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Alfred Waterhouse (19 July 1830 – 22 August 1905) was a Britishmarker architect, particularly associated with the Victorian Gothic revival. He is perhaps best known for his design for the Natural History Museummarker in Londonmarker, although he also built a wide variety of other buildings throughout the country. Financially speaking, Waterhouse was probably the most successful of all Victorian architects. Though expert within Gothic and Renaissance styles, Waterhouse never limited himself to a single architectural style.

Early life

Waterhouse was born on the 19th July 1830 in Aigburthmarker, Liverpoolmarker, the son of wealthy mill-owning Quaker parents. His brothers were accountant Edwin Waterhouse, co-founder of the Price Waterhouse partnership that now forms part of PriceWaterhouseCoopersmarker,and solicitor Theodore Waterhouse, who founded the firm of Waterhouse & Co. that continues to practise in the City of Londonmarker.

Alfred Waterhouse was educated at the Quaker run Grove School in Tottenhammarker near Londonmarker. He studied architecture under Richard Lane in Manchestermarker, and spent much of his youth travelling in Europe and studying in Francemarker, Italymarker and Germanymarker. Upon his return to England, Alfred set up his own architectural practice in Manchester.

Manchester practice

continued to practise in Manchester for 12 years, until moving his practice to London in 1865. Waterhouse's earliest commissions were for domestic buildings, but his success as a designer of public buildings was assured in 1859 when he won the open competition for the Manchester Assize Courtsmarker (now demolished). This work not only showed his ability to plan a complicated building on a large scale, but also marked him out as a champion of the Gothic cause.

In 1860, he married Elizabeth Hodgkin (1834-1918), the sister of the historian Thomas Hodgkin.

Waterhouse had connections with wealthy Quaker industrialist through schooling, marriage and religious affiliation. Many of these Quaker connections commissioned him to design and build country mansions, especially in the areas near Darlingtonmarker. Several of these were built for members of the Backhouse family, founders of Backhouse's Bank, a forerunner of Barclays Bank. For Alfred Backhouse, Waterhouse built Pilmore Hall (1863), now known as Rockliffe Hall, in Hurworth-on-Teesmarker. In the same village he built The Grange (1875), now known as Hurworth Grange Community Centremarker, which Alfred Backhouse had commissioned as a wedding gift for his nephew, James. E. Backhouse. Another Backhouse family mansion designed and built by Waterhouse was Dryderdale Hall (1872), near Hamsterleymarker, which many might recognize as the home of Cyril Kinnear in the movie Get Carter.

London practice

In 1865, Waterhouse was one of the architects selected to compete for the Royal Courts of Justicemarker. The new University Club of New Yorkmarker was undertaken in 1866. In 1868 and nine years after his work on the Manchester Assize Courts, another competition secured for Waterhouse the design of Manchester Town Hallmarker, where he was able to show a firmer and more original handling of the Gothic style. The same year he was involved in rebuilding part of Caius College, Cambridgemarker; this was not his first university work, for he had already worked on Balliol College, Oxfordmarker in 1867, and the new buildings of the Cambridge Unionmarker Society, in 1866.

At Caius, out of deference to the Renaissance treatment of the older parts of the college, this Gothic element was intentionally mingled with classic detail, while Balliol and Pembroke College, Cambridgemarker, which followed in 1871, are typical of the style of his mid career with Gothic tradition tempered by individual taste and by adaptation to modern needs. Girton Collegemarker, Cambridgemarker, a building of simpler type, dates originally from the same period (1870), but has been periodically enlarged by further buildings. Two important domestic works were undertaken in 1870 and 1871 respectively — Eaton Hallmarker in Cheshiremarker for the Duke of Westminster, and Heythrop Hallmarker, Oxfordshire, the latter a restoration of a fairly strict classic type.

received, without competition, the commission to build the Natural History Museummarker in South Kensingtonmarker (1873–1881), a design which marks an epoch in the modern use of architectural terracotta and which was to become his best known work. Waterhouse's other works in London included the National Liberal Clubmarker (a study in Renaissance composition), University College Hospitalmarker, the Surveyors' Institution in London's Great George Street (1896), and the Jenner Institute of Preventive Medicine in Chelseamarker (1895).

From the late 1860s, Waterhouse lived in the Readingmarker area and was responsible for several significant buildings there. These included his own residences of Foxhill Housemarker (1868) and Yattendon Court (1877), together with Reading Town Hallmarker (1875) and Reading Schoolmarker (1870). Foxhill House is still in use by the University of Reading, as are his Whiteknights House (built for his father) and East Thorpe Housemarker (built in 1880 for Alfred Palmer).

For the Prudential Assurance Company, Waterhouse designed many offices, including their Holborn Bars head office in Holbornmarker and branch offices in Southamptonmarker, Nottinghammarker and Leedsmarker. He also designed offices for the National Provincial Bank in Piccadillymarker (1892) and in Manchester. The Liverpool Infirmarymarker was Waterhouse's largest hospital; and St. Mary's Hospitalmarker in Manchester, the Alexandra Hospitalmarker in Rhylmarker, and extensive additions at the Nottingham General Hospitalmarker, also involved him. He was involved in a series of works for the Victoria University of Manchester, of which he was made LL.D. in 1895.

Holborn Bars
Holborn Bars
educational buildings designed by Waterhouse include Yorkshire College, Leedsmarker (1878), the Victoria Buildingmarker for the Liverpool University Collegemarker (now University of Liverpool) (1885), St Paul's Schoolmarker in Hammersmithmarker (1881-4; demolished 1968); and the Central Technical College in London's Exhibition Road (1881).

Among works not already mentioned are the Cambridge Unionmarker building and subsequently a similar building for the Oxford Unionmarker; Strangeways Prisonmarker; St Margaret's School, Busheymarker; the Metropole Hotel in Brightonmarker; Hove Town Hall; Knutsfordmarker town hall; Alloa Town Hall; St. Elisabeth's churchmarker in Reddishmarker; Heaton Park Congregational Church in Prestwich, Darlington town clock, covered market hall and Backhouse's Bank (now Barclay's Bank); the King's Weigh House chapel in Mayfairmarker, Hutton Hall in Yorkshiremarker, St. Mary's Church in Twyford, Hampshire (1878) shows interestingly similar patterning to the Natural History Museummarker and was designed at the same time.


Waterhouse became a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1861, and was President from 1888 to 1891. He obtained a grand prix for architecture at the Paris Exposition of 1867, and a "Rappel" in 1878. In the same year he received the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and was made an associate of the Royal Academymarker, of which body he became a full member in 1885 and treasurer in 1898. He was also a member of the academies of Viennamarker (1869), Brusselsmarker (1886), Antwerpmarker (1887), Milanmarker (1888) and Berlinmarker (1889), and a corresponding member of the Institut de Francemarker (1893). After 1886 he was constantly called upon to act as assessor in architectural competitions, and was a member of the international jury appointed to adjudicate on the designs for the west front of Milan Cathedralmarker in 1887. In 1890 he served as architectural member of the Royal Commission on the proposed enlargement of Westminster Abbeymarker as a place of burial.

Later life

A memorial to Waterhouse at Yattendon, Berkshire.
Waterhouse retired from architecture in 1902, having practised in partnership with his son, Paul Waterhouse, from 1891. He died at Yattendonmarker Court on the 22 August 1905.

See also


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