Manchester City Council

The Council & democracy Interesting facts about the Town Hall

Honours and accolades

Bell in albert square 1880
  • Architect Alfred Waterhouse won the competition to design the Town Hall with a little help from his friend, the author Elizabeth Gaskell - who asked the celebrated art critic John Ruskin to recommend Waterhouse to the council. 
  • After its grand opening, the Town Hall was highly praised by critics and Waterhouse received the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture the following year.
  • The Town Hall bells were cast by John Taylor & Co, a renowned firm responsible for most of the UK's heaviest bells, including the one hung at St Paul's Cathedral.  Experts consider the Town Hall's bells to be among the very best sets of English-hung bells in the world. 
  • The great hour bell in the Clock Tower, which weighs more than eight tons, is known as Great Abel, in honour of mayor Abel Heywood. 
  • The Town Hall possesses a varied collection of silverware, with the most important set being the dinner service commissioned for the building's grand opening.  This 74-piece set, designed by leading silversmiths Elkington's and valued at £7,000 in 1877, was intended to demonstrate Manchester's status as a 'provincial metropolis'.  Items from the service have been displayed in the Silver Gallery of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
  • Manchester has an internationally important collection of sculptures, many of which can be found in the Town Hall's Sculpture Hall.  Alongside marble busts of royals and 19th century politicians is a bronze plaque celebrating Alcock and Brown, the Manchester men who piloted the first aeroplane across the Atlantic in 1919.
  • Before he became a celebrated architect, Lord Norman Foster worked in the City Treasurer's office at the Town Hall.  In 1983, Foster praised the building as 'splendid... I have strong recollections not only of its internal spaces and its presence on Albert Square, but also its detail, the handrails, the light fittings...  A building designed, through and through'.
  • Manchester Evening News readers chose the Town Hall as their favourite building in Greater Manchester in 2012. Around 1,000 voters awarded the Town Hall an average rating of 9/10.
  • The Town Hall was included in the Royal Mail's Great British Buildings series of stamps in 2012.
  • The Town Hall is a Grade I listed building – meaning that it is considered to be of exceptional architectural interest and national importance.  Only 2.5 per cent of England's listed buildings are classified as Grade I.

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