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Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester and the Free Trade Hall

Radisson Blu Edwardian is proud to have opened a luxury hotel, their first outside of London, in one of the most famous buildings in Manchester.

THE HISTORY OF THE FREE TRADE HALL

The Free Trade Hall has long held a special place in the history of the city and, indeed, the country.  Long before the first hall was erected the site had become embedded in the national consciousness, being the field on which the infamous 'Peterloo Massacre' of 1819 took place.  The different halls which have stood on the site in Peter Street - the first one opening its doors in 1840 - have been the venue for events and meetings, concerts and plays that have reflected the shifting ideas and values of English society.

The Free Trade Hall was the setting for important political events: the voices of Gladstone, Disraeli, Lloyd George and Churchill have filled its cavernous spaces.  The gospels of international peace and international trade have been declaimed from its stage.  It was also a place of entertainment. Audiences have cheered Charles Dickens and jeered Oscar Wilde, encored Ella Fitzgerald and booed Bob Dylan in the hall.  Others have listened intently to the accounts of foreign places presented by David Livingstone, Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Scott. From its very first day the building has been filled with the sounds of music.

One of Manchester's greatest cultural treasures, the Halle Orchestra played its first concert in the hall in 1858 and thereafter its history has been inextricably connected with the Free Trade Hall. Today, the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester is the fifth building to occupy this site in Peter Street.  

SCHEDULED ARTIFACTS

A number of artifacts that were displayed in the Free Trade Hall of 1951 were saved during the redevelopment of the building.  These have been cleaned and conserved and placed in prominent positions in the new building, further reminders of the rich history of the different halls and the site.

The artifacts include a number of commemorative plaques.  There is, for instance, the marble tablet installed to mark the historic meeting in the Free Trade Hall in October 1905 at which Christabel Pankhurst and Annie Kenney raised the question of votes for women. 

A large painting of the Peterloo Massacre commemorates the famous protest meeting held on St Peter's Field in August 1819, land on which the Free Trade Hall was to be built.  

Eight stone statues which were placed originally on the brick piers on the rear external wall in Windmill Street have also been saved and displayed.  They depict activities associated with the hall: music, dancing, singing, drama, public speaking, education, sport and the cinema.  

A tradition in the old hall was for visiting performers to autograph the wall in the basement. Sections of the plaster bearing some of the autographs of musicians, singers and actors were carefully preserved before demolition and these have been framed and put on display in the new building.  The signatures include those of Louis Armstrong, Yehudi Menuhin, Andres Segovia, Arthur Rubinstein, Thomas Beecham, Anna Neagle and Sybil Thorndyke.

WHERE TO FIND THE ARTIFACTS

Foyer, Peter Street
Coats of arms of city bodies and neighbouring local authorities include Diocese of Manchester, Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Manchester Ship Canal Company, City of Salford, County Boroughs of Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Stockport, and Boroughs of Ashton-under-Lyne, Sale and Stretford.

Colonnade Entrance, Southmill Street

Foundation Stone of the new Free Trade Hall, laid by Princess Margaret, 1950
Commemorative tablet of official opening of the new Free Trade Hall by HRH Queen Elizabeth, 1951
Commemorative tablet of Suffragette Meeting in Free Trade Hall, 1905
Atrium Lightwell
Eight larger than life-size stone statues depicting activities associated with the Free Trade Hall: dancers, female soloist, conductor, cinematograph operator, boxer, schoolmaster and pupil, actress and orator. Artist: Arthur Sherwood Edwards.

Level 1
Painting of the Peterloo Massacre, 1819. Artist: Arthur Sherwood Edwards

Level 2
Signatures of plaster of artists who performed at the Free Trade Hall
City of Manchester Coat of Arms

Level 4
Coats of arms of city bodies and local authorities

 

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