Bognor Regis to Eastbourne

It’s Tuesday 5th August 2015 and the taps don’t match – is this a good omen?

Or simply proprietorial pragmatism?

And why is the sink a funny shape?

Any road up we’re off up the road, the sun’s a shining and here we are in Littlehampton.

Looking at a pale blue gas holder, some way off in the middle distance.

Staring up at a fishmonger’s ghost.

Passing by an ultra-squiggly seaside shelter as a runner passes by.

The Long Bench at Littlehampton is thought to be the longest bench in Britain and one of the longest in the world. The wood and stainless steel bench ‘flows’ along the promenade at Littlehampton in West Sussex – curving round lamp posts and obstacles, twisting up into the seafront shelters, dropping down to paths and crossings.

The bench was opened in July 2010 and can seat over 300 people. It was funded by Arun District Council and CABE’s ‘Sea Change’ capital grants programme for cultural and creative regeneration in seaside resorts. The bench was also supported by a private donation from Gordon Roddick as a tribute to his late wife Anita, the founder of the Body Shop, which first began trading in Littlehampton.

Water treatment plant.

Nothing lifts the spirits quite like a wildflower meadow.

Imagine my surprise having gone around the back – an expressionist concrete spiral stairway.

Letting the sky leak in here at Burlington Court in Goring on Sea

The phrase deceptively spacious is one that is often overused within the property industry, however it sums up this ground floor flat prospectively. Offering a great alternative to a bungalow and providing spacious and versatile living accommodation, this is an absolute must for your viewing list.

Prime Location £250,000

What a delightful Modernist frieze on the side of Marine Point – Worthing!

With lifts to all floors this triple aspect corner apartment is situated on the fifth level and has outstanding panoramic sea views across from Beachy Head to Brighton through to the Isle of Wight. It is also benefits from stunning South Down views to the west and north. The property has been recently refurbished to a high specification and includes features such as: Quick-Step flooring, security fitted double glazed windows, a hallway motion sensor lighting system, extensive storage space and two double bedrooms.  

On The Market £450,000

Fox and Sons are delighted to offer For Sale this immaculate seafront penthouse located within the highly desirable Normandy Court situated on the sought after West Parade, Worthing. Upon entry you will notice that the communal areas are kept in good condition throughout.

Fox and Sons £325,00

The finest N in the land!

One of the finest modular pre-cast concrete car parks in the land.

Borough council officers have recommended developing the Grafton car park, with a fresh study recommending that building new homes there is key – saying it is important to help revitalise the town centre and bring in new cutlural and leisure activities.

The car park is currently undergoing essential maintenance to be able to keep it open in the short term but the recommendation is that it should eventually be demolished to make way for the new development.

Spirit FM

In the meantime they have painted it a funny colour.

On the concrete Undercliff on my way out of Brighton.

The Seven Sisters in view.

Before you know it you’ve booked into an Eastbourne B&B enjoying the multiple benefits of the complimentary biscuits and a mini-kettle brew.

Followed by a pint in the delightful Dolphin.

A stroll around town.

Returning to the backyard of The Dolphin.

Another pint then.

Night night.

Modernist Model Village

I’ve always dreamt of a Modernist Model Village.

So much so I bought a book.

Drew up a list of buildings, made plans – dream on.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.

However, whilst on my 2015 cycle tour of the south west coast I arrived almost accidentally yet serendipitously outside Babbacombe Model Village.

A good place to visit as dogs are welcome and this is important to us. The models were very cleverly designed and each one is recognisable and very funny anecdotes and labels. It was much bigger than it looked but flowed easily and was fun and charming to walk around. There is also a free mini crazy golf room which makes a change to not charge for something like this and a joy to see. I really enjoyed myself and it is all so well maintained you can feel the passion of the people creating it.

I went in – how could I have done otherwise?

Many of the buildings reflect the areas’ Seaside Moderne styles, from the holiday chalets to the substantial Modernist Villa, plus all the up to the minute services and infrastructure one would expect in a modern model village.

Let’s take a look:

Other model villages are available – Bondville Bridlington and virtually in Hastings

Okehampton to Plymouth

Tuesday 28th July 2015 waking up early on the outskirts of Okehampton – I went next door to explore – the Wash and Go.

I went back to Okehampton.

Headed out of town along the old railway line to Plymouth – where rests the solemn remains of previous railway activity and Meldon Quarry.

It’s believed that the first quarrying began around the late 1700s when the local limestone was extracted. Over the years this gradually gave over to aggregate quarrying and apelite quarrying until it final closure. The original owners of the quarry were the London and South Western Railway and then came Britsh Rail and finally EEC Aggregates.

Crossing Meldon Viaduct.

Meldon Viaduct carried the London and South Western Railway across the West Okement River at Meldon on Dartmoor. The truss bridge, which was constructed from wrought iron and cast iron not stone or brick arches, was built under the direction of the LSWR’s chief engineer, WR Galbraith. After taking three years to build, the dual-tracked bridge opened to rail traffic in 1874. Usage was limited to certain classes of locomotive because the viaduct had an axle load limit. Although regular services were withdrawn in 1968, the bridge was used for shunting by a local quarry. In the 1990s the remaining single line was removed after the viaduct was deemed to be too weak to carry rail traffic.

The crossing is now used by The Granite Way, a long-distance cycle track across Dartmoor. The viaduct, which is a Scheduled Monument, is now one of only two such surviving railway bridges in the United Kingdom that uses wrought iron lattice piers to support the cast iron trusses – the other is Bennerley Viaduct between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Wikipedia

We’re off across the edge of Dartmoor.

On an old railway line with prefabricated concrete railway huts.

And a bus stop at Mary Tavy a village with a population of around 600, located four miles north of Tavistock.

And a population of one delightful litter bin.

And CJ Down Coach Hire – the pride of Dartmoor.

Don’t the road look rough and rocky, will the sea look wide and deep?

Time for a timely tea and flapjack stop.

So far so good the nicest weather of the tour, shortest yet most amenable distance through moorland, upland and downland – with a final traffic free descent into Plymouth.

Back in the land of the tower block.

Chichester House Citadel Road The Hoe Plymouth PL1 3BA

  • Spacious One Bedroom Apartment
  •  Good Size Living Room
  •  Modernisation Required

Lang Town and Country

Past the former Odeon

Architects Percy Bartlett and William Henry Watkins

Built on the site of the Andrews New Picture Palace, which had opened in 1910, and was demolished in 1930. The Gaumont Palace was opened on 16th November 1931 with Jack Hulbert in “The Ghost Train” and Sydney Howard in “Almost a Divorce”.

The imposing brick building has a white stone tower feature in the central section above the entrance. Seating inside the auditorium was provided for 1,462 in the stalls and 790 in the circle.

It was re-named Gaumont in 1937 currently closed and at risk.

Cinema Treasures

The post war redevelopment of Plymouth produced this sizable Portland Stone Shopping Centre.

A Plan for Plymouth’ was a report prepared for the City Council by James Paton Watson, City Engineer and Surveyor, and Patrick Abercrombie, Consultant Architect, published in 1943.

Planning is not merely the plotting of the streets of a town; its fundamental essence is the conscious co-relation of the various uses of the land to the best advantage of all inhabitants. Good planning therefore, presupposes a knowledge and understanding of the people, their relationship to their work, their play, and to each other, so that in the shaping of the urban pattern, the uses to which the land is put are so arranged as to secure an efficient, well- balanced and harmonious whole.

The Civic Centre soon to be redeveloped.

The magnificent dalle de verre fascia of the Crown and County Courts.

having had a good old look around I sought shelter for the night, with some difficulty I found a profoundly plain room. The town seemingly full of itinerant contractors, filling the vast majority of available space.

Not to worry let’s have a look at the seafront.

Tinside Lido by J Wibberley Borough Engineer, with Edmund Nuttall and Sons and John Mowlem and Company, builders, with entrance building of 1933 by the same engineer.

Set in a beautiful location overlooking the sea at the tip of Plymouth Hoe and voted one of the top 10 best outdoor pools in Europe, Tinside Lido is an attraction not to be missed.

Built in 1935, Tinside is a slice of the quintessential British seaside from a bygone era. The Lido is a wonderful example of art-deco style and is Grade II listed.

Time for a timely 99 tub – what ho!

Followed by several pints of Dartmoor Jail in the delightful Dolphin Hotel.

The Dolphin Hotel is a pub on the Barbican , the building, which is known as either the Dolphin Inn or Dolphin Hotel, is a Grade II listed building. It notable as the setting of several of the artist Beryl Cook’s paintings.

The three storey building was constructed in the early 19th century, although it may contain fabric from an earlier structure. It has a slate mansard roof surrounded by a tall parapet with a moulded cornice. The front has white stucco with plaster reliefs of dolphins. The pub is associated with the Tolpuddle Martyrs, some of whom stayed at the hotel on their return from exile in Australia in 1838, when a Mr Morgan was the landlord.

It is a no-frills unmodernised pub famous for its cask ale, draught Bass served straight from the barrel. The sign on the front of the building has always called the pub the ‘Dolphin Hotel’. In 2010 the pub was refurbished, but vandalised in 2014.

A wobbly walk home and a good night’s rest

Night night.

Southend to Clacton

Day three Wednesday 3rd September – leaving Southend under a cloud.

The huge slab of the Civic Centre shrouded in sea mist.

Designed by borough architect – PF Burridge.

Queen Mum Opens Civic Centre – It took a while to get there, since 1958 when the council agreed to embark on a quest to build a new home for itself;  but on 31st October 1967 HRH the Queen Mother did the honours and formally opened the spanking new Civic Centre.  During its build Southend was classed as being in the top ten in the country for full employment, due to this workers were hard to come by and bus loads of workers were brought in to complete this and the many other projects shooting up along Victoria Avenue at the same time. 

Cllr Beryl Scholfield commented later on the day – The Queen Mother opened the Civic Centre in 1967, when my husband was chairman of the town hall committee, and we had lunch with her at Porters.  We were presented to her when she came in. There were no more than about 30 of us there.  It was a most exciting day.

She was as natural as you see her on the television.

Postscript 2002

A Union Jack lowered to half-mast in tribute to the Queen Mum has been stolen from Southend’s Civic Centre. A council spokeswoman today denounced the theft as – a despicable act at a time of great sadness and national mourning.

The outrage has caused extra sadness for royalist residents in the town because of the Queen Mother’s special place in the history of the Civic Centre.

The Leda and the Swan statue by Lucette Cartwright, which used to be in the Civic Centre atrium, gets a polish in May 1987.

A bronze statue depicting a mythological rape has finally found a new home at the mayor of Southend’s official residence. The controversial statue of Leda and the Swan was specially commissioned by Southend Council in the Sixties and first stood outside the courthouse in Victoria Avenue.

Later it was moved to the Civic Square and then to the courtyard of the Palace Theatre, in Westcliff. Later, it was moved to the Civic Centre when it caused outrage among staff. Workers claimed the statue, representing the rape of Leda by the Greek god Zeus disguised as a swan, glorified rape as an art form.

Last week, the statue was removed from the Civic Centre and is now at the mayor’s residence, Porters, in Southend.

Rob Tinlin, Southend Council’s chief executive and town clerk said – The statue of Leda and the Swan was located at the Civic Centre until a suitable location was found. The statue is permanently on display in the garden of the mayor’s residence, Porters in Southchurch Road.

It is in an appropriately landscaped area next to the pond.

Photo Phil Parsons

Misty eyed I missed the sculptural fountain – William Mitchell I presume?

Said farewell to Neptunes unilluminating assorted fish.

Heading out of town past noisy scenes of quiet despair, no more fancy goods, no more confectionary – shake that.

Heading inland, away from the wibbly wobbly estuarine coast of higgledy piggledy Essex, through freshly mown pasture and solitary haywains.

This is Constable country:

Like many artists practising at the time, Constable used sketches as source material for fully worked-up compositions. He did not find the production of finished paintings easy, which probably contributed to his late recognition by the art establishment.

V&A

Passing by solitary bus shelters, patiently awaiting passengers.

Waterworks works in the palatial neo-classical manner, with a restrained nod to incipient Art Deco.

Encountering the occasional leafy lane.

I eventually found myself on the outskirts of Colchester, outside St Theresa Of Lisieux .

A striking pre-cast concrete frame design of 1971, with a dramatic and well-lit interior, lively modulation of wall surfaces and some furnishings and artworks of note.

Architect – JH Dabrowski 

The entrance façade has a large gable and projecting entrance canopy, above which is a bronze statue of the Risen Christ, by local artist Tita Madden – 1977

This is a large modern church, built with a pre-cast concrete frame with a crossover roof beam system, allowing for dramatic internal effects. Within the bays created by the frame, the walling is mostly brick, with some pre-cast concrete panels, and large areas of glazing. Concrete is also used for the window mullions and surrounds. Each bay has the brickwork slightly angled or faceted, giving the design a great sense of movement and liveliness, both inside and out.

Taking Stock

Struggling to go around a Straight Road.

£240,000 will get you an Art Deco maisonette in Vint Crescent from Wowhaus:

This one is a ground floor apartment, which has undergone a complete refurbishment, but with one on keeping those period features to the fore – period features such as original radiators and those distinctive windows and doors are intact, rubbing shoulders with some new, high-end finishes like oak floors and updated kitchen and bathroom.

Foolishly I became more than somewhat lost and on making enquiries concerning my whereabouts and destination, I was met with gently derisive laughter. Therefore, I bypassed Colchester, took the wrong route along a mainly main road and ended up much too quickly in Clacton.

Home to several shops to let, as we shall subsequently see.

Also home to a fabulous concrete frieze on the exterior wall of the library.

Quickly ensconced in my bijou digs – I hit the town to take a look around.

I was staying right opposite this here boozer – a little too early for a pint, I’ll pop back in a bit.

Seaside shelter in a faux vernacular manner, calm seas ‘neath an azure sky – perfect.

Artifice and authenticity the sunbathing citizens sit beside an inflatable pool – perched above the sea on the pier.

Clacton Pier, which opened on 27 July 1871 was officially the first building erected in the then-new resort of Clacton-on-Sea. A wooden structure 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide, the pier served as a landing point for goods and passengers, a docking point for steamships operated by the Woolwich Steam Packet Company, and a popular spot for promenading. By 1893, Clacton had become such a popular destination for day trippers that the pier was lengthened to 1180 ft (360m) and entertainment facilities, including a pavilion and a waiting room, were added to accommodate them.

Wikipedia

The pier seems to have changed hands several times, as is the way with such things, subjected to fires, storms and pestilence – yet still prevails.

Key attractions include Stella’s Revenge – a family Galaxi rollercoaster. Formerly operated at Barry Island Pleasure Park as Galaxy, and later Viper.

Pause to consider the prospect of magical fun, fun, fun.

Let’s return to dry land, where we find certain signs of decline in these uncertain times.

Hope springs eternal in the Arcade hairdressers.

We place our trust in the tried and tested condiments of this most sceptered of isles.

Life goes on at the Linen Shop – yet another Profil/Stymie gem!

A limited choice is widely available from the far from extensive menu, though mushrooms do come with princely, premium price tag attached.

Another long day closes with a well deserved pint – God bless the Old Lifeboat House and all who sail in her.

Night night.

Hastings To Margate

Early one morning, six o’clock on Saturday 30th August 2014 to be precise – I set out on my bike from my humble Stockport home, Pendolino’d to Euston, London Bridged to Hastings.

It was my intention to follow the coast to Cleethorpes, so I did.

Five hundred miles or so in seven highly pleasurable days awheel, largely in bright late summer sun. Into each life however, some rain must fall, so it did.

Kent, Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Lincolnshire flashed by slowly in lazy succession, to the right the sea – you can’t get lost, though I did. Following Sustrans signs is relatively easy, as long as they actually exist, when I reached Kings Lynn I decided to buy a map.

I set out at eight o’clock on Monday 1st September – I had taken early retirement in March. I would have normally been enrolling new students and teaching photography in a Manchester Further Education College, as I had done for the previous thirty years.

Not today thanks.

With the wind and my former career behind me, I cycled on with an unsurpassable sense of lightness and elation.

This is what I saw.

Above and below is Marine Court

The building was designed by architects Kenneth Dalgleish and Roger K Pullen, with overt references to the Cunard White-Star Line Queen Mary, which had entered commercial transatlantic service in 1936. The east end of Marine Court is shaped to imitate the curved, stacked bridge front of the Queen Mary; the eastern restaurant served to imitate the fo’c’sle deck of the ship.

Modernist Britain

The then Jerwood Gallery looking towards the Old Town’s distinctive fisherman’s sheds.

One grey beach hut bucks the trend.

This is all that remains of the St Leonard’s Lido

Photo Historic England

This is one of many seaside shelters devised by Sidney Little in constructing the concrete promenade – let’s head east.

The view across the Romney Marshes from Camber toward Dungeness – which on this occasion I bypassed.

Harold Gilman

Beloved of many passing painters.

The first Profil aka Stymie Bold Italic encounter – Lyons of Lydd Romney.

Designed by Max and Eugen Lenz and first cast by Haas in 1947.

Fonts in Use

Heading towards Hythe on the coastal defence path.

Out of Tune Folkestone Seafront, opposite The Leas Lift – is home to AK Dolven’s installation. It features a 16th-century tenor bell from Scraptoft Church in Leicestershire, which had been removed for not being in tune with the others. It is suspended from a steel cable strung between two 20m high steel beams, placed 30m apart.

For Folkestone Triennial 2014, Alex Hartley’s response to the title Lookout is inspired by the imposing architecture of the Grand Burstin Hotel, which overlooks the Harbour. For his project Vigil, Hartley will use state of the art climbing technology to make a lookout point suspended from the highest point of the hotel. This climber’s camp will be inhabited for the duration of the Triennial, by the artist and by volunteers, all of whom will keep a log of what they observe. 

The current hotel was built in 1984 from the foundations of the Royal Pavilion Hotel, originally built in 1843. Out of the 4,094 reviews currently on TripAdvisor 974 are of the terrible rating which doesn’t inspire much hope.

The most recent review is titled – Dirty Dated Hotel With Clueless Staff.

Kent Live 2018

Gold rush with spades after artist Michael Sailstorfer hides £10,000 of gold on foreshore for town’s Triennial arts festival.

Guardian

Abbot’s Cliff acoustic mirrors

Before the advent of radar, there was an experimental programme during the 1920s and 30s in which a number of concrete sound reflectors, in a variety of shapes, were built at coastal locations in order to provide early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. A microphone, placed at a focal point, was used to detect the sound waves arriving at and concentrated by the acoustic mirror. These concrete structures were in fixed positions and were spherical, rather than paraboloidal, reflectors. This meant that direction finding could be achieved by altering the position of the microphone rather than moving the mirror.

Graham Stephen

Eric Ravilious Abbot’s Cliff – 1941

Charles Stewart Rolls was a Welsh motoring and aviation pioneer. With Henry Royce, he co-founded the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing firm. He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, when the tail of his Wright Flyer broke off during a flying display in Bournemouth.

In September 1953 it was announced that Roger K Pullen and Kenneth Dalglish had won and were to receive 100 guineas, for a design for the Gateway Flats.

Local folks would love to re-open The Regent

Behind the Art Deco facade of the Regent was once a grand ironwork and glass Pavilion, built to house regular performances by military bands, which the Edwardian holidaymakers loved. The Lord Warden of the Cinque ports, Lord Beauchamp, officially opened the Pavilion Theatre on Deal’s seafront in 1928.

Cinema Treasures

Deal Pier was designed by Eugenius Birch and opened on 8th November 1864, in 1954 work started on Deal’s third and present-day pier. The new pier took three years to build and was formally opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on 19 November 1957. It was the first seaside pleasure pier of any size to be built since 1910. Designed by Sir W Halcrow and Partners, the 1026ft-long structure comprises steel piles surrounded by concrete casings for the main supports. The pier head originally had three levels but, these days, the lower deck normally remains submerged.

Deal Web

Seafront Shelters Deal

The Kent coastline is home to a vast variety of homes from the crazy clad Prairie Style ranch house to the Debased Deco.

Following ten fun hours of cycling time for a timely rest in the B&B.

Passing by the prestigious Turner Contemporary

The building was designed by David Chipperfield – It was built on the raised promenade following a flood risk analysis. Construction started in 2008, and was completed for opening in April 2011, at a cost of £17.5 million. The gallery opened on 16 April 2011.

Wikipedia

Finally as the sun sets in the west, a pint of something nice in the Harbour Arms.

Night night.

Mitzi Cunliffe – Owen’s Park #2

293 Wilmslow Rd Fallowfield Manchester M14 6HD

We have of course been here before visiting Mitzi Cunliffe and her work – Cosmos

Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918  December 30th 2006

This time we are taking a peek around the back.

Having passed by on the top deck deck of the 42 on my way home to Stockport, I espied an extension of the sculpture to the rear of the tower.

I vowed to return!

Fighting through extraction units, wheelie bins, hoppers, plus a disused and disabused vacuum cleaner, I found myself in the narrow service area, where I did my best to get back from the wall, hard against the chain link fence.

The things you do.

For some much needed light relief, air and open space I revisited the front face of the tower.

Manchester Liners – Tiles

In 1898 Manchester Liners Ltd was launched, four second hand ships were purchased and the company naming policy of applying the prefix Manchester was established.

The company began to operate services to Canada and the USA. Manchester Liners started WW1 with 15 ships in its fleet. During the war 10 ships were lost to enemy action, but because of the purchase of replacements the fleet was at 12 in 1918. At the outbreak of WW2, Manchester Liners had 10 ships in service. War losses were 7 ships, but the delivery of war-standard ships maintained the fleet at 8, which was sufficient to resume a weekly service to Canada.

The Manchester dockworkers strike record became so bad, that in 1973 the company decided to move half of its container services to Felixstowe. Furthermore, to obtain lower costs per unit, container ships were becoming bigger than the Canal limits.

History

This was a history of economic growth and prosperity, for some. Tangible commerce, the wealth of a nation built on making things, moving things. Cranes, ships, stevedores and sailors, the world and his wife converging at the base of the Manchester Ship Canal.

All this is long gone, containerisation, recession and state engineered shifts in global manufacture and trade.

They took away the cranes.

The area is now awash with intangible activity – what goes on behind the smoked and mirrored glass?

Just who is moving what around, how, where and why?

But hidden away between here and there is a tiled underpass.

A permissive path.

Where once there was a bridge – before the Manchester Ship Canal was built, the course of the River Irwell was approx. 50-100 yards further north of where the Ship Canal now passes under Trafford Road. This plaque is next to a pedestrian tunnel under Trafford Road, roughly on the line of the old navigation.

Archive photographs Salford History

So here it is a hidden, harshly lit, slightly disabused tribute to the brave souls who sailed the seven seas, stayed ashore, weighed, loaded and shifted stuff.

We all deserve a better deal.

William Mitchell – Collyhurst

It’s April 2020 and I’m here again.

Having been before and before and before.

It’s lockdown so we can’t go far, so from home in Stockport to Collyhurst is within my daily exercise allowance.

There is talk of relocation for the diminutive Mitchell totem, but as of today no sign of any action – all is in abeyance.

What we do see is the encroachment of flora, cleaner air, low or no level human activity encourages growth between the cracks.

And at the base of the plinth

I took the opportunity to get in close.

Move around in a merry dance.

Quite something to spend time in an ever changing urban space – devoid of company, save for the calming sound of birdsong and the distant rumble of a distant train.

Leeds University – Roger Stevens Building

The Roger Stevens Building 1970 – by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon for Leeds University South Campus is designated at Grade II

The building represents the high point of their Leeds University work.

Architecture: the building is an outstanding and individual design with bold external shapes and carefully designed interiors

Planning: the internal spaces are the result of extensive research on the requirements of the university and introduce innovative and influential features such as individual doors into the lecture theatres, and external links intimately with other buildings on the campus by means of multi-level walkways

Intactness: despite the changing requirements of universities, the building has remained largely unchanged, proving the success of its design

Group Value: the building provides a fitting centrepiece to the group of university buildings on the South Campus at Leeds, also recommended for designation.

Historic England

I was asked by the Leeds Modernists to put together a walk which avoids the the Roger Stevens Building, so I did just that.

That didn’t stop me visiting the site on the day of my visit.

This is what I saw:

Civic Centre – Plymouth

Council House former Civic CentreArmada Way Plymouth PL1 2AA

Former Civic Centre 1958-62 by Jellicoe, Ballantyne and Coleridge with city architect HJW Stirling. In-situ concrete structure with pre-cast aggregate panels. It comprises a fourteen storey slab block on a raised raft foundation which straddles a two storey block to the north and a bridge link to the two storey Council House to the south. The bridge link is elevated on pilotis to create an open courtyard with a reflecting pond, part of the designed landscape of the civic square. 

Current listing June 10th 2007 Historic England

I rode into town on my bicycle en route from Weston super Mare to Hastings one sunny afternoon in 2015. The pictures I took that day were largely left untouched, until today. I was prompted by an online postcard search to finally put them to some good use.

On the day of my visit the building was well and truly closed, and its future uncertain.

I took my time and explored the site, here is what I saw:

I subsequently found archival image of the interior – including examples of applied decorative arts.

The building has suffered of late, from poor maintenance and general neglect.

Love it or hate it, it’s one of Plymouth’s most iconic post-war buildings – and it towers over the city centre. But the Civic Centre has been empty since 2015, with sad images revealing parts of the outside literally crumbling.

Today is the day Plymouth will finally discover what developer Urban Splash plans to do with the landmark 14-storey tower block it bought for £1.

Plymouth Herald

Urban Splash are in the house – plans are to go ahead.

The proposal, by Gillespie Yunnie Architects, will see the 14-storey former council headquarters converted into 144 one and two-bedroom flats with the ground floors of the lower blocks providing about 4,600m² of office, retail and leisure space.

Unanimously approved last week, the scheme will open up the ground floor, making it ‘an active public space filled with outside seating for cafés, bars and restaurants’ and reuse the existing landscaped pools, while creating new pedestrian connections through the scheme from the Theatre Royal and Civic Square.

Architects Journal

Coventry Cathedral

On the night of 14 November 1940, the city of Coventry was devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe. The Cathedral burned with the city, having been hit by several incendiary devices.

The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the morning after its destruction. Rebuilding would not be an act of defiance, but rather a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future of the world. It was the vision of the Provost at the time, Richard Howard, which led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred. This has led to the cathedral’s Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation, which has provided spiritual and practical support, in areas of conflict throughout the world.

Her Majesty the Queen laid the foundation stone on 23 March 1956 and the building was consecrated on 25 May 1962, in her presence. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.

Ralph Beyer carving the foundation stone for Coventry Cathedral.

© Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection.

Coventry Cathderal

The new Cathedral was itself an inspiration to many fine artists of the post-war era. The architect, Sir Basil Spence, commissioned work from Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ralph Beyer, John Hutton, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and others – most still to reach the peak of their artistic careers.

St. Michael and the Devil on the southern end of the east wall. It was sculpted by Sir Jacob Epstein, who, sadly, died in 1959, and therefore didn’t live to see his masterpiece mounted on the cathedral wall a year later.

Entrance to the cathedral is through the Screen of Saints and Angels – it is seventy feet high and forty five feet wide and is supported by a bronze framework hung by wires from the roof for added strength.

This unique screen formed part of Sir Basil Spence’s first vision for the new cathedral. As he stared out from the ruins of the bombed cathedral, he saw the shape for the new church through a screen of saints. This transparent wall would link the old and new – making each mutually visible from within each other. Provost Howard set out to draw up a scheme consisting of all the saints who were responsible for the bringing of Christianity to Britain. As John Hutton began to make initial designs, he soon realised that row upon row of saints would need to be broken up in some way, and suggested that angels be inserted between the saints.

The eighty one foot high Baptistery Window containing a total of one hundred and ninety five lights of stained glass in bright primary colours designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens, with the Stone of Bethlehem for a font just in front. Each individual window contains an abstract design, but the overall effect is breathtaking. Basil Spence himself designed the stone containing the glass.

Study for the the seventy two foot high tapestry designed by Graham Sutherland – collection of The Herbert Art Gallery

The great tapestry was another example of a re-think in design. Basil Spence’s original intention was to depict the Crucifixion but Provost Howard suggested that the subject be Christ in Majesty and from there on, this idea prevailed

Altar cross and crown of thorns by Geoffrey Clarke, large ceramic candlesticks by Hans Coper.

Chairs by Russell Hodgson and Leigh.

The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane is approached by following the aisle from the Baptistery window towards the altar which is at the north end. The mosaic depicts the Angel of Agony by Steven Sykes and becomes more impressive when seen from a distance through the wrought iron crown of thorns designed by Basil Spence.

A short passageway takes you through to the Chapel of Christ the Servant – also known as the Chapel of Industry due to the view of Coventry workplaces from its narrow windows. 

Monumental inscriptions to walls and floor by Ralph Beyer

Stained glass to aisle walls by Lawrence Lee, Geoffrey Clarke and Keith New.

At the far end of the aisle, opposite the Baptistery Window is the Chapel of Unity, with its detailed mosaic floor, donated by the people of Sweden, representing the nations of the world and lit by shafts of light from the narrow stained glass windows around the circumference of the star shaped chapel. 

This design was Basil Spence’s vision of a chapel representing the star which began the story of Christ – from the outside it appears shaped similarly to a Crusader’s tent.

The chapel is intended for prayer by all denominations, not just Anglican, and for this reason was purposely built with no view of the great altar. 

Historic Coventry

Merseyway – Adlington Walk

Once widely admired, Ian Nairn esteemed architectural writer, thought it an exemplary exposition of modern integrated shopping and parking, sitting perfectly in its particular topography – way back in 1972.

This German magazine dedicated several pages to coverage of Merseyway back in 1971.

Note the long lost decorative panels of Adlington Walk.

Many thanks to Sean Madner for these archive images.

Mainstream Modern has recorded its conception and inception, as part of a wider appreciation of Greater Manchester’s architecture.

The architects were Bernard Engle and Partners in conjunction with officers of Stockport Corporation and the centre opened in 1965. The separation of pedestrians and cars, the service areas, the multi level street, the city block that negotiates difficult topography to its advantage, are all planning moves that are of the new, ordered and systemised, second wave modernism in the UK. The aggregate of the highways engineering, the urban planning and the shifting demands of retailers frequently arrived at a form and order such as this. In this way Merseyway is unremarkable, it’s like many other centres in many other towns – consider the rooftop landscape of Blackburn. It is, however, typical and has been typically added to and adjusted during its life and presents perhaps the face of the last retail metamorphosis before the out-of-town really made the grade.

Each successive remaking and remodelling has seriously compromised the integrity of the development. We are left with dog’s dinner of poorly realised Post Modern and Hi-Tech additions, along with a failure to maintain the best of the original scheme.

Plans are now afoot to revamp the precinct – starting with Adlington Walk.

Proposed facilities include a soft play space, new seating, buggy stores, high grade toilets, parent and child facilities and a multi faith prayer room.

William Mitchell – CIS Manchester

We have met before, of course we have – here in Newton Heath

Here in Liverpool

Here in Hull

At Manchester University

In Eastford Square

And of course in Salford

Today on my way elsewhere, in search of something or other, I walked into the lobby of the CIS.

I asked permission from the Receptionist to take a few snaps, was referred to the Head of Security, who referred me to the Receptionist, who ‘phoned Paul, who turned out to be Steve, who thought that it would be OK.

So I did – here are those very snaps, my thanks to the cooperative staff of the Cooperative Insurance Society.

Platform 13/14 Piccadilly – Concreter Planter

So here we are again at Piccadilly Station – stood standing at the western end of Platforms 13 and 14, waiting on a Southport train.

Time to spare and spend a few more magic moments with an old and trusted friend.

The back-filled concrete planter.

Seen here in a neglected and forlorn state, awaiting minor repairs to its upper sealed surface.

Once incarcerated and seemingly set for demolition, our diminutive concrete pal has lived to fight another day.

Standing alone in all elements, disabused by illicit smokers, grabbing a serruptitious chuff, whilst avoiding the ubiquitous Network Rail CCTV.

Sat upon by the indolent leg weary traveller, having missed yet another cancelled train.

Your days may yet be numbered, as the platforms are part of a Station upgrade – the platforms are not thought to be commodious by the majority of train users.

I for one shall campaign for your preservation and reinstatement – right at the heart of matters.

My personal, totemic modernist work of public art.

Somethings are worth fighting for!

Shopping Precincts – UK Again

This time of year, with limited light and an inclement climate, it’s far easier to travel by picture postcard. Researching and searching eBay to bring you the finest four colour repro pictures of our retail realm.

We have of course been here before – via a previous post.

It is however important to keep abreast of current coming and goings, developments are ever so often overwritten by further developments.

Precincts my appear and disappear at will – so let’s take a look.

What the CMYK is going on?

Abingdon

Aylesbury

Blackburn

Bradford

Chandlers Ford

Coventry

Cwmbran

Derby

Eastbourne

Exeter

Gloucester

Grimsby

Hailsham

Irvine

Jarrow

Middlesborough

Portsmouth

Scarborough

Solihull

Southampton

Stockport

Torquay

Wakefield

Eastford Square Collyhurst – Nobody Home

Stasis is the order of the day – the last stand for this forlorn stand of shops.

Once the realm of cobbles, railings, high rise arrivals and urban cowboys – an area overwhelmed by the weight of its past and the insubstantial promise of a sustainable future.

Where once productive and fulfilling lives were lived, buddleia now blooms, whilst thin grass entwines around forlorn fencing and betwixt ever widening cracks in the uneven paving.

Development in South Collyhurst will take the form of residential-led, family-focused neighbourhoods. We’ll be providing a variety of housing types and tenures to encourage diversity, along with a mix of social and community infrastructure that supports a family lifestyle in close proximity to the city centre.

Northern Gateway

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.

William Jennings Bryan 1896

Indeed, You have turned the city into a heap of rubble, a fortified town into ruins; the fortress of strangers is a city no more; it will never be rebuilt.

Isiah 25:2

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

Isiah 58:12

The putative William Mitchell cast concrete block stares stolidly at its surroundings, overseeing a slow and painful decline.

All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

Manifesto of the Communist Party

There’s no business like no business – it’s no better out the back.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a significant residential-led development connecting the north to the centre of Manchester. Working with our partners we’re re-imagining the essential neighbourhoods of our city.

New Face In Hull

And lo it came to pass – I came to Hull.

Again.

Guiding a group of willing Modernists on a walk.

We were there at the behest of Esther and Leigh, gathering to say farewell to Alan Boyson’s Three Ships, as it transpired we were there to celebrate its reprieve, following their campaign for listing.

Over a million tesserae glowed in the low winter sun – so did we.

As Helen Angell read her poem – Christopher Marsden and Esther Johnson recording the performance for posterity.

The Three Ships are attached to a former Cooperative Store – complete with a formerly working Cooperative Store clock – where we meet at four minutes to six – forever.

We had previously encountered Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.

And this Festival of Britain style functionalist council building.

Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.

We encounter Ton Liu’s Solar Gate – a sundial that uses solar alignment to mark significant times and dates in Hull. The super-light innovative two-shell structure is place-specific, responding to pivotal historic events and to the cultural context of its location in Hull’s Queens Gardens adjacent to the ancient site of Beverley Gate.

Carved stone panels Kenneth Carter 1960 – Ken’s art career began as an inspiring teacher, first at his alma mater, Hull College of Art, and later as principal lecturer at Exeter College of Art.

A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, by Robert Adams, described by Herbert Read as belonging to: 

The iconography of despair. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.

Top of the shop William Mitchells relief – time to pause and reflect.

Paying homage to Frederick Gibberd author of the College and Queens Gardens scheme.

En passant catching a glimpse of this splendid non-functioning water feature.

Off on the bus to St Anthony and Our Lady of Mercy just off Beverley Road.

More of which here.

A swift walk around the corner for a swift walk around the University of Hull campus, first encountering the Gulbenkian Building.

And a brief encounter with the Brynmor Jones Philip Larkin Library.

Thanks again to Esther for pointing out this delightful owl – the work of Willi Soukop

My life was never planned, it just happened.

The Parkway Pub – Park Hill Sheffield

I’ve been here before, virtually – in my online guide to Park Hill Pubs.

I’ve been here before, actually – on my visits to Park Hill Estate

But hark, what news of the Parkway pub?

Your bold mosaic whilst once exposed, was sadly disabused, then unthinkingly covered.

Has subsequently been uncovered, steam cleaned and proudly on view, as a central part of the most recent of the estate’s phases of redevelopment.

The block is to become student housing, the distinctive tan, turquoise blue and bold red colours of the mosaic, integrated into the banding of the newly refurbished building.

My face was a picture of delight, viewing the multicoloured tesserae – as we were privileged to be guided around the site by Kier Construction, Matthew Borland from Whittam Cox Architects, who are working with Alumno on Béton House and Urban Splash – my thanks to all and particularly PR Surriya Falconer.

So here it is living and breathing the South Yorkshire air once more.

Alas the Parkway is a pub no more – simply an empty shell.

But hush – can you not catch the chink of pint pots and gales of merry laughter, carried gently on the passing breeze?

Ellen Wilkinson Humanities Building – The University of Manchester

I don’t usually walk this way – so I walked this way.

I discovered the rear of building, a building formerly only known from the others side, when seen from Oxford Road.

Whilst making my way from The Gamecock to elsewhere, I serendipitously discovered the other other side.

The Humanities Building now named the Ellen Wilkinson Building.

This Building Design Partnership scheme pre-dates Wilson Womersley’s appointment as master planners for the Education Precinct but exists harmoniously with the later series of buildings. This is most likely due to the method of development before any ‘grand concept’. The incremental expansion of the University, following WWII, was largely dictated by the progress of compulsory purchase orders; this group was no exception. At the planning stages, the lack of a masterplan led to organising the wings of the buildings in an open, orthogonal arrangement. This would allow expansion in a number of directions, according to the next available site in ‘the dynamic situation’. The result was the creation of a small courtyard flanked by two five-storey blocks and a two-storey structure. All three buildings use the same pink-grey concrete. The plastic qualities of concrete were explored in both cladding and structural panels and the textural qualities exposed in the bush hammered columns, to reveal the Derbyshire gravel aggregate. The sculpted and moulded panels on the two-storey block and on the gable ends of the larger blocks were designed in collaboration with William Mitchell. The only other materials in the external envelope were the windows of variously clear and tinted glass. The window modules were set out against a basic geometry in three standard patterns and applied across the façade. This resulted in a clever interplay of vertical and horizontal expression. 

Mainstream Modern

Ellen Wilkinson was born into a poor though ambitious Manchester family and she embraced socialism at an early age. After graduating from the University of Manchester, she worked for a women’s suffrage organisation and later as a trade union officer. Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Wilkinson joined the British Communist Party, and preached revolutionary socialism while seeking constitutional routes to political power through the Labour Party. She was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, and supported the 1926 General Strike. In the 1929–31 Labour government, she served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the junior Health Minister. She made a connection with a young female member and activist Jennie Lee. Following her defeat at Middlesbrough in 1931, Wilkinson became a prolific journalist and writer, before returning to parliament as Jarrow’s MP in 1935. She was a strong advocate for the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War, and made several visits to the battle zones.

During the Second World War, Wilkinson served in Churchill’s wartime coalition as a junior minister, mainly at the Ministry of Home Security where she worked under Herbert Morrison. She supported Morrison’s attempts to replace Clement Attlee as the Labour Party’s leader; nevertheless, when he formed his postwar government, Attlee appointed Wilkinson as Minister of Education. By this time, her health was poor, a legacy of years of overwork. She saw her main task in office as the implementation of the wartime coalition’s 1944 Education Act, rather than the more radical introduction of comprehensive schools favoured by many in the Labour Party. Much of her energy was applied to organising the raising of the school-leaving age from 14 to 15. During the exceptionally cold weather of early 1947, she succumbed to a bronchial disease, and died after an overdose of medication, which the coroner at her inquest declared was accidental.

Wikipedia

So here we are now – a significant building, named for a significant figure.

I wandered around, pale painted rectangular reliefs abutting darker rectangular reliefs. Strict window grids at a variety of heights. Warmer rounder rounded reliefs to the east, contrasting with their orthogonal cousins. A surprising courtyard contains a diminutive but charming concrete sculpture and an almost hidden exterior spiral stairway.

Sometimes it pays to get almost lost.