Lowry frequently walked through Piccadilly in Manchester and produced a group of works depicting the square and the surrounding buildings. The space was the original site of Manchester Royal Infirmary, built in 1755. However, in 1908, the building was demolished and relocated to its present position, on Oxford Road.
A number of proposed plans were put forward to fill the area vacated by the Infirmary, including the building of an opera house, but the final decision was to keep the site as an open space. However, the planned sunken gardens were not finished until 1935 and between 1908 and 1932 part of the area was occupied by temporary buildings and the incomplete gardens.
In 1930 the Manchester City Art Gallery commissioned Lowry to produce drawings of the site. To fulfill this commission Lowry had to deviate from his typical technique of manipulating local architectural elements to frame his compositions. Instead these works are defined by the named buildings surrounding the square and they serve as an historically accurate record. Included in the present drawing are two large warehouses, Templeton & Co. and, on the right, the warehouse that housed the merchant business of John Haslam & Co.
The latter warehouse was originally divided into six departments: heavy plain cloths; fine cloths, i.e. lawns and muslins; fancy weaves, including shirtings; handkerchiefs; satteens and linings, and each year, took in over a million yards of cloth from local sources. Contrary to the practice of other firms it had the facilities to do its own casing and baling and goods, destined for London, were transported on the Manchester Ship Canal. Unfortunately the building was destroyed in a fire in World War II.
Typically of Lowry's urban landscapes a variety of characters are depicted, some hurrying from one side to the other, some sitting on the steps in contemplation. Unusually, however, Lowry has included a motor car on the left hand side of the work.