Dorothy Annan Mural – The Barbican

I’ve been to the Barbican before, wandering the walkways without purpose.

This is a whole new box of tiles, the search for a re-sited mural, a first time meeting with what would seem at once like an old and well-loved friend.

Dorothy Annan 20 January 1900 – 28 June 1983

Was an English painter, potter and muralist, married to the painter and sculptor Trevor Tennant. She was born in Brazil to British parents and was educated in France and Germany.

Christmas 1944 – Manchester Art Gallery

Annan’s paintings are in many national collections, she is also known for her tile murals, many of which have been destroyed in recent decades. Only three of her major public murals are believed to survive, the largest single example, the Expanding Universe at the Bank of England, was destroyed in 1997.

Gouache Sketch

I was looking for her mural which illustrates the telecommunications industry – formerly of the Fleet Building Telephone Exchange Farringdon Road.

Michael Bojkowski

The murals were commissioned at a cost of £300 per panel in 1960. Annan visited the Hathernware Pottery in Loughborough and hand-scored her designs onto each wet clay tile, her brush marks can also be seen in the fired panels.

Charles Trusler

The building was owned by Goldman Sachs, who wished to redevelop the site and opposed the listing of the murals.

In January 2013, the City of London Corporation agreed to take ownership of the murals, and in September 2013 these were moved to a permanent location in publicly accessible part of the Barbican Estate. They are displayed in their original sequence within an enclosed section of the Barbican High Walk between Speed House and the Barbican Centre.

Commemorative Bowl

So following a discursive and somewhat undirected circumnavigation of the Center we were finally united – it only seemed polite to linger a while and take some snaps – here they are.

The Barbican Estate – London

Bouncing betwixt and between Bonnard and Bill Viola from Tate Modern to the Royal Academy I took a detour to The Barbican – in search of the Dorothy Annan tiled mural.

Having failed conspicuously to find it, following an extensive and discursive wander, I did the wise thing and asked.

My thanks to the helpful resident and his young son.

Redirected and on course for our deferred engagement, Dorothy and I met at last on an underpass.

I also recently discovered a Barbican Manchester mash up – Gerrards of Swinton fulfilled their largest ever single order for the site – my thanks to David Roughley for the information and illustration.

Here are the snaps that I took along the way.

Ash Hotel – Stockport

232 Manchester Road Heaton Chapel Stockport SK4 1NN

So once there was a pleasure gardens, and then in 1901 a pub.

Wilson’s Brewery built The Ash Hotel, a grand boozer in a Jacobean manor manner, complete with bowling green and billiard room.

It lasted through to the 70’s and 90’s but gradually it became harder and harder to manage and fill a pub of such size and stature.

Closed – standing unloved and unused until it was finally converted into the Ash Tea Rooms in 2011.

Only to be closed again in May 2018.

Once ringing with the chink of glass on glass, songs and laughter it awaits its latest fate – conversion to flats.

One can only hope that much of its architectural detail will be preserved – particularly the architectural type fascia sign.

And the mosaic flooring.

Only time will tell – if you’re passing tip your hat take a look and celebrate a grand old building which somehow will prevail.

Stockport Moderne

A short circuitous tour around the town’s post war architecture.

Stockport along with every other town in the country was asked by central government to draw up a plan for reconstruction, to be implemented at the end of WW2. The result was invariably a wholesale rebuilding of bomb damaged and aged industrial, civic and domestic architecture.

Post 1945 such plans were seldom realised, Coventry and Plymouth being the exceptions. Changes in government, shortages of materials, labour and finance all played their part. We are left with a piecemeal implementation taking place over a much longer time scale than was originally envisaged.

The proposed Market Hall remains a fantasy in line and wash.

The Town Hall was spared and the planned civic sector took shape over some sixty years, the station approach area is now in its second phase of rebirth and rebuilding – the original 80s development of Grand Central now largely rubble – a new new plan is now in play.

A whole new transport interchange is to be built, replacing the existing 80s Bus Station.

Some 60s structures have been and gone, others are to be demolished or transformed into apartments, as towns strive to repopulate the centres following decades of abandonment to the moribund absence of a thriving night time economy.

So as of January 2019 we find ourselves at the centre of a town with change at its very centre, some of that which we see will be transformed, some will disappear.

All That Is Solid Melts into Air.

Petersgate House

A compact 70s block, that combines the roughest of precast panels, with the smoothest of *V* shaped supports, housing the car park below. The north face is a solid block of rough mid-toned aggregated recessed concrete, the remaining elevations pierced with windows and to the east a brick service tower.

Stockport Image Archive

I miss the Water Board offices, formerly adjoining the site.

Hilton House

Sixties built Hilton House is the former home of local furniture manufacturers New Day. It continues to impress, more or less unaltered, with its dramatic interlocking volumes confidently occupying the topography of the site. A commanding block of some ten storeys, with well proportioned bands of windows and mixed stone and concrete cladding. Linked to two further horizontal blocks, which are finished in contrasting styles. 

The building is currently in occupation as office space but there are imminent plans to convert the development into apartments following a Studio KMA concept design.

Stopford House

There had been proposals to extend the Town Hall provision since 1945, which were finally realised in 1975. Designed by JS Rank OBE and built at a cost of £1,500,000 – to provide additional office provision for the Local Authority. A further two blocks were planned but never built.

The main block is clad in 1400 exposed aggregate precast panels and the link blocks have ribbed walls constructed with in situ concrete, bush hammered to expose the limestone aggregate. The precast panels were carefully matched in order to harmonise with the existing Town Hall, the mix contained coarse aggregate from the Scottish Granite Company of Creetown, a fine Leemoor sand from the Fordamin Company, together with white cement.

There are tow levels of underground parking beneath the whole of the development. The piazza between the blocks was to have had a water cascade falling into a pond running the whole length of the area.

Though exciting and expansive in the modern manner the piazza area, sadly, seems little used.

Missing in action Covent Garden Flats once a little inter-war Berlin style low rise development now a Barratt Home urban paradise.

Merseyway

The story of Merseyway begins in 1936 with the quarter mile bridging of the river. It continues with a series of post-war integrateddevelopment proposals, finally completed in 1965. It has accommodated much earlier buildings, notably the Co-operative Store, now Primark, and the properties on the adjoining Prince’s Street. The multi storey car park with its pierced cast concrete screen and tower dominates the site. Many original features are missing, sympathetic paving, sculpture, exterior travelators, signage and kiosks. The use of the upper tier is negligible and piecemeal additions have left a rather cluttered feel, replacing a former well structured integrity. Just recently a small portion of the river has been exposed, following the repairs to the bridge of 1891. There have been discussions regarding the opening up of the whole extent of the river, revealing it through reinforced glazing.

Shopping Precinct

Opened in 1965, and extensively refurbished in the 1990s, it is a large pedestrianised area built on stilts over the River Mersey with two levels of walkways giving access to the retail units.

The scheme was developed by a consortium of interested parties who formed as Stockport Improvements Limited. In partnership with the Stockport Co-operative Society. The architects were Bernard Engle and Partners in conjunction with officers of Stockport Corporation. The separation of pedestrians and cars, the service areas, the multi level street, the city block that negotiates difficult topography to its advantage, are all planning moves that are of the new, ordered and systemised, second wave modernism in the UK.

Notable is the pierced concrete car park screen by Alan Boyson.

Constructed from three basic modules, each one being rotated to form six options in a seemingly random order.

BHS Murals

At the side of the BHS store in Merseyway are five concrete panels depicting local people, events and symbols. Commissioned by BHS in 1978 – To fill space on the blank wall at the side of the shop. They are the work of Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins, 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, establishedthe Colchester Arts Group, during the 1930s. Their work was featured in the Festival of Britain, GPO Tower and Expo 70, along with other retail outlets in Bexhill, Cwmbran, Southhampton, Newcastle and Colchester.

M60

The Hatton Street footbridge has two spans of in-situ u-section deck, is at ground level on the north side, but is reached by steps or ramp from Great Egerton Street on the south.

By 1974, the motorway had reached the outskirts of Stockport , running onto the congested A560. The 2.5-mileStockport East-West bypass opened to traffic in July 1982 as far as the Portwood Roundabout, then junction 13 of the M63, now junction 27 of the M60. A significant feature of the bypass is where the motorway passes through two of the arches of the large railway viaduct  in the centre of Stockport – one of the largest brick-built structures in Europe. In much of the cutting on the eastern side of the viaduct, red sandstone, on which much of the town is built, can be seen very close to the motorway. The section of motorway was widened from two to three lane carriageways in 1999 and 2000, around the time when the M63 was renumbered to M60.


Heaton Norris Park – Stockport

Heaton Norris Park’s elevated position gives stunning views of the Stockport town centre skyline and of the Cheshire plain. The central position of the Park means that it is a green retreat for shoppers and local residents. Also it is within easy reach of the Stockport town centre. The land for this park was acquired by public subscription and as a gift from Lord Egerton. Work on laying out the site as a public park began in May 1873, and it was formally opened on June 5th 1875. Since then it has undergone a number of changes. The construction of the M60 has shaved several acres off the park’s size.

The park began life as Drabble Ash Pleasure Gardens – entrance strictly by token only, as commemorated on the BHS Murals in Merseyway.

5 November 1905 – Edward VII declares his eldest daughter The Princess Louise, Duchess of Fife, the Princess Royal.

He also orders that the daughters of Princess Louise, Lady Alexandra Duff and Lady Maud Duff are to be styled as Princesses of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland with the style Highness.

So they built a big bonfire on bonfire night at Heaton Norris Park – sometimes they still do.

Picture courtesy of ©Phil Rowbotham

In 1935 the area seems to be little more than windswept cinders and thin forlorn grass, traversed by broad uneven paths – overlooking the dark industrial mire below.

Into the 1960s and although now there is the provision of a children’s play area, the park is still in need of a little more care and attention, the immediate surroundings a dense dark warren of industrial activity and terraced housing.

In 1968 the construction of two twelve storey Stockport County Borough Council residential blocks begins, alongside the recreation grounds, Heaton and Norris Towers, creating 136 new homes.

The 1970s sees the banked gardens bedded out with summer flowers and a crazy golf course on the edge of the bowling area. Both of these features are now a thing of the past, the future financing, care and maintenance of our parks is always precarious, especially during times of central government funding cuts and enforced austerity.

© John Davies

The park now has a Friends group to support it, along with I Love Heaton Norris. The area is cared for and used by all ages and interests children’s play, bowls, tennis, conservation area, football, picnic and floral areas – somewhere and something to be very proud of, social spaces for sociable people.

And much beloved of Natalie Bradbury the SS Norris concrete boat.

Take a walk over the concrete bridge or along Love Lane and treat yourself to a day in the park

Archive photographs Stockport Local Image Archive

Crazy Golf – Postcards From Blackpool

This in so many senses is where it all began – my first encounter with the visual arts was through my Aunty Alice’s postcard album. Predating visits to Manchester City Art Gallery in my mid-teens, I was lost in a world of post WW1 printed ephemera, rendered less ephemeral by careful collection and collation. Sitting entranced for hours and hours absorbing the photography, text and illustration of hundreds of unseen hands.

This is North Shore Blackpool – behind the Metropole in the early 60s.

The colour is muted by the then state of the art colour reproduction, the holiday dress is constrained by the codes of the day. Light cotton frocks and wide brimmed sun hats, shirts tucked in belted slacks, sandals and shorts – purely for the pre-teens.

The focus and locus of fun is located on the prom and what better way to squander a moment or eighteen, than with a pleasurable round of crazy golf. Municipal Modernist frivolity rendered corporeal in corporation concrete, repainted annually ahead of the coming vacationers.

Domesticated Brutalism to soften the soul.

And there can be no better away to inform the awaiting world of your capricious coastal antics than a picture postcard, so playfully displayed on the corner shop carousel – 10p a pop.

Stopping to chuckle at the Bamforth’s mild mannered filth, yet finally purer of heart, opting for the purely pictorial.

Man and boy and beyond I have visited Blackpool – a day, week or fortnight here and there, the worker’s working week temporarily suspended with a week away.

Times have now changed and the new nexus is cash, all too incautiously squandered – Pleasure Beach and pub replacing the beach as the giddy stags and hens collide in an intoxicating miasma of flaming Sambuca, Carling, Carlsberg and cheap cocktails – for those too cash strapped for Ibiza.

The numbers are up – 18 times nothing is nothing – each year as I revisit, the primarily primary colour paint wears a little thinner in the thin salt air and the whining westerly wind, of the all too adjacent Irish Sea.

Overgrown and underused awaiting the kids and grown ups that forever fail to show. On one visit the sunken course had become the home of the daytime hard drinkers, they suggested we refurbish and run the course as a going concern. I declined lacking the time, will and capital for such a crazy enterprise.

The starting has finally stopped.

Ramsgate Harbour

The construction of Ramsgate Harbour began in 1749 and was completed in about 1850. The two most influential architects of the harbour were father and son John Shaw and John Shaw Jr, who designed the clock house, the obelisk, the lighthouse and the Jacob’s Ladder steps.

The harbour has the unique distinction of being the only harbour in the United Kingdom awarded the right to call itself a Royal Harbour. This was bestowed by King George IV after he was taken by the hospitality shown by the people of Ramsgate when he used the harbour to depart and return with the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1821.

Because of its proximity to mainland Europe, Ramsgate was a chief embarcation point both during the Napoleonic Wars and for the Dunkirk evacuation  in 1940.

The ferry terminal area is built upon reclaimed land.

History is written on shifting sands and stormy seas.

The port has had it’s ups and downs the ferry terminal closing following a tragic accident

On 14 September 1994 there was a failure of a ship to shore structure for the transfer of foot passengers onto ferries. It collapsed in the early hours, causing the deaths of six people and seriously injuring seven more. The investigation into the accident revealed that the same basic miscalculation had been made by both the designer – Swedish firm FKAB, a subsidiary of the Mattson Group and certifying organisation Lloyd’s register. The parties involved, including the client, Port Ramsgate, were prosecuted and fined a total of £1.7m, which at the time was the largest fine in the United Kingdom for a breach of health and safety laws. The Swedish firms refused to pay the £1m fine and as result pan-European law enforcement was changed in 2005.

Hoverlloyd ran a crossing from Ramsgate Harbour to Calais Harbour from 6 April 1966 using small, passenger-only SR.N6 hovercraft. When the much larger SR.N4 craft, capable of carrying 30 vehicles and 254 passengers, were delivered in 1969, Hoverlloyd moved operations to a purpose built hoverport in Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate.

Mothballed and unloved standing largely unused 2019 has seen the winds of change forge a new dawn for the fading fortunes of Ramsgate Harbour. Transport supremo Christopher Grayling MP has summoned the dredgers to clear a way through the confusing clutter of post Brexit Britain.

Seaborne Freight has three months to source the vessels, recruit and train staff, and put all the infrastructure in place to launch the service before we leave the EU – it sounds like a very tall order – Richard Burnett

A company with no vessels a port currently with no access.

There’s only one pilot and that is the Harbour Master. The security fencing is laughable – travellers broke into the port and occupied it for a week not so long ago.

So all is well with the world – we await further developments with a fervour unseen since the previous fervour.

Let’s take a short walk back to my walk around in 2015 – see you on the other side.