From railway warehouse to entertainment powerhouse: the Great Northern’s fascinating story is the story of Manchester itself.
Built by Great Northern Railway between 1896 -1898. A unique 3-way railway goods exchange station, serving the railway, canal and road networks of the Manchester region. It was considered in its day to be one of the largest and most advanced railway goods exchanges in the country.
IT WAS BUILT ON A GRAND SCALE. 267FT LONG, 217FT WIDE, 75FT AND FIVE STOREYS HIGH. IT SAT 40ft ABOVE THE CANAL BELOW.
Built to be fully fireproof, the main building is of steel-framed construction using box girder columns of riveted steel, supporting steel beams and cross girders with brick jack arches that support the concrete floors. 12,000 tons of Mild Steel, 25,000 tons of Concrete, 1,500,000 Granite Sets and 25,000,000 Bricks were used it it’s construction. The walls are red brick with blue brick bands; all under a slate roof. The building has 27 windows on the East and West sides and 17 windows on the North and South ends.
It is rectangular in plan and on all four sides its frieze bears the words, in white glazed brick, ‘GREAT NORTHERN COMPANY’S GOODS WAREHOUSE’.
NINE ACRES OF STREETS WERE CLEARED TO MAKE WAY FOR IT, WITH 100,000 TONS OF MATERIAL WAS EXCAVATED PRIOR TO CONSTRUCTION. COMPLETED IN AUGUST 1898, IT WAS THE LAST AND LARGEST RAILWAY WAREHOUSE IN MANCHESTER.
It was one of the most advanced railway goods exchanges in the country. Trains arrived directly from the existing route to Central Station, on a specially constructed iron viaduct into the huge marshalling yards. Goods were raised and lowered using a combination of Horse, Steam and Hydraulic power.
Described in September 1898 by the ‘Engineer’ publication as – ‘A MARVEL IN MILD STEEL’.
Though built late in the history of Manchester’s railway developments, the building brought new technical sophistication to the storage and handling of goods.
CONSTRUCTION ALSO INCLUDED GNR OFFICES ON PETER STREET AND A DEVELOPMENT OF 34 SHOPS WITH OFFICES AND WAREHOUSES ABOVE THEM ALONG DEANSGATE, WHICH WERE COMPLETED BY 1899.
It was an interchange not just for the massive volume of goods arriving by rail, but via the Manchester & Salford Junction Canal which ran 40ft below the surface. This made it one of the few Railway, Road and Canal Interchanges in the country.
Below the Great Northern Warehouse there was a transhipment area with four large bays. Two lift shafts carried goods from the canal level to the railway and warehouse levels.
THE CANAL WAS CLOSED IN 1922, PARTLY FILLED AND A SECTION OF THE TUNNEL BETWEEN BRUNSWICK BASIN AND WATSON STREET USED AS AN AIR-RAID SHELTER DURING 1940 -1945.
Warehouse Ceased operating and closed.
1959 - 1979
Mainly used as a Car Park. During this period large parts of the site remained derelict.
Listed Building Status -23rd November 1979 (Grade II*).
Car Park operations close.
1996 consent was given to turn the listed warehouse site into an extensive leisure and retail complex.
The £100 million redevelopment of 1998-2000 resulted in the demolition of the listed carriage ramp, of much of the train deck, inclines and the offices.
Buildings at the Peter Street end of Deansgate were cleared to open up the site and create Manchester’s first purpose designed and built Public Square since World War II.
In 2015, it was bought by Trilogy and Peterson Group (HK).
Planning consent granted for developing the warehouse into apartments – but plans were reassessed following the pandemic.