Parks, leisure and the arts Parsonage Gardens Conservation Area

Parsonage Gardens and its buildings today

The Gardens are bordered by large and impressive buildings. Most are in orange-red brick or terracotta, although one modern-style steel and glass structure merges well into its surroundings.

Arkwright House on the south side stands out, as it is clad in white Portland stone. It is an impressive 7-storey office block with gigantic 3-storey Corinthian pilasters, cornices and arched windows on the ground floor. Built in 1929 it is one of the City's most recent constructions to be listed by the Department of the Environment as being of special architectural or historic interest.

The Kendal Milne's department store on Deansgate is an even more recent listed building. Built a decade later than Arkwright House, it is a prime example of the Modern Movement in Manchester, with its plain facades of vertical glass brick windows divided by flat ribs and without any external expression of the intermediate floors.

Also on Deansgate, at numbers 62-66, is Hayward's Building, dating from 1875. It is probably Manchester's most complete shop of the period, with elliptical arches over the windows and some of the original mahogany fittings and showcases inside.

The front of the building is elaborately carved stonework in Italian Palazzo style with paired windows, stone mullions and figurehead key-blocks, plus a balustrade over the projecting cornice.

The conservation area extends as far south as Bridge Street, which is a busy shopping street of small-scale Victorian and Edwardian shops, providing a variety of height, material and detail of high architectural and aesthetic quality. Few streets of this kind in Manchester have been preserved in such good condition.

The oldest building remaining in the area was originally built as a pair of 3-storey Georgian houses, at numbers 31 and 33 on King Street West. The building was constructed around 1800 in red brick with two pairs of stone pilasters and a central pediment. The ground floor has been replaced by modern shopfronts. The present appearance would be enhanced if the building were to be restored to its original state.

Parsonage Gardens conservation area embraces a length of river frontage to the Irwell and this also includes part of the bridge on Blackfriars Street, half of which is in Salford. This heavy stone bridge was built around 1820 to replace a light timber footbridge of 1761. One of the three semi-circular arches is partly embedded in the river bank on the Manchester side.

Since the 1870s the open balustrade above the cornice had been replaced in cast iron, which purposely obscured a view of the river as it was so polluted. In 1991 the parapet was replaced with stone-clad reinforced concrete, which restored the exterior, river face of the bridge, close to its original appearance.

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