Unity Hall – Wakefield

Wool, wool, wool I do declare – Westgate Wakefield the worse for wear, warehousing, banks and halls in a state of transition. The enormous wealth created by the local textile trade and associated industries, has left an architectural legacy that permeates the wide street, with a more than somewhat faded grandeur.

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Laying the Foundation Stone

The Co-operative Unity Hall has seen better days – opened in 1902 and offering extensive retail space, along with a concert and dance hall, echoing to the sound of silent films, all-in wrestling and a fine array of music.

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Sadly, as the post-war boom becomes an ever distant, sonic shadow of its former self, the hall closes. Listed yet unused, it stood aloof and alone, unloved. The Beat were on, sadly the beat no longer went on.

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Derelict Places 

Happily a corner has been turned and under new management:

Unity Works is a stunning grade II listed multi-use space, where modern meets state-of-the-art. Unity Works is a great space for work and play, from 1:1 meeting areas, to large conferences, office & work space, to live events, comedy, music, theatre and film screenings.

There’s something for everyone!

More than 400 people invested in a community share scheme to help fund the refurbishment, which began in January. Continuing the tradition of a movement in this architectural gem, which was established as the Wakefield Co-operative headquarters in 1867, a building alive with rich detailing, signage, architectural type and mosaic.

Get gone take a look, listen and dance.

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Northmoor Road Co-op – Manchester

Cooperative Society shops and meeting hall. Dated 1912; altered. Red brick with liberal dressings of green and buff glazed terracotta, red tiled roof with geometrical patterned band and cockscomb ridge tiles. Rectangular plan. Edwardian Baroque style. Two storeys and attic, 11 bays; projected ground floor with dark green Ionic pilasters between the shops and a central recessed porch with dark green surround, light green Ionic columns and segmental open pediment ; inverted voluted brackets linking ground floor pilasters to alternate pedestals of 1st-floor colonnade, which has Ionic semi-columns with festoons and a thin cornice, all in matching light green terracotta; swagged frieze of buff terracotta with buff modillions to a green cornice; brick parapet with buff terracotta balustrades and triangular dormers in alternate bays, interrupted in the centre by a green segmental pediment with raised lettering “Beswick Cooperative Society LTD”. Tall segmental-headed windows at 1st floor including a canted bay in the centre with parapet lettered “Built AD 1912”, and coupled windows in the 2nd, 3rd, 10th and 11th bays, all with elaborate surrounds of buff terracotta including quoined jambs, moulded transoms and enriched keystones; and stained glass in the upper lights. Square Baroque-style turret at left gable.

Grade II Listed

The building itself was originally designed for commercial use with a department store on the ground floor boasting five departments including a butchers, shoes and boots, a drapery and a grocery. On the first floor there was a meeting room that was large enough to host dances with live music. Its inaugural event was an exhibition by the Co-operative Workers Society that also included a recital by the C.W.S. orchestra of Balloon Street; it was reported to have been a great success. It was also used for community events such as the Crowcroft Bowls Club prize-giving ceremony in 1914.

Northmoor Road was called North Road at the time the building was in use as a co-operative and was developed between 1899 and 1930’s. Its most famous resident was J.R.Tolkien who lived here between 1926 and 1947.

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1965 Manchester Local Image Collection

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Now home to Great Places Housing

This is such a substantial building exuding an opulent retail grandeur that easily leaves your local Tesco Local in the deep dark ignominious shade. From a time when the expanding Cooperative movement provide for most of the areas material needs – though the Beswick Society was disliked for its aggressive territorial ingress, outside of any recognised geographic constriction.

Externally it is still substantially as was – clearly visible from the nearby Stockport Road and continuing to command the street with degree of grace.

Go take a walk, take a look!

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San Remo Coffee Bar – Rochdale

Sanremo or San Remo is a city on the Mediterranean coast of western Liguria in north-western Italy. Founded in Roman times, it has a population of 57,000, and is known as a tourist destination on the Italian Riviera. It hosts numerous cultural events, such as the Sanremo Music Festival and the Milan–San Remo cycling classic.

Rochdale is a market town in Greater Manchester, England, positioned at the foothills of the South Pennines on the River Roch, 5.3 miles north-northwest of Oldham, and 9.8 miles  north-northeast of the city of Manchester. Rochdale is surrounded by several smaller settlements which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, population 211,699. Rochdale is the largest settlement and administrative centre, with a total population of 107,926. Home to the Cooperative Movement, Rochdale AFC and a redundant cotton industry.

The two towns come together at 27 Drake Street, Rochdale, Lancashire OL161RX, home to a fine café and Italian born Tony and family. It has a well preserved menu that reflects industrial Lancastrian tastes rather than flavours of Liguria. It has an internal decorative order that is pure mid century a la mode – Pennine Style. Several more than several signs leave you in no doubt as to the availability of pies, pies with chips/potatoes, peas, gravy, veg – pies of all varieties, pies.

So pie, chips, peas and gravy it was, with a mug of tea – it always is.

Pop in say Buongiorno!

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Merseyway – Stockport

Once there was a river there, formed by the thunder of Irish Sea ice gouging a great glacial valley, bowling along boulders and millstone grit through phyllosilicate clays and sedimentary sandstone.

Then there wasn’t.

The Mersey, formed in Stockport as the Tame and Goyt conjoined, inconveniently filled with industrial grime and mire, then conveniently covered over in 1936.

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Creating the thoroughly modern thoroughfare Merseyway.

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The giant concrete culvert and bridge leaving the river cowering cautiously below.

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Of time and a river – little stands still and the town is whisked briskly into the late Twentieth Century with plans for a pedestrianised precinct.

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Completed and opened in 1965 the shopping precinct was concrete poetry in motion, incorporating the surrounding topography and extant architecture with grace and aplomb. Combining retail, restaurants and car parking facilities in a manner that critic Iain Nairn considered to be amongst the finest in the land.

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We had travelators, integrated paving, street furniture, and lighting across several levels. A carefully considered whole, combining all that was best in modern design with style, élan and panache – along with Freeman, Hardy and Willis.

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A clock tower, an Alan Boyson concrete car park screen and public art.

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Would that it was still so, a variety of additions and subtractions have left Merseyway in architectural limbo, concrete legs akimbo across the river below, striding towards the future in a more than somewhat bewildered manner.

Yet we still continue cast our eyes upwards towards a clock that isn’t there, ride a non-existent walkway to the sky, try on an imaginary crop-top in C&A’s Clockhouse.

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Photographs Stockport Image Archive

 

 

 

Coventry – Central Co-op

 

Built between 1955-56 and opened November 1956 the central Co-operative Society store in Coventry is a clean, clear example of post-war design and redevelopment, epitomised by the city’s plan and realisation.

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Picture – Natalie Bradbury

Sadly it finally closed its doors in 2015, along with many other of the Society’s larger stores, as they moved their focus to smaller food outlets.

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Happily it has been listed, saved from the indignity of the wrecking ball and the building of further student flats. Coventry, along with other UK cities, has begun to rely on the expansion of higher education, in the face of industrial and retail decline. The future use of the site, is as yet uncertain. Sadly I am now informed that the listing did not go through, make of that what you will.

While such measures are not an ultimate protection from bulldozers or drastic renovation, it is considered the building helps tell the tale of the city centre’s contemporaneously vaunted but since controversial rebuilding after the Coventry Blitz.

One of the city’s largest and oldest stores was closed last year as a victim of flagging city centre trade in an internet era, and EDG Property bought the site.

No planning applications have been received, although the council says ‘prospective buyers’ have stated an intention to demolish the building to erect two 12-storey towers of student accommodation.

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So it stands empty, the late summer foliage obscuring its splendid signage.

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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.

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