Free Trade Hall

From Academic Kids

The Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England, was for many years a focal point for public debate and cultural activity in the city. Built near the site of the notorious 1819 Peterloo Massacre, on what is today St. Peters Street (formerly St. Peters Fields), it has historically been seen as a symbol of free trade and the wealth that it helped to generate for Manchester during the Industrial Revolution. It was also used as a concert hall. The Hallé Orchestra first performed there in 1858, and continued to do so until their move in 1996 to the Bridgewater Hall.

There have, in fact, been three buildings known as the Free Trade Hall on the same site. The first two were built to host meetings of the Anti-Corn Law League, during the Corn Law debates of the 1830s and 1840s — a wooden structure, then a more solid stone construction. The third building, which still stands today, was built in 1856 as a permanent monument to commemorate the repeal of the Corn Laws ten years previously.

After heavy bombing in World War II the building was reconstructed, eventually re-opening as a concert hall in 1951. As well as housing the Hallé Orchestra for many years, it was in the late twentieth century also widely-used by pop and rock acts. Bob Dylan played the Free Trade Hall in 1966, shortly after he went electric and at the height of the controversy over his perceived betrayal of his folk roots. It was there that he was famously branded a Judas by a disaffected audience-member.

In 1997 the building was sold by Manchester city council (http://www.manchester.gov.uk/) to private developers. Despite resistance from local groups such as the Manchester Civic Society (http://www.manchestercivic.org.uk/), who viewed the idea as inappropriate given the historical resonance of the building, it has been converted into the Radisson Edwardian Hotel.

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