I recently purchased a book and I need to tell you about it!
The book is called “Lost & Imagined Manchester ” by Jonathan Schofield, and its probably one of the most interesting local history books I’ve read in a long while. So good, I have to tell you about it.
The introduction explains its all about 50 lost or imagined buildings in Manchester. Some you might be able to see the traces of and others which never actually got off the drawing board. You will find anything from the Clarion Cafe through to Maine Road and the Assizes Court.
I won’t go through all of them for you, as I really think you should buy the book, but one of the highlights for me is the Manchester Art Treasures Palace. Having studied Victorian art at University which included a focus on the Great Exhibitions of London, Paris and Glasgow, I was surprised to discover I didn’t know anything about the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857.
Without going in to too much detail on the exhibition, size of the building, attendees (Queen Victoria and co obviously!), Ia couple of the building of the exhibition facts I found fascinating, .
Apparently the building of this enormous temporary exhibition structure which “covered an area of 2 football fields and had its own railway sidings, landscaping and catering arms” in Old Trafford went something like this:
Idea for the exhibition first discussed in February 1856
Money for the exhibition was raised in March 1856
Royal approval for the exhibition granted in May 1856
Building began in August 1856
Building completed February 1857
16,000 pieces of art all installed and the exhibition opened in May 1857.
The Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition was open for 142 days, and visited by over 1.3m people. Mills were closed to allow and encourage people to attend.
The “Manchester Madonna” by Michelangelo which is currently in the National Gallery was one of the treasures displayed.
Charles Halle assembled a group of musicians to entertain visitors and as a result of the praise received he then set up the Halle Orchestra.
In September 1857 the exhibition closed (as planned) and within a few months everything had disappeared. The building was demolished and dismantled.
Pretty much sums up Manchester in the Victorian age in a nutshell – engineering, ambition, confidence, and education. I’d like to think we’re on the verge of something similar today in Manchester.
Jonathan Schofield’s Lost and Imagined books are available for a number of UK cities.