Cottonopolis: Horse Powered


October 11, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, MANCHESTER, Wondrous Cities

Yesterday we looked at Sunlight House, its creator Joseph Sunlight, and his plans to extend his Quay Street building with the addition of a 40-storey clock tower.  Now we continue to imagine the city with Sunlight at the helm of the city’s planning department, and what that might mean for Manchester’s skyline today.

In Sunlight’s Manchester it’s not all about sculpting the skyline into the future but also retaining the landmarks that fit in with this: his noir-novel of a city.

From these imaginary floors of the Sunlight House clock tower, in a room besides the giant clock face, Joseph Sunlight regards his city and gazes down the curve of Quay Street until it meets with the start of Oxford Street. Just beyond the curve that heads Southbound along the cultural and educational mile, a sign mounted high above a building catches his eye. It’s a circular sign, flanked by sculpted horses, and it seems to float independently of the building. It glistens and rotates and advertises the site below as Manchester’s Hippodrome.


The building was always theatrical, not only in function but in form, and the 54 feet wide proscenium arch, the very bones of the building, was moveable – it was a theatre with a sliding roof. Built to house circus performances with room for 100 horses, a variety theatre and, later, to screen films, the hippodrome didn’t limit itself to the confines of a regular theatre and housed a giant tank that could hold 70,000 gallons of water purpose built for ‘water spectaculars’.

‘A Foot to a Fathom of Water at the Touch of a Lever!’

The Hippodrome was an ornate but sturdy type of a building that fit perfectly into Sunlight’s world with its decorative but timeless style. It looked every bit at home in Sunlight’s Manchester of the future, the stony-white Chicago-inspired skyline with streets lined by great modern tributes to architecture, and inspirational updates to the relics of industrial wealth beyond just the mill conversions of today’s city.

In Cottonopolis – Sunlight’s Manchester – the Hippodrome remains. It morphs into a future version of itself and the circular sign comes to life; lights up; rotates. His Manchester is not purely new vision, but it’s a place bound together with the iconic structures of the past.

Manchester Hippodrome existed in Manchester between 1904 and 1935, when it then was rebuilt and became the Gaumont theatre, later Rotters Nightclub until it ended its life in demolition in 1990 to eventually be resurrected as a multi-storey car park.









(Image: Old Photos UK)


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Hayley Flynn

Hayley is the creator of 'Skyliner' (, a Manchester-born blog that is dedicated to the pursuit of rare and fascinating art, architecture and histories. A lover of opening closed doors, microfilm, and architectural drawings. She fled the confines of an office job to work in the arts and spend more time exploring the secrets of cities, Hayley and is now a tour guide, location scout and researcher but above all things - a professional dilettante.