Coventry Station 2021

Here we are again, we have been here before – one of the nation’s finest post war railway stations.

Gateway to the City of Culture.

Though I freely admit that my heart belonged to Stoke’s failed bid.

So much so I bought a shirt.

Stoke Sentinel

The station is the work of architects WR Headley and Derrick Shorten who worked with John Collins, Mike Edwards and Keith Rawson.

Outstanding architecturally, particularly for its spatial qualities and detailing. 

It’s Grade II listed and rightly so.

Alan Murray-Rust April 1963
John Maltby RIBA Pix
March 1962
Warwickshire Railways

So here is my exploration of its spatial qualities and detailing. 

Hilton House – Stockport

Once the head office of New Day Furniture.

A local company which designed, manufactured and retailed furnishings around the North West.

Oldham Street Manchester
Rochdale Road Harpurhey
Wythenshawe

The office building is a highlight of my Stockport Walks – it has a lightness of touch incorporating a partial podium, slab block and lower rise extensions.

There is a sensitive mix of glass, stone, concrete and brick across a variety of scales and volumes.

May 2020 – plans are submitted to remodel the exterior of Hilton House

Marketing Stockport

The remodelling of the building include reparations and repainting brickwork, render and cladding as part of wider plans to rejuvenate Hilton House to rebrand as a more attractive and contemporary office location in Stockport town centre.

Studio KMA have proposed conversion to apartments.

Conversion of existing 1970s office building to apartments.

A combination of one-bed, two-bed and three-bed units ensure a new sustainable use in Stockport town centre.

The proposal incorporates the use of coloured glass panels to create a modern, fresh aesthetic.

As of July 2021 the property is under offer.

Post-Pandemic it may well be that the demand for office space is in retreat and the conversion to modern living space the more likely end use.

Salford Walk

We begin on the Crescent – taking in the former AUEW Building.

B&W images copyright USIR Archives

It became part of Salford University’s estate, renamed the Faraday Building.

It is currently unoccupied.

The University’s Masterplan is shifting emphasis to the Peel Park and Media City sites.

Also leaving Crescent House in limbo.

The original master plan would have swept away the Victorian Technical Institute and Salford Art Gallery.

Across the road are the Maxwell Buildings.

They were built between 1959 and 1960 to a design by the architect C H Simmons of the Lancashire County Architects Department.

The interior decorative order of Sixties’ institutions was integral to the architectural design, sadly this is no longer so.

Which may be the subject of ambitious redevelopment.

Take a turn around the corner to the Cockcroft Building.

The east facing mural painted out and obscured by retrofitted infrastructure.

These incised stone panels obscured by plants.

To the left is the Clifford Whitworth Library – this is the original architectural impression – signed Peter Sainsbury.

The original fascia was tile clad.

Subsequently replaced by uPVC boards.

Yet again the original interior was integral too the architectural scheme and period.

Across the way the Chapman Building.

It was designed by WF Johnson and Partners of Leamington Spa, as a lecture theatre block and gallery. It sits with its long axis running parallel to the railway behind. The series of grey volumes, occasionally punctuated by colourful floods of red and green trailing ivy, hang together in a less than convincing composition. The orientation and access to the building seem confused and detached from any cohesive relationship to the rest of the campus, but there is something perversely attractive about the right essay in the wrong language. The reinforced concrete building contained five lecture theatres, communal spaces, an art gallery, AV support areas and basement plant rooms. Following a major refurbishment in 2012, several additions were made to the exterior and its total concrete presence somewhat diminished. It still houses lecture theatres and a number of other learning and social spaces.

Mainstream Modern

To the rear of the building there are some of the original details, now painted a series of funny colours.

A ways down the road the former Salford Technical College.

Now the part of the University of Salford, this grouping is probably the most significant work by Halliday Meecham during this period. The blocks wrap to almost enclose a courtyard and they step up in height towards the rear of the site. To the front is a lecture theatre block in dark brick. The multi-storey elements are straightforward in their construction and appearance and have had their glazing replaced. Perhaps the richest elements here are the three totemic structures by artist William Mitchell, which were listed at Grade II in 2011. Mitchell was actively engaged with the experiments of the Cement and Concrete Associations during the 1960s and produced a wide variety of works for public and private clients; other works regionally include the majority of the external art and friezes at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and the Humanities Building at Manchester University. These textured concrete monoliths appear to have an abstract representation of Mayan patterns and carry applied mosaic. They were made on site using polyurethane moulds. There is another Mitchell work hidden behind plasterboard in the inside of the building.

Mainstream Modern

Subsequently assimilated into the University.

Across the A6 the former estate pub the Flemish Weaver is currently shrouded in particle board and in use as a base for construction workers.

Just down the way The Woolpack is no more.

April 1965 saw the Salford City Reporter proudly boast in an article that

The Ellor Street dream begins to come true – complete with interviews with residents of the newly constructed Walter Greenwood, Eddie Colman and John Lester Courts all which towered some 120 feet above the Hanky Park skyline.

These particular blocks of flats were of special significance because their completion was the end of the first stage of the Ellor Street redevelopment scheme which was to provide 3,000 new homes, the £10 million pound Salford Shopping Precinct and a new civic centre – which never got built – making this A Salford of the Space Age.

Salford Online

The tower blocks are now clad and the site a construction base for cladders.

Full details of Salford’s complex and extensive redevelopment can be found here at Tower Block.

Walter Greenwood Court was demolished in 2000/2001, whilst Eddie Colman and John Lester Court are now student accomodation for the nearby Salford University.

Onwards and underwards towards Salford Shopping City.

The construction of the shopping centre and surrounding areas continued and on 21 May 1970 the new Salford Market officially opened. From 1971 onwards new shops inside the precinct itself began to open.

However, due to a lack of funds and a political scandal which saw chairman Albert Jones jailed for eight months construction of Salford Precinct was halted. The site had only 95 shop units compared to the proposed 260, the hotel and two storey car park were never built.

The architectural core of the site has been retained, including the 23 storey Briar Court residential tower.

Tucked in behind is Mother of God and St James RC Church.

Clearances took place from the middle of the twentieth century and new high-rise housing blocks were built, as well as a shopping centre.

There was a Catholic presence in the area from 1854, when schools were built. What was described in The Tablet as a beautiful church, an Early English Gothic design by M. Tijou – presumably Herbert Tijou, architect of the chapel to Loreto College, Manchester, was opened by Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster in 1875.

One hundred years later this church was demolished and replaced by the present building.

The architects were Desmond Williams & Associates, the design bearing some similarity to their St Sebastian, Salford. In 2010 the church of All Souls, Weaste, was closed, and the marble sanctuary furnishings brought to the church.

Description

All orientations given are liturgical. The church is steel framed with brick walls and a monopitch roof (originally covered with copper, now with felt).  Bold brick forms create a presence, and the design is somewhat defensive, with few windows. The building is entered from a lower porch which forms a narthex. The slope of the roof and the stepped clerestory lighting create a striking impression inside, and full-height windows towards the east end incorporate stained glass figures said to have originated in the previous church. Marble sanctuary furnishings are presumably those from the church in Weaste and appear to be of later twentieth century date, while the font is of traditional type with a clustered stem and may have come from the earlier church.

Taking Stock

Returning to The Crescent the High Street Estate is all but demolished, save for one resident and their row.

This is an area which has seen a succession of clearances, redevelopment and shifts in demographics during a relatively short and intense period of change.

That process of change continues to hastily unfold.

Stockport Bus Station – Closed

April 1979 work begins.

Opening on March 2nd 1982.

Closing on Saturday 28th August 2021.

I have been in in and out of here for some forty odd years, writing of its history and recording its decline.

No more cold damp shelters, no more cavernous and grimy public conveniences, no more chips and shop.

Bye bus station.

Harley Hill Flats – Halifax

The New Bank Development – aka Range Lane or Haley Hill.

Built in 1964 – Architects Leonard Vincent and Ray Gorbing.

Tower Block 1987

Forming part of my Halifax Walk.

Having seen Mandy Payne’s pictures over on Instagram – I hastened to Halifax.

Intrigued by the Oscar Niemeyer style stairs.

Here are my pictures.

Our Lady Star Of The Sea – Amlwch

The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea was built using reinforced concrete around 1937 and its dedication carries tribute to sailors lost at sea. The roof is designed to resemble the hull of a boat, and the windows in the crypt port holes. These aspects reflecting the maritime heritage of Amlwch. 

Designed by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian architect who was originally brought to Wales as a prisoner of war. He subsequently married a local woman, and lived and worked in north Wales, specialising in Roman Catholic churches. He also designed a number of other churches in Wales, including those at Abergele, and Porthmadog.

Coflein

Around 600,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner during the First World War, about half in the aftermath of Caporetto. Roughly one Italian soldier in seven was captured, a significantly higher number than in other armies on the Western Front.

About 100,000 Italian prisoners of war never returned home, having succumbed to hardship, hunger, cold and disease – mainly tuberculosis.

Uniquely among the Allied powers, Italy refused to assist its prisoners, and even hindered efforts by soldiers’ families to send them food.

Wikipedia

From the 1930s he was living at St Francis Grange, Glan Conwy, an art deco style dwelling overlooking the Conwy estuary.

Prior to the construction of adjacent houses and the treatment of the concrete shell.

The main entrance leads into a small vestibule with raking sides; further doorways lead into the end of the main body of the church. The ribbing that is such a prominent feature of the exterior of the church also dominates the design of the interior; the body of the church illuminated by bands of geometrically patterned lights between the ribs. The lateral walls have marble panels which also follow the pattern of the ribs; to the top are paired panels, each with a moulded quatrefoil plaques depicting biblical scenes, plain paired panels below. The marbled panels continue at the far end of the church, raised up over round-headed doorways flanking a recess painted with a depiction of the crucifixion; star shaped lights follow the line of the domed arch.

British Listed Buildings

Robert Jones of Beaumaris: 

I think it is worthy of mention how the whole mass of imitation stone frontage was done by one plasterer long gone called Llew – Inja Rock, whose pretty unique style of work is still to be seen elsewhere around town today. He once showed me how it was done, all with a little teaspoon. What patience and what a proven good job to stand the trial of time of 40-plus years without a great deal, if any, remedial work. A sound memorial to a good working man.

BBC

For many years I have cycled y on my tours around Anglesey- often stopping to marvel at this concrete anachronism.

This time I stopped to walk around and take some snaps – here they are.

The Pevsner Buildings of Wales guide calls it:

A piece of Italian architectural daring of the 1930s – a soaring reinforced concrete and brick vault formed on six arches, expressed as ribs externally and internally, with a conical apse. Three transverse bands of glazing in geometric trefoils of white and blue.

Five glass stars – made in France, perforate the East wall round the apse.

Rinvolucri’s team of builders constructed the innovative parabolic vault in six months in 1935.

The same guide calls it Futurist, closer to Freyssinet’s 1920s airship hangars at Orly, Paris, than to Catholic Church design, and unlike the conservatism of Anglesey building.

He died in 1962 and is buried in St Agnes Road Cemetery, Conwy with Mina, who died in 1991.

They had one son born in 1940.

Carlton Theatre – Hull

470-476 Anlaby Rd Hull HU3 6SH

Opened on 9th September 1928 with the silent film Lonesome Ladies.

The Carlton Picture Theatre in Anlaby Road was designed by the firm of Blackmore & Sykes and was built by Messrs. Greenwood and Sons.

It was run by Hull Picture Playhouse Ltd.

This was a lavish suburban cinema, with an elaborate green and gold sliding dome utilising Venetian glass and housing hundreds of concealled lights. Roman marble mosaics and painted plaster panels on the walls added to the sense of occasion engendered by a trip to the flicks.

A Fitton & Haley organ was installed, but this was later removed to the more central Cecil Theatre and was destroyed when that theatre was bombed during WW II.

The cinema had two entrances, one in each of the two towers on the front corners of the building. Above the proscenium was the inscription, rather inapt given how soon talkies arrived :

“A Picture is a poem without words”.

There was a single balcony and, for its date, a surprisingly large car park.

It continued unaltered, save for minor war damage, until its closure in April 1967, after which it was simply converted to bingo usage which continued as a Mecca Bingo Club until 2008.

Cinema Treasures

This is an immense and noble building, a once great single screen cinema.

Unluckily closed for some thirteen years, now looking neglected and forlorn.

Tinned up and awaiting an uncertain future, planning was applied for conversion to apartments, it was refused.

It is unlisted and unloved in need of friends and funds, who could operate a cinema and theatre in the manner of The Plaza in my hometown of Stockport.

The interior has been recorded by 28 Days Later.

We all deserve better.

The number of cinemas in Hull peaked at thirty six in 1938.

British film making flourished during the war years and cinema attendances were much higher, but by the end of the Second World War there were only twenty five – several had been bombed.

In 1964 competition from radio and television, and latterly bingo, reduced the number of cinemas to ten.

Now there are four.

Amble to Berwick upon Tweed

The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.

I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.

Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.

Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.

Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.

We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.

One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.

The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.

The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.

I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.

They were all Grateful Dead fans who like me had attended the Bickershaw Festival in 1972.

The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.

Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.

Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.

The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.

114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.

Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.

Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.

The Armstrong family the former owners, made millions from the sale of armaments.

If I thought that war would be fomented, or the interests of humanity suffer, by what I have done, I would greatly regret it. I have no such apprehension.

He also said:

It is our province, as engineers to make the forces of matter obedient to the will of man; those who use the means we supply must be responsible for their legitimate application.

I paused a wee while to take a sip of water and admire the agrarian architecture.

A couple on their bikes stopped to chat, as a babe in arms the lad had been transported by mam and dad, in a sidecar with tandem attached.

Such a delightful and poignant recollection – we wished each other well and went on our way.

I made my way from the rolling hills back down toward the coast.

Where a permissive path hugged the shore, which I cautiously shared with some equally cautious sheep.

Looking back toward Lindisfarne.

Looking forward to the past.

Pausing for the passing of a mainline train.

Berwick upon Tweed in view.

Come the evening I spent an hour or two in The Curfew, feasting on fine beer, company, haggis scotch egg and game pie.

Finishing with this well deserved and wonderful, bottle of Oude Geuze.

The final day – so many marvellous miles covered, forever stopping to chat, snap, look and learn.

No finer way to see the world, though so condensed and intense even at touring speed – apologies to all the things that I failed to see.

So long to Amble, Newcastle, Redcar, Scarborough and Hull.

Newcastle to Amble

Well here we are heading north for a fourth day – having bidden farewell to Hull, Scarborough and Redcar.

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

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. 

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

Taking a bold leap into the unknown I left the city centre, unwisely following unfamiliar roads, predictably becoming very lost.

I sought assistance from a passing fellow cyclist, very kindly he guided me to Tynemouth, following a mysterious and circuitous course across the undulating terrain – thanks.

The city quickly becomes the seaside with its attendant retail bricolage.

An all too familiar redundant lido – opened in 1925 and closed in the mid 90’s – but a Friends Group aims to breathe new life into the site.

The Park Hotel built in the 1930’s and recently refurbished has been bought by The Inn Collection Group.

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

The Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan sets out our ambitious plans to regenerate the coastline between St Mary’s Lighthouse and Cullercoats Bay.

The proposals are a mix of council and private sector developments and involve more than £36m of new investment at the coast.

North Tyneside Gov

In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

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.

Spanish City

Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

Beacon House beckoned and I took time to have a good old look around.

Ryder and Yates 1959

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.

Historic England

During WW2 Blyth Harbour was used as a major submarine base and that combined with the heavy industry in the area it made a very good target for the Luftwaffe.

Derelict Places

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.

Skylighters

I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

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.

Wikipedia

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.

Energy News

Long gone is the Cambois Colliery, its pit head baths and the buses that bused the workers in and out.

One hundred and eleven men died there.

The route headed along the coast on unmade roads and paths, I bypassed the Lynemouth Pithead Baths – having visited some ten years ago.

I was delighted to find that Creswell Ices were still in business and my temporary partner Adrian treats me to a tub.

Having arrived in Amble I was delighted to find the Cock & Bull.

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

Then watched the sun set over the harbour.
Good night all.

Scarborough to Redcar

Well it seems that I had already cycled from Hull to Scarborough, so it must be time to head for Redcar.

Leaving Scarborough by the Cinder Track under the expert guidance of Mr Ben Vickers.

This was the site of the Gallows Close Goods Yard.

Formerly the Scarbough to Whitby Railway – the line opened in 1885 and closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching Axe.

Yet again I chance upon a delightful post-war home.

I parted company with the track dropping down to the Esk Valley from the Larpool Viaduct.

Construction began in October 1882 and was complete by October 1884.

Two men fell from the piers during construction, but recovered.

I found myself in Ruswarp, home to this enchanting bus shelter.

I bombed along the main road to Sleights.

There then followed a hesitant ascent, descent, ascent along a badly signed bridleway, fearing that I had climbed the hill in error I retraced, then retraced.

A difficult push ensued, a precipitous path, rough and untended, rising ever higher and higher.

Finally arriving at Aislaby, more than somewhat exhausted – the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Asuluesbi

Pausing to catch my breath I took the wildly undulating road to Egton – along the way I was alerted to the presence of a tea stop by two touring cyclists from Nottingham.

The Cake Club.

A welcome wet and a hunk of home made carrot cake.

Brewmeister Maria was good enough to suggest route through Castleton Moor and over the tops to Saltburn.

It was too hot a day for a detour to Fryup.

The curious name Fryup probably derives from the Old English reconstruction Frige-hop: Frige was an Anglo-Saxon goddess equated with the Old Norse Frigg; hop denoted a small valley.

An old woman at Fryup was well known locally for keeping the Mark’s e’en watch – 24 April, as she lived alongside a corpse road known as Old Hell Road.

The practice involved a village seer holding vigil between 11pm and 1am to watch for the wraiths of those who would die in the following 12 months.

Castleton Moor ghost.

In the village I was given further directions by two elderly gents, who had been engaged in a discussion concerning their long term mapping of acid rain levels in the area.

One was wearing a Marshall Jefferson t-shirt.

I climbed Langburn Bank onto the flatish open moorland.

Taking a brief break to snap this concrete shelter.

There then followed a hair stirring series of hairpin descents to the coast at Saltburn.

Followed by an off road route to Redcar.

Our Lady of Lourdes – Architect: Kitching & Archibald 1928

Built in 1928, this church was designed with some care and is an attractive, if fairly modest, Lombard Romanesque-style essay in brick. The use of a semi-circular apse, narrow brickwork and use of tile for decorative effect give it a pleasing appearance, typical of restrained but elegant work between the wars.

I arrived and took a look around, first time in town, here’s what I found.

Another long day – I went to sleep.

Beacon House – Whitley Bay

Granada Way
The Guardian

Beacon House Whitley Bay completed 1959.

Client: JM Liddell

Photograph: David Bilbrough

Cycling twixt Newcastle and Amble, I espied a tower block upon the horizon.

Leaving the coastal path I came upon Beacon House.

Research lead me to the work of Ryder and Yates Architecture.

Two pioneering young entrepreneurial architects who worked with Le Corbusier and Ove Arup first met in the office of Berthold Lubetkin. In 1953, they formed Ryder and Yates in Newcastle upon Tyne. That Le Corbusier, Lubetkin and, to no less extent Newcastle born Arup, had a powerful influence on the subsequent design philosophy of Gordon Ryder and Peter Yates can still be seen in any evaluation of Ryder’s work today.

Their work celebrated in this RIBA publication.

Beacon House is and elegant eleven storey tower, modest in scale yet rich in detail.

Two tiled elevations to the north and south.

Elegant balconies of a refined construction.

Plus a curious curved shell surrounding the entrance, along with a cantilevered covering.

Sadly this Peter Yates mural Procession of Shells is now lost.

Billingham

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.

Historic England

Across the way the cosmically named Astronaut pub known locally as the Aggy.

Though all it seems, is not well in outer space:

Locals say punters are creating a giant toilet next to a Billingham pub – and performing sex acts.

I wouldn’t disregard what they say, and I can’t say that didn’t happen, said boss Jordan Mulloy.

I know urinating goes on from time to time but people do it outside every pub – anyone I catch doing it will be barred.

Teeside News

The pub stands at the outer edge of the West Precinct.

The precinct sits beneath the Civic Offices.

And has a ramp leading to the roof top parking.

Next door the earlier Queensway Centre.

The Family unveiled by HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 the country’s first pedestrianised precinct.

Edward Bainbridge Copnall 

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.

Hartlepool Mail.

Missing in action – La Ronde aka Eleanor Rigby’s.

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.

The Forum

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.

Something Concrete and Modern

Octel Amlwch – Pumping

We have taken a trip around the extant exteriors of the processing plant.

Now let’s turn our attention toward the epic infrastructure which extracted and pumped seawater.

Sea water is sucked in and then lifted 50ft into sea water ponds by huge pumps where any debris is removed. It is then passed to the seawater main where chlorine and dilute sulphuric acid are added which releases the bromine. It is literally blown out of the water. This water is passed into the top of a tower where it drops over 20ft through the packed section of the tower. There it is met by currents of air travelling upwards. Where it meets these air currents the bromine gets stripped out the water, which is returned to the sea. Whilst the wet bromine laden air passes from the top of the tower to be treated with sulphur dioxide and water. This produces mists of hydrobromic and sulphuric acids.

This mist passes into an absorber, and the acid coalesces. From here, it blows to a collecting tank. The bromine free air returns to the blowing out tower and the cycle begins again. The acidic product is referred to as primary acid liquor. This is now pumped to the steaming out tower. It enters the top and is treated with chlorine and steam, which releases the bromine as vapour. It is then condensed to a liquid. The bulk of bromine goes to dibromoethane, whilst the remainder is sold or used to make other intermediates.

It takes about 22,000 tonnes of seawater to produce 1 tonne of bromine. Every minute 300,000 gallons of seawater are drawn in.

This now redundant technology has left a legacy of industrial dereliction amongst the ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks and sylvan seas of the Anglesey Coast.

This is a landscape which induces fear and fascination in equal measure.

Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.

Edmund Burke

Octel Amlwch – Exteriors

Amlwch has been the centre of the world’s copper industry, a coastal town on Anglesey with a long history of trade, the coming and going of goods.

Once the site of a processing plant extracting bromine from sea water.

The Associated Octel factory was built to extract bromine from seawater and turn it into an additive for petrol engines. At the time, petrol used in road vehicles contained lead. Engine knocking was a common problem, when the mixture of air and fuel didn’t burn efficiently with each detonation. This could damage engine cylinders over time. The additive produced here reduced knocking and improved engine efficiency.

As the health effects of lead in vehicle exhaust gases became better understood, unleaded petrol was developed. It was introduced to UK filling stations in the 1980s, and leaded petrol was later phased out. As demand for anti-knock additive reduced, the Octel factory diversified into other bromine products and was taken over by Great Lakes Chemical Corporation. In 2003, the corporation decided to close the works with the loss of more than 100 jobs.

A detailed history of the site can be found here at Octel Amlwch.

The site has been subject to arson attacks and partial demolition, the extant buildings tagged, tattered and torn.

Slowly but surely nature breaks through the tarmac and concrete.

The gate is open, the lights are out, there’s nobody home.

Deal To Margate

We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.

Though the pier appeared to be closed.

Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.

The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.

The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.

Wikipedia

Deal is home to some of the most extraordinary concrete shelters.

Home to some understated Seaside Moderne homes too.

Well fed, we set out along the private road that edges the golf course, encountering some informal agricultural architecture.

We took time to explore Pegwell Bay Hoverport – currently trading as a Country Park.

Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.

The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.

Historic England

Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988. 

The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.

On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.

Wikipedia

Broadstairs was alive with Bank Holiday activity.

On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity

Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.

Built of flint and rubble.

One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:

We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack.  Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.

In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.

The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.

The Turner Contemporary was hosting an impromptu al fresco sculpture show.

Dreamland was still dreaming.

And Arlington House staring steadfastly out to sea.

Time now for tea and a welcome plate of chish and fips at the Beano Cafe.

I miss my haddock and chips from Beano in Margate, brought to you with a smile and he remembers everyone.

Great customer service and friendly staff, see you soon.

The food is awful and the customer service is even worse: when we complained about the food the staff argued with us and wouldn’t do anything to change the food or refund, avoid at all costs!

Trip Advisor

Time for a wander around Cliftonville.

Discovering a shiny new launderette.

And a launderette that wasn’t a launderette – it’s a Werkhaus that isn’t a workhouse.

And a patriotic tea rooms.

So farewell then the south coast – we’re off home on the train in the morning.

But first a pint or two.

Rye To Deal

I’ve been here before on a longer Hastings to Margate leg, here’s a shorter hop.

Late night arrival in Rye, early morning departure following a hearty hotel breakfast.

Firstly along tracks, then parallel to the road on sequestered farmland, through the flat salt marshes of Camber.

Where Tim stops, in order to fail to buy fruit.

Brief relief from the track along the concrete sea defences and path.

Passing the temporary dwellings, beside the shifting sands and shingle.

Glancing toward Dungeness Power Station.

Dungeness nuclear power station comprises a pair of non operational nuclear power stations, located on the Dungeness headland in the south of Kent. Dungeness A is a legacy Magnox power station that was connected to the National Grid in 1965 and has reached the end of its life. Dungeness B is an advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) power station consisting of two 1,496 MWt reactors, which began operation in 1983 and 1985 respectively, and have been non-operational since 2018 due to ongoing safety concerns.

There were many problems during construction of the second power station, which was the first full-scale AGR. It was supposed to be completed in 1970, but the project collapsed in 1969. The CEGB took over project management and appointed British Nuclear Design and Construction (BNDC) as main contractor. There were more problems and by 1975 the CEGB was reporting that the power station would not be completed until 1977 and the cost had risen to £280 million. By completion the cost had risen to £685 million, four times the initial estimate in inflation-adjusted terms.

In March 2009, serious problems were found when Unit B21 was shut down for maintenance, and the reactor remained out of action for almost 18 months. In 2015, the plant was given a second ten-year life extension, taking the proposed closure date to 2028. In September 2018, both units were shut down and were expected to restart in December 2020. On 7 June 2021, EDF announced that Dungeness B would move into the defuelling phase with immediate effect.

Wikipedia

Pausing for a moment to take a drink, sadly not a drink in the Jolly Fisherman – unlike another comical pair.

During their 1947 UK tour, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were invited to re-open the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

After travelling down by regular train, the pair performed a couple of skits to entertain the crowds – and the gathered news crews – before riding the light railway.

The duo then lunched with dignitaries at the Jolly Fisherman, before returning for tea at the railway’s restaurant at Hythe.

Dover Kent

The original pub

On Monday and inquest was held on the body of Mr. John Adams, landlord of the “Jolly Fisherman,” who was found drowned in a well near his house.

From the evidence it appeared that the deceased left home on Saturday morning for the purpose, according to his usual custom, of walking to New Romney, to see if there were any letters for Dungeness. Not returning at the usual time, his wife became alarmed, and a messenger was dispatched to Romney to see if he had been to the Post-office. It was ascertained he had not, and the search was forthwith made.

About 2 o’clock one of the coastguardsmen, Edward Hooker, bethought him to look into the well, which is about 250 yards from the deceased’s house. In doing so he was horrified to find the poor fellow head downwards, partly immersed in water. Assistance was at once procured, and he was removed to his house, quite dead. There was about 4 feet of water in the well.

In the absence of any testimony to establish the inference of suicide, and open verdict of Found Drowned was returned. The deceased was about 50 years of age.

It has been stated that the deceased had of late, been rather abstracted, but no evidence was adduced to establish the truth of this assertion.

The present Jolly Fisherman pub is located in the centre of Greatstone at the junction of Dunes Road and The Parade.

This was built by the brewers Style and Winch Ltd, who owned the old Jolly Fisherman, in about 1935 as a pub and hotel.

Postcard of 1975

Here we are now taking time out at New Romney, in order to view the locomotives in steam, at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

The RH&DR was the culmination of the dreams of Captain J. E. P. Howey — a racing driver, millionaire land owner, former Army Officer and miniature railway aficionado and Count Louis Zborowski — eminently well-known racing driver of his day – famous for owning and racing the Chitty Bang Bang Mercedes.

The 120ft Grade II Listed water tower at Littlestone was built in 1890 by Henry Tubbs to supply water to his properties in Littlestone, including Littlestone Golf Club and his proposed housing development. 

Henry Tubbs wanted to turn Littlestone into a major resort, and embarked on an ambitious building programme, including the Marine Parade and Grand Hotel. His plans for a pier were not realised, however, and it was eventually built at Eastbourne instead.

The tower is constructed in red brick which shows the external features of the tower very well. It narrows at about the third story and its appearance changes depending on your viewpoint. At the top there is a sort of turret, giving the building a slightly military look.

The military used the Tower during World War Two as a lookout post and they made some changes to the structure, partly the reason for its slightly wobbly look. The Army also added a substantial concrete stairway inside.

Unfortunately the water tower didn’t function properly and the water was found to contain too much salt to be of any use. In 1902 the Littlestone and District Water Company built a tower at Dungeness to supply all of New Romney, Littlestone, Greatstone and Lydd. The tower at Littlestone fell into disuse, but now serves as a residence.

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