Billingham

Whilst cycling twixt Redcar and Newcastle one sunny Monday morn, I espied a tower on the distant horizon.

I pedalled hurriedly along and this is what I found.

Dawson House aka Kingsway.

A fifteen-storey circular tower block of 60 one-bedroom flats and 29 two-bedroom flats, making 89 dwellings in total. The block was built as public housing at the western fringe of the Town Centre development that began in 1952. Approved in 1973, the block is of triangular concrete-beam construction.

The architects were Elder Lester Associates.

The block was built by Teeside County Borough Council.

Stanley Miller Ltd.’s tender for the contract was £778,850.

The tower block was opened on 3rd April 1975 by the Mayor of Stockton Borough Council, John Dyson.

The block is described as ‘gimmicky circular tower block’ in The Buildings of England: County Durham by N. Pevsner.

Historic England

Across the way the cosmically named Astronaut pub known locally as the Aggy.

Though all it seems, is not well in outer space:

Locals say punters are creating a giant toilet next to a Billingham pub – and performing sex acts.

I wouldn’t disregard what they say, and I can’t say that didn’t happen, said boss Jordan Mulloy.

I know urinating goes on from time to time but people do it outside every pub – anyone I catch doing it will be barred.

Teeside News

The pub stands at the outer edge of the West Precinct.

The precinct sits beneath the Civic Offices.

And has a ramp leading to the roof top parking.

Next door the earlier Queensway Centre.

The Family unveiled by HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 the country’s first pedestrianised precinct.

Edward Bainbridge Copnall 

In November 2013, a time capsule was buried in front of The Family, under a stone with the inscription Forever Forward 30 11 2013.

The capsule is not to be unearthed until the year 2078.

Twenty million pound bid to take back control of the centre of Billingham.

The council says: Proposals include addressing the physical condition of Billingham town centre in support the Council’s ambition to take back control of the centre. Redevelopment would solve the challenges of changing retail trends that are contributing towards excess retail space and high vacancy rates.

This includes exploring options for mixed-use redevelopment and high-quality public spaces that improve accessibility within the town centre and a modern retail offering.

Hartlepool Mail.

Missing in action – La Ronde aka Eleanor Rigby’s.

Built in 1968 by local architects Elder Lester and Partners as part of the expansive plans for the town centre along with the Forum, La Ronde nightclub was to form part of the expansive plans for Billingham focused on the pursuit of increased leisure time.

La Ronde’s distinct cylindrical form comes from the car park access ramp that winds around the stair core to the upper floors of the club. The elevated drum-like form inset with cross latticed concrete webs was cast entirely in-situ.

In 2006, the council demolished La Ronde and Forum House at the cost of £500,000 to make way for a supermarket.

The Forum

In 1960, Billingham Urban District Council, began one of the most ambitious new leisure centres in Europe. The Forum was funded by the district’s new-found wealth – a product of the local petrochemical industry.  It was designed by local architects Elder Lester and Partners and brought together a variety of recreational activities including an ice rink, swimming pool, sports centre, theatre, and bar all under one roof. The Forum opened in July 1967 to great enthusiasm.  Weekly attendance over the first six months was between 20 000 and 30 000 people, far exceeding all expectations.

The inclusion of the theatre alongside the sports facilities broke new ground in recreational planning and in the shift from sport to the broader notion of ‘leisure’, the Forum predated architectural thinking of the time by nearly a decade.  The building’s form is derived from the functions within, expressed in a variety of bulbous elements.  The most distinctive is the canopy of the ice rink roof which is hung using steel cables running the length of the roof and cross-braced to achieve a clear 73m span.

Something Concrete and Modern

Octel Amlwch – Pumping

We have taken a trip around the extant exteriors of the processing plant.

Now let’s turn our attention toward the epic infrastructure which extracted and pumped seawater.

Sea water is sucked in and then lifted 50ft into sea water ponds by huge pumps where any debris is removed. It is then passed to the seawater main where chlorine and dilute sulphuric acid are added which releases the bromine. It is literally blown out of the water. This water is passed into the top of a tower where it drops over 20ft through the packed section of the tower. There it is met by currents of air travelling upwards. Where it meets these air currents the bromine gets stripped out the water, which is returned to the sea. Whilst the wet bromine laden air passes from the top of the tower to be treated with sulphur dioxide and water. This produces mists of hydrobromic and sulphuric acids.

This mist passes into an absorber, and the acid coalesces. From here, it blows to a collecting tank. The bromine free air returns to the blowing out tower and the cycle begins again. The acidic product is referred to as primary acid liquor. This is now pumped to the steaming out tower. It enters the top and is treated with chlorine and steam, which releases the bromine as vapour. It is then condensed to a liquid. The bulk of bromine goes to dibromoethane, whilst the remainder is sold or used to make other intermediates.

It takes about 22,000 tonnes of seawater to produce 1 tonne of bromine. Every minute 300,000 gallons of seawater are drawn in.

This now redundant technology has left a legacy of industrial dereliction amongst the ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks and sylvan seas of the Anglesey Coast.

This is a landscape which induces fear and fascination in equal measure.

Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.

Edmund Burke

Octel Amlwch – Exteriors

Amlwch has been the centre of the world’s copper industry, a coastal town on Anglesey with a long history of trade, the coming and going of goods.

Once the site of a processing plant extracting bromine from sea water.

The Associated Octel factory was built to extract bromine from seawater and turn it into an additive for petrol engines. At the time, petrol used in road vehicles contained lead. Engine knocking was a common problem, when the mixture of air and fuel didn’t burn efficiently with each detonation. This could damage engine cylinders over time. The additive produced here reduced knocking and improved engine efficiency.

As the health effects of lead in vehicle exhaust gases became better understood, unleaded petrol was developed. It was introduced to UK filling stations in the 1980s, and leaded petrol was later phased out. As demand for anti-knock additive reduced, the Octel factory diversified into other bromine products and was taken over by Great Lakes Chemical Corporation. In 2003, the corporation decided to close the works with the loss of more than 100 jobs.

A detailed history of the site can be found here at Octel Amlwch.

The site has been subject to arson attacks and partial demolition, the extant buildings tagged, tattered and torn.

Slowly but surely nature breaks through the tarmac and concrete.

The gate is open, the lights are out, there’s nobody home.

Deal To Margate

We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.

Though the pier appeared to be closed.

Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.

The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.

The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.

Wikipedia

Deal is home to some of the most extraordinary concrete shelters.

Home to some understated Seaside Moderne homes too.

Well fed, we set out along the private road that edges the golf course, encountering some informal agricultural architecture.

We took time to explore Pegwell Bay Hoverport – currently trading as a Country Park.

Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.

The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.

Historic England

Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988. 

The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.

On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.

Wikipedia

Broadstairs was alive with Bank Holiday activity.

On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity

Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.

Built of flint and rubble.

One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:

We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack.  Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.

In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.

The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.

The Turner Contemporary was hosting an impromptu al fresco sculpture show.

Dreamland was still dreaming.

And Arlington House staring steadfastly out to sea.

Time now for tea and a welcome plate of chish and fips at the Beano Cafe.

I miss my haddock and chips from Beano in Margate, brought to you with a smile and he remembers everyone.

Great customer service and friendly staff, see you soon.

The food is awful and the customer service is even worse: when we complained about the food the staff argued with us and wouldn’t do anything to change the food or refund, avoid at all costs!

Trip Advisor

Time for a wander around Cliftonville.

Discovering a shiny new launderette.

And a launderette that wasn’t a launderette – it’s a Werkhaus that isn’t a workhouse.

And a patriotic tea rooms.

So farewell then the south coast – we’re off home on the train in the morning.

But first a pint or two.

Rye To Deal

I’ve been here before on a longer Hastings to Margate leg, here’s a shorter hop.

Late night arrival in Rye, early morning departure following a hearty hotel breakfast.

Firstly along tracks, then parallel to the road on sequestered farmland, through the flat salt marshes of Camber.

Where Tim stops, in order to fail to buy fruit.

Brief relief from the track along the concrete sea defences and path.

Passing the temporary dwellings, beside the shifting sands and shingle.

Glancing toward Dungeness Power Station.

Dungeness nuclear power station comprises a pair of non operational nuclear power stations, located on the Dungeness headland in the south of Kent. Dungeness A is a legacy Magnox power station that was connected to the National Grid in 1965 and has reached the end of its life. Dungeness B is an advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) power station consisting of two 1,496 MWt reactors, which began operation in 1983 and 1985 respectively, and have been non-operational since 2018 due to ongoing safety concerns.

There were many problems during construction of the second power station, which was the first full-scale AGR. It was supposed to be completed in 1970, but the project collapsed in 1969. The CEGB took over project management and appointed British Nuclear Design and Construction (BNDC) as main contractor. There were more problems and by 1975 the CEGB was reporting that the power station would not be completed until 1977 and the cost had risen to £280 million. By completion the cost had risen to £685 million, four times the initial estimate in inflation-adjusted terms.

In March 2009, serious problems were found when Unit B21 was shut down for maintenance, and the reactor remained out of action for almost 18 months. In 2015, the plant was given a second ten-year life extension, taking the proposed closure date to 2028. In September 2018, both units were shut down and were expected to restart in December 2020. On 7 June 2021, EDF announced that Dungeness B would move into the defuelling phase with immediate effect.

Wikipedia

Pausing for a moment to take a drink, sadly not a drink in the Jolly Fisherman – unlike another comical pair.

During their 1947 UK tour, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were invited to re-open the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

After travelling down by regular train, the pair performed a couple of skits to entertain the crowds – and the gathered news crews – before riding the light railway.

The duo then lunched with dignitaries at the Jolly Fisherman, before returning for tea at the railway’s restaurant at Hythe.

Dover Kent

The original pub

On Monday and inquest was held on the body of Mr. John Adams, landlord of the “Jolly Fisherman,” who was found drowned in a well near his house.

From the evidence it appeared that the deceased left home on Saturday morning for the purpose, according to his usual custom, of walking to New Romney, to see if there were any letters for Dungeness. Not returning at the usual time, his wife became alarmed, and a messenger was dispatched to Romney to see if he had been to the Post-office. It was ascertained he had not, and the search was forthwith made.

About 2 o’clock one of the coastguardsmen, Edward Hooker, bethought him to look into the well, which is about 250 yards from the deceased’s house. In doing so he was horrified to find the poor fellow head downwards, partly immersed in water. Assistance was at once procured, and he was removed to his house, quite dead. There was about 4 feet of water in the well.

In the absence of any testimony to establish the inference of suicide, and open verdict of Found Drowned was returned. The deceased was about 50 years of age.

It has been stated that the deceased had of late, been rather abstracted, but no evidence was adduced to establish the truth of this assertion.

The present Jolly Fisherman pub is located in the centre of Greatstone at the junction of Dunes Road and The Parade.

This was built by the brewers Style and Winch Ltd, who owned the old Jolly Fisherman, in about 1935 as a pub and hotel.

Postcard of 1975

Here we are now taking time out at New Romney, in order to view the locomotives in steam, at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

The RH&DR was the culmination of the dreams of Captain J. E. P. Howey — a racing driver, millionaire land owner, former Army Officer and miniature railway aficionado and Count Louis Zborowski — eminently well-known racing driver of his day – famous for owning and racing the Chitty Bang Bang Mercedes.

The 120ft Grade II Listed water tower at Littlestone was built in 1890 by Henry Tubbs to supply water to his properties in Littlestone, including Littlestone Golf Club and his proposed housing development. 

Henry Tubbs wanted to turn Littlestone into a major resort, and embarked on an ambitious building programme, including the Marine Parade and Grand Hotel. His plans for a pier were not realised, however, and it was eventually built at Eastbourne instead.

The tower is constructed in red brick which shows the external features of the tower very well. It narrows at about the third story and its appearance changes depending on your viewpoint. At the top there is a sort of turret, giving the building a slightly military look.

The military used the Tower during World War Two as a lookout post and they made some changes to the structure, partly the reason for its slightly wobbly look. The Army also added a substantial concrete stairway inside.

Unfortunately the water tower didn’t function properly and the water was found to contain too much salt to be of any use. In 1902 the Littlestone and District Water Company built a tower at Dungeness to supply all of New Romney, Littlestone, Greatstone and Lydd. The tower at Littlestone fell into disuse, but now serves as a residence.

The Romney Marsh

The failed resort of Littlestone continues to fail.

Whilst Folkstone thrives.

Even the Grand Burstin has been improved.

23 November 2009 

This place has got to be up for Worst Hotel in the UK. 

We made the mistake of staying there for our first anniversary, and we sorely regretted it. First, after the initial shock that awaits anyone entering the lobby, we were given probably the filthiest room in hotel history.

It reeked of smoke and urine.

The management’s disorganisation landed us free meals, even if they paid us £10 per person to eat that stuff it wouldn’t be worth it:

Canned fruits, red meat galore with no other option, greasy bacon, value bread, omelet made with the least real eggs possible, all served with the same urine smell in the restaurant and by the most apathetic staff ever.

We left as soon as possible.

Seeing that place in the rear-view mirror was the highlight of our visit.

Trip Advisor

The current hotel was built in 1984 from the foundations of the Royal Pavilion Hotel, originally built in 1843, parts of which form the new Burstin Hotel, such as the Victorian restaurant.

It’s along climb out of Folkstone, there are no snaps – simply memories of a weary ascent.

Eventually we top out and roll along over the white cliffs of Dover.

Where we discover this delightful concrete listening post.

Abbot’s Cliff Acoustic Mirrors 

Before the advent of radar, there was an experimental programme during the 1920s and 30s in which a number of concrete sound reflectors, in a variety of shapes, were built at coastal locations in order to provide early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. A microphone, placed at a focal point, was used to detect the sound waves arriving at and concentrated by the acoustic mirror. These concrete structures were in fixed positions and were spherical, rather than paraboloidal, reflectors. This meant that direction finding could be achieved by altering the position of the microphone rather than moving the mirror.

Graham Stephen

Eric Ravilious Abbot’s Cliff – 1941

Descending into Dover, ascending again, hot and weary.

Appreciating the slow traffic free drag down to St Margarets Bay – sadly no photos, suffice to say one of the most elegant lanes of the trip, once home to Sir Noël Pierce Coward.

In Coward’s seven years in the Bay he entertained a large array of famous friends from the arts, film and stage.  Katherine Hepburn stayed  here with Spencer Tracey and swam daily from the shore. Daphne Du Maurier, Ian Fleming, Gertrude Lawrence and John Mills all came to relax, play Canasta and Scrabble or join Coward in his painting studio where he produced oils of the Bay.

St Margarets History

Arriving in Deal we quickly buzzed off to the Green Berry, one of my favourite pubs.

Followed by a twilight kebab on the prom.

Finally fetching up in the Wetherspoons.

The Sir Norman Wisdom

Porstmouth

Having cycled here from Southampton, we now had time to cool our heels and look around.

Tim Rushton and I were Fine Art students here in the 1970’s, eager to take a trip down Memory Lane to Lion Terrace.

We’ll get there in a bit.

We took a look along The Hard discovering pubs that we never went in which are no longer pubs.

This pub was built in 1900, possibly on the site of an earlier pub. For most of its history it was tied to the Brickwood’s Brewery of Portsmouth. 

The pub closed in 1970 to become a restaurant, before becoming an estate agents offices.

The pub sign appeared in the 1971 film Carry On At Your Convenience.

Many Brickwoods’ pubs were ever so elegantly tiled, though the beer was largely undrinkable.

Just along the way another pub which we never really knew, though still a pub for all that.

Across the water in Gosport our old pals Harbour and Seaward Towers.

Along the way some high quality hard landscaping.

Beneath our feet the smiling face of Pompey!

We resisted the charming period charms of the Clarence Pier

The pier was originally constructed and opened in 1861 by the Prince and Princess of Wales and boasted a regular ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

It was damaged by air raids during World War II and was reopened in its current form on 1 June 1961 after being rebuilt by local architects AE Cogswell & Sons and R Lewis Reynish.

Mind the Baby Mr. Bean an episode of British TV comedy series Mr. Bean was filmed on location at Clarence Pier.

Wikipedia

Tim wisely eschews the Wimpy.

Lyons obtained a licence to use the Wimpy brand in the United Kingdom from Edward Gold’s Chicago based Wimpy Grills Inc. and, in 1954, the first Wimpy Bar was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. The bar began as a special fast food section within traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger-based meals.

In a 1955 newspaper column, Art Buchwald, syndicated writer for the Washington Post, wrote about the recent opening of a Wimpy’s Hamburger Parlor on Coventry Street and about the influence of American culture on the British.

Buchwald wrote:

Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.

In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called Torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

During the 1970s Wimpy refused entry to women on their own after midnight.

Moving along eye spy the Isle of Wight Ferry through the Hovertravel window.

Hovertravel is now the world’s oldest hovercraft operator, and this service is believed to be unique in western Europe. 

It is the world’s only commercial passenger hovercraft service.

The operator’s principal service operates between Southsea Common on the English mainland and Ryde Transport Interchange on the Isle of Wight: the crossing time of less than 10 minutes makes it the fastest route across The Solent from land to land. 

This service commenced operations in 1965, Hovertravel currently operates two 12000TD hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea.

Wikipedia 

We took a turn into the back streets to visit our old home 20 Shaftesbury Road, where Catherine Lusher, Tim and I lived in the basement flats.

Liz Bavister and Trish Frowd lived above

The former Debenham’s is to become flats.

Hampshire Live

Nearby Knight and Lea has been listed

The Knight & Lee building, which is located between two conservation areas on a prominent corner of Palmerston Road and Clarendon Road in Southsea, Portsmouth, was designed by Cotton, Ballard and Blow.

C20

Notable surviving original interior features include spiral staircases with terrazzo flooring in the northwestern and southwestern corner customer entrance vestibules.

A little Stymie Bold Italic aka Profil for your delectation along with a delightful low concrete fence.

A ghostly sign.

The Wheelbarrow where we drank, currently home to Joe and his pizzas.

The former Duchess of Fife in Castle Road long gone Long’s pub

Long & Co Ltd Southsea Brewery

Founded by William Tollervey 1814 and was acquired by Samuel Long in 1839. Registered in March 1924. 

Acquired by Brickwoods Ltd 1933 when brewing ceased.

The Barley Mow my favourite local where we would take a drink later.

Later.

The evening was enlivened by the arrival of a drunken wedding party the bride all in white, veil askew.

The besuited groom three sheets to the wind, mayhem ensued, we departed.

The Grade II Listed India Arms – North part 1902 by AE Cogswell; south part formerly Fishmonger and Game shop 1900, which formed the extension to the public house c1980.

Once part of the long gone Gales Brewery estate.

Founded 1847 when Richard Gale acquired the Ship & Bell home brew house.

Registered in April 1888 with 80 public houses. 

Acquired by Fuller, Smith & Turner Ltd in 2005 with 111 houses and closed.

Now we is at the Borough Arms and other favourite – purveyors of strong rough cider.

Built in 1899 architect AE Cogswell as the Old Vic now listed but no longer a pub

Along with the adjacent Wiltshire Lamb which since the 1980s this pub has had a variety of names including, Drummond’s, Tut ‘n’ Shive, Monty’s and now Hampshire Boulevard, usually shortened to HB.

The Norrish Central Library: city architect Ken Norrish 1976 – is all that remains this Brutal part of Portsmouth.

It faces the stylish new Civic Centre: Teggin & Taylor 1976 – a piazza completed by the adjacent Guildhall.

Alas no more:

The Tricorn Centre was a shopping, nightclub and car park complex, it was designed in the Brutalist style by Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon and took its name from the site’s shape which from the air resembled a tricorn hat.

Constructed in the mid-1960s, it was demolished in 2004.

Next we are by the former Portsmouth Polytechnic Fine Art block in Lion Terrace.

The ground floor corner housed the print room where I learnt my craft under the tutelage of Ian Hunter who we hooked up with for a pint and a chat.

Thanks ever so Ian for everything.

The happy days came to an end when the department was acrimoniously closed during a Hampshire shuffle.

We also cycled out to Langstone Harbour in search of the Arundel Canal lock gates, where Tim had languidly drawn away the hours, too many summers long ago.

After some circuitous searching we finally found them.

We ended a long day in the Barley Mow sharing yet another pint, one of many in our almost fifty year friendship.

Southampton to Portsmouth

We arrived safely by train from Stockport at Southampton Central.

Following lengthy consideration we headed off on our bikes.

Whilst halting to review our progress, I realised that I had lost the map, a map vital to our further progress.

Returning to the station I found it nestled against the kerb.

Further assessment of our onward journey resulted in yet another retracing of steps.

In the shadow of Southampton Station dwarfed by Norwich House.

Resolute, we confront the fact that we are unsure of the route and following close scrutiny of the map, our environs and the surrounding signage, we proceed eastward towards our destination.

Wyndham Court – architects Lyons Israel Ellis, E.D. Lyons being the partner in charge along with Frank Linden and Aubrey Hume.

Leaving the city and heading along the Weston Shore – Southampton Water.

To our right several Seaside Moderne shelters

Tim feasts on a Mint Club biscuit.

To our left are the tower blocks of Weston Farm Foreshore – L. Berger City Architect 1963

Seen here in 1985 – Tower Block.

In the distance Canberra Towers Ryder and Yates 1967

Residents living on the second floor of 24-floor block Canberra Towers, on Kingsclere Avenue in Weston, were told to evacuate as flames erupted inside a kitchen.

The Daily Echo spoke to the residents of the affected flat, who said the cat knocked paper that was on top of the microwave, which then fell onto the toaster.

Tracey Long said:

I’ve got two cats, and Sponge was the one who knocked the paper.

He knocked paper off the microwave and into the toaster, it was quite scary.

I lost him in the flat but now I’ve found him again.

Daily Echo

Arriving just in time to be too late, next thing you know we’re bobbing along on the Hamble Warsash Ferry.

The obliging ferry folk having taken us across the estuary, despite our tardiness.

The village and the River featured in the 1980s BBC television series Howards’ Way.

Sadly little evidence of the successful TV show remains, however happily Henry VIII’s Dock and an Iron Age Fort have prevailed.

Onward to Gosport where we happen upon a diminutive yet perfectly formed Bus Station.

Originally built in the 1970s, the bus station was described in 2012 as knackered by the council chief executive at the time, Ian Lycett, and an investment plan was drawn up.

Talk of redevelopment then resurfaced in 2015, before the site was put on the market in 2016.

The News

Keith Carter, retiring owner of Keith’s Heel Bar in Gosport Precinct, has described the bus station as a missed opportunity.

The nearby Harbour and Seaward Towers have faired a little better, newly clad and their tiled murals intact.

While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport. 

They really are something they really are.

And so following a ride on the Gosport Ferry we arrive at Portsmouth Harbour.

The land where British Rail signage refuses to die!

I have passed this way before on a Bournemouth to Pompey trip and both Tim and I were students at the Poly here in the 70s – more of which later.

New Town House – Warrington

Warrington Borough Council  New Town House Buttermarket Street WA1 2NH

A true brute of a building, relentlessly repeated pre-cast concrete panels and partially mirrored windows, in a predictable grid.

A pale grey monolith on the wrong side of town.

Built in 1976 to house the Warrington & Runcorn Development Corporation.

2007 voted the ugliest kid in town.

Now due for demolition, by way of a suicide note addressed to itself.

It will not be missed by the majority of residents.

Good, it’s horrible and worthy of demolition.

No doubt the Brutalist-loving nutters will be out in force to protect this.

Nobody actually likes brutalist buildings.

They just pretend to like them to make themselves look cool, it’s like craft beer and food that comes in tiny portions.

One lone voice in its defence.

I have started a petition to save this place.

We can’t lose all our Brutalist Architecture to the steel and glass brigade – viva the New Town House.

Place North West

The weary workers are already rehoused in One Time Square.

So I went to take a walk around, before the wrecking ball arrives.

The council said there were:

No operational reasons to keep the building in council use or occupied beyond this point, allowing the site to be cleared for redevelopment.

Justifying the demolition, Warrington said the building has poor energy efficiency, high service costs, and is inflexible for modern office and business working

Cost estimates for refurbishment, M&E installation, and energy efficiency measures to keep the building in office use stand at £5m; even if this is actioned, the building would still have limitations for flexible modern working practices and energy efficiency.

The council had explored renting the building out but said: there was no demand for office space of this scale and quality; a sale was also considered but the council found market demand was not significant.

Residential is the most likely outcome for the site, and it will be built into a masterplan for an area including Scotland Road, Town Hill, and Cockhedge. The council said it would look to sell the site in future.

BT Building – Warrington

Wilson Patten street Warrington Cheshire WA1

A forgotten part of Warrington town centre could be turned into plush new affordable flats.

Developers are looking to put an eight-storey apartment block off Wilson Patten Street close to the former BT telephone exchange building – described in the planning application as an:

ugly concrete monolith

It would be home to a mix of forty one, two and three bed flats on the spare land which is currently used as a car park.

Warrington Guardian

Typically the architecture of Twentieth Century infrastructure is reviled and ridiculed – simply swept away by contemporary, anonymous design and construction.

At least in this instance the developers intend to retain the ugly concrete monolith.

For me it is an essay in confident construction and decoration, the marriage of 1955’s brick utilitarianism, with a later concrete structure.

Poised on massive grey piloti, rising elegantly above the town.

Adorned with a simple articulation of surface.

East Park Gates Hull – Concrete Walls

Holderness Rd Hull HU8 8JU

At the entrance to the park on Holderness Road are eight concrete walls.

They are covered in square, cast concrete modular panels.

Said to be the work of the City Architect in 1964.

Municipal Dreams lists the City Architect at that time to be JV Wall, having replaced David Jenkin in that same year.

My money’s on Wall – well it makes sense don’t it?

I had taken the bus from Hull Interchange on a chill April morning.

The driver obligingly giving me a shout at the appropriate stop – right outside the gates.

They are not universally loved:

A further testament to the concrete pourer’s art is to be found adorning the entrance to East Park. They are so horrible that I could find nothing on the net to indicate who designed them, shame is a powerful motive for reticence. So here they stand to welcome the visitor; after this the actual park couldn’t be any worse.

Hull and Hereabouts

I can only assume that the actual park is held in much higher regard, listed and adored by all.

To my mind they are a bold addition to the park’s entrance, very much of their time, yet at the same time, ever so very now!

The has been a gentle patination to the raw surfaces and limited external intervention from the local Tyke taggers.

Take a look make up your mind – yay or nay?

It looks like they’re here to stay.

If you like this then you’ll like this and possibly this.

From Huyton to Hull and back to UMIST – it’s concrete walls all the way.

UMIST – Manchester

Every now and then, I get the yen to come back here again.

Having included the site on one of my Manchester Modernist Walks, I pop by protectively just to make sure everything’s still there.

The custodians The University of Manchester may well be averse to listing and have already removed Chandos Hall.

Forever.

In addition, a whole block and a walkway have been subtracted.

Thereby placing the Hans Tisdall mosaics: The Alchemist’s Elements in jeopardy – currently held in storage, who knows what fate awaits them?

Discussions have taken place pre-lockdown, another year on and possibly the possibility of a positive resolution.

Consequently I always approach the site with a slight sense of foreboding, it’s Easter and there’s nobody about.

The trees are just about to burst into leaf, there are bright bursts of cherry blossom on the bough.

The sun shines down from a big blue sky, strewn with wisps of cloud.

Let’s have a look around – it’s springtime for UMIST and Modernity!

ASDA Car Park – Stockport

Yet another lockdown exploration of forbidden territory for the intrepid pedestrian.

Following sojourns here, here and there.

It’s addictive passing the no access signs, onwards into the abyss.

He hated all this, and somehow he couldn’t get away. 

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

Asda Stores Ltd is a British supermarket chain. It is headquartered in Leeds. The company was founded in 1949 when the Asquith family merged their retail business with the Associated Dairies company of Yorkshire.

It was listed on the London Stock Exchange until 1999 when it was acquired by Walmart for £6.7 billion.

In February 2021, EG Group – led by the Issa brothers and TDR Capital, acquired Asda.

The company was fined £850,000 in 2006 for offering 340 staff at a Dartford depot a pay rise in return for giving up a union collective bargaining agreement. Poor relations continued as Asda management attempted to introduce new rights and working practices shortly thereafter at another centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Wikipedia

Let’s hope that the new owners having been ruled against in an equal pay dispute, attempt to forge better labour relations.

In March 2021 the employees won a Supreme Court ruling upholding an earlier court ruling permitting the action, and enabling employment tribunal action to decide equal value claims.

Asda stated: This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion. 

The claim could lead to about £500 million of compensation to lower paid employees.

All that aside, let’s have a look at what the car park is like.

Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.

In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.

There were grander unrealised plans.

Including an aerial asylum.

The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.

After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.

The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!

Drawings are drawn, models are modelled.

1965 Architects: Covell Matthews + Partners

Work is commenced, post haste.

Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.

A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.

Nearly done.

All we need now are tenants.

Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.

The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.

The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.

The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.

The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.

It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.

Manchester Evening News

And of course my good friend Mr Phil Griffin.

Just around the corner the Portland Bars.

Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.

MDMA

Oh and not forgetting the Golden Egg.

Bata Shoes and a Wimpy Bar.

“Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.”

In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.

Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.

However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.

Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.

So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.

While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.

Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.

Black and white archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Pedestrian In A Car Park – Piccadilly Manchester

Here we are again – in a spin, oh what a spin that I’m in.

Up and down the spiral ramp, the eternal allure of the unknown and forbidden, walking the way of the motor car.

I was in town on an overcast day, prior to a Covid jab appointment, what better way to relax and reflect on our current condition, here on this whirling sphere.

A transgressive trip to a twisted world of spiral delights.

Stockport, Hull and London have all been previously explored – here we are now going up the back of the Plaza.

The work of architects Covell-Matthews Partners, further details here at Mainstream Modern.

The car park ramp serviced the Piccadilly, now Mercure Piccadilly Hotel; one of the three main elements of Piccadilly Plaza, along with City Tower and the late lamented Bernard House.

In its day, synonymous with Manchester’s emergent manifestly modern image – scene of Albert Finney’s homecoming, in the film Charlie Bubbles.

And also used, in the then fabulously glamorous Dee Time – host Simon Dee descending the ramp in his ‘E Type’ Jaguar.

Legend has it, that the ramp was the location for an unlikely encounter between architect Louis Kahn and top pop combo The Commodores.

The reception drop off was at first floor level and was accessed from street level by a helical ramp. My father’s dilapidated Renault 4 van gave up just near the top. Extremely embarrassed, my father asked Kahn to move over to the driver’s seat and steer, whilst he attempted to push the van the rest of the way. As he began to push a people carrier pulled up behind and out stepped a group of men who began to help. Soon the van was outside the reception and my father and Kahn thanked the men.

The young female receptionist was very excited: ‘Do you know who just pushed your car up the ramp? The Commodores!’

The RIBA Journal

Hang on to your hats lets take a trip up the helix.

And down again.

NB The Modern Moocher neither advocates nor encourages the pedestrians’ invasion of the motor cars’ private spaces.

Let it be known throughout the land, that it is at heart, a very, very daft and dangerous thing to do.

Three Tuns – Coventry

At the heart of the Precinct – I found the former Three Tuns pub stood standing – still.

Subsequently imaginatively reimagined as Roosters.

The exterior – and interior for that matter, adorned with the decorative concrete work of William Mitchell.

The area also being blessed with his cast panels and modular tower block fascia.

The precinct is currently, yet again, being considered for constructive rehabilitation, as part of the city’s City of Culture concatenations.

The threat to Modernism is no new thing, and the hurried scrabble for progress, ever so often erases the recent history of that progress.

I popped in way back in 2016, and Mr and Ms Rooster were more than happy, if not a tad perplexed, to have me snap around their chicken shack.

Sufficiently satiated, why not take a stroll around town, whilst it’s still there.

Take in the Cathedral – soon to be become the Kwik-Fit National Museum of Tyre Fitting.

The Indoor Market, Upper Precinct and Co-op

Above the current market office is an impressive painted mural by art students from Dresden commissioned especially for the market in the 1950s in a Socialist Realist manner, depicting farming and industrial scenes. 

The Gordon Cullen tiles have been renovated and re-sited within the exit corridor.

Still in clear view the stone relief work of John Skelton November 1956. Three of the eight column have incised Hornston stone works, depicting the activities of the CWS.

Get yourself there pronto – current restrictions considered of course.

You just might be in time to see the Station.

Coventry forever changes.

Pedestrian In A Car Park Again

Having visited Heaton Lane yesterday, today I set my sights high above Primark on Merseyway.

I have been here before, primarily to record Alan Boyson’s screen wall.

Walking the stairwells, ramps and interlocking tiers, the curious pedestrian becomes aware of the ambition and complexity of the scheme. Often identified on local social media groups as an anachronistic eyesore, I feel that it is a thing of rare and precious beauty.

Knock most of the precinct down, free the river, but keep this wall and what is within.

Anon

Some are slaughtering imaginary white elephants, whilst others are riding white swans.

Currently under the ownership of Stockport Borough Council, changes are afoot.

Work to redevelop Adlington Walk in Stockport starts this week, as the first stage in the regeneration of the 55-year-old Merseyway shopping centre.

Place North West

As of today work is still in Covid induced abeyance, it is still possible to walk the old revamped Adlington Walk. The future of retail in particular and town centres in general is in the balance, the best of the past and the finest of the new should be the watchword.

The scheme and car park redevelopment, is managed by CBRE of Manchester.

The future shopper is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.

This is where Merseyway Shopping Centre’s future lies.

CBRE Group Inc. is an American commercial real estate services and investment firm. The abbreviation CBRE stands for Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis. It is the largest commercial real estate services company in the world.

Their net worth as of January 28th 2021 is $21.18 Billion.

It is to be hoped that these dreams of entertainment and excitement, may be realised in the not too distant future.

In the meanest of mean times, in the mean time let’s have a look around.

The future moocher is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.

Pedestrian In A Car Park

One of the great glories of cinema is that it has the power to take the mundane and make it magical. To most of us, car parks signify a world of pain, where fearsome red-and-white crash barriers dictate our fate and where finding a space is often like finding meaning in the collective works of Martin Lawrence. To others, they meant lost Saturday afternoons spent waiting for your mum to finally come out of Woolworths so you could rush home to catch Terrahawks.

Either way, car parks are grey and dull. In the movies, however, they are fantastic places, filled with high-level espionage, and high-octane chases. 

According to The Guardian

I beg to differ, the cinema and TV has helped to define our perception and misconception of the car park.

The modern day pedestrian may reclaim, redefine and realise, that far from mundane each actual exemplar is different, in so many ways. The time of day, weather, light, usage, abusage, condition, personal demeanour and mood all shape our experience of this particular, modern urban space.

To walk the wide open spaces of the upper tier, almost touching the sky.

Is a far cry from the constrained space of the lower levels.

To walk the ramps with a degree of trepidation, visceral and fun.

This is an inversion of the car-centric culture, walking the concrete kingdom with a carbon-free footprint.

I was inspired by a recent viewing of All The Presidents Men to revisit my local multi-storey on Heaton Lane Stockport.

Cinematographer Gordon Hugh Willis Jr constructs a shadow world where informer and informed meet to exchange deep secrets, ever watchful, moving in and out of artificial light, tense and alert.

Look over your shoulder- there’s nobody there, and they’re watching you.

But they have been here.

To party.

To tag.

To live.

Pay here, your time is time limited, your presence measured.

Let’s explore this demimonde together, wet underfoot, lit laterally by limited daylight, walking through the interspersed pools of glacial artificial glow.

Time’s up, check out and move on – tomorrow is another day, another car park; in a different town.

Cinema and car parks wedded forever in the collective popular cultural unconscious.

Telephone Exchange – Stockport

Typically, as with timid police officers, telephone exchanges seem to travel in pairs.

An inter-war brick building, of a utilitarian brick Classicism, restrained in nature, along with a post-war concrete construction.

These are pragmatic architectural forms, constrained within a typology, and responding to the nature of the technology contained within.

Here is the building of 1934 – BT Archives

In 1961 – when Exchange Street was but a rough track, the area was also known as Blueshop Yard.

Stockport Image Archive

The concrete cousin constructed in 1971.

So here we are in 2021 taking a close look at these BT beauties, without further ado.

Bonny Street Police Station – Blackpool

We are here are again – you Bonny Street bobbies, it seems, are not.

Departed for pastures new – to Marton near to the big Tesco. 

As well as a front counter, the new headquarters provides a base for some of the local policing and immediate response teams, an investigations hub and 42 custody cells.

Live Blackpool

On my previous visit I was in fact apprehended by a uniformed officer, perturbed by my super-snappy happy behaviour. Following a protracted discussion, I convinced the eager young boy in blue, that my intentions were entirely honourable.

Having visited the Morecambe site un-accosted.

And witnessed Bury’s demise.

I’m something of a Roger Booth aficionado, largely still at large.

Whilst Richard Brook is something of an expert.

Suffice to say I pay a visit to see my old pal the cop shop, whenever I find myself in town, stop to chat and snap – how are things, what’s happening?

Blackpool Central that’s what!

It seems that you are to become an Alien Diner.

Themed bar and event restaurant concept with roller coaster service, hourly special effects shows and exploration tours.

The £300m Blackpool Central development will bring world-class visitor attractions to a landmark site on the famous Golden Mile. Along with new hotels, restaurants, food market, event square, residential apartments and multi-storey parking.

Chariots of the Gods inspires the masterplan for the long-awaited redevelopment. It’s the global publishing phenomenon, written by Swiss author Erich Von Däniken. Exploring alien encounters and unsolved mysteries of ancient civilisations.

Chariots Of The Gods will be the main theme for Blackpool Central. Including the anchor attraction – the UK’s first flying theatre.

A fully-immersive thrill ride that will create the incredible sensation of human flight.

Time it seems changes everything, stranger than fiction.

The Bonny Street Beast’s days are numbered – your local Brutalist pal is no more, wither Wilko’s?

Your piazza planters are waterlogged.