There has been a proposal to create a 'museum' to Mather & Platt Ltd. as part of the refurbishment of Gorton Monastery - a landmark within the Manchester area. The location is fractionally south of Newton Heath while Salford is about seven miles north-west of Gorton.
With its beginnings in Salford and moving later to Newton Heath, Mather & Platt Ltd. became a pioneering company - in both product and workplace practice. The company had its origins in the early days of the Industrial Revolution when, in 1817, the first "Mather" business started a roller-turning facility in Salford.
|Landmarks for Mather & Platt ...
In 1873 Professor Osborne Reynolds designed a turbine pump which was a definite advance in centrifugal pumping. Mather & Platt developed and improved upon the new invention and in doing so, laid the foundation for what eventually became a flourishing Pump Department.
|In 1883 rights to manufacture Edison's electric dynamo were acquired by the firm and, as a result of improvements introduced by Dr. John Hopkinson, the Edison-Hopkinson dynamo reached a degree of perfection not previously known in such machines.This was the first stage in the setting up of the Electrical Department.|
|Also in 1883
- Mr. (later Sir) William Mather, while on a visit to the
United States, secured the sole rights from Frederick
Grinnell to market the Grinnell automatic
sprinkler in all parts of the world except North America.
Initially, through the firm of Dowson, Taylor & Co.
and then through Mather & Platt itself, he used this
event to mark the beginning of yet another side of the
firm's activities, the foundation of the Fire Department.
Gorton Monastery - Manchester, 1872
The monastery - in the Gothic Revival style - was completed in 1872 and was the work of the architect, Edward Welby Pugin - with additional features designed by his brother, Paul Pugin. It was A. W. N. Pugin, together with Sir Charles Barry, who designed the present Houses of Parliament in London. Following the destruction by fire of the Houses of Parliament in 1834, Barry - who worked on Manchester buildings too - won the competition for the new buildings on which he worked from 1837 through to the commencement of building, in 1840, to the completion of first the House of Lords in 1847 and then the House of Commons in 1852 - though some work carried on after that. Barry's other well known buildings include the Manchester Athenaeum (1836), Manchester City Art Gallery (built 1824-35), the Reform Club (1837), the Treasury building in Whitehall (1845) and the Royal College of Surgeons. One of his sons, Sir John Wolfe-Barry, was the engineer for London's Tower Bridge.
Gorton Monastery, 1872-1989
A Franciscan foundation, the monastery became an important part of the fabric of the neighbourhood and enjoyed more than a hundred years of community support. However, by 1989, local demographics, the changing face of religious commitment and a decline in the standard of housing offered by the immediate area saw its eventual 'demise' and it was sold to developers.
Gorton Monastery, 1989 onwards
For a period of several years, no development took place and it fell victim to neglect as well as to the unwanted attention of vandals. Now, thanks to the vision of a small group of people - they purchased the vandalised and derelict buildings - refurbishment capital has been obtained from the Heritage Lottery Fund, from English Heritage and through possible further funding via sources associated with European regional development and the North-West Regional Development Agency.
Plans are well advanced to give new life to this significant - listed - building; a life directed towards the social needs of the local community and informed by that local community. Refurbishment is intended to provide facilities which focus on Technical and Trades Education as well as on the Creative and Practical Arts - with the further goal of offering opportunities for people to encounter aspects of local history and heritage. As a result, a process of social focus and of "lifelong learning" is intended - where practical courses, hands-on experience, meetings, visits, observation, talks and an overall sharing of the many facilities to be centred here - set in the heart of this culturally exciting and diverse socio-economic area of Manchester - may go some way towards fulfilling an immediate need with the value-added expectation of a lasting benefit to local - and wider - communities.
The preservation of the building and a place to celebrate the work of the Pugin family - one has only to recall the fine commemorative Pugin exhibition in London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 1994 - are also prime elements for the project, of course; but the allocation of some space at Gorton Monastery, where the history of Mather & Platt Ltd. may also be celebrated and where the lives of the belts and braces - as much as those of the bowler hats - may be seen and appreciated, is central to the aim of a number of members of the Mather & Platt Long Service Association.
The men and women - the machines - the work of about one hundred and fifty years, from the early days at Salford Iron Works to the Platts and the entrepreneurial Mathers, the Dowson-Taylor story and the successes of Newton Heath thence to the final chapter of take-over, demise and demolition ... it is a Manchester story that needs to be there. The Mather & Platt story, however, is far more than just a tale of technical progress or the acquisition of new markets - for in the course of its long history, the company acquired a tradition and an international reputation which could be counted amongst the biggest of its assets. As Professor Richard Pares once wrote, Until we can quote histories of representative banks, steamship companies, jerry-builders, tea planters, wine merchants, servants, registries, coal miners and the like, we shall still be talking about the history of economic policy, not about economic history - a particularly bad mistake to make about a country like Great Britain, where the efforts of society have usually counted for so much and those of the rulers of society comparatively speaking, for so little. - Richard Pares, A West Indian Fortune (1950), p.vii.
It is felt that a "museum" for Mather & Platt would sit very comfortably within the project's heading "East Manchester Showcase" and that, perhaps, the donation of Mather & Platt machinery might fulfil a sculptural theme in exterior areas of the complex. For those wishing to indicate their support for this 'home', to send in ideas - or even pledge a few million pounds ... Marcel Boschi invites your messages. He will then communicate this support via the Mather & Platt Long Service Association to the Gorton Monastery project co-ordinators, Elaine Griffiths and Ilma Scantlebury. If you prefer, you may contact The Monastery of St. Francis and Gorton Trust directly through their web pages, accessed via the image at the top of this page.
The estimates for refurbishment and for setting up the many facilities and services needed for this project to be completed are nearer to the £6 million mark. It is the hope of this web site - as much as it is the hope of all concerned - that fully operational funding may be secured before opportunities are lost and prices - as they inevitably do - rise and the fabric of the building deteriorates still further. Regardless of any outcome associated with M&P space on the Gorton 'map', the 'History of Mather & Platt Ltd." web site is proud to promote the work being undertaken by the Monastery Trust.
"For the duration of the Commonwealth Games the Monastery opened its doors to visitors as a Hall of Heritage for the last time before restoration. The visitors, locals and foreigners alike, came in an endless stream, many in tears, touched by the vandalism and destruction of such a beautiful place and the courage of the band of volunteers who took on this mammoth task. The timely £3.66 million grant announced for restoration from Heritage Lottery confirmed what many locals knew already, that this Pugin built gem, now in ruins, is one of the most significant and exciting buildings in Manchester. Its varied history reflects the triumphs, trials and tribulations of the whole of East Manchester."