Manchester Assize Courts

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Manchester Assize Courts
Assize Courts, Manchester.jpg
General information
Status Destroyed
Type Venetian Gothic
Location Strangeways, Manchester, Lancashire
Construction started 1859
Completed 1864

1957 (ruins from the Manchester Blitz)

Antenna spire 85 m (279 ft)
Roof 80 m (260 ft)
Technical details
Floor area 7
Design and construction
Architect Alfred Waterhouse

The Manchester Assize Courts were law courts once located on Great Ducie Street in Strangeways, Manchester in England. From 1864 to 1877, the 85 metre building was the tallest in Manchester before being overtaken by the Manchester Town Hall. Widely admired,[1] it has been referred to as one of Britain's 'lost buildings'.[2]


Illustration of the Assize Courts from Charles Eastlake's History of the Gothic Revival.

It was the first civic building to be constructed in Manchester since the Town Hall on King Street by Francis Goodwin in 1819. The Builder described the building as the most important building outside of Whitehall.[3] In 1858 competition was launched and over 107 entries were received. It was won by Alfred Waterhouse's who beat schemes from other renowned architects such as Thomas Worthington and Edward Walters.[3]

Waterhouse designed the building in the Venetian Gothic style, construction began in 1859 and was completed in 1864. As part of the scheme, the nearby 1862 Strangeways Prison was also included in his design and is currently a Grade II listed structure.

The building also contained exterior sculptures by Thomas Woolner and the firm of O'Shea and Whelan. These depictedlawgivers from history, along with a "drunk woman", a "good woman", a scene of the Judgment of Solomon and carvings depicting different types of punishment throughout history.

As part of the court system changes, the assize court system in Manchester was abolished in 1956 and consequently changed to the Crown Court system.[4] Following the Manchester Blitz in 1940 and 1941, the building was severely damaged. It was said that everything was destroyed except the Ducie Street facade and judges' lodgings.[5] Numerous buildings affected by World War II such as the Free Trade Hall were repaired but it decided that Manchester Assizes would be demolished soon after the assize court abolition in 1957. Some of the original sculptures were preserved and incorporated into the new Magistrate's court building.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Assize Courts, Manchester". Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  2. ^ "One way to help our broken society – rebuild our cities destroyed by post-war vandals". The Telegraph. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  3. ^ a b Parkinson-Bailey (2000), p 100.
  4. ^ "Criminal trials in the assize courts 1559-1971". National Archives. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  5. ^ Parkinson-Bailey (2000), p. 102


  • Parkinson-Bailey, John (2000). Manchester: An Architectural History. Manchester University Press. 
  • Hartwell, Clare (2002). Pevsner Architecture Guide: Manchester. Penguin Books. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°29′30″N 2°14′53″W / 53.4918°N 2.2481°W / 53.4918; -2.2481