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Manchester Artists & Architects

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Artists of the Region

Edgar Wood

Edgar Wood - architect

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 Manchester.
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.
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.

Thomas Worthington

Wothington's Albert Monument Worthington’s 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
. 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 Cour
t, 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
Company met in June 1882.

John Knowles

The Theatre Royal image The Theatre Royal
Building in Quay Street

John Knowles 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.
The 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.

Harold Riley

Harold Riley

(Born 1934)
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
. 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.

John Ralston

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 Bridge.
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 Derbyshire.
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 1833.

Lawrence Isherwood

Lawrence Isherwood

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

Joe Sunlight

Joe Sunlight

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 dust-free.
Sunlight planned an even taller building on the adjacent plot in Gartside
Street, next to the
, 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
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

Harry Rutherford, Denton born artist

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 in Stalybridge.
Harry Rutherford died at his home in Nelson Street in Hyde in April

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This page last updated 4 Dec 11.