Irish Life Centre – Dublin

1 Talbot St North City Dublin D01 XW65 Ireland

Architect: RKD Architects lead Andrew Devane 

The brickwork, use of white aggregate for the arches, and tinted glazing are similar to Devane’s Stephen Court building on St Stephen’s Green.

The nine-building Irish Life Centre complex was originally built between 1974 and 1977 comprising office space, as well as two blocks of apartments. The complex was built on the former site of the Brook Thomas warehouse and timber yards along with other adjoining sites costing £900,000.

1970s

Irish Life, now part of the Canadian multinational Great-West Lifeco, were the original developers.

The 14-foot copper-bronze sculpture Chariots of Life by Oisín Kelly 1915 – 1981, greets staff and visitors at the entrance plaza. Although completed in 1978, the sculpture was not unveiled formally until 1982.

Inside the Abbey Court Garden there was once a large colourful mosaic, Sweeney Astray – 1987 by Desmond Kinney. The glass mosaic was comprised of twelve panels narrating Sweeney’s wanderings through forests and hills, from prose and poems dating back to the 1600s and updated by Seamus Heaney in the early 1980s.

It was removed in 2013.

Emma Gilleece

This is Dallas meets De Chirico – bronzed glass and dark colonnades surrounding open un-peopled piazzas.

Wandering under low underpasses into open space and finally into a green oasis.

O’Carroll Villas

Cuffe St Dublin 2 Ireland

Richard O’Carroll TC died for his country on 5th May 1916.

A true martyr for the love of his Country and its people, and a true Working Class Hero!

Cllr O’Carroll deserves to be recognised by the State and the People of Ireland for his work with the Labour Party, The Ancient Guild of Brick & Stonelayers Trade Union and most importantly for his contribution to the Freedom of Ireland.

‘Bhí sé dílis dá thír is dá chineál’

‘He loved his country and served his kind’

I came upon these two slab blocks of flats whilst walking the streets of Dublin – this service tower acts as a memorial to his life and achievements.

I was stopped in my tracks when I chanced upon the enchanting mosaics, wrought iron railings and walkups, I stayed a while to take a look around.

Busáras – Dublin

Store Street Dublin 1

Architect Michael Scott – 1945-1953

This was my first real trip to Dublin, having previously hastily passed through, over eager to take myself elsewhere. To accompany me I purchased The Dublin Architecture Guide 1937-2021 from Books Upstairs. It proved to be an indispensable companion on my walks around the city.

To begin at the end, the last building I explored was the Busáras – the central bus station, for intercity and regional bus services operated by Bus Éireann.

Áras Mhic Dhiarmada – Mac Diarmada House is the official name of the building, which also includes the headquarters of the Department of Social Protection.

CIÉ – parent of Bus Éireann, leases the lower floors from the department. 

Áras Mhic Dhiarmada is named after Seán Mac Diarmada, a leader of the Easter Rising in 1916.

Photo: Architectural Association of Ireland

The building has an L-shaped plan with two rectilinear blocks of differing heights sitting at right angles, with a circular hall at the ground floor designed in an International Modern style, influenced strongly by Le Corbusier. The British engineer Ove Arup was commissioned to oversee some of the elements of the design, such as the wavy concrete canopy which overhangs the concourse. It was designed to be a multi-functional building, with a restaurant, nightclub, cinema and other services all housed within it. The building incorporated a number of materials to create texture, such as brass, Danish bronze, copper, Portland stone cladding, Irish oak flooring, terrazzo stairways, and mosaics designed by Patrick Scott

It was one of the first modern buildings in Dublin that attempted to integrate art and architecture, utilising elements like glass facades and a pavilionised top storey with a reinforced concrete flat roof, the building won the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland Triennial Gold medal in 1955. It was heralded as Europe’s first postwar office building by American and British journals. 

The Eblana Theatre, originally intended as a newsreel venue, in the basement of the building was used as a theatre venue from 1959 to 1995. The building was featured on the highest value stamp issued in the Architecture definitive postage stamp set issued in 1982 by the P&T – the forerunner of An Post.

Wikipedia

Renovation took place in 2007.

Let’s take a wander around the site – I was immediately captivated by the wavy concrete canopy and it’s terrazzo companion.

There is additional mosaic work beneath the roof top canopies and columns.

The building is a fine amalgam of volumes, materials and detailing.

Let’s have a look at the concourse.

Don’t forget to take a look downstairs.

Time to go – I have an aeroplane to catch.

Other bus stations are available – notably in Preston, Huddersfield and Hanley

Kardomah Café – Swansea

Morris Buildings 11 Portland St Swansea SA1 3DH

Welcome, at the Kardomah Cafe we have a long history of excellent service, great food and wonderful coffee. We are an independent, established, family run business of nearly 50 years. Traditional values are important to us and have helped us create a warm and friendly atmosphere, which is seen by many of our customers as an important part of their lives, a place to meet their friends, whilst enjoying quality food and drink.

The company that created the Kardomah brand began in Pudsey Street, Liverpool in 1844 as the Vey Brothers teadealers and grocers. In 1868 the business was acquired by the newly created Liverpool China and India Tea Company, and a series of brand names was created beginning with Mikado. The Kardomah brand of tea was first served at the Liverpool colonial exhibition of 1887, and the brand was later applied to a range of teas, coffees and coffee houses. The parent company was renamed Kardomah Limited in 1938. The brand was acquired by the Forte Group in 1962, sold to Cadbury Schweppes Typhoo in 1971, and became part of Premier Brands some time between 1980 and 1997. The brand still exists, selling items such as instant coffee and coffee whitener.

The Kardomah Cafés in London and Manchester were designed by Sir Misha Black between 1936 and 1950.

Manchester
LondonRibapix

The original Swansea branch was at 232 High St, and known as ‘The Kardomah Exhibition Cafe & Tea Rooms’, moving to the Castle Street in 1908.

Castle Street

The Castle Street cafe was the meeting place of The Kardomah Gang, which included Dylan Thomas, and was built on the site of the former Congregational Chapel where Thomas’s parents were married in 1903. The cafe was bombed during WW2 and was later replaced by the present Kardomah Coffee Shop Restaurant in Portland Street.

Wikipedia

An in-depth history is available here.

I’d never had the pleasure of visiting a Kardomah before, imagine my delight when I was directed there by local artist, activist and archivist Catrin Saran James, during our delightful Swansea Moderne tour!

Following an extensive walk from one end of town to the other, I returned there for a late midday bite to eat and a sit down – it looked a little like this:

Many thanks to the staff and customers for putting up with me wandering around for a while with my camera, whilst they worked and ate.

Diolch yn fawr.

Adam Smith Building – Glasgow

Architects: David Harvey, Alex Scott & Associates – 1967

The Adam Smith Building, named in honour of the moral philosopher and political economist, Adam Smith, was formally opened on 2 November 1967 by Sydney George Checkland, Professor of Economic History from 1957 to 1982. The building was the first of the University’s multipurpose blocks housing a large number of departments, and a library for Political Economy, Social and Economic Research, Economic History, Political and Social Theory and Institutions, Management Studies, Psychology, Social Psychology, Accountancy, Citizenship, Anthropology, Criminology, Industrial Relations, and the School of Social Study. A records store was provided beneath the Library for the Economic History department to house their rapidly growing collection of business records from the vanishing Clyde shipyards and heavy engineering workshops, which now form part of the Scottish Business Archive held at University of Glasgow Archive Services.

Archives Hub

Eastern Elevation 1973
Southern Elevation 1978

Wandering almost aimlessly around the campus, when the blue mosaic caught my eye.

The glass stairwell drew me in further.

Entering the building I explained myself to the passing janitor:

I’m intrigued by the stairways of 1960s civic buildings.

There are two – he helpfully replied.

Further intrigued I took a good look around – first up one.

Reaching the top and discovering the Lecture Theatre.

Then down the other.

The mosaic mural at the foot of the main staircase was the work of George Garson, the head of the Mural Design and Stained Glass department at the Glasgow School of Art.

A quick look around the outside and then on my way.

Coventry Station 2021

Here we are again, we have been here before – one of the nation’s finest post war railway stations.

Gateway to the City of Culture.

Though I freely admit that my heart belonged to Stoke’s failed bid.

So much so I bought a shirt.

Stoke Sentinel

The station is the work of architects WR Headley and Derrick Shorten who worked with John Collins, Mike Edwards and Keith Rawson.

Outstanding architecturally, particularly for its spatial qualities and detailing. 

It’s Grade II listed and rightly so.

Alan Murray-Rust April 1963
John Maltby RIBA Pix
March 1962
Warwickshire Railways

So here is my exploration of its spatial qualities and detailing. 

Carlton Theatre – Hull

470-476 Anlaby Rd Hull HU3 6SH

Opened on 9th September 1928 with the silent film Lonesome Ladies.

The Carlton Picture Theatre in Anlaby Road was designed by the firm of Blackmore & Sykes and was built by Messrs. Greenwood and Sons.

It was run by Hull Picture Playhouse Ltd.

This was a lavish suburban cinema, with an elaborate green and gold sliding dome utilising Venetian glass and housing hundreds of concealled lights. Roman marble mosaics and painted plaster panels on the walls added to the sense of occasion engendered by a trip to the flicks.

A Fitton & Haley organ was installed, but this was later removed to the more central Cecil Theatre and was destroyed when that theatre was bombed during WW II.

The cinema had two entrances, one in each of the two towers on the front corners of the building. Above the proscenium was the inscription, rather inapt given how soon talkies arrived :

“A Picture is a poem without words”.

There was a single balcony and, for its date, a surprisingly large car park.

It continued unaltered, save for minor war damage, until its closure in April 1967, after which it was simply converted to bingo usage which continued as a Mecca Bingo Club until 2008.

Cinema Treasures

This is an immense and noble building, a once great single screen cinema.

Unluckily closed for some thirteen years, now looking neglected and forlorn.

Tinned up and awaiting an uncertain future, planning was applied for conversion to apartments, it was refused.

It is unlisted and unloved in need of friends and funds, who could operate a cinema and theatre in the manner of The Plaza in my hometown of Stockport.

The interior has been recorded by 28 Days Later.

We all deserve better.

The number of cinemas in Hull peaked at thirty six in 1938.

British film making flourished during the war years and cinema attendances were much higher, but by the end of the Second World War there were only twenty five – several had been bombed.

In 1964 competition from radio and television, and latterly bingo, reduced the number of cinemas to ten.

Now there are four.

Newcastle to Amble

Well here we are heading north for a fourth day – having bidden farewell to Hull, Scarborough and Redcar.

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site. 

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

Taking a bold leap into the unknown I left the city centre, unwisely following unfamiliar roads, predictably becoming very lost.

I sought assistance from a passing fellow cyclist, very kindly he guided me to Tynemouth, following a mysterious and circuitous course across the undulating terrain – thanks.

The city quickly becomes the seaside with its attendant retail bricolage.

An all too familiar redundant lido – opened in 1925 and closed in the mid 90’s – but a Friends Group aims to breathe new life into the site.

The Park Hotel built in the 1930’s and recently refurbished has been bought by The Inn Collection Group.

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

The Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan sets out our ambitious plans to regenerate the coastline between St Mary’s Lighthouse and Cullercoats Bay.

The proposals are a mix of council and private sector developments and involve more than £36m of new investment at the coast.

North Tyneside Gov

In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.

Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.

Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.

Spanish City

Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

Beacon House beckoned and I took time to have a good old look around.

Ryder and Yates 1959

A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.

Before I knew it I was in Blyth.

The town edged with military installations

Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.

Historic England

During WW2 Blyth Harbour was used as a major submarine base and that combined with the heavy industry in the area it made a very good target for the Luftwaffe.

Derelict Places

827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.

Skylighters

I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.

Encountering a brand new factory.

And the remnants of the old power station.

Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.

After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.

Wikipedia

UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.

The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.

By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.

The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.

Energy News

Long gone is the Cambois Colliery, its pit head baths and the buses that bused the workers in and out.

One hundred and eleven men died there.

The route headed along the coast on unmade roads and paths, I bypassed the Lynemouth Pithead Baths – having visited some ten years ago.

I was delighted to find that Creswell Ices were still in business and my temporary partner Adrian treats me to a tub.

Having arrived in Amble I was delighted to find the Cock & Bull.

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

Then watched the sun set over the harbour.
Good night all.

Beacon House – Whitley Bay

Granada Way
The Guardian

Beacon House Whitley Bay completed 1959.

Client: JM Liddell

Photograph: David Bilbrough

Cycling twixt Newcastle and Amble, I espied a tower block upon the horizon.

Leaving the coastal path I came upon Beacon House.

Research lead me to the work of Ryder and Yates Architecture.

Two pioneering young entrepreneurial architects who worked with Le Corbusier and Ove Arup first met in the office of Berthold Lubetkin. In 1953, they formed Ryder and Yates in Newcastle upon Tyne. That Le Corbusier, Lubetkin and, to no less extent Newcastle born Arup, had a powerful influence on the subsequent design philosophy of Gordon Ryder and Peter Yates can still be seen in any evaluation of Ryder’s work today.

Their work celebrated in this RIBA publication.

Beacon House is and elegant eleven storey tower, modest in scale yet rich in detail.

Two tiled elevations to the north and south.

Elegant balconies of a refined construction.

Plus a curious curved shell surrounding the entrance, along with a cantilevered covering.

Sadly this Peter Yates mural Procession of Shells is now lost.

Porstmouth

Having cycled here from Southampton, we now had time to cool our heels and look around.

Tim Rushton and I were Fine Art students here in the 1970’s, eager to take a trip down Memory Lane to Lion Terrace.

We’ll get there in a bit.

We took a look along The Hard discovering pubs that we never went in which are no longer pubs.

This pub was built in 1900, possibly on the site of an earlier pub. For most of its history it was tied to the Brickwood’s Brewery of Portsmouth. 

The pub closed in 1970 to become a restaurant, before becoming an estate agents offices.

The pub sign appeared in the 1971 film Carry On At Your Convenience.

Many Brickwoods’ pubs were ever so elegantly tiled, though the beer was largely undrinkable.

Just along the way another pub which we never really knew, though still a pub for all that.

Across the water in Gosport our old pals Harbour and Seaward Towers.

Along the way some high quality hard landscaping.

Beneath our feet the smiling face of Pompey!

We resisted the charming period charms of the Clarence Pier

The pier was originally constructed and opened in 1861 by the Prince and Princess of Wales and boasted a regular ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

It was damaged by air raids during World War II and was reopened in its current form on 1 June 1961 after being rebuilt by local architects AE Cogswell & Sons and R Lewis Reynish.

Mind the Baby Mr. Bean an episode of British TV comedy series Mr. Bean was filmed on location at Clarence Pier.

Wikipedia

Tim wisely eschews the Wimpy.

Lyons obtained a licence to use the Wimpy brand in the United Kingdom from Edward Gold’s Chicago based Wimpy Grills Inc. and, in 1954, the first Wimpy Bar was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. The bar began as a special fast food section within traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger-based meals.

In a 1955 newspaper column, Art Buchwald, syndicated writer for the Washington Post, wrote about the recent opening of a Wimpy’s Hamburger Parlor on Coventry Street and about the influence of American culture on the British.

Buchwald wrote:

Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.

In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called Torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

During the 1970s Wimpy refused entry to women on their own after midnight.

Moving along eye spy the Isle of Wight Ferry through the Hovertravel window.

Hovertravel is now the world’s oldest hovercraft operator, and this service is believed to be unique in western Europe. 

It is the world’s only commercial passenger hovercraft service.

The operator’s principal service operates between Southsea Common on the English mainland and Ryde Transport Interchange on the Isle of Wight: the crossing time of less than 10 minutes makes it the fastest route across The Solent from land to land. 

This service commenced operations in 1965, Hovertravel currently operates two 12000TD hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea.

Wikipedia 

We took a turn into the back streets to visit our old home 20 Shaftesbury Road, where Catherine Lusher, Tim and I lived in the basement flats.

Liz Bavister and Trish Frowd lived above

The former Debenham’s is to become flats.

Hampshire Live

Nearby Knight and Lea has been listed

The Knight & Lee building, which is located between two conservation areas on a prominent corner of Palmerston Road and Clarendon Road in Southsea, Portsmouth, was designed by Cotton, Ballard and Blow.

C20

Notable surviving original interior features include spiral staircases with terrazzo flooring in the northwestern and southwestern corner customer entrance vestibules.

A little Stymie Bold Italic aka Profil for your delectation along with a delightful low concrete fence.

A ghostly sign.

The Wheelbarrow where we drank, currently home to Joe and his pizzas.

The former Duchess of Fife in Castle Road long gone Long’s pub

Long & Co Ltd Southsea Brewery

Founded by William Tollervey 1814 and was acquired by Samuel Long in 1839. Registered in March 1924. 

Acquired by Brickwoods Ltd 1933 when brewing ceased.

The Barley Mow my favourite local where we would take a drink later.

Later.

The evening was enlivened by the arrival of a drunken wedding party the bride all in white, veil askew.

The besuited groom three sheets to the wind, mayhem ensued, we departed.

The Grade II Listed India Arms – North part 1902 by AE Cogswell; south part formerly Fishmonger and Game shop 1900, which formed the extension to the public house c1980.

Once part of the long gone Gales Brewery estate.

Founded 1847 when Richard Gale acquired the Ship & Bell home brew house.

Registered in April 1888 with 80 public houses. 

Acquired by Fuller, Smith & Turner Ltd in 2005 with 111 houses and closed.

Now we is at the Borough Arms and other favourite – purveyors of strong rough cider.

Built in 1899 architect AE Cogswell as the Old Vic now listed but no longer a pub

Along with the adjacent Wiltshire Lamb which since the 1980s this pub has had a variety of names including, Drummond’s, Tut ‘n’ Shive, Monty’s and now Hampshire Boulevard, usually shortened to HB.

The Norrish Central Library: city architect Ken Norrish 1976 – is all that remains this Brutal part of Portsmouth.

It faces the stylish new Civic Centre: Teggin & Taylor 1976 – a piazza completed by the adjacent Guildhall.

Alas no more:

The Tricorn Centre was a shopping, nightclub and car park complex, it was designed in the Brutalist style by Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon and took its name from the site’s shape which from the air resembled a tricorn hat.

Constructed in the mid-1960s, it was demolished in 2004.

Next we are by the former Portsmouth Polytechnic Fine Art block in Lion Terrace.

The ground floor corner housed the print room where I learnt my craft under the tutelage of Ian Hunter who we hooked up with for a pint and a chat.

Thanks ever so Ian for everything.

The happy days came to an end when the department was acrimoniously closed during a Hampshire shuffle.

We also cycled out to Langstone Harbour in search of the Arundel Canal lock gates, where Tim had languidly drawn away the hours, too many summers long ago.

After some circuitous searching we finally found them.

We ended a long day in the Barley Mow sharing yet another pint, one of many in our almost fifty year friendship.

Seaward Tower Harbour Tower – Gosport

While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport.

The surfaces of the tower blocks are covered in mosaic murals designed by Barden that rise the full 135 foot height of the buildings. They were controversial initially but are now a tourist attraction.

The tiles were produced by Carter and Co of Poole

Wikipedia

He was also responsible for the unlisted and under threat ceramic murals in Halifax Swimming Baths.

C20

Whilst cycling form Southampton to Margate I took the opportunity to walk around and snap the blocks, one sunny day in May.

Here they are unclad in 1984

Tower Block

Brochure courtesy of Peter Blake

The work seems unrivalled in both scale and vision a lasting testament to good design.

Fishermen’s Mission – Grimsby

Hope Street Grimsby DN32 7QL

If asked to name the UK’s biggest fishing port many people will answer Grimsby.

That was certainly true in the 1950’s when over 500 trawlers set out to sea, today only a handful of boats remain.

The Fishermen’s Mission

Opened in 1966 the Mission met the needs of those engaged in the most perilous of occupations.

Today it is a residential housing block – with flats for sale and rent.

Part of the town’s history a striking building, in many modern ways – most notably its strikingly modern mosaic.

Along with its striking colour scheme interesting use of textured materials and angular geometry.

UMIST – Manchester

Every now and then, I get the yen to come back here again.

Having included the site on one of my Manchester Modernist Walks, I pop by protectively just to make sure everything’s still there.

The custodians The University of Manchester may well be averse to listing and have already removed Chandos Hall.

Forever.

In addition, a whole block and a walkway have been subtracted.

Thereby placing the Hans Tisdall mosaics: The Alchemist’s Elements in jeopardy – currently held in storage, who knows what fate awaits them?

Discussions have taken place pre-lockdown, another year on and possibly the possibility of a positive resolution.

Consequently I always approach the site with a slight sense of foreboding, it’s Easter and there’s nobody about.

The trees are just about to burst into leaf, there are bright bursts of cherry blossom on the bough.

The sun shines down from a big blue sky, strewn with wisps of cloud.

Let’s have a look around – it’s springtime for UMIST and Modernity!

St Willibrords RC – Clayton Manchester

1963

North Road Clayton Manchester M11 4WQ

1937-38 by Reynolds and Scott built in buff brick of a Modernist Byzantine style.

The choice of the Apostle of Holland as a patron saint for the parish was that of a Dutch priest, Fr. Sassen, who bought land for the parish from St. Brigid’s in 1905. The new parish was opened in 1906.

Fr. Charles Hanrahan developed the mission in its infancy and was followed by Fr. Richard Mortimer, who laboured here for a long period, devoting most of his priestly life to the parish.

Fr. Patrick Dillon supervised the building of the magnificent new church of unusual design, which was opened in 1938.

Genuki

The church was Grade II listed in June 1994

Research Portal

Our Lady and St. Joseph Hanwell 1967

The church is sited in a densely populated area of the city, comprising Victorian terraces and inter-war social housing.

The interior has extensive mosaic work by the Manchester firm Ludwig Oppenheimer – whose work can also be seen in St John the Baptist RC Rochdale.

1968

So farewell St Willibords and many thanks to the exceptionally kind and welcoming parishioners who granted me access to this very fine church.

Archive photographs Local Image Collection

Poundland née BHS – Stockport

Stockport council bought the building in 2019 following the collapse of BHS three years earlier.

The report says the store is now in a poor condition, looks ‘dated and tired’ and ‘contributes to negative perceptions’ of Merseway.

MEN

You were conceived as an integral part of the Merseyway development, which on its inception, was held in the highest regard.

Innovative architecture with confidence, integrity and a clear sense of purpose.

The failure of BHS was a national disgrace, venal management, asset stripping, avaricious, grasping rodents ruled the day.

Dominic Chappell, who had no previous retail experience, bought the high street chain from the billionaire Sir Philip Green for £1 in March 2015. The company collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs 13 months later, leaving a pension deficit of about £571m.

Guardian

A sad end for a company with a long history and presence on the high street.

With an architectural heritage to match:

BHS’s chief architect at this time was G. W. Clarke, who generally worked alongside W. S. Atkins & Partners, as consulting engineers. The stores – like Woolworth’s buildings – were composite structures, with steel frames and concrete floors. Clarke sometimes appointed local architects.

At first, like C&A, BHS retained the narrow vertical window bays and margin-light glazing that had characterised high street façades in the 1930s, but by the end of the 1950s Clarke had embraced a modified form of curtain-walling.

This architectural approach became firmly associated with BHS, with framed curtain wall panels – like giant TV screens – dominating the frontages of many stores.

Building Our Past

Of note are the Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins concrete panels on the Deanery Row elevation.

There have been moves to have the work listed, without success.

Of late the store has been home to Poundland – though time has now been called.

Poundland’s retailing concept is extremely simple: a range of more than three thousand – representing amazing value for money.

Our pilot store opened in the Octagon Centre, Burton-upon-Trent, in December of 1990, followed by new stores in High Street, Meadowhall and other quality trading locations.  Shoppers loved the concept and so did fellow retailers and landlords.  The stores proved to be a huge success. Meadowhall’s success was repeated by further stores opening by the end of the year.

The store has been a success even during COVID restrictions, let us hope that the planned return goes ahead.

So here is my record of the building as is, a tad tired, but in its day a simple and authoritative amalgam of volumes and materials.

Mixing variegated grades of concrete, tiling, mosaic, brick, steel and glass.

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.

William Mitchell – Bradford

This is one of many visits to the Kirkgate Market in Bradford, in order to take a look at the William Mitchell murals.

Positioned above the entrance/exit and either side of the exit/entrance.

They have had over time various companions to keep them company.

They are currently friendless – the Kirkgate Market is to be closed, its future uncertain – and by inference Big Bill’s public art is under threat too.

The Council has announced to its traders in Kirkgate Market and the Oastler Centre that it will not be carrying out the proposed refurbishment of Kirkgate Market as the new market in Darley Street will now accommodate non-food sales on one trading floor with the other trading floor being dedicated to fresh foods and the 1st floor for hot food and beverage sales.

The Telegraph and Argus

We don’t want to eliminate existing customers, or the low income customers who use the existing markets.

Mr Wolstenholme

Do they however wish to eliminate the murals?

As per they are unlisted, largely unnoticed and as such very vulnerable, get it while you can, take a trip to Bradford real soon.

Mention must also be made of the tiled ceramic mosaics which adorn one wall and the three panels on the raised area above the stalls.

Authorship unknown.

I was most intrigued by these tiles – I have not seen this type before – they have a resemblance to to Transform tiles that were produced in Staffordshire in the 1970s, but they are different in several ways.

The November 1973 T&A microfilm appears to have been stolen from Bradford Library so I can’t check reports and features from the time of the opening of the market on November 22 1973.

I would be grateful for any memories and news.

Christopher Marsden 2012

Underpass – Scarborough Again

I’ve been here before on a much sunnier day.

Avoiding heavy showers and even heavier seas, I’m here again.

Three ways in and out of a doughnut on Scarborough’s South Bay.

One way in and out of the North Sea.

The underpass it seems is generally under threat, unsafe, often unloved and underground – often underused.

Once thought to be the answer to the threat posed to the pedestrian, by increased motor traffic, they are now deemed unsafe – poorly lit, badly maintained and scenes of anti-social activity.

Havens for those who are a threat to themselves.

Don’t let that put you off, get down and get with it!