Longridge House

Longridge House, home to the Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company, once stood on the corner of Cannon Street and Corporation Street.  It can be seen in the next two images from the Newbold Collection and shown here with the permission of Chetham's Library.

This large, multi-storey office building was clad, in part, with green tiles.  It was officially opened in November 1959 and was designed by Harry S. Fairhurst and Sons.

It can be glimpsed again in the image below, taken from the roof of the Corn Exchange.

To say the least Longridge House was an ill fated building which sat on a site that was in itself ill-fated.  In the 19th Century this site was occupied by a variety of commercial buildings, as you can see in the OS map of 1844 - 45 shown below.  The purple area marks the approximate location that Longridge House was to occupy.

The Adshead Map below, dated 1850, (shown here with the permission of Chetham's Library), shows a similar scene.

However, the Manchester Blitz, in World War II radically changed the area.  The bombing and subsequent fires saw large swathes of the area around the Cathedral reduced to rubble.  By the time the aerial photograph below was taken, in 1953, Manchester had a large number of outdoor car parks occupying the sites of mant lost buildings.  This was the case with the corner of Cannon Street and Corporation Street.  The grey rectangles mark the spot where Longridge House was to be built.

Ironically, it was another bomb that destroyed Longridge House itself.  Around 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 15, 1996 two hooded men parked a red and white van on the double yellow lines on Corporation Street near the junction with Cannon Street.  A subsequent phone call to Granada TV from the IRA identified the van as a bomb that was set to go off in one hour.  Despite the efforts of bomb disposal experts, the bomb went off at 11:17 creating the largest explosion in peace time in the UK.  Fortunately there were no fatalities but more than 100 people were injured and an estimated £70 Million of damage was done to surrounding buildings.  So extensive was the damage that both Longridge House and the Marks & Spencer store had to be demolished.

Today, a large Selfridges department store occupies the site of Longridge House.  Cannon Street has gone and a public square, home to the Manchester Wheel, sits outside Selfridges.

Just below the Selfridges sign, on the face of the building, there is an inconspicuous grey plaque.

The plaque was placed here in commemoration of Longridge House.

I don't know why the building was called Longridge House but the plaque gives us a clue.  Royal & Sun Alliance plc was the parent company which incorporated British Engine Insurance Ltd and Longridge House was the head office of British Engine.  As the plaque indicates British Engine was founded in 1878 and at that time it in turn incorporated the Manchester Steam Users Association which had been founded in 1854.  The move to insure steam boilers and more importantly to introduce a system of boiler safety inspections came after a number of deadly boiler explosions.  The Manchester Steam Users Association was the first boiler inspection authority.  It was founded by the eminent engineer Sir William Fairbairn.  The associations chief inspector was R B Longridge.  It seems reasonable to assume that the building was named in his honour.

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