Edward Walters

Place of Birth

In the 1850s Edward Walters was perhaps the leading commercial architect in Britain, equalled only by his cousin, Edward I’Anson in London. His abilities, are exemplified in a series of “Manchester warehouses,” intended as both showrooms and stores, which were erected in the central district of the city, during the boom years of the cotton industry.

Edward Walters was born in December 1808 at No 11 Fenchurch Buildings in the City of London, the son of John and Ann Walters (nee L’Anson). John Walters died at Brighton on 4 October 1821, reportedly as a result of chronic overwork. He left a widow, Ann, who survived him by many years; a son, Edward, and a daughter, Annie. His early death, at the comparatively early age of 39 years, significantly altered the course of Edward’s career.

Edward Walters was educated chiefly at Brighton and was still at school at the time of his father’s death. Shortly afterwards he returned to London, and entered the office of the architect Isaac Clarke, one of his father’s former pupils who had recently commenced business on his own account. He was not articled to Isaac Clarke, but remained with him for two or three years, thereby obtaining the rudiments of an architectural education. His first professional employment was in the office of Thomas Cubitt from whence he entered that of Lewis Vulliamy, where he was a contemporary of Owen Jones.For some time, he assisted John Wallen, and afterwards became assistant to Sir John Rennie, by whom he was sent to Constantinople in March 1832, to superintend the building of a small arms factory and some additions to the Arsenal for the Turkish Government.

Edward Walters remained in Constantinople until the completion of the works in 1837, when he returned to England, in company with his friend, the engineer William Henry Barlow, later president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Barlow had also been sent to Constantinople in 1832 to superintend the installation of machinery at the ordnance factory on behalf of machine tool manufacturers Maudslay, Sons & Field.  The two men left Constantinople in August 1837, visiting Smyrna, Malta, Sicily, and travelling through Calabria to Naples. Thence they went to Rome, Florence and Pisa, and by Leghorn and Marseilles to Paris, arriving at Dover on the 31 January 1838. The friendship which was thus early established between Edward Walters and William H Barlow continued until Edward Walter’s death in 1872. They frequently consulted each other upon points relating to their respective professional practice and worked together with the “most cordial feelings of amity.” In 1860 they were associated in the laying out a portion of the Midland Railway through the High Peak between Ambergate and Buxton of which W H Barlow was the consulting engineer; several of the stations on this line being built from Edward Walter’s designs.

As the Builder noted: “It is evident, from a consideration of his works, that he must at some time have studied the proportions of some of the Italian palaces, particularly the Mannerist palaces of Genoa and Venice; but he does not seem to have made any measurements, the drawings existent at his death being water colour sketches, executed with considerable force, and the point of view selected with a just eye for effect. It is possible that if he ever made any drawings they may have been destroyed, as he was extremely jealous of his early drawings being made public, and frequently tore up his youthful designs when he came across them.”

[During his residence in Constantinople, Edward Walters made an elaborate design for a palace for the Sultan a perspective of which was exhibited at the Institute. The design was never carried out, but, in all probability, this circumstance, led to the statement in one Manchester newspaper that he was appointed architect to the Sultan]

It was also while he was in Constantinople in 1837 that he met Richard Cobden, calico printer, co-founder of the Anti-Corn Law League, politician and four years his senior. This meeting would determine Walters’ future career. Cobden, was travelling abroad for his health, (while at the same time endeavouring to obtain the secret of producing the colour called “Turkey Red” used in the dyeing of cotton). Cobden struck up a warm friendship with Walters and persuaded him that the booming town of Manchester might provide a suitable stage on which to realise his architectural ambitions. Walters had no known local connections   he does not appear to have even visited the town   accepted the invitation, perhaps encouraged by W H Barlow’s decision to accept the post of assistant engineer to George W Buck on the Manchester to Birmingham Railway.

Both men arrived in Manchester in 1838, Walters setting up an office at 90 Fountain Street. His earliest known commission was a warehouse for Richard Cobden at 16, Mosley Street. Cobden's patronage would ultimately prove decisive, providing Walters withaccess to an important and wealthy section of the local community. By reference to the list of known works, his progress in his profession was at first slow. For five years he was chiefly employed in designing churches, chapels and schools and residences in the suburbs of the ordinary villa type. In 1844, however, he designed Oakwood Hall, Marple, a mansion in the Tudor style, upon which, it is said, he bestowed great care and study, most of the drawings being prepared by him personally. The following year, his proposals for the Salis Schwabe warehouse in Mosley Street, (now demolished), established him as the foremost designer of commercial warehouses in Manchester. In the design of this warehouse Walters had developed a distinct Manchester style of commercial architecture based on the Italian palazzo but modified to suit local conditions and requirements. However, Walters’ major work was undoubtedly the Free Trade Hall, Peter Street, of 1853-1856 won in a limited architectural competition. Victorian architectural competitions, particularly those held for projects in Manchester and Salford, rapidly gained a notorious reputation. That many members of the building committee for the Free Trade Hall happened to be members of the Anti-Corn Law League and Walters’ past clients was considered purely coincidental and of no consequence. However, it would be misleading to suggest that Walters was awarded the commission solely because of his League connections, strong as they were. His talents were then in full flow: the palatial Brown warehouse in Portland Street (1851) and the Italian Romanesque Independent Chapel at Knott Mill (1853) pointed to an architect capable of designing buildings in a variety of styles that stood out from the work of his contemporaries

In the architectural competition of 1860 for the Manchester Assize Courts Walters submitted a fine classical design but was unsuccessful.  It is suggested that the success of Waterhouse’s Gothic design for the Assize Courts may have influenced Walter’s decision to semi-retire, aged a little over 50.  This seems somewhat over-dramatic. Rather the course of the Lancashire cotton industry and Walter’ career over the next five years, would be determined by global events, both economic and political.  By 1860, the Lancashire cotton industry was at the height of a boom with profits reaching 30% to 40% of capital invested, production higher than ever before and labour actively sought from rural areas. All this would change in a matter of months, as the American demand for finished cotton goods declined, and the dumping of cloth on the Indian and Chinese markets led to over-supply and a decrease in price. Added to this was the outbreak of the American Civil War and the blockade of raw cotton from the Southern States to the cotton mills of Lancashire.

Walters, too, was not immune from the prevailing economic conditions. Between 1860 and 1865, he received no new commissions for warehouse building, the mainstay of his practice. Forced to seek out new clients, it was William Henry Barlow, his old friend from Constantinople, who provided him with one such opportunity. Barlow had risen to the post of consulting engineer to the Midland Railway. By the 1860s the still expanding company was seeking to create a direct line from London to Manchester. To achieve this, they were forced to build a railway across difficult terrain through the High Peak district of Derbyshire and appointed Barlow to implement the scheme. Through Barlow’s influence, Walters was appointed to design the stations at Buxton, Bakewell, Longstone, Miller's Dale, Rowsley, and Hassop Station. It was no doubt through Barlow’s influence that Walters was invited to compete in the competition for the Midland Railway’s London terminus at St Pancras; a competition famously won by G G Scott.

By 1865 Edward Walters was on the verge of retirement. His last recorded work was a design for a portico to Salford Free Library and Museum in 1865. But having accepted the design, Salford Corporation placed it in the hands of T G Barker and authorised him to draw a specification and procure tenders for the work. Thomas Groom Barker and George Ellis had been Walters’ pupils and assistants, and from 1865 to 1868, his were his partners under the style of Walters Barker and Ellis. Walters retired to Hope Cottage Eccles Old Road, Pendleton, at the time one of Manchester’s most exclusive suburbs, inhabited by some of the city’s wealthiest and most influential families.  His final years he spent travelling in England and Italy.

Edward Walters never married. While visiting Brighton he died of pleurisy on 22 January 1872 at 11 Oriental Place, Brighton.


(Note that The Builder and Paul Waterhouse’s biography in the Dictionary of National Biography erroneously give Oriental Terrace as the place of Walter’s death.]



Buildings and Designs

Building Name District Town/City County Country
Cobden Warehouse 16 Mosley Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Residence for Mr E Lloyd (Edward Loyd?) Cheetham Hill  Manchester  GMCA  England
Scotch Kirk Manchester   Manchester  GMCA  England
Union Baptist Chapel and Schools Oxford Road Manchester Chorlton-on-Medlock  Manchester  GMCA  England
St Simon & St Jude Granby Row Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
St Matthias Broughton Road Salford   Salford  GMCA  England
Parsonage House Higher Broughton Higher Broughton  Salford  GMCA  England
Queens Hotel Portland Place Piccadilly and Portland Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Warehouse Phoenix Street Manchester (atrib) Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Roby Day and Sunday School Aytoun Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
St. Andrew's Free Church of Scotland Oxford Road/Grosvenor Square All Saints All Saints  Manchester  GMCA  England
Oakwood Hall Oakwood Lane Stockport Romiley  Stockport  GMCA  England
Oakwood Hall Lodge Romiley  Stockport  GMCA  England
Road Bridge adjacent to Oakwood Hall Lodge Oakwood Road Romiley Romiley  Stockport  GMCA  England
Warehouse 39 and 41 George Street   Manchester  GMCA  England
Salis Schwabe Warehouse 46-54 Mosley Street Manchester   Manchester  GMCA  England
Two unfinished houses Victoria Park Manchester Victoria Park  Manchester  GMCA  England
Residence for Mr T Critchley Victoria Park Victoria Park  Manchester  GMCA  England
Independent Chapel and Schools Belgrave Square Darwen   Darwen  Lancashire  England
Scotch Church Bolton   Bolton  GMCA  England
National Schools and Master’s House Derby Street and Stanley Street Red Bank Cheetham Cheetham  Manchester  GMCA  England
Residence for Mr Whitlow   Prestwich  GMCA  England
Bank Warrington   Warrington  Cheshire  England
Cavendish Street Independent Chapel All Saints All Saints  Manchester  GMCA  England
Cavendish Street Schools Boundary Street All Saints All Saints  Manchester  GMCA  England
Thomas Cook Warehouse: 27 Brown Street, Manchester   Manchester  GMCA  England
Residence for Mr W Morris   Manchester  GMCA  England
Congregational Chapel Victoria Street Blackpool   Blackpool  Lancashire  England
Residence for Mr Thomas Ridgeway   Manchester  GMCA  England
Stone Villa Lymm Cheshire (atrib)   Lymm  Cheshire  England
Wycliffe Congregational Chapel Wellington Road North Heaton Norris Heaton Norris  Stockport  GMCA  England
Independent Chapel Oldham Road and Osborne Street   Manchester  GMCA  England
Middleton Schools   Middleton  GMCA  England
Two pairs of Villas Dickenson Road Rusholme (atrib) Rusholme  Manchester  GMCA  England
Whalley Villa College Road Whalley Range Whalley Range  Manchester  GMCA  England
The Street” Heath Charnock (near Rivington) Heath Charnock  Rivington  Lancashire  England
The Firs Whitworth Lane Fallowfield Fallowfield  Manchester  GMCA  England
Lodge of The Firs with Attached Gateway Whitworth Lane Fallowfield Fallowfield  Manchester  GMCA  England
Residence for William Bellhouse   Manchester  GMCA  England
W. R. Callender & Sons Warehouse: 2 Charlotte Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
J. Brown & Sons Warehouse 9 Portland Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Kershaw Leese Sidebottom & Company Warehouse: 5-7 Portland Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Residence for E R Langworthy Upper Park Road Victoria Park Victoria Park  Manchester  GMCA  England
“Moorfield” Didsbury Withington  Manchester  GMCA  England
Alterations and Additions to Buile Hill Pendleton Pendleton  Salford  GMCA  England
Knott Mill Independent Chapel 378 Deansgate Knott Mill Knott Mill  Manchester  GMCA  England
Free Trade Hall Peter Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Gruner Schmidt & Company Warehouse. 9 Lower Mosley Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Brislington Villa Oxford Place Victoria Park Victoria Park  Manchester  GMCA  England
Dwelling House Victoria Park Victoria Park  Manchester  GMCA  England
C. P. Henderson Warehouse St Peter's Square Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
James Collier Harter and Company Warehouse Chapel Walks Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
William Scott & Company Warehouse (Lindencort House) 34 Charlotte Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Frazer House 36 Charlotte Street and 42 Portland Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
William Atkinson Warehouse: Marsden Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Offices of the Morning Star Dorset Street Fleet Street London Holborn  London  Greater London  England
Jones Brothers Warehouse 12 York Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Warehouse Cooper Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Edmund Potter Warehouse (Charlotte House) 10 Charlotte Street and George Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
“The Cedars” Didsbury Didsbury  Manchester  GMCA  England
E & J Jackson Warehouse 3 Portland Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Warehouse Portland Street/Dickinson Street Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Manchester Assize Court (Architectural Competition) Strangeways  Manchester  GMCA  England
Ashbury’s Offices and Canteen Ashton Old Road Openshaw Openshaw  Manchester  GMCA  England
National Westminster Bank 23 Sankey Street St. Helen's   St Helens  Merseyside  England
“Ford Bank.” Didsbury Didsbury  Manchester  GMCA  England
E.R. Langworthy Warehouse 12 Charlotte Street (including 17 George Street) Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
14 and 16 Charlotte Street (formerly Austen House) Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Manchester & Salford Bank Mosley Street. Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Warehouse for Mr Leo Schuster (12 Sackville Street?) Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Walton Lea Higher Walton Cheshire   Higher Walton  Cheshire  England
Walton Lea Cottages Chester Road Higher Walton   Higher Walton  Cheshire  England
Manchester and Salford District Bank Spring Gardens Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Whalley Bank Upper Chorlton Road Whalley Range  Manchester  GMCA  England
Congregational Chapel Lymm Cheshire   Lymm  Cheshire  England
West End Congregational Church, Duke Street, Southport   Southport  Merseyside  England
Offices: 59 King Street Manchester Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Public Hall Rylands Street Warrington   Warrington  Cheshire  England
Bakewell Railway Station   Bakewell  Derbyshire  England
Hassop Railway Station   Hassop  Derbyshire  England
Longstone Railway Station Longstone Lane   Longstone  Derbyshire  England
Miller's Dale Station Derbyshire   Millers Dale  Derbyshire  England
Rowsley Station   Rowsley  Derbyshire  England
Buxton Station   Buxton  Derbyshire  England
Proposed Hotel Blackpool   Blackpool  Lancashire  England
Portico Salford Free Library and Museum Peel Park   Salford  GMCA  England
St Pancras Hotel London (Architectural Competition)   London  Greater London  Competition entry
Warehouse for Mr Dewhurst. Central  Manchester  GMCA  England
Double Villa Victoria Park Victoria Park  Manchester  GMCA  England


Name Designation Formed Dissolved Location
Walters Barker and Ellis Architectural practice 1865 1867 Manchester