Architects: J Webb as County Architect and CW Quick as the job architectof the West Glamorgan County Architects Department 1982
Canolfan Ddinesig Abertawe formerly known as County Hall.
Don’t be, it’s all quite simple really.
Following the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972, which broke up Glamorgan County Council and established West Glamorgan County Council, the new county council initially met at Swansea Guildhall. Finding that this arrangement, which involved sharing facilities with Swansea Council, to be inadequate, county leaders procured a dedicated building, selecting a site formerly occupied by an old railway goods yard associated with the Mumbles Railway.
The design features continuous bands of glazing with deep washed calcined flint panels above and below.
Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited on 20 April 1989.
After local government re-organisation in 1996, which abolished West Glamorgan County Council, ownership of the building was transferred to Swansea Council. It was renamed Swansea Civic Centre on 19 March 2008, and Swansea Central Library moved into the complex as part of a redevelopment scheme.
In March 2021, plans to find a new use for the location continued to still be a commitment of Swansea council, with the announcement of the transfer of the central library and other public services to the former BHS and now What! store on Oxford Street.
Swansea Civic Centre is at risk the Twentieth Century Society says so – they are strongly opposed to demolition of the iconic building and have submitted an application to have the building listed as Grade II.
I do not know what fate awaits it, I only know it must be brave – to paraphrase Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin, Ned Washington, Gary Cooper and Frankie Laine – it’s High Noon and counting.
Any road up as of the 11th of May it looked just like this:
Commissioned by the burgh of East Kilbride, was designed by Scott Fraser & Browning, built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts and completed in 1966.
Accommodating Ballerup Hall.
Ballerup Hall is located within East Kilbride Civic Centre and takes its name from its twin town Ballerup, which is near Copenhagen in Denmark. The hall comprises a main hall with stage, kitchen facilities and a bar servery. The adjoining district court room is available after office hours for a limited range of activities.
The stars of British Championship Wrestling return to East Kilbride with a star-studded line up including The Cowboy James Storm and all your favourite BCW Superstars!
I missed the missing link twixt Roddy Frame and the Civic Centre.
If you were lucky enough to catch the 2013 concerts in which Frame marked the 30th anniversary of High Land Hard Rain by playing Aztec Camera’s seminal debut album live, you’ll already have seen Anne’s pictures. Before getting to High Land Hard Rain itself in those shows, Frame treated audiences to a rare set drawn from what he termed his East Kilbride period – the songs he was writing as a teenager that would appear on Aztec Camera’s two Postcard singles, and form the basis of the band’s legendarily unreleased Postcard album, Green Jacket Grey.
While he played those tunes, huge, striking black and white images of his old hometown appeared as a backdrop behind him, setting exactly the right fragile, retro-future new town mood of post-industrial Fahrenheit 451 urban development.
A strategic masterplan for East Kilbride town centre which could see a new purpose-built civic facility is to be put before the council next month.
Last March we told how radical new plans could see the crumbling Civic Centre replaced with – a new front door to East Kilbride.
Despite there being no specific proposals agreed at this stage, South Lanarkshire Council has confirmed that agents of the owners are set to present their strategic masterplan to elected members in February.
It currently sits by the shopping centre and a patch of empty ground.
Several imposing interlocking volumes, formed by pre-cast concrete panels.
East Kilbride was the first new town built in Scotland in 1947. New Town designation was a pragmatic attempt to soak up some of the population from an overcrowded and war ravaged Glasgow. Its design was indeed an anathema to the chaotic and sprawling Glasgow: clean straight lines, modern accessible public spaces; and footways, bridges and underpasses built with the pedestrian in mind. It was designed as a self contained community — with industry, shops, recreation facilities and accommodation all within a planned geographic area.
The Anglican Church of William Temple was opened in 1965 on the corner of Robinswood Road and Simonsway as the church of the Civic Centre. The mission was already well-established, having begun many years previously in Shadow Moss School Room, latterly operating in a dual-purpose building on Simonsway. The architect, George Pace, agreed with the proviso that he should not design a ‘pseudo’ building, but that it should be modern in concept. This he did and particular attention was paid to the acoustics with a view to music and drama being performed there. One of Pace’s stipulations was that, as with all the churches he designed, there must be no plaques attached to the walls commemorating the dedication of the church or in memory of anyone, for he said he built his churches to the Glory of God. The only lettered stone is on the back wall of the church and it has on it the date of the consecration and a symbol, which is Pace’s original sign for William Temple Church.
The internal supports of the church are black-painted steel girders, not romantically symbolising the industry of the area, as it is sometimes said, but because when it was discovered that the church had been built on swampy ground an extra £2,000 was needed for foundations; the wooden beams of the original design had to be changed for cheaper steel ones. There is symbolism, however, in the placing of the font between and beneath the three main weight-bearing supports of the church.
The pews have an interesting history, having been brought from derelict churches in and around Manchester.
The present lady churchwarden said:
“whenever we heard of a church being demolished we borrowed Mr. Owen’s coal cart and went off to see if we could buy any of the pews. Many times I’ve sat on the back of the wagon, in the pouring rain, with the pews, bringing them back to Wythenshawe to be stored until our church building was completed!”
Some time after the building was opened, a fire damaged some of the pews. With the insurance money all the pews were stripped and bleached, giving an element of uniformity and a bright welcoming atmosphere in the church generally. An interesting thought was voiced that as many people living in Wythenshawe now had their origins near to the centre of Manchester they may be sitting in the same pews in which their ancestors once sat.
An imposing and monumental building by Adrian Gilbert Scott.
The church has a rich, little-altered interior with strong architectural qualities and notable furnishings. The church is described as ‘one of the few real landmarks of Wythenshawe’ and ‘beautifully built’, by Hartwell, Hyde and Pevsner2004
Backtrack toSt AndrewsArchitects JCG Prestwich and Son 1960 – as seen by Comrade Yuri Gagarin 12th July 1961 – detailed here.
We now take a secular route around the back of the Civic Centre to look at Centron and Delta House.
Built in 1972 to encourage white collar jobs into the area, formerly occupied by Shell and the TSB, currently partially unoccupied.
Across the way the former Barclay’s Bank IT HQ by DLG Shuldham the bank’s chief architect.
Just around the corner.
There were four eight-storey blocks of ‘Sectra’ flats that Laing built in Wythenshawe for Manchester County Borough Council, completed in 1967. The blocks were described by Laing in their monthly newsletter ‘Team Spirit’ in January 1968 as four blocks of specially designed eight-storey flats for elderly people.
Showing skeleton cladding, patterned end wall units and access balcony.
They were named Park Court, Violet Court, Birch Tree Court and Edwards Court.
Park Court and Violet Court have since been demolished to make way for retail space.
A mini-estate of impeccably kept, neat steel-framed prefabs, designed in 1946 by Frederick Gibberd. We got a tour around one, home to former Durutti Column drummer Bruce Mitchell. The space standards and architectural quality are, as Phil Griffin points out, way above those of contemporary central Manchester luxury loft living.
In December 1956 Basil Spence and Partners were commissioned to design St Francis Church in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester. The project was part of a large building programme by the Manchester Diocese and was to service the new post-war housing estate at Newall Green. The site housed an existing hall that had been serving a dual-purpose as church and church hall but which reverted to use as a church hall once the new church was opened. The foundation stone was laid by Colin Skinner CBE on 23 April 1960 and the church was consecrated on 25 March 1961 by the Bishop of Manchester, W D L Greer.
The main building is predominantly brick; it is set back from the road by a landscaped courtyard that includes a brick tower and 73ft concrete cross. Another large cross rises from the front wall of the church itself making it highly visible from the surrounding neighbourhood.
The church can hold a congregation of 250. A small chapel is separated from the main church by a sliding screen and can be used independently for private prayer and mid week-services. On busy days the screen can be retracted to provide additional seating to the main church. A gallery over the entrance porch houses two organs and the choir.
The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site.
A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.
Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.
Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.
A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.
Before I knew it I was in Blyth.
The town edged with military installations
Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.
827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.
The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.
Encountering a brand new factory.
And the remnants of the old power station.
Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.
After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.
UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.
The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.
By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.
The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Centrewas a shopping, nightclub and car park complex, it was designed in the Brutalist style byOwen Luder andRodney 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.
A social history of Wythenshawe and its Civic Centre can be found here at Archives +.
A general history of the garden city’s development can be found here at Municipal Dreams.
Lest we forget, the story begins with a level of overcrowding and human misery that is – thankfully – almost unimaginable in Britain today. In 1935, Manchester’s Medical Officer of Health condemned 30,000 (of a total of 80,000) inner-city homes as unfit for human habitation; 7000 families were living in single rooms.
The estate was always considered to be, in some sense, the realisation of an ambitious vision.
The world of the future – a world where men and women workers shall be decently housed and served, where the health and safety of little children are of paramount importance, and where work and leisure may be enjoyed to the full.
Cooperative Women’s Guild
Work began in the interwar years, and continued following the hiatus of 1939-45. The shopping centre named the Civic Centre was open in 1963, the actual Civic Centre containing a swimming pool, theatre, public hall and library in 1971.
A triumph for Municipal Modernism conceived by the City Architects and realised by Direct Works. This post war development owed more to the spirit of Festival of Britain optimism, new construction methods and materials, rather than the grandiose functionalist classicism of the original scheme.
The Co-operative Superstore was a key element in the provision of provisions.
There still is – The Forum is a bright and modern hub for co-located services used by community and business.
The original Forum opened in 1971. One of Manchester’s largest public buildings, it had a leisure centre, library, theatre, main hall and meeting rooms. By the mid 1990’s it was under used, had deteriorated internally and externally and needed substantial investment.
The new Forum, along with a new police sub-divisional headquarters and improved transport link was designed to help strengthen the town centre, and provide a landmark project to raise Wythenshawe’s profile within Manchester and beyond.
In the 1980’s they put on a superb array of shows including Roll on 4 O’Clock which starred John Jardine, Jack Smethurst and Glynn Owen. Oh What a lovely War; What the Butler Saw and Habeas Corpus by Alan Bennett. Bury’s own Victoria Wood starred in Talent which she wrote. Another Manchester icon Frank Foo Foo Lammar, famous as the top drag queen of the North-West whose club was re-known for its great party nights appeared in The Rocky horror Show.
A land of elegant covered walkways and raised beds.
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.
Tuesday 28th July 2015 waking up early on the outskirts of Okehampton – I went next door to explore – the Wash and Go.
I went back to Okehampton.
Headed out of town along the old railway line to Plymouth – where rests the solemn remains of previous railway activity and Meldon Quarry.
It’s believed that the first quarrying began around the late 1700s when the local limestone was extracted. Over the years this gradually gave over to aggregate quarrying and apelite quarrying until it final closure. The original owners of the quarry were the London and South Western Railway and then came Britsh Rail and finally EEC Aggregates.
Crossing Meldon Viaduct.
Meldon Viaduct carried the London and South Western Railway across the West Okement River at Meldon on Dartmoor. The truss bridge, which was constructed from wrought iron and cast iron not stone or brick arches, was built under the direction of the LSWR’s chief engineer, WR Galbraith. After taking three years to build, the dual-tracked bridge opened to rail traffic in 1874. Usage was limited to certain classes of locomotive because the viaduct had an axle load limit. Although regular services were withdrawn in 1968, the bridge was used for shunting by a local quarry. In the 1990s the remaining single line was removed after the viaduct was deemed to be too weak to carry rail traffic.
The crossing is now used by The Granite Way, a long-distance cycle track across Dartmoor. The viaduct, which is a Scheduled Monument, is now one of only two such surviving railway bridges in the United Kingdom that uses wrought iron lattice piers to support the cast iron trusses – the other is Bennerley Viaduct between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
Architects– Percy Bartlett and William Henry Watkins
Built on the site of the Andrews New Picture Palace, which had opened in 1910, and was demolished in 1930. The Gaumont Palace was opened on 16th November 1931 with Jack Hulbert in “The Ghost Train” and Sydney Howard in “Almost a Divorce”.
The imposing brick building has a white stone tower feature in the central section above the entrance. Seating inside the auditorium was provided for 1,462 in the stalls and 790 in the circle.
It was re-named Gaumont in 1937 currently closed and at risk.
The post war redevelopment of Plymouth produced this sizable Portland Stone Shopping Centre.
‘A Plan for Plymouth’ was a report prepared for the City Council by James Paton Watson, City Engineer and Surveyor, and Patrick Abercrombie, Consultant Architect, published in 1943.
Planning is not merely the plotting of the streets of a town; its fundamental essence is the conscious co-relation of the various uses of the land to the best advantage of all inhabitants. Good planning therefore, presupposes a knowledge and understanding of the people, their relationship to their work, their play, and to each other, so that in the shaping of the urban pattern, the uses to which the land is put are so arranged as to secure an efficient, well- balanced and harmonious whole.
The magnificent dalle de verre fascia of the Crown and County Courts.
having had a good old look around I sought shelter for the night, with some difficulty I found a profoundly plain room. The town seemingly full of itinerant contractors, filling the vast majority of available space.
Not to worry let’s have a look at the seafront.
Tinside Lido by J Wibberley Borough Engineer, with Edmund Nuttall and Sons and John Mowlem and Company, builders, with entrance building of 1933 by the same engineer.
Set in a beautiful location overlooking the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe and voted one of the top 10 best outdoor pools in Europe, Tinside Lidois an attraction not to be missed.
Built in 1935, Tinside is a slice of the quintessential British seaside from a bygone era. The Lido is a wonderful example of art-deco style and is Grade II listed.
Time for a timely 99 tub – what ho!
Followed by several pints of Dartmoor Jail in the delightful Dolphin Hotel.
The Dolphin Hotel is a pub on the Barbican , the building, which is known as either the Dolphin Inn or Dolphin Hotel, is a Grade II listed building. It notable as the setting of several of the artist Beryl Cook’s paintings.
The three storey building was constructed in the early 19th century, although it may contain fabric from an earlier structure. It has a slate mansard roof surrounded by a tall parapet with a moulded cornice. The front has white stucco with plaster reliefs of dolphins. The pub is associated with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, some of whom stayed at the hotel on their return from exile in Australia in 1838, when a Mr Morgan was the landlord.
It is a no-frills unmodernised pub famous for its cask ale, draught Bass served straight from the barrel. The sign on the front of the building has always called the pub the ‘Dolphin Hotel’. In 2010 the pub was refurbished, but vandalised in 2014.
Today Monday 27th July 2015 – leaving Ilfracombe the royal we head south along the Tarka Trail, giving Cornwall a swerve.
Though first we feast on a slightly out of focus fry up at the digs.
Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter, this 180 mile, figure eight route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. The southern loop incorporates the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK. Walking or cycling, you can experience the best this beautiful area has to offer.
Then away we go following the former train line out of town.
The Ilfracombe Branch of the London & South Western Railway, ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was sufficiently popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889.
The 1:36 gradient between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe stations was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country.In the days of steam traction, it was often necessary to double-head departing passenger trains.
Named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe.
Despite nearly a century of bringing much-needed revenue into this remote corner of the county, passenger numbers dropped dramatically in the years following the Second World War, due to a massive increase in the number of cars on Britain’s roads, and the line finally closed in 1970.
Much of the course of the line is still visible today, and sections of it have been converted into public cycleways.
We leave behind – theshadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies.
For the equally shadowy world of military installations.
The water tower at RAF Chivenor.
Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training.
In 1974 the station was left on care and maintenance, in 1994 7 FTS left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the Royal Marines.
A most delightful cycle path alongside the estuary of the River Taw.
The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.
Passing under the Torridge Bridge at Bideford – a 650 metre long concrete structure built in 1987.
Three piers are in the river. Each of the piers in the water is protected by concrete fenders twenty four metres long by eight metres wide by eight metres high. The concrete piers of the bridge are around twenty four metres high.
It was designed by MRM Partnership.
Here we are in Barnstaple by the Civic Centre.
It’s described as an ‘iconic’ building, but not many locals would agree, this huge building widely considered to be one of the ugliest in Devon could soon be under new ownership.The council has confirmed that following a tender exercise, it is working with a preferred bidder to finalise the details of the sale.
In 2014Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believed the civic centre could provide up to 84 modern apartments.
Artist’s impression by Peregrine Mears Architects – looks a little too wobbly to me, Peregrine Mears Architects should get right back to the drawing board, where they started from.
The Neo-Classical facade restrained Deco of The Venue.
Formerly The Regal Cinema – opened on 30th August 1937
Architects – BM Orphoot
Revellers dancing at The Worx nightclub– as The Venue was to become.
The building in Barnstaple is for sale with Webbers estate agents for just £225,000. The striking building in a prime position on the town’s Strand was originally opened in 1937 as the Regal Cinema.
The building will probably be best known under the guise of Kaos, the name it was given during the 1990’s and at the height of its popularity.
Other nightclub incarnations at the premises included Babylon, Rockabillies, Coco, Club Tropicana and of course The Venue.
The Tarka Trail crossing the River Torridge, just south of Bideford, utilising the former railway bridge.
The old home town looks the same as I step down from the bike, and there to meet me is – well nobody.
And I realise, yes, I was only dreaming.
I’ll go to Okehampon then – take a look at the lovely tiled Post Office, whilst completely ignoring one of the oldest Norman castles in the country.
Walking around town in search of a B&B proved fruitless, though I was directed to an out of town Roadhouse aways away.
Welcome to Betty Cottles Inn – land of the lost apostrophe.
Rooms are not as photos/described on hotel booking sites, wi-fi hardly ever works. I prepaid/booked for nine nights, I checked out after two days. Needless to say I didnt receive a seven day refund. Owner with attitude problem, he had my money, and was not keen on helping with my concerns about the property. Musky smell to carpet in bar and restaurant areas. Not been cleaned for a long time. Rooms unsafe and not private, with curtains not long enough, lock on room doors inadequate.
Neil H – July 2109
You sneaked in a female into your single room without paying for her and got caught so obviously you have retaliated by way of a negative review. You were probably the most rude and hostile guest we have ever had and have had to report you to booking.com for guest misconduct and also banned you from being able to book here again.
Matthew owner at Betty Cottles Inn
I ate a reasonable meal in the Carvery and chatted amiably with a representative salesman on the move, whilst seeing off a few pints of Guinness – any port in a storm.
Day three Wednesday 3rd September – leaving Southend under a cloud.
The huge slab of the Civic Centre shrouded in sea mist.
Designed by borough architect – PF Burridge.
Queen Mum Opens Civic Centre – It took a while to get there, since 1958 when the council agreed to embark on a quest to build a new home for itself; but on 31st October 1967 HRH the Queen Mother did the honours and formally opened the spanking new Civic Centre. During its build Southend was classed as being in the top ten in the country for full employment, due to this workers were hard to come by and bus loads of workers were brought in to complete this and the many other projects shooting up along Victoria Avenue at the same time.
Cllr Beryl Scholfield commented later on the day – The Queen Mother opened the Civic Centre in 1967, when my husband was chairman of the town hall committee, and we had lunch with her at Porters. We were presented to her when she came in. There were no more than about 30 of us there. It was a most exciting day.
She was as natural as you see her on the television.
A Union Jack lowered to half-mast in tribute to the Queen Mum has been stolen from Southend’s Civic Centre. A council spokeswoman today denounced the theft as – a despicable act at a time of great sadness and national mourning.
The outrage has caused extra sadness for royalist residents in the town because of the Queen Mother’s special place in the history of the Civic Centre.
The Leda and the Swan statue by Lucette Cartwright, which used to be in the Civic Centre atrium, gets a polish in May 1987.
A bronze statue depicting a mythological rape has finally found a new home at the mayor of Southend’s official residence. The controversial statue of Leda and the Swan was specially commissioned by Southend Council in the Sixties and first stood outside the courthouse in Victoria Avenue.
Later it was moved to the Civic Square and then to the courtyard of the Palace Theatre, in Westcliff. Later, it was moved to the Civic Centre when it caused outrage among staff. Workers claimed the statue, representing the rape of Leda by the Greek god Zeus disguised as a swan, glorified rape as an art form.
Last week, the statue was removed from the Civic Centre and is now at the mayor’s residence, Porters, in Southend.
Rob Tinlin, Southend Council’s chief executive and town clerk said – The statue of Leda and the Swan was located at the Civic Centre until a suitable location was found. The statue is permanently on display in the garden of the mayor’s residence, Porters in Southchurch Road.
It is in an appropriately landscaped area next to the pond.
Misty eyed I missed the sculptural fountain – William Mitchell I presume?
Said farewell to Neptunes unilluminating assorted fish.
Heading out of town past noisy scenes of quiet despair, no more fancy goods, no more confectionary – shake that.
Heading inland, away from the wibbly wobbly estuarine coast of higgledy piggledy Essex, through freshly mown pasture and solitary haywains.
This is Constable country:
Like many artists practising at the time, Constable used sketches as source material for fully worked-up compositions. He did not find the production of finished paintings easy, which probably contributed to his late recognition by the art establishment.
Passing by solitary bus shelters, patiently awaiting passengers.
Waterworks works in the palatial neo-classical manner, with a restrained nod to incipient Art Deco.
Encountering the occasional leafy lane.
I eventually found myself on the outskirts of Colchester, outside St Theresa Of Lisieux .
A striking pre-cast concrete frame design of 1971, with a dramatic and well-lit interior, lively modulation of wall surfaces and some furnishings and artworks of note.
Architect – JH Dabrowski
The entrance façade has a large gable and projecting entrance canopy, above which is a bronze statue of the Risen Christ, by local artist Tita Madden – 1977
This is a large modern church, built with a pre-cast concrete frame with a crossover roof beam system, allowing for dramatic internal effects. Within the bays created by the frame, the walling is mostly brick, with some pre-cast concrete panels, and large areas of glazing. Concrete is also used for the window mullions and surrounds. Each bay has the brickwork slightly angled or faceted, giving the design a great sense of movement and liveliness, both inside and out.
£240,000 will get you an Art Deco maisonette in Vint Crescent from Wowhaus:
This one is a ground floor apartment, which has undergone a complete refurbishment, but with one on keeping those period features to the fore – period features such as original radiators and those distinctive windows and doors are intact, rubbing shoulders with some new, high-end finishes like oak floors and updated kitchen and bathroom.
Foolishly I became more than somewhat lost and on making enquiries concerning my whereabouts and destination, I was met with gently derisive laughter. Therefore, I bypassed Colchester, took the wrong route along a mainly main road and ended up much too quickly in Clacton.
Home to several shops to let, as we shall subsequently see.
Also home to a fabulous concrete frieze on the exterior wall of the library.
Quickly ensconced in my bijou digs – I hit the town to take a look around.
I was staying right opposite this here boozer – a little too early for a pint, I’ll pop back in a bit.
Seaside shelter in a faux vernacular manner, calm seas ‘neath an azure sky – perfect.
Artifice and authenticity the sunbathing citizens sit beside an inflatable pool – perched above the sea on the pier.
Clacton Pier, which opened on 27 July 1871 was officially the first building erected in the then-new resort of Clacton-on-Sea. A wooden structure 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide, the pier served as a landing point for goods and passengers, a docking point for steamships operated by the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, and a popular spot for promenading.By 1893, Clacton had become such a popular destination for day trippers that the pier was lengthened to 1180 ft (360m) and entertainment facilities, including a pavilion and a waiting room, were added to accommodate them.
Council House former Civic Centre – Armada Way Plymouth PL1 2AA
Former Civic Centre 1958-62 by Jellicoe, Ballantyne and Coleridge with city architect HJW Stirling. In-situ concrete structure with pre-cast aggregate panels. It comprises a fourteen storey slab block on a raised raft foundation which straddles a two storey block to the north and a bridge link to the two storey Council House to the south. The bridge link is elevated on pilotis to create an open courtyard with a reflecting pond, part of the designed landscape of the civic square.
I rode into town on my bicycle en route from Weston super Mare to Hastings one sunny afternoon in 2015. The pictures I took that day were largely left untouched, until today. I was prompted by an online postcard search to finally put them to some good use.
On the day of my visit the building was well and truly closed, and its future uncertain.
I took my time and explored the site, here is what I saw:
I subsequently found archival image of the interior – including examples of applied decorative arts.
The building has suffered of late, from poor maintenance and general neglect.
Love it or hate it, it’s one of Plymouth’s most iconic post-war buildings – and it towers over the city centre. But the Civic Centre has been empty since 2015, with sad images revealing parts of the outside literally crumbling.
Today is the day Plymouth will finally discover what developer Urban Splash plans to do with the landmark 14-storey tower block it bought for £1.
The proposal, by Gillespie Yunnie Architects, will see the 14-storey former council headquarters converted into 144 one and two-bedroom flats with the ground floors of the lower blocks providing about 4,600m² of office, retail and leisure space.
Unanimously approved last week, the scheme will open up the ground floor, making it ‘an active public space filled with outside seating for cafés, bars and restaurants’ and reuse the existing landscaped pools, while creating new pedestrian connections through the scheme from the Theatre Royal and Civic Square.