Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thursday Tour of NW England - V is for Victoria

I haven’t found any places in Lancashire beginning with ‘V’ so this week I’m looking at a different kind of V with some links between 'Victoria' and my adopted city of Manchester. Yes, I know Manchester is no longer (administrively) in Lancashire, but it was in Victorian times! By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, Manchester had become the centre of the Lancashire cotton industry. Its nickname was Cottonopolis and many of its present buildings date from the Victorian era when merchants, industrialists and bankers built imposing edifices in the city centre. So here are some of the places in Manchester that were named after Queen Victoria.

Victoria Park is a suburban area of Manchester, about two miles from the city centre. It was established in the 1830’s by an architect whose aim was to build a residential area with substantial houses for prosperous business and professional families. By 1850 about 50 houses had been built, and the area still has about 20 listed buildings dating from that time. One notable resident was the suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Mrs Gaskell, author of Cranford, also lived in this area at one time. Now many of the large houses have been converted into apartments, often for the use of the large student population at the nearby university.

The University of Manchester’s official title from 1880 until 2004 was ‘The Victoria University of Manchester’. It was founded in 1851 as Owens College, after John Owens, a textile manufacturer, left a bequest of £96,942 to establish a college. The original college was in the city centre, but by 1873 a new building had been constructed about two miles out of the city. In 1880 was granted a royal charter thus enabling the word ‘Victoria’ to be attached to its name. When it merged with the Institute of Science and Technology in 2004, it was renamed as the University of Manchester, so it has now lost its link to Victoria.

Manchester Victoria Station is situated to the north of the city centre, and serves destinations to the north and east. It was opened in 1844 and was named Victoria with the permission of the Queen. By the mid 40’s, six different railway companies were using the station and it was one of the largest passenger railway stations in Britain. It was enlarged in the first decade of the 20th centre, with a 160 yard long façade. Inside the station there is still a large tile mural showing the routes of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company which operated most of the trains until 1923. There was also a long platform linking it to the adjacent Exchange Station. At 2,194 feet, it was the longest passenger platform in Europe.

The station has now been reduced in size, mainly due to the construction of the Manchester Arena, and its general fabric deteriorated. So much so that in 2009 it was identified as the worst station in the country! There have been various plans for refurbishment which have fallen through because the withdrawal of government funding, but a new project was announced in 2010 which hopefully will improve the place!

Victoria Baths, although named after Queen Victoria, are actually Edwardian, built in 1906 by the ‘Baths and Wash-houses Committee’ of Manchester Corporation. They were described as “the most splendid municipal bathing institution in the county” and provided extensive facilities for swimming. They also had many period decorative features – stained glass windows, terracotta tiles and marble floors.
When the city council decided to close the Baths in 1993, there was strong reaction from the local community, and a charitable trust was set up to preserve and restore them. Nothing was done for about 6 years, and the building started to fall into disrepair, until the charity received a large grant from English Heritage. The project is still ongoing.

All photos licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


  1. I enjoyed Manchester a lot, each time I visited it!

  2. I rarely go into the city centre these days, Claudia, but I was there a couple of days ago for a guided tour of the Cathedral which was interesting.

  3. I still love the city of my birth - three generations of our family came from there. Also for me, Manchester will always be in Lancashire, so the politicians can go and get lost as far as I am concerned. It was a tragedy that the great cities like Manchester and Liverpool were removed from the county. Shame on them.
    Used to go swimming in the Victoria Baths but then it was just known as High Street baths.

  4. I love Manchester's history, Margaret, and I've lived here much longer than I lived in my 'home' town of Preston. Mind you, I did go 'boo, hiss' at the Cathedral the other day when the tour guide talked about the strong links between the Stanley family and Manchester!

  5. Good on you Paula, I would have boo hissed too!