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.

Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.

A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.

Nearly done.

All we need now are tenants.

Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.

The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.

The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.

The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.

The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.

It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.

Manchester Evening News

And of course my good friend Mr Phil Griffin.

Just around the corner the Portland Bars.

Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.

MDMA

Oh and not forgetting the Golden Egg.

Bata Shoes and a Wimpy Bar.

“Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.”

In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.

Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.

However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.

Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.

So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.

While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.

Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.

Black and white archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Three Tuns – Coventry

At the heart of the Precinct – I found the former Three Tuns pub stood standing – still.

Subsequently imaginatively reimagined as Roosters.

The exterior – and interior for that matter, adorned with the decorative concrete work of William Mitchell.

The area also being blessed with his cast panels and modular tower block fascia.

The precinct is currently, yet again, being considered for constructive rehabilitation, as part of the city’s City of Culture concatenations.

The threat to Modernism is no new thing, and the hurried scrabble for progress, ever so often erases the recent history of that progress.

I popped in way back in 2016, and Mr and Ms Rooster were more than happy, if not a tad perplexed, to have me snap around their chicken shack.

Sufficiently satiated, why not take a stroll around town, whilst it’s still there.

Take in the Cathedral – soon to be become the Kwik-Fit National Museum of Tyre Fitting.

The Indoor Market, Upper Precinct and Co-op

Above the current market office is an impressive painted mural by art students from Dresden commissioned especially for the market in the 1950s in a Socialist Realist manner, depicting farming and industrial scenes. 

The Gordon Cullen tiles have been renovated and re-sited within the exit corridor.

Still in clear view the stone relief work of John Skelton November 1956. Three of the eight column have incised Hornston stone works, depicting the activities of the CWS.

Get yourself there pronto – current restrictions considered of course.

You just might be in time to see the Station.

Coventry forever changes.

St John The Baptist RC – Rochdale

I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit St John’s several times over the years and doubly pleased to visit with a group of some 30 Modernists in March 2020 as part of a Rochdale Walk, prior to the lockdown days later.

I cannot thank Christine Mathewson and her fellow volunteers enough for the warm welcome we were given. They take such pride in their church and are eager to convey that pride along with their obvious erudition.

Approaching from the adjacent railway station we could not fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the church, a wonderful mix of the Byzantine and restrained Art Deco – most clearly expressed in the sculptural angels looming high above the tram stop.

The building is Grade II* Listed and deservedly so – details can be found here on the Historic England site.

The original design pre-1917 by Oswald Hill, executed in 1923-25 by Ernest Bower Norris. Henry Oswald Hill was a promising architect with a clear interest in contemporary church-building trends, as evidenced here and at the nearby RC Church of St Joseph, Heywood, he was tragically killed in action in the First World War.

St Joseph’s

The church uses concrete to its advantage in the construction of the striking, 20m-wide central dome, surrounded by the delicate touch of several arched stained glass windows at the perimeter.

Illuminating the concave space in a heavenly manner.

The apsed sanctuary contains an encompassing mosaic scheme of powerful emotional intensity designed by leading mosaic designer, Eric Newton of specialist firm Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd.

The mosaic is breathtaking in scale, design and execution – nothing can prepare you for its impact as you enter the church.

The quality of the sanctuary mosaic is further enhanced by the use of high-quality tesserae made of stone, coloured marbles and coloured glass, set off by a shimmering background of gold tesserae.

The apsed sanctuary is completely covered in a mosaic scheme with the theme Eternal Life designed by Eric Newton. Newton was born Eric Oppenheimer, later changing his surname by deed poll to his mother’s maiden name. He was the grandson of Ludwig Oppenheimer, a German Jew who was sent to Manchester to improve his English and then married a Scottish girl and converted to Christianity. In 1865 he set up a mosaic workshop, (Ludwig Oppenheimer Ltd, Blackburn St, Old Trafford, Manchester) after spending a year studying the mosaic process in Venice. Newton had joined the family company as a mosaic craftsman in 1914 and he is known to have studied early Byzantine mosaics in Venice, Ravenna and Rome. He later also became art critic for the Manchester Guardian and a broadcaster on ‘The Critics’. Newton started the scheme in 1932 and took over a year to complete it at a cost of £4,000. It had previously been thought that he used Italian craftsmen, but historic photographs from the 1930s published in the Daily Herald show Oppenheimer mosaics being cut and assembled by a Manchester workforce of men and women. It is likely, therefore, that the craftsmen working on St John the Baptist were British.

Historic England

The whole building is full of surprising details of the highest quality.

Lit by simplest yet most effective stained glass.

This is an exemplary building, on entering one is filled with both calm and awe, an experience which is never diminished by subsequent visits.

The mosaic work is on local and international significance – it is unthinkable that it may ever be lost to us, or that funding was not forthcoming to secure its future into perpetuity.

I implore you to visit, whensoever that may be possible.

Please take a moment append your comments on this post and play some small part in ensuring the St John’s is preserved for generations to come.

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!