St Gabriel’s Church – Blackburn

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The original design of Liverpool architect F.X. Velarde attracted so much attention when St Gabriel’s opened in 1933.

“The new building… marks a new departure from the accepted ecclesiastical style and is unique in this district,” said the old Blackburn Times when it was consecrated on April 8, 1933, by the Bishop of Blackburn, Dr P.M. Herbert.

But this is a church which throughout its life has been fraught with settlement cracks, repairs and redesign – it’s original towers truncated and clad, flat roofs pitched and timbers replaced.

For 34 years ago, the landmark building was facing possible demolition — with the parish confronted with a then-immense bill of £15,000 for repairs. The crisis was due to serious damage to the roof timbers caused by water penetration.

Eventually, it took £40,000-worth of refurbishment inside and out lasting until 1975 to save St Gabriel’s — at considerable expense to its original appearance. The main tower was shortened by six feet and later clad at the top with glass-fibre sheathing while the east tower was removed altogether and its flat roofs were made into pitched ones to deal with the rotting roof timbers and problems of settlement.

In fact, the difficulties that its design and construction posed were recognised much earlier in 1956 when the church, which had cost £20,000 to build, was found to be in urgent need of repairs that would cost more than £1,500. For an inspection by the Diocesan Architect found that major defects in the flat roof could have serious consequences unless they were given early attention and portions of the parapet wall were found to have large cracks due to settlement while half the building’s brickwork needed pointing.

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And so it now stands forlorn and unused – services are now held in the adjacent church hall. A series of interlocking monumental interwar functionalist brick clad slabs, once thought to resemble a brewery or cinema, now awaits its fate. Though it remains a thing of wonder in both scale and detailing, well worth a wander around if you’re passing.

Its tall slim arched windows reaching towards the heavens, Deco detailed doors firmly closed.

Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

Sale Pyramid Odeon Cinema

Cinema Treasures

Located in Sale, Cheshire, now part of Greater Manchester. Designed by the famous British cinema architectural firm, Drury & Gomersall, the Pyramid Theatre is a classic example of an Egyptian-style cinema in Britain and had a 1,940 seating capacity.

The frontage although not particularly Egyptian in overall design does have various Egyptian style mouldings and fluted pillars. Internally, the Egyptian theme was again largely mouldings and finishes like Graumans Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The theme was included in the specially designed Christie Organ, which was installed in the Blue Coat School in Oldham.

Following a request by the school to remove the organ in 2008, the organ was in storage for five years. The Christie has now been donated to the Lowe Side Trust, by the LTOT,  along with funding for refurbishment and installation, of both consoles, into Lowe House Catholic Church, St. Helens, Lancashire. As of the beginning of 2018 the the original pit console is now fully functioning in the Church. The Egyptian style stage console is now under refurbishment to full theatre specification. Website for this project will be available shortly.

Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust

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The Pyramid Theatre changed hands a couple of times between its opening on 24th February 1934 and 21st December 1942 when it was taken over by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain. It was re-named Odeon on 18th June 1945.

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In 1981, the Rank Organisation closed 29 of its Odeon cinemas and the lease for the Odeon Sale was bought by the Tatton Cinemas group and it was re-named Tatton Cinema. Stage shows returned to the theatre, however the runing costs caused the lease to revert to Rank in 1984 and the building was closed.

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The cinema was purchased by Trafford Borough council for £200,000, but by 1987 the costs to the council were estimated at £1.5 million. A campaign was started to save it from demolition.

In 1988, it was advertised for sale by tender and by 1990 the cinema was converted into an American themed nightclub, known as JFK’s

The nightclub closed around 2001 and the auditorium was transformed into a franchised L.A. Fitness Centre, using a former front stalls exit as its entrance. The main entrance and foyers are currently unused. In 2013 it became a Sports Direct Fitness Club.

The Pyramid Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building in November 1987.

It is currently closed and seemingly unused.

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I often cycle passed and wonder about your past, and a possible future.

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Our cinema heritage is and always had been under threat, listed and unloved desperately seeking the care and attention to survive into another other century. Subsequent repurposing has proved temporary and unsustainable, without the concerted efforts of local authority, charitable trust and enthusiastic amateurs, you will remain a silent pharaonic sentinel by the side of Washway Road.

Forever.

“Only the best is good enough for Sale”

 

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The George Hotel – Stockport

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15 Wellington Road North Stockport SK4 1AF.

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

A delightful interwar pub on the corner of Heaton Lane and Wellington Road North, I moved to Stockport some forty years ago and was mightily impressed by the restrained exterior Deco design, wrought and hewn from soft pale sandstone. Equally impressive was the wood panelled, open, spacious interior space.

The George was always something of an anomaly, being the only Greater Manchester pub owned by Higson’s Brewery, our almost next door Liverpool neighbour.

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Higsons was founded in 1780 – 1974 saw the brewery merge with James Mellor & Sons. In 1978, Higsons acquired the Bent’s Brewery, which was based next to its North Street head office. Boddingtons of Manchester acquired Higsons in 1985 but decided to abandon brewing in 1989 to focus on its pubs.

They have/had fine former offices on Dale Street

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Boddingtons’ brewing arm was sold to Whitbread in 1990 which then subsequently closed the Higsons Stanhope brewery and then reopened by new owners as the Cains Brewery in 1991. Higsons beer was brewed in Sheffield and Durham for a few years after closure before being discontinued. The beer brand was revived in the current century and reborn in 2017, now served in the swish Baltic Triangle based Higson’s Tap & Still with an interior order that leaps backwards head first, into an imagined future of raw brick, reclaimed wood and industrial flourishes.

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The George prospered – a town centre pub surrounded by workers in search of a wet and shoppers shirking their retail duties in favour of draught bitter or Cherry B.

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Its interior however did not fair so well, ripped out in the 80s – remade remodelled, in the deeply unattractive, anti-vernacular, sub-disco style de jour.

Renamed The Manhattan, riding the fun-pub wave, closed reopened as The George – there followed thirty year of uncertainty, struggling to find an identity throughout a time of ever-changing moods.

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It became a daytime haunt of the hardened, shattered glass, blood on the tracks class of drinker, its reputation in tatters along with yesterday’s fish and chip papers.

The last time I came by you were still open for business.

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I bided a wee while, without imbibing, all the better to record your disabused Art Deco details.

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I came by yesterday and you were all tinned-up with nowhere to go.

Premises To Let as of 13th May 2018 – on the 2nd April 2018 the licence has lapsed, so this will be a further barrier to it re-opening.

And so your faux nowheresville interior will pass into yet another of somebody’s history, along with your fine Deco detail and disco destruction.

This a tale of our age – of monopoly capitalism, stay at home Bargain Booze tipplers, demographic shifts, de-populated town centres, fashion fads and cheap cladding.

Time changes everything except something within us which is never surprised by change.

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Brucciani’s – Morecambe

Brucciani – 217 Marine Rd Central, Morecambe LA4 4BU217

Built on the eve of war in 1939, the local paper feared that Brucciani’s might not be good for the sedate Victorian image of Morecambe and that its presence could be positively harmful to young people. Originally a milk bar, Brucciani’s typifies the simple, geometric ‘high street deco’ styling popular at the time. The brown wood and chrome exterior has black lacquer base panels to the street, porthole lamps above the doors, ziggurat pattern doors, classic deco handles and original menus. The interior preserves extensive wall panelling, a slightly reworked counter, red Formica tables, red upholstered chairs, wall-to-wall etched glass of Venetian canal scenes, mirrors, deco clocks and even the original penny-in-the-slot cubicles in the cloakrooms.

Classic cafés

I’ve been coming here for over ten years now, alone or in company, come rain or shine and without fail, as sure as ice is nice, I have a banana spilt – or to be more precise a Banana Royal.

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Jenny Steele 2015

This is a café with a café menu, café furniture, café staff and service.

It only ever wanted and wants to be a café, unchanged by the uncaring winds of vicissitude and fashion. To tread the turquoise and tan linoleum, ‘neath the period lighting fixtures and fittings, to be seated on the warm red leatherette, one elbow on the circular Formica table is to enter into into a pact with a perfect past.

It’s on the front you can’t miss it – overlooking the Sunset Bay.

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Odeon Cinema – Brighton Road Rhyl

Architects

Robert Andrew Bullivant 1910-2001
Harry William Weedon    1887-1970

Robert Bullivant joined the Harry Weedon practice in 1935 and was responsible for the design of the Odeons at Chester, York, Burnley, Exeter and Rhyl. Taken over by Hutchinson in 1969, this cinema was renamed Astra. It was made into a triple screen in 1972 and the stalls were later converted for bingo. It was designated Grade II listed status in 1989. The cinemas closed in 1995 and the building reverted to a single auditorium for bingo.

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So much of our picture house heritage no longer exists, where once a town or city could support several cinemas of varying scale, architectural merit or style, few now remain intact. Happily the Rhyl Odeon has survived from Astra, Apollo to Gala to the stars and beyond.

Playing to perennially packed houses, the people’s palaces accommodated old and young.

Saturday morning matinees  for the boys and girls – making this Great Country of ours a better place to live in.

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If memory serves, in the Odeon auditorium to the left of the screen there was a suitably stylish, numberless clock of six-sided shape. In 1972 the Odeon, by then taken over and renamed Astra Cinema, underwent alterations to become the first three-screen complex in Wales: Astra 1, 2 and 3. By the mid 1980s the Odeon/Astra had been taken over by Apollo and was running as two cinemas plus bingo at first – and bingo only since the present Apollo Cinema Complex opened on the prom.
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George Owen 1985

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Foyer and auditorium

John Maltby 1937

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Ian Grundy 2008

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Graham Rumble 2016

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An original Odeon Theatre, built for the Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, opened on 30th October 1937 with Flora Robson in “Farewell Again”.

The corner entrance rotunda was lower than the rest of the building and was faced with cream faiance tiles, broken with windows. Behind this was a tower-like feature which contained the main foyer. Seating in the auditorium was provided for 862 in the stalls and 546 in the circle. On each side of the proscenium opening there were large panelled decorative grilles on the splay walls. Lighting in the auditorium was provided by concealed lighting in troughs across the ceiling.

From the 13th October 1969 it was taken over by the Hutchinson Leisure Group and re-named Astra Cinema. They triplexed the cinema from 24th April 1972 with seating for 750 in the former stalls and two mini screens seating 250 and 225 in the former circle. Later, the stalls screen was converted into a bingo club, whilst the two mini cinemas continued on film.

In the late-1980’s the building was taken over by Apollo Leisure UK Ltd. and it was re-named Apollo Cinema. The two mini cinemas were closed in October 1995 and the building was de-tripled into one space again, becoming the Apollo Bingo Club, which remains open today.

From 4th January 1989, the former Odeon Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building.

Cinema Treasures

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Hyde Road – Manchester

From Ardwick Green in the west to Abbey Hey in the east – runs Hyde Road Manchester.

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It’s a a road I have travelled from my early teens onwards, visiting friends, family, speedway, school sports days, fun and frolics at Belle Vue, tea and toast in Sivori’s, bike parts from Cowans. Working at the former Bishop Greer School, drinking in it’s many pubs, going to the flicks at the Apollo.

It was an area thick with the hustle and bustle of folks going about their business – working, shopping, boozing, waltzing in the Elizabethan, or the waltzers, bobbing up and down on the Bobs. A self contained community, just about prosperous enough in times of full employment –  take just one more walk with me.

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All photographs from the Manchester Local Image Collection