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Visiting Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester, England: Neo-Gothic Monumentality by Alfred and Paul Waterhouse

Updated on May 3, 2019
Flag of England
Flag of England | Source
Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester
Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester | Source
Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester
Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester | Source

Conspicuous, sandstone edifice in a great city's institution

Completed in 1902, Whitworth Hall functions as one of the leading buildings of the University of Manchester. The structure was the work of both Alfred (1) and Paul Waterhouse (2).

Executed in sandstone, the building, in Neo-Gothic style, the building is named for benefactor Sir Joseph Whitworth (3). As part of the Neo-Gothic expression, widely known features such as pointed arches (4), pinnacles, and flying buttresses are liberally present.

Internally, the Hall's auditorium seats 675, and is used for private hire as well as for University functions. It is the University's venue for degree congregations.

Manchester University is one of England's great academic institutions, both in size and in historical and scholarly reputation. It was chartered as the Victoria University of Manchester in 1880, having developed from Owens College, founded in 1851. Its formal title of 'Victoria University of Manchester' was abolished in 2004, when it merged with the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), which had previously been a separate, chartered entity. University Colleges formerly linked with Manchester in Liverpool and Leeds emerged as independent universities in their own right in the early 20th century.

Women were admitted to the University from 1883. In 1941 the University published a history, by Mabel Phythian Tylecoat, of the higher education of women at Manchester University (5).

Distinguished physiologist Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell was appointed President and Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University in 2010.

Other prominent individuals associated in one way or another with Manchester University have included many Nobel Prizewinners, among whom have been Ernest, Lord Rutherford of Nelson (Chemistry, 1908), Sir Joseph J. Thomson (Physics, 1906), Sir James Chadwick (Physics, 1935), Sir John Cockcroft (Physics, 1951) and Sir John Hicks (Economics, 1972).

Other prominent individuals also connected with the University have included (in no particular order of priority): language philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (6), computer theorist Alan Turing, atomic theorist John Dalton, palaeobotanist and social activist Marie Stopes, writer Anthony Burgess, playwright Robert Bolt, Israel's President Chaim Weizmann, architect Norman Foster, musical composer Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, broadcaster Anna Ford (who served as the University's Chancellor), applied mathematician Sir James Lighthill, British education minister Ellen Wilkinson, Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce, Archbishop Donald Coggan, historian A. J. P. Taylor, and many others.

Whitworth Hall is situated at the intersection of Oxford Road and Burlington Street, Manchester.

February 14, 2014


(1) Other buildings for which Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) was also responsible for Manchester Town Hall, the Natural History Museum, London, Balliol College, Oxford, and many others.

(2) Paul Waterhouse (1861-1924) was also responsible for Girton College, Cambridge and University College Hospital, London (both together with Alfred Waterhouse), and many other buildings.

(3) Sir Joseph Whitworth was an industrialist who made many bequests in Manchester. He was responsible for important armament developments and for the system of industrial measurement known as British Standard Whitworth; he served as President of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

(4) Some of the building's window and entrance arching is rounded rather than pointed.

(5) Mabel Phythian Tylecote, The Education of Women at Manchester University, 1883 to 1933, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1941. Ashburne Hall, founded in 1900, was an early residence for women students; its history was described in 1939 by Dr. Phoebe Sheavyn in: Sheavyn, Phoebe A. B. (1939) 'Ashburne Hall, 1900-1930', in: The Journal of the University of Manchester, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 66-70.

(6) Fascinatingly, Ludwig Wittgenstein came to his interest in linguistic and mathematical philosophy while studying aeronautical engineering at Manchester University and went on to develop his ideas under Bertrand Russell.

Some sourcing: wikipedia

Map location of Greater Manchester
Map location of Greater Manchester | Source

Also worth seeing

In Manchester itself, included among numerous fine buildings are: Manchester Town Hall (also by Alfred Waterhouse); the neo-Classical Manchester Central Library, Manchester Cathedral, and many others.

At Salford (distance: approx. 3 kilometres), the Peel Building of Salford University is a remarkable, Victorian brick structure.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Manchester Airport (England) , where car hire is available; there is direct rail access from Manchester Airport to Manchester Piccadilly railroad station in Downtown Manchester. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. It is advisable to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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