Minerva Café – Doncaster

A Doncaster town centre cafe, once used by former pop star Louis Tomlinson to film a pop video, has closed after trading for more nearly 50 years near the market. The Minerva Cafe has closed down after trading sine the 1970s offering breakfasts and lunches to shoppers.

The shutters are now down on the shop, which has not now been used for two weeks, say neighbouring businesses. Minerva was well known for its big breakfasts which often earned rave reviews on the internet. It also had a celebrity link, having been used by the former One Direction star Louis Tomlinson for the shooting of his Back to You video, last year. Doncaster Council town center bosses confirmed they understood the cafe had closed down, but did not know the reason. Long serving Doncaster market trader Nigel Berrysaid he had seen no sign of activity at the cafe for two weeks. He said: It has been here in the market for such a long time. It’s been there since I first started on the market in 1971. People have commented to me it feels like it has been there forever. 

“It is a shame to see it closed. It has been a bit of an institution round here.”

Doncaster Free Press

I came here on the 8th of February 2016, hungry but no alone – unaware of the Minerva’s popular cultural significance.

I just wanted a pie.

It came with chips peas and gravy – proper chips, proper tinned peas and an authentic plate pie pastry top and bottom, meaty minced meat filling.

My partner in crime had the full breakfast

We drank hot tea, chatted sporadically and ate the lot.

Table 16 aka table 22 – was more than satisfied.

The table was more than satisfactory a pale leatherette seated booth, with erratic homespun wood grain effects.

This was a place with hidden depths receding back from the entrance into deeper and deeper space.

And a proper regard for tea service etiquette – with no room for poor pouring stainless steel pragmatism.

But where are we now?

I returned on February 9th 2019 and the M was missing the Minerva was missing the shutters were down – ain’t nobody home.

No more pie, peas, chips and gravy no more full up upon full breakfasts.

No more Minerva, no more.

WH Smiths – Colwyn Bay

I have been here before.

I’ve been there too – Newton Powys home to the WH Smiths Museum

Now here I am in Colwyn Bay generally minding my own and everybody else’s business, when all of a sudden I noticed a cast iron glazed awning.

Proudly announcing the proprietors – sadly supported by a distressing modern addition – now I’m not one to decry and debunk the rising tide of modernity, I’m all in favour of unisex clothing and central heating.

But the unchecked encroachment of vacuous vinyl really is the limit.

Businesses displayed a degree of dignified permanence unknown to the current high street trader. So here it is writ larger than life in stained glass and Carter’s Tiles.

Loud and proud.

And as an addendum here are the delightful tiles from the Llandudno branch, snapped two years previously.

Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

Peveril Of The Peak – Manchester

To begin at the beginning or thereabouts, Sir Walter Scott publishes his longest novel Peveril of the Peak in 1823.

Julian Peveril, a Cavalier, is in love with Alice Bridgenorth, a Roundhead’s daughter, but both he and his father are accused of involvement with the Popish Plot of 1678.

Most of the story takes place in Derbyshire, London, and on the Isle of Man. The title refers to Peveril Castle in Castleton, Derbyshire.

Poster produced in 1924 for London Midland & Scottish Railway – artwork by Leonard Campbell Taylor who was born in 1874 in Oxford and went to the Ruskin School of Art.

The pub also shares its name with the London to Manchester stagecoach.

Which is all very well as the pub is largely known locals as The Pev – ably run since January 1971 by Nancy Swanick.

Nancy and son Maurice, who runs the cellar, also say they have shared the pub with a paranormal presence over the years.

Customers have seen pint glasses levitate off the bar and fall into the glass-wash, it’s like having our own ghostly helper!

The pub was Grade II listed in June 1988 – a fine tiled exterior and 1920’s interior refit largely untouched, it stands distinctly unattached to anything, decidedly somewhere betwixt and between Chepstow Street and Great Bridgwater Street.

Originally a Wilson’s house – the brewery lantern survives over the door.

I’ve taken a drink or two in here over the past thirty or so years, played pool and table football, watched the half time Hallé musicians swish in and out for a swifty.

A little island of green in a sea of grey.

Pop in for one if you’re passing

Ash Hotel – Stockport

232 Manchester Road Heaton Chapel Stockport SK4 1NN

So once there was a pleasure gardens, and then in 1901 a pub.

Wilson’s Brewery built The Ash Hotel, a grand boozer in a Jacobean manor manner, complete with bowling green and billiard room.

It lasted through to the 70’s and 90’s but gradually it became harder and harder to manage and fill a pub of such size and stature.

Closed – standing unloved and unused until it was finally converted into the Ash Tea Rooms in 2011.

Only to be closed again in May 2018.

Once ringing with the chink of glass on glass, songs and laughter it awaits its latest fate – conversion to flats.

One can only hope that much of its architectural detail will be preserved – particularly the architectural type fascia sign.

And the mosaic flooring.

Only time will tell – if you’re passing tip your hat take a look and celebrate a grand old building which somehow will prevail.

Central Retail Park – Great Ancoats Street Manchester

Way back when, when the city was a maverick mixed up maze of citizens, industry, pubs, shops and places of worship the world looked a lot like this.

Local Image Collection

However the process of clearance and redevelopment radically changed and reduced the population and appearance of Great Ancoats Street and its environs.

The back to backs aren’t coming back and their occupants shifted from pillar to post along with the businesses that served them. Following years of decline Manchester takes a long hard look at itself and decides to modernise.

In 1989 an out of town inner ring road shopping centre in the architectural style de jour is built – the anonymous industrial retail hangar appears.

2018 and the nexus of the city has shifted yet again – Ancoats is designated as the hippest place on earth and has no time for an outmoded shopping experience.

All these developers have a certain sensitivity towards this history of the area without neglecting modern tastes. 

So the Central Retail park awaits its fate.

There was to have been another retail complex.

Henderson Global Investors, on behalf of its flagships £1 billion Retail Warehouse Fund, has received detailed planning permission for a food store led regeneration at Central Retail Park, Manchester, investing £40 million in the scheme.

Though nothing lasts forever and the scheme came to nothing.

The latest proposal according to Place North West is for housing – with the attendant heated debate regarding affordable homes.

Of the 61 big residential developments granted planning permission by Manchester city council’s planning committee in 2016 and 2017, not one of the 14,667 planned flats or housesmet the government’s definition of affordable, being neither for social rent nor offered at 80% of the market rate.

Demolition of the former retail units would enable the development of the site by Manchester Life, the city’s joint venture with Abu Dhabi United Group. Previous site owner TH Real Estate, was unable to deliver the project, finally sold the Central Park site to the city council in November 2017.

The long awaited development of the site on Manchester’s inner ring road has edged closer, with site notices posted declaring that demolition is to start on 20 August.

As of last week the lone security guard at home in his brick cabin informs me that demolition has been delayed by the discovery of asbestos on the site.

Watch this forlorn windswept wet space.

Sheffield Streets

I had time to kill – in search of early Sunday morning visual thrills.

I took to the mean streets of Steeltown UK.

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.

Raymond Chandler 

It was 8am – low bright sun pierced the achingly empty space between the long high industrial buildings.

There was nobody to share the morning – yet the clearly audible kling and klang of work pervaded the air, along with the lingering aroma of engine oil and decay.

This is what I found:

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