As New Century House and its attached Conference Hall opened 60 years ago this May, we take a look back in the archives.  Do you have memories of working there, visiting the Hall for conferences, dancing or to see the many bands that appeared there before it closed?

Modernist Design

New Century House was designed by G. S. Hay and Gordon Tait who were also the architects for the larger Co-operative Insurance Society (CIS).  It was built for the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS), now Co-op Group as a place for member meetings.  The building is 50 metres (160 ft) tall and has 14 floors. Building on both sites began in 1959 with the CIS building opening in 1962 and New Century House a year later in 1963

Many buildings in the Co-operative Quarter are named after prominent figures in the movement - such as Holyoake House where the Co-operative Heritage Trust Archives are, but it was decided to mark 100 years of the CWS by looking to the future.

Report on the opening of New Century House Co-op News May 18th 1963. Co-operative Heritage Trust

CWS President, Mr. L Cooke, opened the building in 1963 and noted that various CWS departments had contributed to the building, which would become a ‘centre of culture for the people of Manchester’.  The building was noted for it’s modernist design and use of materials such as glass frontage and wooden interiors.  The acoustics were forward thinking for the day and the light display in the main hall still excites the senses.

The stage in the Music Hall is flanked by two murals by Steven Sykes, and there is a concrete screen abstract by Alan Boyson - whose work can be found in many buildings across the country such as the Three Ships above the entrance to the Hull and East riding Co-operative Society.  Along with a concrete sculpture in the foyer, these were restored during the recent renovation of the building.  The lights in the music hall has also been retained and provide an amazing display.  The modernist interior design has also been retained.

This pamphlet produced by the CWS gives details of the various rooms and functions that could be catered for including a banqueting Hall, a cinema and a lounge and how various types of events could be booked in the venue and how the spaces could be changed in order to accommodate different needs. It could be used for ‘Concerts, Dances, Conferences and other functions’ and many remember the sprung dancefloor.

Dance the Night Away

Saturday night bands were booked by Kennedy Street Enterprises  and the ManchesterBeat site has lots of information about the bands and memories from those who went to the venue during the 1960s. Artists that played at the hall in the 1960s included Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner and the Small Faces. In the eighties, the hall was used for acid house nights. 

More recently bands like The Fall in 2006 who were supported by John Cooper Clarke, Safi Sniper and The Sandells used the venue before its restoration.

Image courtesy of MDMArchive

In 2013, the Co-op group moved from New Century House to Angel Square and the hall remained vacant. Now part of the NOMA redevelopment scheme, New Century House is available for use by small to medium-sized businesses and is once again a concert venue, a bar and kitchen and host to various cultural events. 

Do You Remember?

New Century Hall Stage featuring the light and the murals by the stage. Image ref CUP/1/61/3 Co-operative Heritage Trust

New Century will be holding an exhibition in July.  More information can be found on their website

Did you work at New Century House, attend a Co-op event or have memories that we can record or items to donate of Co-op memories, do get in touch with us [email protected]  If you still have ticket stubs, flyers or stories of bands that you went to see at New Century Hall, then MDMArchive is a great resource where you can easily upload your items to add onto their site.

For more information about Co-operative architecture, this article from the Co-op News by Natalie Bradbury gives more information.