Chorley Walk

I arrived at Chorley Railway Station.

The current railway station is a modern version from the 1980s that was built on top of the original station. The level of the old platforms can be seen under the existing station’s two platforms which are connected by underpass. The initial station was opened on 22 December 1841 by the Bolton and Preston Railway – which later became part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and was subsequently served by the Lancashire Union Railway between St Helens, Wigan North Western and Blackburn from 1869.

Passenger trains over this route between Blackburn & Wigan were however withdrawn in January 1960. Further work was done in 2016 and 2017 in connection with the electrification of the line between Euxton Junction and Manchester.

Wikipedia

Crossed over to the Interchange – which was formerly a humble bus station, opened in February 2003 replacing the previous structure.

Across the way a stand of shops with distinctive faience fascias.

Further along the Shepherds’ Victoria Hall – once home to the Jubilee of the Ancient Order of Shepherds’ Friendly Society which was quite prominent in Chorley in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s

Down the way a ways a Baptist Chapel of 1845 on Chapel Street – currently trading as Malcolm’s Musicland.

Next door the Chorley Town Cafe with some excellent stained glass.

Hang a sharp right to the Market – where there is this newish piece of public art Pattern of Life a bronze relief by Diane Gorvin and mosaic work by Tracey Cartledge

This piece involves an innovative combination of cast bronze and ceramic mosaic. Two bronze relief panels display female figures holding out rolls of fabric, each decorated with patterns and images that are particular to the town of Chorley. Payphones, for example were invented and manufactured in Chorley, the crested newt is protected here and you might also notice the famous Chorley Cakes. As the fabrics tumble down, the designs are translated from bronze relief on the wall surface into 2D mosaic in the pavement.

Looking down Fazakerley Street to where Fine Fare once was.

We’ll return to such matters in a moment – we have to get to the Post Office – which is no longer a Post Office.

Architect Charles Wilkinson.

It was a Post Office in 1935 – it also has a later extension.

The local list declares that the post office dates from 1935. This is almost certainly erroneous since the contract documents date from 1924, and from contract to completion the average construction and fitting-out time was about 18 months.

British Post Office Buildings

Happily, the Library is still a library.

Plans supplied by the Architects Messrs. Cheers & Smith of Blackburn which were approved by the Education Committee on the 18th August 1904design proposals for the new Technical School entitled Light and Air.

The considerable task of erecting the school was given to the local builder Mr. William Hampson of Pall Mall.

Surely the envy of his trade, the total contract was worth a mouth- watering £10,041 15s. 9d. – approx. £720,000 today.

The building was officially opened by the 16th Earl of Derby on September 24th 1906.

Chorley History Society

Heading to the Council Offices.

Over the road the town’s newest retail development Market Walk – the work of AEW Architects.

Chorley Council bought the shopping centre from Orchard Street Investments for £23m in 2013 and commenced a large-scale regeneration scheme in 2018 involving a £15m, 79,000 sq ft retail and leisure extension led by main contractor Eric Wright Group and designed by AEW Architects. Here, Conrad Heald of Chorley Council tells his interviewer, AEW director Phil Hepworth, how the scheme came to fruition and has rejuvenated the town centre.

Place North West

The memorial re-sited in 2018 commemorates the Chorley Pals.

In less than 20 minutes, 235 of the 720 men from the 11th East Lancs. were killed. Another 350 were wounded, of which 17 would eventually succumb to their wounds. Many of the Battalion died where they fell, in No Man’s Land.

As a result of the attack on the morning of the 1st July, the Chorley Pals – Y Company, had 31 men killed and three died within a month of their wounds received on that day. 21 have no known graves and their names are transcribed on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing on the Somme battlefield. A further 59 were wounded, making a total of 93 casualties out of approximately 175 men from Chorley who went over the top that morning.

Landscaping of the public realm by CW Studio.

Reversing now to the former Barclays Bank – which closed earlier in 2022.

We return now to the former Fine Fare.

The company began as one single supermarket in Welwyn Garden City in 1951, as an offshoot of the Welwyn Department Store, owned by Howardsgate Holdings, the company of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the garden city movement.

Wikipedia

Now here’s a thing a bank which is a bank NatWest not gone west.

Next to the former Woolworths, opened in Chorley in 1930 on Market Street, with its pale Deco faience fascia.

They traded from this building for sixty five years, before closing in March 1995 in order to move to a new store on Market Walk – it became an Argos, then it didn’t.

Woolies Buildings

Here we are now at a Post Office that is a Post Office but was an RBS Bank.

The new location is at the former Royal Bank of Scotland on Market Street in the town centre.

Since the Post Office that was based at WH Smith on New Market Street came to an end, when that store closed in January, it relocated to a temporary unit in Market Walk until a permanent solution could be found.

The unit, which had been provided by the postmaster from Burscough Bridge Post Office, closed on Tuesday.

Kenny Lamont, Post Office Network Provision Manager, said a Post Office is important to a community.

Lancashire Post

This had been a Methodist Church – then, it became the HQ of the Lancashire Electric Power Company.

The Lancashire Electric Power Company was one of the largest private electricity companies in the UK. It was established in 1900 and generated and supplied electricity to 1,200 squares miles of Lancashire from 1905 until its abolition under nationalisation in 1948.

Wikipedia

Time to back track to the Cop Shop – the work of County Architect Roger Booth and crew.

The Magistrates’ Courts are closed and up for sale.

Next door the White Hart once upon a time the Snooty Fox, a pub with an up and down trajectory – currently open and described online as plush.

Down the road a pub no longer a pub but an Urban Spa.

We offer you a full range of professional treatments tailored to your own personal needs. We treat every client as an individual and offer an extensive range of treatments and professional products making your visit one to remember.

Let’s go to the theatre – The Empire tucked away at the back of town.

The Empire Electric Theatre opened, as the town’s first purpose-built cinema, on 3rd September 1910. In 1912 Archie Hooley began his connection with the cinema business at the Empire Electric Theatre. By 1927 it had been re-named Empire Cinema and by 1930 it was equipped with a Western Electricsound system and was operated by the Perfecto Filmograph Co. Ltd. By 1939 it was operated by the Snape & Ward chain. According to the Kine Year Books, in 1940 the seating was for 800, while by 1952 it had been reduced to 679 – still a far cry from today’s 236 seats. 3D films were shown in the early-1950’s. Archie had died in 1944; his son Selwyn closed the cinema in 1957, apparently “because of the taxes”.

1959

Wrestling took over for a while before Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society – CADOS acquired the building and renamed it the Chorley Little Theatre. Since 1960 CADOS have been putting on high-quality productions, presenting at least six productions per season – from September to July. It is also the home of the award-winning Chorley Youth Theatre who meet every Saturday, putting on shows throughout the year; and Chorley Empire Community Cinema who present the cinema experience on their 21ft wide screen with 8-Speaker Surround Sound. Run entirely by volunteers the theatre has state-of-the-art sound systems and a full range of lighting equipment. There are two spacious dressing rooms, space for costumes and props and the Empire Bar. The building has disabled access throughout the public area, including a toilet, and the auditorium is fitted with a hearing loop. There are three spaces for wheelchairs in the auditorium. It was re-named Chorley Empire Cinema at Chorley Theatre in October 2019 and films are still part of the programming.

Cinema Treasures

Spare a thought for the town’s lost cinemas:

The Odeon Market Street was built for and operated by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, it opened on 21st February 1938 with Jack Buchanan in The Sky’s the Limit.

Architect Harry Weedon was assisted by PJ Price.

It was closed by the Rank Organisation on 6th February 1971 with George Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. After laying closed and un-used for over two years it was sold to an independent bingo operator and re-opened on 9th August 1973 as a Tudor Bingo Club. It later became a Gala Bingo Club which was renamed Buzz Bingo Club in June 2018. It was closed on March 21, 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. On 15th July 2020 it was announced that the closure would be permanent.

The building was handed over to Chorley Council who decided that asbestos removal would be too costly and the building was demolished in August 2021.

Located on Salisbury Street, off Cunliffe Street, built in 1888 as a military warehouse, it was converted into a roller skating rink around 1909. It opened as the Pavilion Picture Palace on 14th September 1911, operated by George Testo Sante, a music hall strong man, who also operated the Grand Theatre as a cinema. By 1915, music hall acts were also part of the programme. After the end of World War I, the flat floor of the cinema was raked, allowing for better viewing of the screen. The proscenium was 30ft wide, the stage was 16 feet deep and there were two dressing rooms.

The Pavilion Cinema was the first in town to screen ‘talkies, when an Electrochord sound system was installed in 1929. It was taken over by the J.F. Emery Circuit in 1932 and they operated it until the end of 1933. The sound system was upgraded to a British Talking Pictures sound system. In 1954 it was the first cinema in town to be fitted with CinemaScope and the proscenium was widened to 36 feet.

The Pavilion Cinema was closed by 1962 and converted into a bingo club. In 1972 it was re-opened as a cinema again, but due to Star Cinemas chain barring it from showing first run features – they operated the Plaza Cinema, it was closed after 5 months of operation. It was later demolished and the area was redeveloped for housing.

Cinema Treasures

No trace of The Hippodrome Theatre on Gillibrand Street, which was built and opened in 1909, or the Theatre Royal, opened on 30th September 1911, It was demolished in 1959.

A supermarket was built on the site which later became a McDonalds, which is now a Pizza Hut.

Last but not least – located on the Flat Iron Parade, aka Cattle Market, The Grand Theatre was a wooden building built in 1885, which presented melodramas and plays. In June 1909 it was taken over by George Testo Santo, who had been a music hall strongman, and his family. It went over to operating as a Picture Palace for a short season.

By 1914 it was operating as a full time cinema, but was destroyed by fire in 1914.

Chorley Theatre Cinema History Map

This was a splendid day out – there is much more to see, these have been some of the less obvious landmarks.

Go see for y’self!

Chorley Police Station and Magistrates’ Court

St Thomas’s Road Chorley PR7 1RZ

The police station and magistrates’ court at Chorley was designed to replace a building from 1896 – a weights and measures plaque from the original building was retained and remounted at the foot of the new building.

The two buildings were set adjacent one another and around a newly formed square with one side made up of the rear of the existing town hall. This small civic group was intended to relate to one another in scale, but was markedly contrasting in its material make-up.

County Architect’s Report: 1963-64.

The design team was Roger Booth, Lancashire County Architect; C.A. Spivey, Assistant County Architect; D.B. Stephenson, Design Architect; and D.G. Edwards, A.G. Gass, responsible for the detailed design and construction. The seven-storey in-situ concrete framed main block was the last bespoke police station to be built in Lancashire, following this the department developed a systemised concrete construction method which was deployed across the county. The dramatic cantilevers gave the new building a stature and presence that signalled authority. The lower levels were accessed by ramps and provided space for police vehicles. To enter the police station one ascended a set of external stairs across a pool that once contained koi carp – fittingly, one boy described the new building as a ‘fishtank’ upon its completion. The magistrates’ court was finished externally in a grey brick and carried the signature pyramid rooflights that were synonymous with the Department.

Many thanks to Richard at Mainstream Modern

This is one of many Roger Booth police stations I have visited – Bonny Street Blackpool under threat, Bury long gone and the extant variant in Morecambe

The Magistrates’ Court is up for sale:

Coun Alistair Bradley, Leader of Chorley Council, confirmed that the council had enquired to take ownership of the building but that this was knocked back.

He said: We’ve enquired about taking the building on but the owners, the Ministry of Justice, has said they want to take it to market.

Lancashire Post

The building is being advertised as a potential site for a future office, residential, restaurant and bar, leisure, entertainment, and hotel.

Asked about its future, Chorley councillor Aaron Beaver told Lancs Live he had heard no news of developments but desperately wanted to see something happen with the building, he said:

It’s a perfect location. There’s lots of things it could be used for. 

If you were to knock it down, there’s all sorts of things which could be built there. If you were to convert it to something like flats, it could be tricky because there’s not many windows.

Commenting on the progress of the sale since it’s closure, he added:

I wouldn’t say it’s slow moving, I’d say it’s not moving.

Lancs Live

We eagerly await any possible developments.

Whilst walking around the adjoining Police Station.

St John The Baptist RC – Rochdale 2022

I was last here in 2020 – made ever so welcome in this Byzantine cathedral like church.

The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.

Historic England

There had, as ever, been issues with the structure, water ingress and such, given several flat roofs and a temperamental ferro-concrete dome.

Happily, a successful Lottery Heritage Fund grant has covered the cost of two phases of repair to the physical fabric.

Thanks to the Parish Team, for once again making us all feel so welcome, and thanks also for their efforts in securing the finances which have made the restoration possible.

We were all issued with our hard hats and hi-vis at the comprehensive and informative introductory talks.

Followed by a detailed explanation of the mosaic work being undertaken by Gary and his team from the Mosaic Restoration Company.

This involves skilfully cleaning the whole work, whilst repairing and replacing any damaged areas.

We were then privileged to ascend the vast scaffold, the better to inspect the work up close and personal.

And this is what we saw.

Many thanks again to our hosts, the contractors and all those involved with this spectacular undertaking.

St Helens Stroll

By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal, and it no longer mattered where he was.

Paul Auster  City of Glass.

The station as built in 1961 to a design by the architect William Robert Headle, which included and advertised a significant amount of the local Pilkington Vitrolite Glass. The fully glazed ticket hall was illuminated by a tower with a valley roof on two Y-shaped supports. The platform canopies were free standing folded plate roofs on tubular columns.

The new station building and facilities were assembled just a few yards from the 1960s station building and is the third build on the same site. The project came in at a total estimated cost of £6 million, with the European Union contributing £1.7 million towards the total funding. The new footbridge was lifted into place in the early hours of 22 January 2007.

The striking Pilkington’s glass-fronted building was designed by architect SBS of Manchester. Construction work was completed in the summer, with the new waiting rooms and footbridge opened to passengers on 19 September. The new station building was officially opened on 3 December 2007.

Wikipedia

Emerging from the space age bubble of St Helens Central Station.

Turn right towards The Hippodrome

In the early Edwardian era a fine theatre was opened on 1st June 1903. It had been designed by local architect J A Baron and was on the site of an earlier theatre known as the Peoples Palace. It was operated as the New Hippodrome Cinema from 8th August 1938 when it reopened with Anna Neagle in Victoria the Great. On 1st September 1963 it was converted to a Surewin Bingo Club by Hutchinson Cinemas which continued to operate in 2008. By May 2019 it was independently operated as the Hippodrome Bingo Club.

Cinema Treasures

Onwards down Corporation Street to Century House, currently awaiting some care and attention and tenants.

Century House is a prominent landmark in St Helens town centre, being the tallest office building in place. The accommodation ranges over 9 floors, providing offices from a single person, to whole floors. In addition, all tenants benefit from the use of a modern break out space and meeting rooms, in addition to manned reception desk.

On The Market

Next to the Courthouse low lying, lean and landscaped.

Refurbished in 2012

Further on down the road the former Unitarian Chapel – now the Lucem House Community Cinema.

On the corner the YMCA offers a cornucopia of architectural styles and fun.

Including this geometric brick panel.

Around the corner to the Police Station by Lancashire County Architect Roger Booth.

Down the way the derelict Job Centre.

There are plans afoot for conversion to apartments.

Former Capitol Cinema.

Architects: Frederick Evans and Edwin Sheridan Gray

The Capitol Cinema opened on 3rd October 1929 by an independent operator. It stood on a prominent corner site at North Road and Duke Street – known as Capitol Corner.

The Capitol Cinema was taken over by Liverpool-based Regent Enterprises Ltd. in 1929, and by the Associated British Cinemas – ABC chain in 1935. It underwent a renovation in the 1960’s, and was closed by ABC on 9th December 1978.

The building was converted into a sports centre, by 2009 it was a Central Fitness gymnasium.

Cinema Treasures

Along the way to St Mary Lowe House RC – the style is a combination of Gothic and Byzantine elements. One of the most unusual fittings is the carillon, one of the largest in the British Isles with 47 bells, which was installed in 1930 and is still played regularly.

Architect: CB Powell 1924-30 Grade II Listed

Taking Stock

Next to the Ormskirk Street United Reformed Church

Ken Fisher’s first APEC project 1976

The main approach is identified by a beak-like porch which projects from the main cladding.  In this space hangs a recast eighteenth century bell, from the original chapel.

Let’s take it to the Midland, Nat West and Barclays Banks.

With an intermediate former Gas Showroom.

Next to the Church of St Helen.

Architect: WD Caroe 1920-26 Grade II Listed

A chapel has been on the site since at least the 16th century. The chapel was doubled in size in 1816, but burnt down in 1916. It is the parish church of the town, and stands in a prominent position.

St Mary’s Car Park a multi-storey masterpiece straight outa Dessau.

Next crossing a complex web of inner ring roads designed with the beleaguered pedestrian at the forefront of the planners’ minds.

To the inter-war Pilkington’s Offices – Reflection Court

Architects: Herbert J Rowse and Kenneth Cheeseman 1937-41 Grade II Listed.

Historic England

Onwards to the Post office – sorted.

Bolton Walk

Organised by the Twentieth Century Society

Text by Eddy Rhead and David French.

Bolton Town Hall – 1873 was designed by William Hill of Leeds, with Bolton architect George Woodhouse.

The original building was extended in 1938 by Bradshaw Gass & Hope – hereafter BGH.

Le Mans Crescent by BGH 1932-9 well complements the Town Hall extension. Its neo-classical design is assured and confident. Pevsner remarked that:

There is, surprisingly enough, no tiredness, the panache is kept up.

Three arches pierce the Crescent’s centre but today they lead only to a potential development site. One end of the Crescent contains the Art Gallery and Library; the other used to house the former Police Headquarters and Magistrates’ Courts.

George Grenfell Baines, the founder of the Building Design Partnership, was involved in this project when he worked for BGH in the 1930s

The Octagon 1966-67 originally by Geoffrey Brooks, the borough architect, rebuilt 2018-2021. The hexagonal auditorium has apparently been retained. Pevsner states of the former building:

A welcome dose of honest Brutalism.

The Wellsprings successfully fitting with the Town Hall

The former 1931 Cooperative Society Store, on the Oxford Street corner, is by BGH. The entrance has Doric columns in deference to the Town Hall’s Corinthian ones – and Le Mans Crescent uses the Ionic for the same reason.

We pass Paderborn House 1968 -69 Sutton of Birmingham clad in moulded concrete, with Traverine around the entrance.

Former Lloyds Bank on Deangate corner, clad in white faience, looks BGH-ish but it’s not listed in the Lingards’ BGH monograph.

Across the way the unlisted Post Office – complete with listed phone boxes.

Whitakers 1907 by George Crowther.

Pastiche timber-framed with pepper-pot turret.

Incorporates genuine Tudor timbers from a demolished building nearby.

To the north of Deansgate, down Knowsley and Market Streets, is GT Robinson’s 1851-6 Market Hall. The interior is, according to Matthew Hyde: a lucid structure simply revealed.

He contrasts it with Market Place Centre 1980-88 by Chapman Taylor Partners: In that most ephemeral of styles, a jokey Postmodernism.

It does however echo Victoria Hall 1898-1900 BGH.

Chapman Taylor also did the 1980-8 Market Place Shopping Centre. The Market Hall was built over an impressive brick undercroft above the River Croal which has recently been opened up and is a destination.

At the Oxford Street corner, Slater Menswear, above Caffé Nero, has Art Deco white faience upper storeys.  Further down is the imposing Marks & Spencer, faced in dark stone 1965-67.

The mansard roof was added later.

Along Market Street, Clinton Cards is clad in white faience with Art Deco window details.

At the corner of Bridge Street is a charming 1960s clock; the building would not look out of place in Coventry.

Other buildings of interest on Deansgate include Superdrug – with some Art Deco features; Greggs by Ernest Prestwich of Leigh who trained with WE Riley. 

Sally Beauty and the Nationwide – entrance by William Owen of BGH.

The former Preston’s jewellers, on the corner of Bank Street, has terracotta, by Thomas Smith & Sons 1908-13, a prolific local firm. It had a time ball, on the clock tower, which was raised daily at 9am and dropped at 10am, on receipt of a telegraph signal from Greenwich.

The 1909 Bolton Cross, in Dartmoor granite, by BGH replaced an earlier one which is now kept at Bolton School. Churchgate contains the 1636 Ye Olde Man & Scythe; the former coaching inn Swan Hotel, reconstructed in the 1970s to look more genuinely Georgian and Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe 1667. 

Stone Cross House 1991 was built for the Inland Revenue in an aggressively red brick and spiky style. It has a rather desperate chandelier in the foyer. 

The gates of St Peter’s church EG Paley 1871 are framed by Travel House, Newspaper House -1998 and Churchgate House and Huntingdon House 1974.

St Peter’s has a Neo-Gothic font and cover by N Cachemaille-Day 1938. The gates and gate piers may look early C20 but they are late C18.

Samuel Crompton 1753-1827, the inventor of the mule, is buried under the large granite monument, erected in 1861.

At the corner of Silverwell and Institute Streets is WT Gunson & Son’s 1970 Friends Meeting House: decent with a light elevated roof corner.  It has a tilted roof floating on the glazed upper walls.

Scott House has a charming 1926 plaque commemorating Sir James Scott and his wife Lady Anne. Scott started the Provincial Insurance Company.

The two storey offices of Fieldings and Porter are a successful piece of infill by BGH.

Nip around the back to get a glimpse of this cracking stairway.

Silverwell Street 1810 is named after the Silver Well. Bradshaw Gass & Hope now self­-described as Construction Design Consultants, not architects, are at number 19. Note the plaque to JW Wallace, founder of the Eagle Street College, dedicated to the works of the American poet, Walt Whitman. Wallace worked there from 1867 to 1912. The plaque is ringed by a quote from Whitman:

All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it.

Whitman corresponded with his Bolton admirers; the Museum contains early editions of his works and his stuffed canary. 

Further down Silverwell Street is the 1903 Estate Office of the Earl of Bradford who still owns a large area of Bolton.  At the end of Silverwell Street is the former Sun Alliance House, now converted to flats, the colourful panels are a later addition.

Bradshawgate and Silverwell lane corner has a former café bar with original curved Moderne windows. This was originally Vose’s tripe restaurant, later UCP – United Cattle Products. It was most stylish and elegant, decorated in 1930s streamline Moderne style, with starched white tablecloths, silver service and smart waitresses. 

Nelson Square was opened on March 23, 1893. The cenotaph memorial to the Bolton Ar­tillery is by Ormrod, Pomeroy & Foy 1920. Calder Marshall sculpted the statue of Samuel Crompton 1862. The shiny red former Prudential Assurance office 1889 isn’t by Waterhouse but by Ralph B. Maccoll of Bolton. Matthew Hyde in Pevsner describes the early C20 faience facades of Bradshawgate as:

A plateful of mushy pea, ginger nut, liver, tripe and blood orange shades.

Infirmary Street has a 1970s office block with an octagonal, nicely lettered plaque to WF Tillotson, newspaper publisher. Round the corner in Mawdsley Street, the former County Court 1869 TC Sorby, 1869. Opposite, at the corner, is GWBD Partnership’s 1987 St Andrew’s Court, containing a somewhat whimsical recreation of a Victorian shopping street in miniature. The job architect was J Holland. Matthew Hyde says:

Neatly contrived on a tight site. 

Into Exchange Street and through the former Arndale Centre 1971; low and mean according to Pevsner 2004, now re-branded as Crompton Place 1989 Bradshaw, Rose & Harker and still dreary, we go to Victoria Square and the Town Hall. The classical building on the left is the former Bolton Exchange 1824-5 Richard Lane.

The square was pedestrianised in 1969, to the Planning Department’s designs, under RH Ogden. It was quite an early scheme which won three awards including one, unsurprisingly, from the Concrete Society. The fountains  were designed by Geoffrey Brooks and the trees were planted by the Earl of Bradford.

Owen Hatherley in Modern Buildings in Britain says of the town

It feels as if you’re in a real city, like in Europe, and you can drink your cup of tea in repose while admiring the monuments. 

IRK VALLEY #TWO

Having walked and cycled twixt Victoria Station and Blackley, I returned once more to the Hexagon Tower to resume my explorations towards the source in Royton.

Beginning on Delaunays Road and onwards along Blackley New Road.

The footpath falls away from the main road to the wooded valley.

Returning to the road I was distracted by Sandyhill Court and the reliefs which I discovered there.

I was also taken with with this electrical substation.

We are encouraged to be wild about Blackley Vale a reclaimed landfill site.

Across the Victoria Avenue Bridge and down the other side.

Emerging by Sainsbury’s and picking up the path again.

Onwards under the M60 Motorway.

The M60 was developed by connecting and consolidating the existing motorway sections of the M63M62, and an extended M66. It came into existence as the M60 in 2000, with the completion of the eastern side opening in October.

The original plan called for a completely new motorway, but policy change led to the plan which created the current motorway. As soon as it opened, the motorway got close to its projected maximum volume on significant sections.

Hey look there’s Alkrington Hall!

This Palladian mansion was designed and built in 1736 by renowned architect, Giacomo Leoni, who had also been responsible for significant alterations to Lyme Hall during the same period.  

Offering an infusion of historical significance coupled with an abundance of living space throughout, Alkrington Hall East, simply must be viewed to be appreciated in full.  

During the early 1770’s, the Hall became the largest museum outside of London, when the Hall’s owner, Sir Ashton Lever, exhibited his private collection of natural objects, including live animals. Remaining as an imposing symbol of Leoni’s work, Alkrington Hall remains one of only a few surviving examples throughout England.  

In modern times, the Hall has since been carefully and sympathetically separated into 4 sections, and we are pleased to be offering for sale the largest portion of the Hall, with a total floor area comprising of over 7500 SQFT, and living accommodation spread over 4 floors.  

Sold for £825,00 in 2021 Savills

Seen here in 1870

Next thing you know you find yourself in Middleton, where the Irk sort of disappears – you sort of get lost and sort of follow the wrong track, eventually ending up back where you should have been in the first place.

Don’t follow Wince Brook – it’s so far from right that it’s wrong – right?

Take a walk up Oldham Road to see Warwick Mill instead.

1907 by G Stott of J Stott and Sons – Red brick with internal cast-iron frame.

Grade II Listed

There was and Oval Partnership planning for a retail development in 2014 which failed to materialise.

The converted building will provide a showcase for Chinese manufacturers of construction-related products looking to enter the UK and wider European markets. Products on display will include tiles, lighting, furniture, kitchenware, sanitary ware and curtains. A second phase will see the construction of a new building alongside effectively doubling the floor space. In addition the brief includes a range of restaurant, leisure, culture and entertainment facilities threaded through the building. The conversion will open up the existing building in a dramatic way, maximizing permeability and providing a strong visual connection back into the town, promoting public access through the building to the attractive south-facing waterside of the mill.

Permeability failed to be maximised, sadly.

Ambitious plans to refurbish Grade II listed Warwick Mill to create new homes and breathe life into an important building and part of Middleton’s history have been drawn up. 

Warwick Mill has recently changed ownership and the new owners, Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd, have been working with Rochdale Borough Council over the last nine months to develop proposals to redevelop the site.

Rochdale Council

So far so CGI good- the town eagerly awaits a surfeit of high end SUV owners.

Former clog wearing mill workers remain silent on such matters.

The Job Centre steadfastly remains a Job Centre.

The river reappears here in back of the Middleton Arena.

Proceeding in a disorderly manner.

Emerging by this substantial substation.

Across the way is Lodge Mill.

A Middleton couple has saved the oldest surviving mill in the town after a two-year renovation project.

Located on Townley Street, Lodge Mill was built in the mid-1800s and was originally a silk weaving mill. It went on to cotton weaving and cloth dying, then to a home for many different small local businesses. Sadly, in the early 2000s, it fell into disrepair and became derelict.

Martin Cove and Paula Hickey bought Lodge Mill on 1 April 2019 and immediately set about replacing and repairing the roof. They also installed a 19.4kw solar PV system so the mill became its own little power station that summer.

In August 2019, the couple opened a small ice cream shop on the ground floor of the mill – named the Ice Cream Shop at Lodge – selling locally-made ice cream from Birch Farm, Heywood.

The ice cream is made using cream from Tetlow Farm’s dairy herd at Slattocks – Martin explained.

Rochdale Online

It was £2.25 for two scoops and a flake – a welcome oasis on a warmish day.

Sadly in December 2021 there was a serious fire, work has since been done to repair the roof.

A poorly signed footpath takes you back riverside by way of assorted industrial debris.

Still very much in use the Vitafoam Mill

Founded in 1949 on £100 capital, Vitafoam started its original operation manufacturing latex foam products in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

After establishing the business, the company made a major move to its current site in Middleton, Manchester in 1955, acquiring two empty former cotton mills to cope with increased demand.

By 1963, Vitafoam had added the manufacture of polyurethane foam to its business and was providing product speciality for upholstery and bedding markets.

As Vitafoam entered the new millennium the company had made great strides in supplying external foam converters. These rely on Vitafoam to be their business partner and provide their foam needs. This trend continues to grow from strength to strength and is supplemented by our own group conversion companies.

Regaining the river at Chadderton Hall Park.

Its roots stretch back to the 13th century being the land on which Chadderton Hall once stood. It contains a large field area with a small football pitch, a playground area, several flower gardens and a small café situated next to the Park’s bowling green.

Chadderton Hall was first built in the 13th century by Geoffrey de Chadderton, this first hall was in Chadderton Fold slightly to the east of the current park. In 1629 a new hall was built at the site of the current park and was present there until the 20th century when it was demolished in 1939. It was at the end of the 19th Century that the area surrounding Chadderton Hall began to be used for public recreation. A boating lake and a menagerie, including a kangaroo and a lion, were established as part of a Pleasure Garden. These features have long since been demolished but evidence of the boating lake can be seen by the hollowed out area where the playing fields now stand.

Wikipedia

Diminishing now the river thin and shallow, as we rise into the hills on the outskirts of Greater Manchester.

Passing by Royton Cricket Club as the river disappears again.

Based in the heart of Thorpe Estate – Royton Cricket, Bowling & Running Club offers a family friendly environment whilst hosting strong, competitive cricket throughout the summer. Bowling throughout the summer along with a Running section – Royton Road Runners, who operate all year round. Along with seasonal events such as our well known firework display along with St Georges Day celebrations – with plans in the pipeline for improvements on current events as well as new exciting projects – it’s a great time to be apart of the club & community!

I have very fond memories of visiting with my dad Eddie Marland as he followed Ashton in the Central Lancashire League – both watching cricket and seeing my dad crown green bowling here.

The river has gone underground again.

To be found on Salmon Fields – in pool form.

Site of a Life for a Life Memorial Forest

These now full memorial forests were originally donated to Life for a Life by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council. Salmon Fields meadow sits adjacent to a lovely pond that is used regularly by fishing enthusiasts and is frequently used as a breeding site for Canadian Geese.

Life for a Life planting areas are natural environments where we encourage wildlife and plantlife to flourish, as such additional items should not be added to the tree or the space around it, especially as they can cause damage to the tree. 

Please be aware that any prohibited items left on or around memorial trees will be removed. 

Although these sites are now full to the planting of new memorial trees if you have an existing memorial tree dedicated you can still upgrade memorial plaques, add additional ashes to a memorial tree, order memorial keepsakes etc.

St Jude’s RC – Wigan

St. Jude’s Church Poolstock Lane/St Paul’s Avenue Wigan WN3 5JE

Following the demolition of many working class homes in central Wigan in the early-to-mid 20th century there was a migration to new council estates on the outskirts of the town including new developments in the Poolstock and Worsley Mesnes localities. In order to cater to the Catholic inhabitants of the new estates Father Richard Tobin of St Joseph’s parish in Wigan, established a chapel of ease – described as a wooden hut, on St Paul’s Avenue in 1959.

In 1962 Tobin wrote to the Archbishop of Liverpool George Andrew Beck with his proposals for a new, permanent church, suggesting that the church should be dedicated either to St Jude or Our Lady of the Assumption.

Beck replied on 15 March:

My dear Father Tobin, Many thanks for your letter. I like your suggestion of St. Jude as a patron of the new church. We already have a parish in honour of The Assumption but none, so far as I know, to St. Jude. I assume that you do not intend to suggest by this title that Wigan is a hopeless case!

The Liverpool architects L A G Prichard & Sons were engaged and work began in the summer of 1963. Subsidence caused by coal mining in the area necessitated reinforced foundations and the final cost was over £100,000. The foundation stone was laid by Archbishop Beck in December 1964 and the church was opened for worship in July 1965.

Wikipedia

The church was Grade II listed on 26th April 2013

The most remarkable feature of the church is the dalle de verre stained glass on the walls of the nave, designed by Robin Riley, made by Verriers de St Jobain in France and fitted by glaziers J O’Neill and Sons. 

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.

BT Telephone Exchange – Ashton under Lyne

BT Roundabout OL6 6QQ

In 1913 Ashton is already a crowded town, a cotton town.

The first telephone exchange arrives and sweeps away property at the junction of Scotland and Bedford Streets.

The second arrives along with the bypass and establishes a roundabout, an island of telecommunication.

Tameside Image Archive

There they sit betwixt St Michael’s Parish Church and Albion Congregational.

A marriage of inter-war brick Revivalism and post-war concrete Brutalism.

Ninety nine point nine percent of the passing parade pass by onto the bypass by car, I took time to circumnavigate the site on foot.

This is what I saw.

Sea Fishing – North Shore Blackpool

I love to walk the long concrete promenade along the North Shore.

In fact I’ve previously written all about it.

One very sunny post lockdown day I walked along again.

I was taken by the strung out procession of anglers casting from the sea wall.

So I took some pictures.

Tiles – St Pauls Road Preston

Preston Vocational Centre PR1 1PX

Traversing the mighty A6, as it passes through Preston and on up along St Pauls Road.

You’re in for a big surprise, for on the wall of the Vocational Centre is a splendid display of tiles.

Fiercely geometric, featuring strong linking lines and dynamic dotty dots, softened by a delicate hand-drawn woven mesh.

The varied and distinctive palette set against a pale mid-grey ground.

Well worth the walk even on the rainiest of days in early May.

Reminiscent of the Carter’s Tiles adorning Castle House stairwells in Sheffield.

But actually manufactured by Pilkington’s.

Bonny Street Police Station – Blackpool

We are here are again – you Bonny Street bobbies, it seems, are not.

Departed for pastures new – to Marton near to the big Tesco. 

As well as a front counter, the new headquarters provides a base for some of the local policing and immediate response teams, an investigations hub and 42 custody cells.

Live Blackpool

On my previous visit I was in fact apprehended by a uniformed officer, perturbed by my super-snappy happy behaviour. Following a protracted discussion, I convinced the eager young boy in blue, that my intentions were entirely honourable.

Having visited the Morecambe site un-accosted.

And witnessed Bury’s demise.

I’m something of a Roger Booth aficionado, largely still at large.

Whilst Richard Brook is something of an expert.

Suffice to say I pay a visit to see my old pal the cop shop, whenever I find myself in town, stop to chat and snap – how are things, what’s happening?

Blackpool Central that’s what!

It seems that you are to become an Alien Diner.

Themed bar and event restaurant concept with roller coaster service, hourly special effects shows and exploration tours.

The £300m Blackpool Central development will bring world-class visitor attractions to a landmark site on the famous Golden Mile. Along with new hotels, restaurants, food market, event square, residential apartments and multi-storey parking.

Chariots of the Gods inspires the masterplan for the long-awaited redevelopment. It’s the global publishing phenomenon, written by Swiss author Erich Von Däniken. Exploring alien encounters and unsolved mysteries of ancient civilisations.

Chariots Of The Gods will be the main theme for Blackpool Central. Including the anchor attraction – the UK’s first flying theatre.

A fully-immersive thrill ride that will create the incredible sensation of human flight.

Time it seems changes everything, stranger than fiction.

The Bonny Street Beast’s days are numbered – your local Brutalist pal is no more, wither Wilko’s?

Your piazza planters are waterlogged.

Your lower portals tinned up.

Your curious sculptural infrastructure sunken garden neglected and forlorn.

Your low lying out-rigger stares blankly yet ominously into space.

Likewise your tinted windows.

Your subterranean car park access aromatic and alienating.

So farewell old pal, who knows what fate awaits you, I only know you must be strong.

Not until we have taken a look into the future shall we be strong and bold enough to investigate our past honestly and impartially. 

How often the pillars of our wisdom have crumbled into dust! 
 

Erich von Däniken

North Shore Blackpool

Here we are again, having posted a post way back when – on Seaside Moderne.

Where the whole tale is told – the tale of Borough Architect John Charles Robinson‘s inter-war Deco dream tempered by Municipal Classicism. A stretch of Pulhamite artificial rock cliffs 100ft high between the new gardens and the lower promenade constructed in 1923. The lower promenade at sea level was remodelled during 1923–5 with a colonnaded middle walk.

So here we are again September 2020, a country in Covid crisis bereft of crowds.

I took a short walk along its length – to the lift and back.

The Cabin Lift is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * It is a nationally rare type of seaside structure that is of interest as part of the history and development of certain seaside resorts * It is of a well-executed design and uses good-quality material to good effect that can be particularly appreciated from the upper promenade * It is a conspicuous and eye-catching structure especially when viewed to maximum effect from the lower promenade * The Cabin Lift’s architectural merit contributes significantly to Blackpool’s importance as a holiday resort of national and international renown.

Historic England

This is where they stop to stare, to stare at the sea, shaking solace in distant waves, lapping gently on soft sands.

The rusting rails, beleaguered benches and stolid junction boxes, calmly resist the erosion of sea and salt airs with grace.

Returning to the tower and the outstretched pier, southbound.

St John The Baptist RC – Rochdale

I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit St John’s several times over the years and doubly pleased to visit with a group of some 30 Modernists in March 2020 as part of a Rochdale Walk, prior to the lockdown days later.

I cannot thank Christine Mathewson and her fellow volunteers enough for the warm welcome we were given. They take such pride in their church and are eager to convey that pride along with their obvious erudition.

Approaching from the adjacent railway station we could not fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the church, a wonderful mix of the Byzantine and restrained Art Deco – most clearly expressed in the sculptural angels looming high above the tram stop.

The building is Grade II* Listed and deservedly so – details can be found here on the Historic England site.

The original design pre-1917 by Oswald Hill, executed in 1923-25 by Ernest Bower Norris. Henry Oswald Hill was a promising architect with a clear interest in contemporary church-building trends, as evidenced here and at the nearby RC Church of St Joseph, Heywood, he was tragically killed in action in the First World War.

St Joseph’s

The church uses concrete to its advantage in the construction of the striking, 20m-wide central dome, surrounded by the delicate touch of several arched stained glass windows at the perimeter.

Illuminating the concave space in a heavenly manner.

The apsed sanctuary contains an encompassing mosaic scheme of powerful emotional intensity designed by leading mosaic designer, Eric Newton of specialist firm Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd.

The mosaic is breathtaking in scale, design and execution – nothing can prepare you for its impact as you enter the church.

The quality of the sanctuary mosaic is further enhanced by the use of high-quality tesserae made of stone, coloured marbles and coloured glass, set off by a shimmering background of gold tesserae.

The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.

Historic England

The whole building is full of surprising details of the highest quality.

Lit by simplest yet most effective stained glass.

This is an exemplary building, on entering one is filled with both calm and awe, an experience which is never diminished by subsequent visits.

The mosaic work is on local and international significance – it is unthinkable that it may ever be lost to us, or that funding was not forthcoming to secure its future into perpetuity.

I implore you to visit, whensoever that may be possible.

Please take a moment append your comments on this post and play some small part in ensuring the St John’s is preserved for generations to come.

Fairfield Greater Manchester

Fairfield is a suburb of Droylsden in Tameside, Greater Manchester, England. Historically in Lancashire, it is just south of the Ashton Canal on the A635 road. In the 19th century, it was described as “a seat of cotton manufacture”. W. M. Christy and Sons established a mill that produced the first woven towels in England at Fairfield Mill.

Fairfield is the location of Fairfield High School for Girls and Fairfield railway station.

The community has been home to members of the Moravian Church for many years after Fairfield Moravian Church and Moravian Settlement were established in 1783.

Notable people from Fairfield include the artist Arthur Hardwick Marsh (1842-1909)

Also the merchant banker and art collector Robin Benson (1850–1929).

Drawing – John Singer Sargent

Charles Hindley 1796 – 1857 was an English cotton mill-owner and radical politician the first Moravian to be elected as an MP.

Turning into Fairfield Avenue from Ashton Old Road you’ll find Broadway sitting prettily on your right hand side. It was intended to be an extensive Garden Village but was abandoned at the outbreak of the First World War. The estate consists of 39 houses, built between 1914 and 1920 in a neo-Georgian style. These are a mixture of detached, semi-detached and terraces in a range of sizes.

Edgar Wood and James Henry Sellers were the architects responsible for the scheme.

Broadway is a small scale example of a garden suburb development and is composed of a mixture of detached, semi detached and terraced houses ranging in size and built in a reddish-orange brick with dark brick dressing and patterning. The properties appear to be generously proportioned and they share similarities in design and construction and a unifying scheme of decoration.

It is suggested that theimaginative exploitation of the levels and texture suggest that Woods was responsible for the layout, but the chaste Neo-Georgian character of the houses undoubtedly reflects the taste of Sellers’.

It forms a major part of the Fairfield Conservation Area.

Sneaking through the alley – lined with a Yorkshire Stone fence you enter the Moravian Settlement.

Engraving 1794

The Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Church is an international Protestant Christian group which originated from the followers of Jan Hus in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) during the 15th century. As a result of persecution, the group eventually re-established itself in Saxony in the early 18th century, and it is from there that followers first came to this country in the 1730s, with the intention to go on to carry out missionary work in America and the Caribbean. A decision was taken to establish the first Moravian Settlement in England at Fulneck in Yorkshire in 1744. The first Moravian settlement to be located in Tameside was in Dukinfield during the 1740s. It was there that they laid the foundation stone for their chapel at the top of Old Road in May 1751. By 1783, 40 years after their first arrival in Tameside, the lease on their land at Dukinfield expired, and negotiations for a new one proved difficult. This resulted in the purchase and removal of the community to a 54 acres site at Broad Oak Farm in Droylsden where they established a new settlement known as Fairfield.

As well as providing domestic accommodation, the buildings at Fairfield had industrial functions. During the late 18th and 19th centuries the Settlement would have been a hive of religious and industrial activity, which included the church, schools, domestic dwellings, inn, shop, bakery, laundry, farm, fire engine, night-watchman, inspector of weights and measures, an overseer of roads, physician, as well as handloom weaving and embroidery.

Turnpike Centre – Leigh

The Turnpike Centre was designed by J C Prestwich and Sons architects, who, incidentally, also designed Leigh Town Hall nearly 70 years earlier.

Since its opening in 1971, the bustling library, thriving art gallery and popular meeting rooms have seen a phenomenal 12 million people walk through the doors, while staff have answered almost 400 thousand questions and issued more than 17 million books, cassettes and CDs.

The fascia is graced by a grand cast concrete relief the work of William Mitchell.

All but abandoned by the cash-strapped local council in 2013, Turnpike Gallery in the former mining town of Leigh near Wigan, is entering a new stage in its history with the creation of a community interest company to run its programme.

Natalie Bradbury a.n

Helen Stalker has curated and promoted a series of fine exhibitions in the interim period – sadly arrested by current circumstances.

Let’s take a look around the exterior of a building which reflects the confidence and pride of a very individual town.

On our last visit we even got to look up on the roof.

So post lockdown, when you feel it’s safe and socially acceptable to do so travel to Leigh – take a look.

A Short Walk Around Guide Bridge

This is a short walk from Mediprop to Guide Bridge Station under half a mile, over two hundred years of history.

Hovering above ground level, rising above the rail.

Between the Ashton Canal.

The canal received its Act of Parliament in 1792. It was built to supply coal from Oldham and Ashton under Lyne to Manchester. The first section between Ancoats Lane to Ashton-under-Lyne and Hollinwood was completed in 1796.