The Cottage” 68 Daisy Bank Road Victoria Park Manchester
Re-named “Hirstwood” about 1888; re-named Methodist International Hall
ARCHITECT’S HOMES NO 2 THE COTTAGE, VICTORIA PARK, MANCHESTER - Victoria Park is situated on the boundary line of the borough of Manchester. It has an aristocratic appearance about it with its number of private residences, enclosed within their own grounds scattered about it, its semi-detached villas, trim macadam roads, and goodly number of trees. Its very boundary walls, and unpretentious little entrance avenues, seem to apprise one of the gentility contained within it. But you will find nothing specially attractive in it, as far as it’s natural beauty is concerned. As a site for suburban residences, it is pleasant rather than beautiful and agreeable rather than charming. Strange to say, the Manchester smoke, about which such dreadful things were said in the Times the other day, does not seem to have affected the vegetation to any perceptible degree. The trees are of fair size and good form, and the grass is green B yes, green, not a sooty combination of lamp black and sage green, but a good honest healthy green. We may, therefore, accept the conclusion that Victoria Park is a pleasant situation, and taken in conjunction with the fact that it is within the distance of a short bus ride from town, we may also assume that the situation is as desirable as it is pleasant. With this aristocratic, pleasant, and withal desirable area, Mr. Edward Salomons, FRIBA., a well-known provincial architect, officially connected with the leading art institutions of Manchester, and generally respected as an assiduous worker in his art, has built himself a residence upon which he has bestowed the modest, but not altogether comprehensive title "The Cottage." Cottage it may be, as viewed alongside the more pretentious dwellings with which it is surrounded, but its size is too generous, and the labour apparently bestowed upon it too great to admit of its being considered in the light of so humble a dwelling as the commoner’s cot. If the word cottage be significant of that home comfort in the interior which the common sense of domestic art has rendered not incompatible with genuine artistic taste and treatment, then “The Cottage” is rightly named.
You have to walk some little distance from any of the entrances to the Park before you reach The Cottage, and you will actually pass green fields, till by the time you reach your destination you almost begin to wonder where Manchester has got to. Standing within a creditable extent of its own ground, The Cottage has a picturesque appearance from the road. The large view of it which we give, and the original of which hung on the line in the last R. A. exhibition, shows it as it appears on approaching it from the town. But the smaller view, taken from the far side (see sketches) is better from a picturesque point of view. From these two views may be gathered a tolerably correct idea of the external appearance of the house. It may be as well, however, to point out that the timber work is not black, but is left its natural colour, and the plaster work is rough cast. As will be seen in the larger view, two carved stone panels are introduced with good effect in the large central gable. The casements, too, instead of being let into the wall in the usual way, project, a narrow beading carried round the outside of each, and effectually preventing the admission of wind and rain, a plan which by the way appears to be becoming quite a favourite with Messrs. Salomons and Ely. The hooded porch is likewise a noticeable feature, with its vigorously carved brackets, as also the introduction of terra cotta tiles as a facing material here and there.
It is not, however, the exterior which shows so much the freedom under which the architect has worked in designing this house. As a general rule, architects are allowed by amateurish clients to have a little latitude in the matter of exterior design, and though the client may know what he wants inside, it may be safely presumed that the architect knows better than the client how to arrange the required accommodation both for convenience and effect. Therefore, it is to the inside of “The Cottage” that we must look more especially for the indications of the marked likings and tastes of the architect owner. And here we shall be sure to find more or less strongly developed those ideas and principles which are the result of a long and successful architectural practice.
Before we enter the house, however, it should perhaps be mentioned that the plan has been suited to the exigencies of the site, which, owing to circumstances’ had to be changed, thus throwing overboard a plan which in many respects was better and more in accordance with the architect’s ideal than one finally carried out. The front door gives access to a vestibule. You are struck at once with the pretty effect of the mosaic floor, the wood dado, the plastered wall space tinted in distemper, and the frieze showing a vine interweaving lattice work. Passing into the hall we have a wood dado, papered wall space and flat tinted frieze, a wood picture moulding dividing the wall space and frieze. The floor, like that of the vestibule, is laid with mosaic in good pattern and charmingly delicate colour. The door architraves are bracketed out above to receive the moulded cornice, above which are displayed plaques and pots. The staircase with its window seat rising with the steps and the alcove on the first landing, make a picturesque little view from the hall. Taking the hall as a whole, with its delicately coloured mosaic floor, its dark wood dado with the doors of walnut breaking its sharp line against the light paper of the walls, the pretty arrangement of staircase with its stepped window seat, and the alcove beyond, the blue and white plaques on the hooded architraves, together with the lovely ferns on a beautiful little inlaid table in the centre of the hall, the effect one gets is artistic in the extreme.
As we open the door to our right and enter the study, we find ourselves in a pleasant cosy room, equally well adapted for the purpose of a morning room. Its decorative treatment and the furnishing show how far use and fitness have entered into the general scheme. A dado of matting B a Japanese wall paper of an intricate pattern in soft tint, with a frieze of ordinary oblong Japanese lacquered trays, set in alternately with square panels, painted to harmonise B wood mouldings bordering dado and frieze, the window framing and ledging painted maroon and chocolate B the door of walnut, left its natural colour B the ceiling stencilled with a pattern of a very light colour (which would quite accord with Mr, Day’s ideas perhaps, but which I must confess I do not like at all) B across the upper part of one end of the room a lead light window (with quaint curtain hangings), in ten squares or compartments, each filled with the portrait of some ancient notability of art or literature B a dark stained wood mantel framing, with tapestry hangings in dull green and red, and decorative panel over the central shelf B fireplace framed with strips of dull grey marble, blue tiled cheeks, and a hooded grate; and finally coloured jars and plates enlivening the whole. Of these component parts Mr Salomons makes up a scheme of decoration which, for its purpose, is eminently suitable and thoroughly harmonious. The furniture is light and simple. A book case occupies the one end of the room, of plain character, yet useful arrangement. A glance at this gives us an idea of the wide range of art literature that may be considered necessary food for the architectural mind, and is enough to excite the envy of an earnest student. The lower shelves are very broad, and are filled with the larger tomes of illustrated journals. At the other end of the room, under the light lead window, there is another set of shelves, the centre position of which is divided into three compartments with doors. The two end portions are raised, and have large shelves, open at the front, for the reception of drawings, etc. Of course, pottery and plants ornament the top of these shelves, two large bronze figures occupying solitary positions on the raised ends. Five small light chairs, a couple of easy chairs, a breakfast table, a writing table in the window, and a side table complete the furnishing. Caprice, fashion, or eccentricity are pleasantly absent from this room, and in the place of some freak of genius or fashionable art folly staring us in the face, there is a quiet cosy look about the room which renders one oblivious for the moment of the very great deal that has been done to produce this effect. And it is positively delightful to look round upon its simple fittings, and find no old friends, or copies of them, from an Aart furniture@ emporium. Yes the room is comfortable and cheerful, and consequently habitable, and this not in spite of the decorative work, but because it has been carried out in a judicious, careful spirit, preserving the use of the room in view throughout.
Stepping across the hall we enter the drawing room, and though it is not an actual transition from darkness to light, yet the rich elegance that everywhere meets our view makes us feel there is a distinction with a difference. The walls show: A dado with black wood plinth, then a dull red cloth, and above a dark chocolate tinted plush velvet ground, on which is embroidered the green and white and intermediate soft tintings of the passion flower, with its leaves excellently disposed in geometrical pattern (almost gorgeous in effect, the white tint of flowers to my mind being just a little too staring); then a printed paper filling, and above this the “Adams” frieze of the Lincrusta Walton; finally, a plaster cornice, the numbers of which are principally enriched with gilding. The feature in the room is the introduction of a fernery in the back of the over-mantel, where a pier glass is not unfrequently placed. The decorative effect too is very good, the ferns growing out of miniature rocks placed behind a regular mullioned window in the outer wall, and receiving light and air through an aperture to the outside. Charmingly painted silver-grey birds on gold ground fill the cove of the over-mantel. The floor is bordered by a herring bone pattern of teak and oak parquet, and the door furniture is quaint and pretty. Very pleasant is the window recess at the end of the room, having glass on all sides, and being separated from the rest of the room by looped up curtains. The tout ensemble is altogether rich and harmonious, and to crown all the room is thoroughly well lighted.
Leaving the drawing room we come to the more sombre but equally interesting room, from a decorative point of view B the dining room. Here we have a dado made up of a good adaptation of Lincrusta Walton, with flock paper filling the wall space over. The frieze, about 8 inches in depth, is painted in panels in a most charming manner by Mr Thomas. These panels are filled with small square figure subjects at intervals of about 3 feet, representing eatable animals, the intervening spaces being filled with decorative paintings of fruit subjects. The room is plainly rectangular in shape, having two long side windows, and a 5 inch recess on each side for curtains, which hang down only to the window seat level. The doors are of walnut, and have a bracketed shelf over. It is worthy of note that in this room and the drawing room the windows are fitted with three pairs of curtains, the cream lace curtains and the golden silk inner curtains, setting off the dark rich, heavy curtains which hang from window head to floor in the drawing room, but only as far as the window seat in the dining room. The dining room decoration has a most harmonious effect, furniture cabinet, buffet, and chairs of walnut, in a most elaborately carved Renaissance walls, and everything blending in colour, rich browns and dull reds largely making up the scheme. The room is so broad and good in effect that one’s first impression is not likely to be effaced, even after a detailed examination.
Upstairs the same harmony of colour prevails, and throughout the house we are affected rather by the scheme as a whole than by any special or erratic prominent features. The upstairs arrangement is generally good, a noteworthy feature being the situation of the nurseries. The night nursery occupies an angle of the house, and having two large windows is, perhaps, the lightest and most cheerful room in the house. The walls are papered with the “Alice in Wonderland” and other story papers, and framed prints of the “Graphic Beauties” also adorn the walls. There is a very quaint mantel piece in the chief bedchamber.
Thus much for the principle features of the interior of “The Cottage.” In all artists and architects worthy the name there is more or less singularity of taste, and idealism is a sine qua non to success in the practice of either profession. Mr Salomons has sought to realise his ideal in his own home. It may not be anyone else’s (and in this mayhap lies its chief merit), but it certainly is a good example of the adaptation of art to the ordinary requirements of everyday life. In thus pleasing himself, and following out his own theories in domestic art, Mr Salomon has sought rather to produce a satisfactory whole, than to air any special conceit, and in this, I think, we may fairly assume he has been successful.
Is it not a truth that houses such as these, where art in its truer and simpler guise makes the surroundings beautiful in their homeliness are important factors in the art education of all who are brought within the reach of their influence? If so, then in this “home” where from the cosy sitting room to the elegant drawing room, the surroundings are not too beautiful in the costliness of the material used, or the richness of effect, to dissipate the essential “homely” appearance of the place, the simple and refined luxury within it cannot fail to be a constant lesson in the beauty of art, not only to its inmates, but also to those who come and go.
I have read somewhere (I think it was in one of those delightful works of the “Country Parson@) that a little of a thing is better than a great deal, and a portion more impressive than the whole. What I have written so far is only a little of what might be written about “The Cottage,” but to go further into detail might be more tedious to the reader than to the writer; besides which any distinctive or comprehensive idea of the place conveyed in these remarks, and the accompanying illustrations might only be spoilt. So I will say no more. [T Raffles Davison: British Architect 30 September 1881 Page 488-491]
ATTRACTIVE DETACHED RESIDENCE known as HIRSTWOOD fronting Daisy Bank Road, Victoria Park - To Be Sold by Auction - This house is exceptionally well built and conveniently arranged, was constructed by an eminent Manchester architect for his own occupation and comprises the following accommodation: GROUND FLOOR Entrance hall, three entertaining rooms, separate wing containing billiard room, conservatory, lavatory, and cloakroom; excellent domestic offices. FIRST FLOOR - Five bedrooms, bathroom, dressing room, etc. SECOND FLOOR, bedroom, two box-rooms, lavatory. BASEMENT - excellent cellars. The premises are centrally heated, and electric light is fitted throughout. The outbuildings comprise two glass-houses, cold frames, garage for two cars, store rooms etc. The garden is attractively laid out and there are two rustic summer houses. Site 4137.5 square yards. Leasehold for 999 years from 1836. Ground rent £22 19s 10d. [Manchester Guardian 8 November 1930 page 22]
Reference British Architect 5 August 1881 Page 990
Reference T Raffles Davison: British Architect 30 September 1881 Page 488-491 with illustrations
Reference History of Victoria Park.