Exchange Square

Exchange Square was created in the aftermath of the IRA bomb that devastated Manchester's city centre. 

So significant was the damage that several buildings had to be demolished while others were restored and transformed.  As the aerial photograph below, from 1953, shows two busy roads ran through what is now a pedestrianized square.  Cannon Street and Hanging Ditch connected Corporation Street and Victoria Street.

The square is bound by Selfridges on the south, the Arndale Shopping Centre on the east, the Corn Exchange / Triangle on the north and Cateaton Street on the west.  Harvey Nicks dominates the southwest corner and the northwest corner is home to the relocated Shambles buildings, the Old Wellington and Sinclaire's Oyster Bar.

A ditch once ran through this area south of the cathedral and draining in to the River Irwell.  It was called Hanging Ditch.  To commemorate the fact a water feature running through stones was made part of the square created after the bomb.  It can be seen between the trees in the background.

This collection of buildings, dating back to the 17th Century, have lived an interesting life. Originally they were located in a street of medieval building known as The Shambles. When much of the area was extensively damaged during the WWII blitz, the Shambles survived.

When the area around them was redeveloped in the 1970s, the Old Wellington Inn (in the background) and Sinclair's Oyster Bar (right) were jacked up and secured on a steel and concrete foundation. They became part of square behind the old Marks and Spencer store.

In 1996, unlike the modern buildings around them, they survived the IRA bombing. However, it was decided to move both building to make way for the redevelopment of the Marks and Spencer site. This time the Old Wellington was completely disassembled and the two buildings were moved to this new location next to the Triangle. Originally the two buildings were adjacent but in their new home they have been oriented in an L-shaped configuration. A modern but sympathetic extension has been added to the Wellington. It can be glimpsed in the corner where the two buildings meet.

For a number of years a wheel has been placed in the square during the Christmas period but this has now become a permanent feature.

The first Corn Exchange built on this site in 1837 was designed by Richard Lane, who by 1830 was regarded as Manchester's leading architect. However, his building was demolished and replaced in 1897 by the current building. It was in fact constructed in two sections by different architects in 1897 and 1903. The building has a glass dome which lit the central trading floor.

In the 1960s various wholesalers of food products had their premises at street level and below along the streets that surrounded the building. A photograph from an earlier time shows a branch of Parrs Bank to the right of the entrance shown above and Winn's Cafe next to it. The actual trading floor fell into disuse after World War II and, when I visited it in the 1980s, that space was being used as an indoor market with a number of dealers selling jewelery, clothes, books and records.

When the IRA bomb went off the building was severely affected. Restoration involved the replacement of 800 window frames and 1700 square metres of glass to repair the dome. The £8 million reconstruction created an upmarket retail centre, called The Triangle, containing 55 retail units.  On the outside wall is the BBC TV screen.