County Hall Durham

Work on the new building began in 1960: it was designed by Sir Basil Spence and was built by John Laing & Son at a cost of £2.75 million and was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 14 October 1963. 

The design for the seven-storey building involved continuous bands of glazing with exposed concrete beams above and below.

A large mosaic mural depicting local scenes was designed by Clayton and Gelson and installed on the face of the building.

In March 2019, the County Council approved a proposal to move to a smaller new-build facility on the Sands car park at Freeman’s Place in the centre of Durham. Of around 1,850 staff currently based in County Hall, 1,000 will be based at the new HQ and approximately 850 will relocate to four council office sites being developed across the county in Crook, Meadowfield, Seaham and Spennymoor. The building works, which are being carried out by Kier Group at a cost of £50 million, are scheduled to be completed in late 2021. Richard Holden, Conservative member of parliament for North-West Durham, has described the new council headquarters as a ‘vanity project’, questioning the suitability of the location as well as tax increases and cuts to services used to pay for the development.

Wikipedia

In April 2022 the council sold their new HQ to Durham University – yet demolition will still go ahead. This unlisted gem in the grand Festival of Britain style deserves much, much better.

Nearby Neighbours Newcastle have had the good sense to list and retain their Civic Centre.

The administration now plans a three-pronged approach to:

  • Construct another new modest-sized civic building and conference centre for businesses at Aykley Heads.
  • Occupy other council-owned offices already being built at Aykley Heads.
  • Refurbish and reuse the former customer access point on Front Street, Stanley, a large, run-down Grade II listed building which the council has been unable to sell.

The Northern Echo

Online, there is no evidence of any will or pressure to save this glorious building – the site will eventually become that most modern mix of business park, retail, and leisure facilities.

The proposal, led by Durham County Council, forms part of an overall masterplan to knock down the municipal building in Aykley Heads and redevelop the wider site to provide retail, financial and professional space, food and drink units, space for leisure use and a multi-storey car park.

Insider Media 2020

Go see it whilst you are still able.

A mural by a beloved pitman painter, commissioned by Durham County Council to mark the opening of County Hall in 1963, has been successfully moved to its new home in Bishop Auckland.

The painting by Norman Cornish, one of the most respected and much-loved artists to emerge from the North-East, depicts the arrival of the banners at Durham Miners’ Gala.

After being commissioned by the council, Cornish was granted 12 months unpaid leave from Mainsforth Colliery in Ferryhill to complete the painting, with most of the work being completed during the coldest winter in 40 years.

Although it arrived at County Hall in 1963 rolled up in the back of a carpet van, the mural’s removal was an incredibly intricate process, involving several experts.  

Northern Echo

Norman Cornish

Central Retail Park – Ancoats Manchester

We have been here before – before the wrecking ball.

Subsequently, the tills have long since ceased to ring.

The road to redevelopment is paved with good intentions, and so far a profound lack or realisation.

The local folk objected to the planned luxury offices.

Tomorrow Manchester City Council’s Executive is set to approve the development framework for the former Central Retail Park that will see it turned into a zero carbon office district. But, according to a public consultation carried out by grassroots campaigners, an overwhelming majority of locals want public spaces on the 10.5 acre site in Ancoats rather than luxury offices.

The Meteor October 2020

As of April 2022 Trees Not Cars have sought the views of local representatives following the decision not to go ahead with the building of a multi-storey car park

What we need are councillors who will stand up for us and push for as much green space as possible at Central Retail Park development.

It’s council owned, it would link in well with Cotton Field Park and will give the capacity for locals to enjoy the outdoors – without driving, once New Islington Green has been developed into offices.

Trees Not Cars April 2022

There is a perennial plea for affordable homes and green space, along with perennial structural and institutional barriers to their financing and building.

Place North West 2019

The circle between the developers, landowners, local authority and central government stubbornly refuses to be squared.

As of 20th September 2022 the land remains derelict – currently the domain of wayward taggers, spray-can jockeys and homemade mini-ramp skaters.

A concrete rectangle dotted with Buddleja davidii  – surrounded by Manctopia and main roads.

The University of Nottingham

The Main Campus based on Jesse Boot’s Highfield parkland incorporating Lenton House and Lenton Hall. Boot along with his architect Percy Morley Holder developed a building scheme in 1921, achieving university status in 1948.

DH Lawrence Pavilion architect Marsh & Grochowski 1998-2001

Portland BuildingT Cecil Howitt 1949 -56

Trent Building architect: P Morley Horder 1922-28

Portland Building extended in 2001-3 architects: Michael Hopkins & Partners

Further additions to the rear 2013

The New Theatre was established in 1969, and was originally housed in the Archaeology and Classics building of the University of Nottingham. In 2001 an extended foyer was added to the building, following a donation from an alumnus of the university.

The summer of 2012 saw an extensive redevelopment of the building housing the New Theatre. The former Archaeology and Classics building was demolished from the site; leaving the New Theatre as a freestanding building. Parts of the old building were retained and repurposed as new rehearsal rooms, and a studio space; as well as a significant remodelling of the dressing room, and extending the foyer.

Architects: Maber

University Library architects: Faulkner Brown, Henry, Watkinson & Stonor 1971-73

The collection of buildings in University Park Campus, colloquially known as Science City, was first masterplanned by Basil Spence in 1959. His vision was largely realised by Renton Howard Wood Associates during the 1960s. Since then, numerous additions and alterations have been made to suit the ever increasing student numbers and the changing needs of the University.

Sir Clive Granger Building

A view over the Science Buildings by Basil Spence 1955 and partner Andrew Renton 1961 onward.

Mathematical Sciences 2012 William Saunders

George Green Library by Hopkins Architects 2017

The University of Nottingham needed to double the size of its existing academic library to cater for an expansion in serious scientific study. Hopkins Architects faced the difficult task of doubling the size of a rather unremarkable 1960’s building – designed by Basil Spence, on a tight sloping site.

Architecture.com

Pope Building leading to the Engineering Science Learning Centre by Hopkins Architects 2011

Chemistry Department

Coates Building by Basil Spence

Tower Building by Andrew Renton 1963-65

Refurbishment work is taking place to develop flexible workspaces, including offices, conference and meeting rooms, while the building will also accommodate hospitality and events rooms. The university also plans to include a restaurant, coffee bar, a deli-shop and a top-floor sky lounge.

West Bridgford Wire

Jubilee Campus

Jubilee Campus is a modern purpose-built campus which now extends to 65 acres and is located only one mile from University Park. The initial phase was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1999. The state-of-the-art facilities now include:

  • The Schools of Education – including CELE and Computer Science
  • The Nottingham University Business School
  • The National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services 
  • Sports Centre
  • University of Nottingham Innovation Park
  • 4000 third party purpose-built student residences within half a mile radius of the campus

Central to the development of the site has been the setting of high BREEAM Standards – an holistic approach to achieve ESG, health, and net zero goals. ​It is owned by BRE – a profit-for-purpose organisation with over 100 years of building science and research background.

Built on the former site of the immense Number 3 Raleigh Bicycle Factory – which was opened by Field Marshal Lord Montgomery in 1957.

At its peak in the 1950s, Raleigh employed 7000 people on a 40 acre site that covered most of Lenton Boulevard, Triumph Road and Orston Drive.

In May 1999, Raleigh announced that it was to cease volume production of frames in the UK. The frame welding robots, installed in 1996, were auctioned off in December 1999.

Bikebiz

Alan Oakley – who designed the Raleigh Chopper

Famously home to Alan Sillitoe/Arthur Seaton/Albert Finney in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

Advanced Manufacturing Building by Bond Bryan Architects 2018

University of Nottingham RAD Building 2017 Lewis & Hickey Ltd

Enjoying a prime location on the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee Campus, the building provides a number of multidisciplinary and specifically designed laboratory spaces, as well as high quality single and multiple occupancy offices, technical support bases and breakout spaces.

RIBA

Jubilee Conference Centre 2008 Hopkins Architects

Set within 65 acres of lakeside grounds, close to Nottingham city centre, The Jubilee hotel & conferences offers an innovative setting for events, along with all the comforts of a modern hotel.

If you are looking for sustainable venue hire, look no further. With a range of meetings spaces, breakout areas and bedrooms; The Jubilee is perfect for event and conferences organisers looking for a light, airy and relaxing setting.

GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory 2014 by Fairhursts Design Group

Designed to minimise the impact on the environment of its construction and operation. The design of the building is made up of modules manufactured off-site. The building support pillars and trusses are made from a combination of German spruce, Austrian Spruce, and American red cedar.

The designers used computational fluid dynamics to design the curved roof. This enables ventilation of the building by taking advantage of the prevailing wind. One of the laboratories is also ventilated in this way, to determine the viability of doing so elsewhere. The building also features a green roof, and solar panels that cover 45 per cent of the roof area and provide up to 230.9 kW. The four towers on the roof hide the building’s plant equipment. Additionally, a 125-kilowatt biofuel combined heat and power system was built on-site, providing the majority of heat needed for the buildings.

Wikipedia

Ingenuity Centre by Bond Bryan 2017

Alucraft designed fabricated and delivered the façade,

At first glance the centre appears to be a hi-tech structure that would not look out of place in a sci-fi movie, with a complex array of metal fins forming a metallic bronze-coloured circular envelope that seems to float around a central core.

Keep looking though and some of the design cues are clearly industrial – the metallic external envelope echoing the form of some finely machined, mechanical component or even the patterned tread of a tyre.

Building Construction Design

Romax Technology Centre by Tomlinson 2015

Aerospace Technology Building by William Saunders 2012

Sir Colin Campbell Building by Bond Bryan 2011 – with Arup acting as structural and services engineer.

Si Yuan Centre of Contemporary Chinese Studies

Xu Yafen Building and Yang Fujia Building by MAKE 2008

Aspire is a 60-metre tall, red and orange steel sculpture by Ken Shuttleworth of MAKE, and was, until overtaken by Anish Kapoor’s Orbit, the tallest free standing public work of art in the United Kingdom. It is taller than  Nelson’s Column, the Angel of the North, and the Statue of Liberty  

The name Aspire was chosen after a competition to name the sculpture, which was open to staff and students at the university.

The Nottingham Geospatial Building by Maber Architects 2010

Energy Technologies Building by Maber Architects 2018

A showcase £6.5m research centre, which brings together world-class experts in energy research, has chosen ALUCOBOND® A2 from 3A Composites GmbH, finished in Sakura 917 from its spectra colour series for its cladding.

Institute of Mental Health by BENOY 2012

The House for a Gordian Knot by Ekkehard Altenburger

Business School South

Dearing Building

Computer Science Building

The Exchange Building

The Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly LRC architect Sir Michael Hopkins 1999

A single floor spirals up through the building in the manner of FL Wright’s Guggenheim Museum

The library was named after the philanthropists Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly who gave a significant contribution towards the cost of its construction. Sir Harry Djanogly is the father of Jonathan Djanogly, who became MP for Huntingdon in 2001.

Wikipedia

Business School North 2003

The Atrium

John Player & Sons Bonded Warehouse by William Cowlin and Son 1938-39

Mouchel System concrete construction.

Mouchel’s involvement with the iron industry, and his ties with France, brought him into close proximity with the French engineer François Hennebique (1842-1921), who had been a contractor in Brussels. A self-educated builder, Hennebique had patented an idea of strengthening concrete using iron and steel bars – a forerunner to the widespread modern reinforced-concrete method used in construction today.

Engineering timelines

Sadly – returning in September the last building had been recently demolished.

Many thanks to Elain Harwood from whose Pevsner Guide much of the information was garnered

Eccles Congregational Church

Wellington Road Eccles M30 9AL

Architect: TD Howcroft 1969

Once upon a time there was a Gothic church.

The Cornerstone of the building was laid in front of a crowd of 2,000 on Good Friday 1859 and the church was opened for public worship on Good Friday 6th April 1860. In the press of the day, the church was described as – a Cathedral looking church.

Photo: Flickr cabinet photograph by Enos Eastham of Eccles.

In 1965 it was announced that a new Eccles motorway would be built through the church land.

Work began to demolish the Church and replace it with a new smaller church, but the old church did not go down without a fight as workers could not pull down the steeple. After eleven days of battering and buffeting by eighteen pounds of gelignite and two eight ton bulldozers, the steeple finally surrendered.

Then there wasn’t – then there was this:

On Friday 11th July 1969, the new church officially opened with a splendid ceremony. A minor hitch occurred when the organ blew a fuse during the second verse but the Congregation sang through it while organist Mr Kenyon frantically fumbled about and rectified the matter.

Eccles Congregational Church

TD Howcroft was also responsible for St Wilfrid’s in Pevensey Bay – I happened to cycle by in 2015.

My thanks to Mr Tony Flynn – the acting Lord Mayor of Eccles, for arranging our visit through church member Mr George Cross.

To the rear the exterior is, as Mr Pevsner would say – unprepossessing.

The elevation facing the main road more than somewhat less unprepossessing.

A curved apse along with a raised and canted roof – a window up above illuminating the altar.

The main body of the church is bold and voluminous – strong verticals to the rear and right.

The pews, organ pipes and other furnishings appear to be of a piece.

There is a dynamic timber roof with supporting beams.

Previous Pastors.

Relocated War Memorials.

Platt Court – William Mitchell

Wilmslow Rd Manchester M14 5LT

Situated outside Platt Court a third of four William Mitchell totems that I have visited – Eastford Square and Newton Heath still extant.

William Mitchell 1960

The Hulme exemplar has gone walkabout.

Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester – Terry Wyke

Tower Block tells us this is one 13 storey block containing 62 dwellings along with one 9 storey block containing 70 dwellings.

Built by Direct Labour commissioned by Manchester County Borough Council

Seen here in 1970.

The flats are now gated, so I peeped tentatively through the fencing.

Then chatting to the site’s maintenance gardener I gained access – here is what I saw.

St Alkmund’s Church – Derby

40 Kedleston Rd Darley Abbey Derby DE22 1GU

The burghers of Derby required room for a ring road – but St Alkmund stood in the way, so he was CPOd and sent elsewhere.

Looking for Mr Wright.

When the Victorian church was demolished, traces of several earlier churches were revealed, stretching back to the 9th century. Artefacts found included the stone sarcophagus of Alkmund of Derby, now in Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

Photos: John Mackay 1967

Derby Telegraph

Given a fairly generous budget the Diocese decided upon a modern design solution, in order to solve the pressing problem of their missing church.

Local architects Naylor Sale and Widdows were commissioned to resolve this omission.

Construction began in 1967 completed in 1972.

The exterior boasts a static space rocket spire – which was lowered into position using not one but two helicopters.

Along with a delightful Festival of Britain style clock.

To the right of the front elevation is an extensive Dalle de Verre wall.

The entrance a light as air glass and aluminium construction.

Paired with a gently curving brick mass.

The main body of the church is deceptively capacious.

The wall of glass suitably illuminating.

The original lighting has been retained, though the former cork floor has been carpeted and the original pews replaced by portable seating.

There is a side chapel incorporating stained glass from the original church.

Thank you so much to Alex and Tony for granting us access to this stunning church.

St Bride’s RC Church – East Kilbride

Whitemoss Ave East Kilbride Glasgow G74 1NN

Architects: Gillespie Kidd & Coia 1957-1964

Designed by Professors Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein.

Grade A listed 1994 RIBA Bronze Medal

Should you so wish – jump the train from Glasgow Central, unless you’re already here/there.

Walk up West Mains Road, alone on a hill standing perfectly still sits St Bride’s, you can’t miss it.

The biggest extant example of Bricktalism, the most Bricktalist building in the world, possibly.

Stallan-Brand design director Paul Stallan commented:

St Bride’s for me is the most important modernist buildings of the period. The church made from Victorian sewer bricks and concrete is both simple and complex. The architecture continues to be a key reference for students of architecture from across the world interested in modernism and the contemporary vernacular in context. Andy and Isi’s work is as important to Scotland as Alvar Aalto’s work is to the Finnish.

Urban Realm

The bell tower was removed in 1983 due to extensive damage to the brickwork.

Image: Postwar Concrete

Image: Gillespie Kidd & Coia Archive at the The Glasgow School of Art.

It’s a traditional Scottish stone detail I saw for myself as a boy growing up in the Highlands, on every castle and fortified house, and on the flanks of the tower at Muckrach, ancient seat of the Grants of Rothiemurchus, built in 1598. This was my local castle just a mile from home.

The entrance to St Bride’s, I like to imagine, comes from a friendship that included travel in the Scottish Highlands, admiring the Scottish vernacular close-up, of a fevered conversation about a simple concept – the massive blind box, and how the application of simple, semi-traditional material detailing can make it all the richer.

St Bride’s is simply one of the finest buildings in Scotland.

Chris Boyce design director at CJCT Studios

Get your skates on it’s almost ten o’clock, Saturday Mass is about to start, take a seat.

Many thanks to Fr. Rafal Sobieszuk and the congregation for their warm welcome.

Sadly I was unable to reach these dizzy heights.

Happily the exterior is open and easily accessible, though care should be taken when zig zagging carelessly across West Mains Road.

Historically this is my very first Scot’s post, more to follow, I’m away to the Civic Centre.

IRK VALLEY #TWO

Having walked and cycled twixt Victoria Station and Blackley, I returned once more to the Hexagon Tower to resume my explorations towards the source in Royton.

Beginning on Delaunays Road and onwards along Blackley New Road.

The footpath falls away from the main road to the wooded valley.

Returning to the road I was distracted by Sandyhill Court and the reliefs which I discovered there.

I was also taken with with this electrical substation.

We are encouraged to be wild about Blackley Vale a reclaimed landfill site.

Across the Victoria Avenue Bridge and down the other side.

Emerging by Sainsbury’s and picking up the path again.

Onwards under the M60 Motorway.

The M60 was developed by connecting and consolidating the existing motorway sections of the M63M62, and an extended M66. It came into existence as the M60 in 2000, with the completion of the eastern side opening in October.

The original plan called for a completely new motorway, but policy change led to the plan which created the current motorway. As soon as it opened, the motorway got close to its projected maximum volume on significant sections.

Hey look there’s Alkrington Hall!

This Palladian mansion was designed and built in 1736 by renowned architect, Giacomo Leoni, who had also been responsible for significant alterations to Lyme Hall during the same period.  

Offering an infusion of historical significance coupled with an abundance of living space throughout, Alkrington Hall East, simply must be viewed to be appreciated in full.  

During the early 1770’s, the Hall became the largest museum outside of London, when the Hall’s owner, Sir Ashton Lever, exhibited his private collection of natural objects, including live animals. Remaining as an imposing symbol of Leoni’s work, Alkrington Hall remains one of only a few surviving examples throughout England.  

In modern times, the Hall has since been carefully and sympathetically separated into 4 sections, and we are pleased to be offering for sale the largest portion of the Hall, with a total floor area comprising of over 7500 SQFT, and living accommodation spread over 4 floors.  

Sold for £825,00 in 2021 Savills

Seen here in 1870

Next thing you know you find yourself in Middleton, where the Irk sort of disappears – you sort of get lost and sort of follow the wrong track, eventually ending up back where you should have been in the first place.

Don’t follow Wince Brook – it’s so far from right that it’s wrong – right?

Take a walk up Oldham Road to see Warwick Mill instead.

1907 by G Stott of J Stott and Sons – Red brick with internal cast-iron frame.

Grade II Listed

There was and Oval Partnership planning for a retail development in 2014 which failed to materialise.

The converted building will provide a showcase for Chinese manufacturers of construction-related products looking to enter the UK and wider European markets. Products on display will include tiles, lighting, furniture, kitchenware, sanitary ware and curtains. A second phase will see the construction of a new building alongside effectively doubling the floor space. In addition the brief includes a range of restaurant, leisure, culture and entertainment facilities threaded through the building. The conversion will open up the existing building in a dramatic way, maximizing permeability and providing a strong visual connection back into the town, promoting public access through the building to the attractive south-facing waterside of the mill.

Permeability failed to be maximised, sadly.

Ambitious plans to refurbish Grade II listed Warwick Mill to create new homes and breathe life into an important building and part of Middleton’s history have been drawn up. 

Warwick Mill has recently changed ownership and the new owners, Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd, have been working with Rochdale Borough Council over the last nine months to develop proposals to redevelop the site.

Rochdale Council

So far so CGI good- the town eagerly awaits a surfeit of high end SUV owners.

Former clog wearing mill workers remain silent on such matters.

The Job Centre steadfastly remains a Job Centre.

The river reappears here in back of the Middleton Arena.

Proceeding in a disorderly manner.

Emerging by this substantial substation.

Across the way is Lodge Mill.

A Middleton couple has saved the oldest surviving mill in the town after a two-year renovation project.

Located on Townley Street, Lodge Mill was built in the mid-1800s and was originally a silk weaving mill. It went on to cotton weaving and cloth dying, then to a home for many different small local businesses. Sadly, in the early 2000s, it fell into disrepair and became derelict.

Martin Cove and Paula Hickey bought Lodge Mill on 1 April 2019 and immediately set about replacing and repairing the roof. They also installed a 19.4kw solar PV system so the mill became its own little power station that summer.

In August 2019, the couple opened a small ice cream shop on the ground floor of the mill – named the Ice Cream Shop at Lodge – selling locally-made ice cream from Birch Farm, Heywood.

The ice cream is made using cream from Tetlow Farm’s dairy herd at Slattocks – Martin explained.

Rochdale Online

It was £2.25 for two scoops and a flake – a welcome oasis on a warmish day.

Sadly in December 2021 there was a serious fire, work has since been done to repair the roof.

A poorly signed footpath takes you back riverside by way of assorted industrial debris.

Still very much in use the Vitafoam Mill

Founded in 1949 on £100 capital, Vitafoam started its original operation manufacturing latex foam products in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

After establishing the business, the company made a major move to its current site in Middleton, Manchester in 1955, acquiring two empty former cotton mills to cope with increased demand.

By 1963, Vitafoam had added the manufacture of polyurethane foam to its business and was providing product speciality for upholstery and bedding markets.

As Vitafoam entered the new millennium the company had made great strides in supplying external foam converters. These rely on Vitafoam to be their business partner and provide their foam needs. This trend continues to grow from strength to strength and is supplemented by our own group conversion companies.

Regaining the river at Chadderton Hall Park.

Its roots stretch back to the 13th century being the land on which Chadderton Hall once stood. It contains a large field area with a small football pitch, a playground area, several flower gardens and a small café situated next to the Park’s bowling green.

Chadderton Hall was first built in the 13th century by Geoffrey de Chadderton, this first hall was in Chadderton Fold slightly to the east of the current park. In 1629 a new hall was built at the site of the current park and was present there until the 20th century when it was demolished in 1939. It was at the end of the 19th Century that the area surrounding Chadderton Hall began to be used for public recreation. A boating lake and a menagerie, including a kangaroo and a lion, were established as part of a Pleasure Garden. These features have long since been demolished but evidence of the boating lake can be seen by the hollowed out area where the playing fields now stand.

Wikipedia

Diminishing now the river thin and shallow, as we rise into the hills on the outskirts of Greater Manchester.

Passing by Royton Cricket Club as the river disappears again.

Based in the heart of Thorpe Estate – Royton Cricket, Bowling & Running Club offers a family friendly environment whilst hosting strong, competitive cricket throughout the summer. Bowling throughout the summer along with a Running section – Royton Road Runners, who operate all year round. Along with seasonal events such as our well known firework display along with St Georges Day celebrations – with plans in the pipeline for improvements on current events as well as new exciting projects – it’s a great time to be apart of the club & community!

I have very fond memories of visiting with my dad Eddie Marland as he followed Ashton in the Central Lancashire League – both watching cricket and seeing my dad crown green bowling here.

The river has gone underground again.

To be found on Salmon Fields – in pool form.

Site of a Life for a Life Memorial Forest

These now full memorial forests were originally donated to Life for a Life by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council. Salmon Fields meadow sits adjacent to a lovely pond that is used regularly by fishing enthusiasts and is frequently used as a breeding site for Canadian Geese.

Life for a Life planting areas are natural environments where we encourage wildlife and plantlife to flourish, as such additional items should not be added to the tree or the space around it, especially as they can cause damage to the tree. 

Please be aware that any prohibited items left on or around memorial trees will be removed. 

Although these sites are now full to the planting of new memorial trees if you have an existing memorial tree dedicated you can still upgrade memorial plaques, add additional ashes to a memorial tree, order memorial keepsakes etc.

IRK VALLEY #ONE

The first leg of a journey to the source of the River Irk beginning behind Victoria, finishing by the Hexagon Tower in Blackley.

The Irk’s name is of obscure etymology, but may be Brittonic in origin and related to the Welsh word iwrch, meaning roebuck

In medieval times, there was a mill by the Irk at which the tenants of the manor ground their corn and its fisheries were controlled by the lord of the manor. In the 16th century, throwing carrion and other offensive matter into the Irk was forbidden. Water for Manchester was drawn from the river before the Industrial Revolution. A bridge over the Irk was recorded in 1381. The river was noted for destructive floods. In 1480, the burgesses of Manchester described the highway between Manchester and Collyhurst which – the water of Irk had worn out. In 1816, of seven bridges over the Irk, six were liable to be flooded after heavy rain but the seventh, the Ducie Bridge completed in 1814 was above flood levels.

According to The New Gazetteer of Lancashire the Irk had – more mill seats upon it than any other stream of its length in the Kingdom and – the eels in this river were formerly remarkable for their fatness, which was attributed to the grease and oils expressed by the mills from the woollen cloths and mixed with the waters. 

However, by the start of the 20th century the Irk Valley between Crumpsall and Blackley had been left a neglected river – not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers.

Wikipedia

The river emerges from beneath the city into an area named Scotland – a remnant of Manchester’s links with the Jacobite Rebellion.

To the left were the squalid Victorian homes of Red Bank – currently presenting as the Green Quarter.

The river briefly becomes subterranean again.

This is a river with an ignominious history – famously damned by émigré Friedrich Engels.

At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

Mr Engels currently resides by the Medlock.

The stretch along Dantzic Street into Collyhurst Road was heavily industrialised, of which some remnants prevail.

Along with an abandoned traveller’s camp, where once the gas works had stood.

New housing is being built forming the first wave of the Victoria North masterplan.

Previous enterprises have hit the buffers beneath the railway on Bromley Street.

To the right is Dalton Street once home to the Collyhurst Cowboy.

Here are the remains of Vauxhall Street, named for Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, built in the remains of the Collyhurst Quarry – which in turn became Sandhills.

There are current plans afoot to create a City River Park.

In addition the local authority oversees the Irk River Valley Project , along with Groundwork, United Utilities, Woodland Trust and Greggs.

To the left are St Catherine’s Steps

Immortalised by almost local lad LS Lowry

Spanning the defunct railway workings, affording a view of the brightly blooming city centre.

Leaving Collyhurst Road, we journey along Smedley Road.

Seen here in 1934.

Passing beneath Queens Road – Queens Park to the right.

Queen’s Park was one of Britain’s first municipal parks created in 1846. The park was originally arranged around Hendham Hall, home of the Houghton family however this was demolished in 1884.

Dropping down to Hendham Vale.

To the right is the Smedley Hotel.

The Smedley Hotel is a very large pub that is hidden away on a quiet back street. Once inside there were a few different rooms and I had a drink in the bar which was fairly large and seemed in need of some attention. The pub still had its old Chesters signs outside and there were three real ales on the bar. I had a drink of Chesters bitter and this was a very nice drink the other beers were Chesters mild and Boddington’s bitter.

I thought this pub would be long gone but it is still standing and I think open for business.

Alan Winfield 1994

Lost to the world are the Manchester Moderne flats of Kennet House overlooking the Irk Valley on Smedley Lane.

Hendham Way becomes a pedestrianised lane.

Taking the road up and then down, returning to the river, and following the wrong path – alongside the Hapurhey Reservoir and Ponds.

A remnant of the industrial era the reservoirs and ponds, once used by the factories as a source of water, have over the year become a thriving habitat which supports a substantial amount of wildlife.

Then cutting back and regaining the correct path.
Finally arriving at the Hexagon Tower.

Black and white photographs: Manchester Local Image Collection

Tower Blocks – Blackley

Sandyhill Court Sandyhill Rd Manchester M9 8JS

Almost high on a hill stands a lonely tower block.

Seen here in 1987.

Tower Block

Sandyhill Court – Stands on the corner of Riverdale Road and Sandyhill Road and is still a local authority block.

The front entrance has a mosaic and concrete relief, recalling De Stijl particularly Joost Baljeu.

Along with echoes of Jean Arp.

The flats had acquired a stereotypical bad reputation.

Blight flats will soon be high-rise des-res.

Residents on a blighted Blackley estate have been told of plans to deal with the mostly unoccupied high-rise flats that are seen as the cause of the problem.

Manchester Evening News

I entered via the vehicular access – in order to view the four remaining reliefs.

The Lakeside Rise blocks now form part of a private gated community and are accessed from Blackley New Road.

The original blocks and their locations are as follows:

Ashenhurst Court Now Lakeside 1
Heaton Court Now Lakeside 2
Wilton Court Now Lakeside 3
Blackley Court Now Lakeside 4

Bracknell Court demolished – was on the corner of Riverdale Road and Bridgenorth Road adjacent to Heaton Court
Riverdale Court demolished – was on Riverdale Road opposite Bantry Avenue.

Travellers Site – Dantzic Street Manchester

The Irk Valley – the damp, dark and dank Irk Valley.

The south bank of the Irk is here very steep and between fifteen and thirty feet high. On this declivitous hillside there are planted three rows of houses, of which the lowest rise directly out of the river, while the front walls of the highest stand on the crest of the hill in Long Millgate. Among them are mills on the river, in short, the method of construction is as crowded and disorderly here as in the lower part of Long Millgate. Right and left a multitude of covered passages lead from the main street into numerous courts, and he who turns in thither gets into a filth and disgusting grime, the equal of which is not to be found – especially in the courts which lead down to the Irk, and which contain unqualifiedly the most horrible dwellings which I have yet beheld. In one of these courts there stands directly at the entrance, at the end of the covered passage, a privy without a door, so dirty that the inhabitants can pass into and out of the court only by passing through foul pools of stagnant urine and excrement. This is the first court on the Irk above Ducie Bridge – in case any one should care to look into it. Below it on the river there are several tanneries which fill the whole neighbourhood with the stench of animal putrefaction.

Below Ducie Bridge the only entrance to most of the houses is by means of narrow, dirty stairs and over heaps of refuse and filth. The first court below Ducie Bridge, known as Allen’s Court, was in such a state at the time of the cholera that the sanitary police ordered it evacuated, swept and disinfected with chloride of lime. Dr. Kay gives a terrible description of the state of this court at that time. Since then, it seems to have been partially torn away and rebuilt; at least looking down from Ducie Bridge, the passer-by sees several ruined walls and heaps of debris with some newer houses. The view from this bridge, mercifully concealed from mortals of small stature by a parapet as high as a man, is characteristic for the whole district. At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

Friedrich Engels

This is the street parallel to the River Irk, Dantzic Street, an anglicised version of former German city Danzig, currently Gdansk in Poland.

Gas works, works and a hole in the wall public convenience.

This has all gone.

Once home to putative homes.

The stylishly designed living areas and carefully considered external finishes within the new buildings, have been designed to compliment the rich industrial architectural style of the area.

They were never built

Pinnacle Alliance plans to build 344 luxury apartments on a site near Dantzic Street, as part of the ‘Northern Gateway’. Dozens of investors have paid up to £350,000 for the off-plan apartments in the proposed scheme. But two years since many first paid out for their home, no work has actually begun on the £30m scheme.

The dispute has led to a demonstration in Hong Kong, where around 50 buyers took to the streets over Christmas urging local authorities to take up their concerns. And in an unusual twist, protestors even recorded their own campaign song – to the tune of Jingle Bells – criticising Pinnacle.

Now Victoria North is on the way.

On the way out are the Travellers’ homes on the other side of the road, adjoining the Irk valley.

Thought to be in danger of flooding, they were condemned, yet there are plans to build on the site for less contentious or socially inclusive usage.

For centuries the commons of England provided lawful stopping places for people whose way of life was or had become nomadic. Enough common land survived the centuries of enclosure to make this way of life sustainable, but by section 23 of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 local authorities were given power to close the commons to Travellers. This they proceeded to do with great energy, but made no use of the concomitant power given to them by section 24 of the same Act to open caravan sites to compensate for the closure of the commons. By the Caravan Sites Act 1968, therefore, Parliament legislated to make the section 24 power a duty…for the next quarter of a century there followed a history of non-compliance with the duties imposed by the Act of 1968, marked by a series of decisions of this court holding local authorities to be in breach of their statutory duty; but to apparently little practical effect. The default powers vested in central government, to which the court was required to defer, were rarely if ever used.

Gypsy Traveller

The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said yesterday, that the new laws will target trespassers – who intend to reside on any private or public land in vehicles without permission, and where they are causing significant disruption, distress or harm to local communities.

This new offence will enable the police to fine or arrest those residing without permission on private or public land in vehicles in order to stop significant disruption, distress or harm being caused to the law-abiding majority – she added.

The new law also gives the police the powers to seize and impound vehicles whose owners fail to comply with the new law and who refuse or can’t leave.

You are criminalising a problem that has been created by the failings of a political will to deliver appropriate accommodation.

Joseph P Jones from the Gypsy Council

Travellers Times

So here we are – in the shadow of the ever expanding New Manchester – no homes for those who choose their own traditional way of life.

Burnt out shells, discarded toys and a population of ghosts.

Today, we live in a political economy that has been dominated by neoliberalism as a consolidation of the role that capital has in accumulation by dispossession. It has been written extensively elsewhere that contemporary neoliberal land policy affects seemingly disparate groups within the urban population. Less explored, however, is how this logic affects GRT communities in particular.

The traveller site on Dantzic Street lies within the forthcoming Red Bank neighbourhood, on the meander of the Irk, this particular neighbourhood will consist of:

A landmark thirty seven storey building as well as two sister towers, Park View and City View.

Given its proximity to the Green Quarter and other luxury residences, we can expect the rent gap produced by speculative land values to be fully exploited on this patch of land. As for a new traveller site to replace the one on Dantzic Street, the future remains unclear. Having reached out to an Executive Member for Housing and Employment within MCC about ecological concerns alongside the worries concerning lack of land access to travellers, the first question was responded to with misplaced enthusiasm whilst the latter was yet to be briefed at all.

GM Housing Action

Wigan Walk

Arriving at Wigan Wallgate turn left and left and right.

Tucked away along Clarence Yard is the former Princes Cinema.

Photo: Ian Grundy

Where once upon a time the flat capped and hatted audience queued at length, for a glimpse of Dracula and Frankenstein.

Opened in 1934 and closed on 10th January 1970 with a screening of The Mad Room.

Cinema Treasures

It has subsequently been in use as a nightclub.

Back out onto Dorning Street in search of telephone exchanges, three telephone exchanges.

Inter-war

Sixties.

Seventies.

Just around the corner is an expansive GPO Sorting Office of 1959.

Across the way is the Technical College.

The foundations of Wigan & Leigh College date back to 1857, and the current institution was formed in April 1992 through the merger of Wigan College of Technology and Leigh College.

Partly formed from the Thomas Linacre Technical School.

Architects: Howard V Lobb G Grenfell Bains & Hargreaves 1954

School Hall – RIBA Pix

Curious decorative brick motif – a floor plan of the building.

My thanks to Mark Watson for his erudition and insight.

Across the road the former Grammar School now an NHS Centre.

Wigan Grammar School was founded in 1597 and closed in 1972 as part of the comprehensive education movement. it became Mesnes High School until 1989, and then the Mesnes Building of Wigan College.

It was designated a Grade II listed building in 1997.

Architect: A E Munby

Since 2003, it has been known as the Thomas Linacre Centre and is an out-patient department for the Wrightington Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust.

Let’s head back into town and along Standishgate.

Former Burton Tailors – possibly.

Turn left into Millgate to see the boarded up Civic Centre.

Formerly not boarded up Civic Centre.

Across the way the new Library and Life Centre by Astudio and LCE Architects

Down the road to where the International Swimming Pool was – opened 1968.

Demolished 2010

Scholes Comprehensive Development 1964 – five thirteen storey blocks.

Moving down the street to the former Police Station now Premier Inn on Harrogate Street.

Lancashire County Architect: Roger Booth

Flickr

Next door the Post Modern brick monolith of the Wigan and Leigh Courthouse 1990.

Then back up along King Street to visit the Job Centre.

Take a look up at the Royal Court Theatre – 1886 Richard T Johnson

Then back up toward the centre to the County Playhouse.

Construction began on the County Playhouse in 1916. However, due to a shortage of materials and labour during World War I, it was not completed until 1919.

Finally opened on 22nd December 1919 with The Peril Within – starring Dorothy Gish.

Onwards to the Wallgate News.

Finally to The George public house.

All ages, all different, all characters all like a bevvy.

The George is all you need.

Dalton Street – Manchester

The North’s gone west.

We all went west.

Excepting one individualist nurse.

I went west with my dad in 1958.

Now I’m going east to Dalton Street, home to the Collyhurst cowboy.

Photograph: Dennis Hussey

This is an illusion within an illusion, twice removed.

The Hollywood recreation, recreated on the rough ground of post war Britain.

In 1960 the area was a dense network of streets, industry and homes – demolished during the period of slum clearance.

Escaping the dark, dank Irk Valley onwards and upwards to Rochdale Road.

The Dalton Works Arnac factory survived until 2008

Photograph: Mikey

The tight maze of Burton Street and beyond, reduced to rubble.

Dalton Street was not home to the Dalton Gang, they lived here in Oklahoma

It was home to imaginary gangs, committing imaginary crimes, in an imaginary Manchester, in ITV’s Prime Suspect Five.

Kangol capped criminals doing business outside the Robert Tinker on the corner of the very real Dalton and Almond Streets.

The Robert Tinker was an estate pub in a run down area of Collyhurst. The pub looked pretty grim from the outside, but it was smarter than I expected inside, I had a drink in the lounge which was carpeted and comfortable. This was a Banks’s tied house and there were two real ales on the bar, I had a drink of Banks’s bitter and this was a decent drink, the other beer was Banks’s mild. This pub closed about two years after my visit and looked derelict, it has now been demolished.

Alan Winfield

Robert Tinker was the owner of the Vauxhall Gardens, a Victorian pleasure venue.

At the opening there was a special attraction, a giant cucumber which had been grown in the gardens reaching a length of seven feet and eight inches and a large and beautiful balloon was to be liberated at 9pm

It was built adjoining the site of the Collyhurst Sandstone Quarry.

Much of the red sandstone used for building in Manchester and the surrounding area, including stone for the Roman fort at Castlefield, St Ann’s Church in the city centre, Manchester Cathedral and the original buildings of Chetham’s Hospital, came from Collyhurst Quarry. Geologists use the term Collyhurst Sandstone for this type of soft red sandstone, which occurs in North West England

Tinker died in 1836 and gradually his gardens were whittled away, the subsoil was sold to iron moulders who cherished its certain properties and before long the trees were chopped down and houses were being built on the former site.

Those houses are in their turn whittled away, replaced in the 1960’s with fashionable tower blocks.

Architects: J Austen Bent 1965

In total five thirteen storey blocks – Humphries, Dalton, Roach, Vauxhall and Moss Brook Courts

Seen here in 1985.

Tower Block UK

Subsequently purchased by Urban Splash and refurbished:

Designed by Union North Architects, the names for the Three Towers were decided in a public competition and the winning names were Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia – naming the towers after the Pankhurst sisters and their mother. 

Julie Twist

Currently being record to see post Grenfell regulations.

As the terraces were cleared new low-rise social housing also arrived.

All archival photographs Manchester Local Image Collection unless otherwise stated.

Along with maisonettes adjoining Eastford Square

Photograph: Stuart Collins 2014 – demolished 2015

The remains of the remaining Eastford Square homes tinned up and secured awaiting who knows what.

So let’s take a short walk, see how things stand.

The area now forms the core of the latest municipal Masterplan – Victoria North.

Victoria North is a joint venture programme between Manchester City Council and developer Far East Consortium.

An internationally recognised developer, FEC specialises in residential led mixed-use developments and hotels, along with its casino and car park operations throughout mainland Europe. 

The cowboys are now long gone – or are they?

When I was a cowboy out on the Western Plain
Well, I made a half a million
Working hard on the bridle reins

Come a cow-cow yicky come a cow-cow yicky, Harpurhey

Huddy Leadbetter