Alfred Waterhouse

An architect that enjoyed strong colour content and Venetian Gothic design in the late 19th century, Alfred Waterhouse won the Royal Gold Medal in 1878



Natural History Museum © RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Born in Liverpool, Alfred Waterhouse learnt his trade in Manchester before embarking on a tour of France, Germany and Italy. He established his own practice in Manchester in 1854 before moving to London 10 years later. Eventually his son, Paul, joined him in practice there in 1891.  

Waterhouse was consultant architect to the Prudential Assurance Company for many years, and built offices for them in several large provincial towns. His building for the Prudential in Holborn, London, which was recently renamed Waterhouse Chambers and now houses English Heritage.

Born: 1830 (-1905)
Nationality: British

Waterhouse’s major existing work in Manchester is the town hall with a design in Venetian Gothic. The building is executed with solid and splendid interior detail.

He is in every way worthy of the distinction as a representative man in the highest field of practical architecture in this country.

After Waterhouse moved to London, his major work was the Natural History Museum in 1881 on the site of the International Exhibition of 1862 in South Kensington. Waterhouse’s selection of terracotta for the building with flora and fauna sculptures on the exterior was certainly an unusual choice for both client and architect.

Waterhouse went on to design other buildings in brick and tile with a strong colour content, including the University College Hospital in London.


Natural History Museum © RIBA Library Photographs CollectionNatural History Museum © RIBA Library Drawings & Archives CollectionsNatural History Museum © RIBA Library Drawings & Archives CollectionsManchester Town Hall: the grand staircase © RIBA Library Photographs CollectionManchester Town Hall © RIBA Library Photographs Collection
  • Royal Gold Medal, 1878

Buildings by Waterhouse:

  • Prudential, London, 1879
  • Town Hall, Manchester, 1868
  • Natural History Museum, 1881
  • National Liberal Club, London, 1885
  • Metropole Hotel, Brighton, 1888
  • University College Hospital, London, 1897