I was minded of the political context to these campuses, radicalised by the events of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
Myself a student at Portsmouth Polytechnic during these heady days, where several Maoist, Marxist-Leninist, Stalinist and Trotskyite factions played out ideological debate and display, against these Modernist backdrops.
Photographer Simon Phipps shines a contemporary light on the innovative designs of this period. He has produced new work of a variety of campuses, including the University of Leeds, exclusively for the exhibition.
Alongside these contemporary photographs, the exhibition displays archival material from the Universities of Leeds, Sussex and East Anglia.
Rarely seen material from the Arup archive is also exhibited.
Let’s take a look at a topic from a bygone age that seems to come of age – there’s never been a better time to be Brutal!
Go and take a look, we really do need education – and exhibitions.
48 Milton Street and Maitland Street Glasgow G4 0LR
Scottish Ambulance Headquarters on Maitland Street and the adjoining St Andrew’s House with it’s entrance on 48 Milton Street. Designed by Skinner, Bailey & Lubetkin in the late 1960s. Originally two linked buildings, they now act independently with St Andrew’s House occupied by St Andrew’s first aid and the Headquarters next door currently lying vacant April 2011.
Berthold Lubetkin in top hat beside caryatid at the entrance to Highpoint Two – North Hill Highgate London.
One of the only two buildings in Scotland designed by this architectural practice with Lubetkin acting as a consultant. Lubetkin is one of the outstanding figures of pre-war British architecture – penguin pool, London zoo & Highpoint Flats, London. Lubetkin designed the main cross of the north elevation and the main staircase, Bailey was the lead architect on this project. Both buildings are A listed.
By the mid 1960s, Lubetkin was based at his farm in Gloucestershire, Skinner in London and Bailey in Glasgow. Bailey asked Lubetkin to work out the design of the main staircase and parts of the principal elevation, notably the large cross. Lubetkin’s staircases are particularly spectacular and the St Andrew’s one is no exception. Allan notes that the Lubetkin leitmotif was the controlled collision of straight and curved geometry and this would appear to be exemplified here in the triangular plan geometric staircase which ends in a gentle curve at the ground floor. It is possible that Lubetkin may have influenced the vertical timber panelling in the boardroom. While that in the main hall is smooth and varnished, the boardroom has been sandblasted to present a weathered appearance. At Highpoint Two Lubetkin designed the interior and furniture for the penthouse flat with walls of vertical roughened sand-blasted pine panelling.
The current railway station is a modern version from the 1980s that was built on top of the original station. The level of the old platforms can be seen under the existing station’s two platforms which are connected by underpass. The initial station was opened on 22 December 1841 by the Bolton and Preston Railway – which later became part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and was subsequently served by the Lancashire Union Railway between St Helens, Wigan North Western and Blackburn from 1869.
Passenger trains over this route between Blackburn & Wigan were however withdrawn in January 1960. Further work was done in 2016 and 2017 in connection with the electrification of the line between Euxton Junction and Manchester.
Hang a sharp right to the Market – where there is this newish piece of public art Pattern of Life a bronze relief by Diane Gorvin and mosaic work by Tracey Cartledge
This piece involves an innovative combination of cast bronze and ceramic mosaic. Two bronze relief panels display female figures holding out rolls of fabric, each decorated with patterns and images that are particular to the town of Chorley. Payphones, for example were invented and manufactured in Chorley, the crested newt is protected here and you might also notice the famous Chorley Cakes. As the fabrics tumble down, the designs are translated from bronze relief on the wall surface into 2D mosaic in the pavement.
Looking down Fazakerley Street to where Fine Fare once was.
We’ll return to such matters in a moment – we have to get to the Post Office – which is no longer a Post Office.
It was a Post Office in 1935 – it also has a later extension.
The local list declares that the post office dates from 1935. This is almost certainly erroneous since the contract documents date from 1924, and from contract to completion the average construction and fitting-out time was about 18 months.
Plans supplied by the Architects Messrs. Cheers & Smith of Blackburn which were approved by the Education Committee on the 18th August 1904 – design proposals for the new Technical School entitled Light and Air.
The considerable task of erecting the school was given to the local builder Mr. William Hampson of Pall Mall.
Surely the envy of his trade, the total contract was worth a mouth- watering £10,041 15s. 9d. – approx. £720,000 today.
The building was officially opened by the 16th Earl of Derby on September 24th 1906.
Over the road the town’s newest retail development Market Walk – the work of AEW Architects.
Chorley Council bought the shopping centre from Orchard Street Investments for £23m in 2013 and commenced a large-scale regeneration scheme in 2018 involving a £15m, 79,000 sq ft retail and leisure extension led by main contractor Eric Wright Group and designed by AEW Architects. Here, Conrad Heald of Chorley Council tells his interviewer, AEW director Phil Hepworth, how the scheme came to fruition and has rejuvenated the town centre.
The memorial re-sited in 2018 commemorates the Chorley Pals.
In less than 20 minutes, 235 of the 720 men from the 11th East Lancs. were killed. Another 350 were wounded, of which 17 would eventually succumb to their wounds. Many of the Battalion died where they fell, in No Man’s Land.
As a result of the attack on the morning of the 1st July, the Chorley Pals – Y Company, had 31 men killed and three died within a month of their wounds received on that day. 21 have no known graves and their names are transcribed on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing on the Somme battlefield. A further 59 were wounded, making a total of 93 casualties out of approximately 175 men from Chorley who went over the top that morning.
Reversing now to the former Barclays Bank – which closed earlier in 2022.
We return now to the former Fine Fare.
The company began as one single supermarket in Welwyn Garden City in 1951, as an offshoot of the Welwyn Department Store, owned by Howardsgate Holdings, the company of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the garden city movement.
Here we are now at a Post Office that is a Post Office but was an RBS Bank.
The new location is at the former Royal Bank of Scotland on Market Street in the town centre.
Since the Post Office that was based at WH Smith on New Market Street came to an end, when that store closed in January, it relocated to a temporary unit in Market Walk until a permanent solution could be found.
The unit, which had been provided by the postmaster from Burscough Bridge Post Office, closed on Tuesday.
Kenny Lamont, Post Office Network Provision Manager, said a Post Office is important to a community.
This had been a Methodist Church – then, it became the HQ of the Lancashire Electric Power Company.
The Lancashire Electric Power Company was one of the largest private electricity companies in the UK. It was established in 1900 and generated and supplied electricity to 1,200 squares miles of Lancashire from 1905 until its abolition under nationalisation in 1948.
Time to back track to the Cop Shop – the work of County Architect Roger Booth and crew.
The Magistrates’ Courts are closed and up for sale.
Next door the White Hart once upon a time the Snooty Fox, a pub with an up and down trajectory – currently open and described online as plush.
Down the road a pub no longer a pub but an Urban Spa.
We offer you a full range of professional treatments tailored to your own personal needs. We treat every client as an individual and offer an extensive range of treatments and professional products making your visit one to remember.
Let’s go to the theatre – The Empire tucked away at the back of town.
The Empire Electric Theatre opened, as the town’s first purpose-built cinema, on 3rd September 1910. In 1912 Archie Hooley began his connection with the cinema business at the Empire Electric Theatre. By 1927 it had been re-named Empire Cinema and by 1930 it was equipped with a Western Electricsound system and was operated by the Perfecto Filmograph Co. Ltd. By 1939 it was operated by the Snape & Ward chain. According to the Kine Year Books, in 1940 the seating was for 800, while by 1952 it had been reduced to 679 – still a far cry from today’s 236 seats. 3D films were shown in the early-1950’s. Archie had died in 1944; his son Selwyn closed the cinema in 1957, apparently “because of the taxes”.
Wrestling took over for a while before Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society – CADOS acquired the building and renamed it the Chorley Little Theatre. Since 1960 CADOS have been putting on high-quality productions, presenting at least six productions per season – from September to July. It is also the home of the award-winning Chorley Youth Theatre who meet every Saturday, putting on shows throughout the year; and Chorley Empire Community Cinema who present the cinema experience on their 21ft wide screen with 8-Speaker Surround Sound. Run entirely by volunteers the theatre has state-of-the-art sound systems and a full range of lighting equipment. There are two spacious dressing rooms, space for costumes and props and the Empire Bar. The building has disabled access throughout the public area, including a toilet, and the auditorium is fitted with a hearing loop. There are three spaces for wheelchairs in the auditorium. It was re-named Chorley Empire Cinema at Chorley Theatre in October 2019 and films are still part of the programming.
The Odeon Market Street was built for and operated by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, it opened on 21st February 1938 with Jack Buchanan in The Sky’s the Limit.
Architect Harry Weedon was assisted by PJ Price.
It was closed by the Rank Organisation on 6th February 1971 with George Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. After laying closed and un-used for over two years it was sold to an independent bingo operator and re-opened on 9th August 1973 as a Tudor Bingo Club. It later became a Gala Bingo Club which was renamed Buzz Bingo Club in June 2018. It was closed on March 21, 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. On 15th July 2020 it was announced that the closure would be permanent.
The building was handed over to Chorley Council who decided that asbestos removal would be too costly and the building was demolished in August 2021.
Located on Salisbury Street, off Cunliffe Street, built in 1888 as a military warehouse, it was converted into a roller skating rink around 1909. It opened as the Pavilion Picture Palace on 14th September 1911, operated by George Testo Sante, a music hall strong man, who also operated the Grand Theatre as a cinema. By 1915, music hall acts were also part of the programme. After the end of World War I, the flat floor of the cinema was raked, allowing for better viewing of the screen. The proscenium was 30ft wide, the stage was 16 feet deep and there were two dressing rooms.
The Pavilion Cinema was the first in town to screen ‘talkies, when an Electrochord sound system was installed in 1929. It was taken over by the J.F. Emery Circuit in 1932 and they operated it until the end of 1933. The sound system was upgraded to a British Talking Pictures sound system. In 1954 it was the first cinema in town to be fitted with CinemaScope and the proscenium was widened to 36 feet.
The Pavilion Cinema was closed by 1962 and converted into a bingo club. In 1972 it was re-opened as a cinema again, but due to Star Cinemas chain barring it from showing first run features – they operated the Plaza Cinema, it was closed after 5 months of operation. It was later demolished and the area was redeveloped for housing.
No trace of The Hippodrome Theatre on Gillibrand Street, which was built and opened in 1909, or the Theatre Royal, opened on 30th September 1911, It was demolished in 1959.
A supermarket was built on the site which later became a McDonalds, which is now a Pizza Hut.
Last but not least – located on the Flat Iron Parade, aka Cattle Market, The Grand Theatre was a wooden building built in 1885, which presented melodramas and plays. In June 1909 it was taken over by George Testo Santo, who had been a music hall strongman, and his family. It went over to operating as a Picture Palace for a short season.
By 1914 it was operating as a full time cinema, but was destroyed by fire in 1914.
The police station and magistrates’ court at Chorley was designed to replace a building from 1896 – a weights and measures plaque from the original building was retained and remounted at the foot of the new building.
The two buildings were set adjacent one another and around a newly formed square with one side made up of the rear of the existing town hall. This small civic group was intended to relate to one another in scale, but was markedly contrasting in its material make-up.
County Architect’s Report: 1963-64.
The design team was Roger Booth, Lancashire County Architect; C.A. Spivey, Assistant County Architect; D.B. Stephenson, Design Architect; and D.G. Edwards, A.G. Gass, responsible for the detailed design and construction. The seven-storey in-situ concrete framed main block was the last bespoke police station to be built in Lancashire, following this the department developed a systemised concrete construction method which was deployed across the county. The dramatic cantilevers gave the new building a stature and presence that signalled authority. The lower levels were accessed by ramps and provided space for police vehicles. To enter the police station one ascended a set of external stairs across a pool that once contained koi carp – fittingly, one boy described the new building as a ‘fishtank’ upon its completion. The magistrates’ court was finished externally in a grey brick and carried the signature pyramid rooflights that were synonymous with the Department.
I was last here in 2020 – made ever so welcome in this Byzantine cathedral like church.
The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.
Recently opened and on for a while, I was here first thing Saturday morning – here are the details of Colour is Mine.
Althea McNish was the first Caribbean designer to achieve international recognition and one of the most influential and innovative textile designers in the UK. Drawing on extensive new research, this exhibition explores McNish’s extraordinary career and her transformative impact on mid-century design, along with her enduring influence today. Highlights include items from McNish’s recently uncovered personal archive – much of which has never been seen before. Also on display will be examples of McNish’s original designs alongside her most celebrated textile and wallpapers.
Althea McNish: Colour is Mine is a touring exhibition from the William Morris Gallery, London, and has been curated by Rowan Bain, Principal Curator at the William Morris Gallery and Rose Sinclair, Lecturer in Design Education at Goldsmiths, University of London. Althea McNish: Colour Is Mine is part of a three-year research, exhibition and archiving project generously supported by the Society of Antiquaries through its Janet Arnold Award.
Her work collided with new technologies in printing and fabrics, along with developments in design which were very much of their time: a freer more expressive approach to drawing and colour – using observational drawing from natural forms and geometric pattern
Typically employing the techniques of wax resist and a wandering Indian ink line.
Her work for the leading manufacturing and retail companies extended across fabric and dress design, wallpaper and accessories.
I urge you to go and see it – several times, the show is so wide ranging and joyous, a fitting testament to a creative life well-lived.
Pandemics come and almost go – as do seaside shelters it seems.
The shelters of 1860 are quite literally a thing of the past.
Thye have become host to Niall McDiarmid‘s snaps of local business folk – the project developed when local residents raised concerns about the appearance of the shelters on the promenade.
Cllr Roger Parry said
The shelters are nearing the end of their lifespan and these sections of the prom will be upgraded as part of the waterfront project.
In the meantime, State of Independents will make great use of the shelters; celebrating our hardworking local businesses and hopefully encouraging footfall from the promenade to our high streets.
The last of the Rhos on Sea shelters is a dangerous customer suitably secured.
There remains two exemplars of the typology located at the Colwyn end of the bay.
The second shelter lacks the pierced concrete blocks.
So work progresses on the coastal defences, the promenade is refashioned after a fashion in the fashion of the day.
There is no longer a place for these unique exemplars of Municipal Modernism.
Before the work began, the promenade was a tired, uninviting and underused public space. Poorly lit and often host to anti-social behaviour, the uneven surfacing and crumbling shelters were the results of years of patchwork repairs.
The project has transformed the area into a public space which the local community can take pride in and make use of all year round.
Middleton has not the gloom of so many South Lancashire towns its size. It benefits from its position close to the hills, but it has also the advantage of a large medieval church on a hill and of a number of buildings by one of England’s most original architects of the period around 1900.
He was the most advanced English architect of his generation, stylistically moving through through art nouveau, vernacular, expressionist and finally art deco phases a decade or more before other designers. He became England’s uncontested pioneer of flat roofed modern buildings. He worked more like an artist than an architect, designing buildings, furniture, stained glass, sculpture, metal and plaster work. His buildings are mostly clustered in the towns of Middleton, Rochdale, Oldham, Huddersfield and Hale. Influenced by the writings of William Morris, he saw himself as an artisan serving the people of these localities.
Sixty-seven sets of designs for the proposed free library at Middleton were received by the Corporation of that borough in response to their advertisement; and a joint committee comprising of six members of the Corporation and six non-members has awarded the premium to Mr Lawrence Booth, architect of this city.
Curiously, we encounter an anchor.
Around 10pm that evening when weather conditions deteriorated to near hurricane-force gales, with the Sirene making little headway despite tacking.
Losing her helm, her sails in tatters and within sight of the Great Orme, the gales drove her back through the night towards the Lancashire coast. Eventually, and with great difficulty, Captain Gjertsen and his crew managed to manoeuvre the stricken vessel between the Central and North Piers. Becoming increasingly unmanageable, and swept in by the rushing tide and gale force winds, the Sirene looked a doomed vessel. She was helpless in the close shore currents, and unable to drop anchor she was at the mercy of the waves. She was carried alongside the North Pier, tearing off a section of the pier superstructure and part of her own keel.
Thousands of people lined the Promenade to witness the spectacle as she came in on the south side of the pier; many more stood on the pier itself, but there was a mad rush for safety when the ship collided against the structure.
Much of the present building was erected in 1412 by Thomas Langley – born in Middleton in 1363, who was Bishop of Durham and Lord Chancellor of England. He re-used the Norman doorway from an earlier structure to create the tower arch. Also distinctive in this region is the weather-boarded top stage to the tower.
The church of St Leonard was enlarged in 1524 by Sir Richard Assheton, in celebration of the knighthood granted to him by Henry VIII of England for his part in the Battle of Flodden in 1513. The Flodden Window, in the sanctuary, is thought to be the oldest war memorial in the UK. It commemorates on it the names of the Middleton archers who fought at Flodden. The church also has one of the finest collections of monumental brasses in the north of England, including the only brass in the UK depicting an English Civil War officer in full armour, Major-General Ralph Assheton.
George Pace designed a war memorial and, in 1958, added a choir vestry and installed new lighting.
Middleton Old Cemetery once the Thornham and Middleton Burial Ground, which became the local authority cemetery in 1862.
Part of the timber framing to the right of the front door has recently been tree-ring dated and confirms a building date of 1622. The first tenant was Isaac Walkden, son of Middleton schoolmaster, Robert Walkden. Isaac died during a typhus epidemic in the summer of 1623. His will, preserved at Lancashire Archives, includes an inventory of all his possessions listed on a room by room basis. There were a total of 9 beds and 20 chairs or stools in the 6 rooms. This, together with barrels, brewing vessels, pots, glasses, etc, strongly suggest the building was an inn. The Walkden family went on to run the Boar’s Head until the end of the 17th century. They also farmed nearby land including what is now Jubilee library and park.
In 1888, the fledgling Middleton Corporation purchased the building from the church with the intention of demolishing it to build a town hall. Discussions were held in 1914 but, thankfully, the plan was abandoned due to an outcry from the public spearheaded by architect Edgar Wood.
Further down Long Street to the Assheton Arms Hotel.
Then around the corner to the Manchester & Salford Bank again by Edgar Wood
Next door the former Market Place Bank latterly RBS.
Plans to convert a long-vacant town centre bank into a nightclub have been revived despite previously being rejected over anti-social behaviour concerns.
An application to change the use of the former Royal Bank of Scotland, in Middleton, was refused by Rochdale council’s planning committee eighteen months ago, with members citing a history of alcohol-fuelled trouble in the area.
Further up Market Place the faience fronted Bricklayers Arms formerly a Bents and Gartsides boozer – delicensed in 2012 and Converted to a takeaway.
Moving along Wood’s much altered Guardian Buildings 1889.
The Guardian Buildings, were commissioned by Fred Bagot, the proprietor of the Middleton Guardian newspaper and a man with a reputation at the time for keeping a tight control of finances. In consequence, Guardian Buildings were one of Edgar Wood’s low budget buildings, of which there are several in and around Middleton. The building housed the operations of the newspaper with the cellar containing the printing machines and the tall ground floor housing a shop, office and more machines. The whole of the first floor, with its pair of oriel windows, was taken up by the composing room.
It fell into disrepair after the church moved to smaller premises in Alkrington in the 1960s.
The building collapsed in July 2012, when it was hit by a fire.
On Townley Street Lodge Mill built in1839 beside the River Irk battling on despite recent setbacks.
In August 2019, Martin Cove and Paula Hickey opened a small ice cream shop on the ground floor of the mill – named the Ice Cream Shop at Lodge – selling locally-made ice cream from Birch Farm, Heywood.
Across the way the magnificent Sub Station and Electrical Department Offices.
Then taking a turn around the banks of the Irk down Sharp Street onto Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC Way, where we find the Middleton Arena – BDP 2009
Then over the road to Oldham Road and Grade II ListedWarwick Mill 1907 G. Stott of J. Stott and Sons.
The mill recently changed ownership and new owner, Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd, has been working with Rochdale Borough Council over the past nine months on proposals to redevelop the site.
The plans will form the cornerstone of a new masterplan for Middleton town centre focusing on delivering new homes, business space, highway and environmental improvements, new walking and cycle routes to pave the way for the planned extension of the Metrolink into Middleton Town Centre.
The station, with 13 stands, cost £4.5 million and replaced the previous station which dated to the 1970s.
The Middleton Arndale Centre commenced trading in 1971, although it was officially opened by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent in March 1972.
Once home to The Breadman designed by Rochdale’s town artist of the time, Michael Dames.
Photo: Local Image Collection – Touchstones
Now trading as the Middleton Shopping Centre
The brick reliefs illustrating the town’s history are by Fred Evans of Dunstable, who completed the work in one week during May 1972 using a high powered sandblasting blaster.
Thanks to Phil Machen for the top tip.
At the centre of the public domain the Middleton Moonraker 2001 by Terry Eaton
According to folklore, the legend has several different interpretations. One version is that a traveller came upon a drunken yokel trying to rake a reflection of the moon in a village pond, convinced it was cheese.
This version conveys the notion that the men were drunk and acting foolishly.
However, an alternative narrative – and perceived to be the most reliable version – tells a different story and dates back to the time when smuggling was a significant industry in rural England.
It appears that many residents wish to rid themselves of the Moon Raker moniker and presumably become Middletonians.
There’s so much more to Middleton’s history than the Moonraker. Why did they spend all that money on a fairytale?
There were 3,000 Lancaster bombers built in Middleton during World War Two, a magnificent contribution to the effort to beat Hitler.
The bulbs inside the moon which light it up at night haven’t worked for five years.
Along Long Street the Cooperative store what was – next door the long gone Palace Cinema demolished in 2001.
In May 1950 the School of Art and Crafts became Wolverhampton College of Art.
Its aims were to maintain and develop the closest possible relations with industry, collaborate with employers to develop new training courses, and to maintain a high level of achievement in the fine arts.
In 1963 the college began running its first degree-level course in the form of a Diploma in Art and Design. Three years later the college had a new Principal, Robin Plummer who oversaw the building of a new college alongside Ring Road St Peters. Work on the new site began in the summer of 1967, and by early 1969 the new building had appeared.
Architects: Diamond Redfern and Partners with A Chapman Borough Architect
The first degree show was held there on 12th June, 1969 and the first full academic year started in September 1969. The building was officially opened by an ex student, Sir Charles Wheeler on 23rd October, 1970.
Wolverhampton College of Art merged with Wolverhampton College of Technology to form The Polytechnic Wolverhampton – which was founded on 1st September 1969.
A group of interested parties visited the College, as part of a photographic walk lead by Black Country Type aka Tom Hicks with the cooperation of the School of Art, organised by the Modernist Society.
Being a product of the Great British Art School Challenge I was delighted to find the college to be in rude health. Floor after floor of well equipped studios and workshops which service the needs of hoards of eager students.
Accessed by raw shuttered concrete stairwells.
As a historically inky individual I was particularly taken with the extensive printmaking facilities.
Wolverhampton High Level Station was built in 1852 and lay on what used to be known as the Stour Valley Line. The modern day Wolverhampton Station now occupies the site and there is little left of what my father photographed as the station suffered a major phase of modernisation in the mid 1960’s.
The present Wolverhampton station dates from 1964 to 1967 when the High Level station was completely rebuilt by the architect Ray Moorcroft as part of the modernisation programme which saw the West Coast Main Line electrified.
More recently in 2004, a new through platform – platform 4, was constructed on the site of infrequently-used sidings. This has greatly enhanced the capacity of the station. A new footbridge was also constructed, to allow access to the new platform but also to improve access to the existing ones.
Members of the public are now able to access the second half of the new Wolverhampton railway station, following the completion of main construction on Phase 2 in March 2021.
The new station forms part of a significant local transformation being carried out, as part of the city’s £150m Interchange scheme. Within the city scheme, there are improvements planned for bus, Metro, cycle and train connectivity.
Gwent House is the home of the District Council Offices for Torfaen and the Public Library. Used by HM Courts Service and HCMS – South East Wales, the building is a seven story structure with retail space on the ground floor and open plan office space above. Built during the 1970s as a local government building, it is constructed with a steel and concrete frame with wall to wall double glazed windows and a flat roof.
Gwent House sits on the east side of Gwent Square at the heart of Cwmbran New Town’s centre. The ‘Central Building’ as it was known during development was conceived by the Cwmbran Development Corporation, as a mixed development of leisure (including a club, dance hall and hotel) and office accommodation with retail to the ground floor. this was to expand the function of the town centre beyond purely a shopping centre, and to address the perceived lack of ‘professional’ office jobs. In the event, the offices proved difficult to let and were occupied by the CDC and Cwmbran Urban District Council.
The building was designed by Sheppard, Robson & Partners and opened on the 18th January 1973. The eight-storey, concrete framed block included a job centre, the library, a conference and exhibition hall, and three restaurants catering for different tastes and age ranges, including the ‘Sign of the Steer’.
On the west side of the building are a series of three moulded concrete relief panels designed by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins for the MEPC, the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the Cwmbran Arts Trust in 1974. The panels depict scenes representing different phases of the history of Gwent: Iron Age and Roman, Medieval and Industrial.
The work of Joyce and Henry is well known here at the modern mooch having visited Newcastle, Bexhill and of course Stockport. There are also examples in their hometown Colchester, Gloucester and Southampton.
Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.
The square it seems is due to be revamped as part of the broader regeneration plans.
Literature displayed at the public consultation said improvements in Monmouth Square aim to -introduce colour into what is a lacklustre space.
A mix of pedestrianised terraces and low rise blocks, set in a loose grid of roads and rolling, tree-lined, grassed areas.
Over time there has been the addition of uPVC and the revisionist intrusion of the ahistorical carriage lamp.
Incidentally an area with more al fresco shopping trolleys than I had ever seen, I assume that the big Asda, located within walking distance of the homes, to be the progenitor of such a notable proliferation.
It remains, generally speaking a well kept lived in area – let’s take a look.
Taliesin (/ˌtælˈiɛsɪn/ tal-YES-in, Welsh: [talˈjɛsɪn]; fl. 6th century AD) was an early Brittonic poet of Sub-Roman Britain whose work has possibly survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin.
Taliesin is the home, studio, and 800-acre agricultural estate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright built Taliesin on his favorite boyhood hill, in the Wisconsin River valley homesteaded by his Welsh grandparents. He named it Taliesin in honor of the Welsh bard whose name means Shining Brow, reflecting his belief that the crown of the hill was reserved for nature, and that buildings should be constructed at the brow of the hill.
It is also a name commonly found on many of the common place dwellings of the Principality.
Tre-Taliesin is a village in Ceredigion nine miles south of Machynlleth.
The village is known for the Bedd Taliesin, a hilltop Bronze Age tumulus which is traditionally regarded as the site for the grave of the Welsh bard, Taliesin. It is listed as a Historic Monument. It is a round-kerb cairn with a cist about 2m long. The capstone has fallen; the side stone slabs are more or less in their original positions.
Which brings us to Taliesin Cwmbran a group of 58 flats located at the northern end of a road named Forgeside.
This development is something of an anomaly, breaking the mould of the conventional New Town housing which surrounds it.
Broadly Postmodern – with passing references to half timbered buildings, yet with more contemporary cladding. A wandering profile and angular roofline which echoes Hollywood Medievalism, paired with a fortress like enclosure of space and scaled down passageways.
So far no architectural attribution – any clues anyone?
Built between 1963 and 1967, the centre comprised 18 shops, a childrens playground, public toilets, a health and dental centre, and a combined public house and community centre. The unit centre was designed by Chief Architect of the CDC, Gordon Redfern, and was architecturally the most innovative and ambitious unit centre within Cwmbran New Town. To combat the exposed nature of the site together with the ‘high rainfall, mists and variable winds’ prevalent in the area, Gordon Redfern designed an enclosed, high-sided space that would physically and mentally shield shoppers during their visits. This protective environment extended to creating a central play area that could be viewed from the shops, allowing a more enjoyable experience for children. Four different shops types were provided on increasing floor footage for facilities ranging from barbers to grocery shop, all with storage to the first floor and eight, on the south-west side, with a two-bedroom maisonette above. To enhance the architectural impact of the scheme, Redfern created each unit on an hexagonal plan despite the inefficiences in floor space usage and additional costs in creating the fixtures and fittings. The CDC also fitted out each of the uits to a customised requirement – for example the Post Office unit was pre-fitted with a telephone booth, posting box, stamp machine and half-glazed panel for advertising services.
The structural engineers were Ove Arup & Partners, the builders were Gee, Walker & Slater. Construction costs for the scheme were estimated at £214,106. The unit centre was opened 12 September 1967, shared with the opening of Monmouth House, both undertaken by Rt. Hon. James Callaghan, M.P. A scathing article written the following month by architectural critic Ian Nairndismissed the design as a ‘kind of in-turned medieval village … an oasis of picturesqueness in a desert of statistical units’ designed for, rather than with, the inhabitants and therefore destined for commercial failure.
In 1949, the then Minister for Town and Country Planning, John Silken, designated an area of 31,000 acres surrounding the village of Cwmbran to be the first new town in Wales. Unlike the first generation new towns, the aim of Cwmbran was to provide housing and a range of facilities for those employed in existing industry but who lived in poor housing in the neighbouring valleys.
A master plan was implemented to achieve the objective for the town. However, as the town developed, the projected size of the town had to increase and many of the plans ideals were diluted as the Southwest expansion area was approved in 1977.
In fact, due to the planned nature of Cwmbran, there now exists few opportunities for new development within the town. This has meant intense development pressure on the outskirts of Cwmbran from house builders and developers.
On the day of my visit the centre was busy with happy shoppers happily shopping – there were major works underway in line with the town’s new plans.
Cwmbran has also prospered from having a vibrant retail core. The Shopping Centre has a fully pedestrianised, multi purpose centre with covered shopping malls. There are over 170 retail outlets covering a total area of 700.000 sq. ft, including a number of popular high street retailers, restaurants, a theatre and cinema. Accordingly, the town is now considered to be a sub regional centre, and the intention is that this retail focus will be increased by regeneration of the eastern side of the town.
Now 50 years on parts of the town are in need of renovation. Through various public and private partnerships the aim of the Cwmbran Project Team is to set out a 15 year strategy for the regeneration and development of the new town, and begin its implementation.
My primary interest concerned the public art in Monmouth Square – William Mitchell’s concrete clad lift shaft.
There is a water feature currently off limits and without the water that would elevate the feature to a fully functioning feature.
Plans proposed in 2018 could may herald the demise of this important public work of art.
Plans to level the water gardens in Monmouth Square at the Cwmbran Centre will be reviewed by Torfaen council’s planning committee.
The proposal also includes a modern café with a glazed front, the development of an events space to house farmers markets and street theatre and a green area.
Rebecca McAndrew, Torfaen council’s principal planning officer, said in the report that the water feature would be filled in and flattened as part of “an ongoing renovation programme”.
The application states that the area has a ‘weary and dated appearance’ and do not meet disability access requirements.
According to the report, the water gardens last flowed 13 years ago and its demolition would lead to further improvements at Wales’ second largest shopping centre.
The Water Gardens were designed by the CDC Chief Architect Gordon Redfern as a key visual and recreational element of the Town Centre. His focus was on combining different textures in the form of hard landscaping and planting, with the sense of movement and sound created by running water. At the upper end a pool, containing an artwork created from Pilkington Glass, was fed by a horizontal water jet which was in turn led by a small ‘canal’ to the lower, sunken garden. With water cascading down the southern retaining wall, consisted of moulded concrete sporting abstract geometric form, and variety of trees and shrubs, this formed an area for busy shoppers and families to relax and socialise.
The old Royal building opened in 1978 and has served the city ever since – despite ongoing infrastructure problems. Looking at the crumbling, unsightly building, it is clear why Liverpool is desperate for its sparkling new facility to finally open.
When the new build plans were first announced, the Trust stated: “Once the new hospital is constructed, our existing hospital will be demolished. In its place, there are plans to develop a world-class health campus, as well as landscaping green space, roughly the size of Chavasse Park.”
In January 2020, two years after Carillion’s collapse, a report from the National Audit Office, projected the overall costs of the new Royal could tip over the £1.1 billion mark. It also commented on the plans for the old building, stating: “Further work to demolish the old hospital and create a new underground car park and public plaza, was not included in the PFI project and is currently unfunded. The cost of this was not included in the PFI project and is currently estimated at £38 million.”