Homes of Distinction – Heald Green

We begin our journey through bricks and mortar, domestic fashions and fads, time and tide in Rainham.

Ward’s Construction, along with many others throughout the country, offer the aspirational suburbanite an opportunity to own the very latest in modern design.

Large open plan rooms lit by large open glazed windows, quality cladding – mixing traditional materials with go ahead get it now design. Double fronted, remote garage, modest manageable, grassed gardens.

For those on slightly more limited means the DH2 offers affordable modernity, along with everything you would expect from a Ward’s Home.

Homes of distinction.

Fast forward to April 2020 – St Ann’s Road Heald Green Cheshire

National Cycle Route 558 brings me here – sanctioned lockdown exercise for the mobile moocher.

In the sixty or so years that have passed something has happened to those suburban dream homes.

An ever expanding middle class fuelled by bigger pay packets, low, low, lower taxation and bumper inheritance payouts, wants more.

More house, more car, more style – conspicuous consumption of everything and more – extend yourself, express yourself!

Right here in one unexceptional road is the apotheosis of today’s Homes of Distinction.

Civic Centre – Plymouth

Council House former Civic CentreArmada Way Plymouth PL1 2AA

Former Civic Centre 1958-62 by Jellicoe, Ballantyne and Coleridge with city architect HJW Stirling. In-situ concrete structure with pre-cast aggregate panels. It comprises a fourteen storey slab block on a raised raft foundation which straddles a two storey block to the north and a bridge link to the two storey Council House to the south. The bridge link is elevated on pilotis to create an open courtyard with a reflecting pond, part of the designed landscape of the civic square. 

Current listing June 10th 2007 Historic England

I rode into town on my bicycle en route from Weston super Mare to Hastings one sunny afternoon in 2015. The pictures I took that day were largely left untouched, until today. I was prompted by an online postcard search to finally put them to some good use.

On the day of my visit the building was well and truly closed, and its future uncertain.

I took my time and explored the site, here is what I saw:

I subsequently found archival image of the interior – including examples of applied decorative arts.

The building has suffered of late, from poor maintenance and general neglect.

Love it or hate it, it’s one of Plymouth’s most iconic post-war buildings – and it towers over the city centre. But the Civic Centre has been empty since 2015, with sad images revealing parts of the outside literally crumbling.

Today is the day Plymouth will finally discover what developer Urban Splash plans to do with the landmark 14-storey tower block it bought for £1.

Plymouth Herald

Urban Splash are in the house – plans are to go ahead.

The proposal, by Gillespie Yunnie Architects, will see the 14-storey former council headquarters converted into 144 one and two-bedroom flats with the ground floors of the lower blocks providing about 4,600m² of office, retail and leisure space.

Unanimously approved last week, the scheme will open up the ground floor, making it ‘an active public space filled with outside seating for cafés, bars and restaurants’ and reuse the existing landscaped pools, while creating new pedestrian connections through the scheme from the Theatre Royal and Civic Square.

Architects Journal

Suds Laundrette – Levenshulme

We have entered a new age – the age of the A6 based computer generated A4 Blu-Tack attached laminated print out.

An informal typography for the age of informality – long gone the etched plastic, hand rendered fascia days of yore.

This is now one of many launderama dramas – my sole intent to record the state of the nation’s dirty washing.

There is even to be a book published this March.

So one more for the road – load up the Loadstar with washers and slugs, let’s all get dry, one way or another.

St Saviour’s Church – Bradford

St Saviours 25 Ings Way Bradford BD8 0LU

What a delight – the stunning surprise that awaits you, around one particular suburban corner of Bradford.

I had called ahead, to arrange the visit – the Reverend Dorothy Stewart had gracefully invited me to join members of the community and herself, one wild and windy Wednesday.

Steel frame and shuttered concrete with dark red brick walls in stretcher bond, and slate roofs.

Church of 1966 with attached hall of 1971, both designed by architect George Pace. Characterised by asymmetric arrangement of roofs, exposed structure and juxtaposition of materials, this is a complete and largely unaltered example of Pace’s work. The asphalt roof and windows are in very poor condition. Repair works to the roof were carried out in 2016 with funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s former Grants for Places of Worship scheme.

Listed November 2007

The exterior is stark and angular, the body of the church is a broad rectangle with no division between nave and chancel, with a bell tower to the east, vestries to the north-west and a chapel to the west. At the western end is the church hall, added in 1971. Externally a single asymmetric roof covers the main body of the church, rising at the east end to form a mono-pitch section over the altar area and incorporating the bell tower. There is a porch at the east end of the north side, and a transept with a double pitch roof. To the west is a single storey, flat roof section with an entrance to the north, extending to the transept. West of the main body of the church on the south side is a separate roof, housing a chapel. To the west is the church hall, with a north-south asymmetric roof. All the windows are rectangular, of varying sizes, with plain glass in rectangular leaded lights. Lintels over the doors and the parapet of the flat roofed block are of shuttered concrete, as are the window surrounds.

The body of the church contains Victorian stripped oak bench pews derived from St John’s church in Little Horton, arranged with a central aisle. To the north side is a range of contemporary pews in wood with vertical slatted fronts, in front of the organ, recovered from St. Chrysostom’s Bradford , by Driver and Haigh of Bradford, which is housed in the transept with a matching front of vertical wooden slats.

Let’s take a look.

To the rear is the cylindrical font in white concrete with a wooden lid, set on a raised platform. Suspended above it is a large light fitting in black metal, inscribed around the edges with the words: “This font is erected by relatives and parishioners in memory of/ Beatrice May Parkin, for over forty years a Sunday School teacher and/ worker for St Saviour’s Church, who died 2nd March 1961”.

There is no separate chancel, and the finishes throughout are exposed brick, shuttered concrete and limed oak. The sanctuary area is in the south-east corner and consists of a tall angled purple brick reredos, topped with concrete, and a lower detached, angled purple brick pillar to each side each holding a shelf and incorporating a wooden seat. In front of the central reredos is an integral wooden bench with three backs, and a large black metal cross in the same style as those on the exterior but with more elaboration, fixed to the floor on a raised concrete block. To the fore is the altar table on a low raised platform. The whole is enclosed within an altar rail of iron and wood, open to the centre.

The main roof has exposed wooden trusses supported on concrete pillars and beams, with rafters and purlins also exposed creating a latticework pattern.

The whole interior order is orderly, calm and coherent, a simple consistency of materials and architectural intent.

The solid wood, studded chapel door has the words “I am the Good Shepherd” engraved on it. The chapel has exposed beams and rafters, and an altar to the north with iron and wood altar rail in front. Pews are as in the church. There is a mosaic plaque behind the altar which came from St John’s church in Little Horton.

Beyond to the west is the narthex, with shuttered concrete ceilings pierced by circular skylights, exposed brick walls and doors to the chapel, service rooms and hall. 

Such a pleasure to visit such an enchanting church – it was a precious privilege to be welcomed by the congregation, warden and Reverend Dorothy.

Once again – many sincere thanks.

See also: William Temple Church of St Mark’s and St Mark’s Broomhill

Alexandra Hotel – Hull

69 Hessle Road Kingston upon Hull HU3 2AB

Whilst walking the length of Hessle Road, up and back – taking the air, snaps, the sights and sounds, I came upon a fine Faience tiled frontage.

I began photographing, wandering dangerously into the space between the slip road and the flyover. A shout rang out, emanating from the boozer, the landlord called me over.

“Do you want to take a look inside?”

“Yes”.

A listed interior the new landlord is working hard along with Historic England to restore the capacious rooms to their former glory, including the entrance mosaic and ceiling – images P Hampel

Inheriting a whole heap of issues and a grey parrot called Sparky.

It all proved too much for the former landlord.

But the boozer is now up and running serving cask ale to throngs of first class thirsty customers.

The Yorkshire Brewhouse 1904 ended mid week when we’re normally closed but we were asked to open for a group of very thirsty sailors. We moved on to Reet, another Yorkshire Brewhouse beer and thanks to the football that one has gone too. It’s back to the YBH Faithful Stout once again. I’d come quick and get it while you can.

Once two pubs the Hessle Road Inn was subsumed by the Alexandra. The area was once home to the city’s Jewish Community – the cemetery survives next door.

There are Star of David motifs incorporated into the windows, sympathetic to this local heritage.

Built around 1895, designed by Smith, Brodrick and Walker, with late C20 alterations – British Listed Buildings.

It’s a fabulous pub which deserves to thrive – pop in for a pint if you’re passing, just watch out for low flying parrots.

Neaverson’s – Huddersfield

Kirkgate Buildings Byram Street

Commercial building with ground-floor retail units and offices to the upper floors, c1883, by W H Crossland with sculptural work by C E Fucigna. Sandstone ashlar, slate roof, substantial ashlar ridge stacks. C19 Queen Anne style with French influences and classical Greek sculpture. One of the ground-floor shop units was remodelled in 1935 by Sharp and Law of Bradford with Moderne shopfronts and interior fittings.

The cultural and visual collision is immediate – the pairing of Huddersfield’s grand Victorian manner with the latest of European Moderne.

Neaverson’s – purveyors of pottery and glass began life in 1893 in premises on Cross Church Street, before moving to the Grade I-listed Byram Street building in 1935.

Set to the ground floor of bay 4 is a 1935 Moderne shopfront by Sharp and Law of Bradford. The shopfront is of grey and pink/beige marble with unmoulded windows that are curved to eliminate reflection, and has a glazed door set within a recessed porch. Set below the top of the shopfront is a ribbon window with dark tinted glazing and slender vertical and horizontal muntin bars arranged in a geometric pattern. The original metal signage in stylised sans-serif relief lettering reads ‘NEAVERSONS’, ‘pottery’ and ‘four’.

Thought to echo Susie Cooper’s London shop and unswervingly now – the fascia must have been something of a shock to the taciturn Tykes.

Neaversons glass and china shop closed in 2007.

Gerry’s Tea Rooms occupied the building for less than two years.

There is not a day goes by when I don’t see some of my customers asking what went wrong. They think I was a failure and that is so not the truth.

Along came a restaurant:

The Grade II 1930’s interior has been refurbished by the new owners and exudes understated sophistication.

“Wow, I feel like I’m in London,” said Trish as she stepped into the newly-opened Neaversons restaurant, having just arrived on the train from the capital.

It closed not long after.

Currently home to the Zephyr Bar and Kitchen

A prohibition stylised venue offering a selection of drinks, food and an environment that really sets us apart from the crowd.

The listed frontage has survived intact – let’s take a look.

Huddersfield Contemporary Art Trail

I was invited by eminent Huddersfield based Psychogeographer Phil Wood to take a tour with him around the Huddersfield Contemporary Art Trail.

An alternate art trip devised by local art trippers Red Fodder.

We set forth from Huddersfield Station on Monday 13th January 2020 at the prearranged time of 14.00 hours. The weather was resolutely overcast and increasingly cold, with an ever present threat of rain.

Never to be knowingly deterred we made good progress around the town – we were hungry for art, the more contemporary the better.

Almost every avenue, alley and byway explored these are the snaps I snapped during our crazy Kirklees caper.

Along the way I added my own small contribution to the town’s contemporary art stock.

A veil was finally drawn over the afternoon’s cultural caprice with fine glasses of foaming ale in The Grove, where I finally came face to face with the Red Fodder folk for the very first time.

A fitting end to a thirsty day’s work.