Watts Warehouse

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Watts Warehouse, Manchester

Watts Warehouse Manchester.jpg

Britannia Hotel (formerly Watts Warehouse)
General information
Architectural style Wholesale warehouse in eclectic Venetian Palazzo style
Town or city Manchester
Country United Kingdom
Coordinates 53°28′44″N2°14′14″W / 53.47895°N 2.237286°W / 53.47895; -2.237286 Coordinates: 53°28′44″N2°14′14″W / 53.47895°N 2.237286°W / 53.47895; -2.237286
Construction started 1851
Completed 1856
Cost £100,000
Design and construction
Architect Travis & Magnell
Listed Building – Grade II*
Official name Britannia Hotel
Designated 25 February 1952
Reference no. 1246952 [1]

Watts Warehouse is a large, ornate Victorian Grade II* listed building standing on Portland Street in the centre of Manchester, England. It opened in 1856 as a textile warehouse for the wholesale drapery business of S & J Watts, and was the largest single-occupancy textile warehouse in Manchester. Today the building is part of the Britannia Hotels chain.

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.

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council.

Britannia Hotels

Britannia Hotels is a United Kingdom hotel group with 53 hotels across the country. It includes the Pontins Holiday Park portfolio. Britannia operates at the budget end of the market.

Contents

History

The Watts family

The textile firm, S & J Watts was founded by James Watts (Mayor of Manchester), a Mancunian industrialist and entrepreneur, whose textile business had started in a small weaver's cottage in Didsbury. His success as a cotton trader was part of the commercial boom of the 19th century that gave Manchester the name "Cottonopolis", when the city was a global centre for the cotton trade.

Sir James Watts was Mayor of Manchester (1855–1857), High Sheriff of Lancashire and owner of Abney Hall. He was the owner of S & J Watts Ltd, who built the Watts Warehouse on Portland Street.

Didsbury area of the City of Manchester, England

Didsbury is a suburban area of Manchester, England, on the north bank of the River Mersey, 4.5 miles (7.2 km) south of Manchester city centre. The population at the 2011 census was 26,788.

Cottonopolis Nineteenth century nickname for Manchester

Cottonopolis was a 19th century nickname for Manchester, as it was a metropolis and the centre of the cotton industry.

The Manchester warehouse which we lately visited, was a building fit for the Town Hall of any respectable municipality; a stately, spacious, and tasteful edifice; rich and substantial as its respectable proprietors, the well-known firm of Banneret and Co. There are nearly a hundred such buildings in Manchester; –not so large, perhaps, for this is the largest; but all in their degree worthy of Cottonopolis.

Watts became an important figure among British industrialists, socialising with politicians and churchmen at his home, Abney Hall, in Cheadle. Prince Albert chose to stay with him when he visited Manchester to open the Art Treasures Exhibition in 1857. [2]

Abney Hall

Abney Hall is a substantial Victorian house surrounded by a park in Cheadle, near Stockport, Greater Manchester, in the northwest of England. The hall dates back to 1847 and is a Grade II* listed building.

Albert, Prince Consort Husband of Queen Victoria

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was the husband of Queen Victoria.

Construction

The stairwell Watts Warehouse interior3.jpg
The stairwell

The sandstone ashlar warehouse was built by local architects Travis & Mangnall in 1851–56 at a cost of £100,000. [2] [3] Its ornate style typifies the extravagant confidence of many Mancunian warehouses of this period, but the Watts Warehouse is notable for its peculiarly eclectic design. Designed in the form of a Venetian palazzo, the building has five storeys, each decorated in a different style – Italian Renaissance, Elizabethan, French Renaissance and Flemish – and roof pavilions featuring large Gothic wheel windows. [4]

Renaissance architecture architectural style

Renaissance architecture is the European architecture of the period between the early 14th and early 16th centuries in different regions, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture. Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities. The style was carried to France, Germany, England, Russia and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.

Elizabethan architecture term given to early Renaissance architecture in England, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabethan architecture refers to buildings of aesthetic ambition constructed during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland from 1558–1603. Historically, the era sits between the long era of dominant architectural patronage of ecclesiastical buildings by the Catholic Church which ended abruptly at the Dissolution of the Monasteries from c.1536, and the advent of a court culture of pan-European artistic ambition under James I (1603–25). Stylistically, Elizabethan architecture is notably pluralistic. It came at the end of insular traditions in design and construction called the Perpendicular style in church building, the fenestration, vaulting techniques and open truss designs of which often affected the detail of larger domestic buildings. However, English design had become open to the influence of early printed architectural texts imported to England by ecclesiasts as early as the 1480s. Into the sixteenth century, illustrated continental pattern-books introduced a wide range of architectural examplars, fuelled by the archaeology of classical Rome which inspired myriad printed designs of increasing elaboration and abstraction. As church building turned to the construction of great houses for courtiers and merchants, these novelties accompanied a nostalgia for native history as well as huge divisions in religious identity, plus the influence of continental mercantile and civic buildings. Insular traditions of construction, detail and materials never entirely disappeared. These varied influences on patrons who could favour conservatism or great originality confound attempts to neatly classify Elizabethan architecture. This era of cultural upheaval and fusions corresponds to what is often termed Mannerism and Late Cinquecento in Italy, French Renaissance architecture in France, and the Plateresque style in Spain.

French Renaissance architecture Style of French architecture

French Renaissance architecture is a style which was prominent between the 15th and early 17th centuries in the Kingdom of France. It succeeded French Gothic architecture. The style was originally imported from Italy by the French kings Charles VIII, Louis XII, and François I. Several notable royal châteaux in this style were built in the Loire Valley; notably the Chateau d'Amboise, the Chateau of Blois, the Chateau of Gaillon, and the Chateau of Chambord, and, closer to Paris, the Chateau of Fontainebleau.

The interior was similarly lavish in its decoration, with a sweeping iron cantilever staircase, balconied stairwell, and mahogany counters for displaying merchandise. [2]

War memorial

"The Sentry" war memorial by C. S. Jagger Jagger sentry manchester1.jpg
"The Sentry" war memorial by C. S. Jagger

During the First World War 1914–18, many employees of S & J Watts lost their lives in battle. The company marked this by erecting a memorial in 1922 in the main entrance to the building on Portland Street. A bronze sculpture, "the Sentry", stands in an arched niche on the right, and on the opposite side is a marble plaque commemorating the dead. The bronze statue depicts the sentry wearing a Tommy helmet, World War I battle gear and a cape, standing on guard with his rifle with fixed bayonet upright, and was commissioned from the British sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger who also designed the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner, London. A statuette version of the figure is to be seen in the study of Eltham Palace, where it was displayed by Stephen Courtauld, who was - like Jagger - a member of the Artists' Rifles during the First World War.

Brodie helmet

The Brodie helmet is a steel combat helmet designed and patented in London in 1915 by John Leopold Brodie. A modified form it became the Helmet, steel, Mark I in Britain and the M1917 Helmet in the U.S. Colloquially, it was called the shrapnel helmet, battle bowler, Tommy helmet, tin hat, and in the United States the doughboy helmet. It was also known as the dishpan hat, tin pan hat, washbasin, battle bowler, and Kelly helmet. The German Army called it the Salatschüssel. The term Brodie is often mis-used. It is correctly applied only to the original 1915 Brodie's Steel Helmet, War Office Pattern.

British Army uniform and equipment in World War I

British Army uniform and equipment in World War I. According to the British official historian Brigadier James E. Edmonds recorded in 1925, "The British Army of 1914, was the best trained best equipped and best organized British Army ever sent to war". They were the only army to wear any form of a camouflage uniform; the value of Drab (color) clothing was quickly recognised by the British Army, who introduced Khaki drill for Indian and colonial warfare from the mid-19th century on. As part of a series of reforms following the Second Boer War, a darker khaki serge was adopted in 1902, for service dress in Britain itself. On the whole, the British military authorities showed more foresight than their French counterparts, who retained highly visible blue coats and red trousers for active service until several months into World War I. The soldier was issued with the 1908 Pattern Webbing for carrying personal equipment and he was armed with the Short Magazine Lee–Enfield rifle.

A sword bayonet is any long, knife-bladed bayonet designed for mounting on a musket or rifle. Its use is thought to have begun in the 18th century and to have reached its height of popularity throughout the 19th and into the early 20th centuries. When unmounted from a musket or rifle, sword bayonets with their typical hilts and long blades also could be wielded as short swords. While modern military bayonets typically have knife blades, they are usually too short to be called sword bayonets and are more akin to fighting/utility knives.

To the enduring memory of those members of the staff of S & J Watts & Co. who laid down their lives for their King and country in the cause of truth, justice and freedom during the Great War. Their name liveth for evermore.
Memorial inscription, Watts Warehouse, Portland Street entrance

The Blitz

During the Second World War, the Watts Warehouse was hit by Luftwaffe bombs, but it was saved from destruction when the fire was smothered by textiles. [5]

Conversion to a hotel

The textile industries that built Manchester eventually dwindled and, like many other industrial structures in the North of England, Watts Warehouse fell into disuse and was derelict for many years. The building was threatened with demolition in 1972, but was spared. In the 1980s, the building underwent conversion, retaining many of the original interior features. In May 1982, the Britannia Hotel opened as part of the Britannia Hotels chain initially with 25 rooms and a nightclub, eventually expanding to 363 bedrooms. [2] [6]

The building was Grade II* listed in 1952. [1] The war memorial in the lobby appears on the Imperial War Museum's register. [7]

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 Historic England. "Britannia Hotel  (Grade II*) (1246952)". National Heritage List for England . Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Manchester Online – The Britannia Hotel
  3. MANCHESTER SJ8498SW PORTLAND STREET – Images of England
  4. ".. a licentious bit of confectionery in stone, iron, timber and glass" according to the compilers of Manchester (City Buildings Series); ed. by Dennis Sharp; Studio Vista, London, 1969
  5. Industrial Powerhouse audio trails
  6. Hotel History
  7. "S And J Watts And Co". War Memorials Register. Imperial War Museums. Retrieved 1 February 2017.