The Council and democracy History of Manchester Town Hall

The interior

Rooms and features

The entrance and the Sculpture Hall

The main Albert square entrance features a 7 feet deep archway - the thickness of the wall supporting the main tower. On the right side of the hall is Chantry's statue of the famous chemist and philosopher John Dalton, and on the other is a statue of the great physicist James Joule.

The Sculpture Hall measures 53feet wide and has a groined roof of Bath stone, with bands of blue stone brought from the Forest of Dean. It was named for the collection of sculptures that was displayed here, although the sculptures have been temporarily relocated across the city for the duration of the Our Town Hall project. They will be returned to the site before it re-opens in 2024.


Seven staircases lead from the ground floor to the first floor. There are two grand staircases leading up from the Sculpture Hall, which take their light from tall windows overlooking the central courtyard. Spiral staircases rise from the Princess Street, Lloyd Street and Cooper Street entrances, and the other two are in the centre of the building. The spiral staircases are known as the English, Scottish and Irish staircases, named after the country that provided the granite for its steps and columns.

Waterhouse designed the "easy tread stairs" of the block staircases to enable Victorian ladies in their finery to ascend the stairs without having to look down. He ingeniously concealed the gas pipe, which carried the gas for the lighting, underneath the banister rails of the spiral staircases. The floors around the building's corridors and landings total some 4,500 yards of marble flooring, laid by Venetian craftsmen.

The Great Hall and State Rooms

The second floor is the most impressive of the Town Hall, as it houses the State Rooms and the Great Hall, featuring the 12 murals by Ford Madox Brown. The superb ceiling of this room is separated into panels bearing the arms of the principal countries and towns our city traded with. 

Above the landing in front of the Great Hall is a glazed skylight on which are inscribed the names of Mayors, Lord Mayors and Chairs of the Corporation / Council since Manchester received its Charter of Corporation in 1838.

The landing here is traditionally known as The Bees, because they feature on the mosaic floor of the landing is a pattern of bees. They're symbolic of Manchester's industry and also found in the state rooms and at other points in the building, as well as on the city's coat of arms. Manchester's involvement in the cotton trade is commemorated by a border of white strands and stylised cotton flowers on the mosaic floors, which were laid by Venetian craftsmen.

The Lord Mayor's Parlour is a lofty room hung with portraits of public figures and paintings presented to the authority. The Reception Room has a fireplace of alabaster and bears the figures of Truth and Justice. The Banqueting Room boasts two fireplaces, one of Hopton Wood stone and the other of oak. Above one of the fireplaces is the minstrels' gallery. The Conference Hall, which was the original Council Chamber, contains an interesting oak screen and canopy and a gallery.

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