Portillo's Hidden History of Britain

Local Heroes: Manchester Fire Station

Series 2 - Episode 2 Local Heroes: Manchester Fire Station



Michael Portillo potters around the beautiful London Road fire station in Manchester, abandoned after being decommissioned in 1986 and about to be redeveloped.

It’s an astonishing place, built in 1906, that at its height flourished as a small community. Portillo talks to fire fighters who didn’t just work there, but who’d been brought up there, too, in the station’s on-site accommodation, rows and rows of flats, each with its own alarm and fire pole.

As the kids played together on the balconies, their dads would be down in the massive courtyard, training and working on the engines. The place takes up an entire block of the city and everything was built on a massive scale, including its tower topped by carved figures.

Portillo also discovers a coroner’s court and a police station with cells, which date back to when fire and police were run as one huge emergency service.


Michael Portillo ventures inside Manchester's London Road Fire Station, which was decommissioned in 1986 after 80 years' service. The former politician dons a vintage uniform and rides a fire engine, learning about the tools the firefighters had available to save the city from the Luftwaffe's incendiary bombs. Michael learns how the devastating loss of life suffered by the brigade during wartime led to a transformation of the profession and the foundation of the country's premiere firefighting school. He also considers the history of London Road's police station.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Michael Portillo
Executive Producer Jazz Gowans
Producer Anna Thomson
Series Director Ruairi Fallon
Series Producer Ruairi Fallon
Documentary History