John Rylands Library and Deansgate

John Rylands Library.

John Rylands Library

The John Rylands Library on Deansgate deserves a small page of its own. It is a great red sandstone block, immensely powerful in visual impact, with brooding Gothic defences. The enlightened university authorities have made it open to the public, and a visit is a must. The interior is in the spirit of Waterhouse’s Town Hall or the Natural History Museum in London, or the University Museum in Oxford. At one end by the stair is a work by John Cassidy, a group of a woman, aged man and a youth, apparently representing Theology, Science and Art. In the main Reading Room on the upper floor, which is preserved with original décor and seems to be used as the library stacks, by the same sculptor are white marble statues of Rylands himself, and wife, she shown in middle age and rather reptilian, signed and dated 1907. Around the walls are 20 small statues in red sandstone, each atop a small pillar, showing Shakespeare, Goethe, Calvin, Bunyan and so forth. The sculptor apparently was Robert Bridgeman of Lichfield, not a familiar name to me. Notable too the decorative ironwork. And throughout the building are Gothic bosses and ornaments in an animalistic, medieval church style. The architect was Basil Champneys, and the building dates from the 1890s, more obvious in the decorations than the exterior.

Also in Deansgate

A little south of the John Rylands Library, No. 151, by Lloyd Street, is Elliot House, Queen Anneish in terracotta and sandstone, once the School Board Offices, by the architects Royle and Bennett and dated 1878. It is notable for the head of Athena above a window, and the rather sensitively done foliated cherubic half figures flanking the corner windows, with lions’ heads below.

Going northwards, at the corner of John Dalton Street is no. 105-113, which is Queen’s Chambers, dated 1876, and Gothic, once the home of the Queen’s Building Society – on the side of the building round the corner is a statue of a queen.

No. 62-68 is the Haywards building, dating from 1877, with an Italianate front with three good bearded and grotesque headstones, and more minor ornament. This sculptural ornament, apparently, is by J. J. Millson (of the Fire Station and Coroners Court), though surely the style provides no clue, and someone called Williams. Opposite this is one of the entrances to Barton Arcade, all in glass and iron, and which dating from 1870, is the oldest arcade in Manchester. The interior has several stories with nice wavy ironwork.

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