Mr Thomas's Chop House Est. 1867
THE SQUARE WAS INSPIRED BY and named after Prince Albert who died, only 42 years-old, in 1861.
He is remembered as the husband, Prince Consort and love of Queen Victoria’s life. But he was a progressive thinker in his own right. He was the President of the Society for the Extinction of Slavery. And unlike many landowners who approved of child labour and opposed Peel’s repeal of the Corn Laws, he supported moves to raise working ages and free up trade. Fittingly, given that Albert Square now hosts one of Europe’s most-visited Christmas markets, he is also credited as the person who popularised the way we celebrate Christmas today with decorated and illuminated trees following German traditions.
The plot for the square was once an area of slum housing and waste land called Hall Field near the Town Yard and the River Tib. More than 100 buildings, including the Engraver’s Arms pub, were cleared and the space laid out for the new town hall and it’s square between 1863 and 1867. Before this the Old Town Hall was located on the corner of King Street and Cross St.
The York stone paving in nearby Sam’s Chop House is said to come from this original building.
Albert Square is home to the Grade I-listed Albert Memorial, which houses Matthew Noble‘s commemorative statue of the Prince, a design approved by Queen Victoria herself. You will also find a number of other inspirational figures from the Victorian era here. These include statues of James Fraser, the second and pioneering Bishop of Manchester; John Bright; Oliver Haywood; and William Gladstone, Britain’s longest-serving prime minister.
Albert Square is dominated by another of Britain’s most distinguished, Grade I-listed buildings: Manchester’s Town Hall, which was completed in 1877. Its designer Alfred Waterhouse is regarded as the most successful of all Victorian architects, being responsible also for London’s Natural History Museum, Manchester’s Strangeways Prison, the city’s Refuge Building and numerous universities and colleges throughout the country.
And working in Brown's Chop House on Market Street, Tom met Sarah, one of the waitresses. They were both ambitious. And soon they married and opened their own Chop House on Cross Street, opposite the original Town Hall and the Cross Street Chapel.
Cross Street was the main artery of Victorian Manchester and soon Mr Thomas's Chop House became one of the most popular establishments in town.
Just seven years after opening, though, Tom fell ill and became unable to work. So Sarah took the helm, running the Chop House and taking care of eight children.
Sarah was one hell of a lady. She established a ladies room at the Chop House, in 1871. This was extremely progressive and no doubt ruffled a few old fella's feathers. Remember this was three decades before Emmeline Pankhurst fought for emancipation.
By 1880 Thomas sadly died and the businesses license officially passed to Sarah, who saw Tom's grow to serve up to 400 meals per day. If you have seen the building you will realise what a feat this was.
To honour Sarah and her daughter, also Sarah, we renamed Mr Thomas's Chop House to Sarah's Chop House to mark International Women's Day 2019. You'll still see this on our signs to this day.
Almost 160 years later, Tom's is still a family owned business. We aren't the Studds anymore, sadly they died out in the 1920s, but we are still just as proud of our family values and independent status.