If Didsbury is overwhelmingly a product of the 19th century, architecturally speaking, the crown must be the ‘grossly picturesque’ Victorian mansion called ‘The Towers’, off Wilmslow Road. The architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner called it “the grandest of all Manchester mansions”. Thomas Worthington, architect of the Albert Memorial in Albert Square, Manchester, designed it. It was popularly known after it was built (from 1868-1872) as the ‘Calendar House’ since it was said to have 12 towers, 52 rooms and 365 windows.
It was built originally for John Edward Taylor, founder of the Manchester Guardian, and was sold in 1874 to the engineer, Daniel Adamson. The decision to build the Manchester Ship Canal was taken in the drawing room of the house by Adamson and a group of associates in 1882.
The house and its estate were bought in 1920 for the use of the newly established British Cotton Industry Research Association. One of the cotton spinners, Mr W. Greenwood, met a large part of the costs and and asked that the place be named after his daughter Shirley, hence its being named the ‘Shirley Institute’.
Purpose built laboratories were subsequently opened on the site. Even though much of the fourteen and a half acre estate has been developed as a business park with some striking modern architecture, the BCIRA’s successor, the British Textile Technology Group, still retains a presence.