Palmerston Street – Beswick Manchester

To begin at the beginning – some years ago I traced the route of the River Medlock, I chanced upon a forlorn pub called The River, all alone, desolate and boarded up, presiding over an area that I assumed, would once have supplied ample trade to a busy boozer.

I returned last week in search of some rhyme or reason, for such a seemingly sad and untimely decline.

So here we are back at in Manchester 1813, the seeds of the Industrial Revolution sewn in adjacent Ancoats, the fields of Beswick still sewn with seeds, the trace of Palmerston Street nought but a rural track.

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Sited on land between Great Ancoats Street and Every Street was Ancoats Hall, a post-medieval country house built in 1609 by Oswald Mosley, a member of the family who were Lords of the Manor of Manchester. The old timber-framed hall, built in the early 17th century, and demolished in the 1820s was replaced replaced by a brick building in the early neo-Gothic style.

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This would become the Manchester Art Museum, and here the worst excesses Victorian Capitalism were moderated by philanthropy and social reform.

When the Art Museum opened, its rooms, variously dedicated to painting, sculpture, architecture and domestic arts, together attempted to provide a chronological narrative of art, with detailed notes, labels and accompanying pamphlets and, not infrequently, personal guidance, all underlining a sense of historical development.

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Housing and industry in the area begins to expand, railways, tramways, homes and roads are clearly defined around the winds of the river.

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In 1918 the museum was taken over by the city, it closed in 1953 and its contents were absorbed into the collection of Manchester City Art Gallery, as the State increasingly took responsibility for the cultural well being of the common folk.

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The building was finally demolished in the 1960’s – just as the area, by now a dense warren of back to back terraces, was to see further change.

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Along the way was the the River Inn, seen here with a fine Groves and Whitnall’s faience tiled frontage.

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The street also offered rest, relaxation and refreshment through the Church, Pineapple and Palmerston pubs, as recored here on the Pubs of Manchester blog.

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The River seen here in the 1970’s struggled on until 2007.

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Further along we find the Ardwick Lads Club, further evidence of the forces of social reform, that sadly failed to survive the forces of the free market and the consequent Tory cuts in public spending and wilful Council land-banking.

The Ardwick Lads’ and Mens’ Club, now the Ardwick Youth Centre, opened in 1897 and is believed to be Britain’s oldest purpose-built youth club still in use [and was until earlier in 2012]. Designed by architects W & G Higginbottom, the club, when opened, featured a large gymnasium with viewing gallery – where the 1933 All England Amateur Gymnastics Championships were held – three fives courts, a billiard room and two skittle alleys (later converted to shooting galleries). Boxing, cycling, cricket, swimming and badminton were also organised. At its peak between the two world wars, Ardwick was the Manchester area’s largest club, with 2,000 members.

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On the 10th September 2012 an application for prior notification of proposed demolition was submitted on behalf of Manchester City Council to Manchester Planning, for the demolition of Ardwick Lads’ Club  of 100 Palmerston Street , citing that there was “no use” for the building in respect to its historic place within the community as providing a refuge and sporting provision to the young of Ancoats.

At the top turn of the street stood St Mary’s – the so called Lowry church.

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Used as a location for the film adaptation of Stan Barstow’s A Kind Of Loving

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The homes and industry attendant schools and pubs were soon to become history, all that you see here is more or less gone. Slum clearance, the post-war will to move communities away from the dense factory smoke, poor housing stock and towards a bright shiny future elsewhere.

Whole histories have subsequently been subsumed beneath the encroachment of buddleia, bramble, birch and willow.

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The land now stands largely unused and overgrown, awaiting who knows what, but that’s another tale for another day.

Archive images from the Manchester Local Image Collection.

 

 

 

 

 

Mitzi Cunliffe – Owen’s Park Manchester

Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918  December 30th 2006

American born, resident of Didsbury Manchester, sculptor and designer, responsible for, amongst other things, the BAFTA mask.

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Her first large scale commission was two pieces for the Festival of Britain in 1951. One, known as Root Bodied Forth, shows figures emerging from a tree, and was displayed at the entrance of the Festival. The second, a pair of bronze handles in the form of hands, adorned the Regatta Restaurant. She created a similar piece, in the form of knots, in 1952 which remains at the School of Civic Design at Liverpool University, along with The Quickening in the rear courtyard.

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Cunliffe developed a technique for mass-producing abstract designs in relief in concrete, as architectural decoration, which she described as sculpture by the yard. She used the technique to decorate buildings throughout the UK, but particularly in and around Manchester.

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Particularly this example of four modular panels named Cosmos, set in the wall of the student halls of residence in Owens Park, Fallowfield, Manchester.

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Linda’s Pantry – Manchester

Turn off London Road and into Ducie Street, it’s just around the corner from Piccadilly Station.

Enter a world of warehouses, homes and industry.

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Return some fifty years later and you’ll find a café on the corner.

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Return last Saturday you’ll find that it’s gone.

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No more of this.

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Top class scran at prices to suit all pockets.

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Linda and her crew have packed up the pans and scrammed.

Read all about it – Manchester Evening News

The face of the city changes, as one by one faces and places disappear, new build and mass tourism making ever new demands on space.

The rag trade is in tatters and the tatters are long gone.

It would seem that there is no place for the traditional café or its customers.

So thank you and goodnight, the last pie, chips and gravy has left the counter.

Shut the door and turn out the lights.

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All Saints & Martyrs – Langley

 

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All Saints & Martyrs Rectory, Wood St, Middleton, Manchester M24 5GL

We had the pleasure to visit All Saints & Martyrs on Saturday 7th July 2018 as part of an Art and Christianity – Manchester Modernists Society bus tour.

We could not have been made more welcome by The Reverend Canon Philip Miller – Vicar of Langley and his team, many thanks for their warm hospitality.

Set on the Langley Estate, one of many developed by Manchester Council as overspill social housing, the church serves a large community to the north of the city.

The architect was Albert Walker of Leach Rhodes Walker – this was the first church that they had built, having previously specialised in shopping precincts.

Leach, Rhodes and Walker had involved Geoffrey Clarke RA with their earlier new church building for All Saints, Barton Road, Stretford. (1957) here his contribution was chiefly a large stained glass window depicting the Trinity. LRW continued to collaborate with Clarke in their church projects, in the years following at Langley. In a letter to the church at the time he wrote: “Start saving now for a new West End Window – only £10 p.s.f – for the greatest window in the North…. I have just done some windows I’m rather pleased with..”

The church is an imposing angular structure, its height possibly determined by the treasure within – The Langley Cross.

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Consecrated in 1964, All Saints and Martyrs is home to the Langley Cross. This unique structure, which adorns our east wall, is the work of internationally renowned artist, Geoffrey Clarke RA, who has won reputation by his contributions to Coventry Cathedral.

The sculpture itself is 37 feet high and about 20 feet wide at the extremities of the transverse shaft and made of cast aluminium metal.

This is work of national and international significance.

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The church is lit from the west by a large yellow and white window, formed of French stained glass. Though seriously damaged over time, it has subsequently been repaired and forms an imposing counterpoint to the facing cross.

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To the right of the main entrance is a delightful chapel, illuminated by a large stained glass window.

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And in addition a charming period light fitting.

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To the right of the altar and cross are pierced stained glass windows.

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And to the left the sculptural organ pipes and further pierced stained glass.

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The church has retained much of its original furnishings.

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The roof is formed of intersecting concrete beams and coloured blocks.

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The adjoining ground floor space was once used for an overflowing congregation, it has retrospectively been partitioned and serves as a social meeting area.

It was here that we were so generously treated to tea and cakes.

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And given the opportunity to view examples from the church’s extensive archive.

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The building is not without its problems – the ingress of water and the cost of maintaining the structure require outside assistance, through grant aiding, fund raising and donation. We should all make every effort to ensure that All Saints and Martyrs survives intact for generations to come.

Here is a building of great distinction, housing public art of the highest quality, built at a time when the ethos of nothing but the best for all was commonplace.

I can only thank Phil once again for his warm welcome and wish he and his parishioners – nothing but the best for the future!

If you have the opportunity, go and take a look for yourself.

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Sale Pyramid Odeon Cinema

Cinema Treasures

Located in Sale, Cheshire, now part of Greater Manchester. Designed by the famous British cinema architectural firm, Drury & Gomersall, the Pyramid Theatre is a classic example of an Egyptian-style cinema in Britain and had a 1,940 seating capacity.

The frontage although not particularly Egyptian in overall design does have various Egyptian style mouldings and fluted pillars. Internally, the Egyptian theme was again largely mouldings and finishes like Graumans Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The theme was included in the specially designed Christie Organ, which was installed in the Blue Coat School in Oldham.

Following a request by the school to remove the organ in 2008, the organ was in storage for five years. The Christie has now been donated to the Lowe Side Trust, by the LTOT,  along with funding for refurbishment and installation, of both consoles, into Lowe House Catholic Church, St. Helens, Lancashire. As of the beginning of 2018 the the original pit console is now fully functioning in the Church. The Egyptian style stage console is now under refurbishment to full theatre specification. Website for this project will be available shortly.

Lancastrian Theatre Organ Trust

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The Pyramid Theatre changed hands a couple of times between its opening on 24th February 1934 and 21st December 1942 when it was taken over by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain. It was re-named Odeon on 18th June 1945.

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In 1981, the Rank Organisation closed 29 of its Odeon cinemas and the lease for the Odeon Sale was bought by the Tatton Cinemas group and it was re-named Tatton Cinema. Stage shows returned to the theatre, however the runing costs caused the lease to revert to Rank in 1984 and the building was closed.

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The cinema was purchased by Trafford Borough council for £200,000, but by 1987 the costs to the council were estimated at £1.5 million. A campaign was started to save it from demolition.

In 1988, it was advertised for sale by tender and by 1990 the cinema was converted into an American themed nightclub, known as JFK’s

The nightclub closed around 2001 and the auditorium was transformed into a franchised L.A. Fitness Centre, using a former front stalls exit as its entrance. The main entrance and foyers are currently unused. In 2013 it became a Sports Direct Fitness Club.

The Pyramid Theatre was designated a Grade II Listed building in November 1987.

It is currently closed and seemingly unused.

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I often cycle passed and wonder about your past, and a possible future.

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Our cinema heritage is and always had been under threat, listed and unloved desperately seeking the care and attention to survive into another other century. Subsequent repurposing has proved temporary and unsustainable, without the concerted efforts of local authority, charitable trust and enthusiastic amateurs, you will remain a silent pharaonic sentinel by the side of Washway Road.

Forever.

“Only the best is good enough for Sale”

 

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Varna Street – Rogue Studios Manchester

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Once there was a school – from May 16th 1898, there was a school.

One of many Manchester School Board schools built in an imposing functional, triple storied style, they often seemed several times too big, for the infants which they contained.

With one thousand five hundred pupils, it was dubbed the largest school in Lancashire.

Nestled in a tight corner formed by the Lanky Cut and the train line below, surrounded by the huddled masses, in their manifold terraced homes.

 

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Once home to cheeky monkey, soon to be Monkee Davy Jones.

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His runaway, overnight fame made his humble Gorton home a mecca for adoring fans.

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The school’s interior was a mix of wide open halls and closeted classrooms.

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Archive photographs from the Manchester Local Image Collection

Eventually the school bell rang for the last time, and a newer brighter home was found for the little learners.

Lights were turned off and the doors of Varna Street were closed.

But not for the last time, a new use was found for this recently listed building.

Having lost their city centre base Rogue Studios were offered the site by the local authority, and in double quick time they have created a home for artists, a community resource and project space, which will continue to prosper for years to come.

Many thanks to Ms. Jenny Steele Rogue artist for my guided tour.

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Underpass – Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes synonymous with something or other, the town where everything is an off centre out of town centre, where anything was new once.

A broad grid of boulevards, sunken super-highways and an extended series of balletic roundabouts swirls the cars around.

Beneath this merry carbon hungry dance, we find the cyclist and pedestrian, the self propelled underclass passing through the underpass.

During my eight hour non-stop walking tour I encountered several – here they are, home to the homeless – others somewhat desolate and deserted, grass between the paving stones, the occasional casual tag and discarded can.

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