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Harris Institute | by Tony Worrall
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Harris Institute

A Grade II* Listed Building in Preston, Lancashire


Formerly known as: The Preston Institution for the Diffusion

of Useful Knowledge.

Mechanics institute, subsequently the Technological and

Science and Art School; now art school. 1846-9, by John Welch,

with terraced forecourt of 1849 by George Latham; and

additions to rear c.1883. Sandstone ashlar, slate roof with

glass skylights. Double-pile plan, plus later additions to the

rear. Classical style. Two storeys and 3 bays raised up on a

full basement storey (which is projected to form a terraced

forecourt: see below); symmetrical, with a central portico,

paired corner pilasters, moulded frieze, and dentilled cornice

with blocking course. The portico has 2 giant fluted columns

with composite caps in antis, the antae with delicate

anthemion enrichment to the caps (which is repeated on the

corner pilasters), and an emphatic dentilled pediment; and the

date "1847" inscribed on the soffit of the entablature. The

entrance under the portico has an architrave with frieze

inscribed SCHOOL OF ART, a large elaborately carved cresting,

an added stone plaque above this inscribed HARRIS INSTITUTE,

and a deeply recessed porch with a pedimented doorway.

Flanking the portico are tripartite bay windows with panelled

aprons, square columnar mullions, and corniced entablatures.

Hipped roof over each main block, and between these a

rectangular lantern and 2 corniced chimney stacks. The

forecourt, approached by a wide flight of steps in 2 stages,

the lower with a curved splay, has retaining walls of banded

rustication with rock-faced battered piers, and a prominent

dentilled cornice, and the whole is protected by balustrades

with square panelled piers, those at the foot of the steps

carrying urns. The left side has a rock-faced basement storey

with a central doorway, and above this a re-entrant with an

open colonnaded corridor (now partly glazed) linking the end

walls of the front and rear blocks, which have paired corner

pilasters, and banded rustication and coupled sashed windows

at ground floor. Continued to rear is late C19 addition of 2

storeys and 4 bays, in simple classical style.

INTERIOR: 2-cell entrance hall, the front cell with side

screens composed of stone columns distyle in antis (now closed

with glazed doors and partitions), and both cells with

coffered ceilings which have plaster cornices with waterleaf

and bead-and-reel enrichment; imperial staircase with

elaborate cast-iron balusters; lecture room in rear block with

raked seating; former exhibition room at 1st floor of front

block (now partitioned), with roof trusses supported by

scrolled consoles, and illumination by skylights. History:

Institution, founded in 1828, removed to this site from

original premises in Cannon Street despite protests of some

founder members that it would no longer serve the classes for

whom it was intended; function partly superseded by Free

Library opened in 1872, and subsequently by Harris Library and

Museum (q.v.); converted and enlarged from 1882 to serve as

Technological College, parent institution of Harris Technical

School in Corporation Street which ultimately became

Lancashire Polytechnic.


© 2017 Tony Worrall

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Taken on October 17, 2017