On The Waterfront – Llandudno

A welwyd eisoes.

I’ve been here before, as have others before me.

The town of Llandudno developed from Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements over many hundreds of years on the slopes of the limestone headland, known to seafarers as the Great Orme and to landsmen as the Creuddyn Peninsula.

Some years later.

In 1848, Owen Williams, an architect and surveyor from Liverpool, presented landowner Lord Mostyn with plans to develop the marshlands behind Llandudno Bay as a holiday resort. These were enthusiastically pursued by Lord Mostyn. The influence of the Mostyn Estate and its agents over the years was paramount in the development of Llandudno, especially after the appointment of George Felton as surveyor and architect in 1857.

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The edge of the bay is marked by concrete steps and a broad promenade, edging a pebbled beach which arcs from Orme to Orme.

Walk with me now and mark the remarkable shelters, paddling pools and bandstand screens, along with the smattering of people that people the promenade.

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Odeon Cinema – Brighton Road Rhyl

Architects

Robert Andrew Bullivant 1910-2001
Harry William Weedon    1887-1970

Robert Bullivant joined the Harry Weedon practice in 1935 and was responsible for the design of the Odeons at Chester, York, Burnley, Exeter and Rhyl. Taken over by Hutchinson in 1969, this cinema was renamed Astra. It was made into a triple screen in 1972 and the stalls were later converted for bingo. It was designated Grade II listed status in 1989. The cinemas closed in 1995 and the building reverted to a single auditorium for bingo.

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So much of our picture house heritage no longer exists, where once a town or city could support several cinemas of varying scale, architectural merit or style, few now remain intact. Happily the Rhyl Odeon has survived from Astra, Apollo to Gala to the stars and beyond.

Playing to perennially packed houses, the people’s palaces accommodated old and young.

Saturday morning matinees  for the boys and girls – making this Great Country of ours a better place to live in.

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If memory serves, in the Odeon auditorium to the left of the screen there was a suitably stylish, numberless clock of six-sided shape. In 1972 the Odeon, by then taken over and renamed Astra Cinema, underwent alterations to become the first three-screen complex in Wales: Astra 1, 2 and 3. By the mid 1980s the Odeon/Astra had been taken over by Apollo and was running as two cinemas plus bingo at first – and bingo only since the present Apollo Cinema Complex opened on the prom.
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Foyer and auditorium

John Maltby 1937

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Ian Grundy 2008

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Graham Rumble 2016

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An original Odeon Theatre, built for the Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, opened on 30th October 1937 with Flora Robson in “Farewell Again”.

The corner entrance rotunda was lower than the rest of the building and was faced with cream faiance tiles, broken with windows. Behind this was a tower-like feature which contained the main foyer. Seating in the auditorium was provided for 862 in the stalls and 546 in the circle. On each side of the proscenium opening there were large panelled decorative grilles on the splay walls. Lighting in the auditorium was provided by concealed lighting in troughs across the ceiling.

From the 13th October 1969 it was taken over by the Hutchinson Leisure Group and re-named Astra Cinema. They triplexed the cinema from 24th April 1972 with seating for 750 in the former stalls and two mini screens seating 250 and 225 in the former circle. Later, the stalls screen was converted into a bingo club, whilst the two mini cinemas continued on film.

In the late-1980’s the building was taken over by Apollo Leisure UK Ltd. and it was re-named Apollo Cinema. The two mini cinemas were closed in October 1995 and the building was de-tripled into one space again, becoming the Apollo Bingo Club, which remains open today.

From 4th January 1989, the former Odeon Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building.

Cinema Treasures

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Humberston Fitties

Betwixt and between the two world wars, the shortage of housing for the homeless, hopeless and dispossessed lead to an acceleration in the building of an informal architecture – the so-called Plotlands.

One such area and precious survivor from the last century is the Humberston Fitties – situated to south of Cleethorpes, preserved in time by the happy homesteaders.

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Though under threat from Local Authority negligence or intervention, three hundred and twenty chalets prevail – against the incursion of planning regulations, building specs and a lack of respect.

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I feel a real affinity for all Plotlands, having spent many summers in the converted Pagham railway carriage, belonging to my Aunty Alice and Uncle Arthur. They relocated to the south coast seeking cleaner air for Arthur’s ailing, industrialised northern lungs, thus prolonging his life.

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Tamarisk – Pagham

So here are the photographs I took on a visit to The Fitties in July 2008, I walked the home made roads, amazed by the vigour and variety of shape, size, personal affectation and practical pragmatism, of this all too human architecture.

This is a particular form of independent minded Modernism – hand-forged from the vernacular.

It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are, than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.

Henry David Thoreau

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Sea Front Shelter – Hastings

I have been here before, adoring the full range of Hasting’s sea front shelters.

They form an integral part of the general scheme designed and overseen by The Concrete King Sidney Little.

On my most recent visit the most distant shelter was receiving a wash and brush up, a brand new coat of paint or two, restored to bright red and white shipshape order, this land locked delight looked ready to set sail across the adjacent Channel to who knows where.

Offering a somewhat occluded view of blue skies and faraway shores, the bus stops here and goes on forever and forever.

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Pallot and Collins Murals – Bexhill on Sea

Could there be a more moderne town?

Bexhill on Sea, blessed with the delightful De La Warr Pavillion.

Plus the Pallot and Collins murals inset into the wall of their local branch of Sainsbury’s.

The third such public sculpture I have had the pleasure to visit following trips to Newcastle and the now defunct BHS in my hometown of Stockport.

Henry William Collins and Joyce Millicent Pallot have a very special place in my heart, their lives’ work together gracing the Festival of Britain, GPO Tower and Expo 70, along with other retail outlets in Southampton, Gloucester, and Colchester. A distinctive style of bas relief in impressed concrete, ceramic terrazzo and simple modern motifs, drawn from local history and imagery.

Take a look around.

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Margate – Tidal Pools

Margate a town of two pools.

The first tucked in by the prom, a moments walk from the station and overlooked by the imposing Arlington House and the shimmer of the Turner Contemporary

– alas no longer the domain of the wild swimmer.

A large delicious expanse of seawater, now sadly designated as a boating pond.

I was drawn magnetically to this elemental artifice, where untamed waters meet a controlled concrete geometry, waves temptingly lapping the walls.

Would that it could be open again to the town’s swimmers.

I am latterly reliably informed, that the pool is well used by local aquarists, despite the Local Authority’s prohibitions and ministrations – bravo!

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The second at Walpole Bay still open to the swimmer and what’s more it’s listed.

Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, one of two tidal pools designed by Margate’s borough engineer in 1937, constructed in concrete blocks reinforced by reused iron tram rails, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Structural engineering interest: an ambitious project because of its scale, the weight of each concrete block, and that work needing to be carried out day and night because of the tides; * Scale and design: impressive in scale and shape, occupying 4 acres and three sides of a rectangle, the sides 450 feet long diminishing towards the seaward end which was 300 feet long; * Social historical interest: provided an improvement to sea bathing at the period of the greatest popularity of the English seaside; * Degree of intactness: intact apart from the loss of the two diving boards which do not often survive; * Group value: situated quite near the remains of the 1824-6 Clifton Baths (Grade II), an 1935 lift and the other 1937 tidal pool. 

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Pleasureland

“But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”

Umberto Eco

Somewhere between Las Vegas Nevada and Casablanca Morocco lies Southport.

Somewhere in Southport lies Pleasureland.

Separated by oceans and oceans of artifice.

A puzzle wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a wind blown fish and chip paper, tipped lazily onto the edge of Lancashire.

The seaside itself an invention of the railways, and an expanding leisured class.

To begin in the middle, the Hollywood cinema creates an Orientalist mythology around Morocco. A confection of exotic confinement, conspiratorial glances and romance.

Who are you really, and what were you before?

What did you do and what did you think, huh? 

We said no questions. 

Here’s looking at you, kid.

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Which in turn becomes parody of itself, constructing an airport that apes its own constructed image, a brash reflection in an eternally wonky mirage of a mirror.

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The same mirror that reflects across the Atlantic, to that cap it all capital of Kitsch.

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A veritable smorgasbord of visual treats and retreats in Mesquite Nevada.

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Or the Casablanca Ballroom Westin Lake Hotel – Las Vegas.

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Flying home to the Warner Brothers Stage 16 Restaurant

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Or indeed Southport.

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2011 – I had my first close up and personal encounter with the wood frame, chicken wire and faux adobe render rendering of North Africa, on the coast of North West England. It was in a state of semi-advanced neglect, an extraordinary experience. Pleasureland had already faked it’s own demise, a pre-boarded up, boarded up frontier town.

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Where the edges of meaning are blurred beyond belief, take care.

We are dealing with uneven surfaces.

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Who could resist a Moroccan themed crazy golf course?

You are now entering a Scoobidoo-esque scenario, where the mask is never finally removed, nothing is revealed.

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2016 – I returned, the world had turned a revival was in part taking place, some of the pleasure returned to Pleasureland, whilst the seafront facing bars remained empty.

One man holds the key the glue, that bonds these distant lands.

The myth to end all myths.

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For he is forever in his own orbit, omniscient.

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Make the world go away
And get it off my shoulders
Say the things you used to say
And make the world go away