Architects: J Webb as County Architect and CW Quick as the job architectof the West Glamorgan County Architects Department 1982
Canolfan Ddinesig Abertawe formerly known as County Hall.
Don’t be, it’s all quite simple really.
Following the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972, which broke up Glamorgan County Council and established West Glamorgan County Council, the new county council initially met at Swansea Guildhall. Finding that this arrangement, which involved sharing facilities with Swansea Council, to be inadequate, county leaders procured a dedicated building, selecting a site formerly occupied by an old railway goods yard associated with the Mumbles Railway.
The design features continuous bands of glazing with deep washed calcined flint panels above and below.
Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited on 20 April 1989.
After local government re-organisation in 1996, which abolished West Glamorgan County Council, ownership of the building was transferred to Swansea Council. It was renamed Swansea Civic Centre on 19 March 2008, and Swansea Central Library moved into the complex as part of a redevelopment scheme.
In March 2021, plans to find a new use for the location continued to still be a commitment of Swansea council, with the announcement of the transfer of the central library and other public services to the former BHS and now What! store on Oxford Street.
Swansea Civic Centre is at risk the Twentieth Century Society says so – they are strongly opposed to demolition of the iconic building and have submitted an application to have the building listed as Grade II.
I do not know what fate awaits it, I only know it must be brave – to paraphrase Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin, Ned Washington, Gary Cooper and Frankie Laine – it’s High Noon and counting.
Any road up as of the 11th of May it looked just like this:
Welcome, at the Kardomah Cafe we have a long history of excellent service, great food and wonderful coffee. We are an independent, established, family run business of nearly 50 years. Traditional values are important to us and have helped us create a warm and friendly atmosphere, which is seen by many of our customers as an important part of their lives, a place to meet their friends, whilst enjoying quality food and drink.
The company that created the Kardomah brand began in Pudsey Street, Liverpool in 1844 as the Vey Brothers teadealers and grocers. In 1868 the business was acquired by the newly created Liverpool China and India Tea Company, and a series of brand names was created beginning with Mikado. The Kardomah brand of tea was first served at the Liverpool colonial exhibition of 1887, and the brand was later applied to a range of teas, coffees and coffee houses. The parent company was renamed Kardomah Limited in 1938. The brand was acquired by the Forte Group in 1962, sold to Cadbury Schweppes Typhoo in 1971, and became part of Premier Brands some time between 1980 and 1997. The brand still exists, selling items such as instant coffee and coffee whitener.
The Kardomah Cafés in London and Manchester were designed by Sir Misha Black between 1936 and 1950.
The original Swansea branch was at 232 High St, and known as ‘The Kardomah Exhibition Cafe & Tea Rooms’, moving to the Castle Street in 1908.
The Castle Street cafe was the meeting place of The Kardomah Gang, which included Dylan Thomas, and was built on the site of the former Congregational Chapel where Thomas’s parents were married in 1903. The cafe was bombed during WW2 and was later replaced by the present Kardomah Coffee Shop Restaurant in Portland Street.
I’d never had the pleasure of visiting a Kardomah before, imagine my delight when I was directed there by local artist, activist and archivist Catrin Saran James, during our delightful Swansea Moderne tour!
Following an extensive walk from one end of town to the other, I returned there for a late midday bite to eat and a sit down – it looked a little like this:
Many thanks to the staff and customers for putting up with me wandering around for a while with my camera, whilst they worked and ate.
A walk from the Cosmos to a sculptural wall via the sun.
Apart from the establishment of the now defunct AIR index of artists, recently revamped by the ACGB, both of which were ill-tended to help foster and promote private and public commissions, no moves have yet been made towards Percentage for Art legislation or even towards the creation of informal schemes.
Bending distorts the form of European imperial sculpture, raises questions about commemoration and colonialism. The quotations on the three plaques are taken from George Orwell’s essay – Shooting the Elephant.
Coronation Park refers to a park on the outskirts of New Delhi that hosted mass rallies organised by the British Raj, celebrating the coronation of British monarchs as rulers of India and where Indian subjects were expected to demonstrate deference to their colonial oppressors. Britain withdrew from India in 1947, yet monuments to British rulers remained. In the 1960s, these were removed from New Delhi and relocated to Coronation Park. Today, they stand in disrepair and decay. Once symbolising an oppressive history, their power has been allowed to deteriorate.
On display at the Whitworth is Hans Tisdall’s tapestry – a partner to his mosaics, commissioned for the ChemistryBuilding at UMIST and currently on loan to the gallery.
At the Royal Northern College of Music there was once a wall hanging in the main auditorium, removed during the recent refurbishment.
This is the work of Elda Abramson, assisted by many local hands and a year in the making 1977.
I have been unable to ascertain wether it will be reinstated.
Up the road now to the Stopford Building 1972 – topped with an Anthony Holloway trim, formed from repeated cast concrete modular panels.
His work in Manchester is in the main the result of his relationship with architect Harry Fairhurst.
Working as a consultant designer with the architects’ division of the London County Council. He learned how to deal with architects and builders, and became adept at getting as much out of the money available – never enough – for his projects. He remained linked with what became the Greater London Council’s architects department until its closure in 1968.
Were you to visit on a weekday you could view the mosaic tucked away inside the Schuster Building.
A Sixties photographer called John D Green was chosen by the architect – however it’s a mystery why he was commissioned.
It would seem John D Green was a man of many talents – he was also a regular racing driver at Brands Hatch, and author of the legendary book Birds of Britain, recently the subject of an exhibition at Snap Galleries in London.
High atop the lecture theatre an abstract sculpture by Michael Piper.
Back to Oxford Road and possibly my favourite local work of public art Manchester Sun 1963 –Lynn Chadwick.
He received Carborundum Company’s Sculpture Major and Minor Awards to produce circular sculpture in fibreglass, Manchester Sunfor the University of Manchester’s Williamson Building.
Also available in an edition of two 24″ diameter fibre glass maquettes.
Walking toward town and we encounter the Anamorphic Mirrors 1989 – Andrew Crompton, regionally sited outside MOSI Lowe Byron Street. They were intense to reflect the images of John Dalton, James Joule, Henry Rutherford and Bernard Lovell formed in paving slabs by concrete artists Richard and Jack Doyle.
This context is now lost.
Leaving Oxford Road and heading for the former UMIST site we pass under the Mancunian Way – with its 1968 Concrete Society Award.
Around the corner and the towering Faraday Building 1967 tower, towers over us – HS Fairhust & Son clad in Anthony Holloway cast concrete panels.
Complemented by his concrete banding on the adjacent building.
To 2015 when local artist and archivist Catrin SaranJames is undertaking a little reverse vandalism by way of guerrilla restoration or adfer gerila if you will.
Leading to a full scale cleaning of the Harry Everington 1969 concrete mural adorning the Central Clinic.
It was under Harry’s guidance that students from the Swansea College of Art produced the mural which was put on the building’s exterior back in 1969.
It was fantastic to have had an email from the ABMU Health Board earlier this year. Martin Thomas who leads the ABMU Heritage Team contacted me as he was researching what public art the health board owned.
Martin came across my Guerrilla Restoration work and the previous work I’d done in highlighting cleaning samples of Harry Everington’s 1969 abstract concrete sculptural mural over the last 5 years.
Taken from the ABMU Heritage blog, here’s what Martin said of the project:
When we started this group we carried out a scoping exercise to see what historical artefacts the health board owned and this mural came up.
When I did more research I found out about Catrin’s project and we thought it would be a good idea to help finish what she had started.
We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to clean a very neglected sculpture.
Subsequently her gallant restoration endeavours made headline news in Wales Online.
Fast forward to Wednesday May 11th 2022 – I am aboard the Transport for Wales train, Swansea bound!
Catrin had kindly forwarded me a clear and comprehensive guide to Swansea’s Modernist architecture.
Characteristically, I promptly got lost, fortunately we had arranged to meet at the National Waterfront Museum – which was clearly signposted. Following a chat and a cuppa we swanned off, visiting the Civic Centre and a lovely array of post-war retail outlets.
We parted and I went on my merry way – I can’t thank you enough for your company and erudition Catrin, diolch yn fawr.
Eventually I arrived at the Clinic, I feel that the best time to visit a medical centre is when you are fighting fit, with an overwhelming interest in cast concrete, rather than plaster casts.
When the Victorian church was demolished, traces of several earlier churches were revealed, stretching back to the 9th century. Artefacts found included the stone sarcophagus of Alkmund of Derby, now in Derby Museum and Art Gallery.
Park Hill was previously the site of back to back housing, a mixture of two and three storey tenement buildings, open ground, quarries and steep ginnels connecting the homes.
John Rennie, the city’s Medical Officer of Health, concluded:
The dwelling houses in the area are by reason of disrepair or sanitary defects unfit for human habitation, or are by reason of their bad arrangement, or the narrowness or bad arrangement of the streets, dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the area.
Following the war it was decided that a radical scheme needed to be introduced to deal with rehousing the Park Hill community. To that end, architects 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.
Park Hill Part One was officially opened by Hugh Gaitskell, MP and Leader of the Opposition, on 16 June 1961.
The development integrated playgrounds, schools, shops and pubs into the scheme.
Government restrictions on how potential tenants were allocated to flats, the limitations of the building’s fabric which decayed when not maintained, poor noise insulation and issues with resident security caused their popularity to wane. For many years, the council found it difficult to find tenants for the flats.
Despite the problems, the complex remained structurally sound, it was controversially 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.
I first visited the then almost uninhabited site some years ago – meeting the handful of remaining residents.
Mark – “Why are all these photographers coming here from Manchester?”
Chatted with Billy the lone cleaner.
The majority of the site was tinned up and secured in an insecure fashion.
Subsequently I have lead tours of the site under construction at the behest of Urban Splash, in conjunction with Falconer Associates and the Modernist Society.
Following the hiatus caused by the Covid epidemic, building work has recommenced.
It’s joy to return and view the developments that are taking place – a structure that seemed doomed returning to life, providing new homes within a unique architectural experiment, which continues to evolve.
Each stage designed by a team of architects willing and able to link the wealth of heritage to new possibilities.
Stirling Prize winning architects Mikhail Riches were appointed to undertake the new designs for Phase Two. Demand has been high for the one, two and three homes that also include three two bedroom townhouses.
Phase Three is unique student accommodation with the block being configured into four and eight bed townhouses, two and four bed apartments and classic studios for 356 students. The development partner is the Alumno Group and Places for People who have named it Béton House.
It’s May 2022 time to take a post Covid look at work in progress.
Highlight of any tour is the sight of the restored mosaic which adorned The Parkway pub – my heart literally leaped with joy.
The palette of the mosaic forms the colour coding of the development’s colour coding.
The last word goes to Mr Tom Bloxham:
We were the only ones stupid enough to take it on.
When the Rank Organisation closed the nearby Odeon Cinema on St. Peter Street, the Gaumont was renamed Odeon in 1965.
The cinema was called the ABC Trocadero Entertainment Centre opening on 24th August 1983 with Roy Schneider in Blue Thunder. The cinema changed its name one final time when it became the Cannon.
The Cannon was set to struggle on, then one morning shortly before the cinema opened for the early morning kids club, part of the ornate plaster ceiling collapsed, wrecking the auditorium. The final film to play was Sean Penn in Willow on 17th December 1988.
Curious almost Deco almost Burton’s details.
Around the corner to Prosperity House.
Formerly St Peters House, Gower Street, Derby DE1 1SB, Prosperity House is a large eight-story building located in St. Peter’s Quarter, Derbyshire.
Prosperity House has been constructed in two phases, with work to convert the first 91 apartments being completed in March 2017 and the remaining 65 apartments completed in August 2017.
Across the way the Derby Hippodrome – between 1930 and 1950 it operated as a cinema but reopened in 1951 as a theatre before succumbing to the bingo craze in the early 1960s.
Originally designed by Derby architect Alexander McPherson, it still features a number of large circular windows but hit the headlines in 2008 when, after standing empty for a time, repair work caused part of the Grade II listed building to collapse.
By the end of 2023 the Trust aims to have completed a basic restoration of the Hippodrome which would include dismantling some of internal structures where appropriate, rebuilding damaged walls, replacing the roof and re-establishing essential facilities such as toilets, lighting, water and heating. The building will then become a flexible space which can be used by amateur performing arts groups in Derby and become a focal point in the local community.
Thousands of people will have been to events at the Pennine Hotel, which first opened in 1965, and was for many years professional footballers’ favourite place and also a boxing venue, but it finally closed its doors as the St Peter’s Quarter Hotel in 2015.
Contracts have been signed between the major players who are due to build and operate a new £45.8 million performance venue in Derby by late 2024. This means that work on the site will start soon and construction could start next January.
Forester House, once home of the Job Centre, is situated on the corner of Newland and Becket Street within Derby City Centre. The property comprises a detached 5 storey office building extending to approximately 42,565 square feet.
The premises have been recently acquired by Universal Total Care Limited for £1.6m.
Located on the corner of Newland Street and Becket Street, Forester House has been earmarked for transformation into a one hundred and eleven bedroom easyHotel, a restaurant that would seat 160 people and a function room. The ground floor of the 1970s building, which formerly housed JobCentre Plus staff, would become home to the large-scale eaterie and the first floor would have space for weddings and conferences.
JSA Architects have plans for a one hundred and ten bed hotel – what happened to the missing room?
Never mind – let’s take a look at the Telephone Exchange.
Onwards to the Museum and Art Gallery.
The Art Gallery designed by Story opened in 1882 and in 1883 the museum had electricity supplied for new lighting.
In 1936 the museum was given a substantial collection of paintings by Alfred E. Goodey who had been collecting art for 50 years. At his death in 1945 he left £13,000 to build an extension to the museum. The extension, which now houses the museum, was completed in 1964. Refurbishment to parts of both the new and old buildings were undertaken in 2010–11
Princess Margaret, right, hands a turquoise cuddly toy dog gift to her lady-in-waiting at the end of her visit to the Rycote Centre, Kedleston Road, Derby, in June 1973.
She was then taken to the Rycote Centre, off Kedleston Road, where she was greeted by Councillor Bill Pritchard, chairman of Derby Town Council and Social Services, and presented with a rather unusual gift.
It’s a shame that these photos from our archive are in black and white, for the Princess, who was wearing a tomato red coat and bright green hat, was presented with a turquoise cuddly toy dog – quite a clash of colours by the sounds of it!
The current Assembly Rooms building was completed in 1977 to replace an 18th-century building of the same name that was destroyed by fire. In 2014 a fresh blaze obliterated the plant room of the new structure, which has been largely vacant ever since.
This summer the city council applied to its own planning department for permission to demolish the building to save the cost of maintaining it.