Context 168 - June 2021

36 C O N T E X T 1 6 8 : J U N E 2 0 2 1 MARK CLIFFORD Conserving Manchester’s Albert Square and Memorial Manchester’s Our Town Hall project, due to be completed in 2024, will see the conserved Albert Memorial as the focal point of one of Europe’s finest civic spaces. Albert Square sits at the heart of Manchester. Its eastern boundary forms the Grade I listed Town Hall and it is the major component of the wider conservation area. All Mancunians know the square, and many people outside the city will be familiar with it as focal point for events, Christmas markets and celebrations. As a natural gathering point for the people of Manchester it has recently been used to both celebrate sporting and Olympic success and to share collective grief after the Manchester arena bombing. The square was laid out in the 1860s. Prior to this the area was a combination of a town yard and periphery buildings, its urban context characterised by a dense townscape of housing, industrial works and derelict land. It was agreed that substantial civic improvement was required and, following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, it was decided to erect a memorial to commemorate him, leading to the city council authorising the creation of Albert Square in 1863. On 28 January 1867 the Albert Memorial was unveiled. Designed by the local architectThomas Worthington, it takes the form of a large gothic canopy over a raised statue of Prince Albert. It was the first major Albert Memorial to be built, its design published in The Builder in September 1862,over ayear beforeGGScott’smore elaborate design for Kensington. Although this was not acknowledged by Scott, Worthington’s design may have influenced the Kensington memorial. As today, the memorial was the centrepiece of Albert Square. The commemorative character of Albert Square developed with later statues including Bishop Fraser, John Bright, Oliver Heywood and William Gladstone. The Jubilee Fountain was introduced in 1897. These commemorative structures are all Grade II listed. Although widely admired when built, it was not long before the future of the memorial was A visualisation of the proposed scheme for Albert Square