Southampton to Portsmouth

We arrived safely by train from Stockport at Southampton Central.

Following lengthy consideration we headed off on our bikes.

Whilst halting to review our progress, I realised that I had lost the map, a map vital to our further progress.

Returning to the station I found it nestled against the kerb.

Further assessment of our onward journey resulted in yet another retracing of steps.

In the shadow of Southampton Station dwarfed by Norwich House.

Resolute, we confront the fact that we are unsure of the route and following close scrutiny of the map, our environs and the surrounding signage, we proceed eastward towards our destination.

Wyndham Court – architects Lyons Israel Ellis, E.D. Lyons being the partner in charge along with Frank Linden and Aubrey Hume.

Leaving the city and heading along the Weston Shore – Southampton Water.

To our right several Seaside Moderne shelters

Tim feasts on a Mint Club biscuit.

To our left are the tower blocks of Weston Farm Foreshore – L. Berger City Architect 1963

Seen here in 1985 – Tower Block.

In the distance Canberra Towers Ryder and Yates 1967

Residents living on the second floor of 24-floor block Canberra Towers, on Kingsclere Avenue in Weston, were told to evacuate as flames erupted inside a kitchen.

The Daily Echo spoke to the residents of the affected flat, who said the cat knocked paper that was on top of the microwave, which then fell onto the toaster.

Tracey Long said:

I’ve got two cats, and Sponge was the one who knocked the paper.

He knocked paper off the microwave and into the toaster, it was quite scary.

I lost him in the flat but now I’ve found him again.

Daily Echo

Arriving just in time to be too late, next thing you know we’re bobbing along on the Hamble Warsash Ferry.

The obliging ferry folk having taken us across the estuary, despite our tardiness.

The village and the River featured in the 1980s BBC television series Howards’ Way.

Sadly little evidence of the successful TV show remains, however happily Henry VIII’s Dock and an Iron Age Fort have prevailed.

Onward to Gosport where we happen upon a diminutive yet perfectly formed Bus Station.

Originally built in the 1970s, the bus station was described in 2012 as knackered by the council chief executive at the time, Ian Lycett, and an investment plan was drawn up.

Talk of redevelopment then resurfaced in 2015, before the site was put on the market in 2016.

The News

Keith Carter, retiring owner of Keith’s Heel Bar in Gosport Precinct, has described the bus station as a missed opportunity.

The nearby Harbour and Seaward Towers have faired a little better, newly clad and their tiled murals intact.

While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport. 

They really are something they really are.

And so following a ride on the Gosport Ferry we arrive at Portsmouth Harbour.

The land where British Rail signage refuses to die!

I have passed this way before on a Bournemouth to Pompey trip and both Tim and I were students at the Poly here in the 70s – more of which later.

Seaward Tower Harbour Tower – Gosport

While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport.

The surfaces of the tower blocks are covered in mosaic murals designed by Barden that rise the full 135 foot height of the buildings. They were controversial initially but are now a tourist attraction.

The tiles were produced by Carter and Co of Poole

Wikipedia

He was also responsible for the unlisted and under threat ceramic murals in Halifax Swimming Baths.

C20

Whilst cycling form Southampton to Margate I took the opportunity to walk around and snap the blocks, one sunny day in May.

Here they are unclad in 1984

Tower Block

Brochure courtesy of Peter Blake

The work seems unrivalled in both scale and vision a lasting testament to good design.

New Town House – Warrington

Warrington Borough Council  New Town House Buttermarket Street WA1 2NH

A true brute of a building, relentlessly repeated pre-cast concrete panels and partially mirrored windows, in a predictable grid.

A pale grey monolith on the wrong side of town.

Built in 1976 to house the Warrington & Runcorn Development Corporation.

2007 voted the ugliest kid in town.

Now due for demolition, by way of a suicide note addressed to itself.

It will not be missed by the majority of residents.

Good, it’s horrible and worthy of demolition.

No doubt the Brutalist-loving nutters will be out in force to protect this.

Nobody actually likes brutalist buildings.

They just pretend to like them to make themselves look cool, it’s like craft beer and food that comes in tiny portions.

One lone voice in its defence.

I have started a petition to save this place.

We can’t lose all our Brutalist Architecture to the steel and glass brigade – viva the New Town House.

Place North West

The weary workers are already rehoused in One Time Square.

So I went to take a walk around, before the wrecking ball arrives.

The council said there were:

No operational reasons to keep the building in council use or occupied beyond this point, allowing the site to be cleared for redevelopment.

Justifying the demolition, Warrington said the building has poor energy efficiency, high service costs, and is inflexible for modern office and business working

Cost estimates for refurbishment, M&E installation, and energy efficiency measures to keep the building in office use stand at £5m; even if this is actioned, the building would still have limitations for flexible modern working practices and energy efficiency.

The council had explored renting the building out but said: there was no demand for office space of this scale and quality; a sale was also considered but the council found market demand was not significant.

Residential is the most likely outcome for the site, and it will be built into a masterplan for an area including Scotland Road, Town Hill, and Cockhedge. The council said it would look to sell the site in future.

BT Building – Warrington

Wilson Patten street Warrington Cheshire WA1

A forgotten part of Warrington town centre could be turned into plush new affordable flats.

Developers are looking to put an eight-storey apartment block off Wilson Patten Street close to the former BT telephone exchange building – described in the planning application as an:

ugly concrete monolith

It would be home to a mix of forty one, two and three bed flats on the spare land which is currently used as a car park.

Warrington Guardian

Typically the architecture of Twentieth Century infrastructure is reviled and ridiculed – simply swept away by contemporary, anonymous design and construction.

At least in this instance the developers intend to retain the ugly concrete monolith.

For me it is an essay in confident construction and decoration, the marriage of 1955’s brick utilitarianism, with a later concrete structure.

Poised on massive grey piloti, rising elegantly above the town.

Adorned with a simple articulation of surface.

KCOM – Hull

37 Carr Lane Hull HU1 3RB

When Hull City Council founded KCOM back in 1904, as Hull Telephone Department, it was one of several local authorities across the country granted a licence to run its own phone network.

Gradually, over time other authorities gave up control of their networks to the Post Office which wanted to create a single national service, but Hull City Council decided to keep its network and continue to go it alone.

While the Post Office network eventually became BT, Hull’s network, like the city itself, remained fiercely independent. That’s why today Hull has its own distinct cream phone boxes in contrast to the red ones you’ll find elsewhere.

KCOM

1952 Call Father Christmas service was introduced.

Having heard of a recorded message service in Scandinavia, Hull Councillor J M Stamper suggested the idea of putting Father Christmas on the telephone. The Call Father Christmas service was introduced shortly afterwards, the first of its kind in the UK. By dialling a Hull Central number children could hear recordings of a Christmas story and carol singing.

The stories were written and performed by Hull Telephone employees.

The first story attracted 20,000 callers, with 35,000 customers the following year with calls and media interest received nationally and internationally.

The success of the Father Christmas service led to the creation of other recorded information lines, such as Bedtime Stories, Teledisc and Telechef.

This recipe line was introduced in 1950s and was still going strong until the 1990’s, with 50s recipes such as meat loaf and corned beef with cabbages being replaced by dishes such as Italian Chicken Bake.
1964 Celebrating our Diamond Jubilee with the official opening of the new Central Exchange and Head Office – Telephone House in Carr Lane Hull.

KCOM History

The work of City Architect A Rankine OBE RIBA
2007 New company name as Hull City Council sell remaining stake.

The shareholders of Kingston Communications HULL PLC voted to change the company name to KCOM Group PLC to more accurately reflect the changing shape and geographic reach of the company.

Hull City Council sell remaining stake-holding in the business.

This is a fine building of brick, concrete, stone and steel, a restrained palette and commanding volumes, which asserts itself within the framework of the surrounding post-war architecture.

Well worth a walk around – let’s circumnavigate right now!

Good night all, sweet dreams and don’t forget to call Santa – hope that you all enjoyed your corned beef and cabbage.

East Park Gates Hull – Concrete Walls

Holderness Rd Hull HU8 8JU

At the entrance to the park on Holderness Road are eight concrete walls.

They are covered in square, cast concrete modular panels.

Said to be the work of the City Architect in 1964.

Municipal Dreams lists the City Architect at that time to be JV Wall, having replaced David Jenkin in that same year.

My money’s on Wall – well it makes sense don’t it?

I had taken the bus from Hull Interchange on a chill April morning.

The driver obligingly giving me a shout at the appropriate stop – right outside the gates.

They are not universally loved:

A further testament to the concrete pourer’s art is to be found adorning the entrance to East Park. They are so horrible that I could find nothing on the net to indicate who designed them, shame is a powerful motive for reticence. So here they stand to welcome the visitor; after this the actual park couldn’t be any worse.

Hull and Hereabouts

I can only assume that the actual park is held in much higher regard, listed and adored by all.

To my mind they are a bold addition to the park’s entrance, very much of their time, yet at the same time, ever so very now!

The has been a gentle patination to the raw surfaces and limited external intervention from the local Tyke taggers.

Take a look make up your mind – yay or nay?

It looks like they’re here to stay.

If you like this then you’ll like this and possibly this.

From Huyton to Hull and back to UMIST – it’s concrete walls all the way.

Fishermen’s Mission – Grimsby

Hope Street Grimsby DN32 7QL

If asked to name the UK’s biggest fishing port many people will answer Grimsby.

That was certainly true in the 1950’s when over 500 trawlers set out to sea, today only a handful of boats remain.

The Fishermen’s Mission

Opened in 1966 the Mission met the needs of those engaged in the most perilous of occupations.

Today it is a residential housing block – with flats for sale and rent.

Part of the town’s history a striking building, in many modern ways – most notably its strikingly modern mosaic.

Along with its striking colour scheme interesting use of textured materials and angular geometry.

Droylsden Library

Built in 1937 – very much in the civic style of the day, an inter-war classical moderne utilitarian low-rise in brick, steel, stone and concrete.

A three level, level headed essay in resolute local pride, when Droyslden was an independent UDC, prior to the creation of Tameside.

Furnished in the finest manner.

Computerised and digitised – the first library in Tameside to go live.

Home to local art displays and reading corners.

Droylsden Library Carnival entry – first prize winner in its category.

Closed on March 17th it now faces demolition.

Archive photos Tameside Image Archive

The rising cost of repairs, combined with ‘a desire to progress’ with the regeneration of Droylsden town centre and the inaccessibility of the library’s T shape, three-floor configuration means that a ‘solution for the future of the library’ is now needed, according to the town hall.

Manchester Evening News

Of note are its curved cantilevered concrete balconies, complete with attractive steel balustrades.

Along with its carved relief above the door.

Decorative grille.

Commemorative Communist plaque

Drainpipes

Architectural Type.

And handrail.

I sure will miss the Library – I have walked cycled and bused by for over fifty years.

You are to be replaced by housing and relocated to the new development next door.

UMIST – Manchester

Every now and then, I get the yen to come back here again.

Having included the site on one of my Manchester Modernist Walks, I pop by protectively just to make sure everything’s still there.

The custodians The University of Manchester may well be averse to listing and have already removed Chandos Hall.

Forever.

In addition, a whole block and a walkway have been subtracted.

Thereby placing the Hans Tisdall mosaics: The Alchemist’s Elements in jeopardy – currently held in storage, who knows what fate awaits them?

Discussions have taken place pre-lockdown, another year on and possibly the possibility of a positive resolution.

Consequently I always approach the site with a slight sense of foreboding, it’s Easter and there’s nobody about.

The trees are just about to burst into leaf, there are bright bursts of cherry blossom on the bough.

The sun shines down from a big blue sky, strewn with wisps of cloud.

Let’s have a look around – it’s springtime for UMIST and Modernity!

Belle Vue Dogs – Manchester

The stadium opened on July 24th 1926 – 7.30 prompt.

In 1925, Charles A. Munn, an American businessman, made a deal with Smith and Sawyer for the rights to promote the greyhound racing in Britain.

Smith and Sawyer met Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle JP. Between them they raised £22,000 and formed the Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. When deciding where to situate their new stadium, Manchester was considered to be the ideal place because of its sporting and gambling links. Close to the city centre, the consortium erected the first custom-built greyhound stadium and called it Belle Vue. The name of the stadium came from the nearby Belle Vue Zoological Gardens that had been built in 1836 and the land on which the stadium was to stand had been an area of farmland known as Higher Catsknowl and Lower Catsknowl.

By June 1927, the stadium was attracting almost 70,000 visitors a week.

1958

In October 2019 GRA Acquisition sold the lease to the Arena Racing Company and just two months later on 19 December housing planning permission was passed resulting in a probable closure in 2020. 

The imminent closure came following an announcement on 1 August 2020, with the last race being run on 6 June, won by Rockmount Buster – trained by Gary Griffiths.

Wikipedia

Going to the dogs was an institution for many, whole families enjoying the spectacle, possibly having a bet, bite and a pint.

Time changes everything social habits, views on animal welfare and gambling.

Diners enjoying their meal at Belle Vue Greyhound stadium while punters line trails outside waiting for the next race, 23rd September 1976.

The hare no longer courses electronically around the oval track, the traps no longer flap and the Tote has taken the last of your change, for the very last time.

Drink up and go home.

The new £30,000 stand that has just been completed 29th April 1960.
The track’s Assistant General Manager Colin Delaney with the plans for the new stadium complex. 1989.

Speedway was first held at the stadium during 1928 but was not held again until 1 April 1988, when the Belle Vue Aces returned to the stadium. The team departed Kirkmanshulme Lane at the end of the 2015 season, prior to moving to the new National Speedway Stadium for the 2016 campaign.

The shale speedway track was 285 metres in length.

I was a regular of a Monday evening cheering on The Aces.

When I cycled by in 2015 the stadium was already looking tired – the dramatic concrete cantilevered gull-wing turnstiles a neglected storage area.

Last week I had to dodge behind the hoardings to take some snaps.
The site is secured and demolition imminent.
The stadium will soon be gone – as a footnote I have at home a 50s sign, appropriated on a work’s night out and later gifted to me by my dear departed pal – Dave Ballans.

I’ll always treasure the perspex shark’s fin, Dave’s memory and going to the dogs.

So what of the future?

Belle Vue Place – the name lingers on long after the fun has gone.

Countryside are proud to showcase our stunning collection of 114 new homes at Belle Vue Place, featuring a choice of stunning 3 & 4 bedroom homes all designed and finished to the highest standard.

And very handy for the speedway just up the road on Kirky Lane!

ASDA Car Park – Stockport

Yet another lockdown exploration of forbidden territory for the intrepid pedestrian.

Following sojourns here, here and there.

It’s addictive passing the no access signs, onwards into the abyss.

He hated all this, and somehow he couldn’t get away. 

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness

Asda Stores Ltd is a British supermarket chain. It is headquartered in Leeds. The company was founded in 1949 when the Asquith family merged their retail business with the Associated Dairies company of Yorkshire.

It was listed on the London Stock Exchange until 1999 when it was acquired by Walmart for £6.7 billion.

In February 2021, EG Group – led by the Issa brothers and TDR Capital, acquired Asda.

The company was fined £850,000 in 2006 for offering 340 staff at a Dartford depot a pay rise in return for giving up a union collective bargaining agreement. Poor relations continued as Asda management attempted to introduce new rights and working practices shortly thereafter at another centre in Washington, Tyne and Wear.

Wikipedia

Let’s hope that the new owners having been ruled against in an equal pay dispute, attempt to forge better labour relations.

In March 2021 the employees won a Supreme Court ruling upholding an earlier court ruling permitting the action, and enabling employment tribunal action to decide equal value claims.

Asda stated: This ruling relates to one stage of a complex case that is likely to take several years to reach a conclusion. 

The claim could lead to about £500 million of compensation to lower paid employees.

All that aside, let’s have a look at what the car park is like.

Poundland née BHS – Stockport

Stockport council bought the building in 2019 following the collapse of BHS three years earlier.

The report says the store is now in a poor condition, looks ‘dated and tired’ and ‘contributes to negative perceptions’ of Merseway.

MEN

You were conceived as an integral part of the Merseyway development, which on its inception, was held in the highest regard.

Innovative architecture with confidence, integrity and a clear sense of purpose.

The failure of BHS was a national disgrace, venal management, asset stripping, avaricious, grasping rodents ruled the day.

Dominic Chappell, who had no previous retail experience, bought the high street chain from the billionaire Sir Philip Green for £1 in March 2015. The company collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs 13 months later, leaving a pension deficit of about £571m.

Guardian

A sad end for a company with a long history and presence on the high street.

With an architectural heritage to match:

BHS’s chief architect at this time was G. W. Clarke, who generally worked alongside W. S. Atkins & Partners, as consulting engineers. The stores – like Woolworth’s buildings – were composite structures, with steel frames and concrete floors. Clarke sometimes appointed local architects.

At first, like C&A, BHS retained the narrow vertical window bays and margin-light glazing that had characterised high street façades in the 1930s, but by the end of the 1950s Clarke had embraced a modified form of curtain-walling.

This architectural approach became firmly associated with BHS, with framed curtain wall panels – like giant TV screens – dominating the frontages of many stores.

Building Our Past

Of note are the Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins concrete panels on the Deanery Row elevation.

There have been moves to have the work listed, without success.

Of late the store has been home to Poundland – though time has now been called.

Poundland’s retailing concept is extremely simple: a range of more than three thousand – representing amazing value for money.

Our pilot store opened in the Octagon Centre, Burton-upon-Trent, in December of 1990, followed by new stores in High Street, Meadowhall and other quality trading locations.  Shoppers loved the concept and so did fellow retailers and landlords.  The stores proved to be a huge success. Meadowhall’s success was repeated by further stores opening by the end of the year.

The store has been a success even during COVID restrictions, let us hope that the planned return goes ahead.

So here is my record of the building as is, a tad tired, but in its day a simple and authoritative amalgam of volumes and materials.

Mixing variegated grades of concrete, tiling, mosaic, brick, steel and glass.

MMU Campus Didsbury

799 Wilmslow Rd Didsbury Manchester M20 2RR

I was here, once upon a time, studying to be an art teacher – which eventually I was, then I wasn’t.

Such is life, things that is eventually isn’t, such is the story of this here site.

Facts courtesy of Wikipedia

According to local historian Diana Leitch, the site has been in use since 1465; the first house was built in 1603 as part of a large estate with a deer park.

In 1740 the site was purchased by the Broome family, and a new house was constructed after 1785 by William Broome, extant today as the front part of the university’s former administration building, now known as Sandhurst House.

 By 1812 the house was occupied by a Colonel Parker, and in the 1820s and ’30s it was a girls’ school.

The site was purchased by the Wesleyan Methodist Church on 18 March 1841 for £2,000, and opened as a theological college on 22 September 1842.

The Old Chapel building, originally the college chapel, is a two-storey building constructed in gothic style, with Flemish bond brickwork, built on a sandstone plinth in 1842. The structure consists of three wings, containing a central hall range, with two domestic wings on each side,  initially used as tutor accommodation, forming a symmetrical appearance with the gable end of the upper hall. For many years it was used as a library and lecture theatre.

The ground floor eventually became the student union, and contained a bar and café.

During both world wars the site was used as a military hospital. In 1943 the Board of Education had begun to consider the future of education, following reforms that would inevitably come after the war ended. It was estimated that with the raising of the school leaving age, following the 1944 Education Act, about 70,000 new teachers would be needed annually, almost ten times as many as before the war.

 In 1944 a report was produced by the Board of Education on the emergency recruitment and training of teachers, and it was decided that there were to be several new training colleges set up. These colleges were to be staffed by lecturers seconded from local authorities, with mature students selected from National Service conscripts. In 1945 the theological college, which was no longer required by the Wesleyans, was leased to the Manchester Education Authority. The new emergency training college was officially opened on 31 January 1946, with Alfred Body as its first principal.

By 1950, the emergency college was purchased by the City of Manchester and made permanent as Didsbury Teacher Training College, with an initial enrolment of about 250 male and female students. As a result of becoming a permanent college, Didsbury became part of Manchester University’s School of Education.

Over the next two decades, numerous buildings were constructed on the site; Behrens, Birley and Simon were all named after prominent local families with ties to the college.

Didsbury became part of Manchester Polytechnic in 1977, renamed Didsbury School of Education.

The adjacent Broomhurst halls of residence have since been demolished.

Both Sandhurst House and the Old Chapel are Grade II listed – the architect was probably Richard Lane.

As of 2018 the site is being redeveloped by local architects PJ Livesey, as a residential area of 93 homes, with the listed buildings being retained.

Here’s a record of my visit, to the soon to be demolished site, in April 2015.

Archive photographs Local Image Collection.

Carrington Moss

Flat as can be, between rail and river, flat.

Crisscrossed by tramways and drainage ditches.

Carrington Moss is a large area of peat bog near Carrington in Greater Manchester, England. It lies south of the River Mersey, approximately ten miles south-west of Manchester, and occupies an area of about 1,100 acres..Originally an unused area of grouse moorland, the moss was reclaimed in the latter half of the 19th century for farming and the disposal of Manchester’s waste. A system of tramways was built to connect it with the Manchester Ship Canal and a nearby railway line. During the Second World War the land was used as a Starfish site and in the latter half of the 20th century, a large industrial complex was built along its northern edge. More recently, several sporting facilities have been built on Carrington Moss. Today, the land is still used for farming and several nature reserves have been established within its bounds.

Parts of Carrington Moss are accessible to the public over several rights of way.

On Carrington Moss 1851 David Cox

Industrialisation of the moss took place from 1947–1952 when Petro-Carbon ltd began to build what would later become known as the Shell Site. The estate was leased on 1 October 1968 to Shell Chemicals, who in 1957 had purchased a propylene oxide plant along the moss’s northern edge. Shell had built an ethylene oxide plant in 1958 and began to produce polyether polyols the following year. Council housing was built nearby, at Carrington and Partington, for workers and their families. By 1985 the Shell plant had a turnover of about £200M and employed 1,150 people, but a major restructuring of the business reduced the workforce to less than 500 by 1986. By 1994, four distinct plants operated on the 3,500-acre (14 km2) site, producing a range of chemicals, and materials including polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene. In 2005 it was reported that Shell would close their polyols and ethoxylates units, a decision which came into effect in 2007. The estate is currently managed by chartered surveyors Bell Ingram. Lyondell Basell operate the last remaining chemical plant on site.

Wikipedia

This is the beleaguered site, still farming, remnants of rail, traces of tipping and vestiges of industry.

Plans are afoot – including of course indicative multi-modal routes.

Trafford Gov UK

Hundreds of campaigners fear endangered wildlife at Carrington Moss will be ‘decimated’ if plans to build a new town on green belt land go ahead.

They also argue the development would be ‘catastrophic’ in terms of how it would impact the environment.

Manchester Evening News

Storm Christoph showed that Manchester is susceptible to the adverse effects of extreme weather events, which are forecast to become more regular occurrences.

Greater Manchester Labour for a Green New Deal argue that we must abandon the idea of developing on greenbelt, and instead embrace bold alternatives which reflects the urgency of the climate crisis﹣starting with sites like Carrington Moss.

The Meteor

This is an area in liminal limbo, the pressures of the modern world leaning on its very being, as ash, alder, badger, field mouse, and kestrel give way to Wainhomes.

Where then will the wanderer wander, in search of solace?

Ending our journey at the long gone Partington Station

The remains of the subway.

The company of J. C. Edwards Ruabon Ltd, was based in Ruabon, Denbighshire, and was active from 1903 to 1956 as a brick, tile and terracotta manufacturer from its works at Tref-y-Nant, Acrefair, Albert Works, Rhosllannerchrugog, and Pen-y-bont, Newbridge, Denbighshire.

James Coster Edwards (1828-1896) founded the company; it was sold in 1956.

Portwood Stockport 2021

We have previously taken a look at Portwood as was – let’s take a giant leap forward to today.

The industry to the east has gone west – no more bees and alligators, instead there’s Tesco and Porsche.

Why make when you can buy?

Meadow Mill has long since ceased to spin and weave – currently undergoing adaptation into modern residential living.

I though, have always been fascinated by the rough ground that now seems so left behind.

Where once I found a weathered book of lost photographs.

This is a scarred and neglected landscape, even the developer’s sign has given up the ghost.

There are brambles, buddleia, rough grass and teasels amongst the rubble.

The remnants of roads, kerbed and tarred, strewn with hastily dumped detritus.

Puddled and forlorn.

Enter beneath the M60, where the Tame and Goyt conjoin to become the Mersey, a dimly lit passage home to the itinerant aerosol artistes.

All that remains of the long gone mills – the concrete base.

Detritus tipped and strewn, amongst the moss.

The remnants of roads going nowhere.

Surrounded by cars going nowhere.

Contemporary architecture creating cavernous canyons.

A landscape forever changing, caught between expectation and fulfilment, paradise forever postponed.

This horror will grow mild, this darkness light.

John Milton

St Cuthbert’s Miles Platting Manchester

Junction of Fir Road and Oldham Road

One fine day, I chanced to walk by just as the service was finishing.

I asked Assistant Curate Rev. Peter Scott if it would be possible to photograph the interior of the church, he kindly consented.

Here are the results, along with shots of the excitingly angular exterior.

The church’s exterior is home to a dramatic concrete relief.

Let’s take a look inside, complex volumes and multiple window-lighting points, along with simple decorative order.

Of particular note – the organ pipes located above the main entrance.

Once again I can’t thank Rev. Peter Scott enough for giving us access to this beautiful church, serving the parishioners of Miles Platting.

Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.

In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.

There were grander unrealised plans.

Including an aerial asylum.

The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.

After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.

The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!

Drawings are drawn, models are modelled.

1965 Architects: Covell Matthews + Partners

Work is commenced, post haste.

Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.

A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.

Nearly done.

All we need now are tenants.

Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.

The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.

The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.

The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.

The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.

It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.

Manchester Evening News

And of course my good friend Mr Phil Griffin.

Just around the corner the Portland Bars.

Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.

MDMA

Oh and not forgetting the Golden Egg.

Bata Shoes and a Wimpy Bar.

“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.

Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.

Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.

However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.

Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.

So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.

While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.

Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.

Black and white archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Pedestrian In A Car Park – Piccadilly Manchester

Here we are again – in a spin, oh what a spin that I’m in.

Up and down the spiral ramp, the eternal allure of the unknown and forbidden, walking the way of the motor car.

I was in town on an overcast day, prior to a Covid jab appointment, what better way to relax and reflect on our current condition, here on this whirling sphere.

A transgressive trip to a twisted world of spiral delights.

Stockport, Hull and London have all been previously explored – here we are now going up the back of the Plaza.

The work of architects Covell-Matthews Partners, further details here at Mainstream Modern.

The car park ramp serviced the Piccadilly, now Mercure Piccadilly Hotel; one of the three main elements of Piccadilly Plaza, along with City Tower and the late lamented Bernard House.

In its day, synonymous with Manchester’s emergent manifestly modern image – scene of Albert Finney’s homecoming, in the film Charlie Bubbles.

And also used, in the then fabulously glamorous Dee Time – host Simon Dee descending the ramp in his ‘E Type’ Jaguar.

Legend has it, that the ramp was the location for an unlikely encounter between architect Louis Kahn and top pop combo The Commodores.

The reception drop off was at first floor level and was accessed from street level by a helical ramp. My father’s dilapidated Renault 4 van gave up just near the top. Extremely embarrassed, my father asked Kahn to move over to the driver’s seat and steer, whilst he attempted to push the van the rest of the way. As he began to push a people carrier pulled up behind and out stepped a group of men who began to help. Soon the van was outside the reception and my father and Kahn thanked the men.

The young female receptionist was very excited: ‘Do you know who just pushed your car up the ramp? The Commodores!’

The RIBA Journal

Hang on to your hats lets take a trip up the helix.

And down again.

NB The Modern Moocher neither advocates nor encourages the pedestrians’ invasion of the motor cars’ private spaces.

Let it be known throughout the land, that it is at heart, a very, very daft and dangerous thing to do.

Stockport Viaduct

Stockport Viaduct, carries the West Coast Main Line across the valley of the River Mersey in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. It is one of the largest brick structures in the United Kingdom, as well as a major pioneering structure of the early railway age.

Stockport Viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. Work began in 1839 and was completed in 1840. Roughly 11 million bricks were used in its construction; at the time of its completion, it was the world’s largest viaduct and a major feat of engineering. The viaduct is 33.85 metres high. Stockport Viaduct is a Grade II* listed structure  and remains one of the world’s biggest brick structures.

In the late 1880s, the viaduct was widened to accommodate four tracks instead of two. In the 1960s, overhead catenary lines were installed by British Rail for the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme. In the second half of the twentieth century, the M60 motorway was built, passing through two arches of the viaduct.

Wikipedia

The structure is central to the visual landscape of the town – it has been the subject of both literature and art, most notably in the work of LS Lowry.

I believe that this composite composition of a northern landscape, is firmly embedded in the psyche of Stopfordians.

A notion that we are able to apprehend the whole of the structure in one panoramic sweep.

Our present perceptions are inextricably linked to past experience, possibly an illusory past.

It even featured in a feature film – A Taste Of Honey

My photograph below, was taken before access was prohibited.

Though has this uncluttered view ever actually existed?

The area has been a constantly evolving jumble of buildings, in, under and around the viaduct.

This raises the question – when did you last see your viaduct?

I live moments away on Didsbury Road – so why not take a look, circumnavigating the site in search of an answer?

From the recently constructed pedestrian and cycleway a view south across multiple roadways.

Approaching the arches from the west.

Looking east from Wellington Road North and the newly constructed A5154 link road.

Looking along the M60.

Looking along Heaton Lane, to the left Regent House.

Looking along the River Mersey

The Lowry Steps.

The view over the soon to be redeveloped Bus Station.

The view along Daw Bank.

One of the most complete perspectives along Swaine Street.

Swaine Street and Astley Street junction.

Crossing the new bridge to Heaton Lane.

Looking back towards the Crown Inn.

The view over Kwik Fit.

Looking east along the River Mersey, beside the rear of Weir Mill.

The view between the Stagecoach Bus Depots.

Looking east along Daw Bank.

Another clear perspective along Viaduct Street.

Beside Weir Mill.

Beneath the M60.

Looking east along Travis Brow.

This is one cold day in Covid February, the traffic a little lighter, few folk on foot.

Another day would produce another series of views, the light shifts, leaves appear on trees, the regeneration of Stockport sees the built environment shift and shimmy with an alarming regularity.

The landscape formed by the second Ice Age, gouging out a glacial valley and subsequently a conjoined river, is all part of a passing parade; it is acted out over millennia, you yourself are party to but one small part, make the most of it, get out and about take a look.

All this life is but a play, be thou the joyful player.

Ashton Bus Station – Pictorial History

In my memory of days long gone by, I call to mind the stops strewn around St Michael’s Square – all points east I assume, Stalybridge, Mossley, Micklehurst, Dukinfield, Glossop and beyond.

Prior to 1963, Ashton-under-Lyne’s buses and trolleybuses stopped at a variety of termini throughout the town centre. Manchester Corporation services called at Bow Street and Old Square, by Yates’ Wine Lodge; Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation’s buses opted for Market Street and Wellington Road by the town hall.

SHMD’s stopped at St. Michael’s Square.

So says Mancunian 1001 so sagely.

In 1927 there’s no room for a bus station, the town’s full of old houses.

But following extensive demolition, the site was cleared for a brand new bus station, with toilets, shops, offices, staff canteen and depot.

To be followed by the completion of the Shopping Precinct, Beau Geste and Ashton Arms.

Ashton zooms forward into the future, its flat-roofed modern facilities complemented by ranks of low-level shelters and edged to the east by a walled lawn and flower bed – where we all loved to sit of a sunny day.

And the under the cover of the canopy at night, ready for the time of your life, at the Birdcage, pub or pictures.

I remember the kiosk on the corner, a jewellers around the other corner.

I’ll meet you under the clock.

Photo: Ron Stubley

Here we see that the original shelters have been replaced and realigned.

Temporary Queensbury shelters were put in place prior to the addition of GMPTE’s standard shelters, seen in Stockport and Oldham bus stations. By the close of 1983, the recognisable GMPTE ones emerged. The cover at the precinct end was later glazed and became stands A to C.

The second version of Ashton-under-Lyne’s bus station opened on the 18 March 1985. After two and a half years refurbishment work, it was opened at 11.30 by Councillor Geoffrey Brierley.

Mancunian 101

And that’s the corner where we would deck off the open backed buses, hitting the pavement at speed.

That’s the deep blue and cream Ashton livery later superseded by SELNEC, GMPTE and TFGM – the wonderful full fare, unfair world of Margaret Hilda Thatcher’s privatisation, Arriva, First and Stagecoach first.

Then in the 1995 with the development of the Arcades Shopping centre, the whole site is reconfigured, now seen nestling in the shadow of the Dustbin.