This site celebrates the life and work of sculptor John
Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
As well from its Cassidy connections, Albert Square has much
to interest anyone interested in archirecture and public
art. It was created in the 1860s, as part of the project to
build a new town hall. John
'This required the demolition of the Engraver's Arms public
house, the Manchester Coffee Roasting Works, a coal yard, a
smithy, a number of warehouses and workshops and a warren of
back-to-back houses and courts; on what is now the open
space of Albert Square were crammed about 100 buildings.'
Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, died in
1861, and the site of the square was chosen, and
appropriately named, as the location for the city's memorial
to him, which forms its centrepiece. Designed by architect
Thomas Worthington, with a figure of Albert by Matthew Noble
is mounted in a 'ciborium.'
The general appearance of the structure resembles the much
larger and more elaborate Albert Memorial in
Kensington Gardens, London, designed by Sir George Gilbert
Scott; Worthington's design had been published in The Builder magazine in
1862, some time before Scott's. In London, Albert is seated,
whereas in Manchester he has to stand. 100 years later, the
memorial was in poor condition, and there were suggestions
that it should be removed, but it was renovated in 1977
following a public appeal.
The Jubilee fountain under wraps during conservation work,
The square, and the exteriors of the buildings around, are
replete with statues and other sculptures. We refer you to
the works and sites listed below for more detail, but here
is a list of the main portrait sculptures in the
square, with links to the pages of the National Recording
Links and references
Square, by Bob Speel.
Clare Hartwell, Manchester (Pevsner
Architectural Series.) Penguin Books, 2001.
Recommended as a pocket-sized guide to the area.
Parkinson-Bailey, Manchester, an architectural history.
Published by Manchester University Press, 2000.
Nicola C. Smith,
'Imitation and invention in two Albert Memorials.' The
Magazine, Vol. 123, No. 937 (Apr., 1981), pp.
Clare Hartwell and Terry Wyke (Eds.) Making Manchester ...
an illustrated volume of essays on the history of
architecture of Manchester and the region, published in
honour of John H. G. Archer on his 80th birthday. Published
by the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 2007.
Derek Brumhead and Terry Wyke. A walk round Manchester
sculptures. Walkround Books, 1990.
'Twas down in Albert Square
I never shall forget,
Her eyes they shone like diamonds
And the evening it was wet, wet, wet.
Her hair hung down in curls,
She was a charming rover,
And we rode all night,
Through the pale moonlight,
Way down to Pomona.
- Manchester music hall song, recorded by "The Two
Beggarmen" - sometimes claimed to be abouy Lamorna in
'Down in Albert
Cassidy in the heart of Manchester
Nineteenth-Century Manchester was a proud city, wealthy from
the income of its textile and engineering industries and
eager to express its importance through architecture, and
public sculpture had its part to play in their vision. John
Cassidy set up in business at the height of this era, and
although his public works in the city centre are somewhat
overshadowed by those other, nationally famous, sculptors,
some can be discovered by the curious. His major city
centre work, 'Adrift', is sadly not on public display at the
time of writing (November 2008.)
Find your way to Albert Square, a large public space,
now thankfully largely traffic-free and face Alfred
Waterhouse's magnificent Town Hall, and the Albert Memorial.
Walk to your left and you will see the 'Diamond Jubilee
Fountain' - as seen in our picture above - although it may
well not actually be working.
The Jubilee referred to was 1897, the 60th anniversary of
Queen Victoria ascending to the throne; there was also, at
the time, celebration of the completion the same year
of the Aqueduct which brings water almost 96 miles to
Manchester from Thirlmere in the English Lake District.
There seems to have been an 'official opening' of the
aqueduct in three years earlier in 1894, for which a
temporary fountain was apparently set up.
The Public Monument and Sculpture Association's National
Recording Project relates:
question of erecting a permanent fountain in Albert Square
took a decisive turn when in the summer of 1896 the
council were informed by the Manchester architects, Thomas
Worthington and Sons, that an anonymous donor wished to
present the city with a large ornamental fountain to stand
in the square. Worthingtons were responsible for the
design, a three-basin fountain in granite and sandstone. A
bronze dolphin, modelled by John Cassidy, decorated the
top of the fountain.
Looking at it, the observer might be surprised at the
description of the creature as a 'dolphin' rather than some
kind of mythical sea-serpent; dolphins are mammals and do
not, surely, have scaly skins.
The bronze dragon-like water spouts around the basin are
probably also by Cassidy, although we have no documentary
Apparently, the fountain, built in sandstone (the upper bowl
is red granite) by J & H Patterson, was not always
popular with the public, especially on windy days, and in
1909 it was removed to Heaton Park in north Manchester. A
1980s proposal to return into to the city centre came to
nothing, but by its centenary in 1997 its time had come:
Albert Square had been transformed from a large 'traffic
island' to a worthwhile pedestrian space, and funding was
raised to re-erect the fountain in its original location. In
the words of the plaque set into the ground by the fountain:
QUEEN VICTORIA JUBILEE
COMPLETED JULY 1997
MANCHESTER CITY COUNCIL
NORTH WEST WATER
EUROPEAN REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT FUND
WAS ORIGINALLY SITED
IN THIS LOCATION
THE SUPPLY OF WATER FROM
THE THIRLMERE RESERVOIR
of the re-instatement was reported as £250,000, and it was
unveiled on 22 July 1997.
The fountain in action, April 2009.
Albert Square, circa 1905.
Albert Square in the 1950s: cars everywhere, and no
fountain. The area to the right, in front of the town hall,
is now a pedestrian space. The Albert Memorial dominates the
scene: at this time it was slowly falling into dereliction,
but was extensively restore in in 1978. In the foreground,
the 1894 marble sculpture of Manchester worthy Oliver
Heywood (1825-1892) by London-based Albert Bruce-Joy, who
was one of Cassidy's chief competitors for this kind of
The square in 2008. In the foreground, the 1891 statue by
Bruce-Joy of Manchester MP and reformer John Bright. Behind
the fountain stands James Fraser, Bishop of Manchester from
1870 to 1885, sculpted by Thomas Woolner, standing with his
back to the other statues in the square.
Inside the Town Hall
Note: the Town Hall closed in 2018 for a six-year
refurbishment programme. Some of the works are now on
display elswhere, but not, as far as we know, the Cassidy
works from the Sculpture Hall.
To find more Cassidy works (and much else), if you are there
during normal office hours, take a look inside the Town
Hall. Enter through the main door under the tower, and climb
the entrance staircase, flanked by statues of two
Manchester's great scientists, John Dalton (left, by Sir
Francis Chantrey, 1891) and James Joule (by Alfred Gilbert,
1893), the two considered by Brumhead and Wyke in A Walk round Manchester
Statues to be 'among the most important works of
art on display in Manchester.
Turn right at the top of the steps and you will find the
'sculpture hall', a rather curious space which seems to have
evolved from a room intended as a waiting area. It contains
a collection of busts (see list on the left of this page)
for which no other place could be found, but on the walls
can be found two relief panels made by John Cassidy. The
large bronze portrait of Alderman
Sir Daniel McCabe (above) a member of Manchester
City Council from 1889 to 1919, serving as Lord Mayor from
1913-15, was presented to the Corporation of Manchester by
Cassidy, for reasons that become clear on study of Sir
Daniel's life story.
Born in Manchester in 1852, the son of poor Irish
immigrants, he rose to was elected to the City Council in
from 1889. He became Manchester's first Roman Catholic Lord
Mayor in November 1913, and was asked by the Corporation in
1914 to serve a second year. His sister, Mrs O'Neill, was
Lady Mayoress, so we can suppose that, like Cassidy he was a
bachelor, and perhaps something of a hero to him and the
Manchester Irish community in general.
A Deputy Lieutenant for Lancashire from 1915, and Knighted
by King George V on 15 January 1916, he was a Director of
the Manchester Ship Canal. He died in London on 29
September 1919, is buried in St Joseph's Cemetery, Moston
where there is another casting of the plaque.
Alcock and Brown
The other Cassidy panel in the sculpture hall was made to
commemorate the historic first transatlantic flight, made by
Manchester men Alcock and Brown. The tablet tells its own
story in detail:
This tablet is erected by
the Corporation of Manchester to record the great
achievement of two Manchester men, Captain Sir John
Alcock, K.B.E., D.S.C., and Lieutenant Sit Arthur Whitten
Brown, K.B.E. who on the fifteenth day of June,
1919, were the first to fly without a stop across
the Atlantic Ocean from America to the British Isles, the
time taken in covering the distance being 15 hours 57
minutes, the distance being 1,950 English statute miles
and the aeroplane used being entirely of British
(Other sources differ slightly from this inscription in both
time and distance.) Either side of the inscriptions are
portraits of the two aviators. The tablet was unveiled by
the Lord Mayor on 2 November 1921, and the next day The Times reported:
shows the figure of an American Indian mounted on
horseback gazing across the ocean at the
disappearing aeroplane, towards which on the other side a
figure of Britannia stretches out a welcoming hand.
Two gold medals especially struck to Mr Cassidy's designs
for the Corporation were presented, one to the father of
the late Sir John Alcock, and the other to Sir A.W. Brown.
At least one other Alcock and Brown artifact by Cassidy is
known to exist: a round medallion - perhaps a design for the
gold medals - in a private collection in the USA.
The story of Alcock and Brown's famous flight in a Vickers
Vimy aircraft from Newfoundland to Ireland, winning a
£10,000 prize offered by the Daily Mail has been often told (Manchester
Guardian report), and is commemorated in both Britain
and Ireland. Both were knighted by King George V soon
after their flight.
Brown, the navigator, lived on until 1948; born in Glasgow
in 1886, he was brought up in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester
and worked as an engineer for the Westinghouse company. The
house at 6 Oswald Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy is adorned with a
'blue plaque' in his memory
Alcock, the pilot, was born born in 1892 in Seymour Grove,
Old Trafford, and later lived at 6 Kingswood Road,
Fallowfield where his life is marked by a 'blue
plaque.' According to Wikipedia he 'was present at the
Science Museum in London on 15 December 1919 when the
recovered Vimy was presented to the nation. Three days later
he was flying a new Vickers amphibious plane, the Type 54
Viking, to the first postwar aeronautical exhibition in
Paris when he crashed in fog at Cote d'Everard, near Rouen,
Normandy stalling such that a wing hit a tree. He died
before medical assistance arrived.' He is buried, like John
Cassidy, in Southern Cemetery, Manchester.
Tailplane: the Manchester Airport memorial
There is another Alcock and Brown memorial in Manchester, an
aluminium figure of a flying man, created by Eliazbeth Frink
and installed in 1964 in the then-new Terminal at Manchester
Airport. It has been controversial ever since the
commission was awarded to Frink: her model of the planned
work was described by Councillor Hopkins of the Airport
Committee as a 'bewitched, bothered and bewildered
budgerigar.' Eventually, after much dispute, it was
completed and installed at a cost of £3250. Members of
Alcock's family were particularly unimpressed.
The controversy was revived in 2008: According to an article
in Manchester Evening News of 9 September:
'The sculpture ... drew controversy when installed in the
airport's Terminal 1 in 1964, with one relative describing
the winged figure as "sordid, vulgar and obscene." The
statue was later moved from the terminal's arrivals hall
[with the approval of the artist] to a garden next to the
airport police station, and then brought into a departure
lounge area. It was moved to its latest home in a connecting
corridor between Terminal 1 and the airport's train station
five years ago.'
Neville Alcock, the pilot's nephew, is understandably
unhappy about the location. He told the reporter: 'I know we
can't have these memorials up forever but if they are going
to be displayed they should be kept in good condition. I
went to Manchester Airport recently and managed to locate
the statue after some effort. It used to have pride of place
in the airport and now it is tucked away in a corner. No-one
would spot it unless they made a special effort. The
stonework is really dirty and no effort has been made to
keep it looking clean.'
An Airport spokeswoman defended the location said it was
regularly spotted by those travelling from the train station
to the terminal buildings. She said: 'We consulted on where
it should go and the decision was to put it in the station
building. Everyone who takes the train to and from the
airport can see it.'
(The Airport authorities have also removed from the terminal
in 2008 the four Venetian glass chandeliers by Bruno Zaneti
of Murano, which were to many people of 'a certain age' were
real memories of their first visit the airport as a child.)
Mr Alcock also pointed out that exhibits at the Museum of
Science and Industry - including the stuffed remains of the
flying duo's mascot cat Jimmy - were no longer on display
and that a memorial plaque in Manchester Town Hall had been
placed in a barely-visible corner. An allegation that is
hard to deny.
Written by Charlie
Hulme, November 2008. Updated April 2023.