Alfred Waterhouse

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Alfred Waterhouse
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Alfred Waterhouse
Born(1830-07-19)19 July 1830
Died22 August 1905(1905-08-22) (aged 75)
Yattendon, Berkshire, England
Buildings Natural History Museum, London
Manchester Town Hall
Manchester Assize Courts
Manchester Museum
Clock Tower at Rochdale Town Hall

Alfred Waterhouse RA (19 July 1830 – 22 August 1905) was an English architect, particularly associated with the Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. He is perhaps best known for his design for Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London, although he also built a wide variety of other buildings throughout the country. Financially speaking, Waterhouse was probably the most successful of all Victorian architects. Though expert within Neo-Gothic, Renaissance revival and Romanesque revival styles, Waterhouse never limited himself to a single architectural style.

Architect person trained to plan and design buildings, and oversee their construction

An architect is a person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek, i.e., chief builder.

Victorian architecture series of architectural revival styles

Victorian architecture is a series of architectural revival styles in the mid-to-late 19th century. Victorian refers to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), called the Victorian era, during which period the styles known as Victorian were used in construction. However, many elements of what is typically termed "Victorian" architecture did not become popular until later in Victoria's reign. The styles often included interpretations and eclectic revivals of historic styles. The name represents the British and French custom of naming architectural styles for a reigning monarch. Within this naming and classification scheme, it followed Georgian architecture and later Regency architecture, and was succeeded by Edwardian architecture.

Gothic Revival architecture Architectural movement

Gothic Revival is an architectural movement popular in the Western world that began in the late 1740s in England. Its momentum grew in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time. Gothic Revival draws features from the original Gothic style, including decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood moulds and label stops.


Early life

Waterhouse was born on 19 July 1830 in Aigburth, Liverpool, Lancashire, the son of wealthy mill-owning Quaker parents. His brothers were accountant Edwin Waterhouse, co-founder of the Price Waterhouse partnership, which now forms part of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and solicitor Theodore Waterhouse, who founded the law firm Waterhouse & Co, now part of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP in the City of London. [1] [2]

Aigburth District of Liverpool

Aigburth is a town in Liverpool, England. Located to the south of the city, it is bordered by Dingle, Toxteth, Sefton Park, Mossley Hill and Garston.

Liverpool City and Metropolitan borough in England

Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough in North West England, with an estimated population of 491,500. Its metropolitan area is the fifth-largest in the UK, with a population of 2.24 million in 2011. The local authority is Liverpool City Council, the most populous local government district in the metropolitan county of Merseyside and the largest in the Liverpool City Region.

Edwin Waterhouse English accountant

Edwin Waterhouse was an English accountant. He is best known for having co-founded, with Samuel Lowell Price and William Hopkins Holyland, the accountancy practice of Price Waterhouse that now forms part of PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 1889 Waterhouse, along with a group of prominent businessmen, politicians and lawyers, founded The Law Debenture Corporation. He also served as president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants for the years 1892 to 1894.

Alfred Waterhouse was educated at the Quaker Grove House School in Tottenham. He studied architecture under Richard Lane in Manchester, and spent much of his youth travelling in Europe and studying in France, Italy and Germany. On his return to Britain, Alfred set up his own architectural practice in 1854 in Manchester. [1]

Grove House School was a Quaker school in Tottenham, United Kingdom.

Tottenham town in the London Borough of Haringay

Tottenham is a district of North London, England, in the London Borough of Haringey. It is 5.9 miles (9.5 km) north-north-east of Charing Cross.

Richard Lane (architect) English architect

Richard Lane was a distinguished English architect of the early and mid-19th century. Born in London and based in Manchester, he was known in great part for his restrained and austere Greek-inspired classicism. He also designed a few buildings – mainly churches – in the Gothic style. He was also known for masterplanning and designing many of the houses in the exclusive Victoria Park estate.

Manchester practice

The Manchester Assize Courts, irreparably damaged in World War II, and subsequently demolished Assize Courts, Manchester.jpg
The Manchester Assize Courts, irreparably damaged in World War II, and subsequently demolished

Waterhouse continued to practise in Manchester for 12 years, until moving his practice to London in 1865. His earliest commissions were for domestic buildings. In executing the commission for the cemetery buildings at Warrington Road, Lower Ince (1855–56), he began his move towards designing public buildings in his developing Neo-Gothic style, building a lodge for the registrar, and two chapels, one Church of England, and one Non-conformist. His success as a designer of public buildings was assured in 1859 when he won the open competition for the Manchester Assize Courts (now demolished). This work not only showed his ability to plan a complicated building on a large scale, but also marked him out as a champion of the Gothic cause. [3]

Church of England Anglican church in England, by law established

The Church of England is the established church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most senior cleric, although the monarch is the supreme governor. The Church of England is also the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church recorded as existing in the Roman province of Britain by the third century, and to the 6th-century Gregorian mission to Kent led by Augustine of Canterbury.

Gothic architecture style of architecture

Gothic architecture is a style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th-century France, it was widely used, especially for cathedrals and churches, until the 16th century.

In 1860 he married Elizabeth Hodgkin (1834–1918), daughter of John Hodgkin and sister of the historian Thomas Hodgkin. Elizabeth was herself the author of several books, including a collection of verse and some anthologies. Her best known work was The Island of Anarchy, a Utopian story set in the late 20th century, first published in 1887 and more recently re-published by the Reading-based Two Rivers Press. [4] [5] [6]

John Hodgkin was an English barrister and Quaker preacher.

Thomas Hodgkin (historian) British historian

Thomas Hodgkin, FBA was a British historian and biographer.

Two Rivers Press

Two Rivers Press is an independent publishing house, based in the English town of Reading. Two Rivers Press was founded in 1994 by Peter Hay (1951–2003), a local artist. Its name reflects his enthusiasm for the town and its two rivers, the Kennet and the Thames, and its intention to explore the place where art and history meet. The name also gives a clue to the origins of the company in the, ultimately successful, opposition to Reading's proposed Cross-Town Route, a road scheme that would have seriously impacted the point at which the two rivers meet.

Waterhouse had connections with wealthy Quaker industrialists through schooling, marriage and religious affiliations, many of which commissioned him to design and build country houses, especially in the areas near Darlington. Several were built for members of the Backhouse family, founders of Backhouse's Bank, a forerunner of Barclays Bank. For Alfred Backhouse, Waterhouse built Pilmore Hall (1863), now known as Rockliffe Hall, in Hurworth-on-Tees. In the same village he built the Grange (1875), now the Hurworth Grange Community Centre, which Alfred Backhouse had commissioned as a wedding gift for his nephew, James E. Backhouse. Another Backhouse family mansion designed and built by Waterhouse was Dryderdale Hall (1872), near Hamsterley, used for the home of Cyril Kinnear in the film Get Carter . [7] He designed Baron's Craig a country house in Rockcliffe in Kirkcudbright shire in 1879 for Christopher Morris.

London practice

Manchester Town Hall, built 1868-1877. Manchester Town Hall from Lloyd St.jpg
Manchester Town Hall, built 1868-1877.

In 1865, Waterhouse was one of the architects selected to compete for the Royal Courts of Justice. The University Club of New York was undertaken in 1866. In 1868 and nine years after his work on the Manchester Assize Courts, another competition secured for Waterhouse the design of Manchester Town Hall where he showed a firmer and more original handling of the Gothic style. The same year he was involved in rebuilding part of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; this was not his first university work, for he had already worked on Balliol College, Oxford, in 1867, and the new buildings of the Cambridge Union Society, in 1866. [3]

At Caius, out of deference to the Renaissance treatment of the older parts of the college, this Gothic element was intentionally mingled with classic detail, while Balliol and Pembroke College, Cambridge, which followed in 1871, are typical of the style of his mid career with Gothic tradition tempered by individual taste and by adaptation to modern needs. Girton College, Cambridge, a building of simpler type, dates originally from the same period (1870), but has been periodically enlarged by further buildings. Two important domestic works were undertaken in 1870 and 1871 respectively — Eaton Hall in Cheshire for the Duke of Westminster, and Heythrop Hall, Oxfordshire, the latter a restoration of a fairly strict classic type. [3]

The Natural History Museum has an ornate terracotta facade typical of high Victorian architecture. BritNatural History Museum2.jpg
The Natural History Museum has an ornate terracotta facade typical of high Victorian architecture.

Waterhouse received, without competition, the commission to build the Natural History Museum in South Kensington (1873–1881), a design which marks an epoch in the modern use of architectural terracotta and which was to become his best-known work. Waterhouse's other works in London included the National Liberal Club (a study in Renaissance composition), University College London's Cruciform Building, the former site of University College Hospital, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in London's Great George Street (1896), and the Jenner Institute of Preventive Medicine in Chelsea (1895). [3]

From the late 1860s, Waterhouse lived in Reading, Berkshire, and was responsible for several significant buildings there. These included his own residences of Foxhill House (1868) and Yattendon Court (1877), together with Reading Town Hall (1875), Grove House, a boarding house at Leighton Park School and Reading School (1870). Foxhill House is still in use by the University of Reading, as are his Whiteknights House (built for his father) and East Thorpe House (built in 1880 for Alfred Palmer). [1]

For the Prudential Assurance Company, Waterhouse designed many offices, including their Holborn Bars head office in Holborn and branch offices in Southampton, Nottingham and Leeds. He also designed offices for the National Provincial Bank in Piccadilly (1892) and in Manchester. Liverpool Royal Infirmary was Waterhouse's largest hospital; and Saint Mary's Hospital, Manchester, the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Rhyl, and extensive additions at the Nottingham General Hospital, also involved him. He was involved in a series of works for the Victoria University of Manchester, of which he was made LL.D. in 1895. [3]

Other educational buildings designed by Waterhouse include High School, Middlesbrough (1875), Yorkshire College, Leeds (1878), the Victoria Building, Liverpool University (now University of Liverpool) (1885), St Paul's School in Hammersmith (1881–1884; demolished 1968); and the Central Technical College in London's Exhibition Road (1881). [3]

Among works not already mentioned are the Cambridge Union building and subsequently a similar building for the Oxford Union; Strangeways Prison; St Margaret's School, Bushey; the Metropole Hotel in Brighton; Hove Town Hall; Knutsford Town Hall; Alloa Town Hall; St Elisabeth's Church, Reddish; Heaton Park Congregational Church in Prestwich; Darlington town clock, covered market hall and Backhouse's Bank (now Barclay's Bank); the former District Bank in Nantwich; [8] the King's Weigh House chapel in Mayfair; and Hutton Hall in Yorkshire (1866). St Mary's Church in Twyford, Hampshire (1878) shows similar patterning to the Natural History Museum and was designed at the same time. [3]

Later life

The memorial to Waterhouse at Yattendon, Berkshire. Waterhouse memorial Yattendon, Berkshire.jpg
The memorial to Waterhouse at Yattendon, Berkshire.

Waterhouse retired from architecture in 1902, having practised in partnership with his son, Paul Waterhouse, from 1891. He died at Yattendon Court on 22 August 1905. [1] [3]


Waterhouse became a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1861, and was president from 1888 to 1891. He obtained a grand prix for architecture at the Paris Exposition of 1867, and a "Rappel" in 1878. In the same year he received the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and was made an associate of the Royal Academy, of which body he became a full member in 1885 and treasurer in 1898. He was also a member of the academies of Vienna (1869), Brussels (1886), Antwerp (1887), Milan (1888) and Berlin(1889), and a corresponding member of the Institut de France (1893). After 1886 he was constantly called upon to act as assessor in architectural competitions, and was a member of the international jury appointed to adjudicate on the designs for the west front of Milan Cathedral in 1887. In 1890 he served as architectural member of the Royal Commission on the proposed enlargement of Westminster Abbey as a place of burial. [3]

The JD Wetherspoon pub on Princess Street, Manchester, is named "The Waterhouse" after Alfred Waterhouse. [9]

List of architectural work

The names of the buildings and the names of the county they are located in, both in the lists and gallery, are those in use when Waterhouse designed the buildings. [10]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 "Royal Berkshire History — Alfred Waterhouse (1830–1905)". David Nash Ford. 2003. Archived from the original on 5 July 2005. Retrieved 2005-06-29.
  2. Waterhouse, Edwin (1988). Edgar Jones (ed.). The Memoirs of Edwin Waterhouse. Batsford. ISBN   0-7134-5579-9. Archived from the original on 2007-11-24. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Waterhouse, Alfred"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  4. "Natural History Museum Archive Catalogue - Alfred Waterhouse". Natural History Museum. Retrieved 2007-11-09.
  5. "Waterhouse Collection". University of Reading. Retrieved 2014-06-18.
  6. Waterhouse, Elizabeth. The Island of Anarchy. Two Rivers Press. ISBN   978-0952370185.
  7. "'Get Carter' mansion up for sale". BBC. 2008-04-01. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
  8. "District Bank, 1 and 3 Churchyard Side", Images of England , English Heritage , retrieved 23 June 2010
  9. "The Waterhouse". Manchester History. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  10. pages 207–275, Alfred Waterhouse 1830–1905 Biography of a Practice, Colin Cunningham & Prudence Waterhouse, 1992, Oxford University Press