“Ring out the false, ring in the true.”
– Inscription on Great Abel
Manchester’s Town Hall was built in 1877. This outstanding piece of neo-Gothic architecture is a busy working headquarters for 21st century Manchester’s City Council.
The clock tower’s bell, Great Abel, is named after Abel Heywood. A Manchester publisher, born into poverty and educated at the Mechanics Institute, he became a successful publisher and was twice the city’s Mayor. He was active in the Chartist movement, which called for basic reforms to make voting systems more democratic.
The stunning interior design includes floor mosaics of bees and cotton flowers, symbolising Manchester’s industrious history. The Great Hall is lined with the Manchester Murals, a history of the city painted by Ford Madox Brown. The Sculpture Gallery includes a bust of Richard Cobden: manufacturer, Liberal statesman and co- founder of the Anti-Corn Law League and Free Trade Movement. Linking free trade to the promotion of peace and prevention of war, he put forward proposals in parliament to support international arbitration and reduce armaments.
Reminders of the history of peace and social justice include a transcript of the UN’s International Declaration of Human Rights, and a painting of Margaret Ashton, a campaigner for women’s right to vote and the first woman elected to the council. Ashton, a committed pacifist, was stripped of her civic positions during the First World War. This portrait was refused when presented to the City Council in 1925.
You can also find a plaque declaring Manchester the world’s first ‘nuclear free city’ in 1980. The city is the host for the UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA). NFLA, an international group of authorities, works towards a world free from nuclear weapons.
Another plaque honours Mayors for Peace, proposed by the Mayor of Hiroshima in 1982. Lead cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plus a global membership of nearly 6000 cities, work together towards the abolition of nuclear weapons. They aim to support ‘genuine and lasting world peace by working to eliminate starvation and poverty, assist refugees fleeing local conflict, support human rights, protect the environment, and solve the other problems that threaten peaceful coexistence within the human family’. Manchester became a Vice President City in 2001.