University of Manchester, School of Architecture Archive

Scope and Content

Archive of the School of Architecture, University of Manchester.

The archive contains a range of administrative and teaching records, dating from the 1930s to the 1990s. Of particular interest are records relating to the School syllabus (DAR/4) which provide information on the architectural design aspects of the syllabus. These provide invaluable information on the development of the School's teaching programme, and how this was influenced by and reflected broader trends in architectural theory and practice.

There are also records relating to the administration of the School, notably (incomplete) staff meeting minutes from the late 1950s to the late 1980s (DAR/1). A small number of head of department's files have survived (DAR/2); these are particularly useful for aspects of the school curriculum, teaching research, and the School's relations with external bodies, including the Municipal School of Art, the Royal Institute of British Architects, and other university schools of architecture.

Records in the series relating to students (DAR/3) are closed to public inspection.

Administrative / Biographical History

The School of Architecture was established in 1903, shortly after the creation of the independent University of Manchester. It was recognized that the University had an important role to play in providing systematic education and training for architects.

Throughout its existence, the Department was known interchangeably as the School of Architecture, and the latter name is preferred in this catalogue. The School was a department within the Faculty of Arts, which had oversight of admissions, curriculum and examination matters. Originally the University shared responsibilities for teaching architecture with Manchester Education Committee, through the Municipal School of Art, which taught the design parts of the syllabus, and the Municipal School of Technology, which taught building and sanitation. The Manchester Society of Architects, and later the Manchester Institute of Builders, supported the School in an advisory capacity.

The original students were a combination of full-time honours students and part-timers, with the latter in the majority. In 1922, the arrangement with Manchester Education Committee was terminated, and the University assumed full responsibility for the subject; until the early 1950s, the School was supervised by a consultative committee, which included members of the Manchester Society of Architects and the Manchester branch of the Institute of Builders.

S. H. Capper was the first incumbent of the chair of architecture, having previously been professor of architecture at McGill University, Quebec. Capper was succeeded by Archibald Dickie in 1912, a well-known architectural archaeologist, who had excavated in Jerusalem. By the time Dickie retired in 1933, the School had acquired both full-time and part-time lecturers. Dickie was succeeded by Reginald Cordingley, a former student, who was both a practising architect and an architectural historian, an expert in classical architecture and English vernacular architecture. A leading light in the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, Cordingley promoted architectural history within the curriculum, and encouraged staff to undertake original research. Consequently, School developed a strong research reputation in architectural history, especially English vernacular architecture. Members of staffs active in this area from the 1950s to the 1980s included William Singleton, Tom Marshall, and especially, Ronald Brunskill. The School undertook important surveys of vernacular architecture, particularly in the North West.

Following Cordingley's death in 1963, the South African architect, Norman Hanson (1909-1991) became head of the School; he retired in 1971 and was succeeded by Noel McKinnell. Both Hanson and McKinnell were practising architects with notably modernist sympathies. After the brief tenure of Eric Benson, J. A. M Bell headed the department from 1977-1983, and in turn he was succeeded by Roger Stonehouse.

In terms of teaching, the School curriculum was substantially reformed in 1922, when the five-year honours degree and certificate (later diploma) course was introduced. These courses were recognized by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and successful students were offered exemption from parts of the Association's intermediate and final examinations. The syllabus in this period included courses in building, architectural theory, architectural history, free drawing and decoration, and various practical projects. In the latter part of the course, construction, town planning, and quantities and specifications were taught. In 1935, systematic teaching of town and country planning began, and this later evolved into a separate subject and department, but one which retained close links to the School. During the fourth and fifth years of the course, students would work part-time for an architect or builder as part of their professional training. In the inter-war period, the School generally had around 50 students in total during each session, and this number expanded significantly in the post-war period, so that by the mid-1970s, almost 250 students were studying architecture, around 10-15% of whom were postgraduates.

In the 1968-9, the syllabus was reformed, with the diploma being replaced a new one-year degree of Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch), taken after the first B.A. In 1973, the degree courses were further revised with a three year B.A. honours degrees, followed by a 2 year B.Arch degree, replacing the 4 year B.A. and 1 year B.Arch degrees. The B.Arch, which was further revised in the late 1980s, concentrated on specialist design teaching, relevant to professional practice. In the 1970s and 1980s, the School contributed to a M.A. course in conservation, vernacular and historical studies, utilising its expertise in historical architecture. The School also provided continuous professional development courses for practising architects.

Apart from its established research interests in architectural history, from 1960s onwards, the School became well-known for its research programme in urban design, led by Peter Dovell, who was appointed to a new chair of urban design in 1968, and who introduced a M.A. in urban design. From the 1970s, the School also took a leading role in the architectural aspects of urban regeneration. In 1990 Martin Symes became the first professor of urban renewal in the U.K., sponsored by British Gas plc. Inter-disciplinary work was further encouraged when a Board of Studies for the Built Environment was established in 1984 (which included the UMIST departments of civil engineering and building).

As with other University departments, Architecture instituted a departmental board in 1973, as a result of the new charter. In the 1980s and 1990s committees were established for the B.A. and B.Arch degree, postgraduate degrees, research and a management group. The School maintained its close links with the Manchester Society of Architects, which often met at the School, and with the North West regional branch of RIBA.

The School has been based at various locations; originally at 244 Oxford Road. It moved to larger purpose-built accommodation in 1952 at Cambridge St. (now part of the Dental School and Hospital), and latterly moved to the Bridgeford St site in the late 1960s, where it remains.

A number of leading architects have been students at the School including Sir Leslie Martin and his wife, Sadie Speight, Sir Hubert Bennett, Sir George Grenfell-Baines and Sir Norman Foster.

The Manchester School of Architecture was formed on 1 January 1996 from a merger between the schools of architecture of Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester.

  • S H Capper, 1903-1912
  • Archibald C. Dickie, 1912-1933
  • Reginald Cordingley, 1933-1962
  • Norman Hanson, 1962-1971
  • Noel McKinnell, 1972-1974
  • Eric Benson, 1975-1976
  • J.A.M. Bell, 1977-1983
  • Roger Stonehouse, 1983-2003


Arranged by series as follows:

  • DAR/1 - Staff meetings minutes
  • DAR/2 - Head of department's files
  • DAR/3 - Student records
  • DAR/4 - Syllabuses and course materials
  • DAR/5 - Administrative and promotional material
  • DAR/6 - Miscellaneous

Access Information

Access conditions apply to this collection; a number of items are closed to public inspection.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Act 2018 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

Transferred by the School of Architecture in 2006, 2007 and 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

The archive is owned by the University of Manchester.

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Appraisal Information

Collection has been appraised.


Further accruals expected.

Related Material

The Vice-Chancellor's file has several files on the School, VCA/7/13 for issues relating to MEC's ending involvement in 1922; VCA/7/258 for the (unbuilt) Architecture building; VCA/8/150 for the opening of the new Architecture Building (Cambridge St) in 1952; and VCA/7/291 for general administrative matters between 1920-1950. Annual reports of the department can be found in the Reports of Council to Court (UOP/2); staff lists, some syllabus information etc. in the University calendars (UOP/1). The Faculty of Arts archive will include information on admissions, curriculum and examination policy for this department. The University Archives also has custody of the records of the Board of Studies for the Built Environment (1984-1994). School prospectuses (mainly 1930s-1960s) can be found in the University Prospectuses collection.

JRUL also has custody of the following related collections:

  • University of Manchester Architecture and Planning Students Society archive (MAS)
  • Reginald Cordingley's papers (RCP) ;
  • Department for Town and Country Planning archive (DTP);
  • Manchester Society of Architects archive (MSA);
  • Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain archive (SAH).


To date, there is no history of the School. On the study of vernacular architecture at the School see Frank Salmon, 'R W Brunskill and the study of vernacular building at the University of Manchester School of Architecture', Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society 46, 2002, pp.11-24.

Geographical Names