Once widely admired, Ian Nairn esteemed architectural writer, thought it an exemplary exposition of modern integrated shopping and parking, sitting perfectly in its particular topography – way back in 1972.
This German magazine dedicated several pages to coverage of Merseyway back in 1971.
Note the long lost decorative panels of Adlington Walk.
Many thanks to Sean Madner for these archive images.
Mainstream Modern has recorded its conception and inception, as part of a wider appreciation of Greater Manchester’s architecture.
The architects were Bernard Engle and Partners in conjunction with officers of Stockport Corporation and the centre opened in 1965. The separation of pedestrians and cars, the service areas, the multi level street, the city block that negotiates difficult topography to its advantage, are all planning moves that are of the new, ordered and systemised, second wave modernism in the UK. The aggregate of the highways engineering, the urban planning and the shifting demands of retailers frequently arrived at a form and order such as this. In this way Merseyway is unremarkable, it’s like many other centres in many other towns – consider the rooftop landscape of Blackburn. It is, however, typical and has been typically added to and adjusted during its life and presents perhaps the face of the last retail metamorphosis before the out-of-town really made the grade.
Each successive remaking and remodelling has seriously compromised the integrity of the development. We are left with dog’s dinner of poorly realised Post Modern and Hi-Tech additions, along with a failure to maintain the best of the original scheme.
We were there at the behest of Esther and Leigh, gathering to say farewell to Alan Boyson’s Three Ships, as it transpired we were there to celebrate its reprieve, following their campaign for listing.
Over a million tesserae glowed in the low winter sun – so did we.
As Helen Angell read her poem – Christopher Marsden and Esther Johnson recording the performance for posterity.
The Three Ships are attached to a former Cooperative Store – complete with a formerly working Cooperative Store clock – where we meet at four minutes to six – forever.
We had previously encountered Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.
And this Festival of Britain style functionalist council building.
Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.
We encounter Ton Liu’s Solar Gate – a sundial that uses solar alignment to mark significant times and dates in Hull. The super-light innovative two-shell structure is place-specific, responding to pivotal historic events and to the cultural context of its location in Hull’s Queens Gardens adjacent to the ancient site of Beverley Gate.
Carved stone panels Kenneth Carter 1960 – Ken’s art career began as an inspiring teacher, first at his alma mater, Hull College of Art, and later as principal lecturer at Exeter College of Art.
A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, by Robert Adams, described by Herbert Read as belonging to:
The iconography of despair. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.
1964 by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick.
There’s just so much to stand and stare and marvel at.
Vulcan by Boris Tietze commisioned by Horne Brothers 1961 for their head office building No. 1 King Street. Glass fibre on a metal armature the 8 foot high figure holding a bundle of metal rods.
You were just about still open then, then you weren’t, then you were again – but a Co-op no more alas.
Work is underway on plans for a tech hub in Sheffield after a funding package was agreed.
Followed by a casual stroll towards 2019 where we are talking a peep inside courtesy of owners Kollider and book shop La Biblioteka.
I’d never ever seen the interior, save through the photographs of Sean Madner who captured the key features in 2014, prior to refurbishment.
So the Modernists and I pitched up this Sunday afternoon, the conclusion of our Sheffield Walk.
Lets take a look at the end stairwells, two very distinct designs one dotty one linear, both using Carter’s Tiles.
Configured from combinations and rotations of these nine modular units and two plain tiles.
Configured from combinations and rotations of these twelve modular units and two plain tiles.
The site has retained some of its original architectural typography.
The former top floor restaurant has a suspended geometric ceiling with recently fitted custom made lighting.
The timber-lined boardroom has a distinctive horseshoe of lighting, augmenting the board room table – which is currently away for repair, oh yes and a delightful door.
High atop the intoxicating vertiginous swirl of the central spiral stairway is the relief mural representing a cockerel and fish made of aluminium, copper and metal rod, with red French glass for the fish’s eye and cockerel’s comb.
Illuminated from above by this pierced concrete and glass skylight.
Many of the internal spaces have been ready for their new tenants.
This is a fine example of Modernist retail architecture saved from decay and degradation by the timely intervention of a sympathetic tenant.
Long may they and Castle House prosper – Sheffield we salute you!
The railway station was built in 1849 replacing a temporary structure constructed a year earlier. It was rebuilt in its present form in 1933 and has had several slight modifications since that date, most notably in 2006, when the new interchange and connection to Frenchgate Centre opened.
The front elevation is realised in a typical inter-war brick functionalist style.
Of particular note are the lobby lighting fixtures and clock, the booking hall and offices are listed Grade II.
There are plans to redevelop the station approach replacing the current car parking with a pedestrianised piazza.
The High Street boast a former branch of Burton’s with its logo intact.
An intriguing Art Deco shop frontage – combining a menswear outlet with a pub.
Further along an enormous Danum Co-operative Store in the grandest Deco manner – 1938-40. Designed by T H Johnson & Son for the Doncaster Co-operative Society Ltd.
Currently partially occupied with no access to the glass stairways.
Following the development of the Frenchgate Centre the Waterdale Centre sunk into a slow decline.
And the Staff of Life has lost a little of its estate pub period charm, following successive typographic makeovers and paint jobs.
From 1949 onwards plans were afoot to develop the Waterdale area of Doncaster – civic buildings, courts, educational provision and the like, WH Price the Borough Surveyor at the helm. In 1955 Frederick Gibberd was appointed to oversee the site, though many of his designs were unrealised, his Police Station and Law Courts opened in 1969.
Having travelled back in time along Ten Acres Lane why not come along with me now and see just what’s left – right?
Each Manchester street tells its own tales of homes and people been, gone, rebuilt and buried – whole industries evaporating laid waste by seismic economic forces, land changing use again and again – shop door bells which are a now but a ghostly tintinnabulation on the wind.
Starting from the Oldham Road end the clearance of older terraced homes was followed by the construction of newer 70s social housing.
I have shuffled and shopped up and down Castle Street for some forty years or so – things have come and things have gone – and continue to do so. High streets have always been subject to so many external forces, they reshape and reform, in rhythm with the times and tides of history.
Horse drawn carriages and trams are long gone, along with the double-decker bus, people powered people rule in a pedestrianised precinct, charity begins at Barnardo’s, the Co-op has been and gone and returned, just up the way.
Two whole chapels, pubs and cinemas seem to have just disappeared.
So let’s take a short trip through time and space along a short strip of Stockport’s past.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cooperative Society shops and meeting hall. Dated 1912;altered. Red brick with liberal dressings of green and buffglazed terracotta, red tiled roof with geometrical patternedband and cockscomb ridge tiles. Rectangular plan. EdwardianBaroque style. Two storeys and attic, 11 bays; projectedground floor with dark green Ionic pilasters between the shopsand a central recessed porch with dark green surround, lightgreen Ionic columns and segmental open pediment ;inverted voluted brackets linking ground floor pilasters toalternate pedestals of 1st-floor colonnade, which has Ionicsemi-columns with festoons and a thin cornice, all in matchinglight green terracotta; swagged frieze of buff terracotta withbuff modillions to a green cornice; brick parapet with buffterracotta balustrades and triangular dormers in alternatebays, interrupted in the centre by a green segmental pedimentwith raised lettering “Beswick Cooperative Society LTD”. Tallsegmental-headed windows at 1st floor including a canted bayin the centre with parapet lettered “Built AD 1912”, andcoupled windows in the 2nd, 3rd, 10th and 11th bays, all withelaborate surrounds of buff terracotta including quoinedjambs, moulded transoms and enriched keystones; and stainedglass in the upper lights. Square Baroque-style turret at leftgable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Creating the thoroughly modern thoroughfare Merseyway.
The giant concrete culvert and bridge leaving the river cowering cautiously below.
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.
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 Ian Nairn considered to be amongst the finest in the land.
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.
A clock tower, an Alan Boyson concrete car park screen and public art.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So it stands empty, the late summer foliage obscuring its splendid signage.
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.