The launderette was empty and offered an oasis of oddity in an otherwise predictable day.
There is always a mild sense of trepidation, entering a space devoid of folk, slowly placing footsteps tentatively, over those of the lost souls, that have trodden the worn floor coverings in times past.
Just look over your shoulder – I’ll be there.
Once inside the daylight fades, replaced by tremulous fluorescent tubes, illuminating the discoloured coloured surfaces.
Blown vinyl, damp carpet, dulled stainless steel, tired laminate and pine panels.
Built in 1928, this church was designed with some care and is an attractive, if fairly modest, Lombard Romanesque-style essay in brick. The use of a semi-circular apse, narrow brickwork and use of tile for decorative effect give it a pleasing appearance, typical of restrained but elegant work between the wars.
I arrived and took a look around, first time in town, here’s what I found.
Whilst cycling twixt Redcar and Newcastle one sunny Monday morn, I espied a tower on the distant horizon.
I pedalled hurriedly along and this is what I found.
Dawson House aka Kingsway.
A fifteen-storey circular tower block of 60 one-bedroom flats and 29 two-bedroom flats, making 89 dwellings in total. The block was built as public housing at the western fringe of the Town Centre development that began in 1952. Approved in 1973, the block is of triangular concrete-beam construction.
The architects were Elder Lester Associates.
The block was built by Teeside County Borough Council.
Stanley Miller Ltd.’s tender for the contract was £778,850.
The tower block was opened on 3rd April 1975 by the Mayor of Stockton Borough Council, John Dyson.
The block is described as ‘gimmicky circular tower block’ in The Buildings of England: County Durham by N. Pevsner.
In November 2013, a time capsule was buried in front of The Family, under a stone with the inscription Forever Forward 30 11 2013.
The capsule is not to be unearthed until the year 2078.
Twenty million pound bid to take back control of the centre of Billingham.
The council says: Proposals include addressing the physical condition of Billingham town centre in support the Council’s ambition to take back control of the centre. Redevelopment would solve the challenges of changing retail trends that are contributing towards excess retail space and high vacancy rates.
This includes exploring options for mixed-use redevelopment and high-quality public spaces that improve accessibility within the town centre and a modern retail offering.
Built in 1968 by local architects Elder Lester and Partners as part of the expansive plans for the town centre along with the Forum, La Ronde nightclub was to form part of the expansive plans for Billingham focused on the pursuit of increased leisure time.
La Ronde’s distinct cylindrical form comes from the car park access ramp that winds around the stair core to the upper floors of the club. The elevated drum-like form inset with cross latticed concrete webs was cast entirely in-situ.
In 2006, the council demolished La Ronde and Forum House at the cost of £500,000 to make way for a supermarket.
In 1960, Billingham Urban District Council, began one of the most ambitious new leisure centres in Europe. The Forum was funded by the district’s new-found wealth – a product of the local petrochemical industry. It was designed by local architects Elder Lester and Partners and brought together a variety of recreational activities including an ice rink, swimming pool, sports centre, theatre, and bar all under one roof. The Forum opened in July 1967 to great enthusiasm. Weekly attendance over the first six months was between 20 000 and 30 000 people, far exceeding all expectations.
The inclusion of the theatre alongside the sports facilities broke new ground in recreational planning and in the shift from sport to the broader notion of ‘leisure’, the Forum predated architectural thinking of the time by nearly a decade. The building’s form is derived from the functions within, expressed in a variety of bulbous elements. The most distinctive is the canopy of the ice rink roof which is hung using steel cables running the length of the roof and cross-braced to achieve a clear 73m span.
We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.
Though the pier appeared to be closed.
Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.
The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.
The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.
Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.
The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.
Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988.
The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.
On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.
On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity
Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.
Built of flint and rubble.
One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:
We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack. Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.
In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.
The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.
When World War II broke out, Hastings and St Leonards-on-Sea were considered vulnerable to attacks and invasion from abroad. On the night of Saturday 29 July 1944 a doodlebug was hit over the English Channel. Damaged, it nevertheless continued to fly towards the coastline of St Leonards-on-Sea. It was approaching Marine Court which was hosting a servicemen’s party – but it veered and crashed in front of the doors of St Leonard’s Church, making a deep crater. The tower fell into this, and the rest of the church was brought down as well. Although there were no casualties, the church was completely destroyed. Although the problem of rock falls and subsidence associated with the cliffs had continued throughout the life of the church, the War Damage Commission would only pay for it to be rebuilt on the same site. The architectural partnership of brothers Giles and Adrian Gilbert Scott were commissioned to design the new building.
Patrick Reyntiens stained glass
The unique features were inspired by Canon Cuthbert Griffiths, rector from 1929 to 1961. Following a dream, he went to Israel and had the prow of a Galilean fishing boat constructed to form the pulpit.
Marble work on the floor depicts locally caught skate and herring.
Beyond the communion rail are loaves and fishes set in different marble patterns bordered by scallop shells, a copy of the Byzantine mosaic in the Church of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in Galilee.
The structure set into shifting cliffs is subject to subsidence.
Procedures have been completed for St Leonard’s Parish Church on Marina to be closed for worship.
The service will be next Saturday August 4 2018 at 3pm.
Because the building cannot be used the service will be at St Ethelburga’s in St Saviour’s Road.
St Leonard’s has been called the church with an inbuilt message. Even the very stones cry out to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart to understand and accept the Good News of the Gospel.
Get down for breakfast – I personally regret the untimely passing of fried bread and the appearance of the so-called hash brown.
Originally, the full name of the dish was hashed brown potatoes or hashed browned potatoes, of which the first known mention is by American food author Maria Parloa in her 1887 Kitchen Companion, where she describes the dish of hashed and browned potatoes as a fried mixture of cold boiled potatoes which is folded like an omelet before serving.
Years later we got them.
Thursday 30th July 2015 and the sun is a shining brightly on the Dart.
Get on the ferry!
We’re off again.
The Monkey Puzzle tree Araucaria araucana is one of the oldest trees in the business – of being a tree.
It is native to central and southern Chile, western Argentina, and a welcome visitor to the English Riviera.
The hardiest species in the conifer genus. Because of the prevalence of similar species in ancient prehistory, it is sometimes called a living fossil.
The refined white rectilinear box shaped houses of the genus Seaside Moderne, are an offspring of the International Style, to be found all over the globe.
The sea covers seventy percent and rising, of our planet.
Seaside shelters are ubiquitous along our coast and form a typology determined by a rich variety of wild and wonderful Municipal tastes – flat, broke, baroque, modern and functionalist, hardly two the same.
Electricity is a popular power source both locally, nationally and internationally.
Model villages originated in seventh century China, there is only one way around a model village.
Laundrettes may be on the way out but this gallant knight of the road continues to record them, both online and in print.
Here in Teignmouth a pier appears not uncommon on certain parts of the coast.
Teignmouth Grand Pier is a great day out for family and friends. There’s something for everyone – from big kids to little ones – it offers you all the traditional attractions and entertainment in the Great British spirit of the seaside.
Time to get on the ferry again Steve – crossing the Exe Estuary on the Starcross to Exmouth Ferry.
Bikes carried for a small additional charge.
No time for Bingo, reading the local paper or the amusements – time for a pint, in the form of two halves.
Then a wander back to the digs – see you all tomorrow.
Today Monday 27th July 2015 – leaving Ilfracombe the royal we head south along the Tarka Trail, giving Cornwall a swerve.
Though first we feast on a slightly out of focus fry up at the digs.
Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter, this 180 mile, figure eight route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. The southern loop incorporates the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK. Walking or cycling, you can experience the best this beautiful area has to offer.
Then away we go following the former train line out of town.
The Ilfracombe Branch of the London & South Western Railway, ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was sufficiently popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889.
The 1:36 gradient between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe stations was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country.In the days of steam traction, it was often necessary to double-head departing passenger trains.
Named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe.
Despite nearly a century of bringing much-needed revenue into this remote corner of the county, passenger numbers dropped dramatically in the years following the Second World War, due to a massive increase in the number of cars on Britain’s roads, and the line finally closed in 1970.
Much of the course of the line is still visible today, and sections of it have been converted into public cycleways.
We leave behind – theshadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies.
For the equally shadowy world of military installations.
The water tower at RAF Chivenor.
Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training.
In 1974 the station was left on care and maintenance, in 1994 7 FTS left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the Royal Marines.
A most delightful cycle path alongside the estuary of the River Taw.
The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.
Passing under the Torridge Bridge at Bideford – a 650 metre long concrete structure built in 1987.
Three piers are in the river. Each of the piers in the water is protected by concrete fenders twenty four metres long by eight metres wide by eight metres high. The concrete piers of the bridge are around twenty four metres high.
It was designed by MRM Partnership.
Here we are in Barnstaple by the Civic Centre.
It’s described as an ‘iconic’ building, but not many locals would agree, this huge building widely considered to be one of the ugliest in Devon could soon be under new ownership.The council has confirmed that following a tender exercise, it is working with a preferred bidder to finalise the details of the sale.
In 2014Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believed the civic centre could provide up to 84 modern apartments.
Artist’s impression by Peregrine Mears Architects – looks a little too wobbly to me, Peregrine Mears Architects should get right back to the drawing board, where they started from.
The Neo-Classical facade restrained Deco of The Venue.
Formerly The Regal Cinema – opened on 30th August 1937
Architects – BM Orphoot
Revellers dancing at The Worx nightclub– as The Venue was to become.
The building in Barnstaple is for sale with Webbers estate agents for just £225,000. The striking building in a prime position on the town’s Strand was originally opened in 1937 as the Regal Cinema.
The building will probably be best known under the guise of Kaos, the name it was given during the 1990’s and at the height of its popularity.
Other nightclub incarnations at the premises included Babylon, Rockabillies, Coco, Club Tropicana and of course The Venue.
The Tarka Trail crossing the River Torridge, just south of Bideford, utilising the former railway bridge.
The old home town looks the same as I step down from the bike, and there to meet me is – well nobody.
And I realise, yes, I was only dreaming.
I’ll go to Okehampon then – take a look at the lovely tiled Post Office, whilst completely ignoring one of the oldest Norman castles in the country.
Walking around town in search of a B&B proved fruitless, though I was directed to an out of town Roadhouse aways away.
Welcome to Betty Cottles Inn – land of the lost apostrophe.
Rooms are not as photos/described on hotel booking sites, wi-fi hardly ever works. I prepaid/booked for nine nights, I checked out after two days. Needless to say I didnt receive a seven day refund. Owner with attitude problem, he had my money, and was not keen on helping with my concerns about the property. Musky smell to carpet in bar and restaurant areas. Not been cleaned for a long time. Rooms unsafe and not private, with curtains not long enough, lock on room doors inadequate.
Neil H – July 2109
You sneaked in a female into your single room without paying for her and got caught so obviously you have retaliated by way of a negative review. You were probably the most rude and hostile guest we have ever had and have had to report you to booking.com for guest misconduct and also banned you from being able to book here again.
Matthew owner at Betty Cottles Inn
I ate a reasonable meal in the Carvery and chatted amiably with a representative salesman on the move, whilst seeing off a few pints of Guinness – any port in a storm.
Although there is evidence in the local area of occupation since the Iron Age, it was still a small village until the 19th century when it became a seaside resort, and was connected with local towns and cities by a railway, and two piers were built. The growth continued until the second half of the 20th century, when tourism declined and some local industries closed. A regeneration programme is being undertaken with attractions including the Helicopter Museum, Weston Museum, and the Grand Pier. The Paddle Steamer Waverley and MV Balmoral offer day sea trips from Knightstone Island to various destinations along the Bristol Channel and Severn Estuary. Cultural venues include The Playhouse, the Winter Gardens and the Blakehay Theatre.
I pushed my bike along the prom heading for my pre-booked digs in a stylish seafront hotel.
Past the Marine Causeway linking the shore to some kind of modern day Post Modern Shangri-La.
A mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains, possibly not.
You can stroll onto Knightstone Island, where you will find some cafes serving light snacks and refreshments, or to the other side which takes you along the causeway, accessible to walk across according to the tides. At the other side of the Causeway you will find a small rocky beach with tidal rockpools ideal for exploring.
Just along the prom stands one of my all time favourite seaside shelters.
Even further along – what’s all this here then?
The foundation stone of the Birch-designed Birnbeck Pier was laid in 1864. It opened on 5th June 1867 and consisted of a 1040 foot cantilever construction to Birnbeck Island and a short jetty extending westwards from the island.
It seems to have changed hands several times in its relatively short life, including the stewardship of the infamous Urban Splash and the mysterious mystery owners, the current custodians it seems, have done little to secure a secure future.
It remains alone and untended, stretching aimlessly out to sea.
In April 2015, Friends Of The Old Pier Society created a novel fund raising scheme in which 1p and 2p coins would be lined up to stretch from the Grand Pier to Birnbeck Pier.
September 2019 Councillor Mr Crockford-Hawley said:
It’s this end of Weston which is the sore, it’s the carbuncle, it’s clearly well past its prime and it needs some serious attention. I mean it would be wonderful if somebody came along with an open ended bank account and said ‘yup, I’d love to restore it for the sake of restoring it’, but quite clearly there’s got to bean economic future for the pier, there’s got to be a purpose for the pier.
Possibly a wealthy Beatle could bail the ailing pier out of deep water?
Next thing I know I’m outside the imposing and impressive sounding Ocean Hotel. Sad to say on the day/night of my visit it wasn’t just this weary traveller that appeared to be over tired, happy to report the the New Ocean Hotel has been revamped and in tip-top condition by all accounts.
Any road up, let’s get out, take a walk up the road – have look at some local type.
Watney’s mythical Red Barrel.
Watney’s was the Evil Corporation which sought to crush plucky small brewers and impose its own terrible beer on the drinking public. It acquired and closed beloved local breweries, and it closed pubs, or ruined them with clumsy makeovers.
Its Red Barrel was particularly vile – a symbol of all that was wrong with industrial brewing and national brands pushed through cynical marketing campaigns.
Keeler Productions has taken over Locking Road Car Park, opposite Tesco, and The Regent Restaurant, in Regent Street, to film a BBC period series The Trial of Christine Keeler, based on the Profumo Affair in the 1960s.
Enough of all that period drama, let’s have a look at some period architecture.
Madeira Court – 67 flats built in 1988.
Weekly Social Activities include – coffee mornings, card evenings and occasional days out, organised by social club. New residents accepted from sixty years of age, both cats and dogs generally accepted.
Boulevard United Reformed Church – Waterloo Street
Architects Gordon W. Jackson and Partners 1959
Constructed on part of the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema, the Odeon Theatre was opened on 25th May 1935 with Jack Buchanan in Brewster’s Millions. Built as one of the original Odeon Theatres in the then emerging Oscar Deutsch Odeon Theatres circuit, it was built on a prime corner street position in this sea-side town and was the first of several Odeon Theatre’s to be designed by architect Cecil T Howitt.
The Weston-super-Mare Odeon was built by C Bryant & Son Ltd of Birmingham on the site of the former Electric Premier Cinema. It opened on 25 May 1935, at which time it was described in the souvenir programme as ‘modernity at its best’, with seating accommodation that was ‘luxurious and spaced to give ample room for true comfort’.
A short walk along the prom snapping shelters and the sheltered – no two the same.
I then chanced to fall into a Beer Festival and bad company – the rest is a blur, see you all tomorrow there’s some cycling to be done.
It began on an aimless walk out of Wigan on through Frimley, I found heaven on earth in the warm enfolding arms of the Washeteria. A perfectly preserved fascia, interior and machines, more by diffident neglect than good management. Signature wood effect and patterned Formica panelling, over earnest signs demanding the highest standards of personal conduct, etched in thick discoloured coloured plastic, abound on every surface. Stuttering strip lighting and a stone cold linoleum floor. A dull white ceiling, with a surface texture formed from deep frozen ennui.
Three years later I had visited and snapped several examples, all with their own uniques characteristics though all contributing to a typology.
In the United Kingdom known as launderettes or laundrettes, and in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as laundromatsor washeterias.
George Edward Penury created the word laundromat for Westinghouse.
According to NALI – the National Association of the Launderette industry, numbers peaked at12,500 in the early 80s but have since dwindled to just 3,000.
The first UK launderette – alternative spelling: laundrette. was opened on May 9th 1949 in Queensway London.
Come with me now and relive those warm damp languorous moments as we visit eight laundrettes.
All the books sold out in three hours – so here’s your chance to flick through the virtual pages as the prewash finishes.