Manchester City Council

Sports, leisure & the Arts St John Street Conservation Area

Townscape

The street remains level along its length from Deansgate to Byrom Street, though the latter slopes gently down to Quay Street. At the west end the view along St John Street was originally terminated by St John's Church, now replaced by a formal garden containing a central memorial. Looking eastwards there is no evidence to indicate that there has ever been a specific focal point to punctuate the view. Georgian properties here have given way to a long row of Victorian shops and offices which screen the former Deansgate Goods Station. This is where Alport (meaning 'the Old Town') was located.

Deansgate was in the 18th century known as Alport Street, and later in the 19th century the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal crossed under Deansgate in a tunnel along the line of Culvercliffe Walk.

The house occupied by Richard Cobden was larger than any on St John Street and had an extensive garden. Following occupation by the County Court the garden has become totally developed with buildings. One of them erected in 1896 and Byrom House, a 1960s office block on an adjacent site, front on to the narrow St John's Passage. This route provided pedestrian access between Byrom Street and Lower Byrom Street, alongside St. John's Churchyard, vehicles being barred by cast iron bollards at both ends. Interestingly both sets of bollards are listed for their architectural or historic interest. The passage is paved with stone flags and has stone steps at the west end leading down to Lower Byrom Street. Pavements in St John Street are also surfaced with stone flags, but the contrasting textural character of the carriageway has been replaced over the years.

The old gas lanterns have been replaced by much taller and more powerful electric lights, creating a different townscape effect in the streets. Cleaning of buildings, which was carried out around 1970, made a dramatic difference to the appearance of the street, restoring its overall colouring to the red-orange of Manchester brick.

In 1972, car parking arrangements were reorganized, allowing cars to park at near right angles to the street. To soften their visual impact, trees were planted and together these items have significantly altered the original concept of the street's urban form. Trees have now replaced the demolished church in terminating the view down the street.

St John Street is a wide street by Georgian standards, and this contrasts sharply with the narrow back streets - Artillery Street, Culvercliffe Walk and Longworth Street - which provided access to the workers' cottages. The linear, dynamic, directional character of these streets also contrasts with the static, tranquil spaces of the gardens, particularly St John's Churchyard. The contrast is also significant in the hard materials of the streets and the soft trees and shrubs in the gardens.

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