Coventry Cathedral

On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.

The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Richard Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This has led to the cathedral’s Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation, which has provided spiritual and practical support, in areas of conflict throughout the world.

Her Majesty the Queen laid the foundation stone on 23 March 1956 and the building was consecrated on 25 May 1962, in her presence. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.

Ralph Beyer carving the foundation stone for Coventry Cathedral.

© Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Coventry Cathderal

The new Cathedral was itself an inspiration to many fine artists of the post-war era. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, commissioned work from Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ralph Beyer, John Hutton, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and others – most still to reach the peak of their artistic careers.

St. Michael and the Devil on the southern end of the east wall. It was sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, who, sadly, died in 1959, and therefore didn’t live to see his masterpiece mounted on the cathedral wall a year later.

Entrance to the cathedral is through the Screen of Saints and Angels – it is seventy feet high and forty five feet wide and is supported by a bronze framework hung by wires from the roof for added strength.

This unique screen formed part of Sir Basil Spence’s first vision for the new cathedral. As he stared out from the ruins of the bombed cathedral, he saw the shape for the new church through a screen of saints. This transparent wall would link the old and new – making each mutually visible from within each other. Provost Howard set out to draw up a scheme consisting of all the saints who were responsible for the bringing of Christianity to Britain. As John Hutton began to make initial designs, he soon realised that row upon row of saints would need to be broken up in some way, and suggested that angels be inserted between the saints.

The eighty one foot high Baptistery Window containing a total of one hundred and ninety five lights of stained glass in bright primary colours designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, with the Stone of Bethlehem for a font just in front. Each individual window contains an abstract design, but the overall effect is breathtaking. Basil Spence himself designed the stone containing the glass.

Study for the the seventy two foot high tapestry designed by Graham Sutherland – collection of The Herbert Art Gallery

The great tapestry was another example of a re-think in design. Basil Spence’s original intention was to depict the Crucifixion but Provost Howard suggested that the subject be Christ in Majesty and from there on, this idea prevailed

Altar cross and crown of thorns by Geoffrey Clarke, large ceramic candlesticks by Hans Coper.

Chairs by Russell Hodgson and Leigh.

The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane is approached by following the aisle from the Baptistery window towards the altar which is at the north end. The mosaic depicts the Angel of Agony by Steven Sykes and becomes more impressive when seen from a distance through the wrought iron crown of thorns designed by Basil Spence.

A short passageway takes you through to the Chapel of Christ the Servant – also known as the Chapel of Industry due to the view of Coventry workplaces from its narrow windows. 

Monumental inscriptions to walls and floor by Ralph Beyer

Stained glass to aisle walls by Lawrence Lee, Geoffrey Clarke and Keith New.

At the far end of the aisle, opposite the Baptistery Window is the Chapel of Unity, with its detailed mosaic floor, donated by the people of Sweden, representing the nations of the world and lit by shafts of light from the narrow stained glass windows around the circumference of the star shaped chapel. 

This design was Basil Spence’s vision of a chapel representing the star which began the story of Christ – from the outside it appears shaped similarly to a Crusader’s tent.

The chapel is intended for prayer by all denominations, not just Anglican, and for this reason was purposely built with no view of the great altar. 

Historic Coventry

The Avenue Methodist Church – Sale

Wincham Road Sale M33 4PL

Wandering Washway Road on a windy wash-day with local lad Bill Mather, I was lead down the Avenue in search of a Methodist Church.

I was ill-prepared to meet such a suburban ecclesiastical behemoth, a giant of a building – It opened in 1963, and was designed by Halliday and Agate.

My thanks to Matthew Steele of Sacred Suburbs for this information.

They were also responsible for the Ordsall Secondary School and designs for Battersea Power Station.

The Avenue Church is no less monumental – a steel, brick and glass octagon with attached single storey hall – set in a shimmering sea of grass and tarmacadam.

The interior is open and light illuminated on four sides by large plain glass windows, broken up by a vertically unchallenged grid.

Artificial lighting is provided by suspended groups of lamps.

The seating a mix of plain wooden pews and portable chairs.

The altar a simple statement of panels and cross.

Treat yourself to a walk down the Avenue – take a look around.

Harbour Bar – Scarborough

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1-3 Sandside, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1PE.

Do you remember the first time?

Sometime around 2011, I fell in love with the Harbour Bar Scarborough.

A family business serving home made ice cream since 1945.

It’s a magical world of mirrors, melamine, signs and ice creams.

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Since then I’ve been back for a banana split and take the opportunity to take a few more snaps, I never leave anything less than overwhelmingly happy and full.

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William Temple Church – Wythenshawe

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

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

The pews have an interesting history, having been brought from derelict churches in and around Manchester. The present lady churchwarden said:

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

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

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Brucciani’s – Morecambe

Brucciani – 217 Marine Rd Central, Morecambe LA4 4BU217

Built on the eve of war in 1939, the local paper feared that Brucciani’s might not be good for the sedate Victorian image of Morecambe and that its presence could be positively harmful to young people. Originally a milk bar, Brucciani’s typifies the simple, geometric ‘high street deco’ styling popular at the time. The brown wood and chrome exterior has black lacquer base panels to the street, porthole lamps above the doors, ziggurat pattern doors, classic deco handles and original menus. The interior preserves extensive wall panelling, a slightly reworked counter, red Formica tables, red upholstered chairs, wall-to-wall etched glass of Venetian canal scenes, mirrors, deco clocks and even the original penny-in-the-slot cubicles in the cloakrooms.

Classic cafés

I’ve been coming here for over ten years now, alone or in company, come rain or shine and without fail, as sure as ice is nice, I have a banana spilt – or to be more precise a Banana Royal.

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Jenny Steele 2015

This is a café with a café menu, café furniture, café staff and service.

It only ever wanted and wants to be a café, unchanged by the uncaring winds of vicissitude and fashion. To tread the turquoise and tan linoleum, ‘neath the period lighting fixtures and fittings, to be seated on the warm red leatherette, one elbow on the circular Formica table is to enter into into a pact with a perfect past.

It’s on the front you can’t miss it – overlooking the Sunset Bay.

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St Marks Broomhill – Sheffield

The church was originally built in 1868–1871 to a standard neo-Gothic design by William Henry Crossland. This building was destroyed by an incendiary bomb during the “Sheffield Blitz” of 12 December 1940, only the spire and a porch survived (they are now Grade II listed structures). The remnants of the bombed church were used as the basis for a new church designed by George Pace and constructed 1958–1963. This new building is of a Modernist design but is also sympathetic to the Gothic spire and porch. It is a rubble-faced concrete building with striking slit windows of varying numbers and locations around the building. There are also two notable stained glass windows: the Te Deum window by Harry Stammers and the west window by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens.

Wikipedia told me so.

Welcome to St Mark’s – an open, welcoming church for people from all walks of life who wish to learn more about Jesus and Christian faith and seek the freedom to ask the big questions. We have strong engagement with Christian communities and other faith traditions. People come from all over the country to participate in our Centre for Radical Christianity, where a lively climate of debate and learning can be found.
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Their website told me so.
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This a remarkable building staffed by remarkably welcoming people, it’s exterior betraying little of the wonders within. Divine stained glass, brut concrete structures, pale limed wood, sculptural forms – full of light and warmth.
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Pleasure Gardens – Battersea

So suddenly the war ended and all of a sudden the fun began, followed with indecent haste by a wholesale national lack of fun, no fun anywhere no how.

Well why not have a festival, a Festival of Britain!

The south bank of the Thames had once been home to the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

Why not put it there or thereabouts.

‘This was always a raucous place, but a temple of the muses too. Under the management of its gifted, quixotic master of ceremonies, Jonathan Tyers, it was perhaps the first public art gallery, hung with paintings by Hogarth and Hayman. The buildings – first Palladian then Gothic and exotic – were splendid and the music inspired. The Vauxhall season was unmissable. Royalty came regularly. Canaletto painted it, Casanova loitered under the trees, Leopold Mozart was astonished by the dazzling lights. The poor could manage an occasional treat. For everyone it was a fantasyland of wonder and pride.’

It was decided there and then, the government would enforce state funded fun!

Programmes were printed and works undertaken.

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Posters were pasted, let the fun begin in Battersea – and all the rest is history.

16 Poster for the Festival Pleasure Gardens in Battersea Park

Then just as suddenly the fun was all but blown away, by the chill wind of the incoming Tory Government.

Much to my surprise there are still remnants and  reminders to be found on the site, planting, fountains furniture and sculptural structures abound, restored in 2011 by Wandsworth Council – a timely reminder of a time when we were encouraged to have fun on the rates.

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St Michael and All Angels – Manchester

I’ve passed this way before, 2012 at the behest of Richard Hector Jones in the company of Owen Hatherley and others – recreating the legendary White Bus Tour.

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So have Historic England:

GV II*

Church. 1937, by N.F.Cachemaille-Day. Red brick in English bond with some stone dressings (roof concealed). Star-shaped plan formed by the diagonal intersection of two unequal squares, plus a wide rectangular narthex enclosing the west end. The main vessel is a lofty structure with plain walls, sill-band carried round, and plain parapet, except for the upper part of each side of the cardinal projections, which have windows in tall intersecting Romanesque arcading with Y-tracery, all in brick, with a central pilaster strip rising to a moulded cornice. Large plain cross rising from roof. The single-storey flat-roofed narthex has coupled plain rectangular doorways in the centre and 3 narrow rectangular lancets to each side. Interior (as reported 16.01.81): ingenious plan with lofty columns supporting flat ribbed roof. Forms group with Rectory attached to south side.

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So have Revolvy:

The Corporation of Manchester acquired the Wythenshawe Estate in 1926 and began laying out the garden suburb in 1930. It was eventually to have 25,000 houses and a population of 100,000. The garden suburb was designated part of the parish of Church of St Wilfrid, Northenden, but that small parish church proved insufficient to accommodate the rising congregation. A mission church was therefore opened in 1934, and in 1935 the diocese approved plans for the construction of a new parish church at Orton Road. The budget was £10,000. Nugent Francis Cachemaille-Day was appointed as architect for both the church and the adjoining parsonage. The foundation stone for the church was laid on 8 May 1937, by the Bishop of Manchester. The builder was J. Clayton and Sons of Denton.

So has the redoubtable Nikolaus Pevsner:

A sensational church for its country and its day. The material is brick, bare in four of the corners, with large brick windows in the other four. The intersecting arches of the windows are the only period allusion.The interior has very thin exposed concrete piers and a flat ceiling. The church make sit clear that the architect had studied Continental experiments, the parsonage points to Germany and Mendelssohn. Stained glass by Geoffrey Webb.

Geoffrey Webb lived and worked in the centre of East Grinstead at the height of his career and is noted among enthusiasts of fine glass for his use of brilliant blues. In his early career he worked with Charles Eamer Kempe, the most prolific and best-known stained glass artist of his generation. Webb’s work can also be found in many other places around the UK including Manchester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey, and in Daresbury parish church in Cheshire where he designed a memorial window in honour of Lewis Carroll.

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So I cycled by one almost sunny Sunday morning, engaged in the porch by an elderly joke telling gent, awaiting his more devout partner.

I love the bible, they all rode on motor bikes – “the roar of Moses’ Triumph is heard in the hills, Joshua’s Triumph was heard throughout the land.”

The Apostles were in one Accord. – Acts 5:12

We waited out the end of the morning service, exchanging gags, eventually I entered. Met by cheery parishioners and priest, welcomed with open arms, happy to chat and allow me to go about the business of snapping this enchanting building. Take yourself down there and bathe in the stained glass light from the sun drenched east windows, feel the warmth of the open elevating space, everything’s looking up:

A sensational church for its country and its day – today.

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Newcastle Civic Centre – Rooms

Following a path from the Grand Entrance and Council Chambers, my genial host and erudite guide Debbie took me behind the scenes into the back rooms. 

Further delights unfold in this most remarkable of buildings.

Firstly into the Banqueting Hall – beneath your feet Arabescato Marble, inset with a sprung dance floor and on the vaulted ceiling  hand carved African walnut. The slightly sloping walls are of Clapham Stone, with the only double glazed arrow slit windows in the country.

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The chandeliers are hand cut crystal from Westphalia and  have the Newcastle castles on the top part of the fitting.

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The seahorse carpet was recently replaced, digitally designed and woven to perfectly match the original.

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The facing wall is graced by a John Piper tapestry, which  represents the mineral resources of the area.

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Grilles by Geoffrey Clarke cover the alcoves and have an orange backlight to simulate a medieval fireplace.

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The room can seat up to six hundred people and is available for hire, in regular use for a wide variety of functions.

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The Model Room houses a magnificent architectural replica of the city.

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It is also blessed with a living, walking talking spiral staircase, cast in one single piece of steel, it moves with you as you ascend and descend.

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This ante room dressed with Arne Vodder furniture, walls clad in raw silk and hand carved wood, is a place green oasis, a sea of calm.

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Newscastle Civic Centre – The Grand Entrance

Opened on 14th November 1968 by King Olav of Norway, opened for me by Debbie Harvey on Friday 5th May 2017, thanks ever so much.

This takes us into architect George Kenyon’s Civic Centre 

Cast Aluminium portals and reveals to Ceremonial Entrance by Geoffrey Clarke.

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Staff on reception were once able to notify officials of the arrival of guests and dignitaries, using this right bang up to the minute electrical intercom.

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To the right is the engraved John Hutton Screen engraved glass panels depicting – the inventive genius of Tyneside’s most famous sons and daughters.

From left to right: George Stephenson the steam locomotive, Sir Charles Parson the turbine engine, Sir Joseph Swan electric light bulb, Lord Armstrong the gun.

Brigantia – Celtic Goddess of the tribe, The Three Mothers – offering fruit for fertility, Mithras – the slaying of the bull , Coventina  the goddess of a well, she reclines on a water-borne leaf and below her are three intertwined figures of nymphs of streams,  for in those days every self-respecting stream had its own tutelary deity. All have been found when Roman temples have been unearthed on the Roman wall.

 

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A twenty three foot high, eleven tiered chandelier of hand cut Bavarian crystal from Westphalia, hangs above your head. This chandelier was commissioned on behalf of Newcastle City for the opening of the building in 1968. It has 119 light bulbs, the crystal on the top is in the shape of a castle on the base of the chandelier are sea horses. The walls are lined with random English oak, the floor down stairs is Portuguese Verde Viana marble.

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Elegant Arne Vodder designed sofas litter the entrance, this truly is a palace of delights a temple of  Municipal Socialism, take your shoes off set a spell.

Y’all come back now!

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Newcastle Civic Centre – Council Chamber

Within the exterior of architect George Kenyon’s distinguished civic drum sits the inner sanctum of the Council Chamber – my thanks to the delightful head of hospitality Debbie Harvey for providing me with the most erudite and educational tour.

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Outside the division bell, set against Danish slate, was originally to be found on the HMS Newcastle.

This silver bell is of the 10,000 ton cruiser HMS Newcastle presented to the ship by the Lord Mayor and citizens of Newcastle upon Tyne to mark her commissioning in 1937. Launched by the Duchess of Northumberland on the 23rd January 1936 at the Walker Naval Yard. In 1959 HMS Newcastle was towed from Portsmouth to Newport Monmouthshire to be broken up.

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The entrance padded with soft green leather the door clad in hand carved Cedar of Lebanon.

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We illuminated the illuminated sign and entered – what treasures await, leather and teak furniture by acclaimed Danish designer Arne Vodder, worth thousands and thousands of pounds. Fine Swedish marble and further Cedar of Lebanon acoustic cladding, each surface of the highest quality and chosen to enhance the sound properties of the space. The councillors seated once a month on 149 leather clad  seats with integral voting and microphone modules. A high grey, skylight lit domed ceiling.

This is work of the highest possible quality, a proud summation of Municipal Socialism, our friends in the North, matched with the imaginary world of the Man from Uncle.

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