Unity Hall – Wakefield

Wool, wool, wool I do declare – Westgate Wakefield the worse for wear, warehousing, banks and halls in a state of transition. The enormous wealth created by the local textile trade and associated industries, has left an architectural legacy that permeates the wide street, with a more than somewhat faded grandeur.

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Laying the Foundation Stone

The Co-operative Unity Hall has seen better days – opened in 1902 and offering extensive retail space, along with a concert and dance hall, echoing to the sound of silent films, all-in wrestling and a fine array of music.

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Sadly, as the post-war boom becomes an ever distant, sonic shadow of its former self, the hall closes. Listed yet unused, it stood aloof and alone, unloved. The Beat were on, sadly the beat no longer went on.

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Derelict Places 

Happily a corner has been turned and under new management:

Unity Works is a stunning grade II listed multi-use space, where modern meets state-of-the-art. Unity Works is a great space for work and play, from 1:1 meeting areas, to large conferences, office & work space, to live events, comedy, music, theatre and film screenings.

There’s something for everyone!

More than 400 people invested in a community share scheme to help fund the refurbishment, which began in January. Continuing the tradition of a movement in this architectural gem, which was established as the Wakefield Co-operative headquarters in 1867, a building alive with rich detailing, signage, architectural type and mosaic.

Get gone take a look, listen and dance.

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Northmoor Road Co-op – Manchester

Cooperative Society shops and meeting hall. Dated 1912; altered. Red brick with liberal dressings of green and buff glazed terracotta, red tiled roof with geometrical patterned band and cockscomb ridge tiles. Rectangular plan. Edwardian Baroque style. Two storeys and attic, 11 bays; projected ground floor with dark green Ionic pilasters between the shops and a central recessed porch with dark green surround, light green Ionic columns and segmental open pediment ; inverted voluted brackets linking ground floor pilasters to alternate pedestals of 1st-floor colonnade, which has Ionic semi-columns with festoons and a thin cornice, all in matching light green terracotta; swagged frieze of buff terracotta with buff modillions to a green cornice; brick parapet with buff terracotta balustrades and triangular dormers in alternate bays, interrupted in the centre by a green segmental pediment with raised lettering “Beswick Cooperative Society LTD”. Tall segmental-headed windows at 1st floor including a canted bay in the centre with parapet lettered “Built AD 1912”, and coupled windows in the 2nd, 3rd, 10th and 11th bays, all with elaborate surrounds of buff terracotta including quoined jambs, moulded transoms and enriched keystones; and stained glass in the upper lights. Square Baroque-style turret at left gable.

Grade II Listed

The building itself was originally designed for commercial use with a department store on the ground floor boasting five departments including a butchers, shoes and boots, a drapery and a grocery. On the first floor there was a meeting room that was large enough to host dances with live music. Its inaugural event was an exhibition by the Co-operative Workers Society that also included a recital by the C.W.S. orchestra of Balloon Street; it was reported to have been a great success. It was also used for community events such as the Crowcroft Bowls Club prize-giving ceremony in 1914.

Northmoor Road was called North Road at the time the building was in use as a co-operative and was developed between 1899 and 1930’s. Its most famous resident was J.R.Tolkien who lived here between 1926 and 1947.

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Now home to Great Places Housing

This is such a substantial building exuding an opulent retail grandeur that easily leaves your local Tesco Local in the deep dark ignominious shade. From a time when the expanding Cooperative movement provide for most of the areas material needs – though the Beswick Society was disliked for its aggressive territorial ingress, outside of any recognised geographic constriction.

Externally it is still substantially as was – clearly visible from the nearby Stockport Road and continuing to command the street with degree of grace.

Go take a walk, take a look!

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Post Box – Chesterfield

Time’s definitely running out:

But the post office has been stolen and the mailbox is locked.

The age of elegant modernist street furniture, has been and almost gone, the previous centuries are under threat.

But does anyone want this neglected postal self-service technology?

Stamp dispensing is being dispensed with, insert 5p and wait forever.

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We have our own disabused facility in Stockport, I pass it almost every day.

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And have posted two previous postal posts – here and there.

This new discovery, with thanks to Sean Madner, is situated on the wall of the sorting office in Chesterfield. A faded Festival of Britain charm along with a delightful terrazzo surround, has done little to arrest its slow decline into redundancy and subsequent neglect.

Still in situ, take a walk, take a look – wait for the coin to drop.

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Ghost Signs – Scarborough

All towns have ghosts, none more so than Scarborough.

High atop a castle topped, wind whipped promontory, lies Anne Bronte, overlooking the harbour below, wayward Whitby whalers wail, lost fisher folk seek solace.

Its walls ache with traders past, scissors that no longer snip, click-less shutters, unlettered rock and loaves that no longer rise.

Layers of sun baked, peeling paint on brick, rendered almost illegible.

As Alan Resnais would say Scarborough, mon amour!

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Hyde Road Pubs – Gorton Manchester

For almost fifty years I’ve cycled, walked and taken the bus up and down Hyde Road.

To work or to take snaps.

Or take a drink.

The first proper pub crawl I ever went on was up and down here, and these photographs which were taken from the Local Image Archive, represent a world now largely long gone. Of those places pictured only the Travellers, Wagon and Horses, Plough, Nelson and Friendship survive. What was a busy thoroughfare alive with masses of working people and lively boozers is now a shadow of its former self. Many of the breweries are also no more – Wilsons and Boddington’s, once employing hundreds of people and supplying hundreds of pubs, have all but vanished, you may catch a glimpse of a stray sign or two dotted around town.

If there are any pubs missing apologies, but following the expert advice of Kenneth Allen I think I have all of the Gorton boozers.

Take one last walk, raise a glass – cheers!

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San Remo Coffee Bar – Rochdale

Sanremo or San Remo is a city on the Mediterranean coast of western Liguria in north-western Italy. Founded in Roman times, it has a population of 57,000, and is known as a tourist destination on the Italian Riviera. It hosts numerous cultural events, such as the Sanremo Music Festival and the Milan–San Remo cycling classic.

Rochdale is a market town in Greater Manchester, England, positioned at the foothills of the South Pennines on the River Roch, 5.3 miles north-northwest of Oldham, and 9.8 miles  north-northeast of the city of Manchester. Rochdale is surrounded by several smaller settlements which together form the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale, population 211,699. Rochdale is the largest settlement and administrative centre, with a total population of 107,926. Home to the Cooperative Movement, Rochdale AFC and a redundant cotton industry.

The two towns come together at 27 Drake Street, Rochdale, Lancashire OL161RX, home to a fine café and Italian born Tony and family. It has a well preserved menu that reflects industrial Lancastrian tastes rather than flavours of Liguria. It has an internal decorative order that is pure mid century a la mode – Pennine Style. Several more than several signs leave you in no doubt as to the availability of pies, pies with chips/potatoes, peas, gravy, veg – pies of all varieties, pies.

So pie, chips, peas and gravy it was, with a mug of tea – it always is.

Pop in say Buongiorno!

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Salford Shopping City

The construction of the shopping centre and surrounding areas continued and on 21 May 1970 the new Salford Market officially opened. From 1971 onwards new shops inside the precinct itself began to open.

However, due to a lack of funds and a political scandal which saw chairman Albert Jones jailed for eight months construction of Salford Precinct was halted. The site had only 95 shop units compared to the proposed 260, the hotel and two storey car park were never built.

In 1991 the building was refurbished at a cost of £4 million, this included the installation of roofs across various walkways, making large swathes of the centre undercover. The shopping centre which at the time was known as Salford Precinct was renamed Salford Shopping City.

On 9 August 1994 the Manchester Evening News reported that Salford City Council was planning on selling off Salford Shopping City to raise money for local housing repairs, these plans split the ruling Labour Party council, one councillor telling the press that it would be like selling off the family silver.

In 2000 Salford Shopping City was eventually sold to a private company for £10 million in an effort to cut the council’s deficit. It was then later sold in March 2010 to Praxis Holdings for £40 million, the company stated that it wanted to invest in the precinct and link it to the new food superstore.

This is a tale of our times – 60s and 70s redevelopment designed and built in the rampant spirit of free enterprise and uber-buoyant consumerism, falling foul of an economic downturn, subsequent unemployment and shrinking retail spending. Property is ping-ponged between local authority and speculative developers.

Following the riots of 2011 pledges were made regarding the future of the site, plans are still afoot, as yet to be rendered corporeal. Although the area has benefitted from an influx of students and a refurbishment of housing stock, there is pressure on the prosperity of the precinct from thriving retail developments in nearby Manchester and the Trafford Centre.

The architectural core of the site has been retained, including the 23 storey Briar Court residential tower, though diluted by more recent additions, misguided post modern detailing that threatens the integrity of full many a post war development.

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