Back to Bideford Drive – Baguley

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Here we are again – having previously travelled back to the inception of the estate in the 1970s.

Structurally little has changed, politically and economically things have shifted.

Tectonically:

The Conservative Party had committed itself to introducing a Right to Buy before Margaret Thatcher became Party leader. After the election of May 1979 a new Conservative government drafted legislation to provide a Right to Buy but, because this would not become law until October 1980, also revised the general consent to enable sales with higher discounts matching those proposed in the new legislation. The numbers of sales completed under this general consent exceeded previous levels. Between 1952 and 1980 over 370,000 public sector dwellings were sold in England and Wales. Almost a third of these were in 1979 and 1980 and it is evident that higher discounts generated and would have continued to generate higher sales without the Right to Buy being in place. 200,000 council houses were sold to their tenants in 1982, and by 1987, more than 1,000,000 council houses in Britain had been sold to their tenants.

The Right to Buy: History and Prospect

The post war policy of building and renting local authority housing was swamped by the phrase property owning democracy, on which the popular conservatism of the 20th century rested, and with it a vision of the good society, was coined by the Scottish Unionist Noel Skelton in a quartet of articles for the Spectator entitled Constructive Conservatism, written in the spring of 1923. The appeal of Popular Capitalism proved compelling, however the periods of de-industrialisation, and the subsequent lull in the building of new affordable homes, has created a myriad of obstacles for those simply seeking somewhere to live and work.

The estate illustrates this historic shift, replete with homeowners decorative amendments and addenda, managing agents and trusts and an end to the architectural integrity of the development.

One could become all Ian Nairn about this, swathed in Outrage.

I myself feel that despite the cosmetic surgery, this remains a homely enclave, residents going about their business in a relatively orderly and happy manner.

Take a look:

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Bideford Drive – Baguley

Baguley is derived from the Old English words Bagca, badger, and Leah, wood.

Historically in Cheshire, Baguley is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, it was incorporated into Manchester in 1931.

It has a Brook though babble heard I none, it had a Station now long gone.

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EPSON scanner image

I idled by on my bike to snap the homes around Bideford Drive, which I dutifully did. My curiosity suitably aroused I pursued the Manchester Local Image Archive, in search of clues. Planned in 1969 complete in 1971 main contractor Laing architects the City Office.

A rich mix of scale and typology, two differentiated blocks, tower and slab, short rows of compact terraces, open spaces, shops, car parking and limited planting. The interlocking geometries, paths and walkways make it an intriguing and entertaining estate, full of small surprises and ideas – these pictures are of 1971.

There is a sharply attenuated and clean feel in the air, optimism on a largely overcast day, a totality – planned integration – homes and architecture of distinction.

 

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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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Seven Sisters – Return to Rochdale

I’ve passed this way before, they’re hard to miss, seven substantial tower blocks towering over the town on College Bank.

But what goes up, may come down.

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Construction in 1963

Demolition in 2017 is one suggestion – following years of poor maintenance, problems of heating and ingress, plus a whole host of other reasons outlined here.

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The housing trust in consultation with residents, have produced a tentative plan.

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This may or may not include the demolition of one or more blocks. On the day of my visit, the tenants I spoke with understood that the blocks faced an uncertain future, and were rightly concerned by the rumours and conjecture. The majority would prefer to stay put, having lived there for several years, raising families and building  homes.

Whatever the outcome I hope that the wishes of the residents are not overwhelmed by political expedience, or the will of the developer.

Take a look for yourself.

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Balfron Tower London

The Balfron Tower Conservation Area was designated in October 1998 around the two residential blocks designed by Ernö Goldfinger for the London County Council in the 1960s. The Conservation Area boundary protects the listed Balfron Tower and Carradale House, and other buildings in the ‘Brownfield Estate’, including Glenkerry House, a community centre, shops and associated low-rise housing development.

The 27-storey Balfron Tower is Goldfinger’s first public housing project, and a precursor to his better known Trellick Tower in North Kensington. The neighbouring Carradale House and Glenkerry House sit within the landscaped areas developed at the same time. The Brownfield Estate, also known as the East India Estate, is now recognised as a fine example of planned 1960s social housing. Considered to be exemplary examples of the post-war housing schemes, Balfron Tower and Carradale House were listed in 1998 for their cultural & architectural merit.

This was my first visit, to a key building in the short history of modernist post war housing, currently something of a sleeping giant, awaiting Prince Charming’s kiss.

What will it awake to?

Tower Hamlets are mid consultation, as evidenced in this here document.

On an overcast and ever darkening afternoon, the rain cutting in on a chill wind, set against a slate grey sky, its surfaces and volumes were ever so slightly forlorn.

There is much to be done by way of regeneration, with the attendant issues of heritage, funding, gentrification and inevitably who lives where and why?

Everything you may care to almost know is here.

I walked around the area and took these pictures.

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Rochdale – Seven Sisters Flats

Arriving in Rochdale in search of something else entirely, it was impossible to ignore seven prominent, as yet unclad tower blocks, high upon a hill. I was informed by a local resident that they were known locally as the Seven Sisters, though variously identified as Falinge B, College Bank, and Holland Street flats.

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The area was formerly home to Victorian workers’ dwellings, known as The Paddock – the post-war policy of slum clearance saw them swept away, in readiness for municipal modernity.

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Photographs Rochdale Image Archives

Hey presto 1963 and there appears four 21 storey blocks containing 476 dwellings; three 17 storey blocks containing 286 dwellings.

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Photograph Mancunian 101

Building contractors were Wimpey and the flats were designed by Rochdale ’s Borough Surveyor, Mr W H G Mercer and Mr E V Collins who worked with George Wimpey and Company’s chief architect D. Broadbent.

Many thanks to the Tower Block project for the facts.

On Friday October 1 1965 the Minister of Housing and Local Government, Richard Crossman, officially opened the first of the College Bank flats – Underwood.

So go take a look ride the rail or tram, get on your bike, walk a while and abide, take a frenzied dance around with the Seven Sisters.

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Margate – Tidal Pools

Margate a town of two pools.

The first tucked in by the prom, a moments walk from the station and overlooked by the imposing Arlington House and the shimmer of the Turner Contemporary

– alas no longer the domain of the wild swimmer.

A large delicious expanse of seawater, now sadly designated as a boating pond.

I was drawn magnetically to this elemental artifice, where untamed waters meet a controlled concrete geometry, waves temptingly lapping the walls.

Would that it could be open again to the town’s swimmers.

I am latterly reliably informed, that the pool is well used by local aquarists, despite the Local Authority’s prohibitions and ministrations – bravo!

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The second at Walpole Bay still open to the swimmer and what’s more it’s listed.

Walpole Bay Tidal Pool, one of two tidal pools designed by Margate’s borough engineer in 1937, constructed in concrete blocks reinforced by reused iron tram rails, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Structural engineering interest: an ambitious project because of its scale, the weight of each concrete block, and that work needing to be carried out day and night because of the tides; * Scale and design: impressive in scale and shape, occupying 4 acres and three sides of a rectangle, the sides 450 feet long diminishing towards the seaward end which was 300 feet long; * Social historical interest: provided an improvement to sea bathing at the period of the greatest popularity of the English seaside; * Degree of intactness: intact apart from the loss of the two diving boards which do not often survive; * Group value: situated quite near the remains of the 1824-6 Clifton Baths (Grade II), an 1935 lift and the other 1937 tidal pool. 

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