Clacton to Great Yarmouth

Day four Thursday 4th September 2014 – leaving Clacton on Sea for Frinton on Sea is the equivalent of crossing continents, time zones, aesthetic and social sensibilities.

Leaving the razzle-dazzle, frantic fish and chip frazzle, for the sedate repose of germ free Frinton.

Green sward and restrained modernist shelters adorn the foreshore.

I love the bold optimism of Maritime Moderne – the bright eyed, forward looking window grid of these fine flats.

I have a cautious admiration for the faux Deco newcomers.

The modernist estate was attempted many times in the interwar years; visions of rows of fashionable white walled, flat roofed houses filled developers eyes. In practice the idea was less popular with potential house buyers. In the Metro-Land suburbs of London, estates were attempted in Ruislip and Stanmore, with a dozen houses at most being built. One estate that produced more modernist houses than most, albeit less than planned, was the Frinton Park estate at Frinton-on-Sea on the Essex coast.

Oliver Hill was known for his house designs, which spanned styles from Arts and Crafts to Modernist. Hill was to draw up a plan for 1100 homes, as well as a shopping centre, luxury hotel and offices. The plan was for prospective buyers to buy a plot and then engage architects to design their new house from a list of designers drawn up by Hill. The list featured some of the best modernist architects working in Britain at the time; Maxwell FryWells Coates, F.R.S. Yorke and Connell, Ward & Lucas.

As wonderful as this sounds today, the buying public of 1935 did not quite agree. The majority of potential buyers were apparently put off by the Estates insistence on flat roofs and modernist designs. Plan B was to build a number of show homes to seduce the public into buying the modernist dream. Of 50 planned show homes, around 25 were built, with about 15 more houses built to order. The majority of these were designed by J.T. Shelton, the estates resident architect, with a number designed by other architects like Hill, Frederick Etchells, RA Duncan and Marshall Sisson.

Modernism in Metroland

One million four hundred thousand pounds later

Nine hundred and fifty thousand pounds

These survivors are now much sought after residences.

The Modern House

The town is also home to this traditional confectioners – Lilley’s Bakery.

Leaving the coast for pastures new – well, a ploughed field actually.

Crossing the River Orwell over the Orwell Bridge on my way to Ipswich.

The main span is 190 metres which, at the time of its construction, was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use in the UK. The two spans adjacent to the main span are 106m, known as anchor spans. Most of the other spans are 59m. The total length is 1,287 metres from Wherstead to the site of the former Ipswich Airport. The width is 24 metres with an air draft of 43 metres; the bridge had to be at least 41 metres high. The approach roads were designed by CH Dobbie & Partners of Cardiff. 

The bridge is constructed of a pair of continuous concrete box girders with expansion joints that allow for expansion and contraction. The girders are hollow, allowing for easier inspection, as well as providing access for services, including telecom, power, and a 711mm water main from the nearby Alton Water reservoir.

The bridge appears in the 1987 Cold War drama The Fourth Protocol, in which two RAF helicopters are shown flying under it, and at the end of the 2013 film The Numbers Station.

Wikipedia

Time for a Stymie Bold Italic stop – much to the obvious consternation of an over cautious customer.

It seems to still be extant – but with a tasteful coat of subdued grey paint according to its Facebook page.

Having completed this journey in 2016, then reacquainting myself in 2020, I have little recollection of visiting Ipswich, but I did, yet there are no snaps.

I photographed this and several other water towers, precisely where, I could not honestly say.

Suffice to say that it is somewhere – as is everything else.

An admiring nod to Bernd and Hilla Becher.

This the only time that I chose to have a glass of beer whilst awheel, normally waiting until the evening – I couldn’t resist this charming looking brew pub in Framlingham.

Earl Soham is a village close by, on the A1120. The Earl Soham Brewery beers started out in  life being brewed in local man Maurice’s old chicken shed. You may be pleased to hear they have a slightly more sophisticated set-up now, without forgetting their humble roots.

If you haven’t tasted them before, we think you’ll be as delighted with them as our regulars, and you can be guaranteed of a warm welcome if you come to try them out.

The Station

The sort of wayside boozer where I could have easily idled away an hour or two – hopefully I’ll pass by again some time and linger longer.

Another water tower – somewhere.

The most enchanting of shop fascias.

Something of a curiosity – David Frost’s father’s ironmongers in Halesworth – and the Ancient House with its ancient carving.

The bressumer beam at the front of the is linked with Margaret de Argentein in the late 14th and 15th century, it is believed t it could have been a manor or toll house. 

Currently trading as a Bistro with paranormal problems;

Things in the window were swaying the other day and when we went to stop them they almost fought back.

I’ve seen two ghosts in the kitchen. One was clearly a man, the other was when I thought my daughter was over my shoulder but when I looked around she wasn’t there, and we were the only two in the building.

Eastern Daily Press

The long and ever so slightly winding road of the lowlands, sad eyed.

Service station highlight of the tour – with its National graphic identity intact.

A no longer a bakers bakery.

Ghost sign.

All at sea again – caravans to the left of us, sea to the right of us, onwards onwards.

The eternal puzzle of the paddling pool.

Terracotta tiling on the Lifeboat House.

Crossing the estuary of the River Yare – yeah, yeah!

Finally arriving in Joyland.

Rides include the world famous Snails and Tyrolean Tub Twist.

A huge toy town mountain incorporates the Spook Express kiddie coaster, Jet Cars and Neptune’s Kingdom undersea fantasy ride, Pirate Ship, Major Orbit, Balloon Wheel and Skydiver complete the rest of the rides.

Hungry – why not grab a bite at the American Diner.

I actually went to the Wetherspoons.

Though the town is full of tiny pubs.

And a chippy.

I wandered the highway byways and promenade of Great Yarmouth, all alone in a neon nightmare!

Finally settling down for a pint or two – again.

Lastly encountering the late night skaters.

Night night.

Southend to Clacton

Day three Wednesday 3rd September – leaving Southend under a cloud.

The huge slab of the Civic Centre shrouded in sea mist.

Designed by borough architect – PF Burridge.

Queen Mum Opens Civic Centre – It took a while to get there, since 1958 when the council agreed to embark on a quest to build a new home for itself;  but on 31st October 1967 HRH the Queen Mother did the honours and formally opened the spanking new Civic Centre.  During its build Southend was classed as being in the top ten in the country for full employment, due to this workers were hard to come by and bus loads of workers were brought in to complete this and the many other projects shooting up along Victoria Avenue at the same time. 

Cllr Beryl Scholfield commented later on the day – The Queen Mother opened the Civic Centre in 1967, when my husband was chairman of the town hall committee, and we had lunch with her at Porters.  We were presented to her when she came in. There were no more than about 30 of us there.  It was a most exciting day.

She was as natural as you see her on the television.

Postscript 2002

A Union Jack lowered to half-mast in tribute to the Queen Mum has been stolen from Southend’s Civic Centre. A council spokeswoman today denounced the theft as – a despicable act at a time of great sadness and national mourning.

The outrage has caused extra sadness for royalist residents in the town because of the Queen Mother’s special place in the history of the Civic Centre.

The Leda and the Swan statue by Lucette Cartwright, which used to be in the Civic Centre atrium, gets a polish in May 1987.

A bronze statue depicting a mythological rape has finally found a new home at the mayor of Southend’s official residence. The controversial statue of Leda and the Swan was specially commissioned by Southend Council in the Sixties and first stood outside the courthouse in Victoria Avenue.

Later it was moved to the Civic Square and then to the courtyard of the Palace Theatre, in Westcliff. Later, it was moved to the Civic Centre when it caused outrage among staff. Workers claimed the statue, representing the rape of Leda by the Greek god Zeus disguised as a swan, glorified rape as an art form.

Last week, the statue was removed from the Civic Centre and is now at the mayor’s residence, Porters, in Southend.

Rob Tinlin, Southend Council’s chief executive and town clerk said – The statue of Leda and the Swan was located at the Civic Centre until a suitable location was found. The statue is permanently on display in the garden of the mayor’s residence, Porters in Southchurch Road.

It is in an appropriately landscaped area next to the pond.

Photo Phil Parsons

Misty eyed I missed the sculptural fountain – William Mitchell I presume?

Said farewell to Neptunes unilluminating assorted fish.

Heading out of town past noisy scenes of quiet despair, no more fancy goods, no more confectionary – shake that.

Heading inland, away from the wibbly wobbly estuarine coast of higgledy piggledy Essex, through freshly mown pasture and solitary haywains.

This is Constable country:

Like many artists practising at the time, Constable used sketches as source material for fully worked-up compositions. He did not find the production of finished paintings easy, which probably contributed to his late recognition by the art establishment.

V&A

Passing by solitary bus shelters, patiently awaiting passengers.

Waterworks works in the palatial neo-classical manner, with a restrained nod to incipient Art Deco.

Encountering the occasional leafy lane.

I eventually found myself on the outskirts of Colchester, outside St Theresa Of Lisieux .

A striking pre-cast concrete frame design of 1971, with a dramatic and well-lit interior, lively modulation of wall surfaces and some furnishings and artworks of note.

Architect – JH Dabrowski 

The entrance façade has a large gable and projecting entrance canopy, above which is a bronze statue of the Risen Christ, by local artist Tita Madden – 1977

This is a large modern church, built with a pre-cast concrete frame with a crossover roof beam system, allowing for dramatic internal effects. Within the bays created by the frame, the walling is mostly brick, with some pre-cast concrete panels, and large areas of glazing. Concrete is also used for the window mullions and surrounds. Each bay has the brickwork slightly angled or faceted, giving the design a great sense of movement and liveliness, both inside and out.

Taking Stock

Struggling to go around a Straight Road.

£240,000 will get you an Art Deco maisonette in Vint Crescent from Wowhaus:

This one is a ground floor apartment, which has undergone a complete refurbishment, but with one on keeping those period features to the fore – period features such as original radiators and those distinctive windows and doors are intact, rubbing shoulders with some new, high-end finishes like oak floors and updated kitchen and bathroom.

Foolishly I became more than somewhat lost and on making enquiries concerning my whereabouts and destination, I was met with gently derisive laughter. Therefore, I bypassed Colchester, took the wrong route along a mainly main road and ended up much too quickly in Clacton.

Home to several shops to let, as we shall subsequently see.

Also home to a fabulous concrete frieze on the exterior wall of the library.

Quickly ensconced in my bijou digs – I hit the town to take a look around.

I was staying right opposite this here boozer – a little too early for a pint, I’ll pop back in a bit.

Seaside shelter in a faux vernacular manner, calm seas ‘neath an azure sky – perfect.

Artifice and authenticity the sunbathing citizens sit beside an inflatable pool – perched above the sea on the pier.

Clacton Pier, which opened on 27 July 1871 was officially the first building erected in the then-new resort of Clacton-on-Sea. A wooden structure 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide, the pier served as a landing point for goods and passengers, a docking point for steamships operated by the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, and a popular spot for promenading. By 1893, Clacton had become such a popular destination for day trippers that the pier was lengthened to 1180 ft (360m) and entertainment facilities, including a pavilion and a waiting room, were added to accommodate them.

Wikipedia

The pier seems to have changed hands several times, as is the way with such things, subjected to fires, storms and pestilence – yet still prevails.

Key attractions include Stella’s Revenge – a family Galaxi rollercoaster. Formerly operated at Barry Island Pleasure Park as Galaxy, and later Viper.

Pause to consider the prospect of magical fun, fun, fun.

Let’s return to dry land, where we find certain signs of decline in these uncertain times.

Hope springs eternal in the Arcade hairdressers.

We place our trust in the tried and tested condiments of this most sceptered of isles.

Life goes on at the Linen Shop – yet another Profil/Stymie gem!

A limited choice is widely available from the far from extensive menu, though mushrooms do come with princely, premium price tag attached.

Another long day closes with a well deserved pint – God bless the Old Lifeboat House and all who sail in her.

Night night.

Margate to Southend

Early morning passing by the yet to be reopened Dreamland, back then just a work in progress, it has had a more than somewhat chequered past.

Dogged persistence has assured its future:

Just before Christmas 1919, and almost exactly one year after the end of the Great War, John Henry Iles purchased Margate’s The Hall By The Sea, thus initiating the history of what would become Dreamland.

The Dreamland cinema replaced a smaller cinema on the site, with this modernist masterpiece opening in 1935. The super-cinema, designed by architects Julian Leathart and WF Granger.

After several years of campaigning to save the Dreamland site from redevelopment, and successful funding bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Department for Culture Media and Sport’s SeaChange Scheme, the Dreamland restoration project went live in January 2010, appointing a professional team to deliver The Dreamland Trust’s vision for a reimagined Dreamland, however, the battle was not over.

After a long restoration project, Dreamland opened its doors to the public on June 19 2015. The park was further reimagined and expanded in 2017 following additional investment, with new thrill rides, a much bigger events space, fresh designs, and a new welcome for a new generation of visitors.

Dreamland

Just enough time to take a quick look inside the Arlington House car park then off we go again.

Tuesday 2nd September leaving Margate and cycling along the North Kent Coast.

Hotter than July and into a headwind.

A flat concrete surface raised above the oyster beds.

The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company traces its roots back to 1793, but oysters have been a part of Whitstable’s history for far longer.

The Romans loved Whitstable oysters and documentation proves that they were sending oysters back to Rome in around 80AD.

Whitstable Oyster Company

JMW Turner also found time to record the area.

Sold for £ 252,000 inc. premium

Along the long straight coastline the distinctive and distinguished silhouette of Reculver Castle can be seen in the distance.

Two thousand years ago the geography of this area was very different. The Wantsum, a sea channel up to 3 miles wide, cut off the Isle of Thanet from the mainland, and the Roman fort of Reculver stood on a promontory at the north end of the channel where it joined the Thames estuary. Today the Wantsum has silted up and become dry land.

By the 5th century the Romans had abandoned their defence of Britain and the fort at Reculver had fallen into disuse.

An Anglo-Saxon monastery was founded on the site in 669, reusing the existing defences, and the church of St Mary was built near the centre of the earlier fort. Documentary evidence suggests that the site had ceased to function as a monastic house by the 10th century, after which time the church became the parish church of Reculver.

Remodelling of the church in the 12th century included the addition of tall twin towers.

The medieval church was partly demolished in 1805, when much of the stone was reused to construct a new church on higher ground at Hillborough, but the twin towers were left. They were bought, repaired and underpinned by Trinity House in 1809.

English Heritage

I breezed through Herne Bay past the curiously named Bun Penny pub

Burnt down in 2011 – the subject of ever changing plans and possibilities.

A derelict Herne Bay pub has been transformed into luxury seafront apartments and this is how much they cost.

We would encourage owners of other empty properties in the Herne Bay area to get in touch as we find new ways to rejuvenate the town and attract new people to work, live and visit.

Kent Live

Further along the unstable concrete coast we approach Whitstable.

With its chi-chi cafes and bars, tastefully ramshackle shacks and snacks.

Profil fronted fascias for family run department stores.

Whites of Kent is a family company now into the third generation of close family members. The original story begins with a young ambitious girl of 18 who knew all about stocking repair machines. She travelled to Australia by boat then on to Switzerland and Paris where she trained women and gave demonstrations on the stocking machines.

In 1954 the retail side commenced again with a ladies underwear shop in Faversham’s Market Street, followed by a fashion shop in Market Street and then our current shop in Court Street.

We have in the past had shops in Sandwich, Sittingbourne, Herne Bay, West Malling, Folkestone and Cliftonville. Currently we have Whites of Kent shops in Faversham, Whitstable and Dover selling lingerie, linen, hosiery, underwear, slippers and more. See our Shop page for addresses, phone numbers and opening times.

Whites of Kent

A fine display of tobacconist’s ghost signs.

The road winds through the low marshes, across estuaries and inlets, between Seasalter and Graveney.

Home to a down home, home made fishing fleet.

Members of the 1st Battalion London Irish Rifles guarding the downed Junkers Ju 88A1

On September 27 1940 – a Luftwaffe bomber was shot down by two Spitfires over Graveney Marsh after a raid on London. This was the last ground engagement involving a foreign force to take place on the mainland of Great Britain.

Wikipedia

As is common in post-industrial England industrial buildings become executive homes, busy ports become marinas or moribund marshes.

Ready for conversion to a bijou des-res.

It was time to make time through the garden of England – pressing on past hillbilly hideaways.

Housing late Ad Reinhardt’s.

My painting represents the victory of the forces of darkness and peace over the powers of light and evil.

Founded in the early 1700s by Edward Rigden. Registered in 1902 as Rigden & Co. Merged with George Beer & Co. Ltd in 1922 to form George Beer & Rigden, not being limited until 1927.

Was acquired by Fremlins Ltd in 1948 and brewing ceased 1954.

Brewery History

Dulled by dual carriageways and the dirty urban dust of a sunny late summer’s day – I was more than happy to discover this Modernist church in Rainham.

St Thomas of Canterbury RC

A  modern  church  of  1956-58  by  Eduardo  Dodds.  The  atmospheric interior is decorated with fine sculpture by Michael Clark, and ceramic panels by Adam Kossowski. The tower is a local landmark. The former temporary church of 1934 survives as the Parish Centre.

Taking Stock

Followed by another brick behemoth the Gaumont Chatham.

The Palace Cinema was built by a subsidiary of the Gaumont British Theatres chain, and opened on 30th November 1936. The exterior had a tall square clock tower, which was outlined in neon at nightArchitect Arthur W. Kenyon

Re-named Gaumon from 18th December 1950, closed by the Rank Organisation on 2nd February 1961 with John Gregson in The Captain’s Table.

It was converted into a 24-lane Top Rank Bowling Alley, which opened in December 1961. Eventually, this was the last of the Top Rank Bowls to close, closing on 31st October 1970.

The building was converted into a B&Q hardware store, and the interior has been gutted. It was later in use as a camping centre, which remains open in 2010 as Camping International. The building is now known as Clock Tower House.

Cinema Treasures

Queen Elizabeth II Bridge Toll.

Designed by German civil engineer Hellmut Homberg, the two main caissons supporting the bridge piers were constructed in the Netherlands. ] The bridge deck is about 61 metres high, and it took a team of around 56 to assemble its structure.

The bridge was opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 30 October 1991. The total cost of construction was £120 million. The proposed name had been simply the Dartford Bridge, but Thurrock residents objected and suggested the Tilbury Bridge, leading to a compromise. At the time of opening, it had the longest cable-stayed span of any bridge in Europe.

Wikipedia

I arrived at the Dartford Crossing hot and hungry – wandering towards the tunnel entrance, only to be apprehended by the authorities.

What are you doing here?

I pleaded for a glass of water and directions, happily I received both from a friendly member of staff.

Picked up by Range Rover and driven over to Essex free of charge.

Wearily I made my way across the county, no time for snaps it seems, simply wishing to hit town before nightfall. None of my B&Bs were booked ahead of time and I’ve never had a ‘phone. Finding a bed for the night proved troublesome – knocking on the door of a minor hotel, I was rebuffed by a Beatle suited, be-wigged figure:

Are you to take the vacancies sign down then – says I.

No – says he.

Under cover of darkness I holed up in a contractors’ flop house on the front, no-frills communal showers, short shrift and cold linoleum, but a welcome repose none the less.

Some pints don’t touch the sides – this and several others didn’t, ‘neath the flickering lights of Southend by night.

A wobbly walk along the prom.

Fetching up with pic of the Kursaal.

The Kursaal is a Grade II listed building in Southend-on-Sea which opened in 1901 as part of one of the world’s first purpose-built amusement parks. The venue is noted for the main building with distinctive dome, designed by Campbell Sherrin, which has featured on a Royal Mail special edition stamp.

Wikipedia

Night night.

Hastings To Margate

Early one morning, six o’clock on Saturday 30th August 2014 to be precise – I set out on my bike from my humble Stockport home, Pendolino’d to Euston, London Bridged to Hastings.

It was my intention to follow the coast to Cleethorpes, so I did.

Five hundred miles or so in seven highly pleasurable days awheel, largely in bright late summer sun. Into each life however, some rain must fall, so it did.

Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire flashed by slowly in lazy succession, to the right the sea – you can’t get lost, though I did. Following Sustrans signs is relatively easy, as long as they actually exist, when I reached Kings Lynn I decided to buy a map.

I set out at eight o’clock on Monday 1st September – I had taken early retirement in March. I would have normally been enrolling new students and teaching photography in a Manchester Further Education College, as I had done for the previous thirty years.

Not today thanks.

With the wind and my former career behind me, I cycled on with an unsurpassable sense of lightness and elation.

This is what I saw.

Above and below is Marine Court

The building was designed by architects Kenneth Dalgleish and Roger K Pullen, with overt references to the Cunard White-Star Line Queen Mary, which had entered commercial transatlantic service in 1936. The east end of Marine Court is shaped to imitate the curved, stacked bridge front of the Queen Mary; the eastern restaurant served to imitate the fo’c’sle deck of the ship.

Modernist Britain

The then Jerwood Gallery looking towards the Old Town’s distinctive fisherman’s sheds.

One grey beach hut bucks the trend.

This is all that remains of the St Leonard’s Lido

Photo Historic England

This is one of many seaside shelters devised by Sidney Little in constructing the concrete promenade – let’s head east.

The view across the Romney Marshes from Camber toward Dungeness – which on this occasion I bypassed.

Harold Gilman

Beloved of many passing painters.

The first Profil aka Stymie Bold Italic encounter – Lyons of Lydd Romney.

Designed by Max and Eugen Lenz and first cast by Haas in 1947.

Fonts in Use

Heading towards Hythe on the coastal defence path.

Out of Tune Folkestone Seafront, opposite The Leas Lift – is home to AK Dolven’s installation. It features a 16th-century tenor bell from Scraptoft Church in Leicestershire, which had been removed for not being in tune with the others. It is suspended from a steel cable strung between two 20m high steel beams, placed 30m apart.

For Folkestone Triennial 2014, Alex Hartley’s response to the title Lookout is inspired by the imposing architecture of the Grand Burstin Hotel, which overlooks the Harbour. For his project Vigil, Hartley will use state of the art climbing technology to make a lookout point suspended from the highest point of the hotel. This climber’s camp will be inhabited for the duration of the Triennial, by the artist and by volunteers, all of whom will keep a log of what they observe. 

The current hotel was built in 1984 from the foundations of the Royal Pavilion Hotel, originally built in 1843. Out of the 4,094 reviews currently on TripAdvisor 974 are of the terrible rating which doesn’t inspire much hope.

The most recent review is titled – Dirty Dated Hotel With Clueless Staff.

Kent Live 2018

Gold rush with spades after artist Michael Sailstorfer hides £10,000 of gold on foreshore for town’s Triennial arts festival.

Guardian

Abbot’s Cliff acoustic mirrors

Before the advent of radar, there was an experimental programme during the 1920s and 30s in which a number of concrete sound reflectors, in a variety of shapes, were built at coastal locations in order to provide early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. A microphone, placed at a focal point, was used to detect the sound waves arriving at and concentrated by the acoustic mirror. These concrete structures were in fixed positions and were spherical, rather than paraboloidal, reflectors. This meant that direction finding could be achieved by altering the position of the microphone rather than moving the mirror.

Graham Stephen

Eric Ravilious Abbot’s Cliff – 1941

Charles Stewart Rolls was a Welsh motoring and aviation pioneer. With Henry Royce, he co-founded the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing firm. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display in Bournemouth.

In September 1953 it was announced that Roger K Pullen and Kenneth Dalglish had won and were to receive 100 guineas, for a design for the Gateway Flats.

Local folks would love to re-open The Regent

Behind the Art Deco facade of the Regent was once a grand ironwork and glass Pavilion, built to house regular performances by military bands, which the Edwardian holidaymakers loved. The Lord Warden of the Cinque ports, Lord Beauchamp, officially opened the Pavilion Theatre on Deal’s seafront in 1928.

Cinema Treasures

Deal Pier was designed by Eugenius Birch and opened on 8th November 1864, in 1954 work started on Deal’s third and present-day pier. The new pier took three years to build and was formally opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 19 November 1957. It was the first seaside pleasure pier of any size to be built since 1910. Designed by Sir W Halcrow and Partners, the 1026ft-long structure comprises steel piles surrounded by concrete casings for the main supports. The pier head originally had three levels but, these days, the lower deck normally remains submerged.

Deal Web

Seafront Shelters Deal

The Kent coastline is home to a vast variety of homes from the crazy clad Prairie Style ranch house to the Debased Deco.

Following ten fun hours of cycling time for a timely rest in the B&B.

Passing by the prestigious Turner Contemporary

The building was designed by David Chipperfield – It was built on the raised promenade following a flood risk analysis. Construction started in 2008, and was completed for opening in April 2011, at a cost of £17.5 million. The gallery opened on 16 April 2011.

Wikipedia

Finally as the sun sets in the west, a pint of something nice in the Harbour Arms.

Night night.

Trafford Centre – Manchester

Welcome to the world renowned shopping and entertainment destination.

intu Trafford Centre

Intu, who own the Manchester shopping centre, expects to breach covenants on its current debts as shopping centres struggle in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lancashire Live

This is a journey from the corner shop to the high street, by the banks of the Bridgewater Canal, a whole retail history told during troubled times.

The Trafford Centre opened in 1998 and is the third largest shopping centre in the United Kingdom by retail size. It was developed by the Peel Group and is owned by Intu Properties following a £1.65 billion sale in 2011 the largest single property acquisition in British history. As of 2017, the centre has a market value of £2.312 billion.

Wikipedia

The advent of the motor car, and the development of out of town shopping has seriously affected the viability of the traditional town centre and the almost long gone local shop.

And now in turn the mall is threatened by the increase in online trade and the current lockdown.

The Trafford Centre reopens on June 15th, no doubt the sensation seeking, thrill a moment shoppers will return in droves, to further satiate their unquenchable desire for stuff and more stuff, in a pseudo Romano Soviet oligarch setting.

As of Monday 8th the space was mostly devoid of both customers and cars – there are two home stores open, we arrived on foot and took a look around.

The Iron Bridge – Stretford

This is a bridge – an iron bridge, so called, carrying weary walkers from Kings Road to Chester Road and beyond.

Possibly to Stretford Station and even further beyond beyond.

Photo – Dr Neil Clifton

The bridge traverses the former Manchester South Junction and Altrincham Railway, the southern part of the MSJ&AR’s route has been part of the Manchester Metrolink light rail system since 1992.

This may seem sufficient to satiate the local historian’s voracious appetite for facts and general tittle tattle, but wait.

384 King’s Road was once home to pop sensation Steven Patrick Morrissey – seen here imitating himself in Elisabeth Blanchet’s photograph.

More than once this charming lad would have walked the bridge himself – on the way to goodnesses knows where.

In later life he changed his name to The Smiths and wrote a chart topping tune Still Ill name checking the Iron Bridge.

Under the iron bridge we kissed
And although I ended up with sore lips
It just wasn’t like the old days anymore
No, it wasn’t like those days, am I still ill?

The location is now a place of pilgrimage for Morrissey’s deluded fans, who with depressing regularity, adorn the structure with their misquoted quotes.

Sun drenched faux-Californian Mr Morrissey does seem to be still ill in his own unique and unpleasant manner.

Let’s take a look at what he’s been missing.

What indifference does it make?

Self confessed Smiths sceptic Mr Mark Greer – currently incognito.

Turnpike Centre – Leigh

The Turnpike Centre was designed by J C Prestwich and Sons architects, who, incidentally, also designed Leigh Town Hall nearly 70 years earlier.

Since its opening in 1971, the bustling library, thriving art gallery and popular meeting rooms have seen a phenomenal 12 million people walk through the doors, while staff have answered almost 400 thousand questions and issued more than 17 million books, cassettes and CDs.

The fascia is graced by a grand cast concrete relief the work of William Mitchell.

All but abandoned by the cash-strapped local council in 2013, Turnpike Gallery in the former mining town of Leigh near Wigan, is entering a new stage in its history with the creation of a community interest company to run its programme.

Natalie Bradbury a.n

Helen Stalker has curated and promoted a series of fine exhibitions in the interim period – sadly arrested by current circumstances.

Let’s take a look around the exterior of a building which reflects the confidence and pride of a very individual town.

On our last visit we even got to look up on the roof.

So post lockdown, when you feel it’s safe and socially acceptable to do so travel to Leigh – take a look.

Car Park Ramp – Stockport

We recently took a look around Redrock, today we visit the next door neighbour – the car park ramp.

Replacing the old Debenham’s ramp.

Linking the old world of Merseyway with the shiny new NCP.

I don’t drive no car so I have to make do with the ecologically sound and ever so affordable means of pedestrian trespass, proceeding incautiously I recorded my journey into the unknown.

Returning safely to Basecamp I investigated further, circumnavigating the drainage area.

I have to admit that I am over fond of this small sacred space, a modern impenetrable temple of Brutalism. My ambition is to stage an art/music event within, just wait and see/hear if I don’t!

Redrock – Stockport

Much maligned, universally loathed – the Stockport leisure facility everyone loves to hate.

What’s the story?

No more darkness, no more night.
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight.
Praise the Lord, I saw the Light
.

1900

The area between Princes Street and Bridgefield Street was a tight warren of housing, shops and industry, eventually demolished in the 1970s, designated as slum clearance.

Prior to the arrival of the ring road the space remained undeveloped and turned over to car parking.

Little changes as the M60 is opened.

Images TS Parkinson –  Stockport Image Archive

So for over forty years the land lies pretty vacant, but far from pretty.

Until 2015 when planning permission is granted for the £45m Redrock leisure scheme, which includes a 10-screen cinema, restaurants and shops.

Councillor Patrick McAuley, the council’s executive member for economic development and regeneration, said:

This is a very exciting time for Stockport. Developments such as these help our ambition of putting Stockport on the map to bring more people to work, shop and socialise here. We have been keen to involve the public in plans for both developments, by holding various consultation exercises.

We look forward to an exciting few years improving Stockport’s offer.

So good bye to all this, the local authority is making serious progress, developing Stockport’s future, against a background of structural decline and the dominance of Manchester city centre.

The architects for the scheme are BDP – the building was not well received as it was awarded the Carbuncle of the Year 2018.

Judges were left unimpressed by the – awkward form, disjointed massing and superficial decoration, while readers called it an absolute monstrosity.

Though to be fair The Light has a house style that leans heavily towards the anonymous industrial shed.

Sittingbourne

The development has however become a commercial success – once inside customers seem more than happy with the facilities.

The people of Stockport have welcomed us with open arms since opening in 2017. We’ve now had over one million guests join us for everything from the latest blockbusters to opera, theatre and concerts.

It’s been that busy that we’ve just added two additional screens and now offer freshly made pizzas, burgers and sliders. We’ve got plenty more exciting additions up our sleeve for next year too!

Tom DeanBusiness Manager at The Light Cinema

Yet it continues to attract wave after wave of criticism on local Facebook groups, perhaps the former car parking area should be reinstated, or the Victorian slums rebuilt?

I went to take a look for myself during lockdown – see what you think.

Real attempts have been made to make the landscaping and street view amenable to pedestrians, it feels like an attractive and safe urban space.

The view from the north is less successful, the scale and decorative work looks over ostentatious and confused.

Look away if you wish, it won’t be here forever – and if you fancy something different try The Plaza or The Savoy.

Possibly see what’s playing at The Palladium.

That should keep everyone happy shouldn’t it?

A Short Walk Around Guide Bridge

This is a short walk from Mediprop to Guide Bridge Station under half a mile, over two hundred years of history.

Hovering above ground level, rising above the rail.

Between the Ashton Canal.

The canal received its Act of Parliament in 1792. It was built to supply coal from Oldham and Ashton under Lyne to Manchester. The first section between Ancoats Lane to Ashton-under-Lyne and Hollinwood was completed in 1796.

And the Great Central Railway originally Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway.

The Great Central Railway in England came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897, anticipating the opening in 1899 of its London Extension. On 1 January 1923, the company was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway.

I had walked beside the elevated path, alongside the canal coming home from school, rode by it whilst working as a Guide Bridge goods guard.

This was busy railway, steel coal, oil and people hurtling back and forth across the Pennines, under the DC wires of the Woodhead Line.

One memorable night the Royal Train stayed overnight, in what are now the SB Rail OTM sidings.

Toffs in dinner jackets were leaning from the windows, as we gazed in awe from the platform.

Swietelsky is one of Austria’s leading construction companies with international contracts encompassing highways, tunnelling, residential and commercial developments, alpine construction and railways.

The journey ends by the seriously depleted station buildings, the buffet bar, depot and engine shed long gone.

Along with the Jone’s Sewing Machine Company all long gone.

Thomas Chadwick later joined Bradbury & Co. William Jones opened a factory in Guide Bridge, Manchester in 1869. In 1893 a Jones advertising sheet claimed that this factory was the – Largest Factory in England Exclusively Making First Class Sewing Machines. The firm was renamed as the Jones Sewing Machine Co. Ltd and was later acquired by Brother Industries of Japan, in 1968. The Jones name still appeared on the machines till the late 1980s.

From 1987 until 1999 Brother were sponsors of Manchester City FC.

The site is now home to new homes and homeowners, as the are seeks to capitalise on the spread of wealth from Central Manchester.

Arnfield Woods is an exclusive development offering two, three and four bedroom homes, located adjacent to the Guide Bridge train station, which provides direct access into Manchester City Centre  and direct access into Glossop.

The world turns:

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

Thomas Hardy.

Let’s take a walk together.

Stables – Hyde Hall Farm

Hyde Hall Farm is Grade II Listed one of the few Tudor model farms in the region, a building of immense importance.

Alongside the farm are twelve stable blocks, formed from former British Rail Vanfit rolling stock.

Derby Works

I have cycled by here for some fifty years ago man and boy, sadly observing a slow decline, as the structures are kept in service with the addition of sheeting, rope, tyres and will power.

In recent years I have stopped to take photographs:

2008
2016
2017
2018
2020

They have survived wind, rain and hail, just about intact, providing adequate shelter for their equine inhabitants.

Tamara – Whaley Bridge

I’ve often cycled by here on occasion taking time to the a snap or two.

You seemed to be in decline, in need of care and attention. Stood amongst Peak vernacular and sub-Lutyens villas something of anomaly.

A diminutive Modernist house – a rose amongst the herbaceous borders.

Someone seems to have taken you in hand and work is underway, I just hope that they put your name back in place.

Tamara

Tamara is a female given name most commonly derived from the Biblical name Tamar, meaning date – the fruit, date palm or palm tree. In eastern European countries like Armenia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, North Macedonia, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine it has been a common name for centuries. In Australia it was very popular from the 1960s to 1990s. 

In the United States, the name was fairly common from the late 1950s to mid 1990s, bolstered by the popularity of the film Tammy and the Bachelor – Tammy is commonly a nickname for Tamara. In the US the most girls named Tamara were born in 1970 and the number of Tamaras born per year was greater than 1,000 as late as 1996.

The name is now fairly uncommon in the US: in 2010, the name fell off the Top 1000 SSA Baby Names list, with fewer than 250 baby girls named Tamara that year.

Where The Gas Works Wasn’t – Stockport

1878 Gas making at Portwood commenced

1969 Old retort house demolished

1988 Gas holder number 3 dismantled

2003 Last aerial view showing the gasometers in the raised position

2019 Removal of gas holders 2 & 3

Thanks to 28 Days Later

The area was formerly a dense web of housing and industry.

With the gas works at its heart .

High speed gas once the fuel of the future is almost a thing of the past. Coal Gas produced in coke retorts long gone, North Sea Gas hissed off.

Low carbon heating will replace domestic boilers from 2025, the need for gas storage holders is minimal.

Goodnight Mr Therm.

There are currently 53 listed holders on the Historic England site.

Some have been repurposed – WilkinsonEyre has completed work on Gasholders London; a development of 145 apartments within a triplet of listed gasholder guide frames.

Little now remains of the Portwood Gas Works.

These are the rearranged remnants re-sited by Dunelm Mill – it’s curtains for our industrial heritage.

What’s left?

This is now the province of Securitas and Peel Holdings.

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One of the UK’s largest retail parks, Stockport Retail Park benefits from a strategic location on the M60 Manchester orbital motorway making it one of the city’s most accessible parks. The park forms a natural extension to the town centre, offering a wide range of uses from value convenience to fashion and home as well as a number of cafés and restaurants.

This is the post industrial landscape of consumption and its infrastructure that faces the defunct and mothballed site, whatever next?

West End Park – Ashton under Lyne

This is a short history of a park, a short history of my family and me.

The movement of earth and people, a tale until now untold now told.

West End Park is a public park, opened in 1893. The site is bounded by Stockport Road, Manchester Road and William Lane. It was developed on land associated with St Peter’s Church.

St Peter’s was built between 1821 and 1824, and was designed by Francis Goodwin. A grant of £13,191 was given towards its construction by the Church Building Commission. The land for the church was given by the patronage of George 6th Earl of Stamford and Warrington, whose cousin, Revd Sir George Booth, had been Rector of Ashton from 1758 until 1797

The benevolent Victorian landowners thought it politic to provide parks for the working folk, fresh air, exercise and perambulation being preferable to the demon drink.

Friendship Old Street – now a solicitor’s office

The area around the park was a dense warren of housing and industry.

Britain from Above

The parks provided a welcome relief from the tarmac, brick and concrete – very, very few homes having had access to a garden.

During the 1930s local councillors simply can’t resist the charms of the rocking horse.

And a burst of colour in the summertime.

The West End was transformed in the 60’s, through slum clearance, the subsequent building of high rise and the introduction of light industry.

My Grandfather Samuel Jones lived in the area – at one time next door to George Formby Senior.

Later moving to nearby Hill Street.

There’s a plaque for George – there isn’t one for Sam.

During the Great Depression men were required to work for the Dole – Sam was required to dig out a sunken garden in the park – he was a collier by trade, a good man with a shovel, built for back breaking work on Ashton Moss.

David Vaughan

Sam in Blackpool 1954

This is the sunken garden in the 1960s

Thirty yards wide, forty yards long and three yards deep, shifted by hand.

Three thousand six hundred cubic yards of earth.

One cubic yard of topsoil weighs about two thousand pounds on average.

Seven million two hundred thousand pounds of earth.

I worked there in the 1970s along with Alec and Danny bedding out the sunken garden, maintaining the bowling green, tennis courts and playground.

Keith Ingham

There were two permanent gardeners in the park, and a keeper in the summer – plus Danny Byrne and me brought in to help at busy times.

Throughout the 70s and onwards, economic decline hit the area hard, the closure of the cotton mills and little hope for the future. Rising unemployment and severe cuts to public spending did little to assure a rosy future for West End Park, or anything or anyone else for that matter.

Help was at hand – one of many public projects funded by our old friends the EU. Changes in the way that parks were used and further spending cuts sounded the death knell for the flowers and bowling. Large open grassed areas were cheaper and easier to maintain.

And so the sunken garden was filled in, this time by mechanical means – all in a days work for a bloke with a JCB.

So I sit and reflect on the labour and conditions that created this and many of our public parks, our legacy is a much impoverished version of the original vision.

I think of my grandad Sam and his comrades, the sweat of their collective brows buried forever.

Our legacy the small state, a bring and buy your own world economy.

It would make you weep.

Hartshead Power Station – Offices

We have of course been here before, to see a concrete bus shelter and a derelict control room.

All that is solid melts into air as Marx and Marshall Berman told us.

Though remnants remain – this is a short journey through a hole in fence, down into the warren of power station offices past.

They have been stripped of their former use and meaning, transformed into a transitory art performance space, paint and plaster now peeling, appealing to the passing painter, partially reclaimed by nature.

Let’s tag along:

Byker Estate – Newcastle upon Tyne

The Wall, along with the low rise dwellings built to its south, replaced Victorian slum terraced housing. There were nearly 1200 houses on the site at Byker. They had been condemned as unfit for human habitation in 1953, and demolition began in 1966.

The new housing block was designed by Ralph Erskine assisted by Vernon Gracie. Design began in 1968 and construction took place between 1969 and 1982. The architects opened an office on site to develop communication and trust between the existing residents. Existing buildings were to be demolished as the new accommodation was built.

The new high-rise block was designed to shield the site from an intended motorway, which eventually was never built. Construction materials for Byker Wall were relatively cheap, concrete, brick and timber. Surfaces were treated with bright colours, while brick bandings were used on the ‘Wall’ to indicate floor levels.

Its Functionalist Romantic styling with textured, complex facades, colourful brick, wood and plastic panels, attention to context, and relatively low-rise construction represented a major break with the Brutalist high-rise architectural orthodoxy of the time.

Wikipedia

There area has been well documented over time, notably by photographer Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen.

It’s reputation has had its ups and downs but most recently:

It’s been named the UK and Ireland’s best neighbourhood – it’s got top schools, friendly neighbours and community art classes – alongside high levels of poverty.

Chronicle

It has been lauded by Municipal Dreams

When Historic England awarded Byker its Grade II* listing in 2007, they praised both its ‘groundbreaking design, influential across Europe and pioneering model of public participation’.  The estate’s main element, the Byker Wall, is  – like it or loathe it – an outstanding piece of modern architecture.  The conception and design of the estate as a whole was shaped by unprecedented community consultation.  

I went for a walk around one morning in May 2017, the photographs are in sequence as I explored the estate. It’s hard to do justice to the richness and variety of architecture in such a short time, but I only had a short time.

Park Hall Manor Pool – Little Hayfield

First there was a house.

A Grade II listed country house, now divided into two dwellings. c1812. Ashlar gritstone. Hipped slate roof with leaded ridges. Various ashlar triple stacks with moulded tops. Moulded cornice and low parapet. Two storeys, central block with recessed long wing to east, orangery to west.

Historic England

Currently trading as a quick getaway country cottage

This Grade II listed manor house is set within 14 acres of natural grounds, together with the occupied adjoining servants’ wing, and has been sympathetically converted, retaining many original features to provide comfortable accommodation for families wishing to meet up for that special family occasion, and wi-fi is available in the living room. 

Then came a pool:

Previously a private pool belonging to a country club in the 1930’s it later opened to members around 1938 who paid a small fee for its use. The pool is fed by a mountain stream and the water is reported to remain cool throughout the year. In the 1940’s/50’s locals recall the pool being open to the public where it cost a ‘shilling for children and half a crown for adults’ entry. During storms in 1947 the pool was badly damaged and reportedly ‘never the same again’ but postcards in circulation in the 1960’s provide evidence that the pool remained open at least until then.

Now it sits abandoned and hidden in the woods.

I went there in my early teens late 60’s the pool was still intact, well used and well cold. I remember chilly changing rooms with duckboards on concrete floors, a small café with pop and crisp if you had the pennies.

Most of all the simple joy of emersion in clear moorland water, on long hot summer days long gone.

Revisiting in April 2014, following a misguided scramble through brambles, it was a poignant reunion. The concrete shells of the pillars and statuary crumbling and moss covered, the waters still and occluded.

It sure it has subsequently been the scene of impromptu fashion shoots and pop promo videos, possibly a little guerrilla swimming. Though sadly it largely sits unused and unloved – let’s take a look around:

St Christopher RC – Ashton under Lyne

Lees Road Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 8BA

Architect: Francis A. Kerr 1955

A post-war design consisting of an upper church over a lower hall, the prominent campanile making it something of a local landmark. The portal frame construction, materials and design are standard for the time. The interior has been reordered but retains some original furnishings. 

A new post-war parish was created to serve the growing residential area in Hurst Cross, previously served from St Anne’s, Ashton. Fr Kelly built the new church, whose foundation stone was blessed by Bishop Marshall on 5 June 1954.  The first Mass was held on Easter Monday, 1955. 

The church is conventionally orientated with the sanctuary to the east. Less conventionally, it is a two-storey building, with a ground floor parish hall and a first floor church. The church is reached from Lees Road by a reinforced concrete bridge and steps. A brick campanile marks the southwest corner. The structure of the portal-framed building is expressed externally by raking brick buttresses to side elevations.  The west gable end is faced in aggregate panels with a concrete relief depicting St Christopher over a plain three-bay flat-roofed portico.  The aisles are faced in ceramic tiled panels to the upper level with render to the parish hall level. The nave is lit by three-light clerestory windows with smaller windows to the aisles. The shallow-pitched roof is laid with mineral felt.  A two-storey block containing a large sacristy connects to the contemporary presbytery.

Inside, the six-bay upper church has a plain west gallery above a narthex with glazed screen. The aisles have arcades of square brick piers and plain plastered walls. The clerestory windows are leaded with coloured glass margins. The ceiling is lined with acoustic panels and the concrete floor is laid with carpet or linoleum tiles. The reordered sanctuary retains the original polished concrete altar in a forward position; the 1950s altar rails and pulpit have been removed. The east wall is now hung with wallpaper, but was originally fair-faced brick; the Crucifix and painted timber high altar canopy are part of the original arrangement.  The side chapels also retain original 1950s polished concrete altars. The octagonal font with oak cover dates from the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, of unknown provenance. The hardwood pews were designed for the church.

Taking Stock

I have known this church for some fifty years – living just up the road.

It was probably along with St Mary’s Denton my first experiences of Modern Architecture.

I went to the youth club in the social area beneath the church.

St Mary

It is typical of the Italianate styling of the time, a functional mix of glass brick and concrete, far from ostentatious – and sitting comfortably in its setting.

On the day of my visit the country is in lockdown, Mass suspended and the body of the church used as a homeless shelter, prior to rehousing – signs of the times.