John Hubert Worthington, known as Hubert for most of his life, was born at Chorley on 4th July 1886 to Thomas & Edith Worthington. He was educated at Ryleys Preparatory School, where became good friends with Wilfrith Elstob, and Sedbergh School. In 1905 he joined Manchester University to study Architecture, for which he was awarded a BA in 1909 and an MA in 1910. During this period he visited Italy where he gained an enthusiasm for Italian Renaissance design. In 1912, after being articled to his half brother Percy for a time, he joined the office of Edward Lutyens, a man from who he gained much inspiration and friendship.
When war broke out in 1914 Hubert tried to enlist, but for some reason his papers were returned from the war office. On his second attempt a few weeks later he was accepted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 16th Battalion Manchester Regiment, a unit to which he persuaded Wilfrith to accept a commission. In December 1914 he was promoted to Captain. On the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, Hubert received multiple injuries from machine gun fire – left hip and hand, right lung and a broken rib – and spent 30 hours sheltering for 30 hours in a shell hole. Evacuated back to the UK it would take until March 1917 for him to be considered fit enough to be placed on home duties. He served as an instructor at the 21st Officer Cadet Battalion, suffering some breathing difficulties and strength issues which meant he could not return to the Western Front, until he was discharged from the Army in February 1918. His brother Claude Swanwick Worthington, another Manchester University graduate, was killed in October 1918.
Hubert returned to Percy’s firm in 1919. From 1923 to 1928 he was a professor at the Royal College of Art where he encouraged young painters, sculptors and craftsmaen to be appreciative of and co-operative in the architectural design and decoration of buildings. In 1929 he became Slade Lecturer in architecture at Oxford University and from 1933-34 was Ferens Lecturer in Fine Arts at University College in Hull. He also lectured in Town Planning at Manchester University, was President of the Manchester Society of Architects (1931) and gave many public lectures in the city. He served as Vice President of the Royal Institute of British Architects from 1945 to 1950.
In October 1928 he married Joan Banham and they had three children. When Percy, 20 years his elder, died in 1939 he took over the running of the firm.
Amongst Hubert’s many works were a number of new buildings for Oxford University, the restoration of the Radcliffe Camera and Bodlian Library, Alderley Edge War Memorial, Sedbergh School War Memorial Cloister, the Manchester Regiment Chapel at Manchester Cathedral, the gateway and lodge to Ashburne Hall (currently a University of Manchester student hall and conference centre), the Manchester Dental Hospital (now a café and part of Manchester Museum). He was also involved in the development of a plan for the University Manchester College of Science and Technology (UMIST, now the North Campus of The University of Manchester). On 23rd December 1923 he was called out to attend to air raid bomb damage suffered by Manchester Cathedral, a restoration task he was to remain involved in until it was completed in 1955.
In 1943 Hubert was appointed Principal Architect North Africa for the Imperial War Graves Commission, an organisation Lutyens has been working for since it’s inception. Hubert was responsible for the setting, design and construction of a number of cemeteries in the area including Heliopolis and the largest at El Alamein.
Hubert received many awards including a Mention In Despatches during the First World War, an OBE in 1929 and a Knighthood in 1949. He died on 27th July 1963, aged 77 and is commemorated at Manchester Cathedral by a stone tablet and by a stained glass window. His papers are held by the Special Collections, John Rylands Library.
Compiled by Pen Richardson.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The Sedberghian, 1918-2004 (http://sedberghschoolarchives.org/default.aspx)
The Guardian, 27th July 1913
Old Dental Hospital Image Rights: The University of Manchester Library (Digital Collections (LUNA))