'Brilliant. The children all had a really great time and got a lot out of it.'
- Teacher at Broadoak Primary, Swinton
          'The children had a fantastic day! It was so lovely to put all of our learning into real life for the children. Thank you for giving us that experience.'
- Teacher at Hollins Grundy Primary, Bury

A guided tour of Manchester city centre, looking at links to our Greek and Roman past, as well as some local and industrial history. The tour can be modified to suit your curriculum needs.


The tour lasts from 9.30am to 2.30pm and includes many famous Manchester sites, such as the Castlefield Roman Fort, the Art Gallery, and the Central Library. With quizzes, games, observational drawing, and Roman coin prizes. See tour schedule below.

In order to avoid cold weather, the tour will take place in the following months only: September, October, November, April, May, June and July.


Fee: £230. Max. 32 children per class.

Suitable for year 4-6** and mature year 3s.

To Book

Email Tony North:  tnorth67@hotmail.com or tel: 0161 224 6445

**Note: as the tour takes place in a busy city centre, and includes a visit to the art gallery, the tour is only suitable for mature and well-behaved classes. Ultimately teachers will be responsible for the behaviour and wellbeing of their children. In case of wet or cold weather please ensure all children are appropriately dressed.

Photos from a tour with Broadoak Primary, October 2016

Background information:

Theatre  Gods and Heroes  Architecture


The Classical Tour of Manchester is a fun and educational way to treat your class to a day out. If you have studied the Greeks or Romans this year, or Manchester local history, this walk round the city will bring many of your topic themes to life.

We begin with Manchester's earliest history - the founding of the Roman camp in AD79 (see above) - and take a look at the restored fortifications, learning how and why they were built. From there we take a trip round the city to see Greek and Roman architecture, such as the Opera House with its Ionic columns, busts of Medusa and relief of Apollo and Hermes, the Central Library with its circular hall inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, and the Art Gallery, with its Greek temple facade. Read more->


Map of the tour (click for larger version) Note - if time is short we may omit some of the locations

We will spend half an hour in the gallery (above) looking at plaster casts of some of the Parthenon sculptures as well as paintings inspired both by classical myths (see below), and by real life in the ancient world, such as a huge painting of a chariot race. Children will get the chance to make an observational drawing of a sculpture or painting in the gallery. If you prefer we can visit another location such as the Central Library. Unfortunately the town hall is closed to the public until 2024.

Victorian paintings and sculpture in the Art Gallery inspired by Greek mythology (click for larger version)

We will also see modern sculpture which represents Greek or Roman gods, and play games to name these gods, as well as naming the British monarch reigning when a building was constructed.

These activities will strengthen children's knowledge of ancient history and its links to the present, as well as more recent British and Mancunian history. Your children's school-based learning will be brought to life in the magnificent stone and bronze structures of this city.

Summary of Itinerary:

1. Meet at Castlefield Basin at 9.45, visit fort

2. Walk to Opera House & up to St. Peter's Square & Central Library

3. Visit Art Gallery from 11.30 to 12.00, toilet break

4. Lunch in Piccadilly Gardens, 12.15-12.45

5. Look at & draw statues in Piccadilly until 1.15

6. Walk round to Royal Exchange, toilet break

7. Walk back to Castlefields, finish at 2.30


Learning Activities   

Simply seeing Manchester's classical architecture and sculpture will reinforce children's understanding of their ancient and local history topics. However I believe it is important to give children enjoyable and educational activities to ensure they are engaged throughout the day and to maximise their learning. Children will win bee tokens for spotting or naming interesting things like gods or monarchs reigning when a building was completed, and at the end the 3 children with the most bees will win Roman coin prizes.

1. Tally of column types: we will learn about the 3 types of Greek columns (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian), and children will be asked to predict which type is most commonly used in Manchester. Each child will keep a tally during the tour, and the result discussed at the end. This will help children to observe buildings and architecture.

2. Name the God: during the tour we will see lots of statues and reliefs showing Greek/Roman gods. Children will have a list of the gods with their attributes to help them spot the gods. Each child who first names a god will get a bee.

Relief of Apollo in his chariot and Hermes/Mercury, above the entrance to the Opera House (click for larger version)

3. Name the Monarch: to help children connect the buildings with modern history, they will have a list of British monarchs and their reigns (from Queen Anne, 1707-1714, to the present). Each time I state the age of a building the first child to say which monarch was reigning at this time will win a bee. This activity will also reveal in which periods classical architecture was most popular, how it changed over time, and which monarchs reigned for longer and shorter times. As with the columns, children will be asked to predict during which monarch's reign the greatest number of classical buildings were constructed.

Bronze statue of Queen Victoria in Piccadilly Gardens

4. Treasure Hunt: as well as spotting columns and gods there will be a list of unusual and interesting things to spot, with cryptic clues and bees to win. This includes Medusa, Shakespeare (whom we will see 3 times), the Manchester shield, the Manchester bee (symbol of industry), snail fossils, an Egyptian obelisk, and a war hero with famous boots (the statue of Wellington - see below).

Statue of the Duke of Wellington, with gods at his feet (Ares/Mars, Athena/Minerva, and Peace)

5. Spot links to ancient myth and real life in the Art Gallery: we will look at the plaster casts of the Parthenon sculptures (metopes and frieze) on the first floor of the foyer of the art gallery (if you are studying the Greeks), plus the classically-inspired paintings in two galleries on the first floor. Children will be asked to find a painting which shows a classical scene (real or mythical), write the name of the painting, the artist, and the date it was painted, as well as why they like it. Any children who find this too difficult can draw the painting or statue instead.

We will then look at the huge painting by James Barry, The Birth of Pandora (1791-1804), which depicts many of the gods, and play a 'name the god' game. Children can also see some genuine Greek vases as well as British vases (e.g. by Wedgewood) which were inspired by Greek styles. If the children have done my Greek Art workshop they can spot black figure and red figure vases as well as the subjects shown (e.g. hoplites).

6. Observational Drawings: children will make a drawing of the Friends Meeting House (1828), which was inspired by a Greek temple, as well one of the statues in Piccadilly Gardens (the Duke of Wellington, Queen Victoria, or Robert Peel).

7. Roman Numerals: occasionally we will see numbers such as dates of building construction, given in Roman numerals. Again there will be bees for working out the number (before I give the date!).

At the end of the day we will see which children have won the most bees, and the top 3 will each get a real Roman coin as a prize. These coins can also be bought for 3.

The date on the war memorial in St. Peter's Square (also an obelisk, one of the treasure hunt items).


Greek vase in the Art Gallery


Ulysses and the Sirens by William Etty (1837)


Venus Victrix, by Holme Cardwell (1850s)


To book, contact:

Tony North


0161 224 6445/07754 406422


Tour schedule: Morning (9.30-12.15)

1. Introduction (15 mins)

The reconstructed Roman wall and ditch at Castlefields

We will meet at Castlefields Bowl at 9.30am. Here there is a view of the Bridgewater Canal - the first industrial canal in Britain (1761). Behind the seating area you can also see the reconstructed wall of the Roman Camp (see above).

I will explain the tour, behaviour and safety rules, and the various games and activities that will take place. Lunch will be on the grass in Piccadilly Gardens and must be brought by children themselves. There will be a chance to use the toilet at the Art Gallery from 11.30-12pm, and at the Royal Exchange at 1.30pm.

Children will need a clipboard and pencil, as well as sheets of drawing paper and a sheet I will email to you with quiz questions and historical information to help them in the quizzes.

2. The Founding of Manchester (20 mins) (all timings include walks in between stops)

Next I will give a short introduction to the beginnings of Manchester as a Roman camp in AD79, and we will take a look at the reconstructed wall and ditch. At first the defences were wooden; it was only around AD200 that the walls were built in stone. Children will be asked why and how these fortifications were built. We will climb up to the wall and imagine defending the camp from attackers. Depending on time, we can also discuss what would have been inside the camp, the life of a soldier, and how the town outside (the vicus) grew up to support the camp.

3. The Opera House (10 mins)

We will look at the Opera House (built 1912) with its many Greek features, including columns, meander patterns, heads of Medusa, and relief of Apollo and Hermes.

4. Free Trade Hall and Theatre Royal (10 mins)

We will stop opposite the Free Trade Hall (1856), the site of many famous speeches and performances including Charles Dickens in 1857. A little further on is the Theatre Royal (1845 - see below), the oldest theatre in Manchester, now closed.

If time allows I will mention tidbits of fascinating Manchester history along the way. For example, it was in the Midland Hotel, close to the Theatre Royal and Central Library, where Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce met to begin their famous company in 1804. Apparently also the hotel was so admired by Hitler that he considered it a possible Nazi HQ in Britain.

5. Friends Meeting Hall and Central Library (10 mins)

We will see the Quaker Meeting House (1828) with its Ionic columns and stop to make a drawing. Click here to see children from Broadoak Primary in Swinton showing their drawings. We will then walk round to the front of the Central Library (1934). The library, with its magnificent Corinthian limestone columns featuring shell fossils, was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.


6. Manchester Art Gallery (60 mins)

We will spend up to an hour in the Manchester Art Gallery (1835) as it contains much relating to the Greeks and Romans. Once we make a booking I will need to let the gallery know so they can expect a large group (even though we will be self-guided). This means it is better to book as early as possible, and once a booking is made it is unlikely we will be able to change it. If you prefer we can visit another location instead, such as the Central Library.

Activities in the gallery depend on which topic you are currently doing, and can include a look at the copies of the Parthenon sculptures (see above), making an observational drawing of one of these sculptures, looking at classically inspired Victorian paintings, looking at genuine Greek vases, and playing a name the god game (see details of activities here).

There will also be a chance for a visit to the toilet.

7. Portico Library (10 mins)

Further up Mosley Street we will pass the Portico Library (1806), the first Greek revival building in the city. Its famous members are listed on a blue plaque:


Tour Schedule: Afternoon (12.45-2.30)

9. Bronze Statues (30 minutes)

Plaque showing the Battle of Waterloo (1815)

A series of bronze statues on the northern border of Piccadilly Gardens reveal the Victorians' taste for commemorating both local and national heroes. We will look at the first of these, the statue of Wellington with four god-figures at his feet (Mars/Ares, Minerva/Athena, Peace, and Victory), and discuss who the Duke was, why he was commemorated in this way, and who the gods are.

Next, a look at the statue of Victoria allows us to consider the importance of this long-reigning monarch and her empire, which was greater even than that of the Romans.

The other two statues are of James Watt, the inventor, and Sir Robert Peel (see below), the Bury-born PM famous for introducing the police force.

Children will make a drawing of one of these statues, and I will give some tips on observational drawing.

10. The Former Bank of England (15 mins)


We will walk down Market Street and Fountain Street, past the Shakespeare Inn (1656), and round to King Street. Here we will stop briefly to look at the Former Bank of England (1846). We will continue onto Cross Street and into the Royal Exchange.


11. Royal Exchange (15 mins)



The Royal Exchange has a rich history, beginning in 1729 as a meeting place for trade in spun cotton yarn and finished goods. The present building dates from 1874 and features Corinthian columns. At one point the Exchange had 11,000 members who controlled nearly half of the world's cotton.



Signs giving trading prices of cotton

The building was heavily damaged in the blitz of December 1940 and the interior was rebuilt. The present theatre was opened in 1976 by Laurence Olivier as an unusual metallic structure resembling as spaceship. After the IRA bombing in 1996 the interior was further restored to its present state.



The space inside the building is awe-inspiring in itself, but its story reveals the importance of the cotton industry to Manchester's history, along with its later decline, and Manchester's involvement in violent conflicts.

There will be a chance for a toilet break here.


12. St. Anne's Church (15 mins)



We will enter St. Anne's Square, which features more Greek columns, as well as St. Anne's Church (1712) with its Corinthian columns. When the church was built the surrounding area was cornfields. The tower now marks the official centre of Manchester.


13. Return to Castlefields (15 mins)


We will go through St. Ann's Passage to King Street and along Deansgate, returning to Castlefields. There are several more neoclassical buildings along the way, as well as the neogothic John Rylands Library, which possesses the oldest fragment of the New Testament in the world.


Back at Castlefields we will look at the reconstructed gateway to the Roman fort and remind ourselves of the beginnings of this great city.



We will finish by checking the results of our research - which column type is most common in Manchester? In which monarch's reign were the greatest number of classical buildings made? Which gods did we see? Who got the highest score in the treasure hunt? We will count how many bees children have won and the top 3 will be given genuine Roman coins as prizes. At the end we will be able to discuss the importance of the ancient Greeks and Romans to our modern cities.



How the fort and vicus might have appeared in the 3rd century (click for larger version)


Map showing the location of the Roman camp