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The History ========= The original Free Trade Hall was built in 1838 on the corner of St Peter Street and Southmill Street, formally known as South Street. The original structure took the form of a temporary wooden hall which was built to hold protest meetings during the “Anti-Corn Law League” - the ordinary people protested against the 1846 Corn Laws as it was seen as a symbol of the dominant ruling aristocracy’s feudal power over them and of the suppliers' profiteering on the cost of the common man’s staple food. The present Free Trade Hall, the third structure, and now a permanent stone building, was built later as a monument to honour the Manchester movement and is now a listed (government heritage) building. During World War II, the façade of the Free Trade Hall was gutted by bombs – it was not reopened until 1951, as it had to undergo extensive reconstruction. LC Howitt of Manchester City’s Department of Architect’s undertook the reconstruction project; however, unfortunately, it is said that the new interior did not quite capture the grandeur of the original. In 1857, Charles Hallé founder the Hallé Orchestra made the Free Trade Hall its home and it continued to perform there until 1996. In 1997, the Hallé moved to its new home in the Bridgewater Hall, and the Free Trade Hall was vacated and put up for sale by its owners, Manchester City Council. Political History =========== Having its roots as the site of the famous Peterloo Massacre in 1819, the Free Trade Hall is significantly historically important as being the venue for a number of social and political reforms during the nineteenth and twentieth century. A great many sensitive issues have been debated at the Hall by significant names such as Disraeli, Gladstone, Churchill and the Suffragette Christabel Pankhurst - Dalai Lama visited the Hall in 1998. The Free Trade Hall faça
de bears a plaque duplicating Manchester City’s Coat of Arms, which was designed and created by Edward Walters in 1856. The plaque reads: "The site of St Peter's Fields where in 16th August 1819 Henry Hunt radical orator addressed an assembly of about 60,000 people. Their subsequent dispersal by the military is remembered as Peterloo". The Coat of Arms has red and white stripes and a ship, symbolising Manchester's status as a port, even before the opening of the Ship Canal in 1894. As well as a mural depicting the Peterloo Massacre, the Free Trade Hall was also the home of the Stockport Publix One Wurlitzer, which used to be housed in the Odeon Cinema before it was converted into a multi-cinema. It took over four years to rebuild the organ, which was completed in 1977. Because of the uncertainty of the future of the Free Trade Hall, the organ was relocated to nearby Granada Studios. The Architecture ============= The present Free Trade Hall is considered to be a nineteenth century architectural masterpiece. It was designed by Edward Walters, who was a well-known architect during the Victorian era. The intricate façade is constructed from honey coloured stone, which is carved with neo-classical designs and ornamentation. One of its most prominent features is the row of ‘tympanae” decorative arches each bearing an allegorical figures, with the central figure, who is sitting with her hands out either side of her, depicting “free trade” - there are bound crates on both sides of her which represent “goods” ready for transportation by sea - in the background there are what appear to be ship’s sails and masts. The Free Trade Hall is a fine example of nineteenth century architectural history in itself, and is well worth viewing at close quarters in order to appreciate it. Famous Visitors and Performers ===============
======== The Free Trade Hall was recognised as the city’s leading venue for classical music. Elgar’s First Symphony was premiered there in 1908. In its lifetime, it has also been used as a concert hall, hosting such famous names as Bob Dylan, Shirley Bassey, Ella Fitzgerald, the Undertones and the Sex Pistols Marc Bolan, Davie Bowie, and Dr Feelgood to name but a few. Churchill also addressed many meetings and made many speeches in the Free Trade Hall. The Future ======== The Free Trade Hall has recently been sold by Manchester City Council to a private developer and announcements have been made regarding plans to transform this historic Free Trade Hall into a £45 million luxury hotel complex. Work is expected to start at the beginning of this year and the hotel is due to open in 2004. It will be under the management of the Radisson Edwardian Hotel group. This will be the Radisson’s first five star luxury hotel outside of London. Manchester City Council believes the agreed design will greatly enhance the building’s distinctive facade on Peter Street. It is planned to preserve as many of the existing features of the façade as possible, however, the plans will incorporate a new sixteen storey tower which will replace the rather austere elevations constructed behind the Italianate frontage. Additionally, the new hotel complex will have the history of its roots as the Free Trade Hall reflected within the interior of the building. The project is being funded by Bank of Scotland Corporate Banking in Manchester. Further Information =============== If you would like to learn more about the political history, including the Peterloo Massacre, the Reform Movement and the Anti Corn Law League, please visit: http://www.manchester2002-uk.com/history/victorian/Victorian2.html For further information on the Hallé Orchestra, including a programme of events, please vis
The Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England, was for many years a focal point for public debate and cultural activity in the city. Built near the site of the notorious 1819 Peterloo Massacre, on what is today Peter Street (formerly St. Peters Fields), it has historically been seen as a symbol of free trade and the wealth that it helped to generate for Manchester during the Industrial Revolution. It was also used as a concert hall. The Hallé Orchestra first performed there in 1858, and continued to do so until their move in 1996 to the Bridgewater Hall.