Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Salford Museum and Art Gallery, in Peel Park, Salford, Greater Manchester, opened to the public in November 1850 as the Royal Museum and Public Library, was the first "unconditionally free" public library in the United Kingdom. The gallery and museum are devoted to the history of Salford and Victorian art and architecture.
Through the use of public subscriptions along with Queens Park and Phillips Park in Manchester the original site Lark Hill estate and mansion was purchased for its purpose to become the first Royal Museum and Public Library to open to the public in November 1850. The story begins by Edward Langworthy, former Mayor of Salford and early supporter of the museum, who died in 1874 leaving a £10,000 bequest to the museum. This bequest was used to build the west wing, named Langworthy Wing. This wing connected the north and south wings. The Langworthy wing was constructed over three storey and “was built of brick with stone dressing with a glass and Welch-slate roof, with a pediment gable.” In the present time it serves as the public entrance. Throughout the years the popularity of the museum significantly increased and it was in 1936 that the original site Lark Hill Mansion was found to be unsound and due to structural instability was demolished. Two years was required for the new wing, which was designed in the same fashion as the Langworthy Wing to be completed and opened in 1938. The decision to “echo the Langworthy Wing in the 1930s is remarkable in the architectural climate of the time and it is tempting to argue that Walker’s addition is the first Victorian revival building in the country. “ The building development was a gradual evolution which was commenced by different architects evolving their ideas at different times. Throughout its development the building has achieved “a degree of architectural consistency as a result of nearly a century of evolution.” Since it was open more than 160,000 visitors was attracted to the museum in its first year to explore casts of antique statues, collection of paintings, Egyptian and Oriental antiques and other significant objects and exhibitions. The number of visitors steadily, largely, and year by year, increased. In five years time the visitors has rapidly reached an averaging visitors count of 1.6 million.
The Salford Museum and Art Gallery fascinates with masonry pillars and detailed masonry elements both outside and within the interior. What is most important is how the aesthetic design of the building evolved over a 200-year life cycle and produced a unified structure nowadays. Important architectural examples are the top-lit galleries in the north and south wings, which are one of the earliest examples of their type. The galleries were built in a Renaissance style; the architects, Travis & Mangnall, "were key local exponents of a gracious Italianate style which had already from the 1840s become a characteristic of commercial architecture, especially in Manchester".
The building is located in the heart of the University of Salford, surrounded by civic and educational buildings. It plays a significant role for its relationship with the Peel building to the west and the Peel Park to the north. The building is accepted as the earliest civic building that has influenced the location of other civic buildings in the Crescent area.
The conservation of Lark Hill Place, which was done at a time before conservation of historic buildings was popular, represents an important attempt to preserve architectural features at a period of rapid urban development.
Although of great architectural and historical significance the building is listed Grade II meaning that it is not sufficiently important to join the elite.
- "Lark Hill and Peel Park" (PDF), The Crescent: Conservation Area Appraisal (Salford City Council): 15
- Architectural History Practice Ltd, (2008), “Salford Museum & Art Gallery, Conservation Management Plan
- City of Salford Council, (May 2008) “Crescent Conservation Area Appraisal” - Retrieved on 19 January 2011
- Mullen, H., B, (1899), “The Royal Museum & Libraries, Salford : Their Inception & Development. 1849: Souivenir of the Jubilee”
- Architectural History Practice Ltd, (2007), “Salford Museum & Art Gallery, Conservation Management Plan,]