Mapping University History

Martin Dodge, Department of Geography, University of Manchester

Here we present a selection of seven campus maps and forward-looking development plans that show the University of Manchester, and allied education institutions, at different time snapshots through the twentieth century. This is a small sample of the materials being gathered together for the Mapping University History project, funded by the Development and Alumni Relations Office and supported by the Library and Estates Department. The goal of the project is to build up a rich cartographic chronology of original campus maps and development plans that will provide people with a way to comprehend the growth and change of the University. More results will be posted on the Heritage blog in the future.


No. 1. A detailed plan of the cluster of Alfred Waterhouse designed buildings that made up Owens College around the turn of twentieth century. The scale of the plan showing interior building layouts means that the room names provide a fascinating glimpse into the range of activities, largely related to the teaching of science, engineering and medicine, which were being undertaken at the College at that time. Many of these buildings still exist and have listed status, with the frontage of Whitworth Hall and the Museum along Oxford Road becoming the iconic representation for the University. [Source: Estates Department, University of Manchester]


No. 2. This drawing laid out a bold scheme for the complete remaking of a large area along Oxford Road to create a coherent cluster of hospital services, higher education facilities and new buildings for civic culture. It was presented in the 1945 City of Manchester Plan, part a vision to transform the city at end of the Second World War. While much of the detail envisioned for this Centre of Culture, Education and Medicine never came to fruition, including the lateral ring roads, some aspects of land allocation did pan out approximately as shown. For example, the University did come to colonise all the land labelled 15 across Oxford Road for its 1960s science buildings, while the Whitworth Park Halls of Residences (the ‘Toblerones’) were built approximately on the area designated 18 in the 1970s. [Source: City of Manchester Plan 1945, Plate 30]

Fig_3_University Campus-mid-1960s

No. 3. This is a building locator map, from the mid 1960s and it clearly shows how the University had grown, spreading out from the original Owens College. Notable on this map is the on-going expansion on both sides of Brunswick Street for large buildings for the core science and engineering disciplines. The hand annotation of building no. 63 shows the location of the new medical school, the Stopford building. It is conspicuous on this map how the areas around the University are left blank, seemingly empty of homes or business, so as to invite further academic development that would come in the 1970s. [Source: Local Studies and Archives, Manchester City Reference Library]
 The Tech-1963

No. 4. At the same time as VUM was spreading out around the old Owen College buildings, so a wholly new academic campus was emerging in the 1960s on run down and derelict industrial land between the Victorian-era railway viaducts and new urban motorway (Link Rd 17/7, Mancunian Way). The Manchester College of Science and Technology, shown on this plan from 1963 was part way through its physical development, and would in a couple of years become UMIST. This plan also shows other further education development taking place along Oxford Road and the site of the BBC Manchester HQ (built in 1976 and now demolished with their move to Media City in Salford). [Source: Estates Department, University of Manchester]


No. 5. As the University expanded in size in the post-war period, it needed to significantly increase the housing provision for undergraduates and sought to develop a completely new student village in Fallowfield on land acquired between the Harris Stadium and Wilmslow Road. This plan shows the configuration and sizes of the new housing blocks envisioned for Owens Park in 1966; not all the building shown would be realised, in particular the two 14 storey tower blocks were not constructed. [Source: Estates Department, University of Manchester]

No. 6. In the 1960s a masterplanning project, under the direction of consultant architect Wilson Womerley, sought to develop a coherent vision for the burgeoning range of higher education developments occurring along the Oxford Road axis. This overview map was a future orientated vision of how the so-called ‘Manchester Education Precinct’ would come to be landscaped, with the integrative potential of elevated walkways to link together many key buildings and allow pedestrians to move across and along Oxford Road above the rush of traffic. Such separation of people and vehicles was de rigueur in much urban planning in the mid-1960s. Only parts of the first floor walkway system were realised into the 1970s and now they have all disappeared with subsequent phases of redevelopment and new building. [Source: Manchester Education Precinct, Summary of ‘A Review of the Plan 1974’]


No. 7. The final example is a distinctively designed locator map with the main University and UMIST buildings depicted as block models in a perspective landscape view. The sheer number of buildings by the mid-1970s that had to be drawn provides a graphic illustration of how much the University had grown in scope and scale since the Second World War. [Source: 1977 guide booklet, The University of Manchester; drawn by Alasdair Hamilton]

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