Chorley Walk

I arrived at Chorley Railway Station.

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

Passenger trains over this route between Blackburn & Wigan were however withdrawn in January 1960.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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking down Fazakerley Street to where Fine Fare once was.

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

Architect Charles Wilkinson.

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

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

British Post Office Buildings

Happily, the Library is still a library.

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

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

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

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

Chorley History Society

Heading to the Council Offices.

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

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

Place North West

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

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

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

Landscaping of the public realm by CW Studio.

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

We return now to the former Fine Fare.

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

Woolies Buildings

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

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

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

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

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

Lancashire Post

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

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

Wikipedia

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

The Magistrates’ Courts are closed and up for sale.

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

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

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

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

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

1959

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

Cinema Treasures

Spare a thought for the town’s lost cinemas:

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

Architect Harry Weedon was assisted by PJ Price.

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

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

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

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

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

Cinema Treasures

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

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

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

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

Chorley Theatre Cinema History Map

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

Go see for y’self!

Chorley Police Station and Magistrates’ Court

St Thomas’s Road Chorley PR7 1RZ

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

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

County Architect’s Report: 1963-64.

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

Many thanks to Richard at Mainstream Modern

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

The Magistrates’ Court is up for sale:

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

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

Lancashire Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lancs Live

We eagerly await any possible developments.

Whilst walking around the adjoining Police Station.

Seaside Shelters – Colwyn Bay

Here I go again – just like Archie Bell minus the Drells.

Here I go again, thinking with my heart

But every time I see ya, I keep running back for more

April and October 2019 walking from Rhos to Colwyn.

Pandemics come and almost go – as do seaside shelters it seems.

The shelters of 1860 are quite literally a thing of the past.

Thye have become host to Niall McDiarmid‘s snaps of local business folk – the project developed when local residents raised concerns about the appearance of the shelters on the promenade.

Cllr Roger Parry said

The shelters are nearing the end of their lifespan and these sections of the prom will be upgraded as part of the waterfront project.

In the meantime, State of Independents will make great use of the shelters; celebrating our hardworking local businesses and hopefully encouraging footfall from the promenade to our high streets.

The last of the Rhos on Sea shelters is a dangerous customer suitably secured.

There remains two exemplars of the typology located at the Colwyn end of the bay.

The second shelter lacks the pierced concrete blocks.

So work progresses on the coastal defences, the promenade is refashioned after a fashion in the fashion of the day.

There is no longer a place for these unique exemplars of Municipal Modernism.

Before the work began, the promenade was a tired, uninviting and underused public space. Poorly lit and often host to anti-social behaviour, the uneven surfacing and crumbling shelters were the results of years of patchwork repairs.

The project has transformed the area into a public space which the local community can take pride in and make use of all year round.

ice.org.uk

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted

On this home by horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore

Is there, is there balm in Gilead?

Tell me, tell me, I implore

Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins – Gwent House Cwmbran

Gwent House is the home of the District Council Offices for Torfaen and the Public Library. Used by HM Courts Service and HCMS – South East Wales, the building is a seven story structure with retail space on the ground floor and open plan office space above. Built during the 1970s as a local government building, it is constructed with a steel and concrete frame with wall to wall double glazed windows and a flat roof.

Gwent House sits on the east side of Gwent Square at the heart of Cwmbran New Town’s centre. The ‘Central Building’ as it was known during development was conceived by the Cwmbran Development Corporation, as a mixed development of leisure (including a club, dance hall and hotel) and office accommodation with retail to the ground floor. this was to expand the function of the town centre beyond purely a shopping centre, and to address the perceived lack of ‘professional’ office jobs. In the event, the offices proved difficult to let and were occupied by the CDC and Cwmbran Urban District Council. 

The building was designed by Sheppard, Robson & Partners and opened on the 18th January 1973. The eight-storey, concrete framed block included a job centre, the library, a conference and exhibition hall, and three restaurants catering for different tastes and age ranges, including the ‘Sign of the Steer’. 

On the west side of the building are a series of three moulded concrete relief panels designed by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins for the MEPC, the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the Cwmbran Arts Trust in 1974. The panels depict scenes representing different phases of the history of Gwent: Iron Age and Roman, Medieval and Industrial.

Coflein

The work of Joyce and Henry is well known here at the modern mooch having visited Newcastle, Bexhill and of course Stockport. There are also examples in their hometown Colchester, Gloucester and Southampton.

Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.

The square it seems is due to be revamped as part of the broader regeneration plans.

Literature displayed at the public consultation said improvements in Monmouth Square aim to -introduce colour into what is a lacklustre space.

South Wales Argus 2017

One hopes that these important public arts work survive the transformation.

September 2022 the bandstand was demolished.

Photo: Rhiannon Jones

Lia Jones said:

The bandstand was a well-known centre point for the area. I really wish it had been kept in the design for the area, they should have relocated it instead of getting rid of it all together.

South Wales Argus 2022

Housing – Cwmbran

Here we are again in Cwmbran having previously visited Monmouth Square and Taliesin.

The Masterplan, produced for the Cwmbran Development Corporation by Minoprio & Spencely & Macfarlane in 1950 – image from the Gwent Archives

Royal Commission

Cwmbran was founded in 1949 as a new town, to provide new employment opportunities in the south eastern portion of the South Wales Coalfield, but the area has a long history.

We shall now explore the housing framed by the railway and shopping centre.

From Cleeve Barr’s Public Authority Housing – published in 1958.

A mix of pedestrianised terraces and low rise blocks, set in a loose grid of roads and rolling, tree-lined, grassed areas.

Over time there has been the addition of uPVC and the revisionist intrusion of the ahistorical carriage lamp.

Incidentally an area with more al fresco shopping trolleys than I had ever seen, I assume that the big Asda, located within walking distance of the homes, to be the progenitor of such a notable proliferation.

It remains, generally speaking a well kept lived in area – let’s take a look.

Taliesin – Cwmbran

What’s in a name?

Taliesin (/ˌtælˈiɛsɪn/ tal-YES-inWelsh: [talˈjɛsɪn]; fl. 6th century AD) was an early Brittonic poet of Sub-Roman Britain whose work has possibly survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin.

Taliesin is the home, studio, and 800-acre agricultural estate of Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright built Taliesin on his favorite boyhood hill, in the Wisconsin River valley homesteaded by his Welsh grandparents. He named it Taliesin in honor of the Welsh bard whose name means Shining Brow, reflecting his belief that the crown of the hill was reserved for nature, and that buildings should be constructed at the brow of the hill.

Frank Lloyd Wright

It is also a name commonly found on many of the common place dwellings of the Principality.

Tre-Taliesin is a village in Ceredigion  nine miles south of Machynlleth.

The village is known for the Bedd Taliesin, a hilltop Bronze Age tumulus which is traditionally regarded as the site for the grave of the Welsh bard, Taliesin. It is listed as a Historic Monument. It is a round-kerb cairn with a cist about 2m long. The capstone has fallen; the side stone slabs are more or less in their original positions.

Wikipedia

Which brings us to Taliesin Cwmbran a group of 58 flats located at the northern end of a road named Forgeside.

This development is something of an anomaly, breaking the mould of the conventional New Town housing which surrounds it.

Broadly Postmodern – with passing references to half timbered buildings, yet with more contemporary cladding. A wandering profile and angular roofline which echoes Hollywood Medievalism, paired with a fortress like enclosure of space and scaled down passageways.

So far no architectural attribution – any clues anyone?

MacCormac Jamieson & Prichard 1981-82

Thanks to Richard Brook over at Mainstream Modern.

William Mitchell – Cwmbran

Monmouth House Cwmbran 1967 by Gordon Redfern

Cladding to lift tower by William Mitchell

Situated in the Fairwater Shopping Centre:

Built between 1963 and 1967, the centre comprised 18 shops, a childrens playground, public toilets, a health and dental centre, and a combined public house and community centre. The unit centre was designed by Chief Architect of the CDC, Gordon Redfern, and was architecturally the most innovative and ambitious unit centre within Cwmbran New Town. To combat the exposed nature of the site together with the ‘high rainfall, mists and variable winds’ prevalent in the area, Gordon Redfern designed an enclosed, high-sided space that would physically and mentally shield shoppers during their visits. This protective environment extended to creating a central play area that could be viewed from the shops, allowing a more enjoyable experience for children. Four different shops types were provided on increasing floor footage for facilities ranging from barbers to grocery shop, all with storage to the first floor and eight, on the south-west side, with a two-bedroom maisonette above. To enhance the architectural impact of the scheme, Redfern created each unit on an hexagonal plan despite the inefficiences in floor space usage and additional costs in creating the fixtures and fittings. The CDC also fitted out each of the uits to a customised requirement – for example the Post Office unit was pre-fitted with a telephone booth, posting box, stamp machine and half-glazed panel for advertising services.

The structural engineers were Ove Arup & Partners, the builders were Gee, Walker & Slater. Construction costs for the scheme were estimated at £214,106. The unit centre was opened 12 September 1967, shared with the opening of Monmouth House, both undertaken by Rt. Hon. James Callaghan, M.P. A scathing article written the following month by architectural critic Ian Nairn dismissed the design as a ‘kind of in-turned medieval village … an oasis of picturesqueness in a desert of statistical units’ designed for, rather than with, the inhabitants and therefore destined for commercial failure.

Coflein

In 1949, the then Minister for Town and Country Planning, John Silken, designated an area of 31,000 acres surrounding the village of Cwmbran to be the first new town in Wales. Unlike the first generation new towns, the aim of Cwmbran was to provide housing and a range of facilities for those employed in existing industry but who lived in poor housing in the neighbouring valleys.

A master plan was implemented to achieve the objective for the town. However, as the town developed, the projected size of the town had to increase and many of the plans ideals were diluted as the Southwest expansion area was approved in 1977.

In fact, due to the planned nature of Cwmbran, there now exists few opportunities for new development within the town. This has meant intense development pressure on the outskirts of Cwmbran from house builders and developers.

Torfaen

On the day of my visit the centre was busy with happy shoppers happily shopping – there were major works underway in line with the town’s new plans.

Cwmbran has also prospered from having a vibrant retail core. The Shopping Centre has a fully pedestrianised, multi purpose centre with covered shopping malls. There are over 170 retail outlets covering a total area of 700.000 sq. ft, including a number of popular high street retailers, restaurants, a theatre and cinema. Accordingly, the town is now considered to be a sub regional centre, and the intention is that this retail focus will be increased by regeneration of the eastern side of the town.

Now 50 years on parts of the town are in need of renovation. Through various public and private partnerships the aim of the Cwmbran Project Team is to set out a 15 year strategy for the regeneration and development of the new town, and begin its implementation.

My primary interest concerned the public art in Monmouth SquareWilliam Mitchell’s concrete clad lift shaft.

There is a water feature currently off limits and without the water that would elevate the feature to a fully functioning feature.

Plans proposed in 2018 could may herald the demise of this important public work of art.

Plans to level the water gardens in Monmouth Square at the Cwmbran Centre will be reviewed by Torfaen council’s planning committee.

The proposal also includes a modern café with a glazed front, the development of an events space to house farmers markets and street theatre and a green area.

Rebecca McAndrew, Torfaen council’s principal planning officer, said in the report that the water feature would be filled in and flattened as part of “an ongoing renovation programme”.

The application states that the area has a ‘weary and dated appearance’ and do not meet disability access requirements.

According to the report, the water gardens last flowed 13 years ago and its demolition would lead to further improvements at Wales’ second largest shopping centre.

Free Press

The Water Gardens were designed by the CDC Chief Architect Gordon Redfern as a key visual and recreational element of the Town Centre. His focus was on combining different textures in the form of hard landscaping and planting, with the sense of movement and sound created by running water. At the upper end a pool, containing an artwork created from Pilkington Glass, was fed by a horizontal water jet which was in turn led by a small ‘canal’ to the lower, sunken garden. With water cascading down the southern retaining wall, consisted of moulded concrete sporting abstract geometric form, and variety of trees and shrubs, this formed an area for busy shoppers and families to relax and socialise.

RCAHMW

Close by, by way of light relief is a concrete screen wall with an almost watery wavy relief!

Here’s hoping that this cavalcade of concrete delights survives the planners’ and developers’ dreams.

Arup In Wonderland – Durham

The last structure that Ove Arup designed himself was the award-winning reinforced concrete Kingsgate Footbridge in Durham, England.

Completed in 1963, Arup considered this bridge his finest work. He planned every detail, including the unusual way it was constructed. The need for scaffolding on the river was eliminated by casting the bridge in two halves, one for each bank. The halves were then swivelled out from the banks to meet. 

The two halves pivoted on revolving cones, their meeting point marked by an understated bronze expansion joint. Bearings were designed at the base of each part to allow rotation, robust but cheap enough to be used only once. 

This elegant example of simple mechanical engineering provided tense moments for the team while the spans were turned and connected. 

John Martin, project manager for the bridge, said:

“Ove never seemed to worry that anything might go wrong. That was fine, it just meant that one felt fully responsible for seeing that it didn’t. But he got quite cross when the contractor took a few, to Ove’s view unnecessary, steps to make doubly sure that construction went smoothly. I think that to him it was a question of spoiling the elegance of the idea”.

arup.com

I’m ever so fond of concrete footbridges, in fact I have written about our local exemplar.

And have taken great pleasure in teaching and preaching whilst atop such.

So it was with some degree of excited anticipation, that I strode eagerly toward Ove’s bridge – a bridge guaranteed to raise a smile, enchanted by its elegance and audacity.

Over we go headlong and fancy free into this black and white concrete world.

Crossing over into colourful off-white world of university life.

Dunelm House was designed by Richard Raines and Michael Powers of the Architects Co-Partnership, and completed in 1966 under the supervision of architect Sir Ove Arup, whose adjacent Kingsgate Bridge opened two years earlier. Built into the steeply sloping bank of the River Wear, Dunelm House is notable internally for the fact that the main staircase linking all five levels of the building runs in an entirely straight line. This was intended by the building’s architects to create the feeling of an interior street.

Wikipedia

In 1968 Dunelm House won a Civic Trust award. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner considered the building:

Brutalist by tradition but not brutal to the landscape, the elements, though bold, are sensitively composed. 

Durham City Council’s Local Plan notes that the powerful building, together with Kingsgate Bridge.

Provides an exhilarating pedestrian route out into open space over the river gorge.

Public views were divided from the start, with a local newspaper in 1966 reporting views ranging from:

The third best looking building in the city to a – monstrosity. 

The Observer in 2017 reported that students called it:

That ugly concrete building.

I was delighted to hear that the Student Union building’s first musical performance was given by Thelonius Monk.

Let’s have a look at that ugly building.

With the city’s least ugliest building in view.

Of special interest to all lovers of substations and shelters is the neat little substation and shelter mash-up over the road.

County Hall Durham

Work on the new building began in 1960: it was designed by Sir Basil Spence and was built by John Laing & Son at a cost of £2.75 million and was officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 14 October 1963. 

The design for the seven-storey building involved continuous bands of glazing with exposed concrete beams above and below.

A large mosaic mural depicting local scenes was designed by Clayton and Gelson and installed on the face of the building.

In March 2019, the County Council approved a proposal to move to a smaller new-build facility on the Sands car park at Freeman’s Place in the centre of Durham. Of around 1,850 staff currently based in County Hall, 1,000 will be based at the new HQ and approximately 850 will relocate to four council office sites being developed across the county in Crook, Meadowfield, Seaham and Spennymoor. The building works, which are being carried out by Kier Group at a cost of £50 million, are scheduled to be completed in late 2021. Richard Holden, Conservative member of parliament for North-West Durham, has described the new council headquarters as a ‘vanity project’, questioning the suitability of the location as well as tax increases and cuts to services used to pay for the development.

Wikipedia

In April 2022 the council sold their new HQ to Durham University – yet demolition will still go ahead. This unlisted gem in the grand Festival of Britain style deserves much, much better.

Nearby Neighbours Newcastle have had the good sense to list and retain their Civic Centre.

The administration now plans a three-pronged approach to:

  • Construct another new modest-sized civic building and conference centre for businesses at Aykley Heads.
  • Occupy other council-owned offices already being built at Aykley Heads.
  • Refurbish and reuse the former customer access point on Front Street, Stanley, a large, run-down Grade II listed building which the council has been unable to sell.

The Northern Echo

Online, there is no evidence of any will or pressure to save this glorious building – the site will eventually become that most modern mix of business park, retail, and leisure facilities.

The proposal, led by Durham County Council, forms part of an overall masterplan to knock down the municipal building in Aykley Heads and redevelop the wider site to provide retail, financial and professional space, food and drink units, space for leisure use and a multi-storey car park.

Insider Media 2020

Go see it whilst you are still able.

A mural by a beloved pitman painter, commissioned by Durham County Council to mark the opening of County Hall in 1963, has been successfully moved to its new home in Bishop Auckland.

The painting by Norman Cornish, one of the most respected and much-loved artists to emerge from the North-East, depicts the arrival of the banners at Durham Miners’ Gala.

After being commissioned by the council, Cornish was granted 12 months unpaid leave from Mainsforth Colliery in Ferryhill to complete the painting, with most of the work being completed during the coldest winter in 40 years.

Although it arrived at County Hall in 1963 rolled up in the back of a carpet van, the mural’s removal was an incredibly intricate process, involving several experts.  

Northern Echo

Norman Cornish

City Hall – Leicester

Architects: Barnish and Silcock 1938

The medieval Leicester Guildhall was used as the Town Hall for around 300 years. By the mid-19th Century much larger premises were needed to support a rapidly growing industrial centre.  The Victorian Town Hall was opened in 1876 on the site of the old cattle market.

In 1919, Leicester was recognised as a city. It continued to expand, along with its Council. Conditions in the Town Hall soon became cramped and some departments began to move out. By 1930 it was agreed new municipal offices were needed to centralize the Housing, Electricity, Rates, Motor Licence and Valuation departments. They would form part of a major redevelopment of Charles Street, the so-called quarter of a million pound building on a million pound road.

The modest opening ceremony took place on 7th November 1938. In his speech the Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Acton, said it was a privilege to open “this long sought-after and wonderful place.”  A stone tablet to mark the event can be seen opposite the reception desk in the entrance foyer. The building was designed to command attention and respect, and conform to a modern desire for simplicity. Clad in Portland Stone, its interior included many elegant Art Deco features, many of which have been restored.

Story of Leicester

The refurbishment was undertaken by Franklin Ellis Architects.

The office floors accommodate workstations for 480 staff, together with breakout areas and meeting rooms. The project included re-purposing original municipal spaces for new assembly functions; restoring period features; and providing a dignified civic interior appropriate to the functions of the Council. An environmentally conscious servicing solution minimises the building’s energy usage.

Attenborough Hall

By the 1930s, demand for electricity was growing rapidly. The Municipal Offices housed the Leicester Corporation Electricity Department (later the East Midland Electricity Board) and were specially furnished with a model kitchen for:

Housewives who are interested in the modern uses of electricity in the home.

A special theatre also presented weekly cookery demonstrations and a Service Centre displayed, sold and hired out electrical appliances.

The theatre is still extant, though sadly no longer available for cookery demonstrations.

On the back wall this mural remains as a reminder of the theatre’s the former use.

Many thanks to Grant Butterworth – Head of Planning, for negotiating access to the hall and accompanying us on our Modernist Mooch.

In the 1960s a nuclear bunker was constructed. This was one of many across the country built by local authorities to protect key personnel from radiation in the event of an attack, enabling some form of government to continue. Today, the bunker has long gone, and the basement of City Hall is now used as a storage area.

By 1963 the De Montfort Hall Box Office was located in the building.  This caused chaotic scenes in Charles Street when, in October of that year, around 3,000 youngsters queued all night for tickets to see The Beatles. When the Box Office opened at 9:30am, the queue stretched back to Humberstone Gate and was held in check by a pitifully thin line of police. The Leicester Mercury described the scene as:

A heaving, shouting, screaming, unruly, undignified, disorderly mob – a disgraceful night.

Pressure from the crowd caused a 10 foot square window in Halford´s shop to break.  With all the tickets sold, the crowd dispersed and the Leicester Mercury said Charles Street resembled

A filthy, unswept ghost street, badly in need of the cleaners to remove the mountains of waste paper and return its respectability. 

With thanks again to the Story of Leicester.

BISF Prefabs Wadsworth Lane – Hebden Bridge

Wadsworth Lane Hebden Bridge HX7 8DL

Calderdale is awash with non-traditional housing as can be seen on this site:

Non-traditional housing in Calderdale

The Second World War brought an even greater demand for the rapid construction of new dwellings. In addition to the need to rebuild homes damaged as a result of the war, the Government had other objectives that were set out in a white paper in 1945, to provide a separate dwelling for any family who wanted one and to complete the slum clearance programme started before the war. After the Second World War there was a surplus of steel and aluminium production, and an industry in need of diversification. These factors drove the move towards the use of prefabrication, as a result many new varieties of concrete, timber framed and steel framed systems emerged. Whilst most systems were intended to provide permanent or long-term housing a few were intended only as emergency or temporary solutions.

The homes on Wadsworth Lane are BISF Type A1 – designed by architect Frederick Gibberd and engineer Donovan Lee.

Manufactured by British Iron & Steel Federation and British Steel Homes Ltd.

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

Northolt

Non Standard House

We have encountered the very same houses in Tin Town Wythenshawe

I walked up Wadsworth Lane in 2021.

I walked past again in 2022 – the home appear to be in good health, many improved or extended, yet retaining at least a little of their heritage.

They are lived in and loved.

Leo Fitzgerald House – Dublin

Leo Fitzgerald House Hogan Place Erne Street Upper Dublin 2

The second post featuring the work of Herbert Simms following on from O’Carroll Villas.

These homes were named for Civil War hero Leo Fitzgerald.

London born Herbert George Simms was responsible for the building of some 17,000 new working class dwellings in his time in office as Dublin’s pioneering Housing Architect, ranging from beautiful Art Deco flat schemes in the inner-city to new suburban landscapes.

Freestanding L-plan multiple-bay four-storey social housing block, built c. 1940, having attached stairs tower to east elevation. Flat roof concealed behind rendered parapet with concrete coping, and having rendered chimneystacks with concrete copings and clay pots. Flemish bond brown brick and rendered walls. Square-headed window openings with rendered surrounds and sills, and replacement uPVC windows. Square-headed door openings with rendered surrounds and timber doors to galleries. Square-headed door opening in attached stairs tower with mild-steel double-leaf gate, concrete platform and steps.

Statue of Sacred Heart to south elevation.

Buildings Of Ireland

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.

Bolton Walk

Organised by the Twentieth Century Society

Text by Eddy Rhead and David French.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A welcome dose of honest Brutalism.

The Wellsprings successfully fitting with the Town Hall

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

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

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

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

Whitakers 1907 by George Crowther.

Pastiche timber-framed with pepper-pot turret.

Incorporates genuine Tudor timbers from a demolished building nearby.

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

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

It does however echo Victoria Hall 1898-1900 BGH.

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

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

The mansard roof was added later.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neatly contrived on a tight site. 

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

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

Owen Hatherley in Modern Buildings in Britain says of the town

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

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.

Concrete Relief – Swansea

Central Clinic 21 Orchard Street Swansea SA1 5AT

Whisking you back in time!

To 2015 when local artist and archivist Catrin Saran James is undertaking a little reverse vandalism by way of guerrilla restoration or adfer gerila if you will.

Leading to a full scale cleaning of the Harry Everington 1969 concrete mural adorning the Central Clinic.

It was under Harry’s guidance that students from the Swansea College of Art produced the mural which was put on the building’s exterior back in 1969.

It was fantastic to have had an email from the ABMU Health Board earlier this year.
Martin Thomas who leads the ABMU Heritage Team contacted me as he was researching what public art the health board owned.

Martin came across my Guerrilla Restoration work and the previous work I’d done in highlighting cleaning samples of Harry Everington’s 1969 abstract concrete sculptural mural over the last 5 years.

Taken from the ABMU Heritage blog, here’s what Martin said of the project:

When we started this group we carried out a scoping exercise to see what historical artefacts the health board owned and this mural came up.

When I did more research I found out about Catrin’s project and we thought it would be a good idea to help finish what she had started.

We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to clean a very neglected sculpture.

Catrinsaranjames.com

Subsequently her gallant restoration endeavours made headline news in Wales Online.

Fast forward to Wednesday May 11th 2022 – I am aboard the Transport for Wales train, Swansea bound!

Catrin had kindly forwarded me a clear and comprehensive guide to Swansea’s Modernist architecture.

Characteristically, I promptly got lost, fortunately we had arranged to meet at the National Waterfront Museum – which was clearly signposted. Following a chat and a cuppa we swanned off, visiting the Civic Centre and a lovely array of post-war retail outlets.

We parted and I went on my merry way – I can’t thank you enough for your company and erudition Catrin, diolch yn fawr.

Eventually I arrived at the Clinic, I feel that the best time to visit a medical centre is when you are fighting fit, with an overwhelming interest in cast concrete, rather than plaster casts.

Platt Court – William Mitchell

Wilmslow Rd Manchester M14 5LT

Situated outside Platt Court a third of four William Mitchell totems that I have visited – Eastford Square and Newton Heath still extant.

William Mitchell 1960

The Hulme exemplar has gone walkabout.

Public Sculpture of Greater Manchester – Terry Wyke

Tower Block tells us this is one 13 storey block containing 62 dwellings along with one 9 storey block containing 70 dwellings.

Built by Direct Labour commissioned by Manchester County Borough Council

Seen here in 1970.

The flats are now gated, so I peeped tentatively through the fencing.

Then chatting to the site’s maintenance gardener I gained access – here is what I saw.

Dollan Aqua Centre – East Kilbride

Designed by Alexander Buchanan Campbell and named after former Lord Provost Sir Patrick Dollan, it was opened in 1968 as Scotland’s first 50 metre  swimming pool.

It consists principally of pre-stressed concrete and imitates a colossal marquee – the vaulted 324 ft parabolic arched roof appears to be held down by pairs of v-shaped struts that meet the ground at a thirty degree angle.

Buchanan Campbell admitted that he had been influenced by the architecture of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan and the designs by Kenzo Tange for the gymnasium there.

Also inspired by Pier Luigi Nervi’s Olympic Complex in Rome.

In 1993, the international conservation organisation Docomomo International listed Dollan Baths as one of sixty key monuments in Scottish post-war architecture.

It was listed in 2002 as a Category A building by Historic Environment Scotland.

Wikipedia

RIBA PIX

The Dollan’s wet recreation facilities include South Lanarkshire’s only 50m swimming pool and SLLC’s most exclusive health suite facility which features a sauna, steam room, sanarium, spa pool and relaxation area.

If you prefer dry recreation facilities then look no further as the Dollan features two gyms. The first is a traditional gym with the latest Life Fitness cardio and HUR compressed-air resistance equipment.

To complement these fantastic facilities there are two fitness studios that play host to a diverse range of fitness and mind, body and soul classes as well as a morning creche.

South Lanarkshire Leisure

Sadly, I am neither a water babe nor gym bunny – body, soul and mindfulness are maintained in perfect harmony solely by means of modern mooching.

I walked around, I took a look.