Friday, March 7, 2008

Palace Hotel, Manchester

This depiction of a building on a building is a far cry from my previous Manchester vignette. We’re now well and truly in the Victorian era with a combination of tough, very red bricks and dark red terracotta courtesy of the ubiquitous Doulton’s. So what’s the castle all about? Well, this building, now the Palace Hotel, was originally the offices of Refuge Assurance. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse in the early 1890s, in the heyday of terracotta and brick (and indeed of Doulton’s). Waterhouse’s son, Paul, did the adjacent extension. You can’t get a much better symbol of safety and refuge than the double towers of a medieval castle gatehouse. So that’s what we have on this corner – the full castle Monty, with cross-shaped arrow slits, battlements, and overhanging gallery with holes (machicolations, in castle-parlance), to allow the imagined retainers to pour boiling oil on attackers below. One hopes the insurance business was rather more laid back, but we get the idea. High security, Victorian style.


Peter Ashley said...

I was in Stratford-on-Avon yesterday, and before disappearing into the Garrick Inn took note of the big red blancmange that is the 1883 Midland Bank. Between the storeys are terracotta reliefs of Shakespeare's plays in terracotta. Very satisfying, by Barfield of Leicester.

Philip Wilkinson said...

When I lived in London our front room had a fireplace decorated with Minton tiles depicting scenes from Shakespeare's plays. Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Caliban in The Tempest, marvellous. Shame you can't take these things with you.