I was taking a band of merry Modernist Moochers around town, so I stopped to snap this BDP behemoth once again.
On a sunny September morn.
David Lees informs me:
Halifax Building Society HQ, designed by BDP in an a multi-consultant appointment. Bill Pearson, partner and lead designer, John Ellis, M & E partner, David Cowler, Industrial Designer for the conservatrieve document storage and recovery terminals.
Rod Morris, Graphic Designer designed the sculptural Corten air vents. Richard Saxon, Americanophile introduced the theory of the open plan office. The building has twin fourteen foot deep steel beams clear-spanning between the four corner stair towers, within the chamfered soffit, a floor that also houses all the plant rooms. Lower floor of curtain walled cladding is a one acre open plan beaurolandchaft office, based upon analysis of workflow, the first in the UK and the biggest order for Herman Miller action office furniture at the time.
The office ceiling is a development of BDP’s coffered ceiling creating diffuse, glare free light and massive sound deadening, needed in open plan. Yellow cylindrical air inlet terminals by David Cowler. There ended up being so many duct penetrations in the fourteen foot beams that Harry Halsall, the structural engineer, had to prop them centre span. To create strong columns that could be lost in the window walls he used solid square section forged steel. No holds barred on this building’s cost. Executives suits of offices on the top floor with lavish bespoke joinery have recessed landscaped courtyards.
The building sits on a vast chasm that is storage for physical title documents the society had to keep. Its roof is a crash slab that can take the full weight of the building above collapsing. Large vertical robot arms travel the racks to retrieve the documents that get delivered to the office floor by a conveyor system. Office terminals designed by David Cowler who went on to design the iconic Samsonite Suitcase.
Nobody thought about the groundwater effect when the concrete basement was built. Without the weight of the building on it, it floated eleven inches. Luckily when the water was pumped out it settled back down precisely.
BDP Manchester’s golden years.
I arrived fresh from Uni just as it was finished.
Thanks to David for the inside information, here’s what it looks like on the outside.
The remodelling of the building include reparations and repainting brickwork, render and cladding as part of wider plans to rejuvenate Hilton House to rebrand as a more attractive and contemporary office location in Stockport town centre.
Studio KMA have proposed conversion to apartments.
Conversion of existing 1970s office building to apartments.
A combination of one-bed, two-bed and three-bed units ensure a new sustainable use in Stockport town centre.
The proposal incorporates the use of coloured glass panels to create a modern, fresh aesthetic.
The original master plan would have swept away the Victorian Technical Institute and Salford Art Gallery.
Across the road are the Maxwell Buildings.
They were built between 1959 and 1960 to a design by the architect C H Simmons of the Lancashire County Architects Department.
The interior decorative order of Sixties’ institutions was integral to the architectural design, sadly this is no longer so.
Which may be the subject of ambitious redevelopment.
Take a turn around the corner to the Cockcroft Building.
These incised stone panels obscured by plants.
To the left is the Clifford Whitworth Library – this is the original architectural impression – signed Peter Sainsbury.
The original fascia was tile clad.
Subsequently replaced by uPVC boards.
Yet again the original interior was integral too the architectural scheme and period.
It was designed by WF Johnson and Partners of Leamington Spa, as a lecture theatre block and gallery. It sits with its long axis running parallel to the railway behind. The series of grey volumes, occasionally punctuated by colourful floods of red and green trailing ivy, hang together in a less than convincing composition. The orientation and access to the building seem confused and detached from any cohesive relationship to the rest of the campus, but there is something perversely attractive about the right essay in the wrong language. The reinforced concrete building contained five lecture theatres, communal spaces, an art gallery, AV support areas and basement plant rooms. Following a major refurbishment in 2012, several additions were made to the exterior and its total concrete presence somewhat diminished. It still houses lecture theatres and a number of other learning and social spaces.
A ways down the road the former Salford Technical College.
Now the part of the University of Salford, this grouping is probably the most significant work by Halliday Meecham during this period. The blocks wrap to almost enclose a courtyard and they step up in height towards the rear of the site. To the front is a lecture theatre block in dark brick. The multi-storey elements are straightforward in their construction and appearance and have had their glazing replaced. Perhaps the richest elements here are the three totemic structures by artist William Mitchell, which were listed at Grade II in 2011. Mitchell was actively engaged with the experiments of the Cement and Concrete Associations during the 1960s and produced a wide variety of works for public and private clients; other works regionally include the majority of the external art and friezes at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and the Humanities Building at Manchester University. These textured concrete monoliths appear to have an abstract representation of Mayan patterns and carry applied mosaic. They were made on site using polyurethane moulds. There is another Mitchell work hidden behind plasterboard in the inside of the building.
April 1965 saw the Salford City Reporter proudly boast in an article that
The Ellor Street dream begins to come true – complete with interviews with residents of the newly constructed Walter Greenwood, Eddie Colman and John Lester Courts all which towered some 120 feet above the Hanky Park skyline.
These particular blocks of flats were of special significance because their completion was the end of the first stage of the Ellor Street redevelopment scheme which was to provide 3,000 new homes, the £10 million pound Salford Shopping Precinct and a new civic centre – which never got built – making this A Salford of the Space Age.
The architectural core of the site has been retained, including the 23 storey Briar Court residential tower.
Tucked in behind is Mother of God and St James RC Church.
Clearances took place from the middle of the twentieth century and new high-rise housing blocks were built, as well as a shopping centre.
There was a Catholic presence in the area from 1854, when schools were built. What was described in The Tablet as a beautiful church, an Early English Gothic design by M. Tijou – presumably Herbert Tijou, architect of the chapel to Loreto College, Manchester, was opened by Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster in 1875.
One hundred years later this church was demolished and replaced by the present building.
The architects were Desmond Williams & Associates, the design bearing some similarity to their St Sebastian, Salford. In 2010 the church of All Souls, Weaste, was closed, and the marble sanctuary furnishings brought to the church.
All orientations given are liturgical. The church is steel framed with brick walls and a monopitch roof (originally covered with copper, now with felt). Bold brick forms create a presence, and the design is somewhat defensive, with few windows. The building is entered from a lower porch which forms a narthex. The slope of the roof and the stepped clerestory lighting create a striking impression inside, and full-height windows towards the east end incorporate stained glass figures said to have originated in the previous church. Marble sanctuary furnishings are presumably those from the church in Weaste and appear to be of later twentieth century date, while the font is of traditional type with a clustered stem and may have come from the earlier church.
Come out of the station turn a little right and have a quick look at the library.
The Calderdale Central Library & Archives is a bespoke design to rehouse the existing public library service and provide it with state of the art facilities to meet the needs of a modern public library: automatic book sorting, RFID stock tracking, dedicated ‘Media Store’, Children’s Library and flexible community spaces. Additionally the building houses a world-class document archive designed to meet the rigorous PD:5454 standards for environmental close-control, fire protection, security and storage.
Clad in locally-hand-made, long-format clay bricks, the design took careful consideration of the historic context of the site and its surrounding buildings. The site was previously occupied by a Grade II* Listed 19th century Neo-Gothic style church, which was largely destroyed by fire in the 1970s. The new library was designed to wrap around the ruins – the impressive Spire and the remaining Transept with its intricately carved stone rose window. This allowed the building to give new life to the ruins through expert repair work, specialist reglazing of the original windows and integration of the Transept into the library’s main public spaces.
The building was designed to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating and, in addition to a highly insulated building envelope, the building includes a BMS controlled natural ventilation system, low-energy LED lighting, a ground source heat pump and a rooftop photovoltaic array.
Back downhill and through the overgrown walkway we find ourselves neath the flyovers.
Burdock Way, the modern flyover system, was opened in 1973 to take the A58 and A629 traffic over the River Hebble.
Faced with the problem of very high volumes of through traffic in its town centre, and with the impending construction of the M62 too far to the south to provide relief for the town, Halifax needed a bypass. The steep sided valley that the town centre inhabits prevented a conventional road from being built around the town, and so in the early 1970’s construction began on Burdock Way – one of the most adventurous relief road schemes built in Britain, certainly by a town the size of Halifax.
Only one phase of the futuristic road was ever built, but what exists is a partially grade-separated dual carriageway that runs through deep trenches and over tall viaducts close to the heart of the town. At its eastern end is a truly byzantine piece of traffic engineering that stretches the definition of a roundabout to its limit.
North Bridge Leisure Centre had been considered by the planners since the late 1950’s, with many sites named as ideal locations including Shroggs Park and Spring Hall. The clearing of the former North Bridge Goods Railway Station created the favoured site and it, building started in 1979.
The Halifax Odeon opened on 27th June 1938 with Errol Flynn in The Perfect Specimen.
The architect was George Coles and it cost £59,727 to build.
It had 1,344 stalls seats and 714 in the balcony giving a total of 2,058. A most unusual façade remains intact with three concave bays covered with buff faience tiles, above the entrance each containing a convex window. A tall Art Deco style tower formerly had the Odeon lettering illuminated by neon. It was however not originally intended for the Odeon circuit, but was a take over during construction, which explains its differences from the typical Odeon style.
The cinema had a wide proscenium and a stylish interior with decoration dominated by two large bas-relief female figures on the splay walls either side of the screen.
The Odeon Cinema closed on 18th October 1975 with Robin Askwith in Confessions of a Pop Performer.
It stood unused for a while. It was later converted into a Top Rank Bingo Club which is still operating as a Mecca Bingo Club today.
Further on down this commercial development of the 60’s.
Sitting in back of the Regal/ABC Cinema.
The Regal Cinema opened on 19 September 1938, just three months after the large Odeon opened. There was an entertainment venue on each corner of the intersection, the Victoria Theatre, the Picture House and an independent cinema occupied the other three corners. The Alexandra, Electric, and Theatre Royal were also nearby.
Designed by William R. Glen – ABC’s in-house architect, the Regal Cinema was a particularly fine 1,938-seat cinema, with 1,250 seats in the stalls and 688 in the balcony. A shallow stage was provided and four dressing rooms. The proscenium was wide and surrounded by an elaborate plaster fretwork concealing ventilation ducts. On either side were niches containing tall slender figurines which were not dis-similar to the Oscar statues.
The cinema was tripled in 1976 – having been renamed ABC in 1961 and reopened on 12 September with 670 in screen 1, the original circle using the original unaltered screen, and 200 and 173 seats in screens 2 & 3 situated under the balcony.
Renamed Cannon and then back to ABC the cinema closed suddenly in 2002 having been bought for use as a nightclub.
Fortunately it was designated a Grade II Listed building in 2000.
This has ensured that all elements of the original (it had survived basically intact) are to be preserved. English Heritage described it as ‘Long curved stone exterior. A handsome surviving classical auditorium. One of the best of the few surviving original ABC auditoria’. However the construction of the nightclub, using the stalls area only, will effectively conceal all trace of the original design. The circle will not be used at all.
Work on the insertion of the nightclub began in the Summer of 2002.
The Halifax Building was designed by the architecture firm BDP and constructed in 1968-74, as the headquarters for the Halifax Building Society and built with an unusually high budget. The rapid growth of the society over the twentieth century prompted the requirement for a new headquarters building, and in 1968 the aim of the architects was to design not only a practical building but a bold building for a confident client.
The building was Grade II listed in February 2013.
Designed by F H Hoyles, the Deputy Borough Architect, under the supervision of the Borough Architect J L Berbiers, and constructed in the 1960s, Halifax Swimming Pool is an admirable effort by the local authority to translate local distinctiveness into modern design.
Calderdale Council say that due to severe structural deterioration, Halifax Swimming Pool has been permanently closed to protect the safety of its staff and users.
Campaigners are urging the local authority to save the tile murals.
The interior of the swimming pool features two ceramic murals by artist Kenneth Barden 1924-1988, depicting British pond life. The mural is a collage of different plants and insects, layered in a geometric motif with vibrant blues, reds, purples and greens. The aquatic theme ties in with the building’s function and creates a lively backdrop to the diving pool.
Barden designed a number of ceramic murals in the post-war period, with notable examples being the massive Carter tile facade panels for the Harbour and Seaward residential towers in Gosport 1961-68, and an interior mural depicting historic pump mechanisms at a Pump House in Sawbridgeworth for the Hertfordshire and Essex Water Board (1955).
The Twentieth Century Society is calling for a review of listing policy for post war buildings following the decision to turn down a listing application for Halifax Swimming Pool and its two distinctive internal murals.
The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea was built using reinforced concrete around 1937 and its dedication carries tribute to sailors lost at sea. The roof is designed to resemble the hull of a boat, and the windows in the crypt port holes. These aspects reflecting the maritime heritage of Amlwch.
Designed by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian architect who was originally brought to Wales as a prisoner of war. He subsequently married a local woman, and lived and worked in north Wales, specialising in Roman Catholic churches. He also designed a number of other churches in Wales, including those at Abergele, and Porthmadog.
Around 600,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner during the First World War, about half in the aftermath of Caporetto. Roughly one Italian soldier in seven was captured, a significantly higher number than in other armies on the Western Front.
About 100,000 Italian prisoners of war never returned home, having succumbed to hardship, hunger, cold and disease – mainly tuberculosis.
Uniquely among the Allied powers, Italy refused to assist its prisoners, and even hindered efforts by soldiers’ families to send them food.
From the 1930s he was living at St Francis Grange, Glan Conwy, an art deco style dwelling overlooking the Conwy estuary.
The main entrance leads into a small vestibule with raking sides; further doorways lead into the end of the main body of the church. The ribbing that is such a prominent feature of the exterior of the church also dominates the design of the interior; the body of the church illuminated by bands of geometrically patterned lights between the ribs. The lateral walls have marble panels which also follow the pattern of the ribs; to the top are paired panels, each with a moulded quatrefoil plaques depicting biblical scenes, plain paired panels below. The marbled panels continue at the far end of the church, raised up over round-headed doorways flanking a recess painted with a depiction of the crucifixion; star shaped lights follow the line of the domed arch.
I think it is worthy of mention how the whole mass of imitation stone frontage was done by one plasterer long gone called Llew – Inja Rock, whose pretty unique style of work is still to be seen elsewhere around town today. He once showed me how it was done, all with a little teaspoon. What patience and what a proven good job to stand the trial of time of 40-plus years without a great deal, if any, remedial work. A sound memorial to a good working man.
For many years I have cycled y on my tours around Anglesey- often stopping to marvel at this concrete anachronism.
This time I stopped to walk around and take some snaps – here they are.
The Pevsner Buildings of Wales guide calls it:
A piece of Italian architectural daring of the 1930s – a soaring reinforced concrete and brick vault formed on six arches, expressed as ribs externally and internally, with a conical apse. Three transverse bands of glazing in geometric trefoils of white and blue.
Five glass stars – made in France, perforate the East wall round the apse.
Rinvolucri’s team of builders constructed the innovative parabolic vault in six months in 1935.
The same guide calls it Futurist, closer to Freyssinet’s 1920s airship hangars at Orly, Paris, than to Catholic Church design, and unlike the conservatism of Anglesey building.
He died in 1962 and is buried in St Agnes Road Cemetery, Conwy with Mina, who died in 1991.
Now I want to look in detail at the exterior ceramic art.
The façade of the market hall on Queensgate incorporates five roof sections with patent glazing and is decorated with square ceramic panels by Fritz Steller, entitled Articulation in Movement, set over natural stone cladding.
These continue across the façade of the adjoining shops, to make nine panels in all, with a tenth larger panel added in 1972, pierced by stairs and an entrance to the market hall from Queensgate.
They have representations of the mushroom shells of the market hall, turned through 90 degrees, with abstract representations of the goods available within.
The enormous abstract art panels weigh almost 50 tons.
The Carlton Picture Theatre in Anlaby Road was designed by the firm of Blackmore & Sykes and was built by Messrs. Greenwood and Sons.
It was run by Hull Picture Playhouse Ltd.
This was a lavish suburban cinema, with an elaborate green and gold sliding dome utilising Venetian glass and housing hundreds of concealled lights. Roman marble mosaics and painted plaster panels on the walls added to the sense of occasion engendered by a trip to the flicks.
A Fitton & Haley organ was installed, but this was later removed to the more central Cecil Theatre and was destroyed when that theatre was bombed during WW II.
The cinema had two entrances, one in each of the two towers on the front corners of the building. Above the proscenium was the inscription, rather inapt given how soon talkies arrived :
“A Picture is a poem without words”.
There was a single balcony and, for its date, a surprisingly large car park.
It continued unaltered, save for minor war damage, until its closure in April 1967, after which it was simply converted to bingo usage which continued as a Mecca Bingo Club until 2008.
The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.
I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.
Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.
Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.
Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.
We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.
One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.
The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.
The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.
I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.
The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.
Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.
Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.
The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.
114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.
Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.
Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.
The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.
Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.
Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.
A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.
Before I knew it I was in Blyth.
The town edged with military installations
Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.
827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.
The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.
Encountering a brand new factory.
And the remnants of the old power station.
Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.
After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.
UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.
The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.
By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.
The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.
Temenos is a Greek word meaning land cut off and assigned as a sanctuary or holy area.
Following a 1907 Act of Parliament the bridge was built at a cost of £68,026 6s 8d by Sir William Arrol & Co. of Glasgow between 1910 and 1911 to replace the Hugh Bell and Erimus steam ferry services. A transporter bridge was chosen because Parliament ruled that the new scheme of crossing the river had to avoid affecting the river navigation.
The opening ceremony on 17 October 1911 was performed by Prince Arthur of Connaught, at its opening the bridge was painted red.
In 1961 the bridge was painted blue.
In 1974, the comedy actor Terry Scott, travelling between his hotel in Middlesbrough and a performance at the Billingham Forum, mistook the bridge for a regular toll crossing and drove his Jaguar off the end of the roadway, landing in the safety netting beneath.
The cycle track followed the river, which sports a fine array of industrial architecture.
Tees Newport Bridge designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson and built by local company Dorman Long who have also been responsible for such structures as the Tyne Bridge and Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was the first large vertical-lift bridge in Britain.
In a slightly more upbeat mode St James the Apostle Owton Manor.
I convinced myself that this building on Station Road Seaton Carew was a former pub, I discovered following consultation with the local studies offices, that it was in fact a former children’s home destined to become a doctors.
I found myself looking back across the estuary to Redcar.
Northward toward Hartlepool.
Where the bingo was closed and the circus had left town.
Every Englishman’s home is a bouncy castle.
St John Vianneylocated on King Oswy Drive West View Estate.
Architect: Crawford & Spencer Middlesbrough 1961.
A large post-war church built to serve a housing estate, economically built and with a functional interior. The campanile is a local landmark.
The parish of St John Vianney was created in 1959 to serve the growing West View Estate, on the north side of Hartlepool. The church was opened by Bishop Cunningham on 4 April 1961. The presbytery was built at the same time.
Seeking assistance from a passing cyclist I negotiated a safe passage to Sunderland.
The Sunderland Synagogue is a former synagogue building in Sunderland, England. The synagogue, on Ryhope Road, was designed by architect Marcus Kenneth Glass and completed in 1928. It is the last surviving synagogue to be designed by Glass.
I took a right and arrived in Roker, where I saw these well tanned and tattooed cyclists taking a rest.
Pressed on, largely alongside the coast to South Shields.
Tyne Cyclist and Pedestrian Tunnel was Britain’s first purpose-built cycling tunnel. It runs under the River Tyne between Howdon and Jarrow, and was opened in 1951, heralded as a contribution to the Festival of Britain.