The Cathedral area has been the ecclesiastical and scholastic centre of Manchester since the earliest times. Today, the Cathedral and Chetham's Hospital school form the focal point of a wider area notable for the diversity of activities carried on within its bounds.
To the south and east the two buildings, and the confined solemnity of the Cathedral Yard, are effectively separated from the rest of the city centre by a partial ring of Victorian Commercial buildings, including the impressive Corn and Produce Exchange. These all cluster around the medieval street pattern and bounded on the outside by the curving line of the Cateaton Street, Hanging Ditch, Todd Street, Victoria Station and Hunts Bank approach.
To the north and west the Cathedral overlooks the broad width of the busy Victoria Street and the deep cut of the River Irwell, both of which traverse the area, and beyond, into Salford, to the extensive cobbled forecourt of the disused Exchange Station which forms the western boundary of the area.
The area was designated as a Conservation Area in April 1972 in order to preserve and enhance the quality of the setting of the Cathedral and Chetham's Hospital School.