The Thomas Street Pineapple


WRITTEN BY Hayley Flynn

IMAGES BY Sam Newiss

READING TIME: 2 minutes


The ceramic pineapple looking down on the streets of the Northern Quarter

pineapple thomas street

This old building on Thomas Street, sometimes known as the Binks Building, is on one of the busiest corners of Manchester when it comes to nightlife. The current tenant is Folk & Soul and the neighbours are a collection of bars, restaurants, secret cocktail lounges and traditional boozers. But as well as all this the area is steeped in history, art and culture and the view from Binks Building is one of the loveliest in all of Manchester; the walls and gates of Speakman, Son & Hickson’s Wholesale Fish Market

The market entrance is, for want of a better word, entrancing but look up just a little and you might be surprised to find this pottery pineapple settled on the highest ledge of the Binks Building. The exotic finial perches on the crow-stepped gables and it isn’t as rare as you might imagine to find this particular fruit incorporated into the design of a building. In terms of carvings and architectural adornment, the pineapple, was most prevalent from around the mid 1700s to the back end of the 1800s (until the influence of Egypt and Greece set in). 

folk and soul

We first caught sight of the pineapple in Europe in 1493 but it was from around the 17th century onwards it truly became the most coveted of rare fruits. In preparation for a feast, a host (should he be lucky enough) would rent a pineapple for his table’s centrepiece - so it was only natural that it was adopted by artists and architects as a symbol of hospitality and of wealth. 

The most impressive of all it’s architectural applications must be the Dunmore Pineapple near Airth, Scotland. The roof of the building is a 14 metre high carved pineapple and part of the grounds at Dunmore contain a hothouse in which the fruit could be grown, and was done so succesfully throughout the 18th century. Sadly, it’s unknown who is responsible for this great architectural wonder of Scotland.

But back to our Thomas Street pineapple, glistening in the sun as vibrantly as it does I should have suspected this was not the architectural pineapple of the 18th century but rather a recent piece commissioned at some time in the late 1990s by Liam Curtin of Majolica Works. Majolica are responsible for a number of street art projects around the city, especially so in the Northern Quarter. The artist is Kate Malone who said of the piece: 

"I see my pineapples as a symbol of friendship and hospitality, for me it is the celebratory essence of the shape, with its crown of leaves reaching outward like a party popper or firework .. and its sumptuous fruit being sensual and fiery…"

The markets that once fuelled the area’s growth might not have been overflowing with this exotic fruit, but an orange probably wouldn’t be as interesting. If you’d like to see the piece up close, another version of it, titled Queen Pineapple is at the entrance to the cafe in City Art Gallery.

Folk & Soul have incorporated the pineapple into their logo, and have celebrated another part of the district’s art movement by using the unique font of the area - Cypher by Tim Rushton (they had to commission the ampersand symbol specially as it wasn’t part of the existing alphabet), proving that it’s possible to incorporate the essence of the city in your logo without plonking a bee on it.

There are more fruity delights to be had in Manchester so keep your eyes peeled. In the meantime, whilst doing some research for this piece, I came across a Flickr group of London pineapples so check it out and see if you can help find any more.