Free Trade Hall


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Venue Type & Location

Lecture Hall

Site Name: Free Trade Hall
Location: Manchester
County: Lancashire
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location


  • Address: Peter Street, Manchester (bounded by Peter Street, Windmill Street and South Street).
    Click here for map

  • Performance Space Description: The Manchester Times offered the following description of the second version of the Hall, shortly after its opening, in January, 1843: “Entering the hall […] the visitor is struck with the extent of space which bursts upon the eye – of which an examination of the exterior of the building affords a very inadequate idea – as well as with the magnificence of the place generally. But at the opposite end is a dais which commands a better view of the whole, and there we will go and take our stand for a moment, while we proceed with the description. This dais is of three different elevations, running the whole width of the building, the front, or lower one being about two feet above the floor of the hall, and ten feet wide, and the second and third ones, behind it, have each a rise of about two feet six inches, and about half the width of the first. Taking our stand upon the uppermost then, we command a view of the entire space within the building, giving an area of fourteen thousand one hundred and seventy-five square feet. Among the first objects which attract the eye are the three galleries, which extend along the two sides, and across the farther end of the hall – the entrances to them being from the large room of the Wellington Hotel, by means of covered ways across South-street. They are light and elegant in structure, being only about seven feet in depth, with two rows of seats extending along the front, and an aisle at the back. The front is covered with drapery, having the appearance of a deep crimson velvet, with a rich ornamental design printed on it in gold (by Messrs J. and C. Yates, of Charlotte-street), representing a sheaf of wheat, labeled with the little magic word ‘FREE,’ encircled by a wreath of olive leaves-the emblem of peace and plenty-from which branches out an elegant scroll to fill up the compartments. A line of massive columns support each of these galleries, which have been draperied to represent white marble: the order of architecture being the Grecian Doric.” (quoted in Prentice 9-10).

  • Typical Fare: Though it was principally constructed as a site for public, political meetings (particularly those of the Anti-Corn-law League), the Free Trade Hall was also home to a variety of entertainments such as lectures, tea parties, and soirees. According to Michael Barron, “the second building began to be used for musical events from about 1843” (153).

  • Performance History

  • The Free Trade Hall owes its existence to the establishment of the Anti-Corn Law League in 1838. This group, which was formed in protest of the monopolistic Corn Laws of 1815, quickly gained such popularity and support that it required a new facility in which to hold its protest meetings. The first version of the Free Trade Hall, a temporary structure in wood, was the result.

  • In 1843, this first building was replaced by a new stone facility (on the same site). The performances listed in this database would have taken place in this second instantiation of the Free Trade Hall.

  • A third building (again in stone) was built on the site between 1853 and 1856. This structure was damaged by heavy bombing during WWII, and required major reconstruction during the post-war period. The Free Trade hall then re-opened, with a newly designed interior in 1951. This fourth version of the venue then became known as a concert site, hosting acts as diverse as the Halle Orchestra, Bob Dylan and the Sex Pistols.

  • Early in the 21st Century, the building was converted into a 5 star hotel. A variety of artifacts from earlier instantiations of the hall were incorporated into its design.

    Please see the 'Bibliographic Sources' link at right for a complete listing of materials (both primary and secondary) from which the above information was compiled.

    Beth Marquis

  • Events at Free Trade Hall

    Event Date Venue Location Troupe
    Minstrel Show 23 November 1846 - 28 November 1846 Manchester, Lancashire Ethiopian Serenaders (1846-48)
    Minstrel Show 16 October 1848 - 21 October 1848 Manchester, Lancashire Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Minstrel Show 23 October 1848 - 28 October 1848 Manchester, Lancashire Ethiopian Serenaders (1848-49)
    Exhibition 5 November 1849 - 10 November 1849 Manchester, Lancashire No Troupe
    Minstrel Show 25 August 1851 - 27 August 1851 Manchester, Lancashire Southern Delineators, The (1851)

    Bibliographic Sources

    • Axon, William E.A. (ed.) . The Annals of Manchester: A Chronological Record From the Earliest Times to the End of 1885. Manchester: John Heywood, 1886.
    • Barron, Michael. Auditorium Acoustics and Architectural Design. London: E & FN Spon, 2000.
    • Manchester, UK Website. 03/14/2008 (

      (Under History & Heritage - 19th Century Political...)

    • Prentice, Archibald. History of the Anti-Corn-Law League Vol. 2. London: W. & F.G. Cash, 1853.
    • Radisson Edwardian Manchester Hotel Website. 03/14/2008 (

      (Current use of venue)