New Face In Hull

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

Again.

Guiding a group of willing Modernists on a walk.

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

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

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

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

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

And this Festival of Britain style functionalist council building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More of which here.

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

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

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

My life was never planned, it just happened.

Ellen Wilkinson Humanities Building – The University of Manchester

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

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

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

The Humanities Building now named the Ellen Wilkinson Building.

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

Mainstream Modern

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

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

Wikipedia

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

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

Sometimes it pays to get almost lost.

Central Library – Grimsby

This is Grimsby Central Library – a proud public building of real quality, reflecting the cautious optimism and fierce civic pride of the Sixties. Built to last, in the modern manner – gently monumental, softened by the easy grace of the restrained decoration and a refined palette of stone, glass and concrete.

By the Borough Architect – JM Milner ARIBA

This image was used as the Mayor’s Xmas card in 1969.

The bold exterior grid is enhanced by a honeycombed grille above the entrance, along with a mosaic depicting the town’s seal.

The mosaic is the work of Harold Gosney – who is also responsible for the Abbey Walk reliefs and the Guardians of Knowledge which adorn the south facing elevation of the library.

To the rear of the building is a modular relief.

Inside the entrance porch a commemorative plaque.

Once inside, what a pleasure it is tread upon this interstellar inset stone flooring.

Either side of the lobby display case there are two vertical tapestries.

Along with a further plaque commemorating the opening on the 3rd September 1968 – by the then local MP Anthony Crosland.

Crosland looked ahead to a time where “personal freedom, happiness and cultural endeavour; the cultivation of leisure, beauty, grace, gaiety and excitement… might be pursued.” After he was elected MP for Grimsby in 1959, he referred to the above passage in an early speech, insisting – to much laughter, cheering and applause from the audience, that “it is possible to achieve all these things in Grimsby, and especially at Blundell Park.”

May I take this opportunity to thank the ever so helpful library staff – for kindly granting me permission to photograph the main body of the library.

Many original fittings and fixtures are intact – particularly the distinctive vertical suspended lighting system and the steel and wood stairways.

The facilities were well used and lit by the expansive window space.

Let’s take another final look outside, and say a fond farewell to this fine building – go on treat yourself, take a trip to the East Coast and feast your eyes, heart and mind on this beauty.

Ta-ra Grimsby!

I’ll be back real soon.

Abbey Walk Car Park – Grimsby

I was in town, just looking around, just looking for modernity, just looking.

I found you by chance between the railway and the high street, so I took a good look around, fascinated by the concrete sculptural panels on your fascia columns, those facing Abbey Walk.

Research tells me that they the work of Harold Gosney – born in Sheffield, he studied at Grimsby School of Art and London’s Slade School of Fine Art.

The majority of Gosney’s early commissions were collaborations with architects and he has made a significant contribution to public art in Grimsby. He is the artist responsible for the reliefs on the Abbey Walk car park, the large Grimsby seal by the entrance to the Grimsby Central Library and the Grim and Havelok themed copper relief on the side of Wilko store in Old Market Place.

Wikipedia

The car park has been the subject of some speculative repairs and refurbishment:

In total, the scheme will cost the council £1.54 million.

The authority will borrow £1.34 million to fund the project with a further £200,000 coming from a local transport grant. But the council said that the improvements made could help increase revenue from the car park of around £34,000 a year.

Councillor Matthew Patrick, portfolio holder for transport at the council, said that the work is essential to “brighten up” the building and attract people into Grimsby.

“It’s one of the largest car parks in the town,” he said.

“It will attract more people into the town centre and help to improve the offering of the car park.”

Lincolnshire Reporter

So here we are faced with a rare, precious and beautiful example of municipal modernism, a bold and brave attempt to decorate what is often the most functional of functional structures.

Owing something to the work of both Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso the imagery is derived from automotive parts, along with it seems to me, vague intimations of figuration.

Let’s talk a look!

Antony Holloway – Huyton Wall

Antony Holloway – artist born March 8th 1928 he died on August 9th 2000.

Dorset was where he was born and grew up and the Dorset landscape was always there deep within him. He was educated at Poole grammar school between 1939 and 1945. After national service in the Royal Air Force in Dorset and Germany from 1948 to 1953 he studied at Bournemouth College of Art. Then came the RCA.

Tony began work as a stained glass and mural designer and jumped, with astonishing confidence, into working as a consultant designer with the architects’ division of the London County Council. He learned how to deal with architects and builders, and became adept at getting as much out of the money available – never enough – for his projects.

In 1963 he was introduced to the Manchester architect, Harry Fairhurst. Eight years later, after they had worked together on commissions in Cheshire and Liverpool, Fairhurst sought Tony’s advice about a plan for five large stained-glass windows in Manchester Cathedral.

Tony asked to design and make the first window, the St George in the inner south-west aisle. It was completed in 1973. Further windows followed in 1976 and 1980 and the final window, Revelation was installed in 1995.

The Guardian

His Sculptural Wall on London Road Manchester – an integral part of Fairhurst’s UMIST scheme, is Grade II listed.

His concrete panels clad two opposing sides of the Faraday Tower which can also be seen on the UMIST site.

I discovered further reference to his work in an old copy of Studio International – serendipitously purchased from a local charity shop.

So I bided my time, awaiting the day I could take the train to Huyton, walk along Bluebell Lane, across the busy dual carriageway to Primrose Drive.

My patience was rewarded – 7,000 square feet of cast concrete retaining wall, surrounding the tower blocks, built on a site raised above the roads.

In 1987 the wall was open to public access – one of the three tower blocks has been subsequently demolished.

Tower Block

Partially covered with greenery and now securely contained within spiked railings, I circumnavigated the site catching and snapping the structure where I could – here are those very snaps.

St Stephen RC – Droylsden

Chappell Road Droylsden Manchester M43

One fine sunny Monday morning I set out cycling to Ashton-under-Lyne to buy an enamel pie dish. Almost inevitably I was pushed and pulled in a variety of unforeseen directions, incautiously distracted and diverted serendipitously – towards Droylsden.

Idly pedalling down Greenside Lane looking this way and that I was drawn magnetically to a pitched roof tower, towering over the red brick semis. Rounding the corner I discovered the delightful St Stephen’s RC church, stood high and proud on a grassy corner, glowing golden in the March sunlight.

I leaned my bike against the presbytery wall and with the kindly bidding of a passing parishioner, I went inside. 

Thanks to Father Tierney for his time and permission to snap the interior. It was a calm space, the large open volume side lit by high octagonal honeycomb modular windows. The elegant plain pitched concrete gambrel roof beams a simple engineered solution.

The church and attached presbytery were built from designs by Greenhalgh & Williams in 1958-9, the church being consecrated on 12 May 1960. A reordering took place, probably in the 1960s or 70s, when the altar rails were removed and the altar moved forward. Probably at the same time, the font was brought into the church from the baptistery.

Taking Stock

The altar and apse beautifully restrained in colour form and choice of materials. The design and detailing on the pews so warm and understated.

I was loathe to leave.

The exterior does not disappoint, the repetition of modular window shapes, the integration of doors, brick and mixed stone facing.This is a building of elegant grandeur, well proportioned, happily at home in its setting.

I suggest you set out there soon.

Castle House Co-op Store – Sheffield

So here we are outside, you and I in 2015 – it seems like yesterday.

Whereas yesterday I was inside not outside, but more of that in a moment.

It seems that you were listed in 2009 and deservedly so.

1964 by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick.

There’s just so much to stand and stare and marvel at.

Vulcan by Boris Tietze commisioned by Horne Brothers 1961 for their head office building No. 1 King Street. Glass fibre on a metal armature the 8 foot high figure holding a bundle of metal rods.

You were just about still open then, then you weren’t, then you were again – but a Co-op no more alas.

Fast forward to 2018

Work is underway on plans for a tech hub in Sheffield after a funding package was agreed.

Followed by a casual stroll towards 2019 where we are talking a peep inside courtesy of owners Kollider and book shop La Biblioteka.

I’d never ever seen the interior, save through the photographs of Sean Madner who captured the key features in 2014, prior to refurbishment.

So the Modernists and I pitched up this Sunday afternoon, the conclusion of our Sheffield Walk.

Lets take a look at the end stairwells, two very distinct designs one dotty one linear, both using Carter’s Tiles.

Configured from combinations and rotations of these nine modular units and two plain tiles.

Configured from combinations and rotations of these twelve modular units and two plain tiles.

The site has retained some of its original architectural typography.

The former top floor restaurant has a suspended geometric ceiling with recently fitted custom made lighting.

The timber-lined boardroom has a distinctive horseshoe of lighting, augmenting the board room table – which is currently away for repair, oh yes and a delightful door.

High atop the intoxicating vertiginous swirl of the central spiral stairway is the relief mural representing a cockerel and fish made of aluminium, copper and metal rod, with red French glass for the fish’s eye and cockerel’s comb.

Illuminated from above by this pierced concrete and glass skylight.

Many of the internal spaces have been ready for their new tenants.

This is a fine example of Modernist retail architecture saved from decay and degradation by the timely intervention of a sympathetic tenant.

Long may they and Castle House prosper – Sheffield we salute you!