Pandemics come and almost go – as do seaside shelters it seems.
The shelters of 1860 are quite literally a thing of the past.
Thye have become host to Niall McDiarmid‘s snaps of local business folk – the project developed when local residents raised concerns about the appearance of the shelters on the promenade.
Cllr Roger Parry said
The shelters are nearing the end of their lifespan and these sections of the prom will be upgraded as part of the waterfront project.
In the meantime, State of Independents will make great use of the shelters; celebrating our hardworking local businesses and hopefully encouraging footfall from the promenade to our high streets.
The last of the Rhos on Sea shelters is a dangerous customer suitably secured.
There remains two exemplars of the typology located at the Colwyn end of the bay.
The second shelter lacks the pierced concrete blocks.
So work progresses on the coastal defences, the promenade is refashioned after a fashion in the fashion of the day.
There is no longer a place for these unique exemplars of Municipal Modernism.
Before the work began, the promenade was a tired, uninviting and underused public space. Poorly lit and often host to anti-social behaviour, the uneven surfacing and crumbling shelters were the results of years of patchwork repairs.
The project has transformed the area into a public space which the local community can take pride in and make use of all year round.
Middleton has not the gloom of so many South Lancashire towns its size. It benefits from its position close to the hills, but it has also the advantage of a large medieval church on a hill and of a number of buildings by one of England’s most original architects of the period around 1900.
He was the most advanced English architect of his generation, stylistically moving through through art nouveau, vernacular, expressionist and finally art deco phases a decade or more before other designers. He became England’s uncontested pioneer of flat roofed modern buildings. He worked more like an artist than an architect, designing buildings, furniture, stained glass, sculpture, metal and plaster work. His buildings are mostly clustered in the towns of Middleton, Rochdale, Oldham, Huddersfield and Hale. Influenced by the writings of William Morris, he saw himself as an artisan serving the people of these localities.
Sixty-seven sets of designs for the proposed free library at Middleton were received by the Corporation of that borough in response to their advertisement; and a joint committee comprising of six members of the Corporation and six non-members has awarded the premium to Mr Lawrence Booth, architect of this city.
Curiously, we encounter an anchor.
Around 10pm that evening when weather conditions deteriorated to near hurricane-force gales, with the Sirene making little headway despite tacking.
Losing her helm, her sails in tatters and within sight of the Great Orme, the gales drove her back through the night towards the Lancashire coast. Eventually, and with great difficulty, Captain Gjertsen and his crew managed to manoeuvre the stricken vessel between the Central and North Piers. Becoming increasingly unmanageable, and swept in by the rushing tide and gale force winds, the Sirene looked a doomed vessel. She was helpless in the close shore currents, and unable to drop anchor she was at the mercy of the waves. She was carried alongside the North Pier, tearing off a section of the pier superstructure and part of her own keel.
Thousands of people lined the Promenade to witness the spectacle as she came in on the south side of the pier; many more stood on the pier itself, but there was a mad rush for safety when the ship collided against the structure.
Much of the present building was erected in 1412 by Thomas Langley – born in Middleton in 1363, who was Bishop of Durham and Lord Chancellor of England. He re-used the Norman doorway from an earlier structure to create the tower arch. Also distinctive in this region is the weather-boarded top stage to the tower.
The church of St Leonard was enlarged in 1524 by Sir Richard Assheton, in celebration of the knighthood granted to him by Henry VIII of England for his part in the Battle of Flodden in 1513. The Flodden Window, in the sanctuary, is thought to be the oldest war memorial in the UK. It commemorates on it the names of the Middleton archers who fought at Flodden. The church also has one of the finest collections of monumental brasses in the north of England, including the only brass in the UK depicting an English Civil War officer in full armour, Major-General Ralph Assheton.
George Pace designed a war memorial and, in 1958, added a choir vestry and installed new lighting.
Middleton Old Cemetery once the Thornham and Middleton Burial Ground, which became the local authority cemetery in 1862.
Part of the timber framing to the right of the front door has recently been tree-ring dated and confirms a building date of 1622. The first tenant was Isaac Walkden, son of Middleton schoolmaster, Robert Walkden. Isaac died during a typhus epidemic in the summer of 1623. His will, preserved at Lancashire Archives, includes an inventory of all his possessions listed on a room by room basis. There were a total of 9 beds and 20 chairs or stools in the 6 rooms. This, together with barrels, brewing vessels, pots, glasses, etc, strongly suggest the building was an inn. The Walkden family went on to run the Boar’s Head until the end of the 17th century. They also farmed nearby land including what is now Jubilee library and park.
In 1888, the fledgling Middleton Corporation purchased the building from the church with the intention of demolishing it to build a town hall. Discussions were held in 1914 but, thankfully, the plan was abandoned due to an outcry from the public spearheaded by architect Edgar Wood.
Further down Long Street to the Assheton Arms Hotel.
Then around the corner to the Manchester & Salford Bank again by Edgar Wood
Next door the former Market Place Bank latterly RBS.
Plans to convert a long-vacant town centre bank into a nightclub have been revived despite previously being rejected over anti-social behaviour concerns.
An application to change the use of the former Royal Bank of Scotland, in Middleton, was refused by Rochdale council’s planning committee eighteen months ago, with members citing a history of alcohol-fuelled trouble in the area.
Further up Market Place the faience fronted Bricklayers Arms formerly a Bents and Gartsides boozer – delicensed in 2012 and Converted to a takeaway.
Moving along Wood’s much altered Guardian Buildings 1889.
The Guardian Buildings, were commissioned by Fred Bagot, the proprietor of the Middleton Guardian newspaper and a man with a reputation at the time for keeping a tight control of finances. In consequence, Guardian Buildings were one of Edgar Wood’s low budget buildings, of which there are several in and around Middleton. The building housed the operations of the newspaper with the cellar containing the printing machines and the tall ground floor housing a shop, office and more machines. The whole of the first floor, with its pair of oriel windows, was taken up by the composing room.
It fell into disrepair after the church moved to smaller premises in Alkrington in the 1960s.
The building collapsed in July 2012, when it was hit by a fire.
On Townley Street Lodge Mill built in1839 beside the River Irk battling on despite recent setbacks.
In August 2019, Martin Cove and Paula Hickey opened a small ice cream shop on the ground floor of the mill – named the Ice Cream Shop at Lodge – selling locally-made ice cream from Birch Farm, Heywood.
Across the way the magnificent Sub Station and Electrical Department Offices.
Then taking a turn around the banks of the Irk down Sharp Street onto Lance Corporal Joel Halliwell VC Way, where we find the Middleton Arena – BDP 2009
Then over the road to Oldham Road and Grade II ListedWarwick Mill 1907 G. Stott of J. Stott and Sons.
The mill recently changed ownership and new owner, Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd, has been working with Rochdale Borough Council over the past nine months on proposals to redevelop the site.
The plans will form the cornerstone of a new masterplan for Middleton town centre focusing on delivering new homes, business space, highway and environmental improvements, new walking and cycle routes to pave the way for the planned extension of the Metrolink into Middleton Town Centre.
The station, with 13 stands, cost £4.5 million and replaced the previous station which dated to the 1970s.
The Middleton Arndale Centre commenced trading in 1971, although it was officially opened by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent in March 1972.
Once home to The Breadman designed by Rochdale’s town artist of the time, Michael Dames.
Photo: Local Image Collection – Touchstones
Now trading as the Middleton Shopping Centre
The brick reliefs illustrating the town’s history are by Fred Evans of Dunstable, who completed the work in one week during May 1972 using a high powered sandblasting blaster.
Thanks to Phil Machen for the top tip.
At the centre of the public domain the Middleton Moonraker 2001 by Terry Eaton
According to folklore, the legend has several different interpretations. One version is that a traveller came upon a drunken yokel trying to rake a reflection of the moon in a village pond, convinced it was cheese.
This version conveys the notion that the men were drunk and acting foolishly.
However, an alternative narrative – and perceived to be the most reliable version – tells a different story and dates back to the time when smuggling was a significant industry in rural England.
It appears that many residents wish to rid themselves of the Moon Raker moniker and presumably become Middletonians.
There’s so much more to Middleton’s history than the Moonraker. Why did they spend all that money on a fairytale?
There were 3,000 Lancaster bombers built in Middleton during World War Two, a magnificent contribution to the effort to beat Hitler.
The bulbs inside the moon which light it up at night haven’t worked for five years.
Along Long Street the Cooperative store what was – next door the long gone Palace Cinema demolished in 2001.
This is a town with a visual culture defined by carefully created picture postcards – conjuring images from land, sea, sand and sky.
New technology arrives, dragging Llandudno from the sepia soaked past into the CMYK age!
So it’s only right and proper that the town should have an art gallery.
Oriel Mostyn Gallery was commissioned by Lady Augusta Mostyn after the Gwynedd Ladies’ Art Society asked her for better premises than their existing home, in a former cockpit in Conwy. The ladies’ gender prevented them from joining the Royal Cambrian Academy, also based in Conwy.
Designed by architect GA Humphreys, the new gallery opened in 1901. From 1901 to 1903, the gallery housed works by members of the GLAS. As a patron of the arts and president of the society, Lady Augusta was aware that the ladies needed more space to display their work and gave them the opportunity to rent a room in the new building.
Lady Augusta was keen for the gallery to be used by local people, so the society was asked to leave and a School of Art, Science and Technical Classes was set up. Alongside the many classes, there were art exhibitions, lectures. social events, and even a gallery choir and shooting range!
The current shop area was the location for a ‘Donut Dugout’ – a rest and recreation area for the many American servicemen in the town. Coffee and doughnuts were served and the men could read magazines from home.
After the war, Wagstaff’s Piano and Music Galleries occupied the building. In 1976 the artist Kyffin Williams, and others, suggested the building should become the proposed new public art gallery for North Wales. Architects Colwyn Foulkes supervised its restoration and it reopened, as Oriel Mostyn, in 11 August 1979.
Acknowledged to be ‘one of the most beautiful galleries in Britain’, Mostyn in North Wales was an existing listed Victorian museum with two lantern galleries tucked behind a listed facade. We were appointed by Mostyn after winning the Architectural competition with a design combining a gallery space refurbishment with a gallery expansion and a new dramatic infill section linking new and old. The project has won a number of awards and increased footfall by over 60%.
Why not let your feet fall there soon – Oriel Mostynis open.
The very first time I visited the town as a child back in the early 1960s, it rained almost every day.
Subsequent visits have almost always been bathed in warm sunshine.
Architects: J Webb as County Architect and CW Quick as the job architectof the West Glamorgan County Architects Department 1982
Canolfan Ddinesig Abertawe formerly known as County Hall.
Don’t be, it’s all quite simple really.
Following the implementation of the Local Government Act 1972, which broke up Glamorgan County Council and established West Glamorgan County Council, the new county council initially met at Swansea Guildhall. Finding that this arrangement, which involved sharing facilities with Swansea Council, to be inadequate, county leaders procured a dedicated building, selecting a site formerly occupied by an old railway goods yard associated with the Mumbles Railway.
The design features continuous bands of glazing with deep washed calcined flint panels above and below.
Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, visited on 20 April 1989.
After local government re-organisation in 1996, which abolished West Glamorgan County Council, ownership of the building was transferred to Swansea Council. It was renamed Swansea Civic Centre on 19 March 2008, and Swansea Central Library moved into the complex as part of a redevelopment scheme.
In March 2021, plans to find a new use for the location continued to still be a commitment of Swansea council, with the announcement of the transfer of the central library and other public services to the former BHS and now What! store on Oxford Street.
Swansea Civic Centre is at risk the Twentieth Century Society says so – they are strongly opposed to demolition of the iconic building and have submitted an application to have the building listed as Grade II.
I do not know what fate awaits it, I only know it must be brave – to paraphrase Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin, Ned Washington, Gary Cooper and Frankie Laine – it’s High Noon and counting.
Any road up as of the 11th of May it looked just like this:
The Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea was built using reinforced concrete around 1937 and its dedication carries tribute to sailors lost at sea. The roof is designed to resemble the hull of a boat, and the windows in the crypt port holes. These aspects reflecting the maritime heritage of Amlwch.
Designed by Giuseppe Rinvolucri, an Italian architect who was originally brought to Wales as a prisoner of war. He subsequently married a local woman, and lived and worked in north Wales, specialising in Roman Catholic churches. He also designed a number of other churches in Wales, including those at Abergele, and Porthmadog.
Around 600,000 Italian soldiers were taken prisoner during the First World War, about half in the aftermath of Caporetto. Roughly one Italian soldier in seven was captured, a significantly higher number than in other armies on the Western Front.
About 100,000 Italian prisoners of war never returned home, having succumbed to hardship, hunger, cold and disease – mainly tuberculosis.
Uniquely among the Allied powers, Italy refused to assist its prisoners, and even hindered efforts by soldiers’ families to send them food.
From the 1930s he was living at St Francis Grange, Glan Conwy, an art deco style dwelling overlooking the Conwy estuary.
The main entrance leads into a small vestibule with raking sides; further doorways lead into the end of the main body of the church. The ribbing that is such a prominent feature of the exterior of the church also dominates the design of the interior; the body of the church illuminated by bands of geometrically patterned lights between the ribs. The lateral walls have marble panels which also follow the pattern of the ribs; to the top are paired panels, each with a moulded quatrefoil plaques depicting biblical scenes, plain paired panels below. The marbled panels continue at the far end of the church, raised up over round-headed doorways flanking a recess painted with a depiction of the crucifixion; star shaped lights follow the line of the domed arch.
I think it is worthy of mention how the whole mass of imitation stone frontage was done by one plasterer long gone called Llew – Inja Rock, whose pretty unique style of work is still to be seen elsewhere around town today. He once showed me how it was done, all with a little teaspoon. What patience and what a proven good job to stand the trial of time of 40-plus years without a great deal, if any, remedial work. A sound memorial to a good working man.
For many years I have cycled y on my tours around Anglesey- often stopping to marvel at this concrete anachronism.
This time I stopped to walk around and take some snaps – here they are.
The Pevsner Buildings of Wales guide calls it:
A piece of Italian architectural daring of the 1930s – a soaring reinforced concrete and brick vault formed on six arches, expressed as ribs externally and internally, with a conical apse. Three transverse bands of glazing in geometric trefoils of white and blue.
Five glass stars – made in France, perforate the East wall round the apse.
Rinvolucri’s team of builders constructed the innovative parabolic vault in six months in 1935.
The same guide calls it Futurist, closer to Freyssinet’s 1920s airship hangars at Orly, Paris, than to Catholic Church design, and unlike the conservatism of Anglesey building.
He died in 1962 and is buried in St Agnes Road Cemetery, Conwy with Mina, who died in 1991.
The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.
I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.
Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.
Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.
Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.
We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.
One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.
The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.
The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.
I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.
The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.
Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.
Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.
The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.
114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.
Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.
Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Vianneylocated 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.
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.
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.
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.