Coventry Cathedral

On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.

The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Richard Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This has led to the cathedral’s Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation, which has provided spiritual and practical support, in areas of conflict throughout the world.

Her Majesty the Queen laid the foundation stone on 23 March 1956 and the building was consecrated on 25 May 1962, in her presence. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.

Ralph Beyer carving the foundation stone for Coventry Cathedral.

© Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Coventry Cathderal

The new Cathedral was itself an inspiration to many fine artists of the post-war era. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, commissioned work from Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ralph Beyer, John Hutton, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and others – most still to reach the peak of their artistic careers.

St. Michael and the Devil on the southern end of the east wall. It was sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, who, sadly, died in 1959, and therefore didn’t live to see his masterpiece mounted on the cathedral wall a year later.

Entrance to the cathedral is through the Screen of Saints and Angels – it is seventy feet high and forty five feet wide and is supported by a bronze framework hung by wires from the roof for added strength.

This unique screen formed part of Sir Basil Spence’s first vision for the new cathedral. As he stared out from the ruins of the bombed cathedral, he saw the shape for the new church through a screen of saints. This transparent wall would link the old and new – making each mutually visible from within each other. Provost Howard set out to draw up a scheme consisting of all the saints who were responsible for the bringing of Christianity to Britain. As John Hutton began to make initial designs, he soon realised that row upon row of saints would need to be broken up in some way, and suggested that angels be inserted between the saints.

The eighty one foot high Baptistery Window containing a total of one hundred and ninety five lights of stained glass in bright primary colours designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, with the Stone of Bethlehem for a font just in front. Each individual window contains an abstract design, but the overall effect is breathtaking. Basil Spence himself designed the stone containing the glass.

Study for the the seventy two foot high tapestry designed by Graham Sutherland – collection of The Herbert Art Gallery

The great tapestry was another example of a re-think in design. Basil Spence’s original intention was to depict the Crucifixion but Provost Howard suggested that the subject be Christ in Majesty and from there on, this idea prevailed

Altar cross and crown of thorns by Geoffrey Clarke, large ceramic candlesticks by Hans Coper.

Chairs by Russell Hodgson and Leigh.

The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane is approached by following the aisle from the Baptistery window towards the altar which is at the north end. The mosaic depicts the Angel of Agony by Steven Sykes and becomes more impressive when seen from a distance through the wrought iron crown of thorns designed by Basil Spence.

A short passageway takes you through to the Chapel of Christ the Servant – also known as the Chapel of Industry due to the view of Coventry workplaces from its narrow windows. 

Monumental inscriptions to walls and floor by Ralph Beyer

Stained glass to aisle walls by Lawrence Lee, Geoffrey Clarke and Keith New.

At the far end of the aisle, opposite the Baptistery Window is the Chapel of Unity, with its detailed mosaic floor, donated by the people of Sweden, representing the nations of the world and lit by shafts of light from the narrow stained glass windows around the circumference of the star shaped chapel. 

This design was Basil Spence’s vision of a chapel representing the star which began the story of Christ – from the outside it appears shaped similarly to a Crusader’s tent.

The chapel is intended for prayer by all denominations, not just Anglican, and for this reason was purposely built with no view of the great altar. 

Historic Coventry

St Saviour’s Church – Bradford

St Saviours 25 Ings Way Bradford BD8 0LU

What a delight – the stunning surprise that awaits you, around one particular suburban corner of Bradford.

I had called ahead, to arrange the visit – the Reverend Dorothy Stewart had gracefully invited me to join members of the community and herself, one wild and windy Wednesday.

Steel frame and shuttered concrete with dark red brick walls in stretcher bond, and slate roofs.

Church of 1966 with attached hall of 1971, both designed by architect George Pace. Characterised by asymmetric arrangement of roofs, exposed structure and juxtaposition of materials, this is a complete and largely unaltered example of Pace’s work. The asphalt roof and windows are in very poor condition. Repair works to the roof were carried out in 2016 with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s former Grants for Places of Worship scheme.

Listed November 2007

The exterior is stark and angular, the body of the church is a broad rectangle with no division between nave and chancel, with a bell tower to the east, vestries to the north-west and a chapel to the west. At the western end is the church hall, added in 1971. Externally a single asymmetric roof covers the main body of the church, rising at the east end to form a mono-pitch section over the altar area and incorporating the bell tower. There is a porch at the east end of the north side, and a transept with a double pitch roof. To the west is a single storey, flat roof section with an entrance to the north, extending to the transept. West of the main body of the church on the south side is a separate roof, housing a chapel. To the west is the church hall, with a north-south asymmetric roof. All the windows are rectangular, of varying sizes, with plain glass in rectangular leaded lights. Lintels over the doors and the parapet of the flat roofed block are of shuttered concrete, as are the window surrounds.

The body of the church contains Victorian stripped oak bench pews derived from St John’s church in Little Horton, arranged with a central aisle. To the north side is a range of contemporary pews in wood with vertical slatted fronts, in front of the organ, recovered from St. Chrysostom’s Bradford , by Driver and Haigh of Bradford, which is housed in the transept with a matching front of vertical wooden slats.

Let’s take a look.

To the rear is the cylindrical font in white concrete with a wooden lid, set on a raised platform. Suspended above it is a large light fitting in black metal, inscribed around the edges with the words: “This font is erected by relatives and parishioners in memory of/ Beatrice May Parkin, for over forty years a Sunday School teacher and/ worker for St Saviour’s Church, who died 2nd March 1961”.

There is no separate chancel, and the finishes throughout are exposed brick, shuttered concrete and limed oak. The sanctuary area is in the south-east corner and consists of a tall angled purple brick reredos, topped with concrete, and a lower detached, angled purple brick pillar to each side each holding a shelf and incorporating a wooden seat. In front of the central reredos is an integral wooden bench with three backs, and a large black metal cross in the same style as those on the exterior but with more elaboration, fixed to the floor on a raised concrete block. To the fore is the altar table on a low raised platform. The whole is enclosed within an altar rail of iron and wood, open to the centre.

The main roof has exposed wooden trusses supported on concrete pillars and beams, with rafters and purlins also exposed creating a latticework pattern.

The whole interior order is orderly, calm and coherent, a simple consistency of materials and architectural intent.

The solid wood, studded chapel door has the words “I am the Good Shepherd” engraved on it. The chapel has exposed beams and rafters, and an altar to the north with iron and wood altar rail in front. Pews are as in the church. There is a mosaic plaque behind the altar which came from St John’s church in Little Horton.

Beyond to the west is the narthex, with shuttered concrete ceilings pierced by circular skylights, exposed brick walls and doors to the chapel, service rooms and hall. 

Such a pleasure to visit such an enchanting church – it was a precious privilege to be welcomed by the congregation, warden and Reverend Dorothy.

Once again – many sincere thanks.

See also: William Temple Church of St Mark’s and St Mark’s Broomhill

Cecil Cinema – Hull

Anlaby Road and Ferensway Hull HU1 2NR

After you, Claude – no, after you Cecil

The Theatre De-Luxe was built in 1911 at the corner of Anlaby Road and Ferensway with its entrance in Anlaby Road and its auditorium along the side of the pavement in Ferensway. Kinematograph Year Book of 1914 lists 600 seats and the owners as National Electric Picture Theatres Ltd.

In 1925, the theatre was rebuilt to a radically altered ground-plan and renamed the Cecil Theatre. The opening night was Monday 28th September 1925. The entrance was in a curved façade at the Anlaby Road/Ferensway corner. The alignment of the new, larger, auditorium was at right angles to Ferensway, and parallel to Anlaby Road. Effectively, the length of the Theatre De-Luxe auditorium became the width of the Cecil Theatre’s. Seating was 1,700 with 700 of those in the balcony, according to the Hull Daily Mail. The Cecil Theatre was originally designed for silent movies with a full orchestra pit. KYB 1931 lists it having Western Electric sound installed; and a 1931 aerial view shows that a brick horn-chamber had been built onto the wall at the rear of the stage. It had a 35 feet wide proscenium. The cinema also had a café attached.

The Cecil Theatre’s demise came during bombing on the night of 7/8 May 1941 when German incendiary bombs reduced the building to a shell; and it remained like that until demolition in 1953.

Cinema Treasures

Work on the new Cecil Theatre was begun in April 1955 and it was opened on 28th November 1955 with 1,374 seats in the stalls and 678 in the balcony.

At the time of opening it had the largest CinemaScope screen in the country measuring 57 feet wide, and the first film shown was Marilyn Monroe The Seven Year Itch. The proscenium was 60 feet wide, and the cinema was equipped with a Marshall Sykes 3Manual/15Ranks organ, which was opened by organist Vivian Newall.

There was also a 100-seat restaurant & bar which in 1971 was converted into a second screen seating 137 (Cecil 2). The following year the main auditorium was spilt into 2 smaller cinemas in the balcony (Cecil 1 & 3 each seating 307) and an entertainment hall in the former stalls which became a Mecca Bingo Club, with Mecca also operating the cinemas.

In the 1980’s it was taken over by the Cannon Cinemas chain. The cinema operation was closed on 23rd March 1992 and the cinemas were ‘For Sale and/or Lease. It was taken over by Take Two Cinemas and renamed Take Two Cinema. It was closed on 27th February 1997 and the two screens in the former circle were stripped out and converted into a snooker club.

Whilst bingo continues in the former stalls area of this post war 
cinema, the former mini cinemas in the circle still contain the snooker tables, but the space is unused. The screen in the former restaurant/cafe area remains basically intact, but is unused.

Cinema Treasures

I worked at the Cecil in the three years before it closed in the 90’s. MGM owned the place before the Virgin group bought it and closed it. It was a good place to work and an interesting building. Behind the scenes had remained unchanged since Anna Neagle first opened it. The organ had been removed however but the organ room was still in tact in the bingo section of the building. The fire exits led to long dark corridors that were always being infiltrated by kids sneeking in for a free shows. I understand that this was always the case. The resturant kitchen was fully intact and resembled something out of a Kubrick film – very spooky place!

Bilko2000

And so the projectors whirr no more, house is called at the Cecil – possibly the most oddly named cinema in the land.

Happily it remains an imposing presence in the centre of the city – a mammoth modern temple of entertainment – reflecting the ever changing tastes of the day and the morning after.

Alexandra Hotel – Hull

69 Hessle Road Kingston upon Hull HU3 2AB

Whilst walking the length of Hessle Road, up and back – taking the air, snaps, the sights and sounds, I came upon a fine Faience tiled frontage.

I began photographing, wandering dangerously into the space between the slip road and the flyover. A shout rang out, emanating from the boozer, the landlord called me over.

“Do you want to take a look inside?”

“Yes”.

A listed interior the new landlord is working hard along with Historic England to restore the capacious rooms to their former glory, including the entrance mosaic and ceiling – images P Hampel

Inheriting a whole heap of issues and a grey parrot called Sparky.

It all proved too much for the former landlord.

But the boozer is now up and running serving cask ale to throngs of first class thirsty customers.

The Yorkshire Brewhouse 1904 ended mid week when we’re normally closed but we were asked to open for a group of very thirsty sailors. We moved on to Reet, another Yorkshire Brewhouse beer and thanks to the football that one has gone too. It’s back to the YBH Faithful Stout once again. I’d come quick and get it while you can.

Once two pubs the Hessle Road Inn was subsumed by the Alexandra. The area was once home to the city’s Jewish Community – the cemetery survives next door.

There are Star of David motifs incorporated into the windows, sympathetic to this local heritage.

Built around 1895, designed by Smith, Brodrick and Walker, with late C20 alterations – British Listed Buildings.

It’s a fabulous pub which deserves to thrive – pop in for a pint if you’re passing, just watch out for low flying parrots.

Neaverson’s – Huddersfield

Kirkgate Buildings Byram Street

Commercial building with ground-floor retail units and offices to the upper floors, c1883, by W H Crossland with sculptural work by C E Fucigna. Sandstone ashlar, slate roof, substantial ashlar ridge stacks. C19 Queen Anne style with French influences and classical Greek sculpture. One of the ground-floor shop units was remodelled in 1935 by Sharp and Law of Bradford with Moderne shopfronts and interior fittings.

The cultural and visual collision is immediate – the pairing of Huddersfield’s grand Victorian manner with the latest of European Moderne.

Neaverson’s – purveyors of pottery and glass began life in 1893 in premises on Cross Church Street, before moving to the Grade I-listed Byram Street building in 1935.

Set to the ground floor of bay 4 is a 1935 Moderne shopfront by Sharp and Law of Bradford. The shopfront is of grey and pink/beige marble with unmoulded windows that are curved to eliminate reflection, and has a glazed door set within a recessed porch. Set below the top of the shopfront is a ribbon window with dark tinted glazing and slender vertical and horizontal muntin bars arranged in a geometric pattern. The original metal signage in stylised sans-serif relief lettering reads ‘NEAVERSONS’, ‘pottery’ and ‘four’.

Thought to echo Susie Cooper’s London shop and unswervingly now – the fascia must have been something of a shock to the taciturn Tykes.

Neaversons glass and china shop closed in 2007.

Gerry’s Tea Rooms occupied the building for less than two years.

There is not a day goes by when I don’t see some of my customers asking what went wrong. They think I was a failure and that is so not the truth.

Along came a restaurant:

The Grade II 1930’s interior has been refurbished by the new owners and exudes understated sophistication.

“Wow, I feel like I’m in London,” said Trish as she stepped into the newly-opened Neaversons restaurant, having just arrived on the train from the capital.

It closed not long after.

Currently home to the Zephyr Bar and Kitchen

A prohibition stylised venue offering a selection of drinks, food and an environment that really sets us apart from the crowd.

The listed frontage has survived intact – let’s take a look.

Sandown Court – Southport

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Where better to lay your weary head than Southport’s Sandown Court?

Longing for languorous days, gazing out at the distant sea, from the window of your fourteenth floor flat.

What’s Good for the Goose – is worth a gander.

My extensive research shows the flats were a location for the Norman Wisdom film, a saucy serving of seaside slap and tickle.

Conveniently situated twixt shore and traffic island – offering extensive accommodation for the discerning tenant.

Balconies clad with cast concrete abstracted panels, attractive dolphin-based water feature.

What more could you ask for?

Castle House Co-op Store – Sheffield

So here we are outside, you and I in 2015 – it seems like yesterday.

Whereas yesterday I was inside not outside, but more of that in a moment.

It seems that you were listed in 2009 and deservedly so.

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.

Fast forward to 2018

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!