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Manchester University Laboratories, Manchester

Description: Manchester University Laboratories

Grade: II
Date Listed: 19 October 2011
English Heritage Building ID: 1402638

OS Grid Reference: SJ8450196490
OS Grid Coordinates: 384505, 396496
Latitude/Longitude: 53.4650, -2.2349

Locality: Manchester
County: Manchester
Country: England
Postcode: M13 9NR

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Listing Text


University science laboratories, now partially administrative offices (Chemical Laboratories) and café (west part of polygonal laboratory building). Chemical Laboratories 1871-3, Schorlemmer Laboratory 1895, both by Alfred Waterhouse, polygonal laboratory 1904 and John Morley Laboratories 1909, both by Paul Waterhouse. Buff brick, red brick, stone dressings, and red tiles.

Reason for Listing

The 1871-3 Chemical Laboratories and 1895 Schorlemmer Laboratory by Alfred Waterhouse, and the 1904 polygonal laboratory and 1909 John Morley Laboratories by Paul Waterhouse, at the University of Manchester, are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: Two of these four purpose-built science laboratories were designed by the eminent architect, Alfred Waterhouse, and two were designed by his son, Paul Waterhouse. Father and son both designed a number of university buildings at Oxford, Cambridge (Alfred), and various provincial universities, many of which are listed.
* Historic interest: These four buildings are all bespoke science laboratories, providing facilities to ensure that the university was at the forefront of scientific research, and attracted the best professors in the later C19 and into the C20. The two C19 buildings are significant as relatively early examples and the Chemistry Laboratories building actually pre-dates the Cavendish Laboratory, built in 1874 at the University of Cambridge.
* Design: Practical input into the design of the Chemistry Laboratories was provided by the Professor of Chemistry, Henry Enfield Roscoe, who firmly believed in the primacy of practical teaching as evidenced by the provision of large, well-lit and ventilated laboratories with overlooking observation posts, and similar large laboratories were present in the subsequent buildings also.
* Interiors: the Chemistry Laboratories retains the original lecture room, with demonstration bench, raked benching and writing slopes; other survivals in the four buildings include original flooring, doors, staircases, high-level observation posts, and stone sinks (Schorlemmer Laboratory).
* Architectural interest: Both the Chemistry Laboratories and the John Morley Laboratories are designed in a picturesque Gothic idiom to complement the Grade II* main quadrangle of the university.
* Group Value: The buildings all interconnect, and clearly demonstrate the integrated development of the science faculty at the University of Manchester. As a group they are immediately to the west of the main quadrangle (Grade II*), attached by a later link block, and are attached to the Schunck Building (Grade II) and the Pharmacy Department [formerly Medical School] (Grade II).
* Date: The Chemistry Laboratories building was built by Alfred Waterhouse in 1871-3, and was one of three buildings initially designed by him as the core of Owens College when moved to its present Oxford Road location, the other two being the west range of the Main Quadrangle and the Medical School. The establishment subsequently became a university in 1880.


The buildings being assessed for possible designation are a group of science laboratories located to the rear of the main Oxford Road quadrangle of the University of Manchester. They are: the Chemical Laboratories, 1871-3 by Alfred Waterhouse; the Schorlemmer Laboratory, 1895 by Alfred Waterhouse; a polygonal laboratory, 1904 by Paul Waterhouse; and the John Morley Laboratories, 1909 by Paul Waterhouse.

The University of Manchester had originated as Owens College in 1851. It moved to the present Oxford Road location in 1873, having appointed the architect Alfred Waterhouse to design the new buildings in 1869, with work beginning in 1870. The first phase of construction included the rear, west range of the main quadrangle, the Chemical Laboratories, and the Medical School, all of which were completed by 1874. The west range, with the Chemical Laboratories to the left and Burlington Street in the foreground, are shown on a contemporary engraving (Pevsner, 2001, 107). In 1880 the establishment became the first college of the new Victoria University, with Liverpool joining in 1884 and Leeds in 1887. The 1893 Ordnance Survey map shows a narrow link block attaching the Chemical Laboratories to the west range of the main quadrangle. Waterhouse had also built the north side and part of the east side of the main quadrangle, fronting Oxford Road, between 1883-7, the latter section in a grander style befitting the main elevation of a new university. The Professor of Chemistry at this time was Henry Enfield Roscoe, whose quality and methods of teaching meant he was primarily responsible for Manchester being the leading school of chemistry in the country. He also spread an appreciation of the national importance of chemistry through his writings and public lectures. Roscoe had studied in Germany under Robert Bunsen and worked with him on photo-chemical reactions. His experience of Bunsen's laboratory influenced his subsequent teaching methods which were firmly based in the belief that the teaching of chemistry must take place in the laboratory rather than in the lecture room. He encouraged this approach both by example and by the provision of facilities for its undertaking, resulting in many more original investigations being published from his laboratories than any other laboratory in the country during his 30 years of professorship. In 1877 he wrote the 'Systematic Treatise on Chemistry' with Carl Schorlemmer, which became a standard textbook. He was awarded many honours including being elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1863, honorary member of the German Chemical Society in 1879, President of the Chemical Society, the Society of Chemical Industry, and the British Association, and was knighted in 1884. He also served as a Carnegie trustee from 1901.

The Schorlemmer Laboratory, also designed by Alfred Waterhouse, was set back from Burlington Street and attached to the west side of the Chemical Laboratories. It was funded by public subscription, and was built as a memorial laboratory to Carl Schorlemmer (1834-1892), the first professor of organic chemistry in England. The building opened in May 1895. Schorlemmer had initially been employed as Roscoe's private assistant in 1859, having previously studied in Germany and attended lectures by Bunsen, which had resulted in his adopting chemistry as a profession. He was subsequently appointed lab assistant, lecturer, and then professor in 1874. Schorlemmer's work on hydrocarbons resulted in a hypothesis which became one of the fundamental concepts of modern organic structural theory. He also worked on aniline dyes. He was friends with Friedrich Engels and also knew Karl Marx, whose views he shared, using his scientific ideas in his political philosophy. Schorlemmer's influence in Communist ideologies (though he was never a practising communist) was acknowledged in the Soviet Union and much of eastern Europe until the end of the 1980s.

In 1895 Henry Edward Schunck (1820-1903) donated his entire personal laboratory, built in 1871, to the university. He was a chemist who undertook research into natural dyes, training in Germany before returning to Manchester to become chemical manager of the family calico printing firm, Schunck, Souchay & Co. In 1904 the university achieved independence and autonomy and in this year the laboratory building was moved from Kersal in Salford and re-erected by Paul Waterhouse, son of Alfred Waterhouse, on the west side of the Chemical Laboratories and Schorlemmer Laboratory as a mirror-image of the original building. At the same time Paul Waterhouse in-filled the area between this and the pre-existing buildings by building a polygonal laboratory attached to the south gable wall of the Schorlemmer Laboratory and abutting the west wall of the Chemical Laboratories, with a wing to the left attached to the Schunck Laboratory.

In 1909 the John Morley Laboratories were built by Paul Waterhouse in the space between the Schorlemmer Laboratory and Medical School to the north. A contemporary account of the building's official opening on 4th October 1909 states that the new laboratories were built through the munificence of Andrew Carnegie, who had presented £10,000 to the university for the purpose and requested that they be known as the John Morley Chemical Laboratories. The building included a large laboratory for organic chemistry; research rooms; private laboratories; other accommodation for the professors; a large laboratory for third-year students; new service and store rooms; and cold-storage and ice-making machinery. Sir Henry Roscoe declared the new laboratories open and stated that he was glad that Mr Carnegie, who had endowed libraries throughout the English-speaking world, should now have established a scientific laboratory, he hoped not for the last time. It is not known whether there are any other laboratories in England funded by Carnegie. John Morley, in honour of whom the building was named, was 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn, Liberal MP and Minister, including Secretary of State for India, and Chancellor of the University of Manchester from 1908. The 1922 OS map shows the completed group of laboratories, with the John Morley Laboratories in its present form as an L-shaped building. This replaced a smaller rectangular building shown on the 1908 OS map running north-south along the western boundary of the group. It is, however, apparent upon inspection that the shorter south arm of the L-shaped building has differences in appearance and construction which suggests that it was not all one phase and this section was probably a later extension built between 1909 and 1922.


Chemical Laboratories: square with three ranges with double-pitched roofs running east-west, containing two large parallel former science labs with basement labs beneath, the northern range housing individual rooms opening off a corridor on each floor, with a lecture hall at the east end of the first floor, and a range to the east side with steep double-pitched roof running north-south with gables to Burlington Street and rear courtyard elevations, containing individual rooms with a former science lab on the first floor to the Burlington Street side.
Schorlemmer Laboratory: rectangular building built against the west side of the Chemical Laboratories. Large science lab on the ground floor and another in the basement.
Polygonal Laboratory: Built against south wall of Schorlemmer Laboratory and west wall of the Chemical Laboratories, with polygonal science lab on ground floor and workshop in basement. West wing separated by a cross wall and attached to east wall of Schunk Building; formerly additional laboratories.

John Morley Laboratories: rectangular building running east-west attached to north side of Chemical Laboratories and Schorlemmer Laboratory. Original building contains two large laboratories, research rooms, private laboratories, and offices. Short south arm at west end is later and not of special interest.

All four buildings abut at least one of the other laboratory buildings and interconnects with them.

Chemical Laboratories: Pale buff brick of similar tone to stone of main quadrangle, with stone dressings and red tile roofs. One and two storeys over a raised basement. Burlington Street elevation; from left a range of six bays separated by stepped buttresses with tumbled brickwork, with rebuilt brick parapet. Ground floor has tall rectangular windows with timber casements, relating to a science lab. High basement lit by similar large windows opening into an area. Tall industrial square stack with Italianate detailing set back at west end. At east end is slightly projecting three-bay gable. Flat-headed doorway with flanking window to each side in basement, three pointed-arch windows to raised ground floor and first floor, with circular window in gable apex with quatrefoil plate tracery. Arched windows have alternating brick and stone voussoirs forming polychrome effect with stone hoodmoulds over. Tall, square campanile tower with pyramidal roof set back at east end. Rear courtyard elevation; from left a three-bay gable, a second adjoining three-bay gable, with a three-bay range to the right. First gable has similar pointed-arch windows on ground and first floors, with circular window at the apex. Second gable has two pairs of segmental arched windows to the basement and ground floor, with three tall, pointed-arch windows on the first floor, relating to the lecture hall. To right are three pairs of segmental-arched windows to basement and ground floor, with paired flat-headed windows above on first floor.

Schorlemmer Laboratory: Red brick. Single storey over a basement. Only the six-bay west elevation is visible facing into a small courtyard. Slightly projecting basement level with stone coping and square windows. At right-hand end is a segmental-arched doorway. Raised ground floor has tall, rectangular windows and a stepped-brick eaves level with parapet. Windows have stone sills and lintels and wooden casements, those on the ground floor with centre-pivoting top lights. Above the second to fifth bay windows are metal wall straps.

Polygonal laboratory: Pale buff brick. Single storey over a basement facing Burlington Street. From left (abutting Schunk Building), two bays with double-pitched red tile roof, canted bay with pyramidal roof, narrow bay abutting Chemical Laboratories. Two left bays and left and centre face of canted bay have wide rectangular six-light casement windows, the two left with small panes to the upper lights. Two-light rectangular casement windows to right face of canted bay and right bay. Moulded stone sill band with deep rendered band over basement windows, which are similar to those on ground floor. Brick buttresses to canted bay, lantern ventilator to roof.

John Morley Laboratories: Pale buff brick with dark brown stone dressings to rear courtyard elevations. Small-pane glazing to all windows. Red brick elsewhere. Two storeys over a raised basement. East elevation from left has a narrow bay abutting the Chemical Laboratories, a polygonal stair turret, and two wider bays to the right. Doorway in left bay with large stone mullion and transom window above and a smaller mullion window on first floor. Two right bays have wide six-light mullion and transom windows to the basement and ground floor and three-light mullion windows on the first floor. Stair turret has round-headed windows to lowest level. The upper windows are separated by decorative stone panels and have tracery heads. Moulded modillion cornice with plain gargoyles, a blind arcade stone parapet, and a steep polygonal spire. Large, projecting angled gable to outer corner. Stone mullion and transom windows to basement, ground and first floors. Between the ground and first floors and to the gable apex are decorative stone panels. North elevation from left is of three bays with similar mullion and transom windows to the basement and ground floor and mullion windows to the first floor. Original basement doorway in right-hand bay inscribed CHEMISTRY DEPT on the stone lintel. Left-hand window on the ground floor altered to form a doorway with a flight of metal steps, flat-roofed canopy and hoist arm on the left side. Brick ridge stack.

Chemical Laboratories: Main entrance in link block (not of special interest) opens into entrance hall with open well staircase with turned timber balusters, moulded handrail, and newel posts with ball finials, now painted grey. Stair treads are concrete sections with chamfered undersides slotted together. The two parallel former science labs are separated by a single wall pierced by large, segmental arched openings. Both have arched braced timber trusses rising from corbels supporting the timber-lined roofs. Southern lab has roof lights to north slope, northern lab has roof lights to both slopes. Each lab also has an angled observation post with a window set high up in the inner corner on the east side. High basement is fire-proofed with iron columns (probably using Dennet system of wrought-iron bars and concrete arches used by Waterhouse both in Manchester Town Hall (1868) and the west range of the main quadrangle). Lecture hall on first floor retains original demonstration bench, raked wooden benching with flip-up leather-covered seats, and writing slopes. Other features of note include patterned encaustic tiles to ground-floor corridor, terrazzo flooring to other corridors, four and six-panelled doors, and moulded corncices.

Schorlemmer Laboratory: Tall laboratory on ground floor has arched braced timber trusses rising from corbels to support timber-lined roof with central ventilation grilles and five skylights to the east slope. Features of note include the wooden parquet floor and shallow stone sinks (now cased in laminated wood) on iron brackets beneath the windows. Beneath each sink is a cast-iron radiator. Across the south gable wall is a possible former balcony above the windows supported on iron brackets. Basement laboratory has series of iron columns, now boxed-in, supporting cross beams.

Polygonal laboratory: Parquet flooring, fire-proofed basement with iron beams and concrete arches running east-west. Set in the original south external wall of the Schorlemmer Laboratory, now the internal north wall of the polygonal laboratory, is a granite plaque dated 1903 commemorating the centenary of Dalton's Atomic theory.

John Morley Laboratories: Features of note include the cantilevered stone spiral stair with swept handrail in the stair turret, terrazzo flooring to the corridors, original panelled doors with partial small-pane glazing. The large ground-floor former science lab, to the rear of smaller offices and personal labs, has five timber queen-post roof trusses with decorative pierced arcading to the spandrels. Six large skylights to both roof slopes. A modern first floor has been inserted. On the ground floor, close to the entrance into the Schorlemmer Laboratory is a bronze medallion to William Henry Perkin, Waynflete Professor of Organic Chemistry 1892-1912. There is also a plaque over the adjacent double doors with raised lettering stating THE JOHN MORLEY LABORATORIES 1909.

SUBSIDIARY ITEMS: Low stepped brick wall with chamfered stone coping and decorative iron railings in front of areas on Burlington Street. Continues on from similar fencing in front of south elevation of west range of main quadrangle, which runs between two shaped stone piers.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.