Free Trade Hall
The Free Trade Hall in Peter Street, Manchester, England, was a public hall constructed in 1853–6 on St Peter's Fields, the site of the Peterloo Massacre and is now a Radisson hotel. The hall was built to commemorate the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. The architect was Edward Walters. The hall was owned by the Manchester Corporation. It was bombed in the Manchester Blitz and its interior rebuilt. It was Manchester's premier concert venue until the construction of the Bridgewater Hall in 1996. The hall was designated a Grade II* listed building on 18 December 1963.
The Free Trade Hall was built as a public hall between 1853 and 1856 by Edward Walters on land given by Richard Cobden in St Peter's Fields, the site of the Peterloo Massacre. Two earlier halls had been constructed on the site, the first, a large timber pavilion was built in 1840, and its brick replacement built in 1842. The halls were "vital to Manchester's considerable role in the long campaign for the repeal of the Corn Laws. The hall was funded by public subscription and became a concert hall and home of the Hallé Orchestra in 1858. A red plaque records that it was built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre in 1819.
The Free Trade Hall was bought by Manchester Corporation in 1920; but was bombed and left an empty shell in the Manchester Blitz of December 1940. A new hall was constructed behind two walls of the original facade in 1950–51 by Manchester City Council's architect, L. C. Howitt. opening as a concert hall in 1951. As well as housing the Hallé Orchestra, it was used for pop and rock concerts. A Wurlitzer organ from the Paramount Cinema in Manchester was installed over four years and first used in public in a BBC programme broadcast in September 1977. When the hall closed, the organ, which was on loan, was moved to the great hall in Stockport Town Hall. The Hallé Orchestra moved to the Bridgewater Hall in 1996 and the Free Trade Hall was closed by Manchester City Council.
In 1997 the building was sold to private developers despite resistance from groups such as the Manchester Civic Society, who viewed the sale as inappropriate given the historical significance of the building and its site. After the initial planning application was refused by the Secretary of State, a second modified planning application was submitted and approved. Walters' original facade was retained, behind which architects Stephenson Bell designed a 263-bedroom hotel, demolishing Howitt's post-war hall but preserving the main staircase and the 1950s statues that were formerly attached to its rear wall. The hotel opened in 2004, having cost £45 million.
The Italian palazzo-style hall was built on a trapeziform site in ashlar sandstone. It has a two-storey, nine-bay facade and concealed roof. On Peter Street, its ground floor arcade has rectangular piers with round-headed arches and spandrels bearing the coats of arms of Lancashire towns that took part in the Anti-Corn Law movement. The upper floor has a colonnaded arcade, its tympana frieze is richly decorated with carved figures representing free trade, the arts, commerce, manufacture and the continents. Above the tympanum is a prominent cornice with balustraded parapet. The upper floor has paired Ionic columns to each bay and a tall window with a pedimented architrave behind a balustraded balcony. The return sides have three bays in a matching but simpler style of blank arches. The rear wall was rebuilt in 1950–51 with pilasters surmounted by relief figures representing the entertainment which took place in the old hall. The Large Hall was in a classical style with a coffered ceiling, the walls had wood panelling in oak, walnut and sycamore. Pevsner described it as "the noblest monument in the Cinquecento style in England", whilst Hartwell considered it "a classic which belongs in the canon of historic English architecture."
After its closure, the hall was sold and after a protracted planning process and consultations with English Heritage, its conversion to a hotel was agreed. During the hotel's construction, the Windmill Street and Southmill Street facades were demolished and the north block retained and connected by a triangular glazed atrium to a 15-storey block clad in stone and glass. Artifacts salvaged from the old hall, including 1950s statues by Arthur Sherwood Edwards and framed wall plaster autographed by past performers, decorate the atrium light well.
The Free Trade Hall was a venue for public meetings and political speeches and a concert hall. In 1872 Benjamin Disraeli gave his One nation speech. In 1904, Winston Churchill delivered a speech at the hall defending Britain's policy of free trade. The Times called it, "one of the most powerful and brilliant he has made." In 1905 the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) activists, Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney were ejected from a meeting addressed by the Liberal politician Sir Edward Grey, who repeatedly refused to answer their question on Votes for Women. Christabel Pankhurst immediately began an impromptu meeting outside, and when the police moved them on, contrived to be arrested and brought to court. So began the militant WSPU campaign for the vote.
Bob Dylan played on there in 1965 and 1966, Pink Floyd played on five occasions as did Genesis in February 1973. On 4 June 1976, the Lesser Free Trade Hall was the venue for a concert by the Sex Pistols at the start of the punk rock movement.
See also 
- Hartwell (2001), p. 92
- Free Trade Hall (1246666), National Heritage List for England, English Heritage, retrieved 13 October 2011.
- Manchester's Free Trade Hall is a building ..., Urban Realm, retrieved 13 October 2011
- Hartwell (2001), p. 93
- The Stockport Publix One Wurlitze r, The Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust, retrieved 14 October 2011
- The Free Trade League, Winston Churchill.org, retrieved 13 October 2011
- Kellie (2010), p. 175
- BBC Manchester: Sex Pistols gig: the truth Sex Pistols gig: the truth, The BBC, retrieved 13 October 2011
- Hartwell, Clare (2001), Manchester, Pevsner Architectural Guides, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-071131-7
- Kellie, Euan (2010), Rebuilding Manchester, DB Publishing, ISBN 978-1-85983-786-3
- Wyke, Terry (1996), A Hall For All Seasons: A History of the Free Trade Hall, Charles Hallé Foundation, ISBN 978-0-9528003-1-6
- Free Trade, Chartism and the Anti-Corn Law League in Manchester
- Manchester People Free the Free Trade Hall