Thomas Harrison

(1744—1829) architect

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English provincial architect, he was nevertheless among the most advanced Neo-Classicists of his time, designing the Lycaeum, Bold Street, Liverpool (1800–3), the Portico Library, Mosley Street, Manchester (1802–6), and his masterpiece, the Castle, County Courts, Prison, Armoury, Barracks, Exchequer, and Propylaeum, Chester (1788–1822), in all of which he demonstrated his talents as a creator of the most monumental Neo-Classical buildings. The Chester Castle group is arguably the finest Greek Revival ensemble in the British Isles. He also designed two huge Doric memorial columns: one commemorating Rowland, 1st Viscount Hill (1772–1842), in Shrewsbury, Salop. (1814–16), and the other celebrating Henry William Paget, 1st Marquis of Anglesey (1768–1854), at Llanfairpwll, Anglesey (1816). Hill and Paget were distinguished soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars. As a designer in the Gothic style, however, Harrison was less impressive, although at Lancaster Castle (1788–99) he composed some fine buildings, notably the polygonal Shire Hall. His engineering abilities were formidable: his Skerton Bridge, Lancaster (1783–8), was the first large masonry bridge in Britain carrying a flat road from bank to bank, while his Grosvenor Bridge, Chester (1827–9), his largest such structure, was the biggest stone arch in the world when it was built. He also designed some visionary national monuments as severe as any of the time, and he was highly regarded in his lifetime, notably by C. R. Cockerell. Among his many works of domestic architecture may be mentioned Broomhall, Fife (1796–9), and The Citadel, Hawkstone, Salop. (1824–5). Had he not lived in relative isolation in Chester he would conceivably have outshone Soane and Smirke.

Colvin (1995);Country Life, cxlix/3853 (15 Apr. 1971), 876–9, 3854 (22 Apr.), 944–7, 3856 (6 May), 1088–91, 3862 (1 Jun.), 1539;Crook (1972a);Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);Placzek (ed.) (1982);

Subjects: Architecture.

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