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Alfred Darbyshire
Date: British architect, 1839–1908
Biography: Alfred Darbyshire was born in Salford, Lancashire (1839 -1908). Following primary education, he was apprenticed to the architectural firm of Lane and Alley in Manchester. In 1862 he established his own architectural practice in Manchester.
His work reflects elements of both the Gothic Revival style of Alfred Waterhouse the neoclassical style. He is best known for his theatrical architecture including Manchester’s Gaiety Theatre and a theatre at Rawtenstall. In London he altered and decorated the Lyceum Theatre. Concerned by the danger of fire in theatres, he worked with the actor Henry Irving to develop the Irving-Darbyshire safety plan which consisted of isolating separate parts of the theatre and providing fireproof escape routes. Other buildings designed by Darbyshire include Alston Hall in Lancashire, the Carnegie Library in Knutsford, and the churches of St Cyprian and St Ignatius in Salford.
Alfred Darbyshire was particularly drawn to theatre. As well as building them, he acted in them and became famous for his extravagant stage productions. In 1872 he built a spectacular set for the triumphal entry of the King into London in Henry V.
As a landscape painter he sketched and painted in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany. He was friendly with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Walter Crane. He also wrote art criticism for the Manchester Guardian, and from 1874 to 1905 he was an art critic for The Courier. He wrote a number of books on architecture, heraldry and art – including A Booke of Olde Manchester and Salford containing about 70 illustrations of ancient buildings, which he compiled for the Jubilee celebrations of 1887; The Art of the Victorian Stage, and an autobiography titled An Architect's Experiences: Professional, Artistic and Theatrical (1897)
In 1870 he married Sarah Marshall with whom he had a son and three daughters. He became a fellow of the Institute of British Architects in 1870 and was its vice-president from 1902 to 1905. He was president of the Manchester Society of Architects from 1901 to 1903. He was a member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts (1867), Manchester Arts Club (1870), the Brasenose Club and a council member for the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society. He was cousin to the American industrialists and philanthropist Samuel Bancroft, whose correspondence with Darbyshire resides in the archives of the Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington.