St. Peter's Square

In 2014 St Peter's Square is an area in transition.  The square is dominated by the Central Library and Townhall Extension on one side; the newly built, and not yet complete, Number One St. Peters Square on the other.  The image below shows the square some years ago when Elisabeth House sat where Number One St. Peters Square now stands and the Peace Garden sat on the corner of Mosley Street and Princess Street.  Both have since been removed.

The extensive refurbishment of the library and town hall and the building of Number One has meant that the square has been a construction site for a number of years. 

In addition new Metrolink tram platforms have been added and the Cenotaph has been removed.

This isn't about to change any time soon because the relatively new tram stop is about to be moved again further along Mosley Street, and a new tram line built that will link the square to Victoria Station. 


In the 18th Century the area where St. Peter's Square stands today was an open field.  In 1788 St Peter's Church was built here on the edge of the town centre. 

On August 16, 1819, 60,000 people assembled on St Peter's Field to hear Henry Hunt talk about the reform of the House of Commons.  The City Magistrate, worried about the meeting, called in the troops and mounted soldiers rode into the crowd.  The so called "Peterloo Massacre" resulted in the death of 11 people and the injury of 140 more. 

St Peter's Church suffered from a decline in the local population in the 19th Century and it was demolished in 1907.  The square was created at that time and a cross was erected to commemorate the church.

The Central Library was built in 1934 and four years later the Town Hall Extension was added beside it.

For many years the east side of the square was dominated by a dreadful concrete and glass building called Elizabeth House (below) that was completed in 1960.  It was apparently meant to be clad in stone but for financial reasons that never happened.  When I took this picture in 2008, most of the shops on the street level were closed.  It was later demolished and replaced by Number One St. Peter's Square.

The Midland Hotel stands on the south end of the square.  It is a railway hotel built by the Midland Railway as the counterpart to the St. Pancras Hotel at the other end of the railway, in London. The designer was the Midland Railway's architect Charles Trubshaw. Construction began 1893 and it was completed 5 years later. Reflecting its role as a railway hotel, it had a covered walkway from Central Station to the Windmill Street entrance.

The ground floor is built of a pink granite from Peterhead interlaced with bands of a darker Shap granite. The upper floors are built of brick faced with Burmantoft terracotta.


There is nothing plain about the hotel. There is a great deal of decoration made from glazed terracotta as you can see both above and below.  It has always been one of Manchester's premier hotels and a plaque in the entrance way commemorates the fact that it was here that Henry Royce and Charles Stewart Rolls first met.


On the island in the centre of the square the Cenotaph designed by Edwin Lutyens (who was responsible for the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London) used to stand in a prominent position looking up Mosley Street.

It was completed in time for the Allied Victory Parade in 1919.  A number of similar memorial structures were created by Lutyens around the country.  Built of Portland stone it is topped by a sculpture of the unknown soldier draped in his greatcoat.

Nearby were other memorials to: - "Our Fallen Comrades - by the British Legion Manchester" - The Korean War - "Our Italian Comrades 1915 - 1918" and "To the honour and memory of Mancunians who have given their lives in other conflicts since 1945"

In 2014 these memorials were dismantled and moved to their new location on the site of the former Peace Garden.


A Portland stone cross by L. C. Howitt stood behind the Cenotaph across from the library.  It was erected to commemorate the fact that St. Peter's Church once stood nearby.  Once the refurbishment of the square is complete, the cross will be the one monument to stay at the heart of this public space.

During the refurbishment the cross was dismantled.  When I visited again in July of 2016 the square was still a construction site but the cross was back.


St Peter's Square in March of 2017

Close Window