Newcastle to Amble

Well here we are heading north for a fourth day – having bidden farewell to Hull, Scarborough and Redcar.

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site. 

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

Taking a bold leap into the unknown I left the city centre, unwisely following unfamiliar roads, predictably becoming very lost.

I sought assistance from a passing fellow cyclist, very kindly he guided me to Tynemouth, following a mysterious and circuitous course across the undulating terrain – thanks.

The city quickly becomes the seaside with its attendant retail bricolage.

An all too familiar redundant lido – opened in 1925 and closed in the mid 90’s – but a Friends Group aims to breathe new life into the site.

The Park Hotel built in the 1930’s and recently refurbished has been bought by The Inn Collection Group.

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

The Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan sets out our ambitious plans to regenerate the coastline between St Mary’s Lighthouse and Cullercoats Bay.

The proposals are a mix of council and private sector developments and involve more than £36m of new investment at the coast.

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In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.

Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.

Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.

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Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

Beacon House beckoned and I took time to have a good old look around.

Ryder and Yates 1959

A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.

Before I knew it I was in Blyth.

The town edged with military installations

Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.

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During WW2 Blyth Harbour was used as a major submarine base and that combined with the heavy industry in the area it made a very good target for the Luftwaffe.

Derelict Places

827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.

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I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.

Encountering a brand new factory.

And the remnants of the old power station.

Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.

After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.

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UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.

The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.

By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.

The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.

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Long gone is the Cambois Colliery, its pit head baths and the buses that bused the workers in and out.

One hundred and eleven men died there.

The route headed along the coast on unmade roads and paths, I bypassed the Lynemouth Pithead Baths – having visited some ten years ago.

I was delighted to find that Creswell Ices were still in business and my temporary partner Adrian treats me to a tub.

Having arrived in Amble I was delighted to find the Cock & Bull.

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

Then watched the sun set over the harbour.
Good night all.

Deal To Margate

We awoke, we dawdled around Deal, prior to our delightful breakfast.

Though the pier appeared to be closed.

Extending elegantly over a still, still sea.

The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1,026 ft in length – a notice announces that it is the same length as the RMS Titanic, but that ship was just 882 feet, and ends in a three-tiered pier-head, featuring a cafe, bar, lounge, and fishing decks.

The lowest of the three tiers is underwater at all but the lowest part of the tidal range, and has become disused.

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Deal is home to some of the most extraordinary concrete shelters.

Home to some understated Seaside Moderne homes too.

Well fed, we set out along the private road that edges the golf course, encountering some informal agricultural architecture.

We took time to explore Pegwell Bay Hoverport – currently trading as a Country Park.

Pausing in Ramsgate to admire Edward Welby Pugin’s Grade II Listed – Granville Hotel.

The Granville development, so named after George Leverson Gower, second Earl Granville (1815-1891), was a venture undertaken by Edward Welby Pugin, together with investors Robert Sankey, George Burgess and John Barnet Hodgson on land acquired from the Mount Albion Estate in 1867. The scheme was to be an important new building in the eastward expansion of the town and the emergence of a fashionable new suburb. At the outset, the intention was to build a relatively restrained speculative terrace of large townhouses with some additional facilities. However, as the scheme progressed and it became apparent that buyers could not be secured, revised plans for an enlarged hotel complex were adopted in 1868 and brought to completion in 1869. These plans, which added a series of grand rooms including a banqueting hall, receptions rooms and an entrance hall in addition to a tunnel to connect to the railway line on the seafront, gardens, a complex of Turkish baths and a vast landmark tower (originally 170ft high, although truncated at a relatively early date), were remarkably ambitious. Ultimately, as it would transpire, the scheme was rather too ambitious on Pugin’s part; with his increasing reliance on loans eventually culminating in bankruptcy in October 1872, an event which precipitated his demise as an architect, tragically followed by his death just three years later.

Historic England

Overlooking the sea, the ornamental gardens were laid out and presented to the Borough of Ramsgate by Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills in 1920 and opened to the public in June 1923 by the Mayor of Ramsgate Alderman A. W. Larkin. They are maintained by Thanet District Council and were Grade II listed on 4 February 1988. 

The gardens were designed by the architects Sir John Burnet & Partners, and constructed by Pulham and Son. The main feature of the gardens, is a semi-circular shaped colonnade carved into the pulhamite recess.

On the upper terrace, approached by broad flights of steps, the gardens proper are reached. In the centre, and immediately over the shelter, is a circular pool enclosed on the north side by a semi-circular Roman seat.

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Broadstairs was alive with Bank Holiday activity.

On leaving the town we encounter this engaging flint church – Holy Trinity

Erected 1829-1830. David Barnes Architect, extended 1925.

Built of flint and rubble.

One of the first visitors to this church was Charles Dickens who offered a very unflattering description in his work, Our English Watering Place:

We have a church, by the bye, of course – a hideous temple of flint, like a petrified haystack.  Our chief clerical dignitary, who, to his honour, has done much for education, and has established excellent schools, is a sound, healthy gentleman, who has got into little local difficulties with the neighbouring farms, but has the pestilent trick of being right.

In Margate the tidal pools are full of waveless sea water and kiddy fun.

The former crazy golf course is undergoing an ongoing programme of involuntary rewilding.

The Turner Contemporary was hosting an impromptu al fresco sculpture show.

Dreamland was still dreaming.

And Arlington House staring steadfastly out to sea.

Time now for tea and a welcome plate of chish and fips at the Beano Cafe.

I miss my haddock and chips from Beano in Margate, brought to you with a smile and he remembers everyone.

Great customer service and friendly staff, see you soon.

The food is awful and the customer service is even worse: when we complained about the food the staff argued with us and wouldn’t do anything to change the food or refund, avoid at all costs!

Trip Advisor

Time for a wander around Cliftonville.

Discovering a shiny new launderette.

And a launderette that wasn’t a launderette – it’s a Werkhaus that isn’t a workhouse.

And a patriotic tea rooms.

So farewell then the south coast – we’re off home on the train in the morning.

But first a pint or two.

Richard Dunn Sports Centre – Bradford

Rooley Avenue Bradford West Yorkshire BD6 1EZ

Named for local lad pugilist Richard Dunn, the ambitious imagining of architect Gordon Elliott – the sports centre opened in 1978.

The Richard Dunn Sports Centre, originally Odsal Sports Centre, was designed by myself Trevor Skempton, as part of a team in the office of Owen Perry, Bradford City Architect until 1974.

Gordon Elliot then took over; as Chief Architect for the Met District, after the construction contract had been let.

Comprising pools, sports hall, dance studio, sauna, gym and ancillary facilities the centre was certainly state of the art.

Sweeping interlocking arcs of concrete, were at the heart of the structure.

Topped out with a suspended canopy.

Attracting huge crowds on the occasion of its opening.

Images The Telegraph and Argus.

The building was to be demolished in April of this year – it closed in November 2019.

I assume that the state of the art became less state of the art – as running costs grew and newer greener technology became state of the art.

The state of the art Sedbergh Sports and Leisure Centre opened in September 2019.

Initially the Richard Dunn site was to be sold for development, this along with plans for demolition seem to be in abeyance.

Arrangements are being made to turn Bradford’s Richard Dunn Sports Centre into a temporary mortuary should the current Coronavirus crisis escalate.

April 2020

It’s remarkable – here are my photographs from February 2020.

I advise you to get along and take a look, just as soon as humanly possible.

Recently John Mann was granted permission to snap the deserted interior.

The ghostly gasps of the exercising public exorcised forever.

Eileen Ayres, who has worked at Richard Dunns from before it even opened to the public said:

When I came here this place was super, super modern – state of the art. Now we’re moving to Sedbergh it is great to be in a state of the art facility again. The younger staff are so excited about the move to a new, modern sports centre.

I have a lot of memories of here, a lot of staff I’ve met and become friends with over the years. We’ve had a lot of events here, international events that have taken place here over the years. When Richard Dunn was new a lot of people wanted to hold these events here. Now we have a new leisure centre I hope some of these events come back to Bradford.

I started at 23, I said I was just coming for a year. Here we are 41 years later.

When asked if she thinks it is right to be closing down Richard Dunn she said:

In my heart no, but realistically it has to go. It is run down – it would be way too expensive to run or refurbish. You can’t keep putting money into old things.

Telegraph and Argus

South Bay Scarborough – Chalets

The world is inherently unstable, along comes a train a resort appears, along comes a ‘plane a resort disappears, along comes a virus and people disappear.

Whole chunks of the land fall in the sea, eventually.

The South Bay Gardens were slipping away.

Some of the oldest sun bathing chalets almost became an Arts Hub.

Seaside chalets were under threat, with the cause believed to be the failure of a retaining wall.

The swimming pool has been and gone, only an empty shell remains.

There are speculative plans and piecemeal repairs, but these are difficult times, and attracting substantial finance and flocks of tourists to revitalise the town, is no simple matter.

From 2011 I have visited South Bay, intrigued by all the above, but there’s a special place in my heart for these concrete chalets.

They never get a mention.

Here they are some years ago.

The primary coloured paint almost still fresh on their well locked doors.

They stand forlorn on the concrete shore overlooking an indifferent North Sea, hoping for a future in an uncertain age.

As I snapped I chatted to a local ANTIFA Anarcho Punk – ex Mansfield Miner and political activist, he feared that they would be swamped by some tidal wave of gentrification.

If so when, not soon.

As a post script I have been informed that the site was used as a kid’s den in the CBBC TV series All at Sea!

Park Hall Manor Pool – Little Hayfield

First there was a house.

A Grade II listed country house, now divided into two dwellings. c1812. Ashlar gritstone. Hipped slate roof with leaded ridges. Various ashlar triple stacks with moulded tops. Moulded cornice and low parapet. Two storeys, central block with recessed long wing to east, orangery to west.

Historic England

Currently trading as a quick getaway country cottage

This Grade II listed manor house is set within 14 acres of natural grounds, together with the occupied adjoining servants’ wing, and has been sympathetically converted, retaining many original features to provide comfortable accommodation for families wishing to meet up for that special family occasion, and wi-fi is available in the living room. 

Then came a pool:

Previously a private pool belonging to a country club in the 1930’s it later opened to members around 1938 who paid a small fee for its use. The pool is fed by a mountain stream and the water is reported to remain cool throughout the year. In the 1940’s/50’s locals recall the pool being open to the public where it cost a ‘shilling for children and half a crown for adults’ entry. During storms in 1947 the pool was badly damaged and reportedly ‘never the same again’ but postcards in circulation in the 1960’s provide evidence that the pool remained open at least until then.

Now it sits abandoned and hidden in the woods.

I went there in my early teens late 60’s the pool was still intact, well used and well cold. I remember chilly changing rooms with duckboards on concrete floors, a small café with pop and crisp if you had the pennies.

Most of all the simple joy of emersion in clear moorland water, on long hot summer days long gone.

Revisiting in April 2014, following a misguided scramble through brambles, it was a poignant reunion. The concrete shells of the pillars and statuary crumbling and moss covered, the waters still and occluded.

It sure it has subsequently been the scene of impromptu fashion shoots and pop promo videos, possibly a little guerrilla swimming. Though sadly it largely sits unused and unloved – let’s take a look around:

Barmouth Street – Bradford Manchester

Once again I am following in the footsteps of Rita Tushinghan and the Taste of Honey film crew, this time my research has lead me to Barmouth Street, Manchester.

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To the east of the city centre, Bradford Park School was the scene of the opening scene, Jo’s netball match. The school is now long gone, now the site of a much enlarged public park, as can be seen from the map above.

Shelagh Delaney, author of the original play on which the film was based, can be seen fleetingly in this opening scene, appearing momentarily over the games teacher’s shoulder.

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I have found one archive image of the school, as the scholars prepare for the annual Whit Walks, this along with many other community traditions and conventions, have all but disappeared from the streets of the city.

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This was once a tight knit community, surrounded by industry, full employment and a short lived period of post-war growth and optimism.

A corner shop on very corner, though by the time I worked as a Mothers Pride van lad in the late sixties, many were already on their last legs. A lethal cocktail of closing factories, incipient supermarkets, and an urban renewal programme, which lead to slum clearance, would change the character of the area forever.

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I am indebted to the photographic work of T Brooks who seems to have spent much of the mid Sixties documenting the streets, his pictures are now kept here in the Manchester Image Archives. Sadly I have found no further reference to him or his images, but have nothing but admiration for all those who pass unnoticed amongst us, camera forever poised.

Central to the social and sanitary life of that that community were the Barmouth Street Baths and Washhouse, where citizens would swim, wash, dry, iron, chat convivially, and surprisingly – play bowls.

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Now long gone, along with the provision of local authority nursery care. There were similar low level pre-fabricated buildings dotted all over the city. Built quickly and cheaply, to provide for a growing population, of largely working-class families, with no shortage of work opportunities.

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This was a time of great social change, a time which the film attempts to anticipate -a more diverse, and hopefully more tolerant time, a time of possibilities and opportunities for all.

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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