Ardwick Heritage Trail

Manchester High School for Girls

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manchester high school for girls dover streetManchester High School’s first premises were two converted Victorian houses on Oxford Rd, Manchester. Within a few years these were too small for the number of pupils and the school had to expand into two more converted houses.

By the late 1870s it was decided that a new school must be built. The governors looked at the plans and photographs of existing schools which impressed them. These included North London Collegiate School and Gerstenberg City School in Berlin, Germany. They also looked at books about school buildings in America.

The site on Dover St was chosen because it was near one of the main roads into Manchester city centre and because it was near Manchester University and near Victoria Park which was a prosperous residential area. The land for the site was bought in 1877 from a man called Edmund Potter.

The building was designed by a Manchester company of architects, Mills and Murgatroyd and was built by a Salford company of builders, W. Southern and Sons.

The original building cost £15,000. Most of the stone came from Yorkshire. The exterior bricks were hand pressed in the Openshaw district of Manchester. The moulded bricks for the arches and door jambs were made in Northwich. The red terra cotta for the window sills and weatherings came from a company at Keymer Junction in Sussex.

During the excavation of the foundations one of the workmen was killed when he was buried by a collapsing trench. A later headmistress described how “a humble workman, a symbol of those labourers whose hard, rough struggles with earth and water have made civilization possible, was killed in the excavations by a sudden fall of a mass of clay. He ought not to be forgotten though his name is unknown.”

The new school must have been an imposing sight. It was designed in the Gothic style like many other Victorian buildings in Manchester. The front was about 45 metres long and the central tower was about 35 metres high.

manchester high school for girls dover street

One of the first pupils to have lessons in the new buildings later described her feelings about it. “It is difficult to give impressions of the very early days of the new building. I felt so overpowered by the vast space. My one sensation was that I should never be able to find my way in this huge building. I felt such a wee mite in those tremendous corridors and lofty classrooms. This sensation of size and space was a great help to being good. Many who had been troublesome in the old building found it easy to keep the rules in the new school.”

Manchester High School occupied this building at Dover St between 1881 and 1939. By the 1930s the school had grown again so much that it was decided to build another new school. The school is still located at this new site on Grangethorpe Rd, Rusholme in South Manchester. The Dover St building now belongs to Manchester University.

Text and pictures courtesy of Manchester High School for Girls:

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