Brittania Hotel

Watts Warehouse

At its peak, Manchester's cotton industry controlled 65% of the world's trade, amounting to nearly a billion tonnes per year.  Although cotton manufacture only accounted for 18% of the work force (most manufacturing went on in the surrounding Lancashire towns) Manchester grew to become the commercial centre of the trade.  The dominant building was the warehouse for the display of finished goods.  Merchants competed with each other in the opulence of the buildings, employing some of the most famous architects in the country.  The Italian Palazzo style became dominant and the best example is the vast warehouse of S & J Watts, completed in 1856 (Travis & Magnall). The general outline resembles the Fondaco dei Turchi in Venice and each of its six floors is given a different style, ranging from Egyptian, through Italian and French Renaissance to Elizabethan, culminating with four great roof towers lit by rose windows.  A journalist of Freelance magazine commented in 1867, "I am not naturally of a sceptical or suspicious cast of mind. I have eaten sausages and kidney pudding without asking questions but when I was told that this was only a warehouse I felt that it was necessary to draw the line of credulity somewhere".  By a miracle it survived the Manchester blitz of December 1940, when the company's small force of fire fighters, led by Wilf Beckett, fought with sheets and blankets after the water supply failed.  It once more took direct hits in 1941 but Beckett and his band once again saved the day. He was later honoured at Buckingham Palace.  It was converted to the Britannia Hotel in 1980.

Britannia Hotel