A Brief History of the Printworks in Manchester

Located in Manchester city centre, The Printworks has been providing tourists who visit the city the opportunity to dine in some of the best restaurants and Manchester bars the city has to offer. But it wasn’t always like this; this article gives a brief history of The Printworks.

printworks2The history of the Printworks in Manchester goes way back to 1929 when it was built and soon became established as the largest newspaper printing house not only in Britain but also on the entire continent of Europe. During those years the entire building comprised newspaper printing press as well as offices. Today they have all been transformed to form what is one of the most well known entertainment and leisure complexes in the United Kingdom.

During the 1930’s, the publishing house Kemsley Newspapers Ltd, owned the building. During these formative years, there were many publications, which were churned out daily at the Printworks. These ranged from the well-known Sunday Times, Daily Mirror to the Manchester Evening Chronicle.

Today a visitor to the Printworks can find plenty of gems preserved from this bygone era. However, you may need a knowledgeable guide to point them out, as most are either hidden or not so obvious to the untrained eye.

In 1956, the house fell to the ownership of the controversial and infamous newspapers tycoon, Robert Maxwell and was subsequently named Maxwell House. This title was to remain in usage down the decades until 1985 when Maxwell’s publishing empire fell down following the widely reported pensions scandal.

From 1987 up until the time of the Manchester bombings in 1996, the house was unoccupied and was considered by many residents as part of regions in the city, which were eyesores to visitors, and residents alike. On 15th June 1996, the Irish Republican Army carried out a devastating bomb attack on the City of Manchester and this proved to be a turning point in the history of the Printworks building.

printworksWhile the building itself was not bombed, the destruction wrought by the bomb prompted the city authorities to rethink the development of the dysfunctional city centre. The building was included in renovation plans known widely as the Exchange Square Redevelopment after the bombing incident. However, the entertainment venue as it is today only launched in November 2000.

Today there are some worthy initiatives put forward to preserve the rich history of the building. Well meaning residents have contributed time and money in an effort to provide for the preservation of this gem that is at the heart of the community in both the city as well as the Greater Manchester region.

One of the most notable community initiatives geared to the preservation of the building’s history is a charity named the “The Withy Grove Fellowship”. Made up mainly of former employees of the publishing houses that operated from the building for decades, the members meet frequently to relive the history and make positive contribution to the preservation of the rich history of the building. The group receives meeting room and support from the current tenants of the complex.

Visitors interested in discovering the history of the Printworks can now enjoy guided tours organized weekly at the site. It is a unique opportunity to relive historic moments in the city’s evolution for an entire century. This combined with the current remarkable transformation featuring such establishments as the iconic Hardrock Cafe, which is one of the better-known restaurants in Manchester, along with a number of nightclubs and Manchester bars.


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