UMIST Campus History

At the end of the continuation of Granby Row to Brook Street stood Garrat Hall, 'a picturesque black and white mansion whose numerous gables and tall chimneys gave it a delightful appearance'. An eighteenth century view shows a servant fetching water from Shooters Brook, a Medlock tributary, with early industry represented in the background by a cotton mill.

The 1787-1794 map shows Garrat Hall, by then in decline. Within the boundaries of the present UMIST campus stood Garrat Mill, with its sizeable mill pool on the River Medlock. Granby Hall was one of the big houses on the south side Granby Row with a garden terraced down to the river. In the 1820's this was the residence of banker Samuel Brooks and it was described thus:

"Standing a little way from the river bank, across which open fields extended behind it in the direction of Chorlton Hall, the house was surrounded by a garden, which at the back extended down to the river. Flowers grew in abundance, and in the orchard were some prolific fruit trees. The house still stands (this written in 1907, the house also appears on the 1915 map), but its glory has departed, and the fine half circular bay windows look out upon a wilderness of bricks and mortar".

That a Granby Row residence became less desirable as Manchester expanded is apparent from the 1831 map, which shows Garrat Hall isolated within an industrial landscape, Garrat Mill altered in shape and now described as Old Garrat Print Works, with only Granby Fields between the Medlock and Shooters Brook still open space. These fields were the scene of Chartist gatherings around 1840.

The railway which is such a prominent feature on the campus to the south of Granby Row began as the South Junction section of the Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway. The railway viaduct is about 2 miles long overall and contains 50 million bricks! The line was surveyed in 1844 by the engineers Locke, Buck and Baker and completed in 1849, with David Bellhouse of nearby Garrett Road the contractor. Among the buildings on the 1844 railway plan is St. Simon and St. Jude's Church, to the northern side of a meander in the River Medlock. The position of the meander is obvious today when walking through the skew arch between the Renold Building and the southern entrance to the Main Building Extension.. The 1848 Ordnance Survey Map shows Temple Street Mill within the loop of the same meander. An example of structural iron framing may now be seen on the site of this mill, recovered from an 1845 Central Manchester cotton mill that was demolished in 1995.

UMIST's main campus has been developed as a 'brown field site' over the past hundred years. The Main Building was opened formally by the Prime Minister A.J. Balfour on 15th October 1902, most departments of what was then the School of Technology were brought together under one roof. The Laying of the Foundation Stone had taken place 6 years earlier.

A short distance to the east of the Main Building, a dyeing, bleaching, printing and finishing house for textiles was built and also equipped with paper making machinery. The Old Dye-house survived until 1950 when it was demolished to give better access to the building site for the extension to the main building.

A vacant plot of land between the Main Building and the Dye-house was purchased around 1908, which indicates early provision for a future extension. The plot stands empty on the 1915 map. Immediately after the 1914-1918 war, there seemed to be a clear need for rapid expansion and within the space of a year an appeal had brought in subscriptions amounting to more than ?20,000. The post-war boom was short-lived, but by 1928 the shortage of space was acute and the solution was the rental of Velvet House, a vacant warehouse opposite the main entrance. This building was adapted to provide a home for departments including Municipal Engineering and Building.

The long awaited plans for the extension materialised in 1936 and the Manchester Guardian reproduced a drawing of the proposed extension on 23rd June of that year. Work began in 1938 and in early 1939 an unexpected discovery on the site was pictured in another newspaper report - an old well several hundred feet deep. The site of the well is identifiable as a pump to the immediate east of St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Chapel on the very finely detailed 1848 Ordnance Survey map - even the interior of the chapel is shown! With parts of the steel frame to the extension in place, but with war imminent, work stopped. During the German air raids of 1940 the Main Building survived a direct hit. A bomb passed through the chemical laboratory in the south-east corner of the building and exploded in the Senior Common Room. After the war, building progress was very slow due to labour and material shortages. Photographs of the Extension to the Main Building in the 1952 Jubilee publication show the steel frame, parts of which were by then 14 years old, still exposed.

The granting of a Royal Charter to the Manchester College of Technology in 1955 marked the beginning of a period of rapid expansion: The conversion of Jackson's 6-storey cotton mill to house chemical engineering and other departments was completed in early 1958.The c.1950 O.S. Map shows the site immediately prior to redevelopment. In November 1957 the Duke of Edinburgh had officially opened the extension to the main building and viewed plans for the new buildings. The Architect's Journal of January 9th 1958 described the area to be redeveloped south of the railway viaduct thus:

"The site has one or two new buildings, but is by and large a romantic industrial slum which must be awful to live in - fortunately there are few families left.

The River Medlock winds its way through the cliffs of buildings of the Nut and Bolt Works, under the viaduct and back again in a great loop under Sackville Street. Sad to say, this is described by some as an open sewer, and all agree that it must be culverted and not exploited as a feature of the site. The college are most disappointed about this as they realise its possibilities, but they say the smell is often unbearable".

The first and architecturally the best of the new campus buildings was the Renold lecture block, on which building began within a loop of the River Medlock in the early summer of 1959. At the same time, tenants were being evicted from the run-down Granby Row buildings and the College had taken on from British Railways the lease of the railway arches, intending to open them up and make them look more attractive. The diversion of the Medlock was begun in mid-1960, making way for the construction of the Pariser Building and others.

Development of the campus to the west of what is now Sackville Street took place after the construction of the Mancunian Way in the mid-1960's. A notable discovery made in January 1968 was an extensive network of flooded tunnels 10 feet below the surface of the sandstone bedrock. A plan of the tunnels could only be prepared after they were first pumped clear of water to permit access for surveying - over 1000 feet of tunnel and 7 access shafts were recorded. Speculation at the time was that the underground workings provided water storage for the print works which occupied the site from the 1830's. Internal views of the tunnels prior to grouting show localised brick vaulting and iron strutting. This is suggestive of a late-eighteenth or nineteenth century date - but really it is impossible to be certain and the workings may be earlier. It has been reported that the 'Dunlop Mills' to the west have an underground reservoir in the sandstone that provided a water supply for fire-fighting. However, the rise in groundwater levels with the reduction in groundwater abstraction this century makes investigation of such workings a sub-aqua activity!

Sources (all in the Joule Library Rare Books Room)

Swindells, T

"Manchester Streets and Manchester Men: second series"

J.E. Cornish Ltd., 16, St. Ann's Square, Manchester, 1907

BR 942.73 S6

(information and picture, Garrat Hall; information on Granby Hall)

Manchester Municipal College of Technology

"Jubilee Year, 1952 - an account of the origin of the College and its development since the opening of the present building in 1902"

Sackville Street, Manchester, 1952

BR 607.42 M5

(pictures of the Main Building, the Old Dye-house and the Extension to the Main Building)


"150 years of progress: an account of the devbelopment of the Institute from its origin as the Manchester Mechanics Institution"

150th Anniversary Celebrations Booklet, UMIST (Designed by Paul Bailey, Audio Visual Service), 1974

(for a chronology of UMIST and its building developments)

Press Cuttings Files 1935-1949 and 1949-1960.

(for an Architect's Journal Report and a 1939 Manchester Guardian photograph)