Commonplace Book of Thomas Worthington

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 1416
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      205 x 134 mm. 1 volume. 94 folios, unfoliated. Medium: paper. Binding: full-bound in natural reversed calf over boards; red morocco lettering piece, tooled in gilt, affixed to what was originally the front cover; spine cover now missing.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate

Scope and Content

Contents: .

The volume is titled on the front cover 'Susanna Barton' (corrected from 'Susannah Barton'). The volume was apparently first used by Thomas Worthington's mother, Susanna n… Barton, to compile questions on the kings and queens of England, from William I to George I. Under each monarch's name is a series of questions occupying one of two pages. For example: 'Henry 4th. When born? When crowned? When did he die? What was he surnamed? Why? Where is the place situated?' It is possible that she set these questions for her son to answer.

The volume was later taken over by Thomas Worthington, who from 1841 (while he was still articled to Henry Bowman) used it as a commonplace book, starting at the other end of the volume. It is entitled 'Common Place Book commenced in the year 1841 by Thomas Worthington Broughton Manchester - /41'. The entries appear to have been compiled within a year or two of commencement.

The contents relate entirely to architecture, with notes on major architects (such as Inigo Jones and Christopher Wren); significant - predominantly ancient - buildings and monuments (e.g. the Parthenon, the Pantheon); and technical terms and styles of architecture (such as the Doric order, pedestals, the method of taking a view of a building, sizes of drawing paper). There is an alphabetical index of topics at the front of the volume. Entries under 'A' include: Arches and Arcades; Attics and Basements; Acropolis - Athens; Arch of Hadrian; Aquaduct of Hadrian; Architects, British.

The volume is a significant source for the formative influences on an important provincial architect of the nineteenth century.

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Worthington (1826-1909), was born in Salford, Lancashire, on 11 April 1826, the son of Thomas Worthington (1779-1842), merchant, and his second wife, Susanna n… Barton. At the age of fourteen he was articled for seven years to Henry Bowman, architect, later working at the office of William Tite. After gaining experience of quantity surveying, in 1849 he opened his own practice in King Street, in the centre of Manchester.

Worthington toured Italy in 1848 and again in 1858, and according to John Archer, a 'pronounced Italian influence is evident in much of Worthington's architecture'; he was 'equally at ease with the Renaissance palazzo mode as with Venetian Gothic', although he also 'had a flair for English Gothic'. Among his most significant commissions were the police and magistrates' courts in Minshull Street, and Manchester College, Oxford.

Worthington was involved in endeavours to improve the living conditions of the poor of Manchester, and was an active member of several reforming societies. Foremost of these was the Manchester Statistical Society, the first of its kind in Britain. Worthington's first paper to the Statistical Society was on 'Homes for the poor' (Transactions, 1860-61), and in 1866 he lectured on housing to the Social Sciences Association. His appointment as architect to a charitable body two years later enabled him to realize his ideas. From 1858 Florence Nightingale's Notes on Hospitals promoted a vigorous campaign to improve hospital design and in Manchester this was strongly supported by the Statistical Society. In 1862 the building of a new hospital was proposed for the Chorlton Union at Withington, and Worthington was entrusted with the design. It contained 480 beds in five three-storey blocks and followed closely Nightingale's new principles. Worthington presented a paper on the project to the Statistical Society (published in its Transactions for 1866-7), and as a pamphlet the design was circulated to all boards of guardians and to centres in Europe and the colonies.

In 1863 Worthington married Elizabeth Ann Scott of Stourbridge, Worcestershire. In 1859 they moved to Broomfield in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, a house that Worthington himself had designed in 1847. Elizabeth died shortly after the birth of their fifth child in 1870. Three years later Worthington married Edith Emma Swanwick, with whom he had a further six children. His eldest son Percy (1864-1939) became a partner in the practice in 1891, and in 1893 the firm became Thomas Worthington & Son.

Thomas Worthington served as president of the Manchester Society of Architects in 1875, as vice-president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) from 1885 to 1889, and as president of the Royal Manchester Institution. He died at Broomfield on 9 November 1909 and was buried in the graveyard of the Unitarian chapel at Dean Row, Wilmslow.

Source: John H.G. Archer, 'Worthington family (per. 1849-1963)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. By permission of Oxford University Press -

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The immediate source of acquisition is not known.

Conditions Governing Use

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

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

Custodial History

The volume was found in the office of a former Head of Special Collections at the Main University Library in 2008; its previous history is unknown.

Related Material

The UML also holds the papers of Sir Hubert Worthington (1886-1963), son of Thomas Worthington (ref.: GB 133 WOR), which include four travel journals of Thomas Worthington; and a set of five letters from Florence Nightingale to Thomas Worthington, concerning the design of Chorlton Union Infirmary and Prestwich Union New Workhouse (ref.: GB 133 Eng MS 1154).