St Ann’s Square and Deansgate in Manchester City Centre
This fine three storey cast iron and glass conservatory-like structure with its cast iron roof was erected by Corbett, Raby and Sawyer in 1874, and after extensive restoration in the 1980s, has emerged in recent years as a delight to see and visit. It is a Grade II Listed Building of special architectural interest, and now houses exclusive shops and upper storey offices. The arcade was the first building erected on the newly widened Deansgate. Its cast iron and glass were produced at the Macfarlane Saracen Glass Factory in Glasgow. Macfarlanes were the leading makers of architectural cast iron decorative details. Walter Macfarlane, the founder of the company was originally a silversmith. Many of the original shop fronts have long since disappeared as have the decorative tiled floors, but its renaissance is a tribute to the conservator’s skill and sensitivity – it houses many elegant and high class shops, although they seem to change hands all too frequently (too high rates?). Well worth a walk through – even if you’re not buying.
Barton Arcade & its Makers – the Macfarlane Company
We are indebted to Stuart Durant for supplying information relating to the Macfarlane Company. Mr Durant, a bookseller in Richmond on Thames and one time Reader in Design History at Kingston University, supplied details of an illustrated book of which he had recently catalogued, on the Macfarlane Company’s work, entitled ” Examples Book of Macfarlane’s Castings “.
The following text is a largely verbatim account from Mr Durant’s email to us
“Comparatively little of Macfarlane’s work survives, though much of it would have been exported. Many of the designs seen here (ie. in the book) are registered and can be precisely dated by the official kite marks which accompany them. The earliest of the designs in the book were apparently registered on 17th March 1862 and the latest on 14th May 1875. (A complete list of dates of registration is loosely inserted). More than half the designs date from 1875 and this appears to be the most likely date of publication. Although no architects, or designers, are named the quality of Macfarlane’s design was exceptionally high, Lithographs show a large shopping arcade, balconies, balusters, band stands, castings for bridges, large conservatories for botanical gardens, clock towers, a drinking fountain, a variety of complete fa�ades, lamp standards, pavilions, railway station waiting rooms and platform coverings, shop fronts, tomb railings etc. The components of each structure are clearly indicated. These are architecturally sophisticated and reveal that the principles of system building and prefabrication have their origin in cast iron. All the complete buildings illustrated here have registration marks for 1875 and it is likely that Macfarlanes used this publication to launch their cast iron buildings. The fact that this copy was presented to W J Rennison, a Stockport architect, indicates that Macfarlane’s clients were often likely to have been architects. Cast iron architecture is taken a great deal further here than it was by Paxton at the Great Exhibition (Hyde Park 1851) or even by Viollet-le-Duc in Entretiens (1863-72). A number of Macfarlane�s arcades were actually built – the largest, Barton Arcade in Manchester – completed in 1900 – is shown in this book, The Arcade in Johannesburg – circa 1900 – and the Alexander Arcade in Swansea of circa 1890 also appear. (See : Johann Friedrich Geist: “Arcades – The History of a Building Type”, 1983, pp – 284-5, 351-6, 553-4). The design for the Barton Arcade was registered on 28th April 1875 and no designer is mentioned – I conclude that it was very likely to have been “bought off the peg” and probably modified to fit the site by an architect. Geist – cited above – says the design was inspired by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (1868) in Milan. I doubt, however, if this is the case.”
Footnote “I wonder how many people in Manchester know that they have an architectural treasure of international importance. It should be listed Grade One of course. Regards – Stuart Durant. ”