Wednesday, 2 August 2017

At the bus stop in Piccadilly in 1961

It is 5 pm on a sunny afternoon in 1961 and the rush hour is in full swing.

And if you lived in great chunks of Manchester it would be the bus which would be taking you home.

Now it would be a full eight years before I washed up in the city but W.Higham’s picture perfectly captures the bus station I remember.

It is of course a scene that has vanished.  The old glass and steel shelters went a long time ago and the building behind on Portland Street was another of those that I remember but its demolition passed me by.

Behind the bus shelter and the line of commuters the sunken gardens fare better, lasting into this century before they too succumbed to change which I still have doubts about.

Every time I gaze on that great concrete slab I wonder if a more sympathetic device could have been created to screen the busy transport hub from the open spaces of the new gardens. And whether the gardens could just have been tidied up and left as they were rather than creating that wet windswept expanse of tired grass and water feature.

All of which I know opens me up to the criticism that I am wallowing in nostalgia but not so.  The gardens were a pleasant place offering a degree of peace in the heart of the city and a welcome lunchtime break.*

And by extension for those who wanted to miss the rush hour torture they were a pretty good place to sit it out till the buses were half empty.

And that couple of hours between the day time people leaving and the night crowd coming in is still a magical time.

The city seemed to get a wee bit quieter and a little calmer, but you knew it was just a lull before the business of fun took over from that workaday atmosphere.

The gardens were a particularly good place to observe it as were the city centre pubs.  Stay long enough in one of the pubs and you could watch as tired office workers and shop assistants slid away after a few drinks having discussed their day and were replaced by a more energetic and optimistic crowd whose enthusiasm for the night ahead grew as the rounds were bought.

So I still wonder at how many of those at that bus stop waiting in the late afternoon sunshine decided that tea in Chorlton and an evening with Coronation Street, Dick Emery and the Avengers might be less attractive than the call of a few drinks and a film at the Odeon.


Picture; Piccadilly Bus Station at 5pm, W. Higham, 1961, m56932, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council


  1. I have a very vague recollection from childhood days in the 1950s of a bus station in Piccadilly prior to the one that you're showing above. I think the site was next to the present one but I can't remember whether it was on the hotel side or the Metrolink side.

  2. I remember waiting to board the 101 homeward bound after spending the day at my Saturday job in Pembertons dress shop on Market Street. The bus station looked very much like it does in the photo - 1967/68