Ellen Wilkinson Humanities Building – The University of Manchester

I don’t usually walk this way – so I walked this way.

I discovered the rear of building, a building formerly only known from the others side, when seen from Oxford Road.

Whilst making my way from The Gamecock to elsewhere, I serendipitously discovered the other other side.

The Humanities Building now named the Ellen Wilkinson Building.

This Building Design Partnership scheme pre-dates Wilson Womersley’s appointment as master planners for the Education Precinct but exists harmoniously with the later series of buildings. This is most likely due to the method of development before any ‘grand concept’. The incremental expansion of the University, following WWII, was largely dictated by the progress of compulsory purchase orders; this group was no exception. At the planning stages, the lack of a masterplan led to organising the wings of the buildings in an open, orthogonal arrangement. This would allow expansion in a number of directions, according to the next available site in ‘the dynamic situation’. The result was the creation of a small courtyard flanked by two five-storey blocks and a two-storey structure. All three buildings use the same pink-grey concrete. The plastic qualities of concrete were explored in both cladding and structural panels and the textural qualities exposed in the bush hammered columns, to reveal the Derbyshire gravel aggregate. The sculpted and moulded panels on the two-storey block and on the gable ends of the larger blocks were designed in collaboration with William Mitchell. The only other materials in the external envelope were the windows of variously clear and tinted glass. The window modules were set out against a basic geometry in three standard patterns and applied across the façade. This resulted in a clever interplay of vertical and horizontal expression. 

Mainstream Modern

Ellen Wilkinson was born into a poor though ambitious Manchester family and she embraced socialism at an early age. After graduating from the University of Manchester, she worked for a women’s suffrage organisation and later as a trade union officer. Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Wilkinson joined the British Communist Party, and preached revolutionary socialism while seeking constitutional routes to political power through the Labour Party. She was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, and supported the 1926 General Strike. In the 1929–31 Labour government, she served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the junior Health Minister. She made a connection with a young female member and activist Jennie Lee. Following her defeat at Middlesbrough in 1931, Wilkinson became a prolific journalist and writer, before returning to parliament as Jarrow’s MP in 1935. She was a strong advocate for the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War, and made several visits to the battle zones.

During the Second World War, Wilkinson served in Churchill’s wartime coalition as a junior minister, mainly at the Ministry of Home Security where she worked under Herbert Morrison. She supported Morrison’s attempts to replace Clement Attlee as the Labour Party’s leader; nevertheless, when he formed his postwar government, Attlee appointed Wilkinson as Minister of Education. By this time, her health was poor, a legacy of years of overwork. She saw her main task in office as the implementation of the wartime coalition’s 1944 Education Act, rather than the more radical introduction of comprehensive schools favoured by many in the Labour Party. Much of her energy was applied to organising the raising of the school-leaving age from 14 to 15. During the exceptionally cold weather of early 1947, she succumbed to a bronchial disease, and died after an overdose of medication, which the coroner at her inquest declared was accidental.

Wikipedia

So here we are now – a significant building, named for a significant figure.

I wandered around, pale painted rectangular reliefs abutting darker rectangular reliefs. Strict window grids at a variety of heights. Warmer rounder rounded reliefs to the east, contrasting with their orthogonal cousins. A surprising courtyard contains a diminutive but charming concrete sculpture and an almost hidden exterior spiral stairway.

Sometimes it pays to get almost lost.

Holy Cross Church – Gleadless Valley Sheffield

Spotswood Mount, Sheffield S14 1LG

Constructed between 1964 and 1965 and designed by the architects Braddock & Martin-Smith.

Completed in 1936 John Keble Church in Edgware was also designed by DF Martin Smith 1900-84.

Martin Smith later went into partnership with Henry Braddock and together designed St. Mary’s church in Crawley. 

Holy Cross is positioned in a spectacular position among the houses on the Rollestone hillside.

Holy Cross is a church for people of all ages and stages of life.

Apart from the warm welcome at Holy Cross, you will always find something that is relevant to your age and stage in life – however old you are and whatever walk of life you come from.

Built to serve the Gleadless Valley Estate perched high above the Sheffield city centre.

It has a canted front which is triangular in shape which has a large white cross at its apex.

The interior features full height stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary and St John by John Baker Ltd.

Born in 1916, John aka Jack studied at the Central School in London and worked under James Hogan at the Whitefriars stained-glass studios before joining Samuel Caldwell junior at Canterbury Cathedral in 1948 to help reinstate the medieval glass removed for safekeeping during the Second World War.

He subsequently authored English Stained Glass; the revised edition of this work, English Stained glass of the Medieval Period , which was to become one of the most popular soft back books on English medieval glass ever published.

Apart from his conservation skills, John was also an inspired teacher at Kingston College of Art. He produced windows for a number of churches, including eleven windows for the church of the Holy Name, Bow Common Lane, Mile End; two windows and a brick sculpture for the church of Little St Peter, Cricklewood; eighteen windows for St Anne’s church, East Wittering, Sussex; two large abstract windows for Broomfield Chapel, Abbots Langley; ten large concrete and glass windows for the new parish church, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield; and twenty-two glass windows for the Convent Chapel, St Michaels, Finchley. He also created a huge Jesse window for the church at Farnham Royal. The church was demolished in 2004, but the glass is now in storage, and some of the panes will be installed in the welcome are of the new church.

His favourite works were the windows he produced for Auckland Cathedral, New Zealand – as seen above.

John Baker, born Birmingham, 11 March 1916, died Hastings, 20 December 2007.

Vidimus

The concrete altar is set on a raised paved podium, complemented by a silver cross and distinctive Arts and Crafts style oak chairs.

The original seating seems to be no longer in use, replaced by a newer more comfortable alternative.

There is a large carved stone font.

The main body of the steeply pitched roof space is illuminated by slotted windows.

Many thanks to the key holders and parishioners at Holy Cross, our Sheffield guide Mick Nott and Claire Thornley at Eleven Design – for making our visit possible.

Thanks also to all those who turned up on Saturday to walk a very, very wet Gleadless Valley.

Stockport Walk

Accidental home of a Modernist – I arrived here some fifty years ago and stayed.

Let’s all take a look at several almost bang up to date reasons to be cheerful, exploring the town’s Twentieth Century architectural legacy.

To begin at the beginning – The Plaza super-cinema faithfully restored and providing quality entertainment and sustenance to Stopfordians and strangers alike.

It is, as of 2000 a Grade II* Listed Building.

Built in 1932, the Plaza Super Cinema first opened its doors to the public on Saturday, October 8th, 1932 with a charity show for Stockport Infirmary. The original seating capacity was 1,878, in stalls and circle levels.

The films shown were Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in “Jailbirds” and Gene Gerrard and Jessie Matthews in “Out of the Blue”.

Early programmes were a mix of cinema and live performance, or ‘prologues’ as they were known. The Plaza Super Cinema was equipped with a Compton 3Manual/11Rank theatre organ which has an illuminated surround on the console. The opening organist was Cyril Chadwick. It is still played today. There is a cafe/restaurant located on the circle lounge level.

Cinema Treasures

Architect W Thornley

Just around the corner is the Bus Station – work began here in April 1979, the first stage finally opening on March 2nd 1982.

Slowly emerging from the rough ground – a series of glass and steel boxes worthy of that master of minimalism Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a Neue Nationalgalerie in miniature.

It still retains its original GMPTE orange M identity.

There are now plans for imminent demolition and rebuilding – shaping a transport hub fit for the Twenty First Century – Space Age forms for a brave new world.

With a brand new, more than somewhat, old hat link bridge.

Onwards over the brand new Trans-Mersey bridge, catching sight of Regent House a modest modular high-rise block, currently housing a Travelodge and multi-use administrative office space.

Over the road and up onto the elevated car parking space above Merseyway where we can catch sight of The George an inter-war pub now permanently tinned up.

The car park extends across the whole upper level of the precinct. – an accessible Ballardian Concrete Island.

Back down to Earth to pay our respects to the spiral ramp drainage area.

A not insignificant element of Building Design Partnership’s Red Rock scheme.

Thence to the Hatton Street foot bridge over the M60/3

Currently under threat as the town’s development requires a more accessible route between Heaton Norris Rec. and the Red Rock complex.

Next up the BHS Murals they are the work of Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins. Their work was featured in the Festival of Britain, GPO Tower and Expo 70, along with other retail outlets in Southampton, Newcastle, Gloucester, Bexhill and Colchester.

Listing was refused.

We are now above the Mersey in Merseyway – in its concrete culvert home.

Completed and opened in 1965 the shopping precinct was concrete poetry in motion, incorporating the surrounding topography and extant architecture with grace and aplomb. Combining retail, restaurants and car parking facilities in a manner that critic Iain Nairn considered to be amongst the finest in the land.

Architects Bernard Engle and Partners.

Now modified as a Po-Mo Hi-Tec shadow of its former self some details and untreated concrete do remain.

High above the town we ascend to the giddy heights of the multi-storey car park – architect Philip Andrew.

Shielded by Alan Boyson’s concrete screen wall.

Over the bridge and up the hill to Hilton House.

Formerly home to New Day furnishings – a local retail and manufacturing company – with branches throughout the North West.

Preston 1960

Currently awaiting transformation into luxury inner city dwellings.

Ever onwards to Stopford House home to imaginary time-slip police officers, really home to all too real council employees.

Architect JS Rank – Director of Development and Town Planning

With its very own hanging gardens – that nobody seems to hang around in.

That’s y’lot Stockport a town with a big past and big plans for the future.

Central Library – Grimsby

This is Grimsby Central Library – a proud public building of real quality, reflecting the cautious optimism and fierce civic pride of the Sixties. Built to last, in the modern manner – gently monumental, softened by the easy grace of the restrained decoration and a refined palette of stone, glass and concrete.

By the Borough Architect – JM Milner ARIBA

This image was used as the Mayor’s Xmas card in 1969.

The bold exterior grid is enhanced by a honeycombed grille above the entrance, along with a mosaic depicting the town’s seal.

The mosaic is the work of Harold Gosney – who is also responsible for the Abbey Walk reliefs and the Guardians of Knowledge which adorn the south facing elevation of the library.

To the rear of the building is a modular relief.

Inside the entrance porch a commemorative plaque.

Once inside, what a pleasure it is tread upon this interstellar inset stone flooring.

Either side of the lobby display case there are two vertical tapestries.

Along with a further plaque commemorating the opening on the 3rd September 1968 – by the then local MP Anthony Crosland.

Crosland looked ahead to a time where “personal freedom, happiness and cultural endeavour; the cultivation of leisure, beauty, grace, gaiety and excitement… might be pursued.” After he was elected MP for Grimsby in 1959, he referred to the above passage in an early speech, insisting – to much laughter, cheering and applause from the audience, that “it is possible to achieve all these things in Grimsby, and especially at Blundell Park.”

May I take this opportunity to thank the ever so helpful library staff – for kindly granting me permission to photograph the main body of the library.

Many original fittings and fixtures are intact – particularly the distinctive vertical suspended lighting system and the steel and wood stairways.

The facilities were well used and lit by the expansive window space.

Let’s take another final look outside, and say a fond farewell to this fine building – go on treat yourself, take a trip to the East Coast and feast your eyes, heart and mind on this beauty.

Ta-ra Grimsby!

I’ll be back real soon.

Abbey Walk Car Park – Grimsby

I was in town, just looking around, just looking for modernity, just looking.

I found you by chance between the railway and the high street, so I took a good look around, fascinated by the concrete sculptural panels on your fascia columns, those facing Abbey Walk.

Research tells me that they the work of Harold Gosney – born in Sheffield, he studied at Grimsby School of Art and London’s Slade School of Fine Art.

The majority of Gosney’s early commissions were collaborations with architects and he has made a significant contribution to public art in Grimsby. He is the artist responsible for the reliefs on the Abbey Walk car park, the large Grimsby seal by the entrance to the Grimsby Central Library and the Grim and Havelok themed copper relief on the side of Wilko store in Old Market Place.

Wikipedia

The car park has been the subject of some speculative repairs and refurbishment:

In total, the scheme will cost the council £1.54 million.

The authority will borrow £1.34 million to fund the project with a further £200,000 coming from a local transport grant. But the council said that the improvements made could help increase revenue from the car park of around £34,000 a year.

Councillor Matthew Patrick, portfolio holder for transport at the council, said that the work is essential to “brighten up” the building and attract people into Grimsby.

“It’s one of the largest car parks in the town,” he said.

“It will attract more people into the town centre and help to improve the offering of the car park.”

Lincolnshire Reporter

So here we are faced with a rare, precious and beautiful example of municipal modernism, a bold and brave attempt to decorate what is often the most functional of functional structures.

Owing something to the work of both Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso the imagery is derived from automotive parts, along with it seems to me, vague intimations of figuration.

Let’s talk a look!

Huddersfield Walk

New North Road Baptist Church c.1970

Architect Colin Wigmore

The building says what the Baptist Church believes: that the ministry of the Word is central; that the believers’ baptism is a public act of witness. The baptistery is not hidden under moveable floorboards as was a common older practice, but is visible as a permanent reminder to each member of his original commitment. Organ and choir are there, but neither obtrudes; nor do they confuse the clear language of the building itself.

A Ronald Bielby – Churches and Chapels of Kirklees 

Kirklees Technical College – now closed formed by an amalgamating the former Infirmary, the older Technical College and later additions.

Bus Station

The Bus Station was opened on Sunday 1 December 1974 and is owned and managed by Metro. It is now the busiest bus station in West Yorkshire. The bus station is situated in Huddersfield town centre, underneath the Multi-storey car park. It is bordered by the Ring Road – Castlegate A62 and can be accessed from High Street, Upperhead Row and Henry Street.

Concrete Curtain Wall

Civic Centre

Exsilite panels set in the stone faced columns – a brand name for a synthetic, moulded, artificial marble.

Exsilite is made by fusing grains of silica and pigments to form a slab that simulates onyx marble.

Magistrates’ Court

Co-operative Store

It gives the town of Huddersfield a store that is entirely modern in design and equipped on the most up to date lines – a store of which the townspeople generally, and co-operators in particular, can be proud. 

Huddersfield Daily Examiner 1937

As a powerful retailer in the north of England, the Co-op ran its own architectural department, producing good modern design. J.W. Cropper reputedly travelled to Russia in the early 1930s. Other buildings designed by him in association with W.A. Johnson, the Co-op’s chief architect, are in Eastbank Street, Southport 1934, and Sunbridge Road, Bradford -1935, which was recently listed at Grade II. 

Monocular Times

Queensgate MarketGrade II Listed August 4th 2004

Market Hall. 1968-70 to the designs of the J. Seymour Harris Partnership, with Leonard and Partners as consultant engineers. Reinforced concrete, board-marked internally to columns and partly clad in local Elland Edge stone and ceramic panels, with patent glazing. Rectangular building on a site that slopes steeply downhill from the town centre to the west towards the ring road, Queensgate. The structure comprises 21 ‘mushroom’ columns each supporting an asymmetrical rectangular section – each 56ft long by 31ft wide by 10ft deep – of board-marked hyperbolic paraboloid roof, four rows of four and one of five facing Queensgate, where the market is set over a delivery bay and car park. From north to south the rows alternate in height, and from west to east they step upwards, then down. This means that there are gaps of 4’6″ between each roof section which is filled with patent glazing to form clerestoreys, the glazing suspended from the upper hypar to accommodate any movement which may occur and having aluminium bars. Further patent glazing over natural stone walling and expressed framework to facades on Princess and Peel Streets, whence there are direct entrances into the market hall from Peel Street via steps. Ventilation is by fixed louvres.

Along the north wall of the hall is a relief sculpture entitled ‘Commerce’, in black painted metal with semi-abstract figures representing agriculture, trade and products, by the sculptor Fritz Steller.

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.

Historic England

The Library & Art Gallery

The library was designed in 1937 by E.H. Ashburner. The entrance is flanked by two stone figures symbolising Art and Literature.

As a design the late neo-Classical elevations appear somewhat stark and unwelcoming. The relationship between glazed area and wall surfaces is poorly proportioned even though the ashlar stonework is of high quality. The ornamental detailing, cornice, and frieze of the central bay fail to relieve this monolithic appearance. Interest is created at the entrance by the sculpted figures by James Woodford R.A., who also designed the panels between ground and first floor windows. 

Murrayfield Redevelopment

Part of a wider BDP undertaking to reshape and pedestrianise the area and including the development of the inner ring road and Buxton House and the Hammerson Development.

The Development of the Woollen Industry from a Cottage Craft Practised as an Ancillary to Farming – Up to the Beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Harold Blackburn 1966

Midland Bank – now HSBC

The use of bush-hammered concrete, highly polished Brazilian Old Gold granite facings and tinted glass is given emphasis by the projecting form of the floor beams which also reveal the structural bones of the building.

It was designed by Peter Womersley, who also designed the thoroughly modern private house, Farnley Hey, near Castle Hill, which won the RIBA Bronze Medal in 1958.

The Hammerson Redevelopment Scheme & Buxton House 1968

The architects were Bernard Engle & Partners London and the Consulting Engineers were J. Roger Preston London.

Mosaic – Systematic Sequence in Line and Shade. 

Artist – Richard Fletcher. 1969.

Neaversons

This new shop front was installed by Bradford shop fitters Sharp & Law in 1935 – with curved glass to reduce reflections and aid viewing. The interior was based on the potter Susie Cooper‘s London shop.

Finishing off in the listed inter-war warmth of the Sportsman – for a welcome rest.

Shelters – Rhos on Sea

I thought that you may have all been removed – phase two of several phases reshaping the hard landscape of Wales.

It seems I was incorrect – I’m happy to report that as of last Friday only one of our shelters is missing.

So I more or less repeated the task undertaken on my last visit.

Yet another series of photographs of the amalgamated municipal mash-up – concrete glass pebbles pebbledash paving mosaic and imagination rendered corporeal courtesy of Cyngor Bwrdeistref Sirol Conwy.

And the constantly berated Undeb Ewropeaidd.

Jubilant Leave supporters in Conwy are celebrating a convincing win in the historic EU referendum vote.

The Brexit backers secured a majority of more than 5,000, winning the poll by 35,357 votes to 30,147 votes.

Daily Post

So here we are almost all present and correct – let’s take a stroll down the prom together, stopping only to snap and shelter from time to time, from the short sharp September showers.