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Victoria Square: Manchester's Very First Social Housing

28 February 2023

Victoria Square News Thumbnail

Opened all the way back in 1894, Victoria Square was Manchester's first-ever council housing scheme, a revolutionary answer to the difficult problem of extreme poverty and squalor in the city centre's slum neighbourhoods.

victoria square early 20th century

As the world's first industrial suburb, Ancoats was at the very centre of the Industrial Revolution. With that came truly shocking living conditions, with thousands of people living in back-to-back dwellings, with high levels of disease and a worryingly low life expectancy.

Established in 1838, Manchester City Council attempted to tackle this slum housing head-on. First with the banning of construction of new back-to-backs, and later with the Manchester Waterworks and Improvement Act which gave the Council the power to declare properties unfit and to enforce immediate improvements on landlords.

Then in 1868, Manchester appointed its first Medical Officer of Health, John Leigh, who was instrumental in tackling poor working-class areas. What followed was a programme designed to demolish many of the slums and replace them with 'municipal housing' for all.

victoria square early 20th century internal courtyard

After demolishing vast swathes of slums on Oldham Road, the Council began construction on Victoria Square, the city's first-ever social housing scheme - comprising of 522 rooms, built to accommodate 825 people.

Initially, the scheme was slow to get going, mainly due to the relatively high costs of living there. Despite never really being fully occupied in the early years, the success of Victoria Square led the Council to begin construction on similar schemes elsewhere in the city.

Just opposite Victoria Square was Sanitary Street, completed in 1897 and now one of Manchester's most famous terraced rows. Although initially rather basic, Sanitary Street offered something that most houses didn't at the time - individual toilets and sinks in each house!

anita street ancoats

By the 1960s the street was renamed 'Anita Street' simply by taking a few letters off the street sign, and it's now an iconic spot at the heart of the recent redevelopment and transformation of the Ancoats area.

Back to Victoria Square and after being awarded Grade-II listing in 1988, and after some extensive refurbishments, it is now home to 163 modern one- and two-bed flats and an award-winning community garden in the epicentre of this stunning development.

After years of management by Northwards Housing, Victoria Square is now back in the hands of Manchester City Council and is just one of our many retirement apartments and bungalows located in North Manchester.

victoria square ancoats internal garden

Offering independent living with security and peace of mind, affordable rents and fully-trained staff always on hand to help, you can find out more about all of our retirement schemes right here:

Retirement Housing