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 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.
Built in 1928, this church was designed with some care and is an attractive, if fairly modest, Lombard Romanesque-style essay in brick. The use of a semi-circular apse, narrow brickwork and use of tile for decorative effect give it a pleasing appearance, typical of restrained but elegant work between the wars.
I arrived and took a look around, first time in town, here’s what I found.
The area is rich in Quartzite, central to the production of Silica Bricks, which are resistant to high temperatures, much in demand at the height of the Industrial Revolution for lining steel furnaces.
The ore on the headland was first mined around 1850, with the ore being hewn out the living rock by hand.
A little railway brought the ore to the cliff above the brick works, then lowered by gravity to the works below, where the rocks would be pummelled and rendered to a size that could be further processed.
Mining by manual endeavour lasted from around 1850 to 1914, the hazardous harbour and alleged poor quality products hastening the enterprises’s demise.
Porth Wen brickworks was designated as a scheduled monument by Cadw in 1986 and classified as a post-medieval industrial brickworks.
Having appraised the exteriors and pumping infrastructure, let us now consider the interior life of the site.
A site where a myriad working lives once unfolded – labourers, technicians, maintenance staff, administrators and managers.
They are now but fleeting shadows, their documents strewn across upturned furniture, empty lockers their standing open and untended, laboratories whose processes have ceased. A chaotic canteen with no-one to cook for, unsafe safety suits and unwashed washrooms.
Now let’s turn our attention toward the epic infrastructure which extracted and pumped seawater.
Sea water is sucked in and then lifted 50ft into sea water ponds by huge pumps where any debris is removed. It is then passed to the seawater main where chlorine and dilute sulphuric acid are added which releases the bromine. It is literally blown out of the water. This water is passed into the top of a tower where it drops over 20ft through the packed section of the tower. There it is met by currents of air travelling upwards. Where it meets these air currents the bromine gets stripped out the water, which is returned to the sea. Whilst the wet bromine laden air passes from the top of the tower to be treated with sulphur dioxide and water. This produces mists of hydrobromic and sulphuric acids.
This mist passes into an absorber, and the acid coalesces. From here, it blows to a collecting tank. The bromine free air returns to the blowing out tower and the cycle begins again. The acidic product is referred to as primary acid liquor. This is now pumped to the steaming out tower. It enters the top and is treated with chlorine and steam, which releases the bromine as vapour. It is then condensed to a liquid. The bulk of bromine goes to dibromoethane, whilst the remainder is sold or used to make other intermediates.
It takes about 22,000 tonnes of seawater to produce 1 tonne of bromine. Every minute 300,000 gallons of seawater are drawn in.
This now redundant technology has left a legacy of industrial dereliction amongst the ancient Pre-Cambrian rocks and sylvan seas of the Anglesey Coast.
This is a landscape which induces fear and fascination in equal measure.
Whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain, and danger, that is to say, whatever is in any sort terrible, or is conversant about terrible objects, or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime; that is, it is productive of the strongest emotion which the mind is capable of feeling.
Amlwch has been the centre of the world’s copper industry, a coastal town on Anglesey with a long history of trade, the coming and going of goods.
Once the site of a processing plant extracting bromine from sea water.
The Associated Octel factory was built to extract bromine from seawater and turn it into an additive for petrol engines. At the time, petrol used in road vehicles contained lead. Engine knocking was a common problem, when the mixture of air and fuel didn’t burn efficiently with each detonation. This could damage engine cylinders over time. The additive produced here reduced knocking and improved engine efficiency.
As the health effects of lead in vehicle exhaust gases became better understood, unleaded petrol was developed. It was introduced to UK filling stations in the 1980s, and leaded petrol was later phased out. As demand for anti-knock additive reduced, the Octel factory diversified into other bromine products and was taken over by Great Lakes Chemical Corporation. In 2003, the corporation decided to close the works with the loss of more than 100 jobs.
A detailed history of the site can be found here at Octel Amlwch.
The site has been subject to arson attacks and partial demolition, the extant buildings tagged, tattered and torn.
Slowly but surely nature breaks through the tarmac and concrete.
The gate is open, the lights are out, there’s nobody home.
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.
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.
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.
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.