The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

North West

News: Blackley Crematorium listed

More good news. Blackley Crematorium, Manchester, has just been listed at Grade II by English Heritage (the Chapel hasn’t been listed). This is another modernist building by the then City Architect, L C Howitt, to be listed. I attach EH’s reason’s for the listing. Non-Mancunians may not know that Blackley is pronounced “Blake-lee”, with a long e vowel.

Aidan TB C20 NW

Reasons for listing

Blackley Crematorium, constructed in 1959 to the designs of the Manchester City Architect Leonard C Howitt, is recommended for designation at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Pioneering modern design: it was one of the first crematoria in Britain to adopt a modern and European-influenced design, heralding a more adventurous and assertive modern approach to crematoria design;

* Architectural interest: it has a strong and confident design composed of crisp clean lines with a particularly striking front elevation dominated by the main chapel’s massive bow window flanked by lower side chapels and entrances;

* Setting: the main symmetrical facade specifically relates to, and contrasts with, the meandering roads leading through the cemetery landscape, thereby heightening the building’s impact and presence;

* Interior quality: using good-quality materials throughout the interior, the crematorium’s most notable space is the main central chapel with its dramatic form enhanced by good quality stained glass and carefully considered materials and lighting;

* Artistic interest: the building contains an abundance of high-quality abstract-patterned coloured and stained-glass in windows and catafalque gates;

* Planning interest: the building’s simple plan layout of three chapels set alongside each other allows funerals to take place concurrently, whilst a discreet and private atmosphere is maintained through the provision of separate exit halls and the design to minimise awareness of the rear service areas;

* Bespoke design: Howitt’s design reflects Manchester’s strong civic pride and commitment to municipal architecture;

* Degree of survival: it is little altered both externally and internally and retains a wealth of original features.

The Chapel of Remembrance building at Blackley Cemetery is not recommended for designation for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the drum-shaped Chapel of Remembrance is of some architectural interest for its more unusual exterior form. However, the rest of the building is conventional and more standardised in its design and treatment, and lacks the overall high level of design quality of the crematorium;

* Alteration: it has incurred substantial internal alteration that has compromised its architectural integrity and character and led to the loss of nearly all of its original features.