From its beginnings as the Mechanics Institute over on Princess St, UMIST developed piecemeal, starting with the imposing structure on Sackville St being formally opened by the Prime Minister A.J. Balfour on 15th October 1902. This brought together most departments of the School of Technology under one roof and by 1908 had added a dyeing, bleaching, printing and finishing house for textiles, fully equipped with paper making machinery.
Historical maps of the area show a gradual purchasing of nearby vacant plots, presumably with further expansion in mind, but by 1928 the shortage of space was so acute that Velvet House, a vacant warehouse opposite the main entrance, was acquired and adapted to provide a home for departments including Municipal Engineering and Building. An extension to Sackville Street’s Main building began in 1938, halted by the second world war, and made painfully slow progress in the long austerity post war years due to labour and material shortages. Photographs of the extension in the 1952 Jubilee publication show the steel frame, parts of which were by then 14 years old, still exposed!
By 1949 over 8500 students were enrolled, yet most were still studying non-degree courses. But the appointment of B. V. Bowden (later Lord Bowden) in 1953 ushered in a new phase of expansion and confidence. During 1955 and 1956 the Manchester College of Science and Technology achieved independent university status under its own Royal Charter and became separately funded from the University Grants Committee. All non-degree courses were moved to the Manchester Polytechnic (Manchester Metropolitan University) and its name finally changed to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.
UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester retained close ties for the second half of the 20th century, with UMIST students being awarded, or having the choice of, a University of Manchester degree until full autonomy in 1993.
UMIST was finally born, just 142 years after that legendary meeting in the Bridgewater Arms to conceive of a mechanics institute for working men….