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Anthony Grimshaw, winner of first ever AJ Small Projects prize, dies aged 81

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North West-based architect Anthony Grimshaw, who won the AJ’s inaugural Small Projects prize in 1996, has died

Born in 1936, Grimshaw formed Anthony Grimshaw Associates in Wigan, Lancashire in 1962. He had studied at Manchester Art School followed by Town Planning and Urban Design at Liverpool, travelling daily to Manchester by bicycle with his T-square strapped to his crossbar.

The work of the office went from individual (strongly Modernist) house projects in the 1960s to schools and churches in the 1970s and ’80s, to Wigan’s first purpose-built hospice in the 1990s, and more recently church conservation work. His £57,500 garden gazebo in the grounds of a Modernist house at Alderley Edge – also designed by Grimshaw – won an RIBA award, together with the very first Architects’ Journal Small Projects Award in 1996.

Two recent conservation projects were shortlisted by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings for their John Betjeman Award and there were several mentions in Pevsner over the years.

A renowned furniture designer for many churches across the North West, he believed architects should be able to turn their hand to any form of three-dimensional design. His portfolio included many church reordering schemes, involving everything from choir stalls and organ casings to chairs, altars and crosses. Notable among them was the suspended circular glass meeting room at St Nicholas’ Church in Burnage, Manchester, and the complete redesign of the fire-damaged St George’s Church in Wigan, which was highly commended by the Worshipful Company of Carpenters in its Wood Awards.

Garden gazebo by Anthony Grimshaw Associates, Cheshire - the winner of the first AJ Small Projects prize in 1996

Garden gazebo by Anthony Grimshaw Associates, Cheshire - the winner of the first AJ Small Projects prize in 1996

Garden gazebo by Anthony Grimshaw Associates, Cheshire - the winner of the first AJ Small Projects prize in 1996

Grimshaw believed strongly in combining sound knowledge of traditional methods of construction with innovative design solutions. He was quinquennial architect for more than 80 churches at any one time and served on both Manchester and Liverpool Diocesan Advisory Committees. He was also a commissioned architect for English Heritage.

A founding member of Wigan Civic Trust he had a strong sense of his roots and was a great champion of his locality, helping to save the industrial heritage of Wigan’s famous pier, among other structures in the town.

He taught at both Manchester University and Polytechnic Architectural schools for several years in the 1970s and often mentored year-out students.

Renowned for his strong sense of humour and style, he reflected in later years that his extravagant clothes of the 1960s and ’70s ‘probably’ lost him work; clients being wary of employing the young dandy in the tailored flared suits and kipper ties.

Architect was not simply a job title but a vocation which defined him. He was at his happiest at the drawing board and was an astonishing draughtsman, often impressing clients by explaining a scheme by producing a 3-dimensional sketch in front of them during a meeting. Never succumbing to acquiring computer skills he always detailed by hand and filled many sketchbooks with immaculate watercolour drawings of buildings – and people during meetings – wherever he travelled (often to Italy). He was at home on a building site and had a great respect for builders and craftsmen. He loved the jokes and camaraderie of a building site.

The practice continues to be run by his two daughters; Rebecca Grimshaw, architect and Rachel Grimshaw, interior designer.

Bell house in parbold

Bell house in parbold

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Anthony, Rebecca and Rachel Grimshaw were kind enough to give me, as a college student at the nearby Wigan and Leigh College, a taster of how an Architect works and some really helpful work experience which was very formative in my decision to study Architecture. This must have been in 1997 or 1998 or so and I was really grateful for the chance to pop into the office once a week to shadow, go on site visits and draw.

    I vividly remember being given the task of scratching out some drawings (on their original trace) and accidentally cutting my finger on the razor blade - initially I thought that the red pen was leaking and . . . . the rest of the afternoon was spent scratching out my mistake! So embarrassing!

    I also remember Anthony's kindness and generosity and I am very sorry to hear this news.

    All the best,

    Mike R

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