Sports, leisure and the Arts Shudehill Conservation Area


In Medieval times, Manchester's growth was centred on the confluence of the rivers Irwell and Irk, around the Parish Church, which is now Manchester Cathedral and the Manor House, which is now Chetham's School of Music.

When the town expanded beyond its original boundary of Hanging Ditch and Todd Street, the Medieval street pattern, which surrounded the Cathedral area, extended up to Shudehill.

Although much is still in evidence today, the construction of Corporation Street in 1848 cut directly through this curving street pattern to make access to Ducie Bridge and the north easier.

The earliest recorded mention of Shudehill was in 1554 but it is probably older. The name of the street may derive from the word 'Shude' which means husks of oats, but this is uncertain.

'Wythengreave' or 'Withy Grove' meant a grove of willow trees which grew in the vicinity when Withy Grove was a country lane.

Wythengreave Hall, a country house at the upper end of Shudehill, was offered for sale in 1763 with eight and a half acres of land. It had been the residence of the Hulme family, and when William Hulme died in 1691 he left some of his land in trust to support poverty-stricken Bachelors of the Arts.

In 1881 Queen Victoria approved a scheme to re-settle the foundation so that new grammar schools could be built in Manchester, Oldham and Bury, and a hall of residence attached to Owens College (now Manchester University).

The Bradshaw family lived in Bradshaw Hall, a timber and stone house which stood from at least 1512 to 1910 on Shudehill between Bradshaw Street and Snow Hill. John Bradshaw was Magistrate and High Sheriff of Lancashire. With the aid of soldiers, he quelled the food riots of 1757.

The garden at Bradshaw Hall was a showpiece and gave rise to Garden Lane (now Garden Street) which ran alongside. Garden Street was also the site of Manchester's first infirmary which opened in 1752 with the professional assistance of the eminent surgeon, Charles White.

Hanover Street was named following the coronation of King George III and Queen Charlotte in 1761, as were George Street and Charlotte Street on the other side of town. Originally residential, Hanover Street was the site of an early Cotton Mill collapse in 1790 in which several people were killed.

Until the mid-18th century, the Shudehill area had been semi rural with limited residential development, but by 1793 the whole of Shudehill was built up and included commercial property.

In 1785 James Sadler made the first balloon ascent in Manchester from a recreation ground attached to a house in Long Millgate and the alley behind the recreation ground became known as Balloon Street. The property was later converted to a public house, the Manchester Arms, which survived until its demolition in 1980.

Prior to 1838, the function of the Corporation was performed by the 'Court Leet'. One of its officers, Edward Mayes, died in 1621 and left money to purchase land to support the poor of the City. Almshouses were built in 1680 on Miller Lane (now Miller Street).

In 1794 however, the trustees secured an Act of Parliament which enabled them to demolish the almshouses, and in 1808 they sold the land on 99-year leases, for warehousing. Mayes Street, behind the almshouses, was named to commemorate the founder of the charity.

Springs in the Shudehill area were once Manchester's principal water supply, hence the names Well Street and Spring Alley. Pits which are now filled in, were used as water storage until Holt Town Reservoir was built in 1808. The Shudehill source ceased permanently when Gorton Reservoir was opened in 1826.

The early development on Shudehill and Withy Grove was, and still is in part, small scale with narrow frontages. By the 20th century large scale property was being developed along Corporation Street: first the headquarters of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, then the buildings on the corner of Withy Grove and Corporation Street to accommodate national newspaper publishers.

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