Porth Wen Brickworks – Anglesey

Located twixt Bull Bay and Cemaes Bay, accessed whilst walking the Anglesey Coastal Path.

The area is rich in Quartzite, central to the production of Silica Bricks, which are resistant to high temperatures, much in demand at the height of the Industrial Revolution for lining steel furnaces.

The ore on the headland was first mined around 1850, with the ore being hewn out the living rock by hand.

A little railway brought the ore to the cliff above the brick works, then lowered by gravity to the works below, where the rocks would be pummelled and rendered to a size that could be further processed.

Mining by manual endeavour lasted from around 1850 to 1914, the hazardous harbour and alleged poor quality products hastening the enterprises’s demise.

Porth Wen brickworks was designated as a scheduled monument by Cadw in 1986 and classified as a post-medieval industrial brickworks.

Further information.

I first visited Porth Wen in the late Seventies, cycling to the nearest lane and walking across open fields.

It remains as incongruous today, set amongst coastal agriculture and the shiny sea.

Take care it’s a slippery slope – and the owners forbid access to their private property.

Octel Amlwch – Interiors

Having appraised the exteriors and pumping infrastructure, let us now consider the interior life of the site.

A site where a myriad working lives once unfolded – labourers, technicians, maintenance staff, administrators and managers.

They are now but fleeting shadows, their documents strewn across upturned furniture, empty lockers their standing open and untended, laboratories whose processes have ceased. A chaotic canteen with no-one to cook for, unsafe safety suits and unwashed washrooms.

Home now to pigeons, gulls and swallows alone.

The disconnected telephone remains unanswered.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Stockport Bus Station 2021

Your days are numbered, work has begun at the temporary site on Heaton Lane.

You are to be demolished, no more in, no more out.

I have tracked your history and slow decline.

You are to become a transport interchange.

So here’s a record of your lost chippy, closed lavatories, control centre, relocated information office, slowly ticking clock, soon to tick no longer.

Say hello and wave goodbye to RS McColl’s kiosk.

So so long my draughty, cold, deserted old pal.

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.

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

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

Portwood Stockport

I often walk around here, the space enclosed by the River Tame and the M60, it was a maze of busy streets, home to peoples’ homes, industry, pubs, clubs and railways.

Much of that is now gone, either left to its own devices, untended rough empty ground, or overwritten by the newly built Tesco Extra and Porsche dealership.

But what was there?

Archi UK – Map 1913

Water Street, Portwood looking north, taken from Avenue Street. Looking underneath the railway bridge, on the left hand side, the first building used to be a public house called ‘The Beehive’, further along was Kent & Swarbrick’s Tripeworks, now a precision engineers, then North West Concrete Works – Easymix. On the right is Coxson’s Brushworks, then the Portwood Mill, Kershaw’s Tannery and the Meadow Mill at the bottom of the street. 

H Lees Stockport Image Archive 1968

The area was also home to the Blood Tub boxing ring.

Outside the Blood Tub Back Water Street Portwood.

Centre row left to right Billy Pitt Taylor Micky Pelham Jack Hulme Jo Moran owner John Morry Bobby Riley Laurie Glen a jockey

2nd row from the back – James Jimmy Rose.

Back row left to right – Charlie Dean An ambulance man Ike Irelands horse dealer – Team from Macclesfield.

Extreme right – Jo Mulrooney.

Front row left to right extreme left – Sidney Smith soft Sidney – a simpleton Jo Hulme.

Copied from a photograph lent by Eddie Pitt 

 

Alligator Rainweara British company, whose main factory was based in Beehive Mill. It was best known for its 1960s collaborations with Mary Quant in the design and production of her Wet Look collection of PVC raincoats.

The firm was started after the First World War by Reuben Satinoff, who had previously founded the London Waterproof Company – Silkimac. It was taken over by his sons after the Second World War. For decades, it manufactured traditional weatherproof raincoats in black, brown and beige, but the collaboration with Quant led to new fabrics including PVC and nylon, and a range of bright and vibrant colours.

At its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, Alligator had a turnover of £5 million per year and was exporting its products to Europe and North America. It was later owned by Baker Street Brands who describe it as one of their heritage brands.

Viewed from Tiviot Dale Viaduct

Tiviot Dale station was located on the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) operated Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway line from Portwood to Skelton Junction, a section of what became the Woodley to Glazebrook line. It was situated at the bottom of Lancashire Hill, next to the present motorway bridge. It was opened on 1 December 1865  and was originally known as Stockport Teviot Dale. From 1880, Tiviot Dale was also served by long-distance trains running on the Manchester South District Railway to London St Pancras.

Tiviot Dale remained a part of the CLC, which was jointly owned from 1923 by the London and North Eastern Railway and the London Midland and Scottish Railway, until 1948 when it became part of the British Railways London Midland Region.

The lines through the station remained in heavy use by coal trains heading for Fiddlers Ferry power station near Warrington from the Woodhead Line. These, however, ceased in 1980 when damage was caused to the nearby Tiviot Dale tunnel during construction work on the M63 motorway – now M60 motorway and the line temporarily closed for safety reasons. The closure was made permanent west of Bredbury’s stone terminal in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986 and the tunnel partially filled in. The area surrounding the station was further altered at the beginning of the 21st century to allow the construction of a supermarket and office buildings, which now block the old trackbed.

Wikipedia

Portwood Railway Station was on the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway – later becoming part of Cheshire Lines Committee – Glazebrook to Woodley line. According to Bolger it opened to passengers on 12 January 1863, along with the rest of the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway, although Butt suggests it opened on 1 December 1865 when the Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway opened.

The station opened for goods traffic in 1865, closing to passengers on 1 September 1875, when it became a goods station. It remained in use until 25 April 1966 when it closed except for coal traffic which continued until 27 March 1972 when it closed entirely except for a private siding.

Today no trace of the station remains, the site being buried under a slip road of the M60 motorway.

Monica Clarke on her tricycle in Marsland Street, behind her across the cobbled street is the Sheba Works – 1951.

Marsland Street east, showing the Haymarket Chambers – 1967

The front of Haymarket Chambers Marsland Street.

Boarded up dwellings on Compstall Court, off Marsland Street.

Portwood Cut 1968

James Harrison bought the manor of Brinnington in the early 1780’s – by 1790 Harrison had three factories in Portwood and others were to follow. In 1796, to provide sufficient water-power to this industrial zone he constructed a substancial millrace. Known as the Portwood Cut, it carried water across the Tame, between his Reddish and Brinnington estates. Harrison also planned the construction of factories at Wood Hall but that particular scheme was abandoned after his death in 1806.

Harrison’s Weir still survives on the river. To the south sections of the Portwood Cut also survive within Reddish Vale Country Park, both as a shallow depression and as water-filled, if somewhat silted and overgrown channel.

Reddish Vale Country Park

Kershaws is one of the only original businesses which still trades in the area.

Established back in 1855 by Joshua Kershaw, the company has gone from strength to strength.

Way back then, it was just a tannery. Today, seven generations on, Edward Kershaw heads a company that is known and respected for it’s quality leather in Europe, America and the Far East.

Kershaws also provide white leather for masonics and bagpipes.

Brewery Street – a view of the steps leading to the railway footpath to Tame Street – 1967.

The mill in the foreground is the Portwood Spinning Mill now called Portwood Mill – on the front of the mill it states Sir Richard Arkwright Portwood Mill.

Employees – Portwood Spinning Company

Coal drops and yard at the rear of the Beehive Spinning Mill

Tame Street gave motorized access to the Cut and here the caravans of travelling folk were parked several times a year, usually until the police ‘moved them on’. The men collected and sold scrap metal, the women sold clothes pegs and told fortunes from door to door. Many of the local people treated them with suspicion and some local pubs would not admit them.

Building work on Lancashire Hill can be seen in the background – 1968 

In 1971 Daniel Meadows visited the Traveller’s Camp and produced this series of photographs, published by Café Royal Books.

From the series: Gypsies and Travellers, Stockport, 1971

© Daniel Meadows

Aerial view 1976

General view of Portwood, seen from the railway bridge on Lancashire Hill.

The Alligator Rainwear factory can be seen in the top right of the picture – 1979

By 1982 the motorway has arrived – and the railway un-arrived.

In a relatively short space of time things come and go and are easily forgotten, their remnants all but erased from the landscape and memory.

Ashton under Lyne Interchange

We have already said goodbye to all the previous incarnations.

And eagerly awaited the rebirth.

This time as an interchange, where bus, tram and train converge – the most modern of modern ideas.

The brand-new Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange is now open, providing passengers with much-improved facilities and a modern, accessible gateway to the town. 

The Interchange supports the economic growth of the town and helps people to get to and from their places of work as well as Ashton’s great shops, markets, restaurants and bars in a modern, safe and welcoming environment.

The Interchange has been developed by Transport for Greater Manchester in partnership with Tameside Council and funded with support from central government’s Local Growth Deal programme.

The building contractor was VINCI Construction UK. 

Architects were Austin Smith Lord

I managed to get there, just before I wasn’t supposed to get there.

So goodbye to all this:

No more exposed pedestrian crossings, draughty shelters orange Ms, and analogue information boards.

It’s an integrated, enclosed, digitally connected, well-lit, secure unit.

I found it to be light, bright and well-used; a fine mix of glass, steel, brick, concrete and timber.

Spacious, commodious and clearly signed.

Linked to the shopping precinct.

It’s almost finished – I hope that everyone is happy?

They even found Lottery Heritage monies to fund public art.

The work of Michael Condron and a host of local collaborators.

Bonny Street Police Station – Blackpool

We are here are again – you Bonny Street bobbies, it seems, are not.

Departed for pastures new – to Marton near to the big Tesco. 

As well as a front counter, the new headquarters provides a base for some of the local policing and immediate response teams, an investigations hub and 42 custody cells.

Live Blackpool

On my previous visit I was in fact apprehended by a uniformed officer, perturbed by my super-snappy happy behaviour. Following a protracted discussion, I convinced the eager young boy in blue, that my intentions were entirely honourable.

Having visited the Morecambe site un-accosted.

And witnessed Bury’s demise.

I’m something of a Roger Booth aficionado, largely still at large.

Whilst Richard Brook is something of an expert.

Suffice to say I pay a visit to see my old pal the cop shop, whenever I find myself in town, stop to chat and snap – how are things, what’s happening?

Blackpool Central that’s what!

It seems that you are to become an Alien Diner.

Themed bar and event restaurant concept with roller coaster service, hourly special effects shows and exploration tours.

The £300m Blackpool Central development will bring world-class visitor attractions to a landmark site on the famous Golden Mile. Along with new hotels, restaurants, food market, event square, residential apartments and multi-storey parking.

Chariots of the Gods inspires the masterplan for the long-awaited redevelopment. It’s the global publishing phenomenon, written by Swiss author Erich Von Däniken. Exploring alien encounters and unsolved mysteries of ancient civilisations.

Chariots Of The Gods will be the main theme for Blackpool Central. Including the anchor attraction – the UK’s first flying theatre.

A fully-immersive thrill ride that will create the incredible sensation of human flight.

Time it seems changes everything, stranger than fiction.

The Bonny Street Beast’s days are numbered – your local Brutalist pal is no more, wither Wilko’s?

Your piazza planters are waterlogged.

Your lower portals tinned up.

Your curious sculptural infrastructure sunken garden neglected and forlorn.

Your low lying out-rigger stares blankly yet ominously into space.

Likewise your tinted windows.

Your subterranean car park access aromatic and alienating.

So farewell old pal, who knows what fate awaits you, I only know you must be strong.

Not until we have taken a look into the future shall we be strong and bold enough to investigate our past honestly and impartially. 

How often the pillars of our wisdom have crumbled into dust! 
 

Erich von Däniken

Richard Dunn Sports Centre – Bradford

Rooley Avenue Bradford West Yorkshire BD6 1EZ

Named for local lad pugilist Richard Dunn, the ambitious imagining of architect Gordon Elliott – the sports centre opened in 1978.

The Richard Dunn Sports Centre, originally Odsal Sports Centre, was designed by myself Trevor Skempton, as part of a team in the office of Owen Perry, Bradford City Architect until 1974.

Gordon Elliot then took over; as Chief Architect for the Met District, after the construction contract had been let.

Comprising pools, sports hall, dance studio, sauna, gym and ancillary facilities the centre was certainly state of the art.

Sweeping interlocking arcs of concrete, were at the heart of the structure.

Topped out with a suspended canopy.

Attracting huge crowds on the occasion of its opening.

Images The Telegraph and Argus.

The building was to be demolished in April of this year – it closed in November 2019.

I assume that the state of the art became less state of the art – as running costs grew and newer greener technology became state of the art.

The state of the art Sedbergh Sports and Leisure Centre opened in September 2019.

Initially the Richard Dunn site was to be sold for development, this along with plans for demolition seem to be in abeyance.

Arrangements are being made to turn Bradford’s Richard Dunn Sports Centre into a temporary mortuary should the current Coronavirus crisis escalate.

April 2020

It’s remarkable – here are my photographs from February 2020.

I advise you to get along and take a look, just as soon as humanly possible.

Recently John Mann was granted permission to snap the deserted interior.

The ghostly gasps of the exercising public exorcised forever.

Eileen Ayres, who has worked at Richard Dunns from before it even opened to the public said:

When I came here this place was super, super modern – state of the art. Now we’re moving to Sedbergh it is great to be in a state of the art facility again. The younger staff are so excited about the move to a new, modern sports centre.

I have a lot of memories of here, a lot of staff I’ve met and become friends with over the years. We’ve had a lot of events here, international events that have taken place here over the years. When Richard Dunn was new a lot of people wanted to hold these events here. Now we have a new leisure centre I hope some of these events come back to Bradford.

I started at 23, I said I was just coming for a year. Here we are 41 years later.

When asked if she thinks it is right to be closing down Richard Dunn she said:

In my heart no, but realistically it has to go. It is run down – it would be way too expensive to run or refurbish. You can’t keep putting money into old things.

Telegraph and Argus

Serveway Five – Merseyway

There comes a time in very life when you finally go where you have never been before – even though you have walked by that very same place almost every day.

That’s how I found myself in Serveway Five.

Situated on the north east corner of Merseyway.

1984 – Stockport Image Archive

It is bounded by the former Burton’s store, the long gone BHS now home to Poundland, a later extension to the precinct and a Nineteenth century building. Illustrating the mongrel nature of many English towns, the result of world wars, speculative development and town planning.

It’s a self contained world of loading, unloading unloved and overused.

Home to the pirate parker, carelessly avoiding the imposition of the municipal surcharges.

Shops and goods come and go part of the merry retail gavotte.

The trams once clang, clang, clanged along and the Picture House opened 2nd June 1913, later The Palladium, finally closing in 1956 – now occupied by a huge Charity Shop – Highway Hope.

The Merseyway construction is a modern amalgam of mosaic, brick and cast concrete.

The older brick building now almost rendered and coated in off white exterior emulsion.

There are signs of life and former lives.

This is a nether world that never really was a world at all.

The place where the sun almost doesn’t shine.

And the blue sky seems like an unwelcome intrusion.

So as the retail sector contracts and the virus remains viral – wither Serveway Five?

The Council purchased the development at no cost to taxpayers via the current income stream. The rationale for purchase was to create a sustainable future for the centre via a series of targeted redevelopments. Key aspirations for the centre will be to fully integrate it into the town centre. We also want it to complement our exciting ownerships such as Debenhams, Redrock and Market Place and Underbanks.

The investment will seek to change perceptions of not only the retail offer but also Stockport as a whole. It will ultimately create a town centre that will benefit the local business community and Stockport residents.

Hanover Chapel – Stockport

The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.

Italo Calvino – Invisible Cities

Paul Dobraszczyk posted this Shirley Baker photograph, he was puzzled by its exact location, it puzzled me too.

For nearly all that is depicted here, is now no longer extant, save one hopes, for the group of playmates.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

Manifesto of the Communist Party

Shirley Baker was a renowned documentary photographer, who worked extensively in Greater Manchester.

I love the immediacy of unposed, spontaneous photographs and the ability of the camera to capture the serious, the funny, the sublime and the ridiculous. Despite the many wonderful pictures of the great and famous, I feel that less formal, quotidian images can often convey more of the life and spirit of the time.

I am grateful to Stephen Bann who has identified the monument as the Bann Family vault:

Stephen Bann and his younger brother – many thanks for the text and photograph Stephen.

Her photograph was taken in Stockport 1967 – I first assumed it was taken from St Mary’s Church, looking toward the former power station.

I was mistaken.

Using the Stockport Image Archive, I found the possible site, in this photograph of Tiviot Dale Station.

There on the eastern edge of Lancashire Hill – Hanover Chapel.

Seen here on the maps of 1917 and 1936.

An area of intense activity, road, rail, housing and infrastructure.

Hanover Chapel closed 1962 – though we may assume from Shirley Baker’s photograph, that following its demolition the graveyard remained intact but untended.

The chapel is thought be seen in the 1954 film Hobson’s Choice, directed by David Lean and starring John Mills, here awaiting his bride to be – the parish church of St Mary’s on the skyline.

Though closer examination reveals that this is not Hanover Chapel – where did those pillars come from?

Where are we, in a labyrinth of invention with a superimposed Stockport backdrop?

My thanks to Robert Collister for these observations.

Improbably out of time, the cooling towers are yet to be built, or blown up.

Here John is joined by Salford born Brenda Doreen Mignon de Banzie, playing Maggie.

The demolished chapel rubble appears in the foreground of Albert Finney’s gold Roller CB 1E in Charlie Bubbles.

The film’s screenplay was the work of Shelagh Delaney, whose previous work A Taste of Honey also used local locations.

Where Finney has pulled up, feeling proper poorly.

As a serendipitous symmetry, Charlie Bubbles co-star Liza Minelli plays a photographer recording Salford’s disappearing streets.

Bit by bit everything disappears, Tiviot Dale Station closed completely on January 2nd 1967.

Where once there was a continuous run from the chapel to the town centre, the motorway has since intervened.

The Tiviot Dale pub on the right is no more, closed in 2013.

We had people from all parts of the country turn up on our final day, some of them brought their children who wanted to come because they remember the pub so fondly from their childhood. It was really humbling to see that our pub had touched so many lives.

Dave Walker landlord.

The King’s Head/Full Shilling on the left closed in 2015, though still standing.

I remember this pub as a Boddingtons house in the 1970’s. Excellent bitter served by handpump from small vault at the front and a larger “best room” behind, both very narrow given the width of the pub. The landlord employed an unusual method of ensuring everyone got a full pint; a half pint glass of beer was kept between the pumps and your pint was topped up from the half which was constantly replenished to keep it fresh. I have not seen this practice in any other pub.

Phil Moran

When’s the next tram due?

Millgate Power Station operated until 1976.

At the adjacent gas works – gas holder number three was dismantled in 1988, gas holders one and two were removed in 2019.

The nature of infrastructure, housing and industry has changed radically.

Lancashire Hill flats were built in the 60s, designed by City Architect JS Rank, two seven storey blocks containing 150 dwellings; two six storey blocks containing 120 dwellings.

Replacing tight rows of terraced housing.

They themselves clad and revamped.

The Nicholson’s Arms built to serve the flats closed and currently empty, signs say to let – replaced an earlier pub, sited on the corner of long gone Nicholson Street.

The Motorway appears piecemeal in 1974, formerly the M63 now M60.

Today from the road there’s simply no trace of the site’s past purpose.

At the centre of what is now a compact civic grassed area – a trough.

Incongruously in memory of Elizabeth Hyde of Tufnell Park Road London.

The dense stand of trees is impenetrable – no longer a view of the non existent power station and beyond.

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

Isiah 58:12

As a footnote I did meet brothers Stephen, Derek and Peter who appeared in this Shirley Baker photograph 55 years ago – she promised them an ice cream each – they never ever received an ice cream.

They are seen in Sunnyside Street Ordsall – long since demolished.

A commemorative plaque from the Chapel still exists, sited now on the wall of Wycliffe Congregational Church Georges Road Stockport.

Archival Images – Stockport Image Archive

Fairfield Road – Edge Lane

In 1802 there’s mostly nothing here, nothing to speak of.

A few buildings on Ashton Old Road and fields, lots of fields.

Then along comes the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing is in the ascendancy, mostly.

Vision of Britain

Ferguson Pailin Electrical Engineering are established in 1913 on Fairfield Road/Edge Lane.

By 1939 the factory is fully formed and the area a dense warren of industry and terraced housing.

Makers of heavy duty electrical switchgear and general electrical engineers, of Higher Openshaw, Manchester.

1913 Ferranti Ltd sold its switchgear patents and stock to Ferguson, Pailin Ltd. Samuel Ferguson and George Pailin had worked for Ferranti as switchgear engineers. They left in 1913 to set up their own switchgear business at a factory in Higher Openshaw, Manchester.

Graces Guide

The company was acquired by Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) in 1928. Following the restructuring of AEI in 1960, Ferguson, Pailin & Co ceased to be a separate subsidiary and was merged into AEI switchgear. Following the takeover of AEI by GEC in 1967, the Higher Openshaw works became part of GEC Switchgear. In 1989, GEC merged its electrical engineering interests with those of Alsthom to form GEC Alsthom. The factory was later closed by Alstom in 2003, with most of the employees finishing on 22 November 2002.

Wikipedia

The company has a Facebook page which shares former employees memories – from which these archive photographs were taken.

Notably the firm provided extensive leisure facilities for their employees.

The company acquired Mottram Hall to give employees an opportunity to go on affordable holidays during World War II. The company bought three properties in 1939/40 in order to provide holidays for staff and workers during the war. Mottram Hall was bought for the works, a small hotel in Llandudno for the middle level staff and a property in Criccieth for senior staff. Mottram Hall was sold as surplus to requirements by GEC in 1968 and is now a luxury country house hotel.

Sadly the days when benevolent employers thought to take care of their employees in such a manner, are largely a thing of the past.

For business guests, our sleek and sophisticated conference rooms feature the latest technology to get your agenda off to a prompt and professional start. Plus, catering facilities and a plush break out space for comfortable downtime between meetings.

Last time I passed through many of the factory buildings were still extant though underused. A portion of the site lost to the development of the Lime Square Shopping Centre.

Lime Square is a shopping destination which is helping to put the heart back into Openshaw district centre here in east Manchester. Lime Square is home to the stunning Steamhammer sculpture and a host of great High Street names.

By and large replacing the plethora of busy local businesses which once thrived in the area.

Part of the site became the site of a car park for B&M Bargains.

Empty car parking and to let signs in superabundance.

So there we are the end of an era – the decline in manufacturing, the structure ending life as an empty warehouse.

But wait, what’s all this?

Your Housing Group, the Warrington-based affordable housing provider, wants to build a residential scheme on the site of a former warehouse on Edge Lane, with work starting this summer subject to consent.

The project in Openshaw comprises 216 homes available on a mix of tenures, according to a planning application submitted to Manchester City Council. A total of 72 will be for sale as shared ownership schemes, another 72 will be for private rent, and 72 will be for affordable rent.

Place North West

The development, to be known as Edgefield Green

Your Housing Group

As of Friday 13th November 2020 – the site has been cleared, little or no signs of its former occupants save for a dilapidated fence or gate.

This land is your land.

Our hearts beat as one as we had our fun but time changes everything.

Tommy Duncan of the Texas Playboys

So there we are another phase of development for one small area of Manchester, should you change to pass, just spare a moment to recall those thousands of souls that laboured their whole working lives – right here on Fairfield Road and Edge Lane.

Hamilton Street – Ashton under Lyne

Prompted by Gillian and Adam’s – A Different North project, my thoughts turned once again to notions of the North, similar notions have been considered in my previous posts:

A Taste of the North and A Taste of Honey.

I recalled the 2016 season Sky Football promotional film, it had featured a street in Ashton under Lyne, it had featured Hamilton Street.

A street spanning the West End and the Ryecroft areas of the town, the town where I had lived for most of my teenage years. The town where my Mam was born and raised in nearby Hill Street, nearby West End Park where my Grandad I had worked, nearby Ashton Moss and Guide Bridge.

This is an area familiar to me, which became the convergent point of a variety of ideas and images, mediated in part by the mighty Murdoch Empire.

Here was the coming together of coal and cotton, an influx of population leaving the fields for pastures new.

In the film, Leytonstone London born David Beckham is seen running down the snow covered northern street.

A credit to our emergent mechanical snow generation industry.

According to snowmakers.com, it takes 74,600 gallons of water to cover a 200 by 200-foot plot with 6 inches of snow. Climate change is cutting snow seasons short, we make snow to compensate, more energy is spent making snow, more coal is burned, more CO2 is released.

The Inertia

It is to be noted that locally there has been a marked decline in snowfall in recent years, the Frozen North possibly a thing of the past.

The temperatures around the UK and Europe have actually got warmer over the last few decades, although when you are out de-icing your car it may not actually feel as though it has. Whilst this can not be directly link to climate change, it is fair to assume that climate change is playing a part.

The Naked Scientists

It is also to be noted that Sky Supremo Rupert Murdoch has described himself as a climate change “sceptic”.

Appearing arms raised outside of the home of a family clustered around the television, in their front room.

Filming the ad was great and the finished piece is a really clever way of showing that you never know what might happen in football, I always enjoy working with Sky Sports and I’m proud to be associated with their football coverage.

The Drum

The area does have a football heritage, Ashton National Football Club played in the Cheshire County League in the 1920s and 1930s. They were sometimes also known as Ashton National Gas, due to their connections with the National Gas and Oil Engine Company based in the town.

Illustrative of a time when sport and local industry went hand in glove.

The National Ground was subsequently taken over by Curzon Ashton who have since moved to the Tameside Stadium.

Ashton & Hyde Village Hotels occupy the front of shirt sponsors spot on our new blue and white home shirt, while Seed of Speed, our official conditioning partners, feature on the arm, and Minuteman Press occupy the back of the shirt. Meanwhile, Regional Steels UK Ltd. are the front of shirt sponsors on our new pink and black away kit. 

Illustrative of a time when sport and local industry continue to work hand in glove.

Local lad Gordon Alexander Taylor OBE  is a former professional footballer. He has been chief executive of the English footballers’ trades union, the Professional Footballers’ Association, since 1981. He is reputed to be the highest paid union official in the world.

His mobile phone messages were allegedly hacked by a private investigator employed by the News of the World newspaper. The Guardian reported that News International paid Taylor £700,000 in legal costs and damages in exchange for a confidentiality agreement barring him from speaking about the case.

News International is owned by our old pal Rupert Murdoch, the News of the World no longer exists.

The view of Hamilton Street closely mirrors LS Lowry’s Street Scene Pendlebury – the mill looming large over the fierce perspective of the roadway. The importance of Lowry’s role in constructing a popular image of the North cannot be overestimated.

He finds a grim beauty in his views of red facades, black smoke and figures in white, snowy emptiness. He is a modern primitive, an industrial Rousseau, whose way of seeing is perhaps the only one that could do justice to the way places like Salford looked in the factory age.

The Guardian

For many years cosmopolitan London turned its back on Lowry, finally relenting with a one man show at the Tate in 2013 – I noted on the day of my visit, that the attendant shop stocked flat caps, mufflers and bottled beer, they seemed to have drawn the line at inflatable whippets.

Drawing upon other artists’s work, in a continuous search for ways to depict the unlovely facts of the city’s edges and the landscape made by industrialisation.

But Murdoch’s Hamilton Street is as much a construct as Lowry’s – the snow an expensive technical coating, Mr Beckham a CGI apparition. Our contemporary visual culture is littered with digital detritus, saving time and money, conjuring up cars, kids and footballers at will.

An illusion within an illusion of an illusory North.

Green screen chroma keyed onto the grey tableau.

Mr Beckham himself can also be seen as a media construct, for many years representing that most Northern of institutions Manchester United – itself yet another product of image manipulation, its tragic post-Munich aura encircling the planet, with an expensive Empire Made, red and white scarf of cultural imperialism.

David’s parents were fanatical Manchester United supporters who frequently travelled 200 miles to Old Trafford from London to attend the team’s home matches, he inherited his parents’ love of Manchester United, and his main sporting passion was football.

Mr B’s mentor was of course former Govan convener – Mr A Ferguson, who headed south to find his new Northern home, creating and then destroying the lad’s career, allegedly by means of boot and hairdryer.