By Anthony Peers

on Zoom

Victoria Memorial Hall, Kolkata – built to the designs of Sir William Emerson

Anthony Peers is a freelance historic buildings’ consultant, educated as an Architectural Historian at Manchester University and trained in building conservation at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, York. In the mid-1990s he was employed by the DTI in Bombay, India, setting up and running an innovative project to repair George Gilbert Scott’s university buildings and training local architects and craftsmen in conservation techniques and philosophy. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and Deputy Chairman of the Ancient Monuments Society.

Lecture 1:  Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta (Kolkata)

By looking first at Madras, and then Calcutta – there is an opportunity to look at the very best of the buildings constructed in the heyday of the East India Company.  This lecture touches on the early 17th century origins of the East India Company and considers the tentative architectural endeavours of the amateur architects and engineers working at the Company’s behest.  Study is made of Company’s magnificent late 18th and early 19th century classical buildings, as well as of the stunning late flowering of the Indo Saracenic in Madras and the remarkable Edwardian Baroque of the Victoria Memorial in Calcutta.

Lecture 2:  Bombay (Mumbai)

Alongside large tumps of gold, tea and Tangier, Bombay formed part of Catherine of Braganza’s Dowry. This lecture commences with a look at the improvements made by the East India Company to this – its first overseas territory. The key focus of the lecture though is on Bombay in the days of the Raj, in the second half of the 19th century.  In these decades of plenty this port became known as ‘The Gateway of India’. This economic boom-time coincided with the mid-Victorian enthusiasm for the Gothic Revival style and in Bombay were constructed the most extraordinarily impressive collection of civic buildings.  Careful study is made of this, the finest collection of Gothic Revival buildings in the world, and brief mention is made too, of some of the city’s many splendid Art Deco buildings.     

Lecture 3:  Delhi

In the roughly three hundred years during which the British constructed buildings in India there persisted an unresolved dialogue about the creation of an authoritative British style. The Victorians and Edwardians looked with envy at the confident, distinctive and appropriate architectural style of the buildings in India constructed in the time of the Mughal Empire. The questions – as to whether the British should impose a British style, fuse a British style with Indian or even adopt the Mughal style for their own – were never satisfactorily answered in India … That is until Edwin Lutyens penned his designs for New Delhi.  This lecture considers the several styles of Indian architecture – not least the Mughal, before celebrating the masterpiece, and innovative stylistic triumph, that is New Delhi.

The study day below has also been cancelled. In its place Brian Healey has agreed to provide us with the study day on YouTube. The three lectures that make up the study day will be available over November, December and January to all our members through an access code which will be emailed out near the time.


by Brian Healey

18th NOVEMBER 2020

Brian Healey has been a senior modern languages teacher in an independent grammar school for many years. He has enjoyed a successful parallel career as a professional artist and interior designer. Since 2006 he has been regularly appointed to several prestigious ocean and river cruise lines, either as resident artist, guest lecturer on art history or as destination speaker for more than 40 countries. Most recently this work has successfully extended to art guiding through important towns and museums in France, Belgium, Holland, Spain and Portugal.

Lecture 1: “From Warehouse to Palazzo”
In the 19th Century “Cottonopolis” as Manchester was known, grew like topsy, making vast fortunes for both the city and its merchants. This lecture shows how architects, including Barry and Waterhouse vied with each other to bring the architecture of Athens, the Renaissance and the Grand Canal to the city’s streets, embellishing their facades with allegory and symbolism.

Lecture 2: “Town Hall Triumphant”- Civic Pride & Commercial Swagger
This looks at the story behind the building of the magnificent Town Hall, described by many as the last great neo-gothic building of the 19th century. It looks at the competing designs, the battle to build it, the decoration and sculpture and the personalities behind some of the key figures.

Lecture 3: “Boom Bust and Baroque”
We conclude our story with the final glittering chapter, beginning with the battle to build the Ship Canal. From the Byzantine detail of Waterhouse’s Refuge building to the cathedral-like space of the John Ryland’s library, everything spoke of wealth and confidence, not least the Cotton Exchange itself, rebuilt on a massive scale. By 1918 however, the world had changed for ever and the star that was Manchester’s cotton trade was already on the wane.