Welcome to Then and Now, where each week we compare images of Manchester streets, landmarks and buildings from bygone days with how they look today.
This week we feature St Ann’s Square, the open space at the centre of Manchester’s shopping heartland and home to St Ann’s Church and the Royal Exchange Theatre.
Cars are banished from the square nowadays, but there were none around at all when our original photograph was taken in 1878. Horse-drawn carts and carriages were the main threat to pedestrians then!
The origins of St Ann’s Square date back to 1227 when Henry II granted Robert Greslet, the Lord Mayor of Manchester, the right to hold a fair on St Matthew’s Day.
In 1708, an Act of Parliament granted that St Ann’s Church could be built and that a space 30 yards wide should be reserved for the fair. The church was consecrated four years later in 1712 – and still stands proudly in the square today.
The area was renamed St Ann’s Square as a tribute to the reigning monarch, Queen Anne, and Lady Ann Bland who was a patron of the church. She wanted to see the church built as a protest against the High Church teaching of the city’s cathedral.
St Ann’s Church was fortunate to escape damage in the Manchester Blitz of December 1940 and still has a burnt-out incendiary bomb that fell on to the roof.
Like many parts of the city, St Ann’s Square suffered from the IRA bomb of 1996, but has now been restored. The upstairs windows were blown in on both sides of the church.
*Many more images from Then and Now are featured in the new book The Changing Face of Manchester published to mark the 150th anniversary of the M.E.N.
It’s on sale now at the reduced price of £9.99 plus postage and packing. Order your copy online at inostalgia.co.uk or ring the order hotline on 01928 503777.