Bromley Street Manchester

Bromley Street – its northern tip joining with Dantzic Street in the valley of the River Irk, so far so very bucolic, so very, very nice, the street that was going places, tucked cosily beneath the shade of the old L&Y bridge.

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The south bank of the Irk is here very steep and between fifteen and thirty feet high. On this declivitous hillside there are planted three rows of houses, of which the lowest rise directly out of the river, while the front walls of the highest stand on the crest of the hill in Long Millgate. Among them are mills on the river, in short, the method of construction is as crowded and disorderly here as in the lower part of Long Millgate. Right and left a multitude of covered passages lead from the main street into numerous courts, and he who turns in thither gets into a filth and disgusting grime, the equal of which is not to be found – especially in the courts which lead down to the Irk, and which contain unqualifiedly the most horrible dwellings which I have yet beheld. Below it on the river there are several tanneries which fill the whole neighbourhood with the stench of animal putrefaction. The view from Ducie Bridge, mercifully concealed from mortals of small stature by a parapet as high as a man, is characteristic for the whole district. At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

So said Mr Friedrich Engels.

“Not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers” – was surrounded by road, rail, dwelling and factory, high density industrialisation through most of the last century.

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Then all of sudden along came a series of events, that saw a shift away from inner-city manufacturing, the outsourcing of all sorts and the demolition of homes. The area and the city became a pale shadow of its former self. Help however was at hand, the boom in buy to let, overseas investment and an ever expanding professional middle class, eagerly  paddled up the murky Irk, emulating the massed forces of 7th Cavalry and the Lone Ranger combined – hurrah!

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If you earn a minimum of £300,000 a year, have a net worth in excess of £3m and want an exceptional mortgage service that is designed to suit your individual needs, get in touch.

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What have you got to lose?

It’s the gravy train as thick, dark and rewarding as the very inky Irk itself!

The stylishly designed living areas and carefully considered external finishes within the new buildings, have been designed to compliment the rich industrial architectural style of the area.

A development that even Mr Friedrich Engels himself would be proud of.

But wait, all is not rosy in the digitally constructed flower box garden, that you may see before you, in our online presentation and brochures.

Pinnacle Alliance plans to build 344 luxury apartments on a site near Dantzic Street, as part of the ‘Northern Gateway’. Dozens of investors have paid up to £350,000 for the off-plan apartments in the proposed scheme. But two years since many first paid out for their home, no work has actually begun on the £30m scheme.

The dispute has led to a demonstration in Hong Kong, where around 50 buyers took to the streets over Christmas urging local authorities to take up their concerns. And in an unusual twist, protestors even recorded their own campaign song – to the tune of Jingle Bells – criticising Pinnacle.

On the day of my visit the site was home to several jackdaws, the charred husk of a burnt out car, hastily discarded childrens’ toys, the most curious of plywood constructs and a sense of anything and everything, ceasing to make any sense whatsoever.

This stunning development will be an original and inspiring place to live.

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Trafford Park Hotel

It takes a whole corporation to raise a village:

The first American company to arrive was Westinghouse Electric, in 1899, and purchased 130 acres on two sites. Building work started in 1900, and the factory began production of turbines and electric generators in 1902. By the following year, British Westinghouse was employing about half of the 12,000 workers in Trafford Park. Its main machine shop was 899 feet long and 440 feet wide; for almost 100 years Westinghouse’s Trafford Park works was the most important engineering facility in Britain.

In addition to the factory Westinghouse built a village for his workers on the American style grid system of avenues and streets.  The community had shops, eating rooms, a dance hall, schools, a church, and a cinema.

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And where there is people there is almost inevitably pubs, as sure as night shifts follow day shifts.

Trafford Park Hotel

Built in 1902 to keep the Trafford Park industrial dust down, quenching the thirst of the workers employed in the world’s first and largest industrial estate – get in and get outside a pint or two.

Speed headlong through the years and by 1984, a mix of industrial and economic decline and the general move away from the urban mix of housing and factories, the end is in sight for most of the Village’s homes.

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Photograph Nigel Richards

Move a little further along the line and by 2009 and the pub is closed, temporarily home first to a marijuana farm, and subsequently squatters.

Paul, 46, originally from Chew Moor, Bolton, was left homeless in May when his house was repossessed after he lost his job as a mechanical engineer. He found The Freedom Project through its Facebook group and was invited to move in to the Trafford Park Hotel. He said: “The group is apolitical – it’s about freedom of expression, activity and thought.” Enterprise Inns have taken members of The Freedom Project to Salford County Court where a judge gave the brewery an order for possession of the building. 

Enterprise Inns declined to comment.

It takes a whole judicial system and corporate clout to deny a man home.

In February 2017 pub was sold for £900,000, though on the day of my August visit there were few signs of the planned conversion to flats or hotel.

One day time will be called on time itself, in the meantime take a walk down the Avenue and feast your eyes on a Grade II  listed terracotta and brick behemoth.

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Tudor House – Wakefield

You wouldn’t ever want a bad case of the cladding, the triumph of the expedient over the purist aesthetic. We all may wish to be warm, dry and free from unwanted ingress, whilst exercising a degree of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which we are clad.

In Wakefield and in local authorities throughout this fair land there seems to have been a distinct lack of discernment and restraint, regarding the manner in which modern tower blocks are clad.

Cloaking concrete in coloured surfaces better suited to Toytown than our town.

Four twelve-storey H-plan tower blocks built as public housing as part of the central area development of lower Kirkgate. The blocks rise out of other low-rise development. Each block contains 44 one and two-bedroom flats, providing 176 dwellings in total. The consulting architects for the development were Richard Seifert & Partners. Construction is of concrete frame with brick infill panels. The blocks were approved by committee in 1964.

Tudor House aka Lower Kirkgate Comprehensive Development area as was:

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Photographs Tower Block

Ain’t it funny how time and integrity slips away?

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Photographs Alan White Design

Gone the bold flat roofed, cuboid contrasting concrete and brick towers, whilst confusingly the ground floor retail development remains untouched.

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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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I idled by on my bike to snap the homes around Bideford Drive, which I dutifully did. My curiosity suitably aroused I perused 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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