Artists & Architects
Artists of the Region
Born in Middleton on the 17th May 1860, the son of a mill owner,
and sixth of eight children, Edgar Wood went on to become an
internationally famous architect having designed and built many
hotels, churches, schools, shops and homes in the region - many
still exist in the Rochdale and Middleton area today.
Wood's father was also a Unitarian, a Liberal and a strict disciplinarian.
Edgar was educated at the local Queen Elizabeth Grammar School
and his father expected that Edgar would follow him into cotton
business - but Edgar had an ambition to become an artist. This,
however, was far too revolutionary for his father to accept,
and after much argument a compromise was agreed and Edgar began
training as an architect at the Mills and Murgatroyd practice
in Manchester. He went on to work as a designer and architect
and was active in the Manchester area for over twenty years,
though the majority of his work is in nearby towns, such as
Rochdale, Oldham and Middleton as well as some outlying districts
like Bramhall and Hale. Edgar became an Associate of the Royal
Institute of British Architects in 1885 and set up his own office
in Middleton shortly thereafter.
He was also one of the founders of the Northern Art Workers'
Guild (in 1896) who were devotees of the so-called English Arts
and Crafts Movement. He became president of the Manchester Society
of Architects from 1911. By 1892 his practice was flourishing
and he moved into new premises at 78 Cross Street in central
He also became a prolific designer in various other crafts,
including furniture, jewellery and metalwork in which the influences
of the Arts and Crafts Movement and of Art Nouveau are apparent
- his work exhibits a fairly clean break with the excesses of
Victorian design. He went on to design around 100 buildings
in Middleton and around Manchester, ranging from small, simply-built
terraced cottages to banks and schools. His First
Church of Christ Scientist in Daisy Bank Road, Rusholme
is still an outstanding example Arts & Crafts design and
of his own personal design capabilities. He also designed the
Methodist Church in Long Street, Middleton, and Almshouses Wood's
own house, Redcroft, was built in 1895 on Rochdale Road. Edgar
wood died in 1935, by which time he had achieved international
notoriety and world-wide recognition.
Albert Memorial in Albert Square
Thomas Worthington was the architect and designer of Manchester's
Albert Memorial which dominates the square in front of the Town
Hall. He was born in The Crescent in Salford,
the son of an affluent local businessman. A talented young man,
he worked for the architects Bowman and Crowther from the age
of 14, and had already by the age of 18 won a Society of Arts
Gold Medal for one of his designs. He had already contributed
many drawings to the book "The Churches of the Middle Ages".
In 1845, at the age of 19, he was given his first complete project,
and he designed "Broomfield", a large house in Alderley Edge,
Cheshire. Later he married the daughter of this house, and was
to live there himself from 1869 until he died in 1909. He worked
with the notable Sir William Tite, accompanying him on a tour
of Italy to see and draw some of its architectural splendours.
Shortly after arriving back in England, he set up his own small
company in Manchester, which was highly successful and received
many large and important commissions. A strong moral purist
and socialist, Worthington attended the Unitarian church and
was to be associated with other local social reformers like
Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell, the novelist.
Whenever possible, he sought to secure "social" commissions,
and wrote a book "Dwellings of the Poor" in 1857. In this connection
he designed the Manchester & Salford Baths and Laundries in
1857, and the Chorlton Union Hospital in 1865 ( later to become
part of Withington Hospital). His pioneering hospital design
won the praise of no less a figure than Florence Nightingale.
In 1861, on the death of Prince Albert, was perceived as a great
national tragedy, and Memorial Funds to build monuments to his
memory sprang up all over Britain. Manchester was no exception.
The Mayor donated a statue of Prince Albert to the city, and
in 1862 Worthington was commissioned to design a suitable place
in which to stand it. His design was the first in Britain, and
its better known London counterpart designed 15 months later
by Sir George Gilbert Scott borrowed a great deal from Worthington's
style and concept. The monument is, naturally, "Gothic", a style
in which Worthington excelled; it takes the form of a medieval
canopy ( or "ciborium"), which is decorated with representations
of Art, Science, Commerce and Agriculture, in keeping with Prince
Albert's wide interests, as well as portrait heads and heraldic
motifs and finials.
As yet, the present Town Hall was to built - it was to be erected
15 years later - and Worthington's monument dominated Albert
square. Worthington had many other architectural successes in
Manchester. The City Police
& Sessions Court, built in Minshull Street in the city centre
in 1868 is, in many ways, one of his greatest planning achievements.
On a more modest scale, he also designed many Unitarian chapels
on the outskirts of the city. "The Towers", in Didsbury was
a collaborative effort between him and his partner John Elgood.
It was here, the home of engineer Daniel Adamson, that the very
first meeting of the promoters of the Manchester
Ship Canal Company met in June 1882.
Theatre Royal Building in Quay Street
was responsible for the building of the Theatre Royal in St
Peter's Street in Manchester and was its manager for some thirty
years. Knowles was born in Chapel Street, London Road in Manchester,
the son of a successful businessman, whose interests included
being a coal merchant and a manufacturer of decorative stone
fireplaces. His father also ran the Peacock Coach office which
ran coaches from Manchester to London. Knowles had been manager
of the former Theatre Royal in Fountain Street, when in 1844,
it was burnt down by fire. He bought the rights to the theatre
and purchased the present site, formerly where the Wellington
Hotel and Concert Room had stood. His new £23,000 Theatre Royal
was completed in 1844. He had commissioned the architectural
firm, Irwell and Chester, to design the theatre, and insured
against future fire by having a tank holding 20,000 gallons
of water permanently placed on its roof.
theatre opened on 29th September 1845 to an audience of 2,500,
and the programme included a performance of Weber's "Oberon"
and an elaborate ballet "The Court Ball in 1740". Knowles became
well known for his own Christmas pantomime spectaculars. Many
famous people acted there, including Charles Dickens on one
occasion. In 1860, Henry Irving joined the theatre company.
Other famous Victorian actors to tread its boards included Charles
Calvert, Edmund Kean, Barry Sullivan and Jenny Lind. In 1875,
Knowles left the theatre and it became a limited company. He
was always a shrewd businessman and clever financier, and had,
amongst many other business dealings, significant holdings in
His Majesty's Theatre in the Haymarket, London. In recent years
the Theatre Royal has suffered a rather chequered history, having
been a cinema, stood vacant, been a bingo hall, and currently
it serves as a discotheque and nightclub.
Born in Salford
on 21st December 1934, this celebrated local artist has painted
portraits of a long list of celebrities and dignitaries, including
American President Gerald Ford, Pope John Paul, Nelson Mandela,
the Duke of Edinburgh and the golfer Jack Nicklaus.
Like his friend and mentor, L S Lowry,
he also extensively painted the local northern scene. Riley
showed very early promise, being only 19 when his first one
man show was exhibited at Salford
Art Gallery, and being selected to attend the Slade Drawing
School where he studied for six years before further studies
for two years in Europe. This was followed by two years in the
army doing national service under conscription.
He was also a keen footballer, and was actually selected to
play for the Manchester
United Youth Team, and played alongside Duncan
Edwards. However, Riley eventually chose to follow his career
as an artist and has remained in his native Salford and continued
to paint his beloved northern people.
Although born in Scotland in 1789, John Ralston is nowadays
a little known Manchester-based artist who was much celebrated
in the early 1800s. Some of our best records of late 18th and
early 19th century Manchester rely on drawings made by Ralston,
including his many studies of Market Sted Lane (now Market Street),
Dr White's house in King Street (later a branch of NatWest Bank
and currently a Virgin store) as well as views of Blackfriars
Ralston also made an extensive record of the people of Manchester,
offering a first hand insight into ladies and gentlemen's fashions
of the period. Details of his life are very scant, other than
a few records of his being the son of a calico printer's engraver,
and that his family moved to live in Strines (near Marple) in
At the age of 17 he became a student at Manchester School of
Art, under various tutors including Parry and Rathbone. For
much of his adult life he lived at number 26 Brazennose Street
near Manchester Town Hall. Apart from the smarter buildings
of Manchester, he was also attracted to make drawings of inner
city dereliction and slum dwellings.
He was also an accomplished violinist and helped found the orchestra
of the Manchester Gentlemen's Concert. A poor businessman, and
much forgotten in later life, he died in poverty, aged 44 in
James Lawrence Isherwood was an acclaimed world class artist
who was born in Wigan in 1917, a contemporary of Salford artist
L.S. Lowry. John Berger, the notable art critic, ranked him
among " the best English painters of our time'. Isherwood
was a rather private and introverted man who rarely allowed
his paintings to be sold. His most typical work was in representing
the northern English industrial landscape.
However, he first came to a wider public attention in the 1960s
when he created somewhat controversial paintings of celebrities.
Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales bought one of his works.
He is widely regarded as one of the best impressionist-expressionist
painters that Britain has ever produced. He was a prolific painter
whose best work was perhaps produced from the late 1950s to
the late 1980s. His work is now represented in art collections
throughout the world, including the USA , Canada, South Africa,
Spain, Australia, Portugal, Italy and many other European countries.
Russian-born Joe Sunlight was the Manchester-based pioneering
architect and at one time one of the city's wealthiest citizens.
Born into a Jewish family on the 2nd January 1890, his family
fled from Russia and settled in Manchester around 1902. Joe
was to become a prolific architect, having designed 1000 houses
in the Prestwich district alone. His greatest landmark is the
14 storey Sunlight House in Quay Street - it was Manchester's
first high rise office block as well as its tallest building
when it was erected in the depressed 1930s. It was also very
forward looking with its high speed lifts and its unique vacuum
cleaning system which was designed to keep its 3000 windows
Sunlight planned an even taller building on the adjacent plot
in Gartside Street, next to the Opera
House, some 40 storeys high, inspired by a visit he had
made to Chicago, but the local planning authority's short-sightedness
caused the plan to be rejected, and a carpark, regrettably,
now stands on the site.
An inveterate gambler and racehorse owner he was reputed to
spend around £1 million a year on horse racing.
Later, he became a Liberal Member of Parliament, had the distinction
of being Manchester's biggest taxpayer and when he died, in
1979 left a (then) fortune of nearly £6 million.
Harry Rutherford was born in Market Street in Denton, the son
of a local hatter, the third of four brothers. The family made
several moves during his childhood, including New Mills and
Hadfield in Derbyshire, before finally settling in Hyde.
His father William was already a gifted artist and had helped
form the Hyde Arts Group - Harry received much encouragement
and teaching at his father's knee. While still at school, he
also attended the local Hyde School of Art on Saturday mornings,
and on leaving school went to the Manchester School of Art,
a contemporary of Lowry. On leaving, he worked at a lithographic
printers in Manchester and learned the printing and illuminating
trade as well as becoming proficient in calligraphy and lettering.
He formed a close friendship with leading British artist Walter
Sickert and was substantially influenced by Sickert's style,
philosophy and subject matter. Shortly after Sickert's departure
from Manchester, Rutherford was employed as an artist by a Manchester
Advertising Agency and subsequently as a topical cartoonist
by the Manchester Evening News.
In 1930 his painting entitled "Penzance" was
accepted at the Royal Academy. On the strength of this numerous
commissions followed, included the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth,
for whom Rutherford made several watercolour paintings of the
estate. Later, in London, he did freelance work in Fleet Street
and his work appeared in many magazines. Some of the work he
produced for The Listener magazine gave him an introduction
to television and film.
By the outbreak of war in 1939, Rutherford was employed to design
camouflage patterns for aircraft and aerodromes. Meantime, he
continued his own more serious painting.
After the war he had his own childrens' television show called
"Sketchbook" in which he visited various towns
and villages to paint - it ran from 1950 to 1956. He had also
continued to submit paintings regularly to the Royal Academy
Shows, including "Northern Saturday" in 1948
- one of his best known works.
On his return to live in Hyde in the late 1952, he was employed
as a teacher of Art at the Regional College of Art in Manchester
until his retirement in 1968. Hyde Town Hall still proudly displays
his Festival of Britain mural, painted in 1951. In 1961 he was
elected president of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts. His
work can be found in galleries in Manchester, Salford and Oldham,
and the Borough of Tameside owns more than 30 of Rutherford's
paintings, which can be seen at the Astley Chetham Art Gallery
Harry Rutherford died at his home in Nelson Street in Hyde in