- Born: 20 June 1838 at Adelphi, Salford
- Died: 5 July 1908 at Flixton
Alfred Darbyshire was born 20 June 1839 at 8, Peru Street (renamed Melbourne Terrace), Adelphi, Salford. His father, William Darbyshire took a prominent part in the establishment of the first Mechanics Institute in Salford, and his mother Mary (Bancroft). For a short time the family lived in Peel Street, Salford. However, early in the 1840s William Darbyshire became the manager of the dye-works owned by Edmund Ashworth and Sons and the family moved to Egerton near Bolton. At Egerton Hall the young Alfred Darbyshire met some of the great anti-corn law agitators including John Bright, Cobden, C.P. Villiers, Milner Gibson and George Wilson. In 1849, the family returned to Manchester, residing at Irlams-o’-th’-Height. Alfred was sent to the Quaker School of Charles Cumber which occupied the site of the Friends Institute at the corner of Peter Street and Mount Street in Manchester.
His uncle George Bradshaw of “Railway Guide” fame took him to the Great Exhibition in 1851 and in the same year he was sent as a border to the Quaker School at Ackworth near Pontifract. One of the masters at Ackworth Henry Sparkes an artist and landscape painter did much to encourage the young Alfred Darbyshire, teaching him to draw from nature and draw plans to scale. Despite winning a prize for art, Darbyshire was not happy at Ackworth. He later wrote “I suppose the fascinating influence of Art caused a neglect of other studies; at all events I was sent to another school, Lindow Grove Academy at Alderley, in Cheshire. ... whereas my life at the great Quaker school may have left some unpleasant memories ..... the life at Lindow Grove was delightful.
In 1855 Darbyshire was articled to the Manchester architect Peter B Alley. He also joined Manchester School of Art under the mastership of J.A. Hammersley. Among his fellow students were H. Clarence Whaite, Basil Bradley, Arthur J. Marsh and Frederick J. Shields all of whom subsequently became prominent in the art world. While articles to Alley, Darbyshire became acquainted with Luke Fildes RA and Joseph Knight the eminent water colour artist. He subsequently knew many leading artists of the time, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Maddox Brown and Walter Crane. With these and others, he met and corresponded regularly.
Whilst he was still qualifying as an architect Alfred became, as he put it, 'stage struck'. Whenever he could he went to the theatre to see the leading actors of the day. He was desperately anxious to act himself, but the Quaker sect of which he was a member did not approve of the theatre. In 1861 he was chosen to play the part of Jacques in “As You Like It,” but was forbidden to appear on religious grounds. Three years later he ignored opposition and played Jacques at Bury in honour of the three hundredth anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. His debut was a great success and he was offered a professional contract which he refused. In 1865 at Bury he played Polonies to the Hamlet of Henry Irving, but he was no longer 'stage‑struck'. He made only one further appearance in a major performance. This was in 1879 when he again played Jacquet in “As You Like It”, in a special show for the benefit of the widow and family of his great friend Charles Culvert who had died earlier that year. Playing opposite him was the very distinguished veteran actress Helen Faucet (Lady Theodore Martin). As a result of this particular performance and his other theatrical activities, Alfred was 'expelled' from the Quakers.
In 1862 Alfred Darbyshire set up practice on his own account with offices in St James Square Manchester and in 1864 travelled in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany. (his sketches have apparently survived - D Hilton). Darbyshire joined with Lawrence Booth to establish the first Manchester Architectural Association. He was a member of numerous societies including the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society, the Arts Society and the Brazennose Club. For many years he acted as Hon sec of the Numismatic Society. In 1894 he was elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries London. Alfred Darbyshire was elected Associate of the RIBA in 1864 and FRIBA in 1870. He served as Secretary and later President of the Manchester Society of Architects (1901-3). He was Vice President of the RIBA (1902-5).
Darbyshire married his wife Sarah (1838-1933) on 10 August 1870. Alfred was 31 and his wife a year older. The couple had four children, Anna Gertrude born in 1871, Ethel Mary Ada, born 1874, Percy and Margery. Following the death of Alfred Darbyshire, Sarah Darbyshire moved to Poynton (123 London Road South?)
On Saturday 4 July 1908 The City News reported “Mr Alfred Darbyshire was suddenly taken ill at his office on Wednesday (the 1st). We are glad to announce, however, that yesterday he was much better.” On the day following this report he died at his home in Flixton, aged 69. Darbyshire was buried at the parish Church in Fixton. With him lie his wife Sarah, who died aged 95 on 23 January 1933 at Poynton, Gertrude who died on 8 April 1959 aged 87 and Ethel who died on 12 July 1960 aged 85. Gertrude and Ethel never married. Percy, who emigrated to America, married but had no children. Margery also married but was killed in a motor accident. She also had no children.
1863: 7, St James Square, Manchester. (Slater’s Directory 1863)
1899: Manor Park, Knutsford and Brazennose Street Manchester (Pike 1899)
1871: Rookswood Broughton Park
1874: Mount Trafford, near Eccles. (Manchester Guardian 27 April 1874 page 2)
1880-95: Torkington House. (Junction of Torkington Road And London Road) Hazel Grove The house, converted into an Old Peoples Home, still existant in 1968
c1895-1906: Manor Park, Knutsford
1906-1908: Chatham House, Flixton.
Manchester City News 11 July 1908?
Manchester Evening News 6 July 1908
Manchester Guardian. Mon 6 July & Tuesday 7 July 1908
Darbyshire Alfred An Architects's Experiences: Professional, Artistic and Theatrical 1897 Manchester: J.E. Cornish, 1897.
Manchester Faces & Places Volume 6 no 1 January 1894 page 7
TA Lockett: Three Lives: It Happened Round Manchester. London 1968
Dungavell, Ian (2004), "Darbyshire, Alfred (1839–1908)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press
Buildings and Designs
|Darbyshire and Smith||Architectural practice||1886||1905||Manchester|