"An architect not of major repute, either in a provincial or national context.” English Heritage
Occasionally, a London-based architectural establishment lets slip its prejudices. However, it is for others to decide whether the accuracy of the above quotation, made in support of English Heritage’s decision to de-list the former Ambassador Cinema in Pendleton can be justified.
John Knight, was born in 1884, Census returns indicating that he was the second son of John James Knight, builder and contractor of Pendleton, Salford. By 1901 he was articled to Whitelegg and Whittaker of Brazennose Street, Manchester and studied at the Architectural School of the Manchester University. In 1907, at the age of 23 he started to practice on his own account with offices at 40 South King Street, Manchester
Some of his earliest commissions were cinema theatres, and in the early days of cinema building he was widely regarded as one of the most eminent designers of such buildings. His appreciation of art, as well as his familiarity with the latest principles and demands of construction, was deemed evident in the later Kingsway Super Cinema, Levenshulme, and the Ambassador Super Cinema, Pendleton, both of which had seating accommodation for about 2,000 patrons. Other cinemas in the Manchester area included the Claremont Super Cinema, Moss Side; the Premier Super Cinema, Cheetham Hill; the Victory, Rochdale; the Corona Super Cinema, Stretford; and the West End Super Cinema, Whalley Range.
In 1930 it was reported that “John Knight is everywhere recognised as in the front rank of architects who have made a speciality of theatre and cinema design.” However, in the de-listing of the Ambassador Cinema in 2001, English Heritage, dismissed him, somewhat unfairly, as an architect “not of major repute, either in a provincial or national context.” He also carried out a number of large industrial buildings and office buildings and was responsible for tobacco factories for Muratti and Company Ltd and R J Lea; bakeries for W J Brookes & Sons Ltd and Messrs John Scott of Bootle; schools at Eccles; Eccles Masonic Hall; and the King Edward the Seventh Memorial Hospital at Eccles and Patricroft; besides many large residences.
Little is known of his private life. After the First World War he moved to Park Hill, Broadoak Park Worsley, before moving to Calderbrook, Stamford Road, Ellesmere Park, in the mid-1930s. He was also a prominent mason. During the last few years of his life he suffered from the effects of a motoring accident, when he lost the partial use of his left hand.
John Knight died at Calderbrook on 11 December 1937, aged 53, leaving a widow, Jessie, and at least one child. His funeral was held at Manchester Crematorium on Tuesday 14 December.
1907 John Knight, 40, South King Street
1916 John Knight 5 Cross Street Manchester
1920 John Knight MSA 93 & 96 Howarth's Buildings. 5, Cross Street
1925 John Knight FSARC FIAr., 89, 90, 93 & 95A Howarth's Buildings. 5, Cross Street
1928 John Knight Architect & Surveyor 89, 93 & 95A Howarth's Buildings. 5, Cross Street. Tel: City 4540
1929 John Knight FRIBA FIAr Architect & Surveyor 89 & 95A Howarth's Buildings. 5, Cross Street (also 93 Howarth's Buildings in individual listings)
1933-1936 :89, 93 & 95A Howarth's Buildings. 5, Cross Street Manchester
1937 John Knight FRIBA FIAr., 89, 110, 111 and 112 Howarth's Buildings. 5, Cross Street
1923 -1936 : Park Hill, Broadoak Park, Worsley
1937 : "Calderbrook," Stafford Road, Eccles and Bryn Tirion, Tyn-y-Groes, near Conway.