Apollo Pavilion – Peterlee

An architecture and sculpture of purely abstract form through which to walk, in which to linger and on which to play, a free and anonymous monument which, because of it’s independence, can lift the activity and psychology of an urban housing community on to a universal plane.

The idea for the Apollo Pavilion was the culmination of Victor Pasmore’s involvement with the planning and design of the new town of Peterlee in County Durham which began in 1954 with his appointment by A.V. Williams, the General Manager, as a consultant architectural designer to the Corporation. The brief was to inject a new initiative into the new town’s design, which had been limited by practical and financial constraints. The early departure of Berthold Lubetkin from the original design team, and the limitations imposed by building on land subject to underground mining, had led to a deterioration in the quality of the architecture being produced at Peterlee.

At Peterlee Pasmore worked initially alongside architects Peter Daniel and Franc Dixon to develop the Sunny Blunts estate in the south-west area of the town, though by the time the Pavilion was built Dixon had left and the team included the more experienced Harry Durell, Colin Gardham and landscape architect David Thirkettle. Pasmore continued to be involved with Peterlee until 1978 and designed the Pavilion as a gift to the town.

It was restored in 2009 with the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant of £336,000. The restoration restored the south side stairway – the other had not been part of the original design, reset the cobbles in the surrounding area and reinstated the two murals on the north and south walls.

A metal gate restricting access at night time to the upper level has been introduced, and the original lighting scheme, out of action since the mid 1970s, has been reinstated.

Peterlee Gov

Victor and me do have previous – a visit to the then Civic Centre Rates Office

Along with the Renold’s building mural at UMIST.

I jumped the X9 bus and headed for Peterlee – walked the wide open streets in search of signs.

There were no signs.

I found it instead by chance and instinct.

Here it is.

Peterlee was to be the miners’ capital of the world and was named after the well-known miner and councillor Peter Lee. 

Architect Berthold Lubetkin’s plans included everything from football pitches and tennis courts, to a rock-climbing centre and a zoo. However, to Berthold Lubetkin’s frustration, the National Coal Board opposed his plan and, after numerous failed attempts to agree on the siting of housing, Lubetkin quit the project in 1950. He later gave up architecture altogether and took up pig farming.

It remains a grand place to live it seems, tidy housing set in rolling greenery.

There are no longer coal mines or miners.

Halifax Building Society HQ

Here we are again for we have been here before.

I was taking a band of merry Modernist Moochers around town, so I stopped to snap this BDP behemoth once again.

On a sunny September morn.

David Lees informs me:

Halifax Building Society HQ, designed by BDP in an a multi-consultant appointment. Bill Pearson, partner and lead designer, John Ellis, M & E partner, David Cowler, Industrial Designer for the conservatrieve document storage and recovery terminals.

Rod Morris, Graphic Designer designed the sculptural Corten air vents. Richard Saxon, Americanophile introduced the theory of the open plan office. The building has twin fourteen foot deep steel beams clear-spanning between the four corner stair towers, within the chamfered soffit, a floor that also houses all the plant rooms. Lower floor of curtain walled cladding is a one acre open plan beaurolandchaft office, based upon analysis of workflow, the first in the UK and the biggest order for Herman Miller action office furniture at the time.

The office ceiling is a development of BDP’s coffered ceiling creating diffuse, glare free light and massive sound deadening, needed in open plan. Yellow cylindrical air inlet terminals by David Cowler. There ended up being so many duct penetrations in the fourteen foot beams that Harry Halsall, the structural engineer, had to prop them centre span. To create strong columns that could be lost in the window walls he used solid square section forged steel. No holds barred on this building’s cost. Executives suits of offices on the top floor with lavish bespoke joinery have recessed landscaped courtyards.

The building sits on a vast chasm that is storage for physical title documents the society had to keep. Its roof is a crash slab that can take the full weight of the building above collapsing. Large vertical robot arms travel the racks to retrieve the documents that get delivered to the office floor by a conveyor system. Office terminals designed by David Cowler who went on to design the iconic Samsonite Suitcase.

Nobody thought about the groundwater effect when the concrete basement was built. Without the weight of the building on it, it floated eleven inches. Luckily when the water was pumped out it settled back down precisely.

BDP Manchester’s golden years.

I arrived fresh from Uni just as it was finished.

Thanks to David for the inside information, here’s what it looks like on the outside.

Salford Walk

We begin on the Crescent – taking in the former AUEW Building.

B&W images copyright USIR Archives

It became part of Salford University’s estate, renamed the Faraday Building.

It is currently unoccupied.

The University’s Masterplan is shifting emphasis to the Peel Park and Media City sites.

Also leaving Crescent House in limbo.

The original master plan would have swept away the Victorian Technical Institute and Salford Art Gallery.

Across the road are the Maxwell Buildings.

They were built between 1959 and 1960 to a design by the architect C H Simmons of the Lancashire County Architects Department.

The interior decorative order of Sixties’ institutions was integral to the architectural design, sadly this is no longer so.

Which may be the subject of ambitious redevelopment.

Take a turn around the corner to the Cockcroft Building.

The east facing mural painted out and obscured by retrofitted infrastructure.

These incised stone panels obscured by plants.

To the left is the Clifford Whitworth Library – this is the original architectural impression – signed Peter Sainsbury.

The original fascia was tile clad.

Subsequently replaced by uPVC boards.

Yet again the original interior was integral too the architectural scheme and period.

Across the way the Chapman Building.

It was designed by WF Johnson and Partners of Leamington Spa, as a lecture theatre block and gallery. It sits with its long axis running parallel to the railway behind. The series of grey volumes, occasionally punctuated by colourful floods of red and green trailing ivy, hang together in a less than convincing composition. The orientation and access to the building seem confused and detached from any cohesive relationship to the rest of the campus, but there is something perversely attractive about the right essay in the wrong language. The reinforced concrete building contained five lecture theatres, communal spaces, an art gallery, AV support areas and basement plant rooms. Following a major refurbishment in 2012, several additions were made to the exterior and its total concrete presence somewhat diminished. It still houses lecture theatres and a number of other learning and social spaces.

Mainstream Modern

To the rear of the building there are some of the original details, now painted a series of funny colours.

A ways down the road the former Salford Technical College.

Now the part of the University of Salford, this grouping is probably the most significant work by Halliday Meecham during this period. The blocks wrap to almost enclose a courtyard and they step up in height towards the rear of the site. To the front is a lecture theatre block in dark brick. The multi-storey elements are straightforward in their construction and appearance and have had their glazing replaced. Perhaps the richest elements here are the three totemic structures by artist William Mitchell, which were listed at Grade II in 2011. Mitchell was actively engaged with the experiments of the Cement and Concrete Associations during the 1960s and produced a wide variety of works for public and private clients; other works regionally include the majority of the external art and friezes at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral and the Humanities Building at Manchester University. These textured concrete monoliths appear to have an abstract representation of Mayan patterns and carry applied mosaic. They were made on site using polyurethane moulds. There is another Mitchell work hidden behind plasterboard in the inside of the building.

Mainstream Modern

Subsequently assimilated into the University.

Across the A6 the former estate pub the Flemish Weaver is currently shrouded in particle board and in use as a base for construction workers.

Just down the way The Woolpack is no more.

April 1965 saw the Salford City Reporter proudly boast in an article that

The Ellor Street dream begins to come true – complete with interviews with residents of the newly constructed Walter Greenwood, Eddie Colman and John Lester Courts all which towered some 120 feet above the Hanky Park skyline.

These particular blocks of flats were of special significance because their completion was the end of the first stage of the Ellor Street redevelopment scheme which was to provide 3,000 new homes, the £10 million pound Salford Shopping Precinct and a new civic centre – which never got built – making this A Salford of the Space Age.

Salford Online

The tower blocks are now clad and the site a construction base for cladders.

Full details of Salford’s complex and extensive redevelopment can be found here at Tower Block.

Walter Greenwood Court was demolished in 2000/2001, whilst Eddie Colman and John Lester Court are now student accomodation for the nearby Salford University.

Onwards and underwards towards Salford Shopping City.

The construction of the shopping centre and surrounding areas continued and on 21 May 1970 the new Salford Market officially opened. From 1971 onwards new shops inside the precinct itself began to open.

However, due to a lack of funds and a political scandal which saw chairman Albert Jones jailed for eight months construction of Salford Precinct was halted. The site had only 95 shop units compared to the proposed 260, the hotel and two storey car park were never built.

The architectural core of the site has been retained, including the 23 storey Briar Court residential tower.

Tucked in behind is Mother of God and St James RC Church.

Clearances took place from the middle of the twentieth century and new high-rise housing blocks were built, as well as a shopping centre.

There was a Catholic presence in the area from 1854, when schools were built. What was described in The Tablet as a beautiful church, an Early English Gothic design by M. Tijou – presumably Herbert Tijou, architect of the chapel to Loreto College, Manchester, was opened by Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster in 1875.

One hundred years later this church was demolished and replaced by the present building.

The architects were Desmond Williams & Associates, the design bearing some similarity to their St Sebastian, Salford. In 2010 the church of All Souls, Weaste, was closed, and the marble sanctuary furnishings brought to the church.

Description

All orientations given are liturgical. The church is steel framed with brick walls and a monopitch roof (originally covered with copper, now with felt).  Bold brick forms create a presence, and the design is somewhat defensive, with few windows. The building is entered from a lower porch which forms a narthex. The slope of the roof and the stepped clerestory lighting create a striking impression inside, and full-height windows towards the east end incorporate stained glass figures said to have originated in the previous church. Marble sanctuary furnishings are presumably those from the church in Weaste and appear to be of later twentieth century date, while the font is of traditional type with a clustered stem and may have come from the earlier church.

Taking Stock

Returning to The Crescent the High Street Estate is all but demolished, save for one resident and their row.

This is an area which has seen a succession of clearances, redevelopment and shifts in demographics during a relatively short and intense period of change.

That process of change continues to hastily unfold.

Queensgate Market Huddersfield

We have of course been here before – to have a general look around and on a Modernist Mooch.

Now I want to look in detail at the exterior ceramic art.

The façade of the market hall on Queensgate incorporates five roof sections with patent glazing and is decorated with square ceramic panels by Fritz Steller, entitled Articulation in Movement, set over natural stone cladding.

These continue across the façade of the adjoining shops, to make nine panels in all, with a tenth larger panel added in 1972, pierced by stairs and an entrance to the market hall from Queensgate.

They have representations of the mushroom shells of the market hall, turned through 90 degrees, with abstract representations of the goods available within.

The enormous abstract art panels weigh almost 50 tons.

Historic England

Seen here in the 1970s when the trees and cars were smaller – though trousers and lapels were considerably wider.

Fritz Steller

1941 Born in Dresden, Germany. 

1959-1964 Studied sculpture and architecture at Birmingham College of Art, Birmingham, UK. Specialised in sculpture. 

Until 1969 Head of Art at Sebright School, Wolverley, near Kidderminster, Worcestershire, UK. 

1969-1977 Established and led the Square One Design Workshop and Transform Ceramic Company, Snitterfield, near Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, UK. 

1977 -1980 Established and led ceramic production in Isithebe- Mandini, Kwazulu, South Africa. 

1980 Left South Africa due to basic fundamental differences of opinion over the apartheid regime. Established and led an art centre and gallery in Ewzulwini Valley near Mbabane, Swaziland. 

1992 After the destruction of the art centre and gallery moved to Germany. 

Since 1993 has set up a new business in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal. 

Fritz now lives and works in South Africa and Germany as an internationally recognised artist.

Monocular Times

Designed by the J Seymour Harris Partnership – now Seymour Harris Architects, the building was opened on 6 April 1970 and features a roof structure based on 21 asymmetric paraboloid shells.

The practice was inspired by Mexican Felix Candela for the innovative, lightweight concrete roof sections.

Steller met the project’s lead architect Gwyn Roberts while they were both at college in Birmingham.

Roberts was never to see his masterpiece listed, the architect, who left the practice to set up on his own in the early ’70s, died in 2004.

Architects Journal

Along the north wall of the hall is a relief sculpture entitled Commerce, in black painted metal with semi-abstract figures representing agriculture, trade and products, also by Fritz Steller.

So let’s have a look at the largest ceramic sculpture in the world – partially obscured by trees.

Newcastle to Amble

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

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

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

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

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

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

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

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

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

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

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

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

North Tyneside Gov

In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

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

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

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

Spanish City

Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

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

Ryder and Yates 1959

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

Before I knew it I was in Blyth.

The town edged with military installations

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

Historic England

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

Derelict Places

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

Skylighters

I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

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

Encountering a brand new factory.

And the remnants of the old power station.

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Energy News

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

One hundred and eleven men died there.

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

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

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

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

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

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.

Billingham

Whilst cycling twixt Redcar and Newcastle one sunny Monday morn, I espied a tower on the distant horizon.

I pedalled hurriedly along and this is what I found.

Dawson House aka Kingsway.

A fifteen-storey circular tower block of 60 one-bedroom flats and 29 two-bedroom flats, making 89 dwellings in total. The block was built as public housing at the western fringe of the Town Centre development that began in 1952. Approved in 1973, the block is of triangular concrete-beam construction.

The architects were Elder Lester Associates.

The block was built by Teeside County Borough Council.

Stanley Miller Ltd.’s tender for the contract was £778,850.

The tower block was opened on 3rd April 1975 by the Mayor of Stockton Borough Council, John Dyson.

The block is described as ‘gimmicky circular tower block’ in The Buildings of England: County Durham by N. Pevsner.

Historic England

Across the way the cosmically named Astronaut pub known locally as the Aggy.

Though all it seems, is not well in outer space:

Locals say punters are creating a giant toilet next to a Billingham pub – and performing sex acts.

I wouldn’t disregard what they say, and I can’t say that didn’t happen, said boss Jordan Mulloy.

I know urinating goes on from time to time but people do it outside every pub – anyone I catch doing it will be barred.

Teeside News

The pub stands at the outer edge of the West Precinct.

The precinct sits beneath the Civic Offices.

And has a ramp leading to the roof top parking.

Next door the earlier Queensway Centre.

The Family unveiled by HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 the country’s first pedestrianised precinct.

Edward Bainbridge Copnall 

In November 2013, a time capsule was buried in front of The Family, under a stone with the inscription Forever Forward 30 11 2013.

The capsule is not to be unearthed until the year 2078.

Twenty million pound bid to take back control of the centre of Billingham.

The council says: Proposals include addressing the physical condition of Billingham town centre in support the Council’s ambition to take back control of the centre. Redevelopment would solve the challenges of changing retail trends that are contributing towards excess retail space and high vacancy rates.

This includes exploring options for mixed-use redevelopment and high-quality public spaces that improve accessibility within the town centre and a modern retail offering.

Hartlepool Mail.

Missing in action – La Ronde aka Eleanor Rigby’s.

Built in 1968 by local architects Elder Lester and Partners as part of the expansive plans for the town centre along with the Forum, La Ronde nightclub was to form part of the expansive plans for Billingham focused on the pursuit of increased leisure time.

La Ronde’s distinct cylindrical form comes from the car park access ramp that winds around the stair core to the upper floors of the club. The elevated drum-like form inset with cross latticed concrete webs was cast entirely in-situ.

In 2006, the council demolished La Ronde and Forum House at the cost of £500,000 to make way for a supermarket.

The Forum

In 1960, Billingham Urban District Council, began one of the most ambitious new leisure centres in Europe. The Forum was funded by the district’s new-found wealth – a product of the local petrochemical industry.  It was designed by local architects Elder Lester and Partners and brought together a variety of recreational activities including an ice rink, swimming pool, sports centre, theatre, and bar all under one roof. The Forum opened in July 1967 to great enthusiasm.  Weekly attendance over the first six months was between 20 000 and 30 000 people, far exceeding all expectations.

The inclusion of the theatre alongside the sports facilities broke new ground in recreational planning and in the shift from sport to the broader notion of ‘leisure’, the Forum predated architectural thinking of the time by nearly a decade.  The building’s form is derived from the functions within, expressed in a variety of bulbous elements.  The most distinctive is the canopy of the ice rink roof which is hung using steel cables running the length of the roof and cross-braced to achieve a clear 73m span.

Something Concrete and Modern

Deal To Margate

We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.

Though the pier appeared to be closed.

Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.

The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.

The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.

Wikipedia

Deal is home to some of the most extraordinary concrete shelters.

Home to some understated Seaside Moderne homes too.

Well fed, we set out along the private road that edges the golf course, encountering some informal agricultural architecture.

We took time to explore Pegwell Bay Hoverport – currently trading as a Country Park.

Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.

The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.

Historic England

Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988. 

The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.

On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.

Wikipedia

Broadstairs was alive with Bank Holiday activity.

On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity

Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.

Built of flint and rubble.

One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:

We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack.  Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.

In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.

The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.

The Turner Contemporary was hosting an impromptu al fresco sculpture show.

Dreamland was still dreaming.

And Arlington House staring steadfastly out to sea.

Time now for tea and a welcome plate of chish and fips at the Beano Cafe.

I miss my haddock and chips from Beano in Margate, brought to you with a smile and he remembers everyone.

Great customer service and friendly staff, see you soon.

The food is awful and the customer service is even worse: when we complained about the food the staff argued with us and wouldn’t do anything to change the food or refund, avoid at all costs!

Trip Advisor

Time for a wander around Cliftonville.

Discovering a shiny new launderette.

And a launderette that wasn’t a launderette – it’s a Werkhaus that isn’t a workhouse.

And a patriotic tea rooms.

So farewell then the south coast – we’re off home on the train in the morning.

But first a pint or two.

Hull Walk 2021

Turn right out of the station toward the Cecil Cinema.

The Theatre De-Luxe was built in 1911 at the corner of Anlaby Road and Ferensway with its entrance in Anlaby Road and its auditorium along the side of the pavement in Ferensway. Kinematograph Year Book of 1914 lists 600 seats and the owners as National Electric Picture Theatres Ltd.

In 1925, the theatre was rebuilt to a radically altered ground-plan and renamed the Cecil Theatre. 

The Cecil Theatre’s demise came during bombing on the night of 7/8 May 1941 when German incendiary bombs reduced the building to a shell; and it remained like that until demolition in 1953.

Work on the new Cecil Theatre was begun in April 1955 and it was opened on 28th November 1955 with 1,374 seats in the stalls and 678 in the balcony.

Architects: Gelder and Kitchca

At the time of opening it had the largest CinemaScope screen in the country measuring 57 feet wide, and the first film shown was Marilyn Monroe The Seven Year Itch.

In the 1980’s it was taken over by the Cannon Cinemas chain. The cinema operation was closed on 23rd March 1992 and the cinemas were ‘For Sale and/or Lease. It was taken over by Take Two Cinemas and renamed Take Two Cinema. It was closed on 27th February 1997 and the two screens in the former circle were stripped out and converted into a snooker club.

Whilst bingo continues in the former stalls area of this post war 
cinema, the former mini cinemas in the circle still contain the snooker tables, but the space is unused. The screen in the former restaurant/cafe area remains basically intact, but is unused.

Cinema Treasures

Whilst circumnavigating the Cecil one can’t help but notice the KCOM HQ – and its distinctive white telephone kiosks.

The work of City Architect A Rankine OBE RIBA

When Hull City Council founded KCOM back in 1904, as Hull Telephone Department, it was one of several local authorities across the country granted a licence to run its own phone network.

1952 Call Father Christmas service was introduced.

Having heard of a recorded message service in Scandinavia, Hull Councillor J M Stamper suggested the idea of putting Father Christmas on the telephone. The Call Father Christmas service was introduced shortly afterwards, the first of its kind in the UK. By dialling a Hull Central number children could hear recordings of a Christmas story and carol singing. 

The success of the Father Christmas service led to the creation of other recorded information lines, such as Bedtime Stories, Teledisc and Telechef. 

This recipe line was introduced in 1950s and was still going strong until the 1990’s, with 50s recipes such as meat loaf and corned beef with cabbages being replaced by dishes such as Italian Chicken Bake.

Returning to Ferensway we are confronted by the Danish Seaman’s Church.

Sea trade created a large Danish community which Hull’s very own Amy Johnson was descended from. Her grandfather was Anders Jorgensen, who anglicised his name to the more pronounceable Andrew Johnson. A Danish pastor was appointed and an old chapel in Osborne Street was purchased in 1841.

It was on May 9, 1954, that the present church, with its now familiar separate bell tower, was consecrated by the Bishop of Copenhagen.

Around the corner we find Porter Street Housing.

Hull was the most severely damaged British city or town during the Second World War, with 95 percent of houses damaged. It was under air raid alert for one thousand hours. Hull was the target of the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid on Britain.

Of a population of approximately three hundred and twenty thousand at the beginning of the war, approximately one hundred and fifty two thousand were made homeless as a result of bomb destruction or damage. 

Overall almost one thousand two hundred people were killed and three thousand injured by air raids.

Despite the damage the port continued to function throughout the war.

The earliest housing was built just after World War II, starting with what is known locally as Australia Houses

A circular five storey housing block off Porter and Adelaide Streets, with a communal garden in the middle. These flats consist of deck access flats and some traditional style Art Deco tenements. Some are three bedroom, and have been refurbished over the years.

UK Housing

Porter Street – three six-storey blocks containing seventy dwellings of 1954

Contractor J Mather

New Michael Street and Melville Street aka Upper Union Street one hundred and eight dwellings in three nine-storey blocks of 1958

Contractor Truscon

The designer behind Hull’s tower blocks was Andrew Rankine RIBA, who from 1939 remained City Architect until his retirement in 1961.

Just around the corner:

Over the last three years both companies have worked on undertaking the complex development of an off-site constructed, low carbon, Code 5 housing product. Working with Hodson Architects on the design the project will provide 3-bed family houses on the Thornton Estate in Hull. The scheme will increase provision of suitably sized accommodation in the area for families.

The project will see Premier Interlink manufacture the steel framed modules at the factory in Brandesburton East Yorkshire starting this March. The five houses are to be prefabricated off-site, with each house comprising of four separate units which are then assembled on site. This offers the benefit of reducing construction time, improving efficiency, reducing material wastage and offering an improved thermal envelope.

Premier Modular

The Goodwin Trust, a brilliant and pioneering community group, decided the new version of pre-fab, or ‘modular’ housing, was exactly what was needed to provide affordable housing for the people it also cares for in so many other different ways.

Locality

Onward to Holy Apostles Church now home to Hull Truck and renamed Thornton Village Hall.

Architects: Ferrey and Mennim

Back toward the station and Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.

Built in 1952 on Paragon Square to designs by T. P. Bennett, with extensions added in 1954 and 1957. Within a couple of years the business had grown again by opening its own hairdressing salon, and in 1960 added a new warehouse to accommodate their furniture workshops and stock rooms. This itself was extended within four years, while a fourth floor was added to the main store.

On the right a civic building Festival House of 1951.

Architect: John Brandon-Jones.

Apprenticed to Lutyens‘ assistant Oswald Milne and later working with Charles Cowles-Voysey

With his good friend, John Betjeman, he helped found the Victorian Society in 1958.

On 1st May 1951, the foundation stone of Festival House was laid, to commemorate the first permanent building to be built in the city centre since the 1941 Blitz. Placed under the stone was a time capsule containing coins, stamps, a Festival of Britain programme, a copy of that day’s Hull Daily Mail, and a booklet about the city. Festival House was owned by Hull Corporation on behalf of the people of Hull.

Before us Alan Boyson’s Three Ships – now listed and set for preservation.

The fate of the attached former CO-OP/BHS is less secure.

Architect: Philip Andrew

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

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

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

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

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

And behind we glimpse Frederick Gibberd’s fine Technical College.

Adorned by the William Mitchell relief.

BT Building – Warrington

Wilson Patten street Warrington Cheshire WA1

A forgotten part of Warrington town centre could be turned into plush new affordable flats.

Developers are looking to put an eight-storey apartment block off Wilson Patten Street close to the former BT telephone exchange building – described in the planning application as an:

ugly concrete monolith

It would be home to a mix of forty one, two and three bed flats on the spare land which is currently used as a car park.

Warrington Guardian

Typically the architecture of Twentieth Century infrastructure is reviled and ridiculed – simply swept away by contemporary, anonymous design and construction.

At least in this instance the developers intend to retain the ugly concrete monolith.

For me it is an essay in confident construction and decoration, the marriage of 1955’s brick utilitarianism, with a later concrete structure.

Poised on massive grey piloti, rising elegantly above the town.

Adorned with a simple articulation of surface.

East Park Gates Hull – Concrete Walls

Holderness Rd Hull HU8 8JU

At the entrance to the park on Holderness Road are eight concrete walls.

They are covered in square, cast concrete modular panels.

Said to be the work of the City Architect in 1964.

Municipal Dreams lists the City Architect at that time to be JV Wall, having replaced David Jenkin in that same year.

My money’s on Wall – well it makes sense don’t it?

I had taken the bus from Hull Interchange on a chill April morning.

The driver obligingly giving me a shout at the appropriate stop – right outside the gates.

They are not universally loved:

A further testament to the concrete pourer’s art is to be found adorning the entrance to East Park. They are so horrible that I could find nothing on the net to indicate who designed them, shame is a powerful motive for reticence. So here they stand to welcome the visitor; after this the actual park couldn’t be any worse.

Hull and Hereabouts

I can only assume that the actual park is held in much higher regard, listed and adored by all.

To my mind they are a bold addition to the park’s entrance, very much of their time, yet at the same time, ever so very now!

The has been a gentle patination to the raw surfaces and limited external intervention from the local Tyke taggers.

Take a look make up your mind – yay or nay?

It looks like they’re here to stay.

If you like this then you’ll like this and possibly this.

From Huyton to Hull and back to UMIST – it’s concrete walls all the way.

Droylsden Library

Built in 1937 – very much in the civic style of the day, an inter-war classical moderne utilitarian low-rise in brick, steel, stone and concrete.

A three level, level headed essay in resolute local pride, when Droyslden was an independent UDC, prior to the creation of Tameside.

Furnished in the finest manner.

Computerised and digitised – the first library in Tameside to go live.

Home to local art displays and reading corners.

Droylsden Library Carnival entry – first prize winner in its category.

Closed on March 17th it now faces demolition.

Archive photos Tameside Image Archive

The rising cost of repairs, combined with ‘a desire to progress’ with the regeneration of Droylsden town centre and the inaccessibility of the library’s T shape, three-floor configuration means that a ‘solution for the future of the library’ is now needed, according to the town hall.

Manchester Evening News

Of note are its curved cantilevered concrete balconies, complete with attractive steel balustrades.

Along with its carved relief above the door.

Decorative grille.

Commemorative Communist plaque

Drainpipes

Architectural Type.

And handrail.

I sure will miss the Library – I have walked cycled and bused by for over fifty years.

You are to be replaced by housing and relocated to the new development next door.

St Willibrords RC – Clayton Manchester

1963

North Road Clayton Manchester M11 4WQ

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

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

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

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

Genuki

The church was Grade II listed in June 1994

Research Portal

Our Lady and St. Joseph Hanwell 1967

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

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

1968

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

Archive photographs Local Image Collection

Poundland née BHS – Stockport

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

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

MEN

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

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

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

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

Guardian

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

With an architectural heritage to match:

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

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

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

Building Our Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

St Cuthbert’s Miles Platting Manchester

Junction of Fir Road and Oldham Road

One fine day, I chanced to walk by just as the service was finishing.

I asked Assistant Curate Rev. Peter Scott if it would be possible to photograph the interior of the church, he kindly consented.

Here are the results, along with shots of the excitingly angular exterior.

The church’s exterior is home to a dramatic concrete relief.

Let’s take a look inside, complex volumes and multiple window-lighting points, along with simple decorative order.

Of particular note – the organ pipes located above the main entrance.

Once again I can’t thank Rev. Peter Scott enough for giving us access to this beautiful church, serving the parishioners of Miles Platting.

Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.

In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.

There were grander unrealised plans.

Including an aerial asylum.

The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.

After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.

The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!

Drawings are drawn, models are modelled.

1965 Architects: Covell Matthews + Partners

Work is commenced, post haste.