Darbyshire, Alfred (DNB12)

DARBYSHIRE, ALFRED (1839–1908), architect, son of William Darbyshire, manager of a dyeworks, by his wife Mary Bancroft, and nephew of George Bradshaw [q. v.], originator of the railway guide, was born at 8 Peru Street, Salford, on 20 June 1839. Of an old Quaker stock, he went to Quaker schools, first to that of Charles Cumber at Manchester, then to Ackworth school near Pontefract (1851–4), and finally to Dr. Satterthwaite's school at Alderley, Cheshire. After serving his articles in the office of Peter B. Alley, architect, Manchester, he began at the ago of twenty-three to practise for himself, and was elected associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1864 (fellow in 1870, and vice-president, 1902–5). His first commission was to carry out additions at Lyme Hall, Cheshire. Among other buildings he designed the Pendleton town hall, Alston Hall, near Preston, St. Cyprian's and St. Ignatius' churches, Salford, and he enlarged Galtee Castle, co. Cork. His reputation, however, was chiefly that of a theatrical architect. In Manchester he built the Comedy Theatre (afterwards called the Gaiety) and the Palace of Varieties, and carried out alterations at the Theatre Royal and the Prince's. He also designed a theatre at Rawtenstall and one at Exeter. In London he altered and decorated the Lyceum Theatre for (Sir) Henry Irving in 1878. For some years much of his time was occupied in designing and modelling on artistic plans temporary exhibitions, including a military bazaar at Manchester in 1884, a great Shakespearean show in the Royal Albert Hall, London, in the same year, and the Old Manchester section of the Royal Jubilee exhibition at Manchester in 1887.

Darbyshire had a strong leaning towards the stage, and was an amateur actor and a friend of actors. Charles Calvert [q. v.] received material artistic aid from him in the production of his Shakespearean revivals at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester (1864–74), and he was on intimate terms with (Sir) Henry Irving from about 1864 onwards. Irving was at that date a stock actor at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, and when he took leave of Lancashire in 1865, Darbyshire played the part of Polonius to his Hamlet. In the Calvert memorial performances at Manchester in October 1879 he was instrumental in obtaining the assistance of Tom Taylor, Herman Merivale, Lewis Wingfield, and Helen Faucit, who gave her last performance of Rosalind, Darbyshire acting the part of Jacques.

He was one of the original members of the Brasenose Club, Manchester, and wrote two volumes of reminiscences of that resort of literary and artistic bohemians. From 1901 to 1903 he was president of the Manchester Society of Architects, and did much to encourage the foundation of a chair of architecture at Manchester University. He was elected F.S.A. in 1894. An expert student of heraldry, he made a fine collection of books on that subject which was acquired by the John Rylands library.

Dying at Manchester on 5 July 1908, he was buried at Flixton church near that city. He married on 10 August 1870 Sarah, daughter of William Marshall of Westmoreland, and had one son and three daughters.

Besides several pamphlets and lectures, he wrote: 1. 'A Booke about Olde Manchester and Salford,' 1887. 2. 'A Chronicle of the Brasenose Club, Manchester,' 2 vols. 1892-1900. 3. 'An Architect's Experiences, Professional, Artistic, and Theatrical,' 1897 (with portraits). 4. 'The Art of the Victorian Stage,' 1907.

[Works cited; J. H. Nodal's Bibliography of Ackworth School, 1889; Manchester Guardian, 6 July 1908; Manchester City News, 11 July 1908; private information.]

C. W. S.