The building was erected in 1843 for the Lancashire Independent College, when Whalley Range was being developed as a residential suburb. (The architects were Irwin and Chester.) The building was substantially remodelled internally and the central rear wing added to designs by A.Waterhouse in 1878.
The College trained ministers for the Congregational Church, providing further education for Nonconformists at a time when they were excluded from the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The College later established links with Owens College which became the Victoria University of Manchester, today’s Manchester University. The College was a successful institution which expanded during the nineteenth century, but after 1871 universities became open to all denominations which together affected the college by a gradual decline in numbers. Following use as a hall of residence for Manchester University, the building was acquired in 1985 by the GMB, a major trade union, and used as their national training and conference centre until 2005.
The Building is Grade II* listed, even the pair of entrance gates are Grade II. It is set in extensive grounds with the principal landscaped area facing north to College Road. The site is within Whalley Range conservation area, designated in 1991.
The area around the Building, ‘Whalley Range’, was developed in the early 19th century as a suburb by Samuel Brooks, a prominent banker. He purchased farmland in the area in 1832 and saw the potential of developing a residential suburb which would be ‘a desirable estate for gentlemen and their families’. It was one of the city’s first planned suburbs. Brooks drained the land, laid out roads and built handsome villas in their own grounds, including one for himself at the south end of Whalley Road (demolished 1930). The place was named after Brooks’ childhood home in Lancashire, Whalley. The core of the estate was the area of Dudley Road, Whalley Road and Chorlton Road.
1855 (before photography)