Ellen Wilkinson Humanities Building – The University of Manchester

I don’t usually walk this way – so I walked this way.

I discovered the rear of building, a building formerly only known from the others side, when seen from Oxford Road.

Whilst making my way from The Gamecock to elsewhere, I serendipitously discovered the other other side.

The Humanities Building now named the Ellen Wilkinson Building.

This Building Design Partnership scheme pre-dates Wilson Womersley’s appointment as master planners for the Education Precinct but exists harmoniously with the later series of buildings. This is most likely due to the method of development before any ‘grand concept’. The incremental expansion of the University, following WWII, was largely dictated by the progress of compulsory purchase orders; this group was no exception. At the planning stages, the lack of a masterplan led to organising the wings of the buildings in an open, orthogonal arrangement. This would allow expansion in a number of directions, according to the next available site in ‘the dynamic situation’. The result was the creation of a small courtyard flanked by two five-storey blocks and a two-storey structure. All three buildings use the same pink-grey concrete. The plastic qualities of concrete were explored in both cladding and structural panels and the textural qualities exposed in the bush hammered columns, to reveal the Derbyshire gravel aggregate. The sculpted and moulded panels on the two-storey block and on the gable ends of the larger blocks were designed in collaboration with William Mitchell. The only other materials in the external envelope were the windows of variously clear and tinted glass. The window modules were set out against a basic geometry in three standard patterns and applied across the façade. This resulted in a clever interplay of vertical and horizontal expression. 

Mainstream Modern

Ellen Wilkinson was born into a poor though ambitious Manchester family and she embraced socialism at an early age. After graduating from the University of Manchester, she worked for a women’s suffrage organisation and later as a trade union officer. Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Wilkinson joined the British Communist Party, and preached revolutionary socialism while seeking constitutional routes to political power through the Labour Party. She was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, and supported the 1926 General Strike. In the 1929–31 Labour government, she served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the junior Health Minister. She made a connection with a young female member and activist Jennie Lee. Following her defeat at Middlesbrough in 1931, Wilkinson became a prolific journalist and writer, before returning to parliament as Jarrow’s MP in 1935. She was a strong advocate for the Republican government in the Spanish Civil War, and made several visits to the battle zones.

During the Second World War, Wilkinson served in Churchill’s wartime coalition as a junior minister, mainly at the Ministry of Home Security where she worked under Herbert Morrison. She supported Morrison’s attempts to replace Clement Attlee as the Labour Party’s leader; nevertheless, when he formed his postwar government, Attlee appointed Wilkinson as Minister of Education. By this time, her health was poor, a legacy of years of overwork. She saw her main task in office as the implementation of the wartime coalition’s 1944 Education Act, rather than the more radical introduction of comprehensive schools favoured by many in the Labour Party. Much of her energy was applied to organising the raising of the school-leaving age from 14 to 15. During the exceptionally cold weather of early 1947, she succumbed to a bronchial disease, and died after an overdose of medication, which the coroner at her inquest declared was accidental.

Wikipedia

So here we are now – a significant building, named for a significant figure.

I wandered around, pale painted rectangular reliefs abutting darker rectangular reliefs. Strict window grids at a variety of heights. Warmer rounder rounded reliefs to the east, contrasting with their orthogonal cousins. A surprising courtyard contains a diminutive but charming concrete sculpture and an almost hidden exterior spiral stairway.

Sometimes it pays to get almost lost.

Holy Cross Church – Gleadless Valley Sheffield

Spotswood Mount, Sheffield S14 1LG

Constructed between 1964 and 1965 and designed by the architects Braddock & Martin-Smith.

Completed in 1936 John Keble Church in Edgware was also designed by DF Martin Smith 1900-84.

Martin Smith later went into partnership with Henry Braddock and together designed St. Mary’s church in Crawley. 

Holy Cross is positioned in a spectacular position among the houses on the Rollestone hillside.

Holy Cross is a church for people of all ages and stages of life.

Apart from the warm welcome at Holy Cross, you will always find something that is relevant to your age and stage in life – however old you are and whatever walk of life you come from.

Built to serve the Gleadless Valley Estate perched high above the Sheffield city centre.

It has a canted front which is triangular in shape which has a large white cross at its apex.

The interior features full height stained glass windows of the Virgin Mary and St John by John Baker Ltd.

Born in 1916, John aka Jack studied at the Central School in London and worked under James Hogan at the Whitefriars stained-glass studios before joining Samuel Caldwell junior at Canterbury Cathedral in 1948 to help reinstate the medieval glass removed for safekeeping during the Second World War.

He subsequently authored English Stained Glass; the revised edition of this work, English Stained glass of the Medieval Period , which was to become one of the most popular soft back books on English medieval glass ever published.

Apart from his conservation skills, John was also an inspired teacher at Kingston College of Art. He produced windows for a number of churches, including eleven windows for the church of the Holy Name, Bow Common Lane, Mile End; two windows and a brick sculpture for the church of Little St Peter, Cricklewood; eighteen windows for St Anne’s church, East Wittering, Sussex; two large abstract windows for Broomfield Chapel, Abbots Langley; ten large concrete and glass windows for the new parish church, Gleadless Valley, Sheffield; and twenty-two glass windows for the Convent Chapel, St Michaels, Finchley. He also created a huge Jesse window for the church at Farnham Royal. The church was demolished in 2004, but the glass is now in storage, and some of the panes will be installed in the welcome are of the new church.

His favourite works were the windows he produced for Auckland Cathedral, New Zealand – as seen above.

John Baker, born Birmingham, 11 March 1916, died Hastings, 20 December 2007.

Vidimus

The concrete altar is set on a raised paved podium, complemented by a silver cross and distinctive Arts and Crafts style oak chairs.

The original seating seems to be no longer in use, replaced by a newer more comfortable alternative.

There is a large carved stone font.

The main body of the steeply pitched roof space is illuminated by slotted windows.

Many thanks to the key holders and parishioners at Holy Cross, our Sheffield guide Mick Nott and Claire Thornley at Eleven Design – for making our visit possible.

Thanks also to all those who turned up on Saturday to walk a very, very wet Gleadless Valley.

Central Library – Grimsby

This is Grimsby Central Library – a proud public building of real quality, reflecting the cautious optimism and fierce civic pride of the Sixties. Built to last, in the modern manner – gently monumental, softened by the easy grace of the restrained decoration and a refined palette of stone, glass and concrete.

By the Borough Architect – JM Milner ARIBA

This image was used as the Mayor’s Xmas card in 1969.

The bold exterior grid is enhanced by a honeycombed grille above the entrance, along with a mosaic depicting the town’s seal.

The mosaic is the work of Harold Gosney – who is also responsible for the Abbey Walk reliefs and the Guardians of Knowledge which adorn the south facing elevation of the library.

To the rear of the building is a modular relief.

Inside the entrance porch a commemorative plaque.

Once inside, what a pleasure it is tread upon this interstellar inset stone flooring.

Either side of the lobby display case there are two vertical tapestries.

Along with a further plaque commemorating the opening on the 3rd September 1968 – by the then local MP Anthony Crosland.

Crosland looked ahead to a time where “personal freedom, happiness and cultural endeavour; the cultivation of leisure, beauty, grace, gaiety and excitement… might be pursued.” After he was elected MP for Grimsby in 1959, he referred to the above passage in an early speech, insisting – to much laughter, cheering and applause from the audience, that “it is possible to achieve all these things in Grimsby, and especially at Blundell Park.”

May I take this opportunity to thank the ever so helpful library staff – for kindly granting me permission to photograph the main body of the library.

Many original fittings and fixtures are intact – particularly the distinctive vertical suspended lighting system and the steel and wood stairways.

The facilities were well used and lit by the expansive window space.

Let’s take another final look outside, and say a fond farewell to this fine building – go on treat yourself, take a trip to the East Coast and feast your eyes, heart and mind on this beauty.

Ta-ra Grimsby!

I’ll be back real soon.

Penrhyn Bay – Again And Again

Here we are again again.

Baby it happens when you’re close to me
My heart starts beating – hey a strong beat.
Oh I can’t leave you alone
Can’t leave you alone

I walk over the Little Orme and there you are so well behaved – trimmed topped and tailed polished window washed windswept so sub-urbane.

Nothing ever happens here or does it?

The highly popular singing duo Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth retired to a small bungalow in Penrhyn Bay.

It provided a location for an episode of  Hetty Wainthropp Investigates

Originally a small farming community, Penrhyn Bay came to rely heavily on the employment opportunities of the limestone quarry operating since the mid-19th century, and served by its own narrow gauge railway, but quarrying ceased in 1936.

However, Penrhyn Bay expanded rapidly in the 20th century to become a desirable suburb of Llandudno – my you’re a hot property.

Almost half a million pounds and counting as the ever mounting mountain of retiring and retired knock upon your over ornate uPVC doors.

So here we are, as the rain clears and the sun almost breaks – your carefully rendered and stone clad walls, not quite awash with a golden midday glow.

Just like Arnie and General McArthur I’ll be back – I shall return.

Anson Hotel – Beresford Road Manchester

Cycling back from Town, zig zagging between the A6 and Birchfields Road, I headed down Beresford Road and bumped into a behemoth.

A huge inter-war Whitbread boozer long since closed, now a retail food outlet and badged as the Buhran Centre, also trading as Burooj.

This change of use is far from uncommon, the demographics, socio-economic conditions and drinking habits which shape this and countless other pubs, have since shifted away from the lost world of this immense, roadhouse-style palace of fun.

No more outdoor or orders here – the supermarket now supplies the supplies for the self satisfied home drinker.

The sheer scale of the building guaranteed its demise, a three storey house with no more stories to tell.

Searching online for some clues as to its history there is but one mention, on the Pubs of Manchester:

This is my attempt, in some small way, to redress the balance, snapping what remains of this once top pub.

Safe home I searched the Manchester Local Image Collection, hoping to find some clues and/or images elucidating Beresford Road and the Anson in times gone by.

I found a typical inner Manchester suburban thoroughfare, a healthy mix of homes socially and privately owned, industry, independents shops, schools and such. Kids at play, passers-by passing by, captured in 1971 by the Council’s housing department photographers.

This was not a Golden Age – wasn’t the past much better, brighter, cheerier and cleaner reminiscence – simply a series of observations.

Things change.

Including the Anson Hotel.

Antony Holloway – Huyton Wall

Antony Holloway – artist born March 8th 1928 he died on August 9th 2000.

Dorset was where he was born and grew up and the Dorset landscape was always there deep within him. He was educated at Poole grammar school between 1939 and 1945. After national service in the Royal Air Force in Dorset and Germany from 1948 to 1953 he studied at Bournemouth College of Art. Then came the RCA.

Tony began work as a stained glass and mural designer and jumped, with astonishing confidence, into working as a consultant designer with the architects’ division of the London County Council. He learned how to deal with architects and builders, and became adept at getting as much out of the money available – never enough – for his projects.

In 1963 he was introduced to the Manchester architect, Harry Fairhurst. Eight years later, after they had worked together on commissions in Cheshire and Liverpool, Fairhurst sought Tony’s advice about a plan for five large stained-glass windows in Manchester Cathedral.

Tony asked to design and make the first window, the St George in the inner south-west aisle. It was completed in 1973. Further windows followed in 1976 and 1980 and the final window, Revelation was installed in 1995.

The Guardian

His Sculptural Wall on London Road Manchester – an integral part of Fairhurst’s UMIST scheme, is Grade II listed.

His concrete panels clad two opposing sides of the Faraday Tower which can also be seen on the UMIST site.

I discovered further reference to his work in an old copy of Studio International – serendipitously purchased from a local charity shop.

So I bided my time, awaiting the day I could take the train to Huyton, walk along Bluebell Lane, across the busy dual carriageway to Primrose Drive.

My patience was rewarded – 7,000 square feet of cast concrete retaining wall, surrounding the tower blocks, built on a site raised above the roads.

In 1987 the wall was open to public access – one of the three tower blocks has been subsequently demolished.

Tower Block

Partially covered with greenery and now securely contained within spiked railings, I circumnavigated the site catching and snapping the structure where I could – here are those very snaps.

Castle House Co-op Store – Sheffield

So here we are outside, you and I in 2015 – it seems like yesterday.

Whereas yesterday I was inside not outside, but more of that in a moment.

It seems that you were listed in 2009 and deservedly so.

1964 by George S Hay, Chief Architect for CWS, with interior design by Stanley Layland, interior designer for CWS. Reinforced concrete with Blue Pearl granite tiles and veneers, grey granite tiles and veneers, buff granite blocks, glass, and brick.

There’s just so much to stand and stare and marvel at.

Vulcan by Boris Tietze commisioned by Horne Brothers 1961 for their head office building No. 1 King Street. Glass fibre on a metal armature the 8 foot high figure holding a bundle of metal rods.

You were just about still open then, then you weren’t, then you were again – but a Co-op no more alas.

Fast forward to 2018

Work is underway on plans for a tech hub in Sheffield after a funding package was agreed.

Followed by a casual stroll towards 2019 where we are talking a peep inside courtesy of owners Kollider and book shop La Biblioteka.

I’d never ever seen the interior, save through the photographs of Sean Madner who captured the key features in 2014, prior to refurbishment.

So the Modernists and I pitched up this Sunday afternoon, the conclusion of our Sheffield Walk.

Lets take a look at the end stairwells, two very distinct designs one dotty one linear, both using Carter’s Tiles.

Configured from combinations and rotations of these nine modular units and two plain tiles.

Configured from combinations and rotations of these twelve modular units and two plain tiles.

The site has retained some of its original architectural typography.

The former top floor restaurant has a suspended geometric ceiling with recently fitted custom made lighting.

The timber-lined boardroom has a distinctive horseshoe of lighting, augmenting the board room table – which is currently away for repair, oh yes and a delightful door.

High atop the intoxicating vertiginous swirl of the central spiral stairway is the relief mural representing a cockerel and fish made of aluminium, copper and metal rod, with red French glass for the fish’s eye and cockerel’s comb.

Illuminated from above by this pierced concrete and glass skylight.

Many of the internal spaces have been ready for their new tenants.

This is a fine example of Modernist retail architecture saved from decay and degradation by the timely intervention of a sympathetic tenant.

Long may they and Castle House prosper – Sheffield we salute you!