Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Date Built
Extensively refurbished and extended 2015
Oxford Road

In 1887 a 20 acre parcel of land beside what is now Oxford Road was purchased with a donation from Sir Joseph Whitworth.  It was laid out as a park and an existing building, Grove House, was converted into an art gallery. 

A new gallery was built in phases beginning in 1894. The north, central and south galleries were built first as extensions to Grove House.  The front entrance which replaced Grove House wasn't finished until 1908.  The Gallery was handed to the University of Manchester in 1958.

Joseph Whitworth was born in Stockport in 1803.  He has been called the father of precision engineering and is associated with a number of important inventions. 

His work on rifled weapons and artillery earned him a place in military history. His design for a muzzle-loading rifle with a telescopic sight was regarded as one of the finest long range guns in the world at that time.  In 1897 Whitworth's company merged with Sir William Armstrong's company to form Armstrong-Whitworth which in turn merged with Vickers in 1927. Whitworth was a strong believer in education and in 1868 started a fund for the mechanical training of young lads helping to establish the study of engineering at Manchester University.

New galleries were built in the 1960s and then in 1995 a sculpture gallery was added which won a RIBA regional award.  Today the gallery has a collection of 31,000 items including watercolours, prints, drawings, modern art and sculpture, as well as a large collections of textiles and wallpapers.  In February of 2015, the Whitworth Gallery reopened after a £15m revamp that transformed it inside and out.  In an article in the Guardian on Wednesday February 11th 2015, Oliver Wainwright described the new gallery.

"The latest remodelling and extension, by Glasgow-trained London-based architects MUMA, makes its £15m budget go a long way, finally opening the building up to its parkland setting. At the front, they have softened the forbidding entrance with a sculpture forecourt and an inviting sequence of steps, ramps and benches .....

..... but the real meat of the project is saved for the back, where MUMA have extended the symmetrical composition with a pair of wings that project out into Whitworth Park,  framing a new sculpture garden. ...

.... Thrusting out into the trees as a hovering glass bar, one of the new wings contains a cafe where you can eat Manchester’s finest brownies while suspended among the leaves. A children’s learning studio lies beneath, where activity can spill out into a courtyard garden, to be landscaped by Olympic Park flower expert Sarah Price, in the style of “Zen garden meets English meadow”.

At the other side of this garden stands a taller redbrick wing, housing a more grownup study centre and conservation rooms, whose wall will provide a surface for outdoor projections."

- Take a look inside the gallery -


July 2016


Below are some images of the gallery before the renovation.

The photographs below were generously donated by David Brown.

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