Concrete Garages

In casual conversation with Mr Matt Rettalick, at the Manchester Modernist HQ our attention casually turned to the topic of the prefabricated concrete garage.

I thought little more of it until yesterday, I then I resolved to get to the bottom of the matter.

Joseph Monier was a gardener and his idea was to develop permanent planters at a low price. In 1867, he patented different products made of reinforced concrete.

Pre-Cast History

Precast panelled buildings were pioneered in Liverpool 1905. The process was invented by city engineer John Alexander Brodie, a creative genius who also invented the idea of the football goal net. The tram stables at Walton in Liverpool followed in 1906. The idea was not taken up extensively in Britain. However, it was adopted all over the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

Wikipedia

The first concrete kit garages appeared in 1952, manufactured by Marley, earlier models had been constructed from wood, asbestos, corrugated iron or galvanised steel.

The sunrise became a common symbol of inter war optimism.

The increase in car ownership, the growth in the DIY ethic and the lack of an integrated garage, drove the demand for a pre-cast concrete auto-haven at the end of the drive.

They became a staple of the small ads.

Easy terms built to last.

Kenkast is the name which for me resonates down through the years, though there were it seems, several other manufacturers.

Batley Garages 128 Colledge Road Holbrooks Coventry Warks

Introducing the ultra-modern sprung up and over doors.

And a slap in the face for the truth to materials merchants.

Bowmonk Garages Spring Gardens Doncaster Yorks

Built to last.

A gorgeous Profil/Stymie Bold Italic banner and the promise of the only concrete garage that doesn’t look prefabricated – the ultimate status symbol.

C&R Garages Northowram Halifax

Compton Garages Fenny Compton Leamington Spa Warks

Coombe Construction Malden Road New Malden Surrey

Cradwill Tiles Ltd Kettering Northants

The garage of the future.

Dencroft Garages Bradford Road Batley

Established 1948 and still in business.

Kencast Astley Manchester

Marley South Ockendon Romford

Still in business and responsible through time for a range of products and the development of the DIY Super Store.

Still standing.

Silver Mist Brockham Betchworth Surrey

J Thorn & Sons Brampton Road Bexleyheath Kent

Also supplying an exciting array or industrial buildings.

S Wernick & Sons still very much in business

We now live in an age of endless non-stop domestic extension, all of the above are reminders of an age when extra external domestic space was added over a weekend, with help from a friend.

Exmouth to Bridport

Another day another breakfast – reduced rations and rashers, the now inevitable hash brown and a far too common failure to recognise my preference for tinned tomatoes.

Soldier on.

Friday 31st July 2015 leaving town beneath the bright morning sun.

Following a shady lane.

Crossing a drain.

Noting one curious prefabricated concrete lean to too.

Up over the Devon Downs.

Arriving in Sidmouth

A beautiful coastal town with a regency feel which is ideal for visitors of all ages. Sat in the middle of spectacular countryside Sidmouth is home to beautiful beaches, stylish eating places and great shopping, with everything from unusual gifts, designer clothing and lifestyle goods available.

The day of my visit the Folk Festival was in full swing – I encountered hardened drunken cider drinkers, drunk in the park and more tie-dyed clothing, than you would consider it humanly possible to produce.

With a hey nonny no I left town – up a very steep hill.

At the top of the hill, I unexpectedly came upon an observatory.

The Norman Lockyer Observatory to be precise.

It is both a historical observatory and home to an active amateur astronomical society. It is a centre for amateur astronomy, meteorology, radio astronomy, and the promotion of science education.

The observatory is regularly open to the public, staffed entirely by volunteers, and each summer hosts the South West Astronomy Fair.

Norman Lockyer was a Victorian amateur astronomer, who discovered the element Helium in the Sun’s corona in 1868 and was one of the founders of the science journal Nature in 1869. He became the director of the Solar Physics Observatory at South Kensington and the first professor of astronomical physics in the Normal School of Science – now the Royal College of Science, in 1887, he was knighted in 1897.

Using one’s own skill and ingenuity it is entirely possible to deduce that one arrived at such an august hill top observatory – at exactly X o’clock!

We’re now on the road to Beer, more of which in a moment first we’re on the way to Branscombe.

The Church of St Winifred’s set in a sylvan glade.

Characteristic Saxon chiselling on stones hidden in the turret staircase suggest the probability of an earlier, 10th century, Church on the site. Saint Winifred’s is among the oldest and most architecturally significant parish churches of Devon. The 12th century square central tower is one of only four completely Norman towers in Devon.

The church contains a rare surviving example of wall painting, dated about 1450 and discovered in 1911, the couple in this fragment illustrate Lust.

Sadly much of our ecclesiastical art was removed, destroyed or over painted during the Reformation, exacerbated by Cromwell and a general disdain for pictures and such.

Lust was also to be removed, destroyed or over painted.

The reverence for royal succession was and is actively encouraged.

Well that’s quite enough of that, next stop Beer!

The beautiful picturesque village of Beer is located on the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Devon.  Surrounded by white chalk cliffs, the shingle beach is lined with fishing boats still bringing in their daily catches and is famous for its mackerel.

On the edge of the South West Coast Path, Beer has some of the most stunning coastal walks in the county, one of the best being from Seaton to Beer with dramatic views across the Jurassic Coastline. Beer was also named recently by Countryfile as the Top Picnic spot in the UK from Jubilee Gardens at the top of the headland, chose for its stunning view of the beach and village from the hillside.

A narrow lane leads to the bay, clogged with oversized Toytown motor cars, full of folk in search of something which they’re doing their level best to remove, destroy or over paint.

Toytown is home to Larry the Lamb,and his clever sidekick, Dennis the Dachshund. Each day a misunderstanding, often arising from a device created by the inventor, Mr. Inventor, occurs which involves Ernest the Policeman, the disgruntled Mr Growser the Grocer and the Mayor.

Delightful home compromised by the curse of the ubiquitous uPVC.

Next thing you know we’re in Seaton.

Whether you are looking for interesting attractions, wanting to explore stunning natural landscapes, experience thrilling outdoor activities, or just wanting somewhere to stay, eat or shop, you’ll find it all in Seaton.

I found a pie shop and a pastie.

I found an ironmongers with a Stymie Bold Italic/Profil fascia.

Frequented by men who tend to adopt a combative stance when confronted with displays of ironmongery.

I found the road to Lyme Regis and the Regent Cinema.

1985

The Regent Cinema opened on 11th October 1937 with Hugh Wakefield in The Limping Man. It was built for and was operated by an independent exhibitor.

Bristol based architect William Henry Watkins designed a splendid Art Deco style inside the cinema which has seating on a stadium plan, originally the seating capacity was for 560. It has a raised section at the rear, rather than an overhanging balcony. Lighting in the auditorium is of a ‘Holophane’ type, which changes colours on the ceiling. The proscenium opening is 35 feet wide. There was a cafe located on the first floor level.

In recent Years it has been operated by the independent Scott Cinemas chain. The Regent Cinema has been recently restored. From October 2000, English Heritage gave it a Grade II Listed building status.

Cinema Treasures

2016 – Following the devastating fire at the Regent Cinema on Tuesday 22nd March, we can now confirm that the auditorium block of the Regent has been damaged beyond repair, and will have to be rebuilt. Damage to front of house areas is largely cosmetic, and will be attended to as part of the wider build scheme. We have every intention to rebuild the cinema to its former glory.

2019 – The WTW-Scott Cinema group is still actively engaged in a potential rebuild scheme for the Lyme Regis cinema. We’re currently working on our fourth set of design proposals, from which we need to reach the point where the rebuild scheme is both financially and architecturally viable. At present, we have not consulted with local authorities as there is little point in wasting everybody’s time presenting a scheme design that isn’t viable. New build cinemas are architecturally very complicated, and the Lyme Regis venue being a listed building presents challenges to overcome, all of which add significantly to any build schedule. Once we have a viable, workable scheme, we look forward to working with the local authority and Historic England to progress this.

The remainder of my time in Lyme was spent desperately seeking a bed for the night, to no avail. Following multiple enquiries and dead end directions to no-go destinations, I headed out of town.

Bridport bound – where I chanced upon a Pub/B&B the magnificent Lord Nelson where the owners allowed me to store my bike in the ninepin bowling alley.

I sat in the beer garden at the Lord Nelson and boozed – chatting to a local lad that worked in the local brewery, brewing the local beer, that was served in this very same local pub.

Palmers Ales are brewed in one of Britain’s oldest and prettiest breweries and have been since 1794. The only thatched brewery in the UK, Palmers sits adjacent to the river Brit just a mile from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. All our fine ales are brewed using water from our own naturally rising spring. 

Our Head Brewer uses only the finest Maris Otter malt and carefully selected whole leaf hops to produce ales in a way they have been made for generations. Palmers historic brewhouse has a traditional Mash Tun, an open top Copper, along with top fermentation, this is the way ale should be brewed.

I finished up somewhere else, sat outside chatting to someone else, about something else.

Wandered happily home to bed.

Night night.

Modernist Model Village

I’ve always dreamt of a Modernist Model Village.

So much so I bought a book.

Drew up a list of buildings, made plans – dream on.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.

However, whilst on my 2015 cycle tour of the south west coast I arrived almost accidentally yet serendipitously outside Babbacombe Model Village.

A good place to visit as dogs are welcome and this is important to us. The models were very cleverly designed and each one is recognisable and very funny anecdotes and labels. It was much bigger than it looked but flowed easily and was fun and charming to walk around. There is also a free mini crazy golf room which makes a change to not charge for something like this and a joy to see. I really enjoyed myself and it is all so well maintained you can feel the passion of the people creating it.

I went in – how could I have done otherwise?

Many of the buildings reflect the areas’ Seaside Moderne styles, from the holiday chalets to the substantial Modernist Villa, plus all the up to the minute services and infrastructure one would expect in a modern model village.

Let’s take a look:

Other model villages are available – Bondville Bridlington and virtually in Hastings

Plymouth to Dartmouth

Wednesday 29th July 2015 – eastward ho!

Leaving the compact anonymity of my B&B for the open road!

Having been unable to sample the joys of the Quality Hotel.

The Quality Hotel closed in 2014 and was demolished two years later after the site was bought by the city council following vandalism and fires.  

The ten-storey concrete block was built in 1970 in the 350th anniversary year of The Mayflower ship setting sail from Plymouth for North America.

Gilpin Demolition

Plymouth Hoe’s fifty million pound hotel and apartments project appears to have ground to a halt with no building work happening more than a year after developers vowed it would start in 2018.

Henley Real Estate, the firm behind the plans for an 11-story hotel and a 15-floor block of flats on the demolished former Quality Hotel site, has gone silent on plans and not responded to emails and phone calls from Plymouth Live.

When we visited the site the only sign of life was some weeds growing out of the ground.

I’ll leave them to it, I’m off in search of the South West Passage

The South West Coast Path itself is 630 miles long and is the longest established National Trail in the country. Starting at Minehead in Somerset it runs along the coastline of Exmoor, continuing along the coast of North Devon into Cornwall. It follows the entire coastline of Cornwall, goes across the mouth of the River Tamar and continues into Devon. After running along the south coast of Devon it then follows the Dorset coastline before finally ending at Poole Harbour. 

However if you follow the Coastal Path you’ll miss this delightful concrete fire station training tower in Plympton.

Along with the longest corrugated iron structure in the West Country.

You’ll miss getting slightly lost and a cup of tea at the Dream Bites roadside café in Modbury.

Dream Bites café, we’re all is welcome, from cars to Biker’s to Ride outs to Puplic and to work companies even you the cyclists!

GREAT FOOD GREAT PRICE.

You’ll miss the deep hedged lanes of Devon.

Where the four x fours force you into the roadside brambles with consummate ease and regularity – even on a designated cycle route.

Respite from such trials and tribulations can be found upon siting a water tower or a deserted butchers – down at Slapton Ley.

Slapton Ley is the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater. 

Much beloved of my old pal Harry H Potts and family.

Then it’s up a hill down a hill to Dartmouth.

I made enquiries at several sea front hotels – who upon assessing my mode of dress and transport, despatched me to a back street pub B&B, suit y’self suits me, and my pocket.

The Seale Arms was just the job.

Quick change for the artist – let’s have a look around.

It’s full of historical architectural detail.

And slightly more hysterical architectural detail.

Time for a pint – chatting in the pub to yachting types, for it is here that the sense of tradition, the sea, power and wealth traditionally resides.

A short walk home.

Night night.

Car Park Ramp – Stockport

We recently took a look around Redrock, today we visit the next door neighbour – the car park ramp.

Replacing the old Debenham’s ramp.

Linking the old world of Merseyway with the shiny new NCP.

I don’t drive no car so I have to make do with the ecologically sound and ever so affordable means of pedestrian trespass, proceeding incautiously I recorded my journey into the unknown.

Returning safely to Basecamp I investigated further, circumnavigating the drainage area.

I have to admit that I am over fond of this small sacred space, a modern impenetrable temple of Brutalism. My ambition is to stage an art/music event within, just wait and see/hear if I don’t!

Where The Gas Works Wasn’t – Stockport

1878 Gas making at Portwood commenced

1969 Old retort house demolished

1988 Gas holder number 3 dismantled

2003 Last aerial view showing the gasometers in the raised position

2019 Removal of gas holders 2 & 3

Thanks to 28 Days Later

The area was formerly a dense web of housing and industry.

With the gas works at its heart .

High speed gas once the fuel of the future is almost a thing of the past. Coal Gas produced in coke retorts long gone, North Sea Gas hissed off.

Low carbon heating will replace domestic boilers from 2025, the need for gas storage holders is minimal.

Goodnight Mr Therm.

There are currently 53 listed holders on the Historic England site.

Some have been repurposed – WilkinsonEyre has completed work on Gasholders London; a development of 145 apartments within a triplet of listed gasholder guide frames.

Little now remains of the Portwood Gas Works.

These are the rearranged remnants re-sited by Dunelm Mill – it’s curtains for our industrial heritage.

What’s left?

This is now the province of Securitas and Peel Holdings.

Your business is unique, so we don’t offer a one-size-fits-all.

Instead, we layer six Protective Services for your complete security. 

Unlock six Protective Services

One of the UK’s largest retail parks, Stockport Retail Park benefits from a strategic location on the M60 Manchester orbital motorway making it one of the city’s most accessible parks. The park forms a natural extension to the town centre, offering a wide range of uses from value convenience to fashion and home as well as a number of cafés and restaurants.

This is the post industrial landscape of consumption and its infrastructure that faces the defunct and mothballed site, whatever next?

Concrete Island – Stockport

He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.

Deliberately, he turned his back to the motorway and for the first time began to inspect the island.

Maitland, poor man, you’re marooned here like Crusoe – If you don’t look out you’ll be beached here for ever. He had spoken no more than the truth. This patch of abandoned ground left over at the junction of three motorway routes was literally a deserted island.

JG Ballard Concrete Island

I’m in a different place – the same but different, whilst out walking I went through an open gate, following a well worn path, for the very first time.

Leading who knows where.

The confluence of three rivers, the meeting of motorway and main road.

I ventured further – where if anywhere are we going?

This tight tree lined and paint daubed triangle offers no answers.

Tamed thirty years or so ago, with concrete and steel.

Further and further.

Into an underground world.

Through the railings and into a void – a void that had become home to the otherwise engaged, seeking solace somewhere, finding shelter from the storm. A storm of Twenty First Century austerity, man made – moving money around until those without are out, out in the open, nowhere else to go but here.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home. 

William C. Faulkner

Homes of Distinction – Heald Green

We begin our journey through bricks and mortar, domestic fashions and fads, time and tide in Rainham.

Ward’s Construction, along with many others throughout the country, offer the aspirational suburbanite an opportunity to own the very latest in modern design.

Large open plan rooms lit by large open glazed windows, quality cladding – mixing traditional materials with go ahead get it now design. Double fronted, remote garage, modest manageable, grassed gardens.

For those on slightly more limited means the DH2 offers affordable modernity, along with everything you would expect from a Ward’s Home.

Homes of distinction.

Fast forward to April 2020 – St Ann’s Road Heald Green Cheshire

National Cycle Route 558 brings me here – sanctioned lockdown exercise for the mobile moocher.

In the sixty or so years that have passed something has happened to those suburban dream homes.

An ever expanding middle class fuelled by bigger pay packets, low, low, lower taxation and bumper inheritance payouts, wants more.

More house, more car, more style – conspicuous consumption of everything and more – extend yourself, express yourself!

Right here in one unexceptional road is the apotheosis of today’s Homes of Distinction.

Crown Point Shopping Park – Denton

From fashion to homeware, find everything you need at Crown Point Shopping Park.

The court heard the accused had agreed to detonate a bomb at Crown Point North as a diversion before driving to their school, murdering teachers and pupils and then killing themselves.

BBC

We live in strange and troubled times, the urban landscapes we have created are often far from convivial.

Deserts possess a particular magic, since they have exhausted their own futures, and are thus free of time. Anything erected there, a city, a pyramid, a motel, stands outside time. It’s no coincidence that religious leaders emerge from the desert. Modern shopping malls have much the same function. A future Rimbaud, Van Gogh or Adolf Hitler will emerge from their timeless wastes.

JG Ballard – The Atrocity Exhibition

This condition is further exacerbated during the current State controls, constraints and closures.

The myriad opportunities for social alienation are replaced by compulsory isolation.

The vacuous amoral urban retail experience becomes desert again, the domain of singular dog walkers and itinerant snappers.

The car, cash and credit are no longer king – space is the place.

Merseyway – Alan Boyson Screen Wall

Deep in the heart of Stockport at the centre of our very own shopping centre – Merseyway.

A pierced concrete relief screen wall surrounds the former Co-op, currently Primark, car park.

The work of Alan Boyson – today the 16th of March 2020 would have been his ninetieth birthday.

I’ve even gone so far as to analyse its structure:

So I went for a walk this morning, as I have on several previous occasions, to take a look around the site – inside and out.

George Street Car Park – Hull

My previous Hull walk was was linear, along the Humber Estuary open and expansive.

This was a very different kettle of fish – spiralling out of control, rising and falling, walking the ramp, a journey into one’s inner self.

Possibly the worst multi storey I have been in for years.

Spooky, filthy, bays too small, machines remote, access tortuous.

Avoid.

So says Nick Shields

Dark, Gloomy and Rotting .

Looks a good candidate for a location for a crime watch reconstruction.

Quoth Peter Campbell

It’s a multi story multi Storey and no mistake

I couldn’t possibly pass comment, I walk can’t drive, won’t drive – though simply can’t resist exploring car parks.

Though the local paper has identified an issue of fitness to fit.

Heard the one about a city centre car park where you can’t easily park your car? It might sound like a joke but it’s no laughing matter for drivers trying to squeeze into vacant spaces at Hull City Council’s multi-storey car park in George Street. For motorists are finding it increasingly difficult to manoeuvre into its tight parking bays.

I myself navigated the bays with ease, though not without that unique sense of foreboding and unease, generated by an empty concrete carapace where car space, decay and ingress are issues.

It was designed and developed by Maurice Weston in the 1960s. He had two companies, Multidek and Dekotel, and built circular continuous ramp car parks in Hull, Nottingham, Leicester, Bristol and Bournemouth, some of them also involving circular hotels on the upper floors. In its day, the bays were easily wide enough for most cars. When I used George Street myself, it felt great to use, because you could easily reverse into the pitches and there were no tight corners to negotiate. But car widths have probably got the better of it, these days, and you can’t widen the pitches because of the position of the pillars.

The plans were very complicated to get approved because the George pub was a listed building and the car park had to be built around it. Incidentally, Maurice Weston also had an option to develop the wasteland on Ferensway in the 60s, but his hotel and entertainment centre project didn’t get past the council.

Thanks to David Sugarman

Let’s take a look.

Hull to Hessle – Humber Estuary Walk

Overcast and grey – heading headlong into the prevailing westerly.

This is just the day to walk from Hull to Hessle.

From the recently renovated early morning, empty piazzas of Hull Marina to the foot of the Humber bridge.

To the left the interminable rippling brown surface of the river, relentlessly heading out to sea.

To the right a modern melange of working docks – shipping aggregates and timber, hither and thither.

The vacant haunts of fisher folk no longer casting nets, forever and a day.

Disused and decayed warehousing, betrayed by the coming of the container, home now to the Urbex snapper and itinerate tagger.

Out of town retail parks fuelled by debt.

Dried up reed beds swaying beneath the weight of the wind.

The suspended bed of the bridge, floating high above the waters, far below.

Take a walk with me now.

Abbey Walk Car Park – Grimsby

I was in town, just looking around, just looking for modernity, just looking.

I found you by chance between the railway and the high street, so I took a good look around, fascinated by the concrete sculptural panels on your fascia columns, those facing Abbey Walk.

Research tells me that they the work of Harold Gosney – born in Sheffield, he studied at Grimsby School of Art and London’s Slade School of Fine Art.

The majority of Gosney’s early commissions were collaborations with architects and he has made a significant contribution to public art in Grimsby. He is the artist responsible for the reliefs on the Abbey Walk car park, the large Grimsby seal by the entrance to the Grimsby Central Library and the Grim and Havelok themed copper relief on the side of Wilko store in Old Market Place.

Wikipedia

The car park has been the subject of some speculative repairs and refurbishment:

In total, the scheme will cost the council £1.54 million.

The authority will borrow £1.34 million to fund the project with a further £200,000 coming from a local transport grant. But the council said that the improvements made could help increase revenue from the car park of around £34,000 a year.

Councillor Matthew Patrick, portfolio holder for transport at the council, said that the work is essential to “brighten up” the building and attract people into Grimsby.

“It’s one of the largest car parks in the town,” he said.

“It will attract more people into the town centre and help to improve the offering of the car park.”

Lincolnshire Reporter

So here we are faced with a rare, precious and beautiful example of municipal modernism, a bold and brave attempt to decorate what is often the most functional of functional structures.

Owing something to the work of both Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso the imagery is derived from automotive parts, along with it seems to me, vague intimations of figuration.

Let’s talk a look!

Churchill Way Flyovers and Walkways – Liverpool

It’s too late she’s gone.

Opened in 1972 as an almost belated response to George Buchanan’s 1963 Traffic in Towns which had informed the Liverpool City Centre Plan of 1965.

The report warned of the potential damage caused by the motor car, while offering ways to mitigate it. It gave planners a set of policy blueprints to deal with its effects on the urban environment, including traffic containment and segregation, which could be balanced against urban redevelopment, new corridor and distribution roads and precincts.

These policies shaped the development of the urban landscape in the UK and some other countries for two or three decades. Unusually for a technical policy report, it was so much in demand that Penguin abridged it and republished it as a book in 1964.

The majority of the planned Walkways in the Sky remained unrealised.

The Churchill Way was realised and remained in use until September 2nd 2019 – closed and facing a £10 million demolition programme, following a maintenance report which found them to be unsafe – and presumably beyond economic repair.

And so I took one last look around taking snaps, an epitaph to the end of an era, and the end of an idea that was once once rendered concrete.

Take a closer walk with me.

Forton Services – M6 Lancaster

Possibly the most famous modern motorway services in the entire land.

Though I’ve never been to see you – I’ve seen your picture reproduced a thousand times or more, particularly your Pennine Tower.

Your even found your way onto a Manchester Modernist’s shirt.

I ride a bicycle, which seriously restricts my access to the world of the M – one and six or otherwise. Having a more than somewhat ambivalent outlook on motor cars and their ways I have nevertheless written a short history.

So to satisfy my idle curiosity, and fill the damp wasteland of a Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, let’s go on a little trip back in time by means of archival images.

What of your history?

Tendering documents were sent out in 1962 describing it as a 17.7 acre site, requiring at least a £250,000 investment, including an eastern corner reserved for a picnic area, and an emphasis that the views to the west must be considered in the design, and facilities must be provided on both sides. Replies were received – from Telefusion Ltd, J Lyons, Banquets Catering Ltd, Granada and Rank

Top Rank’s plan came consistently highly rated by all the experts it was passed between. It showed a restaurant and a self-service café on the west side, the restaurant being at the top of a 96ft (29m) tower. At the top of the tower was a sun terrace – a roof with glass walls, which they had described but hadn’t included any suggestions for how it could be used, adding that maybe it could form an observation platform, serve teas, or be reserved for an additional storey to the restaurant.

Including a transport café on each site, seating was provided for 700 people, with 101 toilets and 403 parking spaces. A kiosk and toilets were provided in the picnic area.

“The winning design looks first class. Congratulations.”

Architects T P Bennett & Sons had been commissioned to design the services, along with the similar Hilton Park. At £885,000, it was the most expensive service station Rank built, and was considerably more than what had been asked of them. They won the contract, but on a condition imposed by the Landscape Advisory Committee that the height of the tower was reduced to something less striking.

Lancaster was opened in 1965 by Rank under the name ‘Forton’. The petrol station opened early in January, with some additional southbound facilities opening that Spring.

The southbound amenity building had a lowered section with a Quick Snacks machine and the toilets. Above it was the transport café which had only an Autosnacks machine, where staff loaded hot meals into the back and customers paid to release them. These were the motorway network’s first catering vending machines, and the Ministry of Transport were won round by the idea, but Rank weren’t – they removed them due to low demand.

In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as appalling. The steak and kidney pie was an insult to one’s taste buds while the apple pie was an absolute disgrace. He said everywhere needed maintenance and a coat of paint, the toilets were smelly and dirty, and the food on display was most unattractive.

A 1978 government review described the services as a soulless fairground.

The Forton Services and the typology generally have had a chequered career, rising and falling in public favour and perception. Purveying food and facilities of varying quality, changing style and vendors with depressing regularity – knowing the value of nothing yet, the Costas of everything.

Ironically the prematurely diminished tower has taken on iconic status in the Modernist canon – listed in 2012 yet closed to the public, admired from afar – in a car.

The Pennine Tower was designed to make the services clearly visible – the ban on advertising had always been an issue, and the previous technique of having a restaurant on a bridge, like down the road at Charnock Richard, was proving expensive and impractical. Rank commissioned architects T P Bennett & Sons to capitalise on the benefits of exciting design while trialling something different. The tower resembles that used by air traffic control, summarising the dreams of the ’60s.

The central shaft consists of two lifts, which were originally a pentagonal design until they were replaced in 2017. They’re still in use to access the first floor, but with the buttons to higher floors disabled. There are then three service lifts, and one spiral staircase – satisfying typical health and safety regulations.

At the top of the tower stood a fine-dining waitress service restaurant, offering views over the road below and across Lancashire. Above the restaurant the lift extended to roof-level, to allow the roof to serve as a sun terrace – although Rank admitted they weren’t sure what this could be used for, suggesting serving tea or eventually building another level.

In reality social changes and cost-cutting limited the desirability of a sit-down meal, and this coupled with high maintenance costs made the tower fall out of favour. The ‘fine dining’ restaurant became the trucking lounge that had been on the first floor, before closing to the public in 1989. It then soldiered on for another 15 years, partially re-fitted, as a head office, then staff training and storage, but even this became too impractical, and the tower is now not used at all.

Although the tower is unique to these services, the concept of large high-level floors can be seen in many Rank services of the era, the idea of each one being to have a visible landmark and a good view of the surrounding area, such as at Hilton Park. The lower-level restaurant at Forton sticks out over the first floor, and partially in to the road, to give an optimum view. Toilets and offices were in the ground floor buildings below.

There are lots of myths flying around that the tower was forced to close by safety regulations, and that it is about to fall down. Like any building which hasn’t been used for 30 years it would take a lot of investment to get it open again, and with roadside restaurants across the country closing due to a lack of trade, nobody has come up with an convincing plan to justify investing in the Pennine Tower.

Many thanks to Motorway Services Online

Take a look at you now.

No more postcards home – y’all come back now, set a spell.

Return To Penrhyn Bay

Then the very next morning it came right back to me.

She wrote upon it:

Return to Penrhyn Bay – so I dutifully did

This is the land of the well-behaved bungalow, neatly tended, conscientiously swept, accessorised by B&Q.

The stoic sea and wind washed link-detached semi.

Nothing is out of place, except perhaps the architectural style – a West Coast blow in on the North Wales Coast.

To wander is to wonder:

Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

Underpass – Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes synonymous with something or other, the town where everything is an off centre out of town centre, where anything was new once.

A broad grid of boulevards, sunken super-highways and an extended series of balletic roundabouts swirls the cars around.

Beneath this merry carbon hungry dance, we find the cyclist and pedestrian, the self propelled underclass passing through the underpass.

During my eight hour non-stop walking tour I encountered several – here they are, home to the homeless – others somewhat desolate and deserted, grass between the paving stones, the occasional casual tag and discarded can.

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Strangeways Manchester #1

Strangeways?

– How strange.

The Strangeways family themselves are certainly recorded in antiquity at the site, although the name appears differently over time; Strongways in 1306, Strangewayes in 1349 and Strangwishe in 1473. In the late 1500s in records at Manchester Cathedral the surname is spelt Strangwaies.

My thanks to Thomas McGrath for his – Long Lost Histories: Strangeways Hall, Manchester

Before panopticon prisons entered the public imagination, and incarceration was the order of the day for the disorderly, it was all fields around here – with the odd house or baronial hall.

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Swire’s map of 1824

Strange days, over time the prison is built, the assizes appears and disappears and tight groups of tired houses cluster around the incipient industry. The fiefdom’s of old become tie and tithe to successions of industrial plutocrats.

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Broughton Street 1910Photograph J Jackson

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Kelly’s map of 1920

The area becomes the centre of the city’s rag trade, a large Jewish Community, the largest outside of London, grows up around Strangeways, Cheetwood and Cheetham Hill – houses, mills, wholesale, retail, warehouse, ice palace, beer-house, brewery. The area is home to several of Joe Sunlight’s inter-war industrial developments – his Jewish family were named Schimschlavitch, his father a cotton merchant. The family emigrated to England in 1890 and settled in Manchester.

So much for Joe Soap – the area was also the location for local lads, Karl Marx, and Marks & Spencer.

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Derby Street 1901 – 1924

Further developments took place with the building of the Cheetwood Industrial Estate – a postwar group of flat-rooved, blocky brick and concrete utilitarian units.

So let’s take a look at the ever so strange streets of Strangeways, in that period of change during the latter part of the Twentieth Century, when manufacturing, retail, repair and distribution were almost, just about to disappear in a puff of globalisation, economic depression and Thatcherism. Where Jack and Jill the lads and lasses, traded, ducked, dived, wheeler dealed from Cortinas, Transits and low milage, one owner, luxuriously leather-seated and walnut-dashed Jags. A vanishing or vanished world, where however briefly – Manchester went architecturally mod.

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Bent Street

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Broughton Street

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Carnarvon Street

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Chatley Street

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Cheetwood Street

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Derby Street

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Julia Street

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Knowsely Street

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Sherbourne Street

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Stocks Street

All archival photographs from the Manchester Local Images Collection

 

 

Concrete Toon

Everything is up in the air.

Tyneside is self evidently enamoured of elevation – they simply adore bridges, having five and another one as well.  Walking driving, running trains across the mighty Tyne Valley, why they even write songs about them.

In the Swinging Sixties T Dan Smith vowed to create a Brasilia of the North, which as good as his word he did, though sadly lacking the requisite regard for the law of the land.

What remains is a complex interwoven structure of urban motorways, walkways, multi-storey car parks and tower blocks. To explore is to enter a world of the sublime, exhilarating and still yet mildly confusing.

Can you get there from here?

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Subway – Scarborough

When is a subway not a sandwich?

When it’s a doughnut!

Hard by the seafront linking Foreshore, Cleveland Way and Valley Road sits a neat little tight little island, giving pedestrian access to almost everywhere – and a car park.

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As with every other torus worth calling a torus, at its very centre sits the presence of absence, darkened concrete subterranean causeways, linking everything to nothing.

There’s a world going on underground.

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