Back to Bideford Drive – Baguley

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Here we are again – having previously travelled back to the inception of the estate in the 1970s.

Structurally little has changed, politically and economically things have shifted.

Tectonically:

The Conservative Party had committed itself to introducing a Right to Buy before Margaret Thatcher became Party leader. After the election of May 1979 a new Conservative government drafted legislation to provide a Right to Buy but, because this would not become law until October 1980, also revised the general consent to enable sales with higher discounts matching those proposed in the new legislation. The numbers of sales completed under this general consent exceeded previous levels. Between 1952 and 1980 over 370,000 public sector dwellings were sold in England and Wales. Almost a third of these were in 1979 and 1980 and it is evident that higher discounts generated and would have continued to generate higher sales without the Right to Buy being in place. 200,000 council houses were sold to their tenants in 1982, and by 1987, more than 1,000,000 council houses in Britain had been sold to their tenants.

The Right to Buy: History and Prospect

The post war policy of building and renting local authority housing was swamped by the phrase property owning democracy, on which the popular conservatism of the 20th century rested, and with it a vision of the good society, was coined by the Scottish Unionist Noel Skelton in a quartet of articles for the Spectator entitled Constructive Conservatism, written in the spring of 1923. The appeal of Popular Capitalism proved compelling, however the periods of de-industrialisation, and the subsequent lull in the building of new affordable homes, has created a myriad of obstacles for those simply seeking somewhere to live and work.

The estate illustrates this historic shift, replete with homeowners decorative amendments and addenda, managing agents and trusts and an end to the architectural integrity of the development.

One could become all Ian Nairn about this, swathed in Outrage.

I myself feel that despite the cosmetic surgery, this remains a homely enclave, residents going about their business in a relatively orderly and happy manner.

Take a look:

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Bideford Drive – Baguley

Baguley is derived from the Old English words Bagca, badger, and Leah, wood.

Historically in Cheshire, Baguley is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, it was incorporated into Manchester in 1931.

It has a Brook though babble heard I none, it had a Station now long gone.

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EPSON scanner image

I idled by on my bike to snap the homes around Bideford Drive, which I dutifully did. My curiosity suitably aroused I pursued the Manchester Local Image Archive, in search of clues. Planned in 1969 complete in 1971 main contractor Laing architects the City Office.

A rich mix of scale and typology, two differentiated blocks, tower and slab, short rows of compact terraces, open spaces, shops, car parking and limited planting. The interlocking geometries, paths and walkways make it an intriguing and entertaining estate, full of small surprises and ideas – these pictures are of 1971.

There is a sharply attenuated and clean feel in the air, optimism on a largely overcast day, a totality – planned integration – homes and architecture of distinction.

 

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St Luke The Physician – Manchester

Cycling around Wythenshawe one sunny day yesterday, in search of friends old and new, I found myself beside myself, beside St Luke’s.

1938-9 by Taylor and Young. Light brown brick in English garden wall bond (roof concealed). Modern functionalist style. Nave with west tower, north and south aisles with porches and side offices, short chancel. Rectangular tower to same width as nave, with short triangular buttresses flanking a square-headed doorway, plain wall except for very large geometrical-floral clock, parapet and very low set-back louvre stage with steeply-pitched hipped roof. Flat-roofed aisles have projected triangular west ends flanking tower, a projected porch at each end of north aisle and corresponding projected offices to south aisle, and very small star-shaped windows with pentagonal surrounds. Nave has 7 pairs of tall square-headed lancets. Short one-bay chancel has concrete cross in place of east window. Interior: basilican character, with low passage-aisles, chamfered piers terminating with lights, flat concrete-beamed ceiling; side-lit chancel with relief figures of angels. 

Grade II listed Historic England

Those are the facts – the fabulous thing is the clock, a playful lesson in geometry, surface and colour, and it keeps time as well.

Wythenshawe is awash with modern churches and this pale brick giant is hard to miss dominating the Brownley Road junction, built to serve the then ever expanding housing estate to the south west of Manchester.

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Brownley Road flats

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Manchester Image Archive

I love the playful touches which offset the monolithic volumes of St Luke’s – go ahead take a look inside:

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And out:

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Lansbury Tower – London

Neither wrought from purest ivory, nor containing some woe begotten, long gone, misplaced Rapunzel, but conceived as a democratic symbol of a new age of concrete, brick and steel.

Frederick Gibberd’s almost triumphal tower interlocks zig-zag diamonds of cast concrete upwards towards a silently clicking clock, at the head of the Chrisp Street Market.

Lewis Mumford wrote of the adjoining Lansbury Estate:  

Its design has been based not solely on abstract aesthetic principles, or on the economics of commercial construction, or on the techniques of mass production, but on the social constitution of the community itself, with its diversity of human interests and human needs.

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I was privileged to ascend the internal staircase, once open to the public – now reserved for high days, holidays and nosey northern interlopers. Having mildly vertiginous inclinations when so inclined, I gingerly went up in the world and leaned out to take the air and the view.

And this is what I saw.

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Lansbury Estate – London

The Lansbury Estate, to the north of East India Dock Road, is the most important, largest and best-known council estate in Poplar. It demonstrates the different trends in post-war council house design and layout. The interest of the estate lies as much, if not more, in the story of its planning and construction, as in what was actually built. This is especially true of its first phase, which formed the basis of the Live Architecture Exhibition in the 1951 Festival of Britain.

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Originally outlined in the 1943 plan for London, replacing the bomb damaged homes of displaced dockers, the estate has weathered well enough, though changes in demographics, the ever greater engulfing tide of gentrification and the containerisation of all ports, brings a fresh set of challenges and changes.

Go east – I visited the V&A Micro Museum, which has become a focus for residents’ and visitors’  memories and projections of a certain uncertain past and future. Arriving by the Docklands Light Railway, I was immediately drawn towards my destination, by the prominent Lansbury Tower, its clock patiently ticking away the time to and from 1951. Welcomed by staff and fellow travellers at the Chrisp Street Market site we began our tour at the heart of the Festival area – further details of which can be found here at Municipal Dreams.

A mix of market, shops, Festival pub, warm cream London brick terraces and low rise, later tower blocks, schools, churches and open grassed communal areas. On a cold and getting colder late winter’s day, a smattering of residents went purposefully about their business.

Life goes on.

Next time everything’s going to be different.

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Seven Sisters – Return to Rochdale

I’ve passed this way before, they’re hard to miss, seven substantial tower blocks towering over the town on College Bank.

But what goes up, may come down.

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Construction in 1963

Demolition in 2017 is one suggestion – following years of poor maintenance, problems of heating and ingress, plus a whole host of other reasons outlined here.

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The housing trust in consultation with residents, have produced a tentative plan.

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This may or may not include the demolition of one or more blocks. On the day of my visit, the tenants I spoke with understood that the blocks faced an uncertain future, and were rightly concerned by the rumours and conjecture. The majority would prefer to stay put, having lived there for several years, raising families and building  homes.

Whatever the outcome I hope that the wishes of the residents are not overwhelmed by political expedience, or the will of the developer.

Take a look for yourself.

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Lower Falinge – Rochdale

Walking between College Bank flats and St Patrick’s church you and I will almost inevitably pass through Lower Falinge.

In April 1967 Rochdale Council’s Estates Committee considered a proposal to build 750 dwellings in four-storey deck access flats in the Falinge area. By November the £1,810,000 scheme for the area bounded by Spotland Road, Hudson Street and Toad Lane was given the thumbs up.

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The four-storey development was to provide 527 dwellings with deck access, ramps and overheard walkways. It was planned so people could walk from any point in the area to another without having to return to ground level. Work began in early 1968 and was completed in three stages. More recently they have been up-graded and now have pitched roofs. Freehold Flats were built in the early 1970s. Eleven of the eventual 19 blocks were occupied by August 1971. 

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Built at a time when full employment was a tangible reality rather than a fondly recounted folk memory, the area was buoyant and relatively prosperous.

Time, the free market, and casualised labour has not been kind to Lower Falinge and many other post-industrial estates. The Thatcherite press conveniently badges the residents as scum, scroungers and frauds, a carefully conceived sleight of hand, transferring responsibility onto those careless enough to become the victims of an uncaring economic system.

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Demonising and dividing working people regardless of ethnicity, ability, sexuality or ability – the equal opportunities abuser.

A few years ago there was even a national news story about a Falinge café serving fry-ups with a can of Stella for £2.50, this was untrue.

So Lower Falinge and its like become the convenient exemplar for the inconvenience of Broken Britain, a PR device to whitewash the very dirty hands that authored its very dirty demise. Those very dirty hands that have no viable solution to a very real problem, of resolving poor peoples’ uncertain futures.

Meanwhile the journalists form a disorderly queue to file the next in line, online assessment of an awful situation devoid of resolution, short of revolution.

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Transferred from local authority control to charitable trust, forever shape shifting its hard lines to a softer, home made, fluffier image as limited resources, chase limited opportunities, all around the deck access landings.

Life goes on, we live in hope or Lower Falinge.

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The estate is now post-post modern, acquiring another veneer of refurbishment over the now tarnished green of the cover all, all purpose un-repurposed steel railings.

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