A Northern powerhouse

Manchester is a city in Greater Manchester, England.

It is bordered by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and the neighbouring city of Salford to the west.

The two cities and the surrounding towns form one of the United Kingdom's most populous conurbations, the Greater Manchester Built-up Area, which currently has a population of 2.87 million.

Map of the ancient parish of Manchester.

Mr Stephen - Own work, after Farrer & Brownbill

The city is renowned for its architecture, culture, musical exports, connections with the media, contributions to science and engineering, social effect, sports clubs, and transportation options.

The world's first intercity passenger train station was located at Liverpool Road. Ernest Rutherford split the atom for the first time at the University of Manchester in 1917. Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Geoff Tootill created the world's first stored-program computer there in 1948.

In 2004, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov successfully separated the first graphene.

The Christmas Blitz

The German Luftwaffe heavily bombed Manchester and the territories around it in Northwest England during World War II.

This attack is sometimes referred to as the Christmas Blitz. One of three significant raids was conducted on Manchester, a significant inland port and industrial city; Trafford Park in neighbouring Stretford served as a key hub for wartime production.

February 1939: Workers prepare barrage balloons at the Gaythorn gasworks in Manchester. 

Firefighters putting out a blaze at a bomb site in Manchester city centre.

Imperial War Museum

The first attacks

In September 1940, the Palace Theatre on Oxford Street was bombed. Air strikes had started in August 1940. The aircraft firm A V Roe, which made the Manchester and Lancaster bombers, was located in Manchester. 

Ford also had 17,000 employees working in a big new industrial complex producing aviation engines in the city. The Metropolitan-Vickers plant in Mosley Road was just one of the area's factories that sustained significant damage during the air raids during this period.

Firefighters battling the intense fires after a Luftwaffe raid.


The Christmas Blitz

The deadliest raids, which killed an estimated 684 people and injured over 2,000 more, took place on the evenings of December 22/23 and 23/24, 1940, the Christmas period giving no relief from the bombings.  Among the significant structures damaged were Manchester Cathedral, the Royal Exchange, the Free Trade Hall, and the Manchester Assize Courts.

A Luftwaffe reconnaissance picture and map highlights targets at the Hovis factory in Trafford Park.


The Mosley Road aircraft factory - here shown producing either later model four-engine Avro Manchesters or Avro Lancasters.

Imperial War Museum

The Metropolitan-Vickers aircraft factory in Mosley Road was badly damaged on the night of the 23rd, with the loss of the first 13 MV-built Avro Manchester bombers in final assembly.

Manchester ablaze

A carpet warehouse goes up in smoke.

Imperial War Museum

On the nights of December 22 and 23, 272 tonnes of high explosive were dropped, followed the next night by 195 tonnes. Over the course of the two nights, about 2,000 incendiaries were also dumped on the city.

Warehouse on the corner of Mosley Street/Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester.

Imperial War Museum

A civilian looks on as fire engulfs a building.


The aircraft flew in a fan-like pattern over the city and utilised the by this time well-known strategy of launching flares, incendiaries, and high explosives, with subsequent waves aimed at the fires started by the earlier attacks.

Many areas were struck and resulted in a high amount of casualties, often from the same families. Five children were among the fifteen victims on Prince Street, Beswick. 

Eleven people and four children were killed in Bigland Street, Ordsall, including five members of the Moorhouse family who lived at number 106. 

Twelve people, including four children, were killed by a high explosive bomb at Oakfield Road and Moss Lane in Altrincham.

Bomb damage to Oakfield Road, Altrincham. 

Trafford Local Studies Centre Collection

Buildings burning in Manchester after an air raid on 23rd December 1940.

Imperial War Museum

Two German aircraft were reported to have been destroyed over the British Isles on December 24; one crashed in the sea near Blackpool and the other, carrying flares and incendiaries, crashed in flames near Etchingham, Sussex, leaving no survivors. There were other, less intense bombing raids across Britain.

Firefighters use a ladder during a night raid in Manchester in 1941.

Imperial War Museum

Timeline of Sunday December 22, 1940


6:49pm An incendiary is reported to have fallen at the corner of Bridgewater Street and Chepstow Street. It has struck the door of an air raid shelter.
6:50pm The top of the Royal Exchange is now ablaze. High explosives have destroyed nearly half the exchange’s floor. The shopping arcade beneath the exchange is also alight.
6:52pm Victoria Buildings near Manchester Cathedral is alight. The gas main at Hailwood’s creamery in nearby St Mary’s Gate is gushing fire.

Another building falls victim to the German bombers.

GMP Museum and Archive

6:53pm: Fires now raging across Manchester, Salford and Stretford

Fire crews are pouring into the region to tackle the flames. Amateur crews made up of local residents have begun using hand pumps to fight fires in the streets where they live.

28 Varley Street, Miles Platting

A blast at Varley Street in Miles Platting claimed the lives of more than twenty persons, three generations of one family among them who were attending a Christmas party.

At number 28 Varley Street, where widow Elizabeth Maycock, 62, and her son Clarence, 36, were both killed, eleven people perished. Along with her husband William, 41, and their eleven-year-old son Gordon, Eveline Fletcher, Elizabeth's daughter, who resided at 164 Hulme Hall Lane in Miles Platting, was also in her mother's home at the time of the explosion. The explosion claimed the lives of all three.

At the time, Leah Shaw, age 39, her husband Arthur Shaw, age 50, and their nine-year-old son Jack were guests at her mother's celebration. Leah Shaw lived at 155 Holland Street in Newton. They were all also killed.

The younger daughter of Elizabeth, Edna Silversides, 32, lived in Ormskirk with her husband, Frank Silversides, and their small daughter Beryl, 4. They were also paying a visit to the family home at 28 Varley Street in Miles Platting. The force of the explosion killed all three.

Bomb damage to Charter Road, Altrincham, on 23 December 1940. 

Trafford Local Studies Centre Collection

6:54pm Firefighters are now tackling the blaze at Victoria Buildings. They have put out two incendiaries, but a third is an an awkward corner of the roof and they cannot reach it.
7:01pm Part of Victoria Buildings has now collapsed into Deansgate. The debris is blocking the street from Blackfriars Street to Victoria Bridge. Overhead wires from the tramway system are tangled up beneath the piles of debris.
7:05pm The civil defence control room has received a flood of calls. Air raid wardens have extinguished a fire bomb that fell into Cathedral Yard.
7:09pm Exchange Hotel is blazing fiercely. Burton’s tailor’s shop at the corner of Corporation Street and Market Street is on fire. Air raid wardens and firemen are frantically trying to smother a fire which is threatening to engulf Bridgewater House.

Buildings around the junction of Parker Street and Portland Street ablaze at the height of the Manchester Christmas Blitz of 1940. The photograph was taken from the edge of Manchester's famous Piccadilly Gardens.

Greater Manchester Police collection

7:15pm: 18 killed in blasts across Eccles and Monton

Gilda Brook Road, Eccles

A Christmas celebration was being held on Sunday, December 22, 1940, at a first aid station housed on Gilda Brook Road in the Eccles area of Manchester.

Due to the possibility of raids, the celebration for first aid personnel was conducted earlier in the evening than usual.

At around 7.15 p.m., the party was almost over when a bomb exploded in the road just outside.


William Arnold, a 42-year-old ARP (Air Raid Precautions) ambulance driver; Marie Boyle, a 50-year-old Red Cross nurse; Frederick Wellwood, a 68-year-old Air Raid Warden; and six of their First Aid Post coworkers, William Cooney, a 32-year-old; Philip Coote; Clive Davis; Harold Stubbs; a 57-year-old; Robert Wilkinson; and and 67-year-old Joseph Heaps were all killed.

The aftermath of the bombing at Gilda Brook Road. The extensive damage caused by the bombs can be clearly seen in this photograph. 

Lilian Jones, 50, of Half Edge Lane, and Muriel Stalvies, 36, of Mirfield Drive, Monton, were also killed in the explosion at the party. More than 30 other partygoers required medical attention for injuries or shock.

The explosion also left five members of the same family dead in the home next door at 96 Gilda Brook Road, in addition to the eleven people murdered at the First Aid post. They were 39-year-old Robert Thompson, his 39-year-old wife Annie, and their three boys, Kenneth, 13, Allen, 11, and John, 5.

One of the bombs that exploded in the neighbourhood of Eccles, causing damage to 1,400 homes, occurred in Gilda Brook Road. On Monton Road, four persons were killed, and explosions also occurred on Wellington Road, Regent Street, and Ellesmere Avenue.

7.28pm Information about another another catastrophe in Eccles. Three children, ages 16, 12, and 6, were killed when a large bomb detonated inside a home near Monton Road. The same house also saw the death of a sailor from the Queen Elizabeth battleship returning home on leave. At this time, Eccles has experienced 16 fatalities. 24 persons had minor injuries, while 18 others suffered serious ones. On Wellington Road, Regent Road, Monton Road, and Ellesmere Avenue, explosives keep falling.

7:40: Warehouses ablaze in city centre as Bridge Street is blocked

The city's warehouses are engulfed in flames and undergoing destruction, including those on Watson Street, the junction of Portland Street and Sackville Street, and other locations. According to a witness, bombs were landing and shaking the earth.

The collapse of a building at the intersection of Bridge Street and Gartside Street has closed the street. In an effort to put a halt to incendiary bombs falling in the centre of the city, members of the public have teamed up with police and firefighters.

Piccadilly, December 1940. This picture was taken from high on Lewis's building looking down towards Portland Street. The bus station is on the left.

8pm: Bombs smash into Stretford, Hulme and Salford

8:03pm In St George's Park in Hulme, three high-explosive devices have been discovered among a flurry of incendiaries. A direct strike on an underground shelter has been made. Fortunately, nobody is using it. The playground for kids is severely harmed. There is one bomb in the kiddie pool.
8:07pm There are rumours that the streets around St. George's Park have also sustained significant damage. Three streets have been affected: Erskine, Russell, and Lime.
8:15pm High explosives are tearing up buildings and creating enormous craters in the streets all across the area. The first of many helpers, fire crews, have now arrived in the city from Hazel Grove. There are about 59 units travelling to Salford from outside the city.
8.21pm Reports that a bomb explosion in the Gibson's Shelter under Erskine Street, Hulme, had trapped 450 people.

101-121 Davyhulme Road, Stretford, bombed by German planes on 23 December 1940. 

Image courtesy of Alan Morrison. Trafford Local Studies Centre Collection

Fernleaf Street, Moss Side

At Fernleaf Street in Moss Side, 24 individuals perished. Ten of them were listed as living at number 54.

Three young families were among them:

  • Jessie Brandreth, 42, along with her two daughters Muriel, 9, and Mary, 16,
  • John Hopkins, 31, Margaret Hopkins, 29, and their two children, John, 5, and Margaret, 2, make up the Hopkins family.
  • 27-year-old Jessie Wakeman and her 3-month-old son Raymond


At 54 Fernleaf Street, Frederick Smith, a 39-year-old resident, also perished in the explosion. Emma Wrigley, a 41-year-old resident of Exeter Street in Ardwick, was the eleventh person to pass away at the location.

In an explosion at their home at 60 Fernleaf Street, five members of the same family were also killed. They were James Thornton, 53, his 32-year-old wife Lilian, and their kids, Norman, 15, Kenneth, 10, and Neville, 6.

The Royal Exchange building which was seriously damaged during the Christmas Blitz.


8.29pm Despite having a capacity of only 200, the shelter on Erskine Street was dangerously crowded when the bombing first went off.
8.42pm A landmine that struck the East Union Street police station in Stretford has killed six police officers. There were three more injuries.
8.49pm The bomb that hit East Union Street police station has severed communications between the station and the Empress Street ambulance depot and the Wright Street rescue depot, and Manchester Town Hall. Messengers bravely set out on bicycles as bombs continue to fall.
8.51pm A heavy bomb hits a property in Hopwood Street and Bridge Street in Salford and has demolished two surface shelters. Rescuers have saved all but two people who were trapped.

Miller Street, early hours of 23rd December 1940.

Manchester libraries

8.52pm In Salford's Gladstone Street and Lottie Street, bomb bursts have destroyed homes. Agecroft Road is now inundated after a bomb broke two water mains there.
8:54pm A shelter in Agecroft Road has been damaged by a bomb. Fortunately, nobody was inside. The explosion damaged several more homes in addition to the two that were affected in Park Lane West.
9pm Other streets near Oxford Road in the city centre, like Gray Street, Stafford Street, Cooke Street, and others, have also taken a significant impact. 341 people are seeking shelter at Wood Street Mission since many homes have been damaged.
9:07pm The 450 persons stranded in the refuge on Erskine Street are all safe. Happily,  every single person has been rescued alive. But after another bomb struck the Cornbrook Shelter, four people tragically died.

One side of Manchester Piccadilly, as shown in this photograph, was almost completely destroyed in the raids.

Imperial War Museum

Clopton Street, Hulme

More than a dozen people were killed when a bomb targeted a wedding party at the Manley Arms bar on Clopton Street in Hulme.  the victims who died in the bar were;

  • John Rogerson, the 42-year-old landlord and landlady of the Manley Arms, and his wife Jeanie, a 50-year-old widow. 
  • 73-year-old Catherine Silcock of Erskine Street.
  • Old Trafford residents Hulme William Brown, 63, Hulme William Jones, 59, Hulme Arthur Richards, 58, Hulme Walter Burton, 60, and Hulme Walter Burton, of Augustus Street.
  • Thomas Llewellyn, 41, and Joseph Clark, 53, both of Southampton.

Clopton Street no longer exists on the map but the former location of the pub is believed to be at the junction of Warde Street and Ellis Street, off Stretford Road.

  • Rescuer Thomas White, 41, of Mulberry Street, Hulme, and Alfred Crombie, 25, of Turncroft Lane, Stockport, both perished in the street explosion.

Air raid shelters in Dearden Street, Hulme.

Manchester Local Image Collection at Manchester City Council

9:35pm: Bombs land in playground at St George's School

The Stockport Alice Briggs Remand Home was destroyed by a bomb, but the boys inside the shelters were unharmed.

High explosive devices have landed in the St. George's School playground on Buxton Road.

The explosion severely destroyed St. George's School and prevented the nearby first aid station from doing its job.

Heaton Norris goods station has also been hit by a powerful bomb.

Manchester city centre during the Christmas Blitz.


9:40pm: Miracle escape at St Mary's Gate

A firefighter battling the St. Mary's Gate fire miraculously escapes when another high-explosive bomb is dropped on the structure. His 85-foot turntable ladder was covered in masonry, including a sizable coping stone, after the walls had been burst apart.

Although the ladder fell, the only damage he sustained was a damaged toe.

9:50pm: Man and girl, 16, killed at Greengage Arches in Salford

More sad news out of Salford. After a bomb detonated in Salford's Greengate Arches and struck the bus where they had sought refuge, a man and a girl were killed.

The girl was only sixteen.

A mobile first aid station was also damaged, killing some of the staff members, including the medical officer. Those who have avoided injury are transferring to new positions and carrying out their jobs.

Two people died while sheltering on a bus under a railway bridge when a bomb smashed through the track above.

Imperial War Museum

10:24pm: Man killed as bomb falls on Great Jackson Street

At the intersection of City Road and Great Jackson Street, a high explosive device has gone off. One individual was killed by it. The street is closed due to fallen debris.

The maps depicting where the bombs fell.


10:30pm: Huge blast in Pendleton

The primary storehouse at Church Street in Pendleton has been hit by a massive bomb. Numerous automobiles have been destroyed by the explosion, and telephone connections have been cut.

Additionally, one of the superintendents was seriously hurt. The report centre in Stretford's electricity supply has been cut off. Officials stationed there are working diligently by candlelight and hurricane lamps.

 Imperial War Museum

10:54pm: Germans change tack to dodge ack-ack guns

There are rumours that some German bombers trying to hit Manchester and Salford from the south had turned north after failing to get through the ack-ack guns' fire. However, the most courageous pilots rode the storm and are currently flying directly to their objectives.

Anti-aircraft guns fire into skies above Manchester. 

Manchester Local Image Collection

12:25pm: Woman rescued from 'pancaked' house in Kingsway but her daughter is found dead

After midnight and into Monday morning, the bombing has continued. After a bomb detonation in Kingsway, a house collapsed, killing a young woman.

Her mother was stranded for three hours beneath the remains of her house and was found buried in the subsoil, but she was unharmed.

Rescuers pull a nurse free from the rubble after a 11-hour struggle.

Imperial War Museum

6am: Bomb strikes Manchester Cathedral

Direct damage occurs to Manchester Cathedral. On the cathedral's northeast corner, a bomb has gone off. The lead roof at Manchester Cathedral was remarkably in place after being raised and lowered by the bomb. But every window had been broken. Carpets, chairs, and other furniture have been swept into the air and have fallen everywhere in piles.

The Manchester Regimental Chapel - formerly the Derby Chapel - within Manchester Cathedral.

Imperial War Museum

Manchester Catrhedral showing the view from the high alter with the Humphrey Chetham memorial on the right.

Imperial War Museum

Dr. Garfield Williams continues, "The high altar is little more than a ten-foot-tall pile of trash. The two organs are dispersed all around in tiny pieces. Sparks continue to fly everywhere, yet the ancient cathedral just won't burn."

Stretford and Salford

The marauding German bombers caused significant damage to nearby Salford, Stretford, and other neighbourhoods during the raid. Salford is reported to have had more than 215 fatalities, 910 injuries, and more than 8,000 dwellings damaged or destroyed.

In Stretford, there were 73 fatalities and several injuries. In Chester Road, Stretford, a bomb that struck dwellings 393 and 395 and 397 resulted in the deaths of 11 individuals.

Between Northumberland Road and East Union Street, Old Trafford Police Station was also struck by a large explosion. Four of the six police officers who were on duty at the time died instantly, and the other two passed away a few days later.

Old Trafford Public Baths after the German raid.

Trafford Local Studies

On the intersection of Stanley Road and Northumberland Road, the Old Trafford Public Baths were also damaged by a mine. Thankfully, nobody was harmed.

Additionally, bombs exploded on Duke Street, Clifton Street, and Moss Road, each of which claimed the lives of seven people.

Fighting fires at Trafford Park resulted in the deaths of five firefighters from other parts of Manchester.

A civilian is pulled from the rubble in Salford after a raid in 1940. 

Manchester Local Image Collection

Stanley Road, Stretford

The worst death toll in Greater Manchester was caused by a land mine that destroyed homes in Stanley Road on December 23.

More than 30 people died as a result. At number 28 Stanley Road alone, ten people passed away.

Patrick McLaughlin, 45, his 43-year-old wife Mary, and their four children James, 7, William, 18, Patricia, and Catherine lived in this house. The explosion claimed the lives of all six family members.

At the time, a different family was staying at the residence. The bomb at 28 Stanley Road killed George Laybourne, 51, his wife Jane, 50, and their two children, George, 15, and Catherine, 16, who all lived at Princes Avenue with them.

At 32 Stanley Road, two doors up the street, three generations of the same family were killed. The home's elderly residents Thomas Hill, 66, and Diana Hill, 68, were both slain, as was their 35-year-old son Thomas.

Along with her husband Ernest Ricketts, 56, and children Brenda, 21, and Nora, 20, their daughter Mabel, 46, also resided at number 32. The explosion claimed the lives of all four people.

The blast claimed the life of Charles Dakin, 39, who also resided at 32 Stanley Road. Nellie, 42, and William Smith, 43, a different daughter of the Hills, lived in Old Trafford at Clifton Street, but they were also killed when visiting 32 Stanley Road.

39-year-old Mabel Hayes, who resided at number 34 next door, was also killed in the explosion while she was visiting her neighbour at the time. Margaret, 19, and Kenneth, 15, her two teenage children, also died at the house next door along with Elizabeth Rutter, 64, a neighbour, who also passed away at number 36.

The identities of several other victims killed in the Stanley Road explosion remain unknown. Twenty-two houses were either destroyed or so badly damaged they had to be demolished.

A couple stand outside their bomb-damaged house on Browning Street in Stretford after an air raid on 11 March 1941.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Weaste Cemetery

Salford's Weaste Cemetary was also attacked during the Christmas Blitz. Numerous bombs landed here, and the air strike has left its mark on numerous tombstones.

Numerous graves were destroyed in the raid, and the cemetery suffered a lot of damage. Bombers were targeting the neighbouring docks and industrial sites at Trafford when they bombed the Salford region.

The bomb crater at the cemetery can clearly be seen in this photo.


The damage from the raid can still be seen in these recent photographs. Many of the gravestones bear the scars of the Christmas Blitz of 22/23 December 1940.


6:28am: It's over: Air raid sirens declare 'Raiders Passed'

All throughout Manchester, air raid sirens are blaring, "RAIDERS PASSED, RAIDERS PASSED." The last bomb of the night was the one that struck Manchester Cathedral.

Firemen make a toast to Christmas.

Imperial War Museum


After the dramatic and destructive events of the previous night, the Nazi propaganda machine - the Official German News Agency - released a statement.

A shop damaged after the Luftwaffe raid.

Greater Manchester Police collection

It is believed that 270 aircraft participated in the raid last night. They released 1,032 flaming bomb canisters and 233 high explosive devices. Around 1,300 fires were started by the incendiaries. The River Irwell served as the bombers' navigational aid.

Devastation everywhere

City Centre 

On a sandstone bluff near the confluence of the rivers Medlock and Irwell, Manchester's city centre developed from the civilian vicus of the Roman fort of Mamucium.

The City Centre of Manchester was the most historic part of the city, a cultural and economic hub and acting as the transport interchange for Greater Manchester.

Densely populated and with many notable and important buildings, it took a battering during the Christmas Blitz.


Due to the city's fast growth throughout the Industrial Revolution, there is little order and little consensus regarding the various areas in Manchester's city centre. However, many of the streets and neighbourhoods in the city centre developed a distinct character with recognisable groups of commercial warehouses and government buildings.

The city centre was devastated in the raid. These photographs show extensive damage to Victoria Buildings.

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/ & Imperial War Museum

A wrecked car outside Cheethams Hospital.

Imperial War Museum

St Anne's 

Manchester was barely more than a village at the start of the 18th century, with lots of fields and timber-framed homes.

St Ann's Church was built on the site of a sizable cornfield known as Acres Field in 1712, which is now St Ann's Square.


The Royal Bank of Scotland, which is constructed in the Italian palazzo style, is located in the southeast corner of the square. J. E. Gregan constructed it in 1848 for Benjamin Heywood's bank. Two statues can be found in the square: the Richard Cobden statue, created by Marshall Wood in 1867, and the Boer War Memorial, created by Hamo Thornycroft in 1907.

So it was and is, a site with considerable historical and cultural value.

View of wrecked shop from St Ann’s Square, Manchester in 1940.

Imperial War Museum

Also located close to St Ann's square, in the heart of the city, is a grade II listed building called The Royal Exchange which primary role was the exchange of commodities, primarily but not only cotton and textiles. 

It is situated on a plot of ground bordered by Old Bank Street, Exchange Street, Market Street, Cross Street, and St. Ann's Square. The Royal Exchange Theatre and the Royal Exchange Shopping Center are part of the complex.
Like many buildings in Manchester - particularly those close or in the city centre - it suffered extensive damage during the Christmas Blitz which led to extensive repairs being required.
The building was later to survive the 1996 Manchester bombing and is now a popular venue for theatre productions.

Bomb damage at the Royal Exchange.


The damage to the Royal Exchange can clearly be seen in this photograph.

Greater Manchester Police collection


The northern end of the roadway, known as Deansgate, bears the name of the lost River Dene, which may have flowed along the Hanging Ditch that joined the River Irk and the River Irwell.

One of Manchester's oldest thoroughfares, its path in Roman times stretched from the River Medlock, where a ford and the road to Chester were located, passing not far from the Roman fort of Mamucium. 

From Saxon times, a portion of it was known as Aldport Lane. The region was rural until the 1730s, but after a dock was built on the river, it started to develop into a built-up area.

By the late 19th century, Deansgate had a variety of purposes. At its northern end, there were stores and large office buildings, while further south, there were slums and a working-class neighbourhood. At the northwest corner, an Oliver Cromwell statue honours Manchester's assistance to Parliament during the English Civil War. 

The Victoria Buildings, which were located on its east side and were constructed on a triangular site by Manchester Corporation in 1876, were destroyed in a bombing during the Christmas Blitz of December 1940.

A general scene of damage caused to Manchester city centre taken from the top of a building in Deansgate.

Imperial War Museum

The Shambles 

The Shambles, consisting of some of the earliest surviving Manchester buildings, suffered damage during the Christmas Blitz.

Many of the buildings in the marketplace were demolished in the Victorian era to make way for road improvements with the rest being destroyed by Luftwaffe Bombs.

Only a few survived the demolitions and the German bombs.

The Old Wellington Inn was first constructed in 1552 close to Manchester's market square. The butchers' stalls were moved from the market place in the Old Shambles to new premises in Brown Street, built by the Lord of the Manor, Sir Oswald Mosley, in 1827.

This left the Old Shambles as one of the few pre-19th century buildings, and The Wellington Inn as the only surviving Tudor building in Manchester City Centre.

Bomb damage around The Shambles in Manchester.

The telephone box, just visible by the lamp, opposite The Old Shambles was still still standing after the raid on 22/23 December 1940.

Manchester libraries

Originally, the term "Shambles" referred to a street lined with butcher shops where animals were killed and sold.

Its origins are in the Middle English term schamel, which described a bench used for displaying and selling meat. Blood, chunks of meat, and offal would have been dripping down the gutter in a shambles.

Despite the word's original meaning fading into obscurity, it has persisted as a term for a chaotic area.

Ye Olde Wellington Inn at the corner of The Shambles and Market Place stands relatively unscathed among the devastation.

Imperial War Museum

The Shambles showing damage to buildings after a Luftwaffe raid.

Greater Manchester Police Collection

The Old Wellington Inn, part of Manchester’s famous Old Shambles looks a bit of a shambles itself in this photograph. Fortunately, the adjacent building seems to have taken the worst of the damage, perhaps helping to preserve this famous Manchester landmark.

Greater Manchester Police Collection


Piccadilly grew as the transport interchange of the city centre with rail, tram and bus services all within a five-minute walk. 

The area was bustling and lively with pedestrians commuting to and from the city centre.

The area was dominated by the impressive Piccadilly Gardens. This area suffered severe damage during the raid with many buildings left gutted by fire. 

For the benefit of the public - and given how vulnerable to attack the area was - many shelters were built in Piccadilly Gardens. Additionally, a sizable reservoir was built to supply water to fire fighters following raids.

Firemen tackle an extensive blaze which has completely destroyed several buildings. in the Piccadilly area.


Senior officers of Manchester City Police are among an official party touring Piccadilly Gardens to survey the damage after the bombing of Manchester around the Christmas period of 1940.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Piccadilly Gardens, considered by many to be at the very heart Manchester, is pictured here after the Christmas Blitz. The extent of the damage can be seen by the large amount of now vacant building lots present.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Free Trade Hall

One of Manchester’s most prominent buildings, The Free Trade Hall suffered serious damage during the German bombings. It was initially built in the 1850s to honour the removal of the Corn Laws. The notorious Peterloo Massacre of 1819 took place on St. Peter's Fields, where the building now stands.

From 1858 to 1996, the hall, which was financed by public conscription, served as the home of Manchester's renowned Halle Orchestra.

Much of the interior was destroyed by the bombing, and between 1950 and 1951 a new building was built beneath the original façade. The renowned English contralto Kathleen Ferrier performed during the hall's reopening concert in 1951.

The Free Trade Hall and the destruction caused by the fire bombs.

Imperial War Museum

Manchester City Police’s Chief Constable, Sir John Maxwell, joins the Lord Mayor of Manchester and others amid the ruins of the city’s famous Free Trade Hall after the Manchester Blitz of December 1940.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Surrounding areas

Gees store in Manchester narrowly avoided a direct hit. The torn-up bricks and crater in the road attest to the explosive power of the bomb dropped.

Manchester Local Image Collection

Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum   Greater Manchester Police collection

The damaged assize courts near Strangeways after the Christmas Blitz.

Manchester Local Image Collection

Unexploded bombs

With a raid of such size and magnitude, it was inevitable that there would be a number of bombs that had been dropped but failed to explode.

Although this meant the target had a lucky escape - and meant any people present had time to escape the vicinity of the bomb - it still left a dangerous task for the bomb disposal crews to undertake: The tricky and potentially lethal job of making such unexploded ordinance safe. 

An Army bomb disposal team works at the site an unexploded 1000-pound bomb in Victoria Road, Whalley Rang.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Extensive repairs

A worker manages a cheery smile for the camera of a Manchester City Police photographer while repairing damage to Elizabeth Street.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Work to clear up the damage from a bombing raid is well under way on Caton Street in wartime Manchester. Despite the disruption, residents go about their daily lives.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Rebuilding the infrastructure

A Manchester City Police officer controls traffic on one of the city's streets. The damage from the Luftwaffe raid can clearly be seen in the background.

Greater Manchester Police collection

Further raids

October 21, 1940: A Salford house is ripped apart by a Luftwaffe bomb after the Germans step up their raids on the Northwest.

Old Trafford

On March 11, 1941, German bombers targeted Trafford Park, an industrial complex, and for three hours they bombed it, including Old Trafford football stadium.

Seats were wiped out and the main roof collapsed, the entire concourse was completely obliterated, and windows smashed. 

Bomb damage at Old Trafford football stadium.

Such was the damage that it was not until 1949 – after the stadium had been restored to its former glory – did Manchester Utd return to the stadium. Prior to this, they had been forced to relocate to the home of their fierce rivals at Maine Road – Manchester City.

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth talking to a group warden in Salford, February 1941.


April 1941: Prime Minister Winston Churchill on his surprise visit to Manchester - he shares a joke on his way through Chorlton. 

Interactive map of Manchester blitz bomb sites 

Further reading