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.

IRK VALLEY #ONE

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

The river briefly becomes subterranean again.

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

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

Mr Engels currently resides by the Medlock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the left are St Catherine’s Steps

Immortalised by almost local lad LS Lowry

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

Leaving Collyhurst Road, we journey along Smedley Road.

Seen here in 1934.

Passing beneath Queens Road – Queens Park to the right.

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

Dropping down to Hendham Vale.

To the right is the Smedley Hotel.

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

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

Alan Winfield 1994

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

Hendham Way becomes a pedestrianised lane.

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

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

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

Black and white photographs: Manchester Local Image Collection

Coventry Station 2021

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

Gateway to the City of Culture.

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

So much so I bought a shirt.

Stoke Sentinel

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

Outstanding architecturally, particularly for its spatial qualities and detailing. 

It’s Grade II listed and rightly so.

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

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

Amble to Berwick upon Tweed

The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.

I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.

Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.

Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.

Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.

We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.

One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.

The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.

The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.

I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.

They were all Grateful Dead fans who like me had attended the Bickershaw Festival in 1972.

The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.

Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.

Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.

The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.

114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.

Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.

Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.

The Armstrong family the former owners, made millions from the sale of armaments.

If I thought that war would be fomented, or the interests of humanity suffer, by what I have done, I would greatly regret it. I have no such apprehension.

He also said:

It is our province, as engineers to make the forces of matter obedient to the will of man; those who use the means we supply must be responsible for their legitimate application.

I paused a wee while to take a sip of water and admire the agrarian architecture.

A couple on their bikes stopped to chat, as a babe in arms the lad had been transported by mam and dad, in a sidecar with tandem attached.

Such a delightful and poignant recollection – we wished each other well and went on our way.

I made my way from the rolling hills back down toward the coast.

Where a permissive path hugged the shore, which I cautiously shared with some equally cautious sheep.

Looking back toward Lindisfarne.

Looking forward to the past.

Pausing for the passing of a mainline train.

Berwick upon Tweed in view.

Come the evening I spent an hour or two in The Curfew, feasting on fine beer, company, haggis scotch egg and game pie.

Finishing with this well deserved and wonderful, bottle of Oude Geuze.

The final day – so many marvellous miles covered, forever stopping to chat, snap, look and learn.

No finer way to see the world, though so condensed and intense even at touring speed – apologies to all the things that I failed to see.

So long to Amble, Newcastle, Redcar, Scarborough and Hull.

Redcar to Newcastle

An early start on another sunny day, cycling along long straight roads out of town, towards Middlesborough.

Having previously visited Hull and Scarborough and all points in between.

Slowly passing sleepy factories and desolate bus shelters.

Bunker like social clubs and flower lined roads.

The Albion club in South Bank has stood empty for the last three years. 

Now local lad Mark Trainor has the keys – and says opening the doors to the club his own family frequented for years will be a dream come true.

He’s planning to cater for everyone, he says, and it won’t just be all about drinking.

Parents will be able to call in for a coffee after dropping the kids at school, there will be pool nights and Mark’s personal favourite – Pie Day Fridays.

Gazette

Public art framing the Transporter Bridge.

The £2.7m Temenos structure has taken four months to piece together on the banks of the River Tees near Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge.

Thousands of metres of steel wire have been woven between the two steel rings to create the 164ft high and 360ft long sculpture.

It was created by artist Anish Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond.

BBC

Temenos is a Greek word meaning land cut off and assigned as a sanctuary or holy area.

Following a 1907 Act of Parliament the bridge was built at a cost of £68,026 6s 8d  by Sir William Arrol & Co. of Glasgow between 1910 and 1911 to replace the Hugh Bell and Erimus steam ferry services. A transporter bridge was chosen because Parliament ruled that the new scheme of crossing the river had to avoid affecting the river navigation. 

The opening ceremony on 17 October 1911 was performed by Prince Arthur of Connaught, at its opening the bridge was painted red.

In 1961 the bridge was painted blue.

In 1974, the comedy actor Terry Scott, travelling between his hotel in Middlesbrough and a performance at the Billingham Forum, mistook the bridge for a regular toll crossing and drove his Jaguar off the end of the roadway, landing in the safety netting beneath.

Wikipedia

The cycle track followed the river, which sports a fine array of industrial architecture.

Tees Newport Bridge designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson and built by local company Dorman Long who have also been responsible for such structures as the Tyne Bridge and Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was the first large vertical-lift bridge in Britain.

Wikipedia

Crossing the river and heading for Hartlepool.

Negotiating underpasses and main road cycle lanes.

I was delighted to be drawn toward Dawson House here in Billingham.

Austere brick churches.

St Joseph RC Low Grange Avenue Billingham

A prefabricated polygonal structure of the 1970s, with laminated timber frame. The seating came from Pugin & Pugin’s church at Port Clarence. 

Taking Stock

Just along the way Saint Lukes Billingham 1965.

In a slightly more upbeat mode St James the Apostle Owton Manor.

I convinced myself that this building on Station Road Seaton Carew was a former pub, I discovered following consultation with the local studies offices, that it was in fact a former children’s home destined to become a doctors.

I found myself looking back across the estuary to Redcar.

Northward toward Hartlepool.

Where the bingo was closed and the circus had left town.

Every Englishman’s home is a bouncy castle.

St John Vianney located on King Oswy Drive West View Estate.

Architect: Crawford & Spencer Middlesbrough 1961.

A large post-war church built to serve a housing estate, economically built and with a functional interior. The campanile is a local landmark. 

The parish of St John Vianney was created in 1959 to serve the growing West View Estate, on the north side of Hartlepool. The church was opened by Bishop Cunningham on 4 April 1961. The presbytery was built at the same time.

Taking Stock

I found myself on yet another former railway line.

The Cycleway was once a railway line designed by George Stephenson to take coal from the Durham coal fields to the docks in Hartlepool, where the coal was then distributed throughout the world.

Tees Valley

The landscape opened up to coal scarred scrub, I lost the path and found a church, which imposed itself upon the hillside.

St Joseph RC Seaham County Durham

Architect: Anthony J. Rossi of Consett 1964

Taking Stock

Opening 1964

Seeking assistance from a passing cyclist I negotiated a safe passage to Sunderland.

The Sunderland Synagogue is a former synagogue building in Sunderland, England. The synagogue, on Ryhope Road, was designed by architect Marcus Kenneth Glass and completed in 1928. It is the last surviving synagogue to be designed by Glass.

The synagogue was listed as a Grade II historic structure in 1999.

Wikipedia

I crossed the Queen Alexandra Bridge

The steel truss bridge was designed by Charles A Harrison – a nephew of Robert Stephenson’s assistant.

It was built by Sir William Arrol between 1907 and 1909 and officially opened by The Earl of Durham, on behalf of Queen Alexandra on 10 June 1909.

Wikipedia

I took a right and arrived in Roker, where I saw these well tanned and tattooed cyclists taking a rest.

Pressed on, largely alongside the coast to South Shields.

Under advisement from a jolly passing jogger I took the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel.

Tyne Cyclist and Pedestrian Tunnel was Britain’s first purpose-built cycling tunnel. It runs under the River Tyne between Howdon and Jarrow, and was opened in 1951, heralded as a contribution to the Festival of Britain.

Wikipedia

I cycled the banks of the Tyne, fetching up at the Quayside with a fine view of the Baltic.

Washed and suitably brushed up I hastened to the Bridge Tavern – to take a glass or two.

A fine end to a very long day.

Scarborough to Redcar

Well it seems that I had already cycled from Hull to Scarborough, so it must be time to head for Redcar.

Leaving Scarborough by the Cinder Track under the expert guidance of Mr Ben Vickers.

This was the site of the Gallows Close Goods Yard.

Formerly the Scarbough to Whitby Railway – the line opened in 1885 and closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching Axe.

Yet again I chance upon a delightful post-war home.

I parted company with the track dropping down to the Esk Valley from the Larpool Viaduct.

Construction began in October 1882 and was complete by October 1884.

Two men fell from the piers during construction, but recovered.

I found myself in Ruswarp, home to this enchanting bus shelter.

I bombed along the main road to Sleights.

There then followed a hesitant ascent, descent, ascent along a badly signed bridleway, fearing that I had climbed the hill in error I retraced, then retraced.

A difficult push ensued, a precipitous path, rough and untended, rising ever higher and higher.

Finally arriving at Aislaby, more than somewhat exhausted – the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Asuluesbi

Pausing to catch my breath I took the wildly undulating road to Egton – along the way I was alerted to the presence of a tea stop by two touring cyclists from Nottingham.

The Cake Club.

A welcome wet and a hunk of home made carrot cake.

Brewmeister Maria was good enough to suggest route through Castleton Moor and over the tops to Saltburn.

It was too hot a day for a detour to Fryup.

The curious name Fryup probably derives from the Old English reconstruction Frige-hop: Frige was an Anglo-Saxon goddess equated with the Old Norse Frigg; hop denoted a small valley.

An old woman at Fryup was well known locally for keeping the Mark’s e’en watch – 24 April, as she lived alongside a corpse road known as Old Hell Road.

The practice involved a village seer holding vigil between 11pm and 1am to watch for the wraiths of those who would die in the following 12 months.

Castleton Moor ghost.

In the village I was given further directions by two elderly gents, who had been engaged in a discussion concerning their long term mapping of acid rain levels in the area.

One was wearing a Marshall Jefferson t-shirt.

I climbed Langburn Bank onto the flatish open moorland.

Taking a brief break to snap this concrete shelter.

There then followed a hair stirring series of hairpin descents to the coast at Saltburn.

Followed by an off road route to Redcar.

Our Lady of Lourdes – Architect: Kitching & Archibald 1928

Built in 1928, this church was designed with some care and is an attractive, if fairly modest, Lombard Romanesque-style essay in brick. The use of a semi-circular apse, narrow brickwork and use of tile for decorative effect give it a pleasing appearance, typical of restrained but elegant work between the wars.

I arrived and took a look around, first time in town, here’s what I found.

Another long day – I went to sleep.

Hull to Scarborough

Heading out of Hull one sunny Sunday morning along Sustrans Route 65.

The first leg of my journey northwards to Berwick, many thanks to all those kind souls who filled my water bottle, directed, redirected and misdirected me along my merry way.

I suddenly found myself on Sustrans Route 66 – nominally lost.

Good fortune however had pointed me in the direction of this functional yet charming brick built church, on the edge of a huge roundabout – St Mary Queen of Martyrs RC in Bransholme.

The new St Mary Queen of Martyrs church was built at Bransholme in 1976-7 and the old St Mary’s church closed and demolished in 1982.

Architect for the new church was JT Reid of The Reid Partnership – Pontefract.

The entrance graced by these textured fascias.

Following a series of brief engagements with various local benefactors, I regained my intended route and joined the Hornsea Rail Trail – the bed of the former branch line.

The line was officially opened on 28 March 1864, the last passenger train ran on 19 October 1964.

Goods traffic continued to use the line as far as Hornsea Bridge until 3 May 1965.

The place-name Swine is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Swine.

It appears as Suine in a charter of circa 1150, the name perhaps derives from the Old English swin meaning creek.

Wikipedia

Eventually arriving in Hornsea – on this occasion having little or no need of Do it Yourself, Ironmongery or Glass requisites.

And being Sunday, it was shut.

I tarried a while on the well appointed seafront.

Gliding along leafy, green hedge-lined lanes.

Following a dead end lane to the place of dead roads.

Skipsea – home to Crossways Fish & Chips

Here you will be offered perfectly cooked fish.

Retracing and crossing the Yorkshire Wolds.

Zigging and zagging here and there, in search of a route, any route, I came upon Okanagan – a delightful asymmetric Prairie Style modern home.

Filey Road, Gristhorpe, Filey, Scarborough, North Yorkshire – currently valued at £562,000.

The interior decorative order currently out of synch with the post war exterior.

Hurrying along to reach town by tea time – I descended deftly into Scarborough.

Where I hooked up with local lad Ben Vickers for a pint in the North Riding Hotel.

The rest is, as they say – a mystery.

Portsmouth To Brighton

Having cycled along the Solent to Pompey – we set out Brighton bound one sunny Sunday morning in the merry month of May.

Heading for the Hayling Island Ferry.

Determined to make good time as we had an appointment a Pallant House, we pedalled purposefully along the Hayling Billy Line.

Ever onward, passing several examples of well kept, post war houses and former tin tabs.

We eventually rolled into Chichester, finding our way to the gallery which I had previously only ever dreamt of visiting.

What wonders await at Pallant House?

Inside we found the best of Twentieth Century British Art, displayed in period surroundings.

Suitably satiated we sat headed further east – to Bognor and beyond!

Reynolds Furniture Depository and a crowded Bank Holiday weekend seafront.

Since 1867 Reynolds has grown from a small shop to the largest furniture store in Sussex, with over 30,000 sq ft on four floors.

The Funeral Service now has three offices in Bognor Regis, Chichester and Littlehampton and the purpose built storage facility in Canada Grove continues to thrive.

We soon found ourselves in Felpham, amongst yet more interesting housing.

We traversed the River Arun at Littlehampton.

Then meshed with the milieu on the prom.

The day grew much hotter and we grew ever so slightly loster.

Finding our way back to the coast through the Kingston Gorse Estate – where almost everything is comprehensively prohibited.

Kingston Gorse is a beautiful seaside location close to Goring-by-Sea in West Sussex. In Kingston Gorse, there is a gorgeous housing development with a number of three, four and five bedroom homes.

In 1918 JA Candy, who owned East Kingston Farm, sold the land on which Kingston Gorse now stands to the local builder G Pesket.

In the 1920s he constructed the infrastructure and developed approx. 30 plots including Imray, which he occupied.

Kingston Gorse

The estate was once home to Bud Flanagan who then sold his house to Teddy Knox.

The Crazy Gang Bud Flanagan Jimmy Nervo Teddy Knox Charlie Naughton Jimmy Gold

by Cecil Beaton

At Southwick we crossed the River Adur via the docks’ locks.

Proceeding towards our overnight digs more than somewhat weary – it’s been a long day.

There are more snaps here taken on my previous trip.

Southampton to Portsmouth

We arrived safely by train from Stockport at Southampton Central.

Following lengthy consideration we headed off on our bikes.

Whilst halting to review our progress, I realised that I had lost the map, a map vital to our further progress.

Returning to the station I found it nestled against the kerb.

Further assessment of our onward journey resulted in yet another retracing of steps.

In the shadow of Southampton Station dwarfed by Norwich House.

Resolute, we confront the fact that we are unsure of the route and following close scrutiny of the map, our environs and the surrounding signage, we proceed eastward towards our destination.

Wyndham Court – architects Lyons Israel Ellis, E.D. Lyons being the partner in charge along with Frank Linden and Aubrey Hume.

Leaving the city and heading along the Weston Shore – Southampton Water.

To our right several Seaside Moderne shelters

Tim feasts on a Mint Club biscuit.

To our left are the tower blocks of Weston Farm Foreshore – L. Berger City Architect 1963

Seen here in 1985 – Tower Block.

In the distance Canberra Towers Ryder and Yates 1967

Residents living on the second floor of 24-floor block Canberra Towers, on Kingsclere Avenue in Weston, were told to evacuate as flames erupted inside a kitchen.

The Daily Echo spoke to the residents of the affected flat, who said the cat knocked paper that was on top of the microwave, which then fell onto the toaster.

Tracey Long said:

I’ve got two cats, and Sponge was the one who knocked the paper.

He knocked paper off the microwave and into the toaster, it was quite scary.

I lost him in the flat but now I’ve found him again.

Daily Echo

Arriving just in time to be too late, next thing you know we’re bobbing along on the Hamble Warsash Ferry.

The obliging ferry folk having taken us across the estuary, despite our tardiness.

The village and the River featured in the 1980s BBC television series Howards’ Way.

Sadly little evidence of the successful TV show remains, however happily Henry VIII’s Dock and an Iron Age Fort have prevailed.

Onward to Gosport where we happen upon a diminutive yet perfectly formed Bus Station.

Originally built in the 1970s, the bus station was described in 2012 as knackered by the council chief executive at the time, Ian Lycett, and an investment plan was drawn up.

Talk of redevelopment then resurfaced in 2015, before the site was put on the market in 2016.

The News

Keith Carter, retiring owner of Keith’s Heel Bar in Gosport Precinct, has described the bus station as a missed opportunity.

The nearby Harbour and Seaward Towers have faired a little better, newly clad and their tiled murals intact.

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

They really are something they really are.

And so following a ride on the Gosport Ferry we arrive at Portsmouth Harbour.

The land where British Rail signage refuses to die!

I have passed this way before on a Bournemouth to Pompey trip and both Tim and I were students at the Poly here in the 70s – more of which later.

East Didsbury Station

East Didsbury Station was opened in 1909 by the London and North Western Railway and, until 6 May 1974, was called  East Didsbury and Parrs Wood.

From 1923, the line was operated by the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Following the formation in 1948 of British Rail, rail services were operated by the London Midland Region of British Railways, then North-Western Regional Railways.

The station was rebuilt in the 1959 by the architect to the London Midland section of British Rail, William Robert Headley – who was also responsible for Coventry, Oxford Road and Piccadilly Stations.

Services to Manchester Airport began in 1993 upon the opening of the Manchester Airport spur.

With the privatisation of rail services in 1996/7, East Didsbury was served by the North Western Trains franchise.

Although it’s just up the road from me, this is the first time I’ve ever travelled back to or from there.

I was off to Eccles – live and direct!

The southbound side has been tastefully replaced by nothing in particular.

In a style to match our austere privatised times – provincial bus stop chic.

happy the northbound side’s still stood standing – on stilts.

The waiting room more or less intact.

The last of the few, get it while you can – all aboard for Patricroft, right away guard!

Archive images: JF Harris 1959

Carrington Moss

Flat as can be, between rail and river, flat.

Crisscrossed by tramways and drainage ditches.

Carrington Moss is a large area of peat bog near Carrington in Greater Manchester, England. It lies south of the River Mersey, approximately ten miles south-west of Manchester, and occupies an area of about 1,100 acres..Originally an unused area of grouse moorland, the moss was reclaimed in the latter half of the 19th century for farming and the disposal of Manchester’s waste. A system of tramways was built to connect it with the Manchester Ship Canal and a nearby railway line. During the Second World War the land was used as a Starfish site and in the latter half of the 20th century, a large industrial complex was built along its northern edge. More recently, several sporting facilities have been built on Carrington Moss. Today, the land is still used for farming and several nature reserves have been established within its bounds.

Parts of Carrington Moss are accessible to the public over several rights of way.

On Carrington Moss 1851 David Cox

Industrialisation of the moss took place from 1947–1952 when Petro-Carbon ltd began to build what would later become known as the Shell Site. The estate was leased on 1 October 1968 to Shell Chemicals, who in 1957 had purchased a propylene oxide plant along the moss’s northern edge. Shell had built an ethylene oxide plant in 1958 and began to produce polyether polyols the following year. Council housing was built nearby, at Carrington and Partington, for workers and their families. By 1985 the Shell plant had a turnover of about £200M and employed 1,150 people, but a major restructuring of the business reduced the workforce to less than 500 by 1986. By 1994, four distinct plants operated on the 3,500-acre (14 km2) site, producing a range of chemicals, and materials including polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene. In 2005 it was reported that Shell would close their polyols and ethoxylates units, a decision which came into effect in 2007. The estate is currently managed by chartered surveyors Bell Ingram. Lyondell Basell operate the last remaining chemical plant on site.

Wikipedia

This is the beleaguered site, still farming, remnants of rail, traces of tipping and vestiges of industry.

Plans are afoot – including of course indicative multi-modal routes.

Trafford Gov UK

Hundreds of campaigners fear endangered wildlife at Carrington Moss will be ‘decimated’ if plans to build a new town on green belt land go ahead.

They also argue the development would be ‘catastrophic’ in terms of how it would impact the environment.

Manchester Evening News

Storm Christoph showed that Manchester is susceptible to the adverse effects of extreme weather events, which are forecast to become more regular occurrences.

Greater Manchester Labour for a Green New Deal argue that we must abandon the idea of developing on greenbelt, and instead embrace bold alternatives which reflects the urgency of the climate crisis﹣starting with sites like Carrington Moss.

The Meteor

This is an area in liminal limbo, the pressures of the modern world leaning on its very being, as ash, alder, badger, field mouse, and kestrel give way to Wainhomes.

Where then will the wanderer wander, in search of solace?

Ending our journey at the long gone Partington Station

The remains of the subway.

The company of J. C. Edwards Ruabon Ltd, was based in Ruabon, Denbighshire, and was active from 1903 to 1956 as a brick, tile and terracotta manufacturer from its works at Tref-y-Nant, Acrefair, Albert Works, Rhosllannerchrugog, and Pen-y-bont, Newbridge, Denbighshire.

James Coster Edwards (1828-1896) founded the company; it was sold in 1956.

Portwood Stockport

I often walk around here, the space enclosed by the River Tame and the M60, it was a maze of busy streets, home to peoples’ homes, industry, pubs, clubs and railways.

Much of that is now gone, either left to its own devices, untended rough empty ground, or overwritten by the newly built Tesco Extra and Porsche dealership.

But what was there?

Archi UK – Map 1913

Water Street, Portwood looking north, taken from Avenue Street. Looking underneath the railway bridge, on the left hand side, the first building used to be a public house called ‘The Beehive’, further along was Kent & Swarbrick’s Tripeworks, now a precision engineers, then North West Concrete Works – Easymix. On the right is Coxson’s Brushworks, then the Portwood Mill, Kershaw’s Tannery and the Meadow Mill at the bottom of the street. 

H Lees Stockport Image Archive 1968

The area was also home to the Blood Tub boxing ring.

Outside the Blood Tub Back Water Street Portwood.

Centre row left to right Billy Pitt Taylor Micky Pelham Jack Hulme Jo Moran owner John Morry Bobby Riley Laurie Glen a jockey

2nd row from the back – James Jimmy Rose.

Back row left to right – Charlie Dean An ambulance man Ike Irelands horse dealer – Team from Macclesfield.

Extreme right – Jo Mulrooney.

Front row left to right extreme left – Sidney Smith soft Sidney – a simpleton Jo Hulme.

Copied from a photograph lent by Eddie Pitt 

 

Alligator Rainweara British company, whose main factory was based in Beehive Mill. It was best known for its 1960s collaborations with Mary Quant in the design and production of her Wet Look collection of PVC raincoats.

The firm was started after the First World War by Reuben Satinoff, who had previously founded the London Waterproof Company – Silkimac. It was taken over by his sons after the Second World War. For decades, it manufactured traditional weatherproof raincoats in black, brown and beige, but the collaboration with Quant led to new fabrics including PVC and nylon, and a range of bright and vibrant colours.

At its peak in the 1960s and 1970s, Alligator had a turnover of £5 million per year and was exporting its products to Europe and North America. It was later owned by Baker Street Brands who describe it as one of their heritage brands.

Viewed from Tiviot Dale Viaduct

Tiviot Dale station was located on the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) operated Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway line from Portwood to Skelton Junction, a section of what became the Woodley to Glazebrook line. It was situated at the bottom of Lancashire Hill, next to the present motorway bridge. It was opened on 1 December 1865  and was originally known as Stockport Teviot Dale. From 1880, Tiviot Dale was also served by long-distance trains running on the Manchester South District Railway to London St Pancras.

Tiviot Dale remained a part of the CLC, which was jointly owned from 1923 by the London and North Eastern Railway and the London Midland and Scottish Railway, until 1948 when it became part of the British Railways London Midland Region.

The lines through the station remained in heavy use by coal trains heading for Fiddlers Ferry power station near Warrington from the Woodhead Line. These, however, ceased in 1980 when damage was caused to the nearby Tiviot Dale tunnel during construction work on the M63 motorway – now M60 motorway and the line temporarily closed for safety reasons. The closure was made permanent west of Bredbury’s stone terminal in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986 and the tunnel partially filled in. The area surrounding the station was further altered at the beginning of the 21st century to allow the construction of a supermarket and office buildings, which now block the old trackbed.

Wikipedia

Portwood Railway Station was on the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway – later becoming part of Cheshire Lines Committee – Glazebrook to Woodley line. According to Bolger it opened to passengers on 12 January 1863, along with the rest of the Stockport and Woodley Junction Railway, although Butt suggests it opened on 1 December 1865 when the Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway opened.

The station opened for goods traffic in 1865, closing to passengers on 1 September 1875, when it became a goods station. It remained in use until 25 April 1966 when it closed except for coal traffic which continued until 27 March 1972 when it closed entirely except for a private siding.

Today no trace of the station remains, the site being buried under a slip road of the M60 motorway.

Monica Clarke on her tricycle in Marsland Street, behind her across the cobbled street is the Sheba Works – 1951.

Marsland Street east, showing the Haymarket Chambers – 1967

The front of Haymarket Chambers Marsland Street.

Boarded up dwellings on Compstall Court, off Marsland Street.

Portwood Cut 1968

James Harrison bought the manor of Brinnington in the early 1780’s – by 1790 Harrison had three factories in Portwood and others were to follow. In 1796, to provide sufficient water-power to this industrial zone he constructed a substancial millrace. Known as the Portwood Cut, it carried water across the Tame, between his Reddish and Brinnington estates. Harrison also planned the construction of factories at Wood Hall but that particular scheme was abandoned after his death in 1806.

Harrison’s Weir still survives on the river. To the south sections of the Portwood Cut also survive within Reddish Vale Country Park, both as a shallow depression and as water-filled, if somewhat silted and overgrown channel.

Reddish Vale Country Park

Kershaws is one of the only original businesses which still trades in the area.

Established back in 1855 by Joshua Kershaw, the company has gone from strength to strength.

Way back then, it was just a tannery. Today, seven generations on, Edward Kershaw heads a company that is known and respected for it’s quality leather in Europe, America and the Far East.

Kershaws also provide white leather for masonics and bagpipes.

Brewery Street – a view of the steps leading to the railway footpath to Tame Street – 1967.

The mill in the foreground is the Portwood Spinning Mill now called Portwood Mill – on the front of the mill it states Sir Richard Arkwright Portwood Mill.

Employees – Portwood Spinning Company

Coal drops and yard at the rear of the Beehive Spinning Mill

Tame Street gave motorized access to the Cut and here the caravans of travelling folk were parked several times a year, usually until the police ‘moved them on’. The men collected and sold scrap metal, the women sold clothes pegs and told fortunes from door to door. Many of the local people treated them with suspicion and some local pubs would not admit them.

Building work on Lancashire Hill can be seen in the background – 1968 

In 1971 Daniel Meadows visited the Traveller’s Camp and produced this series of photographs, published by Café Royal Books.

From the series: Gypsies and Travellers, Stockport, 1971

© Daniel Meadows

Aerial view 1976

General view of Portwood, seen from the railway bridge on Lancashire Hill.

The Alligator Rainwear factory can be seen in the top right of the picture – 1979

By 1982 the motorway has arrived – and the railway un-arrived.

In a relatively short space of time things come and go and are easily forgotten, their remnants all but erased from the landscape and memory.

Hanover Chapel – Stockport

The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightning rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.

Italo Calvino – Invisible Cities

Paul Dobraszczyk posted this Shirley Baker photograph, he was puzzled by its exact location, it puzzled me too.

For nearly all that is depicted here, is now no longer extant, save one hopes, for the group of playmates.

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

Shirley Baker was a renowned documentary photographer, who worked extensively in Greater Manchester.

I love the immediacy of unposed, spontaneous photographs and the ability of the camera to capture the serious, the funny, the sublime and the ridiculous. Despite the many wonderful pictures of the great and famous, I feel that less formal, quotidian images can often convey more of the life and spirit of the time.

I am grateful to Stephen Bann who has identified the monument as the Bann Family vault:

Stephen Bann and his younger brother – many thanks for the text and photograph Stephen.

Her photograph was taken in Stockport 1967 – I first assumed it was taken from St Mary’s Church, looking toward the former power station.

I was mistaken.

Using the Stockport Image Archive, I found the possible site, in this photograph of Tiviot Dale Station.

There on the eastern edge of Lancashire Hill – Hanover Chapel.

Seen here on the maps of 1917 and 1936.

An area of intense activity, road, rail, housing and infrastructure.

Hanover Chapel closed 1962 – though we may assume from Shirley Baker’s photograph, that following its demolition the graveyard remained intact but untended.

The chapel is thought be seen in the 1954 film Hobson’s Choice, directed by David Lean and starring John Mills, here awaiting his bride to be – the parish church of St Mary’s on the skyline.

Though closer examination reveals that this is not Hanover Chapel – where did those pillars come from?

Where are we, in a labyrinth of invention with a superimposed Stockport backdrop?

My thanks to Robert Collister for these observations.

Improbably out of time, the cooling towers are yet to be built, or blown up.

Here John is joined by Salford born Brenda Doreen Mignon de Banzie, playing Maggie.

The demolished chapel rubble appears in the foreground of Albert Finney’s gold Roller CB 1E in Charlie Bubbles.

The film’s screenplay was the work of Shelagh Delaney, whose previous work A Taste of Honey also used local locations.

Where Finney has pulled up, feeling proper poorly.

As a serendipitous symmetry, Charlie Bubbles co-star Liza Minelli plays a photographer recording Salford’s disappearing streets.

Bit by bit everything disappears, Tiviot Dale Station closed completely on January 2nd 1967.

Where once there was a continuous run from the chapel to the town centre, the motorway has since intervened.

The Tiviot Dale pub on the right is no more, closed in 2013.

We had people from all parts of the country turn up on our final day, some of them brought their children who wanted to come because they remember the pub so fondly from their childhood. It was really humbling to see that our pub had touched so many lives.

Dave Walker landlord.

The King’s Head/Full Shilling on the left closed in 2015, though still standing.

I remember this pub as a Boddingtons house in the 1970’s. Excellent bitter served by handpump from small vault at the front and a larger “best room” behind, both very narrow given the width of the pub. The landlord employed an unusual method of ensuring everyone got a full pint; a half pint glass of beer was kept between the pumps and your pint was topped up from the half which was constantly replenished to keep it fresh. I have not seen this practice in any other pub.

Phil Moran

When’s the next tram due?

Millgate Power Station operated until 1976.

At the adjacent gas works – gas holder number three was dismantled in 1988, gas holders one and two were removed in 2019.

The nature of infrastructure, housing and industry has changed radically.

Lancashire Hill flats were built in the 60s, designed by City Architect JS Rank, two seven storey blocks containing 150 dwellings; two six storey blocks containing 120 dwellings.

Replacing tight rows of terraced housing.

They themselves clad and revamped.

The Nicholson’s Arms built to serve the flats closed and currently empty, signs say to let – replaced an earlier pub, sited on the corner of long gone Nicholson Street.

The Motorway appears piecemeal in 1974, formerly the M63 now M60.

Today from the road there’s simply no trace of the site’s past purpose.

At the centre of what is now a compact civic grassed area – a trough.

Incongruously in memory of Elizabeth Hyde of Tufnell Park Road London.

The dense stand of trees is impenetrable – no longer a view of the non existent power station and beyond.

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

As a footnote I did meet brothers Stephen, Derek and Peter who appeared in this Shirley Baker photograph 55 years ago – she promised them an ice cream each – they never ever received an ice cream.

They are seen in Sunnyside Street Ordsall – long since demolished.

A commemorative plaque from the Chapel still exists, sited now on the wall of Wycliffe Congregational Church Georges Road Stockport.

Archival Images – Stockport Image Archive

Doncaster Modernism – Revisited

Having taken a tour around town last year, we are now revisiting Doncaster on a socially distanced Manchester Modernist walk.

Arriving by train at 8.30, just in time to check out the new lighting scheme in the station foyer.

Replacing the previous lighting.

Which in turn replaced the original Thirties lighting.

The forecourt redevelopment is a work nearing completion.

I was on my way to Intake by bus so it’s off on the 66 from the Frenchgate Inetrchange.

An urban environment so anonymous, that it can only just recognise itself. I was helpfully informed by two radio controlled security guards that photography was illegal.

More Interzone than Interchange.

Here are my transgressive snaps, I made my excuses and left – on the next available 66.

Decanting from the single decker I made my way across the way to All Saints, a George Pace church of 1956.

Built on the foundations of an unrealised Neo-Romanesque church of 1940, but reorientated east/west.

I legged it back to catch the bus back, the returning 66, much to the surprise of the surprised driver, making his return journey.

Jumping the 41A to Scawsby, displaying my risible home-printed map to the driver, requesting a shout when we arrived at the indicated destination, which he was unable to discern, and which I had failed illustrate.

I had contrived to arrive at the end of the line, a bit part player in a non-existent Béla Tarr film.

The heavy rain continued to fall.

I followed the bus route back to the Church of St Leonard and St Jude on Barnsley Road.

Following a thorough tour inside and out, I returned promptly to the town centre, on the limited stop express X19.

And hotfooted it to the Waterdale Centre, a work in progress, the CGI figures being as yet, a mere figment of the development officer’s fevered dreams.

Doncaster Council documents from the planning application for the demolition say, that while the exact project is not yet fully in place, discussions are taking place with the council on the project and grant funding is being sought to help the future regeneration scheme. But the council has said it supports schemes that would revitalise the Waterdale Centre area for retail, leisure, and tourism uses.

The centre is now owned by the Doncaster-based property firm Lazarus Properties, who bought it from the Birmingham firm St Modwen.

Lazarus director Glyn Smith said his firm had faith in the local economy of Doncaster town centre, even though larger multinationals seemed to be shying away.

Doncaster Free Press

The former ABC/Cannon Cinema

The ABC was built by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) as a replacement for their Picture House Cinema which had opened in 1914. It opened on 18th May 1967 with Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago presented in 70mm. Designed with 1,277 seats arranged in a stadium plan by the architectural firm Morgan & Branch, with input by architects C. ‘Jack’ Foster & Alan Morgan. It was decorated in a modern 1960’s style.

Closed in January 1981 for conversion into a triple screen it re-opened on 9th April 1981 with seating in the 3-screens.

The Cannon Group took control in the mid-1980’s and it was re-named Cannon and it closed on 18th June 1992, screening its opening film “Doctor Zhivago”.

The building has stood empty and unused since then, but in 2007, it was bought by Movie World for just £150,000. It is reputedly being re-modeled with extra screens added, however by 2009, only a clean-up of the interior has been achieved. The building sits empty and unused in 2020.

Cinema Treasures

The delayed opening of the new Savoy Complex will no doubt inform the future of the Cannon.

It’s a familiar tale of the local authority, developers, leisure and retail outlets chasing dreams, cash and hopefully pulling in the live now pay later public.

It’s all part of the Doncaster Urban Centre Masterplan which will transform the way Doncaster looks and the way residents and businesses use the city core.

The area is a pivotal point, I sincerely hope that the Waterdale Centre is revived, along with the adjacent Civic Quarter car park.

Refurbished in 2011 by Potter Church and Holmes since closed.

I noted the restrained Modernism of the National Spiritualist Church.

The service begins with a short prayer. The congregation sings three songs during the service using music that most people would recognise. There is usually a short reading or lesson on something to do with spiritualism or events in the world. There is also a talk by the guest medium who use their inspiration or intuition to compose an uplifting address.

Then the business of contacting the spirit world begins.

Along with its curious relief panels.

Back around to the back of the Waterdale and the surviving former bank fascia, civic offices and library.

Back through the Waterdale to discover the saddest of retail archeology.

The long lost tiled café wall and a mysterious porch.

A gloomy end to a very wet day.

Fred Perry Way – Hazel Grove To Woodford

Having started in the middle, let’s fast forward to the end – the beginning will have to wait.

We take up our walk along Fred’s Way once more by Mirrlees Fields.

Following the brook along the narrow shallow valley, betwixt and between houses.

Briefly opening out into green open space.

Crossing the road and entering the detached world of the detached house.

No two the same or your money back!

Diving feet first into Happy Valley, home to the Lady Brook stream.

And quickly out again.

Emerging once again into the space between spaces.

The suburban idyll of the Dairyground Estate home to very few semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers; those on state benefit/unemployed, and lowest grade workers.

But home to an interesting array of Post War housing.

Including examples of the style de jour, à la mode conversions and updates extended and rendered, black, white and grey symbols of success or extensive extended credit facilities.

Though the more traditional fairy tale variant still has a space and place, in the corner of some well behaved cul de sac.

Under the railway – through a low tunnel darkly.

We struck oil, black gold, Texas Tea – Tate Oil.

The area of Little Australia – so called as all the roads are named after towns in Australia, is bordered by the West Coast Main Line to the north, the Bramhall oil terminal to the east, Bramhall village centre to the west and Moorend Golf Club to the south.

We emerged into a warren of obfuscation, dead ends and conflicting signs, having made enquiries of the passing populace, we realigned with the new bypass.

Passing over the conveniently placed footbridge over the bypass and beyond.

Emerging amongst faux beams and real Monkey Puzzles.

It was at this point that, unbeknownst to us, we followed a twisted sign, misdirecting us along an overgrown path – to Handforth.

We failed, in the end we failed to arrive to arrive at the end.

Heading west like headless chickens towards the Turkey Farm.

Making our way mistakenly to Handforth Dean Retail Park – rear of.

Crossing slip roads with no pedestrian access and the forbidden territory of an industrial sized gymnasium car park.

Woodford will just have to wait, another day another dolorous excursion.

We walked wearily back to Stockport.

Georges Road Stockport

Once they built a railroad.

The Cheshire Lines Committee CLC operated Stockport, Timperley and Altrincham Junction Railway line from Portwood to Skelton Junction, a section of what became the Woodley to Glazebrook line.

It remained a part of the CLC, which was jointly owned from 1923 by the London and North Eastern Railway  and the London Midland and Scottish Railway , until 1948 when it became part of the British Railways London Midland Region.

Closed in 1982, following the demise of the Woodhead route; the track was subsequently lifted in 1986.

The blue arrow indicates the Tiviot Dale Station.

in the age of steam mainline St Pancras trains and local stoppers flew by.

My interest lies in the small portion of track at the end of Georges Road – I worked as a Guide Bridge goods guard in and out of the scrap yard there, in the Seventies.

Now I walk past almost every day and it’s almost all gone.

The bridge which it supported now demolished, time called long ago in the long lost Gardeners Arms – originally a Bell’s Brewery pub latterly a Robinsons house.