The first in a series of galleries which take an alternative look at some of Manchester's best-looking venues
"We think this is an amazing building," says director Deepa Parekh. She's right, Manchester Hall is special. Built in 1929 as the Masonic Hall by Percy Scott Worthington, the Freemasons no longer require such a large building and have retrenched to just one floor. This has allowed the new owners to create something needed and something beautiful.
This is a multi-purpose meeting place for eating, drinking, whiling, marrying, doing business. The more intimate spaces provide a chance for rendezvous amongst restrained flair, while the exterior is all imperial bombast in white Portland Stone, a final fling of British Empire arrogance.
A glance up the stairwell in Manchester Hall shows the care shown. The staircase is a stunner, climbing the wall in a single swooping movement as graceful as a swan’s neck. The blue chosen for the walls is perfect. Up the stairs and room after room reveals itself as carefully laid out and tastefully touched up. On the Bridge Street side, light floods into the airy lounge, museum, library and study.
Other spaces are very different and include the ceremonial areas from the Masonic Hall. The Goulburn Lodge is the pièce de résistance here, a splendidly paneled space, that can’t fail to impress. As with so much of the building the room retains original features such as the famous all-seeing Eye of Providence. There are even spy holes in doors which were used in the ceremonies of Free Masonry. Bees buzz around as well, not Manchester bees as such, but as bees are traditional Masonry signs of industriousness underlining the virtues of work, perhaps Manchester Hall can claim them for the city.