Ancoats Dispensary opens

City Council Leader, Cllr Bev Craig opens Ancoats Dispensary

Leader of Manchester City Council, Cllr Bev Craig joined Great Places Housing Group and Buttress at an event to mark the official opening of the affordable housing development at the newly renovated Ancoats Dispensary building close to Manchester city centre.

External photo of Ancoats Dispensary building with a bold red brick facade and clock tower.
Launch day for Ancoats Dispensary

Cllr Craig was joined by guests including Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, Cllr Gavin White, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Housing & Development, and Cllrs Alan Good and Irene Robinson, ward councillors for Ancoats and Beswick at the event hosted by Great Places’ Chief Executive Matthew Harrison at the newly completed Buttress project.

The event included the unveiling of the newly reinstated foundation stone originally laid by HRH Prince Albert Victor (Queen Victoria’s grandson) in 1888 to mark the occasion. The stone was recovered during the redevelopment of the building and will now take pride of place at the entrance to the Dispensary. Guests also had the opportunity to look inside the completed building and meet with some of the customers who have recently moved into their new homes.

Internal photo of four people. Three people are standing infront of a presentation screen displaying a scaffolded building. Two men stand either side of a woman in a red jacket, Cllr Bev Craig. Another woman is sitting in a chair listening.
Buttress' Paul Nelson (second on the left) spoke at the launch about the painstaking approach to piecing the building together and incorporating a modern extension

In keeping with the importance of preserving the Dispensary’s rich history, Great Places, with the support of partners (Eric Wright Group, Manchester City Council, Manchester Life, PGIM Real Estate, Trowers & Hamlins LLP and Turner and Townsend), commissioned Manchester-based author and photographer, Len Grant, to document the story of the building’s 150-year history in a book which will be published shortly.

External photograph of four people unveiling a large sandstone foundation stone with inscription on it from 1888
An original foundation stone from 1888 was unveiled as part of the launch

The local landmark was in use as a hospital until 1989 but remained vacant until contracts to redevelop the much-loved building were signed in December 2021 and contractors, Eric Wright Group commenced remedial work on-site in January 2022.  Buttress worked closely with client Great Places and contractors, Eric Wright Group and commenced remedial work on-site in January 2022. Extensive research and work was carried out to preserve as much of the original building as possible, including two sides of the historic façade and the painstaking restoration of the iconic clock tower. 



A large group of people stand infront of the main entrance of Ancoats Dispensary.
Ancoats Dispensary team on launch day

Great Places, in partnership with Manchester City Council and part funded by Homes England and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, has redeveloped the  Grade II listed building, built in 1874 to provide healthcare for the city’s growing population, into 39 new homes for affordable rent. Completed in early February 2024, the Dispensary includes a mix of 25 one-bed and 14 two-bed apartments.

Paul Nelson, senior architect, Buttress said:

“At the heart of the project has been a commitment to retaining and celebrating the heritage of Ancoats Dispensary and the important part it has played in the community over the last 150 years. What results is a building that marries history with modernity to create affordable and sustainable housing for local people. It has been a huge privilege to bring Ancoats Dispensary back into use and I look forward to seeing the new residents make the building their home.”

Commenting on the completion of the project, Matthew Harrison, Chief Executive at Great Places, said:

“We’re delighted to have the opportunity to show Cllr Craig and guests around the completed Dispensary that heralds a new era for one of Ancoats’ most cherished landmarks as well as providing 39 high-quality much-needed affordable homes in the area.

“We couldn’t have done this without the support and input of a variety of partners and would in particular like to thank Manchester City Council, Historic England and the Ancoats Dispensary Trust whose feedback was invaluable in helping us to develop a design that will provide modern affordable homes whilst acknowledging the site’s rich historic past by preserving as much of this iconic building as possible.”

Cllr Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council, added:

"It's a momentous occasion to be able to visit and walk around the former Ancoats Dispensary, when only a few years ago this building was only a shell and could've very easily been lost to time.

"Saving heritage property is never an easy feat. Full of unknowns and a costly redevelopment process, it's a testament to the commitment and determination from a number of organisations over many years that this jewel in Ancoats has been saved.

"A debt of thanks should be given to Great Places who have played a key role in breathing new life into this incredible building - bringing an important historic property back into use, while at the same time creating much-welcomed affordable housing in this part of the city centre. Which supports our commitment to build at least 10,000 social, council and genuinely affordable homes in the next decade."

The Dispensary is one of the key projects Great Places are delivering in Ancoats and New Islington. Nearby sites include Downley Drive and Laystall Street

This phase is a continuation of coordinated regeneration and development across the neighbourhood in recent years. The programme has seen Ancoats transform from an area characterised by dilapidated buildings, vacant premises and deprivation into an attractive and vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood and extension of the city centre.

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