Style & Meaning

Architecture in Thomas Horsfall's Manchester

In The Example of Germany, Thomas Horsfall criticized Manchester for not having "a single building" that is "pleasant to look at," and having nothing to offer "the community that can make them respect their city and feel glad to be alive." (Horsfall 1904, 22) This, he saw as proof of the inefficiency of his town's municipal government. Thomas Horsfall's mentor and inspiration John Ruskin, wanted to bring art to the working classes through architecture. Though not an architect himself, Ruskin wrote an essay critiquing the architectural styles found in Manchester. In his essay The Nature of Gothic, he disapproved of classical architecture because he thought the geometric nature of its design enslaved the workers who build it. (Ruskin 1892, 14) For Ruskin, Gothic was the ideal architecture for Manchester, because of the freedom of artistic expression it gave the builder. Unlike the classical style, the asymmetrical appearance of gothic buildings, with its ornamentations of nature, reflected God's love for the imperfect. This neo-Gothic movement was meant to bring nature back into the city and to inspire the working masses. By examining different forms of architecture found in Manchester, we can see how the visions of Thomas Horsfall and John Ruskin influenced building design throughout the city.