With such a long and rich history, it's no surprise that a look back through the decades reveals a wealth of interesting stories and fascinating facts about the city's greatest architectural treasure – the Town Hall (1877).
- The need for a new Town Hall was caused by the 'unmitigated disaster' of its predecessor - a Grecian-style building on King Street, which was beautifully designed, but too small for the needs of a rapidly expanding Manchester. The council was forced to rent extra office space, a situation which became worse when space had to be found for the Cotton Famine Relief Fund, set up to tackle the suffering caused by the American Civil War, in 1862.
- The Town Hall could have looked very different, as more than 120 architects entered a competition to design the building, which was won by Alfred Waterhouse. Most entries were in the Gothic or Italianate styles, but one ambitious contender, T. Roger Smith, submitted a scheme in 'the Indian style'.
- No expense was spared when the Town Hall was built, with the cost estimated to have been as much as £1,000,000.
- The building was constructed using 14 million bricks of Spinkwell sandstone, sourced from a quarry near Bradford, Yorkshire. Waterhouse avoided flashy colour for the exterior of the building, because he knew that it would soon be rendered soot-black by the polluted atmosphere of the industrial revolution-era city.
- The Clock Tower is 280 feet (87 metres) high. The inscription on the three clock faces visible from Albert Square reads "Teach us to number our days".
- The Town Hall housed the city centre police station until 1937. Six cells for prisoners still survive to this day - but are not used! Greater Manchester Police opened a new city centre enquiries office at the Town Hall Extension in 2014.
- Plans to demolish the Town Hall were floated in the 1940s, as planners felt that the 'sooty' building was no longer 'fit for purpose'. They proposed replacing it with a new Town Hall in the Art Deco style. Fortunately, the idea was eventually scrapped.
- By 1965, the Town Hall's exterior was so sooty that the National Society for Clean Air reported that some foreign visitors believed the building was made of coal. A six-month, £27,000 cleaning operation was proposed and the sandstone exterior was scrubbed clean with fluoride solution.
- Albert Square and the Town Hall were joined together by a 1985 scheme to redirect traffic away from itself and to pedestrianise the area around the Albert Memorial.