This site celebrates the life and work of sculptor John
Cassidy (1860 - 1939).
Enriqueta Augustina Rylands conceived
for the building and stocking of the John Rylands Library in Deansgate,
Manchester as a memorial to her husband, and it still stands his
memorial today long after his business activities are forgotten.
The plaster model, frontispiece to Vol.1-7 of the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library.
Enriqueta in her younger days
Enriqueta Augustina Tennant was born in Cuba, along with her twin
brother José Estaban Tennant (later known as Stephen) on 31 May
1843 into a family of wealthy sugar growers. As a child she lived in
Cuba, England, France and America. Soon after the family moved to
England in 1848, her father, Stephen Cattley Tennant, was killed when
he fell under a moving train at Farnborough station. Her mother moved
to Paris where she married a Polish pianist and friend
of Chopin, Jules Fontana (1810–1869); she died suddenly in 1855.
Enriqueta Tennant attended a convent school in New York and finishing
schools in London and Paris.
In the early 1860s Miss Tennant became the companion of Martha, the
second wife of John Rylands, and cared for her until her death on 13
February 1875. On 6 October 1875 Enriqueta married John Rylands. They
had no children of their own, but adopted a son and a daughter. John
Rylands died on 11 December 1888, leaving a huge some in money and
company shares, and Enriqueta resolved to create a library in
Manchester as a memorial. The following year Basil Champneys was
appointed as architect, and on 6 October 1899 (John and Enriqueta's
wedding anniversary) it was ready for its
opening ceremony, though general readers were not admitted until 1
January 1900. The library took ten years instead of the original
estimate of three to complete, and also cost three times as much as the
original estimate, £224,086 (at leat £50 million in modern
terms) against £78,000.
Since then, there have been several extensions to the building, most
recently in 2007.
The bronze statue welcomes visitors to the ground floor café and
shop, October 2015.
For other Cassidy works in
the Library, see:
directing the labours of Science and Art.
For a Cassidy work once owned by Mrs Rylands, see our feature on Sir Charles Hallé.
Links and references:
Library Special Collections
Oxford Dictionary of
National Biography entry for Enriqueta Rylands
Elizabeth Gow: Enriqueta Rylands, who do you think she was.
Booklet accompanying an exhibition at the Library, 2008.
Enriqueta Augustina Rylands
The John Rylands Library, Manchester
Cassidy created two matching statues,
in white Saravezza marble, of John Rylands and Mrs Rylands, which stand
the two ends of the Library's Historic Reading Room. John Rylands (1801
occupies a prominent position at one end, and Mrs Rylands presides
over the other, near to what used to be the Library's service counter.
The picture above dates from 2003.
Although the statues appear as a pair, they were not conceived or
commissioned together. 'John Rylands' was commissioned by Mrs Rylands
1894 as an integral part of the library dedicated to her late husband,
and has had pride of place since the building opened in 1900, whilst
her own likeness was commissioned by supporters of the Library,
and unveiled on 9 December 1907, a few months before her death on 4
According to Stephen Tennant, Mrs Rylands' brother, the Governors of
the library, feeling the need for something of a 'personal nature' to
connect the library with its founder, explored the possibility of
commissioning a portrait of Mrs Rylands. However, Mrs Rylands suggested
a statue instead from John Cassidy, whose work she had chosen some
years before for the library interior.
Cassidy supplied a plaster model for approval, and a photograph
of this (reproduced in the left column) was printed as frontispiece to
first bound volume of the Library's Bulletin.
These two statues are the only large works Cassidy was given chance to
produce in marble, and on this one he, and the marble-carver who
assisted him, were able to show their skill with
the lace-work on Mrs Rylands' dress, which he had previously applied to
Victoria statue in Belfast. Over the years, many visitors to the
Library have reportedly believed Mrs Rylands' statue to portray the
At the ceremonial inauguration of the statue (which Mrs Rylands was too
attend) the Vice
Chancellor of the Victoria University, Professor Hopkinson, said that
they owed her a great debt, not only for endowing the library but also
for her generosity in 'filling it with those treasures which could only
be got by lavish and princely generosity and by direct personal care
and interest in the work.' The library, he said, had been her
conception, and transcended the mere practicality which was thought to
be the guiding principle of Manchester architecture. Instead, it
appeared that Mrs Rylands had said to herself, 'Here, in this home of
utility, I will build something that is absolutely and perfectly
beautiful, so far as choice of materials and workmanship can do it.' Dr
Adeney of the Lancashire Independent College spoke of the artist's
success in rendering Mrs Rylands' dignity, simplicity and intelligence,
through which shone 'none of the mere superiority of social position,
but the true dignity of a woman who has realised that her mission in
the world is not to live to herself.'
A bronze version of the work, approximately one metre high plus
was also made, probably cast from the original plaster model. After a
in the main University Library on Oxford Road, with which the John
merged in 1972. It was located inside the entrance
to the Muriel Stott Conference Centre, added to the building in the
late 1970s following a bequest by Miss Stott, daughter of an Oldham
cotton spinner. Many users of the Centre probably assumed that it was a
statue of Muriel Stott.
On the opening of the major new extension to the Deansgate building in
2007, it returned there, and was displayed outside the new
reading room on the top floor where it was rarely seen by members of
the general public. In 2015 it was given good clean by the Library's
conservation staff and transferred to the public area on the ground
floor where it may be seen by all.
The bronze version is signed on the base: it looks as though Cassidy
intended to write 'John Cassidy fecit 1905' but ran out of space and
had to use 'sct' for 'sculpted' instead.
Mrs Rylands died in Torquay, where she had made her home, on 4 February
1908, and is buried with her husband in Southern Cemetery, Manchester.
The images on this page are
included by kind permission
of The John Rylands University Library's Heritage Imaging team, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org,
reproduced without permission.
Written by Charlie Hulme. Updated November 2015.