Eastford Square – 12/21

Here we are again and again and again, a curious passer-by, curious as to what may or may not have taken pass.

Local Image Collection 1970

There is a report of 2020

The report argues that the Northern Gateway should offer mixed, affordable and age appropriate housing and amenities. An equitable development plan should be developed, through community-led engagement, to ensure that the benefits of regeneration are shared amongst new and existing residents.

As of 2021 there is inaction and stasis

Collyhurst was described as a ‘forgotten place’ by some residents who felt that there had been insufficient investment in local housing and amenities.

The Northern Gateway remains a hidden portal to who knows where.

Northern Gateway 2018

Detailed proposals for a second scheme to be delivered within neighbouring South Collyhurst, one of the seven neighbourhoods to be developed as part of the overall Framework, are expected later this year.

Construction Enquirer 2021

Northern Gateway rebrands as Victoria North

Far East Consortium and Manchester City Council’s 390-acre masterplan will now be known as Victoria North, a move that aims to “create a sense of place”, according to Gavin Taylor, regional general manager at FEC in Manchester.

The Northern Gateway has served us well as a name as we shaped plans for the area’s regeneration. But as we begin to bring forward development this year, it’s the right time to start creating a sense of place for what will be a significant new district in Manchester, as well as an identity that people can engage with.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said:

We are at the beginning of an incredibly exciting phase of history for this part of Manchester and with some eagerness to see how this potential unfolds.

Victoria Riverside, a 634- home development marks the first stage of the regeneration project with the first apartments hitting the market. 

The three towers – Park View, City View and Crown View, are based within the Red Bank neighbourhood. 

Red Bank has been described as:

A unique landscape and river setting making the neighbourhood perfect for a residential-led, high-density development – all set in a green valley.

The putative William Mitchell totem continues to keep silent watch over the Square.

Wythenshawe Walk

We begin at the William Temple Church

1970

The Anglican Church of William Temple was opened in 1965 on the corner of Robinswood Road and Simonsway as the church of the Civic Centre. The mission was already well-established, having begun many years previously in Shadow Moss School Room, latterly operating in a dual-purpose building on Simonsway. The architect, George Pace, agreed with the proviso that he should not design a ‘pseudo’ building, but that it should be modern in concept. This he did and particular attention was paid to the acoustics with a view to music and drama being performed there. One of Pace’s stipulations was that, as with all the churches he designed, there must be no plaques attached to the walls commemorating the dedication of the church or in memory of anyone, for he said he built his churches to the Glory of God. The only lettered stone is on the back wall of the church and it has on it the date of the consecration and a symbol, which is Pace’s original sign for William Temple Church.

The internal supports of the church are black-painted steel girders, not romantically symbolising the industry of the area, as it is sometimes said, but because when it was discovered that the church had been built on swampy ground an extra £2,000 was needed for foundations; the wooden beams of the original design had to be changed for cheaper steel ones. There is symbolism, however, in the placing of the font between and beneath the three main weight-bearing supports of the church.

The pews have an interesting history, having been brought from derelict churches in and around Manchester. 

The present lady churchwarden said:

“whenever we heard of a church being demolished we borrowed Mr. Owen’s coal cart and went off to see if we could buy any of the pews. Many times I’ve sat on the back of the wagon, in the pouring rain, with the pews, bringing them back to Wythenshawe to be stored until our church building was completed!”

Some time after the building was opened, a fire damaged some of the pews. With the insurance money all the pews were stripped and bleached, giving an element of uniformity and a bright welcoming atmosphere in the church generally. An interesting thought was voiced that as many people living in Wythenshawe now had their origins near to the centre of Manchester they may be sitting in the same pews in which their ancestors once sat.

Onwards to St Anthony’s RC – seen here under construction.

An imposing and monumental building by Adrian Gilbert Scott.

The church has a rich, little-altered interior with strong architectural qualities and notable furnishings. The church is described as ‘one of the few real landmarks of Wythenshawe’ and ‘beautifully built’, by Hartwell, Hyde and Pevsner 2004

The church was listed Grade II in 2014.

Taking Stock

It replaced the Green Hut.

Backtrack to St Andrews Architects JCG Prestwich and Son 1960 – as seen by Comrade Yuri Gagarin 12th July 1961 – detailed here.

We now take a secular route around the back of the Civic Centre to look at Centron and Delta House.

Built in 1972 to encourage white collar jobs into the area, formerly occupied by Shell and the TSB, currently partially unoccupied.

Across the way the former Barclay’s Bank IT HQ by DLG Shuldham the bank’s chief architect.

Just around the corner.

There were four eight-storey blocks of ‘Sectra’ flats that Laing built in Wythenshawe for Manchester County Borough Council, completed in 1967. The blocks were described by Laing in their monthly newsletter ‘Team Spirit’ in January 1968 as four blocks of specially designed eight-storey flats for elderly people.

Showing skeleton cladding, patterned end wall units and access balcony.

They were named Park Court, Violet Court, Birch Tree Court and Edwards Court.

Park Court and Violet Court have since been demolished to make way for retail space.

Violet Court

Tower Block 1987

Architect J Austen Bent

Local Image Collection 1972

Onwards to the most exotic magenta fire station.

Then down the road to St Luke’s 1939 by W Cecil Young of Taylor and Young.

No striving after sensational effect is strived at – Pevsner.

Down the road we go to St Martin’s.

The church is the the work of Harry Fairhurst Architects 1958.

Opened 21st March 1959.

Across the road to Tin Town.

A mini-estate of impeccably kept, neat steel-framed prefabs, designed in 1946 by Frederick Gibberd. We got a tour around one, home to former Durutti Column drummer Bruce Mitchell. The space standards and architectural quality are, as Phil Griffin points out, way above those of contemporary central Manchester luxury loft living. 

Owen Hatherley – The Guardian

New residents were given the choice of an apple or pear tree.

Finally arriving at Sir Basil Spence’s St Francis of Assisi.

2012

In December 1956 Basil Spence and Partners were commissioned to design St Francis Church in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester. The project was part of a large building programme by the Manchester Diocese and was to service the new post-war housing estate at Newall Green. The site housed an existing hall that had been serving a dual-purpose as church and church hall but which reverted to use as a church hall once the new church was opened. The foundation stone was laid by Colin Skinner CBE on 23 April 1960 and the church was consecrated on 25 March 1961 by the Bishop of Manchester, W D L Greer.

The main building is predominantly brick; it is set back from the road by a landscaped courtyard that includes a brick tower and 73ft concrete cross. Another large cross rises from the front wall of the church itself making it highly visible from the surrounding neighbourhood.

The church can hold a congregation of 250. A small chapel is separated from the main church by a sliding screen and can be used independently for private prayer and mid week-services. On busy days the screen can be retracted to provide additional seating to the main church. A gallery over the entrance porch houses two organs and the choir.

St Francis of Assisi – Wythenshawe

66 Chalford Rd Wythenshawe Manchester M23 2SG

Sir Basil Spence 1959-61

In December 1956 Basil Spence and Partners were commissioned to design St Francis Church in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester. The project was part of a large building programme by the Manchester Diocese and was to service the new post-war housing estate at Newall Green. The site housed an existing hall that had been serving a dual-purpose as church and church hall but which reverted to use as a church hall once the new church was opened. The foundation stone was laid by Colin Skinner CBE on 23 April 1960 and the church was consecrated on 25 March 1961 by the Bishop of Manchester, W D L Greer.

The main building is predominantly brick; it is set back from the road by a landscaped courtyard that includes a brick tower and 73ft concrete cross. Another large cross rises from the front wall of the church itself making it highly visible from the surrounding neighborhood.

The church can hold a congregation of 250. A small chapel is separated from the main church by a sliding screen and can be used independently for private prayer and mid week-services. On busy days the screen can be retracted to provide additional seating to the main church. A gallery over the entrance porch houses two organs and the choir.

Embroidery for the Church was designed by Anthony Blee and carried out by Beryl Dean and Associates, and Communion silver was specially designed by Gerald Benney.

CANMORE

An austerely simple deign, saved from bleakness by a few deft touches – Pevsner.

The lettering on the font cover is by Ralph Beyer, the painting on the east wall by William Chattaway, who came specially from Paris to paint.

2010 – John Richards

2015 – John Richards

The church also contains four stones brought from prominent Christian locations across the globe including a rose hued stone from Assisi itself, these are embedded in the walls and floor around the building.

Mainstream Modern

Construction.

Completion.

St Francis of Assisi’s Church in Wythenshawe stands testimony to the vigour of its first priest, the Reverend Ronald Pitcher. It was Pitcher who organised a local campaign to raise money for its construction, even before William Greer, Lord Bishop of Manchester, launched a wider appeal to fund churches and vicarages in new housing areas throughout the diocese. 

It was probably also Pitcher who chose the architect, since he made initial contact with Basil Spence late in 1956. Drawings and a watercolour perspective were prepared by the beginning of 1958, when the scheme was priced at £17,500, exclusive of professional fees. 

Following discussions with the congregation it was modified to provide side-aisles, and the estimate increased to £27,000, including an organ. Although the diocese believed the final cost might be as high as £35,000,the design was accepted and Spence formally commissioned at the end of the year.

Warwick University

2012

Manchester Evening News 2013

A church forced to close three years ago after its congregation dwindled to just two has been reborn – as a community centre.

St Francis of Assisi, in Wythenshawe, was forced to shut its doors when its popularity waned and repairs became too expensive.

Now, thanks to businessman James Munnery and Pastor William Simoes, the former Church of England building is rising again as a beacon of hope for the neighbourhood. The pair have teamed up to re-open the church as the New Life Opportunities Centre. Ambitious plans for the not-for-profit venture include sports pitches, a recording studio, and a hall for events and dancing.

It will also hold church services.

Businessman James Munnery outside St Francis of Assisi

The sound of the pipe organ

Stoke Launderette

I was walking away from the town centre along London Road, killing time.

It was the day of the Modernist’s Stoke Walk, I was as ever early for my assignment.

So following my pie, chips, peas and gravy at Jay’s Café I took a look along the way.

Arrested by the fascia of the Launderette I took a snap, moved on.

Returning minutes later, having crossed over the road, I went in.

Here’s what I found.

Several lost socks later I left.

For more wishy-washy fun search launderette right here on Modern Mooch!

Stoke Walk

We begin by doffing our caps to Josiah Wedgwood – who along with countless other unsung heroes defined Stoke on Trent as the heart of the pottery industry.

Stoke is polycentric, having been formed by the federation of six towns in 1910.

It took its name from Stoke-upon-Trent where the main centre of government and the principal railway station in the district were located. 

Hanley is the primary commercial centre.

The other four towns are Burslem, Tunstall, Longton, and Fenton.

Wikipedia

Around the corner to the Staffordshire University.

Staffordshire University was founded in 1914 as a polytechnic intistution, and was officially given University Status on 16 June 1992. Our University is famous for its forward-thinking approach, and has become a figurehead for its vocational and academic teaching, innovative grasp of industry, and student employability.

Although our campus continues to expand to create dynamic opportunities, we are proud of our heritage in the great city of Stoke-on-Trent. Steeped in the history of ceramic manufacture and production, industry in Stoke-on-Trent has been fuelled by Staffordshire University for over 100 years.

The Flaxman Building 1970 was designed by City Architect Thomas Lovatt and built by the City Works Department – the last public works assignment before competitive tendering opened up public restrictions to private enterprise.

Named for to Wedgwood’s famous modeller the classical artist, John Flaxman RA 1755-1826. 

This concrete is very much in the style of William Mitchell – though there is no record of attribution.

The Regional Film Theatre opened in College Road, on the premises of North Staffordshire Polytechnic now Staffordshire University in 1974.

The North Staffordshire Film Society moved there to screen films one evening a week, while the Film Theatre operated on three nights a week. 

Across the way is the assertive slab tower of the 1950’s Mellor Building with its curvy cantilevered porch cover.

Out back is the wavy roofed Dwight Building.

Over the road the new build of the Cadman Studios 2016 ABW Architects.

Walking towards Hanley we come upon the newly built Stoke on Trent College and Sports Academy.

Only one block of the original build remains.

Photograph – 28 Days Later

Tucked away in Hanley Park is this period building.

It has been refurbished and the walkway enclosed since my previous visit.

Further along the way we come upon Churchill House with its distinctive fire escape.

And original architectural signage.

Crossing the inner ring road to the sweeping canopy of the Hanley Bus Station Architects Grimshaw engineers Arup.

Wrapping a corner site, the canopy rises and falls to create a mutable form: appearing as a shimmering, contemporary shield to the south, and a welcoming timbered environment to the north with sweeping views to Victorian Hanley.

Tapered down at the ends to shelter waiting passengers from the prevailing wind, the roof extends beyond the station edge to connect with the neighbouring public plaza.

Sitting atop a Staffordshire blue brick plinth with a Carlow blue limestone concourse, the station adopts materials that are resonant in this area. Its gracefully sweeping canopy belies the challenging site constraints, which were carefully resolved to accommodate the difficult routing of buses, the creation of a safe, sheltered environment for passengers and drivers, and a sloping site underpinned by clay and coal.

The former bus station and precinct long gone.

Above the former bus station looms Blackburn House home to HMRC, an imposing brown brick behemoth.

Photo James Morgan

Previously C&A currently Wilko – adorned with these enchanting Tiles.

This little-noticed panel is composed of six inch surface-textured tiles in a variety of muted tones, mainly greens, purples and blues, some with geometric reliefs. The mural is unusual because it is one of the few surviving installations produced by Malkin Tiles; at least one of the motifs is from their ‘Turinese’ range marketed during 1961-8 and designed by Leonard Gladstone King, Malkin’s art director.

Tile Gazetteer

Over the road Radio Stoke HQ.

Crossing back through town and over the ring road to look at some tiles.

Malkin Tiles of Burslem

Attached to some towers.

Surrounded by housing.

Back into town again to look at the BT Hanley Tower.

And its elderly relation.

Up toward the Potteries MuseumJR Piggott City Architect 1956.

It has undergone extensive exterior reworking.

And recent extension.

Next door the City Library and Archive 1968-70 by JW Plant City Architect

With its its ultra smart relief out back and around the front cantilevered canopy.

Next door the former Cop Shop with the final wavy feature of the day – all yours for a cool £1,500,000

St Martin’s Church Wythenshawe

2 Blackcarr Rd Wythenshawe Manchester M23 1LX

Sadly all tinned up with nowhere to go.

Services are now held in in the adjoining Church Hall.

The church is the the work of Harry Fairhurst Architects 1958.

Opened 21st March 1959.

The building has seen better days.

The interior a restrained delight.

Archive Photographs – Local Image Collection

The site is sodden with sadness, that such a gem is in such serious decline.

Rex Launderette

318 Slade Lane Levenshulme Manchester M19 2BY

Following a brief interregnum we’re back in the soapy study world of the local launderette.

One of many Rex operations – including those which I visited in Hull and Hull.

I am of course nationally and internationally renowned as Rex Launderette – author of the multi-ward winning eight laundrettes.

Should you care to search this wishy-washy blog there are also countless other laundry related posts.

Anyway, I jumped the 197, alighting at the junction of Albert Road and Slade Lane.

I popped into my local Rex and chatted with owner Steve, who had operated the business for some years, in addition he and his dad had run the late lamented Kingsway branch.

I hung around a while chatting and snapping – here’s the snaps.

Bathing Pool – Tynemouth

I had cycled by on a journey from Newcastle to Amble.

I returned to take a closer look.

At the Southern end of Tynemouth Longsands beach, on the North East coast, lies the decaying remains of Tynemouth Outdoor Swimming Pool. A concrete, rectangular, salt water tidal pool, built in the 1920s. Popular with locals and holiday makers alike for over 50 years. It began to lose favour in the late 70s with the introduction of cheap package holidays abroad, just as other British coastal holiday destinations lost out.

The pool fell into disrepair, and in the mid 90s the Local Authority demolished the ancillary buildings and bulldozed the rubble into the pool, at a cost of £200,000, before filling with concrete and imported boulders to form an artificial ‘rock pool’.

The anticipated marine life they introduced never flourished and the pool remains an eyesore to this day.

Friends of Tynemouth Pool

There are plans for restoration and renewal.

So that once again the merry bathers may bathe merrily.

Chronicle Live

There’s still a long way to go.

Hilton House – Stockport

Once the head office of New Day Furniture.

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

Oldham Street Manchester
Rochdale Road Harpurhey
Wythenshawe

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

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

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

Marketing Stockport

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

Studio KMA have proposed conversion to apartments.

Conversion of existing 1970s office building to apartments.

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

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

As of July 2021 the property is under offer.

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

Carlton Theatre – Hull

470-476 Anlaby Rd Hull HU3 6SH

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

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

It was run by Hull Picture Playhouse Ltd.

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

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

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

“A Picture is a poem without words”.

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

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

Cinema Treasures

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

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

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

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

The interior has been recorded by 28 Days Later.

We all deserve better.

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

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

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

Now there are four.

Newcastle to Amble

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

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site. 

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

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

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

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

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

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

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

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

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

North Tyneside Gov

In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.

Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.

Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.

Spanish City

Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

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

Ryder and Yates 1959

A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.

Before I knew it I was in Blyth.

The town edged with military installations

Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.

Historic England

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

Derelict Places

827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.

Skylighters

I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.

Encountering a brand new factory.

And the remnants of the old power station.

Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.

After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.

Wikipedia

UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.

The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.

By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.

The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.

Energy News

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

One hundred and eleven men died there.

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

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

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

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

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

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

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.

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