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.
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.
Go West, young man, go West. There is health in the country, and room away from our crowds of idlers and imbeciles.
So said Horace Greeley, I beg to differ.
Here we are vaguely on the western side of Manchester, with very little by way of room, just acres of architecture – mostly modern.
Standing by Rodwell Tower 1965 Douglas Stephen & Partners, a highly appropriate high-rise exclamation mark at the end the Lazy S. Four distinct faces, facing four different ways, currently trading as 111 Piccadilly.
It can be seen here as the demolition takes place, preparing for a new arrival on the approach to Piccadilly Station.
An extravagant concrete, steel and glass swish, both welcoming and waving farewell to the weary rail traveller. Changes of use have taken place, retail has been and gone, now a modern mash-up of grub and stuff, above there’s an Apart Hotel.
Sadly the planned moderne station never really arrived.
Moving on down the road a ways in search of an education, we encounter the UMIST Campus 1962-68 Cruikshank and Seward.
But first we hit a concrete, not brick, a concrete wall, a barrier with a barrier, encased in green metal mesh, shrouded in leafy trees.
Renold Buildingdesigned by W. Arthur Gibbon of Cruickshank and Seward. It was one of a suite of white concrete structures on the UMIST campus in Manchester. It was the first of its type in the UK – an entire building to house lecture theatres and seminar rooms.
Gone is the low lying Chemistry Building – it’s mosaics now almost hidden in intemperate storage at the base of the Faraday Building.
Works continue with the preparation for the construction of the new £60 million Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre GEIC and the demolition of the Faraday Undergraduate Building and link bridge on the North Campus.
The mosaic, `The Alchemist’s Elements’, in the entrance colonnade, has now been safely removed from the building and are being stored securely on campus until the building works are complete.
On completion of the GEIC in late 2017, the 4.5m x 3m artworks will be permanently reinstated within the site for visitors to enjoy for years to come.
The mosaics were created by Hans Tisdall a German-born artist, illustrator and designer with a distinguished career in 20th century Britain. Following the Second World War, Tisdall became involved in the revival of public artworks within many educational and industrial buildings – one of which included the Faraday Building at UMIST.
Martineau makes his way across the rooftops in pursuit of Starling. Looking down on Oxford Road station at the end of Station Approach off Whitworth Street.
Oxford Road Station 1960 W.R. Headley and Max Glendinning and structural engineer Hugh Tottenham, a Sydney Opera House in miniature sans the grand guignol.
The station was listed Grade II in late 1995, and though the materially consistent seating, kiosks and ticket office remain, the original ticket collectors booths were dispensed with during earlier refurbishment.
Lets hot foot it to St Peter’s Square before Stanley Baker falls off the roof of the Refuge – where Peter House 1958 Amsell and Bailey awaits.
A gently arcing poem in Portland Stone jam packed with rectilinear detail and interlocking volumes.
Leaving Port Street and the Modernists new HQ we find ourselves in Lever Street – home to Griffin House.
Several storeys of variegated concrete panels cladding and glass – a voluminous yet relatively low rise development of the 1960s.
It has been updated with an extensive entrance, whilst otherwise surviving intact and still well used.
Around the corner to Great Ancoats Street and the former Daily Express Building.
Grade II* listed building which was designed by engineer, Sir Owen Williams. It was built in 1939 to house one of three Daily Express offices the other; two similar buildings are located in London and Glasgow.
Originally, it was possible for passers by to peer into the main hall to see the large newspaper printing press. When the building was converted during the 1990s, the glass was made reflective so outsiders cannot see the interior of the building. This has subsequently been removed as yet again the building is repurposed
Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as:
An all-glass front, absolutely flush, with rounded corners and translucent glass and black glass and a most impressive sight from the street, particularly when lit up at night.
The end of the paper’s print run saw the building used as office space, and partially converted to flats with further redevelopment work currently being undertaken, with a view to becoming a tech-hub.
Onward along Swan Street and a brief encounter with something of a rarity in functionalist modern Manchester – the sighting of two Art Deco buildings.
This now and happening pet shop.
And the former NATSOPA trade union offices – National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants trade union offices – the area once being alive with print and related industries, also no longer.
On the corner of Rochdale Road there stands the former CWS fresh fruit fish and veg offices and warehouse – we are on the very edge of Co-op land.
Sadly the CWS clock turns no more and the steel framed windows have suffered the indignity of uPVC replacement.
The Cooperative Wholesale Society dominated a whole swathe across the east of the city and beyond, encompassing manufacturing, banking and insurance.
The icing on the empire’s cake being the 1960s CIS Tower.
The Co-Operative Insurance Society (CIS) Chief Office was built between 1959-62. Its aim was to provide the company with a headquarters in the north comparable to anything in London. Operating from ten different sites in Manchester following the war, the company wished to consolidate their activities within a landmark building, and took advantage of a bomb-cleared site on Miller Street. The architect was Gordon Tait, of Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners, who was brought in to collaborate with the already appointed Chief Architect in Manchester, G S Hay.
CIS Tower was the largest office block to be built since the war, reaching 25 floors in height. The design was heavily influenced by a trip to the United States, which resulted in a taller, more centralised building that made use of curtain walling. The brief was for an open plan office building, to house 2,500 staff.
Currently under wraps is the CWS Redfern Building 1928 WA Johnson & JW Cropper – a delightfully functionalist brick moderne building in the northern European manner.
I do how however have a personal preference for the tower’s relatively diminutive neighbour New Century House and Hall – particularly John McCarthy’s concrete screen wall water feature.
New Century House was designed by G. S. Hay and Gordon Tait and constructed by John Laing & Son for the Co-operative Insurance Society in 1962. The attached New Century Hall has a capacity of 1,000 people. New Century House and Hall were listed in 1995 as Grade II as a good example of a high-quality post-war office building. It is considered one of the finest modernist towers in the United Kingdom alongside the sister building CIS Tower – It is described in its listing as:
A design of discipline and consistency which forms part of a group with the Co-operative Insurance Society.
I am told that the current work will see the building used as a music school and venue.
Let’s take a quick look at some more modern Modernism the Cheetham’s School Extension.
This building was designed to incorporate the Chetham’s Music School, the Academic School, an outreach centre, a 400-seat concert hall and a 100-seat recital hall. It sits on the site of a former car park which itself was created on a vacant lot left following the demolition of railway company offices. This is the first stage of a project that will provide the school with 21st Century facilities. The next stage will involve the demolition of the former Palatine Hotel and a number of other modifications that will improve access to the medieval Chetham’s Hospital and Library.
The architect Stephenson Bell says of the project that:
Our brief was to create a unique contemporary new building for the musical and academic teaching facilities, providing a state-of-the-art environment which will be a fitting platform for the students. The building itself will, alongside ongoing regeneration in Central Manchester, provide an iconic opportunity for the educational and cultural standing of Manchester to consolidate its position on the international scene.
Just around the corner we encounter the once two-toned towering tower of Highland House across the River Irwell in Salford.
The building was designed and built by Leach, Rhodes & Walker for the Inland Revenue, and was completed in 1966.
The tower was built using the then innovative technique of using a continuously climbing shutter to cast a central core; pre-fabricated cladding was then lifted into place using a tower crane. This technique led to rapid construction, avoided the need for scaffolding, and allowed the lower floors to be occupied while building continued higher up. The combination was very cost-effective, but was not flawless by any means. On a windy night the windows of the building blew off, ending up in Salford Bus Station.
It changed hands in 1994 for £7.7 million. The Inland Revenue announced plans to move out in 1995 in an early example of a Private Finance Initiative, shortly afterwards the building was sold by London & Regional Properties to the Bruntwood group. Between 1998 and 2000 the building was reclad, converted to its current use and renamed, at a total cost of £4.5 million. In 2004, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, George Ferguson, said that:
The building, along with the Arndale Centre, was dreadful and should be demolished.
It currently seems to almost be a Premier Inn.
Almost instantly we’re back in Manchester and booking into the Ramada Hotel and exploring its riverside piazza and car park. Formerly Fairburn House the work of Cruikshank and Seward 1972.
Pausing to observe a mysterious ramp to nowhere.
Once connecting the office/hotel complex via a footbridge to the now defunct Shambles Square and its equally mysterious array of long gone retail outlets.
Downriver now to Albert Bridge House – an imposing block eighteen storey tower, concrete framed and stone clad – designed by EH Banks for the Ministry of Works, surrounded by lower outlying buildings – featuring a delightfully wavy roof, and an almost playful Corbusian service tower.
Look a little closer and you’ll see a delightful group of defunct letter boxes and a hidden mosaic – playfully tucked away above the doorway to the Assessment Centre.
Ian Nairn in Britain’s Changing Towns, believed it to be:
Easily the best modern building in Manchester, and an outstanding example of what good proportions and straightforward design can do.
Just across the way is Aldine House 1967 Leach Rhodes Walker – the extruded cast concrete curvy windows echoing those of Highland House.
Now there’s just enough time to pop into Besty’s nearby boutique and pick up some fab mod gear.
1964 by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick.
There’s just so much to stand and stare and marvel at.
Vulcan by Boris Tietze commisioned by Horne Brothers 1961 for their head office building No. 1 King Street. Glass fibre on a metal armature the 8 foot high figure holding a bundle of metal rods.
You were just about still open then, then you weren’t, then you were again – but a Co-op no more alas.
Work is underway on plans for a tech hub in Sheffield after a funding package was agreed.
Followed by a casual stroll towards 2019 where we are talking a peep inside courtesy of owners Kollider and book shop La Biblioteka.
I’d never ever seen the interior, save through the photographs of Sean Madner who captured the key features in 2014, prior to refurbishment.
So the Modernists and I pitched up this Sunday afternoon, the conclusion of our Sheffield Walk.
Lets take a look at the end stairwells, two very distinct designs one dotty one linear, both using Carter’s Tiles.
Configured from combinations and rotations of these nine modular units and two plain tiles.
Configured from combinations and rotations of these twelve modular units and two plain tiles.
The site has retained some of its original architectural typography.
The former top floor restaurant has a suspended geometric ceiling with recently fitted custom made lighting.
The timber-lined boardroom has a distinctive horseshoe of lighting, augmenting the board room table – which is currently away for repair, oh yes and a delightful door.
High atop the intoxicating vertiginous swirl of the central spiral stairway is the relief mural representing a cockerel and fish made of aluminium, copper and metal rod, with red French glass for the fish’s eye and cockerel’s comb.
Illuminated from above by this pierced concrete and glass skylight.
Many of the internal spaces have been ready for their new tenants.
This is a fine example of Modernist retail architecture saved from decay and degradation by the timely intervention of a sympathetic tenant.
Long may they and Castle House prosper – Sheffield we salute you!
To begin at the beginning high on a hill overlooking the city – Park Hill.
Park Hill was previously the site of back-to-back housing, a mixture of two and three storey tenement buildings, waste ground, quarries and steep alleyways.Clearance of the area began during the 1930s.
Following the war it was decided that a radical scheme needed to be introduced to deal with rehousing the Park Hill community. Inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitationarchitects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith under the supervision of J. L. Womersley, Sheffield Council’s City Architect, began work in 1953 designing the Park Hill Flats.
Construction began in 1957 – officially opened on 16 June 1961.
The complex remained structurally sound, unlike many system-built blocks of the era, and controversially was Grade II* listed in 1998 making it the largest listed building in Europe.
A part-privatisation scheme by the developer Urban Splash in partnership with English Heritage to turn the flats into upmarket apartments, business units and social housing is now underway.
Plan for Sheffield 1963
I’ve been here before and again, visited pubs that don’t exist – The Parkway, Scottish Queen, Link or Earl George are all long gone.
Let’s go down town.
Take a look at Elements Fire Steel Brian Asquith’s work unveiled on May 10th 1965 at the former Westminster Bank – subsequently sited here on the Sheffield Hallam campus. He was also responsible for the sculptural work in the Peace Gardens.
Onwards to the Co-op’s former Castle House Store.
Grade II Iisted Co-operative department store described by Historic England as ‘1964 by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick.’
The original branch was destroyed in the Blitz, to be replaced by a temporary prefabricated shop.
Vulcan by Boris Tietze commisioned by Horne Brothers 1961 for their head office building No. 1 King Street. Glass fibre on a metal armature the 8 foot high figure holding a bundle of metal rods.
Off to court – Sheffield Magistrates Courts of 1978 designed by B Warren City Planning Officer and Architect, along with the adjacent Police Headquarters of 1970. Described by the Pevsner guide as – coherent in design if not particularly loveable.
Under construction 1977
Passing the Graves by City Architect WG Davies 1929-34, with a friendly nod to inter-war Modernity. Intended to form one side of an unrealised civic square proposed by Patrick Abercrombie in 1924. The exterior carved work is by Alfred and William Tory.
Visualisation by Geo Daniels
There were major exhibitions in both 1945 and 1963 illustrating the plans down up for the redevelopment of the city.
Off to the shops and the former Cole Brothers Stores by York, Rosenberg and Mardall, clad in their trademark white tiles opened in September 1963 – currently trading as John Lewis.
Tucked around the corner my go to guy for up to the minute cast concrete public art William Mitchell.
Crucible by Judith Bluck located outside the Manpower Service Commission Building, commissioned for the Property Services Agency of the Department of the Environment in 1979. It is a large bronze-coloured plastic fountain sculpture. The artist referred to it as an exploding crucible.
Electricity substation. 1968 to designs by consulting architects Jefferson, Sheard and Partners, Sheffield, led by Bryan Jefferson, in association with the Regional Civil Engineers’ Department of the CEGB North East Region. Contractors, Longden & Sons Ltd, Sheffield. Reinforced concrete frame with board-marked finish with formwork bolt marks, construction and daywork joints emphasized, concrete floor slabs, blue engineering facing bricks, cladding panels of Cornish granite aggregate.
Something of an iconic, totemic, pin-up poster boy/girl for the Modernists, I bumped into you one rainy day, on the way from here to there. Initially attracted by an unexpectedly bright slab of primrose yellow and white.
Golden Lane was developed in the early 1950s to create local housing for essential workers in the City of London, following the devastation of the Blitz. At the time only around 500 people actually lived in the City of London so the estate was deliberately designed with small units to house single people and couples comprised of the broad social and professional mix needed to support the local community. 554 units were built of which 359 were studios and one bedroomed flats; the remainder were maisonettes and early tenants included caretakers, clergymen, doctors, police offices, cleaners and secretaries. Today there are approximately 1,500 people living on the estate in 559 flats and maisonettes.
Golden Lane was commissioned from architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon by the City of London Corporation (which still manages it) and built on bombed sites previously occupied by small businesses and industries. Some of the basement areas of the former buildings were retained as sunken areas of landscaping. Building took place over a 10-year period between 1952 and 1962 when Crescent House on Goswell Road was completed. Golden Lane was listed Grade II in 1997 (Crescent House is Grade II*). When built, Great Arthur House was the tallest residential building in London and its Le Corbusier inspired design included a resident’s roof garden. The estate also included a leisure centre with a swimming pool and tennis courts. It is now run by a private operator and is open to both residents and the general public.
I stuck around too take a look, struck by the variety of scale, detail and space within a relatively tight integrated development. Mature greenery abounds along with a delightful water feature.
It would appear that following the 70s right to buy the estate is a 50/50 mix of social and private ownership, relatively trouble free and well maintained, something of an anomaly in our go-ahead, left behind land.
As with all things material and corporeal there was time when you simply didn’t exist.
1860 adjacent to Woodward Street and the Rochdale Canal, a simple agglomeration of loose limbed industrial buildings and such – yet to be christened Blank.
Unrelieved by decorative or other features; bare, empty, or plain a blank wall.
Showing a lack of comprehension or reaction – we were met by blank looks – synonyms: expressionless, empty, vacant, deadpan, wooden, stony, impassive, inanimate, vacuous, glazed, fixed, lifeless, uninterested, emotionless, unresponsive, inscrutable.
A space left to be filled in a document – leave blanks to type in the appropriate names – synonyms: space, gap, blank space, empty space.
A cartridge containing gunpowder but no bullet, used for training or as a signal.
Make (something) blank or empty – electronic countermeasures blanked out the radar signals.
Informal North American defeat (a sports team) without allowing them to score – Baltimore blanked Toronto in a 7–0 victory.
Though contradictorily I have found reference to a bankrupt foundry in the London Gazette 1857.
You appear again during the Manchester Blitz.
By 1960 you are on the map and the area is on the up and up.
Though I have to ask the question of the namers of streets – why so Blank, an off day at the office – we have whole blocks named for poets, painters, and far flung places, so why so Blank?
Hadn’t they heard of nominative determinism – born to be Blank.
This Municipal Modernist development seems to have been short-lived and subject to yet more demolition in the area, to be replaced by late 70’s terraced housing.
Blank Street inexplicably became Fulmer Drive.
Which in turn had been tinned up and demolished around 2008.
How did that happen – seemingly viable homes previously changing hands for £100,000 deemed surplus to requirements – land banking, ahead of an as yet unseen masterplan?
Your life was short and sharp – shaped by economic shifts, world war and the local authorities ephemeral housing policies. There is little evidence of your existence, photographic or otherwise, so I want to set the record straight – draw a blank.
Here you are as of July 2019 – tarmac intact, drains fully functioning, pavements paved, awaiting orders. A circuitous run of grassy ridges resembling the remains of some Roman or Iron Age fortification.