Minerva Café – Doncaster

A Doncaster town centre cafe, once used by former pop star Louis Tomlinson to film a pop video, has closed after trading for more nearly 50 years near the market. The Minerva Cafe has closed down after trading sine the 1970s offering breakfasts and lunches to shoppers.

The shutters are now down on the shop, which has not now been used for two weeks, say neighbouring businesses. Minerva was well known for its big breakfasts which often earned rave reviews on the internet. It also had a celebrity link, having been used by the former One Direction star Louis Tomlinson for the shooting of his Back to You video, last year. Doncaster Council town center bosses confirmed they understood the cafe had closed down, but did not know the reason. Long serving Doncaster market trader Nigel Berrysaid he had seen no sign of activity at the cafe for two weeks. He said: It has been here in the market for such a long time. It’s been there since I first started on the market in 1971. People have commented to me it feels like it has been there forever. 

“It is a shame to see it closed. It has been a bit of an institution round here.”

Doncaster Free Press

I came here on the 8th of February 2016, hungry but no alone – unaware of the Minerva’s popular cultural significance.

I just wanted a pie.

It came with chips peas and gravy – proper chips, proper tinned peas and an authentic plate pie pastry top and bottom, meaty minced meat filling.

My partner in crime had the full breakfast

We drank hot tea, chatted sporadically and ate the lot.

Table 16 aka table 22 – was more than satisfied.

The table was more than satisfactory a pale leatherette seated booth, with erratic homespun wood grain effects.

This was a place with hidden depths receding back from the entrance into deeper and deeper space.

And a proper regard for tea service etiquette – with no room for poor pouring stainless steel pragmatism.

But where are we now?

I returned on February 9th 2019 and the M was missing the Minerva was missing the shutters were down – ain’t nobody home.

No more pie, peas, chips and gravy no more full up upon full breakfasts.

No more Minerva, no more.

Doncaster – Police Station and Law Courts

I’ll try anything twice or more – including a trip to Doncaster.

Once in the rain two years ago, more recently in broken cloud and sunshine.

In search of the work of Frederick Gibberd .

Son of Coventry – architect, author and leading post-war planner.

From 1949 onwards plans were afoot to develop the Waterdale area of Doncaster – civic buildings, courts, educational provision and the like WH Price the Borough Surveyor at the helm. In 1955 Gibberd was appointed to oversee the site, though many of his designs were unrealised, his Police Station and Law Courts opened in 1969.

The area was also home to the Technical College and Coal – later Council House, both now demolished.

Information Doncaster Civic Trust.

The Courts and Police Station now nestle behind the much newer civic developments, part of much wider regeneration scheme.

So let’s go back in time to a wet day in 2016 – when first I chanced upon these municipal concrete bunkers of law and order – where Brutalism is embodied in the buildings content and purpose, as well as its style.

This is an architecture that instructs you to avoid wrongdoing at all costs – or suffer the inevitable consequences.

Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

2019 and I’m back again – architecturally little or nothing has changed, still standing – stolid solid pillars of justice. The day is brighter ever so slightly softening the harsh precast panels against a bluer spring sky.

Return To Penrhyn Bay

Then the very next morning it came right back to me.

She wrote upon it:

Return to Penrhyn Bay – so I dutifully did

This is the land of the well-behaved bungalow, neatly tended, conscientiously swept, accessorised by B&Q.

The stoic sea and wind washed link-detached semi.

Nothing is out of place, except perhaps the architectural style – a West Coast blow in on the North Wales Coast.

To wander is to wonder:

Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

WH Smiths – Colwyn Bay

I have been here before.

I’ve been there too – Newton Powys home to the WH Smiths Museum

Now here I am in Colwyn Bay generally minding my own and everybody else’s business, when all of a sudden I noticed a cast iron glazed awning.

Proudly announcing the proprietors – sadly supported by a distressing modern addition – now I’m not one to decry and debunk the rising tide of modernity, I’m all in favour of unisex clothing and central heating.

But the unchecked encroachment of vacuous vinyl really is the limit.

Businesses displayed a degree of dignified permanence unknown to the current high street trader. So here it is writ larger than life in stained glass and Carter’s Tiles.

Loud and proud.

And as an addendum here are the delightful tiles from the Llandudno branch, snapped two years previously.

High Street Estate – Pendleton

High Street Pendleton 1930s – the cast of Love on the Dole walk down High Street Pendleton, passing Hill’s Pawnbroker, author Walter Greenwood is ninth from the right.

This was a dense area of back to back terraces adjacent to pubs, schools, churches, mills, docks and cattle markets. Communities formed from shared patterns of employment, education, leisure and worship.

These communities survived into the 1960s and the coming of slum clearance, followed by an intense period of rebuilding in the modern manner.

Archival photographs Digital Salford

Patterns of employment, economic boom and bust, the exponential expansion in higher education, all contribute to the change in character of the area, along with slow and sudden demise in social housing.

2014 and the area begins to be reshaped yet again – this time by former resident Mr Peter Hook, who grew up in the area, the low slung former New Order bass meister described it in a book as – rotten and horrible, like a concrete wasteland

The Orchards tower block, the first of three, is removed piece by piece, each of the 14-storey blocks took around six weeks to be demolished.

The citizens of High Street Estate await the ‘dozers with apprehension and a sense of grim inevitability.

Clearance begins with the promise of new homes, tenants and homeowners are relocated, houses are tinned up or demolished wholesale. – a few remain in situ dissatisfied and afraid.

Altogether, 885 houses in Pendleton are being bulldozed and, to date, 584 have already been demolished, including houses on Athole Street and Amersham Street. Over the Pendleton Together project’s £650million thirty year life, only around one third of new houses being built will be affordable.

Meanwhile, after years of anguish and uncertainty, Fitzwarren Court and Rosehill Close, previously down for demolition, are being saved. Salix Homes will now bring flats in Fitzwarren Court and houses in its ownership on Rosehill Close up to the Decent Homes Standard

Salford Star

So welcome to Limboland – as financial arrangements shift, shimmy and evaporate – government policy, local authority pragmatists, private partnerships and funding perform a merry dance of expediency, around an ever diminishing circle of demolition, development, stasis and deceit.

Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

Peveril Of The Peak – Manchester

To begin at the beginning or thereabouts, Sir Walter Scott publishes his longest novel Peveril of the Peak in 1823.

Julian Peveril, a Cavalier, is in love with Alice Bridgenorth, a Roundhead’s daughter, but both he and his father are accused of involvement with the Popish Plot of 1678.

Most of the story takes place in Derbyshire, London, and on the Isle of Man. The title refers to Peveril Castle in Castleton, Derbyshire.

Poster produced in 1924 for London Midland & Scottish Railway – artwork by Leonard Campbell Taylor who was born in 1874 in Oxford and went to the Ruskin School of Art.

The pub also shares its name with the London to Manchester stagecoach.

Which is all very well as the pub is largely known locals as The Pev – ably run since January 1971 by Nancy Swanick.

Nancy and son Maurice, who runs the cellar, also say they have shared the pub with a paranormal presence over the years.

Customers have seen pint glasses levitate off the bar and fall into the glass-wash, it’s like having our own ghostly helper!

The pub was Grade II listed in June 1988 – a fine tiled exterior and 1920’s interior refit largely untouched, it stands distinctly unattached to anything, decidedly somewhere betwixt and between Chepstow Street and Great Bridgwater Street.

Originally a Wilson’s house – the brewery lantern survives over the door.

I’ve taken a drink or two in here over the past thirty or so years, played pool and table football, watched the half time Hallé musicians swish in and out for a swifty.

A little island of green in a sea of grey.

Pop in for one if you’re passing