Chorley Walk

I arrived at Chorley Railway Station.

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Passenger trains over this route between Blackburn & Wigan were however withdrawn in January 1960.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.

Wikipedia

Crossed over to the Interchange – which was formerly a humble bus station, opened in February 2003 replacing the previous structure.

Across the way a stand of shops with distinctive faience fascias.

Further along the Shepherds’ Victoria Hall – once home to the Jubilee of the Ancient Order of Shepherds’ Friendly Society which was quite prominent in Chorley in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s

Down the way a ways a Baptist Chapel of 1845 on Chapel Street – currently trading as Malcolm’s Musicland.

Next door the Chorley Town Cafe with some excellent stained glass.

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.

Architect Charles Wilkinson.

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.

British Post Office Buildings

Happily, the Library is still a library.

Plans supplied by the Architects Messrs. Cheers & Smith of Blackburn which were approved by the Education Committee on the 18th August 1904design 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.

Chorley History Society

Heading to the Council Offices.

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.

Place North West

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.

Landscaping of the public realm by CW Studio.

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.

Wikipedia

Now here’s a thing a bank which is a bank NatWest not gone west.

Next to the former Woolworths, opened in Chorley in 1930 on Market Street, with its pale Deco faience fascia.

They traded from this building for sixty five years, before closing in March 1995 in order to move to a new store on Market Walk – it became an Argos, then it didn’t.

Woolies Buildings

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.

Lancashire Post

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.

Wikipedia

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”.

1959

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.

Cinema Treasures

Spare a thought for the town’s lost cinemas:

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.

Cinema Treasures

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.

Chorley Theatre Cinema History Map

This was a splendid day out – there is much more to see, these have been some of the less obvious landmarks.

Go see for y’self!

Middleton Walk

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.

Nikolaus Pevsner – The Buildings of England

He refers to Edgar Wood 1860-1935

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.

We begin our tour at the Queen’s Jubilee Free Library of 1889 located on Long Street.

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.

Heritage Blackpool

The captain and crew survived, including the ship’s cat, many offers were made for the cat, but the captain refused them.

Onwards through Jubilee Park opened in 1889 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

In 1906 Alderman Thomas Broadbent Wood commissioned his son, Edgar, to design a flight of steps to lead up to a contemplation spot in the park – the inscription reads:

Who works not for his fellows starves his soul.

His thoughts grow poor and dwindle and his heart grudges each beat, as misers do a dole.

Nearby we find a memorial to the Middleton Flood – following torrential rain, the canal embankment at Mills Hill broke, flooding the already swollen River Irk, subsequently deluging the town.

Up the hill to Grade 1 Listed Parish Church of St Leonard.

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.

Wikipedia

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Middleton Old Cemetery once the Thornham and Middleton Burial Ground, which became the local authority cemetery in 1862.

Retrace to the Library – adjacent is the Parish School 1842

Across the road the Old Boar’s Head

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.

Down the road is Wood’s Methodist Church and School Rooms 1897.

Tucked away is the Durnford Street Clinic.

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.

Rochdale Online

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.

Time has not been kind to the Grade II Listed United Reformed Church 1860.

28 Days Later

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 ArenaBDP 2009

Then over the road to Oldham Road and Grade II Listed Warwick 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 Business Desk

In 2005, the new Middleton Bus Station was opened – Jefferson Sheard Architects.

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.

Bernard Wynne

Along Long Street the Cooperative store what was – next door the long gone Palace Cinema demolished in 2001.

More Edgar Wood – three shops 1908.

Tim RushtonMiddleton Gateway

Middleton celebrates its history and rightly so – now is the time to take stock and plan for the future.

More green space, public transport, pedestrians and cyclists prioritised to meet the Green Agenda.

Mixed development for housing, retail and leisure in the town centre.

Take some time to explore and dream.

View the Masterplan click here

For more information on Edgar Wood click here

Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins – Gwent House Cwmbran

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.

Coflein

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.

South Wales Argus 2017

One hopes that these important public arts work survive the transformation.

September 2022 the bandstand was demolished.

Photo: Rhiannon Jones

Lia Jones said:

The bandstand was a well-known centre point for the area. I really wish it had been kept in the design for the area, they should have relocated it instead of getting rid of it all together.

South Wales Argus 2022

William Mitchell – Cwmbran

Monmouth House Cwmbran 1967 by Gordon Redfern

Cladding to lift tower by William Mitchell

Situated in the Fairwater Shopping Centre:

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 Nairn dismissed 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.

Coflein

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.

Torfaen

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 SquareWilliam 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.

Free Press

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.

RCAHMW

Close by, by way of light relief is a concrete screen wall with an almost watery wavy relief!

Here’s hoping that this cavalcade of concrete delights survives the planners’ and developers’ dreams.

Central Retail Park – Ancoats Manchester

We have been here before – before the wrecking ball.

Subsequently, the tills have long since ceased to ring.

The road to redevelopment is paved with good intentions, and so far a profound lack or realisation.

The local folk objected to the planned luxury offices.

Tomorrow Manchester City Council’s Executive is set to approve the development framework for the former Central Retail Park that will see it turned into a zero carbon office district. But, according to a public consultation carried out by grassroots campaigners, an overwhelming majority of locals want public spaces on the 10.5 acre site in Ancoats rather than luxury offices.

The Meteor October 2020

As of April 2022 Trees Not Cars have sought the views of local representatives following the decision not to go ahead with the building of a multi-storey car park

What we need are councillors who will stand up for us and push for as much green space as possible at Central Retail Park development.

It’s council owned, it would link in well with Cotton Field Park and will give the capacity for locals to enjoy the outdoors – without driving, once New Islington Green has been developed into offices.

Trees Not Cars April 2022

There is a perennial plea for affordable homes and green space, along with perennial structural and institutional barriers to their financing and building.

Place North West 2019

The circle between the developers, landowners, local authority and central government stubbornly refuses to be squared.

As of 20th September 2022 the land remains derelict – currently the domain of wayward taggers, spray-can jockeys and homemade mini-ramp skaters.

A concrete rectangle dotted with Buddleja davidii  – surrounded by Manctopia and main roads.

The Queen and I

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.

Jaded Jubilee – June 4th 2012

On the day of HM Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee I cycled around Ashton under Lyne.

Recording and commenting upon the material changes which had occurred, during her reign of some sixty years. In turn many of these things have in themselves disappeared from view.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.

Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow.

Let reality be reality.

Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

Lao Tzu

Celebrating the gradual decline in spelling – Gill Scot Heron meets Tameside, everyone’s a winner.

Celebrating the proliferation of California Screen Blocks, hanging baskets and vertical blinds.

Celebrating the Pound Shop a profusion of road markings and pedestrian safety barriers.

Celebrating High Visibilty Workwear and the proliferation of the logotype

Celebrating advances in Information Technology and the decline of the retail sector.

Celebrating advances in fly-posting, street skating, youth culture and musical diversity.

Celebrating the re-use of redundant banks, sun beds, tattooing and t-shirts.

Celebrating advances in charity chop furniture pricing and the proliferation of leather sofas.

Celebrating the proliferation of the shuttered window, babies and home made retail signage.

Celebrating niche marketing in the child-based, haircare market and developments in digitally originated vinyl signage.

Celebrating street art and British popular music and modern cuisine.

Celebrating Punk Rock, wheel clamping and British can-do!

Celebrating the introduction of decimal coinage, raffle tickets, cheap biros, affordable imitation Tupperware, raffles and the Union Flag

Celebrating the huge importance of Association Football, hazard tape, shuttered doors and the ubiquity of the traffic cone.

Celebrating the ever growing popularity of Fancy Dress.

Celebrating pub tiles, the smoking ban, the use of plywood as an acceptable window replacement material and the current confusion regarding Britishness and Englishness.

Celebrating satellite telly, faux Victoriana and the development of the one way traffic system.

Celebrating plastics in the service of the modern citizen.

Celebrating laser-cut vinyl, adhesive lettering, regional cuisine and the imaginative minds of those who name our modern retail outlets.

Celebrating the welcome Americanisation of our youngster’s diet – Slush you couldn’t make it up!

Celebrating the welcome Americanisation of our youngster’s diet – Slush you couldn’t make it up!

Celebrating the return of the £1 pint, here at Oliver’s Bar, formerly The Cavern, a superbly appointed Bass Charrington owned, underground pub. 

My thanks to Emma Noonan for kindly appearing in the doorway.

Celebrating our ever widening range of ethnic cuisine and the use of the ingenious A4 laser-written poster montage.

Celebrating the wide variety of vernacular tribute bands – Reet Hot Chilli Peppers?

Celebrating the ever popular art of colouring-in and the wide availability of the felt tip pen.

Irish Life Centre – Dublin

1 Talbot St North City Dublin D01 XW65 Ireland

Architect: RKD Architects lead Andrew Devane 

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.

1970s

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.

It was removed in 2013.

Emma Gilleece

This is Dallas meets De Chirico – bronzed glass and dark colonnades surrounding open un-peopled piazzas.

Wandering under low underpasses into open space and finally into a green oasis.

Bolton Walk

Organised by the Twentieth Century Society

Text by Eddy Rhead and David French.

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. 

Eastford Square – 12/21

Here we are again and again and again, a curious passer-by, curious as to what may or may not have taken pass.

Local Image Collection 1970

There is a report of 2020

The report argues that the Northern Gateway should offer mixed, affordable and age appropriate housing and amenities. An equitable development plan should be developed, through community-led engagement, to ensure that the benefits of regeneration are shared amongst new and existing residents.

As of 2021 there is inaction and stasis

Collyhurst was described as a ‘forgotten place’ by some residents who felt that there had been insufficient investment in local housing and amenities.

The Northern Gateway remains a hidden portal to who knows where.

Northern Gateway 2018

Detailed proposals for a second scheme to be delivered within neighbouring South Collyhurst, one of the seven neighbourhoods to be developed as part of the overall Framework, are expected later this year.

Construction Enquirer 2021

Northern Gateway rebrands as Victoria North

Far East Consortium and Manchester City Council’s 390-acre masterplan will now be known as Victoria North, a move that aims to “create a sense of place”, according to Gavin Taylor, regional general manager at FEC in Manchester.

The Northern Gateway has served us well as a name as we shaped plans for the area’s regeneration. But as we begin to bring forward development this year, it’s the right time to start creating a sense of place for what will be a significant new district in Manchester, as well as an identity that people can engage with.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said:

We are at the beginning of an incredibly exciting phase of history for this part of Manchester and with some eagerness to see how this potential unfolds.

Victoria Riverside, a 634- home development marks the first stage of the regeneration project with the first apartments hitting the market. 

The three towers – Park View, City View and Crown View, are based within the Red Bank neighbourhood. 

Red Bank has been described as:

A unique landscape and river setting making the neighbourhood perfect for a residential-led, high-density development – all set in a green valley.

The putative William Mitchell totem continues to keep silent watch over the Square.

Hilton House – Stockport

Once the head office of New Day Furniture.

A local company which designed, manufactured and retailed furnishings around the North West.

Oldham Street Manchester
Rochdale Road Harpurhey
Wythenshawe

The office building is a highlight of my Stockport Walks – it has a lightness of touch incorporating a partial podium, slab block and lower rise extensions.

There is a sensitive mix of glass, stone, concrete and brick across a variety of scales and volumes.

May 2020 – plans are submitted to remodel the exterior of Hilton House

Marketing Stockport

The remodelling of the building include reparations and repainting brickwork, render and cladding as part of wider plans to rejuvenate Hilton House to rebrand as a more attractive and contemporary office location in Stockport town centre.

Studio KMA have proposed conversion to apartments.

Conversion of existing 1970s office building to apartments.

A combination of one-bed, two-bed and three-bed units ensure a new sustainable use in Stockport town centre.

The proposal incorporates the use of coloured glass panels to create a modern, fresh aesthetic.

As of July 2021 the property is under offer.

Post-Pandemic it may well be that the demand for office space is in retreat and the conversion to modern living space the more likely end use.

Newcastle to Amble

Well here we are heading north for a fourth day – having bidden farewell to Hull, Scarborough and Redcar.

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

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. 

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

Taking a bold leap into the unknown I left the city centre, unwisely following unfamiliar roads, predictably becoming very lost.

I sought assistance from a passing fellow cyclist, very kindly he guided me to Tynemouth, following a mysterious and circuitous course across the undulating terrain – thanks.

The city quickly becomes the seaside with its attendant retail bricolage.

An all too familiar redundant lido – opened in 1925 and closed in the mid 90’s – but a Friends Group aims to breathe new life into the site.

The Park Hotel built in the 1930’s and recently refurbished has been bought by The Inn Collection Group.

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

The Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan sets out our ambitious plans to regenerate the coastline between St Mary’s Lighthouse and Cullercoats Bay.

The proposals are a mix of council and private sector developments and involve more than £36m of new investment at the coast.

North Tyneside Gov

In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

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.

Spanish City

Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

Beacon House beckoned and I took time to have a good old look around.

Ryder and Yates 1959

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.

Historic England

During WW2 Blyth Harbour was used as a major submarine base and that combined with the heavy industry in the area it made a very good target for the Luftwaffe.

Derelict Places

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.

Skylighters

I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

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.

Wikipedia

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.

Energy News

Long gone is the Cambois Colliery, its pit head baths and the buses that bused the workers in and out.

One hundred and eleven men died there.

The route headed along the coast on unmade roads and paths, I bypassed the Lynemouth Pithead Baths – having visited some ten years ago.

I was delighted to find that Creswell Ices were still in business and my temporary partner Adrian treats me to a tub.

Having arrived in Amble I was delighted to find the Cock & Bull.

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

Then watched the sun set over the harbour.
Good night all.

Hull to Scarborough

Heading out of Hull one sunny Sunday morning along Sustrans Route 65.

The first leg of my journey northwards to Berwick, many thanks to all those kind souls who filled my water bottle, directed, redirected and misdirected me along my merry way.

I suddenly found myself on Sustrans Route 66 – nominally lost.

Good fortune however had pointed me in the direction of this functional yet charming brick built church, on the edge of a huge roundabout – St Mary Queen of Martyrs RC in Bransholme.

The new St Mary Queen of Martyrs church was built at Bransholme in 1976-7 and the old St Mary’s church closed and demolished in 1982.

Architect for the new church was JT Reid of The Reid Partnership – Pontefract.

The entrance graced by these textured fascias.

Following a series of brief engagements with various local benefactors, I regained my intended route and joined the Hornsea Rail Trail – the bed of the former branch line.

The line was officially opened on 28 March 1864, the last passenger train ran on 19 October 1964.

Goods traffic continued to use the line as far as Hornsea Bridge until 3 May 1965.

The place-name Swine is first attested in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as Swine.

It appears as Suine in a charter of circa 1150, the name perhaps derives from the Old English swin meaning creek.

Wikipedia

Eventually arriving in Hornsea – on this occasion having little or no need of Do it Yourself, Ironmongery or Glass requisites.

And being Sunday, it was shut.

I tarried a while on the well appointed seafront.

Gliding along leafy, green hedge-lined lanes.

Following a dead end lane to the place of dead roads.

Skipsea – home to Crossways Fish & Chips

Here you will be offered perfectly cooked fish.

Retracing and crossing the Yorkshire Wolds.

Zigging and zagging here and there, in search of a route, any route, I came upon Okanagan – a delightful asymmetric Prairie Style modern home.

Filey Road, Gristhorpe, Filey, Scarborough, North Yorkshire – currently valued at £562,000.

The interior decorative order currently out of synch with the post war exterior.

Hurrying along to reach town by tea time – I descended deftly into Scarborough.

Where I hooked up with local lad Ben Vickers for a pint in the North Riding Hotel.

The rest is, as they say – a mystery.

Billingham

Whilst cycling twixt Redcar and Newcastle one sunny Monday morn, I espied a tower on the distant horizon.

I pedalled hurriedly along and this is what I found.

Dawson House aka Kingsway.

A fifteen-storey circular tower block of 60 one-bedroom flats and 29 two-bedroom flats, making 89 dwellings in total. The block was built as public housing at the western fringe of the Town Centre development that began in 1952. Approved in 1973, the block is of triangular concrete-beam construction.

The architects were Elder Lester Associates.

The block was built by Teeside County Borough Council.

Stanley Miller Ltd.’s tender for the contract was £778,850.

The tower block was opened on 3rd April 1975 by the Mayor of Stockton Borough Council, John Dyson.

The block is described as ‘gimmicky circular tower block’ in The Buildings of England: County Durham by N. Pevsner.

Historic England

Across the way the cosmically named Astronaut pub known locally as the Aggy.

Though all it seems, is not well in outer space:

Locals say punters are creating a giant toilet next to a Billingham pub – and performing sex acts.

I wouldn’t disregard what they say, and I can’t say that didn’t happen, said boss Jordan Mulloy.

I know urinating goes on from time to time but people do it outside every pub – anyone I catch doing it will be barred.

Teeside News

The pub stands at the outer edge of the West Precinct.

The precinct sits beneath the Civic Offices.

And has a ramp leading to the roof top parking.

Next door the earlier Queensway Centre.

The Family unveiled by HRM Queen Elizabeth II in 1967 the country’s first pedestrianised precinct.

Edward Bainbridge Copnall 

In November 2013, a time capsule was buried in front of The Family, under a stone with the inscription Forever Forward 30 11 2013.

The capsule is not to be unearthed until the year 2078.

Twenty million pound bid to take back control of the centre of Billingham.

The council says: Proposals include addressing the physical condition of Billingham town centre in support the Council’s ambition to take back control of the centre. Redevelopment would solve the challenges of changing retail trends that are contributing towards excess retail space and high vacancy rates.

This includes exploring options for mixed-use redevelopment and high-quality public spaces that improve accessibility within the town centre and a modern retail offering.

Hartlepool Mail.

Missing in action – La Ronde aka Eleanor Rigby’s.

Built in 1968 by local architects Elder Lester and Partners as part of the expansive plans for the town centre along with the Forum, La Ronde nightclub was to form part of the expansive plans for Billingham focused on the pursuit of increased leisure time.

La Ronde’s distinct cylindrical form comes from the car park access ramp that winds around the stair core to the upper floors of the club. The elevated drum-like form inset with cross latticed concrete webs was cast entirely in-situ.

In 2006, the council demolished La Ronde and Forum House at the cost of £500,000 to make way for a supermarket.

The Forum

In 1960, Billingham Urban District Council, began one of the most ambitious new leisure centres in Europe. The Forum was funded by the district’s new-found wealth – a product of the local petrochemical industry.  It was designed by local architects Elder Lester and Partners and brought together a variety of recreational activities including an ice rink, swimming pool, sports centre, theatre, and bar all under one roof. The Forum opened in July 1967 to great enthusiasm.  Weekly attendance over the first six months was between 20 000 and 30 000 people, far exceeding all expectations.

The inclusion of the theatre alongside the sports facilities broke new ground in recreational planning and in the shift from sport to the broader notion of ‘leisure’, the Forum predated architectural thinking of the time by nearly a decade.  The building’s form is derived from the functions within, expressed in a variety of bulbous elements.  The most distinctive is the canopy of the ice rink roof which is hung using steel cables running the length of the roof and cross-braced to achieve a clear 73m span.

Something Concrete and Modern

Porstmouth

Having cycled here from Southampton, we now had time to cool our heels and look around.

Tim Rushton and I were Fine Art students here in the 1970’s, eager to take a trip down Memory Lane to Lion Terrace.

We’ll get there in a bit.

We took a look along The Hard discovering pubs that we never went in which are no longer pubs.

This pub was built in 1900, possibly on the site of an earlier pub. For most of its history it was tied to the Brickwood’s Brewery of Portsmouth. 

The pub closed in 1970 to become a restaurant, before becoming an estate agents offices.

The pub sign appeared in the 1971 film Carry On At Your Convenience.

Many Brickwoods’ pubs were ever so elegantly tiled, though the beer was largely undrinkable.

Just along the way another pub which we never really knew, though still a pub for all that.

Across the water in Gosport our old pals Harbour and Seaward Towers.

Along the way some high quality hard landscaping.

Beneath our feet the smiling face of Pompey!

We resisted the charming period charms of the Clarence Pier

The pier was originally constructed and opened in 1861 by the Prince and Princess of Wales and boasted a regular ferry service to the Isle of Wight.

It was damaged by air raids during World War II and was reopened in its current form on 1 June 1961 after being rebuilt by local architects AE Cogswell & Sons and R Lewis Reynish.

Mind the Baby Mr. Bean an episode of British TV comedy series Mr. Bean was filmed on location at Clarence Pier.

Wikipedia

Tim wisely eschews the Wimpy.

Lyons obtained a licence to use the Wimpy brand in the United Kingdom from Edward Gold’s Chicago based Wimpy Grills Inc. and, in 1954, the first Wimpy Bar was established at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London. The bar began as a special fast food section within traditional Corner House restaurants, but the success soon led to the establishment of separate Wimpy restaurants serving only hamburger-based meals.

In a 1955 newspaper column, Art Buchwald, syndicated writer for the Washington Post, wrote about the recent opening of a Wimpy’s Hamburger Parlor on Coventry Street and about the influence of American culture on the British.

Buchwald wrote:

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

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

During the 1970s Wimpy refused entry to women on their own after midnight.

Moving along eye spy the Isle of Wight Ferry through the Hovertravel window.

Hovertravel is now the world’s oldest hovercraft operator, and this service is believed to be unique in western Europe. 

It is the world’s only commercial passenger hovercraft service.

The operator’s principal service operates between Southsea Common on the English mainland and Ryde Transport Interchange on the Isle of Wight: the crossing time of less than 10 minutes makes it the fastest route across The Solent from land to land. 

This service commenced operations in 1965, Hovertravel currently operates two 12000TD hovercraft on a single route between Ryde and Southsea.

Wikipedia 

We took a turn into the back streets to visit our old home 20 Shaftesbury Road, where Catherine Lusher, Tim and I lived in the basement flats.

Liz Bavister and Trish Frowd lived above

The former Debenham’s is to become flats.

Hampshire Live