People's History Museum - Bridge Street, Manchester, UK

Date Built
Bridge Street at Left Bank
In 1994 the Pumphouse on Water Street became home to The People's Museum.  This building was once a part of a hydraulic system that served commercial buildings throughout the Manchester City Centre.  The power was mostly used by presses that packed cotton bales.  In the city’s warehouses, these presses worked in the basements.  Hydraulic powered cranes on the ground floor or higher floors lifted the goods onto vehicles for shipment to the customers.  Elsewhere in the city hydraulics drove lifts, moved railway wagons, and even wound the Town Hall clock and raised the Opera House safety curtain.

The old pump house building housed museum galleries, a café, shop, corporate facilities and education service. In 2008 a major redevelopment of the museum began.  This involved the construction of a new extension and the refurbishment of the existing pump house.  An award of more than £7million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a £2m grant from the Northwest Regional Development Agency financed the project.  The architectural practice of Austin-Smith:Lord designed the new extension and the remodelling of old Pumphouse.  The four-storey extension is clad in COR-ten steel.  In 2010 it was presented with the "Building of the Year" award by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

The entrance foyer includes a shop, a cafe and a projection wall with cartoon characters walking through.  You can see Maggie Thatcher at this moment. 

With the history of universal suffrage as a theme in the exhibition halls, a stack of ballot boxes grace the centre of the foyer.

The old pumphouse will be an exhibition space but when I took these images it was home to a temporary exhibition about the new museum.

Above: The old crane spans the space.

An elevated walkway takes you back at the first floor level into the new extension.  To the right is a flow chart mapping out the tortuous track the country took towards universal suffrage.

Visitors are invited to clock in and out of the museum.  What follows are a series of themed rooms over three floors telling important stories about the struggles for a democratic state.  Take a very brief glimpse below at the layout and the treasures contained within.

In case you should forget the building's history, the old water tanks have been restored and the glass walled stairwell offers you a good view of them.

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