This site celebrates the life and work of sculptor John
Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
John Strachan. Photograph from Manchester University Magazine
Vol.4, November 1908, facing page 1.
The Christie Library
The Christie Library of the University of Manchester,
part of the group of buildings, designed by Alfred Waterhouse and
his son Paul, around the University's quadrangle in Oxford Road,
was opened in 1898. The buildings are all listed
as Historic Buildings, Grade II*.
Construction was paid for by Richard Copley Christie (1830 -
1901), portrayed above. He was a lawyer, Professor at Owens College,
Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Manchester, a
bibliophile and library
enthusiast. He was the second son of Lorenzo Christie of Edale,
Derbyshire, a textile mill-owner.
He was a friend of the great Stockport-born engineer and philanthropist
Whitworth (1803-1887); both had lived for a while in the Derbyshire
village of Darley Dale. On Whitworth's death, Christie was one of three
legatees to whom
was bequeathed a residuary estate of
more than half a million pounds in equal shares for their own use,
each of them aware of the objects to which these funds would have been
applied by the testator, had he been able to carry out the plans that
had occupied him so long.'
Much of the money went to further the aims of Owens College,
and Christie paid for the erection of the Whitworth Hall which forms
the frontage of the Oxford Road buildings, as well as the Library. His
name is also well-known in Manchester for the Christie Hospital for
cancer patients. On his death in 1901 he bequeathed his large
of over 150,000 books to the Christie Library.
On its opening, the Christie building became the main library
College, replacing the earlier library withing the original College
building, for all subject areas
except medicine which retained its own library within the adjacent
Medical School. In 1936, on the opening of the new Arts Library in
Lime Grove, the Christie building became the Science Library, a role it
until 1981 when a large extension to the Arts Library was opened
enabling it to house material in all subjects as the Main Library.
When the University Library merged with the John Rylands
1972 to become the John Rylands University Library, Robert Copley
collections were transferred from the Arts Library to the John Rylands
Library in Deansgate to join the Special Collections there.
The Main Library building, which is on Burlington Street, not far from
the entrance to the Bistro, is now known as the John Rylands University
Library Main Library, not to be confused (as it often has been) with
the John Rylands Library building on Deansgate in the City Centre.
After 1981 the Christie Library ceased to be a library; some rooms were
used as offices for the University administration, but the grand
reading room on the first floor remained unused until the 1990s when
it was transformed, with as few changes as possible, into 'Christie's
Bistro', a pleasant space, now open to the public (Mondays-Fridays
9am - 5pm except public and University holidays), in which to eat and
relax. Visitors to the Bistro can view the Strachan memorial as they
climb the stairs, and in the Bistro itself is a collection of marble
most of which carry no name of either sculptor or subject. As far as we
know, none of these busts are the work of Cassidy; any information
about any of them them would be welcome.
Our thanks are extended to Janet Wallwork of the John Rylands
University Library Archives team for inspiring this page and
providing source material.
Links and references
P.G. [Peter Giles], ‘Strachan,
John (1862–1907)’, Dictionary of
National Biography. Second Edition, Second Supplement,
1912. Vol. 3, p.435-436. (Google Books)
Peter Giles, ‘Strachan,
(1862–1907)’, rev. Mark Pottle, Oxford
Oxford University Press, 2004
George Calder. 'John Strachan, LL.D.' The
Review Vol. 4, No. 14 (Oct., 1907), pp. 188-191.
Full text of: John Strachan, An Introduction to Early Welsh
A. W. Ward, Christie, Richard Copley (1830–1901), rev. M. C. Curthoys, Oxford Dictionary
of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
Also on the Christie staircase are a rather
beautiful stained-glass window commemorating Richard Copley Christie ...
... and a memorial plaque to John Finlayson (1840 - 1906), born near
Wick in Caithness, northern Scotland, a cashier at the Bank of
Manchester office, who lived near the University at 4 Daisy Bank Road,
Victoria Park. He never married, and spent much of his spare time
attending evening classes, buying and reading books, and taking part in
University life. He bequeathed a large
part of his library, which 'filled every corner of his house', to the
University. His obituarist in the Manchester Guardian (20 October 1906,
p.14), C.H. Hertford, tells of an 'indefatigable layman in letters,
qualities never very common in the members of a great business
The plaque carries a quotation 'And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly
teche.' This is from the prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury
Tales, describing the Clerk (lines 305-310) which can be expressed
in in modern English:
He took utmost care and heed for his study
Not one word spoke he more than was necessary
And that was said with due formality and dignity
And short and lively, and full of high morality
Filled with moral virtue was his speech
And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.
A motto for us all, perhaps.
A selection of the marble busts in the Christie in 2010.
Who's this handsome character?
Edward VII. Thought to be by Albert Bruce-Joy (1842-1924)
commissioned by the University in 1910.
Professor John Strachan (1908)
Catalogue no. 1908.02
John Strachan was born on a farm, 'Brae', near Keith, Banffshire
on 31 January 1862, the only son of farmer James Strachan by his wife
Ann Kerr. He attended the Grammar School in Keith, before enrolling at
Aberdeen University in 1877 at the age of fifteen. In 1881, having
gained a first-class honours degree, he continued his studies at
Pembroke College, Cambridge, becoming a Fellow of that college, and in
1885, aged just 23, was elected Hulme Professor of Greek at Owens
College in Manchester, in succession to J.G Greenwood, holder of the
post since 1857, who has also served as Principal of the College. As
time went by, however, he devoted some of his
time to the study of the Celtic languages. In addition, from 1890 he
was Professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology, He retained the
posts from 1904 when the College became the Victoria University of
Manchester, which was the official name of the University until 2004,
although it was always generally known as the University of
Manchester, or colloquially as 'Owens' .
In 1886 he married Mina, eldest daughter of Dr James Grant, his old
schoolmaster, and they had two sons and six daughters.
His last published work, An
Introduction to Early Welsh, incomplete at his death, was
based on courses of
lectures on Welsh grammar and literature given by him at the University
of Manchester during the sessions 1905-6 and 1906-7. He worked on the
book through the summer of 1907, and in September visited the Peniarth
Estate, near Tywyn in Wales to study the historic manuscripts in the
collection of the Wynne family there (since 1969 the collection has
been in the National Library of Wales.) Unfortunately he 'caught a
chill', which developed into Pneumonia, and he died on 25 September
1907 at his home, 'Thorndale', Hilton Park, Prestwich, in northern
Manchester. His widow was
granted a pension of £80 from the Civil List; she died in 1950,
'Thorndale', seen on the 1909 map above, was a Victorian mansion which
did not survive long after Strachan's death: a 1922 map shows 18
semi-detached houses on the site.
His last work was completed by his colleagues, led by Professor Kuno
Meyer of Dublin, and published in 1909 as No. 40 in the University of
Manchester Publications, Celtic Series. Publication was delayed by a
lawsuit brought by a Welsh professor who felt that Strachan's text did
not sufficiently acknowledge his own publications.
There was a desire to commemorate him at the University, and a memorial
by Cassidy, Manchester best sculptor, was considered. Cassidy's letter
in response to the enquiry survives in the Vice-Chancellor's Archive
(reference number VCA/6/144):
Lincoln Grove Studio
To Vice-Chancellor Hopkinson:
I regret I have not had an earlier opportunity of letting you know
about the probable cost of a marble memorial to the late Professor
Strachan. I page a visit to the College yesterday and had a look at the
two on the stairs which you kindly referred to. I find they are life
size reliefs carved on 3" slabs of Statuary Marble.
I shall be pleased to execute a similar portrait of the late professor
for the sum of Sixty Pounds.
I remain Sir, yours faithfully
2nd April 1908.
In the event, what was produced was a life-size portrait cast in bronze
rather than marble, for the same price of £60. The reason for the
change of material remains to be discovered: perhaps suitable marble
could not be found for the price, or maybe the Professor's spectacles
would have been difficult to reproduce in that material. The work does
not have a visible signature, but the archive material proves it to be
a genuine Cassidy.
In the Council Minutes of the University dated 12 May 1909, there is a
reference to a letter sent from Professor Tait, Secretary to the
Strachan Memorial Committee, offering a 'medallion' of Strachan 'by Mr
Cassidy' requesting it should be placed on the staircase of the
Library. Also that the balance of the fund should be spent on Celtic
books for the Library.
In the University Archives is a minute book of the Committee, which has
a list of subscribers, and records of money raised. There are also
letters sent to Professor Lamb, the Treasurer of the Committee,
and is one from Cassidy thanking them for prompt payment of the cost of
£60 and enclosing a receipt.On 27 October 1909 the Council had a
letter from Professor Lamb, Treasurer of the Committee, enclosing
£12.0s 4d, the balance of the fund, to be spent on Celtic books
for the Library.
The memorial was unveiled in a ceremony on 25 May 1909, mounted,
as planned, on the staircase of the Christie Library building, where it
today. Its position allows it to be viewed from an acute angle from the
staircase, showing that it is in deeper relief than many such
'medallions', the head being modelled in three dimensions to behind the
ears. Celtic decorations are noticeable in the border of the work, and
also the crest of the University.
Against a background of library books, he is portrayed in the academic
dress copied from the photograph, with on his head the soft 'Tudor
Bonnet' associated with the holders of doctorates. We'd be pleased to
hear from anyone who can positively identify the significance of the
particular garb. In 1900 he was made an honorary Doctor of Laws by the
University of Aberdeen; perhaps the photograph was taken then.
A small mystery attaches to the work: the writer (Peter Giles) of his
entry in the contemporary edition of Dictionary of National Biography
states that 'No good portrait
of Strachan exists, and the bronze bust in the possession of
Manchester University only faintly resembles him' - and yet the
memorial, which is not a bust, is clearly a faithful interpretation by
Cassidy of the photograph
reproduced here. The current
edition of the DNB article, revised by Mark Pottle, omits the artistic
criticism but still refers to a bust.
books were purchased by his friends after his death and
presented to the University Library where they remain.
This detail from a picture of the University Senate in 1900 captures
three Cassidy subjects in one view: William Boyd Dawkins, Professor of
Geology (front, far left), Vice-Chancellor Alfred Hopkinson (tall
figure, front row, third from left) and John Strachan (right
The Christie Library reading room, from an old postcard.
The view seen in the postcard above is somewhat obscured in 2011
because of the lift which has been installed during conversion to a
The principal features of the room, including the oak
screen towards one end, have been carefully retained.
The Christie Library building, seen from Burlington Street in February
2011. To view the memorial, enter by the bistro door, centre left of
the picture, and climb the stairs immediately inside. The building is
closed weekends and public holidays.
Above left, Professor A.J. Scott, first principal of Owens College.
Believed to have
been made in 1860 by Henry Stormouth Liefchild (1823-1884). Behind is
Professor William Stanley Jevons, presented in his memory by his
friends and admirers in 1884. The sculptor was E. Roscoe Mullins.
Details of the busts given here are from Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester
by Terry Wyke and Harry Cocks, p.102-103.
The Christie window.
Personal note by Charlie Hulme
I know the Christie building very well, and
happy memories of it, as I worked there as an a assistant librarian
from 1971 to 1975, my first job after leaving University. I passed the
Strachan memorial many times, but at
the time I knew nothing of John Cassidy or his work.
I dedicate this page to all those who worked in the Christie
Library, especially those I've had the pleasure to have known and
Text by Charlie
Hulme, February 2011.