Arthur Lloyd.co.uk
The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

Celebrating Twenty Years Online 2001 - 2021

The Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, Manchester

Later - Manchester Concert Hall / The Radisson Blu Hotel

Manchester Theatres Index

A Google StreetView Image of the former Free Trade Hall, Manchester, today the Radisson Blu Hotel - Click to Interact.

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the former Free Trade Hall, Manchester, today the Radisson Blu Hotel - Click to Interact.

Theatreshire Books  - Click to View Inventory

The Free Trade Hall was constructed for the Manchester Corporation between 1853 and 1856, and was situated on Peter Street, Manchester, next door to to the later Alexandra Theatre of 1865 on one side, and the earlier Theatre Royal of 1845 on the other. The Grade II Listed Building today is in use as an Hotel and people staying there may not be aware that the building is in fact situated on the site of St. Peter's Fields, infamous for the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

An Advertisement for Arthur Lloyd's Comic Concert at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester - From the Guardian of October 13th 1866. The Free Trade Hall was originally constructed as a Public Hall, designed by the architect Edward Walters, and would often be used for musical concerts. Arthur Lloyd and his family performed there regularly during the 1860s, see advertisements on this page and a review below.

Right - An Advertisement for Arthur Lloyd's Comic Concert at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester - From the Guardian of October 13th 1866. The Concert included Arthur's wife Katty King, their son Harry, and Arthur's friend Jolly John Nash.

However, after being bombed during the second world war, in December 1940, the Hall's interior was completely rebuilt to the designs of the architect L. C. Howitt, reopening again as a Concert Hall on the 16th of November 1951. The Hall was reopened by H.M. Queen Elizabeth who unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion, see image below.

H. M. Queen Elizabeth unveiling a plaque to commemorate the reopening of the Manchester Free Trade Hall on the 16th of November 1951 - Courtesy Eric France.

Above - H. M. Queen Elizabeth unveiling a plaque to commemorate the reopening of the Manchester Free Trade Hall on the 16th of November 1951 - Courtesy Eric France who bought the photograph from the Hallé Orchestra when they auctioned off much of their memorabilia after leaving the Free Trade Hall in June 1996 to move to their new home at the Bridgewater Hall.

After the 1951 reopening the building was then in use as Manchester's main Concert Hall for many years, staging a variety of live music right up until its closure in 1996. After much debate the building was later reconstructed by the architects Stephenson Bell and reopened as a 263 bedroom Hotel in 2004.

  • The Peter Street Frontage of the Free Trade Hall in 1997.
  • Peter Street showing the Theatre Royal and Free Trade Hall in 1997.
  • The Stage of the Free Trade Hall in 1997.
  • Stage Left in 1997 - The Royal Exchange had been using the FTH as a rehearsal room. You can see the rectangle outline of the piano lift centre stage, as well as a mark-out in coloured tape of the stage area, presumably for the Royal Exchange's mobile theatre module.
  • The Wurlitzer Organ, on the Balcony, House Right and above the Stage of the Free Trade Hall in 1997.
  • The Free Trade Hall's Stage whilst the L.T.O.T removed the Wurlitzer Organ in 1997.
  • The Auditorium ceiling of the Free Trade Hal in 1997, taken from the canopy above the stage.
  • The Auditorium of the Free Trade Hall's Lesser Hall in 1997. The model on the bottom right of the photo may be the model box for the Royal Exchange's touring module rather than the main theatre.
  • The Stage of the Free Trade Hall's Lesser Hall in 1997.
  • L.T.O.T. on the Free Trade Hall's canopy lowering organ parts to the stage in 1997.
  • August 1997 - Looking down from the canopy above the stage of the Free Trade Hall. Organ pipes and parts can be seen laid out after their removal.
  • The Free Trade Hall's Stage whilst the L.T.O.T removed the Wurlitzer Organ in 1997.
  • The Free Trade Hall's Stage Left Prompt Corner with its Zero 88 Eclipse lighting desk in 1997.
  • The Free Trade Hall's Piano Lift and Sub Stage in 1997.
  • The Piano lift Sign as seen in the Sub Stage Photo.
  • The Free Trade Hall's 2nd Strand Electric Lighting Board - On the SR Balcony in 1997.
  • The Free Trade Hall's Strand Electric Lighting Board in situ on the Balcony SR in 1997.
  • The Free Trade Hall's Organ compressor in 1997.
  • Aug 1997 - The Foyer with the Royal Exchange's equipment.
  • The Sub Stage Corridor at the Free Trade Hall in 1997.
  • This photo of the rear of the Free Trade Hall was taken from the roof of the Bridgewater Hall. G-Mex, as it was then called, is on the Left. The back wall of the Hall can be seen with the row of statues along the top, which I believe are now within the new hotel on the site. To the right of this is the former Theatre Royal, with the red & white 'Royal Central Hotel' behind
  • FTH1.jpg
  • FTH2_banner.jpg
  • FTH3_banner.jpg
  • FTH4_banner.jpg
  • FTH5_banner.jpg
  • FTH6_banner.jpg
  • FTH7_banner.jpg
  • FTH8_banner.jpg
  • FTH9_banner.jpg
  • FTH10_banner.jpg
  • FTH20_banner.jpg
  • FTH11_banner.jpg
  • FTH12_banner.jpg
  • FTH13_banner.jpg
  • FTH17_banner.jpg
  • FTH14_banner.jpg
  • FTH16_banner.jpg
  • FTH15_banner.jpg
  • FTH18_banner.jpg
  • FTH19_banner.jpg
  • FTH21_banner.jpg
Above - A Slideshow of images of the Manchester Free Trade Hall taken in August 1997 after it had closed and before it was rebuilt as an Hotel - Courtesy Mike Hall, who says he took most of these photos whilst working as a technician at the Bridgewater Hall, which opened in September 1996 and replaced the Free Trade Hall. Prior to this he had worked on a number of Am-Dram shows in the Free Trade Hall, mainly on followspot. They used to have two Strand Pat. 765's which had to be carried down to the front of the balcony from a room high up at the rear of the balcony. Many of the pictures show various pieces of equipment lying around, this is mostly the property of the Royal Exchange Theatre as they moved into the Free Trade Hall in 1996 / 97 after the IRA bombing of Manchester on the 15th June 1996, which severely damaged the Royal Exchange. The Hall by then was used mainly as rehearsal and storage space. In 1997 the Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust (L.T.O.T.) removed the Wurlitzer Organ, which they had installed in the Free Trade Hall in 1977 after it had been removed from the Manchester Odeon / Paramount Theatre in 1974 see here.

 

The Building News carried an article entitled 'On Acoustics' in their December 28th 1860 edition, which has some details of the Free Trade Hall when it was first constructed, supplied by its architect Edward Walters, the article says:- 'We will first consider the case of the Free Trade Hall at Manchester, the work of Mr. Walters, who has most obligingly furnished full Information respecting it.

An Advertisement for Arthur Lloyd and his family at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester - From the Guardian of November 2nd 1869.The requirements here, as in most great rooms, embraced fitness for both musical entertainments and public speaking, with accommodation for a very large audience, and good architectural effect. All this has been successfully accomplished.

Left - An Advertisement for Arthur Lloyd and his family at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester - From the Guardian of November 2nd 1869.

The dimensions of this hall are very considerable; they are, as measured from the contract plans - The internal width, 104 feet; length, 176 feet; height, 70 feet; thus bearing very nearly the simple arithmetical relations to one another of 2, 3, and 5. The plan is a parallelogram, with a semicircular sweep at the end, opposite the orchestra. The orchestra is partly in a recess, with a roof curved upwards, but advances into the body of the hall.

The side walls are low, the ceiling coming down on to them, with a cove of unusual height. The side walls are plain below the gallery, the upper part of them being broken only by engaged pilasters, so that they offer no obstacle to conduction, and what reflecting power they exercise will be favorable, but at the remote end, where conduction along the walls would commence, and at the semicircular end, the surface is broken up so as to dissipate or destroy the conducted wave of sound.

An Advertisement for Arthur Lloyd and his family at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester - From the Guardian of November 10th 1869.Columns here take the place of pilasters. Deep open recesses, used as private boxes, are formed, and balconies are thrown out on corbels, while the gallery, which at the sides is shallow, becomes here deeper, so as more effectually to check the sound that might reach the back wall and be echoed.

Right - An Advertisement for Arthur Lloyd and his family at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester - From the Guardian of November 10th 1869.

The doors of entrance are here too, covered with cloth, and lastly the front of the gallery itself has a section of compound curvature, so that it cannot echo. These precautions, coupled with the curved end of the room, arc successful, and there is no echo.

When full, this hall is very successful either for music or for speaking, but when empty the resonance in it amounts to reverberation.

The good result here, it will be remarked, is mainly due to form and proportions; resonant material is not present in an extraordinary quantity, for the walls are plastered, and so is the ceiling; the floor, however, has a space underneath it, and there is a large space above the ceiling. I believe there is a good deal of woodwork about the orchestra - the most important part - and there is a large organ there, which I cannot help believing is likely, even when not played upon, to be a slight auxiliary to sound.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News, December 28th 1860.

Arthur Lloyd performed at the Free Trade Hall on many occasions, a review of one of his performances there, whilst on a tour of the provinces in 1866, comes from the Manchester Examiner of February that year saying:- 'The entertainment provided by Mr. Arthur Lloyd, on Saturday evening last, was, with a very slight exception, a comic one. Himself a singer and composer of popular songs, Mr. Lloyd contributed largely to the amusement of the immense audience which crammed the Free Trade Hall in every part. "The Ballet Girl," "The Policeman," "The Old Woman and her Pig" ( a re-setting of an old North country nursery rhyme), and the last composition of its class, the inexplicable "Kafoozleum," were vociferously encored... Mr. Lloyd's bill of fare, doubled as it was by repetitions, lasted till a late hour, and proved how exacting is the public when its taste is met and its wants generously supplied by performers of great ability and a superabundance of animal spirits.' The Manchester Examiner, February 12th 1866.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre you are willing to share please Contact me.

Other Pages that may be of Interest