by John & Gloria Moss

in the Barton Arcade

Ann’s Square and Deansgate in Manchester City Centre

Barton Arcade Manchester

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
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.

Shopping in Barton Arcade

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

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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.”

“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. ”

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© John Moss, Papillon Graphics AD 2013 Manchester, United Kingdom – all rights reserved.
This page last updated 6 Dec 12.