Mike Higginbottom

Location: Sheffield, South Yorkshire
About The Speaker...

Mike Higginbottom has lectured in social and architectural history for university departments of continuing education and for the Workers’ Educational Association since the early 1970s and for the Arts Society (formerly NADFAS) since 2005.

He has conducted leisure-learning residential programmes on country houses, theatres, the seaside, waterways and railways, cemeteries and sewerage, and the cities of Bath, Birmingham, Chester, Chicago, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, York and New York and in the Isle of Man.

He runs heritage bus tours in Sheffield in conjunction with the South Yorkshire Transport Museum.

He is the author of Demolished Sheffield (2022) and maintains a blog about historic buildings, places and towns on his website, www.mikehigginbottominterestingtimes.co.uk.

About Their Talks...

Mike Higginbottom lectures to Arts Society groups, historical societies and colleges on architectural and social history. Lectures last one hour; study-days consist of up to three lectures, with or without relevant site-visits if appropriate

Sheffield local history topics: Demolished Sheffield, A Look Round Attercliffe, Sheffield’s Cinema Heritage

Transport history topics: Waterways and Railways across the Derbyshire Peak, Waterways and Railways across the Northern Pennines, Waterways and Railways between Thames and Severn

Social and architectural history topics: English Country Houses – not quite what they seem, St Pancras Station, Liverpool’s Heritage, Manchester’s Heritage, Birmingham’s Heritage, Fun Palaces – the history and architecture of the entertainment industry, All the World’s a Stage: the development of theatre buildings, Dream Palaces: an introduction to cinema architecture, Away from it all: the heritage of holiday resorts, Beside the Seaside: the architecture of British coastal resorts, Blackpool’s Seaside Heritage, Yorkshire’s Seaside Heritage, Victorian Cemeteries, Temples of Sanitation (alternative title ‘Victorian Sewerage’), The Big Apple – the architecture of New York City, Windy City – the architecture of Chicago, Gothic Down Under – English Architecture in the Antipodes, Survivals and Revivals – past views of English architecture


Determined by size of audience and distance travelled from my base in Sheffield. Minimum fee £75.00.

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English Country Houses – not quite what they seem

Public Speaker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire Mike Higginbottom talks about English Country Houses – not quite what they seem

Since the Second World War, visiting country houses has become one of Britain’s major tourist activities. Historic homes ranging from the great palaces of Blenheim, Castle Howard and Chatsworth to modest manor houses have opened their doors to the paying public. Visiting the fabulously rich cultural heritage of great houses provides a very broad range of experiences from major monuments preserved apparently at a particular moment in time to homes which are palpably loved and lived in.

Understanding the operation of the distorting lens of time, and the way in which all houses are palimpsests, simply because “…the lives of buildings and the lives of human beings are timed by different clocks…” [Alice T Friedman], enhances and enriches the visitor’s depth of insight into the buildings, their contents and and the landscapes of Britain’s great landed estates.

This lecture takes an unusual look at a range of English country houses, examining how their recent history illuminates their more distant past.

Fun Palaces: the history & architecture of the entertainment industry

Public Speaker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire Mike Higginbottom talks about Fun Palaces: the history & architecture of the entertainment industry

Fun Palaces presentations focus on types of architecture where rich effects were contrived with wit and ingenuity, often by fairly cheap means, to give the poorer classes at least a temporary experience of luxury, comfort and freedom.

In pubs, theatres, cinemas and seaside buildings of all kinds, architects and designers and engineers transported customers from their mundane existence into luxurious surroundings at modest cost by the skilful use of inspired design, dedicated craftsmanship, skilful engineering and innovative materials.

The best of the surviving entertainment buildings of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries offer the interested visitor fascinating, exciting and enjoyable insights into unlikely but successful marriages of commerce and art.

Victorian Cemeteries

Public Speaker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire Mike Higginbottom talks about Victorian Cemeteries

It is impossible to understand nineteenth-century England without an appreciation of the Victorian attitude to death. In a sense, the nineteenth century celebrated death as a part of human experience in the same way that the twentieth century celebrated sex.

The most distinctive memorials to this fascinating aspect of Victorian culture are the great company cemeteries of the 1830s and 1840s, laid out at great expense in London and the major industrial cities, thickly populated with extravagant monuments, intended as a solution to an ecological crisis, and now themselves a significant environmental problem.

At last recognised as repositories not only of human remains but of some of the most evocative and moving examples of Victorian architecture, landscaping, statuary and other monumental art, the great necropoles of British cities document beliefs, attitudes and taste as well as lives.

This lecture covers the major provincial and London company-cemeteries of the early-Victorian period, and also includes a selection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century cemeteries in Europe, the United States and Australia.

It can be extended to two one-hour sessions to show a wider range of examples across the UK and the rest of the world.

Liverpool’s Heritage

Public Speaker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire Mike Higginbottom talks about Liverpool’s Heritage

Liverpool began as a fishing village in the thirteenth century, but grew rapidly in the eighteenth century with the growth of sea trade, becoming Europe’s greatest Atlantic seaport during its heyday. From its seven miles of waterfront millions of emigrants embarked for the New World, and through its spacious docks and endless brick warehouses passed much of the trade of industrial Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The wealth its commerce generated produced a magnificent cityscape, great architecture and a rich cultural heritage, particularly in fine arts and music. The increasing size of ocean-going vessels has diverted the traffic elsewhere on the Mersey estuary, and the city’s recent history largely concerns its attempts to find a new role to play in the national economy, most recently through the Capital of Culture 2008 initiative.

This lecture gives an insight into the historic development of the city and port of Liverpool, focusing on the wealth of its nineteenth- and twentieth-century architecture, in particular St George’s Hall – “the world’s finest building” – (Harvey Lonsdale Elmes & C R Cockerell 1841-54), the Anglican Cathedral (Sir Giles Gilbert Scott & Frederick Thomas 1903-79) and the Catholic Cathedral (Sir Frederick Gibberd 1962-7), and such unexpected gems as Oriel Chambers (Peter Ellis 1864) and the Philharmonic Hotel (Walter Thomas (1898-1900).

The Big Apple: the architecture of New York City

Public Speaker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire Mike Higginbottom talks about The Big Apple: the architecture of New York City

New York City – particularly the island of Manhattan and its approaches – fires the imagination through its imprint on literature, drama and film. Its significance in the history of the United States is as a great port, the gateway to America, and as a melting pot, the destination of immigrants and the home of a remarkably polyglot community. It is the site of some of America’s most famous and iconic buildings and the home of some of the world’s greatest art. The city has a distinctive blend of abundance, variety and excitement: visiting New York is an unforgettable experience.
This lecture surveys New York City’s built environment, from the comparatively ancient buildings of the nineteenth century, to the great skyscrapers of the first half of the twentieth century and more recent additions to the famous skyline, running from the harbour northwards to the tip of Manhattan.

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