A Look at the Influential Manchester Architect Alfred Waterhouse

Alfred Waterhouse (1830-1905) is one of the most acclaimed figures of Victorian architecture. He designed a number of buildings in Manchester, and his architectural style is still influencing the design of local buildings to this day.

Also, Waterhouse was president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) from 1888 to 1891. Fast forward to modern day, and an exciting new development in Manchester is being named after this influential architect.

Waterhouse’s architecture career and style

Waterhouse studied architecture in Manchester under Richard Lane. He later established his own architectural practice in the city.

Over 100 years later, Waterhouse’s distinctive Victorian Gothic Revival style can be seen in his buildings still standing today in Manchester and other parts of England. Waterhouse paid particular attention to detail and has influenced many people in architecture and design across the country.

In the many buildings he designed, he used a range of materials, but Waterhouse is most known for his use of terracotta and red brick. The use of these materials was incorporated in numerous university buildings across the north of England and is a major factor for the institutions being called “red brick universities”.


Buildings designed by Alfred Waterhouse

Alfred Waterhouse designed the Grade I listed Manchester Town Hall, which opened in 1877. For his work on this project, he was awarded the Royal Gold Medal by RIBA in 1878.

The town hall is a much-loved landmark, and Manchester City Council are updating the architectural masterpiece to lovingly restore it. It’s currently undergoing a £330m renovation, and the scheme is over halfway through the construction phase.

Across Waterhouse’s career, he designed a number of other distinguished public, civic and private buildings in Manchester. Another building he designed is Strangeways Gaol, which is also known as HMP Manchester and is Grade II listed.

On top of that, he received national recognition after winning a competition for the design of Manchester Assize Courts, but this building was hit in the blitzes of 1940 and 1941. And another notable building he designed was the Natural History Museum in London, which was his first major commission in the capital.

Throughout his illustrious career, Waterhouse designed a whole raft of buildings for educational use. This included grammar and private schools, village schools and college and university buildings.

One of the things he is most known for is the red brick university buildings he designed in Oxford and Cambridge and what later became Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester universities.

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Manchester Town Hall main clock-tower over a clean blue sky.

A development named after the influential architect

On the northern edge of central Manchester, the former site of the Boddingtons Brewery is currently undergoing a long-awaited regeneration. The site has been renamed to Waterhouse Gardens, paying homage to Alfred Waterhouse.

The scheme will incorporate striking red brick buildings with towering chimneys, reflecting Waterhouse’s use of terracotta and his enthusiasm for the Victorian Gothic Revival style.

And Waterhouse Gardens is located adjacent to Manchester College’s new city campus – the kind of projects Waterhouse worked on throughout his life.

The scheme will provide 556 new city centre homes, in addition to commercial and retail space and a range of amenities. The development will likely appeal to students and young professionals.

Groundworks recently commenced on Waterhouse Gardens. Construction is scheduled for completion in Q2 2026.

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Manchester Assize Courts, Manchester, England, during the 1890s, vintage engraving.