A new series of short films on Manchester landmarks lost, imagined and existing

Presented and written by our editor-at-large, Jonathan Schofield, this is the first in a series looking at the past, the present and the imagined city. 

This short film reveals the story behind one of the great 'lost buildings' of Britain: the spectacular Assize Courts on Bury New Road which was bombed in 1940 and 1941.

Alfred Waterhouse (architect of Manchester Town Hall, the main University of Manchester block and Strangeways Prison, which lies immediately behind the site of the Assize Courts) won the competition to design the building at the tender age of 29. His largely Gothic design helped popularise the style nationally.

2021 03 24 Assize Courts The Great Hall Of The Assize Courts Was One Of The Sights Of Manchester
The Great Hall of the Assize Courts: the interior and exterior attracted people from far and wide

The fantastical skyline of the Assize Courts, the clever interior planning, the quality of finish and the rich detail in applied arts all made it an immediate hit. It was huge too, with the Great Hall a sensation that attracted international travel.  

Heavily damaged in World War II this stunning building was demolished while other shattered buildings such as the Free Trade Hall were restored and re-opened. Why that happened is explored in the film. There was city trickery at play. 

2021 03 24 The Assize Courts Bombed And The Interiors Gone During World War Ii
The bombed out and burned out Assize Courts. It could have been rebuilt but the city had other plans

The film also looks at the character of Alfred Waterhouse, his extraordinary family and his prophetic wife. 

As for the Assize Courts, there is at least one part of the building remaining on the original site. The fancy perimeter wall facing the road is now the boundary wall for that least grand of city elements, a surface car park. 

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2021 03 24 All That Remains Of The Assize Courts On Bury New Road Is This Wall
The only part of the building left on site is the perimeter wall facing Bury New Road

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