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If you’ve ever passed along Alexandra Road South in Whalley Range, you may well have spotted the red-brick exterior of St Bede’s College Vaughan building. It’s only when you look closely that you notice the bees adorning both the college’s coat of arms and flying over the brickwork.

St Bede’s is an independent Roman Catholic co-educational school for children from 3–18 years. Founded in 1876, it moved to its current location in 1877, into the then recently closed Manchester Aquarium. Opening to the public in 1874, the aquarium had proved to be commercially unsuccessful, and closed down just two years later. 

Construction of the school’s Vaughan building took place between 1878 and 1884, with the aquarium incorporated as the main hall. The terracotta bees were part of the design, based on ceramic mouldings by George Tinworth.

The bee theme continues inside. On the pillars around the main entrance hall, you can spot small blue bees crawling around their tops. The three bees from the arms also appear in a section of the tiled flooring. Given the constructions dates, it is possible that the tiled flooring was inspired by that of Manchester Town Hall.

More bees adorn the hall’s interior. These are harder to spot, as they are just below the roof. The photographs below were taken from the first floor balcony.

The assorted photographs adorning this page were taken about a year ago, but in the interim period I’ve not had time to track down more information on the college and its bees. So far, I’ve not found a link between St Bede and bees or beehives, though there are a number of symbolic links between bees and Christianity. It’s also interesting to note the similar layout of three bees being used on University of Manchester’s coat of arms.

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