White City, Greater Manchester

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A picture of the gateway to the Botanical gardens from 1832
Today, White City is a retail park

White City is a retail park on Chester Road in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England. At the southeast corner of the docks area and southeast of Manchester United's ground, it is the site of the former Manchester Botanic Gardens which hosted the Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857. The gateway of the Botanic Gardens still stands at the edge of the retail park. During its history, White City has also been the site of an amusement park and a sports stadium for athletics, greyhound and stock car racing.[1]

History of the site[edit]

In 1827 the Botanical and Horticultural Society was founded in Manchester to encourage the study of botany and horticulture.[2] The society built a botanical garden on the site covering 16 acres (65,000 m2). The site was chosen by John Dalton for the society as it was down-wind of pollution from the city. The land, which was owned by Thomas de Trafford, was leased to the society at a price of the society's choosing.[3][4]

The gardens featured a complex of plant houses and a conservatory that was built by Clarke and Jones of Birmingham. The building was 321 feet (98 m) in length and the conservatory had a 40 feet (12 m) high dome. The buildings were heated by a system of hot water flowing through pipes.[4][5] The Grade II listed gateway that still faces Chester Road was the entrance to the gardens.[6][dead link]

In 1857 the gardens hosted the Art Treasures Exhibition which was opened by Prince Albert. The exhibition was visited by 1.3million visitors in 142-days. A further exhibition was held in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. This exhibition attracted 4.74 million people over 192-days.[4]

By the end of the 19th century, interest in the gardens was waning as the wealthy moved away from the city centre. In 1907, part of the garden's site was leased to White City Limited, a company set up by Heathcote and Brown. The company opened the "White City Amusement Park" on the site on 20 May 1907.[7]

The remaining 11 acres (45,000 m2) was sold to Canine Sports Ltd on 1 November 1927 for the construction of a stadium.[4] The site held its first motorcycle speedway race on 16 July 1928. With the stadium being completed and greyhound racing starting in 1930.[8] In July 1953 a 6-lane cinder track for athletics was made. The stadium was sold to a developer at the end of 1981, it was left vacant, fell into disrepair and closed in 1982.[8]

Greyhound racing[edit]

The stadium ran as a greyhound track from 1930 right up until 1982 after being acquired by the Greyhound Racing Association. It would always live in the shadow of its neighbour Belle Vue Stadium. The circuit was 450 yards with wide well banked turns and an inside Sumner hare. It hosted two major races, the Manchester Cup and Cock O'the North, the latter transferred to Belle Vue after the tracks closure in 1982.

Probably the greatest greyhound to be trained at White City was Wild Woolley, trained by Jack Rimmer, who defeated Future Cutlet to win the 1932 Derby; he would later finish third in the next two Derbies in addition to winning the inaugural Gold Collar at Catford Stadium.

Stock car racing[edit]

The stadium started to host BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Cars run by Mike Parker Promotions in 1972. The track was originally a very bumpy shale surface, but was tarmaced in 1976. The BriSCA Formula 1 Stock Cars World Championship World Final race was held twice at White City. In 1976 the race was won by Stuart Bamforth, and in 1979 by Frankie Wainman. The racing continued until the end of the 1981 season before it was sold for redevelopment.[9]


  • Love, Benjamin (1839), Manchester as it is, Love and Barton 
  • Percy, Reuben; Timbs, John. (3 March 1832), The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction 19, J. Limbird 
  • Worthington, Barry (2002), Discovering Manchester, Sigma Leisure, ISBN 978-1-85058-774-3 

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 53°27′40″N 2°17′02″W / 53.461°N 2.284°W / 53.461; -2.284