Liverpool Walk

My kind thanks to Dominic Wilkinson my host for his wise guidance.

We begin with a rapid ascent of the Radio City Tower – at the St John’s Shopping Centre.

Also known as St. John’s Beacon – a radio and observation tower in, built in 1969 and opened by Queen Elizabeth II, it was designed by James A. Roberts Associates of Birmingham.

At 138 metres tall it is the 32nd tallest in the building United Kingdom.

© Nancy Clendaniel May 1982

Spare a thought for the long gone Penny Farthing.

Now trading as the ever so sober and serious Courtyard Bar & Kitchen

And continue on to reflect upon the short life of the soon to be demolished Churchill Way flyover and walkways.

What we thought was built to last in effect wasn’t the case and it is almost impossible to maintain some of those  structures that have internally deteriorated beyond being able to to be repaired. 

Engage Liverpool

Their construction was a direct result of Traffic in Towns was an influential report and popular book on urban and transport planning policy published 25 November 1963 for the UK Ministry of Transport by a team headed by the Professor Sir Colin Buchanan. The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.

Further developed in the 1965 Liverpool City Centre Plan:

In the 1960s, planning consultant Graeme Shankland advised Liverpool City Council on urban renewal. The resulting Liverpool City Centre Plan of 1965 declared two thirds of the city’s buildings to be obsolete, and proposed road-building on a vast scale, but it also recognised that Liverpool had outstanding Victorian architecture which must be preserved.

Onwards at ground level to the former Higson’s Offices 127 Dale Street 1964-65 Architect Derek Jones for Ormrod and Partners – now in use as HQ for the National Museums Liverpool.

A little ways down along the street on our right Kingsway House 1965-67 Derek Stephenson and Partners, currently undergoing refurbishment as luxury apartments following a spell as homeless shelter.

Hatton Garden is a former office building that is soon to be transformed into luxury city centre residential apartments. Perfect for young professionals and couples, each apartment will radiate a homely feel without compromising on space or style.

Property Wealth

A respectful nod to the unassuming though mildly assertive New Oxford House.

To our left the former Midland Bank, 4 Dale Street, constructed in 1971 to designs of 1967 by Raymond Fletcher of Bradshaw, Rowse & HarkerListed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: 

* Architectural interest: is an important example of a post-war bank atypically employing a high-quality Modernist design reflective of its era – a form of late-1960s pop architecture bringing fun and diversity to the streetscape; its strikingly bold design marks a new consumerism in the clearing bank and an attempt to engage younger customers;

Further on down the road State House 1962 Edmund Kirby and Sons.

Tied stylistically to the neighbouring tunnel Ventilating Station 1931-34 by renowned local architect Herbert J Rowse.

Pausing to remember Turning the Place Over a temporary artwork conceived for Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture and saw a twenty six tonne section of Cross Keys House fixed to a giant pivot.

It opened in May 2007 and was due to be exhibited only into 2008, but proved such a phenomenal draw that it kept turning until 2011.

Nipping up Moorfields to Silkhouse Court on Tithebarn Street by Quiggin and Gee 1964 – built 1967-70.

Having recently been adorned with some incongruously imposed cladding:

Silkhouse Court is the latest residential development from Fortis Developments, in association with Elite City Living. Situated in the heart of Liverpool, one of the UK’s strongest emerging residential markets, the development is perfectly located between the modern business district and the city’s famous tourist landmarks.

Behind us Tempest House.

Refurbishment as office space:

The great thing about Tempest is it’ll completely change your work-life balance. We’ve created a cool, collaborative community within an inspiring space. Tempest looks to the past and points to the future. 1970s architecture, it’s brutal yet it’s refined, it’s old but at the same time it’s modern, and we really like those contradictions.

Back on ourselves down Vernon Street to Norwich House now 8 Water Street 1973 Edward Kirby and Sons.

Dream Apartments

With 50 luxury one and two bedroom apartments, some complete with private roof gardens offering panoramic views across Liverpool’s skyline, Dream Apartments Waterstreet are perfectly suited for both corporate and leisure guests alike.

Our apartments’ ‘home away from home’ design showcases a fully integrated handmade kitchen unit, beautiful bathroom with LED mood lighting and power shower to create a beautiful yet spacious living space. High speed internet access, car parking and 24-hour concierge service provides each visitor with hotel benefits whilst simultaneously the freedom and space that only serviced apartments can offer.

A turn around the block to the Oriel Chambers extension 1959-61 James & Bywaters, replacing the original bomb damaged facade.

And a more than appreciative nod to the Proto Modernism of Oriel Chambers themselves 1864 Peter Ellis.

One of the most remarkable buildings of its date in Europe – Pevsner.

Let’s nip down the road to look at the Sandcastle – the Royal and Sun Alliance Building by Tripe and Wakeham 1972-76 a big bright beautiful brick ziggurat with a Rowse Ventilation Station tucked neatly under its shoulder – linking functionalist moderne to a modern moderately restrained opulence.

Following the flow of Union Street at 100 stands the Sir John Moores Building 1962 designed by Littlewoods Department of Architecture and Planning.

Across the way the former Liverpool Daily Post and Echo Farmer & Dark 1970-74 is under wraps and awaiting orders.

Spare a thought for the long lost Cotton House facade of 1905 – extended and obscured by the Newton Dawson Forbes and Tate in 1967-69.

Back on ourselves again to Water Street where Drury House awaits.

Formerly the Commercial Union HQ – its canteen now long gone.

An elegant array of exposed stairways and classy cladding.

Then off to Fenwick Street and the Festival of Britain style opitimism of the Corn Exchange 1953-59 John Foster Jun. and James A Picton.

Turn around there’s the Bucket Fountain by sculptor Richard Huws in Beetham Plaza – under threat but newly listed!

In 1962 the Merseyside Civic Society commissioned the Welsh designer, Richard Huws, then a lecturer at the Liverpool School of Architecture (LSA), to design a kinetic fountain for central Liverpool. Dr Richard Moore, helped by university friends, all of whom were students of Richard Huws at the LSA at the time he was designing his Liverpool fountain, has recently traced the history of the fountain – known locally as the Bucket Fountain – exploring its origins, its final opening in the then Goree Piazza, Drury Lane in May 1967, its subsequent demise, its restoration between 1997 and 2000 and its present condition in the re-named Beetham Plaza.

Merseyside Civic Society

His work as seen at the aforementioned Festival of Britain.

Water Mobile 1951

Here is Huws right in 1967 in the then Goree Piazza

If we scurry along there may be just enough time to take in the Queen Elizabeth II Law Courts – they were begun in 1973, opened in 1984. Architects were Farmer and Dark.

The Mancunian Way – A57(M)

I’m walking, yes indeed I’m walking – I’m walking the Mancunian Way.

Previously posted as historical journey – this, as they say, is the real deal, one foot after another, one sunny afternoon in September.

From east to west and back again – in or on, under and around our very own Highway in the Sky.

Part of the ever changing patchwork of demolition and development which defines the modern city. The carriageway prevails, whilst the pervasive rise and fall continues apace, its forlorn pedestrian underpasses may soon be superseded by wider walkways.

Manchester City Council is spending around £10million to make major changes to the junction where Princess Road meets the Mancunian Way and Medlock Street.

Much to the chagrin of local residents, who value the solace of their sole soulful green space and the frequent users, passing under the constant waves of sooty traffic.

What you see is what you get today, tomorrow is another kettle of concrete, trees, traffic and steel.

Civic Centre – Wigan Again

I’ve been here before, no not in some strange déjà vu sense.

I’ve been here before – look!

Three years on, now in the shadow of the newly built Life Centre, you stand alone unloved – empty.

But the future of the Modernist landmark, which was first put in service by the borough in the early 70s, remains unclear. There is speculation that the Millgate building, first unveiled by Wigan Mayor John Farrimond, could become a hotel.

Last October the Wigan Observer revealed how the council had enjoyed mixed fortunes when it came to marketing elements of its existing property portfolio.

But the council has been successful in offloading some venues, with Ince Town Hall now home to Little Giggles nursery.

So who knows what fate awaits you – the town I am told is on the up.

Let’s hope that the Civic Centre is not coming down

Churchill Way Flyovers and Walkways – Liverpool

It’s too late she’s gone.

Opened in 1972 as an almost belated response to George Buchanan’s 1963 Traffic in Towns which had informed the Liverpool City Centre Plan of 1965.

The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.

These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book in 1964.

The majority of the planned Walkways in the Sky remained unrealised.

The Churchill Way was realised and remained in use until September 2nd 2019 – closed and facing a £10 million demolition programme, following a maintenance report which found them to be unsafe – and presumably beyond economic repair.

And so I took one last look around taking snaps, an epitaph to the end of an era, and the end of an idea that was once once rendered concrete.

Take a closer walk with me.

Antony Holloway – Huyton Wall

Antony Holloway – artist born March 8th 1928 he died on August 9th 2000.

Dorset was where he was born and grew up and the Dorset landscape was always there deep within him. He was educated at Poole grammar school between 1939 and 1945. After national service in the Royal Air Force in Dorset and Germany from 1948 to 1953 he studied at Bournemouth College of Art. Then came the RCA.

Tony began work as a stained glass and mural designer and jumped, with astonishing confidence, into working as a consultant designer with the architects’ division of the London County Council. He learned how to deal with architects and builders, and became adept at getting as much out of the money available – never enough – for his projects.

In 1963 he was introduced to the Manchester architect, Harry Fairhurst. Eight years later, after they had worked together on commissions in Cheshire and Liverpool, Fairhurst sought Tony’s advice about a plan for five large stained-glass windows in Manchester Cathedral.

Tony asked to design and make the first window, the St George in the inner south-west aisle. It was completed in 1973. Further windows followed in 1976 and 1980 and the final window, Revelation was installed in 1995.

The Guardian

His Sculptural Wall on London Road Manchester – an integral part of Fairhurst’s UMIST scheme, is Grade II listed.

His concrete panels clad two opposing sides of the Faraday Tower which can also be seen on the UMIST site.

I discovered further reference to his work in an old copy of Studio International – serendipitously purchased from a local charity shop.

So I bided my time, awaiting the day I could take the train to Huyton, walk along Bluebell Lane, across the busy dual carriageway to Primrose Drive.

My patience was rewarded – 7,000 square feet of cast concrete retaining wall, surrounding the tower blocks, built on a site raised above the roads.

In 1987 the wall was open to public access – one of the three tower blocks has been subsequently demolished.

Tower Block

Partially covered with greenery and now securely contained within spiked railings, I circumnavigated the site catching and snapping the structure where I could – here are those very snaps.

Blackpool Mooch

So here we are at Blackpool North Station – take some time take a look around you, take a look at the cavernous concourse.

The station was opened in its present form in 1974, and succeeded a previous station a few hundred yards away on Talbot Road which had first opened in 1846 and had been rebuilt in 1898. The present station is based on the 1938 concrete canopy which covered the entrance to the former excursion platforms of the old station.

 But let’s not linger – out into the open breathe that sea air, under the underpass where the former Fine Fare awaits.

The Fine fare fanfare begins with an oversized Outspan heralding a new dawn – Charlie Cairoli will be in attendance!

Opened on May 22nd 1979 by the Goodies.

The shop is long gone, however the distinctive cladding prevails.

Along with the austere multi-storey car park.

Just a round the Corner and we find the Funny Girls, possibly some funny girls, funny I thought it used to be an Odeon?

Architects: Robert Bullivant, Harry W. Weedon

This was the largest of the original Oscar Deutsch built Odeon Theatres, seating 3,088, with 1,684 in the stalls and 1,404 in the balcony. The Odeon opened on 6th May 1939 with Three Smart Girls Grow Up starring Deanna Durbin.

Cinema Treasures

Now a key feature of the town’s extravagant nightlife.

It was boarded up for several years until it was acquired by Basil Newby whose Pink Leisure Company converted the former circle into a nightclub named Flamingo’s, a bar in the former circle foyer and Funny Girls; a drag-cabaret theatre in the former stalls area which opened in 2002. In August 2018 Basil Newby’s Pink Leisure Company was put into receivership and the business was temporary taken over by Thwaites Brewery. Thwaites took over the ownership of the building in January 2019 and renovations are being carried out while all its facilities remain open. New signage in the style of the original 1930’s ODEON signage is to be installed on the building.

The Odeon is a Grade II Listed building.

Fancy a game of crazy golf, over looked by a delightful Irish Sea facing block of flats?

Look no further!

Onwards to the concrete coastal barricade that is the North Shore.

The figure at the centre of the interwar push for expansion and innovation in the provision of town infrastructure was Borough Architect John Charles Robinson. His designs were rooted initially in a stylish but civically appropriate classicism, but from the mid-1930s an appreciation of more explicitly modernist ideas becomes evident.

The earliest priority for the Surveyor’s Department after 1918 was the improvement and extension of the promenade and its sea defences. A short stretch of sunken gardens running parallel to the promenade at the Gynn opened in 1915 and a stretch of ‘Pulhamite’ artificial rock cliffs 100ft high between the new gardens and the lower promenade followed in 1923. Between the Gynn and the Metropole Hotel, the steep drop between the road and tramway the upper level and the lower promenade at sea level was remodelled during 1923–5 with a colonnaded ‘middle walk’, a covered promenade that utilised the pavement at the top of the three-tiered slope as its roof.

Then we walk back on ourselves and encounter the Cenotaph.

Originally erected 1923 by the County Borough of Blackpool Architect Ernest Prestwich. Bronze sculptures by Gilbert Ledward. HA Clegg & Sons builders. Messrs Kirkpatrick stonemasons.

And the North Pier.

By Eugenius Birch 1862-3, contractors R. Laidlaw and Son of Glasgow. Cast iron screw piles and columns supporting iron girders and wooden deck 1,405 feet long, with jetty of 474 feet – added 1867.

Notably the birthplace of Sooty.

A nod toward the Tower and a scamper across the Comedy Carpet.

Glancing at Harry Ramsden’s delightful Deco detailing.

Time to take in the former Woolworth’s fascia.

Then wonder where Lewis’s went?

Cutting inland we find WH Smith’s Mosaic.

Look up at the carved stone panels on the Council Offices.

Swerving towards the Winter Gardens.

With its newly refurbished Spanish Rooms.

Back out on the streets to behold the ceramic jamboree tucked in neatly behind the Post Office.

Then along Topping Street for a tiled treat.

Followed by a dessert of fast fading Art Deco.

Lets all turn ourselves in – over and out to the Police Station.

Another of Roger Booth’s Lancashire County Architect, 1962-83 monumental achievements, and another his works destined for demolition.

Skipping bail and back towards the promenade, the better to take in the fine fascias and the joy that is and was Central Pier.

The success of the North Pier prompted the formation of the Blackpool South Jetty Company one year later in 1864. Impressed with the construction of North Pier, the company hired the same contractor, Richard Laidlaw and Son of Glasgow for the project. This time, however, the company used the designs of Lieutenant-Colonel John Isaac Mawson rather than those of Eugenius Birch. 

Whatever the weather you’re always ready for an ice cream treat!

Where better than at Notarianni.

Setting you up for the grand finale that is Joseph Emberton’s Pleasure Beach.

Oh I almost forgot the South Victoria Pier.

The Blackpool South Shore Pier & Pavilion Co. Ltd. was registered in November 1890 and work began to build the pier in 1892. It was constructed, at a total cost of £50,000, using a different method than that used for North and Central piers, the Worthington Screwpile System. It opened, with a choir, two brass bands and an orchestra on Good Friday, 1893. The 3,000 capacity Grand Pavilion opened on 20 May. At 163 yards long, it was the shortest of the three piers, and had 36 shops, a bandstand, an ice-cream vendor and a photograph stall. It was built shorter and wider than North and Central piers to accommodate pavilions

Just in time for the tram home and a calming drink of draught champagne in Yates’s Wine Lodge.

St Stephen RC – Droylsden

Chappell Road Droylsden Manchester M43

One fine sunny Monday morning I set out cycling to Ashton-under-Lyne to buy an enamel pie dish. Almost inevitably I was pushed and pulled in a variety of unforeseen directions, incautiously distracted and diverted serendipitously – towards Droylsden.

Idly pedalling down Greenside Lane looking this way and that I was drawn magnetically to a pitched roof tower, towering over the red brick semis. Rounding the corner I discovered the delightful St Stephen’s RC church, stood high and proud on a grassy corner, glowing golden in the March sunlight.

I leaned my bike against the presbytery wall and with the kindly bidding of a passing parishioner, I went inside. 

Thanks to Father Tierney for his time and permission to snap the interior. It was a calm space, the large open volume side lit by high octagonal honeycomb modular windows. The elegant plain pitched concrete gambrel roof beams a simple engineered solution.

The church and attached presbytery were built from designs by Greenhalgh & Williams in 1958-9, the church being consecrated on 12 May 1960. A reordering took place, probably in the 1960s or 70s, when the altar rails were removed and the altar moved forward. Probably at the same time, the font was brought into the church from the baptistery.

Taking Stock

The altar and apse beautifully restrained in colour form and choice of materials. The design and detailing on the pews so warm and understated.

I was loathe to leave.

The exterior does not disappoint, the repetition of modular window shapes, the integration of doors, brick and mixed stone facing.This is a building of elegant grandeur, well proportioned, happily at home in its setting.

I suggest you set out there soon.