The Council and democracy History of Manchester Town Hall

Fixtures and fittings

  • Waterhouse designed the two grand staircases leading from the ground floor to the State Rooms as 'easy tread', so that Victorian ladies could comfortably ascend them in their finery, without having to worry about tripping over.  
  • Waterhouse also designed furniture, plate, textiles and china intended for use inside the building.  For example, a ceramic dinner service survives, which bears a Gothic-style pattern personally created by Waterhouse
  • The cotton trade is a major decorative theme of the Town Hall, with cotton plant motifs found throughout the building.  A particular fine example of this is the painted frieze and chimney-piece of the Conference Room, which formerly served as the council chamber. 
  • The famous frescoes in the Great Hall, by Ford Madox Brown, cost £4,500 and took until 1893 to complete. Brown's assistant, FJ Shields, 'retired' from the work in 1891, saying he felt 'unable to think' due to the interruptions of people coming and going in the busy Great Hall.  Brown died only a few weeks after the final fresco was placed in the hall.
  • The main entrance of the Town Hall contains sculptures of the celebrated scientists James Prescott Joule and John Dalton, expressing the importance of science to Manchester.
  • The Great Hall's roof is decorated by coats of arms representing Manchester's historic trading partners from around the globe – but South Africa's crest was covered over during the Apartheid era, when the South African government pursued a discriminatory policy of racial segregation.  Apartheid was declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations in 1976, but continued until 1990.
  • The Town Hall's courtyard and interior rooms are regularly used in the making of TV shows and films, including Sherlock Holmes (starring Jude Law), The Iron Lady (Meryl Streep), Victor Frankenstein (Daniel Radcliffe) and The Limehouse Golem (Bill Nighy and Alan Rickman)
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