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Alfred Darbyshire Collection

Date range: 1857–1907.

The Manchester architect Alfred Darbyshire (1839-1908) had a lifelong personal and professional interest in drama and the theatre: he was a keen amateur actor and friend of Henry Irving and the actor-manager Charles Calvert, while as an architect he specialized in theatres.

He designed the Comedy Theatre (later called the Gaiety) in Manchester, and remodelled the Lyceum Theatre in London, and rebuilt the Exeter theatre after a disastrous fire.

He was particularly concerned to minimize fire risk in theatres, and with Henry Irving he developed the Irving-Darbyshire Safety Theatre, whose principal feature was a safety curtain to protect the audience if a fire broke out on the stage. He was also a noted antiquarian and student of heraldry.

The collection, acquired at auction in 1999, comprises ten scrapbooks containing important historical photographs of Manchester, photographs of theatres and other buildings that Darbyshire designed, and a rich miscellany of correspondence and ephemera relating to contemporary theatre and literature. Among the figures represented in the collection are Henry Irving and W.B. Yeats.

The collection has relevance for studies of architecture, the theatre, literature, photography and popular culture in the nineteeenth century.

Finding aids

Caltaloguing in progress

Location

The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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