Year One: The Building of the Manchester TV Centre 

7 March 2017


TWELVE months before Granada went on the air, work started on the design of the new building for the TV Centre — twelve months which were to be anxious and hectic but stimulating and enjoyable. For the complexity of the problems, this gave a very short time. It was immediately decided, therefore, that the Centre would have to be developed in carefully programmed phases, building just what was essential to provide an efficient working unit by the fateful date of May 3, 1956, at the same time having a Master Plan for the development of the site as a whole.

It was important that the first stage should not prejudice a fine grouping of buildings in the completed scheme — if it can be said that building for such a new and developing thing as television is ever completed. Indeed, from the purely architectural point of view, one of the major problems is to prepare a design which, at each stage of its development, will be visually satisfying.

It is usually found that the architecture we like best has a basic simplicity; and this applies to the new architecture we build today as much as to the historic buildings of the past. So it is the aim that the tv Centre, as it grows, shall always retain a noble simplicity, so far as this is possible. The main buildings will thus be kept simple in outline and will rely for their effect on the subtlety of their proportions and the texture of their walls.

But though the architectural form may be simple, it should not be forgotten that these walls enclose the most complex processes.

Before the first sketch designs were prepared, a careful study had to be made of all the activities for which it was necessary to plan, and these activities were very varying in nature. In one part of the building carpenters would be hard at work with their sawmills preparing the sets, in another actors would be preparing for their appearance in their dressing-rooms and make-up rooms; control suites were required for the studios and rooms to house the electronic apparatus and to maintain this infinitely complex equipment; and then the studios themselves presented many problems which needed to be carefully analysed before their design was finally completed.



In addition, however, to consideration of the technical problems of those working in the building, much thought has been given to quite a different aspect of the TV Centre. How could provision be made for the people of Manchester to come within its walls and see the fascinating process of producing Television programmes? It was felt that the Centre should be a place in which members of the public should be welcome and that facilities should be provided for them to view the whole of the process, both creative and technical, which goes on in the Centre, while, at the same time, not disturbing its efficient operation. This added a complicated element to the planning problems. But, although it was not possible to carry this idea into effect in the first phase already built, the plans for future development include this special provision for the public. A large foyer with a buffet on the first floor will have windows into the new large studio and public galleries will run around the studio with glazed walls giving a full view of the studio and control rooms. In this way, whoever wishes to do so will be able to get an insight into the inner workings of television and will be able to visit the Centre as a welcome guest.



But from thoughts of the future plans, let us return to the construction of the first building and to August 1955 when the contractor first started work on the site. Only seven months were available before the completed building was to be handed over to the electronic engineers for them to instal their equipment—and these were winter months which we did not know at the start were going to be some of the coldest on record! Large pre-cast concrete units were designed to form the main frame of the building as these could be made away from the site and delivered for immediate erection as soon as the foundations were ready. The days had to be lengthened with floodlights and the cold was a severe handicap. However, the difficulties were overcome and the building was completed on time.



Building work has continued; the third phase is in construction. This time far larger structures will be rising on the site which I hope may not only efficiently serve their technical purpose, but by their simplicity of form, richness of tone and texture and relation one to another may also give to all who pass a sense of visual delight and a thrill of pleasure.



You Say

4 responses to this article

gary adelman 7 March 2017 at 6:21 pm

where can i find the first nights programmes.

Russ J Graham 7 March 2017 at 7:14 pm

Virtually no material of this sort survives in the broadcasters’ archives due to any of the following:

– live material was rarely recorded
– videotape was expensive and was wiped for reuse
– film took a lot of expensive storage space
– non-entertainment and topical material was thought to have no value as it could not be sold abroad or repeated

For those reasons, the chances of this surviving are approaching zero.

However, you may consider searching ITN Source for such material, but please note this is a business-to-business service and therefore charges are accordingly expensive.

All clips that are known survive are included within this documentary:

Bruce Greenfield 2 September 2018 at 6:39 am

Can someone please give me the EXACT address of the Granada TV Center at which the Beatles apperared numerous times in the 60’s.
I have conflicting info.. Some sources state
1. On Atherton between Quay and Water or East a few blocks at
2. 17 Quay St, Manchester M3 3HN, UK (junction of Byrom & Quay)

Please help ?

Bruce Greenfield

Russ J Graham 2 September 2018 at 1:25 pm

Hi Bruce!

British streets aren’t arranged like American streets – they don’t point in cardinal directions and they don’t meet up at right angles. So we never refer to somewhere as being “at the corner of X and Y”. Also, not all buildings have numbers. If the building is large enough, it just gets known by the building name and the number disappears – sometimes slowly over a long time.

Therefore, all of these address are correct. The studios were a sprawling complex of buildings with several entrances, with the vehicle entry being on Quay Street and the foot entry being on Water Street. The main bulk of the studio block faced Atherton Street.

Granada originally referred to the studios as being on Water Street, but by the late 1950s had started calling them the Quay Street studios. The current address is Old Granada Studios, Quay Street, Manchester M3 3GS. If you need to refer to them, use the Quay Street address without any number. Also, postcodes (like M3 3HN) hadn’t been introduced when the Beatles were playing on Granada programmes, so the address at the time was Granada TV, Quay Street, Manchester 3.

Here’s a Google map of the building, showing the maze of streets it sits in the middle of:

Remember: Granada aren’t at the Quay Street studios any more. If you need to contact them, they’re now at ITV Studios, MediaCityUK, Salford M50 2QH

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