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.


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.




Photographs Rochdale Image Archives

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


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.

















Myrtle Gardens – Liverpool

Once again I wandered the warm and welcoming streets of Liverpool in search of houses.

Once again I found older housing, dressed up as newer housing with a new roof, windows and clientele, a stone’s throw from my former encounter in St Andrew’s Gardens.

Myrtle Gardens in Edge Hill was part of the larger project of Liverpool’s inter-war rehousing programme – a tale very well told by Municipal Dreams.

An area with a whole heap of history

And a whole heap more on this fine site The Liverpool Picture Book from whence these images were taken:











There is also a  comprehensive visual history here in this clip:

Containing the poignant lost faces of the estate:

A familiar tale of bomb damage, decline and sale to private developers and here we are today, a mix of short student lets, newcomers and a handful of long term residents.

Eddie the porter – named Eddie Porter, a clear case of nominative determinism, proved the perfect host, I introduced myself as the man from the Manchester Modernists, doors opened and the conversation flowed like fine wine.

Tales of lads illicitly playing football in the roof voids, families leaving concrete structures in order to huddle in corrugated iron Anderson Shelters, A Hitler’s time in the ‘Pool and his resolve  save the Liver Building, bombs that did fall on the now missing blocks of flats, a family celebrating the return of their son killed in an air raid.

We parted and I strolled amongst the elevated homes some 300 flats, over 80 years old and continuing to provide shelter and succour for the many, though sadly no longer under the sheltering wing of the Municipal Housing Department and their team of engineers, architects and builders.

























Wavertree Liverpool – Pathfinder

How does the modern world treat the past?

With a disdain bordering on a sociopathic destructive indifference it appears.

New Labour with an eye to rehouse the housed, tinned up hundreds of homes prior to demolition and redevelopment. They were and still are solid late Victorian terraces possibly in need of improvement – during the 1990’s, period housing stock was refurbished with central government funding, through a system of easily obtained grants. Improving the living conditions of many, maintaining the structures, and  supporting the local self-employed building trade.

So several years down the line, I visited the streets of Wavertree discussed in Owen Hatherley’s article of 2013.

Little or nothing has changed there are some tenanted houses, interspersed between the blanked out windows in sadly deserted streets, save the two camera shy free runners, who had lived and played in the area for some seven years.


When one door closes another door closes.

If working-class areas are to defend themselves, they need confidence, both in themselves and in the places they live, otherwise the whole grim process will go on, with councils making the same mistakes and the same lives being destroyed, without interruption.



















Needwood Close – Collyhurst

Deep in the heart, just on the edge of central Manchester, there exists a dilemma.

Once a place of full employment and home occupation, time has not been kind to Collyhurst. Work is scarce and the area blighted by a reputation for crime and social problems. Yet it sits by an area of inner city wealth, economic expansion and a growing professional class.

The plan is to expand this growth outside of the fringes of city and into north Manchester, since 2008 this has been the stated aim of the local authority. Tram stops, academies, and retail parks apart, change seems slow to arrive.

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There is a chronic shortage of public funding and seemingly an absence of private capital and speculative development – life is elsewhere.

In the mean time there are properties tinned up awaiting a new dawn.

Needwood Close is one such example.

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Hartfield Close – Manchester

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It’s not unusual.

To discover something, whilst looking for something else.

For me, it’s almost a way of life.

I was in the area to look around the nearby Brunswick Parish Church.

Just around the corner was Hatfield Close a low, white two-storey terrace of six homes, each with a small fenced garden to the rear, facing onto a large open grassed area,  backed by further housing.

It was difficult to discern whether they were empty or inhabited – two seemed to have residents. Curious in a city with a growing population and a demand for vacant property. Are they in limbo, between redevelopment, refurbishment or CPO?

They have ben offered to the market within the last year.

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At a value way below comparable properties, currently they seem to be adrift in an uncaring world, a tiny lost island of Municipal Modernism.

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They deserve a little care an attention.

We all do.

The Bullring – Liverpool

I love walking around the Bullring, there are no bulls, just students.

What was once imagined as inter-war social housing, a proud public utopia for you and me, is now a temporary pied-à-terre for them and their owners.

Built in 1935 as part of the city’s expansion of council homes, a time and place very much in thrall, to the then current developments in German Modernism.

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It was one of many such developments across Liverpool, as outlined here:

in this detailed post by Municipal Dreams.

St Andrews Gardens, aka The Bullring is the sole survivor.


In 1967 the residents turned out in force to celebrate the opening of the very close by Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.


Faces now faded, the lost warm, wide smiles and pretty paper flowers of post-war dreams.

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Captured here on film:

Go take a walk today through a past and a future which we all still deserve.

There is still the sense of a magical space and possibilities as yet unrealised

God Bless Our Pope

Eastford Square – Collyhurst

Once there were homes, postwar social housing.

Once there were jobs, a measure of prosperity.

A settled community.


Time has not been kind to North Manchester, successive slumps, double-dip depressions, economic downturns, and centrally imposed recession hurts.

The local authority steps in, from 2009 the fate of Eastford Square is sealed.

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Spells demolition.

One wing is already gone, the maisonettes are tinned up.

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The Flower Pot Café, still fully functional, fed me well for £2, Lee the proprietor is living on borrowed time though, hoping for relocation within the new development.

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Other businesses have not survived the transition, awaiting CPO and who knows what.

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The square is blessed with a concrete sculpture, whose fate I hope is secured, somehow.

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Possibly by William Mitchell – possibly not.

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This as ever, is a time of change, I hope that the area and its current inhabitants live to tell the tale, rather than fall victim to the tide of gentrification, forcing them further afield.

O Romeo Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

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Covent Garden – Stockport

Walk up Hillgate from the centre of Stockport, pass the former Cobden’s, Gladstone, Peter Carlson Furniture, following a former coaching road of former lives, shops, pubs, clubs and factories. This was historically a vibrant area, a crazy mixed up mixed economy, getting by by any means.

Walk a little further, to your right is a small plateau, it leads across to the civic area,  behind the Town Hall, it is known as Covent Garden.

London Square, Massey Street and Banbury Street, once a cluster of terraced houses, never the wealthiest of areas, but typical of the town’s industrial past. The homes growing up around small pockets of industry – foundries, hat making and glove manufacture.


There was a graveyard there, belonging to the Mount Tabor Chapel, which was situated nearby on Wellington Road, a soot blackened, imperious classical facade.


The chapel is no longer standing, and little remains of the graveyard, the foreground shows the site, soon to become a children’s playground for the new flats.


The Imperial Club survived into the 60s playing host to local beat groups, and a significant venue on the local soul scene.


The streets no longer ring with the the ringing guitars of Johnny Darano and the Strollers


The Fairhurst designed flats were a breath of fresh air for the area, slim Crittall metal windows, concrete and brick structure, light and clean living for a new era. Social housing for a new era of social justice, postwar optimism written all over the facades.

Contrasting with the poorly built, stock brick, stolid terraces that they replaced, here was a little of the Modernist Movement for the masses.


Some years ago when I first photographed the area, here were residents, happy to share their thoughts and feelings, at home in their homes. A settled community, whose homes were soon to be central to a masterplan, the very word sends shivers down you spine.

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A redevelopment zone, around Hopes Carr and Covent Garden, saw the flats tinned up, prior to demolition. Homes, though clearly fit for purpose standing empty.

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Several years on, and they are still standing empty.

Save for a handful of protection by occupation tenants, living in a Camelot empty property.

“Our people combine entrepreneurial spirit and a deep understanding of specialist vacant property management with the highest standards of client care. Innovative internationally and well-known locally, Camelot design made-to-measure advice for you.”

“Camelot, located no where in particular, can be anywhere”

A pay to enter theme park with a limited future.

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And so heartbreak at Impasse Pass, another stalled urban redevelopment, awaiting capital in a public private partnership.

Until the next time.

Walk a little further, take a peek, blink and it all may have disappeared.

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Park Hill – Last Train To

This is the fourth time I’ve visited Park Hill.

Alone on a hill – sans the sound of music.

I think it may be the last time.



Alone on a hill – two weathered stickers on a public bench for company.

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On previous visits, there were a few remaining residents on the western wing.

Now they are gone.

Their homes tinned up, the walkways and stairways too – once these streets in the sky could accommodate a milk float, they now echo emptily, with the sound of a restless wind.

And so, in early sunny Sunday morning light, heavy hearted I wandered the open areas, colonnades, service lifts and terrazzo walls.

A small gift to the families, folks, workers, planners and architects who brought this estate to life – a celebration of the modern aesthetic in clear, broad daylight.

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Haymans and Coverley Point – Vauxhall

Vauxhall a London borough south of the river, a drained marsh.

– A home to earlier market gardens.

Vauxhall former site of the renowned Pleasure Gardens.


Vauxhall post war housing development, including two adjacent tower blocks Haymans and Coverley Point. labelled as a concrete jungle home to mainly manual workers, forty percent non-white, amid a mix of Eastern European and Portuguese emigres.

Vauxhall playground of the free-runners, film location and thrill seekers:

Haymans Point is an imposing, concrete, council estate tower block in the north of Lambeth, part of the Vauxhall Gardens Estate, which has an active residents and tenants association. The rooftop is fairly restricted in terms of outlook due to its high walls, but some interesting features are available including atmospheric interior corridors, outdoor walkways and underpasses over public spaces.

They are currently undergoing a transformation from problem area to greener pastures, through a collaborative community regeneration project.

– It’s also giving young Lambeth citizens work experience in the construction industry.



Vincenzo  got his interest in construction from his Mum, who was a Brixton-based painter and decorator, and his original work experience with London charity Build-it was decorating Lambeth Council blocks in Blenheim Gardens. “I’m fanatical about learning things. I like moving about and in building you’re always somewhere different. Nadine from Build-it said this job would be hard work, so I was right on it”

Two blocks without a chip on their respective shoulders, set in a green sea of history.

Go take a walk in the garden, go take a look.

Mayfield House – Bethnal Green

Building Conditions in Bethnal Green – Post 1945

“The immediate problem after the war was to house those whose homes had been bombed. Longer-term objectives were to complete and extend earlier clearance programmes in order to reduce the population density and separate industry from residential areas, as reaffirmed in the County of London Plan of 1943. Some 5,000 people lived in temporary housing, including requisitioned properties and hutments or mobile homes, prefabs, of which the L.C.C.’s first in East London were in Florida and Squirries streets. All but 15 of its 190 ‘prefabs’ were in use in 1955, together with 309 requisitioned properties; at least 48 mobile homes were still in use in 1966.  War damage had been repaired by 1953 and attention shifted to slum clearance; flats were to be allotted to those in cleared areas rather than by a waiting list. The L.C.C. and M.B. co-operated in drawing up five-year plans:  by 1954 there were 16,852 permanent homes of which 2,434 were unfit, 1,711 in the L.C.C.’s clearance areas and 675 in the M.B.’s, together with 48 individual houses. The L.C.C. demolished 510 and the M.B. 550 between 1956 and 1960 and the M.B. demolished another 151 unfit and 46 other houses in 1961-2. Most were replaced by municipal estates, although both councils also acquired sites scheduled for industry, business, or open space. It was estimated that to find a site and build an estate took six years.” 

Thanks to

The six-storeyed Mayfield House opened with 54 flats in 1964 on the east side of Cambridge Heath Road, south of the town hall.

Exploring London in an accidental and often tangential manner, often offers many surprises. Ostensibly in search of the V&A Museum of Childhood I tumbled into Mayfield House. The whole area, as can be seen in the above link, is home to several estates and homes, designed by the eminent architects du jour, Mayfield receives no such attribution, possibly the work of the borough office.

None the worse for that a building of some note, famously housing one of London’s first coin operated laundries, as seen in the promo video for The Streets – Dry your eyes.

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The flats also contain a Somalian Centre, Bethnal Green having been home, for many years to Somali seamen – the subject of a recent photographic exhibition by Sarah Ainslie


Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

Ali Mohammed Adan – Seaman

“I first came to London by ship in March 1958. I stayed in Aldgate for a night and went to Newport where my cousin had a house. There are many Somalis there. From that day until I retired in 1990, I was in the Merchant Navy, and I brought my family over from Somaliland. In 1970, I moved back to London to Bethnal Green but my wife and daughters chose to stay in Newport.

In Somaliland, I owned over a hundred camels and sheep. Nobody keeps camels anymore, everyone sold them and moved to the city. They say, ‘It’s too much work.’ But keeping camels and sheep and living on a farm, it’s a good life because you eat every day. Everybody wants to do it again now.”


An intriguing structure with a dominant grid on the front elevation, sharp signage, extravagant exterior rear stairs, modular concrete screened, low-level car parking and a recently enclosed glassed gallery.



London – city of surprising surprises.


Back to Beswicks

You’re never more than a thousand yards from a main road, six feet from a rat, or a quarter of a mile from Beswick, one of many Beswicks.


Beswick was once a bustling mixed industrial and residential area of east Manchester, alive with back to back terraced housing, pubs, clubs, shops and people.

Sixties slum clearance swept away most of its past when Fort Beswick was built.


Remember the Alamo?

Forget Fort Beswick.

It’s gone – wind the Bobbin up.

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Turn it into a Library

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Wind the library up


Build another


Call the Police!

But the Police Station has closed now, and moved further on.


There are traces of the past that remain, homes and pubs that have survived the revival.

Where is Beswick now?

On the edges of the Eastland’s dream, on the outside of everything.

Sheik Mansour ensures the construction of a brand new shiny world.

The private provision of an almost public space.


Everyone knows this is nowhere.

But Beswick?


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Between Openshaw and Bradford sits Beswick.

Beswick is a small district located on the east side of Manchester bounded by Ashton Old Road, Ashton New Road and Grey Mare Lane and was incorporated into Manchester in 1838. Pronounced Bes-ick the “w” is silent. Before 1066, in Saxon times, the district was called Beaces Hlaw – Hlaw was an old word for a small hill, often used as a burial mound. By the 13th century it had changed to “Beaces Wic” indicating that the area was predominantly farm land. Who or what the Bes element of the placename signified is open to interpretation, though the simplest and most plausible is that it belonged to a person called Bes or Bess.

In the 60s it was, as I remember it, a typically vibrant mixed East Manchester community, industry, housing, retail, entertainment and goodness knows what bumping along together incautiously, down tight streets of Victorian terraced housing. I worked in the area as a Mother’s Pride van lad, hauling bread, cakes and galvanised trays in and out of a plethora of superabundant corner shops.

The year of 1970, approximately, dawns, ushering in a decade of great change, slum clearance and the building of brand new homes – the end, by and large, of the back to back corner shop world.

A process mirrored in my previous post

10 years later, and long gone the years of postwar full employment, and the made round to go round world of the weekly wage.

The early 1980s saw growing unemployment and world-wide recession. The large new estates suffered most. Inner city districts of Manchester saw street riots in 1981, as did many other major cities around Britain. Manchester had suffered badly as a result of the recession. In 1986, over 59% of adult males living in Hulme were unemployed; in Miles Platting the figure was 46%; Cheetham Hill and Moss Side both had an unemployment rate of 44%. The main group of unemployed were young people under the age of 21. Hulme’s youth employment was recorded at 68%, and Cheetham Hill suffered 59%. 

Manchester 2002


It is true that the new developments have great advantages in many ways over the terraces they replaced. Tenants who live in houses without baths or indoor sanitation and with no hot water are delighted to move into bright new flats and maisonettes, with indoor plumbing, with baths, and accommodation which has more rooms and far better kitchen facilities and central heating, even though they sometimes grumble at the cost of that central heating.

Gerald Kaufman MP

But although we can build a new housing development, we cannot easily recreate the warm community spirit which has vanished with the terraces which have been demolished. There is the noise from neighbours on the deck above and the deck below. The wind-swept balconies along which tenants have to walk are not as cosy as the streets from which they have come. Those welcoming corner shops, with their bright lights on winter evenings, have gone, and sometimes a new development has no new shops for too long a period. Even when they come, there are not enough of them.

The scale of the buildings is often daunting. I have in mind Fort Beswick and Fort Ardwick in my own constituency. The design is frequently all too forbidding. That is why the two estates are called Forts

When the tenants of these development have lived in cosy old houses, however inadequate they were in terms of physical provision, they are bitterly disappointed by the shortcomings of new property which they have looked forward to occupying.

Handsard – Multi-Storey Developments 1974


The year of 1990, approximately, dawns, ushering in a decade of great change, multi-storey development clearance and the building of brand new homes – the end, by and large, of the one on top of another topsy-turvy world.

Fort Beswick was subsequently demolished.

The beat goes on as Len Grant records the most recent redevelopment of East Manchester.

And the M.E.N shouts loud and proud from the roof tops, heralding a brand new, privately funded public domain

Picture credits Manchester Image Archive



Coverdale Crescent Estate – Ardwick

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and as it would subsequently transpire, loosely attached Bison concrete wall-frame system panels.

Wythenshawe apart, the City of Manchester admitted that it had 68,000 houses described as “grossly unfit” by 1959. 


Its solution was to demolish 90,000 dwellings between 1954 and 1976 and to erect 71,000 dwellings by way of high rise flats and to move residents out to newly prescribed “overspill” estates – at Heywood and Langley in the north, Hyde in the east and Worsley in the west.

Most of these displaced people, however, found themselves resettled in tall tower blocks, which, no matter how architecturally innovative, or how improved their facilities, proved disastrous in social terms. 

Manchester 2002

In Coverdale Crescent Ardwick such an architecturally innovative development was built.

The estate, which became known as Fort Ardwick, was a deck access block of 500 homes. Completed in 1972, it was built with the same Bison concrete wall-frame system that had been used in neighbouring Fort Beswick.

By the mid-1980s it was clearly suffering from structural faults. The council employed a private firm of consultants to survey the estate, which found that water was leaking through roofs, steel fixings were corroded and concrete was breaking away. The council had to spend £60,000 immediately to bolt 1,100 panels back on to the building’s internal skin. The city architect, David Johnson, claimed that the report highlighted the rapid deterioration of Fort Ardwick’s fabric.

They said it was shoddy, thrown up, not enough care taken. The concrete panels weren’t made properly – the holes didn’t quite line up. You know what it’s like – you’re putting a flatpack cupboard together and something’s not in the right place but you just bodge it instead of sending it back, starting again, because you want the cupboard up and you’ve got other shit to do.

They had to get these consultants in, after they’d finished, to rebolt all the panels or something , so the whole thing didn’t fall down. Cost a bloody fortune my nan said, and that’s our taxes. And even then the rain got in. They’d put straw between the concrete, which sounds a bit medieval to me, and no-one wants wet straw walls, right? Cockroaches and rats and mould and that.

My nan remembers when they knocked down the terraces. I remember when they knocked down the fort. And maybe they had a point about it being shoddy, because soon as the diggers got their claws in, the whole thing fell to pieces, like it was made out of cardboard and bits of sellotape, not concrete and glass. A fort one week, a pile of rubble the next. No-one wept for it, they say.

I didn’t cry, but I stood at the end of the street and watched the diggers pawing at the walls, ripping the place to bits, our old kitchen wall gone and the cooker and the cupboards and the crap plastic clock just there for everyone to see. Except there was no-one else looking.

Sarah Butler

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Local MP Gerald Kaufman reported to Parliament in 1974 that, during a conversation with residents, one of them had proclaimed that

“If Labour wins the election, it ought to do two things: abolish the House of Lords, and demolish Fort Ardwick.”

The estate was demolished in the 1980s and the new Coverdale Estate was constructed on the site in 1994.

The House of Lords still stands unabashed by the Thames.

Photo credits H Milligan 1971 LIC and MMU Visual Resource