Swansea Civic Centre

Architects: J Webb as County Architect and CW Quick as the job architect of the West Glamorgan County Architects Department 1982

Canolfan Ddinesig Abertawe formerly known as County Hall.

Confused?

Don’t be, it’s all quite simple really.

Following the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972, which broke up Glamorgan County Council and established West Glamorgan County Council, the new county council initially met at Swansea Guildhall. Finding that this arrangement, which involved sharing facilities with Swansea Council, to be inadequate, county leaders procured a dedicated building, selecting a site formerly occupied by an old railway goods yard associated with the Mumbles Railway.

The design features continuous bands of glazing with deep washed calcined flint panels above and below.

Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited on 20 April 1989.

After local government re-organisation in 1996, which abolished West Glamorgan County Council, ownership of the building was transferred to Swansea Council. It was renamed Swansea Civic Centre on 19 March 2008, and Swansea Central Library moved into the complex as part of a redevelopment scheme.

See, simple!

Wikipedia

However.

In 2019 it was reported that Swansea Council leader Rob Stewart said:

As part of our city centre’s multi-million pound transformation, it remains our aim to vacate and demolish the civic centre.

We want to reinvigorate that area and we continue to make progress on a master plan for it.

Powell and Dobson think that this seems like a swell idea

Urban Splash seem to have a slightly vaguer vision.

In March 2021, plans to find a new use for the location continued to still be a commitment of Swansea council, with the announcement of the transfer of the central library and other public services to the former BHS and now What! store on Oxford Street.

Swansea Civic Centre is at risk the Twentieth Century Society says so – they are strongly opposed to demolition of the iconic building and have submitted an application to have the building listed as Grade II.

I do not know what fate awaits it, I only know it must be brave – to paraphrase Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin, Ned Washington, Gary Cooper and Frankie Laine – it’s High Noon and counting.

Any road up as of the 11th of May it looked just like this:

Diolch yn fawr once again to Catrin Saran James for acting as my spirit guide.

Civic Centre – East Kilbride

I walked from St Bride’s Church, through a valley to East Kilbride Civic Centre

Commissioned by the burgh of East Kilbride, was designed by Scott Fraser & Browning, built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts and completed in 1966.

Accommodating Ballerup Hall.

Ballerup Hall is located within East Kilbride Civic Centre and takes its name from its twin town Ballerup, which is near Copenhagen in Denmark. The hall comprises a main hall with stage, kitchen facilities and a bar servery. The adjoining district court room is available after office hours for a limited range of activities.

SLL&C

The stars of British Championship Wrestling return to East Kilbride with a star-studded line up including The Cowboy James Storm and all your favourite BCW Superstars!

I missed the missing link twixt Roddy Frame and the Civic Centre.

If you were lucky enough to catch the 2013 concerts in which Frame marked the 30th anniversary of High Land Hard Rain by playing Aztec Camera’s seminal debut album live, you’ll already have seen Anne’s pictures. Before getting to High Land Hard Rain itself in those shows, Frame treated audiences to a rare set drawn from what he termed his East Kilbride period – the songs he was writing as a teenager that would appear on Aztec Camera’s two Postcard singles, and form the basis of the band’s legendarily unreleased Postcard album, Green Jacket Grey.

While he played those tunes, huge, striking black and white images of his old hometown appeared as a backdrop behind him, setting exactly the right fragile, retro-future new town mood of post-industrial Fahrenheit 451 urban development.

Glasgow Music City

There are plans for redevelopment:

A strategic masterplan for East Kilbride town centre which could see a new purpose-built civic facility is to be put before the council next month.

Last March we told how radical new plans could see the crumbling Civic Centre replaced with – a new front door to East Kilbride.

Despite there being no specific proposals agreed at this stage, South Lanarkshire Council has confirmed that agents of the owners are set to present their strategic masterplan to elected members in February.

Daily Record

It currently sits by the shopping centre and a patch of empty ground.

Several imposing interlocking volumes, formed by pre-cast concrete panels.

East Kilbride was the first new town built in Scotland in 1947. New Town designation was a pragmatic attempt to soak up some of the population from an overcrowded and war ravaged Glasgow. Its design was indeed an anathema to the chaotic and sprawling Glasgow: clean straight lines, modern accessible public spaces; and footways, bridges and underpasses built with the pedestrian in mind. It was designed as a self contained community — with industry, shops, recreation facilities and accommodation all within a planned geographic area.

Medium

On a quiet Saturday morning in April, approaching through an underpass or two, I arrived at the shopping centre.

Then circumnavigated the Civic Centre.

The cost of getting married in East Kilbride will rise by up to 39 per cent.

Couples currently pay £217 for a council official to carry out their service on a Saturday – this will increase to £250.

On Fridays, the next most popular day, the cost will rise to £120 from £87.50.

Getting married Monday to Thursday still represents the best value, but the rise from £72 to £100 represents the highest in percentage terms.

Daily Record

Cumbernauld Housing

Sunday morning in Glasgow, I caught the first train out from Queen Street Station.

In October 2017, a £120 million project began on bringing the station up to modern standards, demolishing many of the 1960s buildings and replacing them with a new station concourse, which was completed in 2021.

I arrived in Cumbernauld and walked toward the Central Way and back again.

Cumbernauld was designated as a new town in December 1955, part of a plan, under the New Towns Act 1946, to move 550,000 people out of Glasgow and into new towns to solve the city’s overcrowding. Construction of its town centre began under contractors Duncan Logan, chief architect Leslie Hugh Wilson and architect Geoffrey Copcutt – until 1962 and 1963, and later Dudley Roberts Leaker, Philip Aitken and Neil Dadge.

Wikipedia

This is the housing that I saw.

IRK VALLEY #ONE

The first leg of a journey to the source of the River Irk beginning behind Victoria, finishing by the Hexagon Tower in Blackley.

The Irk’s name is of obscure etymology, but may be Brittonic in origin and related to the Welsh word iwrch, meaning roebuck

In medieval times, there was a mill by the Irk at which the tenants of the manor ground their corn and its fisheries were controlled by the lord of the manor. In the 16th century, throwing carrion and other offensive matter into the Irk was forbidden. Water for Manchester was drawn from the river before the Industrial Revolution. A bridge over the Irk was recorded in 1381. The river was noted for destructive floods. In 1480, the burgesses of Manchester described the highway between Manchester and Collyhurst which – the water of Irk had worn out. In 1816, of seven bridges over the Irk, six were liable to be flooded after heavy rain but the seventh, the Ducie Bridge completed in 1814 was above flood levels.

According to The New Gazetteer of Lancashire the Irk had – more mill seats upon it than any other stream of its length in the Kingdom and – the eels in this river were formerly remarkable for their fatness, which was attributed to the grease and oils expressed by the mills from the woollen cloths and mixed with the waters. 

However, by the start of the 20th century the Irk Valley between Crumpsall and Blackley had been left a neglected river – not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers.

Wikipedia

The river emerges from beneath the city into an area named Scotland – a remnant of Manchester’s links with the Jacobite Rebellion.

To the left were the squalid Victorian homes of Red Bank – currently presenting as the Green Quarter.

The river briefly becomes subterranean again.

This is a river with an ignominious history – famously damned by émigré Friedrich Engels.

At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

Mr Engels currently resides by the Medlock.

The stretch along Dantzic Street into Collyhurst Road was heavily industrialised, of which some remnants prevail.

Along with an abandoned traveller’s camp, where once the gas works had stood.

New housing is being built forming the first wave of the Victoria North masterplan.

Previous enterprises have hit the buffers beneath the railway on Bromley Street.

To the right is Dalton Street once home to the Collyhurst Cowboy.

Here are the remains of Vauxhall Street, named for Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, built in the remains of the Collyhurst Quarry – which in turn became Sandhills.

There are current plans afoot to create a City River Park.

In addition the local authority oversees the Irk River Valley Project , along with Groundwork, United Utilities, Woodland Trust and Greggs.

To the left are St Catherine’s Steps

Immortalised by almost local lad LS Lowry

Spanning the defunct railway workings, affording a view of the brightly blooming city centre.

Leaving Collyhurst Road, we journey along Smedley Road.

Seen here in 1934.

Passing beneath Queens Road – Queens Park to the right.

Queen’s Park was one of Britain’s first municipal parks created in 1846. The park was originally arranged around Hendham Hall, home of the Houghton family however this was demolished in 1884.

Dropping down to Hendham Vale.

To the right is the Smedley Hotel.

The Smedley Hotel is a very large pub that is hidden away on a quiet back street. Once inside there were a few different rooms and I had a drink in the bar which was fairly large and seemed in need of some attention. The pub still had its old Chesters signs outside and there were three real ales on the bar. I had a drink of Chesters bitter and this was a very nice drink the other beers were Chesters mild and Boddington’s bitter.

I thought this pub would be long gone but it is still standing and I think open for business.

Alan Winfield 1994

Lost to the world are the Manchester Moderne flats of Kennet House overlooking the Irk Valley on Smedley Lane.

Hendham Way becomes a pedestrianised lane.

Taking the road up and then down, returning to the river, and following the wrong path – alongside the Hapurhey Reservoir and Ponds.

A remnant of the industrial era the reservoirs and ponds, once used by the factories as a source of water, have over the year become a thriving habitat which supports a substantial amount of wildlife.

Then cutting back and regaining the correct path.
Finally arriving at the Hexagon Tower.

Black and white photographs: Manchester Local Image Collection

Tower Blocks – Blackley

Sandyhill Court Sandyhill Rd Manchester M9 8JS

Almost high on a hill stands a lonely tower block.

Seen here in 1987.

Tower Block

Sandyhill Court – Stands on the corner of Riverdale Road and Sandyhill Road and is still a local authority block.

The front entrance has a mosaic and concrete relief, recalling De Stijl particularly Joost Baljeu.

Along with echoes of Jean Arp.

The flats had acquired a stereotypical bad reputation.

Blight flats will soon be high-rise des-res.

Residents on a blighted Blackley estate have been told of plans to deal with the mostly unoccupied high-rise flats that are seen as the cause of the problem.

Manchester Evening News

I entered via the vehicular access – in order to view the four remaining reliefs.

The Lakeside Rise blocks now form part of a private gated community and are accessed from Blackley New Road.

The original blocks and their locations are as follows:

Ashenhurst Court Now Lakeside 1
Heaton Court Now Lakeside 2
Wilton Court Now Lakeside 3
Blackley Court Now Lakeside 4

Bracknell Court demolished – was on the corner of Riverdale Road and Bridgenorth Road adjacent to Heaton Court
Riverdale Court demolished – was on Riverdale Road opposite Bantry Avenue.

Hexagon Tower – Blackley Manchester

Crumpsall Vale Blackley Manchester M9 8GQ

I was last here at the Hexagon Tower in 2015 – on a Manchester Modernist Society magical Orbital Bus Tour.

ICI commissioned the building from Richard Seifert in September 1969, as a research, development and production centre.

I returned in 2022 whilst cycling/walking the River Irk.

Since my previous visit the tower has been made good – after a fashion.

It looked splendid in the late March sun, as I approached along Imperial Way.

Imperial Way named for its progenitor ICI – the Imperial Chemical Industries.

ICI’s Dyestuffs Division had its headquarters at Blackley in north Manchester, in a complex known as the Hexagon, which included its main R & D labs, and an experimental manufacturing plant.

John Rylands Library

New Hexagon House 1958 architect: Serge Chermayeff

Manchester Local Image Collection.

Now I find myself outside the new Hexagon Tower 2022.

Now home to multiple chemical users under the auspices of WAPG.

Dalton Street – Manchester

The North’s gone west.

We all went west.

Excepting one individualist nurse.

I went west with my dad in 1958.

Now I’m going east to Dalton Street, home to the Collyhurst cowboy.

Photograph: Dennis Hussey

This is an illusion within an illusion, twice removed.

The Hollywood recreation, recreated on the rough ground of post war Britain.

In 1960 the area was a dense network of streets, industry and homes – demolished during the period of slum clearance.

Escaping the dark, dank Irk Valley onwards and upwards to Rochdale Road.

The Dalton Works Arnac factory survived until 2008

Photograph: Mikey

The tight maze of Burton Street and beyond, reduced to rubble.

Dalton Street was not home to the Dalton Gang, they lived here in Oklahoma

It was home to imaginary gangs, committing imaginary crimes, in an imaginary Manchester, in ITV’s Prime Suspect Five.

Kangol capped criminals doing business outside the Robert Tinker on the corner of the very real Dalton and Almond Streets.

The Robert Tinker was an estate pub in a run down area of Collyhurst. The pub looked pretty grim from the outside, but it was smarter than I expected inside, I had a drink in the lounge which was carpeted and comfortable. This was a Banks’s tied house and there were two real ales on the bar, I had a drink of Banks’s bitter and this was a decent drink, the other beer was Banks’s mild. This pub closed about two years after my visit and looked derelict, it has now been demolished.

Alan Winfield

Robert Tinker was the owner of the Vauxhall Gardens, a Victorian pleasure venue.

At the opening there was a special attraction, a giant cucumber which had been grown in the gardens reaching a length of seven feet and eight inches and a large and beautiful balloon was to be liberated at 9pm

It was built adjoining the site of the Collyhurst Sandstone Quarry.

Much of the red sandstone used for building in Manchester and the surrounding area, including stone for the Roman fort at Castlefield, St Ann’s Church in the city centre, Manchester Cathedral and the original buildings of Chetham’s Hospital, came from Collyhurst Quarry. Geologists use the term Collyhurst Sandstone for this type of soft red sandstone, which occurs in North West England

Tinker died in 1836 and gradually his gardens were whittled away, the subsoil was sold to iron moulders who cherished its certain properties and before long the trees were chopped down and houses were being built on the former site.

Those houses are in their turn whittled away, replaced in the 1960’s with fashionable tower blocks.

Architects: J Austen Bent 1965

In total five thirteen storey blocks – Humphries, Dalton, Roach, Vauxhall and Moss Brook Courts

Seen here in 1985.

Tower Block UK

Subsequently purchased by Urban Splash and refurbished:

Designed by Union North Architects, the names for the Three Towers were decided in a public competition and the winning names were Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia – naming the towers after the Pankhurst sisters and their mother. 

Julie Twist

Currently being record to see post Grenfell regulations.

As the terraces were cleared new low-rise social housing also arrived.

All archival photographs Manchester Local Image Collection unless otherwise stated.

Along with maisonettes adjoining Eastford Square

Photograph: Stuart Collins 2014 – demolished 2015

The remains of the remaining Eastford Square homes tinned up and secured awaiting who knows what.

So let’s take a short walk, see how things stand.

The area now forms the core of the latest municipal Masterplan – Victoria North.

Victoria North is a joint venture programme between Manchester City Council and developer Far East Consortium.

An internationally recognised developer, FEC specialises in residential led mixed-use developments and hotels, along with its casino and car park operations throughout mainland Europe. 

The cowboys are now long gone – or are they?

When I was a cowboy out on the Western Plain
Well, I made a half a million
Working hard on the bridle reins

Come a cow-cow yicky come a cow-cow yicky, Harpurhey

Huddy Leadbetter

Salford Quays

Manchester Docks were a series of nine docks.

They were situated in Salford, Stretford and Manchester at the east end of the Manchester Ship Canal. They formed part of the Port of Manchester from 1894 until their closure in 1982. The docks marked the upper reaches of the ship canal, and were a destination for both coastal and ocean-bound vessels carrying cargo and a limited number of passengers, often travelling to and from Canada.

Manchester Docks were divided into two sections; the larger Salford docks to the west of the Trafford Road swing bridge and Pomona docks to the east. Each section consisted of four docks in total, the largest being to the west; Dock 5 at Pomona was never fully completed. Of the eight working docks only one, Dock 1 at Pomona, was within Manchester itself. During much of 1948, Manchester Docks were Britain’s third busiest port owing to damage suffered by the Port of Hull during the Hull Blitz.

During the 1970s the docks began a rapid decline, largely due to containerisation. The increasing size of freight-carrying ships meant they could no longer navigate the ship canal and this, combined with increased trading with Europe and the east, saw use of Manchester Docks decrease. In 1982 the remaining docks closed and the area became derelict. Recognising the need to redevelop the area, Salford City Council purchased the docks in 1984 using a derelict land grant. The Salford Quays Development Plan was adopted in May 1985, proposing complete reclamation and development of the area for commercial, residential and leisure use.

Wikipedia

One of the very few school excursions we undertook way back in 1968 was to the docks – in an elegant glass topped barge.

So I thought it was about time I went to take look around – this time I arrived by tram and proceeded on foot.

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.

Concrete Totem – Ashton under Lyne

Dale Street East OL6 7ST – behind the Safe Start.

Formerly the Friendship – which suddenly became surplus to requirements, when the Old Street area was redeveloped, and the adjacent Magistrates Courts built.

So far so good, these are the facts we are located.

In an unfamiliar street, in an unfamiliar town.

I myself had the good fortune to grow up here and drink in the Friendship.

Even so I have no recollection of this distinctive concrete column, neither does the whole of the internet.

Do you?

Though very much in the style of the day – exemplified by William Mitchell there is currently no attribution for this work.

Was it at some point relocated, if so from where?

There are more questions than answers.

Eastford Square – 12/21

Here we are again and again and again, a curious passer-by, curious as to what may or may not have taken pass.

Local Image Collection 1970

There is a report of 2020

The report argues that the Northern Gateway should offer mixed, affordable and age appropriate housing and amenities. An equitable development plan should be developed, through community-led engagement, to ensure that the benefits of regeneration are shared amongst new and existing residents.

As of 2021 there is inaction and stasis

Collyhurst was described as a ‘forgotten place’ by some residents who felt that there had been insufficient investment in local housing and amenities.

The Northern Gateway remains a hidden portal to who knows where.

Northern Gateway 2018

Detailed proposals for a second scheme to be delivered within neighbouring South Collyhurst, one of the seven neighbourhoods to be developed as part of the overall Framework, are expected later this year.

Construction Enquirer 2021

Northern Gateway rebrands as Victoria North

Far East Consortium and Manchester City Council’s 390-acre masterplan will now be known as Victoria North, a move that aims to “create a sense of place”, according to Gavin Taylor, regional general manager at FEC in Manchester.

The Northern Gateway has served us well as a name as we shaped plans for the area’s regeneration. But as we begin to bring forward development this year, it’s the right time to start creating a sense of place for what will be a significant new district in Manchester, as well as an identity that people can engage with.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said:

We are at the beginning of an incredibly exciting phase of history for this part of Manchester and with some eagerness to see how this potential unfolds.

Victoria Riverside, a 634- home development marks the first stage of the regeneration project with the first apartments hitting the market. 

The three towers – Park View, City View and Crown View, are based within the Red Bank neighbourhood. 

Red Bank has been described as:

A unique landscape and river setting making the neighbourhood perfect for a residential-led, high-density development – all set in a green valley.

The putative William Mitchell totem continues to keep silent watch over the Square.

Tin Town – Wythenshawe

Prior to the end of WWII, the British Iron & Steel Federation worked closely with Architect Frederick Gibberd & Engineer Donovan Lee, to develop several steel framed prototype houses and flats, which could be erected quickly and efficiently with limited use of skilled labour.

Frederick Gibberd

These prototype were duly named BISF which is a acronym of the originating  sponsor, The British Iron & Steel Federation.

However, it was in fact the newly formed company, British Steel Houses Ltd, that went on to develop and manufacturer the BISF houses we see today.

Over 34,000 three-bedroom semi-detached houses and 1048 Terraced Houses were erected across England, Scotland and Wales.

Non Standard House

The final production design incorporated rendered mesh ground floor walls and the now familiar, profiled steel sheeting panels affixed to the upper storey. The preferred roofing material was generally corrugated asbestos cement, or corrugated metal sheeting.

The frame of the prototype ‘B’ house was of the same general design as the type ‘A’ frame, but fabricated from flat light steel sections.

Northolt

The roof trusses were also of light steel sections and the roof cladding was the same as that used in the type A house. 
Both prototypes had been designed to accept a variety of external wall materials, including traditional brick masonry if desired.

The external steel cladding that was affixed to the upper storey of the original BISF house appears visually similar to the external cladding that was used during the production of the unrelated Hawksley BL8 temporary bungalow.

This visual similarity caused many people to wrongly assume that the BISF House was a semi-detached version of the temporary bungalow, despite the fact that the BISF House was built as a permanent dwelling.

The vast majority of BISF houses were built as two-storey semi-detached pairs. A smaller number of terraced houses were also built by replicating the standard semi-detached frame.

A number of variations relating to the layout and materials used in the construction of this house have been noted, but in all cases, the original construction, design & construction of the steel framework, remains largely as described.

The area in Wythenshawe where the BISF houses were built, is known locally and colloquially as Tin Town.

Here are the homes in 1955.

Here are the homes in 1972.

JF Hughes Local Image Collection

In 2012 we visited the home of former Durutti Column drummer Bruce Mitchell.

Bruce in Greater Mancunians.

Owen Hatherley wrote about this White Bus Tour in The Guardian – at the behest of Richard Hector-Jones.

New residents were given the choice of an apple or cherry tree for their back gardens.

Here are the photographs I took in November 2021.

Hanley Housing

A tale of tower blocks and low rise terraces and maisonettes.

The first group of 1965, the work of City Architect JW Plant grouped around Westwood, Wellington and St Lukes Courts three 12-storey blocks containing 138 dwellings named Bucknall New Road Stage I.

Photographs Tower Block

From a time when civic pride celebrated the development of social housing with a small plaque.

Two blocks have retained their distinctive tiles.

Similar to the Burslem produced Malkin Tiles I have seen in both Eastbourne and Halifax.

The second group Bucknall New Road Stage II 1968 – also the work of JW Platt Seddon, Northwood and Lindop Courts.

There are plans afoot awaiting finance to demolish and replace some of the terraces, as part of a wider plan for the City’s social housing.

The project would see the council join up with a social property investor and apply for government funding for the works.

The plans would see 226 apartments at Bucknall New Road, and 51 flats and 62 houses at Pyenest Street.

A total of 155 low rise flats and maisonettes at Bucknall New Road would be cleared, creating a net gain of 224 new affordable homes.

Cllr Randy Conteh, cabinet member for housing, communities and safer city, said: “This is a major initiative for the city and the first time a scheme of this scale and ambition has been developed.

Insider Media LTD

Milton Square Gateshead

As a companion to the adjacent Poet’s Estate – let’s take a look at Malory, Milton, Masefield and Wordsworth.

This is a similar mix of boxy terraces and traffic free walkways.

Possibly of a later date.

Humberston Fitties 2021

Here we are again.

Having visited in 2008, I returned in April 2021 to wander this magical area and take some more snaps.

Previously on Modern Mooch.

In the interim the ownership of the estate has changed hands, passing from the local authority to private ownership.

Tingdene are now responsible for the site.

Council chiefs remain tight-lipped on how much Northamptonshire-based Tingdene paid for the site but it is estimated to be more than £2 million.

Grimsby Telegraph

Accordingly costs have risen, some tenants are displeased.

During Covid restrictions the demand for coastal property has increased, the gentle gentrification has begun.

New build, restoration and the national pandemic of home improvement are all apparent, changing the nature of the formerly informal architecture.

Take a look