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Happy Birthday Big Fella

Manchester Town Hall is 130 – join a free lunchtime guided tour of the building

Published on September 13th 2007.


Happy Birthday Big Fella

Manchester Town Hall is 130 years old today. The old dog wears it well.

From the day it opened on 13 September 1877, Mancunians knew they’d cracked it with this building. John Bright on the night, described it as ‘a municipal palace. There is nothing like it in any part of the United Kingdom and in any of the great famous old cities of the Continent of Europe’. In the fuggy afterglow of the grand opening banquet even the dimmest city father must have been aware that they’d built themselves something which might define a city.

Now called a ‘classic of its Age, the Town Hall was designed by Alfred Waterhouse - a prolific architect who would also design the Natural History Museum in London, Strangeways Prison and Manchester University. The building is a Gothic fantasy of finials, spires, tracery and pointed arches where High Victorian sculpture, painting and decoration reach their peak, but it’s also an extremely practical building perfect for its role as the civic centre for the city.

The Town Hall is even a star of the silver screen, the body double for Westminster Palace, aka the Houses of Parliament. For instance in the award winning political thriller House of Cards, the evil PM, Francis Urquhart pushes journalist ( and ex-lover) Maddy off a roof of the Houses of Parliament in London and she lands in a courtyard of the Town Hall, two hundred miles away. No wonder she was dead.

Meanwhile the best piece of symbolism on this astonishing building must be the spiky golden sphere 281ft up, on top of the tower. This is a cotton bud about to burst and provide the cotton which had created Manchester’s industrial might. It’s another symbol too: the sun. ‘Wherever the sun shines we have business,’ the city is saying in a typical display of Mancunian arrogance.

You can see this all for yourself as well. To celebrate the first 130 years of the Town Hall, Manchester Confidential is offering a tour of the building free of charge to the first 30 people who sign up below. The tour will last 50 minutes and takes place on Thursday 27 September at 1pm – a perfect cultural lunchtime treat of art, architecture and stories of funny mayors and resident ghosts. Meet on the steps of the Town Hall in Albert Square. The guide will be Jonathan Schofield, the Manchester Confidential editor.

This competition has now closed.

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Thank you for your interest, but this competition closed to further entries on November 11th 2009.

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Leigh Bresnahan

when is the winner notified?

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Patricia Burke

Great place!

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Anonymous

How so anon above?

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it's not what it was. Get yourself down the eagle

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