The Principal Manchester

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The Principal Manchester
Refuge Assurance Building, Manchester.jpg
Oxford Street façade with clock tower in 2011
Alternative namesRefuge Assurance Building
General information
StatusGrade II*
TypeOriginally offices for Refuge Assurance; Hotel since 1989
Architectural styleEclectic Baroque[1]
LocationOxford Street, Manchester
CountryUnited Kingdom
Current tenantsThe Principal Manchester, Principal Hotel Company
Renovated1912, 1932
ClientRefuge Assurance Company
Design and construction
ArchitectAlfred Waterhouse, Paul Waterhouse, Stanley Birkett

The Principal Manchester, originally known as the Refuge Assurance Building or Refuge Building after the insurance company stands at the corner of Oxford Street and Whitworth Street in Manchester, England. The building was later known as the Palace Hotel.

Refuge Assurance Company[edit]

The first phase of this Grade II* listed red brick and terracotta building was designed for the Refuge Assurance Company by Alfred Waterhouse and built 1891–1895.[2] The inside was of Burmantofts faience and glazed brick. The ground floor was one enormous open business hall.[3]

It was extended, with a striking 217-foot (66 m) tower, along Oxford Street by his son Paul Waterhouse in 1910–1912.[2] It was further extended along Whitworth Street by Stanley Birkett in 1932.[3]

Conversion to hotel[edit]

After occupying the building as offices for nearly a century, the Refuge Assurance Company departed the building for a new purpose site in the grounds of Fulshaw Hall, Cheshire on Friday 6 November 1987. The Refuge Assurance company had discussed converting the building into a new home for the Hallé Orchestra with one of Manchester's cultural patrons Sir Bob Scott for over a year. The £3 million funding required for the project did not materialise and the Halle subsequently moved from the Free Trade Hall to the new Bridgewater Hall upon opening in 1996.[4]

Local architecture critic John Parkinson-Bailey noted that "one of the most prestigious and expensive buildings in Manchester lay forlorn and empty except for a caretaker and the ghost on its staircase".[4] It was converted to a hotel by Richard Newman in 1996 at a cost of £7 million, and was named the Palace Hotel, owned and operated by the Principal Hotel Company.[5] The hotel is purported to be haunted.[6] The hotel was rebranded 'The Principal Manchester' in November 2016. [7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historic England. "Refuge Assurance Building (1271429)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  2. ^ a b Former Refuge Assurance Company Offices, Heritage Gateway, retrieved 2009-10-24
  3. ^ a b Hartwell, Clare (2001), Manchester, Pevsner Architectural Guides, Penguin Books, p. 180, ISBN 978-0-14-071131-8
  4. ^ a b Parkinson-Bailey. Manchester: An architectural history. p. 227.
  5. ^ "The Palace Hotel - Oxford Street & Whitworth Street". Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  6. ^ "I would go out tonight: Johnny Marr shares his midnight Manchester odyssey with the world". Manchester Evening News. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  7. ^ Roue, Lucy (2016-09-29). "The Principal Manchester heads for 'principal' role in city". Retrieved 2016-10-03.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°28′28″N 2°14′25″W / 53.4744°N 2.2403°W / 53.4744; -2.2403