Manchester City Council

The Council & democracy News - June issue

Town Hall sculptures on the move

They might be made of stone, but Manchester Town Hall's collection of sculptures have been on the move.

Since the Town Hall closed in January to allow a six-year project of work to repair, protect and partially restore the Grade 1 listed building, staff have had to deal with the impressive collection of historic treasures before any physical work can start.

Find out more about the Our Town Hall project at www.manchester.gov.uk/ourtownhall

The fantastic Town Hall collection of heritage items – including artworks, furniture, paintings, textiles and civic gifts – must be carefully removed by specialists and stored in climate-controlled conditions off-site.

Many of the sculptures and other items have been loaned to other venues around the city so they can remain on display before returning to the Town Hall when it reopens to the public in 2024. 

The newest addition to the collection – a bust of the community and peace activist Erinma Bell, made of melted-down, weapons amnesty guns – is on display at the People’s History Museum as part of an exhibition being held to mark the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act.

Many other pieces are being exhibited in accessible public spaces, such as Manchester Cathedral, where a bust of Bishop James Fraser (1818–1885), the second Bishop of Manchester and an active supporter of the Co-operative Movement, will be displayed.

A bust of Sir Rowland Hill, who was responsible for the development of the modern postal system in the 19th century, is now at the entrance to the Post Office branch in the Town Hall Extension; and a triptych bust of the famed conductor Sir John Barbirolli has been relocated to The Bridgewater Hall.

Salford Museum and Art Gallery is hosting a bust of the political activist Joseph Brotherton MP, who was the first Member of Parliament for Salford in 1832; a slave-trade abolition campaigner, Brotherton was instrumental in the foundation of the first public library in the building that houses the museum today.

Councillor Bernard Priest, Lead Member for the Our Town Hall Project, said: “One of the key aims of the Our Town Hall project is to improve access to the building and our civic treasures. In that spirit, we’ve worked with organisations across the city to ensure that key Town Hall sculptures remain on public display while this once-in-a-lifetime project is completed. It’s great to know that they’re proudly on display at locations where their historical importance really resonates.”

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