Manchester City Council

Sports, leisure & the Arts Albert Square Conservation Area

Albert Square and its buildings today

The main characteristic of the Albert Square conservation area is its civic grandeur, but it also contains many commercial properties and small-scale buildings.

Originally designated to include the immediate surroundings of Albert Square and the Town Hall, its extension as far as Deansgate in 1985 has added properties of a lesser architectural significance. Lincoln Square and its statue are included, most of the buildings in the square being of the 1960s and 1980s and of varying architectural merit. The most notable is Lincoln House fronting on to Deansgate, a glass office block built in 1986. A pleasant atmosphere is created in the Square by the paving and the generous planting of trees.

The Town Hall on the east side of Albert Square is generally considered to be Alfred Waterhouse's finest work. Designed at the end of the Victorian Gothic revival, it won the competition against 136 other entries on account of its efficiency in planning, use of natural light, heating and ventilation rather than the excellence of its elevations. Nevertheless it is an exceptional work expressing enlightened civic power, and is now a Grade I listed building.

Also listed Grade I is the Albert Memorial, the first monument to commemorate Prince Albert, an elaborate Gothic enclosure protecting a marble statue of the Prince. The profuse decoration on the memorial represents Prince Albert's interests, portraits of famous men and the coats of arms of his dominions in Saxony. Though 73 feet high, the monument is somewhat dwarfed by the Town Hall, which dominates the square.

The recent office blocks opposite the Town Hall were designed to be of sufficient architectural quality to contribute to and 'contain' the square, and to complement the Town Hall without competing with it.

The Victorian buildings at the south end of Albert Square are Gothic in style and are built on relatively small plots creating narrow frontages. The stone-built St Andrew's House has a statue of St Andrew in a niche on the Mount Street elevation. The Memorial Hall on the corner of Southmill Street, in brick with stone dressings and carved tracery in Venetian Gothic style, was built with surplus funds from the Albert Memorial to commemorate the 2,000 ministers who, in 1662, seceded from the Church of England to form the Unitarian Church.

The brick building on the corner of Cross Street at the northern end of the square has Gothic motifs while its neighbour, the Northern Assurance, is a later building inspired by the French Renaissance.

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