. Today the Grade II listed building is primarily apartments varying from Studio size to grander three bedrooms
Next to it stands another Fairhurst designed building India House, designed for the same Company and now having the same fate, one flat being the former home of Oasis leader Noel Gallagher, where he wrote much of the material that appeared on the bands first two albums, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory and Definitely Maybe.
Bridgewater House completes the trio of warehouses along this stretch of Whitworth Street. Again designed by Fairhurst, and named in honour of one of the architects of Manchester’s Industrial Revolution, a crest of the Earl stands above the main entrance, it was constructed in 1912, again for the use of the Lloyds Packing Company. It is now offices having undergone recently a three quarters of a million refurbishment project.
As Whitworth Street crosses Oxford Road, its junction is shepharded by the Palace Theatre and the Palace Hotel, formerly the Refuge Insurance Building.
New developments stand on the north of Whitworth Street West, while the South Side hugs the railway arches of the line out of Oxford Station. Under here a number of bars and clubs have risen up including Gorilla and the Dog Bowl
Opposite stands the Manchester O2 Ritz.First opened in 1928, it was famous for its bouncy floor. Starting in the days of dance, it was mainly frequented by first class dancers who were assured of finding good partners, or they could engage one of the professional partners at sixpence a dance. Most people learnt the basic steps at their local dance hall before becoming confident enough to set foot in the Ritz. After various reincarnations including being claimed by Jimmy Saville as one of the places where he invented disco while he was the manager there, it can claim to be Manchester’s oldest surviving music venue.
Further along is Merchant Exchange, its facia kept in the style of its origins at the beginning of the 1900’s, it backs onto the Rochdale Canal
In the 1980’s Whitworth Street West would also be home to another almost infamous music venue the Hacienda, designed by Dan Kellly, owned by Factory Records and New Order, it opened its doors in 1982 and became the centre for Manchester’s alternative music scene of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s but continued problems with drugs and gangs saw its closure in 1997.Today on the site stands Crosby Homes’ stylish apartments bearing the same name.
Opposite stands Manchester’s new centre of culture, HOME, once the proposed site of the BBC in the North, which instead went to Salford Quays, HOME, which opened in 2015. Billed as the place for curiosity seekers, for lovers of the dramatic, the digital and the deeply engaging; for radicals and reciprocators, it is the base for films, theatre and exhibitions.