Monday, 21 May 2018

Piccadilly Gardens ....... the early years nu 3 a plan for a new civic attraction .... 1920

Now if you are of a certain age the old Piccadilly Gardens will be a special place and even now generate a lot of heated debate about the present site.

A plan for the gardens, 1920
So here over the next few days are stories of the early years of those gardens.

In the Middle Ages it was nothing more than a site used to excavate clay for building and was simply known as “daub holes,” but in 1755 it became the home of the Manchester Royal Infirmary which continued to offer up medical care until 1910 when the hospital relocated to Oxford Road.

And then for the next twenty years the debate raged about what to do with this hole in the ground at the very centre of the city.

And it was indeed a hole in the ground which had been left over from the demolition of the old MRI leading one journalist to comment “the place has remained year after year a good imitation of a rubbish heap or the ruins of some volcanic upheaval.”*

And before the gardens ..... a hole in the ground 1917
The proposals ranged from an Art Gallery, to a tramway terminus and an underground railway centre and for a while part of the site was occupied by Manchester’s Reference Library.

But in 1920 the City Council decided to convert the site “into a pleasant garden. 

The existing hollow in the centre of the site is to be utilized for a sunken garden on the Dutch style and its banks will slope up to a border of flowering plants.”*

The gardens opened in the September of 1921 and in a revealing comment from one of the speakers the new civic attraction was planned only as a temporary measure until a new art gallery was constructed on the site.

Well that’s a twist in the story I didn’t know about.

Location; Manchester

Picture; the proposed gardens in 1920 from the Manchester Guardian, October 1920, and detail from a picture postcard of Piccadilly , 1917, from the collection of Rita Bishop

*After Sixteen Years : A Garden for Piccadilly; Manchester Guardian, October 23 1920, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,

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