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.

And the Great Central Railway originally Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway.

The Great Central Railway in England came into being when the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway changed its name in 1897, anticipating the opening in 1899 of its London Extension. On 1 January 1923, the company was grouped into the London and North Eastern Railway.

I had walked beside the elevated path, alongside the canal coming home from school, rode by it whilst working as a Guide Bridge goods guard.

This was busy railway, steel coal, oil and people hurtling back and forth across the Pennines, under the DC wires of the Woodhead Line.

One memorable night the Royal Train stayed overnight, in what are now the SB Rail OTM sidings.

Toffs in dinner jackets were leaning from the windows, as we gazed in awe from the platform.

Swietelsky is one of Austria’s leading construction companies with international contracts encompassing highways, tunnelling, residential and commercial developments, alpine construction and railways.

The journey ends by the seriously depleted station buildings, the buffet bar, depot and engine shed long gone.

Along with the Jone’s Sewing Machine Company all long gone.

Thomas Chadwick later joined Bradbury & Co. William Jones opened a factory in Guide Bridge, Manchester in 1869. In 1893 a Jones advertising sheet claimed that this factory was the – Largest Factory in England Exclusively Making First Class Sewing Machines. The firm was renamed as the Jones Sewing Machine Co. Ltd and was later acquired by Brother Industries of Japan, in 1968. The Jones name still appeared on the machines till the late 1980s.

From 1987 until 1999 Brother were sponsors of Manchester City FC.

The site is now home to new homes and homeowners, as the are seeks to capitalise on the spread of wealth from Central Manchester.

Arnfield Woods is an exclusive development offering two, three and four bedroom homes, located adjacent to the Guide Bridge train station, which provides direct access into Manchester City Centre  and direct access into Glossop.

The world turns:

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change.

Thomas Hardy.

Let’s take a walk together.

Civic Centre – Wigan Again

I’ve been here before, no not in some strange déjà vu sense.

I’ve been here before – look!

Three years on, now in the shadow of the newly built Life Centre, you stand alone unloved – empty.

But the future of the Modernist landmark, which was first put in service by the borough in the early 70s, remains unclear. There is speculation that the Millgate building, first unveiled by Wigan Mayor John Farrimond, could become a hotel.

Last October the Wigan Observer revealed how the council had enjoyed mixed fortunes when it came to marketing elements of its existing property portfolio.

But the council has been successful in offloading some venues, with Ince Town Hall now home to Little Giggles nursery.

So who knows what fate awaits you – the town I am told is on the up.

Let’s hope that the Civic Centre is not coming down

Forton Services – M6 Lancaster

Possibly the most famous modern motorway services in the entire land.

Though I’ve never been to see you – I’ve seen your picture reproduced a thousand times or more, particularly your Pennine Tower.

Your even found your way onto a Manchester Modernist’s shirt.

I ride a bicycle, which seriously restricts my access to the world of the M – one and six or otherwise. Having a more than somewhat ambivalent outlook on motor cars and their ways I have nevertheless written a short history.

So to satisfy my idle curiosity, and fill the damp wasteland of a Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, let’s go on a little trip back in time by means of archival images.

What of your history?

Tendering documents were sent out in 1962 describing it as a 17.7 acre site, requiring at least a £250,000 investment, including an eastern corner reserved for a picnic area, and an emphasis that the views to the west must be considered in the design, and facilities must be provided on both sides. Replies were received – from Telefusion Ltd, J Lyons, Banquets Catering Ltd, Granada and Rank

Top Rank’s plan came consistently highly rated by all the experts it was passed between. It showed a restaurant and a self-service café on the west side, the restaurant being at the top of a 96ft (29m) tower. At the top of the tower was a sun terrace – a roof with glass walls, which they had described but hadn’t included any suggestions for how it could be used, adding that maybe it could form an observation platform, serve teas, or be reserved for an additional storey to the restaurant.

Including a transport café on each site, seating was provided for 700 people, with 101 toilets and 403 parking spaces. A kiosk and toilets were provided in the picnic area.

“The winning design looks first class. Congratulations.”

Architects T P Bennett & Sons had been commissioned to design the services, along with the similar Hilton Park. At £885,000, it was the most expensive service station Rank built, and was considerably more than what had been asked of them. They won the contract, but on a condition imposed by the Landscape Advisory Committee that the height of the tower was reduced to something less striking.

Lancaster was opened in 1965 by Rank under the name ‘Forton’. The petrol station opened early in January, with some additional southbound facilities opening that Spring.

The southbound amenity building had a lowered section with a Quick Snacks machine and the toilets. Above it was the transport café which had only an Autosnacks machine, where staff loaded hot meals into the back and customers paid to release them. These were the motorway network’s first catering vending machines, and the Ministry of Transport were won round by the idea, but Rank weren’t – they removed them due to low demand.

In 1977, Egon Ronay rated the services as appalling. The steak and kidney pie was an insult to one’s taste buds while the apple pie was an absolute disgrace. He said everywhere needed maintenance and a coat of paint, the toilets were smelly and dirty, and the food on display was most unattractive.

A 1978 government review described the services as a soulless fairground.

The Forton Services and the typology generally have had a chequered career, rising and falling in public favour and perception. Purveying food and facilities of varying quality, changing style and vendors with depressing regularity – knowing the value of nothing yet, the Costas of everything.

Ironically the prematurely diminished tower has taken on iconic status in the Modernist canon – listed in 2012 yet closed to the public, admired from afar – in a car.

The Pennine Tower was designed to make the services clearly visible – the ban on advertising had always been an issue, and the previous technique of having a restaurant on a bridge, like down the road at Charnock Richard, was proving expensive and impractical. Rank commissioned architects T P Bennett & Sons to capitalise on the benefits of exciting design while trialling something different. The tower resembles that used by air traffic control, summarising the dreams of the ’60s.

The central shaft consists of two lifts, which were originally a pentagonal design until they were replaced in 2017. They’re still in use to access the first floor, but with the buttons to higher floors disabled. There are then three service lifts, and one spiral staircase – satisfying typical health and safety regulations.

At the top of the tower stood a fine-dining waitress service restaurant, offering views over the road below and across Lancashire. Above the restaurant the lift extended to roof-level, to allow the roof to serve as a sun terrace – although Rank admitted they weren’t sure what this could be used for, suggesting serving tea or eventually building another level.

In reality social changes and cost-cutting limited the desirability of a sit-down meal, and this coupled with high maintenance costs made the tower fall out of favour. The ‘fine dining’ restaurant became the trucking lounge that had been on the first floor, before closing to the public in 1989. It then soldiered on for another 15 years, partially re-fitted, as a head office, then staff training and storage, but even this became too impractical, and the tower is now not used at all.

Although the tower is unique to these services, the concept of large high-level floors can be seen in many Rank services of the era, the idea of each one being to have a visible landmark and a good view of the surrounding area, such as at Hilton Park. The lower-level restaurant at Forton sticks out over the first floor, and partially in to the road, to give an optimum view. Toilets and offices were in the ground floor buildings below.

There are lots of myths flying around that the tower was forced to close by safety regulations, and that it is about to fall down. Like any building which hasn’t been used for 30 years it would take a lot of investment to get it open again, and with roadside restaurants across the country closing due to a lack of trade, nobody has come up with an convincing plan to justify investing in the Pennine Tower.

Many thanks to Motorway Services Online

Take a look at you now.

No more postcards home – y’all come back now, set a spell.

Leyland – St Mary’s Church

It never fails to surprise, turning the corner of a somewhat anonymous suburban street to find:

A building of outstanding importance for its architectural design, advanced liturgical planning and artistic quality of the fixtures and fittings.

Broadfield Drive Leyland Lancashire PR25 1PD

The Benedictines came to Leyland in 1845 and the first Church of St. Mary’s was built on Worden Lane in 1854. The Catholic population was small at this time, but had grown to around 500 by 1900. Growth was assisted by the industrial development of Leyland and after the Second World War the town was earmarked as the centre of a new town planned in central Lancashire. By the early 1960’s, the Catholic population was 5,000. Fr Edmund Fitzsimmons, parish priest from 1952, was a guiding force in the decision to build a large new church of advanced liturgical design, inspired by progressive continental church architecture of the mid 20th century.  The church was designed by Jerzy Faczynski of Weightman and Bullen. Cardinal Heenan blessed the foundation  stone  in  1962  and  the  new  church  was  completed  ready  for  its consecration and dedication by Archbishop Beck in April 1964.

Stained glass by Patrick Reyntiens.

Pink brick, reinforced concrete, copper covered roofs, zig-zag to main space and flat to aisle. Circular, aisled plan with projecting entrance and five projecting chapels.

Central altar. Entrance in large projecting porch with roof rising outwards and the roof slab cantilevered above the doors, its underside curving upward.

Large polychrome ceramic mural representing the Last Judgment by Adam Kossowski occupies the width of the porch above the two double- doored entrances.

Brick rotunda with projecting painted reinforced concrete chapels to left and right, of organic round-cornered form.

Folded radial roof above main space, leaning outwards to shelter triangular clerestory windows. Circular glazed light to centre of roof, its sides leaning outwards, culminating in a sculpted finial of copper or bronze.

Internally, sanctuary is floored in white marble, raised by a step, and the white marble altar is raised by three further steps.

Fixed curved timber benches are placed on slightly raked floor.

`Y’ shaped concrete aisle posts, designed to incorporate the Stations of the Cross, sculpted by Arthur Dooley.

Above these the exposed brick drum rises to the exposed, board-marked concrete folded roof. The aisle walls comprise thirty-six panels of abstract dalle-de-verre stained glass, totalling 233 feet in length, by Patrick Reyntiens, mostly in blues and greens. The theme is the first day of Creation. Suspended above the altar is the original ring-shaped light fixture, and also Adam Kossowski’s ceramic of Christ the King.

Further original light fittings are suspended above the congregation.

The font is placed in the narthex, in a shallow, marble-lined depression in the floor. It comprises a concrete cylinder with an inscribed bronze lid.

The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, with its rising roof slab, contains a green marble altar with in-built raking supports.

Behind it is a tapestry representing the Trinity, designed by the architect J. Faczynski.

Text from Taking Stock

Many thanks to Father John and the members of the congregation for the warm welcome that they extended to us on the day of our visit to their exceptional Grade II Listed church.

Birley Street Tower Blocks – Blackburn

One fine day – whilst walking back to and/or from happiness, in the general direction of Blackburn town centre, I happened to chance upon three towers.

Whilst not in any sense Tolkienesque – for me they held a certain mystique, wandering unclad amongst swathes of trees and grass.

Trinity, St Alban and St Michaels Courts – three thirteen storey towers each containing sixty one dwellings.

Three thirteen-storey slab blocks built as public housing using the Sectra industrialised building system. The blocks contain 183 dwellings in total, consisting of 72 one-bedroom flats and 111 two-bedroom flats. The blocks are of storiform construction clad with precast concrete panels. The panels are faced with exposed white Cornish aggregate. Spandrel panels set with black Shap granite aggregate are used under the gable kitchen windows. The blocks were designed by the Borough architect in association with Sydney Greenwood. Construction was approved by committee in 1966.

Pastscape

Built on Birley Street following extensive 1960’s slum clearance.

Providing an excellent backdrop for the passing parade.

Each entrance porch with a delightful concrete relief on the outer face.

On the reverse a tiled relief – sadly painted over.

They are well proportioned slabs set in ample open landscape dotted with mature trees – maintained to a high standard.

St Gabriel’s Church – Blackburn

Brownhill Dr Blackburn BB1 9BA

The original design of Liverpool architect F.X. Velarde attracted so much attention when St Gabriel’s opened in 1933.

“The new building… marks a new departure from the accepted ecclesiastical style and is unique in this district,” said the old Blackburn Times when it was consecrated on April 8, 1933, by the Bishop of Blackburn, Dr P.M. Herbert.

But this is a church which throughout its life has been fraught with settlement cracks, repairs and redesign – it’s original towers truncated and clad, flat roofs pitched and timbers replaced.

For 34 years ago, the landmark building was facing possible demolition — with the parish confronted with a then-immense bill of £15,000 for repairs. The crisis was due to serious damage to the roof timbers caused by water penetration.

Eventually, it took £40,000-worth of refurbishment inside and out lasting until 1975 to save St Gabriel’s — at considerable expense to its original appearance. The main tower was shortened by six feet and later clad at the top with glass-fibre sheathing while the east tower was removed altogether and its flat roofs were made into pitched ones to deal with the rotting roof timbers and problems of settlement.

In fact, the difficulties that its design and construction posed were recognised much earlier in 1956 when the church, which had cost £20,000 to build, was found to be in urgent need of repairs that would cost more than £1,500. For an inspection by the Diocesan Architect found that major defects in the flat roof could have serious consequences unless they were given early attention and portions of the parapet wall were found to have large cracks due to settlement while half the building’s brickwork needed pointing.

Lancashire Telegraph

And so it now stands forlorn and unused – services are now held in the adjacent church hall. A series of interlocking monumental interwar functionalist brick clad slabs, once thought to resemble a brewery or cinema, now awaits its fate. Though it remains a thing of wonder in both scale and detailing, well worth a wander around if you’re passing.

Its tall slim arched windows reaching towards the heavens, Deco detailed doors firmly closed.