Bridgewater Hall - History


Proposals to replace the concert venue in the Free Trade Hall existed since it was damaged in the Second World War but the hall, which was home to the The Hallé orchestra was repaired and renovated. Despite being a popular venue, the Free Trade Hall, built in the 1850s, had poor acoustics. Throughout the 1970s and 80s several schemes to replace it were considered but the project became more likely in 1998 after the creation of the Central Manchester Development Corporation.

In the 1990s, land east of Lower Mosley Street and north of Great Bridgewater Street adjacent to the G-Mex exhibition centre (now Manchester Central Convention Complex) which was occupied by a former bus station and car park near the Rochdale Canal was identified as the site for a new hall. A competition inviting architects to present designs for the new concert hall was launched and a proposal by Renton Howard Wood Levin (RHWL) architects was chosen. The development included the construction of a basin on a specially built short arm of the Rochdale Canal and part of the Manchester & Salford Junction Canal providing a waterfront setting for the hall.

The Bridgewater Hall held its first concert on 11 September 1996 and was officially opened on 4 December by Queen Elizabeth II, alongside the Duke of Edinburgh. The Bridgewater Hall was one of a number of structures built in the 1990s that symbolised the transition to a new and modern Manchester.

The Bridgewater was well received and won a number of awards. In November 1996, only months after opening, the concert hall won the RIBA North West award. In 1998 the Hall won the Civic Trust Special Award, which is given to a building which enhanced the appearance of a city centre.

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