Bollards

As I was out walking on the corner one day, I spied an old bollard in the alley he lay.

To paraphrase popular protest troubadour Bob Dylan.

I was struck by the elegant symmetry and rough patinated grey aggregate.

To look up on the world from a hole in the ground,
To wait for your future like a horse that’s gone lame,
To lie in the gutter and die with no name?

I mused briefly on the very word bollards, suitable perhaps for a provincial wine bar, Regency period drama, or family run drapers – but mostly.

bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post. The term originally referred to a post on a ship or quay used principally for mooring boats, but is now also used to refer to posts installed to control road traffic and posts designed to prevent ram-raiding and vehicle-ramming attacks.

The term is probably related to bole, meaning a tree trunk.

Wikipedia

Having so mused I began to wander a tight little island of alleys and homes, discovering three of the little fellas, each linked by typology and common ancestry, steadfastly impeding the ingress of the motor car.

Yet also presenting themselves as mini works of utilitarian art – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Having returned home I began another short journey into the world of bollards, where do they come from?

Townscape Products

Hostile Vehicle Mitigation

Huge range • Fast delivery • Right on price

PAS 68 approved protection for your people and property combining security, natural materials and style.

My new pals seem to be closely related to the Reigate.

Available in a mind boggling range of finishes.

Bollards can be our friends, an expression of personal freedom and security.

A pensioner says he will go to court if necessary after putting up concrete bollards in a last-ditch attempt to protect his home.

Owen Allan, 74, of Beaufort Gardens, Braintree, claims motorists treat the housing estate like a race track, driving well in excess of the 20mph speed limit, and that the railings in front of his home have regularly been damaged by vehicles leaving the road.

He was worried it would only be a matter of time before a car came careering off Marlborough Road and flying through the wall of his bungalow.

Braintree and Witham Times

Though on occasion may be perceived as an enemy of personal liberty, precipitating a head on collision with the local authority.

A furious family have been stopped from parking on their own driveway after bullyboy council officials installed concrete bollards outside their home.

We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea here what the with yellow lines and the bollards.

Daily Express

I have cause to thank the humble concrete bollard, having suffered an assault on our front wall from a passing pantechnicon, I subsequently petitioned the council, requiring them to erect a substantial bollard barrier.

Which was subsequently hit by a passing pantechnicon.

They are our modernist friends, little gems of public art and should treated with due respect – think on.

You hostile vehicles.

Fountains Café – Bradford

17 John St Bradford BD1 3JS

I first came here some twenty years ago or so and on each subsequent visit little seems to change.

The exterior signage and fascia remain intact.

The orange light shades are still hanging limp and bright from the suspended ceiling.

The furniture and scarlet carpet unmoved, as the cheery waiting staff weave merrily in, out and round about with meals and drinks.

The distinctive white relief sits in the same place on the wall.

Almost inevitably I order a mug of tea.

Along with a plate of eggs chips and peas.

Eat and drink the lot and leave happy and contented – who can resist a well run, well appointed classic café?

I can’t.

A well-known and respected figure in the Bradford business world, Mr Paul Georgiou ran Fountains Coffee House in John Street for just shy of 50 years alongside his wife Mary, and has run cafés and other businesses in the city for almost six decades.

Other ventures created by Mr Georgiou include the Hole in the Wall nightclub, which was one of the first underground nightclubs in the city centre. It hosted acts including Sir Tom Jones and rockers Thin Lizzy as they rose to fame in the late 1960s and early 1970.

Sadly he passed away in 2019.

His main business Fountains Coffee House is now managed by his son Michael, but when it opened it was one of the first businesses to open in the John Street Market, as the Oastler centre was known then.

Telegraph and Argus

Maxine Peake was a recent visitor – filming a sequence for the film Funny Cow, along with Alun Armstrong.

I pop in every time I hit town – often whilst hosting a Modernist Mooch.

So here they are my own observations, brews and grub from the last few years.

Do yourself a favour pop in, if and when you pass, you won’t be disappointed.

Rotherham Modernism

There comes a time in everyone’s life, when one simply must go to Rotherham, at least once – so I did.

To keep company with my personal town guide, Sheffield Modernist and local resident, Helen Angell.

I arrived early at Rotherham Central, so went for a solo wander.

The station was originally named Rotherham, becoming Rotherham and Masborough in January 1889 and finally Rotherham Central on 25 September 1950.

The newish Rotherham Central station was opened to passengers on 11 May 1987, the present iteration on Friday 24 February 2012, as part of the Rotherham Renaissance plans for the regeneration of the town.

Wikipedia

Opened 22 December 1934 as the Regal Cinema with Leslie Howard in Girls Please. Sandy Powell, the famous comedian attended opening night this 1,825 seat. It was designed by the Hull based architectural firm Messrs Blackmore & Sykes for local exhibitor Thomas Wade and was leased to the Lou Morris chain.

By 1937 it was operated by the London & Southern Super Cinemas Ltd. chain. The Regal Cinema was leased to the Odeon circuit in 1946 and was re-named Odeon. It was sold by the Rank Organisation to an independent operator in 1975 and renamed Scala Cinema, by 1981 using the circle only.

Closed 23rd September 1983 with the film Porky’s.

Became a bingo hall initially named Ritz but now Mecca. On 20th February 2020 the building was put up for sale by auction at an asking price of £600,000+, but failed to sell, with the maximum reached £590,000. Mecca bingo continues in the building.

Cinema Treasures

Curious corner retail development and sculpture of the Sixties – with pub archeology.

Art Deco detail and tiling.

Royal Mail Sorting Office.

Retail detail.

Beeversleigh Flats – built between 1968-71. 

Main contractors J. Finnegan it’s thirteen storeys high – housing forty eight dwellings.

Interwar Technical College – Howard Building

From the 1930s, it provided technical-orientated education from the Howard Building on Eastwood Lane, Rotherham. In 1981, three neighbouring colleges of arts, technology and adult education were merged into one. As a result, the college became known as Rotherham College of Arts and Technology.

Revised plans to convert the historic Howard Building in Rotherham town centre into self-contained studios and apartments have been approved by the planning board at Rotherham Council.

The prominent former college building was sold prior to going to auction last September after it was advertised as a development opportunity and given a guide price of £250,000 by local auctioneers, Mark Jenkinson & son.

2015

28 Days Later

A group of rogue property directors with links to a prominent derelict building in Rotherham have been banned for a total of 54 years. The six, of Absolute Living Developments, were found to have misled more than 300 people to invest at least £12 million in residential properties.

The firm was linked through a lender to Avro Developments, which had plans passed in 2015 to renovate former college block the Howard Building in Rotherham town centre.

Rotherham Advertiser 2019

Clifton Building

Next to the market.

With a strident high tech canopy, very recently added – though Rotherham’s history stems back 800 years when it is thought that the original royal market charter was granted by King John in the year 1207.

There are traces of the 1970’s rebuild.

Bunker-like The Trades former music venue/pub, which replaced the former riverside Trades Club.

The PA now silenced.

This was an amazing event. The bands were really good and the drinks offers, while limited, were good. The ceiling in the ladies toilets had fallen through and was dripping, presumably there had been a leak from all the rain, but this didn’t lessen the awesome experience.

October 2019

The cooling towers and flats are long gone – the coal-fired power station operated from 1923 until October 1978.

The Prince of Wales Power Station in Rotherham was located on Rawmarsh Road and was opened by the Prince of Wales – the future King Edward VIII.

The former Grattans catalogue offices can be seen to the left.

Renamed Bailey House and still in use by the local authority, its days it seems are numbered.

The building is named after Rotherham-born engineer Sir Donald Bailey whose ingenious bridge designs played a key role in shortening World War II, the house in which Bailey was born, 24 Albany Street is still standing.

Sadly no longer home to the Harlem Shuffle

No big names – just big sounds.

There are some surviving power station buildings.

Along with electrical infrastructure.

Up the road next, to the former fire station, which now houses J E James Cycles.

It is surrounded by typically atypical inter war housing.

I could make the wild assumption, that these flat roofed maisonettes were originally homes fit for firefighters.

A passing nod towards a former Methodist Chapel.

Further on up the road to Peck House.

And the attendant tiles.

Just around the corner Backer Heating – still trading.

Returning toward town and enchanted by a giant 13 amp plug.

Under the underpass.

Then the other underpass.

Finally through the last underpass.

With a final notable note regarding Rotherham’s hand painted council commissioned signage – I’d like to think that they have a sign writer in their employ.

Many thanks to my learned companion Helen – thanks for a fine day out, so much to see and do!

Elim Pentecostal Church – Halifax

Hall St Halifax HX1 5AY

Elim Church

Having walked from Hebden Bridge to Halifax with Mr Phil Wood, we approached Hall Street – and gazed admiringly at this striking building, from across the A58.

Attributed to C.S. Oldfield and it was completed in 1972 apparently they did the relief too.

20th Century Society

A low serrated, ridge and furrow conical roof, corona and steel spire breaking the skyline.

Very much a building of two halves, the single storey hall, adjoining the body of the church, which is raised on a plinth.

They are linked by an internal hallway.

An intriguing mix of restrained classical detailing, along with the more modernistic roof and internal structure.

From the outside it is possible to discern the stained glass panels in the corona.

To the right of the main entrance is a modular sculptural relief, modelled in concrete cast in fibreglass.

There are eight individual modules, set in a grid of six by eleven – sixty six in total, rotated to break up the rhythm of the piece.

I was blessed on the day of my visit, with permission to photograph the interior, many thanks to Pastor Mark.

Church of St Leonard and St Jude – Doncaster

Barnsley Road Doncaster DN5 8QE

Constructed 1957 – 1963

Another church by architect George Pace – along with William Temple Wythenshawe, St Saviours Bradford, St Marks Broomhill and the Church of St Mark Chadderton.

They are all built in his distinctive manner, brick and concrete, steel, wood and glass. Often working within tight budgets, respectful of the Christian Church’s early heritage, expressing mass and volume with simple geometry.

The exterior skin pierced by multiple rectangular windows, the interior revealing an elegant calm space with attendant simple decorative elements and fittings.

The body of the church has two asymmetric orthogonal outriders and a tall bell tower.

The transept chapel

The chancel and apse has a raised roof with a glazed face.

Let’s literally take an anti-clockwise look around the outside.

I was warmly welcomed by The Revd David D’Silva, Curate-in-Charge and kindly given free access to the church’s interior.

The wooden framed roof supported by huge parabolic arches of laminated timber.

There are retrieved pews, temporarily reordered to accommodate Covid requirements.

Pugin statuary.

Pace’s own detailed design work in the altar screen and crucifix.

A Mediaeval font.

Light enters from several sources on three elevations.

And through the glazed area of the raised gable.

A delightful morning’s work visiting this well used and cared for church.

Boyes Bridlington

29 King Street Bridlington East Riding of Yorkshire YO15 2DN

Supplier of a variety of discounted homewares and DIY products, toys, clothes and stationery.

In 1881 William Boyes opened a small store in Eastborough, Scarborough selling odd lots and remnants from merchants. There was great poverty in the working classes and housewives were even keener for a bargain than they are today. When customers found that they could buy enough material to make a coat or a dress cheaper than anywhere else, they soon spread the word and trade increased to such an extent that William had to look for larger premises.

William rented a large warehouse just off the main street where business continued to grow. By 1886 he purchased further units in Market Street and Queen Street and knocked them into one large store and named it ‘The Remnant Warehouse’. Older customers in Scarborough still refer to the shop as ‘The Rem’. As time went on William expanded his range and bought other clearance lines from merchants developing the warehouse into a department store.

Business continued to grow and go from strength to strength and in 1910 the expansion of the company started. Today W Boyes and Co Ltd operate over 60 stores throughout Yorkshire, the North East, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire & Leicestershire.

Boyes

In 1969 Hammonds of Hull purchased the Carltons department store located in Bridlington, and within a year had demolished and rebuilt the store. The company’s independence did not last much longer, as in 1972 House of Fraser purchased the business for £8 million. The stores were then grouped under the Binns brand. The Bridlington store was closed in 1995 and the store stood empty for three years until Boyes opened in 1998 

My sincere thanks to Kate Yorke for her detective work.

I have been here before, enchanted by the exterior tiles, of unknown origin – yet strongly redolent of William Mitchell’s work.

These are on the southern face of the building.

On the opposing side.

They flow through into the entrance lobby.

Exploring further I encountered these striking ceramic tiles on the stairwells.

With a matching set on the others side of the store.

It’s a constant delight to discover the decorative art of the Sixties preserved in situ. Remnants of a time when investment in original work was de rigueur, reflecting the pride which companies had in their buildings and the respect they held for their customers.

The stores trade as Boyes – pronounced Boys but often mispronounced as Boys-es.

It is still owned and family run with Andrew Boyes and his son Richard as joint managing directors.

The Scarborough store was home to a number of animals in the past, including monkeys, chipmunks and budgies. The animals were used as way of encouraging customers to visit the store and purchase something whilst they visited. Two of the monkeys, Jacko and Dinah, are famous to a generation of Scarborough shoppers.

Wikipedia

Peck House Rotherham

Peck House, a long vacant commercial property on a prominent route into Rotherham, could be flattened for redevelopment as the owners begin discussions with the Council over its future.

The building on Eastwood Trading Estate, and its unique stylings, was the headquarters of Joseph Peck departments stores
.

Rotherham Business News 2017

The owners of the site, Backer Electric, occupy the adjacent building where they continue to manufacture heating elements, supplying products in high volume to the majority of household brand names. Options to reuse Peck House and the site have been investigated for a number of years.

A structural survey was carried out which found the building to be structurally sound and secure and therefore the Council has not been in a position to insist on its demolition.

In 1985, plans came forward to change of use of the retail/wholesale store to a church. In 2004, outline plans were submitted for a development including a hotel, restaurant, hot food takeaway and petrol station for the wider area. In 2014, Peck House was one of a number of sites discounted as the location for a new £5m primary school.

As of Wednesday 26th August 2020 it’s still there underdeveloped and overgrown.

In the company of local resident Helen Angell and having become aware of the site through the paintings of Mandy Payne and the photographs of Sean Madner – I was eager to pay a visit.

Joseph Peck departments stores originated in Rotherham in the late 1800s and had branches in Worksop, Barnsley and Sheffield.

I have only been able to find evidence of the Sheffield store – which may not be linked.

Though there are references to a Rotherham store on Bridgegate.

Joseph Peck was in Bridgegate in Rotherham, and in the late 40’s at Christmas, they had a grotto and a Father Christmas. The queues of parents and children would go down the yard and up Bridgegate. My mum and dad always took my brother and I to see Father Christmas and get a present from him. The store was a department store selling just about everything that was available just after the war. Mum took my brother and I coming up to one Christmas, she was trying to find a bicycle for my brother and I, but they didn’t have one. As we came out of the store, one of old fashioned three wheel railway delivery lorries was just pulling out of the yard. On the back was a blue bike. Mum stopped the driver and asked him where he was taking it. He told her ‘Redgates at the bottom of Ecclesall Road in Sheffield. She shouted ‘Taxi’, and told the driver to ‘follow that lorry’. Just before the lorry arrived on The Moor, she told the taxi driver to overtake the lorry and go to Redgates. We rushed in, she found the manager and asked him about the bike. He hadn’t known that one was being delivered so Mum told him she’d have it without even asking the price. The lorry driver didn’t even have to take it off the lorry, and delivered it to our house next day.

My elder brother had it first, then me, then my younger brother, and finally our young sister. It was still being used when I flew the nest in 1959. 

Merry Christmas everybody.

Sheffield Forum

So here we are confronted with some tip top architectural type high atop the low-rise industrial facility.

What’s more there is a panel of ceramic tiles many with a pronounced profile in relief – a fugue in lemon, grey and a deep Prussian Blue.

No reference to the manufacturer or date online sadly, suffice to say that they are truly enchanting – look!

Rotherham Underpass #3

First there was the first, then secondly the second – this is the third and last underpass.

A fitting finish to the series as we pass through the final subterranean frontier out into the clear light of the South Yorkshire day.

Each one is a neglected gem of municipal modernism, the underpass a feature under threat, the pedestrian often subsumed by the drive to accommodate the motor car.

As of last Wednesday, we all seem to have tenuously hung on in there.

Oh we’ll hear the thunder roar, feel the lightning strike.
At a point we’ll both decide to meet at the same time tonight
.

Rotherham Underpass #2

Having posted the first underpass – let’s take a look at the second.

Orange on white, circles within circles squared.

Rotherham Underpass #1

I had seen a photograph posted by Mandy Payne of an underpass in Rotherham – illustrating a delightful concrete relief.

Enlisting the assistance of friend and local resident Helen Angell, we set out on a mission to visit the roundabout in back of the big Tesco, which housed the three underpasses.

This is the first – painted white, well whiteish – more than somewhat disabused by the passage of time and the passage of users of the underpass.

Brute and angular, incised and cursive and currently lacking authorship or attribution.

Holloway Wall – 2020

Of course I’ve been here before – and you may have as well.

And I’ve been to Huyton too.

Tony Holloway’s work also illuminates the windows of Manchester Cathedral.

As well as the panels of the Faraday Tower, just the other side of UMIST.

The wall is listed, fenced and obscured by the gradual incursion of assorted greenery.

It’s beginning to attract moss, amongst other things – just not like a rolling stone.

Like nearly everything else, it looks different each time you pass by, more or less light, new tags and signs – so here it is as of Saturday 13th June 2020.

Locked in during the lockdown.

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

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.

Turnpike Centre – Leigh

The Turnpike Centre was designed by J C Prestwich and Sons architects, who, incidentally, also designed Leigh Town Hall nearly 70 years earlier.

Since its opening in 1971, the bustling library, thriving art gallery and popular meeting rooms have seen a phenomenal 12 million people walk through the doors, while staff have answered almost 400 thousand questions and issued more than 17 million books, cassettes and CDs.

The fascia is graced by a grand cast concrete relief the work of William Mitchell.

All but abandoned by the cash-strapped local council in 2013, Turnpike Gallery in the former mining town of Leigh near Wigan, is entering a new stage in its history with the creation of a community interest company to run its programme.

Natalie Bradbury a.n

Helen Stalker has curated and promoted a series of fine exhibitions in the interim period – sadly arrested by current circumstances.

Let’s take a look around the exterior of a building which reflects the confidence and pride of a very individual town.

On our last visit we even got to look up on the roof.

So post lockdown, when you feel it’s safe and socially acceptable to do so travel to Leigh – take a look.

Park Hall Manor Pool – Little Hayfield

First there was a house.

A Grade II listed country house, now divided into two dwellings. c1812. Ashlar gritstone. Hipped slate roof with leaded ridges. Various ashlar triple stacks with moulded tops. Moulded cornice and low parapet. Two storeys, central block with recessed long wing to east, orangery to west.

Historic England

Currently trading as a quick getaway country cottage

This Grade II listed manor house is set within 14 acres of natural grounds, together with the occupied adjoining servants’ wing, and has been sympathetically converted, retaining many original features to provide comfortable accommodation for families wishing to meet up for that special family occasion, and wi-fi is available in the living room. 

Then came a pool:

Previously a private pool belonging to a country club in the 1930’s it later opened to members around 1938 who paid a small fee for its use. The pool is fed by a mountain stream and the water is reported to remain cool throughout the year. In the 1940’s/50’s locals recall the pool being open to the public where it cost a ‘shilling for children and half a crown for adults’ entry. During storms in 1947 the pool was badly damaged and reportedly ‘never the same again’ but postcards in circulation in the 1960’s provide evidence that the pool remained open at least until then.

Now it sits abandoned and hidden in the woods.

I went there in my early teens late 60’s the pool was still intact, well used and well cold. I remember chilly changing rooms with duckboards on concrete floors, a small café with pop and crisp if you had the pennies.

Most of all the simple joy of emersion in clear moorland water, on long hot summer days long gone.

Revisiting in April 2014, following a misguided scramble through brambles, it was a poignant reunion. The concrete shells of the pillars and statuary crumbling and moss covered, the waters still and occluded.

It sure it has subsequently been the scene of impromptu fashion shoots and pop promo videos, possibly a little guerrilla swimming. Though sadly it largely sits unused and unloved – let’s take a look around:

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.

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.

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

Brunel House – Cardiff

Originally built to house the regional British Rail offices – it seems that Great Western House has always been Brunel House.

Designed by Seymour Harris – who have also been responsible for the recent refurbishment.

The building is now in multiple occupancy, used for a wide range of services and uses, bringing new life to fine mid-century structure.

Sadly its entrance relief is now nowhere to be seen.

Archive photographs Seymour Harris Architects

Sixteen floors standing at 190 feet, two enormous interlocking slabs – it is the largest commercial property in Wales.

Seen from afar your are hit by its impressive rear elevation, with a distinctive grid defined by the slender window frames and a restrained yet earthy palette.

This is then broken up by strong vertical concrete columns.

With bold structural detailing, using a variety of aggregates and finishes.

Side elevations are brut concrete, with limited window space.

Where surfaces and volume conjoin there is further interesting structural detail.

Service areas to the rear.

An exciting encounter with a building of substance and quality – go take a look for y’self.

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.