Basic Biographical Details

Name: Richard Knill Freeman
Designation: Architect
Born: 1840
Died: 23 June 1904
Bio Notes: Richard Knill Freeman was born in London, the son of Richard (?) and Harriet Freeman. By 1851, following the early death of his father, the family had returned to his mother’s home town of Portsea, Hampshire. Here Harriet Freeman established Elm Grove House, a preparatory school for boys and here too Richard Knill Freeman was later articled to the local architect, George Rake, between 1854 and 1860. On completion of his articles, he appears to have moved firstly to the Manchester/Bolton area. Contemporary records show that in December 1860 Freeman was actively involved in the formation of the Manchester Architectural Association, becoming its first Honorary Secretary, while in 1861 he was managing assistant to W W Whittaker of Bolton before working in architect’s offices in Portsmouth, Manchester and Bolton in 1862 and 1863 (RIBA Directory).

A number of his obituaries indicate that he began his architectural career in Derby in the early 1860's (1863-1864?) before returning to Bolton about 1865, working initially in partnership with George Cunliffe but after October 1871 mostly alone. In the five years following the dissolution of the partnership, Freeman struggled to obtain major commissions. (Claims that he was responsible for the design of the Indian Pavilion on Blackpool’s North pier in 1874 are incorrect as to date of construction and suspect as to Freeman’s possible involvement). It was only after his appointment as architect for the Museum and Public Library at Derby in 1876 that new commissions of any significance increased and the success of the practice became assured. The library was opened in 1879 and in the intervening three years Freeman operated a branch office in Derby. His later success was aided in part by his appointment as Surveyor to the Diocese of Manchester under the Ecclesiastical Dilapidations Act 1871, and a growing reputation as an authority on church architecture.

Many of his major commissions were won in open competition, a correspondent in the Manchester Guardian noting “Mr Freeman went in freely for architectural competitions in which he was more successful than the majority of those who regard this form of speculation as a profitable investment of time and money.” In addition to the Free Library at Derby, successful entries included Bolton Infirmary (1878), West Hartlepool Municipal Offices (1886), Bolton Central Higher Grade School (1894) and the pavilion at the landward end of Central Pier, Blackpool (1897). Less successful were his entries for Southport Art Gallery (1877), the National Museum of Science and Art, Dublin (1882), and the unplaced entry for Exchange Station, Tithebarn Street, Liverpool (1881).

R K Freeman was elected a Fellow of the RIBA on 9 January 1882, nominated by Lawrence Booth, Alfred Darbyshire and George T Redmayne. He was also a Fellow of the Manchester Society of Architects and its president in 1890-91.

While Freeman generally worked alone, he entered a loose association or partnership from 1886-1897 with S Denison Robins who practised in Sunderland and Newcastle which seems to have been mainly for the purpose of entering competitions in the north east. About 1900 he took his son Frank Richard Freeman into partnership, the firm practising under the style R Knill Freeman and Son, architects, Bolton and it was Frank Freeman who continued the practice from 21 Wood Street, Bolton, following his father’s death.

Richard Knill Freeman died on 23 June 1904, aged 64, the local paper recording that he “had been in failing health for some time back and his demise was not altogether unexpected.” He was interred in the churchyard of St Stephen’s Lever Bridge, Bolton, one of Edmund Sharpe’s famous “pot churches,” following a private ceremony, the chief mourners being his widow, Frank Freeman, and Miss (Constance E) Freeman. However, baptismal records exist for three other sons and one other daughter, some of whom are assumed to have died in infancy or early childhood.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 9Sunderland, County Durham, EnglandBusiness  with Robins?
Item 2 of 9Newcastle upon Tyne, EnglandBusiness  with Robins?
Item 3 of 9Derby, DerbyshireBusiness1864(?)1865As noted in obituaries - CHECK
Item 4 of 913, Wood Street, Bolton, LancashireBusiness1868 Cunliffe and Freeman. Probably 1865-1871
Item 5 of 917, Wood Street, Bolton, Lancashire, EnglandBusiness1874(?)1892 
Item 6 of 9Derby, DerbyshireBusiness1876(?)1879Branch office during construction of Library
Item 7 of 924, Nelson Square, Bolton, LancashireBusiness1892 CHECK
Item 8 of 9Diocesan Chambers, 51, South King Street, Manchester, EnglandBusiness1895 Office of the Diocesan Surveyor
Item 9 of 915, Wood Street, Bolton, LancashireBusiness1895  

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1George Cunliffec. 18651871Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Charles Thomas Marshall18891891Assistant 
Item 2 of 2Dan Gibsonc. 1889c. 1892AssistantResident architect - Graythwaite Hall


RIBA Proposers

The following individuals proposed this architect for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 2Alfred Darbyshire1882 
Item 2 of 2George Tunstal Redmayne1882 

RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 1Jonas James Bradshaw18 January 1886 

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 11887Graythwaite HallFar Sawrey CumberlandEnglandRemodelling of House and new stable block


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 2British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 2French, David  Accessed September 2016

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 6Bolton Chronicle25 June 1904  p8 - obituary
Item 2 of 6Bolton Evening News24 June 1904  p2 - obituary
Item 3 of 6British Architect1 July 1904  p3 - short obituary
Item 4 of 6Builder9 July 190487 p46 - obituary
Item 5 of 6Building News1 July 1904LXXXVII p9 - obituary
Item 6 of 6Manchester Guardian28 June 1904  p12 col 7 memorial notice

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of David FrenchInformation sent to Dictionary Sent September 2016
Item 2 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Information per Graham Potts