Archive of the Manchester Society of Architects

Scope and Content

The archive consists largely of general subject files compiled during the routine day-to-day running of the Society. These files contain correspondence and other material, such as council and committee papers, circulars and leaflets, appertaining to every aspect of the Society's activities. In addition there are some volumes containing minutes and accounts.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Manchester Society of Architects (MSA) has enjoyed a long and distinguished existence in the city. Founded in 1865, the Society is still active today. A detailed account of the early history of the Society prior to its reconstitution as a branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects (the RIBA) in 1969 is given in the attached catalogue compiled by Alison Kenney and published in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 24, No. 2, Summer 1992.

Following the reorganisation of the RIBA into thirteen regions in 1967, the RIBA North West Region opened its headquarters at Knutsford in Cheshire. The MSA became one of the Region's seven branches in 1969, being known officially as `Manchester Society of Architects - a branch of the RIBA'. Although retaining some autonomy, the Society receives an annual grant from the RIBA and is responsible to the central RIBA Council through the North West Regional Council, to which it sends three representatives. This council meets monthly and is constituted by equal representation from each of the seven branches in the region.

The changes made in the 1960s to subscription rules mean that all members of the RIBA in the Greater Manchester area are automatically members of the Manchester Society of Architects. Around half of the RIBA members in the North West Region as a whole are members of the MSA. Elections to the council of the Society are held annually by postal ballot of all corporate RIBA members of the Manchester branch. One third of the council are elected annually and members serve for three year periods. Officers such as President, Honorary Secretary, Honorary Treasurer, and such other posts as are deemed necessary are elected annually from among the members of the council.

The activities and concerns of the Society since 1969 reflect a continued interest in such central issues as professional standards and services, conservation and the urban environment, and education and training in the field of architecture, as well as in promoting the status of the profession as a whole. In 1977 the Society stated that "within the RIBA North West region the aims of the Manchester Society remain, namely, `to support and protect the character, status and interest of architects practising in, or in the vicinity of Manchester, and to promote personal acquaintance and good feeling between members of the Society.'" MSA/ADD/1/2/2/7, RIBA Northwest Region Yearbook and Diary 1977/78, 54. Facilitating social and professional dialogue between architects in Greater Manchester continues to be the main aim of the Society in the 1990s.

Since the regional reorganisation of the RIBA, however, the responsibility for providing professional help to architects has been taken over to a large extent by the RIBA North West Region which has a secretariat of permanent staff, giving it an advantage over the Manchester Society which has no salaried employees, being wholly run by honorary officers. The MSA has also been squeezed from below with the formation in the 1970s of two local chapters which receive a grant from the Society, and which enable architects to meet in their own locality rather than in the centre of Manchester.

Despite this, the Society continues to be active in the city and membership currently stands at 900. Many thanks to Mr Geoffrey Alsop, current President of the MSA, for supplying information about the Society.


The archive arrived at the library in 18 boxes. Some of these contained files and bundles while others were filled with loose papers, in no apparent order. Some of the files from the period 1976-1983 appeared to be part of an original filing system, being numbered and arranged by subject. Other files and bundles had apparently been put together retrospectively and labelled with the relevant subject and dates. The records had presumably been created by various different officers, since it is customary for the Honorary Treasurer to keep financial records, the Secretary to keep administrative and council records, and so on.

It therefore proved impossible to reconstruct a coherent original filing system, although original files have been kept intact as far as possible and the original order of documents within them retained. In other cases bundles of material on related subjects have been created by the archivist. Throughout the list, all items are original files created by the Society except where stated otherwise, and original file titles have been used wherever they exist. The term `bundle' is applied to papers which have been grouped together by the archivist.

The material has been arranged into subfonds according to the main functions within the Society, although records created after 1983 have been allotted a separate subgroup since they are sparse and not easily slotted into other categories. The subgroups are as follows:

  • MSA/ADD/1 Administration.
  • MSA/ADD/2 Professional standards and services.
  • MSA/ADD/3 Education, training and exhibitions.
  • MSA/ADD/4 Post-1983 material.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Individuals have the right to make a request to see data relating to them held by the JRUL which falls under the provisions of the DPA. Access requests must be made formally in accordance with the provisions set out in the DPA and all enquiries should be directed to the University's Data Protection Officer.

Other Finding Aids

The finding aid for the initial accession has been published: Alison Kenney, Catalogue of the Archives of the Manchester Society of Architects, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 74, no. 2 (1992), pp. 37-63.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies 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, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Custodial History

Following the initial deposit of archives catalogued by Alison Kenney, this subsequent collection of additional material was deposited by the MSA in the John Rylands Library in early 1994.

Related Material

Manchester Central Library has a set of RIBA North West Region Directories dating from 1984 to the present, which contain some information on the MSA and architectural matters in the region.

Geographical Names