Minerva Café – Doncaster

A Doncaster town centre cafe, once used by former pop star Louis Tomlinson to film a pop video, has closed after trading for more nearly 50 years near the market. The Minerva Cafe has closed down after trading sine the 1970s offering breakfasts and lunches to shoppers.

The shutters are now down on the shop, which has not now been used for two weeks, say neighbouring businesses. Minerva was well known for its big breakfasts which often earned rave reviews on the internet. It also had a celebrity link, having been used by the former One Direction star Louis Tomlinson for the shooting of his Back to You video, last year. Doncaster Council town center bosses confirmed they understood the cafe had closed down, but did not know the reason. Long serving Doncaster market trader Nigel Berrysaid he had seen no sign of activity at the cafe for two weeks. He said: It has been here in the market for such a long time. It’s been there since I first started on the market in 1971. People have commented to me it feels like it has been there forever. 

“It is a shame to see it closed. It has been a bit of an institution round here.”

Doncaster Free Press

I came here on the 8th of February 2016, hungry but no alone – unaware of the Minerva’s popular cultural significance.

I just wanted a pie.

It came with chips peas and gravy – proper chips, proper tinned peas and an authentic plate pie pastry top and bottom, meaty minced meat filling.

My partner in crime had the full breakfast

We drank hot tea, chatted sporadically and ate the lot.

Table 16 aka table 22 – was more than satisfied.

The table was more than satisfactory a pale leatherette seated booth, with erratic homespun wood grain effects.

This was a place with hidden depths receding back from the entrance into deeper and deeper space.

And a proper regard for tea service etiquette – with no room for poor pouring stainless steel pragmatism.

But where are we now?

I returned on February 9th 2019 and the M was missing the Minerva was missing the shutters were down – ain’t nobody home.

No more pie, peas, chips and gravy no more full up upon full breakfasts.

No more Minerva, no more.

Doncaster – Police Station and Law Courts

I’ll try anything twice or more – including a trip to Doncaster.

Once in the rain two years ago, more recently in broken cloud and sunshine.

In search of the work of Frederick Gibberd .

Son of Coventry – architect, author and leading post-war planner.

From 1949 onwards plans were afoot to develop the Waterdale area of Doncaster – civic buildings, courts, educational provision and the like WH Price the Borough Surveyor at the helm. In 1955 Gibberd was appointed to oversee the site, though many of his designs were unrealised, his Police Station and Law Courts opened in 1969.

The area was also home to the Technical College and Coal – later Council House, both now demolished.

Information Doncaster Civic Trust.

The Courts and Police Station now nestle behind the much newer civic developments, part of much wider regeneration scheme.

So let’s go back in time to a wet day in 2016 – when first I chanced upon these municipal concrete bunkers of law and order – where Brutalism is embodied in the buildings content and purpose, as well as its style.

This is an architecture that instructs you to avoid wrongdoing at all costs – or suffer the inevitable consequences.

Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

2019 and I’m back again – architecturally little or nothing has changed, still standing – stolid solid pillars of justice. The day is brighter ever so slightly softening the harsh precast panels against a bluer spring sky.

WH Smiths – Colwyn Bay

I have been here before.

I’ve been there too – Newton Powys home to the WH Smiths Museum

Now here I am in Colwyn Bay generally minding my own and everybody else’s business, when all of a sudden I noticed a cast iron glazed awning.

Proudly announcing the proprietors – sadly supported by a distressing modern addition – now I’m not one to decry and debunk the rising tide of modernity, I’m all in favour of unisex clothing and central heating.

But the unchecked encroachment of vacuous vinyl really is the limit.

Businesses displayed a degree of dignified permanence unknown to the current high street trader. So here it is writ larger than life in stained glass and Carter’s Tiles.

Loud and proud.

And as an addendum here are the delightful tiles from the Llandudno branch, snapped two years previously.

Burton’s Moderne – Ashton and Beyond

In almost every town or city worth its salt stood a modern white tiled tailor’s shop, almost every man or boy wore a Burton’s suit.

Harry Wilson had become the company architect by the early 1920s, and was responsible for developing Burton’s house style. Montague Burton, however, maintained a close personal interest. The company’s in-house Architects Department was set up around 1932 under Wilson. He was followed as chief architect around 1937 by Nathaniel Martin, who was still in post in the early 1950s. The architects worked hand-in-hand with Burton’s Shopfitting and Building Departments, who coordinated the work of selected contractors. Throughout the late 1920s and 1930s they were kept phenomenally busy: by 1939 many of Burton’s 595 stores were purpose-built.

The very first made to measure gear I owned came from Burton’s in Ashton under Lyne – mini-mod aged fourteen in a three button, waisted, light woollen dark brown jacket, four slanted and flapped side pockets and an eighteen inch centre vent.

Just the job for a night out at the Birdcage, Moon or Bower Club

The story of the stores begins in the province of Kovno in modern Lithuania – Meshe David Osinsky (1885-1952), came to England where he initially took the name Maurice Burton. 

The distinctive architecture stood out on the high street, Art Deco motifs and details abound – elephants chevrons and fans.

Topped off with the company’s distinctive logotype.

This example in Doncaster is one of the few remaining examples many having been removed – as the stores have changed ownership and usage.

This Neo-Classical Burnley branch is a rare example of a Burton’s which hasn’t gone for a Burton.

The group maintained a distinctive graphic style in labelling signage and advertisements.

Often including ornate mosaic entrances, ventilation covers and obligatory dated foundation stones – as seen in this Ashton under Lyne branch.

Stores often housed dance halls or other social spaces.

In 1937 Burton’s architect, Nathaniel Martin, collaborated with the architects Wallis Gilbert & Partners on a subsidiary clothing works on the Great Lancashire Road at Worsley, near Manchester. Conceived as a Garden Factory and built in a modern style, this was dubbed ‘Burtonville Clothing Works’. It opened in October 1938 .

Where machinists worked on Ashton built Jones equipment.

Time changes everything and the inception of off the wall unisex disco clothing saw the made to measure suit fall into a chasm of loon pants and skinny rib grandad vests.

The Ashton branch becomes a motorcycle then fitted kitchen showroom, topped off with a succession of clubs and various other modern day leisure facilities.

Currently home to the Warsaw Delicatessen and Good News Gospel Church

Formerly Club Denial.

This is the tale of the modern high street grand ideas, architectural grandeur, entrepreneurial immigrants, style and fashion – disappearing in a cloud of vinyl signage and fly by night operations. Though if you look carefully the pale white shadows of Burton’s are still there in one form or another, however ghostly.

Dorothy Annan Mural – The Barbican

I’ve been to the Barbican before, wandering the walkways without purpose.

This is a whole new box of tiles, the search for a re-sited mural, a first time meeting with what would seem at once like an old and well-loved friend.

Dorothy Annan 20 January 1900 – 28 June 1983

Was an English painter, potter and muralist, married to the painter and sculptor Trevor Tennant. She was born in Brazil to British parents and was educated in France and Germany.

Christmas 1944 – Manchester Art Gallery

Annan’s paintings are in many national collections, she is also known for her tile murals, many of which have been destroyed in recent decades. Only three of her major public murals are believed to survive, the largest single example, the Expanding Universe at the Bank of England, was destroyed in 1997.

Gouache Sketch

I was looking for her mural which illustrates the telecommunications industry – formerly of the Fleet Building Telephone Exchange Farringdon Road.

Michael Bojkowski

The murals were commissioned at a cost of £300 per panel in 1960. Annan visited the Hathernware Pottery in Loughborough and hand-scored her designs onto each wet clay tile, her brush marks can also be seen in the fired panels.

Charles Trusler

The building was owned by Goldman Sachs, who wished to redevelop the site and opposed the listing of the murals.

In January 2013, the City of London Corporation agreed to take ownership of the murals, and in September 2013 these were moved to a permanent location in publicly accessible part of the Barbican Estate. They are displayed in their original sequence within an enclosed section of the Barbican High Walk between Speed House and the Barbican Centre.

Commemorative Bowl

So following a discursive and somewhat undirected circumnavigation of the Center we were finally united – it only seemed polite to linger a while and take some snaps – here they are.

The Barbican Estate – London

Bouncing betwixt and between Bonnard and Bill Viola from Tate Modern to the Royal Academy I took a detour to The Barbican – in search of the Dorothy Annan tiled mural.

Having failed conspicuously to find it, following an extensive and discursive wander, I did the wise thing and asked.

My thanks to the helpful resident and his young son.

Redirected and on course for our deferred engagement, Dorothy and I met at last on an underpass.

I also recently discovered a Barbican Manchester mash up – Gerrards of Swinton fulfilled their largest ever single order for the site – my thanks to David Roughley for the information and illustration.

Here are the snaps that I took along the way.

Ash Hotel – Stockport

232 Manchester Road Heaton Chapel Stockport SK4 1NN

So once there was a pleasure gardens, and then in 1901 a pub.

Wilson’s Brewery built The Ash Hotel, a grand boozer in a Jacobean manor manner, complete with bowling green and billiard room.

It lasted through to the 70’s and 90’s but gradually it became harder and harder to manage and fill a pub of such size and stature.

Closed – standing unloved and unused until it was finally converted into the Ash Tea Rooms in 2011.

Only to be closed again in May 2018.

Once ringing with the chink of glass on glass, songs and laughter it awaits its latest fate – conversion to flats.

One can only hope that much of its architectural detail will be preserved – particularly the architectural type fascia sign.

And the mosaic flooring.

Only time will tell – if you’re passing tip your hat take a look and celebrate a grand old building which somehow will prevail.