Dating back to the 1838 when the Arches were first constructed at a cost of between £60,000 and £100,000.
First advertised in October 1839, the arched vaults under Victoria were offered as being suitable for wine merchants, printers and machine makers.
Since 1840 they have been home to a number of tenants, including Robert Armstrong – Civil Engineer one of the earliest tenants manufacturing Scott’s patent boiler cleaners. The electricity department where tests and investigations were made on electrical equipmemt until 1909. It then became home for a transformer station that was used between 1936 and 1957.
Also, in 1907 Thomas Cook & Son setup shop in the premises built onto the Arches by Victoria Bridge. Cook’s had expanded by 1921 and were also
renting space at the Southern end of the Arches for offices and storage until 1932.
It’s landing stages were also home to the Irwell Excursion which ran from 1895 until around 1901. The Irwell Steam Ferries would run in half hour intervals between 10:30am and 5:30pm to Manchester Docks, via Albert Bridge. There was also a cruise along the newly opened Manchester Ship Canal through Irlam, Lymm, Runcorn and Frodsham to Eastham and special Bank Holiday sailings to Liverpool and New Brighton.
During the War the Arches were converted and used as an Air-raid shelter, new entrances were installed along with flooring, seating and lighting.
Based on National guidelines, the shelter could hold upto 1030 people for 6 hours in unventilated conditions or as many as 5600 in an emergency if ventilated.
The entrances were from Victoria Bridge by a wooden stairway; Victoria Street junction with Fennel St by a flight of steps formed under the pavement and from the Cathedral approach by means of a wooden stairway from the existing conveniences.
There is an e-petition to save the Victoria arches here.