Wednesday 28 January 2015

Reading Town Hall, Berkshire, UK. Horseshoe gallery Ironwork made by Andrew Handyside in 1880.

Reading Town Hall was officially opened on 31st May 1882, it was Grade II listed in 1976. Refurbishment started in 1986 and was completed in 2000.

Today this building is used as the Museum of Reading and has a large concert hall with conference rooms.The ironwork made by Handyside is located in the Main Hall. They made the Horseshoe shaped gallery in the hall. You can't really see the ironwork as its hidden but you will see in the technical design drawings below how important the ironwork is in this building.

Google streetview outside this building.

Here is a photograph taken in the hall viewed from directly under the gallery, as you can see the ironwork is enclosed in decorative wood.

Reading Town Hall is 98 foot long by 60 Foot wide. Three sides of the hall are furnished with a horseshoe shaped gallery projecting out by without any support columns!
The gallery projects out by 10 foot down two sides and by 16 foot at the end, the whole structure stands 11 foot from the floor.
It covers an area of 2140 square foot and weighs 80.892 tons.

The iron structure utilises a clever branch-and-root construction method, it was designed to be able to stand on its own but also cope when full of people.

Tests were performed at The Britannia Iron Works in Derby to ensure that it could cope with the stress, they loaded it with 50,000 bricks, weighing 9lbs each!

Max am Ende was the civil engineer for this job, He specialised in Ironwork structures.
The ironwork was manufactured in Derby at the Britania Ironworks by Andrew Handyside & Co under the direction of Ewing Matheson.

Here are the technical design drawings for the gallery in Reading Town Hall. They show how the gallery balcony is constructed :

My Reference : Page 2-4 of The Engineer journal from July 1st 1881.

I would like to thank Michael Thomas of adp-architecture who was involved in the restoration of Reading Hall, this took 20 years and started in May 1981.

Michael says "I can tell you that I saw practically everything that was done in that hall and my recollection is that the steelwork was almost certainly installed as shown on your drawings. 

This is what triggered my interest.  I don’t know if you have any engineering knowledge, if so you would be surprised by the slenderness of the steels below the floor as shown in your figure 9.
The reason is simply that they sat on hefty brick cross-walls in the lower ground floor; this is in marked contrast with the uprights built into the hall walls. It was a clever solution and I have attached a diagrammatic cross-section which should help. In short the steelwork was continuous and consisted of:

· The beams under the concert hall floor sitting on brick walls. These went across the whole hall and thus reduced the bending moment hugely and acted as a tie.
· There would have been huge rotation when these floor beams met the uprights, hence you see massive steelwork at lower left junction. And you will have noticed the very deep steels embedded in the 3’ thick walls.
·  Thus the structure was very rigid when it reached the point of cantilevering the balcony. The fact that the balcony is stepped also gives room for added stiffness.

This is a Grade II Listed Building and there is little scope for alteration this part of the structure. Neither was there any need. The steel was in good condition too. However there was minimal ventilation and when full the hall would have been stifling.

When we came on the scene the balcony was out use as the fire escape arrangements were inadequate. We had to be quite cunning and introduce two new exits and now one would be hard pressed to distinguish new from old. Also we had to introduce some form of ducting for fresh air.

In the event we put new ducts for blown air in the void within the balcony and intermittent outlets at the step risers. This was very challenging as it had to be blown almost noiselessly!

My recollection is that some modifications were made to the steels in two larger voids to accommodate the ducts and give access for maintenance; there are also a few trap doors in the floor at the highest level for access only. Of course the steel is covered up now as it was never intended to be exposed.

My firm will be 50 years old this year and is running a blog featuring 50 projects highlighting its history.
They are quite short and here is the one for Reading Town Hall:

You may find this interesting as there is a different view of the concert hall.

I have given you a pretty full reply and I think you can be certain that the steelwork was installed as Handyside’s drawings and has stood the test of time very well.
You may not know that there was a strong move to sell the site around 1974 after Local Government reorganisation and permit demolition for a new commercial development!
The whole complex was listed as late as 1976.

I hope you find all this of interest.

Best wishes,

More information:
Reading Museum (formally Reading Town Hall)

Hope you enjoyed this new Andrew Handyside discovery.


Tuesday 27 January 2015

Railway Station Roof at La Plata Station in Buenos Aires, South America built by Andrew Handyside in 1906.

The roof of La Plata Railway Station (Estación del Ferrocarril Roca) in Buenos Aires, South America was built at the Britannia Iron Works in Derby in 1906.

The roof has a span of 117 foot and its 500 foot long and weighs 870 tons.

There are some great photographs by Carlos Amato showing the iron work :

Here is an advert from The Engineering Journal in 1909 featuring this roof :

You can see this Railway Station in these Google Street View :

Estación del Ferrocarril Roca..

Video of La Plata Railway Station, Buenos Aires.
I even managed to find this video of the railway station in which you can see the Handyside Iron work. You can see this from about 0:34 in :

Hope you enjoyed this new find of Andrew Handyside's work.


Monday 19 January 2015

Drinking Fountain in Alexandra Park, Whalley Range, Manchester, UK Made Andrew Handyside in 1868. Now Restored.

Alexandra Park is a 60-acre park in the Moss Side/Whalley Range districts of Manchester, England. It was designed by Alexander Hennell, opened in 1868. In 2012 a two year £5.5m restoration project to return the park to its original Victorian glory started. The restored park reopened in August 2014.

Part of the restoration included a Drinking fountain made by Andrew Handyside of Derby. I'm so happy to see this fountain restored, it looked in pretty bad shape but thanks to the hard work of Hargreaves Foundry from Halifax its now looking very good. Andrew Handyside would be proud to see his fountain looking like this 146 years after it was installed in this park.

This very same fountain can be found in the grounds of St Pancras Old Church in London, UK and also one in Geelong, Victoria, Australia called "The Belcher Drinking Fountain"

Here are some photographs of this Handyside drinking fountain after its restoration in 2014 :

This is Fountain Design No. 48 on Page 40 of my 1879 publication "An Illustrated book of Designs for Fountains and Vases, costing from £1 to £1200 manufactured by Andrew Handyside".

Here are some photographs showing the poor state the drinking fountain was in prior to restoration :

I found this rather interesting old photograph of the drinking fountain from 1954. These people are from The Band of Hope, part of the Temperance Movement in Manchester. Click to view a large version.
The fountain as seen in 1954 (Copyright Livesey Collection UCLan)


Useful links :
Friends of Alexandra Park Facebook page.

Blog entry by Hargreaves Foundry about their restoration of the fountain.

Andrew Handyside exported many decorative fountains around the world during the Victorian era.
The Britannia Foundry's work was well known for its fine quality so these fountains can be found all over the globe but where exactly they are located is difficult to find out.

Thankfully because of my research here people are beginning to contact me with details of Handyside work, I am then able to add it to my world map. It really helps my research being able to use Flickr to see these items for myself and share these finds with the world!

Andy Savage

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Fountain in Rochdale Memorial Gardens made by Andrew Handyside. Now restored !

This restored fountain is located at the North end of Rochdale Memorial Gardens.

I was told about this restoration back in 2011 by Bob Bevan a Rochdale Township Greenspace Ranger. I supplied them information to try and help with the restoration and I'm happy to say this fountain is now up and running again.
I made a special trip from Derby to see this fountain and meet up with Bob, he gave me an amazing tour of the local sites and heritage which was very interesting.

In my video you will see just below the large bowl of the fountain are busts of Peel, Nelson, Watt, Wellington, Stephenson, Scott, Shakespeare and Milton.

This particular design of fountain is listed as Design Number 27 on Page 70 of the 1879 publication "An Illustrated book of Designs for Fountains and Vases, costing from £1 to £1200 manufactured by Andrew Handyside".

My video of the restored fountain in Rochdale Memorial Gardens.

I have also created three 360 degree VR photographs of this fountain so you can have a look around the Memorial Gardens:

Here is a photograph taken in 2008 when the fountain was dry and waiting restoration :

Rochdale Memorial Gardens