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

Deal To Margate

We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.

Though the pier appeared to be closed.

Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.

The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.

The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.

Wikipedia

Deal is home to some of the most extraordinary concrete shelters.

Home to some understated Seaside Moderne homes too.

Well fed, we set out along the private road that edges the golf course, encountering some informal agricultural architecture.

We took time to explore Pegwell Bay Hoverport – currently trading as a Country Park.

Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.

The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.

Historic England

Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988. 

The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.

On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.

Wikipedia

Broadstairs was alive with Bank Holiday activity.

On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity

Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.

Built of flint and rubble.

One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:

We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack.  Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.

In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.

The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.

The Turner Contemporary was hosting an impromptu al fresco sculpture show.

Dreamland was still dreaming.

And Arlington House staring steadfastly out to sea.

Time now for tea and a welcome plate of chish and fips at the Beano Cafe.

I miss my haddock and chips from Beano in Margate, brought to you with a smile and he remembers everyone.

Great customer service and friendly staff, see you soon.

The food is awful and the customer service is even worse: when we complained about the food the staff argued with us and wouldn’t do anything to change the food or refund, avoid at all costs!

Trip Advisor

Time for a wander around Cliftonville.

Discovering a shiny new launderette.

And a launderette that wasn’t a launderette – it’s a Werkhaus that isn’t a workhouse.

And a patriotic tea rooms.

So farewell then the south coast – we’re off home on the train in the morning.

But first a pint or two.

Rye To Deal

I’ve been here before on a longer Hastings to Margate leg, here’s a shorter hop.

Late night arrival in Rye, early morning departure following a hearty hotel breakfast.

Firstly along tracks, then parallel to the road on sequestered farmland, through the flat salt marshes of Camber.

Where Tim stops, in order to fail to buy fruit.

Brief relief from the track along the concrete sea defences and path.

Passing the temporary dwellings, beside the shifting sands and shingle.

Glancing toward Dungeness Power Station.

Dungeness nuclear power station comprises a pair of non operational nuclear power stations, located on the Dungeness headland in the south of Kent. Dungeness A is a legacy Magnox power station that was connected to the National Grid in 1965 and has reached the end of its life. Dungeness B is an advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) power station consisting of two 1,496 MWt reactors, which began operation in 1983 and 1985 respectively, and have been non-operational since 2018 due to ongoing safety concerns.

There were many problems during construction of the second power station, which was the first full-scale AGR. It was supposed to be completed in 1970, but the project collapsed in 1969. The CEGB took over project management and appointed British Nuclear Design and Construction (BNDC) as main contractor. There were more problems and by 1975 the CEGB was reporting that the power station would not be completed until 1977 and the cost had risen to £280 million. By completion the cost had risen to £685 million, four times the initial estimate in inflation-adjusted terms.

In March 2009, serious problems were found when Unit B21 was shut down for maintenance, and the reactor remained out of action for almost 18 months. In 2015, the plant was given a second ten-year life extension, taking the proposed closure date to 2028. In September 2018, both units were shut down and were expected to restart in December 2020. On 7 June 2021, EDF announced that Dungeness B would move into the defuelling phase with immediate effect.

Wikipedia

Pausing for a moment to take a drink, sadly not a drink in the Jolly Fisherman – unlike another comical pair.

During their 1947 UK tour, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were invited to re-open the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

After travelling down by regular train, the pair performed a couple of skits to entertain the crowds – and the gathered news crews – before riding the light railway.

The duo then lunched with dignitaries at the Jolly Fisherman, before returning for tea at the railway’s restaurant at Hythe.

Dover Kent

The original pub

On Monday and inquest was held on the body of Mr. John Adams, landlord of the “Jolly Fisherman,” who was found drowned in a well near his house.

From the evidence it appeared that the deceased left home on Saturday morning for the purpose, according to his usual custom, of walking to New Romney, to see if there were any letters for Dungeness. Not returning at the usual time, his wife became alarmed, and a messenger was dispatched to Romney to see if he had been to the Post-office. It was ascertained he had not, and the search was forthwith made.

About 2 o’clock one of the coastguardsmen, Edward Hooker, bethought him to look into the well, which is about 250 yards from the deceased’s house. In doing so he was horrified to find the poor fellow head downwards, partly immersed in water. Assistance was at once procured, and he was removed to his house, quite dead. There was about 4 feet of water in the well.

In the absence of any testimony to establish the inference of suicide, and open verdict of Found Drowned was returned. The deceased was about 50 years of age.

It has been stated that the deceased had of late, been rather abstracted, but no evidence was adduced to establish the truth of this assertion.

The present Jolly Fisherman pub is located in the centre of Greatstone at the junction of Dunes Road and The Parade.

This was built by the brewers Style and Winch Ltd, who owned the old Jolly Fisherman, in about 1935 as a pub and hotel.

Postcard of 1975

Here we are now taking time out at New Romney, in order to view the locomotives in steam, at the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway.

The RH&DR was the culmination of the dreams of Captain J. E. P. Howey — a racing driver, millionaire land owner, former Army Officer and miniature railway aficionado and Count Louis Zborowski — eminently well-known racing driver of his day – famous for owning and racing the Chitty Bang Bang Mercedes.

The 120ft Grade II Listed water tower at Littlestone was built in 1890 by Henry Tubbs to supply water to his properties in Littlestone, including Littlestone Golf Club and his proposed housing development. 

Henry Tubbs wanted to turn Littlestone into a major resort, and embarked on an ambitious building programme, including the Marine Parade and Grand Hotel. His plans for a pier were not realised, however, and it was eventually built at Eastbourne instead.

The tower is constructed in red brick which shows the external features of the tower very well. It narrows at about the third story and its appearance changes depending on your viewpoint. At the top there is a sort of turret, giving the building a slightly military look.

The military used the Tower during World War Two as a lookout post and they made some changes to the structure, partly the reason for its slightly wobbly look. The Army also added a substantial concrete stairway inside.

Unfortunately the water tower didn’t function properly and the water was found to contain too much salt to be of any use. In 1902 the Littlestone and District Water Company built a tower at Dungeness to supply all of New Romney, Littlestone, Greatstone and Lydd. The tower at Littlestone fell into disuse, but now serves as a residence.

The Romney Marsh

The failed resort of Littlestone continues to fail.

Whilst Folkstone thrives.

Even the Grand Burstin has been improved.

23 November 2009 

This place has got to be up for Worst Hotel in the UK. 

We made the mistake of staying there for our first anniversary, and we sorely regretted it. First, after the initial shock that awaits anyone entering the lobby, we were given probably the filthiest room in hotel history.

It reeked of smoke and urine.

The management’s disorganisation landed us free meals, even if they paid us £10 per person to eat that stuff it wouldn’t be worth it:

Canned fruits, red meat galore with no other option, greasy bacon, value bread, omelet made with the least real eggs possible, all served with the same urine smell in the restaurant and by the most apathetic staff ever.

We left as soon as possible.

Seeing that place in the rear-view mirror was the highlight of our visit.

Trip Advisor

The current hotel was built in 1984 from the foundations of the Royal Pavilion Hotel, originally built in 1843, parts of which form the new Burstin Hotel, such as the Victorian restaurant.

It’s along climb out of Folkstone, there are no snaps – simply memories of a weary ascent.

Eventually we top out and roll along over the white cliffs of Dover.

Where we discover this delightful concrete listening post.

Abbot’s Cliff Acoustic Mirrors 

Before the advent of radar, there was an experimental programme during the 1920s and 30s in which a number of concrete sound reflectors, in a variety of shapes, were built at coastal locations in order to provide early warning of approaching enemy aircraft. A microphone, placed at a focal point, was used to detect the sound waves arriving at and concentrated by the acoustic mirror. These concrete structures were in fixed positions and were spherical, rather than paraboloidal, reflectors. This meant that direction finding could be achieved by altering the position of the microphone rather than moving the mirror.

Graham Stephen

Eric Ravilious Abbot’s Cliff – 1941

Descending into Dover, ascending again, hot and weary.

Appreciating the slow traffic free drag down to St Margarets Bay – sadly no photos, suffice to say one of the most elegant lanes of the trip, once home to Sir Noël Pierce Coward.

In Coward’s seven years in the Bay he entertained a large array of famous friends from the arts, film and stage.  Katherine Hepburn stayed  here with Spencer Tracey and swam daily from the shore. Daphne Du Maurier, Ian Fleming, Gertrude Lawrence and John Mills all came to relax, play Canasta and Scrabble or join Coward in his painting studio where he produced oils of the Bay.

St Margarets History

Arriving in Deal we quickly buzzed off to the Green Berry, one of my favourite pubs.

Followed by a twilight kebab on the prom.

Finally fetching up in the Wetherspoons.

The Sir Norman Wisdom

Hull Walk 2021

Turn right out of the station toward the Cecil Cinema.

The Theatre De-Luxe was built in 1911 at the corner of Anlaby Road and Ferensway with its entrance in Anlaby Road and its auditorium along the side of the pavement in Ferensway. Kinematograph Year Book of 1914 lists 600 seats and the owners as National Electric Picture Theatres Ltd.

In 1925, the theatre was rebuilt to a radically altered ground-plan and renamed the Cecil Theatre. 

The Cecil Theatre’s demise came during bombing on the night of 7/8 May 1941 when German incendiary bombs reduced the building to a shell; and it remained like that until demolition in 1953.

Work on the new Cecil Theatre was begun in April 1955 and it was opened on 28th November 1955 with 1,374 seats in the stalls and 678 in the balcony.

Architects: Gelder and Kitchca

At the time of opening it had the largest CinemaScope screen in the country measuring 57 feet wide, and the first film shown was Marilyn Monroe The Seven Year Itch.

In the 1980’s it was taken over by the Cannon Cinemas chain. The cinema operation was closed on 23rd March 1992 and the cinemas were ‘For Sale and/or Lease. It was taken over by Take Two Cinemas and renamed Take Two Cinema. It was closed on 27th February 1997 and the two screens in the former circle were stripped out and converted into a snooker club.

Whilst bingo continues in the former stalls area of this post war 
cinema, the former mini cinemas in the circle still contain the snooker tables, but the space is unused. The screen in the former restaurant/cafe area remains basically intact, but is unused.

Cinema Treasures

Whilst circumnavigating the Cecil one can’t help but notice the KCOM HQ – and its distinctive white telephone kiosks.

The work of City Architect A Rankine OBE RIBA

When Hull City Council founded KCOM back in 1904, as Hull Telephone Department, it was one of several local authorities across the country granted a licence to run its own phone network.

1952 Call Father Christmas service was introduced.

Having heard of a recorded message service in Scandinavia, Hull Councillor J M Stamper suggested the idea of putting Father Christmas on the telephone. The Call Father Christmas service was introduced shortly afterwards, the first of its kind in the UK. By dialling a Hull Central number children could hear recordings of a Christmas story and carol singing. 

The success of the Father Christmas service led to the creation of other recorded information lines, such as Bedtime Stories, Teledisc and Telechef. 

This recipe line was introduced in 1950s and was still going strong until the 1990’s, with 50s recipes such as meat loaf and corned beef with cabbages being replaced by dishes such as Italian Chicken Bake.

Returning to Ferensway we are confronted by the Danish Seaman’s Church.

Sea trade created a large Danish community which Hull’s very own Amy Johnson was descended from. Her grandfather was Anders Jorgensen, who anglicised his name to the more pronounceable Andrew Johnson. A Danish pastor was appointed and an old chapel in Osborne Street was purchased in 1841.

It was on May 9, 1954, that the present church, with its now familiar separate bell tower, was consecrated by the Bishop of Copenhagen.

Around the corner we find Porter Street Housing.

Hull was the most severely damaged British city or town during the Second World War, with 95 percent of houses damaged. It was under air raid alert for one thousand hours. Hull was the target of the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid on Britain.

Of a population of approximately three hundred and twenty thousand at the beginning of the war, approximately one hundred and fifty two thousand were made homeless as a result of bomb destruction or damage. 

Overall almost one thousand two hundred people were killed and three thousand injured by air raids.

Despite the damage the port continued to function throughout the war.

The earliest housing was built just after World War II, starting with what is known locally as Australia Houses

A circular five storey housing block off Porter and Adelaide Streets, with a communal garden in the middle. These flats consist of deck access flats and some traditional style Art Deco tenements. Some are three bedroom, and have been refurbished over the years.

UK Housing

Porter Street – three six-storey blocks containing seventy dwellings of 1954

Contractor J Mather

New Michael Street and Melville Street aka Upper Union Street one hundred and eight dwellings in three nine-storey blocks of 1958

Contractor Truscon

The designer behind Hull’s tower blocks was Andrew Rankine RIBA, who from 1939 remained City Architect until his retirement in 1961.

Just around the corner:

Over the last three years both companies have worked on undertaking the complex development of an off-site constructed, low carbon, Code 5 housing product. Working with Hodson Architects on the design the project will provide 3-bed family houses on the Thornton Estate in Hull. The scheme will increase provision of suitably sized accommodation in the area for families.

The project will see Premier Interlink manufacture the steel framed modules at the factory in Brandesburton East Yorkshire starting this March. The five houses are to be prefabricated off-site, with each house comprising of four separate units which are then assembled on site. This offers the benefit of reducing construction time, improving efficiency, reducing material wastage and offering an improved thermal envelope.

Premier Modular

The Goodwin Trust, a brilliant and pioneering community group, decided the new version of pre-fab, or ‘modular’ housing, was exactly what was needed to provide affordable housing for the people it also cares for in so many other different ways.

Locality

Onward to Holy Apostles Church now home to Hull Truck and renamed Thornton Village Hall.

Architects: Ferrey and Mennim

Back toward the station and Hammonds of Hull/House of Fraser – soon to be a food court, artisan everything outlet.

Built in 1952 on Paragon Square to designs by T. P. Bennett, with extensions added in 1954 and 1957. Within a couple of years the business had grown again by opening its own hairdressing salon, and in 1960 added a new warehouse to accommodate their furniture workshops and stock rooms. This itself was extended within four years, while a fourth floor was added to the main store.

On the right a civic building Festival House of 1951.

Architect: John Brandon-Jones.

Apprenticed to Lutyens‘ assistant Oswald Milne and later working with Charles Cowles-Voysey

With his good friend, John Betjeman, he helped found the Victorian Society in 1958.

On 1st May 1951, the foundation stone of Festival House was laid, to commemorate the first permanent building to be built in the city centre since the 1941 Blitz. Placed under the stone was a time capsule containing coins, stamps, a Festival of Britain programme, a copy of that day’s Hull Daily Mail, and a booklet about the city. Festival House was owned by Hull Corporation on behalf of the people of Hull.

Before us Alan Boyson’s Three Ships – now listed and set for preservation.

The fate of the attached former CO-OP/BHS is less secure.

Architect: Philip Andrew

Onward to the Queens Gardens the almost filled in former Queens Dock – forever fourteen feet below sea level.

We encounter Tonkin Liu’s Solar Gate – a sundial that uses solar alignment to mark significant times and dates in Hull. The super-light innovative two-shell structure is place-specific, responding to pivotal historic events and to the cultural context of its location in Hull’s Queens Gardens adjacent to the ancient site of Beverley Gate.

Carved stone panels Kenneth Carter 1960 – Ken’s art career began as an inspiring teacher, first at his alma mater, Hull College of Art, and later as principal lecturer at Exeter College of Art.

A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, by Robert Adams, described by Herbert Read as belonging to: 

The iconography of despair. Here are images of flight, of ragged claws, scuttling across floors of silent seas, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear.

And behind we glimpse Frederick Gibberd’s fine Technical College.

Adorned by the William Mitchell relief.

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

Nearby Knight and Lea has been listed

The Knight & Lee building, which is located between two conservation areas on a prominent corner of Palmerston Road and Clarendon Road in Southsea, Portsmouth, was designed by Cotton, Ballard and Blow.

C20

Notable surviving original interior features include spiral staircases with terrazzo flooring in the northwestern and southwestern corner customer entrance vestibules.

A little Stymie Bold Italic aka Profil for your delectation along with a delightful low concrete fence.

A ghostly sign.

The Wheelbarrow where we drank, currently home to Joe and his pizzas.

The former Duchess of Fife in Castle Road long gone Long’s pub

Long & Co Ltd Southsea Brewery

Founded by William Tollervey 1814 and was acquired by Samuel Long in 1839. Registered in March 1924. 

Acquired by Brickwoods Ltd 1933 when brewing ceased.

The Barley Mow my favourite local where we would take a drink later.

Later.

The evening was enlivened by the arrival of a drunken wedding party the bride all in white, veil askew.

The besuited groom three sheets to the wind, mayhem ensued, we departed.

The Grade II Listed India Arms – North part 1902 by AE Cogswell; south part formerly Fishmonger and Game shop 1900, which formed the extension to the public house c1980.

Once part of the long gone Gales Brewery estate.

Founded 1847 when Richard Gale acquired the Ship & Bell home brew house.

Registered in April 1888 with 80 public houses. 

Acquired by Fuller, Smith & Turner Ltd in 2005 with 111 houses and closed.

Now we is at the Borough Arms and other favourite – purveyors of strong rough cider.

Built in 1899 architect AE Cogswell as the Old Vic now listed but no longer a pub

Along with the adjacent Wiltshire Lamb which since the 1980s this pub has had a variety of names including, Drummond’s, Tut ‘n’ Shive, Monty’s and now Hampshire Boulevard, usually shortened to HB.

The Norrish Central Library: city architect Ken Norrish 1976 – is all that remains this Brutal part of Portsmouth.

It faces the stylish new Civic Centre: Teggin & Taylor 1976 – a piazza completed by the adjacent Guildhall.

Alas no more:

The Tricorn Centre was a shopping, nightclub and car park complex, it was designed in the Brutalist style by Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon and took its name from the site’s shape which from the air resembled a tricorn hat.

Constructed in the mid-1960s, it was demolished in 2004.

Next we are by the former Portsmouth Polytechnic Fine Art block in Lion Terrace.

The ground floor corner housed the print room where I learnt my craft under the tutelage of Ian Hunter who we hooked up with for a pint and a chat.

Thanks ever so Ian for everything.

The happy days came to an end when the department was acrimoniously closed during a Hampshire shuffle.

We also cycled out to Langstone Harbour in search of the Arundel Canal lock gates, where Tim had languidly drawn away the hours, too many summers long ago.

After some circuitous searching we finally found them.

We ended a long day in the Barley Mow sharing yet another pint, one of many in our almost fifty year friendship.

Southampton to Portsmouth

We arrived safely by train from Stockport at Southampton Central.

Following lengthy consideration we headed off on our bikes.

Whilst halting to review our progress, I realised that I had lost the map, a map vital to our further progress.

Returning to the station I found it nestled against the kerb.

Further assessment of our onward journey resulted in yet another retracing of steps.

In the shadow of Southampton Station dwarfed by Norwich House.

Resolute, we confront the fact that we are unsure of the route and following close scrutiny of the map, our environs and the surrounding signage, we proceed eastward towards our destination.

Wyndham Court – architects Lyons Israel Ellis, E.D. Lyons being the partner in charge along with Frank Linden and Aubrey Hume.

Leaving the city and heading along the Weston Shore – Southampton Water.

To our right several Seaside Moderne shelters

Tim feasts on a Mint Club biscuit.

To our left are the tower blocks of Weston Farm Foreshore – L. Berger City Architect 1963

Seen here in 1985 – Tower Block.

In the distance Canberra Towers Ryder and Yates 1967

Residents living on the second floor of 24-floor block Canberra Towers, on Kingsclere Avenue in Weston, were told to evacuate as flames erupted inside a kitchen.

The Daily Echo spoke to the residents of the affected flat, who said the cat knocked paper that was on top of the microwave, which then fell onto the toaster.

Tracey Long said:

I’ve got two cats, and Sponge was the one who knocked the paper.

He knocked paper off the microwave and into the toaster, it was quite scary.

I lost him in the flat but now I’ve found him again.

Daily Echo

Arriving just in time to be too late, next thing you know we’re bobbing along on the Hamble Warsash Ferry.

The obliging ferry folk having taken us across the estuary, despite our tardiness.

The village and the River featured in the 1980s BBC television series Howards’ Way.

Sadly little evidence of the successful TV show remains, however happily Henry VIII’s Dock and an Iron Age Fort have prevailed.

Onward to Gosport where we happen upon a diminutive yet perfectly formed Bus Station.

Originally built in the 1970s, the bus station was described in 2012 as knackered by the council chief executive at the time, Ian Lycett, and an investment plan was drawn up.

Talk of redevelopment then resurfaced in 2015, before the site was put on the market in 2016.

The News

Keith Carter, retiring owner of Keith’s Heel Bar in Gosport Precinct, has described the bus station as a missed opportunity.

The nearby Harbour and Seaward Towers have faired a little better, newly clad and their tiled murals intact.

While working for George Wimpey and Co. Ltd, and together with J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council, Kenneth Barden was responsible for tiled murals on Seaward Tower and Harbour Tower, two sixteen-storey tower blocks built in 1963 on the Esplanade in Gosport. 

They really are something they really are.

And so following a ride on the Gosport Ferry we arrive at Portsmouth Harbour.

The land where British Rail signage refuses to die!

I have passed this way before on a Bournemouth to Pompey trip and both Tim and I were students at the Poly here in the 70s – more of which later.

Droylsden Library

Built in 1937 – very much in the civic style of the day, an inter-war classical moderne utilitarian low-rise in brick, steel, stone and concrete.

A three level, level headed essay in resolute local pride, when Droyslden was an independent UDC, prior to the creation of Tameside.

Furnished in the finest manner.

Computerised and digitised – the first library in Tameside to go live.

Home to local art displays and reading corners.

Droylsden Library Carnival entry – first prize winner in its category.

Closed on March 17th it now faces demolition.

Archive photos Tameside Image Archive

The rising cost of repairs, combined with ‘a desire to progress’ with the regeneration of Droylsden town centre and the inaccessibility of the library’s T shape, three-floor configuration means that a ‘solution for the future of the library’ is now needed, according to the town hall.

Manchester Evening News

Of note are its curved cantilevered concrete balconies, complete with attractive steel balustrades.

Along with its carved relief above the door.

Decorative grille.

Commemorative Communist plaque

Drainpipes

Architectural Type.

And handrail.

I sure will miss the Library – I have walked cycled and bused by for over fifty years.

You are to be replaced by housing and relocated to the new development next door.

Belle Vue Dogs – Manchester

The stadium opened on July 24th 1926 – 7.30 prompt.

In 1925, Charles A. Munn, an American businessman, made a deal with Smith and Sawyer for the rights to promote the greyhound racing in Britain.

Smith and Sawyer met Brigadier-General Alfred Critchley, who in turn introduced them to Sir William Gentle JP. Between them they raised £22,000 and formed the Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. When deciding where to situate their new stadium, Manchester was considered to be the ideal place because of its sporting and gambling links. Close to the city centre, the consortium erected the first custom-built greyhound stadium and called it Belle Vue. The name of the stadium came from the nearby Belle Vue Zoological Gardens that had been built in 1836 and the land on which the stadium was to stand had been an area of farmland known as Higher Catsknowl and Lower Catsknowl.

By June 1927, the stadium was attracting almost 70,000 visitors a week.

1958

In October 2019 GRA Acquisition sold the lease to the Arena Racing Company and just two months later on 19 December housing planning permission was passed resulting in a probable closure in 2020. 

The imminent closure came following an announcement on 1 August 2020, with the last race being run on 6 June, won by Rockmount Buster – trained by Gary Griffiths.

Wikipedia

Going to the dogs was an institution for many, whole families enjoying the spectacle, possibly having a bet, bite and a pint.

Time changes everything social habits, views on animal welfare and gambling.

Diners enjoying their meal at Belle Vue Greyhound stadium while punters line trails outside waiting for the next race, 23rd September 1976.

The hare no longer courses electronically around the oval track, the traps no longer flap and the Tote has taken the last of your change, for the very last time.

Drink up and go home.

The new £30,000 stand that has just been completed 29th April 1960.
The track’s Assistant General Manager Colin Delaney with the plans for the new stadium complex. 1989.

Speedway was first held at the stadium during 1928 but was not held again until 1 April 1988, when the Belle Vue Aces returned to the stadium. The team departed Kirkmanshulme Lane at the end of the 2015 season, prior to moving to the new National Speedway Stadium for the 2016 campaign.

The shale speedway track was 285 metres in length.

I was a regular of a Monday evening cheering on The Aces.

When I cycled by in 2015 the stadium was already looking tired – the dramatic concrete cantilevered gull-wing turnstiles a neglected storage area.

Last week I had to dodge behind the hoardings to take some snaps.
The site is secured and demolition imminent.
The stadium will soon be gone – as a footnote I have at home a 50s sign, appropriated on a work’s night out and later gifted to me by my dear departed pal – Dave Ballans.

I’ll always treasure the perspex shark’s fin, Dave’s memory and going to the dogs.

So what of the future?

Belle Vue Place – the name lingers on long after the fun has gone.

Countryside are proud to showcase our stunning collection of 114 new homes at Belle Vue Place, featuring a choice of stunning 3 & 4 bedroom homes all designed and finished to the highest standard.

And very handy for the speedway just up the road on Kirky Lane!

Stockport Bus Station 2021

Your days are numbered, work has begun at the temporary site on Heaton Lane.

You are to be demolished, no more in, no more out.

I have tracked your history and slow decline.

You are to become a transport interchange.

So here’s a record of your lost chippy, closed lavatories, control centre, relocated information office, slowly ticking clock, soon to tick no longer.

Say hello and wave goodbye to RS McColl’s kiosk.

So so long my draughty, cold, deserted old pal.

Poundland née BHS – Stockport

Stockport council bought the building in 2019 following the collapse of BHS three years earlier.

The report says the store is now in a poor condition, looks ‘dated and tired’ and ‘contributes to negative perceptions’ of Merseway.

MEN

You were conceived as an integral part of the Merseyway development, which on its inception, was held in the highest regard.

Innovative architecture with confidence, integrity and a clear sense of purpose.

The failure of BHS was a national disgrace, venal management, asset stripping, avaricious, grasping rodents ruled the day.

Dominic Chappell, who had no previous retail experience, bought the high street chain from the billionaire Sir Philip Green for £1 in March 2015. The company collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs 13 months later, leaving a pension deficit of about £571m.

Guardian

A sad end for a company with a long history and presence on the high street.

With an architectural heritage to match:

BHS’s chief architect at this time was G. W. Clarke, who generally worked alongside W. S. Atkins & Partners, as consulting engineers. The stores – like Woolworth’s buildings – were composite structures, with steel frames and concrete floors. Clarke sometimes appointed local architects.

At first, like C&A, BHS retained the narrow vertical window bays and margin-light glazing that had characterised high street façades in the 1930s, but by the end of the 1950s Clarke had embraced a modified form of curtain-walling.

This architectural approach became firmly associated with BHS, with framed curtain wall panels – like giant TV screens – dominating the frontages of many stores.

Building Our Past

Of note are the Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins concrete panels on the Deanery Row elevation.

There have been moves to have the work listed, without success.

Of late the store has been home to Poundland – though time has now been called.

Poundland’s retailing concept is extremely simple: a range of more than three thousand – representing amazing value for money.

Our pilot store opened in the Octagon Centre, Burton-upon-Trent, in December of 1990, followed by new stores in High Street, Meadowhall and other quality trading locations.  Shoppers loved the concept and so did fellow retailers and landlords.  The stores proved to be a huge success. Meadowhall’s success was repeated by further stores opening by the end of the year.

The store has been a success even during COVID restrictions, let us hope that the planned return goes ahead.

So here is my record of the building as is, a tad tired, but in its day a simple and authoritative amalgam of volumes and materials.

Mixing variegated grades of concrete, tiling, mosaic, brick, steel and glass.

Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.

In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.

There were grander unrealised plans.

Including an aerial asylum.

The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.

After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.

The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!

Drawings are drawn, models are modelled.

1965 Architects: Covell Matthews + Partners

Work is commenced, post haste.

Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.

A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.

Nearly done.

All we need now are tenants.

Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.

The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.

The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.

The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.

The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.

It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.

Manchester Evening News

And of course my good friend Mr Phil Griffin.

Just around the corner the Portland Bars.

Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.

MDMA

Oh and not forgetting the Golden Egg.

Bata Shoes and a Wimpy Bar.

“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.

Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.

Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.

However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.

Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.

So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.

While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.

Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.

Black and white archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Ashton under Lyne Interchange

We have already said goodbye to all the previous incarnations.

And eagerly awaited the rebirth.

This time as an interchange, where bus, tram and train converge – the most modern of modern ideas.

The brand-new Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange is now open, providing passengers with much-improved facilities and a modern, accessible gateway to the town. 

The Interchange supports the economic growth of the town and helps people to get to and from their places of work as well as Ashton’s great shops, markets, restaurants and bars in a modern, safe and welcoming environment.

The Interchange has been developed by Transport for Greater Manchester in partnership with Tameside Council and funded with support from central government’s Local Growth Deal programme.

The building contractor was VINCI Construction UK. 

Architects were Austin Smith Lord

I managed to get there, just before I wasn’t supposed to get there.

So goodbye to all this:

No more exposed pedestrian crossings, draughty shelters orange Ms, and analogue information boards.

It’s an integrated, enclosed, digitally connected, well-lit, secure unit.

I found it to be light, bright and well-used; a fine mix of glass, steel, brick, concrete and timber.

Spacious, commodious and clearly signed.

Linked to the shopping precinct.

It’s almost finished – I hope that everyone is happy?

They even found Lottery Heritage monies to fund public art.

The work of Michael Condron and a host of local collaborators.

The Clean Scene – Denton

75 Manchester Rd Denton Manchester M34 2AF

Not unusually, whilst on my way somewhere else, quite by chance, I came upon The Clean Scene.

Sadly soon to be CLOSSING DOWN.

Pleas such as: Are you open Christmas Eve I need the dryers

– will from hereon in remained unanswered.

Having almost abandoned the wet and dry world of the laundrette, following the publication of the era-defining, runaway success of my eight laundrettes, I almost walked on by.

For just one brief moment I hesitated, then walked right on in.

Three Tuns – Coventry

At the heart of the Precinct – I found the former Three Tuns pub stood standing – still.

Subsequently imaginatively reimagined as Roosters.

The exterior – and interior for that matter, adorned with the decorative concrete work of William Mitchell.

The area also being blessed with his cast panels and modular tower block fascia.

The precinct is currently, yet again, being considered for constructive rehabilitation, as part of the city’s City of Culture concatenations.

The threat to Modernism is no new thing, and the hurried scrabble for progress, ever so often erases the recent history of that progress.

I popped in way back in 2016, and Mr and Ms Rooster were more than happy, if not a tad perplexed, to have me snap around their chicken shack.

Sufficiently satiated, why not take a stroll around town, whilst it’s still there.

Take in the Cathedral – soon to be become the Kwik-Fit National Museum of Tyre Fitting.

The Indoor Market, Upper Precinct and Co-op

Above the current market office is an impressive painted mural by art students from Dresden commissioned especially for the market in the 1950s in a Socialist Realist manner, depicting farming and industrial scenes. 

The Gordon Cullen tiles have been renovated and re-sited within the exit corridor.

Still in clear view the stone relief work of John Skelton November 1956. Three of the eight column have incised Hornston stone works, depicting the activities of the CWS.

Get yourself there pronto – current restrictions considered of course.

You just might be in time to see the Station.

Coventry forever changes.

Pedestrian In A Car Park

One of the great glories of cinema is that it has the power to take the mundane and make it magical. To most of us, car parks signify a world of pain, where fearsome red-and-white crash barriers dictate our fate and where finding a space is often like finding meaning in the collective works of Martin Lawrence. To others, they meant lost Saturday afternoons spent waiting for your mum to finally come out of Woolworths so you could rush home to catch Terrahawks.

Either way, car parks are grey and dull. In the movies, however, they are fantastic places, filled with high-level espionage, and high-octane chases. 

According to The Guardian

I beg to differ, the cinema and TV has helped to define our perception and misconception of the car park.

The modern day pedestrian may reclaim, redefine and realise, that far from mundane each actual exemplar is different, in so many ways. The time of day, weather, light, usage, abusage, condition, personal demeanour and mood all shape our experience of this particular, modern urban space.

To walk the wide open spaces of the upper tier, almost touching the sky.

Is a far cry from the constrained space of the lower levels.

To walk the ramps with a degree of trepidation, visceral and fun.

This is an inversion of the car-centric culture, walking the concrete kingdom with a carbon-free footprint.

I was inspired by a recent viewing of All The Presidents Men to revisit my local multi-storey on Heaton Lane Stockport.

Cinematographer Gordon Hugh Willis Jr constructs a shadow world where informer and informed meet to exchange deep secrets, ever watchful, moving in and out of artificial light, tense and alert.

Look over your shoulder- there’s nobody there, and they’re watching you.

But they have been here.

To party.

To tag.

To live.

Pay here, your time is time limited, your presence measured.

Let’s explore this demimonde together, wet underfoot, lit laterally by limited daylight, walking through the interspersed pools of glacial artificial glow.

Time’s up, check out and move on – tomorrow is another day, another car park; in a different town.

Cinema and car parks wedded forever in the collective popular cultural unconscious.

Tony’s Barbers – Manchester

913 Stockport Rd Levenshulme Manchester M19 3PG 

I passed by almost every day, cycling back and to, to work.

One day I stopped, popped in, asked to chat and snap – Tony obliged.

Cypriot George in the city centre had already give me salon time.

These photographs were taken in March 2104 – Tony’s still there, cutting hair.

Since 1971, presiding over his empire of mainly masculine ephemera, rival football clubs fight it out for space on the crowded walls. Motorcycles race around the dado rail, stood stock still, gathering another dusting of dust. A slow accretion of memories and memorabilia, tracing a lengthy short back and sides life, of short back and sides, as stylists’ style snaps come in and out of style and back again.

Let’s take a look.