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A history of The Chambers: if these walls could talk, what would they say?

They’ve watched our city rise and, sometimes quite literally, fall around them - and now there’s a new chapter in their story

When you’re walking through the city and admiring the beautiful architecture, do you ever stop and think – if these walls could talk, what tales could they tell?

Tucked away on historic Chapel Walks close to where it joins Cross Street, The Chambers has seen it all.

Comprising three buildings – Old Half Moon Chambers, Chapel Walks Chambers and Union Buildings – they’ve watched our city rise and, sometimes quite literally, fall around them.

As well as being interesting examples of early and late Victorian architecture, these buildings have adapted to suit the changing needs of their occupants, providing a base for every kind of trade, from silk merchant to post-punk clothing store.

If these walls could talk they’d tell tales of commerce and industry from the days when architects, solicitors and pub landlords resided within them. 

They’d even tell you of a charmed day in the early 1980s when a determined young musician (Johnny Marr) met the man who would manage one of Manchester’s most famous bands, The Smiths, and turn him into a music legend. 

From merchants to music history

Old Half Moon Chambers was built in 1870 to a design by Manchester architects, Speakman & Charlesworth. 

The building incorporates some of the shell of its predecessor, the Old Half Moon Hotel and alehouse, which was ‘lost’ in 1860. 

When built, it provided a replacement public house in the basement and ground floor (known as The Old Half Moon) with office ‘chambers’ above. 

The façade is loosely commercial Gothic and includes intricate stone carvings with comical animal figures, known as ‘grotesques’, which keep a watchful eye over the city’s visitors.

Chapel Walks Chambers, tucked in between its bigger neighbours, is believed to be of early 19th century origin and was probably built as a merchant’s warehouse.

It was given a ‘face lift’ in the late 19th century to reveal the elaborate carved stone façade we see today and, at the same time, the interior was remodelled to become chambers for Manchester businessmen. 

Don’t let the convincing black and white Tudor façade fool you – Union Buildings was actually built in 1889 in the Tudor style as commercial offices. Like its neighbours, the building integrates the shell of a much earlier structure. 

It was designed by prominent architects Butler & Ellis and was once three separate units, numbers 13, 15 and 17. 

It’s believed that Manchester music legend and former guitarist and co-writer for The Smiths, Johnny Marr, once worked in a clothes shop in these buildings – and that it was here he met Joe Moss, the band’s manager, who used 13 Chapel Walks as a warehouse for his clothing brand, Crazy Face. 

The Smiths used to rehearse here before they landed a record deal – and a few years ago, a very rare recording of one of those rehearsals emerged online.

A new chapter

Now it’s time for a new chapter in The Chambers story – and one where you could play a leading role. 

HC Developments has cleverly (and sensitively) united the interiors of the three neighbouring 19th century buildings to create 14 contemporary apartments with original features such as exposed roof beams, vaulted ceilings and period windows retained and painstakingly restored. 

The individual apartments incorporate many characterful period features, from New York style fire escapes to an elaborate stone carved facade complete with its own ‘grotesques’. 

Few opportunities arise to make a home within buildings that have such a unique history, right in the city centre – a mere two minute walk from the Royal Exchange Theatre, three minutes from Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, five minutes from Manchester City Art Gallery, ten minutes from The Ivy at Spinningfields, and eleven minutes from Canal Street.

Is now the time to create your own story at The Chambers?

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