Thomas Rickman’s Liverpool

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Date / time: 19 May - 20 May, 12:45 pm - 5:15 pm

School of the Arts Library, University of Liverpool

Thomas Rickman's Liverpool

2017 marks the bicentenary of the printing (in Liverpool) of Thomas Rickman’s ground-breaking book An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of Architecture. This event is being celebrated by exhibitions at Liverpool’s Central Library and the University of Liverpool’s Archives and Special Collections, and with walks and talks. To coincide with these events,  a two-day conference will be held in association with the University of Liverpool’s Eighteenth-Century Worlds Research Centre.

The aim of the conference is to critically evaluate Rickman’s work and its influence in the context of the town where he lived and worked, where he discovered architecture and underwent the transformation from insurance clerk to professional architect. The conference is centred upon Rickman but seeks to encourage a deeper understanding of Liverpool, and its social and architectural environment during the period of his residence (1808-c.1821). Contemporary Liverpool was the ideal setting for a young man interested in buildings and eager for self-improvement: he arrived soon after the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807) which transformed Liverpool’s international trade and was an early member of the revived Literary and Philosophical Society (1812) where he honed his skills as a lecturer on architectural topics. He became involved with local building projects, notably the constructionally-innovative churches of local ironmaster John Cragg and built up a network of fellow enthusiasts and potential clients.


Day 1: Friday 19 May 2017

  • 12.45: Registration
  • 13.00-14.00: Keynote – Megan Aldrich: ‘Thomas Rickman (1776-1841): a Nonconformist Life in Architecture’
  • Session 1: Merchants and Shops in Liverpool c.1800
  • 14.00-14.20: Sheryllynne Haggerty – ‘Liverpool’s Trade and Traders in the Atlantic World’
  • 14.20-14.40: Jon Stobart – ‘Geographies of shopping and leisure in Georgian Liverpool’14.40-14.50: Questions
  • 14.50-15.05: Break
  • Session 2: Liverpool – Space, Place and Culture
  • 15.05-15.25: Katy Layton-Jones – ‘Rickman in Context: the changing landscape of Rickman’s England’
  • 15.25-15.45: Hugh Hollinghurst – ‘Rickman, St Luke’s Church and the John Fosters, Senior and Junior’
  • 15.45-16.05: David Brazendale/Mark Towsey –  ‘ “To the convenience of men of business as well as men of leisure”: Reading, Community and Library Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain’
  • 16.05-16.15: Questions
  • 16.15-16.45: Walk to the Liverpool Athenaeum (directions will be provided)
  • 16.45-17.30: Tea and exhibition at the Athenaeum
  • 17.30-18.30: Keynote 2 – Joseph Sharples – ‘Improvement and embellishment united’: The Architectural Scene in Thomas Rickman’s Liverpool

Day 2: Saturday 20 May 2017

  • 9.45: Registration
  • 10.00-11.00: Keynote 3 – Rosemary Sweet: ‘Thomas Rickman – A Modern Antiquary’
  • 11.00-11.15: Coffee
  • Session 3: Contemporary Writings
  • 11.15-11.35: Peter Lindfield – ‘Gothic Prevision: William Porden’s Architectural Awareness’
  • 11.35-11.55: Stephen Clarke – ‘Hints to some Churchwardens and the Pleasures of Churchwardens’ Gothic’
  • 11.55-12.05: Questions
  • Session 4: Rickman’s Readers
  • 12.05-12.25: Alex Buchanan – ‘Attempting to Discriminate: Thomas Rickman’s Readers’
  • 12.25-12.45: Will Ashworth – Rickman and Whewell, title t.b.c.
  • 12.45-13.05: Geoff Brandwood – ‘Lancaster to Lyons: Edmund Sharpe, Thomas Rickman and Travellers’ Tales’
  • 13.05-13.15: Questions
  • 13.15-14.00: Lunch
  • Session 5: Religious Architecture
  • 14.00-14.20: Johanna Roethe – ‘Quaker Meeting Houses and their Architects’
  • 14.20-14.40: Bill Walker – ‘ “Meeting Our Waterloos”: The Lancashire Commissioners’ Churches’
  • 14.40-15.00: Christopher Webster – ‘Northern Church Building c.1810-20: An Important Episode in the Gothic Revival’
  • 15.00-15.10: Questions
  • 15.10-15.25: Tea
  • Session 6: Rickman’s Architecture
  • 15.25-15.45: Mark Baker – ‘Thomas Rickman in Wales: Gwrych Castle and the creation of a gothick fantasy’
  • 15.45-16.05: Frank Salmon – ‘Following “as nearly as may be”: Rickman’s New Court at St John’s College, Cambridge’
  • 16.05-16.15: Questions
  • 16.15-17.15: Keynote 4 – Rosemary Hill: ‘Styles and Principles – Rickman, Pugin and the Gothic Revival’

On Sunday 21 May there is the opportunity to undertake a tour of Gwrych, Rickman’s romantic castle in North Wales.

The cost is £10 per person (£5 for under-10s) with all proceeds going to the Gwrych Preservation Trust. For further details see the Eventbrite booking page.

Booking page: