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

Hull Walk 2021

Turn right out of the station toward the Cecil Cinema.

The Theatre De-Luxe was built in 1911 at the corner of Anlaby Road and Ferensway with its entrance in Anlaby Road and its auditorium along the side of the pavement in Ferensway. Kinematograph Year Book of 1914 lists 600 seats and the owners as National Electric Picture Theatres Ltd.

In 1925, the theatre was rebuilt to a radically altered ground-plan and renamed the Cecil Theatre. 

The Cecil Theatre’s demise came during bombing on the night of 7/8 May 1941 when German incendiary bombs reduced the building to a shell; and it remained like that until demolition in 1953.

Work on the new Cecil Theatre was begun in April 1955 and it was opened on 28th November 1955 with 1,374 seats in the stalls and 678 in the balcony.

Architects: Gelder and Kitchca

At the time of opening it had the largest CinemaScope screen in the country measuring 57 feet wide, and the first film shown was Marilyn Monroe The Seven Year Itch.

In the 1980’s it was taken over by the Cannon Cinemas chain. The cinema operation was closed on 23rd March 1992 and the cinemas were ‘For Sale and/or Lease. It was taken over by Take Two Cinemas and renamed Take Two Cinema. It was closed on 27th February 1997 and the two screens in the former circle were stripped out and converted into a snooker club.

Whilst bingo continues in the former stalls area of this post war 
cinema, the former mini cinemas in the circle still contain the snooker tables, but the space is unused. The screen in the former restaurant/cafe area remains basically intact, but is unused.

Cinema Treasures

Whilst circumnavigating the Cecil one can’t help but notice the KCOM HQ – and its distinctive white telephone kiosks.

The work of City Architect A Rankine OBE RIBA

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.

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 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.

Returning to Ferensway we are confronted by the Danish Seaman’s Church.

Sea trade created a large Danish community which Hull’s very own Amy Johnson was descended from. Her grandfather was Anders Jorgensen, who anglicised his name to the more pronounceable Andrew Johnson. A Danish pastor was appointed and an old chapel in Osborne Street was purchased in 1841.

It was on May 9, 1954, that the present church, with its now familiar separate bell tower, was consecrated by the Bishop of Copenhagen.

Around the corner we find Porter Street Housing.

Hull was the most severely damaged British city or town during the Second World War, with 95 percent of houses damaged. It was under air raid alert for one thousand hours. Hull was the target of the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid on Britain.

Of a population of approximately three hundred and twenty thousand at the beginning of the war, approximately one hundred and fifty two thousand were made homeless as a result of bomb destruction or damage. 

Overall almost one thousand two hundred people were killed and three thousand injured by air raids.

Despite the damage the port continued to function throughout the war.

The earliest housing was built just after World War II, starting with what is known locally as Australia Houses

A circular five storey housing block off Porter and Adelaide Streets, with a communal garden in the middle. These flats consist of deck access flats and some traditional style Art Deco tenements. Some are three bedroom, and have been refurbished over the years.

UK Housing

Porter Street – three six-storey blocks containing seventy dwellings of 1954

Contractor J Mather

New Michael Street and Melville Street aka Upper Union Street one hundred and eight dwellings in three nine-storey blocks of 1958

Contractor Truscon

The designer behind Hull’s tower blocks was Andrew Rankine RIBA, who from 1939 remained City Architect until his retirement in 1961.

Just around the corner:

Over the last three years both companies have worked on undertaking the complex development of an off-site constructed, low carbon, Code 5 housing product. Working with Hodson Architects on the design the project will provide 3-bed family houses on the Thornton Estate in Hull. The scheme will increase provision of suitably sized accommodation in the area for families.

The project will see Premier Interlink manufacture the steel framed modules at the factory in Brandesburton East Yorkshire starting this March. The five houses are to be prefabricated off-site, with each house comprising of four separate units which are then assembled on site. This offers the benefit of reducing construction time, improving efficiency, reducing material wastage and offering an improved thermal envelope.

Premier Modular

The Goodwin Trust, a brilliant and pioneering community group, decided the new version of pre-fab, or ‘modular’ housing, was exactly what was needed to provide affordable housing for the people it also cares for in so many other different ways.

Locality

Onward to Holy Apostles Church now home to Hull Truck and renamed Thornton Village Hall.

Architects: Ferrey and Mennim

Back toward the station and Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.

Built in 1952 on Paragon Square to designs by T. P. Bennett, with extensions added in 1954 and 1957. Within a couple of years the business had grown again by opening its own hairdressing salon, and in 1960 added a new warehouse to accommodate their furniture workshops and stock rooms. This itself was extended within four years, while a fourth floor was added to the main store.

On the right a civic building Festival House of 1951.

Architect: John Brandon-Jones.

Apprenticed to Lutyens‘ assistant Oswald Milne and later working with Charles Cowles-Voysey

With his good friend, John Betjeman, he helped found the Victorian Society in 1958.

On 1st May 1951, the foundation stone of Festival House was laid, to commemorate the first permanent building to be built in the city centre since the 1941 Blitz. Placed under the stone was a time capsule containing coins, stamps, a Festival of Britain programme, a copy of that day’s Hull Daily Mail, and a booklet about the city. Festival House was owned by Hull Corporation on behalf of the people of Hull.

Before us Alan Boyson’s Three Ships – now listed and set for preservation.

The fate of the attached former CO-OP/BHS is less secure.

Architect: Philip Andrew

Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.

We encounter Tonkin Liu’s Solar Gate – a sundial that uses solar alignment to mark significant times and dates in Hull. The super-light innovative two-shell structure is place-specific, responding to pivotal historic events and to the cultural context of its location in Hull’s Queens Gardens adjacent to the ancient site of Beverley Gate.

Carved stone panels Kenneth Carter 1960 – Ken’s art career began as an inspiring teacher, first at his alma mater, Hull College of Art, and later as principal lecturer at Exeter College of Art.

A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, by Robert Adams, described by Herbert Read as belonging to: 

The iconography of despair. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.

And behind we glimpse Frederick Gibberd’s fine Technical College.

Adorned by the William Mitchell relief.

Porstmouth

Having cycled here from Southampton, we now had time to cool our heels and look around.

Tim Rushton and I were Fine Art students here in the 1970’s, eager to take a trip down Memory Lane to Lion Terrace.

We’ll get there in a bit.

We took a look along The Hard discovering pubs that we never went in which are no longer pubs.

This pub was built in 1900, possibly on the site of an earlier pub. For most of its history it was tied to the Brickwood’s Brewery of Portsmouth. 

The pub closed in 1970 to become a restaurant, before becoming an estate agents offices.

The pub sign appeared in the 1971 film Carry On At Your Convenience.

Many Brickwoods’ pubs were ever so elegantly tiled, though the beer was largely undrinkable.

Just along the way another pub which we never really knew, though still a pub for all that.

Across the water in Gosport our old pals Harbour and Seaward Towers.

Along the way some high quality hard landscaping.

Beneath our feet the smiling face of Pompey!

We resisted the charming period charms of the Clarence Pier

The pier was originally constructed and opened in 1861 by the Prince and Princess of Wales and boasted a regular ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

It was damaged by air raids during World War II and was reopened in its current form on 1 June 1961 after being rebuilt by local architects AE Cogswell & Sons and R Lewis Reynish.

Mind the Baby Mr. Bean an episode of British TV comedy series Mr. Bean was filmed on location at Clarence Pier.

Wikipedia

Tim wisely eschews the Wimpy.

Lyons obtained a licence to use the Wimpy brand in the United Kingdom from Edward Gold’s Chicago based Wimpy Grills Inc. and, in 1954, the first Wimpy Bar was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. The bar began as a special fast food section within traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger-based meals.

In a 1955 newspaper column, Art Buchwald, syndicated writer for the Washington Post, wrote about the recent opening of a Wimpy’s Hamburger Parlor on Coventry Street and about the influence of American culture on the British.

Buchwald wrote:

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.

During the 1970s Wimpy refused entry to women on their own after midnight.

Moving along eye spy the Isle of Wight Ferry through the Hovertravel window.

Hovertravel is now the world’s oldest hovercraft operator, and this service is believed to be unique in western Europe. 

It is the world’s only commercial passenger hovercraft service.

The operator’s principal service operates between Southsea Common on the English mainland and Ryde Transport Interchange on the Isle of Wight: the crossing time of less than 10 minutes makes it the fastest route across The Solent from land to land. 

This service commenced operations in 1965, Hovertravel currently operates two 12000TD hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea.

Wikipedia 

We took a turn into the back streets to visit our old home 20 Shaftesbury Road, where Catherine Lusher, Tim and I lived in the basement flats.

Liz Bavister and Trish Frowd lived above

The former Debenham’s is to become flats.

Hampshire Live

Nearby Knight and Lea has been listed

The Knight & Lee building, which is located between two conservation areas on a prominent corner of Palmerston Road and Clarendon Road in Southsea, Portsmouth, was designed by Cotton, Ballard and Blow.

C20

Notable surviving original interior features include spiral staircases with terrazzo flooring in the northwestern and southwestern corner customer entrance vestibules.

A little Stymie Bold Italic aka Profil for your delectation along with a delightful low concrete fence.

A ghostly sign.

The Wheelbarrow where we drank, currently home to Joe and his pizzas.

The former Duchess of Fife in Castle Road long gone Long’s pub

Long & Co Ltd Southsea Brewery

Founded by William Tollervey 1814 and was acquired by Samuel Long in 1839. Registered in March 1924. 

Acquired by Brickwoods Ltd 1933 when brewing ceased.

The Barley Mow my favourite local where we would take a drink later.

Later.

The evening was enlivened by the arrival of a drunken wedding party the bride all in white, veil askew.

The besuited groom three sheets to the wind, mayhem ensued, we departed.

The Grade II Listed India Arms – North part 1902 by AE Cogswell; south part formerly Fishmonger and Game shop 1900, which formed the extension to the public house c1980.

Once part of the long gone Gales Brewery estate.

Founded 1847 when Richard Gale acquired the Ship & Bell home brew house.

Registered in April 1888 with 80 public houses. 

Acquired by Fuller, Smith & Turner Ltd in 2005 with 111 houses and closed.

Now we is at the Borough Arms and other favourite – purveyors of strong rough cider.

Built in 1899 architect AE Cogswell as the Old Vic now listed but no longer a pub

Along with the adjacent Wiltshire Lamb which since the 1980s this pub has had a variety of names including, Drummond’s, Tut ‘n’ Shive, Monty’s and now Hampshire Boulevard, usually shortened to HB.

The Norrish Central Library: city architect Ken Norrish 1976 – is all that remains this Brutal part of Portsmouth.

It faces the stylish new Civic Centre: Teggin & Taylor 1976 – a piazza completed by the adjacent Guildhall.

Alas no more:

The Tricorn Centre was a shopping, nightclub and car park complex, it was designed in the Brutalist style by Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon and took its name from the site’s shape which from the air resembled a tricorn hat.

Constructed in the mid-1960s, it was demolished in 2004.

Next we are by the former Portsmouth Polytechnic Fine Art block in Lion Terrace.

The ground floor corner housed the print room where I learnt my craft under the tutelage of Ian Hunter who we hooked up with for a pint and a chat.

Thanks ever so Ian for everything.

The happy days came to an end when the department was acrimoniously closed during a Hampshire shuffle.

We also cycled out to Langstone Harbour in search of the Arundel Canal lock gates, where Tim had languidly drawn away the hours, too many summers long ago.

After some circuitous searching we finally found them.

We ended a long day in the Barley Mow sharing yet another pint, one of many in our almost fifty year friendship.

Doncaster Modernism – Revisited

Having taken a tour around town last year, we are now revisiting Doncaster on a socially distanced Manchester Modernist walk.

Arriving by train at 8.30, just in time to check out the new lighting scheme in the station foyer.

Replacing the previous lighting.

Which in turn replaced the original Thirties lighting.

The forecourt redevelopment is a work nearing completion.

I was on my way to Intake by bus so it’s off on the 66 from the Frenchgate Inetrchange.

An urban environment so anonymous, that it can only just recognise itself. I was helpfully informed by two radio controlled security guards that photography was illegal.

More Interzone than Interchange.

Here are my transgressive snaps, I made my excuses and left – on the next available 66.

Decanting from the single decker I made my way across the way to All Saints, a George Pace church of 1956.

Built on the foundations of an unrealised Neo-Romanesque church of 1940, but reorientated east/west.

I legged it back to catch the bus back, the returning 66, much to the surprise of the surprised driver, making his return journey.

Jumping the 41A to Scawsby, displaying my risible home-printed map to the driver, requesting a shout when we arrived at the indicated destination, which he was unable to discern, and which I had failed illustrate.

I had contrived to arrive at the end of the line, a bit part player in a non-existent Béla Tarr film.

The heavy rain continued to fall.

I followed the bus route back to the Church of St Leonard and St Jude on Barnsley Road.

Following a thorough tour inside and out, I returned promptly to the town centre, on the limited stop express X19.

And hotfooted it to the Waterdale Centre, a work in progress, the CGI figures being as yet, a mere figment of the development officer’s fevered dreams.

Doncaster Council documents from the planning application for the demolition say, that while the exact project is not yet fully in place, discussions are taking place with the council on the project and grant funding is being sought to help the future regeneration scheme. But the council has said it supports schemes that would revitalise the Waterdale Centre area for retail, leisure, and tourism uses.

The centre is now owned by the Doncaster-based property firm Lazarus Properties, who bought it from the Birmingham firm St Modwen.

Lazarus director Glyn Smith said his firm had faith in the local economy of Doncaster town centre, even though larger multinationals seemed to be shying away.

Doncaster Free Press

The former ABC/Cannon Cinema

The ABC was built by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) as a replacement for their Picture House Cinema which had opened in 1914. It opened on 18th May 1967 with Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago presented in 70mm. Designed with 1,277 seats arranged in a stadium plan by the architectural firm Morgan & Branch, with input by architects C. ‘Jack’ Foster & Alan Morgan. It was decorated in a modern 1960’s style.

Closed in January 1981 for conversion into a triple screen it re-opened on 9th April 1981 with seating in the 3-screens.

The Cannon Group took control in the mid-1980’s and it was re-named Cannon and it closed on 18th June 1992, screening its opening film “Doctor Zhivago”.

The building has stood empty and unused since then, but in 2007, it was bought by Movie World for just £150,000. It is reputedly being re-modeled with extra screens added, however by 2009, only a clean-up of the interior has been achieved. The building sits empty and unused in 2020.

Cinema Treasures

The delayed opening of the new Savoy Complex will no doubt inform the future of the Cannon.

It’s a familiar tale of the local authority, developers, leisure and retail outlets chasing dreams, cash and hopefully pulling in the live now pay later public.

It’s all part of the Doncaster Urban Centre Masterplan which will transform the way Doncaster looks and the way residents and businesses use the city core.

The area is a pivotal point, I sincerely hope that the Waterdale Centre is revived, along with the adjacent Civic Quarter car park.

Refurbished in 2011 by Potter Church and Holmes since closed.

I noted the restrained Modernism of the National Spiritualist Church.

The service begins with a short prayer. The congregation sings three songs during the service using music that most people would recognise. There is usually a short reading or lesson on something to do with spiritualism or events in the world. There is also a talk by the guest medium who use their inspiration or intuition to compose an uplifting address.

Then the business of contacting the spirit world begins.

Along with its curious relief panels.

Back around to the back of the Waterdale and the surviving former bank fascia, civic offices and library.

Back through the Waterdale to discover the saddest of retail archeology.

The long lost tiled café wall and a mysterious porch.

A gloomy end to a very wet day.

Ilfracombe to Okehampton

Today Monday 27th July 2015 – leaving Ilfracombe the royal we head south along the Tarka Trail, giving Cornwall a swerve.

Though first we feast on a slightly out of focus fry up at the digs.

Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter, this 180 mile, figure eight route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. The southern loop incorporates the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK. Walking or cycling, you can experience the best this beautiful area has to offer.

Though first a little look at Ilfracombe.

Looks to me like local Marland Brick

Then away we go following the former train line out of town.

The Ilfracombe Branch of the London & South Western Railway, ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was sufficiently popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889.

The 1:36 gradient between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe stations was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country. In the days of steam traction, it was often necessary to double-head departing passenger trains.

Named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe.

Despite nearly a century of bringing much-needed revenue into this remote corner of the county, passenger numbers dropped dramatically in the years following the Second World War, due to a massive increase in the number of cars on Britain’s roads, and the line finally closed in 1970.

Much of the course of the line is still visible today, and sections of it have been converted into public cycleways.

Wikipedia

A delightfully decorated prefabricated concrete railway hut.

Huts old railway huts, council take ’em and they cover them in colouring book Constructivism.

Eventually I find myself outside an inter war Modernist Masonic Hall in Braunton.

Dozens of Devon councillors are also Freemasons – is yours?

Conservative Cllr for Topsham Andrew Leadbetter is a well-known Mason.

Devon Live

We leave behind – the shadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies.

For the equally shadowy world of military installations.

The water tower at RAF Chivenor.

Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training.

In 1974 the station was left on care and maintenance, in 1994 7 FTS left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the Royal Marines.

Wikipedia

A most delightful cycle path alongside the estuary of the River Taw.

The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.

Passing under the Torridge Bridge at Bideford – a 650 metre long concrete structure built in 1987.

Photo James Ravilious

Three piers are in the river. Each of the piers in the water is protected by concrete fenders twenty four metres long by eight metres wide by eight metres high. The concrete piers of the bridge are around twenty four metres high.

It was designed by MRM Partnership.

Here we are in Barnstaple by the Civic Centre.

It’s described as an ‘iconic’ building, but not many locals would agree, this huge building widely considered to be one of the ugliest in Devon could soon be under new ownership. The council has confirmed that following a tender exercise, it is working with a preferred bidder to finalise the details of the sale.

Devon Live

In 2014 Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believed the civic centre could provide up to 84 modern apartments.

Artist’s impression by Peregrine Mears Architects – looks a little too wobbly to me, Peregrine Mears Architects should get right back to the drawing board, where they started from.

The Neo-Classical facade restrained Deco of The Venue.

Formerly The Regal Cinema – opened on 30th August 1937

Architects – BM Orphoot

Revellers dancing at The Worx nightclub – as The Venue was to become.

The building in Barnstaple is for sale with Webbers estate agents for just £225,000. The striking building in a prime position on the town’s Strand was originally opened in 1937 as the Regal Cinema.

The building will probably be best known under the guise of Kaos, the name it was given during the 1990’s and at the height of its popularity.

Other nightclub incarnations at the premises included Babylon, Rockabillies, Coco, Club Tropicana and of course The Venue.

Devon Live 2019

The Tarka Trail crossing the River Torridge, just south of Bideford, utilising the former railway bridge.

The old home town looks the same as I step down from the bike, and there to meet me is – well nobody.

And I realise, yes, I was only dreaming.

I’ll go to Okehampon then – take a look at the lovely tiled Post Office, whilst completely ignoring one of the oldest Norman castles in the country.

Walking around town in search of a B&B proved fruitless, though I was directed to an out of town Roadhouse aways away.

Welcome to Betty Cottles Inn – land of the lost apostrophe.

Rooms are not as photos/described on hotel booking sites, wi-fi hardly ever works. I prepaid/booked for nine nights, I checked out after two days. Needless to say I didnt receive a seven day refund. Owner with attitude problem, he had my money, and was not keen on helping with my concerns about the property. Musky smell to carpet in bar and restaurant areas. Not been cleaned for a long time. Rooms unsafe and not private, with curtains not long enough, lock on room doors inadequate.

Neil H – July 2109

You sneaked in a female into your single room without paying for her and got caught so obviously you have retaliated by way of a negative review. You were probably the most rude and hostile guest we have ever had and have had to report you to booking.com for guest misconduct and also banned you from being able to book here again.

Matthew owner at Betty Cottles Inn

I ate a reasonable meal in the Carvery and chatted amiably with a representative salesman on the move, whilst seeing off a few pints of Guinness – any port in a storm.

Night night.

Stopford House – Again and Again

Third time around – on a late lockdown April evening.

I’ve been here before and before, yet I come back again and again.

It’s different every time, deserted at the best of times, during the worst of times it seems even more so – not a soul in sight. The low warm sun affords the bare concrete a pale pink and orange glow.

The mix contained coarse aggregate from the Scottish Granite Company of Creetown, a fine Leemoor sand from the Fordamin Company, together with white cement.

So here we are again, again:

Civic Centre Postcards – Newcastle and Plymouth

I’m more than partial to a picture postcard – I have penchant for the picaresque.

And in these troubled times there’s no safer way to travel.

I have some previous experience, exploring the precincts of our fair land – here and there.

Prompted by a post from Natalie Bradbury – I became intrigued by Newcastle Civic Centre cards, I have visited the site, but in this instance, we are taken there thus:

Let’s have a look inside:

The Council Chamber

Grand Entrance Hall

Its extensive rooms.

Which then led me to Plymouth – which I had visited some time ago, on my coastal cycle tour, another fine example of post-war Municipal Modernism.

Empty for some time it now seems that a change is going to come:

A long-awaited scheme to convert the empty Civic Centre tower block in Plymouth into flats is set to be given the go-ahead.

Planning applications to create 144 homes in the 14-floor landmark building in Armada Way are being recommended for approval. 

The scheme also proposes a mix of uses for the ground and first floors including shops, offices, cafes and restaurants, bars, hot food takeaway, art gallery, gym, creche and day nursery.

Plymouth Herald

Many of our fine Modernist civic buildings are under threat – as councils seek new premises for a new age.

Only the strong survive.

Civic Centre – Wigan Again

I’ve been here before, no not in some strange déjà vu sense.

I’ve been here before – look!

Three years on, now in the shadow of the newly built Life Centre, you stand alone unloved – empty.

But the future of the Modernist landmark, which was first put in service by the borough in the early 70s, remains unclear. There is speculation that the Millgate building, first unveiled by Wigan Mayor John Farrimond, could become a hotel.

Last October the Wigan Observer revealed how the council had enjoyed mixed fortunes when it came to marketing elements of its existing property portfolio.

But the council has been successful in offloading some venues, with Ince Town Hall now home to Little Giggles nursery.

So who knows what fate awaits you – the town I am told is on the up.

Let’s hope that the Civic Centre is not coming down

All Saints – Grosvenor Square Manchester

Once upon a time there was almost nothing, as there often is.

Green fields, sylvan glades and a pleasant park in Grosvenor Square.

1813

Then all of a sudden, at the heart of the Square sat All Saints Church.

Underneath Manchester’s All Saints Park is a hidden history – an estimated 16,000 bodies. For this was the site of a former Victorian Cemetery, set up to cater for the parishioners of All Saints.

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All Saints Burial Ground officially opened on Wednesday 19 April 1820. The first interment was that of twenty-one-year-old Fanny Knowles, who lived on London Road. Her funeral was conducted by the founder himself, Charles Burton. It would be another month before the next interment took place. In the first year burials were slow with only 55 interments, however, by 1851 the number had increased to over 600 per annum. 

Michala Hulme

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Bombed in the Blitz the damaged structure was demolished – and a play area established which lasted until the 1980s

MMU Visual Resources 

The whole area having been a centre of housing, education, entertainment, commerce, public services and worship, was becoming the fiefdom of first the Polytechnic and subsequently the Manchester Metropolitan University.

But formerly there were peoples’ homes here.

Then the 1960s saw a huge programme of slum clearance in Manchester and whole communities across the Square and nearby Hulme were moved, rehoused in a thoroughly modern milieu.

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Shops came and went.

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Paulden’s magnificent store was destroyed by fire in 1957

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Rightons haberdashers has survived though no longer haberdashing, having been amalgamated into MMU.

One day On The Eight day moved a little to the left

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The Manchester Municipal School of Art was built in Cavendish Street in 1880–81 to the designs of G.T.Redmayne.

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The fascia has been retained but the name has not been changed to protect the innocent.

Next door the Chorlton on Medlock town hall still has its portico in place, the adjacent Adult Education building has been surgically removed.

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Richard Lane, the architect of the Friend’s Meeting House on Mount Street, designed the Chorlton-on-Medlock Town Hall on Grosvenor Street.  It continued in  that role from 1831 until 1838 when Chorlton-on-Medlock became part of the city of Manchester.  In the years that followed it was used by the local community for a variety of functions but the redevelopment of the area meant that the local population diminshed and the building became redundant.  In 1970, the interior was removed, a new structure added to the rear and it became part of the Polytechnic which became the Manchester Metropolitan University.

The Fifth Pan African Conference was held there between October 15th and 21st in 1945. Ninety delegates from across Africa, Europe and the Caribbean, attended the meeting and among the delegates were a number of men who went on to become political leaders in their countries including: Hastings Banda, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Obafemi Awolowo and Jomo Kenyatta.

Manchester History

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Former Chorlton Poor Law Guardian’s HQ then Registry Office, now the Ormond Building of Metropolitan University – and at the far right edge St Augustine RC.

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The Manchester Ear Hospital on Lower Ormond Street, shortly before being transferred to Manchester Royal Infirmary. Most of the building was demolished, but the facade retained as part of MMU’s Bellhouse Building.

To the right the Presbyterian Church.

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Cavendish Street School

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The memorial stone on the front of the school, laid on June 17th, 1908,  declared that it was the Forty Seventh Municipal School.  Strangely, it seems that it was called the Cavendish Street School despite the fact that it wasn’t on Cavendish Street.

Manchester History

It was subsequently utilised by the Polytechnic sculpture department – then demolished to make way for something else of an educational nature.

Some or all of our social and architectural history has been overwritten, lost or swept aside by the tide of history.

Though on a dark snowy night you can still make out the bright red corporation buses,  passing by in a dark cloud of diesel.

Room on top.

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Archive images Local Image Collection

Chantry House – Wakefield

Soft wind blowing the smell of sweet roses to each and every one,
Happy to be on an island in the sun.

An island in Wakefield.

An Island in a sea of dual-carriageways.

Sixties built municipal modernism, hovering on slim stilts above the ground level carpark, complete with pierced brick screen.

The future was bright the future was red – for a short while.

Over the horizon came Sir Ian Kinloch MacGregor KBE.

Lady Thatcher said:

He brought a breath of fresh air to British industry.

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The fifth horseman of the industrial apocalypse – bringing pit-closure, redundancy the deindustrialisation of a whole area.

Offices and citizens are tinned-up, brassed-off and abandoned.

This is now the architecture of civic optimism eagerly awaiting repurposing.

There is talk of conversion to housing, talk is cheap.

A planning application has been drawn up requesting permission to change the use of Chantry House from offices to one and two bedroom residential units. The application has been submitted by The Freshwater Group, the development arm of Watermark Retirement Communities.

Wakefield Express

Currently home to the determined, hardened daytime drinker, street-artist and curious passerby.

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