Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe January 1st 1918 December 30th 2006
This time we are taking a peek around the back.
Having passed by on the top deck deck of the 42 on my way home to Stockport, I espied an extension of the sculpture to the rear of the tower.
I vowed to return!
Fighting through extraction units, wheelie bins, hoppers, plus a disused and disabused vacuum cleaner, I found myself in the narrow service area, where I did my best to get back from the wall, hard against the chain link fence.
The things you do.
For some much needed light relief, air and open space I revisited the front face of the tower.
Something of an iconic, totemic, pin-up poster boy/girl for the Modernists, I bumped into you one rainy day, on the way from here to there. Initially attracted by an unexpectedly bright slab of primrose yellow and white.
Golden Lane was developed in the early 1950s to create local housing for essential workers in the City of London, following the devastation of the Blitz. At the time only around 500 people actually lived in the City of London so the estate was deliberately designed with small units to house single people and couples comprised of the broad social and professional mix needed to support the local community. 554 units were built of which 359 were studios and one bedroomed flats; the remainder were maisonettes and early tenants included caretakers, clergymen, doctors, police offices, cleaners and secretaries. Today there are approximately 1,500 people living on the estate in 559 flats and maisonettes.
Golden Lane was commissioned from architects Chamberlin, Powell and Bon by the City of London Corporation (which still manages it) and built on bombed sites previously occupied by small businesses and industries. Some of the basement areas of the former buildings were retained as sunken areas of landscaping. Building took place over a 10-year period between 1952 and 1962 when Crescent House on Goswell Road was completed. Golden Lane was listed Grade II in 1997 (Crescent House is Grade II*). When built, Great Arthur House was the tallest residential building in London and its Le Corbusier inspired design included a resident’s roof garden. The estate also included a leisure centre with a swimming pool and tennis courts. It is now run by a private operator and is open to both residents and the general public.
I stuck around too take a look, struck by the variety of scale, detail and space within a relatively tight integrated development. Mature greenery abounds along with a delightful water feature.
It would appear that following the 70s right to buy the estate is a 50/50 mix of social and private ownership, relatively trouble free and well maintained, something of an anomaly in our go-ahead, left behind land.
Why is there just one remaining tower block dancing unclad around Ancoats?
Let’s go back in time and see if we can find out – it seems that back in 1807 there wasn’t a Woodward Street to be found, the ever expanding industrial might of Manchester had not yet reached these particular green fields of Ancoats.
By 1824 it shows a fresh face to the world christened Woodworth Street, sparsely dotted with new development.
Almost fully formed in 1836 and renamed as Woodward Street, the area begins to accumulate the familiar domestic and industrial clutter of a burgeoning Victorian City.
By 1860 the street is fully formed and open for business.
Workers finding homes in austere and functional brick back to backs, typical of the period’s housing.
Fast forward to the early Sixties and the street is showing signs of age – the century old industries are already in decline, steady jobs, mills and factories gone west and east, well-worn housing looking terminally tired and in need of a little care and attention.
But wait what’s this coming around the bend?
The first wave of urban regeneration, post war optimism incarnate, a bright new shiny future – out with the old and in with the new, as Municipal Modernism stamps its big broad architectural feet all over Woodward Street.
Our story is far from over, this optimism is short-lived the homes, houses and industry are swept away yet again, replaced with two story modern terraced housing and an all too obvious absence of regular employment – yet the tower blocks prevailed.
Former streets were over written and remain as poignant vestigial marks in the landscape.
Though their future was built on more than somewhat shifting and uncertain sands.
A tower block has been left lying empty for a whopping 18 years. The 13-storey building at Saltford Court in Ancoats has been unoccupied since Manchester council closed it in the 1990s. It was bought by top developers Urban Splash six years ago but residents have now hit out about it still being empty. Neighbours of Saltford Court say it has become an ‘eyesore’ and magnet for vermin since the firm bought it.
A large group of blocks stood tinned up and unloved, yet owned, for a number of years, victims one supposes of land-bankers, developers speculating on an even better return, as the warm waves of gentrification washed slowly over them, from nearby New Islington.
All but one was refurbished, clad and re-let.
Woodward Court was spared – set aside for the homeless.
A period piece surrounded by Post Modern and Revivalist pretenders.
High Street Pendleton 1930s – the cast of Love on the Dole walk down High Street Pendleton, passing Hill’s Pawnbroker, author Walter Greenwood is ninth from the right.
This was a dense area of back to back terraces adjacent to pubs, schools, churches, mills, docks and cattle markets. Communities formed from shared patterns of employment, education, leisure and worship.
These communities survived into the 1960s and the coming of slum clearance, followed by an intense period of rebuilding in the modern manner.
Patterns of employment, economic boom and bust, the exponential expansion in higher education, all contribute to the change in character of the area, along with slow and sudden demise in social housing.
2014 and the area begins to be reshaped yet again – this time by former resident Mr Peter Hook, who grew up in the area, the low slung former New Order bass meister described it in a book as – rotten and horrible, like a concrete wasteland
The Orchards tower block, the first of three, is removed piece by piece, each of the 14-storey blocks took around six weeks to be demolished.
The citizens of High Street Estate await the ‘dozers with apprehension and a sense of grim inevitability.
Clearance begins with the promise of new homes, tenants and homeowners are relocated, houses are tinned up or demolished wholesale. – a few remain in situ dissatisfied and afraid.
Altogether, 885 houses in Pendleton are being bulldozed and, to date, 584 have already been demolished, including houses on Athole Street and Amersham Street. Over the Pendleton Together project’s £650million thirty year life, only around one third of new houses being built will be affordable.
Meanwhile, after years of anguish and uncertainty, Fitzwarren Court and Rosehill Close, previously down for demolition, are being saved. Salix Homes will now bring flats in Fitzwarren Court and houses in its ownership on Rosehill Close up to the Decent Homes Standard.
So welcome to Limboland – as financial arrangements shift, shimmy and evaporate – government policy, local authority pragmatists, private partnerships and funding perform a merry dance of expediency, around an ever diminishing circle of demolition, development, stasis and deceit.