Wigan Walk

Arriving at Wigan Wallgate turn left and left and right.

Tucked away along Clarence Yard is the former Princes Cinema.

Photo: Ian Grundy

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

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

Cinema Treasures

It has subsequently been in use as a nightclub.

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

Inter-war

Sixties.

Seventies.

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

Across the way is the Technical College.

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

Partly formed from the Thomas Linacre Technical School.

Architects: Howard V Lobb G Grenfell Bains & Hargreaves 1954

School Hall – RIBA Pix

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

My thanks to Mark Watson for his erudition and insight.

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

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

It was designated a Grade II listed building in 1997.

Architect: A E Munby

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

Let’s head back into town and along Standishgate.

Former Burton Tailors – possibly.

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

Formerly not boarded up Civic Centre.

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

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

Demolished 2010

Scholes Comprehensive Development 1964 – five thirteen storey blocks.

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

Lancashire County Architect: Roger Booth

Flickr

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

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

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

Then back up toward the centre to the County Playhouse.

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

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

Onwards to the Wallgate News.

Finally to The George public house.

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

The George is all you need.

Telephone Exchanges – Wigan

Wandering around Wigan left and then left out of Wigan Wallgate ending up on the corner of Dorning Street, there’s a big red brick building.

1882

Where all this went on in 1946.

BT Archives

And all this went on too!

I only worked there very briefly in 1965, to do my Test Desk Training. It was a pleasant, if too hot, place to work: I remember being taken out for lunch at the Grand on my first day – very nice!

One peculiarity, which always stuck in my mind, was the canteen, upstairs, where the men all clung to one side, and the women to the other, never saw that anywhere else.

I was a telephonist 1961 -1968, I married a telephone engineer, you are right about the canteen or kitchen upstairs. When I first started after I’d finished my training I was sent down to the test desk for a long stand. Being a naive little thing I did as I was told, then sent out for some sky hooks and hen party hens, the girls I worked with were a great bunch we had ball best working years of my life, still friends with some of the telephonists I worked with – happy days.

Walking down Dorning Street one day going back to work and on the pavement outside the Grand there was a half crown. Tried to pick it up to howls of laughter. The lads in the telephone exchange opposite had welded a nail to it and pushed it in the ground between the paving flags. Very funny, and no I didn’t get it out.

Wigan World

hen you notice that there’s a Sixties’ neighbour.

With narrow windows and inset light and dark tan tiles.

Prior to the exchange of telecommunications’ messages, the site was preoccupied by the exchange of partisan residents with a predilection for particular political persuasions.

Let’s back track along Dorning Street and follow the aroma of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls – to the Santus Works and beyond.

There stands a concrete behemoth.

Which has of late been beset with particular problems of its own.

Minefield of lager cans near Wigan school sparks worry Wigan councillors.

They are on a mission to stop the grounds of a derelict building, which lies just yards away from a school, being used as a drinking den.

Wigan Today

Though in fairness I was witness to neither a minefield or drinking den – just a telephone exchange.

Hadrian TSC – BT Newcastle upon Tyne

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Land was acquired for this site in 1929 for the then General Post Office.

The first buildings are constructed in 1932 as General Stores, a Workshop and Garages.

BT Digital Archives

These were demolished in 1966 to make way for the present development.

The current building was phase one of eleven, which was to include a further twenty two storey building with a planned capacity of twenty four thousand people by 1980.

Building construction started in 1969 and was completed in 1972.

Final cost was £1,218,401.

My thanks to Sonna Lawrence BT employee, for his time and information.

There is little by way of background information online, save for this thread.

It’s officially The Hadrian Trunk Switching Centre and it is indeed owned by BT. It’s just a telephone exchange with a handful of staff. I only know this as I used to work for BT 150 customer service when ISDN was being rolled out 20 years ago and when there was a fault in the Newcastle area it was usually something going wrong in this building.

I’ve heard that it goes down as far as it goes up.

Someone has mentioned the basement which is legendary amongst the people who work there. Some say it’s a nuclear bunker, some say there’s a tunnel that goes to the other BT building in Carliol Square, others say there’s nothing down there.

The rumour always was that the central core was nuclear bomb proof so people in power could still make phonecalls and there is also a service tunnel going across to the CTE on the other side of the central motorway.

One online source suggests it may have been designed by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works.

Mainstream Modern informs us that the design team was:

Thomas F Winterburn – Senior Architect MoPBW.

W Freeman – Senior Civil Engineer.

E.W. Hutchinson – Project Engineer.

Working as an architectural assistant in Colchester Borough Engineer’s Office in 1935, Winterburn was with the Ministry from the at least the mid-1950s, he is recorded as the Senior Architect for Norwich’s Post Office Sorting Office in 1955. He was also responsible for the now demolished Milburngate House in Durham that housed the Passport Office.

All that aside I took a look around outside, come along circumnavigate along with me.

Telephone Exchange – Stockport

Typically, as with timid police officers, telephone exchanges seem to travel in pairs.

An inter-war brick building, of a utilitarian brick Classicism, restrained in nature, along with a post-war concrete construction.

These are pragmatic architectural forms, constrained within a typology, and responding to the nature of the technology contained within.

Here is the building of 1934 – BT Archives

In 1961 – when Exchange Street was but a rough track, the area was also known as Blueshop Yard.

Stockport Image Archive

The concrete cousin constructed in 1971.

So here we are in 2021 taking a close look at these BT beauties, without further ado.

Hastings 2015

I had completed my journey from Weston super Mare, with a final day’s cycle ride from Eastbourne and had two days to spare.

So I took some time to have a mooch around and this dear readers is what I did see.

I have snapped the seafront shelters previously and put together one post after another.

These are an integral part of Sidney Little’s concrete promenade scheme

Lurched toward London Road Launderette in St Leonards – which was featured in my 2020 book eight laundrettes.

Next door is this Post Office mosaic.

Back to the front for a more traditional seaside shelter.

Exploring the backstreets in search of fitness for purpose and secret signs.

Then diving in for a delicious dosa at the long gone St Len’s Lakshmi Mahal – since moved to Bexhill on Sea.

Snapping the plaques at the White Rock Theatre.

Currently closed but hopefully open in time for the We Love The Spice Girls.

Popped into Arthur Green – former gent’s outfitters, current bric a brac brokers.

Before we know it, we’re in another laundrette, once more without washing in the Wash Inn.

Back along the front to the well appointed and freshly painted Marine Court.

Time to pop into the not always open subsequently closed St Leonard’s Church.

When World War II broke out, Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea were considered vulnerable to attacks and invasion from abroad. On the night of Saturday 29 July 1944 a doodlebug was hit over the English Channel. Damaged, it nevertheless continued to fly towards the coastline of St Leonards-on-Sea. It was approaching Marine Court which was hosting a servicemen’s party – but it veered and crashed in front of the doors of St Leonard’s Church, making a deep crater. The tower fell into this, and the rest of the church was brought down as well. Although there were no casualties, the church was completely destroyed. Although the problem of rock falls and subsidence associated with the cliffs had continued throughout the life of the church, the War Damage Commission would only pay for it to be rebuilt on the same site. The architectural partnership of brothers Giles and Adrian Gilbert Scott were commissioned to design the new building.

Patrick Reyntiens stained glass

The unique features were inspired by Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, rector from 1929 to 1961. Following a dream, he went to Israel and had the prow of a Galilean fishing boat constructed to form the pulpit.

Marble work on the floor depicts locally caught skate and herring.

Beyond the communion rail are loaves and fishes set in different marble patterns bordered by scallop shells, a copy of the Byzantine mosaic in the Church of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Galilee.

The structure set into shifting cliffs is subject to subsidence.

Procedures have been completed for St Leonard’s Parish Church on Marina to be closed for worship. 

The service will be next Saturday August 4 2018 at 3pm. 

Because the building cannot be used the service will be at St Ethelburga’s in St Saviour’s Road.

St Leonard’s has been called the church with an inbuilt message.  Even the very stones cry out to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand and accept the Good News of the Gospel.

St Leonards Church

Ilfracombe to Okehampton

Today Monday 27th July 2015 – leaving Ilfracombe the royal we head south along the Tarka Trail, giving Cornwall a swerve.

Though first we feast on a slightly out of focus fry up at the digs.

Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter, this 180 mile, figure eight route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. The southern loop incorporates the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK. Walking or cycling, you can experience the best this beautiful area has to offer.

Though first a little look at Ilfracombe.

Looks to me like local Marland Brick

Then away we go following the former train line out of town.

The Ilfracombe Branch of the London & South Western Railway, ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was sufficiently popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889.

The 1:36 gradient between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe stations was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country. In the days of steam traction, it was often necessary to double-head departing passenger trains.

Named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe.

Despite nearly a century of bringing much-needed revenue into this remote corner of the county, passenger numbers dropped dramatically in the years following the Second World War, due to a massive increase in the number of cars on Britain’s roads, and the line finally closed in 1970.

Much of the course of the line is still visible today, and sections of it have been converted into public cycleways.

Wikipedia

A delightfully decorated prefabricated concrete railway hut.

Huts old railway huts, council take ’em and they cover them in colouring book Constructivism.

Eventually I find myself outside an inter war Modernist Masonic Hall in Braunton.

Dozens of Devon councillors are also Freemasons – is yours?

Conservative Cllr for Topsham Andrew Leadbetter is a well-known Mason.

Devon Live

We leave behind – the shadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies.

For the equally shadowy world of military installations.

The water tower at RAF Chivenor.

Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training.

In 1974 the station was left on care and maintenance, in 1994 7 FTS left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the Royal Marines.

Wikipedia

A most delightful cycle path alongside the estuary of the River Taw.

The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.

Passing under the Torridge Bridge at Bideford – a 650 metre long concrete structure built in 1987.

Photo James Ravilious

Three piers are in the river. Each of the piers in the water is protected by concrete fenders twenty four metres long by eight metres wide by eight metres high. The concrete piers of the bridge are around twenty four metres high.

It was designed by MRM Partnership.

Here we are in Barnstaple by the Civic Centre.

It’s described as an ‘iconic’ building, but not many locals would agree, this huge building widely considered to be one of the ugliest in Devon could soon be under new ownership. The council has confirmed that following a tender exercise, it is working with a preferred bidder to finalise the details of the sale.

Devon Live

In 2014 Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believed the civic centre could provide up to 84 modern apartments.

Artist’s impression by Peregrine Mears Architects – looks a little too wobbly to me, Peregrine Mears Architects should get right back to the drawing board, where they started from.

The Neo-Classical facade restrained Deco of The Venue.

Formerly The Regal Cinema – opened on 30th August 1937

Architects – BM Orphoot

Revellers dancing at The Worx nightclub – as The Venue was to become.

The building in Barnstaple is for sale with Webbers estate agents for just £225,000. The striking building in a prime position on the town’s Strand was originally opened in 1937 as the Regal Cinema.

The building will probably be best known under the guise of Kaos, the name it was given during the 1990’s and at the height of its popularity.

Other nightclub incarnations at the premises included Babylon, Rockabillies, Coco, Club Tropicana and of course The Venue.

Devon Live 2019

The Tarka Trail crossing the River Torridge, just south of Bideford, utilising the former railway bridge.

The old home town looks the same as I step down from the bike, and there to meet me is – well nobody.

And I realise, yes, I was only dreaming.

I’ll go to Okehampon then – take a look at the lovely tiled Post Office, whilst completely ignoring one of the oldest Norman castles in the country.

Walking around town in search of a B&B proved fruitless, though I was directed to an out of town Roadhouse aways away.

Welcome to Betty Cottles Inn – land of the lost apostrophe.

Rooms are not as photos/described on hotel booking sites, wi-fi hardly ever works. I prepaid/booked for nine nights, I checked out after two days. Needless to say I didnt receive a seven day refund. Owner with attitude problem, he had my money, and was not keen on helping with my concerns about the property. Musky smell to carpet in bar and restaurant areas. Not been cleaned for a long time. Rooms unsafe and not private, with curtains not long enough, lock on room doors inadequate.

Neil H – July 2109

You sneaked in a female into your single room without paying for her and got caught so obviously you have retaliated by way of a negative review. You were probably the most rude and hostile guest we have ever had and have had to report you to booking.com for guest misconduct and also banned you from being able to book here again.

Matthew owner at Betty Cottles Inn

I ate a reasonable meal in the Carvery and chatted amiably with a representative salesman on the move, whilst seeing off a few pints of Guinness – any port in a storm.

Night night.

GPO Tower – London

Well of course we’ve all been here before, haven’t we?

Well I have – I even wrote all about it right here.

The tower was designed by the architects of the Ministry of Public Building and Works: the chief architects were Eric Bedford and G. R. Yeats. Typical for its time, the building is concrete clad in glass. The narrow cylindrical shape was chosen because of the requirements of the communications aerials: the building will shift no more than 25 centimetres in wind speeds of up to 95 mph. Initially, the first 16 floors were for technical equipment and power. Above that was a 35-metre section for the microwave aerials, and above that were six floors of suites, kitchens, technical equipment and finally a cantilevered steel lattice tower. To prevent heat build-up, the glass cladding was of a special tint. The construction cost was £2.5 million.

The tower was topped out on 15 July 1964, and officially opened by the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson on 8 October 1965. The main contractor was Peter Lind & Co Ltd.

Wikipedia

I’ve always wished to be granted entry, walk its corridors and ante rooms, sit in the revolving restaurant – take in the views.

Alas so far – no!

So I simply walk around and around, looking up – hoping.

Dorothy Annan Mural – The Barbican

I’ve been to the Barbican before, wandering the walkways without purpose.

This is a whole new box of tiles, the search for a re-sited mural, a first time meeting with what would seem at once like an old and well-loved friend.

Dorothy Annan 20 January 1900 – 28 June 1983

Was an English painter, potter and muralist, married to the painter and sculptor Trevor Tennant. She was born in Brazil to British parents and was educated in France and Germany.

Christmas 1944 – Manchester Art Gallery

Annan’s paintings are in many national collections, she is also known for her tile murals, many of which have been destroyed in recent decades. Only three of her major public murals are believed to survive, the largest single example, the Expanding Universe at the Bank of England, was destroyed in 1997.

Gouache Sketch

I was looking for her mural which illustrates the telecommunications industry – formerly of the Fleet Building Telephone Exchange Farringdon Road.

Michael Bojkowski

The murals were commissioned at a cost of £300 per panel in 1960. Annan visited the Hathernware Pottery in Loughborough and hand-scored her designs onto each wet clay tile, her brush marks can also be seen in the fired panels.

Charles Trusler

The building was owned by Goldman Sachs, who wished to redevelop the site and opposed the listing of the murals.

In January 2013, the City of London Corporation agreed to take ownership of the murals, and in September 2013 these were moved to a permanent location in publicly accessible part of the Barbican Estate. They are displayed in their original sequence within an enclosed section of the Barbican High Walk between Speed House and the Barbican Centre.

Commemorative Bowl

So following a discursive and somewhat undirected circumnavigation of the Center we were finally united – it only seemed polite to linger a while and take some snaps – here they are.

Long Lane Post Office – Heald Green

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190 Wilmslow Rd, Heald Green, Cheadle SK8 3BH

The original Long Lane Post Office is still there but not here:

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However – I digress.

One fine day, some time ago there popped into my consciousness a Sixties retail mosaic in the Heald Green area – I tracked down its precise whereabouts online, in the modern manner.

Thinks – one fine day, just you wait and see I’ll pay a visit to the Heald Green area.

So today I did, it started off fine and finished up less so.

Jumped the 368 from Stockport Bus Station alighted at The Griffin.

Walked aways up the road and there it was, almost intact – it’s original name obliterated with lilac exterior emulsion – did it once read healds?

Why of course it did – the local dairy and retailers were the shop’s original owners.

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A few tesserae are missing otherwise the piece is as was – a wobbly jumble of text, shape and colour.

Self service – at your service.

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Post Box – Chesterfield

Time’s definitely running out:

But the post office has been stolen and the mailbox is locked.

The age of elegant modernist street furniture, has been and almost gone, the previous centuries are under threat.

But does anyone want this neglected postal self-service technology?

Stamp dispensing is being dispensed with, insert 5p and wait forever.

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We have our own disabused facility in Stockport, I pass it almost every day.

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And have posted two previous postal posts – here and there.

This new discovery, with thanks to Sean Madner, is situated on the wall of the sorting office in Chesterfield. A faded Festival of Britain charm along with a delightful terrazzo surround, has done little to arrest its slow decline into redundancy and subsequent neglect.

Still in situ, take a walk, take a look – wait for the coin to drop.

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