This year heralds the centenary of Manchester’s new (everything’s relative) Town Hall,
inaugurated September 1877 by the Mayor of Manchester, Abel Heywood of the eponymous pub/hotel in Turner Street. The Great Abel up in the bell tower was named after him.
I wouldn’t have remembered had I not been conducting some research in the archives at Manchester Central Library for an article on Victorian builders. The new Town Hall was to replace the outgrown one (since demolished) in nearby King Street (constructed 1822-25 ). The contract to design the new one was put out to tender and the winning plans (not originally the first choice) were by Liverpool born architect Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) who also designed (amongst others) London’s Natural History Museum in 1881.
There was some wonderful stuff in the archives especially about the design and appurtenances – who should be represented as statues and wall paintings, which shields should be portrayed, what tunes should be played on bells of the town hall clock…
What fascinated me most was the discussion about tunes to be played on the hour at 3, 6 and 9 including Charlie is My Darling, The Rose of Allandale, Home Sweet Home and God Bless the Prince of Wales which, I am sure, are on You Tube – but not rendered by Town Hall Bells! John Taylor & Co of Loughborough (website) cast them in 1876 and again in 1936 so the ones you hear on this clip are not the original bells.
Sadly, the bells do not now ring…. not for me… not for you…ting a ling a ling… but they did ring in November 2012. Boy does it look hard work.
For more about the Town Hall bells try. Apparently it takes two to ring Great Abel because he is so heavy…
© Adèle Emm