Standing at the junction of London Road and Whitworth Street, the building has been largely empty since 1986, gradually deteriorating. It has been a Grade II* listed building since 1974 but that did little to save it. From this prime position it stared reproachfully at every one of the thousands arriving at Piccadilly each day. After years of inaction Manchester finally got tough with the owners. It has now been sold on to another company, Allied London, who will start development in the spring. That left a small window of opportunity for those enthusiastic nerds who wanted to see the interior of an iconic Edwardian building. Jonathan Schofield,Gathering our favourite Blue Badge Guide, leapt in to fill the gap. As well as a series of public tours over the Christmas/New Year period he agreed to put on a special tour for Marple History. Despite the short notice, Hilary Atkinson took up the challenge and assembled 40 like-minded anoraks to accompany her. It’s fortunate that they were anoraks as we were greeted with the traditional Manchester weather.
First a misapprehension. It was not just a fire station but home to a variety of civic functions. It was a police station, an ambulance station, a coroner’s court, a gas meter testing station; even a bank. And not just civic functions; there were 38 flats of varying sizes for firemen and their families, a town within a city.