Tunnels, ghosts and The Beatles: The Secrets of The Midland, Manchester's most storied hotel

The Grade II-listed hotel has some stories to tell

By Natalie Rees | Last updated 26 January 2024

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Weave through Manchester’s streets and you’ll see a dazzling array of amazing architecture. From the historic majesty of Central Library to the juxtaposition of the Deansgate Square towers, the skyline is getting busier by the day. 

One building that remains as magnificent as it did when it was first constructed is the historic Midland Hotel on Peter Street.

Designed by architect Charles Trubshaw and opened by the Midland Railway Company in 1903, it was initially built to accommodate well-healed rail travellers arriving at Manchester’s Central Station (formerly the G-Mex, and now once again Manchester Central) from London.

These wealthy visitors and Mancunians enjoyed the hotel’s fabulous facilities of the time, including the ornate Gentleman’s Concert Hall and theatre, a reading room and a billiards room. Sadly in 1922, the concert hall was closed to make way for more bedrooms, and the aforementioned rooms became the modern-day hotel’s suites.

Much has been said of the Grade II-listed hotel’s colourful history. Most famously, it’s the place where Charles Rolls met Henry Royce in 1904, which is marked with a blue plaque and a Rolls Royce car positioned on the steps to the hotel. 

Over the years, the luxury location has welcomed famous guests in abundance, including Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Pavarotti, the Queen Mother and The Beatles. 

Now in its 121st year, and despite many changes, the hotel continues to welcome guests from all over the world. So, we went down to find out a bit more about The Midland and uncover some of its secrets.

Guided by human resources manager Alex, our first stop was to descend into the basement to explore its warren of tunnels. It is rumoured that there was once an underground passage here used to transport the upper class guests to and from the station, presumably to avoid mixing with the oi polloi.

Through a heavy iron door and down some rather steep steps, you can see the tiled walls of the tunnels, offering a little glimpse into what those elite passengers may have once seen.

the midland tunnel

It is also in the basement area where Alex tells us that on the gentlemen’s side of the hotel, there was once a barber shop, casino and even a post office prior to refurbishment in the 1980s. 

Through some more twists and turns we find the old laundry rooms, which have been left unused for some years. It is in this underground room where the maids once washed and dried the linen for over 300 rooms in the hotel, with the steam being seen from the pavements of Lower Mosley Street.

We then ascended upstairs, overlooking the reception and octagon bar area, and things started to get a little spooky. Alex introduced us to the ghoulish stories of the ghosts that have apparently been seen wandering the halls for decades. 

the midland

Although rarely seen, The Midland’s unpaying guests include a barber, who has been heard cutting hair in the space that was once the barbershop, a child and the Lady in Grey – who it’s assumed was once a permanent guest in the hotel and walks the corridors she once called home.

After an eerie few minutes, we headed up to the rooftop. Climbing the grand old staircase, we made it to the top floor and the locked entrance to the roof. 

The Midland rooftop

Known as the Winter Garden when the hotel opened, the roof was home to an elaborate garden where guests could enjoy afternoon tea with picturesque views of the city. Whilst nowadays this sounds delightful, the smoke and soot of early 20th century industrial Manchester slightly hampered the views, and it closed in 1910.

In 2024, we can safely say the views are much better and it was a privilege to see Manchester from this exclusive angle. On a clear, crisp January morning, we could see the tops of the city centre buildings and the hills in the distance. 

Of course, there’s no better way to find out more about this icon of Manchester than visiting yourself. Whether you book a room or sample fine dining at chef Adam Reid’s The French, we highly recommend a trip to The Midland.