Building Name

Manchester School of Art, Cavendish Street, All Saints

1878 - 1881
Cavendish Street
All Saints, Manchester
GMCA, England
New build
Closed 2009
James Herd

 The origins of the Manchester School of: Art can be traced back to the Manchester School of Design which was established in the Manchester Royal Institution (now the City Art Gallery) in 1838. The infant institution survived but, given its financial fragility, the decision taken in the 1870s to leave the city centre and to build its own premises was heroic. In 1876, the land between Ormond Street and the Chorlton upon Medlock Town Hall and Dispensary was purchased for £10,500 as the site for a new School of Art. The land belonged to two brothers, Edward and Marcus Brown Westhead, who had inherited it from Mary Ann Brown, the only child of William Cooper. It had been rented out, and was used as a timber yard but there does not appear to have been any permanent buildings on the site before the School of Art. Frederick William Grafton, a wealthy calico printer, took the prominent role in purchasing the site and organising the erection of the building. Financial considerations led to his first design being turned down and his eventual building only appears in its present form   faced in stone rather than brick   because of the generosity of Grafton. Building was under way in 1880 and the Earl of Derby, another of the School's supporters, officially opened it in April 1881. Redmayne's Gothic design was received enthusiastically and later assessments have endorsed the harmony and elegance of the Cavendish Street facade with its large, distinctive windows which were, of course, essential for light, especially in a north facing building. Ornamentation was used with great effect, and the carving of the stone above the central doorway is superb.

The building only occupied the front part of the long plot and in 1898, the long felt need for a separate gallery, was finally realised with the opening of the red brick extension designed by J Gibbons Sankey. As the plaque on the Ormond Street side of the building indicates, it was financed by a £10,000 gift which had come from the profits of the Manchester Royal Jubilee Exhibition, 1887. The angels above the windows serve as witnesses to later extensions. By 1918, further buildings had filled up the Boundary Street frontage. The expanding role played by the School in art education during the twentieth century resulted in a constant search for additional accommodation, some of which was found by occupying other buildings around Grosvenor Square. In 1966, the accommodation problems of what had become the Regional College of Art were eased by the opening of the eight storeyed Chatham Building. An unusual zig-zag bridge spanned Boundary Street, connecting the old to the new. It became part of Manchester Polytechnic now Manchester Metropolitan University, in 1970.


THE MANCHESTER SCHOOL OF ART – We announced some time ago that the Committee of the School of Art had purchased an eligible piece of ground fronting Cavendish Street, All Saints, as a site for their new building.  …. Mr Redmayne, the architect, has in conjunction with that Committee devoted much attention to the provision of ample accommodation for the several art studies of the school in respect to space, access and especially to lighting. Mr Redmayne and Mr Muckley, the head master, have visited art schools in various parts of the country with a view to adopt any arrangement which may be considered worthy of incorporation in the new building. The structure which it is proposed to erect will cover a space of about 900 yards, the façade to extend from the Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall to Ormond Street. The elevation is to be in the Renaissance style, and will be executed in stone. The addition of two galleries, designed for art collections and lectures in connection with the school, while likely to prove eminently useful, will also add to the effectiveness of the building, which it is believed will be worthy of Manchester, as well as the purpose for which it is to be erected. The combining of these galleries with the school, and the Committee’s determination to execute the façade in stone have compelled them to face a contemplated outlay of £25,000 - a sum somewhat in excess of their original intention. [Manchester Guardian 5 March 1878 page 5]

MANCHESTER SCHOOL OF ART - The new building stands at the corner of Cavendish Street and Higher Ormond Street, opposite All Saints’ Church, the principal entrance being from the former street. The cost, inclusive of land, has been about £25,000. Gothic in style and faced with stone, it presents an appearance at once ornate and substantial. The arrangements internally seem to us all that could be desired, Mr Redmayne, the architect, having happily combined the two desiderata in a school of art - the useful and the beautiful. On the ground floor, in addition to rooms for head master and assistant masters, there are four large and well-lighted studios. Independent communication is afforded with each room by means of a spacious corridor from which there are two staircases leading to the rooms on the upper floor. Here is a corridor corresponding to the one just mentioned, and at either end is a large room for students. The intervening space to the front is devoted to what has been denominated the art gallery, and to the rear are a number of small class and other rooms. All the rooms are lofty and well-lighted, and particular attention has been paid to the ventilating and heating arrangements. Admirable, however, as are the premises for their primary object; they are also well adapted for the purpose of an exhibition. [Manchester Guardian 26 April 1881 page 5]

Reference    Manchester Guardian 5 March 1878 page 5
Reference    British Architect March 1878 Page 115
Reference    The Builder 1878:1071.
Reference    Manchester Guardian 26 April 1881 page 5
Reference    Manchester Guardian 28 April 1881 page 8 - opening ceremonies
Reference    Wyke - Walk round All Saints