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Peek inside: London Road Fire Station

Full_length_London Road Fire Station

Peek inside: London Road Fire Station

I used to walk the same five minute route to university for three years and everyday as I passed this beautiful edwardian building never knowing anything about it. Not its name, not its purpose nor its history, but looking up at the mass of shimmering red brick, I knew it had to have been something special.

A window into the past

After asking around soon after I had moved into halls in 2007, I found out the building was an old fire station but that seemed to be the limit of what anyone knew about it. Even that bit of information drew conflicting views as on different sides of the building it says, ‘Police Station’, ‘Bank’ and  ‘Fire Brigade Head Quarters’, so some presumed it may have only been the home of some fancy offices.

The truth is that it is all of these things and so much more…(as I soon discovered!).

Firehouse_symbol_London Road Fire Station

London Road Fire Station was built in 1906 after a competition was held for architects to design a bigger and better firehouse in the city centre to fit the growing population of industrial Manchester. At the time, Manchester’s population had swelled to half a million people due to the rise in manufacturing and trade. Business was booming as construction of Manchester’s ship canal and the first railway line in Britain, made it easier to transport goods.

Side_ London Road Fire Station

Grand designs

Despite being controversial at the time, costing the tax payers £142,000 to build (nearly £14M in today’s money), work on London Road Fire Station began in 1904 and took only 2 years to complete. No expense was spared as intricate detail was added to the four corners of the building to make it a true status symbol of the city.

Designed in an Edwardian baroque style to reflect Manchester’s international trade links and influence on the world economy, London Road Fire Station’s intricate and symbolic decoration speaks directly from its era of prosperity and growth. One statue in particular at the top left of the lookout (below) embodies just this. The statue is that of a female (representing grace and reason) in the company of a Lion (symbolising the strength of the British Empire) next to a globe covered in bees (symbolising the ‘worker bees’ of Manchester and their impact on the world).

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The strength of Manchester’s international trade at the time is represented in the ship at sea in the coat of arms

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The proud Lion representing the strength of the British Empire

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Bank_statues_London Road Fire Station

Entrance to the Bank: Anybody else wonder why they always had their boobs out from this era of architecture? Just me then…

A peek inside

Despite the grandeur of the ouster shell of the London Road Fire Station, I was sad to discover that a lot of the inside of the building had been left to deteriorate in the 30 years that it had been closed to the public. Rooms that once housed horse and carts had been left just as they were, with many artefacts from its heyday such as pressure gauges and fire bells left in the same spots.

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One of my favourite parts of the firehouse was the fire truck depo. Standing in the long and empty room, I could feel the pride of thousands of firemen standing before the huge arched doorways getting ready for their next rescue. Despite being empty for so long, the space felt alive as the blue paint chipped off the edwardian tiles to unveil the original vibrant green tiled walls underneath.

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inside_London Road Fire Station

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Paintwork_London Road Fire Station

Not just any other firehouse

What I loved most about visiting London Road Fire Station was finding out more about its many uses making my way through the inside of the workshops, fire truck depo and courtyard.

In addition to being Manchester’s main firehouse the building was home to a police station, a bank and a coroner’s court as well as 38 apartments for the firemen and their families, social spaces and a gym. Despite this part of the building not being closed until 1998, the coroner’s court is one of the areas that has been most affected by rain damage, with parts of the ceiling collapsing into the main court room. However, the court room itself has remained unscathed with the original lighting and wood interiors still in tact from 1906, making it a particularly stunning space in the building.

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Ceiling_court_house_London Road Fire Station

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Rebirth

After seeing the inside of London Road Fire Station for myself, I could understand why the people of Manchester have been so angry at the owners,  allowing one of their most treasured and historic landmarks to gradual deteriorate.

After being forced to give up the building after several broken promises (and court cases!, I was delighted to hear that the new owners, property developers, Allied London had big plans to renovate and reopen London Road Fire Station, which is how I got a sneak peek inside this amazing building.

Allied London have promised that London Road will be “energetic, spirited, atmospheric and real”. With a vision of creating a place where “you’ll find top international brands, the most innovative hospitality, curious rooms of intrigue and entertainment, gardens to explore, experiences to behold and art that provokes and inspires.”

Their plan is to turn the London Road Fire Station into a social hub where you will find, entertainment, restaurants, bars, tea rooms and a hotel with a spa.

London_road_plans_London Road Fire Station

Although part of me would love to see the building being used in an educational capacity such as a museum, this plan is much more sustainable for the firehouse’s long-term survival. By putting a little bit of love back into the space and giving London Road Fire Station a new purpose for the next generation, it will thrive once again (and I for one cannot wait to see it come back to life!).

Have you got any historical places like this in your hometown? Or a landmark that has been transformed?

 

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About the author

Hi! I'm Mel a full-time Marketeer and part-time adventurer. I’m a British travel blogger who loves nothing more than immersing myself in different cultures and exploring new places. My goal is to inspire all of you office dwellers to follow your travel dreams whilst still working your 9-5.