Three nineteen-storey point blocks built as public housing as part of the redevelopment of Sunderland town centre. The blocks contain 270 dwellings in total. Construction was approved by committee in 1967.
The blocks were constructed by Sunderland County Borough Council.
The developers of the Town Central Area were Town and City Properties Ltd. It is believed that they contributed £38,600 to the development of the blocks.
Ian Frazer and Associates were the architects for the sub-structural works only.
Llewelyn, Davies, Weeks and Partners were the structural and mechanical engineers in addition to being the architects for the tower blocks.
Gilbert-Ash Northern Ltd.’s tender for the contract was £959,258 – construction began in March 1967.
Construction of Killingworth, a new town, began in 1963. Intended for 20,000 people, it was a former mining community, formed on seven hundred and sixty acres of derelict colliery land near Killingworth Village. The building of Killingworth Township was undertaken by Northumberland County Council and was not formally a New Town sponsored by the Government.
Unlike that town, Killingworth’s planners adopted a radical approach to town centre design, resulting in relatively high-rise buildings in an avant-garde and brutalist style that won awards for architecture, dynamic industry and attractive environment.
This new town centre consisted of pre-cast concrete houses, with millions of small crustacean shells unusually embedded into their external walls, five to ten storey flats, offices, industrial units and service buildings, which often consisted of artistic non-functional characteristics, shops and residential multi-storey car parks, interconnected by ramps and walkways. These made up a deck system of access to shopping and other facilities, employing the Swedish Skarne method of construction.
In his postcard, Phyl writes that the weather is nice, he has a self-catering apartment near a pond, but complains about the expensive cost of Spanish bread at £1 a loaf.
Although it was delivered to the right address on the card, Mr Davies said he has no clue who either Phyl or Mrs Leon could be.
I’ve been baffled by it really.
I suppose Mrs Leon once lived in my flat, but I’ve asked around neighbours who have lived here twenty or thirty years, and none of them have ever heard of her.
The Post Office say they have no idea what could have happened to the postcard for twenty nine years, may be it got stuck in a sorting machine, may be given that it’s got both British and Spanish stamps on it, someone found it and posted it on.
Really I’d just like to find out who either Phyl or Mrs Leon are, so I could finally give it to them after all this time.
Curiously the story does not reproduce the picture of the picture postcard.
Dear Eddie, this is a very pleasant place and the weather is just right. The food is very expensive though over £1 for a loaf of bread! We have a self catering little apartment by the side of a pond complete with ducks.
There is something very poignant about the handwritten reportage of holidays past and also a sadness attached to the blank other side -sentiments forever unsent.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now From win and lose and still somehow It’s life’s illusions I recall I really don’t know life at all
We are all going somewhere or nowhere or other – we report back.
Having a nice relaxing holiday. Not had good weather. Got caught in rain on Friday have lost my voice. Uncle Jim laughing
Auntie Ethel & Jim
Hope Leslies finger is coming on alright
20th August 1968
Hello Sharon, hope you are as happy as can be. Sorry I can’t tell you anything about your country, as I’ve never been; not yet anyway.
23rd April 1979
Dear Rita, here we are enjoying our holiday with Frank, Jacky & Stuart. The weather has been very poor, but there is an improvement today. Hope all is well with you. Lynn her husband and the little ones are visiting on thursday, so we shall have a real tea-party.
Plans to build hundreds of new homes – including a 15-storey tower block – on a vacant Sainsbury’s site in Stockport town centre are set to get the go-ahead.
Proposals that would bring more than 500 flats and 34 townhouses to the three-acre plot, in Warren Street, are set to go before the council’s planning committee next Thursday night. The 573 homes would be spread across a trio of buildings – rising in height from five to 15 storeys. Two of these would also have space for a range of potential uses, ranging from shops and cafes to gyms and creches.
Opened in 1966 along with the slightly later Lancastrian Hall and Library, the Swinton Square shopping precinct provided an integrated modern setting for shopping, living, learning and entertainment.
The late 60s and early 70s was a time of general prosperity – and the hard landscaping offered a soft option for the local folk.
This was the age of the Precinct, celebrated nationally with postcard after postcard.
My local haunt in Ashton under Lyne.
Local traders and national chains rubbed shoulders.
There was even a Job Centre opening- there was even a wide range of vacancies.
Following a challenging year, the letting reinforces Swinton Square as a pillar in the local community. Whilst retail has been heavily affected throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, footfall at the scheme has remained buoyant, with shoppers staying local, favouring the convenience and independent retailers of Swinton Square. Renovations began on the site of the new, temporary job centre at the beginning of the year and is due to be completed in May. The centre is expected to boost footfall and support for local, independent businesses.
Despite Swinton’s many strengths, it faces similar challenges to other towns. The shopping centre and other buildings in the town centre are dated and in need of investment. Demand for local housing has grown by 23% in the last five years, but there is a lack of high-quality family and affordable housing in the right locations in the area.
The vision is just the first step of the journey, the next is to appoint a developer partner who can take this vision and help shape it, through ongoing consultation and engagement with the community, into a framework and plan for Swinton that will guide future investment.
The current railway station is a modern version from the 1980s that was built on top of the original station. The level of the old platforms can be seen under the existing station’s two platforms which are connected by underpass. The initial station was opened on 22 December 1841 by the Bolton and Preston Railway – which later became part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and was subsequently served by the Lancashire Union Railway between St Helens, Wigan North Western and Blackburn from 1869.
Passenger trains over this route between Blackburn & Wigan were however withdrawn in January 1960. Further work was done in 2016 and 2017 in connection with the electrification of the line between Euxton Junction and Manchester.
Hang a sharp right to the Market – where there is this newish piece of public art Pattern of Life a bronze relief by Diane Gorvin and mosaic work by Tracey Cartledge
This piece involves an innovative combination of cast bronze and ceramic mosaic. Two bronze relief panels display female figures holding out rolls of fabric, each decorated with patterns and images that are particular to the town of Chorley. Payphones, for example were invented and manufactured in Chorley, the crested newt is protected here and you might also notice the famous Chorley Cakes. As the fabrics tumble down, the designs are translated from bronze relief on the wall surface into 2D mosaic in the pavement.
Looking down Fazakerley Street to where Fine Fare once was.
We’ll return to such matters in a moment – we have to get to the Post Office – which is no longer a Post Office.
It was a Post Office in 1935 – it also has a later extension.
The local list declares that the post office dates from 1935. This is almost certainly erroneous since the contract documents date from 1924, and from contract to completion the average construction and fitting-out time was about 18 months.
Plans supplied by the Architects Messrs. Cheers & Smith of Blackburn which were approved by the Education Committee on the 18th August 1904 – design proposals for the new Technical School entitled Light and Air.
The considerable task of erecting the school was given to the local builder Mr. William Hampson of Pall Mall.
Surely the envy of his trade, the total contract was worth a mouth- watering £10,041 15s. 9d. – approx. £720,000 today.
The building was officially opened by the 16th Earl of Derby on September 24th 1906.
Over the road the town’s newest retail development Market Walk – the work of AEW Architects.
Chorley Council bought the shopping centre from Orchard Street Investments for £23m in 2013 and commenced a large-scale regeneration scheme in 2018 involving a £15m, 79,000 sq ft retail and leisure extension led by main contractor Eric Wright Group and designed by AEW Architects. Here, Conrad Heald of Chorley Council tells his interviewer, AEW director Phil Hepworth, how the scheme came to fruition and has rejuvenated the town centre.
The memorial re-sited in 2018 commemorates the Chorley Pals.
In less than 20 minutes, 235 of the 720 men from the 11th East Lancs. were killed. Another 350 were wounded, of which 17 would eventually succumb to their wounds. Many of the Battalion died where they fell, in No Man’s Land.
As a result of the attack on the morning of the 1st July, the Chorley Pals – Y Company, had 31 men killed and three died within a month of their wounds received on that day. 21 have no known graves and their names are transcribed on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing on the Somme battlefield. A further 59 were wounded, making a total of 93 casualties out of approximately 175 men from Chorley who went over the top that morning.
Reversing now to the former Barclays Bank – which closed earlier in 2022.
We return now to the former Fine Fare.
The company began as one single supermarket in Welwyn Garden City in 1951, as an offshoot of the Welwyn Department Store, owned by Howardsgate Holdings, the company of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the garden city movement.
Here we are now at a Post Office that is a Post Office but was an RBS Bank.
The new location is at the former Royal Bank of Scotland on Market Street in the town centre.
Since the Post Office that was based at WH Smith on New Market Street came to an end, when that store closed in January, it relocated to a temporary unit in Market Walk until a permanent solution could be found.
The unit, which had been provided by the postmaster from Burscough Bridge Post Office, closed on Tuesday.
Kenny Lamont, Post Office Network Provision Manager, said a Post Office is important to a community.
This had been a Methodist Church – then, it became the HQ of the Lancashire Electric Power Company.
The Lancashire Electric Power Company was one of the largest private electricity companies in the UK. It was established in 1900 and generated and supplied electricity to 1,200 squares miles of Lancashire from 1905 until its abolition under nationalisation in 1948.
Time to back track to the Cop Shop – the work of County Architect Roger Booth and crew.
The Magistrates’ Courts are closed and up for sale.
Next door the White Hart once upon a time the Snooty Fox, a pub with an up and down trajectory – currently open and described online as plush.
Down the road a pub no longer a pub but an Urban Spa.
We offer you a full range of professional treatments tailored to your own personal needs. We treat every client as an individual and offer an extensive range of treatments and professional products making your visit one to remember.
Let’s go to the theatre – The Empire tucked away at the back of town.
The Empire Electric Theatre opened, as the town’s first purpose-built cinema, on 3rd September 1910. In 1912 Archie Hooley began his connection with the cinema business at the Empire Electric Theatre. By 1927 it had been re-named Empire Cinema and by 1930 it was equipped with a Western Electricsound system and was operated by the Perfecto Filmograph Co. Ltd. By 1939 it was operated by the Snape & Ward chain. According to the Kine Year Books, in 1940 the seating was for 800, while by 1952 it had been reduced to 679 – still a far cry from today’s 236 seats. 3D films were shown in the early-1950’s. Archie had died in 1944; his son Selwyn closed the cinema in 1957, apparently “because of the taxes”.
Wrestling took over for a while before Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society – CADOS acquired the building and renamed it the Chorley Little Theatre. Since 1960 CADOS have been putting on high-quality productions, presenting at least six productions per season – from September to July. It is also the home of the award-winning Chorley Youth Theatre who meet every Saturday, putting on shows throughout the year; and Chorley Empire Community Cinema who present the cinema experience on their 21ft wide screen with 8-Speaker Surround Sound. Run entirely by volunteers the theatre has state-of-the-art sound systems and a full range of lighting equipment. There are two spacious dressing rooms, space for costumes and props and the Empire Bar. The building has disabled access throughout the public area, including a toilet, and the auditorium is fitted with a hearing loop. There are three spaces for wheelchairs in the auditorium. It was re-named Chorley Empire Cinema at Chorley Theatre in October 2019 and films are still part of the programming.
The Odeon Market Street was built for and operated by Oscar Deutsch’s Odeon Theatres Ltd. chain, it opened on 21st February 1938 with Jack Buchanan in The Sky’s the Limit.
Architect Harry Weedon was assisted by PJ Price.
It was closed by the Rank Organisation on 6th February 1971 with George Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. After laying closed and un-used for over two years it was sold to an independent bingo operator and re-opened on 9th August 1973 as a Tudor Bingo Club. It later became a Gala Bingo Club which was renamed Buzz Bingo Club in June 2018. It was closed on March 21, 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. On 15th July 2020 it was announced that the closure would be permanent.
The building was handed over to Chorley Council who decided that asbestos removal would be too costly and the building was demolished in August 2021.
Located on Salisbury Street, off Cunliffe Street, built in 1888 as a military warehouse, it was converted into a roller skating rink around 1909. It opened as the Pavilion Picture Palace on 14th September 1911, operated by George Testo Sante, a music hall strong man, who also operated the Grand Theatre as a cinema. By 1915, music hall acts were also part of the programme. After the end of World War I, the flat floor of the cinema was raked, allowing for better viewing of the screen. The proscenium was 30ft wide, the stage was 16 feet deep and there were two dressing rooms.
The Pavilion Cinema was the first in town to screen ‘talkies, when an Electrochord sound system was installed in 1929. It was taken over by the J.F. Emery Circuit in 1932 and they operated it until the end of 1933. The sound system was upgraded to a British Talking Pictures sound system. In 1954 it was the first cinema in town to be fitted with CinemaScope and the proscenium was widened to 36 feet.
The Pavilion Cinema was closed by 1962 and converted into a bingo club. In 1972 it was re-opened as a cinema again, but due to Star Cinemas chain barring it from showing first run features – they operated the Plaza Cinema, it was closed after 5 months of operation. It was later demolished and the area was redeveloped for housing.
No trace of The Hippodrome Theatre on Gillibrand Street, which was built and opened in 1909, or the Theatre Royal, opened on 30th September 1911, It was demolished in 1959.
A supermarket was built on the site which later became a McDonalds, which is now a Pizza Hut.
Last but not least – located on the Flat Iron Parade, aka Cattle Market, The Grand Theatre was a wooden building built in 1885, which presented melodramas and plays. In June 1909 it was taken over by George Testo Santo, who had been a music hall strongman, and his family. It went over to operating as a Picture Palace for a short season.
By 1914 it was operating as a full time cinema, but was destroyed by fire in 1914.
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.
Gwent House is the home of the District Council Offices for Torfaen and the Public Library. Used by HM Courts Service and HCMS – South East Wales, the building is a seven story structure with retail space on the ground floor and open plan office space above. Built during the 1970s as a local government building, it is constructed with a steel and concrete frame with wall to wall double glazed windows and a flat roof.
Gwent House sits on the east side of Gwent Square at the heart of Cwmbran New Town’s centre. The ‘Central Building’ as it was known during development was conceived by the Cwmbran Development Corporation, as a mixed development of leisure (including a club, dance hall and hotel) and office accommodation with retail to the ground floor. this was to expand the function of the town centre beyond purely a shopping centre, and to address the perceived lack of ‘professional’ office jobs. In the event, the offices proved difficult to let and were occupied by the CDC and Cwmbran Urban District Council.
The building was designed by Sheppard, Robson & Partners and opened on the 18th January 1973. The eight-storey, concrete framed block included a job centre, the library, a conference and exhibition hall, and three restaurants catering for different tastes and age ranges, including the ‘Sign of the Steer’.
On the west side of the building are a series of three moulded concrete relief panels designed by Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins for the MEPC, the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the Cwmbran Arts Trust in 1974. The panels depict scenes representing different phases of the history of Gwent: Iron Age and Roman, Medieval and Industrial.
The work of Joyce and Henry is well known here at the modern mooch having visited Newcastle, Bexhill and of course Stockport. There are also examples in their hometown Colchester, Gloucester and Southampton.
Joyce Pallot 1912-2004 and Henry Collins 1910-1994 – two artist/designers, who along with John Nash, established the Colchester Art Society, during the 1930s.
The square it seems is due to be revamped as part of the broader regeneration plans.
Literature displayed at the public consultation said improvements in Monmouth Square aim to -introduce colour into what is a lacklustre space.
Built between 1963 and 1967, the centre comprised 18 shops, a childrens playground, public toilets, a health and dental centre, and a combined public house and community centre. The unit centre was designed by Chief Architect of the CDC, Gordon Redfern, and was architecturally the most innovative and ambitious unit centre within Cwmbran New Town. To combat the exposed nature of the site together with the ‘high rainfall, mists and variable winds’ prevalent in the area, Gordon Redfern designed an enclosed, high-sided space that would physically and mentally shield shoppers during their visits. This protective environment extended to creating a central play area that could be viewed from the shops, allowing a more enjoyable experience for children. Four different shops types were provided on increasing floor footage for facilities ranging from barbers to grocery shop, all with storage to the first floor and eight, on the south-west side, with a two-bedroom maisonette above. To enhance the architectural impact of the scheme, Redfern created each unit on an hexagonal plan despite the inefficiences in floor space usage and additional costs in creating the fixtures and fittings. The CDC also fitted out each of the uits to a customised requirement – for example the Post Office unit was pre-fitted with a telephone booth, posting box, stamp machine and half-glazed panel for advertising services.
The structural engineers were Ove Arup & Partners, the builders were Gee, Walker & Slater. Construction costs for the scheme were estimated at £214,106. The unit centre was opened 12 September 1967, shared with the opening of Monmouth House, both undertaken by Rt. Hon. James Callaghan, M.P. A scathing article written the following month by architectural critic Ian Nairndismissed the design as a ‘kind of in-turned medieval village … an oasis of picturesqueness in a desert of statistical units’ designed for, rather than with, the inhabitants and therefore destined for commercial failure.
In 1949, the then Minister for Town and Country Planning, John Silken, designated an area of 31,000 acres surrounding the village of Cwmbran to be the first new town in Wales. Unlike the first generation new towns, the aim of Cwmbran was to provide housing and a range of facilities for those employed in existing industry but who lived in poor housing in the neighbouring valleys.
A master plan was implemented to achieve the objective for the town. However, as the town developed, the projected size of the town had to increase and many of the plans ideals were diluted as the Southwest expansion area was approved in 1977.
In fact, due to the planned nature of Cwmbran, there now exists few opportunities for new development within the town. This has meant intense development pressure on the outskirts of Cwmbran from house builders and developers.
On the day of my visit the centre was busy with happy shoppers happily shopping – there were major works underway in line with the town’s new plans.
Cwmbran has also prospered from having a vibrant retail core. The Shopping Centre has a fully pedestrianised, multi purpose centre with covered shopping malls. There are over 170 retail outlets covering a total area of 700.000 sq. ft, including a number of popular high street retailers, restaurants, a theatre and cinema. Accordingly, the town is now considered to be a sub regional centre, and the intention is that this retail focus will be increased by regeneration of the eastern side of the town.
Now 50 years on parts of the town are in need of renovation. Through various public and private partnerships the aim of the Cwmbran Project Team is to set out a 15 year strategy for the regeneration and development of the new town, and begin its implementation.
My primary interest concerned the public art in Monmouth Square – William Mitchell’s concrete clad lift shaft.
There is a water feature currently off limits and without the water that would elevate the feature to a fully functioning feature.
Plans proposed in 2018 could may herald the demise of this important public work of art.
Plans to level the water gardens in Monmouth Square at the Cwmbran Centre will be reviewed by Torfaen council’s planning committee.
The proposal also includes a modern café with a glazed front, the development of an events space to house farmers markets and street theatre and a green area.
Rebecca McAndrew, Torfaen council’s principal planning officer, said in the report that the water feature would be filled in and flattened as part of “an ongoing renovation programme”.
The application states that the area has a ‘weary and dated appearance’ and do not meet disability access requirements.
According to the report, the water gardens last flowed 13 years ago and its demolition would lead to further improvements at Wales’ second largest shopping centre.
The Water Gardens were designed by the CDC Chief Architect Gordon Redfern as a key visual and recreational element of the Town Centre. His focus was on combining different textures in the form of hard landscaping and planting, with the sense of movement and sound created by running water. At the upper end a pool, containing an artwork created from Pilkington Glass, was fed by a horizontal water jet which was in turn led by a small ‘canal’ to the lower, sunken garden. With water cascading down the southern retaining wall, consisted of moulded concrete sporting abstract geometric form, and variety of trees and shrubs, this formed an area for busy shoppers and families to relax and socialise.
On the day of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, I cycled around Ashton under Lyne in search of landmarks of her sixty year reign.
Today, on the day of her funeral, I set out for a walk around Stockport, to record a town largely closed for business. Overcast but far from downcast, I defied the almost persistent fine rain and these are the pictures that I took.
Many of the subjects are products of her time on the throne.
The traffic was much lighter, there were few pedestrians, a couple of cafés were open and two men watched the funeral service on the Sky TV stand in the precinct.
By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal, and it no longer mattered where he was.
Paul Auster City of Glass.
The station as built in 1961 to a design by the architect William Robert Headle, which included and advertised a significant amount of the local Pilkington Vitrolite Glass. The fully glazed ticket hall was illuminated by a tower with a valley roof on two Y-shaped supports. The platform canopies were free standing folded plate roofs on tubular columns.
The new station building and facilities were assembled just a few yards from the 1960s station building and is the third build on the same site. The project came in at a total estimated cost of £6 million, with the European Union contributing £1.7 million towards the total funding. The new footbridge was lifted into place in the early hours of 22 January 2007.
The striking Pilkington’s glass-fronted building was designed by architect SBS of Manchester. Construction work was completed in the summer, with the new waiting rooms and footbridge opened to passengers on 19 September. The new station building was officially opened on 3 December 2007.
In the early Edwardian era a fine theatre was opened on 1st June 1903. It had been designed by local architect J A Baron and was on the site of an earlier theatre known as the Peoples Palace. It was operated as the New Hippodrome Cinema from 8th August 1938 when it reopened with Anna Neagle in Victoria the Great. On 1st September 1963 it was converted to a Surewin Bingo Club by Hutchinson Cinemas which continued to operate in 2008. By May 2019 it was independently operated as the Hippodrome Bingo Club.
Onwards down Corporation Street to Century House, currently awaiting some care and attention and tenants.
Century House is a prominent landmark in St Helens town centre, being the tallest office building in place. The accommodation ranges over 9 floors, providing offices from a single person, to whole floors. In addition, all tenants benefit from the use of a modern break out space and meeting rooms, in addition to manned reception desk.
The Capitol Cinema opened on 3rd October 1929 by an independent operator. It stood on a prominent corner site at North Road and Duke Street – known as Capitol Corner.
The Capitol Cinema was taken over by Liverpool-based Regent Enterprises Ltd. in 1929, and by the Associated British Cinemas – ABC chain in 1935. It underwent a renovation in the 1960’s, and was closed by ABC on 9th December 1978.
The building was converted into a sports centre, by 2009 it was a Central Fitness gymnasium.
Along the way to St Mary Lowe House RC – the style is a combination of Gothic and Byzantine elements. One of the most unusual fittings is the carillon, one of the largest in the British Isles with 47 bells, which was installed in 1930 and is still played regularly.
The brickwork, use of white aggregate for the arches, and tinted glazing are similar to Devane’s Stephen Court building on St Stephen’s Green.
The nine-building Irish Life Centre complex was originally built between 1974 and 1977 comprising office space, as well as two blocks of apartments. The complex was built on the former site of the Brook Thomas warehouse and timber yards along with other adjoining sites costing £900,000.
Irish Life, now part of the Canadian multinational Great-West Lifeco, were the original developers.
The 14-foot copper-bronze sculpture Chariots of Life by Oisín Kelly 1915 – 1981, greets staff and visitors at the entrance plaza. Although completed in 1978, the sculpture was not unveiled formally until 1982.
Inside the Abbey Court Garden there was once a large colourful mosaic, Sweeney Astray – 1987 by Desmond Kinney. The glass mosaic was comprised of twelve panels narrating Sweeney’s wanderings through forests and hills, from prose and poems dating back to the 1600s and updated by Seamus Heaney in the early 1980s.
Bolton Town Hall – 1873 was designed by William Hill of Leeds, with Bolton architect George Woodhouse.
The original building was extended in 1938 by Bradshaw Gass & Hope – hereafter BGH.
Le Mans Crescent by BGH 1932-9 well complements the Town Hall extension. Its neo-classical design is assured and confident. Pevsner remarked that:
There is, surprisingly enough, no tiredness, the panache is kept up.
Three arches pierce the Crescent’s centre but today they lead only to a potential development site. One end of the Crescent contains the Art Gallery and Library; the other used to house the former Police Headquarters and Magistrates’ Courts.
George Grenfell Baines, the founder of the Building Design Partnership, was involved in this project when he worked for BGH in the 1930s
The Octagon 1966-67 originally by Geoffrey Brooks, the borough architect, rebuilt 2018-2021. The hexagonal auditorium has apparently been retained. Pevsner states of the former building:
A welcome dose of honest Brutalism.
The Wellsprings successfully fitting with the Town Hall
The former 1931 Cooperative Society Store, on the Oxford Street corner, is by BGH. The entrance has Doric columns in deference to the Town Hall’s Corinthian ones – and Le Mans Crescent uses the Ionic for the same reason.
We pass Paderborn House 1968 -69 Sutton of Birmingham clad in moulded concrete, with Traverine around the entrance.
Former Lloyds Bank on Deangate corner, clad in white faience, looks BGH-ish but it’s not listed in the Lingards’ BGH monograph.
Across the way the unlisted Post Office – complete with listed phone boxes.
Whitakers 1907 by George Crowther.
Pastiche timber-framed with pepper-pot turret.
Incorporates genuine Tudor timbers from a demolished building nearby.
To the north of Deansgate, down Knowsley and Market Streets, is GT Robinson’s 1851-6 Market Hall. The interior is, according to Matthew Hyde: a lucid structure simply revealed.
He contrasts it with Market Place Centre 1980-88 by Chapman Taylor Partners: In that most ephemeral of styles, a jokey Postmodernism.
It does however echo Victoria Hall 1898-1900 BGH.
Chapman Taylor also did the 1980-8 Market Place Shopping Centre. The Market Hall was built over an impressive brick undercroft above the River Croal which has recently been opened up and is a destination.
At the Oxford Street corner, Slater Menswear, above Caffé Nero, has Art Deco white faience upper storeys. Further down is the imposing Marks & Spencer, faced in dark stone 1965-67.
The mansard roof was added later.
Along Market Street, Clinton Cards is clad in white faience with Art Deco window details.
At the corner of Bridge Street is a charming 1960s clock; the building would not look out of place in Coventry.
Other buildings of interest on Deansgate include Superdrug – with some Art Deco features; Greggs by Ernest Prestwich of Leigh who trained with WE Riley.
Sally Beauty and the Nationwide – entrance by William Owen of BGH.
The former Preston’s jewellers, on the corner of Bank Street, has terracotta, by Thomas Smith & Sons 1908-13, a prolific local firm. It had a time ball, on the clock tower, which was raised daily at 9am and dropped at 10am, on receipt of a telegraph signal from Greenwich.
The 1909 Bolton Cross, in Dartmoor granite, by BGH replaced an earlier one which is now kept at Bolton School. Churchgate contains the 1636 Ye Olde Man & Scythe; the former coaching inn Swan Hotel, reconstructed in the 1970s to look more genuinely Georgian and Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe 1667.
Stone Cross House 1991 was built for the Inland Revenue in an aggressively red brick and spiky style. It has a rather desperate chandelier in the foyer.
The gates of St Peter’s church EG Paley 1871 are framed by Travel House, Newspaper House -1998 and Churchgate House and Huntingdon House 1974.
St Peter’s has a Neo-Gothic font and cover by N Cachemaille-Day 1938. The gates and gate piers may look early C20 but they are late C18.
Samuel Crompton 1753-1827, the inventor of the mule, is buried under the large granite monument, erected in 1861.
At the corner of Silverwell and Institute Streets is WT Gunson & Son’s 1970 Friends Meeting House: decent with a light elevated roof corner. It has a tilted roof floating on the glazed upper walls.
Scott House has a charming 1926 plaque commemorating Sir James Scott and his wife Lady Anne. Scott started the Provincial Insurance Company.
The two storey offices of Fieldings and Porter are a successful piece of infill by BGH.
Nip around the back to get a glimpse of this cracking stairway.
Silverwell Street 1810 is named after the Silver Well. Bradshaw Gass & Hope now self-described as Construction Design Consultants, not architects, are at number 19. Note the plaque to JW Wallace, founder of the Eagle Street College, dedicated to the works of the American poet, Walt Whitman. Wallace worked there from 1867 to 1912. The plaque is ringed by a quote from Whitman:
All architecture is what you do to it when you look upon it.
Whitman corresponded with his Bolton admirers; the Museum contains early editions of his works and his stuffed canary.
Further down Silverwell Street is the 1903 Estate Office of the Earl of Bradford who still owns a large area of Bolton. At the end of Silverwell Street is the former Sun Alliance House, now converted to flats, the colourful panels are a later addition.
Bradshawgate and Silverwell lane corner has a former café bar with original curved Moderne windows. This was originally Vose’s tripe restaurant, later UCP – United Cattle Products. It was most stylish and elegant, decorated in 1930s streamline Moderne style, with starched white tablecloths, silver service and smart waitresses.
Nelson Square was opened on March 23, 1893. The cenotaph memorial to the Bolton Artillery is by Ormrod, Pomeroy & Foy 1920. Calder Marshall sculpted the statue of Samuel Crompton 1862. The shiny red former Prudential Assurance office 1889 isn’t by Waterhouse but by Ralph B. Maccoll of Bolton. Matthew Hyde in Pevsner describes the early C20 faience facades of Bradshawgate as:
A plateful of mushy pea, ginger nut, liver, tripe and blood orange shades.
Infirmary Street has a 1970s office block with an octagonal, nicely lettered plaque to WF Tillotson, newspaper publisher. Round the corner in Mawdsley Street, the former County Court 1869 TC Sorby, 1869. Opposite, at the corner, is GWBD Partnership’s 1987 St Andrew’s Court, containing a somewhat whimsical recreation of a Victorian shopping street in miniature. The job architect was J Holland. Matthew Hyde says:
Neatly contrived on a tight site.
Into Exchange Street and through the former Arndale Centre 1971; low and mean according to Pevsner 2004, now re-branded as Crompton Place 1989 Bradshaw, Rose & Harker and still dreary, we go to Victoria Square and the Town Hall. The classical building on the left is the former Bolton Exchange 1824-5 Richard Lane.
The square was pedestrianised in 1969, to the Planning Department’s designs, under RH Ogden. It was quite an early scheme which won three awards including one, unsurprisingly, from the Concrete Society. The fountains were designed by Geoffrey Brooks and the trees were planted by the Earl of Bradford.
Owen Hatherley in Modern Buildings in Britain says of the town
It feels as if you’re in a real city, like in Europe, and you can drink your cup of tea in repose while admiring the monuments.
Commissioned by the burgh of East Kilbride, was designed by Scott Fraser & Browning, built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts and completed in 1966.
Accommodating Ballerup Hall.
Ballerup Hall is located within East Kilbride Civic Centre and takes its name from its twin town Ballerup, which is near Copenhagen in Denmark. The hall comprises a main hall with stage, kitchen facilities and a bar servery. The adjoining district court room is available after office hours for a limited range of activities.
The stars of British Championship Wrestling return to East Kilbride with a star-studded line up including The Cowboy James Storm and all your favourite BCW Superstars!
I missed the missing link twixt Roddy Frame and the Civic Centre.
If you were lucky enough to catch the 2013 concerts in which Frame marked the 30th anniversary of High Land Hard Rain by playing Aztec Camera’s seminal debut album live, you’ll already have seen Anne’s pictures. Before getting to High Land Hard Rain itself in those shows, Frame treated audiences to a rare set drawn from what he termed his East Kilbride period – the songs he was writing as a teenager that would appear on Aztec Camera’s two Postcard singles, and form the basis of the band’s legendarily unreleased Postcard album, Green Jacket Grey.
While he played those tunes, huge, striking black and white images of his old hometown appeared as a backdrop behind him, setting exactly the right fragile, retro-future new town mood of post-industrial Fahrenheit 451 urban development.
A strategic masterplan for East Kilbride town centre which could see a new purpose-built civic facility is to be put before the council next month.
Last March we told how radical new plans could see the crumbling Civic Centre replaced with – a new front door to East Kilbride.
Despite there being no specific proposals agreed at this stage, South Lanarkshire Council has confirmed that agents of the owners are set to present their strategic masterplan to elected members in February.
It currently sits by the shopping centre and a patch of empty ground.
Several imposing interlocking volumes, formed by pre-cast concrete panels.
East Kilbride was the first new town built in Scotland in 1947. New Town designation was a pragmatic attempt to soak up some of the population from an overcrowded and war ravaged Glasgow. Its design was indeed an anathema to the chaotic and sprawling Glasgow: clean straight lines, modern accessible public spaces; and footways, bridges and underpasses built with the pedestrian in mind. It was designed as a self contained community — with industry, shops, recreation facilities and accommodation all within a planned geographic area.