You may be familiar with the Manchester war memorial which currently stands opposite the South Entrance of Manchester Town Hall near central library, but what you’ll be less familiar with is how it came to be there and also look the way it does.

Manchester Cenotaph 2015

Archives+ hold plans of an early idea for a war memorial from 1923 that would have stood in Piccadilly Gardens and have been a large building called the Hall of Memory similar to the one that stands in Centenary Square in Birmingham, rather than just a monument.

Hall of Memory Piccadilly Gardens

It is likely that this plan was one of many considered by the War Memorial Committee which sat between 1922 and 1925. During the initial meeting of the committee we can see that Sir Edward Hilton the editor of the Daily Dispatch had offered to pay for a memorial but the committee felt that the funding should come from the council to represent the city in remembering its dead. The initial meeting also makes mention of the site of the old MRI which was in Piccadilly Gardens so is consistent with the plans.

War Memorial Committee Minutes Book 30.06.1922

Over the course of later meetings the committee considered moving the statue of Prince Albert from Albert Square to an unnamed park and building the war memorial in its place. These plans however were protested against by the Manchester Society of Architects and Manchester Art Foundation as can be seen below in a letter that was included in the meeting on 23rd March 1923. It is really strange to think how different Albert square would look without that statue at its centre.

War Memorial Committee Minutes Book 23.03.1923

The committee took the protest on board and decided against the idea of moving the Albert statue, finally deciding that the memorial would stand in St Peters Square. They held an open competition for designs advertising it with posters which included strict guidelines such as the war memorial must not cost more than 8,000 pounds.

War Memorial Committee Minutes Book Competition Poster

The competition was eventually won by Edward Lutyens who also designed the Cenotaph at Whitehall, London. His design included placing the memorial onto the foundations of St Peters church which had previously stood there and its simple respectful design was in keeping with Lutyens previous work and matched the desires of the committee in remembering the fallen soldiers of Manchester.

War Memorial Committee Minutes Book 04.09.23

The memorial eventually cost slightly over budget coming in at £10,572 and it was unveiled by Lord Derby on the 14th July 1924 and stood in the same spot in St Peter’s Square outside what would become Central Library until 2014 when it was moved to its current location in a new memorial garden.

War Memorial Committee Minutes Book 27.04.25

Remember if you are interested in the Greater Manchester World War One story to head over to GM1914 and read some brilliant volunteer blogs.

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