Inside the abandoned canal office in Manchester city centre set to become flats

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Bridgewater House, a Grade-II listed former canal office next to Deansgate Square in Great Jackson Street, consists of two townhouses on Chester Road.

At the foot of Manchester’s skyline sits an historic building left unloved.

While skyscrapers have risen around it, the red-brick Georgian style canal office which was built three centuries ago, has stood derelict for decades.

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Bridgewater House, a Grade-II listed former canal office next to Deansgate Square in Great Jackson Street, consists of two townhouses on Chester Road built before 1787 with an extension on Crown Street dating back to 1842.

Attempts to restore the abandoned building have failed so far.

Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.
Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space. | Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.

But now, plans for 53 flats on the site are set to bring the building back to life.

Property firm Watch This Space, which bought the site from Deansgate Square Renaker last year, is planning to restore the two-storey building.

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The £13m project also includes building a new four-storey apartment block.

The firm first formed in 2016, which was recently responsible for refurbishing a listed building in Princess Street, says it is ‘really excited’ about the scheme.

A spokesperson said: “We are really excited for the next chapter of Bridgewater House. It really is a spectacular listed building and we feel privileged to be making plans to bring it back to life with it having sat derelict for over two decades, hoping to create something wonderful and inspiring.”

The developer considered several options for the future use of the building, including commercial space and a hotel, but settled on a residential scheme.

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Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.
Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space. | Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.

The plans involve partially demolishing boundary walls to make way for the 33 new build apartments to be constructed where the car park currently stands.

According to Watch This Space, these new flats will fund the restoration of the empty listed building and its conversion into 20 one and two-bed apartments.

The new block will have eco-friendly air source heat pumps installed with bicycle storage space available for each apartment and no car parking.

The main staircase hall is set to be repaired with original stone flag floors and serve as the main entrance to the apartments in the converted building.

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All modern doors would be replaced with copies of the original panelled ones and the timber in the floors and roof structure is set to be restored as well.

Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.
Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space. | Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.

However, due to the higher costs involved in converting a derelict and listed building, the developer says it cannot offer any affordable housing on the site.

There have also been no Section 106 contributions – cash for schools, health care or public space in the area – offered to the council as part of the proposal.

According to planning documents, the developer is due to make a 13 % profit.

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Planning permission to restore the building for business uses was granted in 2007, but was not implemented despite the lapsed time limit being extended.

Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.
Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space. | Bridgewater House in Great Jackson Street, Manchester. Credit: Watch This Space.

The site is now surrounded by skyscrappers with more set to be built soon alongside a new city centre primary school on a plot of land at Crown Street.

The planning application was submitted to Manchester city council in August.

  • To view or comment on the plans, visit the council’s website using application reference 134695/LO/2022.
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