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Ancoats Dispensary Spared the Wrecking Ball

One of the most eye-catching yet neglected buildings in the Manchester property sector may have been saved from an ignominious end, according to reports this week.

The iconic Ancoats Dispensary building on Mill Street – a fantastic Grade II-listed Victorian structure which serves as a powerful reminder of the city’s industrial heritage – has been lying idle now since 1996, constantly appearing in the sales listings of the Manchester property listings as development company Urban Splash has tried and failed to either re-purpose the building or sell it to someone who can make use of it. For the last year, the building has lain under the threat of demolition after no sale was made, but this week it emerged that developes have found a buyer – the Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust, which is taking the Dispensary off their hands for the princely sum of £1.

The former hospital was built in 1896 after the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary on Great Ancoats Street moved to a better location, necessitating a new building, aimed at serving the health needs of the many people flocking to live in Manchester due to the booming industrial health of the city. It continued operating as a hospital until the building was closed in 1996, and it is now the final remaining dispensary building in the Manchester area.

Due to the current poor state of the building, it will need £3 million to restore it to modern standards associated with Manchester property in the present day. The most recent chance of getting hold of the cash lay with a potential grant from the North West Development Agency, but its abolition by the government last year saw this offer withdrawn.

The Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust said that developers are prepared to give them the money that would otherwise have been spent on knocking the building down to help preserve it – but there is still an urgent financial issue to be addressed. Campaigners desperately need funds to purchase and erect the scaffolding needed to support the building until repairs can be made.

Trust spokesman Mark Watson told the Manchester Evening News that “Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust and its parent company have a long track-record of saving buildings in similar conditions to the Ancoats Dispensary and are prepared to take the risk and develop the building when better times come along, as we are sure they will.”

“Our immediate problem is the scaffolding. It is owned by a firm who have a contract with Urban Splash. We are trying to find out more about the terms, but it is proving difficult to unpick the story.”

Launching an urgent appeal for donors to help out with the expensive business of acquiring the scaffolding, he noted that it was “ironic that we could lose this very important building simply because of scaffolding costs.”