Richard Knill Freeman

Bolton architect

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Bolton infirmary

Built 1879-1883; demolished (the gates remain)

Knill Freeman was placed first in the competition for this contract in May 1878 (on the same day that he won the competition for Heaton cemetery) after a display of the designs in the town hall. The competition judge was Charles Barry. The cornerstone was laid in May 1880 and the infirmary and children’s wing (a gift of Dr Chadwick who also sponsored the Chadwick orphanage and the Chadwick museum) were competed in July 1883 at a cost of over £35,000. In 1881 there was a “grand exhibition of fine art treasures” there. This was partly to raise funds for the building and was designed by Selim Rothwell, a Manchester artist. Over 1600 pieces of art were displayed, including some by Freeman.

It was a large site and the infirmary was a prominent feature of Bolton’s skyline.


Clegg, James; Annals of Bolton, 1888

British Architect, 29 August 1879, p.82

Harrison, Margaret; Bolton’s Royal Infirmary

The British Architect described the scheme:

“In plan, the hospital consists of two wards opening from a central corridor, with nurses’ day and night rooms adjoining. Each ward contains eight beds, and has the lavatories, closets, &c., in turrets at the ends separated from the wards by short passages ventilated by opposite windows. In the central portion of the front of the building is a convalescence or recreation ward, 31 feet by 16 feet which is so arranged as to admit of division into two smaller wards if desired. The position on the site is so planned as to overlook the Park on which it abuts, and which being well planted adds materially to the advantage of the situation. A terrace with low wall and coping is carried along the whole of the front, with flights of steps leading on to the grounds. The sanitary arrangements include the principal modern improvements – ventilation &c., being very thoroughly provided for. The walls and ceilings of the wards are to be finished with parian cement.”

The Childrens hospital (below) was illustrated in the British Architect in August 1879. It used patent bricks, Yorkshire stone dressings and green slates from Elterwater for the roof. It was the first part to be built and the cornerstone was laid by Mr Musgrave a local spinner whose family has other connections with Freeman (see House in Winderrmere, Brookland).