London Road Fire Station

London Road Fire StationLondon Road Fire Station has been part of my personal landscape for as long as I can remember which is probably why it is one of my favourite Manchester buildings.

It was the first important building we would come to on the number 21 bus that told you we were entering the city proper and for more than twenty years I could see it as I looked from my office window at Gateway House.

It was opened in 1906 to replace the old station on Jackson’s Row and the site was chosen to be near the warehouses on Whitworth Street and Princess Street.

Whether this was some sort of premonition on the part of the Watch Committee I don’t know, but the station played a major role during the German bombing during World War Two. The heroism of the firemen was recognised by a visit by King George VI and the Duchess of York in 1942.

It was used as a training centre after the war and in 1952 it became the first centre that was equipped to record emergency telephone calls. It was also home to an ambulance station, the coroner’s court, a bank and even a gas-meter testing station.

But it inevitably outlived it usefulness and closed in 1986. There have been various plans to turn it into a hotel, none of which have come to fruition. The suspicion is that the owners, Britannia Hotels, are havering in the hope that the building will become so derelict that they can demolish it and redevelop the site.

But while it remains, I have taken some photos and include them in the gallery below.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

9 comments… Add yours
  • Pevsner Pudding 20th September 2012

    The decoration of the building is fantastic and speaks of pre-WWI civic and national pride. Back then, public buildings were not just functional, they had architectural and cultural statements to make. How different it is today. Are any public buildings designed to last? The Millennium Dome in London said it all – a big useless tent that at first had no purpose. Its structural secrets are clearly exposed and it had no elaboration. This was our way of recognising the start of a new millennium – a great big hollow shell with a short shelf life. It speaks volumes about the modern world.

  • Elizabeth 20th September 2012

    It is an absolutely fabulous building, Ian. I was lucky enough to see this last year when I spent a few days near Potato Wharf.

    I so agree with YP’s sentiments and spend most of my urban ventures looking up at beautiful facades and decorations whilst our modern world pays homage to the glass fronted boxes dedicated to the disposable world we live in. x

  • Mr Parrot 20th September 2012

    Your comments are very true. When I think of all the modern buildings that have been knocked down to make way for even more modern buildings and no-one thinks it odd, well you realise how transient architecture is now. I love the way that when the Victorians etc built something, they expected it to stay built!

  • katherine 20th September 2012

    What a pity if it just crumbles away.
    I’d buy it if I had the money, and turn it into an art gallery for up-and-coming artists to exhibit at minimal cost. I’d also have classes for all kinds of things, like the old ‘night school’.
    And I’d live on one floor myself and have a roof-top community vegetable garden.

  • Pevsner Pudding 21st September 2012

    Katherine – there could also be practice rooms for gurning!

  • katherine 21st September 2012

    That’s a thought Ian! We could have lots of mirrors around the walls, and good food and drink for when we needed a break from practice.

  • gerald 23rd September 2012

    If what I remember of what I’ve read is right then Britannia Hotels have been given amble time and opportunities by the City Council to do the “right thing” and renovate or let someone else do so but it seems big business can stall as long as they like.

  • Mr Parrot 23rd September 2012

    Gerald, I totally agree. There was a proposal to include theire station as part of the Whitehall of the North which hit the rails. Pretty much everyone from the council to English Heritage has slammed Britannia Hotels but it’s water off a duck’s back.

  • Trevor Rowley 26th September 2012

    I, too, used to make the regular daily bus journey in and out of Manchester city centre on the old number 21 bus. One of the main hazards of that journey was having to travel on the upper deck amongst about twenty dedicated chain smokers who puffed away to their hearts’ content while I coughed up my innards, peered through a wall of cigarette smoke and, on a rainy day, had to endure the overpowering smell of damp raincoats.

    As Mr Parrot reminisced, the journey always took in the impressive Manchester Fire Brigade main fire station at the bottom of London Road. A friend of mine spent part of his fire service career there and told me that there were sleeping quarters (no doubt for the benefit of those working double shifts and the like) and there were also married quarters for complete families. I travelled past the building yesterday and what a sorry state it now finds itself in with the windows completely caked in road traffic muck and large bushes of vegetation growing out of the masonry higher up. Another example of bungling in high places.

    PS I wonder if Mr Parrot ever travelled home on the last number 21 out of Manchester after a night out – usually at the dreadfully restricting time of about eleven o’clock (this was the, so called, permissive Sixties. By comparison, most punters are usually leaving home at that time in this day and age). Upstairs, at the back, was always a hoot with semi-drunks giving graphic and hilarious accounts of their evenings’ exploits. We were easily pleased in that era.


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