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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Galt Toys – An Exhibition

Cheadle, Stockport, Greater Manchester 1962 – and the grey post-war fug of austerity is blown away, almost forever. Though very much a local enterprise their toys, games and puzzles display a strong European influence and were distributed globally.

Educational in nature, non-gender specific, simple, bold, well constructed, collaborative not competitive – employing sound modernist principles and design, they were at that time almost unique in the UK toy industry.

James Galt & Co Ltd. were established in Manchester in 1836 as a manufacturer and publisher of educational books and toys, relocating to Cheadle in 1956.

Ken Garland had worked for the influential Abbatt Toys, formed in 1931 by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt. Paul and Marjorie had collaborated with Modernist architects Oliver Hill and Ernő Goldfinger – committed to designing and producing educational childrens’ toys influenced by the new European movements in art and design.

Paul emphasised the importance of play, described as:

‘A force which can be used for development and valuable experience, a force which, if it is not thwarted by the wrong choice of playthings, develops into the power behind the successful architect or engineer.’ 

In 1955 Edward Newmark, who had established the Astu Studios toy company, was taken on as a junior partner by Paul and Marjorie. He remained only five years, leaving in 1960 to go to James Galt and Co. Ltd. He was joined the designer Ken Garland, who, between 1958 and 1961 had designed the Abbatts’ catalogues and advertisements, creating their distinctive house style.  His practice Ken Garland & Associates, formed in 1962, employed a small rotating group of designers over its 47-year period. Prior to forming the studio, Garland worked with editor Michael Farr at Design magazine, where he held the position of art editor from 1956 to 1962.

Ken set about smartening up the Cheadle based company, hauling it into the heart of the Modernist Sixties, the company name shortened to GALT TOYS and a sharp new Swiss style typography was adopted. Together they created flexible corporate identity, which as Ken says: they were determined not to let the Galt Toys logo become a sacred cow, not to be mucked about with.

It would, indeed, be mucked around with, but only by us.’

The style was maintained consistently for 20 years. The letterforms chosen for GALT TOYS were from a very recently issued typeface, Folio Medium Extended. The Folio type family was the creation of the Bauer Type Foundry, Frankfurt, then a close rival to the Helvetica and Univers type families.

The product line which encompassed a whole range of educational toys, games, school fixtures and fittings henceforth embraced a Scandinavian ethic of clean functionality and truth to materials. Though central to the reshaping of the brand, Ken is keen to emphasise that this was a collaborative process, involving several other designers within a flexible team.

The toys and games were modern in very sense, child-centred, none gender-specific, simple bright and colourful – employing simple graphic shapes, illustration and type, attractive and durable. The newly designed shop in Carnaby Street, with Verity & Beverley as architects, and a retail/factory/café in Cheadle were equally forward thinking in design and layout, purposely encouraging children to play with the stock, prior to possibly purchasing.

His ancillary work on the design of packaging, catalogues and in-store graphics was similarly ground-breaking, mixing image and text, very much in the mid European manner, pioneered by the likes of Max Bill and Richard Paul Lohse.

Connect exemplifies the best of Garland and Galt, twelve squares of card each with a simple linear motif, which can then be combined in a succession of seemingly infinite permutations – following a simple set of rules, the players can then produce a carpet covered in exciting abstraction. The connection to Harry Beck’s London Underground map is clear, Ken wrote and published Mr. Beck’s Underground Map in 1994, a tribute to the clarity, functionality and modernity of good design. This imaginative use of a single unit  which continually unfolds from limited graphic means to limitless possibilities, was further developed in Ken’s Trap Snap and Anymals.

Bob Chapman and I spent a lot of time developing Connect, based very loosely on dominoes, which turned out to be a best-seller, and still is, in a modified form now produced by Ravensburger Spieleverlag of Germany.  Another associate, Daria Gan, found a most satisfying outlet for her drawing skills in the card games Anymals and Upside-Down Jigsaws.’

Octons was designed by William Edward David Ryan, he was educated at Preston Grammar School and Harris Technical College/School of Art pursuing architecture. He became a member of Royal Institute of British Architects in 1965 and a partner in Derby Fazackerley Wood & Ryan Architects, Preston from 1965-1993. It is an eight sided modular construction toy manufactured in clear, coloured plastic, a slot cut into each face, permitting their interconnection in a mind boggling array of three dimensional forms. Further exemplifying the principles of simplicity and inherent stimulation of the child’s fertile imagination and explorative creativity. It is one of the few Galt games which has remained in production until the present day.

Fizzog remains a firm favourite, a fabulous name, a fabulous game of many faces. Pairing pairs of halved fizzogs, the better to produce ever more inventive and laughter inducing visages.

Kenneth Townsend was based in Hastings and worked as a freelance designer for Galt along with Hornsea Pottery, Chance Brothers, Cuckoo Bird Productions and Merit. His lively and stylised illustrative style enlivens both Super Snap and Remember Remember – these were produced, alongside several other matching games in the golden age of Galt. Employing yet again the use of strong graphic shapes, bold colour and a happy go lucky playfulness that were central to the company’s output. Developing shape recognition, numeracy, colour identification and a simple love of the visual world through play and fun.

So for some twenty years Galt and Garland et al injected some much needed life into an otherwise moribund world of play, their catalogues and products finding a way into the majority of Britain’s schools and homes, from Bauhaus to your house.

Many thanks for the loan and/or sourcing of exhibits to Wayne Astbury, Dawn Bunnell, Gemma Burgess, Paul Burnett, Sue Cook, Gail Eagle, Alison Heffernan, Sarah Moss and Alex Stone.

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Adolfine Ryland

Adolfine Ryland worked as a printmaker, sculptor, painter and designer. Her practice across these different media was united by her keen-edged, modern style and inventive graphics. She had studied at Heatherley’s and at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art under printmaker Claude Flight. 

Ryland’s main exhibiting venue was the Women’s International Art Club, where she showed from 1927 onwards, becoming a member from 1936 to 1954. She also undertook public commissions, and worked for London County Council designing low reliefs for a number of buildings, among them the School of Butchers and St Martin’s School of Art. Her reliefs for the art school, which still decorate the entrance, show students at work. But Ryland’s work is not always easy to identify as she sometimes signed herself ‘Koncelik’, her mother’s maiden name.

In 1987 the Michael Parkin Gallery in London held an exhibition Printmakers of the 20s and 30s and Adolfine Ryland. On show were Ryland’s paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and designs for book jackets and posters. Amongst them were two designs advertising London Underground, which speak of an optimistic age of efficient, modern public transport to the new suburbs.

It says so here

I was sauntering down Charing Cross Road on Saturday last, minding my own and everyone else’s business, then perchance I chanced upon a series of low reliefs, tucked neatly away in a nearby portal.

The London County College for the Distributive Trades – rightfully adorned with appropriate public art depicting the lasses and lads, going about their very practical business.

These are the work of Adolfine Ryland.

The building is currently in use as Foyles Bookshop.

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Returning home, I did a little online research, turning these examples of her work. As is often the case with those figures considered to be on the margins of the big bad Art World, time and the subsequent neglect, conspire to leave little by way of evidence of their invaluable efforts.

This is our loss.

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Rhyl to Wallasey Hovercoach

After Telstar, Rhyl’s residents and visitors have this week been privileged to see another miracle of scientific progress – the Vickers-Armstrong VA-3, which arrived on Sunday to prepare for the first scheduled passenger carrying hovercoach service in the world. 

Strange but true!

It says so here.

The world’s first commercial passenger hovercraft service ran briefly from Rhyl to Moreton beach in 1962, but ended when a storm hit the passenger hovercraft while it was moored, damaging its lifting engines.

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I’m fascinated by hovercrafts, they were for a while the future that we seemed to have been promised, a future that had consistently failed to arrive.

Until even they failed to arrive, or depart for that matter.

I do have a love of doomed hovercraft services – I’ve been to Pegwell Bay.

Youngest passenger was 21 months old Martin Jones, 128, Marsh Road, who travelled with his mother, Mrs Millie Jones, an usherette at the Odeon Cinema: his grandmother Mrs Jean Morris, and Mrs Morris’s 14 year old son, Tony, a pupil of Glyndwr County Secondary School, the first schoolboy to travel on the hovercraft.  Mr Tony Ward of 13, Aquarium street, a popular figure as accordionist on one of the local pleasure boats a few seasons ago, and his 20 year old daughter Rosemary, cashier at the Odeon, who were among the first to book seats at the North Wales Travel Agency, were also among the passengers.

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Mrs Handley was the manageress of the Sports Cafe and got to know all the crew as they had all their meals there, even a farewell party with a cake in the form of a hovercraft.

The Queen and Prince Philip had received an invitation to undertake the trip, but declined perhaps just as well, for on what proved to be the final journey the hovercraft left Wallasey at 1.15 p.m. on September 14th and both engines failed en route.

There has been talk of reviving the service, a service that sadly seems so far to have defied revival.

“It really will be a feather in our cap for Rhyl.”

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Pifco – Manchester

It began with a ray gun.

Following a thread, a tenuous electrical link that brought me back home, to an all too familiar household name.pifco-copy

A name that has illuminated, vibrated, mixed, measured, massaged, warmed and dried our lives for over one hundred years.

But what does it mean, where does this stuff come from, what’s it all about Pifco?

 

Pifco of Failsworth, also of Pifco House, 87 High Street, Manchester.

1900 Company established by Joseph Webber to sell lighting appliances and accessories.

1902 Public company formed as Provincial Incandescent Fittings Co. Ltd.

1911 The Filani Nigeria Tin Mining Co was incorporated as a public company.

1949 Name changed.

1954 Incorporated Walls Ltd, of River Street Birmingham, as a wholly-owned subsidiary to manufacture medical lamps, kettles and small cookers.

1957 The last of the mining assets were sold.

1957 Filani Nigeria Tin Mining Co changed its name to Pifco Holdings Ltd and acquired all of the issued share capital of Pifco 1961 Manufacturers and distributors of electrical appliances and accessories. 

1970 The Regent Cotton Mill, in Failsworth was purchased by Pifco.

1984 Agreed to acquire Swan Housewares from BSR International, but later the deal collapsed.

1987 Acquired House of Carmen, maker of heated hair rollers; the other important brand was Salton.

1991 Purchased Russell Hobbs Tower.

2001 Salton Group, a US company making domestic appliances, acquired Pifco.

 

So Provincial Incandescent Fittings Co. Ltd.

We salute you, so much joy emanating from Failsworth Manchester, making the world a warmer, drier, brighter, cleaner safer place.

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Always at never less than entirely reasonable prices.

 

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A true friend to the nocturnal cyclist.

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Christmas cheer for all!

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Those little things that lighten the wearisome load of the daily beauty regime.

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The minor essentials of our everyday electrical lives.

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The seemingly frivolous rendered material.

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We can all sleep ever so easily abed at night, in the simple knowledge that Pifco is still out there working just for us/you!

Nighty night.

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Coventry – Precinct

Coventry city centre is a city centre, comprised of several interlocking post- war facets, realised over a thirty year period. This later addition the Bull Yard, the work of Arthur Ling and Terence Gregory, city architects and planning officers.

It incorporates pedestrian walkways, retail, civic and car parking facilities with a crowded unease and grace. Much of the original detail survives, though not unusually, some more recent additions detract from the integrity of the scheme.

The site is graced by two major works by William Mitchell – the concrete facade and interior of the former Three Tuns public house.

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And the sculpted panels on Hertford street.

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So we are left with a series of spaces that now seem slightly adrift, particularly the City Arcade, as both the earlier and more recent developments in the city compete for clients and customers.

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To explore is to discover a work continually in progress, or regression, as the forces of heritage, commercial development, and civic planning pull each other this way and that.

There is an initiative for redevelopment for the area yet to find a satisfactory resolution.

Take a look.

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Coventry – Indoor Market

A market hall built in 1957 to designs by Douglas Beaton, Ralph Iredale and Ian Crawford of Coventry City Architect’s Department.

 Various designs were considered, but eventually a circular design was chosen to encourage circulation and to offer a number of entrances. It was given a flat roof in order to create a car park (with a heated ramp to prevent icing, now no longer there), and was to become the central focus for a complex scheme of linked roof car parks in Coventry.

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 The market consists of a series of concrete arches joined by a ring beam, all left exposed, with brick infilling and a concrete roof, laid out as a car park, with a central circular roof light. It has a circular plan, just over 84m in diameter and 4 ½ m high, is laid out with 160 island stalls, arranged in groups of two or four units in concentric rings, with 40 `shop stalls’ set into the perimeter wall.

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Inside, the circular space is characterised by the tall V-shaped concrete `columns’ that hold the roof. Some of the original shop and stall signs have survived. Natural light enters via the clerestory windows along the top perimeter of the building and through the clerestory lighting and oculi in the central dome. The space under this dome, designed as an area for shoppers to rest, is lined with seats and has a terrazzo mosaic floor designed by David Embling, with a central sun motif, a gift from the Coventry Branch of the Association of Building Technicians.

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Above the current market office is an impressive painted mural by art students from Dresden commissioned especially for the market in the 1950s in a Socialist Realist manner, depicting farming and industrial scenes. 

Thanks to Historic England

I visited the market on a busy bustling day and was made to feel more than welcome, a wide range of heavily laden stalls was trading briskly. The Market Office kindly gave me a copy of the book Coventry Market in a Roundabout Way.

It’s a splendid structure, now listed, that functions six days a week.

Get down take a look around.

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