Manchester City Council

Sports, leisure & the Arts Upper King Street Conservation Area

Townscape

The upper part of King Street is a wider and more majestic continuation of the earlier portion to the west. Although almost all properties in the street have been re-developed at some time, the west retains the small-scale property boundaries typical of the Georgian period while the upper part to the east has changed its character completely.

The buildings are large, and although the architectural styles vary greatly they do for the most part create a harmonious street scene. The view looking up the street is terminated by a group of buildings with an interesting skyline of pediments, cupolas and chimneys in the Baroque style. These buildings are not exceptionally tall, though there is a general increase of height and mass towards the top of King Street. All are dwarfed, however, by the tower of the Piccadilly Plaza, which can be seen in the distance.

Pavements are wide in King Street. The original stone flags have been replaced by concrete flags or tarmacadam. Street lamps have been replaced by tall, modern high-powered fittings. The first outdoor gas lamp in Manchester was installed in King Street in 1806, over the entrance to the Police offices.

The south side of Market Street remains as it has always been, presenting a rich tapestry of varied buildings with narrow frontages, although the re-paving completed in 1994 does not complement the historic character of the street.

Narrow-fronted buildings are also to be found in the northern part of Mosley Street, though to the south of its junction with York Street there is a return to large bank buildings such as those found in King Street.

Sir Edwin Lutyens was well aware of the importance of the site when he designed the Midland bank with four front elevations. It is at this point that the rectilinear street patterns generated by Mosley Street and Deansgate converge. Sites around the bank are wedge-shaped and Spring Gardens curves around in order to conform to both grids. Views along the street terminate on corners of the bank, making it a very prominent structure.

On the south side of the conservation area at Kennedy Street, the small-scale Georgian property boundaries are still evident, though most buildings were reconstructed in the 19th century.

This conservation area adjoins the Albert Square conservation area, where some Georgian properties still exist. The street curvature where Booth Street joins Tib Lane is another example of where one street's grid pattern gives way to another, and the sites between them become irregular in shape.

Where sites have been redeveloped in the latter half of the 20th century, total coverage has not been practised and landscaped areas exist. These are unfortunate interruptions in the frontage, which is built up to the back of the pavement as is typical of Victorian streets in commercial areas.

Following the destruction of large areas of the city during the Second World War, the City of Manchester Plan of 1945 proposed a virtual rebuilding of the city. Fortunately the plan, which would have left the Upper King Street conservation area with just three pre-war buildings, was not implemented. Fountain Street would have been widened, and new buildings were therefore set well back from the proposed edge of the road. However, this scheme was abandoned and some of the old buildings earmarked for demolition have in fact survived, and this has resulted in the line of the street's building frontage being somewhat jagged.

Many different building materials have been used in the Upper King Street conservation area. These include variously-coloured brick, stone (predominantly yellow sandstone), exposed aggregate pre-cast concrete, bronze-coloured glass in metal frames, clear glass in concrete frames, and various modern high-tech materials. These have all been used with varying degrees of success. Granite tends to be used only at ground floor level, either for the construction of a plinth if the ground is sloping, or as a durable cladding for the entire ground floor. The effect of this is that the ground floor levels of buildings have a distinctive appearance.

Very often the top floor is differently treated also - perhaps with a mansard roof or a projecting cornice, or the roof-line may be elaborately decorated with pediments, cupolas, dormer windows and chimneys. Entrances are always clearly emphasised, being surrounded by architraves and set in a door-case with carved mouldings, often surmounted by a projecting balcony. They are also often located on the corner of buildings, which are frequently chamfered for this purpose, sometimes further emphasised by a cupola or other roof decoration. Windows are mostly vertically proportioned, of the vertical sliding-sash type, and nearly always grouped in twos or threes. Unless the fenestration is composed of projecting bay or oriel windows, it is always set well back from the facade of the building, creating an interesting three-dimensional modelling.

As the majority of sites in the conservation area are totally covered by the building, there is little need for boundaries to be marked. A few sites are marked by a change of material, and in some cases there are steps in the paving leading to a landscaped area on a different level, but these are modern and atypical of the area. The most successful of them is Pall Mall Court, an office block designed by Brett and Pollen in 1969. Other boundaries are marked by rows of bollards, but these can be monotonous if evenly spaced and not interspersed with other items such as planters, seating, lamp standards or litter bins.

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