The Commercial Warehouse

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Manchester, Britannia Hotel, Portland Street

Typical warehouses of the mid 19th century were of brick with stone dressingsGlossary Term, of five or six storeys, with high basements housing hydraulic presses powered by steam enginesGlossary Term, and steps up to the front door. Cast ironGlossary Term columns and timber floors were the norm; fireproof forms of construction were not generaly used throughout until the end of the century. A loading bayGlossary Term with hydraulic wall cranes would be located at the side or rear of the building. Circulation was strictly controlled so that staff and customers were segregated. Only the largest and most successful traders built their own warehouses and speculative developments offered flexible space, including suites for merchants and agents who did not need to store quantities of goods on the premises.

Specialization in trade and distribution led to the development of different warehouse types. The home trade warehouse served the home market and retailers visited the premises to inspect the goods and make ordersGlossary Term. The industry encompassed made-up clothing, haberdashery and a wide range of fancy goods. Shipping warehouses proliferated with the opening up of foreign trade after 1815. Goods woud be received, examined, stored and packed for export. Although outward display might be important there was not the same need for impressive interiors. A refinement of the function of the shipping warhouse emerged with the packing warehouse, solely concerned with packing and despatching goods, seen in its most developed form in the early twentieth century Lloyds Packing Warehouse on Whitworth Street.



Division of an elevation or interior space as defined by regular vertical features such as arches, columns, windows etc.

Cast iron

Hard and brittle iron, cast in a mould to the required shape rather than forged. Compare wrought iron.


The stone or brickwork worked to a finished face about an angle, opening, or other feature.


The differently formalized versions of the basic post-and-lintel (column and entablature) system in classical architecture. The main orders are Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. They are Greek in origin but occur in Roman versions. Tuscan is a simple variant of Roman Doric. The Composite capital combines Ionic volutes with Corinthian foliage. Though each order has its own conventions of design and proportion, there are many minor variations. Superimposed orders: orders on successive levels, customarily in the upward sequence of Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite.

Steam engines

Types include: Atmospheric: worked by the vacuum created when low-pressure steam is condensed in the cylinder, as developed by Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729). Beam engine: with a large pivoted beam moving in an oscillating fashion by the flywheel. It may drive a flywheel or be non-rotative. Watt and Cornish: single-cylinder; compound: two cylinders; triple expansion: three cylinders.