The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

News from the North West

Hopes were raised at the beginning of the summer about the future of the Midland Hotel, Morecambe when Manchester-based developers Urban Splash announced their intention to buy and redevelop it. Urban Splash played a large part in the regeneration of central Manchester in the 1990s and have a good track record, producing imaginative schemes and carrying out sympathetic conversions of historical buildings. Urban Splash have now submitted their plans for The Midland. The most major intervention is the creation of a roof-top bar area. Oliver Hill’s original plans called for a roof terrace but this was never carried out. Having been shown around the roof area, this is a tantalising prospect, with stunning views across Morecambe Bay . The Eric Gill frieze is to be moved back to its original site in the reception area, and there will be restoration carried out to the Ravilious mural in the restaurant. There is far too much to the proposals to discuss here and the Casework Committee will obviously study them in detail. The North West Group is just glad to see things progressing and is, for now, optimistic.

News reaches us of an application to convert and extend Lee House in central Manchester. Nothing unusual there one would think, but this application is slightly different. Designed by the renowned Manchester firm of Harry Fairhurst and Son in 1928 – 31, Lee House has a Grade II listing. Inspired by a trip to the United States, Harry’s son P. Garland Fairhurst originally planned for a three stage, seventeenstorey skyscraper which would have made it the tallest building outside the United States. The Depression ensured that the original plans were never carried out and only the lower portion was built. The new application, yet to be approved, would see the realisation of the original scheme. The developers plan to complete, to the original designs, the remaining unbuilt stages. Is this a 75 year-old dream come true or a cynical attempt by the developers to vastly alter an important listed building? We shall note the outcome of this application with interest.

Lee House was one of many buildings visited on the North West Group’s first organised event, an Inter-War Manchester City Centre Walk, held as part of Heritage Open Days and a resounding success. Since then we have had two more events – a trip to Blackpool and a Cold War Cheshire day taking in Hack Green nuclear bunker and Jodrell Bank radio telescope.

The North West Group, set up to widen participation and promote the Society at a local level, is growing in size and confidence. We already have a programme of events for 2004 starting in March with a day at Manchester Metropolitan University Library and The Whitworth Gallery to see some of their Special Collections. Other ideas for events include a revisit of Sheffield, a Merseyside weekend, a Rochdale/Heywood day, and walk around Manchester’s Education Precincts.

More details about the North West Group and our future events can be obtained from Eddy Rhead (eddyrhead(at) or Aidan Turner Bishop (aturner-bishop(at)

Related links:
Building of the month feature on the Midland Hotel
Midland Hotel update – Emmanuelle Morgan

Eddy Rhead