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Hotel Review: The Midland Hotel, Manchester

midland hotel

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Given the present pace of development in Manchester, it is difficult to imagine a time when a decent hotel room was simply not available in the city centre.

But back in the 1890s, although ‘Cottonopolis’ Manchester was booming, visiting businessmen would rather stay in Liverpool, Leeds, or Bradford than risk an unpleasant night in an inadequate Mancunian hotel.

The Midland Exterior view

It was left to a man called William Towle, the hotels manager for the Midland Railway Company and a man blessed with vision, to see the potential of a new luxury hotel with standards that met or exceeded the best of Europe or America.

Over the course of four years, alongside architect Charles Trubshaw, that vision became a reality and the flamboyant Midland opened in 1903. Manchester was now “in the possession of a new splendour”, one newspaper reported at the time.

The Midland Bar

Fast forward more than a century, and the Midland has welcomed everyone from royalty to rock stars. A plaque honours the meeting held at the hotel between the Hon Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce that led to them vowing to create “the best car in the world”. Winston Churchill was a regular, famously ordering 18 oysters and a bottle of Champagne before a speech at the Free Trade Hall next door, before returning to sit down to a five-course private dinner which lasted until 3 am and then tucking into a breakfast of “grilled chop, kidneys and bacon” the next morning.

But what of today? There remains an undeniable thrill to simply walking under the unmistakable golden-lettered signage into the hotel lobby, as we did early on a glorious Saturday evening in May. We were fortunate enough to be upgraded to one of the junior suites among the 312 bedrooms, and there’s a real sense of the history and albeit faded glamour among the corridors as you locate your room.

The Midland Lobby

Berlin-based Leonardo Hotels acquired the hotel for £115million back in November – quite an advance on the £365,000 the Midland Railway Company paid for the site back in 1896 – and has pledged to undertake an £11m renovation as part of the takeover.

Our suite, with its view over Central Library, was comfortable and well-designed use of what could have been an awkward space. 

The Midland Tea Room

A veritable array of treatments were on offer in what is billed as the “astonishingly calm” Spa downstairs – and they seemed to be very much in demand on the day we visited – so after a couple of early evening looseners (I can recommend Pep Guardiola’s Tast on King Street), we headed back to the hotel for dinner.

You have two fine options – the high-end Adam Reid at The French, and the one we opted for, Mr Cooper’s House & Garden (named after the man who once lived on this very patch). A quirky spot, the dining room features trees and birdhouses, but the food was classic yet modern, and we returned for a similarly enjoyable breakfast the next morning. Service was efficient and cheery on both occasions.

The Midland Mr Cooper's

There is of course the added bonus of The Midland being only a few yards from any number of trams ready to whisk you back to Altrincham. But judging by the collection of foreign languages overheard in just our short stay, the Midland retains the global appeal its Victorian forefathers had striven for. And deservedly so.

The Midland Afternoon Tea
The Midland Spa Relaxation Room
The Midland Spa Pool

The Midland Hotel, Manchester. More info:


Written by
David Prior

David Prior is an NCTJ-qualified journalist and the editor of Big Family Breaks. He is also a father of five and an experienced traveller, especially with kids.

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