Lower Campfield Market in Manchester on Liverpool Road is an iconic structure that has become part of the furniture, having been used as part of the Science and Industry Museum housing the Air and Space Hall, until its closure in 2021. Now, a scheme using £17.5m of Levelling Up funding has been announced, set to transform this hall and another historic Manchester city centre building into a modern hub for growing media and tech firms has taken a significant step forward.
Manchester City Council has entered into legal agreements with development partner Allied London for the Grade II-listed Upper Campfield Market and Lower Campfield Market buildings, who will repair, refurbish and fit out these heritage buildings. The plans aim to create a new Campfield tech, media and creative industries hub within St. John’s which will be operated by its managed workspace platform All Work & Social.
A third building, Castlefield House owned by Allied London, will also be repositioned as part of the masterplan to provide complementary workspace for tech and media businesses.
Completed in 1878, the Lower Campfield Market Hall was designed as a ‘canopied’ open-sided market hall. It was built at Camp Field, which was already the location of popular markets and fairs and was close to a major railway goods yard – today the site of the Science and Industry Museum.
Lower Campfield Market is one of a pair of buildings with the Upper Campfield Market, which is further along Liverpool Road, towards Deansgate. They were built as a pair on either side of St Matthew’s Church, which stood between the two halls until it was demolished in 1951.
In 1900 Lower Campfield Market closed as a market for good and walls were added to the previously open-sided building to make it a more suitable exhibition space. In 1909, Lower Campfield Market was transformed into the permanent City Exhibition Hall. An advertisement declared City Hall the “largest, best lighted and heated and most excellently adapted covered, enclosed and balconied building in the kingdom” (Manchester Guardian, 15 Dec 1909, p.1).
Today, Campfield is one of two schemes which together formed the Culture In The City project, which the Council was awarded almost £20m of Government Levelling Up funding in autumn 2021. The remaining £2.2m will see three heritage railway arches, between arts venue HOME and Whitworth Street West, converted into a creative talent development centre to be operated by HOME.
Campfield will attract and support start-up, recovery and scale-up businesses in the tech, innovation and media sectors. The Upper and Lower Campfield market buildings will provide 83,000sq ft of modern workspace including a minimum of 400 hot desks plus meeting rooms, event spaces and other facilities accessible on a permanent occupier or drop-in basis.
On January 8, a licence for the venue to provide alcohol and late night refreshments at the cafe, bar and events space within the co-working space was given the go-ahead at a committee meeting. Work on Campfield has started and is set to be completed by spring 2024.
Council Leader Cllr Bev Craig said: “Campfield is an exciting initiative which will see these two heritage buildings help play a dynamic part in Manchester’s future, giving innovative businesses an affordable place to flourish and helping to create the jobs of tomorrow.
“Having a location in the heart of the city centre, as part of a cluster of similar businesses, will create an environment where tech, media and creative entrepreneurs – whether they are starting up or scaling up – can network and share inspiration. Manchester has always been a city of innovation and creativity. Campfield will help ensure it continues to be.”