Corporation Street, Manchester

Corporation Street, Manchester
Corporation Street from the Wheel of Manchester

Corporation Street is one of the major streets which bisects Manchester city centre. The street starts where Cross Street meets the junction of Market Street and ends at the junction of Dantzic Street. Major buildings located or adjacent to the street include the Manchester Arndale, Exchange Square, the Wheel of Manchester, The Printworks, Urbis and New Century Hall next to the CIS Tower.

The street is the location of the 1996 bombing in Manchester by the IRA. Since the bombing, the street and surrounding vicinity has undergone large scale reconstruction. The surrounding area of Corporation Street has been an attempted target for various factions such as the IRA and Al-Qaeda with the intent of a terrorist attack since 1991 and most recently in 2009.[1][2]

To eliminate this threat, the section of the street between the junction of Market Street to Withy Grove is partly pedestrianised between 1100 and 1900 hours, with the aim of making it more safe for passing pedestrians and eliminate the threat of another attack like the 1996 bombing in a crowded public area. A series of road bollards have been installed to only grant access to authenticated emergency service and bus vehicles during the prohibited hours.



Early 20th century

Footage captured in 1901 showed that the junction of Cross Street and Corporation Street was a centre for horse drawn carriages ferrying people from one place to another.[3]

1996 bombing

The centre's profile, and the presence of several national chains, made it a target for terrorists. Arson attacks in April 1991 were followed by several firebombs in December 1991 which caused extensive damage to four stores. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) was blamed for both incidents, in which the devices were placed in soft furnishings during shopping hours.[4] After the second, Christmas shopping continued much as normal the following day in the unaffected stores. One unnamed fireman noted "What bugs me is if there's a big one planted there's a lot of glass around here, and a lot of people will be killed".[5]

Two men parked a van containing a 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) bomb on Corporation Street between Marks & Spencer and the Arndale at about 9:20 in the morning on Saturday 15 June 1996. At about 9:45, a coded warning was received by Granada TV, the local television station. About 80,000 people were cleared from the area by local police and store staff using procedures developed after another IRA bombing incident in 1992. The bomb exploded at 11:17, shortly after the army bomb squad arrived from Liverpool and began making it safe. Nobody was killed by the bomb, but over 200 people were injured, some seriously, mostly by flying glass and shrapnel, though one pregnant shopper was thrown in the air by the blast.[6]

Damage and impact

The bomb blast destroyed much of the surrounding beyond repair and so it was a decided it would make better financial sense to reconstruct Manchester city centre from the ground up. Marks and Spencer's and the adjacent Longridge House were condemned as unsafe within days, and would be demolished. The frontage of the Arndale on Corporation Street and the footbridge were structurally damaged.[7] The reinsurance company Swiss Re estimated that the final insurance payout was over £400M, making it, at the time, the most expensive man-made disaster ever.[7][8]

About twelve buildings in the immediate vicinity on of the explosion on Corporation Street were severely damaged. Overall, 530,000 square feet (49,000 m2) of retail space and 610,000 square feet (57,000 m2) of office space were put out of use.[9] Insurers paid out £411 million (£600 million as of 2011)[10] in damages for what was at the time one of the most expensive man-made disasters ever,[11] and there was considerable under-insurance.[9] Victims of the bombing received a total of £1,145,971 in compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority; one individual received £146,524, the largest amount awarded as a result of this incident.[12]

The epicentre of the blast in 2009

According to Home Office statistics, an estimated 400 businesses within half a mile (0.8 km) of the blast were affected, 40% of which did not recover.[13] The heaviest damage was sustained by the three buildings closest to the bomb: Michael House, comprising a Marks & Spencer store and a six-storey office block; Longridge House, offices for Royal and Sun Alliance, an insurance company; and the Arndale Centre, a shopping mall.[14] Michael House was deemed beyond economic repair and demolished. Marks & Spencer took the opportunity to acquire and demolish the adjacent Longridge House, using the enlarged site for the world's biggest branch of Marks & Spencer.[9] Marks and Spencer's fortunes changed during construction, and Selfridges subsequently co-occupied the building.[15] Marks & Spencer became tenants of part of the Lewis's store in the interval.[14] The frontage of the Arndale was badly damaged and was removed in a remodelling of that part of the city centre.[9]

The glass domes of the Corn Exchange and the Royal Exchange were blown in. The landlord of the Corn Exchange invoked a force majeure condition in the lease to evict all tenants, and the building was converted into a shopping centre.[16] The dome of the Royal Exchange, home to the theatre, was found to have shifted in the blast; its repair and refurbishment took two and a half years.[17]

The possibility of taking the opportunity to rebuild parts of the city centre was raised within days of the bomb. On 26 June 1996, Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, announced an international competition for designs of the redevelopment of the bomb-affected area. Bids were received from 27 entrants, 5 of whom were invited to submit designs in a second round.[18] It was announced on 5 November 1996 that the winning design was one by a consortium headed by EDAW.[19]


Construction of the Manchester Arndale North development in 2004. The main entrance is located here

Whether the bomb acted as a catalyst for development has polarised opinion. Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, Sir Howard Bernstein argued that regeneration of Manchester was already under-way, as evidenced in the Manchester's new found ambition to bid for the Olympics in 1992 and 1996. The Nynex Arena, Europe's largest arena at the time opened in 1995 and has since proved itself a successful venue.

Buildings and landmarks

The main entrance of the Manchester Arndale on Corporation Street
Interior of the Corporation Street bridge linking the Manchester Arndale

Manchester Arndale

The main entrance to the Manchester Arndale is located on Corporation Street opposite the Wheel of Manchester. A bridge[20] crossing Corporation Street connects the Manchester Arndale to Selfridges.

Wheel of Manchester

Located adjacent to Corporation Street in Exchange Square is the Wheel of Manchester, a 60m ferris wheel installation which provides views over Manchester city centre and beyond. The first wheel was installed in 2004, before being replaced by new one in May 2007.[21]

In 2010, Manchester City Council proposed a 120 m (394 ft) wheel, to be operated by World Tourist Attractions, as a replacement for the existing transportable installation, with Piccadilly Gardens the possible site and completion expected by Christmas 2011.[22]


Urbis, situated alongside Corporation Street as seen in the image

Urbis, located adjacent to Corporation Street was opened in 2002 and hosted exhibits on popular culture such as music and art including Mancunian culture.

Urbis temporarily closed in February 2010 for a revamp to transform the building into the National Football Museum which will move from Preston. The new Football Museum is due to open in early 2012.[23]

Pedrestrianised zone


After the 1996 bomb a decision was made to limit the amount of traffic allowed onto Corporation between Withy Grove and Cross Street. IRA bombings had since reverted to the use of vehicle bombs on as a disguise for a bomb attack as evidenced in the Manchester bombing and various other bombings such as the Armagh bomb in 1998 for example and so crowded areas on major streets provided a high risk to pedestrians. The failed 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack and the 2007 London car bombs highlighted the danger that still exists post-IRA attacks on British mainland.

Only buses and emergency vehicles are granted access during 1100 to 1900 hours. Motorists are warned not to attempt to bypass the bollards by tailgating.


A credit-card sized key is attached to the windscreen of authenticated emergency and bus vehicles which is automatically scanned and lowers the bollards allowing the vehicle to pass through. The bollards are accompanied by a warning sound which warns nearby pedestrians of the rising or lowering or the bollards.

Notoriety and criticism

The bollards surrounding Corporation Street have gained notoriety in the media and online with CCTV footage of cars colliding into rising bollards.

The bollards have gained a reputation for being unreliable, with a special fire engine ending up lodged on a rising pair of bollards in 2008.[24]

In March 2009, a Metroshuttle bus collided with the retractable bollards and three people had to be taken to hospital with 'minor' injuries.[25]

In April 2009, footage was captured showing an ambulance having to do a u-turn and find an alternative route after the retractable bollards failed to lower.[26]

Pillar box

Standard UK pillar box with memorial brass plaque
A pillarbox that survived the bomb blast. A memorial brass plaque commemorates the 1996 bomb

The pillar box located near the top of Corporation Street was the only object left standing in the 1996 Manchester Bombing. The pillar box still remains today where it is commemorated with a brass plaque.

See also


  1. ^ "Osama Bin Laden masterminded plot to blow up shoppers in Manchester city centre, files found in compound raid show". Daily Mail (London). 21 May 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Gardham, Duncan (8 July 2010). "New York-Manchester bomb plot leads to Norwegian arrests as international net widens". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Shannon, Catherine (30 September 2010). "Video: Manchester street scene from 1901 wows the YouTube generation". Manchester Evening News. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Meikle, James, et al. (9 December 1991). "Store fire-bomb attacks prompt fear of mainland IRA campaign". The Guardian. 
    Sharratt, Tom; Duncan Campbell (6 April 1991). "Arson attacks on shops linked to rail station bag". The Guardian. 
  5. ^ Clouston, Erlend; David Ward (9 December 1991). "Gritty Christmas shoppers brave fire and high water". The Guardian. 
  6. ^ Lester & Panter (2006), pp. 10–15.
  7. ^ a b Williams (2003), p. 86–8.
  8. ^ Sengupta, Kim (28 March 1997). "£411M cost after Manchester bomb sets record". The Independent. 
  9. ^ a b c d Williams 2003, pp. 86–7
  10. ^ UK CPI inflation numbers based on data available from Lawrence H. Officer (2010) "What Were the UK Earnings and Prices Then?" MeasuringWorth.
  11. ^ Sengupata, Kim (28 March 1997), £411m cost after Manchester bomb sets record, London: The Independent,, retrieved 2009-10-03 
  12. ^ Rooth, Ben (14 June 2006), "IRA Bomb Victims Share GBP1M" (subscription required), Manchester Evening News,, retrieved 2 March 2010 
  13. ^ "The cost of terrorism", Panorama (BBC News), 15 May 2004,, retrieved 2009-09-10 
  14. ^ a b Parkinson-Bailey 2000, p. 256
  15. ^ Williams 2003, pp. 86–7, 183–7, 218
  16. ^ Parkinson-Bailey 2000, pp. 261
  17. ^ Parkinson-Bailey 2000, pp. 256
  18. ^ King 2006, pp. 129–30, 143
  19. ^ Williams 2003, p. 108
  20. ^ "Corporation Street Bridge, Manchester". Hodder + Partners. 25 November 2000. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "Big wheel returns to city centre". BBC News Online. 25 May 2007. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  22. ^ Manchester 'monster' wheel plans confirmed
  23. ^ "National Football Museum". National Football Museum. 
  24. ^ "Fire engine trapped on bollards". BBC. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  25. ^
  26. ^

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